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June 30, 2014
CC by: Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

On Sunday, Facebook sort of apologized for manipulating the news feeds of 689,003 randomly selected users, all for the purpose of science. For a week in January 2012, Facebook researchers secretly funneled either more positive or negative stories into the selected news feeds, then watched to see how the users reacted in their own posts.

The results, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences earlier this month, are actually pretty interesting: Moods are contagious, even over social networks. Or as the researchers put it:

When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred. These results indicated that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks. [PNAS]

If the findings are interesting, the methodology is pretty controversial. Facebook argues that it has the right to do this under that terms of service agreement you didn't read when you signed up, but academic social scientists are supposed to get "informed consent" from the subjects. There was also some more gut-level revulsion at the idea of Facebook manipulating people's feelings — here's privacy activist Lauren Weinstein:

After the PNAS study began to get noticed, Adam Kramer, the Facebook employee who conducted it with two researchers from Cornell and UC San Francisco, tried to explain himself on (where else?) Facebook:

We felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out. At the same time, we were concerned that exposure to friends' negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook.... My coauthors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused. [Facebook]

The world's largest social network has long shaped what its users see: When you log in, Facebook shows you about 300 of the 1,500 items that might show up on your news feed, determined by a closely guarded algorithm. "Facebook didn't do anything illegal, but they didn't do right by their customers," Gartner analyst Brian Blau tells The New York Times. Caveat emptor. Peter Weber

4:47 p.m. ET

A Home Depot employee in Staten Island, N.Y., sparked death threats by wearing an "America Was Never Great" hat to work, The New York Times reports. Krystal Lake, 22, says she wore the hat after several co-workers wore pro–Donald Trump pins. "The point of the hat was to say that America needs change and improvement," Lake said. A company spokesman said Lake has been told never to wear the hat again. The Week Staff

4:40 p.m. ET

After much back and forth, Donald Trump released a statement Friday saying definitively that he would not engage Sen. Bernie Sanders in a debate. The two camps had traded comments in the media after Trump said on Wednesday night's Jimmy Kimmel Live show that he'd debate the Democratic candidate, and Sanders agreed. There had been discussions of doing the debate for charity before Trump put the kibosh on the whole thing, as only Trump can:

Sad! Kimberly Alters

3:41 p.m. ET
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The CEO of a New York-based technology investment company has offered to put forward $10 million to charity if Donald Trump will debate Bernie Sanders.

Trump has flip-flopped on his promise to debate Sanders, although he eventually said during a Thursday speech that he would do so only if someone paid $10 million to a "women's health charity." Sanders has also appeared to be up for a debate, asking for the matchup to take place in the largest stadium possible.

Traction and Scale CEO Richie Heckler told BuzzFeed News that his company would be willing to put forward the money if they were given the opportunity to host the debate. Heckler, who supported a Michael Bloomberg candidacy, aims to hold the event on June 6, the day before the California primary, and in the largest venue in California that can be secured. Heckler said "the format we're going to use will be different," and that the debate would be "a very powerful change to the process."

It would certainly be unusual, anyway — neither Trump nor Sanders have been officially nominated by their respective parties. In fact, Sanders looks more than likely to lose in July to Hillary Clinton, who has so far turned down his requests for another Democratic debate. Jeva Lange

3:17 p.m. ET

Though Dr. Henry Heimlich developed his life-saving maneuver way back in 1974, it wasn't until this week that he actually put it to the test in an emergency. On Monday evening at his retirement home in Cincinnati, the 96-year-old retired chest surgeon saved someone who was choking with his namesake treatment for what he says is the first time ever.

During dinner, Heimlich noticed fellow resident Patty Ris, 87, suddenly begin to choke on a piece of hamburger. While staff rushed over to help her, it was Heimlich who ultimately stepped in to help. "I did the Heimlich Maneuver — of course,” Heimlich told The Guardian. “She was going to die if she wasn't treated. I did it, and a piece of food with some bone in it flew out of her mouth."

Ris joined the ranks of the tens of thousands of lives, including former President Ronald Reagan, that have been saved in the U.S. thanks to Dr. Heimlich's maneuver. "When I used it, and she recovered quickly," Heimlich said, "it made me appreciate how wonderful it has been to be able to save all those lives." Becca Stanek

2:37 p.m. ET
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Customers in a Didsbury, England, coffee shop began to "freak out" after they heard shouting and "gunshot-like bangs," prompting one man to dive head-first out a window to escape, Metro reports. The Costa Coffee patrons believed they were experiencing a terrorist attack — although the sounds turned out to be noisy school children banging their trays downstairs.

"It sounded like shots were being fired. It was not just me who thought that," one woman who asked not to be named by The Manchester Evening News said. "Other people were running around trying to get out on to the balcony but the door was locked. I think that's why the man went for one of the front windows. When I looked round I could only see his feet hanging from the window. He was climbing out head first. To be honest I wasn't surprised by his reaction because we all thought an attack was happening. It sounded like there was a shooting downstairs. I was expecting people wearing balaclavas and carrying guns to come upstairs."

The man who jumped out the window may have broken his arm, and was taken to the hospital. Costa Coffee wishes him a speedy recovery. Jeva Lange

2:13 p.m. ET
Courtesy image

"There are a number of things in life that can calm down just about anybody; burning wood fires, and hanging out in hot tubs are chief among them," says J.D. Digiovanni at HiConsumption.com.

The Soak outdoor wood-fired hot tub ($4,450), created by a Canadian design and fabrication firm, combines both pleasures. Made from marine-grade aluminum, stainless steel, and red cedar, this tub for two heats up via a wood fire or propane. The tub's Bauhaus-inspired modernist lines aren't what you expect from a wood-fired tub, but the look is "a great fit for almost any backyard." The Week Staff

2:00 p.m. ET
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Verizon reached a deal Friday with two labor unions representing 39,000 employees, Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez has announced. The four-year agreement is now being put into writing, and the employees are expected to go back to work next week.

The deal puts an end to six weeks of strikes over pay and pension cuts. Between 35,000 and 39,000 Verizon employees walked off their jobs in April, making it the largest strike in U.S. history.

"This tentative resolution is a testament to the power of collective bargaining. I commend the leadership of Verizon, CWA, and IBEW for their commitment to resolving these difficult issues in the spirit of constructive engagement. I expect that workers will be back on the job next week,” Perez said in a statement. Jeva Lange

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