April 8, 2016

Trying Is The First Step Toward Failing


Today in History: April 8, 1994

On April 8, 1994 Kurt Cobain, the reluctant messiah of the “grunge” phenomenon that dominated rock music in the early 1990s, was found dead from an apparent suicide at his home in Seattle, WA.

The 27-year-old Cobain, leader of the wildly popular and influential band Nirvana, died from a single shotgun blast to the head. Kurt left a suicide note (which can be read here), which was discovered by the same electrician who discovered Cobain’s body when he arrived to do some work at the singer’s house.

Cobain could only be positively identified once his body was fingerprinted. It was estimated that Kurt had died on April 5, three days before he was found. Toxicology reports revealed evidence of both heroin and valium in Cobain’s body. …

Mossack Fonseca: inside the firm that helps the super-rich hide their money

As Panama Papers shine light on offshore world, Luke Harding takes a closer look at company exploiting tropical tax havens

In June 2013, two Swiss lawyers held a private telephone chat. They were annoyed. In London, David Cameron had just given a speech. The prime minister had promised to sweep away decades of offshore “tax secrecy” by introducing a central register. Anybody who owned an offshore company would have to declare it to the authorities.

The G8 summit, to be hosted by Cameron on the shores of Lough Erne, in Northern Ireland, was looming. Top of the agenda: how to stop aggressive tax avoidance.

For much of the 20th century hiding your money was simple. You got a lawyer, filled in a form and set up a Swiss bank account or offshore “shell company”.

Nobody asked questions. For a couple of thousand dollars a year, it was possible to hide away profits where governments could never find them. …

Are Shell Companies Useful for People Who Aren’t Ludicrously Rich?

Anyone can become an anonymous corporate owner in minutes, but it requires some serious money to take advantage of that.

Journalists at a handful of media outlets have, as a clever stunt, set up their own shell companies in order to illustrate just how lax international financial regulations are. Years before the Panama Papers leaked, the podcast Planet Money aired an episode in which the two hosts chronicled their relatively frictionless path to becoming the proud and anonymous owners of a shell company in Belize. More recently, Fusion produced a video titled “Watch how easy it is to start an anonymous shell company for your cat.”

Yes, it’s troubling that secretive companies can be set up so quickly and with such little oversight. And pointing to how simple it is for, say, an intern, to set up a Panamanian shell corporation without any documentation is a useful demonstration of a purposely obfuscated process.

But the ease with which shell companies can be created is not particularly consequential. Sure, anyone can set one up—but what would they do with it? What matters isn’t the creation of shell companies, but how the world’s wealthiest are using them. Setting up a shell company, even a cheap one, “would be a colossal waste of money for a person with the median household income,” says Jeffrey Winters, a professor of political science at Northwestern University and the author of Oligarchy. After dropping several hundred or a couple thousand dollars on a shell company, the owner would be at a loss for what to do next. “It wouldn’t help them in any way,” Winters says, “and it would actually bleed resources from them on an annual basis.” …

10 Creepy Tales About Well-Known Mountains

The world’s most famous mountains have been featured on TV, in movies, and sometimes even in song. They inspire people to test their limits of endurance and tenacity, occasionally breaking them completely in the process. Mountains are fascinating, dominating, and—as the following stories prove—often downright eerie.

10. Spearfinger

The Great Smoky Mountains are a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains along the Tennessee–North Carolina border. The adjacent Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in the US, with millions enjoying the hiking trails, plant and animal life, and simply getting away from the bustle of the city life and immersing themselves completely in nature.

These mountains also have several tales surrounding them, and some of them are quite creepy. Should you decide to hike along the Norton Creek Trail, you might find yourself running into Spearfinger. If you do, you should hide your kids as best you can; legend has it that this old witch has a penchant for cutting out little children’s livers with her one long, spearlike finger and having them for dinner. Another version of the tale has it that Spearfinger can take on the appearance of whatever is around her. Sometimes, she takes on the form of a particular rock formation on the east side of Whiteside Mountain, known as the Devil’s Courthouse. By doing this, she can spring her nasty self upon unsuspecting folk while they are out hiking and enjoying the fresh air. …

The View From Mexico On Donald Trump

It has been a turbulent week for Mexico’s diplomats in the U.S. The reason for the shakeup can be summed up in two words: Donald Trump.

This week, the Republican presidential front-runner released details of one of his oft-repeated campaign promises — to make Mexico pay for construction of a border wall.

The plan, which involves blocking billions of dollars that Mexicans working in the U.S. send back home, seemed to shake up Mexico’s top officials and cause a break in their months of relative silence about Trump’s anti-Mexican comments.

With swift aim, Mexico gave its ambassador in Washington the boot, replacing him with a career diplomat. And a key operative known for his public relations acumen took over one of the highest profile jobs in Mexico’s Foreign Ministry. …

The Daily Show Destroys Colorado’s Biggest Homophobe in “Trans Panic”

Over the years, we’ve documented the misadventures of Gordon Klingenschmitt, whom we described in a 2014 headline as an “Exorcism-Doing, Gay-Slamming, Just-Elected State Rep” from the Colorado Springs area.

Our posts about Klingenschmitt, who’s also a chaplain, have featured his claim that “gays have lost their soul” and his prayers to save the Boy Scouts from “sodomite” troop leaders.

Frankly, pretty much everything Klingenschmitt says is ripe for satire of the most brutal sort — and that’s precisely what The Daily Show delivered last [Wednesday] night in a report about “The Trans Panic Epidemic” that held up Colorado’s biggest homophobe to well-deserved national ridicule. …

10 Forgotten Sects Of Major Religions

Every religion has sects that come about from a difference in doctrine or practice. Today, many of the older sects of major world religions have been forgotten. Some still exist but trace their heritage back to the early days of their religion. Some of these sects may be familiar to practitioners of the parent religion, but these are generally unknown to the average person.

10. Kharijite

The first identifiable sect of Islam was the Kharijite sect, one that remains relatively unknown among non-Islamic people. After Muhammad died, a string of caliphs followed him, but there was constant discussion and debate about how the religion should actually proceed. When an assassin killed the third caliph, Uthman, the Muslim community split between two factions, each fighting for control of the community and doctrine. The main debate was over who should be the next caliph. Eventually those two factions would form the Shi’ite and Sunni sects. During that time, a third group organized as a sect of Islam, separate from the other two factions. The chief doctrine of the Kharijites was the idea that anybody could be a caliph.

While the rest of the Muslims argued over whether the caliph should descend from Muhammad or not, the Kharijites believed that anybody could be a caliph, as long as they received revelation from Allah. They held a democratic view of the caliphate, rejecting the idea that the caliphate should descend through family lines. Along with their views on the caliphate, the Kharijites held an extremely puritanical view of Islam. According to them, any major sin committed by a Muslim disqualified that person as a Muslim. …

John Oliver sent ‘riff-raff’ dressed as unicorns and ‘left sharks’ to the Yankees game

Psst. The riff-raff are winning.

On Wednesday night, there were four people in the hoity-toity seats behind home plate at Yankee Stadium, thanks to the generosity of HBO’s John Oliver.

This time, there were two people dressed as Katy Perry’s Super Bowl left shark and two more as unicorns. Hooray for the proletariat.

“We found out this morning and it’s been awesome,” Hannah Lee, one of the unicorns along with her co-worker Michelle Munera, told the New York Daily News. “[The] crowd is loving us.” …

The Dog Photographer

With a squeaky toy in one hand, a camera in the other, and a pair of knee pads for ultimate protection, Elias Weiss Friedman has taken to the New York City streets photographing portraits of dogs. He has an eye for capturing the distinct personalities of canines in his images, and documents them in an Instagram profile called @TheDogist, with almost 2 million followers and 500 likes per minute. “I don’t work with people in the same way most people do and I sometimes feel that sort of loneliness. I come home and I’m like talking to my rug,” says Friedman. “But I do connect with people through their dogs. Even though I don’t have a dog, dogs have opened up a whole world for me that’s made me less lonely.”

Since starting the series, Friedman has photographed dogs in over 30 places around the world, including China, Italy, Norway, and Alaska, and he released a book in 2015 under the same name. …


This Day In History: April 8, 1820

On April 8, 1820, Oliver Voutier was digging on the island of Milos in the Aegean Sea with two French soldiers under his command at the site of an ancient Greek theater. He happened to see local farmer Yorgos Kentrotas stop and stare in awe while out gathering stones. The officer followed the farmer’s gaze, spotting a part of a broken segment of a sculpture.

Voutier paid Kentrotas a small amount of money to continue excavating the remaining portions of the statue. As more fragments emerged, Voutier became more and more certain he had a bonafide masterpiece on his hands. Getting this treasure to France would require the involvement of the French government, which then had jurisdiction over Milos. Once the red tape was dealt with, the statue, none other than the Venus de Milo, was presented to King Louis XVIII, and then brought to the Louvre in 1821, where it resides today. …

The Debunkers of a Gay Marriage Study Just Re-bunked It, Sort Of

In 2014, a young researcher named Michael LaCour published some remarkable results in the journal Science. His study, written with the well-respected political scientist Donald Green, looked to see if a short, personal conversation with door-to-door canvassers could change people’s minds about gay marriage. It did, in a big way—especially when the canvassers were gay themselves.

Soon another young researcher, David Broockman, started looking into the canvassing data, hoping to replicate these exciting results. But when he started digging along with another UC Berkeley student, Joshua Kalla, they realized that LaCour had made it all up. It was blatant fraud, and the scandal was followed by a very hasty and very public retraction. Now, a year after blowing the whistle, Broockman (now at Stanford) and Kalla have made good on the original goal: to extend the impressive (and impressively bogus) research.

Their study, also in Science, looked to see if a short, personal conversation with door-to-door canvassers could change people’s opinions about transgender people. It did. In a big way.

Nobody expected things to work out like this. …

The Brain That Wasn’t Supposed to Heal

Steve Mishkin’s unexpected recovery is a case study in luck, split-second decisions, and the many, many things that need to go right for a trauma patient to get well.

When Steve Mishkin was brought into the emergency room in December 2014—his skull smashed in several places, his eyes bulging out of their sockets, his face discolored beyond recognition—he was not expected to live through the night. Over multiple surgeries, doctors removed sizeable chunks of his dominant frontal lobe and temporal lobe, including the areas that govern speech and movement. They told his wife, Amber, that even if he survived, he would never be himself again.

Less than a year after that horrific night, after a weekend of playing soccer with his children and socializing with friends, Steve returned to work full-time as a business analyst for a major bank.

True, he is not exactly the same as he once was: He’s more affectionate and effusive with Amber, more open with strangers, spilling his story to anyone who will listen. He occasionally struggles to find the word for, say, the toaster. But he has defied every prediction for what happens to a person after his brain has been severely, traumatically damaged. …

Talking Comedy, Sex And Sci-Fi At SXSW

On this special BONUS episode of The Cracked Podcast, we’ve got no mind-blowing views on social anthropology or insane fan-theories about how many Martys died for ‘Back to the Future’ to make sense. Instead of dissecting the movies this week, we thought we should go straight to the source and talk to directors themselves about how their films are inspired and made.

Recorded in Austin, Jack O’Brien sits down with three filmmakers for intimate conversations about their respective SXSW premiere films.

First, Jack musters up the courage to talk to one of his favorite directors, Jeff Nichols, about the Southern and Speilbergian influences in his new sci-fi film ‘Midnight Special’. Jack is then joined by writer/director/actor Linas Phillips for a wide-ranging conversation about his film ‘Rainbow Time’, and how it truthfully depicts the mentally challenged, family, and sex. Finally, Jack, along with Cracked’s Soren Bowie and Daniel O’Brien, sit down for a hilarious conversation with comedian/writer Henry Phillips about his movie ‘And Punching the Clown’ and how it farcically weaves together elements of his stand-up, his music and his real life. …

What is this bizarre structure found in the Egyptian desert? UFO hunters speculate after strange building is spotted on Google Earth

• The complex was spotted in barren landscape east of Egypt’s capital Cairo
• Video pointing out the bizarre building was posted online by UFO hunters
• Some say it could be a missile launch site, a nuclear bunker or a sand farm

A bizarre structure in the Egyptian desert and visible on Google Earth has sparked a wave of speculation among UFO hunters.

The strange complex, in barren landscape to the east of the capital Cairo, features two long pointed buildings surrounded by mysterious circles.

Its futuristic design has prompted a range of suggestions over what it is used for – with some even believing it has links to UFO research. …

A fleet of trucks just drove themselves across Europe

About a dozen trucks from major manufacturers like Volvo and Daimler just completed a week of largely autonomous driving across Europe, the first such major exercise on the continent.

The trucks set off from their bases in three European countries and completed their journeys in Rotterdam in the Netherlands today (Apr. 6). One set of trucks, made by the Volkswagen subsidiary Scania, traveled more than 2,000 km and crossed four borders to get there.

The trucks were taking part in the European Truck Platooning Challenge, organized by the Dutch government as one of the big events for its 2016 presidency of the European Union. While self-driving cars from Google or Ford get most of the credit for capturing the public imagination, commercial uses for autonomous or nearly autonomous vehicles, like tractors from John Deere, have been quietly putting the concept to work in a business setting. …

10 Ways Scientists Are Working To Make You Lazy

Since the first man stepped out of his cave and into the sunlight, we’ve striven to never again repeat that horrible experience.

Through the millennia, we’ve tried many ways to avoid the terrors of going outside or having to slightly move our muscles. The Egyptians tried using slave labor, but alas, the slaves complained and ran away. The Europeans brought us the Industrial Revolution, but still, we were forced to sit at machines and flip a bunch of switches.

Even now, scientists are still striving toward this goal. We’re constantly coming up with new innovations, all in the hopes of eliminating the need to use our arms to pick things up . . . and we’re getting closer every day.

10. A Drug That Mimics The Effects Of Exercise

People give you all kinds of weird advice when you first start exercising. They say things like, “Be careful you don’t get addicted,” as if there’s a risk that a sane person will enjoy working out. And you know scientists don’t want to lift weights any more than the rest of us. That’s why they’re working on a pill to replace exercise.

They’re making progress, too. Scientists have analyzed the signals our bodies send out during exercise by scanning people doing cardio. Using this information, they’ve made a blueprint of what our bodies do when we work out, and they’re coming up with ways to create the same reaction with a pill.

The most successful “exercise pill” so far seems to be a man-made molecule called “compound 14.” Simply explained, it tricks the body into thinking it’s tired, as if it’s just run a marathon. Believing it’s exhausted, the body cranks up the metabolism, causing you to lose weight. …

The Physics Behind Another Bogus Perpetual Motion Machine

I am thinking about adding another rule to my Perpetual Motion Guidelines. Currently, I only read crazy idea emails if they meet the following:

• First, the author must have read my guide about emails.

• Second, the author shows that the machine runs in isolation (no external influences).

• Third, the machine must be a new idea (not one that has been demonstrated before).

• Fourth, no conspiracies.

I am considering adding this: If the perpetual motion machine is super-popular, I might look at it even if it doesn’t meet all other criteria. This is where the See-Saw Balance falls. It’s popular enough that I am going to point out how silly it is. …

The 50 most amazing moments in pop history (that never actually happened)

Bowie producing Elvis, Pharrell saving Jacko, Kanye and Lady Gaga’s Fame Kills tour. The history of music is littered with what-might-have-beens. Here are some of the best …

It’s only natural to celebrate the music world’s towering achievements. The greatest albums ever released? Let’s have a list. The most thrilling tours and collaborations the world has ever seen? It’s time for a countdown. The most exciting singles in the history of human endeavour? Sounds great – let’s have a multi-page, gallery-style roundup that looks as if it won’t have Bohemian Rhapsody in the Top 3 but always does. But what about the best pop moments the world has never seen? The songs that were never recorded, the ideas that were never realised, or the meetings of minds whose minutes amount to no more than a list of apologies for absence? At the time of writing, Sia’s song Cheap Thrills is heading to No 1. It was originally written for Rihanna, and along with the rest of Sia’s current album This Is Acting, which consists entirely of songs rejected by other artists, Cheap Thrills is a portal to a parallel pop dimension where every “no” in pop history is a “yes”, where every fiasco of a recording session is a roaring success, where record labels throw caution to the wind and where Rihanna sometimes says yes to a perky toe-tapper. …


In the world of professional gambling, there is a well documented hot streak of near-mythical status referred to by many as “The Run”. During this streak, a man known as Archie Karas turned $50 into $40 million by primarily shooting pool and playing poker in Vegas. What makes this run so infamous is that, after winning more money than most people could spend in a lifetime, Karas lost it all in the span of a few weeks.

The Run began in 1992 when Karas (aka: Anargyros Karabourniotis) drove to Las Vegas with approximately $50 in his pocket. The then 41 year old had originally come to America from Greece via working aboard a cruise ship as a waiter. Before that, he ran away from home at the age of 15 after his father attacked him with a shovel. Once in America, he developed prodigious skill at both pool and poker, and several times made himself a millionaire via gambling in California, only to lose much of it shortly thereafter. Notably, directly before his famous trip to Vegas, he managed to accumulate over $2 million before losing most all of it playing poker. Rather than quit, he decided to head to Vegas to try his luck there. …

Video Goodnesses
(and not-so-goodnesses)

“Pizza might be an Italian invention, but it is a worldwide phenomenon. Pizza has managed to evolve from a simple, rustic food item to something much more impactful. For many it is a comfort food, something that can cause an actual psychological reaction. And it is also a product, heavily branded and resold on t-shirts, hats, socks, etc.”

CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.