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    Victims' Half-Sister Found Guilty of Manslaughter in Word of Life Church Beating
    Photo: AP

    On Tuesday, a judge found Sarah Ferguson not guilty of second-degree murder, but guilty of first-degree manslaughter, first-degree assault, and first-degree gang assault for her role in a mass beating that left her 19-year-old half-brother Lucas Leonard dead and her 17-year-old half-brother Christopher Leonard severely injured.

    Sentencing is set for September 1, reports. Ferguson, 30, faces up to 50 years in prison. Altogether, nine defendants associated with the Word of Life Christian Church were charged in the October 11, 2015 beating. The two boys’ parents, Bruce and Deborah Leonard, have already taken plea deals.

    “The court does not feel there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that this defendant was aware of the risk of Lucas’ death,” Judge Michael Dwyer said from the bench. “Therefore, the court must find the defendant not guilty of the first count of the indictment-murder in the second degree.”

    “The defendant and others caused this to happen, but there is no proof this defendant knew what was happening internally to Lucas,” the judge said.

    New Hartford Police Chief Michael Inserra told NBC affiliate WKTV that he was pleased with the verdict. “I think it brings justice to both Lucas and Christopher. It holds one of the main defendants in this case responsible for the severe beating that was issued,” he said.

    “I think it’s about the boys wanting to leave the church,” the chief continued, offering his interpretation of what motivated the beating. “The information we’ve developed through this case has shown that every time a member has tried to leave the church, the church finds a reason to confront the individual wanting to leave.”

    The beating was allegedly organized by the church’s pastor, Tiffanie Irwin. According to prosecutors, she accused the boys of practicing witchcraft, plotting to kill their parents, and molesting children in the church. The surviving Christopher Leonard testified last week that he and his brother had touched their younger sister and their cousins inappropriately, but that they had not raped them.

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  • 07/05/16--14:50: BearCam Is Back, Bitches
  • Summer is here, and it’s time for some hot bear-on-fish action.

    The bears who munch on tasty salmon at Brooks Falls in Alaska’s Katmai National Park have become social media celebrities. Thanks to, the circle of life has turned into an annual internet event, now with 24/7 coverage, several camera angles, and the ability to take snapshots of your favorite bear. It’s like a bear selfie without getting mauled to death.

    If that’s not enough bear for you, you can also watch’s Facebook page for live chats with the bears. Just kidding, it’s with the rangers. But you should still tune in.


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    New York Observer Editor and Self-Proclaimed Anti-Semitism Expert Defends Trump from His Own Reporter’s Accusation of Anti-Semitism
    Photo: Observer Media

    Today the New York Observer published an “open letter” to the newspaper’s owner, Jared Kushner, in which a reporter named Dana Schwartz asks her boss to reconsider his close relationship with his father-in-law, the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who recently tweeted (and later deleted) an anti-Semitic meme about Hillary Clinton. Schwartz, who is Jewish, tells Kushner, who is also Jewish: “When you stand silent and smiling in the background, his Jewish son-in-law, you’re giving his most hateful supporters tacit approval.”

    Following the letter’s publication, Ken Kurson, Schwartz’s boss and the editor-in-chief of the Observer, gave a remarkable statement to Politico’s Peter Sterne. The first half of it reads:

    I disagree with Dana’s criticism. All presidential candidates attract people whose support makes them uncomfortable. I think the effort to paint Donald Trump as an anti-semite because some of his supporters are is like saying that Bernie Sanders hates the US because some of his supporters spit on American flags at his rallies. I understand that the worst among Trump’s supporters can make Jewish journalists — including myself — uncomfortable with their stupid and hateful screeching.

    It is certainly true that “presidential candidates attract people whose support makes them uncomfortable.” But there is virtually no evidence that Donald Trump is uncomfortable with his support among white supremacists. Furthermore, “the effort to paint Donald Trump as an anti-semite” is not solely based on the fact that some of supporters tweet about the global extermination of Jews. It’s also based on the fact that Trump’s campaign literally tweeted, using his own account, an anti-Semitic meme, possibly sourced from a white supremacist message board.

    Kurson continues:

    But with regard to Trump personally, I’m in a different place from Dana, who happens to be a brilliant and thoughtful writer. I’ve seen this guy hold his grandsons at a bris. No one I know sets the sensitivity meter higher than I do on anti-semitism. My mother fled the Holocaust and I am highly identified as a Jewish journalist. If I saw that in Trump, I’d be the first one to write about it, and no one on earth could stop me. In my opinion, Donald Trump is not a Jew hater. The effort to hold him responsible for what his supporters do is a dangerous trend because it empowers anyone who wants to shut a candidate up to simply organize some misbehavior on his behalf.

    It’s unclear whether Kurson actually believes that Trump’s opponents are “organiz[ing] some misbehavior on his behalf” in order to portray him as a white supremacist, or at least sympathetic to the concerns of white supremacists. But, again, Trump has done the work of portraying himself as racist all by himself—such as when he claimed that Mexican immigrants were infiltrating the United States in order to rape and murder innocent Americans, or when he endorsed a comprehensive ban on Muslims. Trump has attracted white supremacist supporters because his statements and policy prescriptions tend to be racist in and of themselves.

    Trump has sustained that support by regularly declining to disavow his white supremacist supports, allowing them to believe that he is quietly sympathetic to their cause. The white supremacists themselves seem to understand this: “Our Glorious Leader and ULTIMATE SAVIOR has gone full-wink-wink-wink to his most aggressive supporters,” wrote Andrew Anglin, the neo-Nazi publisher, after Trump retweeted three open and avowed white supremacists in quick succession.

    Perhaps the most galling thing about Kurson’s response, though, is that he continues to insist that he is preternaturally sensitive to instances of anti-Semitism. If he isn’t sensitive to a political candidate tweeting a meme that juxtaposes the Star of David with piles of money, then what is he sensitive to?

    If Kurson is indeed uniquely aware of anti-Semitism, he tends to focus his power on liberal Jews. In December of 2015, for example, he wrote a bizarre article insinuating that Sarah Koenig, the creator of Serial, was motivated to cover the cases of Adnan Syed and Bowe Bergdahl because ... her brother-in-law, a Vassar College professor named Josh Schreier, has publicly supported the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which seeks to pressure Israel to recognize the rights of Palestinians.

    Serial [is] two for two in plots that feature an American Muslim—or an American who seems to have been attracted to Muslim beliefs—getting the shaft from the dominant white culture in America,” Kurson wrote, before attempting to suggest that Schreier’s opinions about Israel could have tilted Koenig’s Serial coverage.

    He never quite gets there, though. “There is no reason to suspect that Sarah Koenig herself or even Ben Schreier [Koenig’s husband] are sympathetic to the BDS movement that the majority of Jews consider anti-Israel and which many consider anti-Semitic as well,” Kurson concluded. As for Joshua Schreier—and what he may or may not be guilty of—Kurson spent the rest of his article raising but not answering questions about Schreier’s Judaism. (“The fact that Mr. Schreier is an observant Jew is also unusual for this crowd,” he mused.) The entire point of the piece was to portray Schreier as a self-hating Jew, simply because he endorses efforts to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

    In other words, Kurson is willing to tar a college professor as anti-Semitic—or at least sympathetic to anti-Semites—because he opposes certain policies of the State of Israel. But Kurson considers it “dangerous” to criticize a presidential candidate for publishing obvious anti-Semitic propaganda. That this twisted logic serves the interests of Kurson’s own boss is not exactly surprising. What’s surprising is that Kurson still apparently believes he can stand up against anti-Semitism while blithely dismissing his own employee’s concerns about the anti-Semitic elements of Donald Trump’s campaign.

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    Dolly Parton Endorses Dolly Parton For President
    Photo: AP

    On Tuesday, Queen of Dollywood Dolly Parton took to social media to respond to reports that she had endorsed Hillary Clinton, clarifying that she supports the presumptive Democratic nominee in the same way she supports all of us, whom she loves dearly.

    “I have not endorsed Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump,” wrote Parton on Facebook. “I have not decided who I’m voting for, but no matter what we’re gonna be suffering from PMS, Presidential Mood Swings.”

    Dolly Parton Endorses Dolly Parton For President
    Photo: Facebook/Dolly Parton

    During a recent interview with The New York Times, Parton said that if Clinton “gets it, I’ll certainly be behind her.” While “it” referred to the presidency, some political bloggers mistakenly believed Parton meant the Democratic nomination. She did not.

    “I try not to get political but if I am, I might as well just run myself,” added Parton on Tuesday, “‘cause I’ve got the hair for it, it’s huge, and they could always use more boobs in the race.”

    Long live the Queen.

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    Cops Say They Arrested Man Who Posted Flag-Burning Photo for Safety Reasons
    Photo: Facebook/Bryton Mellott

    After arresting a man for a Facebook post under an unconstitutional flag desecration law, police in Urbana, Illinois, claimed on Monday that they did so to “assure the safety” of him and his coworkers, The Washington Post reports.

    According to The News-Gazette, Urbana Police say they received “a large volume of calls” about 22-year-old Bryton Mellott’s viral flag-burning photo, but only “decided to take action” when they saw threats mentioning Mellott’s employer, Wal-Mart:

    People are free to make inflammatory comments that put themselves at risk, Urbana Sgt. Andrew Charles said Monday, but when they put others at risk who have no say, it becomes a law enforcement matter.


    Before arresting him, Charles said police spoke with Mellott and his employer. He said Mellott was told police “understood his freedom of speech” but were concerned for his safety and believed his posts were putting others at risk.

    Following their conversation, Mellott continued similar posts to Facebook, Charles said, so police arrested him.

    After consulting with prosecutors, police released Mellott “due to questions about the constitutionality of the 2013 Illinois flag desecration law,” but appeared to defend the arrest under an additional disorderly conduct offense.

    “We are trying to ensure his safety as much as we can,” Charles told The News-Gazette on Monday, “and [Wal-Mart’s] business, too.”

    According to UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, however, that justification also violates long-established case law.

    “It seems that what they mean is if you post something that makes people upset with you and send threats to you, leading to police investigation and protection, then you’re committing a crime because of what the threateners are saying,” Volokh told U.S. News & World Report. “That cannot be the law. That is not the law.”

    On Tuesday, prosecutors announced that they would not file charges against Mellott, citing a 1989 Supreme Court decision protecting flag-burning.

    “We have considered 720 ILCS 5/49-1, Flag Desecration, an Illinois statute currently in effect,” said Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz in a statement. “This statute was the basis for the decision by Urbana Police officers to arrest Mellott. While that statute remains in effect, it is contradictory to the US Supreme Court ruling in Texas v. Johnson. We will be discussing this issue with our local legislators and asking that they consider reviewing this statute given the constitutional issues it presents.”

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    Cellphone Video Shows Baton Rouge Police Fatally Shoot Man on Ground

    According to WAFB, police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, say an officer fatally shot 37-year-old Alton Sterling while responding to a report of a man threatening someone with a gun early Tuesday morning.

    A disturbing bystander video appearing to show the deadly confrontation later emerged online. In the video, which is embedded below, a man can be seen struggling with two officers who take him to the ground. As one officer pins one of the man’s arms, a voice shouts, “He’s got a gun!”

    WARNING: Graphic video below.

    One officer then says, “Hey, bro, you fucking move I swear to God,” and both officers appear to draw weapons. After a moment of unintelligible shouting, one of the officers appears to fire his weapon.

    Speaking to The New Orleans Advocate, convenience store owner Abdul Muflahi provided his own account of the shooting, which he says was preceded by the officers trying to pin Sterling to a parked car and firing a Taser at him:

    At some point Sterling was tackled to the ground on his back, with one officer pinning down his chest, and another pressing on his thigh, Muflahi said.

    Muflahi, who said he was two feet away from the altercation, said an officer yelled “gun” during the scuffle. An officer then fired four to six shots into Sterling’s chest, he said.

    “His hand was nowhere (near) his pocket,” Muflahi said, adding that Sterling wasn’t holding a weapon. After the shooting, an officer reached into Sterling’s pocket and retrieved a handgun, Muflahi said.

    “They were really aggressive with him from the start,” Muflahi said about the officers.

    Sterling appeared to die quickly, Muflahi said. Just after the killing, the officer who fired the bullets cursed, and both officers seemed like they were “freaking out,” Muflahi said.

    The store owner said he heard one of the officers say, “Just leave him.”

    Police spokesperson L’Jean McKneely said both officers have been placed on paid administrative leave following the shooting, per department policy.

    “It’s an ongoing investigation,” McKneely told WAFB. “We are going to interview the officers and get as much information as we need to do a thorough investigation. We’re going to be clear, precise and sure the community knows what transpired here at this location.”

    According to State Representative Denise Marcelle, who sponsored a bill to equip Baton Rouge officers with body cameras and attended a protest of the shooting Tuesday night, police say both officers’ body cameras fell off during the confrontation, but at least one dash camera and one surveillance camera recorded the incident.

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  • 07/06/16--04:30: 124 Days and a Wake Up
  • 124 Days and a Wake Up
    President Obama and Hillary Clinton at a rally in North Carolina. Photo: AP

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    Donald Trump Really Loves Saddam Hussein
    Photo: AP

    At a campaign rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Tuesday, presumptive Republican nominee and aspiring strongman Donald Trump declared his admiration for Saddam Hussein, “He was a bad guy—really bad guy,” Trump said. “But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good.”

    “They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were terrorists. Over,” Trump continued. “Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism.” Trump was presumably referring to the power vacuum left by Hussein’s overthrow and subsequent execution—a vacuum filled first by years of brutal sectarian war, and now by ISIS, an extremist group with roots in the prison camps set up by occupying American forces.

    Predictably, the Hillary Clinton campaign pounced on Trump’s statements—a welcome distraction, surely, from James Comey’s damaging non-indictment Tuesday of the presumptive Democratic nominee.

    “Donald Trump’s praise for brutal strongmen seemingly knows no bounds. He has applauded the strength China showed in the Tiananmen Square massacre, offered admiration for Kim Jong Un’s murderous consolidation of power in North Korea, and consistently lavished praise on Vladimir Putin,” Clinton’s top foreign policy aide, Jake Sullivan, said in a statement.

    “Tonight, Trump yet again lauded Saddam Hussein as a great killer of terrorists, noting with approval that he never bothered to read anyone their rights. In reality, Hussein’s regime was a sponsor of terrorism—one that paid families of suicide bombers who attacked Israelis, among other crimes. Trump’s cavalier compliments for brutal dictators, and the twisted lessons he seems to have learned from their history, again demonstrate how dangerous he would be as Commander-in-Chief and how unworthy he is of the office he seeks.”

    House Speaker Paul Ryan, meanwhile, spent the day on Tuesday apologizing for and distancing himself from the man he reluctantly endorsed: in the morning for Trump’s anti-Semitic Twitter memes, and in the afternoon for his equivocal admiration for a bloodthirsty dictator. “[Hussein] was one the 20th century’s most evil people,” Ryan said. “He was up there. He committed mass genocide against his own people using chemical weapons. Saddam Hussein was a bad guy.”

    As it happens, this was not the first time Trump has praised the actions of the so-called Butcher of Baghdad, who tortured dissidents and used rape as a political weapon. In fact, his declaration on Tuesday is almost word for word the same as one he made in February: “You know, Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, but one thing about him: He killed terrorists. Now, Iraq is Harvard for terrorists. You wanna become a terrorist? Go to Iraq.”

    Well. At least he’s getting more consistent.

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    Trump's Favorite Real Estate Will Get Swallowed by the Ocean
    The Mar-a-Lago private club in Palm Beach, Fla. Image: Lynne Sladky/AP

    Celebrity cheese puff and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has a problem: climate change. Despite dismissing our global planetary crisis as a Chinese hoax, the real estate mogul’s prized real estate is directly in the line of fire. In thirty years, Tump’s Mar-a-Lago club could be under a foot of water.

    The Guardian commissioned Coastal Risk Consulting to perform a risk analysis of Trump’s south Florida properties, and the future is, not surprisingly, bleak. South Florida faces some of the highest projected rates of sea level rise of any coastline, anywhere—up to 81 inches (205 cm) by 2100, according to NOAA. Many neighborhoods and beaches in the Miami metro area are now forced to deal with tidally-induced flooding on a regular basis.

    The danger posed by sea level rise is so clear that south Florida mayors and other elected officials are actively charting out survival and retreat strategies.

    Openly, at least, Trump scoffs at these concerns, but as CRC’s new analysis shows, his holdings are not going to emerge unscathed, particularly if we take the businessman’s own advice and rip the Paris Agreement to shreds. Per The Guardian:

    Parts of the [Mar-a-Lago] estate are already at high risk of flooding under heavy rains and storms, the analysis found. By 2045, the storm surge from even a category two storm would bring waters crashing over the main swimming pool and up to the main building, the analysis found.

    The historic mansion at the heart of Mar-a-Lago is not going to be underwater, “but they are going to have more and more issues with health and safety, access, and infrastructure,” said Keren Bolter, chief scientist for the firm.

    Further south in Hollywood, Trump’s luxury condos are unlikely to fare much better:

    Bolter’s modelling suggests Trump’s Hollywood condos could be turned into islands for up to 140 days a year by 2045, cut off from the low-lying A1A coastal road because of tidal flooding and storm surges.

    The threat Trump real estate faces is, of course, the same threat all of south Florida faces—a combination of rising tides, eroding beaches, more powerful storm surges, and inadequate infrastructure. There’s just an extra twist of irony in allowing your most valuable assets to slide into the ocean when you’ve staked your reputation on business acumen.

    [The Guardian]

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    All the Reasons the Rio Olympics Are Fucked
    Photo illustration: Jim Cooke, Photo: Getty

    Many words have been used to describe the upcoming Games of the XXXI Olympiad—words such as “hell,” “nightmare,” and “state of public calamity,” to name a few. But is Rio really going to be all that bad?

    To put it simply: Oh my god yes.

    But why are this year’s Summer Olympics so fucked? And will you die if you attend? For myriad reasons, and probably. Let’s get into it.

    The dead mascot

    Juma the Jaguar, was this year’s Olympic mascot and the heart and spirit of the very games themselves, until she was brutally murdered Harambe-style just a few weeks ago. On that fateful day, Juma had made an appearance at an Olympic torch ceremony, looking bored with her life of captivity as a marketing gimmick.

    Later, Juma escaped her enclosure at the zoo, seeking freedom, as all god’s creatures are wont to do. When the military attempted to recapture her, she “moved toward a soldier” only to be shot. RIP Juma, because Juma is now dead, much like...

    The dead skydivers

    As 28 skydivers attempted to recreate the five Olympic rings using nothing but their human forms, two in the group got their parachutes tangled and fell to their deaths. The performance was “part of the official build-up” to the games. Police are now investigating whether the equipment itself was to blame.

    Although I know nothing about skydiving safety, I’m inclined to guess that yes, some safety measures probably failed here, given the games’ past shortcoming in this department...

    The dead bikers

    All the Reasons the Rio Olympics Are Fucked
    Bike path missing an entire section after collapse. Image: AP

    Back in April, a fancy new bike path that had been heralded as part of the Olympics’ infrastructure improvements collapsed, killing two people and injuring a third. According to the Associated Press, “A giant wave apparently swept up a rocky cliff, lifted an approximately 150-foot (50-meter) stretch of the bike path and sent it plunging onto the rocks and sea below.”

    Shoddy construction is an ongoing problem in Brazil, but the bike path had been championed as “the most beautiful bike path in the world” by Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes. (Not that beauty has much to do with the integrity of the path’s construction.) Now, Paes has apparently changed his mind, calling the path and it’s wave-prone breakage “unpardonable.” What’s more, a spokeswoman for the company that built the bike path refused to tell the AP whether or not it had had a hand in any additional Olympics-related construction projects.

    It’s unclear who wanted a bike path anyway, frankly.

    Security guards caught stealing

    Nine laptops were recently stolen from the Olympic center in Rio. Though the culprits were apparently the center’s own hired security guards. Six of them were involved in some capacity, all of whom have since been fired.

    This is a good time to mention that about a third of the country is in poverty.

    Beached, disembodied limbs

    All the Reasons the Rio Olympics Are Fucked
    Workers drive near a dead body part, covered in a plastic bag. Image: Getty

    Ok, to be fair, this one isn’t so much a direct danger as it as a terrible omen of what’s to come. On June 30, directly in front of the beach volleyball arena on Copacabana beach, a beach-goer found “human body parts” that had casually washed up on shore.

    Among the body parts were one (1) foot and one (1) something, which has not yet been identified.

    Unfinished construction

    All the Reasons the Rio Olympics Are Fucked
    A street where construction on the VLT has been delayed. Image: Getty

    The state of Rio de Janeiro was forced to declare a state of “financial disaster” in June, allowing it to take “exceptional measures” to cover its mounting Olympics-related debt. Rio finally got the $900 million federal bailout on June 30, which means the city only got 36 days to fix the many, many problems plaguing what will soon be the Olympic capital of the world.

    The lack of funds meant that major Olympic projects are behind schedule, the most notable example being the city’s new public Light Rail System. The city had to halt construction, which left areas and streets in partially completed disrepair, as seen above.

    Oil in the water

    All the Reasons the Rio Olympics Are Fucked
    A boat leaks oil into Guanabara Bay in Rio. Image: AP

    Just yesterday, Olympic sailors started complaining that an oil slick in Guanabara bay was turning their boats from white to brown. As Camilla Cedercreutz, a sailor from Finland, told the AP, “We’ve never seen anything like this. It was all over the place. There was no way you could avoid it.”

    Apparently, Cerecreutz’s partner told her that their boat “looks like a toilet.” Which is either a testament to just how filthy the water really is or a shocking insight into how other teams are getting the most our of their vessels.

    Either way, though the boats were “completely brown,” one sailor added that that wasn’t even the worst part. That particular honor belonged to all the dead, rotting fish.


    Despite its ability to grab headlines, Zika actually isn’t as much a threat as the dozen-odd other risks you’ll be coming up against. The Brazilian Health Minister himself has said that “of the 500,000 foreign tourists who will come, only one will get the Zika virus, so it’s almost a zero risk.”

    Which of course, doesn’t mean you definitely won’t contract Zika, it’s just less likely than that you’ll be done in by the...

    Deadly super bacteria in the water

    All the Reasons the Rio Olympics Are Fucked
    Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, venue for the rowing events, probably teeming with bacteria. Image: Getty

    Rio’s local bodies of water will expose the world’s greatest athletes to an antibiotic-resistant super bacteria in addition to all that oil I just told you about. Supposedly, the super bacteria actually came from constant flow of untreated hospital waste and sewage.

    According to Reuters, one study found that ninety percent of the samples taken from the waterway meant to house this summer’s sailing events tested positive for the nightmare superbug. Fortunately for our triathlon swimmers, only ten percent of the samples in their area came back positive.

    One Olympic sailor has already had to be “treated at a Berlin hospital for MRSA, a flesh-eating bacteria.” Who knows what other fun surprises Rio’s watery depths might hold...

    Poop in the water

    All the Reasons the Rio Olympics Are Fucked
    A standing body of water that sits directly adjacent to the Olympic Park. Image: Getty

    That’s what! This summer, thousands of the world’s top rowers and swimmers will finally face the waters that they’ve been training for their entire lives—and also it will include human sewage. Rio’s waterways are full of raw sewage, which flows in untreated from rivers and open-air ditches. Everyone participating in an outdoor water sport will be swimming in feces.

    And if you can believe it, it smells, too. According to the Associated Press, “Prime beaches are deserted because the surf is thick with putrid sludge, and periodic die-offs leave the Olympic lake, Rodrigo de Freitas, littered with rotting fish.”

    The rowers seem particularly fucked; they’ll be in the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, which the AP described as “waters so contaminated with human feces that they risk becoming violently ill and unable to compete in the games.” Last summer, the water was found to contain disease-causing viruses at 1.7 million times what would qualify as “hazardous on a Southern California beach.”

    That’s if the tourists and athletes make it to the beach at all, since Rio is experiencing...

    More crime than ever

    In the month of April, murders in the state of Rio were up 15 percent and robberies were up 24 percent. And there doesn’t seem to be a clear end in sight.

    According to The Washington Post, even the the Rio state security secretary, José Beltrame, admitted that “without any doubt, the situation got worse in the last four months.” Apparently, “drug gangs” are getting bolder, and thus far, two Spanish Olympic sailors and their coach have been mugged and a German tv station had about 400,000 euros worth of equipment stolen in Rio.

    All of this would be less of a problem, of course, if it weren’t for the...

    Disgruntled, unpaid cops

    All the Reasons the Rio Olympics Are Fucked
    Image: Imgur

    “Welcome to hell,” reads the banner being held up by the men and women whose jobs it is to keep humans from danger, “Police and firefighters don’t get paid, whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe.”

    A large part of the problem is the fact that the state of Rio de Janeiro simply hasn’t received the already-approved funds it needs to pay for the necessary security (and transportation, for that matter). Francisco Dornelles, Rio’s Mayor, told a local newspaper last week that “the police fleet runs the risk of stopping. We managed to stretch the finances and we’ll only last until the end of the week.”

    In the meantime, some police stations had resorted to asking locals to donate such basic necessities as toilet paper. Toilet paper which will then probably end up in some triathlon swimmer’s mouth. The circle of life. Speaking of which...

    Hospitals running out of meds

    In the not at all unlikely scenario that bodily harm does befall an Olympian or spectator, there’s no need to worry, because Rio’s hospitals are second to none.

    Just kidding! The wounded and sick can anticipate having one hell of a time trying to find a hospital bed. Thanks to Brazil’s financial crisis, the public sector has effectively collapsed—including the city’s hospitals. Rio the state even had to hand over its hospitals to Rio the city in an effort to get their doctors paid, which many still haven’t been.

    And to top it all off, the hospitals are running out of syringes and basic medications, with one doctor noting that they “have to improvise.” What exactly that means remains a horrifying mystery, and I will not be around to find out, since I am not going anywhere near the 2016 Summer Olympics.

    Let the games begin. And god rest your souls

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    Cleveland Courts Are Getting Ready for a Whole Lot of Arrests at the RNC This Month
    Cleveland cops escort a man who stormed the court during the NBA finals. Image: Getty

    Cleveland is likely to see plenty of clashes between protesters and police during the Republican National Convention later this month. The local court seems to think so too, and will be extending its hours to a nearly around-the-clock schedule in order to process the hordes of people who will surely be coming through.

    During the convention, which runs from July 18-21, the Cleveland Municipal Court will be open from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m., reports. They anticipate processing up to 1,000 people per day, up from 200 or so on a normal day. The court also plans to keep its dockets clear, to avoid “logistical challenges” posed by the event.

    Even if the presumptive nominee weren’t a racist demagogue tearing the Republican Party limb from limb with his provocations, the ramp-up would probably still be warranted. Look at what happened in New York during the 2004 RNC, when the NYPD locked up about 1,800 people for the weekend.

    Nearly all of those arrestees were locked up simply for exercising their right to peaceful protest, and the city ended up paying $18 million in a settlement to a lawsuit by civil rights groups who alleged the arrests were unlawful. Sadly, that will probably be the case in Cleveland also.

    But the extended court hours do come with an upside. If you can’t stop the police from cuffing protesters—and you can’t—it’s better to have the courts open for business than not, so that people may be processed quickly and released on bail, rather than locked up for the entire weekend while judges and prosecutors play catch-up, as happened in NYC in 2004 and in Baltimore last year, during the protests over the police killing of Freddie Gray.

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    British Iraq War Inquiry Delivers Scathing Critique of Tony Blair's Decision to Join US Invasion
    Photo: AP

    On Wednesday, Sir John Chilcot, the head of the United Kingdom’s Iraq war inquiry, delivered a damning, 2.6-million-word report on Britain’s decision to join the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003. “We have concluded that the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted,” Chilcot said in a statement. “Military action at that time was not a last resort.”

    While Saddam Hussein was “undoubtedly a brutal dictator,” the retired civil servant said, not only was military action against him not a last resort, but the legal justification was “far from satisfactory.” Arguments about the threat posed by Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction “were presented with a certainty that was not justified.”

    “Despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were underestimated,” Chilcot said. “The planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam Hussein were wholly inadequate.”

    By the time British combat forces withdrew in 2009, more than 150,000 Iraqis had been killed, as had 179 British troops and almost 4,500 Americans. More than a million Iraqis were displaced as a result of the conflict. “The people of Iraq have suffered greatly,” Chilcot said.

    The report specifically criticizes former prime minister Tony Blair’s conduct and decision making. “Mr. Blair told the Inquiry that the difficulties encountered in Iraq after the invasion could not have been known in advance,” Chilcot said. “We do not agree that hindsight is required. The risks of internal strife in Iraq, active Iranian pursuit of its interests, regional instability, and Al Qaida activity in Iraq, were each explicitly identified before the invasion.”

    The inquiry also found that Blair had overestimated his ability to influence US policy. “The UK’s relationship with the US has proved strong enough over time to bear the weight of honest disagreement,” Chilcot said. “It does not require unconditional support where our interests or judgments differ.” In a private memo to President George W. Bush, written months before the invasion began, Blair declared his unconditional loyalty: “I will be with you whatever.”

    Blair held a rushed press conference on Wednesday, defending himself and his administration by invoking the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. From the Guardian:

    His premiership changed completely on 9/11, he says.

    It was the worst terrorist attack ever.

    He says for more than 20 years the regime of Saddam Hussein had been a source of conflict and bloodshed.

    Hussein ruled with an unparalleled brutality. His was the only regime to have used WMD. There was evidence al-Qaida wanted to use these weapons. And 9/11 showed they would have used them.

    Blair also criticized the contemporary “addiction” to believing the worst of people.

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    Report: Chelsea Manning Hospitalized After Attempted Suicide at Fort Leavenworth Prison
    Photo: Getty Images

    TMZ is reporting that Army private and WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning was hospitalized yesterday after prison officials at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, discovered Manning attempting to kill herself. An unnamed prison official told TMZ that Manning is being “monitored.” An unnamed source also told the site that Manning “tried to hang herself.”

    A Fort Leavenworth spokesperson declined to comment on TMZ’s report, telling Gawker in an email: “Medical treatment of inmates at the United States Disciplinary Barracks is protected under the Health Information Protection Privacy Act (HIPPA). No information regarding their individual treatment can be released without their consent.” However, a CNN reporter named Shimon Prokupecz published a tweet prior to TMZ’s report that appeared to corroborate most of the site’s account:

    Manning, who is currently serving a 35-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, was arrested in 2010 after a former hacker named Adrian Lamo turned her in to U.S. officials after Manning admitted in a private online chat that she had leaked hundreds of thousands of files, including sensitive State Department cables as well as cockpit footage from a July 2007 airstrike in occupied Baghdad, to WikiLeaks. Manning was later convicted of 21 charges, including several for espionage.

    While in prison, Manning, who was born as Bradley Edward Manning in 1987, announced that she had begun to identify as a woman. She began hormone replacement therapy in early 2015, after suing the U.S. Army for the right to do so.

    Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, did not immediately return a request for comment.

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    Nothing Can Convince Me That Blake Lively's Life Is Worth More Than a Great White Shark's
    Photo: Facebook

    This weekend, I caught up on a movie I had been meaning to see because it’s about a shark, was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (who directed one of my favorite trashy movies of the 21st century, Orphan), is certified “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes, and came recommended by people whose opinions I trust. A scrappy little B-movie that, after just two weekends in theaters, has already grossed about $20 million more than its $17 million budget, The Shallows is a single-setting thriller along the lines of 127 Hours, The Ruins, Frozen (the ski-lift one, not the Disney one whose songs continue to fill our ears and haunt our lives), and Buried (which starred Ryan Reynolds, the husband of Shallows star Blake Lively). More than anything, though, The Shallows is a giant crock of shit.

    Lively plays Nancy, a med school dropout who’s surfing alone in Mexico when she’s bitten on the leg by a great white shark. She finds refuge on a floating dead whale the shark has been feeding on, then some rocks, then a buoy. Over 24 hours pass as she attempts to make it back to shore with the shark sniffing out her blood every time she submerges her leg into the water. Over the course of her aquatic imprisonment, she watches several people succumb to the shark after entering the water. The shark seems to get angrier and angrier as time passes, and the climax finds it throwing itself onto the buoy so as to manually plunge Nancy into the water. “Now, I’m really pissed,” you can almost hear the shark say through its gritted, three-inch serrated teeth.

    The idea that a shark attack would be terrifying and pose some logistical difficulties for a survivor is reasonable. The idea that a shark is a vengeful killing machine patrolling one beach for human prey is recklessly farfetched. This image of the great white as a man-eating monster is one of those lies that our culture loves, like humans only use 10 percent of their brains, torture always works, and the Robertsons of Duck Dynasty fame are people whose opinions are worth listening to. Art is lies and fiction is bald-faced lies, but not all of these lies are harmless. Some are, in fact, dangerous to our species and the planet.

    “The shark in an updated Jaws could not be the villain; it would have to be written as the victim, for, worldwide, sharks are much more the oppressed than the oppressors,” wrote Jaws author Peter Benchley in 1995. Benchley’s book, and Steven Spielberg’s subsequent blockbuster film adaptation of it, famously shaped the public conception of the great white to the extent that it affected shark populations globally via what is known as the “Jaws effect.” Convinced that pulling these mindless killers from the water would be good for humans, fishermen hunted giant sharks, predators on whom our food chain (as we know it) depends, with abandon. Benchley spent over the last 10 years of his life, which ended in 2006, devoted to shark conservation, essentially atoning for his misrepresentation of great whites.

    “I was watching Shark Week, almost two years ago, and everything was about Sharknado and cartoon sharks and sharks getting punched in the face. I was asking myself, ‘When did the shark not become scary anymore? When did this beautiful, primal weapon of nature become this kind of laugh-in joke?,’” is how The Shallows screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski described his inspiration in a recent interview. Jaswinski’s agenda to return the great white to its status as America’s top monster, feared as mindlessly as it itself is accused of being, is ridiculous. When did the shark not become scary anymore? When we actually put time and money toward studying it, like anything, you ignorant landlubber.

    Granted, Jaws hurt shark populations, but it also may have helped them. As Robert Hueter of the Center for Shark Research at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida, told National Geographic in 2005: “On the one hand, the movie did damage to sharks, because people saw them as monsters...But for scientists, the whole Jaws thing started working in our favor, because of the over-exaggerated public interest in these animals.” That interest yielded funding for shark research, and from there we learned just how wrong about great whites we were. It was only in the ‘80s that we started to get any sense of great whites’ population and tastes. (Apparently said taste is not for human flesh. Biologists theorize that when sharks bite humans, they are exploring, mistaking humans for seals, or want the human to leave the area so as not to be a source of competition for food.) In its fictive way, Jaws was as mixed a blessing for sharks as SeaWorld was for killer whales, which the general public knew very little about before the park started putting them in tanks. It was through orca captivity that people were able to understand how damaging captivity is to orcas.

    There is still so much that we don’t know about great whites (humans have never seen them mating or given birth). We don’t even have a firm grip on their population and what its implications are. From an article on great whites in the most recent National Geographic:

    Are great whites thriving or dwindling? The world has about 4,000 tigers and 25,000 African lions. Using the lowest estimates, global great white numbers resemble the estimate for tigers, an endangered species. Using the highest estimate, the population is closer to that of the lions, which are classified as vulnerable. Several experts see them heading toward extinction; others see a positive trend. Some say rising seal populations are a sign that great whites are nearly gone, while others say more seals mean more sharks. Aaron MacNeil, an Australian statistician who crunches shark data, says the appearance of sharks around Cape Cod and the increased activity in the Southern Hemisphere suggest the latter. “I haven’t seen any evidence in the last decade that white sharks are declining,” says MacNeil. “Yes, there is a historical depletion of white sharks. But the story is not that they are going extinct. The story is that they are probably increasing very, very slowly.”

    We know enough about them, however, to know that the behavior depicted in The Shallows is inaccurate. The shark’s tenacity took me out of a movie that relies on instilling a vicarious sense of tension between its protagonist and its audience. The Shallows wants you to feel what Lively’s character feels. It implores your teeth to chatter along with hers. It needs you to put yourself in that situation to move you when everything eventually works out for its crudely sketched protagonist, whose problems are otherwise run-of-the-mill and whose personality leaves much to be desired (“Sorry—I’m American!” Nancy chirps when the man driving her to the secret beach she’s to be hunted on tells her to take in the scenery instead of remaining glued to her phone). Midway through my viewing of The Shallows, when it became clear that the only way Nancy was going to survive was by killing the shark, I started rooting for the shark.

    The great white is an endangered or at least vulnerable apex predator, while the world depends on Blake Lively to do literally nothing but take up space while being blonde. We already have an excess of those kind of people on this planet, in the millions. If I have to choose a side, I cannot help but wonder: What’s one less Blake Lively?

    How could anyone with any sense of marine biology (or sense, period) become absorbed by The Shallows’s tainted water? Perhaps it could be enjoyed at a remove for the old-fashioned monster movie that it is. Perhaps 41 years after the movie Jaws and the knowledge it eventually inspired, we see it for the fairy tale that it is and enjoy it responsibly. Some anecdotal reporting suggests that beachgoers now respond to great white presence more with awe than fear. Given what we know now about great whites’ lack of interest in the taste of human flesh, it’s safe to say that if a shark bit you and then came back to consume you whole, you’d be somehow superlative in flavor. In the unlikely event that happened, you could take being eaten by a shark as a compliment. Blake Lively should be so lucky. We all should be.

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    Today, former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed the following sexual harassment complaint against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes in the Superior Court of New Jersey. If you know any more about the circumstances of the lawsuit, please get in touch.

    Here Is Gretchen Carlson’s Sexual Harassment Complaint Against Roger Ailes
    Here Is Gretchen Carlson’s Sexual Harassment Complaint Against Roger Ailes
    Here Is Gretchen Carlson’s Sexual Harassment Complaint Against Roger Ailes
    Here Is Gretchen Carlson’s Sexual Harassment Complaint Against Roger Ailes
    Here Is Gretchen Carlson’s Sexual Harassment Complaint Against Roger Ailes
    Here Is Gretchen Carlson’s Sexual Harassment Complaint Against Roger Ailes
    Here Is Gretchen Carlson’s Sexual Harassment Complaint Against Roger Ailes
    Here Is Gretchen Carlson’s Sexual Harassment Complaint Against Roger Ailes

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    In Response to Hit-and-Run That Killed Cyclist, NYPD Tickets More Cyclists
    Image: Getty

    Over the weekend, a driver struck and killed a cyclist in the bike lane on Grand Street in Williamsburg, then fled the scene of what police believe was an intentional crash. Naturally, the NYPD’s response to this tragedy has been to issue more tickets to cyclists.

    Matthew Van Ohlen, 35, was pronounced dead in a hospital after being struck by a driver in a Camaro who, according to police, intentionally moved into the lane, knocked Van Ohlen off his bike, and ran over his body, dragging him 20 to 30 feet.

    In response, WPIX reported at the time, police were “out conducting enforcement, catching cyclists running red lights and handing out tickets.” According to a handful of cyclists on Twitter, that practice is continuing this morning, as at least one cop writes tickets to riders who aren’t equipped with bells on the Manhattan Bridge—something I’ve personally never before seen in my several years as a semi-regular bike bridge commuter—and in the East Village.

    Perhaps if the fatal crash were caused by some erratic behavior on Van Ohlen’s part—if he’d swerved into oncoming traffic—the ticket blitz would make sense. It would at least be in line with the NYPD’s mentality of attempting to increase safety through enforcement of minor infractions. But it’s hard to imagine how making cyclists pay for riding without a bell is protecting them from the likes of the dangerous, apparently vindictive driver who took Van Ohlen’s life.

    As of this morning, by the way, that driver has not yet been caught or identified.

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    This morning, Quinyetta McMillan—the mother of the oldest son of Alton Sterling, the black man who was shot and killed by two white cops in Baton Rouge late Monday night—held a press conference about Sterling that everyone should watch.

    “I have now been forced to raise a son who is going to remember what happened to his father,” McMillan says, about their son Cameron. Cameron had began the press conference consoling his mother as she spoke, but after a few minutes he broke down into the arms of supporters standing behind the two of them.

    In the wake of police killings like those of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice, we are confronted with images of the dead. Their families are required to publicly perform strength in the face of unimaginable pain. Those of us who primarily view police killings through the media are rarely exposed to the raw grief those families are incentivized to bury as they become reluctant public figures in their own right.

    McMillan talks candidly about the despair her son and her community feel, about how police fatally wronged her husband, and why she won’t allow his story to be “swept in the dirt.” She speaks forcefully for six minutes, but as she walks away from the podium it’s clear she can barely hold herself up.

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    Justice Department Opens Civil Rights Investigation into Baton Rouge Police Shooting of Alton Sterling
    Photo: AP

    The Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, by Baton Rouge police on Tuesday, the New York Times reports. The incident was partially captured on video. “I have very serious concerns,” Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards said. “The video is disturbing, to say the least.”

    Sterling was shot and killed outside a grocery store where he’d been selling music CDs. Two officers, responding to a call about a man who’d threatened someone with a gun, held Sterling on the ground. In the leaked video, a voice says, “He’s got a gun! Gun!” One officer draws his weapon, and then fires it into Sterling’s chest and back, killing him. Police have not disclosed whether Sterling had a gun, or if he did, whether he threatened the officers with it.

    Police identified the officers involved as Blaine Salamoni, a four-year veteran of the force, and Howie Lake II, a three-year veteran. The governor endorsed the federal takeover of the case, the Times reports, promising the cooperation of the State Police. The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the FBI, and the United States Attorney’s Office in Baton Rouge will conduct the investigation.

    “This community deserves an answer,” State Representative C. Denise Marcelle said at a news conference. Police told Marcelle in a briefing that the officers had been wearing body cameras and that they fell off during their confrontation with Sterling. Marcelle also said that police had seized footage from surveillance cameras at the grocery store.

    “There are no criminal charges pending against anyone as far as we know,” Edmond Jordan, a lawyer for the Sterling family who is also a state representative, said. “So why are they holding on to this video?”

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    Former Fox & Friends Host Gretchen Carlson Files Sex Harassment Complaint Against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes
    Gretchen Carlson and Roger Ailes. Photos: Getty Images

    Gretchen Carlson, the former co-host of Fox News’ morning variety hour Fox & Friends, has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the network’s founder and powerful CEO, Roger Ailes. In it, Carlson’s attorneys allege that Ailes repeatedly made sexual advances on Carlson, and retaliated against her when she rebuffed them, culminating in her firing on June 23 of this year.

    You can read the entire complaint, which Carlson’s attorneys submitted in the Superior Court of New Jersey on Wednesday morning, at this link. Here are the more disturbing highlights:

    • Carlson alleges that Ailes told her last fall that, “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better” and that “sometimes problems are easier to solve” with sex. This was apparently during a meeting in which Carlson wanted to address Ailes’ “discriminatory treatment” toward her.
    • Carlson alleges that one of her Fox & Friends co-hosts, Steve Doocy, “engaged in a pattern and practice of severe and pervasive sexual harassment of Carlson, including, but not limited to, mocking her during commercial breaks, shunning her off air, refusing to engage with her on air, belittling her contributions to the show, and generally attempting to put her in her place by refusing to accept and treat her as an intelligent and insightful female journalist rather than a blond female prop.”
    • Carlson alleges that Ailes called her a “man hater” after learning about her complaints about Doocy.
    • Carlson alleges that she witnessed Ailes “ogling [her] in his office and asking her to turn around so he could view her posterior.”
    • Carlson alleges that she heard Ailes “wondering aloud how anyone could be married to Carlson, while making sexual advances by various means, including by stating that if he could choose one person to be stranded with on a desert island, she would be that person.”
    • Carlson alleges that Ailes said “to others in her presence that he had ‘slept’ with three former Miss Americas but not with her.” (Carlson notes, parenthetically, that she was the 1989 winner of the Miss America pageant.)
    • Carlson alleges that Ailes removed her from Fox & Friends, and set her up with her own afternoon show, as a way of retaliating against her for resisting his sexual advances.

    The rest of the lawsuit proceeds in a similar fashion (e.g., Carlson alleges that Ailes has a habit of “commenting repeatedly about [her] legs”). The lawsuit does not specify how much money in damages the former co-host is seeking from Ailes. The CEO is married to newspaper publisher Elizabeth Ailes and has one son. Carlson is married to sports agent Casey Close and has two children.

    Curiously, Carlson is suing Roger Ailes alone; neither Fox News Channel nor its parent company, 21st Century Fox, are named as defendants. When former O’Reilly Factor producer Andrea Mackris sued Bill O’Reilly for sexual harassment in October 2004, by contrast, she included Fox News, its parent company, and O’Reilly’s radio distributor as co-defendants. But Carlson’s lawsuit argues that Fox News is not liable for Ailes’ alleged sexual harassment:

    Ailes undertook these discriminatory and retaliatory actions in his individual capacity and for personal and unlawful purposes. His retaliation against Carlson was outside the scope of his authority, employment and agency at Fox News, which has adopted and professes to support anti-discrimination, anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies.

    Carlson is not the first woman to allege that Roger Ailes sexually harassed her. In 2014, the journalist Gabriel Sherman published a lengthy biography of Ailes called The Loudest Voice in the Room, in which he quoted a former CNBC producer named Randi Harrison who said Ailes told her during a job interview that he would increase her salary “if you agree to have sex with me whenever I want.” (Fox denied Harrison’s account.)

    Fox News did not immediately respond to our request for comment. We’ll update this post if we hear back from them. If you know any more about this story, please get in touch.

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