March 11, 2018 in 3,830 words


Ivanka Trump is the ghost of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation: She is connected, either directly or tangentially, to events at the heart of the probe, yet all but invisible to the public.

But as Mueller’s investigation broadens, the so-called first daughter is becoming a long overdue part of the bigger story of alleged corruption at the Trump Organization. Last week, we learned that the FBI is looking into the financing and negotiations surrounding her involvement with Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, which is home to an Ivanka Trump-branded spa. That inquiry may be unrelated to the Russia probe, but it should draw scrutiny to Ivanka’s business dealings and how they relate to her father’s political rise.

The mainstream press frequently describes Ivanka — who recently denied any collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russians — as the head of a fashion company. Yet she was also a top executive at the Trump Organization and a hard-charging, and often quite effective, dealmaker for the real estate development company. Despite her entrenched role in the West Wing and status as one of her father’s most trusted advisers and emissaries on matters as wide-ranging as G-20 and the Winter Olympics, her identity — carefully curated on social media and through her press operation — hinges on issues such as female entrepreneurship, maternal leave, and being a mother to highly Instagrammable kids. It’s a persona that renders the media establishment and broader public largely incapable of considering that she might be a key player in the Trump-Russia narrative.

The first daughter has not merely developed some of her father’s Teflon quality; sexism and gender stereotypes have also worked in her favor. After all, who would suspect an ex-model, mother of three, and public champion of working women to be pulling the levers of power, calling the shots, and working alongside people like Felix Sater, a Russian-American businessman with reputed mob ties who served jail time for stabbing a man in a bar fight?

Mueller’s probe is scrutinizing Trump’s business transactions. Although we don’t know the full scope of the investigation, Ivanka was reportedly among just a handful of people with a role in foreign projects at the Trump Organization.

For some reason, porn searches for Stormy Daniels are way up

Affair Amount Of Attention

A resurgence of interest.

At the beginning of January 2018, very few people searched for Stormy Daniels on Pornhub. There were only about 2,500 searches for the Hall of Fame pornstar’s name every day.

But since the Wall Street Journal reported that one of Donald Trump’s lawyers paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged affair (paywall) on Jan. 12, curiosity about Daniels on Pornhub has spiked.

Pornhub, the 36th-most popular website in the world, reports that just five days after reports of the affair, searches for Daniels reached 2 million in one day. Although Daniels has not consistently maintained that rarefied level of interest, searches for Daniels remain far higher than before her connection to Trump came out.

Is it still worth trying to come to America as an asylum seeker? I don’t think so

I am a refugee living in the United States and I know what it means to escape death. Still, I warn others not to come – they won’t be safe or welcome here.

‘Even if everything works out and you are never arrested, abused, murdered, or deported, you will never feel fully welcome here.’

Don’t come here. If you are afraid for your life and you have no place to go, don’t pick this country. It is not safe for you here any more.

If you try to cross our borders, people in military uniform called border patrol agents, will arrest you, throw you in a freezing cage and subject you to all kinds of abuses. These agents who don’t speak your language will sit you down and interrogate you. It won’t matter if you didn’t understand their questions, they will write whatever they want in dozens of forms, make you sign them, and use them against you later as they try to deport you.

You will tell them that you don’t understand the forms, but they won’t care. They will tell you that if you don’t sign them, they won’t let you go free. So you will sign them. But even after signing the forms, they will keep you caged.

Rotting food, abuses from your jailers, and how much you miss your family may make you beg to be deported. You know that your deportation will mean returning to violence and possible death, but when you realize that this country doesn’t think of you as a person, you may pick dignity and death over being caged and treated like an animal.

You might be lucky and be among the very few who are released from immigration jail and allowed to live in our country while your asylum application is pending. This won’t mean that your immigration case will be over though. Your immigration case will not be solved for years, and even though you have a case for staying in this country, the government will make you wait for years before you get a final answer.

‘On a hot day, it’s horrific’: Alabama kicks up a stink over shipments of New York poo

New York sends its treated sewage to other states to avoid dumping it in the sea – but it has plagued residents with a terrible stench.

Birmigham, Alabama. Residents in and near Birmingham said ‘if the wind blows in the wrong direction you get the smell.’

New York City is the beating heart of global finance, a cultural behemoth, and home to more than 8.5 million people who create an enormous amount of poo. Some of this expelled waste has been causing a major stink 900 miles away, in Alabama.

Residents in and near Birmingham have been in uproar over sewage that is transported by train and truck from New York and New Jersey to be dumped in the southern state.

The treated sewage – euphemistically known in the industry as “biosolids” – has plagued residents with a terrible stench, flies and concerns that spilled sludge has leaked into waterways.

“On a hot day, the odor and flies are horrific,” said Charles Nix, mayor of West Jefferson, a town near the landfill that accepts the waste. “It’s better in winter time but if the wind blows in the wrong direction you get the smell. It’s like dead, rotting animals.

“If you get close to the trucks the liquid would blow off on to your windshield and fill your car with a stink. It spilled out on to the road. Some people were saying they just wanted to move away, they were so miserable.”

How A Trailer Park Becomes A Secret Haven For Sex Offenders

“Sex Offender Trailer Park” sounds like either a great horror movie, a middling rock band, or a horrible sitcom. In real life, neighborhoods like that do exist, because of a problem society has no goddamned idea how to solve. In many cities, laws keep registered sex offenders from living anywhere near where children gather, which means there are only tiny areas where they can live. We talked to James, who owned a trailer park that became known as a haven for the people society would prefer not to deal with at all.

5. Laws Against Sex Offenders Have Created An Unexpected, Stupid Problem

Most of you probably don’t disagree with states banning people on sex offender registries from living anywhere children hang out (and if you do, you probably don’t say so in public). Those laws are in theory reserved for those supposedly most likely to reoffend, including violent sex offenders and child molesters, while a bunch of caveats and sub-clauses spare people who aren’t as much of a threat to society, like 18-year-olds who dated 16-year-olds. The laws leave a bunch of parents sleeping easier. But how do they work in practice?

Well, when you keep offenders from living 1,000 feet (or 2,000 feet) from playgrounds, schools, public parks, and even bus stops, you block off a whole lot of space. One programmer had a go at mapping what areas of Detroit are off-limits:

James says that one of his residents showed him a map like that for his city. “The only areas the rings didn’t encompass,” he says, “were really rich areas he couldn’t afford, really poor areas where he was afraid he might die, and the ocean.” It’s actually worse in Milwaukee, a city of half a million people in which the entire map is blacked out save for 55 addresses. In Denver, a judge struck down these laws when it turned out they left effectively no livable space at all.

Offenders look to the few areas they’re allowed to choose, and when landlords realize sex offenders are eyeing them, they generally respond by releasing the hounds. It’s not legal to discriminate that way, but it’s easy to vet potential tenants by looking at your state registry and then rejecting anyone whose name is there. “They can claim ‘poor credit,'” says James, “‘not good references,’ ‘we already rented it,’ or another excuse.” Out of options, maybe they could flee the urban center altogether for some distant county (states have been accused of making rural areas a dumping ground for sex offenders), but unless there’s a job waiting for them elsewhere, they aren’t leaving.

So what then? Do they simply go homeless? Yeah, that happens, and on a large scale. And as much as some people might relish the thought of people like this having no roof over their heads, the whole point of the registry is to keep tabs on them, so thousands of transient roaming sex offenders should be the absolute last thing anyone wants. There’s got to be some other solution. That’s where people like James come in.

You’re probably way too optimistic about your future happiness


We never see the bad stuff coming.

How optimistic are you about the future? To find out, take this two-part quiz:

  1. Imagine a ladder, with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you; the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally stand at this time?
  2. Which step on the ladder do you think you’ll be at in five years?

If you are like the majority of people, the number you picked for the second question is higher than the second. And according to recent released research (pdf) from the Nobel Prize-winning economist Angus Deaton, you are probably going to be disappointed by your own future—particularly if you are young.

Deaton’s research, published as a working paper with the National Bureau of Economic Research, examines how people across the world of different ages answer the questions above. The analysis is based on data collected on 1.7 million individuals across 166 countries from 2006 to 2016 for the Gallup World Poll. One of Deaton’s primary findings is that people are weirdly hopeful.

These Scientists Think Peace and Quiet Should Be a Human Right

Noise pollution is terrible for your health, but they want to find a solution.

Step onto the streets of New York or any other major city and you will be greeted with a barrage of noise. It might come from car horns, sirens, barking dogs, jackhammers, or any number of other sources. But whatever you’re hearing, it’s unlikely you can escape it. And if you live in the city, even in your apartment you might be besieged by noisy neighbors or music from the restaurant you live above.

By now, we have started to realize that this state of affairs is very, very bad for our health. Epidemiological studies have shown that noise keeps us from getting a good night’s sleep, boosts our risk for heart disease and hypertension and dementia, spikes our stress hormones, is linked with memory and reading comprehension problems in kids, and causes hearing problems.

And yet we still tend to view quiet as a luxury. “People just have this general attitude that noise is just a nuisance…even the people who are victims of noise also kind of take that stance,” says Erica Walker, an exposure scientist at Harvard University who studies how people are affected by noise. “It’s a sacrifice that we have to make because we choose to live in these place that are close to everything, it’s something that we can put up with, it’s something that we can get used to over time.”

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Walker and other researchers are investigating how cities can turn down the volume. First, we must understand the scope of our noise problem. That means creating maps of how noise fluctuates across a city, figuring out when it happens, and identifying what kinds of spaces offer city dwellers some much-needed respite.

“It’s not a problem that we can’t overcome, it’s just that we’re going to have to be smarter about how we’re going to define it and what we’re going to do to mitigate it,” Walker says

Headless robots overrun world in creepy ‘Planet Earth’ parody

Watch as herds of Boston Dynamics SpotMini robots swarm desolate wastelands in this horrifying parody video of the nature documentary series.

Boston Dynamics’ dog-like SpotMini robots have already learned to open doors and can happily trot along in adverse conditions. Just watching the bots evolve feels like we’re seeing a real-life episode of the futuristic horror series “Black Mirror.”

Now you can feel even more uneasy about the four-legged SpotMini robots with a new video parody of the BBC nature series “Planet Earth” that shows them taking over the Earth.

In the video posted by YouTube user Nixolas this week, we see desolate landscapes overrun with the Boston Dynamics robots looking like herds of deer on a quest for survival in barren terrain.

The video is creepy enough with the thousands of SpotMini robots crowding each other in harsh landscapes, but on top of that, there’s no sign of any other kind of life among them.



You don’t come here for the wifi.

One of travel’s big unknowns is wifi: Will the hotel’s connection be reliable? Will you be able to stream Netflix? Will FaceTiming with family at home be possible?

But increasingly, a certain type of traveler is asking a different kind of question: Can my hotel help me stay off Instagram and work email?

In our hyperconnected world, going on vacation is now increasingly about going offline, too. A 2016 survey from Intel Security found that 49% of millennials are keen on leaving their smartphone behind while on vacation. But while many travelers aim to be in the moment, some can’t: The same survey found 55% of respondents who wanted to go off-grid couldn’t manage it.

Hotels and travel companies seem to be figuring out that their guests want help staying offline, whether it’s serving as an intermediary in case of an emergency, providing just enough wifi to check in with family and not much more, or even offering incentives for time spent unplugged.

This replica of HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey comes with Amazon’s Alexa built in

Maybe don’t hook up your garage door to it.

HAL-9000, the malevolent supercomputer at the heart of Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, is an icon of science fiction cinema. So much so, that if you ask any one of the virtual assistants to “Open the pod bay doors,” they’ll dutifully parrot HAL’s lines from the movie back at you. Now, Master Replicas Group wants to take that step a bit further, turning HAL into a virtual assistant that can control your home.

The company name might be familiar to prop and costume fans: the original Master Replicas produced a range of high-quality props from franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek before going out of business a decade ago. If you’ve seen someone swinging around a lightsaber, there’s a good chance it’s one of Master Replicas’ props, or based off of their models. The new company is made up of several former employees, who are getting back into the prop replica business with a new range of products, including an interactive replica of HAL.

This isn’t the first time that someone’s thought about putting HAL into your home’s smart devices: a couple of years ago, fan prop-maker GoldenArmor made its own version that allows someone to mount it over their Nest thermostat. MRG’s prop goes a bit beyond that. It recently obtained the license from Warner Bros. to create an exact replica of the iconic computer, and while most prop replicas are static recreations of a movie or film prop, this version is designed to be interactive, using Amazon’s smart assistant, Alexa.

MRG CEO Steve Dymszo told The Verge that he made his own replicas of HAL’s panel under a earlier company, Artifactory, and had reached out to Warner Bros. to try and get a license for the product. Initially, the studio wasn’t interested, but with the 50th anniversary of the film this year, they granted the company the rights to produce their own line of replica props from the film.


In episode 3 of The BrainFood Show podcast, we discuss the fascinating origins of the Food Pyramid and why that is a horribly unhealthy way to eat (and why the USDA made it that way even though they knew well it wasn’t a healthy recommendation at the time). We also discuss whether eating too much salt is actually bad for you or not, what actually is the difference between fruits and vegetables, and what ultra-scientifically grounded nutrition recommendations say we should eat.

Next up, we look at a great productivity tool, why clocks run clockwise, why grandfather clocks are called that, one of the great Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, and much, much more.

For some viewing materials for this one, please check out the Swedish Food Pyramid and the USDA pyramid. You can also view the Harvard Food Plate and the USDA’s Food Plate, as well as read through their general recommendations.

Our book recommendation for the day is either Bigger, Leaner, Stronger (for guys) or Thinner, Leaner, Stronger (for girls) both written by a guy named Michael Matthews and both ultra-science based, easy reads on proper nutrition and exercise and how to do both as easy and enjoyably as possible. Very much cutting through many of the myths and misconceptions out there, generally put forth by fad diet creators and the like. It turns out proper nutrition and efficient exercise really isn’t that complicated.

Video Goodnesses and not-so-goodnesses

On Tuesday, voters will head to the polls in the latest special Congressional election of the Trump era. Pennsylvania’s 18th district is a deep Republican country, but Democrats are running close with their nominee, Conor Lamb.

It’s a familiar story these days — Democrats doing better in a special election than they have any right to, thanks in part to anger among Democratic voters at President Trump.

But this story is actually not that story. VICE goes inside the wild world of western Pennsylvania Democratic politics, where a party getting everything it wanted has led to chaos.

THANKS to HBO and VICE News for making this program available on YouTube.

Ronny Chieng finds out how artificial intelligence is changing the legal system, from robot lawyers to judges who use algorithms for pretrial risk assessment.

Dulce Sloan finds out that the downside (and upside) of facial recognition software is that people of color often go undetected.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available on YouTube.

Bill recaps the top stories of the week, including a proposed meeting between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump.

In his editorial New Rule, Bill argues that it’s not very hard to change people’s minds and that Democrats should try it with gun control.

THANKS to HBO and Real Time with Bill Maher for making this program available on YouTube.

The latest exhibit at the Museum of London features pieces of the 130-ton fatberg that was removed from a tunnel under the city’s Whitechapel district last year.

In honour of The Canadian Screen Awards tonight, we thought we’d give you a little glimpse into a day in the life of The Beaverton.

THANKS to The Comedy Network and The Beaverton for making this program available on YouTube.

Max loves the sound of the shower doors banging together.

Max went for his nail trim Saturday.

He did really good was just tired from the ride and stress. So we came home and cuddled.


4 Hilarious Side Effects Of Living Next To Businesses

Living near industry has its pros and cons. Sure, the nuclear power plant means everybody in town has a steady job, but it’s also why little Suzy is her own nightlight. But even when they’re not poisoning water supplies or causing property values to go down, there are plenty of other, weirder ways businesses can turn neighborhoods into psychedelic hellscapes. For example …

4. The Viagra Factory Is (Reportedly) Giving Boners To All The Locals

Life is sweet in the Irish village of Ringaskiddy. The scenery is lovely, crime is low, and the weather is fairly nice for Irish standards. But still, being a Ringaskiddyite is hard living and hard work, and it gets harder with every breath you take. Why? Because there’s Viagra in the air.

Located in County Cork, Ringaskiddy is home to one of Pfizer’s pharmaceutical plants — specifically, the plant that makes most of the world’s supply of Viagra.

Petition to change the name from Cork.

And according to locals, there’s often a stiff breeze of fumes from the factory that’ll put a spring in your step and a tipi in your pants. Medical professionals attest to the very visible effect of Pfizer’s local business. On a windy day, many a man (and dog) can be spotted walking around “in a state of sexual excitement.” And you know how the old adage goes: Where there’s smoke, there’s a bunch of raging erections.

Naturally, Pfizer insists the claims are complete baloney, stating that their “manufacturing processes have always been highly sophisticated as well as highly regulated.” The company maintains that airborne boner dust is nothing but a myth, and the entire town is merely enjoying a group placebo effect. Not that the locals mind either way. A Ringaskiddy woman describes the town as having become a sort of Mecca for men with erectile dysfunction. She’s also quick to mention that she’s never once been lonely in the years since her husband’s passing. In Ringaskiddy, love is always in the air. Or something close enough, at least.

Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?