Last week, the Senate grilled and shamed Dr. Mehmet Oz for hawking miracle pills on his popular syndicated TV talk show. On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver did the same, but much more amusingly. "Name me one case where a man named Oz claimed mystical powers and led people horribly astray," Oliver joked at one point.
The literary references didn't stop there. Oliver also drew on folk tales like "Jack and The Beanstalk" and "The Emperor's New Clothes" to demonstrate the problem with talking up unproved or even unsafe dietary supplements — and when Dr. Oz mentions them, sales climb skyward. "The only problem with the Dr. Oz effect is that magic pills don't, technically, exist, and Dr. Oz knows that," Oliver said.
Like the Senate used Dr. Oz as an example, so does Oliver — a jumping-off point to explain, in his John Oliver way, the problems with the lucrative supplement industry, and how it soundly defeated FDA regulatory attempts with the help of lots of money, angry letters, Mel Gibson, and Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). As always, some language is mildly NSFW, and the ending is brilliant. --Peter Weber
If SAT scores are any indication, then hundreds of thousands of teenagers graduated in 2015 unprepared for college. According to College Board, which owns the test, SAT scores plummeted to their lowest average in a decade, despite the test being overhauled in 2005. The average score for the class of 2015 was 1490 out of 2400, down 7 points from 2014. Scores dropped across all three sections — in reading, writing, and math.
Only 42 percent of students who took the SATs earned a score of 1550 or higher, a troubling statistic considering the College Board calls this threshold the "college and career readiness" level. The scores were also lower for minorities: Only 23 percent of Hispanic students and 16 percent of African-American students made the 1550-or-higher cutoff. Factors such as poverty, language barriers, and low levels of parental education are cited by The Washington Post as possible factors in the dismal scores.
Although a new version of the SAT, with an essay-optional writing section, will be given to the class of 2016, it would likely take a major education overhaul to surmount the troubles students encounter when they hit high school level classes. "Simply doing the same things we have been doing is not going to improve these numbers," Cyndie Schmeiser, the chief of assessment for the College Board, told The Washington Post. "This is a call to action to do something different to propel more students to readiness." Jeva Lange
The Bernie Sanders campaign still faces an uphill battle challenging the Clinton juggernaut for the Democratic nomination, but there's one place where he's already won: Reddit.
If you're not familiar with the site, Reddit is a massive online forum that allows users to "upvote" and "downvote" user-submitted content, and it's divided into subreddits, which are single-topic forums users can subscribed to or ignore according to personal interests.
Sanders currently has more than 80 subreddits devoted to his cause, including one for every single state plus Washington, DC. The primary subreddit of the bunch, r/SandersforPresident, has nearly 100,00 subscribers, meaning there are lots of upvotes constantly pushing pro-Sanders content into the view of Reddit's 203 million monthly visitors. State-based subreddits have played a key role in organizing for real life events, too, helping Sanders pack stadiums with thousands of supporters.
This is not the first time Reddit has cottoned to a presidential candidate: In 2008 and 2012, Ron Paul was Reddit's choice for aggressively upvoted underdog, to the point that frustrated non-Paul supporters created an r/EnoughPaulSpam subreddit in protest. Bonnie Kristian
While Donald Trump himself may speak at the level of a fourth grader, the controversy surrounding his campaign has had the positive side effect of making Americans brush up on their vocabulary skills.
The editors of Merriam-Webster's online dictionary have noticed spikes in research on a number of campaign-related words, and Trump, says Merriam-Webster Associate Editor Kory Stamper, "has brought up the motherlode of lookups." He has particularly inspired curiosity about "demagoguery" and "misogyny."
But Trump isn't the only candidate unintentionally making us a little smarter this campaign season. The release of Hillary Clinton's emails, for instance, fueled interest in "louche," a word used by one of her advisers to describe House Speaker John Boehner.
Stamper expects these lookup trends to continue throughout election season. "It's going to be a long, verbose 14 months," he said. Bonnie Kristian
When pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP (Truvada), first hit the market, critics were skeptical of the pill's claims that it could keep clients HIV-free if it at the same time lured people into believing they could have safe sex condom-free. However, 657 clients and more than two years later, it looks like that has, in fact, been the case: Not one person on the pill caught the virus, The New York Times reports.
However, critics who suggested the security provided by PrEP — which is close to 100 percent successful — would lead to a false sense of security about sexually transmitted diseases appear to have been correct. Gay men in the study did use fewer condoms, and about half became infected with syphilis, gonorrhea, or Chlamydia within a year. Forty percent said their condom use decreased, although the vast majority said their number of sexual partners remained the same. At least there's this: While HIV (which can develop into AIDS) is controlled with antiretroviral drugs taken for life, most other STDs are treated with a run of antibiotics. Jeva Lange
Four-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady has emerged victorious yet again. On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman nullified the four-game suspension the NFL had slapped on Brady for his alleged role in the "Deflategate" scandal, in which Brady's New England Patriots were accused of breaking the rules by deflating footballs in a playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts last season. The Patriots won that game 45-7, and went on to win the Super Bowl.
Berman "did not rule on whether Brady tampered with the footballs in a bid for competitive advantage," The New York Times notes. "Instead, he focused on the narrower question of whether the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the players union gave [NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell] the authority to carry out the suspension. Judge Berman ruled that it did not."
Brady is now expected to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first game of the Patriots' season on September 10. And his star tight end, for one, certainly seems thrilled to have his QB back. Jeva Lange
— Rob Gronkowski (@RobGronkowski) September 3, 2015
Donald Trump reportedly plans to sign a loyalty pledge to the GOP, a source revealed to Politico Thursday. The pledge would force Trump to endorse the eventual GOP nominee, and theoretically prevent him from a third-party run if he doesn't win the Republican nomination. By signing the pledge, Trump will avoid complications of getting on primary ballots as a Republican and also rob opponents of an attack line at the next debate.
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski would not confirm Trump's plans to Politico, saying, "I don't think you can 'expect' ANYTHING from Mr. Trump." Jeva Lange
Another elected official has challenged the Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage — this time, a judge in Hamilton County, Tennessee.
Chancellor Jeffery Atherton denied the divorce petition of Thomas and Pamela Bumgardner, who filed for divorce last September citing irreconcilable differences. Among several listed reasons for denying the petition, Atherton noted that, in his view, the recent Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage left Tennesseeans “incompetent to define and address such institutions as marriage and, thereby, at minimum, contest divorces.”
Atherton's decision comes amid a flurry of other state officials challenging the June 27 ruling, most prominently county clerk Kim Davis in Kentucky.
While the attorneys for the plaintiffs declined to comment to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, other members of the Chattanooga legal community expressed skepticism over the ruling. “I don't know for sure, but I suspect the U.S. Supreme Court did not intend to preempt divorce law,” one attorney told the paper.
As to where that leaves the Bumgardners, who remain married against their will? Atherton is optimistic: "Hopefully they can reconcile." Marshall Bright