May 2, 2016


Today in History: May 2, 1960

On May 2, 1960, Dick Clark wrapped up his second day of testimony before the House Subcommittee on Legislative Oversight. The subcommittee was investigating the impact of payola – the practice of providing disc jockeys with cash or other incentives to play certain records.

Clark was as engaging and earnest on the stand as he was as the host of “American Bandstand.” Rock and Roll in 1960 was still seen as an evil influence on the upstanding youth of America, but Dick Clark’s clean-cut charm while he presented himself as an “all-American businessman” who brought ”wholesome recreational outlets” to the teenagers of the U.S. had Congress eating out of his hand. Rep. Oren Harris (D.-Ark.) referred to Clark as ”not the inventor of the system, [but] a product of it.” …

Watch Carly Fiorina do a face-plant off a stage while Ted Cruz ignores her

Nothing could more perfectly capture Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) campaign than Carly Fiorina falling face-first off the stage in Indiana.

After a short speech talking about why she’s so in love Ted Cruz and a fair amount of pandering to Indiana voters, she announced the family and the candidate. Everything at this point was normal, but as you can see from the video it looks like tight quarters with people all over the stage. …


Bernie Sanders vows a contested convention despite ‘tough road’ ahead

The underdog presidential candidate in the Democratic primary admitted ‘uphill climb’ to nomination but promised to shape the party’s future

Bernie Sanders acknowledged “an uphill climb” ahead of him in the Democratic nomination race on Sunday, but vowed to continue battling against Hillary Clinton despite his diminishing chances of catching her.

In a press conference to mark the one-year anniversary of an insurgent campaign that few ever imagined, he also revealed plans for a new series of mega-rallies in California and renewed calls on the party’s handpicked superdelegates to change their allegiances before this summer’s national convention.

The Vermont senator conceded that in order for such appeals to make a difference, he would also have to win a majority of the remaining “pledged delegates”, whose votes are fixed according to election results. He would require him to win 65% of those 1,083 in remaining states to have a chance. …

10 Terrible Tales Of Murderous Identical Twins

Monozygotic twins, better known as identical twins, are the result of one zygote splitting into two embryos. Besides looking almost identical, monozygotic twins have near-identical DNA. As they grow up, identical twins have a tendency to do things together and are less likely to fight with each other than fraternal siblings. However, some twins take their bond too far and do some horrible things together.

10. Gerald And Jared Smith

Around 4:00 AM on June 30, 2014, in Fresno, California, a 35-year-old woman was beaten by two 18-year-old twins named Gerald and Jared Smith. A passerby, 49-year-old Nathan Halsted, came upon the scene while riding his bike, and he tried to intervene. That’s when the twins turned their attention to Halsted. Over the course of five minutes, the twins beat and kicked Halsted unconscious.

A car arrived on the scene, and the driver tried to stop Halsted’s beating. The Smith twins left the 49-year-old lying in the road and attacked the driver. A second car came down the road and, swerving to avoid Halsted’s bike, instead hit Halsted, who was lying in the lane. After Halsted was run over, the Smith boys fled the scene. …

John Oliver Has A Message For All The Cicadas Emerging After 17 Years Underground

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

THANKS to HBO and Last Week Tonight for making this program available on YouTube.

The cicadas emerging this summer after 17 years underground have a lot of catching up to do — and John Oliver is here to help.

With his HBO show “Last Week Tonight” off this week, Oliver posted a clip on YouTube explaining everything the cicadas have missed since 1999, when the present brood hatched and then promptly buried themselves for the better part of two decades.

And let’s just say the world is a very different place. …

Solitary confinement is ‘no touch’ torture, and it must be abolished

I spent about nine months in an isolated cell behind a one-way mirror. It was cruel, degrading and inhumane.

Shortly after arriving at a makeshift military jail, at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, in May 2010, I was placed into the black hole of solitary confinement for the first time. Within two weeks, I was contemplating suicide.

After a month on suicide watch, I was transferred back to US, to a tiny 6 x 8ft (roughly 2 x 2.5 meter) cell in a place that will haunt me for the rest of my life: the US Marine Corps Brig in Quantico, Virginia. I was held there for roughly nine months as a “prevention of injury” prisoner, a designation the Marine Corps and the Navy used to place me in highly restrictive solitary conditions without a psychiatrist’s approval.

For 17 hours a day, I sat directly in front of at least two Marine Corps guards seated behind a one-way mirror. I was not allowed to lay down. I was not allowed to lean my back against the cell wall. I was not allowed to exercise. Sometimes, to keep from going crazy, I would stand up, walk around, or dance, as “dancing” was not considered exercise by the Marine Corps. …

10 Successful Books Later Revealed To Be A Hoax

No one knows the formula for a successful book. Is it the abundance of description, or perhaps the lack of it? Is it brutally honest language, short sentences, or a bizarre story line? The answer remains wonderfully elusive, although everyone will agree that hard work is key to a book’s success.

Well, almost everyone. Every so often, a rogue writer comes along with big dreams and a sneaky scheme, duping critics and readers alike. And while some maintain honesty is the best policy, that certainly wasn’t the case for these 10 literary hoaxers.

10. Naked Came The Stranger

Naked Came the Stranger was a novel written in 1969 by a group of reporters at Long Island Newsday. These journalists were sick of poorly written, smutty novels becoming bestsellers. Wanting to prove a point about the public’s appetite for trash, editor Mike McGrady developed the idea for the hoax, coming up with the novel and its tawdry plot.

The novel centered on a suburban woman’s sexual liaisons, and each chapter focused on a different escapade (usually with a different man each time). Each of the reporters involved knew the main outline of the story and wrote one chapter each, making the plot deliberately inconsistent. In fact, submissions that were written too well were immediately rejected. …

Donald Trump Is Wrong On China–Again

Wanna be amused? Google Donald Trump China

Yes, OK, it’s election season and so we’re going to be treated to political rhetoric and a startling absence of decent economics. But Donald Trump’s claim that China is raping America is simply absurd and the claim must be treated as the nonsense that it is. China happens to be producing things that American consumers desire to have. That’s as unlike the vile and foul crime of rape as it is possible to get. Being offered what you want at a price you wish to pay simply is not comparable to forced penetration: no, not even in the wilder reaches of election season political rhetoric and the wider economic nonsenses so often spouted in this season.

But that is the comparison that Donald Trump offers us:

“Donald Trump on Sunday compared the U.S.’s trade deficit with China, which he regularly laments and vows to tackle as president, to rape.”

No, I’m sorry, this is just nonsense. But this really is what he’s saying as this clip shows:

The Nation Is Running Out of Undecided Voters

Ted Cruz and John Kasich need big wins in the remaining primaries for a shot at the nomination—too bad most people have already made up their minds.

What a week to be a presidential candidate. Ted Cruz picked former rival Carly Fiorina to be his running mate. John Kasich horse-traded Indiana for two other states. And Donald Trump actually made a policy speech.

Bold moves, fellas! After all, this is usually when campaigns enter naptime; by May, both parties normally have a presumptive nominee and are busying themselves with chair arrangements at the conventions. But as 2016 has already shown, this is An Election Like None Other. If Cruz and Kasich want a chance at winning the nomination, they have to seriously wow voters in these last handful of primaries. They’re clearly taking their best shots.

But here’s the thing: Bold, decisive campaigning only works if there are enough voters left who actually care. …


Grey L. asks: When did people start using punctuation and who invented the common marks we use?


The earliest writings, which were syllabic and/or logographic (think Mayan and Chinese), had no need for either spacing or punctuation, as each word was typically self-contained in the symbol. However, as previously demonstrated, the lack of punctuation and spacing in alphabetic writing made comprehension difficult; so hard, in fact, that in ancient Greece it was a rare feat for an individual to understand a text they were reading the first time through and the idea of reading out-loud to a group without extensive practice beforehand was also not something typically done. …

In the New Wireless Universe, You’re Finally at the Center

Project Fi just celebrated its first birthday, but it was conceived more three years ago, on Boxing Day 2012.

At the time, Nick Fox was looking for something new after 10 years working on search ads—the economic engine that drives the entire Google empire. His boss, Susan Wojcicki, suggested he talk to Andy Rubin, who led the creation of Android and still oversaw what had become the world’s most popular mobile operating system. The two of them first spoke on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, and Rubin said he needed someone to tackle an idea bouncing around his head. He wanted to rethink how phones use wireless networks, much as Google had already rethought the mobile OS. “The idea was, ‘How can we drive some innovation in connectivity?’” Fox remembers.

Fox loved the idea, in large part because of the role connectivity, as he calls it, plays in modern life. “It has become like water,” he says. “It has become so essential to what we do.” He and Rubin, who has since left Google, discussed the possibility of making calls over W-iFi networks, but they didn’t have much of a roadmap beyond that. And Fox liked it that way. He believes the best way to drive innovation is to sic a bunch of smart people on a problem and give them the time and resources they need to explore it. With Rubin’s blessing, he did exactly that.

The result is Project Fi, a new kind of wireless service Google unveiled in April 2015. …

Google’s search finds a future where devices don’t matter: It’s all AI

In the foreseeable future, we likely won’t even notice our devices. That’s the vision Google CEO Sundar Pichai cast in the search giant’s annual shareholder letter. In a section subtitled “The power of machine learning and artificial intelligence,” Pichai sets the stage for the future as Google sees it. “We’ve been building the best AI team and tools for years, and recent breakthroughs will allow us to do even more,” he writes.

This year’s shareholder letter was the first since the announcement of Alphabet last August as the Google parent company. It’s also the first time anyone other than original Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin wrote the letter. Search is what got Google started and search is Google’s future. It’s our future too, but search is already different today than it was in 1998 when Google launched, and someday it will be vastly different than it is today. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will assist and work for us in ways we can only begin to imagine. The way Nvidia’s GPU-based system trains driverless cars by watching humans drive, gathering massive amounts of data, and then creating the rules, is one very recent look at machine learning. …

American Customs The Rest Of The World Thinks Are Weird

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

Though they often seem to be lacking in self-awareness, Americans are well-acquainted with their own stereotypes. Yes, we get it; we’re loud, we’re brash, we’re fat, we love NASCAR and think everyone should speak gosh darn American. These stereotypes in a way are almost self-imposed. We see ‘Team America’ and we assume that sardonic parody of patriotism is how the rest of the world views us, but that’s not always the case.

There are tons of stereotypes about Americans we have no idea about because they’re things that are so normal to us we don’t even notice them. Take cheese, for example. We LOVE cheese, and sure, other countries love it too, but to an Easterner, cheese is a gross, spongy, smelly alien substance. We know our political system is definitely on the wacky side of things, but do we even comprehend how our election looks to the rest of the world, nervously praying Donald Trump doesn’t get the nuclear codes? …

Workers fight for dignity in Trump’s Las Vegas hotel: ‘You don’t talk to the boss’

The National Labor Relations Board has certified a union for hotel staff, but management looks likely to appeal the decision. Meanwhile, staffers reflect on their struggles to get by: ‘For Mr Trump, we’re just a number’

Maricella Olvera encounters Donald Trump on occasion, but she’s careful not to say a word. The 47-year-old cleans the penthouse at the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, where Trump, his family, and celebrity guests often come to stay. She cleans around them in silence. Trump is always uninterested.

“The policy is: you don’t talk to the boss,” she said at her small one-bedroom home, on the joyously named Sing Song Way in the city’s northern suburbs.

While Olvera may be silent at work, she and a collective of cleaners, bar workers, and kitchen staff at the Trump hotel have been a thorn in the billionaire’s side for the past year, using what voice they have to remind the public of the hypocrisy that surrounds his audacious run for the presidency and his record as an employer. …

Is Brazil Experiencing a Coup?

Why it’s so hard to know

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff during the 2014 election

Is it a coup or isn’t it? Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff claims the impeachment proceedings against her, which have now progressed from the lower house of Congress to the upper house, have “no legal foundation” and “all the features of a coup.” Vice President Michel Temer, who would succeed Rousseff if the Senate votes to remove her from office, says the process is constitutional and not a coup at all.

“I’m very worried about the president’s intention to say that Brazil is some minor republic where coups are carried out,” Temer recently told The New York Times. Crying coup has consequences when you’re leading one of the largest economies and democracies in the world.

But these days, straight-up coups are rarely carried out in any republic, minor or major. According to data gathered from 1950 through 2015 by the political scientists Jonathan Powell and Clayton Thyne, there have been no more than three successful coups per year in the 21st century. In the 1960s, that number got as high as 12. …

10 Failed 20th-Century Coups

There have been a multitude of coups throughout the past, many of which have monumentally shaped the course of history in bold and dramatic fashion. The 20th century in particular was marred by the age-old struggle for power. George Orwell chronicled these struggles in great detail in 1984, where he wrote, “We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.” Orwell’s words ring true, as power has been ripped from the grasps of many former leaders and governing bodies, only to be used in the same way or worse by others.

On occasion, though, there have been groups of people who set out to acquire power and control, only to have their attempts end in disaster, ruin, and even death. This list seeks to highlight some of the more noteworthy failed coups d’etat of the 20th century.

10. Coup Attempt Against Haile Selassie ~ Ethiopia, 1960

Ras Tafari, the man that inspired and became the heartbeat of the Rastafarian religion, was the last person crowned Emperor of Ethiopia in 1930 and took the name Haile Selassie I. Even before his coronation, Selassie was focused on moving Ethiopia into the modern era, having introduced advancements such as the printing press, cars, telephones, and an overhauled legal system. Although his continued reign would bring further progression in education, health care, and foreign affairs, the emperor failed to eliminate the class system that governed agriculture. He also held a firm grip on the country’s legal system; he essentially put up a facade of reformation even though he reportedly made revisions to the country’s constitution in 1955. Festering disapproval of the emperor’s rule began to surface and would take the form of an attempted coup in December 1960.

A group of determined military officers and associates led by brothers Germame and Mengistu Neway (commander of Ethiopia’s Imperial Guard) plotted to capture Addis Ababa (the capital) while Selassie was out of the country. General Mengistu attempted to rally the soldiers under his command by falsely claiming that there was an uprising that needed to be thwarted in the capital. With the aid of the Imperial Guard, the rebels eventually captured the crown prince and a host of government officials. They were held hostage for a number of days, and 15 of them were later killed. Unfortunately, the rebels’ plan was poorly thought out and had little support from the population as well as key government ministers and officials. It would be the demise of the coup attempt. …

Opting Out of Coastal Madness to Live a Low-Overhead Life

For some, abandoning expensive urban centers would be a huge financial relief.

Neal Gabler has been a formative writer for me: His Winchell: Gossip, Power, and the Culture of Celebrity was one of the books that led me to think about leaving scholarship behind and write nonfiction instead, and Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination was the first book I reviewed as a freelance writer. To me, he exemplifies the best mix of intensive archival research and narrative kick.

So reading his recent essay, “The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans,” was a gut punch: First, I learned about a role model of mine whose talent, in my opinion, should preclude him from financial woes. And, then, I was socked by narcissistic outrage: I, too, struggle with money! I, too, am a failing middle-class American! I, too, am a writer of nonfiction who should be better compensated!

But the more I thought about his essay, the more I realized I’m doing just fine: I live in a Tudor-style house in a tree-lined, inner-ring suburb, and I’ve built up significant equity in it. My son goes to a great school—two of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize winners are alums. I have a house cleaner. I go out to spendy restaurants about twice a week. And I always have $400 on hand in case of an emergency. …

The Astonishing Creativity of Your Genes

The code that makes cells is more complex than it once seemed.

The millimeter-long roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans has about 20,000 genes—and so do you. Of course, only the human in this comparison is capable of creating either a circulatory system or a sonnet, a state of affairs that made this genetic equivalence one of the most confusing insights to come out of the Human Genome Project. But there are ways of accounting for some of our complexity beyond the level of genes, and as one new study shows, they may matter far more than people have assumed.

For a long time, one thing seemed fairly solid in biologists’ minds: Each gene in the genome made one protein. The gene’s code was the recipe for one molecule that would go forth into the cell and do the work that needed doing, whether that was generating energy, disposing of waste, or any other necessary task. The idea, which dates to a 1941 paper by two geneticists who later won the Nobel Prize in medicine for their work, even has a pithy name: “one gene, one protein.”

Over the years, biologists realized that the rules weren’t quite that simple. Some genes, it turned out, were being used to make multiple products. In the process of going from gene to protein, the recipe was not always interpreted the same way. Some of the resulting proteins looked a little different from others. And sometimes those changes mattered a great deal. There is one gene, famous in certain biologists’ circles, whose two proteins do completely opposite things. One will force a cell to commit suicide, while the other will stop the process. And in one of the most extreme examples known to science, a single fruit fly gene provides the recipe for more than 38,000 different proteins. …


Can a plastic orb connect you to the spirit world and lift the future’s filmy veil? OUTLOOK NOT SO GOOD. Can it at least give good advice? REPLY HAZY, TRY AGAIN. Can a toy company make money selling it? SIGNS POINT TO YES!


Wartime has long been a boom time for spiritualists, mostly because people long for any news about loved ones at the battlefront. In the 1940s, a woman named “Madame” Mary Carter was capitalizing on that opportunity, plying her trade as a professional clairvoyant in Cincinnati. Her best séance stunt was one she called the Psycho-Slate, consisting of a chalkboard inside a box, with a lid covering it. When a client asked a question, Carter would close the lid, and after a short interval of muffled chalkboard scratching, she would dramatically flip open the lid to reveal the spirit world’s answer, written with chalk in a ghostly scrawl. (How she did it remains a mystery.) …

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