Mixed Media

No, Saudi TV Didn't Blur Out Michelle Obama's Face When the President Met King Salman

| Tue Jan. 27, 2015 5:32 PM EST

Twitter is hopping right now about how Saudi TV allegedly blurred Michelle Obama's face, thanks to this YouTube video:

Only it's bullshit. The YouTube uploader appears to have added the blur, not some Saudi TV network.

(Here is another video the YouTuber uploaded that's blurred.)

This version shows no such blur:

 

Nothing is real on the internet.

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Check Out the Adorable Creatures and Gorgeous Vistas Obama Wants to Protect in Alaska

| Tue Jan. 27, 2015 7:00 AM EST
Dall sheep are one of the 250 animal species that depend on the coastal plain in ANWR.

On Sunday, President Obama announced that he will call on Congress to increase the protection of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by adding more than 12 million acres of it to the National Wilderness Preservation System—the highest level of conservation protection. If Congress signs on, which is pretty unlikely, it would be the largest wilderness designation since the Wilderness Act, signed in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The refuge covers nearly 20 million acres and contains five distinct ecological regions. It is home to at least 200 species of birds, 37 land mammal species, eight marine mammal species, and 42 species of fish. There are plenty of political reasons why Obama wants to protect it, but here are a few of the ecological ones:

ANWR
The coastal plain provides spring grazing for caribou and other mammals. Associated Press
Conservationists argue that oil and gas drilling in the coastal plain would threaten the millions of birds that nest there. USFWS
MUSKOX
The furry musk ox—the Inupiat's call it "omingmak" ("the bearded one")—lives on the coastal plain year round. USFWS
There is a unique ecosystem of animals—that includes the arctic fox—that have adapted to survive in ANWR. USFWS
Tundra swan
Tundra swans rely on the remote and undeveloped refuge to nest. USFWS
Caribou
Caribou migrate through the coastal plain. David Gustine/USGS
According to the US Department of the Interior, oil and gas development could pollute water resources in ANWR. USFWS
ANWR is an important denning area for polar bears. Alan D. Wilson
The Alaska marmot, considered highly vulnerable to changes in habitat, calls ANWR home. USFWS

To hear Obama talk about the importance of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, watch this video:

Here's How Much You Should Tip Your Delivery Guy During A Blizzard

| Mon Jan. 26, 2015 4:45 PM EST
A delivery cyclist battles through mounting snow in Brooklyn's Flatbush neighborhood in New York City last February.

As you may have heard, a blizzard is about to destroy life as we know it on the Eastern seaboard. Your children, your children's children, their children's children will all learn of this snowfall in stories. If a normal snowstorm is, as the wise men used to say, "God shedding a bit of dandruff," then what we are about to experience can only be described as, well, God shedding...a lot of dandruff? An avalanche of dandruff? One or two revelations of dandruff? We're going to be knee-deep in God's dandruff, is what I'm saying.

If, like mine, your fridge is bare of everything but the essentials (Tabasco, old Bloody Mary mix, a few jars of pickles) then you're probably hoping to make it through this thing via one of two ancient ways: 1) master-cleanse or, 2) Seamless. Assuming you take the second door, the question becomes: What do you tip a delivery man during a blizzard? What is morally acceptable?

Let's first dispense with the question of whether or not it is ever acceptable—regardless of gratuity—to order delivery during a blizzard. Leave that to the poets and the ethicists. It doesn't matter in the real world. People order delivery more during bad weather. Them's the facts. You are going to order delivery in bad weather.

During really bad weather like blizzards and apocalypses, a lot of restaurants nix their delivery offerings altogether—and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has banned all non-emergency vehicles, including delivery bikes, after 11pm Monday night. But the ones that manage to stay open—and in this case are willing to deliver on foot well into the night—reap the benefits of constrained supply. If this were Uber, it would result in surge pricing to get more restaurants delivering. But since GrubHub and its parent company Seamless don't do that—and they shouldn't unless there is some way of ensuring that the increase goes to the delivery person and isn't pocketed by the owner—we're thrown into this sort of state of moral worry. You know in your bones that the guy who brings you pizza in sub-zero weather should get more than the guy who brings you pizza when it's 68 degrees and sunny. But how much more?

GrubHub Seamless crunched the numbers on tips during last year's polar vortex and found that residents in some zip codes increased their tips by as much as 24 percent, but on the whole, New Yorkers raised their normal tipping amount by a meager 5 percent. In the Midwest, however, where the temps dipped especially low, gratuities rose higher, to 14 percent in Chicago and 15 percent in Detroit and Minneapolis. Maybe the stereotypes are true and Midwesterners really are the nicest people in the country.

So, more. Tip more. How much should you tip a delivery man in a blizzard? More. More than you usually tip. Whatever you usually tip, tip better. Are you a good tipper normally? Become a great tipper. Are you an awful tipper? Become a just-bad tipper. (Also, you're a very bad person, and no one likes you very much.)

Want a strict system? Don't trust your heart to lead you to the right amount? New York magazine can help. Last year they spoke to Adam Eric Greenberg, a UC San Diego Ph.D. who co-authored an empirical analysis on the relationship between weather and tipping. Here's what he told them:

When the weather is bad, be a bit more generous by tipping 20 to 22 percent. If it's raining outside, tip 22 to 25 percent. If there's any snow accumulation, add a dollar or two on top of what you'd tip if it were raining. Having to work as a delivery guy during a blizzard is similar to getting stuck with a party of 20 as a restaurant server, so if you hear weather forecasters promising a "polar vortex, " a 30 percent tip is not outrageous.

So, there you have it: 30 percent. Anything under 25 percent and you go to Hell.

In This Hopeful New Video, UNICEF and Electronic Artist RL Grime Tackle the Horrors of Child Marriage

| Mon Jan. 26, 2015 10:00 AM EST

Every year around the world, more than 14 million girls are wed, typically to much older men, before they turn 18. The child brides, who more often than not are forced into these marriages by their parents, find themselves socially isolated and more likely than older wives to be beaten by their husbands or in-laws. In Chad, where nearly 70 percent become child brides, girls are more likely to die in childbirth than attend secondary school.

RL Grime
"Before UNICEF approached me, I was unaware of this epidemic," RL Grime told me. Andi Elloway

This new video, a collaboration between UNICEF and the electronic music producer RL Grime, tells the story of a child bride who meets a sad end—but with a twist. Featuring Grime's haunting new song "Always," the video will be used in the African Union's #ENDChildMarriageNOW campaign to highlight how children and communities suffer when girls marry too young. It "transmits a very strong message because it shows a too common reality in the life of many young girls," says UNICEF's Chad representative. "The video, at the same time, also shows an alternative story full of hope. It portrays the crucial role education can play in empowering girls and the collective change needed in the society to end child marriage."

According to UNICEF, giving girls better access to education, offering economic incentives and support for families, and implementing legislation to restrict child marriage are all crucial to solving the problem. But the first step is simply to make people aware of it.

RL Grime, whose real name is Henry Steinway, and whose tracks have clocked millions of listens on YouTube and SoundCloud, was happy to help. "Before UNICEF approached me, I was unaware of this epidemic of child marriage that is plaguing Chad and other places globally," he writes in an email. "So when they came to me with the opportunity I was happy to be involved and help shed light on a very real world topic."

He picked "Always," the opening track from VOID, his first full-length album, because he felt it evokes both the gravity of the problem and the idea of hope. "I think it's a somber yet uplifting track," he writes. "The lyric 'I feel better when I have you near me' really meshed well with the overall theme of the video, which to me hits on this sense of community."

The video has been officially endorsed by the First Lady of the Republic of Chad, who will present it to other leaders at the Summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa later this month.

The Go-Betweens, Expert Edition

| Mon Jan. 26, 2015 7:00 AM EST

Go Betweens

Led by gifted singer-songwriters Robert Forster and Grant McLennan, Australia's Go-Betweens were a jangly folk-rock combo that compiled an impressive body of work from the late '70s to late '80s, broke up, and then reunited for another strong run in the early 2000s—until McLennan suffered a fatal heart attack in 2006. While comparisons to the Velvet Underground and R.E.M. are not implausible, the band was really its own unforgettable creature, suggesting a punk group trying to play nice pop songs, but not quite getting things right. Sometimes sweet, often astringent, the duo's songs never felt pat or predictable (or truly finished), creating the sensation of hearing riveting first takes of future classics.

Compiled by Forster, G Stands for Go-Betweens contains four vinyl discs, including their first three albums and a compilation of early singles, and four CDs that offer a whopping 70 rarities, including an electrifying '82 live show. It's not for beginners—either of the early albums Before Hollywood or Spring Hill Fair makes a good starting point—but anyone who's already joined the cult will find this imposing package irresistible.

This Washington Post Headline Is the Funniest Thing You'll Read All Weekend

| Sat Jan. 24, 2015 3:31 PM EST

Got the winter blues? Well, turn that frown upside down! Here's a thing to make you smile.

In other pretend candidate news:

What a time to be alive.

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This Is Why Under-Inflated Footballs Could Have Given Tom Brady An Advantage

| Fri Jan. 23, 2015 7:20 PM EST

To those of us for whom the nuances of professional football tactics are a bit of a mystery, there was one question looming over New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's surreal Ballghazi press conference yesterday that went unanswered: What's so great, in theory, about a deflated football? Seems like, if anything, an under-inflated ball would be less aerodynamic?

Turns out, the potential benefit is all about grippiness. From Fox Sports:

John Eric Goff, professor of physics at Lynchburg College in Virginia and author of “Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports,” told FoxNews.com that the league-mandated PSI range is ideal for playing football. “If, however, there’s rain or snow or something else happening, that would make the ball a bit slicker, so having a bit less pressure in the ball makes it easier to squeeze and the grip improves,” he added.

Interesting!

Black Man Lawfully Carrying Gun Gets Pummeled by White Vigilante at Walmart

| Fri Jan. 23, 2015 5:40 PM EST

There is no shortage of debate about whether allowing citizens to carry concealed guns makes society safer. You may be shocked to learn that the answer could depend in part on the color of a citizen's skin.

Exhibit A this week, from Florida: A surveillance video from a Walmart located near Tampa shows 62-year-old Clarence Daniels trying to enter the store to purchase some coffee creamer for his wife this past Tuesday. He barely steps through the automatic doors before he is pummeled by shopper Michael Foster, a 43-year-old white man.

"He's got a gun!" Foster shouts, to which Daniels replies, "I have a permit!"

According to local news reports, Foster originally spotted Daniels in the store's parking lot placing his legally owned handgun underneath his coat. In keeping with Florida's well-known vigilante spirit, Foster decided to take matters into his own hands by following Daniels into the Walmart. Without warning, he tackled Daniels and placed him in a chokehold

Police soon arrived and confirmed Daniels indeed had a permit for the handgun. 

"Unfortunately, he tackled a guy that was a law-abiding citizen," said Larry McKinnon, a police spokesperson. "We understand it's alarming for people to see other people with guns, but Florida has a large population of concealed weapons permit holders."

Foster is now facing battery charges. 

Melinda Gates Shames Anti-Vaxxers "Who Have Forgotten What Measles Death Looks Like"

| Fri Jan. 23, 2015 5:20 PM EST

On the heels of an increasingly widening measles outbreak at Disneyland in California, where at least 28 of the people infected were reportedly unvaccinated, Melinda Gates is urging parents to take advantage of healthcare resources in the United States and get their children vaccinated.

"We take vaccines so for granted in the United States," Gates explained during an appearance on HuffPost Live Thursday. "Women in the developing world know the power of [vaccines]. They will walk 10 kilometers in the heat with their child and line up to get a vaccine because they have seen death."

In detailing the struggle parents in the developing world endure to have their children vaccinated, Gates said Americans have simply "forgotten what measles death looks like." 

Through her philanthropy work with husband Bill Gates, Melinda has long worked to help people in developing countries obtain basic healthcare treatment, including vaccine deliveries. 

"I'd say to the people of the United States: We're incredibly lucky to have that technology and we ought to take advantage of it," she added. 

In the United States, the highly contagious disease has reemerged in recent years thanks to the anti-vaccination movement and personal belief exemptions. Use of the controversial waivers is particularly prominent in California.

The recent outbreak at Disneyland has heightened the debate. According to the Associated Press, those infected range from just seven months to 70-years-old, including five park employees. 

Dr. James Cherry, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of California-Los Angeles, told the New York Times the current outbreak is "100 percent connected" to the anti-immunization movement.

"It wouldn't have happened otherwise—it wouldn't have gone anywhere. There are some pretty dumb people out there."

 

 

Netflix Just Released the Trailer for Tina Fey's New Sitcom and It Looks Incredible

| Thu Jan. 22, 2015 7:18 PM EST

Welcome to your new favorite thing. Finally, a glimpse of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt—the latest from Tina Fey and the team behind 30 Rock—which comes to Netflix on March 6. Reminiscent of the recent rash of reality TV shows like Breaking the Faith and Breaking Amish, the comedy series starring Ellie Kemper (The Office, Bridesmaids) follows a peppy former doomsday cult victim as she tries to make a new life in New York City, having been rescued from an Indiana bunker. Hilarity ensues. Alongside Kemper, it's a joy to see former 30 Rock stars Jane Krakowski and Tituss Burgess.

The first sitcom for Fey since 30 Rock was originally developed to air on NBC (co-written by NBC show-runner Robert Carlock), but it was bought up by Netflix last November. At a recent press conference for TV critics, Fey joked that the lack of network restrictions on streaming platforms was creatively liberating: "I think season two's gonna mostly be shower sex," she said, according to NPR.

For someone who has made network TV her career, the shift to streaming is a big move for Fey. But she told critics that the basics of any television series still apply on Netflix: "People still have that communal feeling when the next season of Orange is the New Black goes up. And they do want to talk about it, they do want to email about it and they do want to talk about it at work. So you still have the communal feeling of, like, 'Oh we want to see this and talk about it right now.'"

The only catch? "Its just not literally at that specific hour of the night."