New York Knicks claim Atlantic Division title, look to No. 2 seed in East

While the nation’s sports fans were inflicted with March Madness, a different sort of mania swept New York basketball fans as the Knicks came off their 13th win in a row last night to clinch the Atlantic Division title, the first for the franchise since 1994.

I curated accounts of the game from news outlets, sports blogs, Twitter and Facebook, and created this “newspaper” using paper.li. (Click through to see the full paper.)

My sources include tweets and Facebook posts mentioning the Knicks, the NBA and various Knicks players, the Twitter feeds of sports news outlets and basketball blogs, and YouTube videos mentioning the Knicks. These sources yielded some photos that were “actualities”– taken and posted by fans actually present at the game. However, the bulk of content (articles, posts, videos) still ended up being accounts written by professional journalists, and shared across the web.

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Save Spot: fact-checking Obamacare’s effect on pet care

For our fact-checking assignment, I selected an alarming article that I came across on the Drudge Report today:

Drudge Report headline on March 13th, 2013.

Drudge linked to a CBS Miami story posted on March 11th with the headline, “Obamacare May Bite You At The Vet’s Office” (video with transcript included). Straight off the bat, this story employs two of the rhetorical tricks described by Wendell Potter— the “Fear” and “Plain Folks” tactics. It opens with:

Pet owners listen up: You may want to start saving more money for veterinarian care this year. The reason goes all the way back to Washington and an unintended consequence from medical reform. Dog owner Lori Heiselman was surprised where her veterinarian posted a warning on Facebook. The notice read: “Because medical equipment and supplies will be going up in cost, that extra expense will have to passed on to the customers.” So Lori is already tightening her belt to pay for the increase in her dog’s care. Though she doesn’t like it, she’s willing to pay more for her pets.

To start, the reporter immediately alerts readers to a new threat to their pocketbooks, eliciting worry, if not outright fear, regardless of whether Spot or Fluffy may actually require special veterinary care this year. And we know this is a real problem because average Jane Lori Heiselman received a notification from her veterinarian.

We’re told that this cost hike is the result of a new 2.3 percent federal excise tax on medical devices, which will help fund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, aka. Obamacare). A quick reveals that the good folks at Snopes have looked into this and verified this tax went into effect as of January 1st of this year. It was passed as a provision in the reconciliation bill (HR 4872, subchapter E, section 4191) that was passed with the PPACA. Though the tax is primarily intended for medical devices for humans, it does seem to include devices that are also used for animals.

The CBS report claims that the burden lies on manufacturers to pay the tax, “but a recent survey found more than half plan to pass it along.” The first half of this claim is confirmed by an Internal Revenue Service FAQ. The cost-transfer claim is a use of the “testimonial” tactic of PR– graphics in the video report indicate that the source of this survey is the Emergo Group, a multinational medical equipment consultancy[1]. This large consultancy’s expertise is used to legitimize the implication that the cost of this tax will likely be passed on from manufacturer to veterinarian to customer.

The mix of fear and testimonial continue in quotes from a Dr. Mike Hatcher, who is concerned this may be a “hidden tax” on consumers and may “terribly affect our clients’ ability to have quality care.” Also quoted is an expert from the American Veterinary Medical Association, who throws in a clever euphemism– he frames this tax as a veterinarian medicine subsidy of human health care.

Although the glaring lack of facts describing the exact scope of this problem make this story superficial, it also seems conceivable that higher veterinary bills might be a genuine concern for families who have prior financial constraints and whose pets become sick this year. So is it fair to accuse this report of being spin?

It turns out, the connection between Obamacare and sick puppies surfaced a good nine months ago, in this video released last June by the National Republican Congressional Committee as part of a petition campaign to garner support for the repeal of Obamacare. In December, the excise tax’s effect on pet care was reported in a blog post by the conservative Heritage Foundation and an article by the conservative news site Newsmax. The Heritage post and NRCC video even use similar images of golden retriever puppies– the ultimate Glittering Generality of the good ol’ American Dream.

[1] This study did not seem methodologically biased according to my quick glance, but I’d love the input of anyone with more experience with survey design.

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How Luisa Beck arrived at News & Participatory Media

I created this timeline tracing Luisa’s journey from East Germany to West Germany, California to Massachusetts, with a few pit stops along the way.

Stories in Green are events in Luisa’s life, collected from a variety of online sources and derived from a phone interview with Luisa.

Stories in blue are world events that have influenced Luisa and lead her to this course.

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Warning: this dining experience comes with copious instructions.

For the four hour challenge, I decided to document the legendary wait at a local restaurant. Since I worked with video professionally, I wanted to give amateur food blogging a try with this challenge. Originally posted here.

Yume Wo Katare at Porter Square opened its doors last October after much chatter and anticipation. Word of legendary waits spread like so many Ippudo outposts. Having endured long lines at the ramen temples of New York City, I’ve witnessed the fanaticism inspired by this superlative form of noodle soup. But here in Cambridge, could a bowl of ramen really be worthy of lines that snake around the block on even the snowiest and coldest of nights?

According to reviews, people endure those lines at Yume not just for the noodles, but for the experience. In the words of one Yelper:

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And so I gathered up some hungry troops hearty enough to brave a potentially hour-long wait in a wintry mix. When we arrived at 6:35pm, almost twenty people were already waiting outside.

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We studied the rules, helpfully posted on the window in a handy flow chart:

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The restaurant sits a strange half-story above street level, placing tables at eye level for those looking on covetously from the outside.

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And if all that isn’t enough to build up the anticipation, the front of the line is marked by this sign:

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45 minutes later, we were finally in– but alas, the wait continued as we were made to stand against the walls, hovering over the other patrons.

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I expected a museum-like aura in a place with such rigid rules, but the experience inside belied my impression. The hostess was kind, and while a few of the twenty or so patrons ate silently, there was a soft din of conversation over the sound of light jazz playing in the background.

The name of the restaurant means “tell your dreams,” a dictum that was painted on the ceiling above the kitchen

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..and displayed on the far wall.

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Visitors can purchase a spot on the wall for a framed declaration of their dreams at a cost of $10 a month, or $10,000 for 10 years– a long term investment of dubious returns.

In Japan, ramen styles vary greatly according to different regional conventions.
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View The 26 Types of Ramen in Japan in a larger map

Yume serves theirs Jiro-style: in big heaping bowl (“the biggest bowls in Boston,” according to one of their many signs) of pork and soy-based broth, topped simply with thick noodles made in-house, slices of roasted pork belly, bean sprouts, cabbage and minced garlic, sans condiments.

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A bowl with two slices of pork rings in at $12, a five-slice bowl at $14. Extra vegetable toppings are free of charge, though one sign requests that patrons order only so much as they can eat, as leftovers cannot be taken to go.

After the ten minute standing wait, we were finally seated. Chef/owner Tsuyoshi Nishioka called out to us one by one with his trademark demand: 

To which we responded with requests for extra veggies or garlic. Our bowls arrived, as full and heaping as had been described in so many reviews.

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The first few bites were delightfully porcine and just fatty enough to trigger my Pavolovian responses. The noodles, thick as linguine, were cooked to a toothsome al dente and carried the savory soy flavor of the broth. The real trouble, however, lurked below the toppings: bits of melty pork fat flecked the gravy-like broth.

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I suppressed a looming fear for my arteries and managed to finish all the solid components, though not the soup. My companions did no better.

It was a gratifying meal for a cold night, but Nishioka’s fine handiwork wasn’t enough to absorb my full attention. Bite after bite, I remained awkwardly aware of the waiting glances of those standing behind me and outside the window. Next time, I’ll most likely tell my dreams elsewhere.

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