July 8, 2018 in 2,945 words

‘Are they going to shoot me?’: Statue of Liberty ​climber on her anti-Trump protest

Exclusive: Patricia Okoumou says her four-hour standoff with police was fired by outrage at caging of migrant children

Pictured above: Patricia Okoumou ~ ‘I was thinking of Lady Liberty above me, you are so huge, you have always been a symbol of welcome to people arriving in America and right now, for me, she is a shelter.’


The grainy aerial images of a woman clinging to the skirts of the Statue of Liberty were beaming live around the world for hours on Independence Day, as police tried to talk her down from her protest against Trump immigration policies.

But what was going through the woman’s mind as she huddled against the green metal folds of the statue’s robes, 30 meters above the ground, was: “Are they going to shoot me?”

“I wanted protection from Lady Liberty,” Therese Patricia Okoumou – who goes by Patricia – told the Guardian, in her first one-on-one interview since her dramatic lone act on Wednesday.

Okoumou had wanted to climb as high as she could – even up to the famous torch that Liberty holds aloft – if that had been possible, she said.

“I had thought, ‘It’s the Statue of Liberty, it’s the Fourth of July and there are children in cages, we are doing a protest but I want to send an even stronger message and this is the perfect day for it.’ All of those elements together were necessary to give me the courage,” she said.


The Red Hen just reopened. Here’s what the restaurant is actually like.


The Red Hen is pictured on Friday, its second night open after nearly two weeks of being closed amid protests. All was quiet as dinner service started.

A car slowed to a crawl at the intersection of East Washington and North Randolph streets Friday evening as a woman in the passenger seat rolled down her window. Eyes wide, she reached out and snapped a photo of a rustic-looking building — not the one that Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson once called home, but the tiny red restaurant just across the street.

Unless their occupants had dinner reservations, most cars would once have driven right past the Red Hen, arguably the less controversial landmark of the two. But it has become famous in the two weeks since co-owner Stephanie Wilkinson asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave because of her support for an “inhumane and unethical” administration, prompting a debate driven, by social media and think pieces, on civility, a presidential tweet, protests and counterprotests.

“I’m not a huge fan of confrontation,” Wilkinson told The Washington Post soon after the incident. “I have a business, and I want the business to thrive. This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.”

Suddenly a lightning rod for political feuds, the Red Hen went on a two-week hiatus. It reopened Thursday at 5 p.m., a bit after conservative protesters arrived with block-print signs with slogans such as, “We shall overcome . . . Democrats!”


Bill Maher completely destroys the ‘Pence would be worse’ argument in his new HBO special


Bill Maher is taking a month off from his Friday night HBO show, Real Time.

The comedian spent his first week off in Oklahoma, where he performed an hour-long HBO special.

And in the middle of that special he broke things down to “get serious” delivering a speech with a lighting change.

The subject? The old “Mike Pence would be worse” argument that you hear from some liberals.

“When people say ‘Mike Pence would be worse,’ I implore you to reconsider that,” he said. “Mike Pence is the kind of loathsome Christian hypocrite that if I did not hate religion already, I would start. But Mike Pence is not trying to become a dictator. Mike Pence does not talk about locking up journalists and political opponents.”


Nazi Children’s Books, KKK Onesies Are for Sale on Amazon

Hate propaganda marketed for kids is sold through the online retailer, researchers found, and they’ve so far dodged censors.

Despite its own policies against hateful content, Amazon still sells racist products—some of them marketed at children, a new study finds.

Baby onesies featuring a burning cross, swastika necklaces, and “costumes” depicting a black man being lynched have all found a recent home on Amazon, according to a new study by the Action Center on Race and the Economy and the Partnership for Working Families. The study also found a trove of white supremacist literature that has been created on Amazon’s publishing platform. Those products lingered on the site despite Amazon’s policy prohibiting “products that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views,” the company states on its website.

Amazon, which takes a cut of sales, often doesn’t take action against the products unless facing public backlash, the study found. While some of the products cited in the study have since been removed from Amazon, others remain for sale on the site.

“Third party sellers who use our Marketplace service must follow our guidelines and those who don’t are subject to swift action including potential removal of their account,” an Amazon spokesperson told The Daily Beast of the study.


The 5 Dumbest Official Decrees People Actually Had To Make

In times of confusion, it’s important for those with authority to issue clear and precise announcements so that everyone knows what exactly is going on. This rule normally applies to institutions dealing with disasters and controversial rumors, but sometimes it’s also needed when a business has to reassure their customers that their laptops are not made with cat urine. That will make sense in a minute.

5. Museum Officials To Pokemon Go Fans: Please Stop Playing In Auschwitz


Remember that weekend when half the planet was really into Pokemon Go, and the other half thought that this was a sign of civilization collapsing? The game’s launch had a few technical problems, one of which was that, uh, “sensitive” locations like the National September 11 Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park were getting tagged as Pokestops and Gyms. Thus, somber places of reflection played host to certain people staring at their phones and exclaiming “Hell yeah, I kicked that Diglett’s ass!”

As prestigious as it may sound, no one should be gym leader of the Anne Frank house.

Those oversights were soon corrected, but not before both the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum had to explain what they had probably hoped in vain was the obvious — namely, that it was “disrespectful” to run around a former death camp looking for a Meowth to take home as a souvenir. The Auschwitz Museum’s spokesman called it “disrespectful to the memory of the victims of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp on many levels and it is absolutely inappropriate,” probably while adding “you absolute morons” under his breath.


Smart technology sees through walls to track and identify people

“RF-Pose” isn’t X-ray vision, but it’s getting there.


Using wireless signals, RF-Pose could serve as a health care system to monitor patients’ movements from the other side of a wall.

A group of researchers and students at MIT have developed an intelligent radar-like technology that makes it possible to see through walls to track people as they move around, a development that could prove useful for monitoring the elderly or sick as well as for other applications — but that also raises privacy concerns.

Tests show that the technology, known as RF-Pose, can reveal whether someone is walking, sitting, standing or even waving — and can identify individuals from a known group with a success rate of 83 percent. Its developers say it could prove useful for law enforcement, search and rescue, and — perhaps most important — health care.

“We’ve seen that monitoring patients’ walking speed and ability to do basic activities on their own gives health care providers a window into their lives that they didn’t have before, which could be meaningful for a whole range of diseases,” Dina Katabi, a computer scientist at MIT and leader of the group, said in a statement.


Two Strangers Met on a Plane—and the Internet Ruined It

Nothing in American culture—not even delight, not even coincidence, not even love—is safe from the gravitational forces of commodification.

Have you heard about #PlaneBae? The story that went viral on Twitter over the Fourth of July holiday, and was featured as one of those feel-good segments on the Today show and Good Morning America soon after? Just in case you haven’t, here’s a summary: Rosey Blair and her boyfriend, Houston Hardaway, wanting to sit together on a flight from New York to Dallas, asked Hardaway’s assigned seatmate whether she would switch seats. The woman (her name would later be revealed to be Helen) agreed. Maybe, they joked, in the light way of strangers on a plane, her new travel companion would end up being the love of Helen’s life.

Helen went to her new seat—16C, in the row just in front of Blair and Hardaway—and that might have been, as it so often is, the end of the story. Except in this case: Helen’s new seatmate (his name would later be revealed to be Euan) was … hot! Which was perfect, because Helen herself was hot! And, it turned out: They’re both fitness instructors (!!). Anyway, Helen and Euan started talking. And they didn’t stop—for the whole nearly four-hour flight. Their small talk quickly progressed, to sharing their thoughts on marriage (!!!!) and on kids (!!!!!!). They talked about his mom (“So hot!” Helen remarked), and about why they were both—!!!!!!!!—still single. They shared their seats’ arm rest. Their arms occasionally touched. At one point, for a second, she soooort of seemed to be resting her head on his shoulder. The whole thing was, potentially, one of the meet-cute-iest meet-cutes ever: Love Actually, but with an actual airport for Hugh Grant to get all sappy about.

You might be wondering how I, a writer who was not aboard Alaska Airlines Flight 3327 in early July, would know all this (and how “we,” as a wobbly little collection of eyeballs and attention, would know about it too). That is because Blair and Hardaway, instead of just settling back to watch Coco or read Alaska Beyond Magazine or something, settled on a different mode of in-flight entertainment: They began observing the interaction playing out in the row before them. And also: documenting it, via pictures and videos and words and, eventually, a series of tweets. Helen and Euan thus went from strangers on a plane to participants—via the dedicated attentions of the two people behind them, watching them through the space between the seats—in a cheekily epic drama.

“Last night on a flight home,” Blair’s vicarious saga began, “my boyfriend and I asked a woman to switch seats with me so we could sit together. We made a joke that maybe her new seat partner would be the love of her life and well, now I present you with this thread.”

Blair’s story built on itself, tweet after threaded tweet—a story told after the fact, re-created as if it were happening in real time. And as Blair tweeted, the tale became a thing in the typical way any such event will become A Thing: More than 300,000 people retweeted Blair’s thread. Nearly a million liked it. Those small endorsements brought more attention, more eyeballs, more retweets. People filmed themselves, sipping wine, reacting to the latest of Blair’s exclamatory developments. They began wondering about the full identities of the people involved. They added their own insights and spins on the story. Euan, in particular, quickly became converted, through the easy alchemies of the internet, into #PlaneBae and #PlaneHunk.


Dogs steal mail carrier’s lunch, then their apology note goes viral


Bear and Bull smile next to the handwritten note from their letter carrier, detailing the fact that they stole her lunch.

For decades, students across the country have offered up the classic excuse, “Dog ate my homework.” But now, a letter carrier in Smithfield, Virginia is saying, “Dogs ate my lunch.” And the story that unfolded has amused thousands of people on social media.

In June, Carol Jordan, who owns a five-acre farm in Isle of Wight, Virginia, stopped at her mailbox and discovered a handwritten note there from the woman who delivers her family’s mail.

“Our immediate thought was, ‘What did the boys do now?'” she told CBS News.

“The boys” in question are Bear and Bull, Jordan’s 6-year-old black Labrador/mastiffs, which she and her husband rescued from a high kill shelter in North Carolina as puppies. Bear and Bull are brothers from the same litter, though Jordan notes that Bull — the smaller one with the white spot on his chest — is the ringleader when it comes to getting into trouble.

In this instance, however, it turns out the boys actually weren’t in trouble. On the contrary, the neighborhood’s friendly letter carrier actually left the family a note out of concern for the dogs’ well-being.


Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

You may have seen an ad like this on your Facebook feed recently: A screen printed t-shirt that includes personal attributes like your job or the month you were born in.

It looks like an ad for a cheesy t-shirt that was designed just for you, but it’s actually an ad for a t-shirt for people with similar Facebook targeting data as you. Designing hyper-specific shirts like these, then using Facebook’s ad targeting tool to target ads to people with those exact attributes is a whole new way to make money online.

Let’s say you’re a mom in Texas who was born in August and has a dog. An advertiser could set up an ad for a shirt that is tailored for those moms with dogs, and pay Facebook to make sure it’s only shown to those moms.

The shirts are printed on sites like Sunfrog, which provide an easy way to sell tons of customizable cheap shirts. “The power sellers are almost completely automated,” SunFrog CEO Aaron Singler told VICE News. “They use scripts and teams to generate these different designs, and then repeat them across however many names, however many years, how many, however many, you know, animal breeds there are, to kind of throw a really wide net.”

At first people may have sincerely enjoyed having a shirt that expresses what they share with Facebook, but now the internet has taken notice — there’s an entire subreddit dedicated to making fun of the most cringeworthy examples.

Facebook talks about how it enables small businesses, and they’re right. This is just another way the company has enabled other people to make money off of your data.

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


Ricky Gervais discusses his ABC game show “Child Support,” owns up to his Trump tweet addiction and explains why he’s not worried about a U.S. war with North Korea.

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


Our reporters have no idea what they’re about to read off their Teleprompter. If they laugh, they lose.


箱に顔を入れておきたいまる。Maru insisted on putting his head into the box.


Max and his friend play together.


FINALLY . . .

No, We Haven’t Solved The Drake Equation, The Fermi Paradox, Or Whether Humans Are Alone

The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but substituting wild speculation for evidence isn’t even science.


Intelligent aliens, if they exist in the galaxy or the Universe, might be detectable from a variety of signals: electromagnetic, from planet modification, or because they’re spacefaring. But we haven’t found any evidence for an inhabited alien planet so far. We may truly be alone in the Universe, but the honest answer is we don’t know enough about the relevant probability to say so.

In 1950, Enrico Fermi famously asked the question, “Where is everybody?” It wasn’t because his retinas detached; it was because he was curious about the lack of visits by extraterrestrials. If life in the Universe is ubiquitous, the argument goes, then surely the signs of it should be everywhere? Over the past 60+ years, we’ve developed a number of possible explanations for this puzzle, known today as the Fermi Paradox.

On the surface, this seems like a reasonable question to ask. There are billions of stars in the galaxy, many of which have Earth-like planets, and if Earth is fairly typical, some of these may have developed intelligent life. Many of us on Earth are working to develop interstellar travel, and even though the galaxy is 100,000 light years across, we’ve been around for many billions of years. If life is common, then where is everyone? A new paper claims to have the answer, but their conclusions are highly suspect.

Clearly, if they’re out there, they haven’t shown up around these parts or left surefire signs of their existence. Our searches for alien civilizations — such as with giant radio dishes and projects like SETI — have all come up empty, with no signatures of an alien intelligence out there. UFOs are likely to have earthly explanations, not extraterrestrial ones. Exoplanetary searches, exemplified by NASA’s Kepler mission, have turned up thousands of planets beyond Earth, many of which are Earth-like in size, teaching us that there are literally billions of chances for Earth-like life in our galaxy alone. Yet no life beyond Earth has ever been found; not on those worlds, nor on any of the other worlds in our Solar System.


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