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  • 05/20/16--04:30: 172 Days and a Wake Up
  • 172 Days and a Wake Up
    Governor Chris Christie embraces Donald Trump at a fundraiser in New Jersey. Thank you daddy. Photo: Getty

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    Egyptian Army Claims to Have Found Debris from Crashed EgyptAir Flight
    Credit: AP

    Egyptian air and naval forces have found some of the wreckage from EgyptAir flight 804, which crashed in transit from Paris to Cairo yesterday, the Egyptian army said on Friday, including some of the 66 passengers’ “personal belongings.” The Greek defense minister said a body part was also found.

    In a statement on his Facebook page, Egyptian army spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammed Samir said that the debris was found about 180 miles north of Alexandria, a coastal city.

    Panos Kammenos, the Greek defense minister, said that Greek authorities had been informed that Egyptian search teams had located a body part, two seats, and suitcases, the Associated Press reports.

    While many international officials have speculated that the plane was brought down by in a terror attack, according to Reuters no terrorist group has yet taken responsibility for the incident.

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    Israeli Defense Minister Who Resigned Over Extremism Replaced With Extremist
    Photo: AP

    On Friday, Israel’s defense minister, center-right pragmatist Moshe Yaalon, announced his resignation: “To my great sorrow, extremist and dangerous elements have taken over Israel.” His post, the Guardian reports, has been offered to his ideological nightmare: right-wing hawk Avigdor Lieberman.

    Yaalon’s resignation comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to reinforce his precarious political coalition, which barely controls the Israeli government, by a majority of one in the 120-seat Knesset.

    Earlier in the week, as Netanyahu publicly negotiated with Lieberman to bring him into the fold, Yaalon spoke at a youth seminar in Tel Aviv where he expressed disappointment at the “loss of moral compass on basic questions” in Israeli society: “We need to steer the country in accordance with one’s conscious and not whichever way the wind is blowing.”

    The former defense minister had, until recently, enjoyed popularity within the Likud party. From the New York Times:

    After divisive statements by Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, his deputy chief of staff, on a day commemorating victims of the Holocaust, Mr. Yaalon said that senior army officers should be able to express their views.

    General Golan came under fire after he compared recent trends in Israel to events in Nazi-era Germany, and Mr. Yaalon said he viewed complaints about the comments as a disturbing political effort to damage the military’s standing.

    After an Israeli soldier shot and killed a wounded Palestinian assailant in the West Bank city of Hebron, Mr. Yaalon took an immediate stand, saying that the soldier should be brought to justice because he had violated military code.

    This did not go over well with Israel’s conservatives, who accused Yaalon of undermining the military.

    Announcing his resignation on Friday, Yaalon said, “In general, Israeli society is a healthy society, and the majority of it is sane and aims for a Jewish, democratic and liberal country. But to my great sorrow, extremist and dangerous elements have taken over Israel and the Likud Party and are shaking the foundations and threatening to hurt its residents.”

    Lieberman—a former nightclub bouncer from Moldova who served as Israel’s minister of foreign affairs, before resigning amid a corruption case in 2012 (he was acquitted in 2013)—has called for the introduction of the death penalty as a punishment for terrorism and the transferral of Israeli Arabs to the Palestinian territories.

    Last year, Lieberman said that Israeli Arabs found to be disloyal to the state of Israel should be beheaded: “Those who are against us, there’s nothing to be done—we need to pick up an ax and cut off his head...Otherwise we won’t survive here.”

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    Times Are Good, And We Have a Trillion Dollars in Credit Card Debt
    Photo: Flickr

    The good news: the U.S. economy is relatively strong again, with low unemployment and people raring to get out there and spend, spend, spend. The other good news: what goes up just keeps going up!

    The Wall Street Journal reports today that our national credit card debt is $952 billion and rising—on pace to pass $1 trillion this year, matching the record high that we reached **just** before the 2008 economic crash really swung into full gear. On one hand, this is a result of people being able to take on more debt, because they are earning more, and is a sign that credit card companies believe that more people will be able to repay more debt, and in that sense can be taken as a sign that the American economy is a-booming and a-chugging again in a manner beneficial to prosperity. On the other hand..

    Because many creditworthy consumers are still cautious about spending, lenders are turning more aggressively to subprime borrowers.


    Lenders issued some 10.6 million general-purpose credit cards to subprime borrowers last year, up 25% from 2014 and the highest level since 2007, according to Equifax.


    “We’ll continue to take this opportunity as far as it will take us,” Richard Fairbank, chief executive at Capital One Financial Corp., said in a recent conference call with investors.


    As long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance.” - Former Citigroup CEO Chuck Prince in 2007, explaining why his company was still pouring money into deals, because “there was so much liquidity it would not be disrupted by the turmoil in the US subprime mortgage market.”

    So you never know how these things will turn out.

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    Donald Trump Is Making Dungeons & Dragons Great Again

    It’s an election year, which means there’s been a lot of Bad Twitter. Shining like a light in the darkness, though, is the only political account I’m going to follow in 2016: Dungeons And Donalds.

    The premise is simple:

    See? Good Twitter.

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    Donald Trump's Spokeswoman Tore His Campaign Manager a New One on the Street Last Night
    Photo: AP

    According to Page Six, my favorite political publication, Donald Trump’s spokeswoman Hope Hicks essentially ripped his former (?) campaign manager Corey Lewandowski a new asshole last night in a very public display of contempt.

    Lewandowski—best known for grabbing a young female reporter hard enough to leave a bruise and pretending he never touched her until there was video evidence—has seen his role diminished in recent months as Trump started hiring actual professionals to run his campaign. Last night, things apparently got worse for him.

    Page Six reports Hicks and Lewandowski were standing on the corner of 61st and Park—just a few blocks away from both Trump Tower and Trump Park Avenue—when Hicks started screaming.

    One witness told us, “ Hope was screaming at Corey, ‘I am done with you!’ It was ugly, she was doubled over with her fists clenched. He was stood there looking shocked with his hands on his head.”

    Other sources insist the street showdown was about how to handle the announcement that seasoned political operative Paul Manafort would be taking an even larger role in Trump’s campaign, and how Lewandowski’s role would be defined going forward.

    Another source told us, “It was a campaign-related disagreement. They were arguing how the announcement about Manafort taking more responsibility would be handled. There is an internal struggle to define what Corey’s role would be. ”

    A third source added, “It was a continuation of a discussion about when the announcement would go out. Corey wanted to wait until Thursday to give him a chance to talk to certain people first. Hicks was under pressure by others to make the announcement sooner.”

    This is, I believe, what they call poetic justice.

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    One Small Blow Against Big Sugar
    Photo: Flickr

    Today, the FDA announced that food companies will soon be required to list “added sugars” on nutritional labels. Stop adding so much sugar, to everything!!!

    The main reason that Americans are obese, besides the fact that doing burpees in public is still considered to be “weird,” is that every last god damn packaged food product in the grocery store is stuffed full of added sugar. We could discuss the reasons for this—corn subsidies, crooked politics, the use of the scientific method to engineer artificial food products that are no less poisonous addictions than smoking, food deserts, poverty—but suffice it to say that the widespread practice of zealously pouring high fructose corn syrup into any food product that can absorb it has an incredibly bad effect on America’s aggregate health. For no good reason!

    Yogurt is good without tasting like pudding. We don’t need sugar in our relish. Stop it.

    It remains outside of our government’s powers (for the moment) to hoist big food company executives up by their wrists, force a funnel down their throat, and fill them with corn syrup until they turn into human foie gras. Until then, these food labels—which, of course, have been strongly opposed by the food industry itself—are a very good start on the path to making the general public realize that the majority of things they are being sold are poison.

    Only eat nuts and drink water until we can get all that sugar out of the other food. It’s okay to eat Zebra Cakes as treat too.

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    Body Camera Video Shows Georgia Cops Repeatedly Tasering Handcuffed Man Until He Dies
    Still: New York Times

    The New York Times has obtained harrowing body camera footage of the final moments of Chase Sherman, a Florida man who died last year after an encounter with Georgia sheriff’s deputies. The video shows the officers repeatedly tasering Sherman as he is handcuffed in the back seat of a car.

    On November 20, Sherman’s parents called 911 as they drove through Georgia to their home state of Florida, asking for assistance with their disoriented, hallucinating son. Sherman, 32, told them that he’d smoked synthetic marijuana a few days before, and they made the call after he’d become agitated in the backseat, biting his girlfriend and attempting to jump out the car’s window.

    In the video, Sherman can be seen struggling in the back seat, handcuffed and flailing against two Coweta County sheriff’s deputies as they attempt to restrain him. According to lawyers for Sherman’s family, the deputies used their tasers against him 15 times during the altercation. At one point in the video, one of the deputies can be seen punching Sherman in the face and heard saying “That’s a good way to get shot, right there,” after Sherman apparently reached for his taser.

    “O.K. I’m dead, I’m dead,” Sherman says later as police continue to struggle with him. “I quit, I quit.”

    Sherman was pronounced dead on the scene, his death a homicide due to “an altercation with law enforcement with several trigger pulls of an electronic control device,” according to the death certificate, the Times reports.

    Sherman’s family and the local media asked Coweta County prosecutors to release the body camera footage after Sherman’s death, but prosecutors declined. It is unclear how the Times obtained the footage.

    The deputies in the video have not been suspended or punished criminally, according to the Sherman family’s attorney.

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    “If you’re going to make cars, you better like cars. Ford liked cars. He was into like, tires and shit,” says Vice Media boss Shane Smith. “If you’re going to make content, you’d better love content, and understand what it is.” Well said.

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    Russian Media Just Got More Fucked
    Photos: AP

    Three top editors at the independent Russian media group RBC left the company last week, following several investigative pieces that rubbed Kremlin in the wrong places, including one about a problematic oyster farm. Yesterday, the former editor-in-chief Elizaveta Osetinskaya finally hinted that her being forced out was politically motivated, adding another sad note to the dreary fate of Russia’s choking media landscape.

    Mikhail Prokhorov’s publication became “a red rag” after covering the Panama papers, Osetinskaya told The Financial Times in her first interview since the shakeup. When nearly all major Russian media outlets were tap dancing lightly around the massive leak about secret offshore accounts of the world’s most powerful men and their associates—including Putin’s cellist friend with $2 billion—RBC dared to run a story with Putin’s photo as the lead image. (The president’s press secretary would later dismiss the Panama papers as a propaganda hit job on Putin specifically, and all foreign press coverage as “Putinophobia.”)

    Shortly after the Panama papers story was published, Russian special agents raided the offices of Onexim, Prokhorov’s holding company in charge of RBC. A mysterious criminal probe was launched against members of the media company. Osetinskaya left on a planned sabbatical months before schedule. Reuters suggested political pressure, which Osetinskaya, at the time, did not confirm this.

    On May 11th, RBC published an investigation into a planned oyster and mussel farm next to the so-called “Putin’s Palace,” a massive resort mansion by the Black Sea. (In 2011, a whistleblower said that the seaside complex—spanning eight million square feet with a helipad, a clocktower, a cinema and a casino—was being built for Putin’s personal use. His spokesman denied the claim. RBC reported that a former employee of the palace project was now building an oyster and mussel farm nearby, which could be nifty amidst Russia’s various food embargoes.)

    By May 13th, editor-in-chief of the publication Maxim Solyus was fired. Editor-in-chief of the media group Elizaveta Osetinskaya and web editor Roman Badanin resigned in protest, along with several other staffers. More are expected to quit in the near future.

    The trouble with the site, according to Max Seddon’s interviews, is that it got too good.

    “In a way we’ve become the victim of our own success,” says Derk Sauer, a veteran Dutch journalist who is Onexim executive in charge of RBC. “It’s clear the type of journalism they set out to do is not possible in Russia these days.”

    Not long ago, RBC was a bucket of clickbait, mocked for its promotional articles disguised as editorials and accused of paying to inflate its online traffic. RBC’s owner Prokhorov—a billionaire businessman, politician, owner of the Brooklyn Nets—brought in Sauer to re-haul the project. A newsroom was set up. Investigative journalists were hired and they began digging. In a short time, they published investigations into the finances of Putin’s daughter Ekaterina and a $1.75 billion dollar state loan acquired by her husband, into the financial dealings in the separatist republic in Donetsk and the Eastern Orthodox Church—all known no-nos.

    Naturally, the Russian government denies the implications that the aforementioned digging had anything to do with the forced exodus of RBC’s top editorial staff. Deputy Communications Minister Alexei Volin claimed that the editors were “fired for idiocy” and that their “incompetence and lack of professionalism” drove the company into a $22.5 million debt. (Comforting no one, the RBC general director Nikolai Molybog cited “disagreements on important issues” as reasons for departure.)

    Osetinskaya went on Facebook yesterday to clarify that editors managed the editorial side of the publication, not the business side, implying ever-so-gently that it’s ludicrous to say that they were fired for financial reasons, particularly since they operated on the budget provided to them by the company. “Of course, there was no talk of anything close to a billion and a half [rubles],” she wrote.

    Some outlets have speculated that Prokhorov “sacrificed” the editors amidst increasing pressure to sell the media outlet to a Kremlin adjacent oligarch. Latvia-based news site Meduza ran a thorough look at how Prokhorov’s oppositional political ambitions could have lead to intensifying trouble with Kremlin—another Russian-language story virtually impossible to publish within the country’s limits. (The site was launched in exile in Lativa by Galina Timchenko, who was once the editor of Russia’s most popular political website, until she was fired for no official reason. Many members of her team followed her to Latvia to start Meduza.)

    This month’s fiery mess at RBC is neither the beginning or the end of a systematic dismantling of media. In 2014, opposition news site became the first Russian site to be blacklisted and blocked by the government communications watchdog Roskomnadzor, the same year that Putin signed a law requiring bloggers to register their real names with the government. In 2015, Russia passed a law limiting foreign ownership of media outlets to 20%. Forbes was sold to a Russian businessman who Meduza says started meddling with editorial, so the editor in chief left “voluntarily.” All other international publications have through February 2017 to restructure or GTFO. (For more, here’s a fun little breakdown from Latvia.)

    There’s a lot going in the murky pressure swamp, but it’s got a subtle way about it. “The whole process [of intimidation] is as indirect as possible,” an insider told the Financial Times. “Nobody ever comes and says, ‘Oh, what a nice publication you have, it would be a shame if anything happened to it’.”

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    Meet Bill de Blasio's Shadow Government
    Photo: AP

    This week, NY1 reported that City Hall had denied its request for email correspondence between Bill de Blasio and Jonathan Rosen, a powerful political consultant who meets frequently with the mayor and whose firm helped get him elected. As it turns out, Rosen isn’t the only one granted such privacy.

    Rosen is one of the main characters in what good government groups describe as de Blasio’s “shadow government,” a network of former aides, advisors, and associated non-profits that complement his political agenda. Their history is long and profitable: A review of the mayor’s 2014 schedule by NY1 shows that Rosen met with de Blasio 20 times over the course of the year; this year, the two have already met five times. Rosen’s consulting firm, BerlinRosen, was paid $270,000 for getting the mayor elected in 2013 and received more than $425,000 from de Blasio’s non-profit, Campaign for One New York, in 2014. BerlinRosen’s spokesman, Dan Levitan, was the spokesman for de Blasio’s 2013 mayoral campaign, and Rosen’s wife Debbie is chief of staff to de Blasio’s budget director.

    While some communication between city officials is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Law, there is a presumption in favor of disclosure when it comes to correspondence between city officials and anyone not employed by the city. Correspondence with outside consultants retained by city agencies is subject to the same exemptions—but the operative word there is “retained.” When the city retains an outside consultant, there are records of that exchange (i.e. a contract).

    But in this case, the mayor’s lawyers have justified exempting Rosen’s correspondence with the mayor by dubbing him an “agent of the city.” The Committee on Open Government’s executive director, Bob Freeman, told Gawker that he could not recall this language ever appearing anywhere in the relevant case law. “An agent of the city,” he repeated. “What is that?”

    When Gawker asked for clarification as to the definition of ‘agent of the city’ and who receives such a designation, a mayoral spokesman provided the following statement, attributed to Maya Wiley, counsel to the mayor:

    The Mayor’s counsel has determined that in certain circumstances the five following individuals are considered personal advisors to the Mayor: Jonathan Rosen, Nicholas Baldick, Bill Hyers, John Del Cecato and Patrick Gaspard. As personal advisors to the Mayor, their communications to the Mayor’s Office, along with those of their support staff working at the principal’s direction on those particular matters, are exempt from disclosure when related solely to City business and not on behalf of any client.

    None of these five men, the mayor’s counsel’s office said, are paid or compensated by the City—that is to say, they have not been retained by a city agency. (At a press conference on Wednesday, the mayor had said that a question about whether the city was paying these advisors—who had not, at that point, been named—was “willfully missing the point.”)

    But even if they were being paid by the city, certain parts of the advisors’ correspondence would still be subject to disclosure—specifically, statistical data, factual tabulations, instructions to staff that affect the public, policy decisions, and external audits. (‘Facts,’ basically.) The likelihood that correspondence between the mayor and his personal advisors would not contain such information is slim at best. As Freeman notes, “If you send a memo to your boss recommending some course of action, you’re gonna back it up with data.”

    In justifying the exemption, the city’s lawyers cite several different court decisions, but the most important one is a 2001 decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the test of an outside advisor’s relationship is whether the advisor “does not represent an interest of its own, or the interest of any other client.” According to this ruling, such consultants’ “only obligations are to the truth and [their] sense of what good judgement calls for.” This is echoed in Wiley’s statement, which notes that the personal advisors’ communications are exempt from disclosure “when related solely to City business and not on behalf of any client.”

    The nature of these personal advisors’ work, however, makes it hard to trust in their “sense of what good judgement calls for” when it comes to keeping city business and their clients’ business in separate silos, if only because many of their clients are in the business of dealing with the city.

    BerlinRosen represents a number of clients who frequently themselves have business before the city, like Two Trees Management, which owns huge swathes of highly-valuable property along the Brooklyn waterfront and is (successfully) pushing for the development of a ludicrous streetcar line there; The Durst Organization, one of the oldest family-run real estate development firms in the city; and Forest City Ratner, whose founder, Bruce Ratner, pulled the Nets from New Jersey to Brooklyn to become the crown jewel of his $4.9 billion Metropark development project. BerlinRosen also represents the Service Employees International Union.

    (Plus, according to campaign finance data, Jordan Barowitz, vice president and director of external affairs at Durst, raised $24,750 for de Blasio in 2013; Bob Sanna, executive vice president and head of construction at Forest Ratner, raised $13,600.)

    Oddly enough, the city has disclosed correspondence between de Blasio and Rosen in the past. From a New York Times story in November:

    Earlier this year, Mr. de Blasio described Mr. Rosen as a close friend who “doesn’t represent the interests of his clients when he talks to me.”

    But emails obtained by The Times under the state’s Freedom of Information Law show that Mr. Rosen has represented the interests of his clients in exchanges with members of the de Blasio administration.

    Several of Mr. Rosen’s requests to City Hall concerned invitations for the mayor to attend events for his firm’s clients.

    In one instance, Mr. Rosen made what he described as “a shameless plug” for the mayor to appear at a gala for the Brooklyn Public Library. “Benefits public library system of our fav borough. (full disclosure I do their P.R.),” he wrote. The mayor did not attend the event.

    Emails also reveal how Rosen coordinated an appearance by de Blasio at a conference in Chicago organized by the Democracy Alliance, a BerlinRosen client run by an advisor to George Soros. After de Blasio delivered the keynote address at the conference, the Times reported, a Soros nonprofit donated $250,000 to Campaign for One New York.

    As it happens, one of the mayor’s other “agents of the city,” Bill Hyers, was Campaign for One New York’s chairman before it was shuttered earlier this year. (He served as campaign manager for de Blasio in 2013.) Hyers is also a partner at Hilltop Public Solutions, a public affairs and political consulting firm founded by another of the mayor’s personal advisors, Nicholas Baldick. The de Blasio campaign paid Hilltop about $330,000 for its services; now, it represents Airbnb (whose director of public policy, Chris Lehane, a former aide to Bill Clinton, has met with the mayor twice since his hiring last summer) and Fortis Property Group, which is redeveloping the old Long Island College Hospital complex, against the closing of which, as a mayoral candidate, de Blasio protested. He was arrested, which made for a great photo op.

    Airbnb has spent the better part of the past three years fending off scrutiny from Attorney General Eric Scheiderman and a variety of New York City and state legislators. Lehane visited City Hall less than a week after de Blasio announced that his administration would be “aggressive” with landlords who use the platform to run illegal hotels. “If they want a good working relationship with the city of New York, they must be transparent,” de Blasio said at the time.

    In addition to Rosen, Hyers, and Baldick, John Del Cecato also worked on de Blasio’s mayoral campaign—his “Dante” television ad was widely (if somewhat dubiously) credited with winning de Blasio the election, and whose consulting firm, Chicago-based AKPD, was compensated $7.6 million, according to campaign finance records.

    The only one of the mayor’s named personal advisors who didn’t work on the 2013 campaign is Patrick Gaspard, the U.S. ambassador to South Africa. De Blasio and Gaspard became friends while working for Mayor David Dinkins. But even in separate hemispheres, a 2014 Politico profile details, the two remained in close contact:

    Even in his official diplomatic Cape Dutch-style mansion in Waterkloof Ridge, Gaspard hasn’t quite let go of his past life as one of New York’s top political operatives, especially with his best friend becoming the new mayor of New York. He’s such a constant presence by phone, in inboxes and through text messages that people talk about him as if they might still run into him on the subway.

    As Bill de Blasio preempted a runoff for the Democratic nomination in September, there Gaspard was. As de Blasio deliberated over who to pick for administration jobs, there he was. As members of the City Council divided and fought over who to pick as their new speaker on Wednesday, there he was again — checking in with people, and having others ask him for advice, talking through his own sense of where things might go, and why.

    In dubbing these five men “personal advisors,” or “agents of the city,” or whatever absurd, bureaucratic designation they come up with next, City Hall has granted these five men a special privilege available to no other resident of New York City, which in turn conveys an unprecedented level of access and influence. And what benefit does that access and influence provide? Thanks to the mayor’s prevarications, we can only speculate.

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    The Wage Gap Revolution Will Not Be Led by Millionaire Actresses

    On Sunday, Susan Sarandon became the latest actress to share her personal experiences with wage discrimination. Vanity Fair reports that, while speaking at a Cannes Women in Motion conference, Sarandon “revealed” that she had been inspired by Jennifer Lawrence’s essay for Lenny on the same subject. “There was an instance where I did a film with two big [male actors] and we were supposed to be favored nations,” Sarandon said at the conference. “Then halfway into it I found out they were getting paid more than I was.”

    She continued:

    “My agent was told that I wasn’t worth [what her male co-stars were being paid], because they were big, older stars. And then when the time came to do press, they wanted me to do more than what they did. So that was a problem.”

    And then Sarandon did what’s become the obligatory two-step dance of wage gap discussions post-Lawrence’s essay. First, she blames herself:

    “That was my fault,” Sarandon conceded of the negotiation. “That was my agent’s fault, for not putting her foot down and saying, ‘Wait, wait, wait.’ Jennifer Lawrence’s [essay] was interesting because she said, ‘I didn’t fight hard enough’ and that’s the bottom line. If that’s what you want then you’re going to have to fight for it.”

    Then, she acknowledges that pay gap discussions between the ultra-rich are obnoxious, yet are still deeply important. Emphasis mine:

    “I mean, when you are comparing mega stars to these refugees in Syria, how they’re trying to live and what they need, it’s absurd when half the world is starving and the other half is having a problem with how many millions of dollars [they’re getting],” Sarandon admitted. “It doesn’t mean you should be ashamed of earning that much money, but you’re equating that amount of money with how much respect you get. That’s why it’s important. Not because of the money. It’s about respect.

    The story that actresses are telling about their wage gap experiences in Hollywood is solidifying. It starts with the acknowledgment of a status quo in which men are paid more, while women bear equal if not more weight for the production and promotion of the project.

    Then, a select few actresses speak out against that status quo in the abstract, but do not point fingers at the specific individuals who have been devaluing their work. (Lawrence’s essay applauded the success of her costars Jeremy Renner, Bradley Cooper, and Christian Bale in negotiating greater salaries than she did, but she did not mention any of the people who they were negotiating with. Vanity Fair deduced that Sarandon was talking about 1998's Twilight, which was written and directed by Richard Benton and produced by the notoriously overbearing and racially insensitive Scott Rudin, but she did not name the movie in her talk.) Instead of locating the problem with the people who hold creative or financial power above them, they instead pay witness to the cult of American personal responsibility, letting their bottom lines rest on empty mantras like “not wanting it enough” or “not fighting hard enough for it.” This is the same story that Lawrence, Emma Watson, Patricia Arquette and a number of other actresses have told.

    Sarandon’s off-the-cuff remarks exemplify one of the most misguided aspects of pop feminism: namely, the promotion of rich and powerful women as the face of the wage gap, under the belief that the obstacles faced by Susan Sarandon and Sheryl Sandberg must somehow, structurally, be comparable to what a woman working at contract minimum wage is facing—if the two situations are not abstractly the same.

    This is a liberal embrace of trickle-down theory, an idea that has plagued our country for more than a century, and is still very present, wearing a progressive celebrity face. In other words, the rich shouldn’t be complaining, because much of the world has it much worse, but they also should be complaining because closing the wage gap for powerful women in Hollywood will somehow create broader gender equality.

    It helps to do what Sarandon did, and emphasize a universal (and non-quantifiable) value—like respect, which is, in her framing, is both identical to and completely separate from money. “You’re equating that amount of money with how much respect you get,” said Sarandon. “That’s why it’s important. Not because of the money. It’s about respect.” This is a strange division. Respect here is an abstract value that both does and does not have monetary value; it’s something that Sarandon is simultaneously concerned and not concerned with at all.

    And so the turn to “respect,” the thing that’s supposed to scale from millionaire to middle-class, is a way of dodging the problem. If money is a sign of respect, as Sarandon says, then it should be about the money; it should be necessary to talk about the very concrete ways that “respect” does manifest in dollar amounts, and the way that neither respect or healthy dollar amounts can be relied upon to trickle down.

    But then that would mean acknowledging that the wage gap’s most devastating effects hit among women who aren’t represented in Sarandon’s equation, which includes wealthy actresses on the one hand and Syrian refugees on the other. This fictional binary neatly sidesteps the poor, the working poor and the middle-class, the demographic place where women, on average, make 78 percent of their male counterparts’ dollar and that dollar amount is often unlivable—the place where, for women of color, the wage gap looks more like a chasm.

    And yet, since Lawrence published her essay, actresses have increasingly become the face of the wage gap under the auspices of the idea that valuing the most valuable is inherently important. In February, Time wrote:

    [...] There’s a reason why anyone who cares about the wage gap quickly adopted Lawrence as a symbol. If one of the biggest celebrities of the moment, of either sex, can’t pull down as much as her male costars for the same job, what does it say about how we value any woman’s work?

    The question about valuing Lawrence’s work was quasi-rhetorical, but the answer is obvious: nothing. Lawrence’s value says absolutely nothing about how we value any woman’s work. It speaks only to how we value Jennifer Lawrence. Placing more value on rich women whom society already values does nothing for poor and middle-class women, and specifically for women of color. Economic equality does not start at the top and work its way down. If anything, it should work bottom up. Placing value first on America’s most economically disenfranchised women will subsequently make us all more valuable.

    But we are settling instead for a trickle-down story, effectively telling the women most impacted by the wage gap to wait your turn; we’ll get around to you once we fix the Hollywood wage gap.

    The attention garnered by Lawrence and Sarandon is to be expected. Celebrity narratives have a powerful lure; they get clicks, on websites like this one, and provide plenty of social media fodder, too. That a celebrity can bring attention to persistent discrimination and grassroots movements is undeniable (see, for example, Mark Ruffalo and fracking; Elizabeth Taylor and AIDS awareness; Marlon Brando and the American Indian Movement). And Lawrence—or her brand, at least—is easier to identify with than, say, an anonymous single mother living paycheck to paycheck.

    They are especially easy to identify with when they participate in the conversation in this particularly conservative way—a way that acknowledges and bends to the fact that money is still considered an inappropriate subject for women, and anticipates the fact that their words will be policed for appeal rather than substance.

    Take, for example, both Lawrence and Sarandon’s insistence that being paid less was their fault. “I didn’t fight hard enough,” Lawrence wrote in her Lenny essay. It’s a Lean In-inspired insistence: multi-billion dollar companies and cultural systems that devalue women are let off the hook; women are responsible for the economic discrimination enacted upon them. As Linda Burnham wrote about the Lean In movement, “it’s a 1 percent feminism” that is “all about the glass ceiling, never about the floor” (It’s worth noting that even Sandberg, after the death of her husband, has walked back some of her original Lean In philosophy.)

    Part of the reason why we can’t rely on actresses to carry this conversation is that they are the very faces of a fickle economic system where likability and sympathy reign supreme. Their value fluctuates according to the views of the public. And the “fight harder” narrative, in turn, serves the celebrity brand. Sarandon and Lawrence can negotiate with producers and directors from unique positions of utter non-interchangeability that are unique within the labor system. Producers and directors want Sarandon and Lawrence specifically in their films; they want their brand, their look, their constructed individuality. Take the recent news that Robin Wright demanded equal pay to House of Cards co-star Kevin Spacey: “It was the perfect paradigm. There are very few films or TV shows where the male, the patriarch, and the matriarch are equal. And they are in House of Cards,” Wright said. She acknowledges, too, that producers on the Netflix series agreed to an equal paycheck after she threatened to go public with the story. That the mixture of interest in Wright and her television show, combined with the newsworthy trend of celebrity pay gap stories, are an individual’s leverage.

    Celebrities aren’t average women applying for average jobs; their wages are not being depressed and driven down like the rest of the nation’s. “Fighting harder,” and other narratives of personable responsibility are easier to construct—and easier to believe as the gospel truth—when performing yourself is part of your value. But it adds another layer of feel-good deception to the idea that, if women just bucked up and asserted themselves, then gender-based economic disparity would disappear.

    Today’s public culture makes it seem that “opening up” or “revealing” are in themselves mystical actions that will magically dispel inequality. Actresses speak up and position themselves as feminists; they are in turn rewarded for sharing a personal and “empowering narrative.” But, like Sandberg, they keep their distance from radical intervention, from identifying and criticizing the systems and ideologies that create the wage gap. They have their proverbial cake and eat it too.

    And I’m not suggesting that Sarandon, Lawrence or other actresses should stop talking about wage inequality. What I am suggesting is that we stop fetishizing the Hollywood wage gap narrative as a kind of everywoman story, in which some badass queens slay the patriarchy and then we can do it too. There are real circumstances that Internet-speak can’t convey. Real women who live and make hard economic decisions in that gap. The popular feminist embrace of trickle-down economics is hardly feminism; it is an inherently conservative solution, cloyingly disguised by the empty language of empowerment, likability, and respect.

    Photos via Getty.

    0 0

    Companies Are Stashing So Much God Damn Cash Overseas
    Photo: AP

    A new report from Moody’s says that major U.S. companies are sitting on as much as $1.2 trillion in cash held overseas—hey, that’s enough to pay our national credit card bill!

    Since multinational corporations don’t care for paying the hefty U.S. tax rate that they would be bound to pay if they bought their fortune back here to the U.S., they just leave it overseas. Sitting there, gleaming and golden. A mere five companies—Apple, Google, Oracle, Microsoft, and Cisco—are holding more than half a trillion dollars in cash between them, the vast majority of it overseas. (Tech companies are prone to this because their valuable intellectual property can easily technically reside in say, Ireland, whereas a McDonald’s restaurant is just located wherever the hell it is.)

    The effects of this depend on your perspective. For investors, that huge cash pile is a cushion against a business downturn: if Apple, for example, stops selling enough iPhones to push its stock price higher, investors will just demand payoffs out of the cash pile to make up for it. For the general public in America, these cash piles sitting overseas represent an enormous loss of potential tax revenue that could be used to, you know, make all of our lives better somehow. For the companies themselves, it’s a stalemate: they hint that maybe they would be tempted to bring some of this cash on home if the government would offer them a sweet tax break in order to do so. Obama, in fact, tried to strike a one-time deal in order to bring that money home, but it didn’t get through Congress. So the money just keeps piling and piling and piling up, somewhere else, in a huge vault across the sea.

    Let’s just... start seizing the homes of CEOs and Republican Congressmen, until they work it out.

    0 0 Welcomes Back Editor Who Used to Be a Skinhead
    Photo: YouTube

    Last week, the food and restaurant website suspended its restaurant editor, Nick Solares, after former associates presented evidence of his involvement in New York City’s skinhead punk rock scene in the 1980s. Today staffers at Vox Media, which owns Eater, were informed that Solares would be invited back to work, according to several sources with knowledge of the internal announcement.

    Solares disavowed his former beliefs in an essay posted on Eater’s website last Wednesday, but was placed on indefinite leave the following Friday after editors at Eater received a photograph of Solares hanging out, in late 2012, with several former skinheads, including one who played bass for the neo-Nazi band Skrewdriver. Solares’ subsequent suspension quickly prompted a debate within the media industry about the appropriate actions, if any, Eater should have taken against Solares for his past associations.

    Neither Vox Media nor Solares were immediately available for comment. If you know any more about this story, please get in touch.

    0 0

    John McCain Used to Feel Very Differently About Copyright and Campaign Ads on YouTube
    Image: AP

    This week, John McCain’s reelection campaign found itself in the bizarre position of asking YouTube to restrict access to one of the senator’s own campaign ads, citing a copyright violation.

    The campaign of Ann Kirkpatrick, the sitting U.S. congresswoman from Arizona who is running against McCain, uploaded a version of a 2010 McCain ad to YouTube with Spanish subtitles added, using the senator’s own words as an implicit critique of his stance on immigration, and by extension, his relations with Arizona’s large Hispanic community. The spot shows McCain railing against crimes committed by undocumented immigrants and urging a border patrol agent to “complete the danged fence.”

    McCain’s camp filed a copyright claim with YouTube about the ad, and it was removed from the site earlier this week. As of this morning, the video seems to have been reinstated, and you can watch it above. A Kirkpatrick spokesman said the campaign had not filed a copyright counter-claim with YouTube, and it is unclear how or why the subtitled version of the ad reappeared. (Representatives of the McCain campaign did not respond to requests for comment, and a YouTube spokesperson declined to comment on the record.)

    McCain’s views on fair use on the streaming service have evidently shifted since 2008, when he formally requested that YouTube stop pulling down his own ads on copyright grounds. McCain was running for president against Barack Obama when YouTube removed several of his own ads for “using excerpts of television debate footage, and pop songs as soundtracks, without negotiating for the rights first,” Wired reported at the time.

    The senator responded not by apologizing to the rights-holders, but by lobbying YouTube to change the rules so that his ads could still run. In October 2008, McCain campaign general counsel Trevor Potter submitted a formal letter to Google, YouTube’s parent company, urging them to loosen their copyright policies for political ads, which read, in part:

    “We alert you to a problem that has already chilled free and uninhibited discourse, and to propose a solution. First, the problem: overreaching copyright claims have resulted in the removal of non-infringing campaign videos from YouTube, thus silencing political speech.”

    If Kirkpatrick’s McCain ad is different from the ads the senator’s campaign defended eight years ago, it is by a matter of degree, not category. Just as McCain appropriated a Franki Valli song without permission to make a political point about Obama’s relationship with the media, Kirkpatrick appropriated her opponent’s own footage to make a point about his stance on immigration.

    After positioning himself as an anti-immigration hardliner in 2010, McCain has since softened his stance. In 2013, he was a member of the “Gang of Eight,” the bipartisan group of senators who drafted that year’s immigration reform bill, and this year, he has said that a Donald Trump candidacy could make the upcoming election the must difficult one of his life. As his views on immigration have evolved, so too have his ideas about copyright.

    0 0

    What Was That xoJane Writer Who Called Her Friend’s Death a “Blessing” Thinking?

    Amanda Lauren’s tagline on her website reads “I write things that become a thing,” and boy does she! This week two pieces of hers received an influx of attention and response—a Your Tango essay called “Staying Hot For My Husband Is ESSENTIAL To A Successful Marriage” and a now-deleted xoJane essay titled “My Former Friend’s Death Was a Blessing.” In the latter, our focus here, Lauren expressed relief over the death of her estranged former friend, whom she had seemed to decide was a lost cause by looking at said friend’s Facebook page. My first impression was, “What was she thinking?” So I called her up.

    Over the course of our 40-minute conversation, Lauren used the word “overwhelmed” to describe herself at least half a dozen times (at one point, she warned that she felt like she was going to throw up), defended herself against the pile-on of backlash she’s received (including, she says, death threats), and attempted to explain her instantly notorious essay.

    “I wrote this story because I have been touched by mental illness, not just by the person who I wrote this about, but with other people as well, people in my own family,” she told me about the piece that includes lines like, “It sounds horrible to say, but her death wasn’t a tragedy, her life was,” about one “Leah” (a pseudonym). Leah was a friend she met in high school and had a rocky friendship full of backbiting and Facebook-blocking. Lauren was initially friends with Leah’s sister, but Leah’s sister died of cancer at 19.

    “Maybe if someone is not doing well and doesn’t know how to help themselves and reads that and thinks, Oh my gosh, it could come to this, maybe I should talk to a therapist, or a psychiatrist, or, Maybe I should do something to help myself, that was why I wrote it,” Lauren told me. I suggested that in describing her friend’s death as a blessing, in writing sentences like, “This girl had nothing to live for,” in effectively writing off Leah as a lost cause, a reader might read it and think It’s hopeless for me. If I were dead, someone would probably write that I’m better off this way. I might as well not get treatment. Might as well just die.

    “People can see it that way, but I know for me there are times when I know...I hope that we can see this as a cautionary tale,” she told me—quickly adding that another cautionary takeaway for her was not to put her name on potentially offensive work. xoJane initially ran the piece with Lauren’s name on it, but later anonymized that at Lauren’s request. The original post remains viewable via the Wayback Machine.

    I confronted Lauren with specific criticism that’s been thrown her way, reading, for example, this excerpt from Stassa Edwards’s Jezebel post on the matter that ran earlier today:

    Throughout the piece, it’s clear that Lauren is concerned only with herself; there’s no attempt to empathize with a mentally ill woman, no attempt to intervene in her “former friend’s” clear unraveling. There is only Lauren’s concern with herself.

    “I tried to help her many times, but I also realized when I had discovered this that there was nothing I could do to help her,” said Lauren in response. “I am not as powerful as that illness. I have other stuff going on in my life twenty four hours a day. I really thought about helping her, but I also realized this was not going to be a battle I was going to win.”

    Reading her piece, I was amazed by Lauren’s callousness—that she could take it upon herself to decide the death of an estranged former friend (one she hadn’t talked to for about five years when Leah died) was a “blessing,” that she included details about her friendship with Leah that would selfishly underscore the relief of Leah’s departure (“She blatantly tried to hookup with a guy I had a crush on,” she referred to Lauren as her “frenemy” on Facebook). But after talking to her, my opinion shifted slightly, particularly when I heard Lauren say the following: “I just feel so bad that her life was so filled with suffering and I just hope she’s in a better place. That’s all I meant.”

    It was clear then that Lauren really could have used a better editor to help her tease out a complicated idea that needed a tremendous amount of nuance and humility to be pulled off. I suggested that she was being hyperbolic for effect and that what she was actually saying boiled down to: Leah’s existence was so difficult that death is better, which only goes to underline how grave her situation was.

    “That’s exactly what I’m saying,” she told me. If only she had the editorial aid to help her actually say that. (Note: I reached out to xoJane’s parent company, Time Inc., this morning for comment on “My Former Friend’s Death Is a Blessing,” and as yet not have heard back. I will update this post if and when I do.)

    See, I get Lauren’s writerly instinct. I believe that many—if not most—subjects worth writing about should be challenging, and even morally complicated, lest I preach to the choir and devote my job to pandering. That’s why I wrote a piece earlier this year about feeling relief at the death of my cat. Dead-animal tributes are a dime a dozen; the only way to make publicly exploring something like that worthwhile is to say what isn’t being said, and often what isn’t being said are uncomfortable truths.

    Granted, my cat was a cat, not a person, he wasn’t living with any mental illness I was aware of, and he didn’t quit a job I worked at to make me look bad. In fact, his being a cat made it much easier to explore a potentially taboo topic than it would have been had my subject been a human. I don’t know if I have the ability to persuade an audience that the death of any private citizen is a blessing, and I’m positive that Lauren didn’t.

    Still, she stands by her story, even after she requested xoJane remove it from their site.

    “I would have taken my name off it because I’m receiving death threats and I am being bullied,” she said regarding what she would do differently. “I don’t think bullying me helps at all. I’m being harassed over the internet and it’s really unfair. It’s really just beyond. I would have done that, I would have changed the title.”

    “What would you have changed the title to?” I asked.

    “I have no idea,” she said.

    She offered an apology and caveat to those who found her piece to be triggering. “I’m sorry if this triggered anyone, but I feel like…sorry I’m just so overwhelmed right now,” she said, interrupting herself. “I feel like if you read a headline like that and you’re easily triggered, maybe don’t read the article.”

    This is sensible. And even if her piece was worthy of the amount of scorn it received, death threats and personal attacks are unnecessary. Plus, Lauren thinks she’s being evaluated unfairly.

    “You can’t judge someone as a whole human being based on some of the stuff they wrote,” she said. I pointed out the irony of her saying that when she judged her friend Leah, whom she hadn’t seen in five years, based solely on her Facebook.

    “I saw what was there and I thought it was a clear indication that she was a sick person,” she responded.

    “But isn’t that what people could say about you?” I asked.

    “But I knew her in real life. That’s the difference. These people who are sending me death threats don’t know me in real life,” said Lauren.

    That’s fair. Lauren told me she’s just experienced the craziest 24 hours of her life and she just wants to go back to bed. But she has engagements planned—a spot on Fox and Friends and one on Dr. Drew’s radio show. I wondered if she was going to be talking about her Your Tango essay on the latter, or her way more notorious xoJane post. She said she was as yet unsure.

    “I have to talk about it with my publicist,” said Lauren.

    0 0

    Conservative Investigator James O'Keefe Reveals Shocking, Exclusive Details About His Own Dumb Plan to Take Down George Soros
    Image: Getty

    The right-wing rabble-rouser James O’Keefe made his name by secretly recording stunts designed to uncover the supposedly sinister machinations of progressive institutions. So there’s some poetic justice about the way he accidentally broadcast his plans to conduct a sting against a prominent billionaire liberal philanthropist: by running his mouth when he didn’t realize he was on tape.

    O’Keefe planned to conduct his latest investigation into the Open Society Foundations, a group of nonprofits founded by George Soros. As is O’Keefe’s wont, he assumed a false identity—this time it was a Hungarian businessman named Victor Kesh—and called up the Foundations’ New York headquarters, hoping to catch employees in some embarrassing slip-up, like he famously did at Planned Parenthood and ACORN in 2008 and 2009.

    As the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer details in a thorough profile published online today, O’Keefe reached a voice mailbox. He left a brief message in character as Kesh, and then, not realizing he hadn’t hung up the phone, began talking at length about his plan to take Soros and Open Society down. (Audio from the call is available here.)

    She continued to listen, and the man’s voice suddenly took on a more commanding tone. The caller had failed to hang up, and Kesh, unaware that he was still being recorded, seemed to be conducting a meeting about how to perpetrate an elaborate sting on Soros. “What needs to happen,” he said, is for “someone other than me to make a hundred phone calls like that”—to Soros, to his employees, and to the Democracy Alliance, a club of wealthy liberal political donors that Soros helped to found, which is expected to play a large role in financing this year’s campaigns. Kesh described sending into the Soros offices an “undercover” agent who could “talk the talk” with Open Society executives. Kesh’s goal wasn’t fully spelled out on the recording, but the gist was that an operative posing as a potential donor could penetrate Soros’s operation and make secret videos that exposed embarrassing activities.

    In an interview with Breitbart about how throughly he played himself, O’Keefe said that the mistake would not jeopardize his larger investigation into Soros, which is apparently still forthcoming. “The irony was that the official called me back. I don’t think that she realized until later,” he added, referring to the Open Society employee with whom he’d left the message.

    Whether O’Keefe sees the greater irony in his situation—having accidentally applied the exact same tactics he uses against his liberal enemies to his own operation—is unclear.

    0 0

    Today's Best Deals: Better Audio, Smaller Battery Pack, $50 Router, and More

    VIZIO sound bars, a popular Anker battery pack, and discounted pillows lead off Friday’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: Better Audio, Smaller Battery Pack, $50 Router, and More
    VIZIO Gold Box

    VIZIO makes some of our readers’ favorite sound bars, so if you have any TVs in your home that could use an audio upgrade, today’s Amazon Gold Box is a can’t miss opportunity.

    Inside, you’ll find four refurbished VIZIO sound bars appropriate for different situations. For example, this $60, 29" model would be perfect for a bedroom TV, while a 38" alternative with a wireless subwoofer is a great value for $100.

    The really exciting deals here though are the 5.1 surround sound models. Unlike traditional surround sound systems, these fully integrated sound bars don’t need a receiver, and are incredibly easy to set up. The sound bar sits in front of the TV, delivering three front channels of sound, while the two rear satellite speakers plug into the included wireless subwoofer, which you can set up in the back of the room. The upshot is that you won’t have to run any wires from your TV at the front of the room to the speakers in the back. I own an older model of this setup, and absolutely love it.

    Just note that like all Gold Box deals, these prices are only available today, or until sold out.

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    Wayward Pines Book Trilogy, $2 Each

    If you enjoy the small-town-with-something-to-hide genre (a la Twin Peaks), you’ll love the Wayward Pines book trilogy. Fox ruined it by turning it into a TV show, but don’t let that scare you away. Each one is just $2 on Kindle today, but I recommend just picking up all three.

    Update: You can buy all three together for even less using this link.

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    Allen Sports 2-Bike Trunk Mount Rack, $25

    It’s a great time of year to go for a bike ride, but if you need to drive your bikes to the trailhead, this sedan-compatible rack can carry two for just $25, an all-time low.

    Amazon helpfully includes a tool at the top of the page to verify compatibility with your car, so be sure to check that before purchasing.

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    3-Pack 24-Count Nature Valley Granola Bars, $11 after Subscribe & Save and 20% coupon

    Nature Valley granola bars are a fantastic way to start the day, and Amazon will sell you 72 of them (36 packs of two) for just $11 today, which is far better than any local supermarket deal I’ve seen (and I buy these a lot).

    Just clip the 20% coupon on the page, and use Subscribe & Save to maximize your savings. You can always cancel the subscription after your first delivery.

    Protip: Break them apart before opening the wrapper to avoid crumbs.

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    Men’s Grooming Sample Box, $20 + $20 Amazon Credit

    Amazon’s sample box deals have been a huge hit this year, and they keep raising the stakes. Today, you can pick up a $20 box full of men’s grooming samples, including razors, deodorant, shaving cream, body wash, and more, and of course, you’ll get a $20 credit back to spend on your next men’s grooming purchase through Amazon.

    More Sample Boxes:

    Today's Best Deals: Better Audio, Smaller Battery Pack, $50 Router, and More
    Anker PowerCore 10000, $18

    Anker’s PowerCore 10000 is part of your favorite line of USB battery packs, and you can pick one up on Amazon today for just $18, an all-time low. That comes complete with an 18 month warranty and a nice travel pouch, but the real reason to get this thing is the size. If you’ve owned other ~10,000mAh battery packs, you’ll be shocked how small and light this thing is.

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    TP-Link Archer C50, $50

    This $50 TP-Link router isn’t the fastest or most powerful model on the market, but it has fantastic user reviews, and would be a fine choice for apartment dwellers looking to upgrade to 802.11ac.

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    Extra 40% off at checkout, promo code TIMETOSHOP

    J.Crew Factory’s clearance section already had some great deals, but today only, you can take an extra 40% off your order, with promo code TIMETOSHOP. Note that the 40% is in addition to the clearance deals listed, so you won’t see the final price until checkout.

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    Fitbit Charge HR, $100

    Need a little push to get off the couch? The Fitbit Charge HR is your favorite wearable fitness tracker, and you can get one for just $100 today, which is a match for the best deal we’ve seen.

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    Omaker M4 Splash-Proof Bluetooth Speaker, $18 with code 75YCUH3B

    We’ve seen our fair share of sub-$20 Bluetooth speakers, but not many of them can join you in the shower. The Omaker M4 can do just that thanks to its IP54-rated splash resistance, and still deliver up to 12 hours of playtime on a single charge. That’s perfect if you like to sing in the shower, or just need to catch up on your podcast backlog.

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    Hammerhead 4V Electric Screwdriver, $20

    For times when a drill is too large, or just plain overkill, this $20 electric screwdriver earns its keep with an integrated wire stripper, as well as a live wire detector that can sense electrical currents from up to an inch away, before you find out by touching it. It even charges over USB, so you won’t have an extra charger to keep track of.

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    BioPEDIC 4-Pack Bed Pillows, $25

    Whether you aren’t happy with your current pillows, or just need an extra set for your guest room, Amazon’s selling a 4-pack today for $25.

    Reviews on these pillows are mixed, which is what you’d probably expect; pillows comfort is very subjective, after all. Most reviews tend to describe them as soft, with a relatively small amount of support, which some people will love, and some people won’t. For $25, there’s not a ton of risk in trying them out though, and returning them if you aren’t satisfied.

    The Worx AeroCart could best be described as the lovechild of a dolly and a wheelbarrow, so if you ever need to move heavy loads, this is one of the most flexible tools you can buy. $100 today gets you a cart and a bonus water hauler. That’s the best deal we’ve ever seen. [Worx AeroCart + Free Water Hauler, $100]

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    AWOL on the Appalachian Trail, $2

    AWOL on the Appalachian Trail is a must-read for anyone who loves the outdoors, and Amazon will sell you a Kindle edition for just $2 today. 4.5 stars on nearly 1500 reviews.

    In 2003, software engineer David Miller left his job, family, and friends to fulfill a dream and hike the Appalachian Trail. AWOL on the Appalachian Trail is Miller’s account of this thru-hike along the entire 2,172 miles from Georgia to Maine. On page after page, readers are treated to rich descriptions of the valleys and mountains, the isolation and reverie, the inspiration that fueled his quest, and the life-changing moments that can only be experienced when dreams are pursued. While this book abounds with introspection and perseverance, it also provides useful passages about safety and proper gear, with a view into a professional hiker’s preparations and tenacity. This is not merely a travel guide, but a beautifully written and highly personal view into one man’s adventure and what it means to make a lifelong vision come true.

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    Xbox One Gamepad, $40

    If you need an extra controller for your Xbox One, or just want to upgrade your PC gamepad, this $40 deal is the best we’ve seen. Of course, it’ll work wirelessly out of the box on Xbox One, but it also comes with a microUSB cable to connect it to your PC.

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    VRS Wallet Case, $12

    Apple Pay and Android Pay can’t replace your wallet yet, but with the help of a special phone case, you still won’t have to carry one. This VRS wallet case is marked down to $12 today on Amazon as part of a Gold Box deal, and is available for the Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, and the iPhone 6/6s, in a variety of colors.

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    Mpow Wolverine Bluetooth Earbuds, $15 with code PV62UJKU

    Mpow basically created the cheap Bluetooth headphone market, and their noise-cancelling Wolverine models are marked down to $15 today with code PV62UJKU, the best price we’ve seen.

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    KMASHI 6,000mAh/400 Peak Amp USB Battery Pack/Jump Starter, $23 with code SDVJVCG5

    We see deals on compact jump starters almost every day, but I’m pretty certain $23 is the best price we’ve ever seen. Plus, it’s from KMASHI, manufacturer of some of the most popular USB battery packs we’ve posted.

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    GolfBuddy Golf GPS, $100

    Even if you aren’t a golfer yourself, this $100 GolfBuddy GPS unit would be a fantastic gift idea. It’s preloaded with nearly 40,000 courses, calculates your distance to the green, and tells you how far you hit the ball. At $100, it’s also never been cheaper.

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    Asics Men’s Challenger 10 Tennis Shoes, $35 | Women’s versions also available

    If you happen to be in the market for tennis shoes, you can pick up a pair of Asics Men’s Gel Challenger 10s in three different colors for just $35 today. These shoes usually go for $60-$70 around the web, but several sizes are already selling out, so grab yours before they’re gone.

    Update: The women’s version is on sale as well!

    Blendtec is the brand that brought you those viral “Will It Blend” videos, and yeah, their blenders are really good. You can grab a refurbished model today for $190, which is over 50% less than buying it new. [Refurb Blendtec Total Blender, WildSide Jar, $190]

    Fix-A-Flat tire sealant is no substitute for having a professional fix a puncture or replace your tire, but it’s faster than putting on a spare, and should allow you to drive safely to the nearest tire shop. For $5, why not keep one in your trunk?

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    Oster XL 6-Slice Convection Toaster Oven, $90

    What’s this? A sub-$100 toaster oven with good reviews, convection fans, and digital buttons rather than imprecise knobs? I didn’t know such a thing existed.

    This Oster can fit six slices of bread, a 16" pizza, and more, and includes two racks so you can bake multiple items at once. Good toaster ovens under $100 are few and far between, but the reviews on this model are vey solid.

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    RockBirds Silicone Water Bottle, $9 with code 2PJJ7CIK

    The problem with reusable water bottles is that once you’ve finished the water inside, they become a massive waste of space in your bag. Not so for this foldable silicone alternative. Genius.

    Today's Best Deals: Better Audio, Smaller Battery Pack, $50 Router, and More
    Bodum Chambord, $24

    If you can’t start your day without a morning cup of coffee, but you’re still using an electric drip coffee maker, or even a Keurig, you might want to try out a flavor-extracting french press. This 4.4 star-rated Bodum Chambord is one of the most popular models on the market, and it’s within a couple bucks of its lowest price ever right now on Amazon.

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    Donald Trump Wanted to Pit "Nine Blacks" Against "Nine Whites" For the Ratings
    Photo: AP

    We here at Gawker once made a light-hearted comparison between a race-war obsessed lunatic and Charles Manson. Turns out we weren’t far off base: Donald Trump once argued having “nine blacks” square off against “nine whites” would produce the highest ratings on television.

    Trump made the proposal in 2005 on the Howard Stern show (where else), where he took a break from discussing how often his wife defecates (never) to propose his own version of helter-skelter.

    BuzzFeed, which dug up the news, also published a transcript of the audio.

    “On The Apprentice there was a concept, okay, thrown out by some person, nine blacks against nine whites,” said Trump. “And it would be nine blacks against nine whites, all highly educated, very smart, strong, beautiful. Do you like it? Do you like it, Robin?”

    Robin, Stern’s co-host, suggested he might cause a riot—an accomplishment even Manson himself struggled to achieve. “It would be the highest-rated show in television,” Trump proclaimed.

    “Very dark blacks, or light-skinned blacks?” Stern asked.

    “Assortment,” Trump responded, “against whites.”

    When a laughing Quivers asked how many blondes, Trump added he wanted all nine whites to be blonde.

    “This was a thought that was given to us, and I don’t think NBC is thrilled with the idea, with the concept,” says Trump.

    “Wouldn’t that set off a racial war?” asks Stern.

    “Actually, I don’t think it would,” responded Trump. “I think it would be handled very beautifully by me. Because, as you know, I’m very diplomatic… Also, I think you’d have 35 million people a night watching.”

    “You’d have to [watch],” Robin said, to know when the riots start. Trump did not comment on the existence of a Trump desert compound stocked with guns, beautiful women and pliable men—which is not to say it doesn’t exist. Has anyone ever seen Trump and Manson together in the same room? We’re just asking questions.

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