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    Old-Ass Sumner Redstone's Shadowy Daughter Probably Just Tried to Off Viacom's CEO
    Sumner Redstone, Shari Redstone, and Phillippe Dauman in, uh, happier times: Getty

    As CEO of Viacom, Phillippe Dauman was widely detested and probably incompetent, but he was the favorite son of controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone, who, at 93 years old, has lately had his hands full with arranging threesomes before he croaks. Alas, today Dauman was potentially removed from Viacom’s board—but by whom?

    It could have been Redstone himself, of course, but signs point to Redstone’s daughter, Shari. Vanity Fair’s invaluable Redstone family whisperer Michael D. Cohan posted a story late last night reporting on the belief among those close to Redstone that Shari is “propping him up long enough to engineer her own deliberate palace coup.”

    Cohan writes that Shari “openly detests Dauman, her father’s protégé,” and by all accounts it would be a sudden about face for Redstone to dethrone the man he helped elevate despite disastrous decisions like carrying on a fruitless seven year-long, billion-dollar suit against YouTube, which spent that time eating Viacom’s lunch.

    Viacom lead board member Fredric Salerno made as much clear in a statement today. Via the Los Angeles Times:

    “This is a brazen and demonstrably invalid attempt by Ms. Redstone to gain control of Viacom and its management in disregard of Sumner Redstone’s wishes and to undermine the current board’s ability to represent the best interests of all of the stockholders of Viacom,” Viacom’s lead board member Frederic Salerno said in a statement.

    He noted that Sumner Redstone for years said he wanted professional managers to oversee his $40 billion media empire, which includes Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp., rather than his daughter.

    “Sadly, it is now clear that Mr. Redstone is being manipulated and used by his daughter in an attempt to accomplish her long-held goal of gaining complete control of Viacom,” Salerno said.

    In an attempt to prevent Shari from following through on her removal of Dauman and the other board members, Salerno has filed suit in a Delaware court to prevent the moves from being approved. If Shari is successful, Dauman would almost certainly be fired.

    Also, there’s this morning’s curious tweet from Carl Folta, Viacom’s vice president of corporate communications, insinuating something about elder abuse:

    Anyway, if you care at all about the absurd and delicious Redstone/Viacom dramas, give Cohan’s piece a read. And if you know anything, drop us a line.

    Correction: This post originally stated that Dauman had been ousted as CEO. Instead, Shari Redstone has removed him from the board pending approval from a Delaware court. This post has been updated to reflect this information.

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    Report: British Lawmaker's Alleged Killer Supported Neo-Nazi Group
    Photo: AP

    According to a report released by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the man suspected of killing Labor MP Jo Cox was a longtime supporter of white nationalist causes, having sent hundreds of dollars to the now-defunct American neo-Nazi group National Alliance.

    Witnesses say the alleged killer—later identified as 52-year-old Thomas Mair—shouted “Britain First” while shooting Cox with a “homemade or antique” firearm. Notably, the Southern Poverty Law Center found that Mair purchased a manual that included instructions for building an improvised pistol from the National Alliance in 1999:

    Mair, who resides in what is described as a semi-detached house on the Fieldhead Estate in Birstall, sent just over $620 to the NA, according to invoices for goods purchased from National Vanguard Books, the NA’s printing imprint. Mair purchased subscriptions for periodicals published by the imprint and he bought works that instruct readers on the “Chemistry of Powder & Explosives,” “Incendiaries,” and a work called “Improvised Munitions Handbook.” Under “Section III, No. 9” (page 125) of that handbook, there are detailed instructions for constructing a “Pipe Pistol For .38 Caliber Ammunition” from components that can be purchased from nearly any hardware store.


    The Daily Telegraph also reported that Mair was a subscriber to S. A. Patriot, a South African magazine published by White Rhino Club, a pro-apartheid group. The club describes that magazine’s editorial stance as opposed to “multi-cultural societies” and “expansionist Islam.” According to the Daily Telegraph, a January 2006 blog post attributed to the group described Mair as “one of the earliest subscribers and supporters of S. A. Patriot.”

    According to The Independent, Cox was a “rising star” in the center-left Labour Party who campaigned for Britain to stay in the EU and urged her country to help Syrian refugees.

    “Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life,” said husband Brendan Cox in a statement. “She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous.”

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    The Endless Saga of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Taxpayer-Funded Hair

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara are under fire, not for the first time, for spending a hefty amount of taxpayer dollars ($540,000, to be exact) on a recent five day trip to the UN in New York, The Guardian reports. This included $1,600 for hairstyling and $1,750 for makeup, numbers that do not cover Sara Netanyahu’s expenses.

    Netanyahu, not unlike another wall-friendly, ethno-nationalistic speech suppressor, appears to be in possession of a possibly not-entirely-real combover; Bibi’s mane, although somewhat more dignified than the pile of dirty straw dipped in chicken tikka masala that we have become accustomed to over in the U.S., is rigidly kept, with a pile of long—too long—straight silver strands that gently fold across his head to create the illusion of ageless, militaristic proportionality. Although the upkeep of said hair is nowhere near the worst cost Netanyahu has inflicted upon the region, it is worth underscoring that Israel’s conservative citizens, in voting for a party of flailing, hyper-masculine right wing aggression, have been inadvertently supporting an extremely high-maintenance hair care regimen.

    The Endless Saga of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Taxpayer-Funded Hair
    The early days. (Image via Associated Press)

    In February 2015, a report by Israel’s comptroller found that Netanyahu and his wife Sara—who, as an aside, was successfully sued for verbal and emotional abuse by a former employee and was recently recommended for indictment following allegations of embezzlement—spent $68,000 in two years in makeup, hairstyling, and “presentation.”

    The comptroller noted that these expenses, which also included $41,000 spent on takeout meals in one year (somehow necessary in addition to an in-house chef and $213 daily on groceries and other food/entertainment), “strayed from the cornerstone principles of financial management and the principles of proportionality, reasonableness, saving and efficiency.”

    Netanyahu reportedly made an effort to suppress the release of this most recent expenses report, likely due to the fact that it is one of approximately one million spending scandals he has faced over the course of his deeply, perhaps catastrophically damaging tenure. In 2013, the prime minister spent $127,000 installing a double bed on a plane that would take himself and his wife to Margaret Thatcher’s funeral; that same year, around the same time Netanyahu was working to pass a crushing austerity budget, it was revealed that he was spending $2,700 annually on ice cream.

    In recent years, as the Times of Israel noted in 2013, Bibi’s hair underwent a subtle resurgence:

    Unlike previous photos from the last few years, when Netanyahu sported a modest comb-over of his graying locks, as well as a receding hairline across his pate, the photos of Bibi and Barack showed him with a pompadour hairstyle, with his thinning silvery mane brushed back from his face.

    A year earlier in 2012, Haaretz contributor Dani Bar-On contended that Netanyahu was straight-up “bald,” and “stringent about plastering down and combing over his few remaining strands.” This, the columnist claimed, was part of a larger tendency to obsessively hide any signs of physical weakness from public view:

    Take blogger Tal Schneider’s piece for Haaretz, “Netanyahu’s crutch: Why has the PM been avoiding photo ops?” In it, she asserts that following a leg injury, Netanyahu’s crutches were carefully tucked out of view so – heaven forbid – the public wouldn’t see him using them.

    And don’t forget that when Netanyahu gives a speech at the start of Cabinet meetings, and there are cameras there, he reads from pages in an enormous font. All of this is to avoid him being photographed wearing reading glasses, which, like so many men of a certain age, he needs.

    Let’s take a brief look back at the age-defiant journey of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s terrible, extremely expensive hair.

    The Endless Saga of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Taxpayer-Funded Hair
    1988: Then- member of Knesset Benjamin Netanyahu is sporting what looks to be the beginnings of a combover, complete with a swooping ‘70s wave. (Image via Getty)
    The Endless Saga of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Taxpayer-Funded Hair
    1996: Netanyahu, seen here behind Esther Pollard, the wife of recently-released Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, appears to have settled into his long-term hairstyle, although at this angle we cannot be sure. (Image via Associated Press.)
    The Endless Saga of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Taxpayer-Funded Hair
    1997: Netanyahu shakes hands with Egyptian President Hosni Moubarak, hairline noticeably dwindling. (Image via Associated Press.)
    The Endless Saga of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Taxpayer-Funded Hair
    2010: Former defense minister Ehud Barak and a heavily balding Netanyahu leave the West Wing after arguing in favor of expanding Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem. (Image via Associated Press)
    The Endless Saga of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Taxpayer-Funded Hair
    2012: Netanyahu discusses concerns about Iran’s nuclear capabilities at a UN summit, flaunting a visibly thickened and fastidiously combed ‘do. (Image via Associated Press)
    The Endless Saga of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Taxpayer-Funded Hair
    May 2016: In a jarring twist, Netanyahu heads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem sporting a perfectly coiffed swoop of hair that exhibits a frankly shocking degree of thickness. (Image via Associated Press)

    If anyone can tell me how on earth this happened, please email me.

    Image via Getty.

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  • 06/16/16--19:18: Man Still Yelling
  • Man Still Yelling

    Tonight, in a live address streamed to supporters, Bernie Sanders announced that he was officially conce—hahaha, just kidding. Bernie Sanders will concede in hell.

    More specifically, after reiterating his major talking points, Sanders said:

    The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly. And I personally intend to begin my role in that process in a very short period of time.

    But defeating Donald Trump cannot be our only goal. We must continue our grassroots efforts to create the America that we know we can become. And we must take that energy into the Democratic National Convention on July 25 in Philadelphia where we will have more than 1,900 delegates.

    So, presumably, Sanders’ “role” will come when he finally gives up on his presidential aspirations to support the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. Or perhaps, it will come when he’s dead.

    Either way, Sanders is looking forward “to continued discussions between the two campaigns to make certain that your voices are heard and that the Democratic Party passes the most progressive platform in its history and that Democrats actually fight for that agenda.” We’re sure Hillary can’t wait.

    You can read the full transcript of Sanders’ address over at Politico here.

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    Marines Under Investigation for Allegedly Threatening to Attack Gay Bars

    Two marines are under investigation for uploading a photo to social media in which they allegedly threatened to attack gay bars—all less than a week after the shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, which has been deemed the worst mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history.

    The Marine Corp members reportedly responsible for the post belong to the I Marine Expenditionary Force (I MEF), which is headquartered at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County.

    The photo, which was posted on the Camp MENdleton resale Facebook group—a closed group for male marines with an amassed 25,000 members—features an unnamed male corporal holding a military rifle with his finger poised on the trigger.

    The caption accompanying the photo reads “Coming to a gay bar near you!”

    The post also promised that “Orlando was long overdue,” and that San Diego, the city near where the suspects were based, was “next,” according to The Marine Corps Times.

    Shortly after the photo was uploaded, the marine who did so followed it up with “too soon?”

    I MEF spokesperson Lt. Thomas Gray told the press that both the person featured in the photo and the person who posted the photo have since been identified.

    “The Marine Corps does not tolerate discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, gender or religion,” read an official statement released by I MEF. “This type of behavior and mindset will not be allowed, and it is not consistent with the core values of honor, courage and commitment that are demonstrated by the vast majority of Marines on a daily basis.”

    The founder of the Facebook group, Michael Moss, also publicly disparaged the photo.

    “We do not tolerate hate speech,” Moss, who was also responsible for removing the post, told the press.

    Unfortunately, this incident inherently tied to the Orlando shooting is not a standalone occurrence: on Monday night, a man was arrested in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood after he threatened to perpetrate an “Orlando-style” shooting outside of the gay bar Happy Fun Hideaway.

    He also screamed that he would “get his 50 just like Orlando,” referring to the initial approximated number of Pulse casualties.

    Contact the author at

    Image via Facebook.

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    Anti-Trump "Tiny Hands" PAC Runs First TV Ads in Washington D.C.
    Photo: YouTube/Trump Has Tiny Hands PAC

    The political action committee Americans Against Insecure Billionaires with Tiny Hands ran its first television spot Wednesday night, encouraging MSNBC viewers in the Washington metropolitan area to sign a petition demanding Donald Trump release his official hand measurements.

    “We need a president who can grasp the complexity of the world and hold off the decline of a great nation,” states the ad. “Together, we can learn if Donald Trump can truly handle being commander-in-chief.”

    The group, founded in Portland, Oregon, earlier this year as “Trump Has Tiny Hands PAC,” was forced to change its name in March after the FEC noted they did not “appear to be an authorized committee of that candidate.” Since then, however, the PAC has managed to raise at least $1,752 toward their cause.

    “We need to raise awareness as to the dangers and risks of Donald Trump having tiny hands,” PAC spokesperson Katie Nguyen told The Oregonian on Tuesday. “We need to see the measurements of Donald Trump hands. Preferably notarized from his physician.”

    First labeled a “short-fingered vulgarian” by Spy magazine more than 25 years ago, accusations of small-handedness dogged the Republican presidential candidate throughout the primary race. In March, Trump not entirely convincingly claimed that his hands were “normal. Slightly large, actually.”

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    Pope Francis to Catholics: Your Marriage Is a Sham
    Photo: AP

    This week, Pope Francis said “the great majority” of modern Catholic marriages were religiously invalid due to an insufficient understanding of commitment, successfully making mad dudes very mad.

    “It’s the culture of the provisional,” said the Pope at a question-and-answer session on Thursday. “Because of this, the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say ‘yes, for the rest of my life!’ but they don’t know what they are saying.”

    According to Francis, the church is currently experiencing a crisis of marriage because couples “don’t know that it’s indissoluble, they don’t know that it’s for your entire life.” From The Washington Post:

    Marriage, in Catholic teaching, is a sacrament, an “original gift from God to humanity,” says the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website. “It is a permanent, faithful, fruitful partnership between one man and one woman.” The USCCB says divorce “claims” to break marriage, but only a church tribunal can say that a marriage isn’t valid because a real bond never existed. One of the reasons church courts may give for annulling a marriage is to say that the parties were unprepared.

    “I heard a bishop say some months ago that he met a boy that had finished his university studies, and said ‘I want to become a priest, but only for 10 years.’” said Francis. “And this happens everywhere, also in priestly life, in religious life.”

    So sure, you might think you’re into marriage, but according to Pope Trying-Too-Hard, all you so-called fans still don’t really “get” it.

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  • 06/17/16--04:29: 143 Days and a Wake Up
  • 143 Days and a Wake Up
    A vendor prepares items for sale before a Trump campaign rally in Dallas, Texas, on Thursday. Photo: Getty

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    Dozens of U.S. Diplomats Sign Confidential Memo Calling for Targeted Strikes Against Bashar al-Assad
    Photo: AP

    The Wall Street Journal has reviewed a copy of an internal State Department cable, signed by 51 officials across the department’s Syria desk and submitted to the department’s “dissent channel,” calling for targeted military strikes against the Syrian government and a regime change.

    The “dissent channel” is an official means for department employees to critique the White House’s foreign policies without fear of retribution. The content of the Syria complaint isn’t unusual, the Journal reports, but the number of signatories is. “It’s embarrassing for the administration to have so many rank-and-file members break on Syria,” one former State Department official said.

    The views expressed by the U.S. officials in the cable amount to a scalding internal critique of a longstanding U.S. policy against taking sides in the Syrian war, a policy that has survived even though the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has been repeatedly accused of violating ceasefire agreements and Russian-backed forces have attacked U.S.-trained rebels.

    The State Department acknowledged the existence of the cable, which is a formal, confidential diplomatic communication, but wouldn’t comment on its contents until top officials had a chance to review it.

    Obama administration officials have expressed concern that attacking the Assad regime could lead to a direct conflict with Russia and Iran.

    More than 400,000 people have been killed so far in the Syrian Civil War, which began in 2011. Although both the government in Damascus and opposition groups have violated the ceasefire ostensibly agreed to in February, the memo ascribes particular malevolence to Assad, who hasn’t taken “consequential negotiations” seriously.

    In fact, the memo says, Assad’s use of barrel bombs on civilian populations is the “root cause of the instability that continues to grip Syria and the broader region.”

    “The moral rationale for taking steps to end the deaths and suffering in Syria, after five years of brutal war, is evident and unquestionable,” it said. “The status quo in Syria will continue to present increasingly dire, if not disastrous, humanitarian, diplomatic and terrorism-related challenges.”

    Many Syrian rebel groups have been hesitant to ally themselves with the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State, largely because of its singular focus on the extremist group, the Journal reports. But the Assad regime’s human rights abuses “against the Syrian people undermines both morally and materially, the unity of the anti-Daesh coalition,” the memo argues.

    Stronger relationships with Syrian rebel groups, the officials write, would turn “the tide of the conflict against the regime [to] increase the chances for peace by sending a clear signal to the regime and its backers that there will be no military solution to the conflict.”

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    Peggy Noonan's Advanced Reporting Techniques Explain Her Success
    Photo: Getty

    Peggy Noonan, a keen scientist of the political sphere, once predicted Mitt Romney would defeat Barack Obama based on the fact that she saw a bunch of his yard signs. She brings the same eye for meaningless detail to the shores of Olde Englande.

    You may have read “polls” and “analysis” and all manner of “expert” commentary about Britain’s potential “Brexit” vote to leave the EU. But see—this is why we have journalism. So that the Wall Street Journal can send Peggy Noonan all the way to Olde London Towne to investigate what is really happening. Though other great minds, like Thomas Friedman, have pioneered the “just ask the cab driver” technique of investigative reporting, few are able to extract such a penetrating level of insight as Peggy:

    My conclusion from four days in London talking to both sides, Leave and Remain, is that in spite of recent polls showing gains for Leave, no one knows what’s going to happen. Everyone has the eye-twitching expectation the voters will deliver a surprise, they just don’t know which one. My anecdote is that a London cabbie told me that for eight days he’s been asking his passengers where they stand: “37 Leave, 18 Remain.” That didn’t make sense—London is assumed to be heavily pro-Remain—but he showed me the yellow notepad on which he kept score.

    He showed you the actual notepad? Damn.

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    A Look Into the Erotic, Hilarious, and Dark, Dark World of "Competitive Endurance Tickling": Tickled
    Photo: Tickled

    It all started with a video of a guy wearing bright colored athletic gear in a sparse room laughing uncontrollably with a bunch of other guys on top of him. New Zealand journalist David Farrier received a tip about “Competitive Endurance Tickling” and started looking into it and tweeting about it. Farrier reached out to the company sponsoring this “competition” and releasing videos of it—Jane O’Brien Media—and received a refusal to participate in his coverage, on grounds that Farrier is a “homosexual journalist” (he’s actually bi, though). Farrier and his straight friend Dylan Reeve kept digging and the response from Jane O’Brien Media turned even more hostile. Farrier and Reeve were on the path to uncovering the truth behind the operation and its seemingly exploitative nature. Soon, they would be pulled into the world of tickling for profit, blackmail, bullying, and international schemes.

    They captured their story in the new documentary Tickled, which they co-directed and both appear in. It’s a curiouser-and-curiouser-than-fiction slice of vérité filmmaking and a delightful entry into the bonkers canon of New Zealand cinema (which also includes the work of Peter Jackson, What We Do in the Shadows, and my personal favorite, The Monster’s Christmas). Farrier and Reeve stopped by Gawker HQ earlier this week to tell me about the making of their film, dissect the appeal of tickling erotica, and to catch me up on the continuing threats issued by Jane O’Brien Media associates. An edited and condensed transcript of our discussion is below.

    Gawker: Things described in this movie remind me of what Peter Thiel is doing to Gawker. In both situations, you have people with a pile of money working very hard to kill stories and expression—in, frankly, perverted ways.

    Dylan Reeve: Would you believe that you’re not the first person to tell us that? It’s true. Of course, anyone who feels justified should be able to take legal action that the law allows them to take. At the same time, it’s not like you can file a legal case and everyone just turns up to court to make their arguments. There’s a lot of money involved even without getting to court. That could be crippling.

    David Farrier: When you’re dealing with someone with a lot of money who’s dealing with someone with much less money, it can become very perverted quite quickly.

    Dylan: It’s very asymmetric.

    It almost feels like in the same way that sexuality—or at least, our perception of it—is being consistently modified, to the point where options seem infinite, there are more creative ways than ever to do fucked up shit with your money.

    David: I think that’s a completely fair call. One of the big points in the film is about power and control, and just the point that if you’ve got money, you have those things.

    Dylan: But also that you should be free to be the person you want to be without having to fuck with other people in the process. There’s no reason you can’t be into tickling and whatever else you want to if you are OK with everyone else. Don’t be a dick. That’s what it all comes down to, in our case anyway. If the people involved weren’t being dicks about it, nothing would have happened.

    At the same time, sex is about power and control, especially kinky sex.

    David: There’s imagery of tickling throughout the film [suggesting] that it is a massive power play between two people. You’ve got someone who’s tied down, they don’t have any power, and you’ve got someone who has power over them. As someone in the film describes, it’s like BDSM brought way down. Tickling is a very simple illustration of it, but there’re other examples of power being exerted over other people all throughout the film. We end up in Muskegon, Michigan, this very poor town in the United States, and there come face-to-face with this extremely wealthy company that’s manipulating people in [that] town to do things that they typically wouldn’t do.

    Dylan: When we started looking into it and we found these websites—with these guys with these videos—calling them perverts and posting their contact details. That was a point where we went, “This is really not OK.” One of the things we talked about when we started doing the documentary is: Could we help in some way? Could we make things better by exposing what was really happening, or trying to find out.

    If we think of sex as a drug, at least for the purposes of my next point, any good drug movie shows you why people would do that drug. And in Tickled, you make a very good case for the attractiveness of this genre of erotica. One could discover a tickling fetish from your movie that he or she didn’t know they had.

    Dylan: And some have!

    David: We’ve had audience members come up to us and say, “I felt something stirring in my stomach that I hadn’t felt before.”

    Intellectually, I totally get tickling as a fetish. The cumshot is so important in porn because it’s undeniably real as a physiological response, no matter how much pretending and put-on moaning it took to get there. Similarly, laughing is a very real, uncontrollable response to tickling. And also, people who make tickling videos are recruiting straight guys to interact with each other, much like gay porn often does, except in the case of these tickling videos, their straightness is completely preserved since they don’t have actual sex.

    David: That’s the unusual thing about watching the videos that Jane O’Brien Media makes. You’re like, “Why is this a sexual thing?” but in your brain, it is a sexual thing. They’ve got clothes on, there’s no sex. The other aspect that’s interesting to this is part of the company’s joy in making these videos is straight guys are involved and they don’t know what they’re involved with.

    Dylan: In other aspects of gay porn, the idea of straight guys going gay is a big deal. With the tickling thing, they want straight guys to be doing this stuff without it being gay. They don’t want anything gay involved in it...

    David: Including me.

    But you’re bi.

    David: The funny thing about making this film is that I never initially wanted to make it about my sexuality because it wasn’t a story about that. The reaction from this company was: We don’t want to deal with a homosexual journalist. I never really went into that, that was just a statement they made.

    Did your sexuality have anything to do with being interested in this genre of erotica in the first place?

    David: No, the appeal was the unusual nature of it. I wasn’t personally turned on by the tickling videos, but I thought it was an interesting thing. I thought it was interesting that tickling was a thing that existed that I hadn’t been aware of, and just the fact that there was big money involved. People were being flown from New Zealand to Los Angeles once a month to take part of this tickling competition, and that fascinated me.

    $1,500 is the starting amount and it goes up from there. There are people being paid $12,000 for a tickling session. So it was the money combined with what are these videos, what do they represent, what are they being made for?

    Did the attack on your sexuality roll off your back as easily as it’s portrayed in the film?

    David: It did, really. You feel a lot of emotions. Mainly it was so extreme and over the top that it was, to me, unusual and funny, as opposed to offensive. There was an element of being offended but that disappeared pretty quickly, especially when the insults escalated. It got to the point where it was so extreme that you couldn’t do anything but be surprised and amused. It wasn’t coming from the leader of a Baptist church, it was coming from a company that makes videos with young, attractive men tickling each other. That’s what made it outrageous.

    I ask because it does seem to inherently politicize things when people make reference to your sexuality.

    David: For sure. The reason it came up is that I was in a gay relationship in New Zealand and that around the time that marriage equality was being debated in New Zealand. That’s why that turned into an article that they Googled. They last time I had been hit up about my sexuality, it was in a political sense. In a lot of places in New Zealand, we’re pretty liberal and no one gives a shit about people’s sexuality. It is still a problem in certain areas, but compared with certain places in the States, we’re pretty liberal.

    I’m fascinated with the treatment of bisexual men who are all but erased from our culture.

    Dylan: Bisexual women exist, but bisexual guys don’t.

    David: That’s something in New Zealand as well. I haven’t really thought about it a lot until this came up.

    I think a lot of it has to do with the negative reaction that straight people have to versatility. It deviates too far from the heteronormative binary.

    David: People like to organize things very clearly in their heads. It makes them feel better in the world. When things fit outside of that, it panics people for some reason.

    Look at Orlando...

    David: “It’s not a gay thing!” I think it might be!

    Dylan: There’s a whole sense that it can’t be a gay thing and an ISIS thing and a gun-crazy crazy person thing. It has to be one thing. That’s stupid. It can be all three.

    The world is so complicated and we have so much space to walk through all of this to understand it, and yet people still want the one-sentence narrative.

    Dylan: It’s silly. It’s dumb. It’s the same in media in general: You have to be able to tag it. It’s this thing.

    David: In every interview I’ve done with this project, everyone just assumes that I’m gay and rolls with it. Maybe that’s fine as well, that’s not really an issue for them.

    Dylan: A couple of times, I’ve been parenthetically clarified as straight, which I quite like.

    It’s about time for that caveat. I’ll make sure to modify your name with that, too. There’s a conversation that takes place in this movie with one of the Jane O’Brien media employees that he says is off the record that you put in the movie...

    Dylan: We quite carefully never agreed to being off the record. What we agreed to is that we would not film. The footage that you see during that scene is a recreation.

    David: In each place we recorded, we checked what the applicable laws are and in New Zealand, we have a thing where if one party knows the recording is taking place, it’s legal, so we rolled with that.

    Was there any point in which you were afraid while filming this?

    David: I was. Early on, the legal threats I found disconcerting. When [the Jane O’Brien employees] came to New Zealand, they originally wanted us to meet in their hotel room. That scared me. I wasn’t going to meet with three men in a hotel room with one exit. There were certain people in the United States that when we approached them, they didn’t want to be approached. America, it’s pertinent to say, has some gun issues. In New Zealand when you walk up to someone, you’re not expecting them to have a gun and in America you don’t know.

    Dylan: Most of the time in those confrontational situations, I was behind a camera or viewfinder, looking in a monitor. I wasn’t at the front, so I felt a sense of disconnect through a lens. The legal threats, I’m not sure why they didn’t bother me as much. There was a sense of a physical distance that somehow helped us. Some of the legal threats were just so ridiculous that it was like, either this lawyer is an idiot, or these threats aren’t as legitimate as they would have us believe. I wasn’t concerned about them as they would have liked me to be, I’m sure.

    The only time I was slightly scared is when we were visiting Muskegon. We were meeting someone there who we didn’t really know much about. We knew they’d been working for this Jane O’Brien Media company recently, we knew they were an MMA fighter, but we didn’t know if they were trying to trap us or if it was the real deal. It turned out to be the real thing, but there was a period of time before we actually met him that we were like, “This might not actually be what we hope it is.”

    What have you heard from the people involved in these movies since you wrapped shooting on yours?

    David: [Jane O’Brien Media employees] Kevin [Clarke] and Marko [Realmonte] have turned up at festivals. Our second Sundance screening was interesting because Kevin was in the audience getting a bit grumpy, sort of furiously scribbling notes. The audience around him are watching him onscreen, and he’s sitting next to them, and that created a certain uncomfortable atmosphere in that part of the cinema. It was a 4D experience for them, almost.

    In Missouri a couple of months ago, there was a festival. I got tapped on the shoulder and a woman said, “Are you David Farrier?” I thought she wanted to talk about the film, and she said, “You’re served.” She served me with two lawsuits for defamation. Working through those. At a festival there were a couple of private investigators that had been sent from New York to Missouri to try and record the film. We had to get police to physically remove them because they wouldn’t stop recording.

    So there’s been lots of things going on, which we expected. If things were this amped up when we were making it, we expected things to go up another level when we released the film, which they have.

    Our main website for the movie is; Kevin has made It’s made purely to discredit the film. It’s interesting reading if you’ve got a couple of hours to spare. He’s been tweeting journalists, emailing journalists who reviewed the film to say, “You’re siding with liar Farrier.”

    Dylan: Sociopathic.

    It’s cultish behavior. It reminds me of Scientology.

    Dylan: It’s like Scientology, but not as polished. They need to take some lessons, but it’s the same thing.

    David: We’re in New York. This is where a lot of people live. As we get to our public screenings, I’m wondering if they’ll turn up, as they have at festivals. You’re very aware of what’s going on around you, which I never had been before.

    Dylan: What’s interesting about the comparison to Scientology, though, is that they genuinely seem to believe that by discrediting or critiquing a person’s past or a person’s history that it somehow discredits everything they say, which is ridiculous. Unless they have a past of lying about experiences they’ve undergone, nothing in their past is really relevant. But that’s the approach they take, and it’s the same approach Scientology takes—when you see the way they critique their critics, they say, “This person has affairs,” and, “This person has debt.” It’s like none of those things matter. That’s the approach Kevin’s taken with this: “This person makes porn,” “This person assaulted some people.” Sure, whatever, but who cares?

    I don’t understand why they are so invested.

    David: I think a lot of it is driven by money. But that’s a question audiences will have leaving the theater. It goes to a pretty dark place—what other dark things are going on around this story potentially?

    Tickled opens in select theaters on Friday.

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    Chicago Police Oversight Agency Recommends Firing of Officer Who Made an "Offensive Racial Remark" About President Obama
    Photo: AP

    A police oversight agency in Chicago has recommended firing an officer who made “an offensive racial remark” about Barack Obama during preparations for his visit to the city last year. While the oversight agency has not publicly disclosed what the remark was, the Washington Post, citing an official familiar with the investigation, reports that the officer referred to the president as a “nigger.”

    The remark was made “while on duty in front of a group of officers,” said one of the officers who filed a complaint with the Independent Police Review Authority. In an advisory letter to Eddie Johnson, the Chicago police superintendent, Sharon Fairley, head of the IPRA, confirmed that her agency had investigated the complaint and verified the allegations. Fairley also noted that several CPD officers questioned during the investigation were less than cooperative.

    “During this investigation, it appears that several officers interviewed were not as forthcoming as they should be,” Fairley wrote. “I believe that the department should bring these individuals together to remind them of their duty to be truthful.”

    “Several department members were present when the remark was uttered, and reacted in such a way to indicate that they overheard the remark. Moreover, when interviewed, the department member who made the remark identified several other officers who had witnessed the incident. However, ten out of twelve District 12 Department members [nine officers and one sergeant], when interviewed by IPRA about the incident claimed that they were either not present when the remark was uttered or did not hear the remark,” she wrote. “This is troubling.”

    Chicago Police Oversight Agency Recommends Firing of Officer Who Made an "Offensive Racial Remark" About President Obama
    Credit: IPRA

    In addition to informing IPRA of the offensive remark, the complaining officer provided a photograph of a drawing of the president, posted on a bulletin board at the District 12 station. The drawing appears to be a lumpen black oval, vaguely shaped like a face, with the caption, “President Obama.”

    “The complainant found the drawing offensive, as do I,” Fairley wrote. None of the officers interviewed were willing to say where the drawing came from. “The Chicago Police Department has zero tolerance for racism or misconduct and racial biases are already prohibited by CPD’s general orders – period,” a CPD spokesman, Frank Giancamilli, said in a statement.

    “Superintendent Johnson has made it a top priority to establish a culture of accountability at every level of the police department, from top command staff to the rank and file. Holding each other accountable is a central piece to rebuilding the trust between the department and communities we serve.”

    Johnson has not made a decision about the offending officer, the Post reports. A spokeswoman for the IPRA did not know whether the officer was on active duty or assigned to desk duty.

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Fairley, a former federal prosecutor, in December; recently, the mayor has said he plans to disband the IPRA, which is frequently criticized for not responding swiftly enough to police abuses.

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    Are We Orlando or Are We Brands?
    Photos: Getty

    The It Gets Better Project is maybe Dan Savage’s most ingenious creation, and that’s really saying something given that I’m referring to the man who made Rick Santorum’s last name synonymous with a frothy mix of lube and fecal matter. The initiative Savage formulated in 2010 with his husband Terry Miller in the wake of a string of gay teen suicides incentivized activism by conflating it with something young people of today find irresistible: talking about themselves. Seated in the comfort of their own homes, and by barely lifting a finger, gay people could share attempts at goodwill, inspiration, and accrued wisdom with those struggling with issues regarding their sexuality. One day, gay youth, your life will be better than it is now, the flood of selfie videos said. One day, maybe you’ll get to feel righteous by filming yourself talking about yourself, too!

    The project was rooted in a fundamental truth about gay people—our survival depends on other gay people—that was translated for modern sensibilities. There is no telling what actual impact it had on preserving young lives, but where it could be quantified it was phenomenally successful: More than 50,000 entries were filmed and uploaded, and they have garnered a total of over 50 million views.

    Practically speaking, It Gets Better worked in the way that things “work” on the internet today. It got people talking. It “created a dialogue.” Philosophically, it wasn’t as tidy. Egocentrism and altruism are at ideological odds, just as branding and activism are at ideological odds. But now they are hopelessly intertwined, and Savage’s project illustrated just how. The democratization of communication has increased the ease with which you can create a display of how good you are, and project your benevolence to the world. You do good, you get a kickback of attention at minimum (at maximum, you devise your armchair activism for the purpose of commanding attention). Pure generosity is anonymous, but we are an increasingly public species, so priorities shift and moral compasses spin. And besides, if you don’t take credit for your goodness, you’re at the risk of no one noticing you and instead paying attention to the guy who will take credit for his (in front of an audience that is unfazed by shamelessness). Ideological conflicts may continue to pile up, but if no one notices because we’re all busy looking at ourselves and other people, does the clutter even matter?

    I’ve been wondering as much in the wake of the online responses to Sunday’s Pulse shooting in Orlando. I read and view them with skepticism. It’s hard to ferret out the meaningful from the truly empty gestures. It’s hard to say which performances are for performance’s sake. We are by now trained to say something, anything, when national tragedy strikes, lest we be accused of not caring or, even worse, miss out on the attention and accolades the hottest take of the hot takes brings. It’s important to get this right and that may require several attempts, sometimes to embarrassing results. Hours after news of the shooting broke on Sunday, the New York Times’ Frank Bruni published “The Scope of the Orlando Coverage,” which essentially argued that all lives matter. But...why? For the sake of argument? To combat the specific sadness over the specific massacre of people who were targeted for being specifically queer? “This was no more an attack just on L.G.B.T. people than the bloodshed at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris was an attack solely on satirists,” wrote Bruni (this was excerpted on the NYT Opinion Twitter even more fumblingly by omitting the “solely”: “This was no more an attack on L.G.B.T. people than Charlie Hebdo was an attack on satirists”). Two days later, Bruni returned with more Orlando opining, “A Time to Stand With Gay Americans,” which called out Republican politicians for not acknowledging the bigoted nature of the shooting. So, saying this was an attack on gay people was too narrow, but not acknowledging that gay people were attacked was wrong, too. The canal Bruni dug out for his vision of proper response to this atrocity was so narrow it caved in on itself. Why did Bruni bother saying anything? Well, because saying is what we do. Plus, it’s his job.

    On, Melissa Harris Perry wrote “Gay Space Cannot Be Straight Women’s Safe Space Until It’s Safe For Those Who Are Gay,” a mouthful of a headline that foretells convolution to come. It seems that Perry’s desire was to argue an angle that she viewed to be missing from this vast discussion about gay spaces and allyship, but her piece is so cliché-ridden, and her point so tangential to the issue of gay hate crimes that the essay ended up taking up the same psychological space as a (almost always straight) woman screaming for attention in a bar for gay men. Why did she bother saying anything? Well, because that’s what we do. Plus, it’s her job.

    On Sunday, Mara Wilson—the internet person known to many or most as the woman who was once the girl from Matilda—posted a picture of herself at a gay bar on Twitter and went on to reveal that she has “embraced the Bi/Queer label lately,” and then clarified that she is a 2 on the Kinsey scale. That seems like a paltry display solidarity, but OK. Be proud of your 2. Showing a modicum of solidarity is what we do.

    Music producer Diplo tweeted to rapper Angel Haze that he is “half gay.” Which half, though? Top or bottom? Front or back? Right hand or left? Was he joking? Why reveal this at all if he was going to leave it so vague? Well, being at least a little gay is what we are.

    Conservative blogger Jim Hoft came out as full gay. How he reconciles that identity with a career devoted supporting a party that is resolutely anti-gay (for example, here’s a headline from Tuesday: “House GOP leaders block LGBT vote after Orlando shooting”), and how on this ever-queering earth he figures that anyone on either side of the culture war is going to take his plea for gay conservatism seriously is truly beyond me. But coming out is what we do.

    Nick Jonas, who has a history of explicitly acknowledging his gay fans, often to the chagrin of many who think he’s just pandering for gay dollars, spoke at a rally on Monday at Stonewall. This angered many people, because Nick Jonas just released an album and this was a mark, I guess, that his intentions weren’t pure. He’s supposed to abstain from pandering...even though pandering is what celebrities do? In a piece called “Dear Nick Jonas: The LGBT Community Needs You to STFU,” Complex quotes “artist, photographer, and popular Twitter user” Shon Yves as saying, “How dare someone who is not a part of our community take up space in this way?” Well, sure, but celebrities take up a disproportionate space in every community. That is what we pay them to do.

    Conservative trolls and self-obsessed personal essayists Gavin McInnes and Milo Yiannopoulos held a press conference Wednesday in Orlando to say mean things about Muslims (and in McInnes’s case, to voice disgust over gay sex). Why did they do this? Because they are trolls who command enough attention to justify their self-obsession.

    Why does anyone do any of this? Because making major events about oneself is an increasingly practiced component of the digitized-human condition. One could argue that this isn’t about you, it’s about us, but then there is no us without all the yous. This is the dilemma that we have not yet untangled. It is a key reason why public communication is so knotty, why activism and branding are increasingly conflated. If it gets better, why does this seem only to get worse?

    It will only get knottier. The best we can do is our imperfect best, and indeed, some tremendous expression rooted in personal experience has emerged in the wake of this tragedy—out journalist Anderson Cooper, in particular, has once again proved himself to be exactly the kind of leader his people and the American people need. Cooper’s at one end of the spectrum, McInnes and Yiannopoulos at the other. But make no mistake: United we stand on that spectrum.

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  • 06/17/16--08:28: Free Lunch in Jersey
  • Free Lunch in Jersey
    Screencap: NBC

    Early this morning, one truck carrying bread collided with another truck carrying deli meat on a New Jersey highway. Jersey residents are finally getting the lunch they deserve.

    The deli meat of indeterminate origin caused “backups that stretched several exits,” presumably due to the sudden influx of commuters scrambling for free hoagie ingredients. While NBC New York claims that most of the spilled meat has been cleaned up, I’m sure there’s still a spare sandwich to be found littered around the shoulder.

    The bigger question, though, is just how likely it is that a rogue bread truck and a rogue meat truck would find each and collide on Interstate 287. I’ve reached out to the New Jersey Department of Transportation but have yet to hear back, which only seems to confirm my suspicions that this “spill” was no accident. This, my friends, was yet another irresponsible guerrilla marketing stunt put on by Big Sandwich.

    If you have any information at all about Big Sandwich’s future machinations, please do let me know.

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    Marco Rubio May Actually Run For Senate Again Because of Orlando
    Photo: AP

    Marco Rubio dislikes the Senate. He said so himself. Marco Rubio dislikes the Senate so much that he was going to go back to being a private citizen. He said so himself. He was maybe going to help run the Miami Dolphins! But then: Orlando.

    This week, Rubio told the press the Pulse massacre in Orlando has him reconsidering his promise to flee the Senate as quickly as humanly possible. Via the Washington Post:

    Rubio said his decision followed a Sunday conversation with his friend, Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera (R), who is running to succeed him in the Senate, on the sidelines of the scene of the terrorist attack in Orlando.

    “Obviously, I take very seriously everything that’s going on — not just Orlando, but in our country,” Rubio said. “I enjoy my service here a lot. So I’ll go home later this week, and I’ll have some time with my family, and then if there’s been a change in our status I’ll be sure to let everyone know.”

    It’s nice that Rubio feels called to service by an unimaginably horrible tragedy that happened in his home state, but he should remember that Senate life is not just the heroism he feels for doing... uh, whatever it is he did Orlando. It’s a life he knows he hates.

    Instead, he should go on Dancing With the Stars.

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    Was it only a year ago that our nation’s wealthiest fetal pig declared his candidacy for president? We have lived a thousand lives over the past year, as we’ve watched Hoobastank lyrics which have taken the physical form of an oversized yellow gummy bear with teeth get closer and closer to becoming America’s most important person. Mannequin covered in a chicken-skin robe hidden in the basement of a grown man who collects minion plush toys Donald Trump beat the odds to make it this far, and today we salute him. Here’s to five more months of watching a tiny-fingered banshee coated in slug mustard masturbate in public!

    Video by Erika Audie/Gawker.

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    Florida Governor/Voldemort Rick Scott: 'The Second Amendment Didn't Kill Anybody'

    In an interview with CNN today, Florida Governor Rick Scott—an empty shell of a man so comically villainous that comparisons to Voldemort are unfair to Voldemort—defended Florida’s gun laws. In the interview, Scott was asked about President Obama’s speech where he challenged, “those who defend the easy accessibility of assault weapons,” to meet with the families of the 49 people murdered at an Orlando LGTBQ nightclub.

    CNN asked Scott:

    “Has it changed your views at all, this experience meeting with the victims and the fact that it’s easier to walk out with an AR-15 in the state of Florida than a handgun?”

    Scott, always terrible with reasonable talking points, let alone incredibly bad ones, muttered something about ISIS before saying providing this insight, “the Second Amendment didn’t kill anyone.”

    It’s probably no surprise that Scott, who refused to acknowledge that the Pulse shooting specifically targeted members of the LGTBQ community, would immediately rush to defend the “Second Amendment” (i.e. the right of every true Floridian to buy a military-grade weapon without a moment’s hesitation).

    As the governor of Florida, Scott has never seen an NRA-sponsored bill that he wasn’t eager to sign. Almost two years ago today, Scott signed five pro-guns bills into law. By the end of 2014, Scott had managed to sign 12 NRA-sponsored bills. That year, the NRA’s Insitute for Legislative Action noted that Scott, “a strong supporter of the Second Amendment,” has “signed more pro-gun bills into law—in one term—than any other Governor in Florida history.” That was the year that he eked out the victory over Jeb Bush in the contest of which Floridian governor can do more for the NRA.

    The contest is heated; Jeb Bush will forever be remembered for signing Stand Your Ground into law. But Scott also has managed to sign some equally insane gun laws, including:

    • 2011: The commonly called “Docs vs. Glocks” bill that restricts doctors from discussing gun ownership with patients.
    • 2011: A bill that fines cities and counties if they enforce gun restrictions. Oh, it also allows the governor to remove elected officials if they continue to enforce gun restrictions even after a fine.
    • 2014: The “Yosemite Sam” bill which expanded Stand Your Ground by decriminalizing the discharge of a gun as a “warning.”
    • 2014: The “Pop Tart” bill which protects kids who want to mimic gunplay at school or something.
    • 2014: Two bills that fast-tracked concealed weapons permits.

    In addition to these laws, Scott sides with the NRA and opposes expanded background checks and “universal background checks,” a proposal that would effectively close the gun show loophole. Universal background checks gained national steam after Newtown, but ultimately failed to go anywhere.

    Scott also opposes the renewal of the federal ban on assault weapons, signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1994. The ban, which expired in 2004, covered weapons with large-capacity magazines, like the Sig Sauer used by Omar Mateen at the Pulse shooting. It also applied to large-capacity magazines (again, like the kind used by Mateen) that held more than ten rounds. The Trace notes that many experts believe that regulating large-capacity magazines “would be a more effective strategy in limiting the carnage from a mass shooting.” Eight states currently ban some form of high-capacity magazines, but Florida is not one of them.

    So sure, the Second Amendment didn’t kill anyone; after all, it’s an inanimate object, a series of words written on crusty paper, but Florida’s gun laws, and a Governor who is practically a lobbyist for the NRA, sure did help.

    Image via AP.

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    Pewdiepie Got Kicked Out of His Recording Studio For Being Too Loud [Updated]

    YouTube’s biggest star is infamous for screaming over footage of video games, and while he makes some good money doing it, it seems that his neighbors don’t really appreciate his shitck at all.

    Actually, Pewdiepie says he is getting evicted from an apartment that he used as a recording studio over the noise he makes while recording videos:

    Most of the time, Pewdiepie records in a soundproof room where volume isn’t really a problem, and he can shriek to his heart’s content. Sometimes, however, he’ll need more space—so he records in his kitchen. And that’s where his neighbors can hear him loud and clear.

    As you can see around the 1:30 mark above, at some point a neighbor got so sick of Pewdiepie’s shit, that he came over to chew Pewdiepie out while the Swedish YouTuber was recording a video. In the footage, you can hear a man angrily cussing out Pewdiepie, at one point even calling him a “faggot.”

    (UPDATE 3:42 PM): Here’s Pewdiepie, clarifying why the neighbor said that:

    Not long afterward, Pewdiepie says he received an official eviction notice, which apparently required him to move out by the 29th of this month. In the video, you can see that Pewdiepie has started to put things into boxes in preparation for that date...but he’s not really happy about how the situation unfolded.

    “If you’re gonna be a landlord in Brighton, the gay capital of UK, maybe try not be a fuckin’ prejudiced piece of shit, how bout that?” Pewdiepie joked. “I could buy this house, I don’t fucking need you.”

    Pewdiepie claims that he actually got a written noise complaint AFTER his eviction notice, which if true, is kind of hilarious—especially given the language they use:

    Pewdiepie Got Kicked Out of His Recording Studio For Being Too Loud [Updated]

    Apparently, yelling in your house is considered “anti-social behavior.” I guess that’s not totally wrong, but still. Wut.

    “Landlord, fuck you,” Pewdiepie said. “Luckily for us, it’s really easy to move. It’s not a problem. We have the resources, and we can just do it. I imagine for another normal person this would throw them out on the streets.”

    Actually, Pewdiepie already has another office lined up, where he predicts “so much shitty content is going to be made here.”

    “Hopefully we can yell as much as we want.”

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    Contrary to DNC Claim, Hacked Data Contains a Ton of Personal Donor Information

    When the Washington Post reported Monday that the Democratic National Committee’s servers had been breached by a team of Russian hackers, the DNC was quick to claim that nothing pertaining to the party’s many supporters had been pilfered. But a new cache of apparently hacked documents obtained by Gawker contains a wealth of donor information, including e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers for hundreds of high-profile and wealthy Democratic fundraisers.

    It’s entirely possible that the DNC doesn’t really know what documents were extracted. But according to the Post, they’re at least acting like they’re sure the hack wasn’t that serious:

    The DNC said that no financial, donor or personal information appears to have been accessed or taken, suggesting that the breach was traditional espionage, not the work of criminal hackers.

    The hacker or hackers that contacted Gawker and The Smoking Gun this week under the monicker “Guccifer 2.0" provided more materials to Gawker which, the hackers claim, originate from DNC servers. And although nothing we’ve reviewed contains any credit card or other banking information, the hackers appear to be in possession of a large number of spreadsheets rife with names, cell phone and office numbers, email addresses, physical addresses, occupations, and contribution histories of hundreds, if not thousands, of Democratic donors.

    Contrary to DNC Claim, Hacked Data Contains a Ton of Personal Donor Information
    A redacted excerpt of a Democratic donor registry that was current as of February 2016 (Click to enlarge)
    Contrary to DNC Claim, Hacked Data Contains a Ton of Personal Donor Information
    A redacted excerpt of an extensive RSVP log for the Democratic National Convention, including the fundraising history and special requests of guests
    Contrary to DNC Claim, Hacked Data Contains a Ton of Personal Donor Information
    A cropped section of a Democratic donor registry

    The handful of spreadsheets we’ve been able to examine contain such information on contributions well into the six-figure range. It’s unclear how many more donors are represented in the rest of the hacked data cache, which “Guccifer 2.0" claims is roughly 100 GB in size. In an email to Gawker, “Guccifer 2.0" claims that they were able to breach the DNC using the same software vulnerability that allowed unauthorized access by the Bernie Sanders campaign last December: “When vulnerabilities were patched last december I was already inside their don’t need to be a cool hacker to fuck the DNC server.” Computer security expert and consultant Dave Kennedy told me this claim is “possible for sure if they were using the same software,” while expert Kenn White agreed that the (admittedly vague) claim was “certainly possible.” The hacker or hackers have so far been unwilling to share more information about their methods.

    One spreadsheet provided to Gawker, called “confirmed attendees April 2016,” appears to be a list generated by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee of 124 donors and activists attending the Democratic National Convention. According to the document’s metadata, it was created in April 2016 by someone named “Jean Cornell”; a person by that name serves as the DCCC’s midwest and south deputy finance director, according to this public LinkedIn profile.

    The spreadsheet includes donor history, pledges, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses for Democratic heavyweights like former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, lobbyist Tony Podesta, multi-millionaire Fred Eychaner, and others—leaving the impression that the party left personal information about some of its most important backers in a vulnerable position. While names, addresses, and donation amounts of political donors are generally made public in filings with the Federal Election Commission, these documents offer far more granular and detailed personal data.

    For instance, the “confirmed attendees” spreadsheet includes a field called “Comments,” containing messages about specific donor requirements. “‘A queen bedded room is best, high floor, away from bars, elevator banks and ice machines. No twin beds please!’ Those are her hotel requests,” the spreadsheet notes next to the name of a pharmaceutical heiress. The comments field for another VIP donor read, “Will do 2nd $33,400 end of December or early January. He prefers a 1 bedroom jr. suite. He would like to stay at the luxury hotel option that allows dogs. He will attend with his wife...” For one business magnate donor, the comments say, “wants a suite. He was very adamant on this.” Many of the email addresses associated with the boldface names have been included in previous hacks, according to the data-breach-tracking web site, including the recent LinkedIn and MySpace leaks that exposed the passwords of hundreds of millions of users. It would be elementary for a motivated hacker with nefarious motives to cross-reference the data in this DNC leak with previously stolen information to breach, say, a high-profile Democratic donor’s email inbox.

    Gawker was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the spreadsheet and other documents provided by the hacker or hackers, with the exception of one document that a source familiar with Democratic politics described as genuine. But the cell phone numbers and email addresses, which are generally not publicly available, seem to be accurate. And the vast breadth of material and data made available by the hacker both publicly and to Gawker suggest that if the documents aren’t real, they are the product of an almost incomprehensibly intricate hoax.

    It is still possible that the hackers obtained genuine documents and altered them; many of the most recent documents provided to Gawker appear to have been saved by someone named “Ernesto Che.” The Trump opposition report released earlier this week had been last saved by someone named (in Cyrillic letters) “Felix Edmundovich.”

    Reached by phone, prominent Democratic lobbyist Heather Podesta expressed surprise at the fact that her personal information, including mobile number, were pilfered in the hack, but declined to comment further.

    DNC Press Secretary Mark Paustenbach did not return a request for comment.

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    Who Made the Rifle Emoji Disappear?
    Bang. (Image: Emojipedia)

    Unicode 9.0, which will be out June 21, is one of the most highly anticipated releases in emoji history. Finally you will avail yourself of the need to type out the letters for avocado, bacon, selfie, face palm, and pregnant. But last month, one controversial emoji was removed from the lineup: Rifle.

    Surely the debut of such a emoji at this moment in time, after the worst mass shooting in US history, was deemed incredibly insensitive and dropped from the list. But as BuzzFeed reports, the process of removing the rifle was in motion long before what happened this week.

    The way we “get” new emoji is a long and somewhat complicated process managed by the Unicode Consortium, an international group of representatives from technology companies. So 9.0 release “candidates” were announced in May 2015, but still needed to go through almost a year-long approval process. When that part’s complete, the release, along with the corresponding code for all the new emoji, is ready for “representation”—where each platform decides how to design the symbols to fit their own visual language.

    Who Made the Rifle Emoji Disappear?
    Sample representations for the rifle, via Emojipedia

    Technically, the rifle is still there—or at least the code for it still exists. According to Emojipedia, both rifle and modern pentathlon were removed last month, even though their earlier inclusion was defended because they’re used in Olympic sports. But since they were removed so late in the process, they are still on the release, they’re just not being given emoji presentation. Meaning that they automatically won’t be supported by any devices. Unicode president Mark Davis confirmed this to BuzzFeed in an email: “The committee decided not to mark them as emoji, but to add them as characters (that is, normal black & white symbols).” I reached out to Davis for additional comment.

    According to an unnamed source who contacted BuzzFeed, “Apple” is responsible for removing the rifle, as the suggestion was made by someone from the company who sits on the Unicode Consortium (BuzzFeed doesn’t say whom; it could be any of these people). But the Unicode Consortium is made up of representatives who form an independent governing body, so attributing any influence to Apple is kind of like giving the US all the credit for anything that happens at the United Nations. It’s not like Apple, the company, came forward and said, we are speaking out against gun violence and we will not support this gun.

    But actually, people have been calling on Apple to do just that—with the other gun that it supports.

    Last year, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence attempted to get Apple to stop supporting the pistol emoji with a campaign called Disarm the iPhone.

    But the pistol remains on iOS keyboards, as do emoji for bomb, cigarette, and a menacing-looking knife—all of which have been criticized by various groups.

    You might think this is a silly debate, but as the Great Taco Emoji Campaign has taught us, people are very passionate about emoji. And if we want to keep making the argument that words do matter, universal symbols might matter even more when trying to communicate ideas.

    There’s a way that smart design can subvert this conversation. In its representation of the pistol, Microsoft—which, it should be noted, also debuted the essential middle-finger emoji long before Apple or Google—allows its users to convey the concept of a gun without conveying violence.

    Microsoft designed a toy gun—complete with red safety cap.

    Who Made the Rifle Emoji Disappear?

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