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    The FBI Can Neither Confirm Nor Deny Wiretapping Your Amazon Echo
    An Amazon Echo, which the FBI can neither confirm nor deny has ever been hacked during an investigation (Gizmodo)

    Back in March, I filed a Freedom of Information request with the FBI asking if the agency had ever wiretapped an Amazon Echo. This week I got a response: “We can neither confirm nor deny...”

    We live in a world awash in microphones. They’re in our smartphones, they’re in our computers, and they’re in our TVs. We used to expect that they were only listening when we asked them to listen. But increasingly we’ve invited our internet-connected gadgets to be “always listening.” There’s no better example of this than the Amazon Echo.

    In many ways the Echo is a law enforcement dream. Imagine if you could go back in time and tell police that one day people would willingly put microphones in their own homes that, with a little hacking, could be heard from anywhere in the world 24/7. First, you’d need to explain what hacking was, but then they’d be like, “Nah bruh, yer pullin’ my leg.” Or whatever the 1970s version of that was—don’t ask me I was born in the 80s.

    Years ago agencies like the FBI would need to wiretap a phone conversation or place bugs inside homes, practices that can be cost prohibitive and labor intensive. Today, you just need some software to tap into a device’s microphone. And if that device is “always listening” for a command, all the better for someone who wants to hear what’s going on.

    In 2016, creepy perverts are hacking computer cameras and baby monitors all the time just to get their sick little rocks off. And we know that the NSA can still wiretap your phone even when it’s not turned on. So why wouldn’t law enforcement agencies or intelligence agencies hack your Echo (presumably with a court order) to catch the baddies?

    Alexa, tell the Feds where the bodies are buried.

    The FBI Can Neither Confirm Nor Deny Wiretapping Your Amazon Echo
    The letter I received in response to my FOIA request to the FBI about the Amazon Echo (2016)

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    Ted Cruz Files Papers For Continued Public Humiliation
    Photo: AP

    Ted Cruz, bless his heart, has been out of the public eye for more than a week now. But it’s just a temporary reprieve: He’ll be back out brutally owning himself on the campaign trail soon.

    Just how stir crazy is he going with just his family and his soup to keep him company? So far he’s already held strategy meetings to exert influence over the national convention and floated the idea of unsuspending his presidential campaign even though no one wants to vote for him. And today, according to CNN, the most hated man in the Senate also filed papers to run for re-election in 2018.

    Many strategists believe Cruz would be better served to skip a Senate re-election campaign in 2018 and instead focus on his presidential ambitions. While Cruz may ultimately decide not to run for re-election, his comments are clearly aimed at tamping down speculation that he will quit the Senate. On Wednesday Cruz officially reactivated his Senate campaign account, stating in a letter to the Federal Election Commission that he “is no longer a candidate for President of the United States.”

    This man lives to humiliate himself—who are we to stop him?

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    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More

    A clever flashlight, a vacuum-insulated koozie, and a $9 SSD enclosure lead off Wednesday’s best deals.

    Bookmark Kinja Deals and follow us on Twitter to never miss a deal. Commerce Content is independent of Editorial and Advertising, and if you buy something through our posts, we may get a small share of the sale. Click here to learn more, and don’t forget to sign up for our email newsletter.

    Top Deals

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    Suaoki 4-in-1 Cree LED Flashlight, $17 with code SKTC7511

    Update: Code has expired.

    A rechargeable Cree LED flashlight for $17 would be a pretty good deal under any circumstances, but this one includes a seatbelt cutter, window hammer, and even a 5,200mAh USB battery charger. Plus, it includes IPX6 waterproofing, so you’ll still be able to use it if you drive your car into a lake.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    81-Count Tide Pods, $14 with $5 coupon and Subscribe & Save

    Tide Pods are the easiest way to do laundry, and you can get an 81-count tub for just $14 today on Amazon. You’ll need to clip the $5 coupon, and order via Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program, but you can always cancel that subscription once you receive your first delivery.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    AmazonBasics Sheet Sets, $31-$54

    Weird but true: Amazon makes bed sheets! They’re sateen, they’re 400 thread count, and they’re cheaper than ever in all sizes and colors today. I wonder if Bezos uses them?

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    LED Desk Lamp Gold Box, $20-$24

    Today only, a couple of TaoTronics LED desk lamps are on sale in Amazon’s Gold Box. Strangely enough, the cheaper model has seven dimming levels versus three on the $24 one, but they both have fantastic review averages.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    Tactical and Military Boot Gold Box

    You’ll need a good pair of combat boots when we’re all conscripted to invade Canada because Ryan Reynolds cracked a joke about President Trump’s hair, so you might as well save on yours during today’s Gold Box deal.

    Doom comes out in a couple of days, and you can save $15 if you preorder your copy through Green Man Gaming with promo code DOOM25. In addition to the deal and the ability to preload, you’ll also get a free copy of Doom 3 BFG Edition.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    Extra 30% off Pampers

    For a limited time, Amazon’s taking a whopping 30% off select Pampers diapers, plus an additional 20% off for Prime members when you use Subscribe & Save. Just click the variety you want, clip the 30% coupon on the page, and you’ll see the discount reflected at checkout. Even if you don’t have any kids of your own, this deal is worth sharing with your friends who do.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    Refurb Moto 360, $80

    Curious about Android Wear, but don’t want to invest a ton of money on a wearable? You can score a refurb first-gen Moto 360 today for just $80 on eBay, in multiple styles.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    PS4 Uncharted Bundle + Uncharted 4, $350

    If you don’t own a PS4, and haven’t played any of the Uncharted games yet, you can get the console and all four games for $350 today. The Uncharted Bundle, which includes the three remastered PS3 Uncharted titles, has always sold for the same price, but this deal gets you the brand new Uncharted 4 for free.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    HyperX Cloud II Headset, $88.

    HyperX’s Cloud II is one of your favorite gaming headsets, and the black and red model is down to $88 on Amazon today. It’s been cheaper on a couple of occasions before, but you’ll usually see it in the mid-$90s. That gets you 53mm drivers, virtual 7.1 surround sound, a noise-cancelling microphone, and more.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    GlowBowl, $17

    You probably looked at that image up there and laughed. But let me tell you, there’s nothing funny about using the bathroom in the middle of the night and having to turn on an overhead light to see where you’re going. Because as soon as you hit that switch, you know you’re not getting back to sleep for another hour.

    GlowBowl fits on just about any toilet, is motion activated, and can even output seven different colors of light. Most importantly though, it won’t wreak havoc on your circadian rhythms.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    2-Pack Pet Seat Belts, $6 with code YGYTVYMV

    If you ever take your pets on car rides, you can keep them secure in the back seat with a two-pack of pet seat belts for just $6. Just know that these are not designed to keep your pets safe in the event of a high speed crash; they’re meant to keep your pets from climbing on top of you in the front seat, which could itself cause an accident.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    Thermos Stainless Steel Beverage Can Insulator, $9

    Let’s be honest here, thin fabric koozies are mostly useful for decoration; they don’t really keep a can cold for very long. This imposing metal Thermos contraption though? It’s the real deal.

    Thermos’s stainless steel can insulator uses vacuum insulation and thick walls to actually provide a barrier between your beverage and the outside world. They go so far as to claim that it will keep a can cold for up to 3 hours, and even if that’s a little bit of marketing hyperbole, what could possibly be in that can that takes more than an hour to drink?

    Over 1,200 Amazon reviewers have given the Thermos a 4.6 star review average, and you can get one (or more!) for just $9 right now. Cheers!

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    Uniqlo AIRism Sale: Men | Women

    Uniqlo’s AIRism line is one of your favorite undershirts, but the technology extends to underwear, outerwear t-shirts, camis, bra tops, and more, and it’s all on sale today starting under $10 for men and women. Unfortunately, it’s not a free shipping day at Uniqlo, but every order ships for a flat $5, which isn’t so bad.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    Inateck 2.5" SSD/HDD Enclosure, $9 with code 3OV9MTKS

    If you have any old hard drives laying around, or if you just want to build a super-fast external SSD to store your files, this 2.5" enclosure can convert a bare storage device into a portable external drive in seconds. Plus, $9 is one of the best prices we’ve ever seen on a model that supports UASP, which enables faster transfer speeds when using an SSD.

    Want to build an external SSD from scratch? I personally use this 480GB Adata model, which is available right now for just $109.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    EasyAcc QC 3.0 10,000mAh Battery Pack, $20 with code VR8CSYN8 | Aukey QC 2.0 10,400mAh Battery Pack, $17 with code WE9CD7NJ

    If your phone supports Quick Charge 2.0 or 3.0, your USB battery pack should as well.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    BATTOP Foldable Bluetooth Keyboard, $23 with code R7H9P5X5

    If you want to get real work done on your phone or tablet on the go, this Bluetooth keyboard stand can fold up to fit into just about any bag. Plus, its 40 hour battery should last the duration of almost any trip.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    X-Chef Stainless Steel Wine Opener and Stopper, $7 with code 5I3PATT4

    There’s nothing particularly special about this corkscrew or wine stopper, from a feature perspective. But to get both for $7? That’s a pretty fantastic deal if you don’t already own products like them.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    Aukey Dash Cam, $57 with code JYLE5AH9

    We’ve seen our fair share of $50-$70 dash cams, but this new model from Aukey is unique in offering 1080p/60 recording (most in this price range are limited to 30FPS), and the ability to connect its power directly to your car’s fusebox. It also comes with a standard power cable that plugs into your cigarette lighter, but the ability to wire it directly will result in a much cleaner look.

    Don’t forget a microSD card!

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    Gonex Resistance Band Set, $16 with code Z38IWM6G

    Need to get your body beach-ready? This resistance band set lets you get a full workout in any room in your house, and at $16, it’s quite a bit more cost-effective than joining a gym.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    Etekcity Personal Water Filter, $16 with code R89IIF6Z

    Whether you’re an avid outdoorsman or doomsday prepper, this $16 filtering straw lets you suck down 400 gallons of water from just about any source.

    Sicario is not a fun movie, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. If you’re curious, Amazon will rent it to you digitally for just $1. Even if you can’t get to it tonight, you have 30 days to start watching after you lock in your order. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    Update: Also available on iTunes.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    Crest 3D Whitestrips, $37 after $7 coupon

    Let’s say you’ve already upgraded to a good toothbrush; what’s the next step for cleaner teeth? Judging by the user reviews, this 20-count box of Crest 3D Whitestrips is a great place to start. As an added bonus, you’ll even get a pair of express one-hour treatments, for when a whiter smile just can’t wait.

    Note: Be sure to clip the $7 coupon on the product page.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    NomadPlus, $15

    You know all of those little Apple USB charging bricks sitting in your drawer? The clever NomadPlus USB charger can transform one into a travel-friendly portable battery pack, and it’s back down to just $15 today.

    While undoubtedly clever, the NomadPlus has always been a tough sell at its usual $40, but you can grab one on Amazon right now for $15 shipped. That’s still a decent price premium over a standalone battery pack, but if you appreciate good design, and only want to carry around a single charging solution, it’s a fantastic deal. It would also make a great gift for your less tech-savvy friends who would never remember to charge a standalone battery pack.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    Tronsmart Quick Charge 2.0 Car Charger with microUSB Cables, $7 with code 2USBCHAR

    Two Quick Charge 2.0 outlets, and two bonus microUSB cables for just $7. To put it simply, this is one of the best USB car charger deals we’ve ever seen.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    1byone iPhone 6/6s Battery Case, $16 with code ZMRCJ8YE

    We see iPhone battery case deals every week, but even by our standards, $16 is an amazing price. That’s $83 less than Apple charges for their version!

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    Mpow 20 LED Motion Sensing Outdoor Solar Light, $19 with code J2YXEL3P

    You don’t need electrical skills, special wiring, or even very much money to install a motion-sensing light on your porch; you just need this $19, solar powered model from Mpow. Smaller versions of this light have sold extremely well in the past, but this model features 20 LED bulbs, rather than four or eight.

    Bonus: You can also get two for $37 with code YF8GCLFW.

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    20% off Vega

    Vega plant-based supplements are some of the best things you can put in your body, and Amazon’s taking an extra 20% off their protein powders, bars, and more today.

    The 20% coupon is valid on dozens of different Vega items, and will stack with any existing discounts you see on the product pages. Just add your selections to your cart, and you’ll see the final price at checkout.

    Vega has a great calorie-to-protein ratio, but the best thing about their shakes is that they aren’t just about protein. Vega’s shakes typically contain six grams of fiber, 3 servings of vegetables, and good amounts of Omega-3, probiotics, vitamins, and illusive potassium. It’s like a protein shake, a multivitamin, and a bunch of bonuses all in one convenient package. [20% off Vega Protein Products]

    Today's Best Deals: Smarter Flashlight, Colder Drinks, and More
    $50 iTunes Gift Card, $40

    After a longer-than-usual layoff, PayPal’s eBay storefront is once again offering a solid discount on iTunes credit. This time around, it’s $10 off a $50 card, which works out to a 20% discount. With a few rare exceptions, that’s as good as these deals get.

    Amazon’s Prime Pantry program is great for stocking up on household goods and non-perishable foods without actually having to visit a store, but the $5.99 per box shipping charge has always been a drag. This month though, if you buy five select items, you can get that fee waived.

    Bonus: If you already have a no-rush free shipping credit in your account, this deal should actually stack, netting you an extra $6 discount.

    They ran a similar promotion the last two months with different eligible items. Just add five of them to your box (plus anything else that will fit), and use code PANTRYMAY at checkout to get free shipping. [Free Prime Pantry shipping with five eligible purchases, promo code PANTRYMAY]

    If you manage to spend $75 on your box, toss in promo code PANTRY75 at checkout to save $6 on your next Pantry order as well.





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    News Helicopter Captures Police Beating the Shit Out of Car Chase Suspect As He Surrenders
    Still: WFXT Fox 25

    Police either did not notice the helicopter loudly whirring above them or did not care as they approached a car chase suspect in Nashua, New Hampshire this evening. Under a local news camera’s watchful eye, several cops pummeled the crap out of the guy, even as he laid down and surrendered.

    The Fox affiliate WFXT captured the scene, though their cameraman seems to have zoomed out when he noticed the brutality of the arrest:

    According to WFXT’s report, the chase lasted just over an hour, and the man led police from Holden, Massachusetts across state lines to New Hampshire. It is not clear what the man was wanted for, or what police department the arresting officers are with.

    Whatever happened, the cops clearly didn’t need to unleash the royal rumble. And for their own sakes, they could have at least waited until a few minutes after the thrilling climax of an hour-long high-speed car chase. Did they think the cameras weren’t going to be rolling?

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    Piers Morgan: This Girl Is Too Hot to Slaughter Her Family

    Last night, tweeting British man Piers Morgan aired the first part of “Killer Women,” a new special that, according to Piers, will “chill your soul.” But which part of meeting a killer did Piers find most terrifying? That someone so young and so hot could be so murdery at the very same time.

    Piers interviews several “killer women” over the course of the episode, but no one upsets him quite like convicted felon Erin Caffey. Thankfully, Piers captured his horror in a column for Rupert Murdoch’s beloved UK rag The Sun:

    ...I’ve never met anyone who sent chills up my spine quite like Erin Caffey.

    Why? Because she’s a pretty, sweet, smiley, 4ft 11in, God- fearing young lady with a voice like an angel . . . who masterminded the savage slaughter of her entire family.

    How does he know that this woman who orchestrated her mother and brothers’ murders also happens to have the voice of an angel? Because he asked her to sing.

    A blood-curdling, sexy-ass song. Piers can hardly believe it. He writes:

    As I sit just two feet away from her, it’s almost impossible to understand how this tiny, beguiling woman could be capable of such pure evil.

    Against all good sense, Piers continues:

    Perhaps the most surreal moment of our interview came when she sang Amazing Grace for me, pitch-perfect. I believe Erin knew exactly what she was doing at the time of the murders, and knows now exactly how culpable she was.

    Finally, at the end of Caffey’s tale, Piers asks himself whether he could forgive Caffey were she his daughter, writing, “I just don’t know what I’d do.”

    But that was not the end of it. The struggle to comprehend how a pretty girl could both sing and kill continued on Piers’ Twitter account:

    Beyond comprehension indeed. In this time of tumult, though, we must look back on all Piers has taught us as we try to make sense of what we have seen.


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    Planned Parenthood Shooter Deemed Not Competent to Stand Trial

    On Wednesday a judge in Colorado ruled that Robert Lewis Dear, Jr., the man charged with killing three during an attack on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, is not mentally competent to stand trial.

    The Washington Post reports that Colorado Fourth Judicial District Judge Gilbert Martinez decided that Dear will be sent to the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo for psychiatric treatment. Via the Post:

    “Attorneys had reveled in court filings that a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation found Dear to be incompetent, and mental-health evaluators said during the April hearing that Dear suffers from delusions. A police detective said that Dear appeared lucid during his interviews and had said he did not want to claim insanity.”

    After the shooting, Dear told police that he was guilty, muttered about “baby parts,” and described himself as a “warrior for babies.” Dear, who has a long history of violence against women, showed no remorse in a February interview with the Colorado Springs Gazette. He took credit for the killings, telling the paper that he “killed three and saved 3,000 babies.”

    In that interview, Dear also described in detail his decision to purchase an AK-47 and drive to clinic whose address he found in the phone book. Dear brought eight guns with him to the clinic and wore a homemade bullet-proof vest. All of his weapons were legally purchased.

    The five-hour shootout left three dead—Ke’Arre Stewart, 29, Jennifer Markovsky, 35, both of whom were accompanying patients, and police officer Garrett Swasey, 44—and wounded nine. Dear remains charged with 179 counts, including first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and assault.

    Image via AP.

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    Barber Allegedly Pulls Gun After Telling Customer, "I Don't Cut Black Hair"
    Photo: York County Sheriff’s Office

    This week, police in South Carolina arrested a 65-year-old barber for allegedly brandishing a pistol after refusing to cut a man’s hair because he was black, the Associated Press reports.

    37-year-old Arthur Hill, who recently moved to the state from New York, says he entered Larry Thomas’ barbershop looking for a simple shave on Tuesday when the barber told him, “I don’t cut black hair.” Hill says he then asked Thomas what he meant and the barber pulled out a gun. From WFMY News:

    “I said, ‘Are you referring to African American hair?’ He said, ‘Yeah,’ and at the time I noticed he already had his hand gripped on a .38 snub nose chrome revolver.”

    Hill says he told Thomas he didn’t want any trouble and left, but he contacted the York County Sheriff’s Office.

    “I was shocked, I was shocked for my life, because I’m thinking that could’ve been me laying on the floor dead,” he said. “He did not point it at me, but it was clear in sight like he meant business.”

    According to police, Thomas denied grabbing the weapon and claimed he kept his guns locked up in a shed behind the shop. In the shed, officers say they recovered the handgun described by Hill.

    Thomas later told WFMY News he refuses to cut black hair because he doesn’t know how. Asked why he kept a gun in his shop, Thomas told the news network, “I felt threatened.”

    Thomas now faces a charge of pointing and presenting firearms at a person. According to Hill’s wife, the confrontation was their first “racial incident” since moving to South Carolina in December.

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    Senators Are Trying to Stop the Supreme Court's Bullshit New Hacking Rule
    AP Images

    In an interview with Gizmodo, Senator Ron Wyden revealed that he’ll introduce legislation next week that, if passed, would stop the recent Supreme Court change to what’s known as “Rule 41,” which gave the government broader hacking power.

    The Department of Justice has been pushing for the rule change for years, and it was finally granted by the Supreme Court in April. The new rule allows federal judges to grant warrants to agencies like the FBI to deploy “Network Investigative Techniques” (malware) to search any number of computers, be it 10 or 100,000, even if they don’t know what jurisdiction the computers are in. The rule change also allows judges to grant warrants to search the computers of victims of cybercrime, even if that person hasn’t been suspected of a crime. Congress has six months to oppose the rule change or else it will automatically go into effect.

    Obviously, there’s an array of problems here. The FBI has kept the American public in the dark about how exactly they carry out hacking. We don’t know what the current hacking procedures are, what protections exist, how often it happens, or what tools the FBI is using to carry out hacks. As Neema Singh Guliani of the ACLU Legislative Counsel told Gizmodo when the rule change was announced, “You can pretty much name the question and we probably don’t have an answer.”

    Then there’s the question of infecting computers with malware in order to search them. In an interview with Gizmodo, Senator Wyden aired his concerns.

    “By compromising computer systems, it could leave it open to other attackers. What if the government has to turn off the computer’s protections to search it?,” he said. “So if the government is out there turning of millions of security features in order to search computers, my view is that there could be some serious security threats.”

    The legislation Wyden plans to introduce next week will be just one sentence, simply stating that the changes to rule 41 will not go into effect.

    “What I hope is that the House and Senate Judiciary committees will start looking into the rule,” Wyden said. “They’ll start looking at our bill and and Senators would realize that this is the question for the Congress. An agency like the Department of Justice shouldn’t just be able to wave its arms around and grant itself vast new powers. The changes to rule 41 dramatically expand the government’s hacking authority.”

    In the end, Wyden is concerned that the proposed rule change doesn’t lay out any protections for innocent citizens, and also gives federal judges, who typically don’t understand the intricacies of the FBI’s malware, a lot of power.

    “For me the bottom line is any proposal in this area has gotta have more protections for law abiding Americans,” Wyden said. “And I am not convinced the oversight of a single judge is the best way to do this.”

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    North Carolina Lawmaker Says It's Just a Coincidence He's Targeting Companies Opposed to Bathroom Bill
    Photo: Getty

    After launching an effort to redefine “bullying,” supporters of North Carolina’s anti-LGBT bathroom law apparently have a new term they’d like to revisit: revenge.

    According to a report released Wednesday, lobbyists in North Carolina say that lawmakers are now threatening to punish them and their clients if they publicly come out against the bill. From WRAL:

    Legislation they want won’t move, and other bills could actually target them

    WRAL News spoke with 11 lobbyists who have experienced or are aware of such actions, but none would speak on the record for fear they would lose business or be targeted for retribution. One has already lost business

    One long-time lobbyist called the pressure a “gross abuse of power.” Another veteran lobbyist labeled it “vicious,” adding, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

    While several of the state’s leading Republicans denied knowledge of such practices, House Speaker Tim Moore was more direct, telling WRAL, “Retribution politics is not a practice we engage in.”

    Recently, House Majority Leader Mike Hager suggested killing tax breaks for American Airlines, NASCAR, and Google, all of which have condemned the law. When questioned by WRAL, Hager explained he has always wanted to end tax breaks for big businesses—the timing was just a coincidence.

    “There are businesses that take a certain stance, and there’s a lot of lobbyists that represent businesses,” said Hager. “None of those, I don’t think, have had any negative retribution at all.”

    So sure, it might look like revenge legislation potentially threatening the jobs of thousands, but hey, maybe it’s just one of those crazy things.

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    The "Influencer" Economy Is Collapsing Under the Weight of its Own Contradictions
    Image: Getty

    There comes a time in the life of every person or youth-oriented organic energy beverage brand when one must reckon with the loss of some previously cherished idea. A young woman realizes that she is no longer in love, or that her religion is now meaningless to her; the organic energy beverage brand that wishes to authentically connect with her as a customer realizes that throwing hundreds of dollars at some dick with a man bun and a few thousand Instagram followers may not be the best way to do it. Friends and beverage brands, that day of reckoning is today. We must throw off the shackles of our relationships and our assumptions and baptize ourselves anew in the fires of whatever bullshit is the next big trend in youth-oriented marketing. We must understand, right here and right now, that “influencers” are not going to save us.

    An influencer, for those readers who have never commuted to a funky converted-loft office space for work, is a person, usually a teen or early-twentysomething, who has a large following on some social media platform, and has used that large following to trick some decaying capitalist institution into believing that they are valuable in some way. The decaying capitalist institution pays this teen lots of money to attend a rooftop party or add a branded hashtag to their latest casually racist comedy Vine, and in return, hopes to absorb some of the teen’s cultural cachet before his teen followers find some other, hotter teen to glom onto, or he’s caught on camera saying the n-word.

    In an interview with the website Digiday, an anonymous “social media executive” reveals that this shaky arrangement hasn’t exactly been working as planned for the youth-oriented organic energy beverage brands and their ilk.

    What went wrong?

    We threw too much money at them and did it too quickly. So in 2014, they were making $500 to show up and take some photos. Then it became $1,500. Now it’s hundreds of thousands of dollars. They no longer value their art. I remember I once did a speaking thing to a school of young social media people, and they asked, “How do I become an influencer?” So I asked them what they were good at. And they said, “Nothing.” We’ve gotten to the point that if we have a meeting with them, and we ask what they do, and they say “influencer,” we don’t hire them. If they say photographer, we do.

    Remember, when the social media executive says “they no longer value their art,” the social media executive is talking about the aesthetic thrill of watching some cherubic white kid do a freestyle rap improv skit about Totino’s Pizza Rolls, or whatever.

    So how much do you pay?

    We used to pay $800 for 30 or 40 edited images back in 2014. So add the cost of the product, and it would be like $2,500 to shoot and have content for a few weeks. Now, if you work with some big YouTube guys, the Casey Neistats, those types of people charge $300,000 to $500,000, and brands don’t actually own the rights to it.

    The median salary of a high school teacher in the United States is $56,310 per year.

    What’s next?

    Influencers are going to start disappearing. Brands are going to start realizing the amount of followers you have doesn’t mean shit. Just because photos look good and have 200,000 followers means nothing. You can’t rely on content creators all day long. For the influencers, their entire business is about relationships and friendships. Someone was at Vice, so uses their friend to do photography. Someone knows someone else at Instagram so gets featured on the trending page. We live and die by these platforms today.

    Rest in peace, influencers. Long live the next thing.

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    Brazil's Senate Votes to Impeach President Dilma Rousseff
    Photo: AP

    Following an all-night debate Wednesday, Brazil’s Senate voted 55-22 to suspend leftist President Dilma Rousseff and, citing allegations of corruption, initiated impeachment proceedings against her.

    Vice President Michel Temer, Rousseff’s former center-right ally who has himself been implicated in Brazil’s unfolding corruption inquiries, will take over as acting president.

    Rousseff stands accused of borrowing from state banks to hide the country’s deficit in order to get re-elected two years ago. “I am the victim of a process that is rooted in injustice, and legal and political fraud,” she said last month.

    In addition to that multi-billion corruption scandal, Temer’s unpopular coalition inherits an economic crisis, a health crisis, and the Rio Olympics. Also, Rousseff’s supporters are accusing him of facilitating a coup d’etat. From the Los Angeles Times:

    Congress members, most of whom face criminal investigations themselves for possible corruption or other serious crimes, set aside questions of corruption for the impeachment process, focusing instead on relatively minor accounting maneuvers used to formulate the national budget. (Opponents of impeachment note Temer himself had OK’ed such maneuvers.)

    As Rousseff’s opponents pushed forward, the case took a staggering number of strange turns, leaving the population confused and exasperated as the impeachment question often devolved into political shouting matches.

    “This case has been the real-life version of a Kafka novel. It’s like ‘The Trial,’” political scientist Francisco Fonseca said. “They have attempted to remove Rousseff and her party with whatever mechanism or argument they can muster.”

    The Senate has 180 to conduct an impeachment trial. According to a poll cited by the Times, 60 percent of Brazilians want both Rousseff and Temer impeached.

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    Join 100 Women Posing Naked at the Republican National Convention
    Around 100 people posed for Tunick at Woodstock 99.

    Spencer Tunick, a New York-based artist, has plans to travel to Cleveland this July to make the Republican National Convention a whole lot tittier.

    Tunick, who specializes in large-scale nude photographs, is looking for 100 women to pose naked and hold mirrors at sunrise on July 17, according to Interested parties can sign up at a website set up for the project, which reads, “POSE NUDE IN CLEVELAND DURING THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION.”

    On the website, he explains the meaning of the piece:

    The photograph will involve 100 nude women holding large mirror discs, reflecting the knowledge and wisdom of progressive women and the concept of “Mother Nature” into and onto the convention center, cityscape and horizon of Cleveland. The philosophy of the artwork relates to the idea of the sacred feminine. By holding mirrors, we hope to suggest that women are a reflection and embodiment of nature, the sun, the sky and the land. We want to express the belief that we will rely upon the strength, intuition and wisdom of progressive and enlightened women to find our place in nature and to regain the balance within it. The mirrors communicate that we are a reflection of ourselves, each other, and of the world that surrounds us. The woman becomes the future and the future becomes the woman.

    “I never really do protest work. And I thought maybe I don’t want Cleveland to be a protest work,” Tunick said in an interview with the Cleveland Scene. “Maybe I want it to be a work that women can be part of, maybe to heighten the idea that women will decide the outcome of this election and will have a more powerful presence in the future of politics, the future of the country, and the future of the world.”

    “It’s not so much a protest but an action, a wake-up call to the absurdity of politics and discrimination.”

    Image via Getty.

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    The Meeting Between Paul Ryan and Donald Trump Was Great, Why Do You Ask?
    Photo: AP

    Donald Trump and Paul Ryan met today in Washington D.C. and things went well—the meeting was great, and they both walked away feeling good about things. Why, did someone say differently?

    The AP reports Trump actually had a series of meetings this morning, first with GOP chairman Reince Priebus and Ryan, and then with GOP leaders including Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Whip Steve Scalise. According to The Politico’s Burgess Everett, the senior officials arrived at the meeting about thirty minutes after Trump.

    Immediately afterwards, Ryan and Trump released a measured joint statement calling the meeting a “very positive step toward unification,” in case you were wondering which man didn’t write it:

    “The United States cannot afford another four years of the Obama White House, which is what Hillary Clinton represents. That is why it’s critical that Republicans unite around our shared principles, advance a conservative agenda, and do all we can to win this fall. With that focus, we had a great conversation this morning. While we were honest about our few differences, we recognize that there are also many important areas of common ground. We will be having additional discussions, but remain confident there’s a great opportunity to unify our party and win this fall, and we are totally committed to working together to achieve that goal. We are extremely proud of the fact that many millions of new voters have entered the primary system, far more than ever before in the Republican Party’s history. This was our first meeting, but it was a very positive step toward unification.”

    In the meantime, Ryan continues to not endorse Trump. Everything is great!

    0 0

    Donald Trump Owns Jeb Bush Again, Just For Old Times' Sake

    Like a man making his final booty call to an ex-lover he previously spurned, Donald Trump went on the radio yesterday to own Jeb Bush one last time, two months after the nice man from Florida exited the race.

    Bush, who previously committed himself to supporting whomever ended up becoming the Republican nominee—a pledge he signed on some kind of notecard, NOT the back of a napkin, as some shady characters have claimed—recently said that he would not be voting for president this year, much less endorsing someone. In response, Trump said on the Mike Gallagher Show that Jeb is “not a man of honor.” From BuzzFeed News:

    “You know, Jeb Bush spent $12 million in negative ads, on me and then after he spent it I started hitting him very hard,” Trump said. “And then they said Trump was mean, but I wasn’t mean.”

    Trump said Bush’s ads about him weren’t even true.

    “I had a right to do what I did,” said Trump. “And it was tough and he left, and then he said he’s not gonna endorse me? I said, ‘well, then you violated your pledge.’ And I think he said, well he doesn’t care. Well, that’s not a man of honor, when you violate your pledge.”

    Trump has continued his verbal attacks on competitors since Jeb’s departure, but few of them have the same sense of butterfly-stomach romance and boundless possibilities as those he launched against the man who seems to have been his favorite enemy. The thrill may be gone, but they can never take away our memories of the good old days.

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  • 05/12/16--10:20: Donald Trump Can Be Bought
  • Donald Trump Can Be Bought
    Photo: AP

    On Tuesday, Donald Trump told the Associated Press that he doesn’t plan to release his tax returns before the presidential election in November. “There’s nothing to learn from them,” he said. Then, on Wednesday, he said he would release them. “I’ll release. Hopefully before the election I’ll release,” he told Fox News. “And I’d like to release.” (Doesn’t seem like it.) “You learn very little from a tax return,” he added. Maybe, but you learn a lot from someone’s ambivalence about releasing them.

    The release of the tax returns is often a contentious topic in presidential campaigns: The Obamas released theirs in 2008 while sniping at the Clintons for using tax shelters in the Cayman Islands. Even vulture capitalist Mitt Romney released his tax returns (sort of) in 2012, though not until after much hemming and hawing.

    Trump has said that he’s not releasing his returns because he’s under audit from the Internal Revenue Service. But the IRS has said he is free to release his returns regardless of what they are (or are not) doing. In fact, Joseph Thorndike, the director of the Tax History Project, noted to Bloomberg Politics, President Richard Nixon released his return when he was under audit, in 1973: “Presidential candidates don’t live by the same standards as everyone else—they agree to disclose a lot to voters. This is required by tradition. There’s no good explanation for him not to release his returns.”

    As he never fails to remind us, Trump’s appeal to voters hinges largely upon the idea that he is so wealthy that he is insulated from the influence of lobbyists and donors and those who seek to sway him. He even put it on a pin: “I love America, I love Freedom, and I cannot be Bought.” This is the same argument that Michael Bloomberg made to New Yorkers in 2001, and which was persuasive enough that it carried him through three consecutive terms as mayor. (Now, New York finds itself out of the frying pan and into the fire.)

    In January, Trump assured voters that everything was in order: “I have very big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and very beautiful and we’ll be working that over in the next period of time.” But we don’t actually know that. (And how long is the “next period of time,” anyway?) So while there may be no good explanation for Trump not to release his returns, there is certainly an explanation—and it is probably that he simply doesn’t want anyone to see them. And why not? Maybe because they’re not as big or beautiful as he’s led everyone to believe.

    Reporters have spent the better part of three decades trying to pin down precisely how much Donald Trump is worth. In 2006, Trump sued New York Times reporter Tim O’Brien, the author of the book TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald. A year earlier, Trump had claimed he was worth “five to six billion” dollars; O’Brien wrote that that number was probably somewhere between $150 million and $250 million.

    Trump’s tax returns were entered into evidence in the course of litigation, but they were filed under seal. In one deposition, Trump told O’Brien’s attorneys that his assessment of his own value was largely guided by “feelings,” both others’ and his own. “Yes, even my own feelings as to where the world is, where the world is going, and that can change rapidly from day to day,” he said.

    “Then you have a September 11th, and you don’t feel so good about yourself and you don’t feel so good about the world and you don’t feel so good about New York City. Then you have a year later, and the city is as hot as a pistol. Even months after that it was a different feeling. So yeah, even my own feelings affect my value to myself.”

    What an emotional rollercoaster! Phew. Anyway, a superior court judge in New Jersey threw out Trump’s suit in 2009, and an appeals court upheld the decision in 2011. “Essentially the judge just said, ‘Trump is too famous,’” Trump later told The Atlantic, paraphrasing the judge’s ruling. “‘He’s so famous that you’re allowed to say anything you want about him.’ Well, I disagree with that.” (That is not actually how libel law works, but sure.)

    Trump issued his most recent estimation of his own worth last summer: In June, he waved a one-page summary of his finances over his head at a press conference, claiming to have been worth $8.7 billion a year earlier. In July, he filed a 92-page personal financial disclosure that his net worth was actually more than $10 billion. (He valued his personal brand at $3.3 billion.) Later that month, taking into account both documents—neither of which carried an accountant’s signature—Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index concluded that that Trump’s net worth was slightly less than $3 billion.

    That was before Fortune’s Shawn Tully determined in March that the press release accompanying the lengthy filing had misrepresented $362 million in revenue as $362 million in profit.

    By adding up all the revenue that Trump claims as income, a clearer picture emerges of the GOP frontrunner’s business interests. His enterprise looks a heck of a lot smaller than the real estate colossus the candidate claims—and that most of his supporters believe—he presides over. Although, by the way, it’s still impressive.

    As far as taxes are concerned, Trump may be paying a relatively small amount to Uncle Sam simply because his business isn’t huge. (Indeed, given the projected modest size of his business, he may be paying an even smaller amount in taxes, thanks to the advantages real estate developers enjoy in our tax code.)

    None of this implies that Trump is hiding anything. (Although you have to assume that a successful businessman like Trump would know the difference between revenue and income.) Most of the evidence is right there in the filing. The wonder is that no one has looked at the distinction between income and revenue. It’s one thing to have free cash flow, or taxable income, of $500 million a year. Your bottom line shrinks considerably if you have revenues of $500 million a year.

    He is also, according to Tully, carrying somewhere around $1 billion in debt.

    Meanwhile, property-tax records unearthed by Crain’s New York revealed that for the past three years Trump has been receiving a $300 tax credit issued to New Yorkers whose household income is less than $500,000 a year. His campaign manager said the tax benefit was “an error on the part of the city of New York.” Who knows? Maybe it was just a rounding error. Or a misplaced decimal!

    To qualify for that tax break, Trump would have had to supply New York state with a copy of his federal income-tax return, which would have shown his income to be less than $500,000 per year. “He should not have received the abatement and should return the full value to state taxpayers,” a mayoral spokesperson said.

    There are at least two ways to interpret this pattern of nickel-and-diming: (1) Donald Trump is rich, but he’s not that rich; (2) Donald Trump has a very good accountant. These are not mutually exclusive possibilities. The latter scenario involves the kind of tax avoidance that is common among people who can afford to pay for the kinds of mechanisms that empower them to pay less money to the government than they otherwise would. It’s how capital accrues to itself over time and across generations.

    For now, there’s no real reason to believe that Donald Trump has lied to the government; there is, however, reason enough to suspect that he may have lied to voters. The story he tells about himself is one of purity and rebirth. “I know the system far better than anybody else and I know the system is broken,” he said during the debate in March. He continued:

    “I know it so well because I was on both sides of it. I was on the other side all my life and I’ve always made large contributions. And frankly, I know the system better than anybody else and I’m the only one up here that’s going to be able to fix that system, because that system is wrong.”

    The wealth that Donald Trump claims is transcendent—it sanctifies. He has so much money that he doesn’t need any more money, and certainly not from anyone that would demand anything from him in return. The entire Trump mythology is derived from an impression that he has rigorously overseen, that he alone floats across an ocean of corruption and deceit, borne on a raft of money. Without it, he’s no better than the rest of us: drowning and desperate for something to keep us afloat.

    (And, not for nothing, but journalists lend this mythology credence when we describe Trump as a “billionaire.” Or even just as “wealthy.”)

    In a way, the Trump mythology is the shadowy inverse of the Bernie Sanders narrative: Sanders strides through the fallen world, untempted, while Trump’s gaudy posturing signifies his intimate familiarity with the decadent and depraved. In his grasping hedonism he has sucked the world dry of all solace and pleasure. Now, finding it lacking, he decides that it should be remade.

    But the closer we get to Election Day, the more unstable Trump’s mythology becomes. It might all fall apart even without the tax returns. Last week, he appointed banking scion Steven Mnuchin his national finance chairman. “I wouldn’t in any way say I distanced myself from Wall Street,” Mnuchin—whose father worked at Goldman Sachs for 30 years, and who made partner at the firm himself after just 17 years—told the New York Times. “I have very good friends on Wall Street.”

    “I’m not a traditional fundraiser,” Mnuchin said. Still a fundraiser, though.

    0 0

    On Safe Spaces: A Message For College Graduates
    Illustration by Jim Cooke. Photo by Getty.

    Oh God, it’s graduation season. Can’t we pause this somehow? I just got done adjusting to the LAST graduating class entering the workforce and ruining everything. Can’t we put a five-year moratorium on graduations so that the rest of the world can take a breather? You’re all exhausting and terrible, and everything your graduation speaker told you about your hopes and dreams is a hilarious lie. The only reason your average celeb grad speaker is fired up about the world is because they’re in the .0001% of the population that actually made it. They are fucking AGLOW, and have every reason to be.

    But you? Statistically speaking, you are fucked. You’ll come charging out of graduation, ready to make some awesome shit happen. And then you’ll get a job, and then it’ll turn out your boss is a mean dickhead, but you can’t quit because you need the money to pay off your loans, and then you’ll eventually trade in all your ambitions for Happy Hour. You will settle. That’s how it works. Take it from me. You’ll probably live to witness the literal end of the world. Antarctica will be a lake by the time you’re 50. Be sure to take pictures.

    I know you think you’ll make a difference, because college is a big, elaborate con designed to take your money and leave you in ruinous debt while, at the same time, isolating you in a bubble of naïve self-delusion, building you up until you think you’re some kind of revolutionary intellectual, only to send you out into the real world woefully unprepared.

    You’ve been hearing a lot about “safe spaces” lately, an idea borne out of Los Angeles’s gay subculture back in the 1960s (safe spaces were places where closeted gay people could be out freely, i.e. gay bars) that has since been co-opted by higher education for the purpose of shielding students from general intolerance, most visibly at the University of Missouri earlier this fall. And while Mizzou was dealing with a very real and ongoing problem with racism, you know that at other places, students and faculty have developed a wildly vast catalog of what constitutes intolerant behavior, often to the point of ludicrousness. There’s more than enough here to roll your eyes at.

    Of course, political correctness has been a source of pearl-clutching for decades now. They made a whole stupid movie about it when I was in high school, for crying out loud. Liberal college students and faculty have ALWAYS been insufferable. But what makes the place we’re in now different is the backlash to safe-spacers, a backlash that encompasses a far, far larger number of people. “Safe spaces” have now been seized by columnists and former Red Sox pitchers alike, and used as a way to belittle specific targets (i.e. women, people of color) while conjuring a mythical PC bogeyman—a fire alarm signaling to the rest of ’MURICA that the PC BRO LIBERALS are gonna come throw you in jail for saying something problematic.

    Of course, this backlash over safe spaces is mostly just an excuse for assholes—many of whom have no need to ever step foot on a college campus—to continue being assholes. For them, that term is now used as a taunt instead of a plea. (“BRO SORRY I INVADED YOUR ‘SAFE SPACE’ BRO BUT YOU’RE A PUSSY.”) And yet you, fair graduate, are hatching from your little college pupa just in time to witness a national struggle over these metaphorical safe spaces, a fight to establish where the hard line is between being hurtful and being overly sensitive.

    Bizarrely, this argument has somehow become the fulcrum of an entire presidential campaign, with one candidate amassing votes solely based on his willingness to mock the weak and the disenfranchised. More often than not, Donald Trump—a 200-pound, shit-filled melanoma—can dismiss criticism as political correctness and not only get away with it, but be CHEERED for it. He is chairman of the Take Party. Trolling is its own political movement now, the result of a violent overreaction to the sometimes absurd hysteria of college students, along with the tiresome habit many digital-media types have of parsing every word of everything in search of disapproval.

    I’ve been blogging stupid blogs for roughly a decade now, and in that short time span alone, the culture has shifted dramatically. This kind of joke will not exist anymore:

    And the reason this joke will no longer exist is because, more and more, people who used to feel like they couldn’t speak freely about being insulted now feel like they can. They aren’t afraid. They aren’t just going to accept every derogatory joke made at their expense. That’s a good thing. Little by little, everyone (including my sorry ass) is learning a bit more about how to be empathetic to people who are different from them.

    But it’s remarkable how much some people—Twitter eggs and Facebook uncles who bitch about their freedom of speech being corrupted because other people had the gall to exercise theirs—really want to hang onto their gay jokes. And so now there is a fight between a relatively small number of people arguing for safe spaces—on campus and online and wherever else there’s bound to be discourse—and a larger number of people who want their own asshole safe space away from those safe spaces, a place to crack all the tawdry, outdated ethnic jokes they like without suffering the relatively minor consequence of being criticized for it.

    I would like to resolve this conflict. It’s a stupid and futile gesture, to be certain, but my career has long been based on writing tirades that have absolutely zero net effect on the resulting behavior of the general population. Let it be resolved here that the real world is hurtful place, and you will need thick skin for it. You will never make it through life without hearing something awful—especially, and unfairly, if you happen to be a woman or a person of color. You are not safe, be it mentally or even physically (because everyone in America has a fucking gun). There are no safe spaces for anyone, with the exception of the following:

    1. The toilet. No one is allowed to breach the toilet stall while you’re in there. We ALL agree on that. And if you open up your phone while taking a shit and find that someone has violated your safe space while you’re in the bathroom, that’s on you for willfully interrupting your own blissful bowel movement.

    2. A dark closet. No one will ever know you’re in there. You can hide for as long as you like, or until you get hungry. Sometimes I play hide-and-seek with my kids and the two minutes I hide in a dark closet are the most relaxing part of my day. It’s a meditative place.

    3. An empty church. If you go on vacation somewhere and there’s a pretty cathedral open to all comers, and no one’s inside because it’s a Tuesday? That’s safe as hell. Take a seat in one of the pews and pretend you’re in a spy movie, asking God to redeem you for all the nefarious warlords you’ve assassinated. It’s wonderful.

    4. Under the covers. (grabs flashlight, opens comic book) This is so cool. No one else is even awake right now.

    5. A library. My local library has an adults-only area (it’s not what you think) where grownups can work at study carrels in absolute silence. It is a safe space WITHIN a safe space. Anyone who talks in this room gets pepper sprayed. I give it five stars.

    6. Maui.

    7. A literal safe.

    That’s the list. As you can see, it’s not terribly extensive. Only a microscopic fraction of the planet’s surface will shelter you from people ready cut you down. One of the most infuriating things about this year has been the legitimization of anger …the now-cursory bone that politicians and the media alike throw to Trump voters to soothe them and excuse their idiocy. “Well, you see, they’re angry.” As if anger itself is a form of validation, a reason to justify saying or doing anything that is dumb and hurtful. It isn’t. Anger isn’t a cause, and surrendering to it is never productive, whether you have a legit grievance (the water crisis in Flint) or a stupid one (“The Ghostbusters are all girls now!”). It’s difficult now to wade through the culture at large without getting caught up among people who want you to know how pissed they are, and how the world has wronged them. They’re unavoidable out here.

    What gets lost in all of this is the fundamental idea of decency. The kind of people who want to claim a public park as a safe space are, in the end, annoying because they’re trying to mandate decency, and to do so within sometimes unreasonable boundaries that they’ve defined. This implies that they don’t trust people enough to think they’ll be decent without being ordered to be so. They’re hunting for malice. (It’s the flipside of the way thirsty assholes like this want to turn their decency into some kind of self-branding exercise.)

    Meanwhile, Trump fanboys are annoying because they’re indecent and want to preserve their right to be. There’s an asymmetry to this—Trump voters are greater in number and usually worse—but even so, you can’t will other people into being decent. Decency is only genuine if it comes from within, and the way that usually happens is when people are, themselves, decent to you. And it certainly doesn’t come from some Facebook commenter shitting on you under the flimsy guise of tough love.

    After you grab your diploma and go sleep off your hangover, the only thing you need to remember here is that you can make the world less hurtful in a very small and subtle way by being less hurtful yourself. I know that’s rich coming from me, given that I spend all day on the Internet yelling at everyone. (When I called all of you terrible earlier, I was TOTALLY joking.)

    But out in the real world, it usually pays to not be an insensitive, judgmental prick. You can’t control the obnoxiousness of other people, and you’ll go insane if you try. But you can do your best to make everyone else feel comfortable and welcome. Just because the world is cruel doesn’t mean you have to be. You, good friend, can be the safe space, instead of being the person demanding one, or the person mocking the very idea. And that’s the key, because if the world still manages to self-immolate in the meantime, well then at least you’ll be able to witness the end of it with your dignity intact.

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    Report: U.S. Poultry Workers Treated Almost as Badly as U.S. Poultry
    Image: Getty

    According to a new Oxfam report, workers at poultry plants in the U.S. are routinely denied bathroom breaks, under threat of punishment or firing, to the point where some wear diapers to work and urinate or defecate while on the line. Chickens may not be the only creatures being tortured in chicken meat factories, it turns out.

    The abuses carried out on our feathered friends before they make their way to our plates are well-documented. Per a 2009 CBS report:

    At issue is the least cruel way to kill a chicken. Most chickens in the United States are shackled upside-down while fully conscious, then run through an electrically-charged tub of water to knock them out before they’re slaughtered. But PETA says this method only immobilizes the birds, and they can still feel pain. Instead, PETA endorses using gas to kill the chickens before they’re processed.

    What you may not know is that the people giving the chickens their lightning baths are hardly any better off. Here are two harrowing tidbits from the Oxfam report, which you can read in full here:

    Hanson, a worker at a Tyson plant in Arkansas, had the uncomfortable experience of seeing his own mother urinate on herself at work; she now wears diapers to work to avoid it happening again. Fern, a Tyson worker in Arkansas, said she had to wait so long that she had to urinate at her work station; she believes others had the same experience, but most are too humiliated to share the experience.

    Dolores, who worked at a Simmons plant in Arkansas, said she was denied permission to use the bathroom “many, many times.” Her supervisor mocked workers’ requests. She reports that he said, “I told you… that you shouldn’t drink so much water and eat so much food so that you don’t need to ask to use the bathroom.” She began wearing a sanitary napkin, but since it would fill up with urine too quickly, she resorted to diapers: “I had to wear Pampers. I and many, many others had to wear Pampers.” She said she felt like she had “no worth, no right to ask questions or to speak up.”

    Tyson Chicken, for the record, told the Associated Press that it is concerned by the claims in the report, but that it has “no evidence they’re true.”

    If they are true, it may be time to start considering stop eating chicken. If not for the inhumanity of it all, then because of the poop and pee that may be hovering nearby as your chicken is processed.

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    Donald Trump's Butler: Obama "needs to be hung for treason!!!"

    According to a recent Facebook post by Anthony Senecal, close friend and butler of Donald Trump, Obama is a “prick” who “needs to be hung [sic].”

    David Corn, at Mother Jone noticed the post, along with a litany of other extremely angry, poorly typed rants about Obama:

    Donald Trump's Butler: Obama "needs to be hung for treason!!!"

    In another post from May of last year, Senecal wrote that Obama should be dragged “from the white mosque and [hanged] from the portico. Other posts refer to Obama as a “rotten filthy muzzie” and “ruddy bastard.”

    Senecal was the subject of a recent profile in the New York Times, which made clear just how much his employer values his presence:

    Mr. Senecal tried to retire in 2009, but Mr. Trump decided he was irreplaceable, so while Mr. Senecal was relieved of his butler duties, he has been kept around as a kind of unofficial historian at Mar-a-Lago. “Tony, to retire is to expire,” Mr. Trump told him. “I’ll see you next season.”

    Senecal confirmed the authenticity of these screenshots to Corn.

    Update: A spokesperson from the United States Secret Service told me the following: “The U.S. Secret Service is aware of this matter and will conduct the appropriate investigation.”

    0 0 Shuts Down George Zimmerman's Auction
    Photo: AP

    George Zimmerman’s online auction of the gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin was shut down this morning, just minutes after it began.

    The auction—hosted on—for the 9 mm Kel-Tec PF-9 pistol was set to begin at 11 a.m. EDT Thursday, according to the Associated Press. It would end after 24 hours. The listing ended with the words, in Latin, “If you want peace, prepare for war.”

    But the site shut the auction down promptly after it began. “Mr. Zimmerman never contacted anyone at prior to or after the listing was created and no one at has any relationship with Zimmerman,” said in a statement. “Our site rules state that we reserve the right to reject listings at our sole discretion, and have done so with the Zimmerman listing. We want no part in the listing on our web site or in any of the publicity it is receiving.”

    Update – 4:40 pm

    Zimmerman has re-listed his pistol on TMZ reports:

    A spokesperson for says he got in touch with Zimmerman through a mutual friend once the initial listing was removed. He tells us’s stance on the controversial item is if it’s legal, they have no objections and it “comes down to a moral decision for George to do what he wants with his property.”

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    LIVE: Drying Paint Predicts Your Next President [Updated]

    Men on the internet are upset again.

    Over the past week or so, bloggers everywhere have struggled to come to terms with the fact that election predictions might not be the beacon of light we seek. Twitter feeds spilled over with words about who was wrong, how Nate Silver could be so wrong, and why did you do this to us Nate Silver why.

    Don’t fret, sad men. As occasional Gawker contributor Joe Veix has done before, we can look to the paint to ease our troubled souls. The first shade to dry is our next President.

    Update 4:57 p.m.

    We have a winner.

    LIVE: Drying Paint Predicts Your Next President [Updated]

    Congratulations to future President Hillary Clinton.

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