Before joining Mother Jones, Matt was a local reporter for the dearly departed Washington Examiner. He has also written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Chicago Public Radio, and the Times of Trenton.
On Wednesday, at the end of a day dominated by reports that his aides had gleefully shut down a bridge as payback to a political rival, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took a moment to apologize. Sort of. "What I've seen today for the first time is unacceptable," Christie said in a statement. "I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge." The political apology (or non-apology, as the case may be), is an art form. But as with other art forms, its intricacies are often lost on the general public.
Below are excerpts from some of the more infamous apologies made by American politicians and Rob Ford. Can you match the apology to the offender?
Got a second cousin twice-removed you suddenly remembered to add to your holiday list? You could go the cash money route, but consider slipping in a suggestion to spend that $15 or $20 on one of these game titles playable on a desktop or laptop, or gift the game yourself through Steam, which is like an app store for video games you can play on the computer. (Note that some titles are available only for Mac or Windows.) And you don't have to be a "gamer" to thoroughly enjoy these games: we've picked out titles sure to intrigue a whole host of personality types, from the stoic John Wayne-wannabe to the 90's obsessed. Get ready to be the coolest aunt/uncle/whatever this xmas.
Kentucky Route Zero
Great for: old souls, Western movie lovers, road trippers
Still from Kentucky Route Zero Cardboard Computer
It starts normally enough: you're a truck driver for an antique store in town, and you've been driving up and down a windy stretch of Kentucky highway trying to make your last delivery for the night and head on home. A wrong turn onto a secret highway steers you into a mysterious, slowly unfolding world that's equal parts Gabriel Garcia Marquez and No Country For Old Men, with a Bonnie Prince Billy-inflected score, your trusty old hound dog, and a cast of colorful local characters along for the ride. With no combat violence, lots of freeform and pleasantly tangential conversations between characters, and only moderate emphasis on solving puzzles and unraveling the game's central mystery, the game doesn't feel like a "game" so much as a meditation on the romantic pull and and shadowy charm of the open road. Note that the game comes out in installments: Acts I and II have been released on the desktop gaming platform Steam. Read more at gaming site Polygon.
Great for: mystery lovers, riot grrrls, the 90's obsessed
Still from Gone Home Fullbright Company
You know that creepy feeling when you're in your own house and the lights suddenly go out at night, and you find yourself blindly feeling your way through the one place in the world you're supposed to know best? Gone Home brilliantly evokes complicated domestic feelings, like coming home after a long time away, or watching your parents and siblings grow and change into people you hardly know, or suspecting that your family history includes a few blindspots perhaps better left in the dark. You're Katie Greenbriar, a recent college grad just returned from a European summer vacation, and your family moved to a new house while you were traveling. You show up at the new address but no one's home, which is strange. You begin exploring the huge, cavernous house, hallway by hallway, trying to figure out where everyone is. The game is set in the 90's, so your missing family members have left behind a slew of riot grrrrl mixtapes, answering machine messages, and newspaper clippings for you to puzzle over. The storyline is gut-punchingly sweet and poignant, with beautifully written plotlines involving teen sexuality, middle-aged restlessness, and both the joys and the terrors of familial devotion. A massively successful, low-budget indie game title from a very small studio, Gone Home is being hailed as a game-changer (ahem) that proves that when it comes to conflict in games, matters of the heart can inflict some seriously deep hit points.
Great for: stargazers, control freaks, anyone still mourning "Firefly"
Still from FTL Subset Games
Would you cut the power from your medical bay if it meant your shields could be saved? Would you rob a crew member of oxygen if it meant putting out a fire that could end even more lives? These are some of the choices facing you in FTL, where randomly generated encounters with hostile aliens, pirates, and the always-advancing rebel armada mean no two playthroughs are the same. FTL plays almost like a board game where to strategy involves shuffling crewmembers around to tend to shields, weapons, and other ship components as you take turns duking it out with (or flying the hell away from) enemy ships. For that Oregon Trail feel, don't forget to name your crew after your friends so you can let them know when they've been shot/incinerated/captured by pirates.
Great for: Pixar fans, the child-at-heart, the nature lover
Still from Botanicula Amanita Designs
If Charlie Chaplin had stuck around for the digital age, he would have loved Botanicula. The game doesn't contain a single line of dialog but takes a major cue from the pre-talkies: multitudes of hope and desire are emoted through little gestures and subtle glances, and it's impossible not to root for the central characters, even if they are just a bunch of bugs. Our heroes—five assorted forest crawlers with little in the way of special abilities or weapons—live happily among the branches and leaves of a lushly glowing tree, but it's slowly being sucked dry by a malignant spidery force. They skitter around the tree branches trying to diagnose the problem, making their way through a delightful series of scenes and puzzles that evoke a beguiling blend of Alice in Wonderland, PeeWee's Playhouse, and Pixar movies all at once. A great game experience for the resolutely non-gamer, especially for its widely hailed soundtrack, which perfectly matches the delightfully carnivalesque backdrops and the cutely frenetic animation.
You wake up to a message on your answering machine telling you to go do some "clean-up work" at a hotel downtown. You drive over, put on a rubber unicorn mask, and proceed to murder every armed thug inside with a combination of baseball bats, machetes, automatic weapons, and your own bare hands. Welcome to Hotline Miami, a neon-lit, 80s-inspired action game as drenched in synth as it is in blood. One wrong move and you're dead, so expect to replay levels a lot as you puzzle through the perfect way to kill your way through each seedy locale. you'll also be puzzling through the point behind all this violence thanks to the mysterious messages and masked visitors you receive along the way.
Great for: art students, the indecisive, anyone with time on their hands
Still from Braid Jonathan Blow
Braid puts you in control of time itself—you can slow things down, freeze, and rewind—as you make your way through a series of increasingly difficult puzzles. Don't let yourability to rewind away death and failure fool you, though. Braid gets very challenging, particularly for those who just want to stop and admire the beautiful scenery. Stick it through for the story's mind-bending conclusion, which upends the damsel-in-distress storyline that has persisted in video games from Donkey Kong onward.
After a string of failures in the real world, the Central Intelligence Agency is turning its attention to Azeroth.
ProPublica, the Guardian, and the New York Times reported jointly on Monday that the CIA, the NSA, and British intelligence agencies infiltrate online games like World of Warcraft and Second Life, to seek out scientists, engineers, embassy workers, and other foreign operatives who could be recruited as spies .
The documents obtained by the three news organizations give no evidence that monitoring online games have led to the capture of any terrorists. But the CIA's real-world spying isn't going well either, a gaggle of former agency officials told the Los Angeles Times Monday.
The CIA's $3 billion overseas spying program depended heavily on operatives given "non-official cover," or NOCs, who typically pose as businesspeople and gather intelligence from foreign universities, businesses, and local hotspots, the paper reports. But NOCs and those recruiting them face a myriad of challenges. For starters, the CIA has trouble finding NOCs with language skills—and if you can't speak passable Pashto, you're probably not going to uncover much intelligence in Pashto-speaking parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In some cases, NOCs take advantage of their special status, billing the CIA for unjustified time and expenses, the former CIA officials told the paper. And NOCs, who have no diplomatic immunity, are often kept out of more dangerous locations by their handlers, limiting the amount of useful information they can obtain. "If you're a high-grade agency manager, are you going to sign off on a memo that puts Joe Schmuckatelli in Pyongyang?" one former case officer told the Times.
The CIA's reliance on NOCs has damaged its overseas spying efforts, the officials told the paper. In Iran, for instance, authorities exposed American operatives despite fake identities working for CIA-created front companies. And Iran wasn't an exception: One official told the paper he knew of only three successful NOCs in his 23 years as a case officer. Maybe focusing some more attention on World of Warcraft is a good idea after all.
John Harvey Kellogg, a member of the mostly vegetarian Seventh-day Adventists, creates a peanut-based "meatless meat," Nuttose, which becomes popular at sanitariums. He goes on to popularize cereal as an alternative to egg- and meat-heavy breakfasts.
In his essay "Fifty Years Hence," Winston Churchill writes, "We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium."
Seventh-day Adventists found Loma Linda Foods, which makes some of the first commercially available soy- and wheat-based fake meats.
A struggling vegetarian food manufacturer called Turtle Island Foods sells 500 Tofurky Roasts. By 2012, 3 million have been sold.
Gardenburger sees sales surge afterit airs a 30-second, $1.5 million animated commercial featuring the voice of Samuel L. Jackson during the Seinfeld finale.
Boca Burger ratchets up ad spending from $500,000 to $4 million; Worthington Foods (which acquired Loma Linda) pours $5 million to promote its FriPats and Choplets. Gardenburger boosts spending to $18.2 million.
Burger King introduces the BK Veggie Burger. McDonald's, which sold nonmeat burgers in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and India throughout the '90s, launches a US version the following year.
Dutch scientists make the world's first lab-grown burger from cow muscle cells, fetal calf blood, and antibiotics. In a live-streamed tasting, the patties are pronounced "close to meat" but "not that juicy."
"It looks like science fiction, but it's real." That's how Amazon, the online retailing giant, describes its new plan to deliver blenders, spice racks, and sex toys in 30 minutes or less via drone. On Sunday, CEO Jeff Bezos announced that his company is in the process of testing these new delivery drones and aims to have them ready by the time the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected to open up US airspace to unmanned aerial vehicles in 2015. But after that date, Amazon's blender-delivering drones will still face big obstacles, such as the states and cities that are hostile towards drone use; potential accidents with passenger planes; GPS and privacy concerns; and roving bands of laser-wielding package bandits.
While many states are vying for the right to be official FAA drone test sites, others are doing their best to make their skies unwelcome to drones. Both Idaho and Texas have passed laws that restrict private citizens from using drones to take photos—and it's likely that Amazon drones will need to be equipped with cameras, according to the Washington Post. Another seven states have jumped on the drone-banning bandwagon, by stopping law enforcement (but not private companies) from using them for surveillance. There are also a number of cities and counties that are considering making their air spaces "drone-free zones." Charlottesville, Virginia, Iowa City, Iowa, and St. Bonifacius, Minnesota, have banned drones for at least two years. Syracuse, New York, considered a bill in October that would have banned drones but decided to hold it until the FAA regulations shake out. And a Colorado town even considered issuing drone-hunting licenses.
Here's a map showing which states have passed legislation restricting drone use, put together with help from the National Conference of State Legislatures and the ACLU. Many other states have introduced bills that are still under consideration, so check your own state legislature for more information:
Currently, FAA rules prohibit drones from carrying people or property for compensation and only allow them for "important missions in the public interest" like search and rescue, patrolling the border, and firefighting. Unmanned aircraft are also prohibited from airspace over major urban areas—because of a higher likelihood of accidents with traditional aircraft, and other obstacles, such as buildings and power lines. When the FAA lifts drone restrictions in 2015, Amazon drones would likely be traveling in urban areas, given that they can only fly within 10 miles of a distribution center, many of which are located in the suburbs of major cities. But cities aren't likely to be any less dense in two years, raising the possibility of collisions. The FAA is still working on how to safely implement drones in urban areas—particularly by employing sensor technology—but it's still a legitimate concern, given that drones have already crashed into a lake, a Navy ship, and Manhattan.
If Amazon can find a way to make drones work while avoiding cities or airplane flight paths, the company would still need to implement very precise GPS directions to ensure each package goes to the right place. (In many places, a foot or two can mean the difference between your front door and the sidewalk.) The Washington Post points out that technology isn't precise enough yet to let drones fly themselves, so one option would be to have pilots fly drones via computer, to avoid GPS mishaps. But that would require them all to have cameras, creating a slew of new privacy concerns: "We need rules so that we can enjoy the benefits of this technology without becoming closer to a surveillance state," saysAllie Bohm, an advocacy and policy strategist for the ACLU.
Finally, there's also the prospect of thievery. All it could take is an effective drone-destroyer—a hunting rifle? laser weapon? laser pointer?—for a bandit to be watching your movies, wearing your slippers, and making smoothies in your blender. Amazon claims that by 2015, it "will be ready" to unleash delivery drones in US skies—but America probably won't be.