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This Girl's Yearbook Quote Has the Most Amazing Feminist Message

| Fri May 29, 2015 9:14 AM EDT

Before leaving high school, Caitlyn Cannon, a 17-year-old who just graduated from Oak Hills High School in California, gifted her senior class with an amazing yearbook quote that nails feminism and sticks up for LGBT rights—all in just one line:

Her powerful message has since gone viral. Cannon, who describes herself as both "feminist" and "really gay" on Twitter, told the Huffington Post, "I was tired of seeing the same old quotes from popular books and movies and authors, and I wanted to call attention to a problem that women face. I've never really been ashamed to say that I am gay, so the LGBT aspect was simply who I am."

The future is looking so bright.

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Havana Nights, Indoors

| Fri May 29, 2015 9:00 AM EDT

Friend of the blog Jay Jaroch recently spent some time in Cuba. Here's the third of three posts about what he observed while he was there.


One of the nice things about getting out of LA is taking a break from listening to your friends talk about all the television shows they can’t believe you’re not watching. I’m not sure I’ll be accepted back at work until I’ve turned in my term paper on the Mad Men finale. In terms of getting a reprieve, I figured Cuba was as good a place as any.

Little did I know that many Cubans are binge watching the same shows we are.

“I watched all seasons of Dexter,” one Havana man told a wide-eyed me. “Now I’m watching The Following. You like The Following?”

“Which one is that?” I asked.

“With Kevin Bacon.”

“Oh, right.”

Homeland, Game of Thrones, Orange Is the New Black—you name it. They may be a few episodes behind your friends in the states, but not by much. In a country where cable and satellite dishes are banned, and internet service is mostly confined to hotels and about as functional as the dial-up days, Cubans get their favorite shows via something called “the package.” Basically, it’s a cross between Netflix and a drug deal—for a small fee and a handshake, someone will hook you up with a flash drive full of Hollywood.

“You order what you want to see, which season, and a few days later you get the package,” a guide in Havana explained to me. “With Spanish subtitles. A good way to learn English.”

It was technically illegal, but also ubiquitous. And apparently Raul’s government doesn’t care.

“As long as you are not bringing in pornography, they don’t bother you,” the guide said.

(Cuba takes their anti-pornography laws seriously. My surly immigration official asked me only two questions: had I been to any Ebola affected areas, and was I bringing in pornography? One got the sense that you could have just about anything in your bag so long as it wasn’t an old copy of Swank.)

Another option in Havana was to watch TV in one of the better hotels, some of which were equipped with cable for their international clientele. One man I met seemed to be more up on American television than I was, and I work in television. I almost wanted to say “Clear eyes, full hearts!” just to see if he’d yell, “Can’t lose!” back at me.

Don’t worry. I didn’t.

This is new territory, and not for Hollywood—we’re used to having our product stolen and distributed on foreign streets. As recently as a few years ago, getting any sort of American dispatch, much less television, would have been impossible in Cuba. In 2006, at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana (what passes for our embassy) we began broadcasting news and pro-American messages from an electronic ticker we’d installed at the top of the building. In response, Castro’s government erected 140 flagpoles in front of the ticker so Cubans couldn’t see the messages. Now, in 2015, Cubans are freely downloading American Idol, or any of our wonderful shows about pawn shops.

Change is afoot, and there’s certainly more to come. As I sat waiting for my flight out of José Martí Airport, half of the lights in the terminal flickered, and then went out. None of the electronic screens worked, and there was little evidence that they ever had. An announcement came over the loudspeaker telling us that the air conditioning was also out, and that they were working on it. No one seemed surprised at any of this. We all just continued fanning ourselves with our boarding passes.

As my Cubana plane finally arrived at the gate, I noticed an American Airlines plane was landing on the runway. It seemed appropriate. In Cuba, nobody knows what kind of change is on its way. But everyone knows that it’s coming.

Watch Sepp Blatter Lash Out Against FIFA's Critics in 2013

| Thu May 28, 2015 9:54 PM EDT

In October 2013, at the Oxford Union, FIFA president Sepp Blatter took aim at critics who viewed soccer's international governing body as "a faceless machine printing money at the expense of the beautiful game." (He also mocked Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo for how much he spends on his hair.) Blatter told the crowd:

There are those who will tell you that football is just a heartless, money-spinning game or just a pointless kick about on the grass. There are those who will tell you that FIFA is just a conspiracy, a scam, accountable to nobody and too powerful for anyone to resist. There are those who will tell you of the supposed sordid secrets that lie deep in our Bond villain headquarters in the hills above Zurich, where we apparently plot to exploit the unfortunate and the weak. They would have you believe that I sit in my office with a sinister grin, gently stroking the chin of an expensive, white Persian cat as my terrible sidekicks scour the earth to force countries to host the World Cup and to hand over all of their money. You might laugh. It is strange how fantasy so easily becomes confused with fact. And it feels almost absurd to have to say this. But that is not who we are. Not FIFA. Not me.

(You can watch the whole speech below—It's very long! He talks very slowly!—but the key bits are in the video up top.) 

These words resonate now, as Blatter sets his sights on a fifth term at the head of the organization amid pressure and criticism following a series of corruption-related charges on senior FIFA officials that have roiled the sport.

But remember that "Bond villain headquarters in the hills above Zurich" Blatter was talking about? Well, Swiss photographer Luca Zanier snapped a photo of FIFA executive committee's boardroom in Zurich, and it looks villain-esque. John Oliver even likened it to the war room in Dr. Strangelove.

 

Here is Blatter's full speech, courtesy of the Oxford Union:

Health Update

| Thu May 28, 2015 6:53 PM EDT

I spent all morning up at City of Hope for a follow-up appointment with my transplant doctor. My counts all look good. My white blood count is 5500 and my ANC count is at 2800. Both are right in the middle of the normal range, which means my immune system is rebounding as expected. That's very encouraging.

On the actual cancer front, the lab results are frustratingly hazy. The key thing my doctor wants to see is a big drop in my M protein level. Today I got the results from two weeks ago (it takes a while for the lab to do this particular test), and my M protein level had dropped from 1.0 to 0.38. The good news is that this means I responded to the chemotherapy. The hazier news is that it hasn't dropped to zero, as we'd like it to. I won't have the results of today's test until next week, but hopefully it will show a drop that gets me close to zero. Following that, around the end of June, I'll have a biopsy that will provide firm results on how well I responded to the chemo.

So....we wait. I'm not super thrilled with the 0.38 number, but my doctor assures me that this might represent nothing more than old cells lying around that haven't quite died off yet. We'll see.

Beyoncé's "Single Ladies" Music Video Set to the DuckTales Theme Song Is Amazing

| Thu May 28, 2015 6:42 PM EDT

This is so perfect. I love it so much. I love Beyoncé and I love the DuckTales and I love whoever made this video and I love America and I love the internet and I love George Washington for founding this wonderful country.

Editor of Leading Conservative Magazine Declares That "Some Black Lives Don't Matter" to Activists

| Thu May 28, 2015 4:45 PM EDT

Rich Lowry, editor of National Review magazine, has a plan for restoring stability to America's currently troubled inner cities: Arrest and imprison more black people. It's basically a long-running conservative argument, but can we get real for a minute about how he's making it?

Here's the profoundly cynical and callous way that he's decided to tweak some social media language to argue in Politico that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is "a lie." Its supporters, he suggests, are opportunistically anti-police and don't otherwise care about inner city deaths that don't make national news:

That high-octane trolling is accompanied by an equally cynical take on the underlying problem. Baltimore reportedly saw an uptick in murders in recent weeks, which Lowry blames on police "shrinking from doing their job" in the wake of upheaval over Freddie Gray's death in police custody. The city's "dangerous, overwhelmingly black neighborhoods," he writes, "need disproportionate police attention, even if that attention is easily mischaracterized as racism. The alternative is a deadly chaos that destroys and blights the lives of poor blacks."

Never mind that a rising awareness of policing problems in America may also have something to do with acute underlying socioeconomic ills, which, you know, destroy and blight the lives of poor blacks.

Lowry's theme ignores the reality of what many Americans have found so outrageous about the cases that have drawn national media attention. Say, the fact that the white cop who instantly shot a 12-year-old black kid and then watched him bleed out on the pavement without providing any first aid still hasn't been questioned by investigators six months after the killing. Or the fact that a black woman whose family called 911 in need of mental health assistance for her ended up dead from police use of force less than two hours later.

Perhaps Lowry should spend a little time watching these 13 videos from the past year that show mostly white cops killing mostly black men who were mostly unarmed. They are a kind of vivid, disturbing evidence that may well bring some different hashtags to mind.

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The Artist Behind the "Hope" Poster Is Mad At Obama

| Thu May 28, 2015 4:07 PM EDT

Shepard Fairey's hopes are dashed.

Fairey, the artist who created the iconic "Hope" poster during Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, says in a new interview that he is disappointed by Obama's performance as president.

While discussing his new web series "Rebel Music" with Esquire, Fairey was asked if Obama had lived up to the poster's expectations. He answered, "Not even close." Fairey explained: 

Obama has had a really tough time, but there have been a lot of things that he's compromised on that I never would have expected. I mean, drones and domestic spying are the last things I would have thought [he'd support]. I've met Obama a few times, and I think Obama's a quality human being, but I think that he finds himself in a position where your actions are largely dictated by things out of your control.

Don't expect him to look to copyrighted Associated Press photos to create an image for Hillary, either. A jaded Fairey says that while he agrees with her on most issues, the "campaign finance structure makes [him] very angry."   

And with this, the street artist may have provided the Republicans with the perfect tagline come 2016: Democrats, a hope deferred!

Americans Now Approve of Suicide, But Only With a Doctor's Note

| Thu May 28, 2015 10:59 AM EDT

Via Matt Yglesias, here's an interesting Gallup poll measuring American attitudes toward a variety of social behaviors. Unsurprisingly, there's been a general shift leftward. Support is higher than it was 2001 for gay relations, sex between unmarried partners, medical research on human embryos, etc. Here's the full table, with the result I found oddest highlighted in red:

Note that the moral acceptability of suicide has gone up slightly, but it's still very low. Less than one-fifth of the country approves of it. But doctor-assisted suicide is a whole different story. More than half of all Americans approve of it.

I'm not quite sure what this means. Does approval by a guy in a white coat really mean that much to most Americans? Is there an assumption that "doctor-assisted" means that everything possible has been done to talk the patient out of suicide? Or is there an assumption that doctor-assisted suicide is always for people with end-stage diseases that leave them in constant pain?

I'm not sure. In any case, it's also worth noting that public opinion has barely budged on several hot button issues. In particular, support for abortion, cloning, marital affairs, and the death penalty remains virtually unchanged over the past 15 years.

Jon Stewart Blasts 24 Years of FIFA Corruption that "Started a Jennifer Lawrence Ago"

| Thu May 28, 2015 9:34 AM EDT

"For years, and I say this with all due respect, American soccer fans have stood by while the media obsesses over other sports crimes and scandals," Jon Stewart said on "The Daily Show" Wednesday. "Well now finally, soccer is getting its perp walk."

Stewart was, of course, addressing this week's stunning FIFA indictments that have sent shockwaves within the international sports community over allegations of routine corruption and kickbacks by FIFA's top officials.

"FIFA is so bad they got arrested by the SWISS, a country whose official policy on Nazi gold was 'We'll allow it,'" he explained.

But such allegations are far from new. Stewart went on to question why investigators took 24 years—or as he put it into perspective a, "Jennifer Lawrence ago"—to finally crack down on officials.

As for big banks long dogged by corruption allegations, Stewart says we may have to wait another 24 years for the Justice Department to start doing something—anything!—to punish shady bankers.

Watch below:

 

Cubans Really Don't Like Marco Rubio

| Thu May 28, 2015 9:00 AM EDT

Friend of the blog Jay Jaroch recently spent some time in Cuba. Here's the second of three posts about what he observed while he was there.


For obvious reasons, it can be difficult to get a Cuban to open up about their political views. It usually took some time to establish trust, and a certain amount of privacy. Sharing a few rum drinks didn’t seem to hurt either.

But they often did open up, especially when I offered to answer any questions they had for me. And the one question virtually everyone had was this: is Hillary Clinton going to be the next president? When I’d tell them I gave her a 75%-80% chance of winning based on demographic trends alone, they’d exhale. It wasn’t because they had any particular love for Hillary Clinton. It’s that they expected that she would continue Obama’s Cuba policies, whereas a Republican president would reinstate the full embargo. So, viva Hillary.

The more interesting thing, to me, was that they saved a particular brand of venom for Marco Rubio. Cab drivers, bartenders, artists—everyone seem to have something to say about Marco Rubio, and none of it was kind. A few suggested that as a Cuban-American Rubio should display some concern for economic struggles of every day Cubans, or to at least recognize that he was afforded an opportunity that millions of poorer Cubans never had, namely having parents who moved to the United States before Castro took over. (Or as Rubio used to tell it, barely escaping the revolution while Castro personally shot at their raft.) The fact that he was pledging to double down on the embargo was a pledge to make their lives worse, to deny them the new hope they’ve been given these last few years, all to suck up to the aging exile community in Florida.

Yes, I found something Cubans don’t like about America—it’s where Marco Rubio lives.

President Obama, on the other hand, received a fair amount of praise. According to a recent Gallup survey, Obama enjoys a 80% approval rating among Cubans. And it was pretty obvious why. “I loved Obama when he was elected,” one man in Havana told me. “Then I hated him when he turned out to be like every other president. But now, I like him again.”

Not surprisingly, when it came to their view of American politics and politicians, the embargo was a bit of a litmus test. Opinions on our Cuba policy ranged from anger to bewilderment. One man in Cienfuegos asked me, “Why do you bother? You have all the money. We are a poor island. Only 11 million people. Why do you care?”

Another made a smart point. “Our government blames all our problems on you. If you don’t have the embargo, then who can they blame?”

A visit to the Museo de la Revolución in Havana drove the man’s point home. Before you even exit the lobby you come to the Rincon de los Cretinos, or “The Corner of the Pricks.” Four panels featuring cartoon versions of Fulgencio Batista, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, each with a note of thanks translated into three languages.

On George W. Bush’s panel the note read, “Thank you cretin for helping us MAKE SOCIALISM IRREVOCABLE!”

Socialism was misspelled.

Next: How Cubans binge-watch American television.