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    Laid-off Staffers Accuse IBT Media of Failing to Provide Adequate Severance Packages  
    Source: Twitter

    On Thursday, former International Business Times Media employees took to Twitter to protest what they believe to be meager severance packages (among other deplorable company practices) with the hashtag #IBTWTF.

    On June 30, nearly 50 IBT Media employees, including reporters, editors, and analysts, were laid off in the company’s second and largest round of job cuts this year (15 employees were previously laid off in March).

    IBT Media reportedly offered its former employees one week’s pay for each year they’d worked at the company. Employees who had worked at the company for less than one year, however, received nothing.

    http://gawker.com/the-new-owner-…

    Not only was the severance package underwhelming and unbefitting, but it wasn’t even an option until employees confronted management en masse about their employers’ silence on the matter. Former IBT financial reporter Owen Davis, who was laid off in June, told me, “We didn’t get a written severance agreement until July 13th, we had to write a group email to get them to respond. Usually you get that on the way out the door.”

    Since the layoffs took place on the last day of the month, the fired employees’ health care plans also just so happened to expire at the end of the day, timing that Davis says he can’t be sure was intentional. IBT has also said it will not be compensating its former employees for paid time off, according to Davis.

    Davis said that some former IBT employees, sent a letter to management a week ago asking for two weeks of severance pay for every year they’d been employed and one week’s pay for those who had worked less than a year, in addition to compensation for accrued time off. Thirty-two people signed the letter, according to Davis.

    On Wednesday, the Columbia Journalism Review reported, IBT Media rejected that request.

    Davis said that some international and contract employees who were also laid off in this latest round of cuts have yet to be paid for the work they did for IBT in June.

    Davis claims that management’s unwillingness to be forthcoming with IBT Media employees is nothing new. “There’s been a long-standing pattern of imperfect communication between management and editorial staff and employees,” Davis said, adding that the layoffs, “were done in a way that was a big shock to a lot of us.”

    Davis pointed out on Twitter that IBT Media, despite supposedly not being able to offer an acceptable severance package to its employees, has donated more than a million dollars to Olivet University, a private Christian institution founded by the Korean pastor David Jang, in 2014.

    A couple of major investigations over the past few years—including one by Mother Jones and another by the Christian Posthave revealed deep financial ties between IBT Media and Jang.

    According to the 2014 Mother Jones investigation:

    “Jang sees Community-affiliated media organizations, including IBT, as an essential part of his mission to build the kingdom of God on Earth. He has said that media companies affiliated with the Community are part of a new Noah’s ark designed to save the world from a biblical flood of information.”

    IBT officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment.


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    NBA Star Draymond Green Sends Out Dick Pic On Snapchat, Apologizes [NSFW]
    Photo via Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Draymond Green’s long summer of cock and balls-related controversy—he kneed Steven Adams in the dick, swiped at LeBron’s dick, and acted like a dick—continues unabated. Earlier today, amidst pictures of Melo sleeping and general Team USA shenanigans, an artfully crafted dick pic showed up on Green’s public Snapchat My Story, before swiftly being deleted.

    The snap, simply a picture of an erect penis, looked more or less like this:

    NBA Star Draymond Green Sends Out Dick Pic On Snapchat, Apologizes [NSFW]
    Photo of Green via Getty Images

    (If you need to see the dong in its full glory, Twitter user BALLGOD has you covered.)

    Green initially tweeted that he had been hacked—the tried-and-true excuse of celebrities who screw up on social media—before admitting that he had meant to send out the dick as a private snap but hit the wrong button:

    Indeed we are, Draymond, indeed we are.


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    Before spending the weekend going back and forth with DNC speaker Khizr Khan, whose son died serving the U.S. Army in Iraq, Donald Trump sat down with George Stephanopoulos to talk about Putin, foreign policy, and just how much Michael Bloomberg sucks at golf. It is, perhaps, one of Trump’s most embarrassing election interviews yet.

    Now, theres’s admittedly some tough competition in the Trump nightmare interview bracket, but take, for instance, this little bit on Russia’s presence in Ukraine:

    STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, they took away the— part of the platform calling for provision of lethal weapons to Ukraine to defend themselves. Why is that a good idea?

    TRUMP: It’s— look, you know, I have my own ideas. He’s not going into Ukraine, okay, just so you understand. He’s not gonna go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want-

    STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he’s already there, isn’t he?

    TRUMP: Okay— well, he’s there in a certain way...

    He’s there in a certain way.

    Or the segment below, in which Stephanopoulos calls Trump out on pretending not to know Michael Bloomberg:

    It is Donald Trump at his most pristinely petty—and all while being caught in a lie, at that.

    TRUMP: ...Michael Bloomberg has wanted to run for president for probably as long as you have known him and guess what? He never had the guts to do it. And now I see this guy up on stage saying negative things. He knows nothing about me. He’s never been to my office. I don’t know him well.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: You played golf together.

    TRUMP: Maybe once.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: Here’s what he hit you on in the speech....

    TRUMP: And I hit the ball a lot longer, and a lot better.

    In the interview, we also get to see Trump responding to Khan’s claim that Trump has never sacrificed anything for his country, as well as about five solid minutes of Trump describing just how much Putin loves him.

    Paul Rieckoff, the founder and CEO of the non-partisan Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told ABC, “For anyone to compare their ‘sacrifice’ to a Gold Star family member is insulting, foolish and ignorant. Especially someone who has never served himself and has no children serving. Our county has been at war for a decade and a half and the truth is most Americans have sacrificed nothing. Most of them are smart and grounded enough to admit it.”

    You can read the full transcript of Trump’s interview with Stephanopoulos at ABC here. I cannot possibly recommend it highly enough.


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    Rand Paul Has More Than $300,000 in Unpaid Bills From Failed Presidential Bid 
    Photo: AP

    The Lexington Herald-Leader reported on Saturday that the Republican Senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, has yet to pay off $301,108 in debt accrued during his failed presidential bid, according to his most recent Federal Elections Commission filing, on June 30. Poor Rand only has $2,558 in cash on hand to balance his debts, at present.

    Paul hasn’t been on a big stage in some time, but you might remember him as that guy who said in his closing remarks during a Republican debate last year, “The greatest threat to our national security is our debt.”

    A lot of small business owners, the kind that presidential hopefuls are always invoking their speeches, aren’t happy about Paul putting them out of hundreds, in some cases thousands, of dollars.

    Peter Kutrumanes, who’s the general manager of a tech rental company that lent $3,962 of equipment to Paul’s campaign told the Herald-Leader that his company, “just won’t do business” with Paul again.

    Kelsey Cooper, a campaign spokesperson told the Herald-Leader, “Everyone will be paid in full.”

    The Herald-Leader reported that of the five senators who ran for president but failed to win the nomination, Marco Rubio is the one also currently in debt (he’s nearly 1,782,657 in debt with only 28,848 to spare).


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    Sunday's Best Deals: Robotic Vacuum, Kindle Ebooks, Lodge Skillet

    Samsung’s robotic vacuum, Kindle ebooks, and a Lodge skillet lead off Sunday’s best deals.

    Bookmark Kinja Deals and follow us on Twitter to never miss a deal. Commerce Content is independent of Editorial and Advertising, and if you buy something through our posts, we may get a small share of the sale. Click here to learn more.


    Sunday's Best Deals: Robotic Vacuum, Kindle Ebooks, Lodge Skillet
    Samsung POWERbot Robotic Vacuum, $600

    Samsung’s powerful robotic vacuum was actually worth it at $1000, so at $600, it’s a steal.

    http://gizmodo.com/samsung-powerb…


    Sunday's Best Deals: Robotic Vacuum, Kindle Ebooks, Lodge Skillet
    Kindle Ebook Gold Box

    Need a new beach read? Several popular Kindle ebooks are on sale in today’s Amazon Gold Box, starting at just $2.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00…

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00…

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00…


    Sunday's Best Deals: Robotic Vacuum, Kindle Ebooks, Lodge Skillet
    Canon Pixma MX922, $70

    I know that we espouse the virtues of monochrome laser printers, but if you really need the ability to print in color, Canon’s Pixma MX922 is worth your consideration. Carrying a #1 seller badge on Amazon and over 7,000 mostly positive user reviews, this is the rare Inkjet printer that you might not actually hate.

    This model sells for $90 pretty consistently, but today, you can snag one for $70.


    Sunday's Best Deals: Robotic Vacuum, Kindle Ebooks, Lodge Skillet

    Escort’s Max II is one of the most advanced radar/laser detectors you can buy, and $400 is the best price Amazon’s ever offered. If it saves you from a few speeding tickets, it’ll have paid for itself.

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NJTNQ82/…


    Sunday's Best Deals: Robotic Vacuum, Kindle Ebooks, Lodge Skillet
    Black & Decker Lithium Hand Vac, $32

    Everyone should own a cordless hand vacuum for cleaning shelves and car seats, and this Black & Decker has never been cheaper.

    https://www.amazon.com/Decker-HNV220B…


    Sunday's Best Deals: Robotic Vacuum, Kindle Ebooks, Lodge Skillet
    Hisense 50" 4K Smart TV, $500

    Ready to step up to 4K? This 50" Hisense smart TV carries a 4.1 star review average, and is a great value at $500.

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00XMUU5KU/…


    Sunday's Best Deals: Robotic Vacuum, Kindle Ebooks, Lodge Skillet
    Lodge 10.5" Square Cast Iron Skillet, $22

    In the past few days, we’ve seen deals on a Lodge cast iron dutch oven and drop biscuit pan (both of which are still available), but today, it’s their 10.5" square skillet that’s on sale.

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00063RWXE/…

    http://gear.kinja.com/bestsellers-lo…


    Sunday's Best Deals: Robotic Vacuum, Kindle Ebooks, Lodge Skillet
    CAP Barbell 110 Pound Weight Set, $90

    I think this 110 pound barbell set is worth ordering just to see the look on your delivery guy’s face when he hauls it to your door.

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0040XP7NS/…

    CAP’s doorway chin-up bar is also on sale today for $10.

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B017O7Q69A/…


    Sunday's Best Deals: Robotic Vacuum, Kindle Ebooks, Lodge Skillet
    Refurb Fitbit Sale

    Want to join the Fitbit club on the cheap? Woot’s selling refurbished Flexes ($50), Charges ($70-$85), and Surges ($145), today only.


    Sunday's Best Deals: Robotic Vacuum, Kindle Ebooks, Lodge Skillet
    6-Pack Anker PowerLine MicroUSB Cables, $13

    Anker’s kevlar-wrapped PowerLine cables have been an immediate hit with our readers, and you can upgrade your entire microUSB cable collection today with this $13 6-pack. That’s a match for the lowest price ever on this pack, which includes two 1' cables, three 3', and one 6'.

    http://bestsellers.kinja.com/bestsellers-an…

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B015XPU7RC/…

    iPhone owners can also grab a 9' (non-PowerLine) Anker Lightning cable for $10.

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00R4NVPPU/…


    Sunday's Best Deals: Robotic Vacuum, Kindle Ebooks, Lodge Skillet
    DJI Phantom 3 Professional + Extra Battery + Carrying Case + 2TB Hard Drive, $899

    The new DJI Phantom 4 sure looks impressive, but for $500 less, you can pick up the still-completely-amazing Phantom 3 Professional today, plus a spare battery, a carrying case, and even a 2TB external hard drive. To put it simply, that’s one of the best drone deals we’ve ever seen.

    http://gizmodo.com/dji-phantom-3-…

    You’ll lose out on features like the (finnicky) accident avoidance, but the camera is still 4K, and it’ll last over 20 minutes on a single charge.


    Sunday's Best Deals: Robotic Vacuum, Kindle Ebooks, Lodge Skillet
    ChefLand 13-Piece Bar Set, $16

    Here’s everything you need to make fancy-ass drinks at home for just $16. Except, you know, the booze.

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004LD54OO/…


    Sunday's Best Deals: Robotic Vacuum, Kindle Ebooks, Lodge Skillet
    NFL Sunday Ticket TVU, $100

    If you’re a student, or know one that will lend you their identity, you can stream every out of market NFL game, plus Red Zone channel and DirecTV Fantasy Zone for just $100 for the full season.

    I had this last year, and it made it incredibly easy to watch my Atlanta Falcons piss away a promising start to the season. You can stream on just about any laptop, tablet, smartphone, or game console. When you sign up though, you’ll need to supply a valid school, student name, and birthdate, though oddly enough, not a .edu email address.

    Just note that you’ll only be able to stream out of market games, so you’ll need an antenna to watch anything on your local Fox or CBS affiliate, and it won’t get you access to nationally televised games on NBC or ESPN.


    Sunday's Best Deals: Robotic Vacuum, Kindle Ebooks, Lodge Skillet
    Two Bosch Insight Wiper Blades, $22. Add two to cart (must be shipped by Amazon) to see the discount.

    Summer isn’t kind to your wiper blades, so if you’ve been struggling to see the road through streaks on your windshield, Amazon’s offering up a pair of Bosch Insight Blades for just $22 right now. Just pick the two you need, add them to your cart, and the discount should appear automatically. The deal even allows you to mix and match sizes, so you can almost certainly find a combination that will work for your car.

    Note: The discount will only work on blades shipped and sold by Amazon directly. No third party sellers.

    Tech

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    Commerce Content is independent of Editorial and Advertising, and if you buy something through our posts, we may get a small share of the sale. Click here to learn more, and don’t forget to sign up for our email newsletter. We want your feedback.


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    GOP Leaders Very Supportively Denounce Donald Trump's Policies, Comments
    Photo: AP

    In the wake of Donald Trump’s bigoted attacks on the parents of a fallen Muslim soldier, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan issued separate statements on Sunday defending Khizr and Ghazala Kahn while strangely failing to mention the Republican presidential candidate who insulted them.

    http://gawker.com/trump-to-fathe…

    “All Americans should value the patriotic service of the patriots who volunteer to selflessly defend us in the armed services,” wrote McConnell. “And as I have long made clear, I agree with the Khans and families across the country that a travel ban on all members of a religion is simply contrary to American values.”

    Ryan similarly “rejected” Trump’s comments and proposed Muslim ban without directly criticizing the man responsible for both.

    “America’s greatness is built on the principles of liberty and preserved by the men and women who wear the uniform to defend it,” wrote Ryan. “As I have said on numerous occasions, a religious test for entering our country is not reflective of these fundamental values. I reject it.”

    “Many Muslim Americans have served valiantly in our military, and made the ultimate sacrifice,” Ryan continued. “Captain Khan was one such brave example. His sacrifice—and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan—should always be honored. Period.”

    Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Khizr Khan said Republican leaders had an “ethical obligation” to “not worry about the votes” and withdraw their support of Trump. But while McConnell and Ryan apparently find Trump’s actions and proposals to be un-American, they aren’t un-American enough to be a deal breaker.

    http://gawker.com/father-of-fall…

    “It is a moral obligation—history will not forgive them,” said Khan. “This election will pass, but history will be written. The lack of moral courage will remain a burden on their souls.”


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    Koch Brothers Tell Donor Network to Cut Their Losses on Trump
    Photo: AP

    On Sunday, at the twice-yearly gathering of the libertarian mega-industrialist Koch brothers’ donor network, Charles Koch told some 400 conservative financiers in no uncertain terms that his network of dark money organizations would not be supporting Donald Trump. What is more, Koch said, rumors that he would support Hillary Clinton are “a blood libel.”

    http://gawker.com/charles-koch-i…

    “At this point I can’t support either candidate, but I’m certainly not going to support Hillary,” the 80-year-old Koch told the audience, gathered in Colorado Springs. According to the Associated Press, attendees included at least three governors, four senators, and four members of the House of Representatives—including House Speaker Paul Ryan.

    Republican nominee Donald Trump held a rally in Colorado Springs on Friday, but he was not invited to the gathering for donors who pledge to give at least $100,000 annually to Freedom Partners. “I turned down a meeting with Charles and David Koch,” he tweeted on Saturday. “Much better for them to meet with the puppets of politics, they will do much better!”

    The Kochs’ primary concern now is “to preserve the country’s financial future, and to eliminate corporate welfare,” Charles said on Sunday. “Since it appears that neither presidential candidate is likely to support us in these efforts...we’re focused on maximizing the number of principled leaders in the House and Senate who will.”

    “To address the current political crisis, our first objective is to stop the worst federal policies regardless of who is the next president,” Koch said. “We’ve got to remember that Republican presidents advance a lot of bad policies, just like Democrats do.”

    Koch Industries general counsel and senior vice-president Mark Holden told the Guardian that the Freedom Partners’ network total budget is about $750 million through the end of the year. Those funds would be directed towards competitive Senate races in at least five states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Wisconsin and Florida. Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, said that his group—one of the most powerful and well-financed in the Kochs’ network—is “not engaged” with the presidential election at all.

    As it happens, “blood libel” is a very specific and fraught term. From the Anti-Defamation League:

    The “blood libel” refers to a centuries-old false allegation that Jews murder Christians – especially Christian children – to use their blood for ritual purposes, such as an ingredient in the baking of Passover matzah (unleavened bread). It is also sometimes called the “ritual murder charge.” The blood libel dates back to the Middle Ages and has persisted despite Jewish denials and official repudiations by the Catholic Church and many secular authorities. Blood libels have frequently led to mob violence and pogroms, and have occasionally led to the decimation of entire Jewish communities.

    The blood libel is particularly appalling in light of the fact that Jews follow the Hebrew Bible’s law to not consume any blood, which is found in the book of Leviticus. In order for an animal to be considered kosher, all its blood must have been drained and discarded.

    Governor of Wisconsin and Koch acolyte Scott Walker told the AP that, while “I certainly respect their point of view on this,” he still prefers Trump to Clinton. “I don’t endorse everything about him. I certainly don’t endorse everything he says,” Walker said. But: “In the end, choosing between the two, I still believe that any Republican including Donald Trump is better than Hillary.”


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    What Our Divided Nation Needs Is a Jonathan Franzen Novel About Race
    Photo: Getty

    From a Slate interview with Jonathan Franzen, America’s most indubitably Franzenish novelist:

    Slate: Have you ever considered writing a book about race?

    Jonathan Franzen: I have thought about it, but—this is an embarrassing confession—I don’t have very many black friends. I have never been in love with a black woman. I feel like if I had, I might dare.

    You should definitely do it anyhow Jonathan Franzen.

    [Slate]


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    Trump Clarifies Incoherent Foreign Policy Analysis: "Already in Crimea!"
    Photo: AP

    On Monday morning, Donald Trump attempted to clarify the incomprehensible position he staked out this weekend in an interview with George Stephanopoulos. “When I said in an interview that Putin is ‘not going into Ukraine, you can mark it down,’ I am saying if I am President. Already in Crimea!” he tweeted. In the interview, Trump had said that Vladimir Putin is “not going into Ukraine, okay, just so you understand. He’s not gonna go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want.”

    http://gawker.com/watch-the-best…

    “Well, he’s already there, isn’t he?” Stephanopoulos suggested. “Okay, well, he’s there in a certain way,” Trump allowed. “But I’m not there. You have Obama there. And frankly, that whole part of the world is a mess under Obama with all the strength that you’re talking about and all of the power of NATO and all of this. In the meantime, he’s going away. He take—takes Crimea.”

    Right, well, he has already taken Crimea: Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, and Russian paramilitary troops have fought alongside the pro-Russian Ukrainian insurgency, mostly in the eastern part of the country, currently in open revolt against the government. The New York Times described Trump’s understanding of the situation in Ukraine as “questionable.”

    Trump clarified his foreign policy analysis with a pair of tweets on Monday morning:

    (It’s not.)

    As it happens, before he was the Republican candidate’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort worked for many years as a political advisor to the now-deposed, pro-Russian president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych, who is now living in Russia, under Putin’s care. From the Times:

    It is far from certain that Mr. Manafort’s views have directly shaped Mr. Trump’s, since Mr. Trump spoke favorably of Mr. Putin’s leadership before Mr. Manafort joined the campaign. But it is clear that the two have a shared view of Russia and neighbors like Ukraine — an affection, even — that, in Mr. Manafort’s case, has been shaped by years of business dealings as much as by any policy or ideology.

    “I wouldn’t put out any moral arguments about his work,” said Yevgeny E. Kopachko, a pollster with Mr. Yanukovych’s former party who cooperated with Mr. Manafort for years and called him a pragmatic and effective strategist. “Nobody has a monopoly on truth and morals.”

    [...]

    Mr. Kopachko, the pollster, said Mr. Manafort envisioned an approach that exploited regional and ethnic peculiarities in voting, tapping the disenfranchisement of those who felt abandoned by the Orange Revolution in eastern Ukraine, which has more ethnic Russians and Russian speakers.

    Exploiting regional and ethnic peculiarities in voting? Why, that sounds awfully familiar!


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    If you somehow haven’t yet lost your appetite for RNC/DNC reporting after the last two weeks of coverage, consider Jill Lepore’s dispatches from the conventions, which render the history that brought us to this flashpoint as vividly as they do the confusing experience of being on the ground in Cleveland and Philly.


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    Topless drawler Matthew Mcconaughey is now the “creative director” for Wild Turkey bourbon, producing this ad in which he declares, “I found a story here in Wild Turkey.” Now see if you can tell it without talking, man.

    http://gawker.com/matthew-mccona…


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    Ten Poor Saps Were Stuck in an Elevator With Donald Trump Over the Weekend
    Image: Getty

    Pity the 10 innocent souls who, thinking themselves in for a regular ride up the elevator at a Colorado Springs hotel on Saturday, instead spent 30 minutes locked up in a tiny box with the biggest asshole in America.

    According to the Denver Post and the Associated Press, Donald Trump was late to a campaign event because the elevator at his hotel stalled out for a half an hour with him and 10 other passengers on board. From the Post:

    Also on Saturday, the Colorado Springs Fire Department confirmed that the reason Trump’s event started late was because he got stuck in a hotel elevator and had to be rescued by Colorado Springs firefighters.

    The fire department said in a statement that Trump was trapped inside an elevator at The Mining Exchange Hotel with about 10 other people for 30 minutes.

    Firefighters opened the top elevator hatch and lowered a ladder to get everyone out of the elevator.

    Hours after firefighters from the Colorado Springs Fire Department rescued Trump from the elevator, Trump announced from the stage at his rally that the Colorado Springs fire marshall didn’t know how to do his job and was “probably a Democrat,” because of an attendance limit the fire department had placed on the venue.

    Your life might be pretty bad, but you can be grateful that you’ve never been stuck on an elevator with Donald Trump.


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    Here’s Nadya Tolokonnikova, a member of a heavily splintered Russian protest art group Pussy Riot, sitting in her installation at a Hamptons invite-only art benefit. There were also dunk tanks, other stuff, and a probably great sound installation by ANOHNI, but since the scheduled Kanye West/Robert Wilson collaboration was postponed, it looks like this was the centerpiece.

    And it’s a spray-painted “Make America Great” banner and a fake “electric chair” with a flippable switch (not in the top photo), and shit, I don’t know, what could it all possibly mean? Via Observer:

    What is the significance of the electric chair in your installation?

    I think it’s a pretty good symbol for…how people are about to vote for a crazy person who is Donald Trump, and it’s a pretty suicidal move. It comes from despair. I mean, I could see that there are some problems—economic problems, income inequality—but I don’t think that voting for Donald Trump could be a solution. It looks more like suicide for me—collective suicide.

    What is this half-assed piece pulled together last minute in a freshman sculpture class? How can something be obvious and confused at the same time? My head swims in one of those twinkly flashback musical cues, so come with me, come with me to a simpler time in 2011...

    A group of balaklava-clad anonymous feminist performance artists jump around in a Moscow cathedral, the same one where Putin’s former KGB buddy and pet Patriarch Kirill regularly televises his God-endorses-Putin speeches. For those few seconds of high kicks and fist pumps—later re-uploaded with their punk song—they’re tried and convicted for “hooliganism with intent to incite hatred” in 2012. The preposterous show-trial is a circus where babushkas allege “moral trauma” just from hearing about Pussy Riot’s “demonic seizing” on television and someone testifies that inside a church, “feminism” is “a blasphemous word.” And so, Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina get sent to a goddamn penal colony for seven years. Suddenly people in America care about performance art in Russia, for a split second. And after they’re pardoned in 2013, hysterically by Putin himself, things change, as they do.

    Who am I to judge the artistic choices of people who went to jail for being involved in a good piece of culture jamming performance art? Or the fact that contemporary artists sometimes have to mingle with their potential benefactors at parties in the Hamptons, particularly if they’re not selling physical work? These ex-political prisoners’ job prospects might be limited to scraping by on public appearance fees and making rich friends.

    But all that aside, this poppy music business they’ve been focusing on lately is not good. Particularly “I Can’t Breathe” isn’t good, not even conceptually, because I understand that you also can’t breathe, but get your own damn slogans. And this installation is bad. I haven’t experienced it in person (the gala wasn’t accessible via public transport), but here’s a demonstration of one gala attendant “enjoying the electric chair.”

    And that looks like that’s all there is to it. If you’re looking for a new Russian art crush, may I recommend that guy who nailed his balls to the Red Square? He’s also recently served some time. He’s still good.


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    This morning, CNN interviewed Khzir and Ghazala Khan, whose DNC speech about their son Army Capt. Humayun Khan has proven to be the most lasting moment of either convention. With Donald Trump and his surrogates feuding with the Khans, CNN turned to their Trump foot soldier, deposed campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who, despite being reportedly fired by Trump’s children, may still be quasi-working for Trump while ostensibly neutrally opining about him on television.

    In his analysis today, Lewandowski made a bold claim: that Humayun Khan would still be alive if Donald Trump were president because Trump would not have led America into the Iraq War. As CNN’s own Paul Mattingly points out, despite Trump successfully running as an anti-Iraq War candidate, he said multiple times before and during the invasion that he would support intervention in the country. Via BuzzFeed:

    For months, Donald Trump has claimed that he opposed the Iraq War before the invasion began — as an example of his great judgment on foreign policy issues.

    But in a 2002 interview with Howard Stern, Donald Trump said he supported an Iraq invasion.

    In the interview, which took place on Sept. 11, 2002, Stern asked Trump directly if he was for invading Iraq.

    “Yeah, I guess so,” Trump responded. “I wish the first time it was done correctly.”

    Trump could argue that “Yeah, I guess so” is a fairly benign endorsement, but as BuzzFeed also points out, he made a strong philosophical argument for going to war with Iraq in his book The America We Deserve, published in 2000:

    “We still don’t know what Iraq is up to or whether it has the material to build nuclear weapons. I’m no warmonger,” Trump wrote. “But the fact is, if we decide a strike against Iraq is necessary, it is madness not to carry the mission to its conclusion. When we don’t, we have the worst of all worlds: Iraq remains a threat, and now has more incentive than ever to attack us.”

    As the Trump camp refuses to concede the Khan family’s point—that their son, who died in June 2004 while attempting to protect his soldiers from a car bomb, sacrificed more than Trump himself—Lewandowski’s argument that he would still be alive if Trump was in office instead of George W. Bush can reasonably be read as a new Trump campaign assault.

    Maybe they see it as a more palatable method of countering the Khans, since it attempts to refocus the controversy on Trump’s alleged anti-war stance. But it’s as plainly condescending as everything else offered by Trump and his lackeys since Khan’s speech, and that includes Lewandowski’s second assertion that the Khan family chose to “engage” the Trump campaign by “telling their story” at the DNC. Thankfully, CNN is only paying Lewandowski half a million dollars to smear the family of a dead man.


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    Study: Legal Weed Could Raise $12 Billion a Year in Taxes
    Photo: Flickr

    Will legalizing weed increase the probability that people smoke weed? Yes. Duh. But it could still be a great idea, with the right taxe$$$.

    Don’t take my word for it—take the word of this new paper by researchers in Australia, published in the American Economic Review. The paper takes a stab at quantifying what marijuana legalization would do to rates of marijuana use—that is, how many more people would smoke weed if it were legal and easy to obtain—and what impact government taxation of legal weed could have on usage rates. The new paper applies its model to Australia, but its findings could certainly be applied to legalization in the U.S. as well. Bolding ours:

    Our results indicate that if marijuana were legalized in Australia and accessibility were not an issue the probability of use would increase by almost 50 percent to 19.4 percent. Obviously there would be an impact on prices due to the law change, and the results show taxes of 25 percent are effective to offset the increase in use due to the legal status change. The overall probability of use would be 40 percent higher than current levels (at 18.3 percent). Individuals under 30 would see a more modest increase in the probability of use of 28 percent on average, while the average probability of underage use would increase by 34 percent (to 33.7 percent from 25.1 percent).

    The paper calculates that in order to offset all of the usage increase that would come with legalization, weed would have to cost $158 a gram—a figure that they note is ridiculous because it would just create a black market once again. But with a reasonable 25% tax on legal weed throughout an entire nation with the population of the U.S., the paper calculates that our government could raise $12 billion per year in taxes.

    That, by the way, would be six times the annual budget of the DEA. Seems like a good deal.

    [The full paper]


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    All Over the Country, It's Getting Harder for Poor and Black People to Vote
    Image: Getty

    In case you hadn’t heard, there is a contentious presidential election coming up in November. Each side will do everything in its power in hopes of claiming victory. For some Republicans, the playbook includes making it more difficult for nonwhite people to get to the polls.

    The New York Times has a good look at all the places and ways in which voter registration laws have become more restrictive since the Supreme Court overturned Section Four of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Previously, states and districts with histories of voter discrimination were required to obtain federal approval before changing election rules in their areas, but the court declared that provision unconstitutional, arguing that voter discrimination had effectively ended sometime after the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. Now, these districts can do whatever they want again, and what they want, still, is to stop black people from voting.

    Republicans are deeply invested in the idea of “voter fraud.” They argue that elections can be swayed by people who register falsely, impersonate someone else, or vote multiple times. In reality, voter fraud is exceedingly rare, and has virtually no practical effect on elections. Republicans care about voter fraud not because of some commitment to integrity, but because it gives them a reason to make it more difficult to register to vote. The people who are easiest to freeze out of elections are people of color, because they tend to have less means than white people. Not coincidentally, they also tend to vote Democrat. If you don’t believe that voting restrictions are politically motivated, listen to Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin explain how he believes the state’s new voter ID laws will make it harder for Hillary Clinton to win there.

    The most galling instance of post-Section Four voter suppression in the Times article comes in Hancock County, Georgia, a majority-black county where the white-controlled election board tried to close all but one of the local polling places, then sent cops after 180 black residents, demanding that they prove their place of residence or lose their right to vote. But voter suppression is happening in plenty of other places, too, and not all of them are those that were formerly sanctioned by the Voting Rights Act. There is Wisconsin, where voter ID laws were supplemented by the elimination of government officials whose job it was to drive registration in poor and minority neighborhoods. There is North Carolina, where a voter ID law was recently struck down in federal court for being racially discriminatory. There is Virginia, where Republicans are hoping to strip voting rights from convicted felons who have finished their sentences and parole. There is Alabama, where 31 DMVs that doubled as voter registration locations were shut down this year, including those in almost all of the state’s counties with the largest minority populations.

    These closures and restrictions have nothing to do with fraud, and everything to do with helping Republicans win elections.


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    Peter Thiel Is Interested in Harvesting the Blood of the Young
    Peter Thiel at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Photo: Getty Images

    Peter Thiel, the tech billionaire-turned-Trump delegate who successfully bankrupted Gawker Media, has long been obsessed with anti-aging technologies. He believes people have been conned by “the ideology of the inevitability of the death of every individual,” and has funded startups dedicated to extending the human lifespan. According to Jeff Bercovici of Inc. magazine, Thiel is so afraid of dying that he has begun exploring a novel, and fairly unsettling, technique: Harvesting, and injecting himself with, the blood of younger people.

    In an unpublished interview with Bercovici last year, Thiel admitted that he was interested in adding young-to-old blood transfusions to his personal health regimen:

    After briefly discussing the pros and cons of caloric restriction, human growth hormone and the diabetes drug metformin, Thiel said this:

    I’m looking into parabiosis stuff ... where they [injected] the young blood into older mice and they found that had a massive rejuvenating effect. ... I think there are a lot of these things that have been strangely underexplored.

    I followed up to ask if he meant parabiosis was “really interesting” as a business opportunity or a personal-health treatment. He made it clear he was talking about the latter. “That would be one where it’s more just, do we think the science works? Some of these it’s not clear there’s actually a great company to start around it. ...”

    Last month, Gawker noted that the logical endpoint of Thiel’s dystopian world vision could feature an economy in which the wealthy, who wished to live forever, subsist on the blood of the poor, who would die at a normal age.

    It turns out that we weren’t that far off the mark. Bercovici also talked to Jesse Karmazin, the founder of Ambrosia LLC, a company in Monterey, California that recently began recruiting volunteers for a clinical trial in which people older than 35 would receive blood plasma injections from people younger than 25. Karmazin told him that one of Thiel’s employees contacted him to discuss the trial after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted approval:

    While Ambrosia advertised the study to attract participants, it didn’t seek broader coverage. So Karmazin was somewhat surprised to get a message from Jason Camm, chief medical officer at Thiel Capital, who expressed interest in what the company was doing. ... An osteopath with a background in treating elite athletes, Camm is “Personal Health Director to Peter Thiel...and a number of other prominent Silicon Valley business leaders and investors,” according to his professional profile.

    In his interview with Bercovici, Thiel said that he hadn’t actually injected himself with young blood. If you write about Silicon Valley, however, you’ve probably heard rumors to the contrary. In June, for example, Gawker received a tip, which we were unable to verify, claiming that Thiel “spends $40,000 per quarter to get an infusion of blood from an 18-year-old based on research conducted at Stanford on extending the lives of mice.” When we asked Thiel if this was true, he did not respond.

    If you know any more details about Thiel’s attempts to live forever, please get in touch.


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  • 08/01/16--11:20: ISIS Is the Alt-Right
  • ISIS Is the Alt-Right
    Image: Dabiq

    The newest issue of the Islamic State magazine Dabiq hit digital news stands on Monday, with front of book stories on “Why We Hate You & Why We Fight You” and the “Near-Extinction of the Western Woman.” The feature essay, “Break the Cross,” is a lengthy critique and repudiation of Christian and Jewish theology. “Why do you disbelieve in the signs of Allah?” Dabiq asks. “Be assured, Allah witnesses what you do.” The nonprofit Clarion Project notes that this is the first issue addressed to non-Muslims and potential converts.

    The most interesting piece, however, is found towards the end of the magazine: a short essay called “By the Sword,” specifically addressing the intersection of violence and religion. It begins by excerpting passages from the Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospels that Dabiq interprets as providing theological justification for religious violence.

    Exodus is full of examples of God exhorting the Jews to slaughter their enemies and conquer foreign lands. “Cursed is he who keeps back his sword from bloodshed,” Jeremiah 48:10 reads. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth,” Jesus tells his followers in the Gospel of Matthew (10:34). “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” And yet, Dabiq points out, “many people in Crusader countries express shock and even disgust that Islamic State leadership ‘uses religion to justify violence.’”

    It is true that mainstream political discourse in the West does not adequately address or acknowledge the ties between state- and Church-sponsored violence, either throughout history or today. Certainly, young Christians at Sunday School do not grapple with verses from the Gospels in which the Prince of Peace appears to be advocating for militant insurrection. (This is in no small part a consequence of the Catholic Church having aggressively repressed, until very recently, any hermeneutic that might imply a religious justification for political violence on behalf of the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed.)

    According to the Islamic State’s apocalyptic understanding of history, this hypocrisy will be the West’s undoing. From Dabiq (emphasis ours):

    The clear difference between Muslims and the corrupt and deviant Jews and Christians is that Muslims are not ashamed of abiding by the rules sent down from their Lord regarding war and enforcement of divine law. So if it were the Muslims, instead of the Crusaders, who had fought the Japanese and Vietnamese or invaded the lands of the Native Americans, there would have been no regrets in killing and enslaving those therein. And since those mujahidin would have done so bound by the Law, they would have been thorough and without some “politically correct” need to apologize years later. The Japanese, for example, would have been forcefully converted to Islam from their pagan ways – and if they stubbornly declined, perhaps another nuke would change their mind. The Vietnamese would likewise be offered Islam or beds of napalm. As for the Native Americans – after the slaughter of their men, those who would favor small-pox to surrendering to the Lord – then the Muslims would have taken their surviving women and children as slaves, raising the children as model Muslims and impregnating their women to produce a new generation of mujahidin. As for the treacherous Jews of Europe and elsewhere – those who would betray their covenant – then their post-pubescent males would face a slaughter that would make the Holocaust sound like a bedtime story, as their women would be made to serve their husbands’ and fathers’ killers.

    Furthermore, the lucrative African slave trade would have continued, supporting a strong economy. The Islamic leadership would not have bypassed Allah’s permission to sell captured pagan humans, to teach them, and to convert them, as they worked hard for their masters in building a beautiful country. Notably, of course, those of them who converted, practiced their religion well, and were freed would be treated no differently than any other free Muslim. This is unlike when the Christian slaves were emancipated in America, as they were not afforded supposedly government-recognized equal “rights” for more than a century – and their descendants still live in a nation divided over those days.

    “ISIS think western nations were too soft in their imperialism. Amazing,” the journalist Sunny Hundal marveled on Twitter. But really, how surprising is that? This is not so much an argument against Christianity as against liberalism and the Enlightenment. It is, in other words, essentially the same argument posed by the Anglo-American “alt right,” found scattered across 4chan’s /b/ and /pol/ boards and Reddit and Twitter, consolidating around culture-war causes like Gamergate and the permabanning of Milo Yiannopoulos, which is at bottom an expression of the fear brought on by the fracturing of cultural hegemony. It is, literally, an argument against political correctness—with all of the attendant anxiety and panic about strength, masculinity, and fear of emasculation.

    American conservatives have been wringing their hands about President Barack Obama’s perceived desire to “apologize” for darker moments in United States history—especially its involvement in foreign wars—since the beginning of his administration. In June 2009, the Heritage Foundation, a well-financed think tank, published a listicle under the headline, “Barack Obama’s Top 10 Apologies: How the President Has Humiliated a Superpower.” Resentment over the (entirely imagined) “apology tour” has festered for nearly eight years.

    Now, the cult of strength before which conservatives have prostrated themselves has produced a Republican candidate who, a year ago, said, “Why do I have to repent or ask for forgiveness, if I am not making mistakes?” In January, Trump said “I don’t like to have to ask for forgiveness. And I am good.” He has only recently begun to modulate this position of outrageous arrogance. “I will be asking for forgiveness,” Trump said in June. “But hopefully I won’t have to be asking for much forgiveness.”

    In November, Donald Trump, the reactionary’s candidate of choice, claimed that as president he would “bomb the shit” out of ISIS, and in December, he said that he would “take out” accused terrorists’ families. “The enemy is cutting off the heads of Christians and drowning them in cages,” he wrote in a February op-ed, “and yet we are too politically correct to respond in kind.”

    This is not to imply what would surely be a false equivalence between the Islamic State and neo-fascist American reactionaries, nor is it to suggest that skepticism of Christianity, liberalism, or the Enlightenment necessarily ends in totalitarianism. Rather, this is just to say that as the world comes apart at the seams, it is worth noting where those tears in the social fabric are actually taking place—that ISIS, Trump, and the alt-right have more in common than either would ever be likely to admit.


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    On Wikipedia, Pokémon Go Is a Bigger Deal Than the Bible
    Illustration by Sam Woolley

    My kids aren’t playing Pokémon Go yet, but the older one had heard enough about it that he started reading up about it. When I looked at the screen after he’d been on the computer, I encountered this incredible wall of text:

    On Wikipedia, Pokémon Go Is a Bigger Deal Than the Bible

    The Wikipedia references for Pokémon Go, which has been available for less than a month, are too extensive to fit into a single browser window. When I took that screen shot this morning, there were 188 of them. There are, as of the moment this post is being published, 191.

    For comparison, here’s a look at Wikipedia’s endnotes on the Bible:

    On Wikipedia, Pokémon Go Is a Bigger Deal Than the Bible

    The Bible, the most widely circulated book of all time, a text assembled and scrutinized and debated over the course of millennia, has 113 endnotes. There are 78 fewer points of citation on Wikipedia’s page about the Bible than there are on its page about Pokémon Go.

    Baseball, America’s previous pastime, has 188 citations at the moment. It was tied with Pokémon Go this morning but has now fallen behind.

    Here are some other Wikipedia entries that have fewer endnotes than Pokémon Go:


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