NPR

Top 10 List of Florida Man Superhero Losers

Lists are handy ways to track and assess things, events and people, including the jaw-droppingly weird Florida Man stories posted on Twitter by the Miami Herald. Reading the Florida Man Top 10 list of superhero losers will make you feel a lot better about yourself. Trust us.

Lists are handy ways to track and assess things, events and people, including the jaw-droppingly weird Florida Man stories posted on Twitter by the Miami Herald. Reading the Florida Man Top 10 list of superhero losers will make you feel a lot better about yourself. Trust us.

In South Florida, superhero is a sarcastic euphemism for loser. The Top 10 list of "Florida Man" superheroes proves the point.

For the unaware, @_FloridaMan is a popular Twitter feed that commemorates actions worthy of inclusion in its fictional “Department of Chaos.” The feed has 42,000 followers who chomp at the bit for the next account of stupefying weirdness, made even more bizarre by all occurring in the confines of South Florida.

Topping the Top 10 Florida Man list is Joshua James, who was jailed after throwing an illegally obtained Everglades alligator from his pickup truck through the drive-in window of a Wendy’s restaurant. No restaurant employees were reportedly injured and the alligator lived to snap another day. For his part, James was unable to explain why the alligator was in his vehicle or why he inexplicably chucked it through a drive-in window.

There isn’t yet a Top 10 Florida Woman list, but a leading candidate is a Dania Beach woman who pulled a knife on a man in a Dollar Store checkout line because he refused to stop farting. There could be a Top 10 Florida Animal list, too. A Pensacola puppy put his paw on the trigger of a pistol and shot a man who was using the gun to shoot a litter of seven puppies.

Reptiles play a prominent role in Florida Man incidents. A reptile store owner swung a bearded dragon overhead and hit an employee in the face. An unknown apartment dweller tied a 12-foot alligator to a tree with a parachute cord and then fed it neighborhood cats. He fled before being charged with animal cruelty.

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Fire and knives are another common obsession of Florida Man superheroes. Cannibal Corpse guitarist Patrick O’Brien broke into a neighbor’s house, pushed an occupant to the ground and brandished a knife. O’Brien was on fire after escaping his own house which was burning with the assistance of death metal flamethrowers.

A naked man in Cape Coral danced in a fire brandishing a knife to ward off firemen and police officers trying to rescue him.

A man dressed in a pirate costume fired muskets at cars on a bridge in the Florida Keys. His occupation at the time was wearing a pirate costume and carrying a musket.

An obviously hungry man gnawed the wrist of his girlfriend after they argued en route to a Taco Bell.

A teenager plucked a stuffed horse toy off a shelf in a Walmart, headed to the bedding department, proceeded to pleasure himself and then returned the impregnated horse to where he found it.

Those are just the top 10 Florida Man stories. Others include a Pensacola man who threatened his own family in a four-hour standoff with police over a slice of pizza. A Florida man was arrested for domestic battery after he threw a hard cookie that hit his girlfriend in the head. A homeless South Florida man was charged with stabbing a tourist with a scissors held by his feet. A man covered in ketchup was arrested after yelling profanities at passersby. A man called 911 after he was unable to take his cat into a strip club. A restaurant was forced to end its “bring your monkey night” promotion after an eight-year-old boy was bitten by, you guessed it, a hungry monkey.

The Florida Man story that Miami Herald reporter Howard Cohen likes the most involved a man in custody for auto theft. Upon his release, the suspect tried to heist a car in the police department parking lot. He failed to notice a police officer was in the car that he tried to steal.

Needless to say, Florida Man accounts aren't regularly shared by South Florida chambers of commerce. They just assume you know what you’re in for when you come there.

So, a word to the wise, watch out for flying gators, pizza slices, exploding flamethrowers and hard cookies.

Hidden Brains and Revealed Truths about Human Behavior

Shankar Vedantam does what public opinion pollsters can’t do – look inside the hidden brains of people to learn why they behave as they do. [Photo Credit: NPR]

Shankar Vedantam does what public opinion pollsters can’t do – look inside the hidden brains of people to learn why they behave as they do. [Photo Credit: NPR]

A central purpose of research is to find out what people think. Shankar Vedantam, the host of Hidden Brain, explores how people behave.

Vedantam is NPR’s social sciences correspondent who reports on human behavior, with a flair for fetching headlines. Some of his recent reports include:

  • “Close Enough: The Lure of Living Through Others”

  • “One Head, Two Brains: How the Brain’s Hemispheres Shape the World We See”

  • “Rewinding & Rewriting: The Alternate Universes in Our Heads”

  • “Why did So Many Americans Trust Russian Hackers’ Election Propaganda”

  • “The Best Medicine: Decoding the Hidden Meanings of Laughter”

  • “Why Consumers Systematically Give Inflated Grades for Poor Service”

His Hidden Brain podcasts do what public opinion polls don’t or can’t do. He looks at research from the likes of psychologists, neuroscientists and cultural anthropologists that examines what people actually do and tries to explain why.

Vedantam doesn’t have the usual credentials for exploring human behavior. His undergraduate degree is in electrical engineering and his master’s degree is in journalism. Early-career fellowships dealing with mental health, public health, science and religion helped to steer his award-winning career in the direction of trying to understand why people do what they do.

For example, Vedantam reported that people shy away from giving extremely negative ratings for service because they don’t want people to lose their jobs. The business school professor who informed his conclusion compared it why teachers tend to inflate grades for their students. “Nobody complains,” he said, “when they get an ‘A’.”

The style of his reporting is more light than heavy. But it isn’t frivolous fluff. Vedantam authored a book based on his reporting titled, “The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars and Save Our Lives.”

Frustration with polling often centers on its accuracy in predicting how people will vote. Vedantam’s reporting bypasses that frustration by digging into the mindset of voters, consumers, students and people in general that causes certain behavior. It tells us something about ourselves that we might not realize or choose to ignore. It is a form of radio talk therapy.

The social sciences are playing a larger role in shaping business decisions from how to market a product, respond to complaints and design people-friendly features. Social sciences research offers clues to group behavior, organizational effectiveness and game theory. Companies are hiring cultural anthropologists. Kevin O’Leary, Shark Tank’s brutally blunt investor, majored in psychology and environmental studies. 

Vedantam offers a gentler approach to the truth than O’Leary that can be valuable in helping listeners take stock of why they and other people think and behave the way we do. He makes uncomfortable reality easy to hear and consider.

 

Survey Shows Medicaid Patient Satisfaction High

Despite political talking points, a Harvard University survey shows satisfaction is high among Medicaid enrollees across the board.

Despite political talking points, a Harvard University survey shows satisfaction is high among Medicaid enrollees across the board.

One of the GOP talking points to defend slashing federal Medicaid spending is that it doesn’t provide good health care. A survey conducted by the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard’s Chan School found the exact opposite.

Politics is not reputed for fully factual discourse. In this case, the claim appears to be pretty close to false.

NPR reported that 84 percent of Medicaid patients said they were able to access all the health care they needed in the previous six months. Only 3 percent said they experienced long wait lines or doctors who refused to take Medicaid patients. The results applied across the board for patients in the traditional Medicaid program, Medicaid managed care plans and among the elderly and disabled, regardless whether they were in states with expanded Medicaid programs. Researchers did not include patients accessing Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act expansion or patients in nursing homes.

Medicaid is known as a health program for the poor, and it is. But the largest amount of Medicaid reimbursement pays for health care for the elderly and disabled, including 62 percent of the seniors living in nursing homes.

Medicaid is known as a health program for the poor, and it is. But the largest amount of Medicaid reimbursement pays for health care for the elderly and disabled, including 62 percent of the seniors living in nursing homes.

House Speaker Paul Ryan belittled Medicaid last spring when the House was considering the GOP American Health Care Act. “I mean, what good is your coverage if you can’t get a doctor?” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price used a similar argument last month at a congressional hearing, claiming one third of US doctors refuse to accept Medicaid enrollees.

According to Michael Barnett, who authored the Harvard survey report, researchers evaluated data from more than 270,000 Americans enrolled in Medicaid in 2013. Barnett said the average rating of Medicaid patients was 7.9 out of 10, with 10 representing “the best health care possible.” He added that almost half of patients gave Medicaid a 9 or 10 rating. “If nearly half the people are giving it nearly a perfect score, that’s pretty good,” Barnett told NPR.

“Part of what motivated this study is that there is a lot of rhetoric and what we would call misinformation around ‘What does Medicaid do, how effective is it, and how satisfied are enrollees with their coverage?’” he said. “This is the survey that really provides the most reliable large-scale information that we have to date, [with] over 270,000 enrollees, and they’re largely satisfied.”

The findings seem to be borne out by on-the-ground reactions to Republican health care legislation that would give states more control over Medicaid and slash federal funding over the next decade by as much as $800 billion. Lawmakers from both political parties report larger-than-normal crowds at their town hall meetings with many people pleading to avoid steep spending cuts on Medicaid.

While Medicaid is largely viewed as a health care program for the poor, the largest amount of Medicaid reimbursements is for health care for older people and disable persons. Medicaid pays for 62 percent of seniors living in nursing homes. Medicaid also pays for 50 percent of all births in the United States.

Big Data and Little Kids

Data mining has reached schoolhouses where student learning, behaviors and lunch table preferences are captured, amid mounting concern for how the information will be used and by whom.

Data mining has reached schoolhouses where student learning, behaviors and lunch table preferences are captured, amid mounting concern for how the information will be used and by whom.

Children are the latest data-mining targets as software track student progress, learning skills, behaviors and even where they sit in the classroom and at lunch.

The data is viewed as necessary for an assessment-driven analysis of student and school performance. But since much of the information collected could leak into the hands of non-educators, it could become a treasure trove for companies seeking to gain a better understanding of their target market.

Marketplace Tech, a segment on NPR, is running a series of reports this week on what it calls the "Quantified Student."

"From the time they get on the school bus, until they close their laptops at night, there’s a good chance data are being collected on their whereabouts, their learning patterns, their classroom behavior, what they eat for lunch, the websites they browse on their school computers, and maybe even the amount of sleep they get," reports Adriene Hill.

"Schools have always gathered basic data on kids — attendance, grades, disciplinary actions — but now that those records are digital, a school can better spot trends and patterns," Hill adds. The operating principle is "better decisions require better information."

Date collected is used, Hill explains, to support concepts such as individualized learning, personalized learning and differentiated learning.

The rapid growth of data collection on schoolchildren may have escaped many parents, but now is giving rise to student privacy protection legislation around the country to regulate what data can be shared and with whom. Oregon and Washington legislatures considered such bills in 2014. Idaho has adopted a student data security measure.

Stress Is a Fact of Life

An NPR survey explores the extent and sources of stress, which is clearly a fact of many of our daily lives.If it seems as if a lot of people are stressed out, it may be because they are.

A survey conducted earlier this year by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health revealed almost half of the 2,500 adult respondents said they had experienced a major stress in the past year. More than 25 percent said they had been under severe stress the previous month.

Survey results showed the people feeling the most stress were in poor health, disabled or suffering from chronic conditions. Other significant sources of stress are problems at work, life changes, family issues and personal relationships gone sour.

Language of Aging

The percentage of people age 65 or older is growing and so is sensitivity about how to refer to the growing population cohort.People are sensitive about aging, which is reflected in their sensitivity to the language used to describe them.

Census projections indicate one-fifth of the U.S. population will be 65 or older by 2030 and market data says people 50 or older account for a whopping 50 percent of all U.S. consumer spending. That has heightened awareness of how to refer to this growing and gainful cohort of people.