Category Archives: Uncategorized

Queen Elizabeth II Formally Blesses Prince Harry & Meghan Markle’s Upcoming Wedding Here’s Everything We Know!

May 19 can’t come soon enough!!

Clearly, the royal wedding planners are working around the clock, as new deets about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle‘s nuptials drop every day. Most recently, it was revealed that Queen Elizabeth II gave her formal consent for her “beloved grandson” to marry the Suits actress.

Related: Meghan Was Kidnapped As Part Of Her Royal Training!

As Harry is (currently) fifth in line for the throne, he’s required by law to secure the monarch’s permission before wedding anyone. While we knew the approval was coming, as the Windsors are planning and hosting the lavish affair, the British queen only JUST made her consent public.

In a court circular, the 91-year-old declared:

“I declare My Consent to a Contract of Matrimony between my Most Dearly Beloved Grandson Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales and Rachel Meghan Markle, which Consent I am causing to be signified under the Great Seal and to be entered in the Books of the Privy Council.”

YASSSSS. For everything else we know about the royal wedding, be sure to ch-ch-check out the video (above)!!

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This Hit Game Was Created by a 26-Year-Old Who Doesn’t Code

Japanese frogs are proliferating across Asia. The good news is, they’re not an invasive species, nor are they real.

Tabi Kaeru, or Travel Frog, became the No. 1 downloaded smartphone app in China for almost two weeks after its debut, and is still hovering at the top of the charts in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Japan. The idea for the game came from Mayuko Uemura, a 26-year-old employee of developer Hit-Point Inc. who has never written a line of computer code.

The game’s objective is simple: pack a lunch, maybe a tent, plus a few other trip-friendly trinkets for your virtual amphibian and wait for him to come back from his travels with pictures and gifts. If the premise of gathering food and knickknacks while waiting for animals to show up sounds familiar, that’s because it is: Nagoya-based Hit-Point is behind the cat-collecting game Neko Atsume and came up with the latest hit. Both titles share DNA with Tamagotchi, Bandai Namco Holdings Inc.’s handheld virtual pet toy that became a global fad in the 90s and early 2000s.

Uemura said she was inspired by her passion for travel and the feeling of waiting for a loved one to return from a trip. 

“We are definitely making people wait, and sometimes I worry because I think: aren’t we making people wait too long?” she said in an interview. “I want to develop games that players can love. I don’t want to develop games where you have to focus too much.”

Indeed, by no means is the game fast-paced. When the frog is inside his cave-like home, he’s usually scribbling or reading a book. It’s oddly soothing. By collecting clover in the front yard, you can use it to buy food, lanterns and anything else that might help on a long trek. After wandering about for hours or even days, the frog returns with souvenirs and snapshots from his travels. That’s it. The goal is collect more stuff: for the frog to take on trips, as well as the stuff he brings back.

Even though the game is only available in Japanese, it’s been downloaded more than 30 million times following its November debut (with China making up 95 percent of that), outpacing even Nintendo Co.’s hit title Animal Crossing released around the same time, according to researcher Sensor Tower. By comparison, Neko Atsume has been downloaded 22 million times.

It’s especially popular among women, according to Daniel Ahmad, an analyst at Niko Partners. Women account for almost half of players in Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s $3 billion hit Honor of Kings. “It shows that there is a huge opportunity to target female gamers in China,” he said.

While frogs are considered a symbol of fortune and prosperity in China and parts of Asia, Hit-Point isn’t saying how much it’s made from Tabi Kaeru. While there are ads that bring in revenue, users can also purchase additional clover as currency. There’s plenty of potential; Neko Atsume’s popular feline characters are now featured in toys, books and even a movie.

“I like the attitude it carries: living a simple life, no sophistication at all,” said Chen Jiajia, an accountant at a logistics company. The 29-year-old says she checks in on her frog, named fantuan, or rice ball, a few times a day.

David OReilly, a game designer whose work appeared in the Spike Jonez film “Her,” said games are evolving beyond button-mashing and puzzle-solving. Tabi Kaeru is a good example of one that strives to calm instead of stimulate. “The internet, games, the screens we look at also need quiet areas,” said OReilly, whose titles Mountain and Everything embody that spirit. “What we think of now as games will change radically in the next 5 to 10 years as more creators enter the space.”

It still isn’t clear whether Tabi Kaeru will be a hit outside of Asia. It hasn’t generated much buzz in U.S. And while 2014’s Neko Atsume gained popularity in Japan, South Korea, the U.S. and the Netherlands, for now the traveling frog might be limited to crossing just one pond.

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    Are Earth’s Magnetic Poles About To Flip, And What Will Happen When They Do?

    There’s a renewed interest right now in Earth’s magnetic poles – specifically, whether or not they’re about to flip, and what may happen. The consequences of this seemingly rapid geomagnetic backflip may sound a little ominous, but don’t worry: we’re not sure when the next reversal will happen, and even when it does, the risks aren’t likely to be as scary as you may think.

    Let’s start with the basics.

    As Earth’s liquid, iron-rich outer core gradually cools, it sloshes around through colossal convection currents, which are also somewhat warped by Earth’s own rotation. Thanks to a quirk of physics known as the dynamo theory, this generates a powerful magnetic field, with a north and south end.

    Although 99 percent of the magnetic energy remains within the core, the slithers that escape extend into space, and spends most of its time deflecting potentially deadly, atmosphere-stripping solar wind.

    Right now, the magnetic north pole is exactly where you suspect it is; the same goes for the magnetic south pole. Both represent locales in which the planet’s magnetic field is vertical, and at which point your compass needle tries to point upwards.

    Throughout geological time, these magnetic poles have switched sides – a phenomenon known as a “geomagnetic reversal”. Although there are several hypotheses that attempt to explain this, geophysicists are still a little unsure as to why it happens. It’s clearly something to do with turbulence and chaos within the metallic outer core, but the specifics haven’t been nailed down yet.

    Either way, the last time a complete reversal happened was 781,000 years ago; dubbed the Brunhes-Matuyama reversal after its discoverers, its path could be traced through volcanic rocks that, upon forming, “froze” a record of the planet’s magnetic field arrangement in place. Prior to this point, today’s magnetic north pole was at the south pole, and vice versa.

    There was a temporary changing of the guard 41,000 years ago, but this only caused a reversal of 250 years or so before “normality” was restored. In any case, over the last 20 million years, the poles have flipped once every 20,000-30,000 years.

    Mars lost much of its atmosphere when its magnetic field collapsed. We aren’t in danger of that, though. JPL/NASA

    NASA is at pains to stress that reversals are the norm, not the exception. They’ve always happened, and always will.

    The current bemusement stems from the fact that we’re 20,000 years or so “overdue” for a reversal, and it’s true that Earth’s magnetic field has been (rapidly) weakening by about 5 percent per decade in recent times – a sign that a reversal is perhaps on its way. This, however, doesn’t mean a flip is “imminent” or “soon” in human lifetimes.

    Even if a flip is approaching, it won’t happen overnight. “Paleomagnetic evidence suggests reversals take around 1,000-5,000 years or so,” Associate Professor Phil Livermore, an expert on Earth’s geomagnetic field at the University of Leeds, told IFLScience.

    Another issue is that the 20,000-year average is pretty uncertain, and this hasn’t held throughout Earth’s history. “In terms of whether we are due for a reversal, it is not possible to say,” Livermore added.

    “Although the strength of the dipole is currently decreasing, this behavior is not anomalous,” based on the geological record. “Previous episodes of decay have not resulted in a reversal, merely a ‘blip’ in the field strength over time.”

    A reversal, or a general weakening of the planet’s magnetic field, does present some potential threats, especially if it gets as low as 10 percent of its total strength before regenerating again.

    Still, the risks are likely not to be severe. During the Brunhes-Matuyama reversal, we know from the fossil record that plant and animal life was just fine. Per NASA, there was no noticeable change in geological activity either, be that seismic, volcanic, or glacial. Earth’s rotation remained steady.

    “The main issue is what might happen to our electrical infrastructure – satellites, power grids, and so on,” Livermore noted. If dangerous space weather brings highly energetic particles along with it quickly and voluminously, they will have a far easier time getting into our atmosphere without a strong magnetic field.

    Satellites within the South Atlantic Anomaly – a notable magnetic field weak spot – are already at a high risk of damage.

    The damage really depends on the severity of the space weather; if it’s severe, and we’re unprepared, it could result in a few major, prolonged blackouts at the surface. Biological life, however, will probably be just fine. Animals relying on magnetoreception to navigate may be a tad bemused for a while, but that’s likely to be it.

    So don’t worry too much. There’s a lot of uncertainty here, but we wouldn’t bet on a surprise apocalypse.

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    8 Scientific Conspiracies That Turned Out To Be True

    The past couple of years have seen the resurgence of the conspiracy theorist, but instead of the foil hat wearing, megaphone-wielding whack job of old, the conspiracy theorist of 2018 sits behind a keyboard and sets up GoFundMe pages raising money to launch homemade rockets.

    Vaccines cause autism. Man-made climate change isn’t real. Nibiru will crash into Earth, wiping out all life. And Stephen Hawking is an imposter. There are plenty to pick and choose from. Recent research has linked this sort of behavior to gullibility and the need to feel special, but conspiracy theorists will tell you this is simply another cover-up.

    There are some occasions, however, when real life is just as strange as fiction. From sinister research programs to health-related cover-ups, here are eight examples from the annals of history that sound so extraordinary they could have been cooked up by a conspiracy theorist.

    The CIA really did experiment with mind control and psychedelics

    The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) crops up in many a conspiracy theory, but its shady reputation is not entirely undeserved. Papers released in the seventies revealed the secret service really had been dabbling in mind control, psychological torture, radiation, and electric shock therapy in a series of studies into behavioral modification known as “Project MK-ULTRA”.

    More than 150 human experiments took place between 1953 and 1964, many of which involved administering drugs to US citizens without their knowledge and consent, and under no medical supervision. The purpose of this research was to develop techniques and substances to use against the Soviet Union and its allies – think truth serums and Bourne-like super agents.

    But things get more sinister. Then CIA Director Richard Helms ordered the destruction of all records relating to MK-ULTRA in 1973, which means there is little evidence of the intelligence services’ nefarious activities around today. We know the research was responsible for at least one hospitalization and two deaths but the true cost could be much higher.

    MK-ULTRA has inspired several Hollywood blockbusters. overturefilms/Youtube

    Politicians and industry leaders purposefully misled the public over the health risks associated with smoking

    Smoking increases your risk of stroke, emphysema, infertility, and a whole host of cancers. But back in the day, Big Tobacco tried all it could to persuade consumers that cigarettes weren’t bad for you. It didn’t stop there. They even tried to convince the public that smoking was healthy. Just take a look at some of the dangerous, not to mention highly sexist, vintage ads from the sixties and earlier.

    Tobacco companies were major lobbyists and generous donors to political campaigns. Essentially, they were able to buy favor with politicians and others in positions of power, meanwhile refuting the science behind the health risks, claiming it was uncertain. It was not until the nineties – at which point, the evidence against smoking was irrefutable – that corporations began to admit there were health risks associated with cigarette smoking.

    And in 2006, after a seven-year-long lawsuit, Judge Gladys E. Kessler found the tobacco companies guilty of conspiracy, having “suppressed research…destroyed documents…manipulated the use of nicotine so as to increase and perpetuate addiction”.

    Luckies get the physician’s stamp of approval, apparently. clotho98/Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

    …and sugar

    But it wasn’t just the tobacco companies that were guilty of this kind of malevolent activity. The sugar industry also spent years hiding data and bribing scientists to keep inconvenient research under wraps, all the while advertising Lucky Charms and Kool-Aid on children’s TV.

    In 2016, a paper published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed the sugar industry had funded research in the sixties underplaying the risks associated with eating the white stuff, instead pointing the finger of blame at fat. According to the article authors, sugar bigwigs have been attempting to control debate around the dangers and merits of sugar and fat consumption for the past five decades.

    For example, a 2011 study made the shocking (and entirely unscientific) claim that children who eat candy weigh less than those that do not. Dig a little deeper and it turns out that the research was funded by the National Confectioner’s Association, a group that represents companies like Hershey and Skittles. Then, in 2015, it was revealed that soda giant Coca-Cola had funded studies linking weight loss to exercise to undermine the important role poor diet plays in obesity.  

    Companies like Coca-Cola have been covering up the health risks associated with sugar for the past 50 years. Physics_joe/Shutterstock

    The US government really did investigate UFOs

    So much for Area 51 being a fiction conceived by conspiracy theorist loons. Last year, the Pentagon confirmed that the US government had been investigating “anomalous aerospace threats”, or what you and I might refer to as UFOs.

    Between 2008 and 2011, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program received close to $22 million, which, admittedly, isn’t exactly a large slice of the Defense Department’s annual budget of $600 billion. Ultimately, the experiment came to nothing and the program was closed down – at least, that’s what official sources are saying.

    Area 51 might not be quite so crazy after all – UFO sighting 1937. Malcolm Dee/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    …and employed Nazi scientists after WW2

    For those who haven’t seen Doctor Strangelove, the film’s titular character is a former Nazi with a severe case of alien hand syndrome working as a scientific advisor to the US president, who he intermittently referred to as “Mein Fuhrer”.

    The premise seems farfetched but rumor has it he was modeled on Wernher von Braun, who was just one of the 1,600 or so Nazi scientists sent to work in the US following German defeat in World War II. The program, called Operation Paperclip, was exposed in media outlets like the New York Times in 1946.

    Some of these scientists were involved in Project MK-ULTRA. Von Braun, however, was put to work as director of the Development Operations Division of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency. He was heavily involved in the moon landing and developed the Jupiter-C rocket used to launch America’s first satellite. Before that, he had been involved in the V-2 rocket program, where he used prisoners from the concentration camps to assist him. Others in the program had similarly dodgy pasts, with some having even been tried at Nuremberg.

    Former Nazi, Wernher von Braun. NASA/Wikimedia Commons

    Water can affect the sex of frogs  sort of

    Alex Jones, the far-right radio host and conspiracy theorist of Infowars fame, claimed chemicals in the water are turning frogs gay. While there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of evidence to back up his “theory” that water is affecting frogs’ sexuality, some studies seem to suggest man-made chemicals do have an effect on a frog’s sex.

    A 2010 paper from the University of California, Berkeley, found that as many as one in 10 male frogs exposed to atrazine, a common pesticide, experience a hormonal imbalance that effectively turns them female. They produce estrogen, mate with males, and even lay eggs. More recently, studies have shown that chemicals found in suburban ponds and road salts can also affect a frog’s sex.

    While the role of man-made chemicals in the environment may be problematic from a reproductive point of view, there is nothing unnatural about animals switching sex. Shrimps, clownfish, coral, and frogs all have the ability to do so. There is also no evidence to suggest that chemicals in the water can affect human sexuality or imply the US government is trying to make children gay with juice boxes, as Jones claims.

    Painted reed frog chilling on a leaf. feathercollector/Shutterstock

    The Public Health Service watched as black men died of syphilis unnecessarily, in the name of science

    Syphilis is a nasty disease that, if not treated, can result in blindness, paralysis, and/or death, and until the discovery of penicillin, there was no cure. Still, that does not excuse the unethical treatment of poor, black men who were recruited to take part in a program to record the natural progress of the disease.

    The “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male” began operation in 1932, when 600 men from Macon County, a deprived region of Alabama, were drafted. Of those, 399 had syphilis. The men were misled and told they would receive treatment for “bad blood”, which they did not recieve.

    What’s worse, the researchers continued the experiment after penicillin became the accepted treatment for syphilis in 1945. The experiment, initially projected to last six months, carried on for 40 years. For some reason, doctors decided it was in medicine’s best interest to watch the men die a slow and painful death unnecessarily. The research came to an end in 1972, after The New York Times published a story on the study. During the trial, 28 men died of syphilis, 100 more from related causes, and 40 spouses contracted the disease.

    In the forties, similar experiments took place in Guatemala, where hundreds of men and women were purposefully infected with syphilis.

    Doctor injecting a subject with what is presumably a placebo. US government/Wikimedia Commons

    The US government did poison alcohol supplies, on purpose

    Politicians introduced Prohibition in 1920 to curb the nation’s drinking habit, but speakeasies multiplied and bootlegging (the illegal production and distribution of liquor) was widespread. Apparently, putting something in law is not enough to actually change people’s behavior, so the US government came up with a drastic, far more sinister solution: poison the illegal liquor supply.

    To do this, the government started adding toxins like benzene and mercury to alcohol in the mid-1920s. The most lethal, however, was methanol, otherwise known as wood alcohol, a substance normally found in industrial products like fuel and formaldehyde. Drinking this stuff can cause paralysis, blindness, and even death. In total, it is estimated around 10,000 people died as a result of the government’s moral crusade.

    Ultimately, even poisoning the liquor supply wasn’t enough to dampen the country’s taste for alcohol and the practice died down. Prohibition ended in 1933, but the government adopted a similar tactic in the fight against marijuana use in the 1970s.

    New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach, watches as an officer disposes of (probably poisonous) alcohol during Prohibition. Source unknown/Wikimedia Commons


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    People called Emma Watson a ‘white feminist.’ Now, she admits, they weren’t wrong.

    Emma Watson has long prided herself on being a feminist.

    And it’s not just lip service. The 27-year-old actress served as a United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador and spoke to the assembly in 2014 about the importance of gender equality. She continues to speak out about women’s rights at almost every opportunity, even while promoting her films or walking the red carpet.

    Watson is all-in, right?

    Watson speaks during International Women’s Day at The Empire State Building. Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images.

    But there’s one big problem: Watson’s brand of feminism has been really, really white.

    White womanhood come with certain privileges and often positive assumptions. Since whiteness is often the default and traditionally ignored when it comes to race and ethnicity, white women are often turned off by the idea of being called ‘white feminists.’

    In an open letter to her feminist book club, Our Shared Self, Watson admits this was her first reaction:

    When I heard myself being called a “white feminist” I didn’t understand (I suppose I proved their case in point). What was the need to define me — or anyone else for that matter — as a feminist by race? What did this mean? Was I being called racist? Was the feminist movement more fractured than I had understood? I began … panicking.

    Emma Watson speaks during a press conference to launch of the campaign ‘HeForShe’ at the United Nations Headquarters. Photo by Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images.

    Why is Watson referred to as a white feminist?

    Because like so many others, whenever she’d publicly advocated for women, Watson had largely ignored the unique challenges of women of color, who must navigate the twin burdens of racism and sexism. She’d also failed to recognize and acknowledge her own privilege and the role it played not only in her personal success, but in the upholding of white supremacist and patriarchal institutions the United Kingdom and the United States are based on.

    It would have been more useful to spend the time asking myself questions like: What are the ways I have benefited from being white? In what ways do I support and uphold a system that is structurally racist? How do my race, class and gender affect my perspective?

    Because if feminism doesn’t take racism, ableism, anti-LGBTQ aggression, poverty, and body negativity into account, then who exactly will it help? Who will get a seat at the table?

    Demonstrators take part in ‘A Day Without a Woman’ rally. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

    But this year, after fully acknowledging her own shortcomings and missteps, Watson made a point to do better — and she’s inviting all of us to join her.

    Emma Watson is not the only person, celebrity or otherwise, largely ignoring the unique needs of women of color, poor women, queer and trans women, working women, and disabled women. Calling herself out as part of the problem is significant. Making a point to improve and bringing others along is vital.

    That’s why the next book in Watson’s book club is “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge. The books discusses the role of racism in historic and contemporary Britain and offers ways everyone can confront and challenge it.

    I have since learned that being a feminist is more than a single choice or decision. It’s an interrogation of self. Every time I think I’ve peeled all the layers, there’s another layer to peel. But, I also understand that the most difficult journeys are often the most worthwhile. And that this process cannot be done at anyone else’s pace or speed.

    Watson is encouraging fellow feminists to start listening to other voices in the movement, particularly those who are marginalized. This is a big step in the right direction.  

    A women chants as people march in south London to protest against police brutality in the U.S.. Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images.

    Watson also thanked other women working in the movement for calling her out on her initially narrow view of feminism and allowing her to put in the effort to make it right. She’s already started connecting with other women of color to better understand their challenges and how she can use her privilege and status to signal-boost their work.

    As human beings, as friends, as family members, as partners, we all have blind spots; we need people that love us to call us out and then walk with us while we do the work.

    Activist Marai Larasi was Emma Watson’s guest at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards. Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.

    Because there’s more to being a feminist than carrying a witty sign or wearing a pin on your jacket.

    It’s doing the challenging ambitious work in your community and within yourself. It’s recognizing your own privileges and using them to uplift and support women who don’t get a fair shake.

    It’s knowing that all of us have work to do when it comes to creating the world we deserve — but always believing it’s possible.

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    Heres What Happens If Magnificent Bastard Mueller Gets Fired

    Bob Mueller is famously nonchalant amid life’s toughest moments. Much of that public calm stems from the fact that he’s a Magnificent Bastard and, specifically, the lessons of December 11, 1968. That day, then Second Lieutenant Mueller’s squad—part of the Second Platoon, Hotel Company, Second Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment, the so-called “Magnificent Bastards”—was on patrol in Quang Tri Province when they came under heavy fire from as many as 200 North Vietnamese troops. They almost immediately began to take casualties.

    Mueller organized a defensive perimeter and moved among his Marines, encouraging them to return fire; they fought for hours. At one point, Mueller led a fire team into enemy territory to retrieve a mortally wounded comrade. The rest of his unit survived, and he received a Bronze Star, with Valor, for his actions and leadership that day.

    That day wasn’t Bob Mueller’s first time in combat, and it wouldn’t be his last. It wouldn’t even necessarily be his most consequential: Four months later, he was shot through the leg by an AK-47.

    The time in Vietnam, though, gave him a hard-won perspective on the bureaucratic fights where he’d spend most of the rest of his career. He considers himself lucky to have survived Vietnam—and his life of public service ever since stems, in part, from that gratitude. His college classmate David Hackett never got the chance to come home, and he speaks regularly of Hackett’s sacrifice.

    Even in Mueller’s toughest moments stateside—the months after 9/11, when he was FBI director, and the 2004 hospital showdown that brought him and Jim Comey eyeball to eyeball with the Bush administration—he’s evinced a certain calm amid Washington’s slings and arrows. As FBI director, even facing the daily fears of terrorism, spy plots, and cyberattacks, he used to joke, “I’m getting a lot more sleep now than I ever did in Vietnam.”

    Still, you have to wonder how well Mueller is sleeping these days. It’s hard to imagine that he has faced a more challenging—or more potentially consequential—week than this past one, which has seen a steady series of attacks from the Trump administration and congressional Republicans on both his own investigation and the two institutions that he devoted almost his entire life to serving, the FBI and the Justice Department.

    So let’s do a quick review of recent developments in Washington and then consider a question that has yet to get a thorough airing in the coverage of the Russia investigation and its attendant sideshows: What would happen to the investigation if Mueller were to be fired?

    First, the recent barrage of developments. It’s hard to keep the hits straight; they’ve come so quickly and we’ve grown so desensitized to major, Earth-moving news stories coming and going ephemerally in the Trump Age. Just in the past 10 days, we’ve seen news that Mueller’s team has interviewed the sitting attorney general, Jeff Sessions, as well as the former FBI director Jim Comey, and begun to talk to the White House about interviewing the president himself—all signs that Mueller’s efforts are reaching a critical moment.

    Then there was the news that last summer, in June, President Trump ordered White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller as special counsel—a power that doesn’t technically belong to McGahn—and that McGahn resisted, saying that he’d resign rather than begin to implement the order, a powerful sign that the president’s own lawyer saw a corrupt intent behind the president’s direction.

    On Capitol Hill, we’ve borne witness to a fantastical pas de deux between congressmembers Devin Nunes and Adam Schiff, the top Republican and top Democrat respectively on the House Intelligence Committee, as Nunes—who last year breathlessly reported that he uncovered evidence of “deep state” malfeasance against President Trump and rushed to the White House to brief the president, only to later admit that his evidence itself came from the White House, an incident that so compromised his own integrity that he was forced to the sidelines of the Russia investigation—now claims to have singlehandedly uncovered a vast government conspiracy underway at the FBI and the Justice Department.

    And he’s managed to explain the entire plot in a four-page memo that the House is moving, in perhaps a literally never-before-used protocol, to force to be declassified. The Trump appointees inside the Justice Department say doing so would compromise critical classified information and would be “extraordinarily reckless,” but the White House, which is currently reviewing the memo, doesn’t appear to agree. (As he was leaving the House chamber after his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, Trump was overheard saying that he believed the memo should be released “100 percent.”)

    Schiff, meanwhile, has a competing memo that purportedly disputes almost all aspects of Nunes’ memo, but for equally complicated reasons his won’t be released, meaning that Nunes’ claims will, when they’re made public, be all but undisputed publicly. All of the controversy appears to have something to do with the FBI and the Justice Department’s investigation into the Trump campaign—and perhaps the presidency—and, in response, Nunes’s committee majority has informed the minority Democrats that it has now launched an amorphous and ill-defined investigation into both the department and the bureau.

    Then there was the last-minute announcement from the White House, on Monday night, that they would not enforce a new round of sanctions against Russia—sanctions required by Congress, which overwhelmingly passed the legislation—and also whiffed on creating a list of targeted Russia business leaders, cribbing a list of the country’s richest from Forbes magazine instead.

    Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s deputy director, abruptly announced his departure from the bureau on Monday.

    Pete Marovich/Getty Images

    And don’t forget the week in the life of Andy McCabe.

    First came news that FBI director Chris Wray threatened to resign if pressured to fire deputy director McCabe, a longtime Twitter target of Trump, and then the bombshell that McCabe—a longtime veteran of the FBI and a career nonpartisan law-enforcement agent—was asked directly by President Trump who he voted for (McCabe’s answer: He didn’t vote), and that Trump, separately, also berated McCabe in a telephone call and gratuitously insulted his wife. (McCabe’s answer: “OK, sir.”)

    McCabe announced his retirement early Monday, perhaps because the Justice Department inspector general is questioning whether he tried to abide by the Justice Department’s own guidelines on investigating politically sensitive matters close to an election by slowing the examination of Anthony Weiner’s laptop in the weeks before the 2016 presidential election.

    If you’re confused about how the GOP could be criticizing McCabe for appearing to aid Hillary Clinton’s campaign when deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein’s memo accusing Jim Comey and the FBI of treating her unfairly was the purported basis for his firing by Trump last May, well, you’re not alone—this investigation increasingly appears to be taking America through the looking glass.

    The Nunes memo is particularly significant because it appears to target Rosenstein, a Trump appointee who now controls the strings of Mueller’s investigation at the Justice Department.

    Following Jeff Sessions’ recusal from Russia-related matters, Rosenstein—a career prosecutor who was originally appointed as a US Attorney by George W. Bush—appointed Mueller as a “special counsel” using special Justice Department regulations, known as 28 C.F.R. § 600.4-600.10, that were implemented after the Independent Counsel Act expired following Bill Clinton’s presidency. The Independent Counsel Act, the law that spawned Ken Starr, was seen as too independent and unaccountable.

    The special counsel rules bring the investigators under closer supervision by the Justice Department—but still narrowly limit the ways and criteria by which a special counsel can be removed. Rosenstein could only remove Mueller for “misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest,” or “other good cause,” and there’s no sign that Rosenstein believes any of that is likely; last month he specifically defended Mueller’s investigation thus far and said he believes Mueller “is running his office appropriately.”

    Rosenstein—who signed the increasingly infamous memo last spring arguing that Comey had compromised the FBI’s reputation with the Clinton email investigation and had to be fired so that the bureau could be rebuilt—understands that this document appeared to undermine his own integrity, and that his reputation is now inexorably linked with defending Mueller’s probe and independence.

    Given the Republican, Trump-appointed Rosenstein’s reluctance to act to remove Mueller—himself a registered Republican who served all three of the most recent GOP presidents for almost every day of the 20 years of their administrations—there are increasing signs that the Trump administration might be moving toward smearing Rosenstein’s reputation or ousting him directly.

    How exactly they can accomplish that—and just which Justice Department official is willing to add his or her name to the history books to stand alongside Robert Bork, the executioner in Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre”—is unclear.

    Likewise, it’s not entirely clear how much firing Mueller would affect the probe, which has been underway for more than a year now—it was launched in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign—and has already resulted in guilty pleas or charges against the president’s former campaign chairman, the White House national security adviser, and two other aides.

    But given the turmoil and tumult in Washington, it doesn’t mean that Trump won’t try.

    So what would firing Mueller look like?

    By all accounts, Donald Trump is within his presidential prerogatives to order the firing of Mueller—but it wouldn’t necessarily be easy. If Rosenstein refuses a direct order from Trump to fire Mueller and is fired or resigns instead, the task would fall to Rachel Brand, the No. 3 official at Justice, who would face the same dilemma—fire Mueller or leave office. And on down the line until Trump finds someone willing to do his bidding.

    Certainly every person in that Justice Department hierarchy has already spent time thinking through what would happen if he or she got the phone call ordering a firing. They have all certainly played out various scenarios, and perhaps even discussed with staffs about where their red lines would be and what action they would take in such a historic moment.

    The reports last week that White House counsel Donald McGahn threatened to resign rather than implement Trump’s order to fire Mueller make it inexorably more difficult for anyone to give the order now. The news that McGahn told the President that he’d resign gives any Justice Department official ordered to fire Mueller by the White House the knowledge that none other than the White House’s top lawyer suspects there might be corrupt intent behind such a directive—meaning that it is tantamount to obstruction of justice and, by definition, unlawful. Such knowledge makes it much harder to be willing to be the one who signs the letter firing the special counsel, who despite all the partisan political muddying of the waters is a legend inside “Main Justice” and seen by effectively everyone outside of the GOP fever swamp as an apolitical straight arrow.

    And the Justice Department has a much deeper bench now than it did in the Nixon days.

    Most people don’t realize that during Watergate, in the midst of the Saturday Night Massacre, Robert Bork—as solicitor general, the No. 3 official, who became acting attorney general after the resignation of attorney general Elliot Richardson and deputy attorney general William Ruckelshaus—was actually pressured by Richardson and Ruckelshaus to do Nixon’s bidding and fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox. At the time, the Justice Department’s line of succession was only three deep: If Bork resigned too, it wasn’t clear who would lead the department, and Richardson feared outright chaos.

    Today, though, there are no such concerns. The line of succession is effectively infinite—though it’s complicated by how few Senate-confirmed officials are in place at the department right now. Thus each official, in turn, could decide solely based on his or her conscience and how he or she wants to be viewed by history.

    Weighing on whomever was forced to make the decision to fire Mueller is a pile of evidence that didn’t exist last summer when McGahn’s dramatic showdown played out without the public’s knowledge: Mueller’s investigation, through the guilty pleas of George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn, has established clear evidence of contacts between Russian officials and Trump campaign aides—thereby establishing that his case is not, as the president has labeled it, a capitalized “Witch Hunt.”

    President Trump may have a difficult time finding a Justice Department official willing to fire Mueller.

    Cheriss May/NurPhoto/Getty Images

    Trump could also try two other, more direct paths to forestall the investigation, each of which would be tremendously controversial in its own way: He could invoke his own Article II powers as president to attempt to fire Mueller directly—which would almost certainly get disputed in court, since the special counsel regulations grant the firing power exclusively to the attorney general or acting attorney general. He could also attempt to pardon all the targets of Mueller’s investigation. Such pardons, though, wouldn’t stop state or local prosecutors from pursuing their own charges—and, indeed, Mueller’s team appears to be leaving bread crumbs in their case work for just such investigations—and it wouldn’t stop Mueller from writing a report that could be handed over to the Justice Department to be turned over to Congress for public debate and possible impeachment proceedings.

    Either move—a direct firing or public pardons—would likely also ignite a political firestorm in Washington, though there’s little evidence that a red line exists among Republicans on Capitol Hill that they won’t let Trump barge right past. However, with a narrow one-vote majority in the Senate and midterm elections approaching quickly, Republicans can’t afford to lose much ground without paralyzing their Capitol Hill agenda for this year and risking their congressional majorities in November.

    Trump’s best path to ridding himself of the meddlesome FBI director and slowly reining in the investigation might come instead from removing Rosenstein or Sessions and appointing a new deputy attorney general or attorney general.

    Rosenstein is overseeing the case—serving as the acting attorney general in the Russia matter—because Jeff Sessions himself is a a potential target of the investigation, having met secretly with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign and then conveniently forgetting about those encounters during his confirmation process. If Sessions resigns, the next attorney general—presuming he or she is also not compromised by the Russia investigation—would be able to take control of the investigation back from Rosenstein and either fire Mueller or box in his investigation. Similarly, a replacement for Rosenstein might be more compliant to Trump’s wishes too. It is not widely understood that Mueller’s team has to keep Rosenstein, as acting attorney general, in the loop and ask permission for each additional investigative avenue it wants to pursue.

    Regardless, though, the removal of Mueller wouldn’t necessarily stop the case in its tracks. Whoever was responsible for that firing could appoint another special counsel, for one thing; it was, in fact, the work of Archibald Cox’s successor, Leon Jaworski, that led to some of the most significant court findings in the Watergate scandal.

    Even if there was no successor forthcoming, the case and investigation could and probably would continue on its own as a regular FBI inquiry.

    Starting an investigation at the FBI is a formal process, requiring agents to demonstrate evidence of a criminal predicate to move to what’s known as a “full field” investigation, and, similarly, closing an investigation requires a formal decision to “decline” charges. The “Mueller probe” isn’t actually a single case; at this point there are multiple independent investigations underway, including into Paul Manafort and Rick Gates’ former business dealings, into the campaign’s separate dealings with Russian officials, and into possible obstruction of justice around Jim Comey’s firing.

    Some of those cases were well underway before Mueller took over—it was, in fact, the early work of investigators that led to the guilty pleas last fall of George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn—and others have been launched since. All would and could continue without him. Without Mueller, the assigned FBI agents would return to the Washington Field Office and the prosecution would be placed, most likely, under the supervision of either the US attorney in DC or the Eastern District of Virginia, where the court cases are already playing out.

    Perhaps the key lesson of Mueller’s investigation thus far has been that at every step, Mueller and his investigative dream team have known more and been further ahead in their process than the public anticipated or realized. At every stage, Mueller has surprised the public and witnesses before him with his depth of knowledge and detail—and he shocked the public with news last fall that Papadopoulos had been arrested, been cooperating, and pleaded guilty, all without a single hint of a leak. The news last week that Comey himself had testified before Mueller’s team weeks earlier continues the pattern that even amid the most scrutinized investigation in history, Mueller is moving methodically forward, with cards up his sleeve to play.

    There’s no reason to believe, in fact, that Mueller—who has surrounded himself with some of the most thoughtful minds of the Justice Department, including Michael Dreeban, arguably the country’s top appellate lawyer, whose career has focused on looking down the road at how cases might play out months or even years later—hasn’t been organizing his investigation since day one with the expectation that he’d someday be fired and worked to ensure that this, his final chapter in a lifetime of public service at the Justice Department, won’t be curtailed before it has gotten to what Mueller calls “ground truth.”

    A quarter century ago, when Mueller first ended up in Washington as the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s criminal division during the George H.W. Bush administration, his aide David Margolis—a lifelong Justice Department official who came to be seen as Main Justice’s conscience until his death in 2016 after more than 50 years of service—cautioned Mueller to pick and choose his battles. If he didn’t, Margolis warned, Mueller would get chewed up by the partisan and bureaucratic bickering of the capitol. Mueller, thinking back to those days in the jungles of Vietnam, fixed Margolis with an icy stare that would become all too familiar to a generation of prosecutors and FBI agents. He replied, “I don’t bruise easily.”

    In the 25 years since, including 12 years atop the FBI, Mueller has given no indication that he’s changed. And even today as special counsel, he’s still likely getting more sleep than he did in Vietnam.

    Garrett M. Graff (@vermontgmg) is a contributing editor for WIRED and the author of The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller’s FBI. He can be reached at

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    If You Cant Say No, Youre A Slave

    Ryan Holiday’s Instagram

    Dov Charney once tried to buy me a car.

    I don’t remember what kind of car it was exactly, but I don’t think it was a particularly fancy one—a Hyundai or something like that. And there were some strings, he would buy it, and at some indefinite point in the future I’d have to take over the payments.

    Like I said, I don’t remember the exact specifics, but I remember my response: “That’s very generous of you. I appreciate it, but no, thank you. I’m OK.”

    It wasn’t just that I was perfectly happy driving a 1997 Volvo with 160,000 miles on it. It was that I have an aversion to debts and entanglements, and however well-meaning the offer was, an entanglement was certainly part of the intention.

    In his biography of Lyndon Johnson, Robert Caro tells the story of Johnson attempting to recruit a man named John Hicks to work for him. At a meeting at a diner in Austin, Johnson made his pitch: “I’m going to lend you ten thousand dollars,” he said, “And I want you to take it and buy yourself a Cadillac car. And I want you to move to a better apartment. I want you to be somebody. Furnish the apartment. Get [your wife] a fur coat. I want you to [join some local clubs] and be somebody here in Austin.”

    Hicks was surprised. How would I ever pay you back, he asked Johnson. Johnson simply smiled and said, “Johnny, don’t worry about that. You let me worry about that.”

    Certainly offers like this are champagne problems. Most people are struggling to get noticed, to get an opportunity at all. To be able to turn down a gift or a job offer is a privilege. Most of us would kill to have a future president offer us a car, and many people need a car, period. Still, this privileged position is not without its perils.

    It’s a dangerous game that goes back further than Lyndon Johnson offering a guy a Cadillac. Seneca, the Roman statesman and writer, spoke often about wealthy Romans who have spent themselves into debt and the misery and dependence this created for them. Slavery, he said, often lurks beneath marble and gold. Yet, his own life was defined by these exact debts. With his own fortune, he made large loans to a colony of Britain at rates so high it eventually destroyed their economy. And what was the source of this fortune? The Emperor Nero was manipulatively generous with Seneca, bestowing upon him numerous estates and monetary awards in exchange for his advice and service. Seneca probably could have said no, but after he accepted the first one, the hooks were in. As Nero grew increasingly unstable and deranged, Seneca tried to escape into retirement but he couldn’t. He pushed all the wealth into a pile and offered to give it back with no luck.

    Eventually, death—a forced suicide—was the only option. Money in, blood out.

    This is only a slightly more dramatic illustration of the trap we find ourselves in. We take out student loans to pay for an education that will get us a job we hope will make those crushing payments worth it. We go to the bank and ask them how much house they’ll let us buy and then we hope two people working every day for the next forty years will prove them right.

    All of us regularly say yes unthinkingly, or out of vague attraction, or out of greed or vanity. Because we can’t say no—because we might miss out on something if we did. We think “yes” will let us accomplish more, will give us more of what we want, when in reality it prevents exactly what we seek. All of us waste precious life doing things we don’t like, to prove ourselves to people we don’t respect, and to get things we don’t want.

    I read an article a few weeks ago about a law firm in Houston that pays for a private jet for its associates to fly back and forth to California. It was presented as a perk of the job: Housing prices in San Francisco are steep, so this way the employees can enjoy living in Texas while still benefiting from the brisk technology market in California. This isn’t a perk. It’s a bribe, as Upton Sinclair put it. It’s the normalization of an utterly abnormal status quo—one that to sustain, the associates have to work incredibly long hours in an incredibly unpleasant job. But once the hooks are in? It’s hard to get them out.

    The reason we work so hard is for “financial freedom.” Somehow we always seem to end up awfully unfree, don’t we? David “DHH” Heinemeier Hansson has talked about the delusion of “Fuck You Money” (having so much you can say, “Fuck you” to people asking you to do stuff you don’t want to do). How many fuck yous are we hearing from these people, he asks. The truth is: Not many. That’s the trap.

    The irony of that offer from Dov, I knew, was that he might be giving me a car but part of the reason was to make sure I wouldn’t go anywhere. Stuck with the payments, grateful for the gift, how could I question things? How could I pursue the life I wanted? The answer was that I wouldn’t be able to. And I saw that happen. Other people who hadn’t been able to say no—for personal reasons, for financial reasons, because they didn’t see the strings—to cars or green cards or apartments or positions of power were stuck when the company began to fall apart. As things spun out of control, and lines—ethical and otherwise—were crossed, they were complicit. They were blinded, too, to what they were doing.

    The ancient philosophers understood and warned against this. As Epicurus put it, “Self-sufficiency is the greatest of all wealth.” The Stoic philosopher Epictetus has said that “wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” There is also a story about Socrates. He turned down an invitation from Archelaus, the king of Macedon, because he wanted to “avoid dying a thousand deaths.” Because to him accepting a favor he couldn’t pay back, that created dependency, was worse than death. It was compromising his freedom. It was slavery.

    We instinctively grasp the difficulty of Socrates’ position because one of the hardest things to do in life is to say “No.” To invitations, to requests, to obligations, to gifts, and to the stuff that everyone else is doing. Saying yes is so easy…and it feels so good.

    Even harder is saying no to less obvious impositions: getting caught up in the status of the job, normalizing yourself at a certain level, the drama, the rush. Why are so many bands from the 70s and 80s still on the road? It’s not only the money, it’s that they need the adulation of the crowd. They can’t go back to regular life. Neither can most of us once we have tasted the forbidden fruits of power or fame or being needed.

    Freedom is the most important thing. We’re born with it, and yet many of us wake up one day surprised at the chains we wear. The reason? Because we said yes too many times and never learned how to say no.

    Only a free person can decline. Preserving this power is essential.

    It’s the difference between a life of subservience and a life of your own, as Lady Bird Johnson, LBJ’s wife knew and often struggled with herself. As Robert Caro wrote, she came to visit John Hicks after he had politely refused her husband’s offer, to let him know she respected, even admired his decision. Because she “had seen other people take their ten thousand dollars and had seen what happened to them.” But Hicks had escaped, as Socrates had escaped, as the brilliant photographer Bill Cunningham escaped and basically all the people who have done truly great work have escaped.

    Because if you can’t say no, you’re not powerful or free. You’re a slave.

    Like to Read? I’ve created a list of 15 books you’ve never heard of that will alter your worldview and help you excel at your career. Get the secret book list here!

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    34 amazing first lines of famous books.

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    The Shirk Report Volume 453

    Welcome to the Shirk Report where you will find 20 funny images, 10 interesting articles and 5 entertaining videos from the last 7 days of sifting. Most images found on Reddit; articles from Facebook, Twitter, and email; videos come from everywhere. Any suggestions? Send a note to

    20 IMAGES

    He fell back asleep!
    10 years later… | and 10 years after that
    A holiday classic
    Day 10, family still hasn’t noticed
    SpaceX – 2002 vs 2017
    Hey Mister can you get the ball for us?
    Now who’s blown away
    Jim was never good at estimating crowd sizes
    Kind regards
    My work here is done
    Swirls glass
    Video games are getting so realistic these days
    Hard to watch
    The power of art
    This hit me hard
    Wait for the drool
    Until next week


    Apple admits slowing older iPhones, says it’s to prevent battery issues
    Silicon Valley Techies Still Think They’re the Good Guys. They’re Not.
    Inside the Home of Instant Pot, the Kitchen Gadget That Spawned a Religion
    The Fascinating History Behind Why Jewish Families Eat Chinese Food on Christmas
    The Top 10 Books Of 2017, According To Everyone
    Meet the Man Who Has Lived Alone on This Island for 28 Years
    Using Airbnb isn’t fun anymore
    The Insane True Story Of How “Titanic” Got Made
    The Greatest Leap, Part 1: How the Apollo fire propelled NASA to the Moon
    Deliverance From 27,000 Feet (thanks for sharing Mr. Huble)

    5 VIDEOS + AC/DC


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    Game Of Thrones’ Final Season Won’t Air Until 2019!

    You thought the dry spell between seasons six and seven was rough, Game of Thrones fans? Prepare for the longest drought yet!

    On Thursday, HBO revealed the eighth and final season won’t be airing until 2019, confirming it would be moving at a glacial, George R.R. Martin pace for the remainder of production.

    This news shouldn’t come as a huge shock, however, as the final season is expected to take place over eight months.

    Production on the final six (likely Mountain-sized) episodes began in October and will reportedly run through August 2018 — a full YEAR after the season seven finale. Sounds like it will be well worth the wait!

    Related: Game Of Thrones Season 8 Script Leaks Tease A MAJOR Death!

    No specific premiere date was revealed in the premium network’s short release, which listed the writers, producers, and directors involved with the remaining episodes.

    Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will write and direct the episodes. Other writers include Dave Hill and Bryan Cogman, who is also a creator one of the Thrones prequel series currently being developed at HBO.

    So, what are fans of the show to do in the meantime? For starters, you now have time to read the books…

    [Image via HBO.]

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