Your Pup’s Fur Only Protects Him So Much. Here’s How Long Dogs Can Stand The Cold.

Our dogs’ fur is very versatile in how it protects them from both the heat and the cold. But that doesn’t mean their coats can keep them safe in extreme temperatures.

Just as pets shouldn’t be left out in warm weather (particularly in hot cars) for an extended period of time, they shouldn’t spend too long in freezing temperatures, regardless of their breed. Many assume that dogs and cats do better than people in cold weather because of their fur, but according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, it’s not true. They’re just as susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia, which is why it’s important for owners to know their dogs’ limits.

So how do you determine your pup’s tolerance to the cold? It all depends on their breed and overall health. Small dogs with shorter hair and thinner coats are more likely to become cold faster than bigger dogs with thicker, longer coats. That’s why booties, sweaters, and coats made for dogs are a good idea.

“Under 30 degrees, factoring in the wind chill, it’s not going to be safe for any dog to be outside for an extended period of time,” said Dr. Kim Smyth, a staff veterinarian with Petplan insurance. “You can buy yourself a little bit of time with warm weather clothing.” If you aren’t using booties, wipe down your dog’s paws when they come inside and check their pads for redness or swelling.

Certain conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease can make it harder for dogs to regulate their body temperature. The cold can also make conditions like arthritis worse.

Besides bundling your pup up, be sure to keep an eye on him for signs of hypothermia. “Shivering would be the first sign … so you want to get these dogs inside, wrap them up in a warm towel or blanket and get them to the vet if you need to,” Smyth said

Read more: http://www.viralnova.com/cold-dogs/

Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan dies

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images

The Cranberries lead singer Dolores O’Riordan has died suddenly at the age of 46, her publicist has confirmed.

The Irish musician, originally from Limerick, led the band to international success in the 90s with singles including Linger and Zombie.

A statement from her publicist said: “The lead singer with the Irish band The Cranberries was in London for a short recording session.

“No further details are available at this time.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said the police were called to a hotel in Park Lane at 09:05 GMT on Monday, where “a woman in her mid-40s” was pronounced dead at the scene.

The death is, at this stage, unexplained.

Her current band mates in The Cranberries – Noel Hogan, Fergal Lawler, and Mike Hogan – paid tribute to the lead singer on social media.

The message said: “She was an extraordinary talent and we feel very privileged to been part of her life from 1989.”

Her publicist added: “Family members are devastated to hear the news and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”

The Cranberries shot to international fame with their 1993 debut album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? and went on to sell over 40 million records worldwide.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionDolores O’Riordan led The Cranberries to international success in the 90s

In 2017 The Cranberries announced a tour including dates in Europe, the UK, and the US.

However, in May – shortly into the European tour – the group had to cancel the remainder of the European dates as a result of O’Riordan’s health issues.

The official Cranberries website cited “medical reasons associated with a back problem” preventing singer Dolores O’Riordan from performing.

But just before Christmas O’Riordan had posted on Facebook saying she was “feeling good” and had done her “first bit of gigging in months”, leading fans to believe she would soon be performing again.

O’Riordan tweeted a picture of herself with her cat to fans in early January saying she was “off to Ireland”.

O’Riordan split from her husband of 20 years, Don Burton in 2014. She and Burton, who is the former tour manager of Duran Duran, have three children together.

The singer was arrested over an alleged air rage incident in 2014 but was released without charge, after a stewardess was reportedly attacked on a flight from New York to Shannon, County Clare.

O’Riordan was taken to hospital in Limerick after being questioned by police and later discharged.

Two years later, O’Riordan was ordered to pay 6,000 euros (£5,300) to charity for headbutting a police officer after an alleged air rage incident.

She was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2015, which she said explained why she was in a “manic” state on the plane.

In an interview in 2013 she said that she had been abused as a child, which led to her developing an eating disorder, and eventually she suffered a breakdown.

She described her family, especially her children, as her “salvation”.

Irish president Michael D Higgins called her death “a big loss”, and added O’Riordan’s work with The Cranberries “had an immense influence on rock and pop music in Ireland and internationally”.

Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar said she was probably “Limerick’s greatest ever rock star”, and that her band “captured all of the angst that came with your teenage years”.

‘Unforgettable voice’

The Kinks guitarist and singer Dave Davies paid tribute to O’Riordan, saying he was “shocked” and that he had seen her “a couple weeks before Christmas”.

He added “she seemed happy and well”.

Irish rock band Kodaline were among the first to pay tribute on social media.

Duran Duran’s official Twitter feed posted a message saying the band was “crushed” to hear of the singer’s death.

Others to pay tribute include The Late, Late Show presenter, James Corden, who said meeting her when he was 15 years old “made his day”.

Jim Corr from Irish band The Corrs tweeted offering his “deepest sympathies” to O’Riordan’s family.

A book of condolence will be opened in her home town of Limerick on Tuesday, at the city council’s headquarters.

O’Riordan, the youngest of seven children, had written her own songs since she was 12.

She joined the band while still in her teens, after spotting an advert for a female singer for rock band The Cranberry Saw Us.

Later changed to The Cranberries, the band’s most successful tracks include Linger (1993), Zombie (1994) – a protest song about bombings that took place in relation to the conflict in Northern Ireland – as well as No Need To Argue (1994) and To the Faithful Departed (1996).

O’Riordan briefly pursued a solo career after the band split in 2003, before The Cranberries reunited in 2009.


Follow us on Facebook, on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts, or on Instagram at bbcnewsents. If you have a story suggestion email entertainment.news@bbc.co.uk.

Related Topics

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-42696376

Heartbreaking: This Elderly Womans Family Thinks Shes Lying About The Fact That ALF Is A Janitor At Her Nursing Home And Sometimes Bullies Her

Between the loneliness, the health issues, and the loss of independence, life for residents of eldercare facilities can often be demoralizing. And it can be even more demoralizing when one’s most vital support systems fail them in their time of need, which is why this story is so devastating: This elderly woman’s family thinks she’s lying about the fact that ALF is a janitor at her nursing home and that he sometimes bullies her.

Wow. It really breaks your heart to hear stories like this.

Since moving into Heritage Manor Nursing Center four months ago, 92-year-old Virginia Robkin has been receiving regular—and often upsetting—visits from a custodian named ALF, an extraterrestrial creature with a sardonic and twisted sense of humor. Robkin frequently calls her family members to complain about the janitor, who has inexplicably taken a cruel interest in her and often finds little ways to harass or intimidate her, like shrieking his grotesque alien mating call right into her ear when she’s trying to sleep, but her complaints fall on deaf ears. No matter what concerns she raises, whether it’s about ALF putting her treasured belongings on a high shelf so she can’t reach them, purposefully neglecting to restock her toilet paper, or eating her beloved cat, Sprinkles, right in front of her, Robkin’s cries for help are always immediately dismissed by her family as senile delusions, despite the fact that she is still of sharp mind in her old age.

“When I told my daughter, Gloria, what was happening, she acted like I was losing my marbles and tried to get me to go to a doctor, even though I showed her proof that ALF works here,” said Robkin, explaining that she had previously linked her daughter to the staff page on the nursing home’s website, on which ALF is indeed listed, yet her daughter hadn’t even bothered to look. “She thinks I’m just being an old racist coot and calling my Haitian nurse ALF, but I would never say anything derogatory about Josué. ALF works here, and he bullies me, and it saddens me that no one will believe me.”

“Just this morning I called my son, David, and told him about how last night ALF came into my room while I was sleeping and whispered, ‘I’m gonna fuck up your tub, bitch,’ before going into the bathroom, shaving himself head to toe, and stuffing all his fur down my shower drain,” she continued. “And David hung up on me! He thought I was just rambling and got fed up. And now I don’t know who to turn to for help with my tub, because when I brought up the issue with the facility manager here, guess who he sent to unclog the drain? That’s right, ALF. I just feel so helpless.”

Sadly, Robkin’s complaints about ALF have seemingly affected her family’s willingness to engage with her, as it has been over a month since any outside visitors have come to see her. And, unfortunately, this isolation has only emboldened ALF to behave more aggressively toward her, as he recently woke Robkin up in the middle of the night to let her know that when he finishes the spaceship he’s nearly done building, he is going to take her to his home planet of Melmac and sell her to a zoo where ALF’s “thousands of children” will go every day to throw firecrackers at her.

Tragically, stories like Robkin’s are increasingly common in America, as all too often elderly individuals are neglected by loved ones who see them as burdens. We can only hope that Robkin’s family realizes that she’s not lying before ALF takes his bullying any further, because nobody—especially not a woman in her nineties—deserves to be treated this way.

Read more: http://www.clickhole.com/article/heartbreaking-elderly-womans-family-thinks-shes-ly-7191

Teenager murders his family members on New Year’s Eve, officials say

A 16-year-old New Jersey boy gunned down his parents, sister and a family friend just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, turning the family home into a bloodbath that his brother and grandfather managed to escape, authorities said Monday.

The teenager fatally shot his father, mother, sister and a family friend who also lived in the Long Branch, New Jersey home, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said in a statement. Police were called to the home around 11:43 p.m., and the suspect was taken into custody without incident, Gramiccioni said.

“We are confident that this is a domestic incident that is completely isolated,” Gramiccioni said. “It’s a terribly tragic incident.”

The boy’s name was not released, but the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office identified the deceased as: Steven Kologi, 44; Linda Kologi, 42; Brittany Kologi, 18; and Mary Schultz, 70. Schultz was identified as a “family acquaintance” by the prosecutor’s office.

The alleged suspect’s brother and grandfather were also at the home at the time of the shooting but were able to escape unharmed, Gramiccioni said during a Monday news conference.

The teenager is believed to have used a Century Arms “semi-automatic assault rifle” to gun down his family members and the family friend, authorities said. The gun was legally owned and registered to a family member, Gramiccioni said.

Gramiccioni declined to comment on the suspect’s motive or a possible mental disability when asked by reporters. He did say the attack was an “isolated” domestic incident.

“The Kologis were very caring, loving people and always looking to do fun things with their kids,” Walter Montelione, Linda Kologi’s cousin, told WCBS-TV. “He was a good kid. He was a little, you know, slow with learning disabilities, but he knows right from wrong.”

Brittany Kologi was a freshman at Stockton University in Galloway Township, N.J., where she studied health sciences, a university spokeswoman confirmed to Fox News.

“We are shocked and saddened by the reports of the death of freshman Brittany Kologi under such tragic circumstances,” Diane D’Amico, a Stockton University spokeswoman said. She added that counseling staff will be on hand for students. 

Jalen Walls went to school with Brittany Kologi and lives a few blocks away from the home. He told NJ.com that the suspected shooter was cared for by his mother as he required special assistance. 

“But he was fully functional and comprehended what we were saying,” Walls told the news outlet. 

Dave Farmer said in a Facebook tribute that he played softball with Steven Kologi and “never had an argument or disagreement since” with him.

‘I’m proud to say publicly that I knew and loved this man unconditionally and always told him when we parted, ‘I love you brotha!!!’” Farmer said. 

The teenager could be charged as an adult, officials said.

Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Long Branch Police Department have launched a joint investigation into the murders. 

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @K_Schallhorn.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/01/01/teenager-murders-his-family-members-on-new-years-eve-officials-say.html

Facebook is overhauling its News Feed so users feel better again

Facebook is re-tweaking its News Feed again. 

This time it wants to bring it back to friends and family instead of viral videos and media posts, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in a post Thursday. 

“I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions,” he wrote.

He said the change should make everyone feel better: “The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health.”

With fewer posts from businesses, brands, and media, expect to see more of what your “friends” are sharing and liking. 

Zuckerberg didn’t mention Facebook’s role in the 2016 election or Russian meddling through the platform as motivation to change what shows up on the social network.

A breakdown of the “closer together” initiative (also outlined in a video above) indicates news stories will get de-prioritized, while conversations that Facebook thinks will spark a lot of engagement will get a boost. 

To achieve a happier Facebook user base, it looks like Facebook will focus on comment-heavy posts — and not just quick comments like, “Oh no!” or “Thanks!” but lengthy (meaningful!) comments.

All those “likes” won’t mean as much as full-on engagement, which under the new rules seems to mean back-and-forth conversations. Sounds like posting links back and forth won’t count as much in the meaningfulness meter.

In other words, publishers will almost certainly see traffic drop and video views decrease.

Zuckerberg rationalized that the changes will ultimately make for a better Facebook experience, naturally, but might actually cause people to spend less time on the social network.

“I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable,” he wrote.

UPDATE: Jan. 11, 2018, 5:07 p.m. PST This post has been updated with more information about the News Feed changes.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2018/01/11/facebook-news-feed-algorithm-changes-family-friends/

4 strategies to avoid #resistance burnout

Image: vicky leta / mashable

I was listening to The Read recently — it’s my favorite podcast — and I was struck by co-host Kid Fury’s observations about reaching the end of the year and feeling tired. 

I posted how I felt on Instagram: “Can’t add one more plan tired. Hard to get excited about exciting things tired. Can’t project, assume, or read minds tired. I’m letting myself be tired, be imperfect, be how I am. It is time to hibernate and make meaning of this year, understand the lessons.”

Five hundred people gave it a heart within a few hours. People reached out to me to say they are also tired — exhausted, really. Falling out in meetings, losing things, fighting with loved ones, letting hopelessness have our tongues. 

I am a social justice facilitator, practicing and teaching a methodology called Emergent Strategy. The goal is to learn how we do justice work that is adaptive, focuses on the small things that make up all large systems, and prioritizes critical connections over critical mass. I am also a visionary fiction writer (part of the Octavia’s Brood team) and a pleasure activist, which means I believe pleasure is an important measure of freedom, and that we need to make justice the most pleasurable experience we can have. 

And, even as someone focused on ease, nature, future, and pleasure, 2017 was a daunting year. 

And, even as someone focused on ease, nature, future, and pleasure, 2017 was a daunting year. But I am still going. Movements for social and environmental justice are still moving forward. 

Which gets me curious about how we are surviving, how we are generating energy to move forward in 2018 when everything is heavy and everything hurts. 

What do we do? 

The first thing is to give ourselves lots of room and respect for whatever we have done. It got us this far. So, shout outs to alcohol, sugar, sex, and weed, which have been doing the work of comforting and numbing millions. After the 2016 election, drinking definitely became one of my coping mechanisms for that “They all want my death” feeling that has become daily life. 

I know the newness of feeling this every day is as much an indication of my privilege as it is of political change; things aren’t getting worse, they are getting unveiled. Whatever I didn’t see before this moment is a sign that I was somehow benefiting from not seeing it. It feels worse nonetheless. 

But we need to be careful about numbing. The long-term impacts of numbing move us away from the very aliveness we are fighting for, that erotic level of presence, alertness, and feeling our miraculous existence in real time. Audre Lorde taught us that, “In touch with the erotic, I become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial.”  

I wanted to offer some strategies beyond numbing that have helped me protect my aliveness. I invite you to practice these throughout 2018.

1. Reconnect with our movement ancestors. We are not the first to be in impossible conditions. And what we know is that we have survived, that our ancestors found ways to survive, to be in dignity and resistance. Focus on ancestors of your own lineage, knowing that every lineage on earth has individuals and groups who have left lessons behind. For me this year has been lit by the north star of Harriet Tubman. You might call on freedom fighters like Berta Cáceres or Bobby Sands — there are so many who inspire. Ancestors can and should humble us. 

2. Tune in to the three Gs every day: gratitude, good news, and genius. If you look, all three are within reach.

a) Start and/or end the day with gratitude. It’s a gorgeous world; pay attention to the beauty, the connection, the generosity and growth.

b) Read between the lines and find the good news. It’s always there, but it might be very small. For me, it’s often in the news of what movements for social and environmental justice are doing to resist. Boost it, grow it with your attention.

c) Our continued survival is actually a long, iterative practice of collective genius. Pay attention to the people and organizations who are doing more than reacting to the daily news or pulling each other down. Tune into the work of the Movement for Black Lives, the Women’s March, #MeToo, Cooperation Jackson, Movement Generation, #ourpowerpr, Mi Gente. These initiatives are attempting audacious, visionary, and difficult work that relies on the genius that arises from people working together across difference to address the challenges and opportunities of their real lives.

3. That thing about putting on your oxygen mask before helping others? It’s real. It’s not like other masks that hide your true face from others, which is an important distinction here. You don’t need to put anything over your truth right now to cover the emotional rollercoaster of being a human who is paying attention. But you do need to take care of yourself at a material level. Soothe without numbing, rest without guilt, hydrate to replenish your foundation, and use your body while there is still miracle in it. Hibernate: turn inward, get still, write down what you have learned from surviving the last year as well as what has been liberated within you, and what you are ready to grow. 

4. And I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t remind y’all that an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away. Remember that your body is literally wired to feel good, thread with nerves that communicate pleasure and let you know what to move toward. And you can choose between the orgasm and the orgasmic — do a massage exchange with friends, eat delicious home-cooked meals, watch comedy shows. There are so many ways to turn up your aliveness.

None of these practices are small or trite. We are in the worst of times right now. If you need to be convinced to care for your body, mind, and spirit so that you can care for your community and this planet, let’s just review the past 12 months. 

There was a period of denial and grief for many of us. Perhaps you also spent some time under a blanket, wondering why our species is so self-sabotaging and embarrassing? Maybe you too called friends to discuss where you could run to, and realized, again, that there was no place far enough, no place beyond the reach of the United States?

Those of us with an intersectional analysis of our current situation know that every uphill battle we’ve been fighting is at least twice as steep. We are looking ahead at battles around the tax plan, net neutrality, protecting the planet as a livable planet for our species, resisting a police force encouraged to unleash increased violence on our devastated vulnerable communities. All while watching 45 play nuclear roulette with North Korea on Twitter.

For those of us working to create social change, 2017 was a wild year. We take our whiplashed necks and try to keep up the pace as we run from protest to petition to planning meeting. We have held some lines, we have shown up and said no to racist bans and efforts to strip us of hard-won rights, and we have reached for each other. We’ve been surprised and excited as scientists marched and national parks workers used Twitter to resist fascist policy making.

And, in our exhaustion, we have sometimes turned on each other. Interpersonal beef drains organizational resources. Tactical differences become landmines. Places where we could learn together instead become battlegrounds that play out on social media. We long for something different but are stretched too thin to practice new approaches. We want each other to be perfect and to be transparent about our flaws. We are punitive and transformative in the same breath. 

We are in a fight for our survival and there’s no turning away from it, no turning back. 2017 was a reckoning, an unveiling. An embarrassment, yes, but it’s honest. And now we are at a very real risk of becoming too exhausted to continue our fight, our journey. 

Ella Baker taught us that “we who believe in freedom cannot rest.” 

Ella Baker taught us that “we who believe in freedom cannot rest.” I wrestle with these words all the time, because I believe in freedom, and I believe my body is a crucial part of the fight for freedom. So I interpret these words through my work. I do not rest in terms of how I work. I tirelessly show up for movements I believe in, to hold planned or unexpected hard conversations and mediations, to invite transformation in the face of frustration. I tirelessly seek out old and new ways of moving through our current paradigm and into a viable future. 

But when it comes to my body, I rest. I rest in myriad ways that allow me to show up fully for each facilitation. I ensure that I have quiet time each evening, a bath when there’s a tub, at least seven hours of sleep each night. I want to give us more permission to rest our bodies so that we don’t burn out our spirits and minds in our lifelong commitment to liberation.

It is in that spirit that I invite you to honor your ancestors and remember that they believed in you before your first breath. They believed you could generate gratitude, uplift good news, contribute to genius. Put on your oxygen mask and open to the pleasurable experiences of life. This is our moment to shape.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2018/01/12/resistance-burn-out-activism-new-year/

Nobody gave these kids a chance until one young former inmate followed his dream.

David Lee Windecher didn’t exactly have the kind of start in life that sets a person up for success.

He grew up poor after moving to the United States from Argentina in the 1970s, and, he says, “poverty led to my first arrest out of desperation.”

“It opened the door to the darkest years of my life.”

At 13, David witnessed his first murder, and the trauma of that moment led to more trouble — joining a gang for protection. He also dropped out of high school, and experienced abuse from police officers and the criminal justice system.

At one point, David had been arrested 13 times, and spent 8 months in jail — and this was all while he was still a juvenile.

David looks at a photo of himself in his youth. All images via Upworthy.

After his last arrest in 1997, David knew he needed to change.

And it was a vision of himself as a criminal defense attorney that helped drive him to do just that.

“I would always dream about standing in front of a judge with a client standing next to me, and I would win,” he says. This dream came to him while he was incarcerated — and he took that as a sign for where he was destined to be.

“This isn’t home for you,” he told himself as he sat in a jail cell.

So, he set out to find a life that felt like home — a life of supporting incarcerated youth.

He earned his GED, graduated from college, then set his sights on law school. Out of the 50 law schools he applied to, only one gave him a chance — but that one chance was all he needed.

Today, David’s a criminal defense attorney and executive director of RED Inc., a nonprofit organization he founded in 2015.

RED stands for Rehabilitation Enables Dreams, and the organization aims to engineer rehabilitation programs so that youth don’t have to fall into the cycle of going in and out of prison for the rest of their lives.

RED founder David Windecher walks through a courthouse.

There are a lot of  factors that set formerly incarcerated youth up for failure, again and again. “I spent enough time behind bars to realize that the judicial system was wronging people because of their status,” David explains. “Whether they were poor, whether they had a substance abuse issue, a mental health disorder, an academic deficiency.”

“They were limited in resource, they were in a volatile environment — how did you expect them to flourish? It’s impossible.”

To take on these obstacles, RED pursues their mission in three parts: increasing literacy, reducing poverty, and stopping youth recidivism (which means relapse into criminal behavior).

When a first-time, nonviolent, youthful offender gets incarcerated, David says, RED’s goal is “to help them get on the straight and narrow before it’s too late.”

“Without them, I wouldn’t have a second chance,” says Brian, one of the young people in the program.

RED mentee Andree describes his rehabilitation experience.

But David takes that a step further. “Most people don’t understand, it’s not their second chance. It’s their first chance — they never even had a first chance.”

The U.S. has the highest documented incarceration rates in the world — and three quarters of released prisoners go back to jail within 5 years. In Georgia, where RED operates, the incarceration rate is 32% higher than the national average.

That’s why to improve this grim picture, RED runs workshops on topics like creative writing, money management, and civil rights. They also have events to bring communities together, like flag football games, and they host guest speakers to inspire the youth.

“Some of the speakers, it was like they were talking about what I was going through,” says Brian. “If they can do it … I can do it.”

Many young people are skeptical when they first join RED – but over time, their doubts transform into hope.

“By the end of the year, they’re all saying, wait, it’s over?” David says.

As long as he’s making a difference in these young people’s lives, David knows he’s making a difference in the larger world. High rates of incarceration and recidivism negatively influence our employment rates, economy, and community safety.

Graduates of RED’s programs pose for a photo with David on graduation day.

That means that with every young person he gives hope to, David gives the rest of us some hope, too.

He began with only a limited chance for success in life. Now, with his help, youth with the same limited opportunities can make positive contributions to our world.

“We all have a purpose,” he says. “If we don’t carry out our purpose, no one else can.”

“No one is beyond redemption or hope.”

Watch David’s story, and RED Inc. in action:

The CW: Black Lightning RED

He spent his youth in and out of jail for gang related crimes. Now he wants to stop that cycle for other at-risk kids.

For more stories about community heroes, tune in to the series premiere of “Black Lightning” on Jan. 16 at 9/8c only on The CW.

Posted by Upworthy on Thursday, January 11, 2018

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/nobody-gave-these-kids-a-chance-until-one-young-former-inmate-followed-his-dream

Kentucky to add Medicaid work requirement; first state to follow Trump plan

Kentucky received the green light Friday to require many of its Medicaid recipients to work in order to receive coverage.

The Bluegrass State thus becomes the first state to act on the Trump administration’s unprecedented change that could affect millions of low-income people receiving benefits. 

Under the new rule, adults age 19 to 64 must complete 80 hours of “community engagement” per month to keep their care. That includes working a job, going to school, taking a job-training course or volunteering.

“There is dignity associated with earning the value of something that you receive,” Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said. “The vast majority of men and women, able-bodied men and women … they want the dignity associated with being able to earn and have engagement.”

“There is dignity associated with earning the value of something that you receive. The vast majority of men and women, able-bodied men and women … they want the dignity associated with being able to earn and have engagement.”

– Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin

Kentuckians also will be required to pay up to $15 a month for their insurance, with basic dental and vision being eliminated entirely. However, those benefits can be earned back through a rewards program, such as getting an annual physical, completing a diabetes or weight management course or participating in an anti-smoking program.

The change was approved Friday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The Trump administration announced Thursday it would allow for states to impose work requirements for people receiving Medicaid.

Bevin, a Republican, said the decision stemmed from concern about public health. Despite the fact that more Kentuckians have insurance, they’re not becoming any healthier, he said.

The state, along with the rest of Appalachia, falls behind the rest of the U.S. in 33 out of 41 population health indicators, according to a recent study. Bevin believes the new work requirement will help change the statistic.

Bevin’s office also stated in its proposal to Washington that the move will save taxpayers more than $300 million over the next five years, and estimated that up to 95,000 people could lose their benefits because they either didn’t comply with the new rule or they obtained jobs that pay too much money and push them out of the low-income bracket.

However, there are some exemptions to the work requirements that will be enforced starting in July and remain in effect for five years. Pregnant women, full-time students, former foster care youth, primary caregivers of children and the elderly and full-time students will not be affected.

People deemed “medically frail,” a broad term that encompasses people who are battling drug and alcohol addiction, will also be exempt.

Critics of the new plan said the changes could lead to many low-income families being denied needed coverage because of technicalities and challenging new paperwork.

Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, who represents Louisville, calling it a “dangerous and irresponsible” decision that will lead to the “financial ruin” or thousands of families that reside in Kentucky.

Medicaid covers more than 70 million people, or about one in five Americans. Currently, the largest government health insurance program does not required people to have a job or be employed to receive the benefits.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/01/13/kentucky-to-add-medicaid-work-requirement-first-state-to-follow-trump-plan.html

Yale psychiatry professor who wanted President Trump ‘contained’ vanishes from Twitter

Yale assistant professor of psychiatry Bandy X. Lee made a huge splash in the media last week after meeting with a handful of Democrats in Congress to sound the alarm over the president’s mental fitness to serve. Lee has appeared on MSNBC and SiriusXM, and pieces about her appeared in Vox, Politico, and The Guardian, all of which she retweeted, having just joined Twitter “to inform people where they may have questions.” Lee tweeted over the weekend that she was demanding a correction to a “wildly speculative and inaccurate article” in The Weekly Standard questioning her “meeting” with a Republican senator, but that tweet has disappeared, along with her entire Twitter account. The whole thing’s been shut down.

She writes in her last post:

Dear All, I was told that Twitter would be a good way to respond to mistaken notions, but I have a full-time job (also, “followers” jumping from the 20’s to the 600’s overnight is a lot to manage). So I am abandoning the idea. Please excuse–it has been nice to try this out!

So that’s all she wrote. After all, she does have a day job — not that it kept her from editing “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” or traveling to Washington, D.C. to meet with a handful of representatives about her concerns.

Looks like the Twitter asylum was too much. Oh well … at least people can still tweet about her:

Read more: https://twitchy.com/brettt-3136/2018/01/08/yale-psychiatry-professor-who-wanted-president-trump-contained-vanishes-from-twitter/

Clashes Over the Future of Gene Therapy at the US’ Biggest Biotech Meeting

For one dizzying, schmooze and booze-filled week every January, thousands of tech execs, VCs, and investment bankers grind their way through a four-day slog of panel sessions, poster presentations, networking meetings, and cocktail-drenched after-hours parties in their industry’s premier orgiastic dealmaking event. And no, we’re not talking about CES.

On Monday, the Westin St. Francis hotel in downtown San Francisco opened its doors to the 36th annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, the country’s largest biotech convention. Everyone is there either to disrupt or to be disrupted. And while some companies were there to hawk the buzziest in far-future thinking—blockchain-based everything! fully robotic operating rooms!—others came to celebrate the very real, very current progress of a field 30 years in the making: gene therapy. And the promise of a much newer technology, Crispr, to propel the long-standing field forward with even greater momentum.

After decades of setbacks, gene therapy—a loosely defined umbrella term for any technique that uses genes to treat or prevent disease—is finally here. In December, the field got its very first FDA approval with Luxturna, which corrects a defective gene in a rare, inherited retinal disease. With a half dozen more treatments in late-stage trials and an unusually open-minded FDA commissioner in Washington, the industry is expecting a flurry of new approvals this year.

Which is going to throw a wrench in the health insurance industry. Because gene therapies are one-time, curative treatments, they break the traditional insurance model, which is designed to make multiple small payments over time. “We recognize that the products in this space create reimbursement challenges to the normal way of doing business,” said Janet Lambert, CEO of the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, during her presentation Monday on the state of of the cell and gene therapy industry.

Lambert’s lobbying roadmap for 2018 includes helping insurance companies understand what to do with a new gene therapy like Luxturna, which cures blindness with a single, $850,000 injection into the eye. Ranked by sticker price, it’s the most expensive medicine in America. Spark Therapeutics, the company that makes Luxturna, argues that the six-figure price tag isn’t actually that unreasonable, if you factor in all the costs that patients with the inherited retinal disease would have racked up in a lifetime of seeking better care.

But because their clinical trial patients haven’t been followed long enough to determine if the treatment benefits are actually durable for a whole lifetime, Spark has received significant pushback from insurers. As a result, the company is already exploring a some creative new pricing models. It announced last week that it’s offering a rebate program based on the treatment’s effectiveness at 30 to 90 days and again at 30 months with one East Coast provider, and is in talks about expanding it to other insurers, Spark CEO Jeffrey Marrazzo said at JPM. He said Spark is also in discussions with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on a multi-year installment plan option. Either of these could soon serve as a model for how gene therapies might be made available to patients without cutting the legs out from under the healthcare system.

That's a problem the Crispr companies in attendance at JPM don’t have to worry about yet. But they’re hoping gene therapy will have figured it out by the time Crispr-based medicines are patient-ready and FDA-approved. The first trial in humans isn’t expected to launch until later this year. But the Big Three—Editas Medicine, Intellia Therapeutics, and Crispr Therapeutics—had other hurdles to contend with.

Over the weekend, headlines metastasized across the internet about a new study suggesting Crispr might not work in humans at all. Published on pre-print server bioRxiv by a Stanford scientist who is also a scientific founder of Crispr Therapeutics, the non peer-reviewed study found that up to 79 percent of humans could already be immune to the most common forms of Crispr, called Crispr-Cas9, which come from two strains of Staphylococcus.

The timing was pretty terrible, and all three companies’ stocks took serious hits Monday morning, even as investors crowded into ballrooms to hear Crispr execs speak. The controversy made for one of the more tense moments of a gene therapy panel, when Sandy Macrae, CEO of rival gene editing tech company Sangamo, which uses zinc-finger nucleases, poked at Crispr Therapeutics chief scientific officer, Bill Lundberg. “That’s why we use human tools to edit humans,” he said.

The crowd of about a thousand swiftly inhaled. (This is what counts as maximum drama at JPM.) But the Crispr folks swiftly pushed back on the claims that immunity will present a barrier to their pipelines, since none of them use just plain old Cas9 like it’s found in nature. They’re all making proprietary tweaks to the enzyme system that they think will make the immunity issue, well, not an issue at all.

“We’ve actually done a lot of work ourselves on this specific topic and we don’t see this as a major issue to advancing Crispr-based medicines,” said Editas president and CEO Katrine Bosley. In a presentation to investors on Wednesday, the company revealed their plans to have five medicines in human testing within the next five years. The first diseases Editas is going after include a number of inherited eye disorders. The company is also pursuing a partnership with Juno Therapeutics to use Crispr to engineer T-cells to fight off incurable cancers.

Immunity to bacterial-based gene editors won’t be an issue for the current crop of gene therapies expected to get approvals in 2018. They represent the tail ends of a long and arduous development pipeline—one that Crispr is only just beginning to enter. It might be another 30 years before anyone is arguing about the insurance implications of one-time, cure-all Crispr meds. But at least by then, there should be some good options.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/clashes-over-the-future-of-gene-therapy-at-the-uss-biggest-biotech-meeting/

6 Signs That Disney Is Trying To Take Over The World

Proven fact: About 40 percent of all your happy memories have been brought to you by the Walt Disney Company. With almost a century’s worth of wholesome entertainment, Disney has become one of the most powerful — and more importantly, most beloved — brands in existence. But behind the happy Technicolor facade, the Mouse is cooking up megalomaniac schemes even their own copyrighted supervillains would admire. Between constantly developing invasive technologies, assimilating competitors, and squashing governments like Jiminy Crickets, soon Disney will rule all media with a white-gloved iron fist. The Micktatorship is coming, and it might not be as magical as we’d like.

6

They Won’t Stop Spying On Your Children

As surprising as it is to adults who still wear Minnie Mouse sweaters, Disney’s target market remains to be children. Kids are the most prized commercial demographic of them all, embodying the holy marketing trinity of being impulsive, easily manipulated, and clumsy. That’s why we’ve created additional protections, laws, and regulations that specify that kids can’t receive the same invasive spying us adults are subjected to. But the petty laws of man have no sway over the House of Mouse, which is constantly being accused of illegally and aggressively mining minor’s private information like it’s booger-covered gold.

Disney.wikia.comThe name is cute. Less cute is the fact that they probably know Hannah’s Social Security number, too.

In the past, Disney used illegal internet trackers called “zombie cookies,” so called because they keep following you everywhere, pop back up after being destroyed, and we were collectively bored of them by the early 2010s. It did so through a widget company called Clearspring Technologies, which clearly picked its name based on how good it would sound during Senate hearings. At the request of their clients, Clearspring stalked children’s internet surfing and harvested “viewing habits, gender, age, race, education level, geographic location, sexual preference, what the users like to read, home address, phone number, health condition, and more,” which is enough info to make Disney more on the ball than an uncomfortable percentage of actual parents.

Then, in 2017, Disney itself got sued when it was discovered that 42 of their most popular apps targeted at children were in clear violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), containing malicious trackers which Disney used to sell private info to advertisers. Disney countered by saying they “look forward” to going to court, as “the complaint is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of COPPA principles” — the misunderstanding being that they think Disney gives a fuck about COPPA or principles.

Linda72/PixabayThey dont maintain a pool of voters to not get their way.

But why limit yourself to stalking kids on the internet when technology now allows you to physically track children around like they’re wayward house cats? In 2013, Disney introduced the MyMagic+ band to Disney World Orlando — a colorful microchipped wristband that serves as a visitor’s ticket, room key, and even digital wallet. Not only that, but the bands also allow the visitors to have a much more personalized interaction with the park, as they can recommend rides with short queues, tell Goofy it’s your birthday, and let you know which princesses have the fewest divorced dads circling them. And while children might be blown away by the kind of magic that lets the animatronic seagull from The Little Mermaid address them by name, that’s only because Disney is constantly slurping up all the information that the band collects, mostly without parental permission.

Though the bands were a massive success, Disney has chosen not to expand the trackers to their other resorts, acknowledging that the tech is a bit outdated. Instead, the company is experimenting with smartphone apps, which can achieve everything the tracking band does. And smartphones stay in kid’s pockets long after they’ve left a park. Speaking of which …

5

Their Theme Parks Are Practically Running The Cities Around Them

In order to keep on the right side of the law (but the wrong side of morality), Disney has obtained a lot more political sway than you might expect from a cartoon kingdom. But Disney also has real little kingdoms dotted all over the world: its resorts. And with these fiefdoms come the usual politics, like war, corruption, and the occasional peasant uprising.

The two great hospitality monoliths in the U.S. are a) casinos and b) Disney resorts. And the Mouse despises gambling, as it goes against the Disney values of having adults spend all their money and free time on taking their kids to see Moana for the 17th time. The company won’t even allow casinos on its ships, despite gambling being the most popular cruise pastime besides contracting gonorrhea.

Disney Cruise LineUntil Goofy learns to run a craps table, I want no part of this.

So how does Disney fight this greedy industry of empty pockets and jumbo shrimps? By being the champion of the people, of course. In 2017, Disney spent $650,000 lobbying to change the Florida constitution. If successful, Floridians would have to go vote on whether they approve of any new casinos being built in the state. A victory for democracy, surely, allowing the people to decide how far they want to live from a row of soiled slot stools.

But Disney isn’t interested in getting its locals the rights to vote; it wants to control exactly when, how, and what they can vote on. Only a year prior, Disney was exposed for aggressively lobbying to prevent Floridians from being able to vote on a healthcare measure that would cost the corporation money. And during the 2012 election, the corporation spent $2.5 million on getting right-wing politicians in power, many of whom were anti-casino and all of whom were pro-Disney-tax-cuts. The result? An amazing drop in crime … only around Disney resorts, with a slight increase everywhere else, as cops are busy arresting teens for smoking pot near Space Mountain instead of investigating gun violence. At this point, Disney essentially owns Central Florida like it’s the only steel mill in town. It even boasts being responsible for getting 1 out of every 50 Floridians a job — mostly in local government, it seems.

Florida Development CommissionAnd more importantly, Florida welcomes their money …”

On the other coast, Anaheim, California — locally referred to as “Disneyheim” — suffers from the same overlord issues. Disneyland is nestled inside Anaheim Resort District, its own little perfectly landscaped utopia … paid for mostly by the city itself. Since settling there, Disney has managed to finagle over a billion dollars in tax exemptions, subsidies, and other incentives by bribing city officials — or as they called it after the ’70s, donations and “personal friendships.” That’s a billion dollars Anaheim couldn’t spend on its citizens, who are suffering from a serious crime and homelessness epidemic among those not lucky enough to live in the shadow of the giant mouse ears.

But the times are a-changing. During the 2016 election, the people of Anaheim backed a decidedly anti-Disney council majority, which has already dealt the corporation a few heavy blows, like blocking a $300 million proposal for the city to build a streetcar network which would mostly make it easier to bus tourists to Disneyland. Soon, Disney might have to start actually paying for their own boondoggles. Which reminds us …

4

Disney Will Invest Billions In Things Nobody Cares About

Did you know that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been having terrible ratings? Since its first episode, the weird superhero-adjacent TV show has only been able to hang on to one-sixth of its viewership. So despite a generally well-received fourth season, ABC decided to cancel the money pit. That was a decision Disney, which owns ABC (of course), respectfully disagreed with, forcing the network to keep losing money on its mediocre Marvel property. There isn’t a clear-cut reason Disney would pull rank on a failing TV show. It can’t be the money, because Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t making any. That’s what Star Wars spinoffs are for.

Marvel TelevisionPictured: The Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. cast … probably. Were trusting Google on this one.

But it’s important to remember that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the only Marvel show on terrestrial TV that Disney owns (all the others are Fox’s, and more on that later). Therefore, it’s the only thing keeping the franchise warm for your Netflix-illiterate mom and dad in the 2.5 weeks between new Marvel movies. To that effect, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is less a show than a really expensive advertisement, or a disease vector keeping Marvel Fever’s nerd mortality rate at its peak.

But propping up a dying series for the hell of it is nothing compared to the financial sinkhole that is Pandora — The World Of Avatar. Based on a very profitable movie people forgot existed five minutes after leaving theaters, Disney spent five years and half a billion dollars making a boring blue planet come to life. Of course, this was under the assumption that Avatar would still be relevant today, before James Cameron postponed the sequels by a decade and Disney realized that half of its visitors wouldn’t have been alive yet to be disappointed by the first movie. So the finished product was less an Avatar cash-in and more a generic weird alien jungle. Disney even decided not to include any of the movie’s memorable cast, like Retired Guile, Snagglepuss Smurfette, or Man.

20th Century FoxAt least they didnt try to adapt this into the worlds creepiest FastPass.

When Pandora finally opened in May 2017, early reviews were great, but the novelty is quickly wearing off. Yet despite the public responding with a resounding “meh,” Disney greenlit the construction of two additional attractions and a themed restaurant in the area. Because it doesn’t matter what we think. Pandora Land is happening because Disney wants it to happen. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is staying because Disney wants it to stay. You will think what Disney lets you think. You will go where Disney lets you go. And you will only know the sweet freedom of death when Disney lets you die. Which will happen only after you visit Pandora. Now only $99 for a one-day pass.

3

Disney’s Video Game Division Was A Tornado Of Hubris

While it might seem that Disney can make anything happen (which sounded a lot less ominous a few paragraphs ago), it does have one white whale it’s failed to spear: video games. After years of letting others profit from its licenses, in 2007, Disney finally decided to cut out the middleman and start up its own game company. To that end, it started snatching up developers like they were part of a Steam sale, expecting to simply ride into the industry on a wave of talent and money. There was only one issue: Disney don’t game.

Virgin Interactive EntertainmentAs anyone who broke a controller over their video games can angrily attest.

When it comes to generating massive profits from movies, TV, theme parks, or toys, Disney has turned itself into such a fine-tuned predictor that it might as well be staffed by precogs. But they didn’t have the same auto-success formula when it came to video games, which meant they would have to take a few risks — a word that hadn’t been uttered at Disney since they recklessly decided to start making movies in color. To make things even more complicated for their developers, they mixed their hesitation with their tradition of being difficult to please, disregarding the fact that they were now just jerking themselves off and couldn’t settle on which hand to use.

As a result, Disney had set their new branch up to fail. They bought gaming studios known for making innovation-heavy indie darlings and had them make family friendly puzzlers, then switch mid-development to mobile games, then to free-to-play, stopping short of telling them to develop new IPs for the burgeoning cup-and-ball platform.

Square EnixSpoilers for the next Kingdom Hearts game.

After a string of flops and even more cancellations, Disney did the only natural thing a company with billions in profits, a talented group of developers, and all the time in the world to get it right can do: They shut it all down. By 2016, Disney had sunk all the companies it had bought. It even shuttered LucasArts, firing everyone and just keeping the name (because it meant something before Disney got its hands on it). It went back to selling its licenses to real game companies, so they at least stand a chance of making a decent game and the corporation can go back to bossing them around without any risk.

Which brings us to our next scheme …

2

Disney Is Using Star Wars To Extort The Media

Were you looking forward to The Last Jedi? Did you book the tickets months in advance? Did you flood your Facebook feed with Finn/Poe ship memes? Are you going to see it twice? Thrice? You’re in the theater right now, aren’t you? Well, good news! Disney noticed your love and devotion to Star Wars, and decided to use it to bully movie theaters and journalists into doing their bidding. Who ever said fandom doesn’t have power?

Because of Star Wars‘ unparalleled popularity and rabid fandom, Disney realized it could get the most out of its franchise by holding it ransom. For the privilege of screening The Last Jedi, Disney handed movie theaters a strict list of demands as if it was waiting for the pizzas and helicopter to arrive. Among the most stringent were its demand that every theater fork over 65 percent of its ticket profits to Disney, the biggest cut theaters have ever seen. Venues also had to promise to show the movie for four weeks without interruption, or else be fined another 5 percent in “Pay us, we’re Disney” tax.

LucasfilmAt least they backed off the demands for themed soda fountains.

While a four-week mandate and a mobster-level taste of the action doesn’t deter anyplace with a couple of IMAX screens and backroom full of lightsaber-colored M&Ms to shill (they’re nothing but regular M&Ms with the brown ones picked out), such demands are ruinous for small-town theaters that only have a single screen. Many of them had no choice but to not screen The Last Jedi, as it would have to count on everyone and their cattle seeing the movie several times in a row to turn a profit. So if you had to leave your moisture farm and travel several parsecs to get some porg action, you know who to blame.

But movie theaters aren’t the only ones suffering from the tyrannical yoke of the Empire’s distributors. Disney also tried to use Star Wars to quiet dissent among the rabble-rousers, i.e. journalists. Remember Disney’s shady dealings with the city of Anaheim from two bathroom breaks ago? It was The LA Times that broke that story, running a whole series exposing Disney’s corruption. As a response, Disney decided to punish the paper by banning its reviewers from attending screenings of The Last Jedi. When confronted about this, Disney reps simply stated that they would not play nice with a paper which “showed a complete disregard for basic journalistic standards,” specifically the part that warns that snitches get stitches.

LucasfilmAnd you do not want to get shanked with one of these.

It took almost the whole of film journalism to temporarily grow a backbone and refuse to review the movie for Disney to back down from its petty tyranny. Because at this point, nothing less than a whole industry can still stand up against the Mouse. And Disney has found a way to fix that, too.

1

Disney Can’t Stop Buying Up Other Companies

Like bossy kindergartners wearing princess dresses, Disney tries to control everything: the press, entire cities, even our children. But that is nothing compared to the zeal with which the corporation is taking over all of the entertainment industry. In the last decade, Disney has already vacuumed up Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm, creating a near monopoly on the concept of arrested development. And they might soon own that show too, as Disney is laying siege to its last remaining rival titan of pop culture: 21st Century Fox. Since 2017, Disney and Fox have engaged in on-again, off-again talks about one evil monolith being taken over the other evil monolith’s TV and movie departments, leaving Fox with only its two greatest tentpoles: sports bloopers and fearmongering.

Pixar… And with Pixar, theyve got a pretty strong foothold in that, too.

By absorbing Fox, Disney would obtain the last piece of a puzzle that looks like Goofy throwing a guy wearing a Wolverine shirt over a barrel, as 21st Century Fox owns literally every scrap of Marvel (X-Men and Fantastic Four) and Star Wars (A New Hope) that Disney hasn’t devoured already. Also, did we mention Fox owns Avatar and its upcoming sequels? We’re running seriously low on red string and thumbtacks over here.

ESPNAt least they dont control sports yet (except yes, of course they do).

While owning all of Marvel and Star Wars would do wonders for Bob Iger’s OCD, Fox has something a lot more valuable which Disney wants: TV shows. Buying Fox means getting their gloves on the entire back catalog of The Simpsons, Futurama, Family Guy, and more. With Fox and Pixar in its pocket, Disney would basically own most of Western animation, leaving anti-Disney people with few things to binge on besides South Park and old anime — otherwise known as a 4chan Friday night.

Studio GhibliExcept not all anime, because guess who distributes the good stuff.

And so we finally arrive at Disney’s next big step in entertainment world domination: streaming. As a business model, streaming relies on “nostalgia programming,” which is coincidentally also the term for how Disney brainwashed us into giving a crap about The Lion King, even though we haven’t seen the movie in 25 years. By 2019, Disney will have removed all of its content from Netflix so it can start its own streaming service. And between its half-dozen geek movie franchises, Fox’s TV shows, and its own century’s worth of content, it will without a doubt blow all the competition out of the water.

But this isn’t the only way Disney intends to burrow itself into the digital age. For years now, the corporation has been quietly dominating the under-12s internet with what is now called the Disney Digital Network, a string of Disney-only blogs that look like if China’s propaganda arm was run by BuzzFeed. Now it’s ready to go after the real internet prize: YouTube commenters. In 2014, it bought Maker Studios, which hosted a network of over 60,000 YouTube channels, including massively popular ones like Epic Rap Battles Of History. Disney then gutted and absorbed the studio into its new network, assimilating its 1,000 most worshiped streamers into the Disney brand, luring their massive Gen Z viewership to the Disney side of the internet like some weird reverse pedophile ring.

Which, if you’re keeping count, only leaves social media, surely a platform too chaotic and under-performing for Disney to bother with, right? Wrong. Disney has already shown a great interest in acquiring Twitter, the favorite social media app of comedians and Nazis. And the app has been struggling for a while now, and will most likely be sold off to the highest bidder. Which will be Disney. It will always be Disney. It’s only a matter of time before every moment you goof off at work, every minute you sit on the toilet scrolling through your phone, every weekend you waste binging on a show you’ve seen a million times before, you’ll get it in the face by the squiggly D.

There is no escape.

Cedric Voets really wished he’d gone on the teacup ride one last time before writing this article. You can find more of his commie ravings on Twitter.

We know you want a pair of those darn Mouse ears. Here’s a 12-pack.

If you loved this article and want more content like this, support our site with a visit to our Contribution Page. Please and thank you.

Read more: http://www.cracked.com/article_25410_6-signs-that-disney-trying-to-take-over-world.html

35+ Actors Who Underwent Dramatic Transformations For A Role

Acting, how hard can it be? Many of us have probably fancied ourselves as a bit of a star in the making who, with a bit of luck and some help memorising the lines, could quite easily play the role of a leading man or lady. As actors themselves know however, it’s a job that takes incredible amounts of skill and dedication. It often goes far beyond slipping into character to deliver a few lines here and there, wearing some make-up or perhaps a fake moustache.

Here at Bored Panda we have decided to pay homage to those actors that took their transformations to the extreme, those who undertook vast physical and mental efforts to portray their characters in the most authentic and accurate way possible. Many of these actors won prestigious awards for their work, and rightly so! Scroll down below to see and learn about the dramatic changes these stars underwent for their craft, and don’t forget to vote for your favourite!

In The Machinist (2004), Christian Bale plays the role of Trevor Reznik, a machinist with severe insomnia. The lack of sleep leads to severe weight loss, so Reznik becomes extremely thin. To be fit for the character Bale needed to look drastically thin, so he had to lose a lot of weight. He went from from 173 pounds to 110 pounds. To lose these 63 pounds, the actor followed a draconian diet: for…

In The Machinist (2004), Christian Bale plays the role of Trevor Reznik, a machinist with severe insomnia. The lack of sleep leads to severe weight loss, so Reznik becomes extremely thin. To be fit for the character Bale needed to look drastically thin, so he had to lose a lot of weight. He went from from 173 pounds to 110 pounds. To lose these 63 pounds, the actor followed a draconian diet: for almost four months he ate only one can of tuna fish and one apple per day.

This type of diet is a very low calorie diet, ensuring only around 260 calories a day. There are 194 calories in one can (6.5 ounce) of tuna in water, and one medium size apple (about 150 g) has 80 calories. The “menu” was completed with black coffee and water.

Besides the extremely low calorie intake, the foods chosen for this diet are, by themselves, metabolism boosters. Due to the caffeine content, coffee increases the metabolism. The apples are high in sugar and pectin (a soluble fiber) which dampens down the appetite.

To lose weight faster, Christian Bale exercised hard. The star’s exercise regime included intensive cardio workouts and intensive resistance/weight training workouts.

(Source: Diethics.com)

Of all the actors who had to pack on mass for a movie, few in recent memory have taken to the task with such zeal, and notable success, as Chris Hemsworth when he landed the part of Thor.

For the first film, Hemsworth hit the gym with trainer and former Navy SEAL Duffy Gaver, who applied an old-school bodybuilding approach—with careful attention given to Hemsworth’s arms and…

Of all the actors who had to pack on mass for a movie, few in recent memory have taken to the task with such zeal, and notable success, as Chris Hemsworth when he landed the part of Thor.

For the first film, Hemsworth hit the gym with trainer and former Navy SEAL Duffy Gaver, who applied an old-school bodybuilding approach—with careful attention given to Hemsworth’s arms and shoulders. Thor, after all, often appears sleeveless, but rarely shirtless. All told, Hemsworth gained 20 pounds, laying the foundation for a physique he’s maintained at or close to peak condition for Thor’s recurring role in The Avengers and the solo sequel, Thor: The Dark World.

Hemsworth was a model of consistency, and the physique he built has made “Chris Hemsworth Workout” the top search suggestion when you punch the actor’s name into Google.

“People see Chris and they think he was on steroids, but he didn’t touch a single substance,” Gaver says. “It was just red meat, heavy weights and some protein powder. He crushed every single workout. He simply decided to look like Thor.”

(Source: Muscle and Fitness)

Jonah Hill’s weight has fluctuated back and forth from lean to full-figured over the past few years. He slimmed down for the action-comedy 22 Jump Street in 2014, but gained 40lbs for his role in War Dogs in 2016 to play real-life arms dealer Efraim Diveroli.

These days Hill is a much slimmer figure in general and appears to have put his weight battles behind him. His physique looks almost unrecognizable compared…

Jonah Hill’s weight has fluctuated back and forth from lean to full-figured over the past few years. He slimmed down for the action-comedy 22 Jump Street in 2014, but gained 40lbs for his role in War Dogs in 2016 to play real-life arms dealer Efraim Diveroli.

These days Hill is a much slimmer figure in general and appears to have put his weight battles behind him. His physique looks almost unrecognizable compared to his burly figure in films like Superbad, The Sitter, and This Is the End, making for quite the body transformation.

Gyllenhaal gained 15lbs of muscle to play a middleweight boxer in the movie ‘Southpaw,’ by working out six hours a day for six months, including at the Las Vegas gym of Floyd Mayweather, the champion boxer.

Southpaw’s director, Antoine Fuqua said that “We literally turned him into a beast. Jake, my god, he’s a very electric, powerful fighter in this movie. He’s so committed and gives his…

Gyllenhaal gained 15lbs of muscle to play a middleweight boxer in the movie ‘Southpaw,’ by working out six hours a day for six months, including at the Las Vegas gym of Floyd Mayweather, the champion boxer.

Southpaw’s director, Antoine Fuqua said that “We literally turned him into a beast. Jake, my god, he’s a very electric, powerful fighter in this movie. He’s so committed and gives his heart. The word is sacrifice.”

He was spending so much time in the gym and was so committed to the role that his relationship with Alyssa Miller ended. “The amount of time you have to put into it, the sacrifice that you put into your body, it’s not something that you’re eager to do again. It’s a huge commitment.” Gyllenhaal said about his gruelling preparation for the role.

(Source: Huffpost)

An astounding aspect of the movie ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ is actor Matthew McConaughey’s remarkable weight loss. He dropped over 40lbs for the based-on-true-events story of AIDS patient Ron Woodroof, a man who challenges the US government to bring unapproved medication to other sufferers. McConaughey explained how, despite concerns from others over the potential negative impact on his health, he found he had plenty of energy, mentally at least…

An astounding aspect of the movie ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ is actor Matthew McConaughey’s remarkable weight loss. He dropped over 40lbs for the based-on-true-events story of AIDS patient Ron Woodroof, a man who challenges the US government to bring unapproved medication to other sufferers. McConaughey explained how, despite concerns from others over the potential negative impact on his health, he found he had plenty of energy, mentally at least – to complete the unremitting 25-day shoot.

“The amount of energy I lost from the neck down, I gained from the neck up,” he says. “I’ve seen people dying from HIV and cancer, and the last thing to go is the neck up. They are just savage from the neck up – their body is withering away but they are like a starving baby eagle in the nest waiting for the worm. So during filming, I had plenty of energy. I needed three hours less sleep a night.”

“I did it in as healthy a way as I found possible,” he says.

“I met with a nutritionist. I gave myself four months to lose the weight. I had my programmed meals, lost 3.5lb a week – like clockwork – and got down to my desired weight.’’

(Source: Radio Times)

“Three or four hours a day of just consistent, ass-kicking hard work.” Is how Chris Pratt, star of the film ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ ditched 60 pounds in six months. Pratt, who is most known for playing Andy Dwyer in the sitcom ‘Parks and Recreation,’ was in the neighborhood of 300 pounds when he auditioned for the Marvel movie.

Marvel would pair Pratt with personal trainer Duffy Gaver and nutritionist…

“Three or four hours a day of just consistent, ass-kicking hard work.” Is how Chris Pratt, star of the film ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ ditched 60 pounds in six months. Pratt, who is most known for playing Andy Dwyer in the sitcom ‘Parks and Recreation,’ was in the neighborhood of 300 pounds when he auditioned for the Marvel movie.

Marvel would pair Pratt with personal trainer Duffy Gaver and nutritionist Phil Goglia. Goglia revamped Pratt’s diet, hiking his caloric intake to 4,000 calories a day and adding lots and lots of water—one for every pound he weighed.  “I was peeing all day long, every day. That part was a nightmare,” Pratt said.

Admittedly, Pratt had started gaining weight purposely for his Parks and Recreation character, but now he’s committed to remaining ripped: “It gave me a sense of absolute control,” he said.

(Source: Men’s Fitness)

Natalie Portman endured a punishing schedule for her role as a ballerina in Black Swan, which left her fearing she was going to die.

The waif-like 29-year-old lost 20lb for the role, eating little more than carrots and almonds on a punishing diet, and spent eight hours a day in rehearsals. Ms. Portman, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of the desperately ambitious, perfectionist dancer, said:…

Natalie Portman endured a punishing schedule for her role as a ballerina in Black Swan, which left her fearing she was going to die.

The waif-like 29-year-old lost 20lb for the role, eating little more than carrots and almonds on a punishing diet, and spent eight hours a day in rehearsals. Ms. Portman, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of the desperately ambitious, perfectionist dancer, said: “There were some nights that I thought I literally was going to die.”

The film left her physically and emotionally drained: “It was the first time I understood how you could get so wrapped up in a role that it could sort of take you down.”

The actress, who dislocated a rib during rehearsals, said recently: “All dancers are always dancing with an extreme injury. Not just a sore muscle, they’re dancing on a sprained ankle or with a twisted neck or something. You’ll see them do incredible stuff and then limp off stage, straight to a bucket of ice. Part of the art is hiding all the pain.”

The film received mixed reviews from ballerinas. Racheal Prince, of Ballet British Columbia, said she thought Ms. Portman’s character was exaggerated. “She’s anorexic, bulimic, crazy,” the 26-year-old dancer said. “I’m sure every dancer struggles with little things here and there, but for one girl to struggle with every single problem out there, it just makes us look crazy.”

(Source: The Independent)

The lengths to which Leto went for his latest role might seem just a tad extreme. To play John Lennon’s assassin, Mark David Chapman, in J.P. Schaefer’s film, “Chapter 27,” Leto packed 67 pounds onto his lanky frame to better approximate the killer’s doughy physique. By the end of filming, the extra weight had taken such a toll that he could no longer walk to the set. It’s…

The lengths to which Leto went for his latest role might seem just a tad extreme. To play John Lennon’s assassin, Mark David Chapman, in J.P. Schaefer’s film, “Chapter 27,” Leto packed 67 pounds onto his lanky frame to better approximate the killer’s doughy physique. By the end of filming, the extra weight had taken such a toll that he could no longer walk to the set. It’s easily his most dramatic transformation to date.

“I’m not sure it was the wisest choice,” he admits. “A friend of mine was recently going to gain weight for a film, and I did my best to talk him out of it. Just because you can lose the weight doesn’t mean the impact it had on you isn’t there anymore.”

The abruptness of Leto’s weight gain gave him gout and a doctor’s recommendation to take Lipitor. But Leto says slipping into Chapman’s skin was the best way to understand him. “The script didn’t say, ‘Page 1: You gain 67 pounds, and you’re miserable for two months.’ But as I started to research, I realized that the physical representation of this guy had so much to do with who he was.”

(Source: LA Times)

Jared Leto lost an astonishing 40 pounds to play a transsexual with AIDS in ‘Dallas Buyers Club,’ alongside his co-star Matthew McConaughey whose weight loss is described above.

How did he do it? “I stopped eating, it wasn’t an easy thing to do. It was 30 or 40 pounds. After a while I stopped counting.”

Ultimately his weight dropped to 114 pounds to play Rayon, a…

Jared Leto lost an astonishing 40 pounds to play a transsexual with AIDS in ‘Dallas Buyers Club,’ alongside his co-star Matthew McConaughey whose weight loss is described above.

How did he do it? “I stopped eating, it wasn’t an easy thing to do. It was 30 or 40 pounds. After a while I stopped counting.”

Ultimately his weight dropped to 114 pounds to play Rayon, a transsexual with the HIV virus and then AIDS. Losing that much weight changed him, he said. “It changes the way you walk, the way you sit, the way you think,” he said.

After his extreme weight gain for the movie ‘Chapter 27,’also described above, it’s clear that Leto is incredibly dedicated to his art. The hard work and dedication paid off as ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ won a plethora of awards, and he bagged an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the film.

(Source: The Wrap)

“When it came to conditioning my body for the role of Charles Bronson there was no official regime: I did very non-specific exercises such as press ups, pushups, abs work and resistance training with the help of my boy Pnut, who is 16 stone of pure muscle and also an ex-US Marine. Essentially I was using him as my machine; he was like a walking gym. My approach…

“When it came to conditioning my body for the role of Charles Bronson there was no official regime: I did very non-specific exercises such as press ups, pushups, abs work and resistance training with the help of my boy Pnut, who is 16 stone of pure muscle and also an ex-US Marine. Essentially I was using him as my machine; he was like a walking gym. My approach was to do a lot of repetitions in order to send messages to my muscles: this helps them start to grow in a way that you can’t make them in the gym. To achieve dense muscle, you need a specific kind of training. Also, to “become” Charlie Bronson I had to quickly put a lot of weight quickly on my forearms, chest and neck. By the time I’d finished, my legs looked like those of a stork in comparison to the top half of my body.”

“I had five weeks to make the transition into Britain’s most dangerous criminal and it was a race against the clock: We didn’t have any time to waste, so I started eating and my arse very quickly got very fat. For Bronson, I put on about 7lbs a week — with no steroids. In the end I’d put on about 2 and a half stone by eating chicken and rice, which was my staple diet throughout the day. Then I’d have a pizza, Häagen-Dazs and Coca-Cola: So not good stuff, but I had to put weight on. I needed to put a layer of fat on my body, because Bronson when he was younger was a big guy, a brawler. My diet was lenient as we weren’t going for the Bruce Lee look and we weren’t looking for the cut.”

“Initially Charles Bronson was very disappointed when he saw me. He said “This kid will never be able to play me.” I just told him, “Don’t worry Charlie I’ll fix it.”  When I came back two weeks later he was thoroughly impressed with what he saw. His sister had been telling him good things about the way I’d been doing his voice and the way I moved like him, but his concern was the physicality of my portrayal of him, but I think I did a good job in the end.”

(Source: AskMen)

The actor had to put on 50 lbs (23 kg) during pre-production to make him look like a middle-aged man. When Tom Hanks was in this shape, they shot the parts of the film before the island scenes, and then took a year off to let Tom lose weight to impersonate a real cast away. He didn’t shave or cut his hair for weeks and shed 55lb in…

The actor had to put on 50 lbs (23 kg) during pre-production to make him look like a middle-aged man. When Tom Hanks was in this shape, they shot the parts of the film before the island scenes, and then took a year off to let Tom lose weight to impersonate a real cast away. He didn’t shave or cut his hair for weeks and shed 55lb in four months with a diet and a tough exercise regime.

“The idea of looking at four months of constant vigilance as far as what I ate, as well as two hours a day in the gym doing nothing but a monotonous kind of work-out was formidable. You have to power yourself through it almost by some sort of meditation trickery. It’s not glamorous,†Hanks said.

His diet consisted mainly of: crab, fish, vegetables, very little carbohydrate from fruits, coconut milk and water. When Hanks felt hungry, he ate large amounts of vegetables. This allowed him to consume natural food without having to go hungry between meals. This diet later became famously known as the Castaway Diet.

(Source: WatchFit)

The Queens rapper 50 Cent shed nearly 60 pounds to play a football player who has been diagnosed with cancer in the Mario Van Peebles film, ‘Things Fall Apart.’

Fitty, who normally tips the scales at 214 pounds, released a photo of himself at a frail 160lbs.

The rapper says he lost the weight by going on a liquid diet and spending three hours a day…

The Queens rapper 50 Cent shed nearly 60 pounds to play a football player who has been diagnosed with cancer in the Mario Van Peebles film, ‘Things Fall Apart.’

Fitty, who normally tips the scales at 214 pounds, released a photo of himself at a frail 160lbs.

The rapper says he lost the weight by going on a liquid diet and spending three hours a day on the treadmill for nine weeks.

“I was starving,” he said. The 34-year-old, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, also removed his arm tattoos for ‘Things Fall Apart.’ “It cuts down on the amount of time I have to spend in makeup covering them up.â€

(Source: NY Daily News)

Chris Hemsworth says he lost around 15 pounds in the course of shooting the historical seafaring epic ‘In the Heart of the Sea.’ That may not seem like a huge amount when compared to say the 60-or-so pounds Christian Bale famously made disappear for 2004’s The Machinist, but Hemsworth had already trimmed down to star in the thriller Black Hat, which he had shot immediately before.

“When you’re already starting off lean,…

Chris Hemsworth says he lost around 15 pounds in the course of shooting the historical seafaring epic ‘In the Heart of the Sea.’ That may not seem like a huge amount when compared to say the 60-or-so pounds Christian Bale famously made disappear for 2004’s The Machinist, but Hemsworth had already trimmed down to star in the thriller Black Hat, which he had shot immediately before.

“When you’re already starting off lean, it’s brutal to chew through that kind of weight. Every pound feels like a kilogram.,†he said.

In the based-on-real events film, Hemsworth plays a 19th-century seaman called Owen Chase, first mate of whaling ship the Essex. After a whale destroys their ship, Chase and the rest of the crew have to survive the elements, and lack of food, in tiny, lifeboat-sized craft.

To convincingly depict starving men, the cast members’ diets were steadily reduced over the course of the production. By the time they began to shoot on the open sea around the Canary Islands, the actors were consuming just 500 calories a day.

“We kind of went insane, weighing ourselves every day,†says Hemsworth. “We all felt like a bunch of supermodels, trying to get down in weight for a show, or something. That’s all we spoke about. You’ve got 15 burly blokes on the sea and all we talked about was our diet, and who’d lost more weight, and who’s looking really skinny. It’s ridiculous!â€

(Source: Entertainment Weekly)

Charlize Theron gained 30lbs for ‘Monster’, the movie role that showed audiences Theron was far more than a pretty face. Charlize Theron’s weight gain for Aileen Wuornos, the real life serial killer she portrayed, showed how committed she was to the role and her position as an actress in Hollywood.

Charlize Theron’s diet, and that word is used loosely, for her role in ‘Monster’ consisted of donuts…

Charlize Theron gained 30lbs for ‘Monster’, the movie role that showed audiences Theron was far more than a pretty face. Charlize Theron’s weight gain for Aileen Wuornos, the real life serial killer she portrayed, showed how committed she was to the role and her position as an actress in Hollywood.

Charlize Theron’s diet, and that word is used loosely, for her role in ‘Monster’ consisted of donuts and potato chips to pack on the 30lbs needed to look more like Wuornos. It wasn’t the first time she put herself through dieting of some kind for a role – though the actress did the opposite when she portrayed a dying woman in ‘Sweet November.’

However, Theron has said that getting “fat†wasn’t the actual goal in her makeover for Wuornos, who she says wasn’t fat at all. It was more about lifestyle, letting herself go so she could get closer to the place Wuornos was physically.

(Source: Foods For Better Health)

To prepare for the part, the usually tall, slender beauty looked unrecognizable — gaining 30 pounds, wearing prosthetic teeth, piling on make-up and practicing a tougher physical posture. “Monster” writer-director Patty Jenkins spoke to CNN about Theron’s transformation, saying it was less about making Theron “fat and ugly” and more about the little things. “Yeah, just shocking because it was little details. It was, ‘Oh, she was homeless. She lived on the street in bad weather. OK, well that means sun damage.’ Well, then we addressed the sun damage. She was insecure about her hair, OK, well, then we address the hair. It was little little layers and then suddenly she’s Aileen,” Jenkins said.

The actor worked with fitness trainer Patrick Murphy four to five times a week for four to six months to prepare for ‘Baywatch,’ while following a strict, clean diet that entailed giving up sugars and carbs completely for days on end.

“Patrick’s training was confusing at first…I just thought I was showing up to lift weights and get a deeper six pack (which is hard enough already),”…

The actor worked with fitness trainer Patrick Murphy four to five times a week for four to six months to prepare for ‘Baywatch,’ while following a strict, clean diet that entailed giving up sugars and carbs completely for days on end.

“Patrick’s training was confusing at first…I just thought I was showing up to lift weights and get a deeper six pack (which is hard enough already),” Zac said. “But rather than the typical bodybuilding type of movements I had become accustomed to, Patrick pushed me to my ‘functional’ limits with a very multifaceted style: strength, explosiveness, fast paced, calculated, diverse and gut-wrenching workouts. It was fun…you never know what he’s going to throw at you the next day.”

But which workouts did the actor not enjoy so much? Group circuits with power moves. What exactly does this entail? Something like “20 alternating jump lunges in one place, 20 jump squats, 60 mountain climbers, power pushups, followed by a run up five flights of stairs, then one-leg squat hops using a TRX rope,” explained the trainer.

Rest…for one minute. Then he would have to do the circuits again…twice. “That’s more than 1,000 repetitions on the body,” he added. To prevent fitness plateau, the trainer would switch up the routine to push the actor harder.

To recap, in order to get Zac Efron-status fit, we need to work out three times a day, change up our workouts, listen to our body, correct our form and eat a whole-foods-form diet. Easy.

(Source: E! News)

J.K. Simmons seriously underwent a shred in order to play Commissioner Gordon in Justice League.

Aside from a tremendous amount of dedication to his regimen, Simmons credits part of his success to his trainer Aaron Williamson. An ex-Marine, Williamson’s been providing elite-level training—morphing Hollywood A-listers into bona fide muscleheads like he’s cranking out action figures on an assembly line—to the likes of Zac Efron, Dwayne Johnson, Jamie…

J.K. Simmons seriously underwent a shred in order to play Commissioner Gordon in Justice League.

Aside from a tremendous amount of dedication to his regimen, Simmons credits part of his success to his trainer Aaron Williamson. An ex-Marine, Williamson’s been providing elite-level training—morphing Hollywood A-listers into bona fide muscleheads like he’s cranking out action figures on an assembly line—to the likes of Zac Efron, Dwayne Johnson, Jamie Foxx, and Jai Courtney. He first got his hands on Simmons in 2015 to help him shape up for Terminator Genisys.

At first, Simmons wanted to escape the doldrums of the film’s set, which was based in Louisiana, but after shooting wrapped Simmons felt he was ready for a full-body change.

“He wanted to get into the best shape he had ever been in,” Williamson says, adding, “J.K.’s goal was to adopt a healthy lifestyle and never have to worry again about health issues.”

(Source: Men’s Fitness)

Transforming into Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil, the first female Navy SEAL, for the movie G.I. Jane was not an easy task. The Demi Moore workout and diet are what she used to become G.I Jane, and included real Navy SEAL training, combined with a lot of strength, cardio, and martial arts.

For G.I. Jane, Moore’s workout would start at 4:00 am, in order to finish before filming started….

Transforming into Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil, the first female Navy SEAL, for the movie G.I. Jane was not an easy task. The Demi Moore workout and diet are what she used to become G.I Jane, and included real Navy SEAL training, combined with a lot of strength, cardio, and martial arts.

For G.I. Jane, Moore’s workout would start at 4:00 am, in order to finish before filming started. Living in New York City at the time, she had multiple security guards following her while running in Central Park.

She used celebrity trainer Gregory Joujon-Roche for getting in shape, and Navy SEAL instructor Stephen Helvenston to gain that visceral, Navy SEAL mindset while filming. To immerse herself in the role she shaved her head, did Navy SEAL obstacle courses and other military-type exercises such as underwater running,  one arm pushups and sit-ups in the mud.

(Source: Pop Workouts)

Before he knocked audiences on their asses with American History X, Edward Norton wasn’t much more than a solid actor with a bad haircut and few decent flicks under his belt.

Then he stomped onto the screen as Derek Vinyard, a raging neo-Nazi skinhead with the kind of physically imposing look that would make most men cross the street. Norton didn’t just have the cut biceps and…

Before he knocked audiences on their asses with American History X, Edward Norton wasn’t much more than a solid actor with a bad haircut and few decent flicks under his belt.

Then he stomped onto the screen as Derek Vinyard, a raging neo-Nazi skinhead with the kind of physically imposing look that would make most men cross the street. Norton didn’t just have the cut biceps and chiseled chest of a typical Hollywood leading man, he looked like a guy who had spent some time lifting weights in the joint. So how did the scrawny Ivy Leaguer go from Yale grad to jail bird? A high protein diet mixed with strength-building exercises like squats and presses.

His coach Anthony Krotes put the emphasis on weight training with heavy weight and low repetitions. The result was 30lbs of muscle and a lean, mean look that perfectly suited his tough character in the movie.

(Source: Men’s Fitness)

The 47-year-old Oscar winner transformed his appearance to play gold prospector Kenny Wells, adding 47 lbs. to his typically athletic frame.

McConaughey famously lost 38 lbs. for ‘Dallas Buyers Club,’ but ‘Gold’ marked the first time he’d ever gained weight for a role without adding muscle mass. “I haven’t ever done that. I said, ‘McConaughey, you have six months to say yes to whatever you want to…

The 47-year-old Oscar winner transformed his appearance to play gold prospector Kenny Wells, adding 47 lbs. to his typically athletic frame.

McConaughey famously lost 38 lbs. for ‘Dallas Buyers Club,’ but ‘Gold’ marked the first time he’d ever gained weight for a role without adding muscle mass. “I haven’t ever done that. I said, ‘McConaughey, you have six months to say yes to whatever you want to eat and whatever you want to drink. Whenever.’ That was fun,” he says. “The only thing that gets tiring is the thought of quitting. It was fortunate that I was like, ‘Oh, this is also my job, so let’s go—all green lights.'”

Surprisingly, packing on the pounds was much easier than he’d anticipated.

“My favorite food is cheeseburgers, so I was eating cheeseburgers all the time. I was making cheeseburgers. I was trying out all these fast food restaurants that I’ve never had, or I’ve only had one time,” he explains. “Not that much sweets. Cheeseburgers and beer will do the trick.”

In addition to eating “whatever I wanted,” McConaughey stopped working out altogether. “I wouldn’t even take the stairs to the second floor,” he says. “That would be too much exercise.”

McConaughey’s three children with wife Camila Alves “loved” their dad’s gluttonous phase. “I was Captain Fun—that was my nickname around the house, because I was saying ‘yes’ to everything. I was a really fun dad for that six months because I was like, ‘No, pizza night’s not just Friday night—it’s Tuesday night; it’s Wednesday morning.'”

(Source: E! News)

The 30-year-old actress was so committed to the role that she chopped off her signature long brunette tresses and dropped 25 pounds for the film ‘Les Miserables.’ There were even rumors she was on an extreme crash diet and eating fewer than 500 calories a day in order to achieve rapid weight loss. But according to Hathaway’s representative the reports were “a huge exaggeration,†adding that Hathaway was…

The 30-year-old actress was so committed to the role that she chopped off her signature long brunette tresses and dropped 25 pounds for the film ‘Les Miserables.’ There were even rumors she was on an extreme crash diet and eating fewer than 500 calories a day in order to achieve rapid weight loss. But according to Hathaway’s representative the reports were “a huge exaggeration,†adding that Hathaway was indeed on a special diet, but she was consuming more than 500 calories a day.

However, rumors of a starvation diet don’t sound too far off from reality. The actress lost 10 pounds courtesy of a strict cleanse before filming began, and followed it up by losing another 15 pounds by eating just two thin squares of dried oatmeal paste a day. For Hathaway, losing the weight for the role was a consuming experience:

“I had to be obsessive about it—the idea was to look near death. Looking back on the whole experience—and I don’t judge it in any way—it was definitely a little nuts. It was definitely a break with reality, but I think that’s who Fantine is anyway,†she explained.

“I was in such a state of deprivation—physical and emotional. When I got home, I couldn’t react to the chaos of the world without being overwhelmed. It took me weeks till I felt like myself again.â€

(Source: HuffPost)

http://www.boredpanda.com/actors-who-changed-for-movie-role-body-transformation-weight-loss-gain/

Get Ready To Say Goodbye To The Big Bang Theory!

Prepare to say farewell to one of the most popular sitcoms on TV right now!

The Big Bang Theory — which is currently in the middle of season 11 — may be coming to an end by the end of next season, if star Johnny Galecki is to be believed.

During a panel at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, California on Saturday afternoon, Galecki told the media at hand that the show was going to come to an end by the end of season 12!!!

He said:

“The only manner in which the cast has discussed wrapping [The Big Bang Theory] has been that we’re all going to be very sad when that day comes. But I think at this point everyone’s very comfortable with 12 seasons being a good time to go home and see our families.”

Inneresting!!!

In an even more interesting turn of events, Young SheldonCBSBig Bang Theory prequel spinoff — was just announced for a second season in renewal, too!

Photo: This Dog Maternity Shoot Is Too Damn Beautiful!

CBS President Kelly Kahl said in a statement (below):

“Young Sheldon has made a huge impact on our schedule in the short time it’s been on the air. While the show’s DNA is clearly rooted in The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon has staked out its own place in the TV universe with a unique creative tone, brilliant writing and a gifted multi-generational cast. We can’t wait to see Chuck, Steve, Jim and Todd’s vision for how the Cooper family deals with Sheldon growing a year older…and smarter.”

Wow!

What do U think, Perezcious readers?!

Let us know in the comments (below)!!!

[Image via Dave Starbuck/Future Image/WENN.]

Read more: http://perezhilton.com/2018-01-06-the-big-bang-theory-ending-season-12-johnny-galecki-quotes-tv-news

Friends Watch 14-Yr-Old Get Raped in Basement & Stay Silent5 Months Later, Her Parents Discover the Truth

P.J. was only 14 years old when she met the man who would rape her.

Growing up in a military family, P.J.’s parents weren’t typically the kind to let their kids hang out with just anybody. But when the teen’s friends invited her to hang out with a military boy who was home for Christmas leave, they were surprisingly fine with it.

The friends all gathered in P.J.’s house, and in her parents’ basement, with several witnesses, P.J. was raped. Every one of them remained silent about what happened.

It wasn’t until five months later that P.J. found out that she was pregnant. The truth about what had happened in their basement finally came out when she told her parents.

They were shocked and furious. They felt guilty, and P.J.’s mother, Angela, admittedly considered taking her daughter to get an abortion.

“I really thought I would take her to terminate the pregnancy,” Angela explains. “I was pro-life but with exceptions. I didn’t want to do that, but I was always told it was the thing to do in the case of forcible rape. My husband, however, said he couldn’t have anything to do with the death of a child. That it was still a human life. Everywhere we went, friends and religious people were very adamant that we should terminate.”

Wrestling with the decision that weighed heavy on her heart, Angela was at a loss of how to best care for her daughter. Many of the people closest to her were encouraging her to help P.J. terminate the pregnancy, but her husband, Doug, was encouraging the opposite. She was reminded of her own experience with abortion.

“In college, I got pregnant and I went to a health clinic. I was 24 weeks, and I had an abortion. My mother forced me to because she didn’t want to be embarrassed by my poor choices. We never spoke about it again. I have never gotten over it.”

Like any parent, Angela wanted better for her daughter than what she had. She didn’t want P.J. to suffer from

the same guilt and regret that she was forced to experience every day of her life.

A friend called Angela and referred her to Trisha, who runs a Birth Right. She begged her to take P.J. there before they made any decisions.

“Trisha was the first person to say it was going to be okay. She was the first person who actually encouraged us to keep [the baby]. As a woman, even if you’re pro-life, you’re told there’s nothing worse you can do to a rape victim [than tell her to keep her baby]. I’ve been told by everyone, especially the media, that abortion is what you do. Trish gave us Rebecca Kiessling’s pamphlet. We prayed about it and it was the best thing we had ever done. After we left Birth Right, P.J. cried—not because she was upset—but she said she felt relieved and like we were in a safe place. She said she knew Miss Trisha had her best interest at heart. When we heard [the baby’s] heartbeat, it was over for me. This child will be a gift from God. P.J. spent a lot of quiet time reflecting. She had a wisdom I didn’t have. Her strength and wisdom is what got us through.”

As they pressed forward and prepared for baby James to make his grand entrance into the world, P.J.’s family decided to throw a baby shower. After all, this baby was P.J.’s first child and their first grandchild. While the circumstance was unfortunate, the life of this beautiful baby was completely worth celebrating!

P.J. gave birth to her son, James, in the fall of 2011. It was an exciting time full of joy and love, but the legalities of this little baby boy meant a long road ahead for P.J. and her family.

As they moved forward with pressing charges against the man who raped her, they learned some disturbing facts that could severely endanger both P.J. and James.

Where they lived, there were no laws in place to protect women and their children conceived in rape from their rapist. Something that seems so “obvious,” isn’t actually legislation, which is unbelievable. This man was legally allowed to move forward and seek custody and parental rights.

In addition to the lack of protection they were up against, the man who raped P.J. had also previously raped another soldier—a male. He was also in the process of being discharged from the Army for illegal drug use.

The other soldier later recanted his accusation, and the rapist was acquitted of rape. He was convicted of a felony for illegal use of cocaine, but those charges were no punishment for the pain and suffering he put P.J. through.

Eventually, the rapist’s attempts at getting partial custody of James failed.

Today, P.J. is a happy mama who spoils James with love and truth. She attends a women’s Bible study once a week, and she prays with James every day, constantly reminding him that he has always been wanted and loved.

As for their decision not to terminate the pregnancy, Angela couldn’t be more grateful.

“The minute we laid eyes on this child, we didn’t once equate him to the rapist. He’s just as much a victim. He has healed our family in ways we can’t explain. He is the most amazing gift from God. I don’t even know how to put it in words.”

**Names have been changed to protect the victims

Read more: https://faithit.com/teen-raped-parents-basement-told-abort-keeps-baby/

Car park fire destroys 1,400 vehicles

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionEyewitness Olly Harrison said he heard bangs and explosions as he was turned away from the arena

A huge fire has destroyed up to 1,400 vehicles in a multi-storey car park in Liverpool, forcing many people to spend New Year’s Eve in a temporary shelter.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service said the blaze at King’s Dock – next to the Liverpool Echo Arena – was one of the worst it had ever dealt with.

An accidental fire in one car which spread to other vehicles appeared to have been the cause, police said.

Nearby apartments were evacuated due to smoke.

People who had parked in the multi-storey described being “frightened” by the noise as car windows exploded.

They said emergency services warned them their cars would be lost to the blaze.

Merseyside Police reported 21 fire engines were at the scene during the night tackling the blaze and the fire service said it was guarding against the risk of the building collapsing.

All vehicles left in the 1,600-capacity car park have been destroyed, police said.

They warned people to stay indoors and close windows if they saw smoke from the fire.

The Liverpool International Horse Show has been running at the arena, which has a total capacity of 11,000, since 28 December.

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson tweeted that everyone was safe and no animals had been hurt.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The fire was reported at about 16:40 GMT

He said some horses that were on the first floor of the multi-storey car park had been moved inside the arena.

‘Not getting your car back’

Kerry Matthews was visiting Liverpool for the night to celebrate the new year and had left his vehicle in the car park.

He said: “A fireman said the whole car park is on fire. He said, ‘What level is your car on?’ We said six.

“He said, ‘Well you best go and have a couple of drinks to celebrate new year because you’re not going to get your car back’.”

Image copyright PA
Image caption Kerry Matthews (r) was visiting Liverpool with partner Patricia Heath

Kevin Booth, who also parked in the Echo Arena car park, described the the flames and the smoke “as unbelievable”.

He said: “People were saying that they would just wait and get their cars back. I thought, ‘Have you seen the fire? Are you joking?’

“It was frightening, we could hear the bangs of car windows exploding.”

Image copyright PA
Image caption The car park had a capacity of 1,600 vehicles

Mike Quek tweeted that there were “lots of explosions coming from the car park still”.

“Driving into #liverpool #arena carpark and told to evacuate as car was on fire. Horses on ground floor. Hopefully everyone is ok,” he added.

Merseyside Police said of the blaze: “Initial investigations indicate that an accidental fire within a vehicle caused other cars to ignite.

“We believe that all vehicles parked in the car park have been destroyed.”

Image copyright PA
Image caption Horses were led away from the arena

A spokeswoman for the Echo Arena said: “We regret to announce that the Liverpool International Horse Show has been cancelled tonight due to a serious fire in the multi-storey car park on site.

“All people and horses are safe and secure.

“We are working alongside the emergency services to ensure the fire is brought under control and to make the site safe as quickly as possible.”

The arena said Liverpool City Council had opened a reception centre at Lifestyles in Park Road, Steble Street, L8 6QH, for those unable to get home or needing temporary shelter.

Aintree International Equestrian Centre offered its stables to those needing accommodation for horses.

Image copyright @imjamesforshaw
Image caption Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said some horses had been moved inside the arena

On the horse show’s Facebook page, organisers said it was with “considerable regret” that it had decided to cancel the evening show due to the fire.

It added: “All people and horses are safe and secure, and show organisers have thanked spectators, riders and support teams for their understanding and co-operation during this ongoing situation.

The Echo Arena said: “The possibility of rescheduling tonight’s show to tomorrow has been discussed, but unfortunately this has not proven possible.”

A number of people have responded to the show’s Facebook post, many offering stables for the night for horses, accommodation for people stranded or lifts home.

Carl Hopwood wrote: “The smoke from the fire was really nasty. The security staff at the venue were really professional polite and very well organised in directing people away from the event.”


Have you been affected by the fire? Have you had to spend the night in a shelter? Only if it is safe to do so, tell us your story at haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

You can also contact us in the following ways:

Or please use the form below:

Related Topics

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-42529615

Using drones to build the ambulance fleet of the future

It’s that time of year again. Sleigh bells overhead and our jolly, bearded benefactor wafting gifts down the chimney to eagerly awaiting hands. We’ve heard every version of this tale. Except, perhaps, the variant that is currently playing out in East Africa. In the funny way that magic tales and science fiction sometimes become reality, if you swap out sleigh bells for drones and gifts for emergency medical supplies, you’ve got the real world tale of Zipline, a company delivering 20% of national blood supply via drone in Rwanda. The Sequoia and A16Z-backed company recently announced it would be expanding operations to neighboring Tanzania.

Meanwhile, here in the U.S. the drone sleigh bells are few and far between, hampered by our aviation regulatory framework, which has not kept pace. In October the Trump Administration signed an executive order giving local governments more leeway to conduct unmanned drone tests. The order allows local governments and communities to work with industry to design their own trial programs and apply to the Federal Aviation Administration for waivers to the existing rules. “Our nation will move faster, fly higher, and soar proudly toward the next great chapter of American aviation” said Trump. The direction was the right one. But there has been little follow up and the rate of progress remains lightyears behind other countries, prompting Amazon and Google to head overseas to the UK and Australia to conduct drone tests the past few years.

In an interview for Flux podcast I sat down with Keller Rinaudo, the CEO of Zipline, for awide-ranging conversation about government policy, innovation and the future of autonomous infrastructure. We got into how he thinks the U.S. government has become ossified and what it would take to become a leader in this space. He also shares how he’s built a successful partnership with UPS, dealt with naysayers, and how he thinks about risk. At the heart of the Zipline story is real-world grit, a dedicated team, cutting-edge technology, and a government bold enough to take risks. An excerpt of the conversation is published below.

Let’s start with a quick overview of what Zipline is doing. Essentially instant delivery for life-saving healthcare?

KR: That’s a great explanation. Zipline is looking to build instant delivery for the planet and our mission is to deliver urgent medical products to people in difficult to reach and remote places. Today we’re operating at national scale in Rwanda. We’re delivering a significant percentage of the national blood supply on a day to day basis and we allow hospitals across the country to get instant access to any blood product that a patient needs on either a routine or an emergency basis.

AMLG: I read that by this past summer of 2017 you’d climbed to 20 deliveries per facility per week, is that right?

KR: That sounds right on average. It depends on the size of the hospital. There are certain hospitals that are smaller and hospitals that are larger but around 20 deliveries per hospital per week. The most important thing to realize is the hospitals we serve, they only receive blood deliveries via the Zipline system and most of them are receiving multiple deliveries a day.

AMLG: So you’ve built seven of 21 planned facilities in Rwanda which is your first market right? 

KR: We’re actually at eight. That number is changing as we’re adding hospitals to the system every day. In the long run our goal is to be serving all healthcare facilities across Rwanda. Something like 40 hospitals. Then there are an additional 400 health centers that don’t do blood transfusions but do need access to a whole host of medical products that are hard to get access to. In the long run the vision of the Rwandan government is to put each of their 13 million citizens within a 15 minute delivery of any essential medical product they could need.

AMLG: In terms of how it works — the staff in these clinics, they text a distribution center where the workers pack the medications into a box that they then load it into the Zip. Then it takes off and goes and airdrops the payload and returns to the distribution center without having landed at all?

KR: Yeah. Although sometimes what we do sounds a bit weird or like science fiction, people who come and see it are always shocked by the simplicity of it. The surprising thing about this system particularly when you’re talking to doctors who are using it on a day to day basis, it’s so simple. It’s like sending a text message and then instantly receiving the product that you needed to treat a patient or even save a patient’s life. We’re doing that using autonomous electric vehicles. They weigh about 13 kilograms. They fly at about 100 kilometers an hour. There’s really no human involved during the delivery of it. From the moment the vehicle leaves our distribution center to the moment it returns, it’s making all of its own decisions. It’s flying itself to the hospital delivering the product and then returning home. When we deliver it’s important to know we don’t land the plane. The plane is essentially coming within 30 feet of the ground and then dropping the payload in — we call it an air brake — you can kind of think it as a simple cost-effective parachute that ensures that the package falls right on the doorstep of the hospital in a gentle magical way.

AMLG: I’ve watched the video — it looks like a little red shoe box. So you fill it with sachets of blood and there’s a QR code so the vehicle automatically knows exactly where to go. Then it parachutes down in a gentle, magical way?

KR: Yes and you can actually catch the package. If they’re standing out there a lot of times they’ll catch the package because it’s so precise. We can deliver into about two to three parking spaces. The experience for the user is bit like using a ride sharing service — you’re indicating that you need something. You’re getting a text message back saying “Thanks for the order. Zip has been dispatched. It’s 12 minutes away.” Then you get a second text message saying “Zips one minute away please walk outside to receive the package.” That’s it. You do not need anything other than a cell phone to place an order and get an instant delivery of a product needed to treat a patient. There is no infrastructure required, very little training, anybody can use it.

AMLG: It’s probably more reliable than my Uber turning up where I think it’s going to turn up at the time I think it’s going to turn up. Because there’s no humans in the loop unless something goes wrong, right?

KR: There is a human in the loop in the sense that we have an air traffic controller that is in communication with the vehicles at all times and can issue high level commands to different vehicles in the fleet if necessary. But those cases of intervention are exceedingly rare. The vast majority of the time these vehicles make their own decisions, monitor their own health, successfully complete missions and return to the distribution center.

Rwanda is located in East Africa, and mountains dominate the central and western parts of the country.

AMLG: In terms of Rwanda — its a pretty wild, mountainous country. What did you have to do technically to support the navigation system, did you just use 3D satellite maps and pair these with manual ground surveys, or what?

KR: One of the characteristics of Rwanda that made it a good place to start with this technology is that it’s a mountainous country. It’s known as the Land of a Thousand Hills. It can often take, by nature of that topography, a long time. Roads tend to be windy. We actually took open source topographical maps of the country and then loaded those — along with more precise 3D surveys of the delivery sites that we serve — we loaded those both into the navigation system of the airplanes so that when you have a package the vehicle is scanning the barcode of that package and then instantly has its mission. It knows where it needs to go and there’s no programming in coordinates. That’s all done ahead of time because each path is predesignated from the distribution centre to a hospital we serve. Every time you’re doing a delivery to that hospital the plane is flying in the exact same path. This is how we ensure that the system operates in a predictable, reliable, ultimately boring way. Logistics should be boring. There shouldn’t be any surprises.

AMLG: What about the design process, what didn’t you expect — were there breakthroughs in how you designed the system to be this efficient and this simple? Was the aircraft catching method where you hook it on landing what you decided to do from the get go?

KR: When we were getting started this had never been done before. It still has not been done by anyone else in the world. We had no idea if it would work. Some of the more intricate parts of the system — the way we recover the airplanes for example — the airplane doesn’t have any landing gear and we don’t have runways.

A Zip being snatched out of the sky, with onlookers observing the “sky ambulance”

Recovering the plane from 100 kilometers an hour, snatching it out of the air and gently bringing it to a halt is an exceedingly tricky problem. The solutions that we initially tried, we were shocked that some of them worked as well as they did. On the technology side there was always doubt in the back of our minds about whether this was even possible. When we were building it everybody was telling us it wasn’t possible and that can mess with your head.

AMLG: On the technological side or business side?

KR: On every side. The overwhelming advice we got was, this is not technologically possible. Even if it were technologically possible it wouldn’t work reliably. Even if it did work reliably there’s no willingness to pay for it and no need for it in different parts of the world. Even if there were a need for it the technology won’t be able to operate at scale. Over the course of the last three years every year we’ve had to disprove one of those notions. Now I think they are all disproved. But even now people who look at what we’re doing will say, well OK the technology works and it works reliably and it works at scale and it turns out there is a need for it, but only in that country that you’re in. It won’t apply to other countries. That’s the next mistaken notion that we’re working on correcting now.

But in terms of being surprised, whenever you’re trying to do something for the first time in the world there’s a lot of uncertainty from a technology perspective. That first time that you see something that you build work is always miraculous and surprising. The other surprising thing to us is that we knew this was going to look weird. Having an autonomous electric vehicle delivering urgent medical products from the sky in a remote part of Rwanda, that looks kind of crazy.

AMLG: Looks crazy to the locals?

KR: Yeah. We do a survey flight to the hospital before we begin delivering medical products, just to make sure that the route is working perfectly and the numbers look good. And the doctor there was telling me they were having problems because all the patients were climbing out of bed to see the vehicle as it was coming by. The doctors were trying to keep the patients in the beds because it wasn’t good for them to be getting out of bed.

AMLG: Unintended consequences!

KR: Exactly. There is an element of this that is radically different. There’s a magic or science fiction to it. But the surprising thing to me was that after seven days all of the magic and science fiction is gone and the doctors treat this as the most obvious thing in the world. They expect the service, they rely on it and they find it boring. It’s amazing how fast you go from science fiction to this is just the way we do it.

A Zip drops medical supplies at a local health facility

AMLG: You make it look easy but I know how much resistance there is on many fronts to get to this, it’s remarkable. One of my favorite things you’ve said is that the locals call it the “sky ambulance” — it’s obvious, the sky ambulance is coming. 

KR: It’s like, of course.

AMLG: In terms of the technological breakthrough — you’re building the drones yourself, you’re designing manufacturing and operating a completely new fleet of vehicles every four to five months. You’re borrowing a lot from existing flight control systems and best practice in the aerospace industry, but how is that rapid iteration working? What kind of changes do you make every four to five months?

KR: Zipline designs the flight computer, which means that we are actually designing the boards and the microprocessors that are making decisions on board the vehicle. We’re designing the overall avionics system. We design the flight controls, which is the math that allows the vehicle to fly. We design the guidance and navigation system, which is how the plane finds its way out to where it needs to go. We also design the air traffic control algorithms and the communication architecture of the plane. We design the airframe and we design the entire distribution centre that needs to be able to launch and recover these planes at high volume on a daily basis in a reliable way. By owning the full stack — one thing most people don’t realize about Boeing is that Boeing is only a final integrator, and when you go and try to build a plane like the 787 it’s this complicated rats nest of subcontractors subcontracting to subcontractors, and that leads to projects being expensive and slow.

But when one small team of hardworking engineers can own the entire system from scratch you can move fast. If something’s going wrong you just turn to your right and say, hey so-and-so you built this system, we need to change it by this afternoon. The other thing that we’ve done that’s enabled the speed of the company is we do all of our engineering, manufacturing and flight operations in the same place. When you step outside there are planes flying. So if a plane looks like it’s not flying right or a component you designed looks like it’s not working the right way, you can design something different, run into the manufacturing shop, get something built in a different way and then test it that day. The rate of iteration is 100 times faster than in a traditional aerospace company.

AMLG: It reminds me of SpaceX and how they rethought the operations and the layout of the engineering floor so they could have that quick communication loop.

KR: A significant portion of our engineering team is from SpaceX and we have learned a vast amount from how SpaceX designed those rockets. It’s quite difficult to design aerospace systems quickly but also in a safe way. Those two goals are in tension with one another. SpaceX has led the way in terms of showing how that’s possible and now we’re trying to show that it’s possible with airplanes not just rockets.

AMLG: How big is your team now?

KR: We have something like 60 people full-time.

AMLG: How do you keep that number capped as you expand the business to other countries and other use cases?

KR: We won’t keep it capped as we expand into new countries. One of the most important things to understand about what’s happening in Rwanda right now is that distribution center is being led by an extraordinary team of full-time Zipline employees, but they are also native Rwandans. The technical lead at that distribution center is an extraordinary engineer named Abdul. The rest of the team are hardworking, super smart, and driven to make sure that the system has a positive impact on patient health, which is our mission.

Each country we go into we hire a full team of people to run the distribution centers in that country. That team is not U.S. expats, they’re predominantly citizens of the country we’re launching in. That said from a headquarters perspective we focus on hiring people who love taking on huge hairy technical problems who can do the work of 30 or 40 engineers at a place like Boeing. That’s the only thing a startup can do to survive in this space. You can’t spend $32 billion dollars developing an airplane like Boeing did with the 787. You have to figure out a way of doing that for five or six orders of magnitude less.

AMLG: The lean aerospace startup. 

KR: Exactly. That means people have to own more, move faster, be willing to take risk. And — although this sounds crazy in an aerospace startup — especially under test conditions you have to be willing to crash. If you’re not willing to crash then you’re in this regime of ultra risk aversion that will prevent you from ever doing anything new.

AMLG: Have you had any planes crash since you’ve started operating? I presume it has to happen.

KR: One of the big learnings for us from the testing we were doing in Half Moon Bay at our offices was it was important to design an ultimate failsafe into the system. If every other component and safety mechanism on the plane fails you must be able to ensure that the plane is going to come to the ground in a safe and reliable way. So we actually designed a parachute into the plane. It works much like the Cirrus, a high end general aviation aircraft that you can buy today. The Cirrus has a similar system where you have a ballistically deployed parachute. We’ve designed a simpler system into our airplanes such that if all the other safety components of the vehicle fail the plane can pull its parachute and come to the ground so gently that you can catch it. We use that commonly under test circumstances at our headquarters. It’s a good thing we built it because we have experienced significant anomalies, things that we weren’t expecting having to do with the fact that Rwanda is a different environment than the environment we were testing in.

AMLG: Lets get into the economics — you’ve said the business has been profitable from day one and that the costs will come down as you continue to improve the supply chain and as volume goes up. Can you speak to the unit economics and how they will change as you expand?

KR: One of the exciting things about working with the Rwandan government is they think about projects like this differently. A lot of places in the developing world have an attitude of, we want this for free or we want it to be done by a non-profit or we want it to be philanthropy. The Rwandan government’s approach is different. You always hear the president of Rwanda talking about trade not aid.

AMLG: I think there’s a misconception that you’re doing philanthropy, but you’re not — you’re making money on these deliveries right?

With the rapid adoption of mobile phones, many Africans have bypassed state-owned phone companies and banks in favor of mobile payments. 10 year old company M-Pesa, a service that lets you send money via cellphone, now has over 30 million users. M-Pesa processed ~6 billion transactions in 2016. [Source]

KR: Yes that’s important. We don’t make a lot of money on the deliveries, it’s not a high margin business. But it is important to understand that philanthropy doesn’t scale. Sustainable profitable businesses do scale. The best example of this are cellphone networks in Africa and how absolutely transformative that business model has been for everybody’s lives across the continent.

We want to show that it’s possible to use this kind of technology to similarly leapfrog. In the same way that cellphones allowed many countries to leapfrog the absence of landlines we think this kind of technology can show that it’s possible to leapfrog the absence of roads or low quality roads to make fast deliveries in a highly cost-effective way. It’s important to show that this is sustainable and that is the key thing. This is not some philanthropic thing that’s going to go on for a year and when the funding dries up it’s done. This can support itself. It’s economically viable and it can fund future growth both in Rwanda and in other countries across the world.

Population and GDP of Rwanda [Source]

AMLG: It seems that Rwanda has been a great initial test bed. As you look at other countries in the developing world, a lot of local governments are tied closely to the business community, there’s corruption, bureaucracy, long sales cycles. How do you evaluate which markets you’re going to go into?

KR: There was a reason that we chose Rwanda first. The government there is extraordinarily disciplined. They make decisions fast and they’re investing heavily in healthcare and technology. As a U.S. citizen I wish our country could make decisions that quickly and that responsibly. I assure you we can’t.

AMLG: You’ve said its bittersweet that you’re having to start in Africa and that you couldn’t do this right away in the U.S.?

KR: Well at this point I consider myself at least an honorary Rwandan. The people of that country are so incredibly deserving and hardworking. The level of ambition of a country that has limited resources relative to a country like the U.S., to say we don’t just want to have the best healthcare system in East Africa, we don’t just want to have the best healthcare system in the developing world, why don’t we just go build one of the best healthcare systems in the world and let’s use technology and robotics and artificial intelligence to get there. That’s extraordinary. But yeah it is bittersweet. We’re a U.S. company and the reality is that the same positive impact that this system is having in Rwanda, it could have that same positive impact on patient health in the U.S. There are people who live in remote parts of this country who don’t have the same access to healthcare that you have if you’re living in a city or on the coasts. That’s a shame. We’re essentially waiting for the U.S. government to catch up to a country like Rwanda, in terms of using technology to make people’s lives better.

AMLG: Right. As you said it’s probably a lot about attitudes as well — it takes a special culture and government to say we are going to be first, we’re going to lead. And the U.S. in this case wants to be first to be second and have it proved out perhaps. I know the FAA’s line of sight restrictions still in place but they do relax regulations for certain companies in certain areas to test out. You made a recent announcement with the White House about doing tests in the U.S. — the Navajo reservation delivery or Smith Island in D.C.? Can you talk about those?

KR: As I mentioned there are these places where you can actually look at the data — people who live in rural places in the U.S. have worse health outcomes than people who live in urban cities. A big part of that has to do with access. If you live 150 miles from the nearest hospital and you have a medical emergency the chances of you surviving are worse. It’s not that surprising. Particularly in places in the U.S. where the roads might not be good or where you are remote or where you have Critical Access Hospitals or clinics that may be stocking out of products or may only hold a small number of medical products on hand and not the ones you might need, having instant delivery is an obvious idea. One thing that blows my mind is that we have instant delivery for hamburgers but we don’t have instant delivery for medicine. That makes no sense.

AMLG: The U.S. has certain priorities, burgers are a matter of national pride…

KR: Haha. But the fact that the fast food industry is out-innovating the medical industry is a scary sign of how slow the medical industry is moving. That said, because we’re working closely with the government and with the FAA, we know that the FAA is pushing hard. Everybody does want to encourage this industry. We don’t want the U.S. to fall behind in terms of core infrastructure projects of the future. That said the FAA needs data. So we are now generating as much data as we can to allow regulators across the world to become more and more comfortable and essentially to understand that this is inevitable.

AMLG: It’s a bit like autonomous cars, where they’re collecting tons of data to show the safety of their vehicles on the road. So you are porting all this data that you are currently documenting to be able to come to the U.S., right?

KR: We’re not overly focused on the U.S. The reality is that we’re an international company. There are so many countries all of which have different healthcare systems and so in each case the need is a bit different. As with any new technology or innovation, there are unknowns around what are the effects, how do you regulate it, how do you manage it. That’s true for everything. The reality is that the most innovative disciplined countries out there are going to be the ones that seize the opportunity first. Of course the countries that seize the opportunity first, that used to be the U.S. The U.S. led the way in aviation for the first half of the 20th century. But it may be different countries in the future. Those countries that lead the way are the ones that reap the outsized benefits of that technology because they’re usually the ones that own the manufacturing base and the innovation base for that technology into the future.

AMLG: I do want to talk hypothetically at least about the U.S. market and specifically the healthcare market. From what I’ve read it seems like there’s two things. One is what you’ve sort of outlined, which is the rural use cases, there’s a high rural population in the U.S. so that makes sense. The other would be things around personalized medicine, so rare immunotherapies, cell gene therapies, biologics that require temperature control, humidity control and monitoring of the shipments while they’re moving through the supply chain. As you’ve talked to health networks and pharmacies in the U.S. What have you found about their response? The U.S. healthcare system is notoriously bureaucratic and it’s one of the glaring areas where there’s been no innovation and people have tried time and time again to crack it. How in theory could you crack innovation and the U.S. healthcare market?

KR: I think it has to come from the doctors. A bureaucrat in a regulatory agency having to do with healthcare in the U.S. is going to give you one answer. But a month ago I gave a presentation in front of about 1000 doctors in the U.S. and was absolutely mobbed after the conversation. All I’m doing is saying, here’s what we’re doing in Rwanda. And doctors are saying “wow, here is how I would use this. I just had this case the other day where I could have used instant delivery.”

AMLG: So I have to ask, doctors have a lot of pain points in their business and they’ve wanted change in the system, but pharmacies, hospitals insurance companies, PBMs — there’s a lot of legacy interests there that people haven’t been able to crack through. You can have the enthusiasm from doctors but it hasn’t really worked for other businesses who are trying to change the system. What could you do differently? Could you take advantage of existing supply chains, how could you integrate there, how could you serve hospitals? What’s the wedge?

KR: There are lots of ways. There are lots of healthcare logistics companies in the U.S. For instance UPS has a large healthcare logistics branch. There are companies that specialize in this — McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health. These are some of the biggest companies that nobody has ever heard of. They are huge, and hugely complex systems that are designed to deliver medicine to health centers and hospitals across the country. The way that you start is you focus on urgent and emergency medical products and you make it clear that if a patient is dying the doctor can get the product they need to say that patients life.

It’s a very simple idea. Even the bureaucracy of the healthcare system is not going to be sufficient to prevent someone someone who is dying or someone’s family from using that system or insisting that it be used. The reality is that in our conversations with those healthcare logistics companies in the U.S., they’re super innovation-forward because their desire is to provide the highest level of service to the hospitals and health centers that they deliver medical products to. So it’s actually not that complicated. It’s not like you’re trying to get a new medical compound. You’re just saying, hey this is 10 to 20 times as fast. So if you need a medical product quickly you can get it.

AMLG: And it basically needs to be cheaper than a helicopter which is how emergency supplies get delivered?

KR: Yes. A pretty low bar. We can be conceivably a hundred to a thousand times less expensive than a helicopter.

KR: I think it has to come from the doctors. A bureaucrat in a regulatory agency having to do with healthcare in the U.S. is going to give you one answer. But a month ago I gave a presentation in front of about 1000 doctors in the U.S. and was absolutely mobbed after the conversation. All I’m doing is saying, here’s what we’re doing in Rwanda. And doctors are saying “wow, here is how I would use this. I just had this case the other day where I could have used instant delivery.”

AMLG: So I have to ask, doctors have a lot of pain points in their business and they’ve wanted change in the system, but pharmacies, hospitals insurance companies, PBMs — there’s a lot of legacy interests there that people haven’t been able to crack through. You can have the enthusiasm from doctors but it hasn’t really worked for other businesses who are trying to change the system. What could you do differently? Could you take advantage of existing supply chains, how could you integrate there, how could you serve hospitals? What’s the wedge?

KR: There are lots of ways. There are lots of healthcare logistics companies in the U.S. For instance UPS has a large healthcare logistics branch. There are companies that specialize in this — McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health. These are some of the biggest companies that nobody has ever heard of. They are huge, and hugely complex systems that are designed to deliver medicine to health centers and hospitals across the country. The way that you start is you focus on urgent and emergency medical products and you make it clear that if a patient is dying the doctor can get the product they need to say that patients life.

It’s a very simple idea. Even the bureaucracy of the healthcare system is not going to be sufficient to prevent someone someone who is dying or someone’s family from using that system or insisting that it be used. The reality is that in our conversations with those healthcare logistics companies in the U.S., they’re super innovation-forward because their desire is to provide the highest level of service to the hospitals and health centers that they deliver medical products to. So it’s actually not that complicated. It’s not like you’re trying to get a new medical compound. You’re just saying, hey this is 10 to 20 times as fast. So if you need a medical product quickly you can get it.

AMLG: And it basically needs to be cheaper than a helicopter which is how emergency supplies get delivered?

KR: Yes. A pretty low bar. We can be conceivably a hundred to a thousand times less expensive than a helicopter.

As of Sept 2015 there were ~1,300 “Critical Access Hospitals” located in rural areas in the U.S. [Source]

AMLG: In terms of how you would get to scale in the U.S. — there’s about 6,000 hospitals. How many of these distribution centers would you need to cover the U.S.?

KR: I think that with about 20 distribution centers you could cover 70 to 80 percent of the U.S. population. When you think about that that’s incredible scale. Because each distribution center is a relatively low fixed cost. We can set it up in two weeks. You could build an instant delivery network for the entire country in six to eight months if the regulatory regime were amenable to it.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/12/25/using-drones-to-build-the-ambulance-fleet-of-the-future/

Why Hillary Clintons former CTO is back in Silicon Valley

Stephanie Hannon, Strava's chief product officer
Image: strava

Stephanie Hannon, 43, didn’t consider herself an athlete until age 39. In 2014, a looming surgery for personal health reasons had encouraged her to start working out. She began with a hike, and like millions of people worldwide, she turned to her smartphone for some help on where to go and downloaded an app called Strava.

This week, Hannon joined Strava as chief product officer. She’s one of the major hires the company made after growing from a niche community of cyclists in 2009 to tens of millions of athletes worldwide. Now, Hannon wants to expand the tech platform for developers and the company’s relationships with cities. 

Hannon is quite familiar with building tech products and working with communities. She’s been working at the highest levels of Silicon Valley since the 1990s. She was one of the product managers in the early days Gmail and Google Maps and lived internationally to help expand those products. She later joined Facebook, where she focused on the safety of its one billion people communicating. 

But she took a brief break from the Valley after she was called about a position on the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2015. For 20 months, Hannon worked as Hillary For America’s chief technology officer and oversaw a team of 80 technologists dedicated to putting the first women president in office. That dream wasn’t realized, but Hannon isn’t giving up yet. 

During her first day at Strava, Mashable spoke with Hannon to hear about her career in Silicon Valley, her thoughts on the 2016 election, and what she’s working on next. 

What excites you most about Strava, and had you been familiar with the product and the company before or was it one of those phone calls? 

I knew about Strava since day one because that entrepreneurship program I told you about, the Mayfield Fellows program [at Stanford University]. The CTO here, Mark Shaw, was in the program as well, and I think I was his mentor. He’s a good friend of mine, so he had worked with the founders of Strava and Kana, and he was the third employee. 

I knew about Strava for a longtime, and I went on my own quest to get healthy. In 2014, I had a health crisis. I just wanted to say I’m totally fine. I had to have a very invasive surgery, and I wasn’t fit or healthy. So I knew 7 months before surgery if I got healthy, the outcome would be better and my recovery would be much easier.

For the first time in my life at 39, I went on a hike, and I used Strava from the very beginning to track my hike. I also radically changed my diet. I gave up meat. I gave up alcohol. I gave up a lot of things and went on this personal health quest. I had a 7-hour surgery, and I basically walked right out the door. The next day I walked 2 miles. For me, that was a really motivating moment, and when I got through the surgery, I was like I’ve never been a healthy person so how am I going to keep the motivation going when there’s no surgery moving. 

So, I went from hiking to triathlons.

No big deal, just running a triathlon?

Yeah, I just want to stress that I’m not a great athlete. I think finisher is a great word. When I did a triathlon, my goal was to be a finisher, to make it across the finish line. If you’re a person who doesn’t consider yourself an athlete, carrying my bike into a big pen that says “ATHLETES ONLY,” the first time I walked through, I was like, “Is that really me?” 

Steph’s triathlon gear

Image: STEPHANIE HANNON

That was really exciting and motivating. I did triathlons, Tough Mudders, half-marathons. I went on a personal quest for fitness and when I did that my life radically changed, not just because I was fitter, but for most of my adult life I only slept 3 or 4 hours. 

I started sleeping 7 or 8 hours, and I would tell everyone about it. Like, “Have you guys heard about sleep?” I was more emotionally balanced and resilient. I was happier and had better relationships. My whole experience going through that had a big impact on me. As I was looking around at companies and met great entrepreneurs and all this cool stuff happening in Silicon Valley with the combination of knowing people here at Strava, combination of my own personal journey to get healthy, and also really believing in the product. 

At the core of it, I’ve worked on a lot of platforms, Google Maps is a platform, Facebook is a platform, I think the power of a platform and a lot of innovation can happen with partners to Strava or connected devices to Strava.

I think Strava can be sort of at the center of this connected world. The opportunity is much bigger. Strava is serving tens of millions of athletes, but I think there are more than 700 million athletes in the world, and I think they can all benefit from the product we build.  

You joined the tech scene in Silicon Valley in 1995. What’s the biggest difference between now and then? 

An incredible amount has changed in 20 years. I think the speed of development, like what I worked on when I was right out of college, my projects and products probably took a year and a half or two years to build and had a significant hardware component. 

Now, you work in a consumer web services company or a company that develops mobile apps and you can iterate really fast. You can build and launch things in a week.

I think the scale and impact has also dramatically changed because of the proliferation of mobile devices and the comfort level of the whole world with social networks and data and how people manage and use their data, like the concept of what we’re able to do at companies like Strava. I couldn’t even conceive of it two decades ago. 

We could also talk infinitely about diversity in tech. I felt very much unusual when I entered the workforce, but now I’m really happy to say the landscape has changed and I’m trying to encourage more diversity and building diverse teams has become really important to me and that feels more possible now than it did back then. 

That’s an inspiring way to put it. Diversity in tech is not perfect, but it’s good to hear that it has improved.

Exactly. We still have so long to go. I know when you’re building an engineering team to put the first women president in office, it’s an unusually good motivation to get a diverse engineering team, but I think we all have to keep working on it. 

You’ve worked at Google, twice in your career, and between that Facebook. You mentioned they’re relatable in the fact they’re mobile and they can scale fast, but is there anything in particular about the difference between those companies?

They’re both amazing companies. They’re so radically different. Google has been about organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and usable, which I’ll be able to repeat until the end of time. It was so drilled into us.

A lot of my time at Google was working on Google Maps. I brought Google Maps to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and that was an incredible experience because if you didn’t have a good online mapping tool and then you bring it to a country, suddenly they can manage in different ways, do different things with commerce and traffic, and how they look at solving big problems like terrorism or clean water, all this incredible good comes out of bringing maps to these countries.

Facebook is completely different. It was appealing to me at Facebook a billion people at the time was going there every day to communicate and how do you create a safe space for those people? A lot of what I worked on at Facebook was preventing spam and abuse and giving tools for helping people talk to each other when they were unhappy about content or had bad experiences on the platform. 

Both are amazing companies. The time I worked at Facebook they didn’t have as much acquisitions, so it felt like we were all unified working on this one product similar to Strava today whereas at Google it was already a big company and there were such massively diverse product lines, but I think across them is a focus on the user or the person or for Strava’s case an athlete and how do you build really compelling, innovative experiences that make their lives better or more efficient? 

Steph after participating in a half marathon

Image: stephanie hannon

Seemed like you had a pretty great life in Silicon Valley at some of the most respected companies. Why would you decide to leave these coveted jobs? 

It was a surprise call to get the call to interview to be the CTO. At the time I was leading Google’s social impact team and we worked on problems like disaster response. We built tools for the ebola crisis with Doctors Without Borders. We did a lot of philanthropic giving tools, and we also did a lot of Google’s elections work. In 2014, my teams were India and Brazil and we did a whole bunch of experiments in civic engagement. I was sort of immersed in that space of government and elections, and I had friends like Megan Smith, who was the CTO for Obama. 

When [the Clinton campaign] offered it to me, I was incredibly excited and paranoid because I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, but I think if someone says, “Do you want to be part of putting the first woman president in the White House?” It was really easy to say that’s something I’ll always feel good about trying to do.

What was the great challenge you faced as CTO of Clinton’s campaign? 

I would say the greatest challenge was recruitment. For many engineers, they don’t know what it really means to work inside of a campaign or know what’s possible and then the short speed, incredibly short deadlines and very little time. We had some ideas that were not executable in the time that we had and the staffing we had. The deadlines we had were so rigid. When we were working on Google Maps or Facebook features you might aspire to launch something for St Patricks Day, but if you didn’t, it’s not a huge deal. 

For the campaign, for the first time ever, we put a real-time caucus app in the hands of every captain in Iowa so that meant we had a real-time dashboard so we could see the results for all areas they came in. You need to build the app, have it be reliable, and train your staff and have everything go well on that night because it’s that night or never.  Dealing with those kind of rigid deadlines with a small amount of resources was my biggest challenge. 

But you were able to overcome that? Did the project go well?

Well, I’d like to believe that. We could have a debate about Iowa, but I mean I’m really proud of the team. I could not be more proud of the people who gave up jobs at big companies and big compensations to come on the quest we went on for the 2016 election. I think we did a lot of things great and then there were a lot of things we ran out of time to do. A lot of time as a CTO is with these limited resources, what’s most important. 

Steph campaigning for Hillary

Image: wikimedia commons

As CTO of Clinton’s campaign, how do you think technology impacted the outcome of an election?

I think technology played a massive role. A lot of modern campaigning is how do you reach the people you want to reach efficiently. Different people are wanting to get their news on Facebook or social media. Some people prefer a newspaper. Some people prefer TV. Some people only need to hear something once. Some people need to hear something multiple times. Some people are only affected when they hear something at night or on the weekend. 

I think what’s exciting about technology in the modern era is you can reach people in a way that’s very meaningful to them with very personalized messages. I think technology plays a massive role in identifying the most important people to activate and how to activate them and how to measure your success. I hope we can have a positive impact with those technologies in 2018 and 2020 races. 

Why are you choosing to come back to Silicon Valley and San Francisco? Was there any doubt to packing up your bags and coming back here?

No, my home has always San Francisco, although I like working in different places. Over my 10 years at Google, I worked in Switzerland and in Australia. I think of San Francisco as home, but I love being abroad and in different places.

You can imagine the grief of what happened [with the election]. The outcome was big, not only for me, but with the 80 people that I hired. So a lot of the end of the year and into this year was supporting them and helping them find new jobs. Had we won the election I would have been so happy if a bunch of my team ended up in the US Digital Service or different parts of the government, but in the end, these 80 people, we all wanted to find ways to be productive, so there was a lot of that, and then there was time-off. 

Then I joined Greylock in July of this year, and for me, that was a way to be immersed in the entrepreneurship community, think about what I wanted to do next, and also help advise.   

How does your time at Greylock compare to Facebook, Google, and Clinton campaign? 

A lot of it was how I can use my experience building products to help portfolio companies at Greylock in different ways. For some of them, I’d help them hire their first product manager. For some of it, it might be a company in a new phase of growth and the product team needs to figure out how to interact with them. With some of them it was what does the product development phase look like. How do we iterate and use data? How do we think about metrics? How do we recruit? A lot of people were interested in my experience in scaling an engineering team so fast. A lot of my days were meeting with companies and just sort of helping and advising. Some of my days were just talking to companies and figuring out what to do next. 

Google has a huge market cap. Facebook is worth billions. Strava is significantly smaller. Can Strava even compete with them? 

I believe there’s space for more vertical, intimate, personal, social networks. I think there’s a set of people that you interact with for passion or love, and it doesn’t always look like your broad social network. I experienced this in the campaign era, sometime people got fatigued on Facebook because they would go there and the content was not something they were excited about. If you are a person who’s an athlete or you’re trying to get inspired or motivated or you’re trying to get a new idea and you want to go to Facebook to look for the content it isn’t easy, but when I go to Strava and look at my feed, it’s exactly what I’m looking for. It’s really easy to figure out which types of friends are which types of athletes and having these different experiences or oh, this person runs where I run so maybe we can connect. Or that bike is a bike I was thinking about buying, so maybe I should talk to them about it.

From a technological perspective, what’s the most unique or innovative thing that Strava is doing?

Many pieces add up to what’s appealing to the users and athletes today. I think it’s a good activity tracker and that’s not a small task. It’s doing incredible in biking and running and launched different multi-sport features. The idea is to appeal to all these athletes, to serve all athletes of all types. I think that’s really interesting, and then there’s the social network piece of this is a community and how do you put meaningful and interesting community features to help and support each other? 

There’s this whole platform piece. We want no matter what device you use or whether you do activities indoor or outdoor, we want you to be able to have that all in one place, and that’s a meaningful technology problem. 

A lot of my career I worked with cities, and I worked with cities at different capacities. In 2007, I helped launch Google Transit. If you remember back then, we only had driving directions on Google. I worked at Google in the Zurich office and obviously public transit in Europe looks different than in a city like San Francisco or Mountain View. I helped create that transit feed that’s widely adopted today, and then later in my Google career, I worked in projects on urban mobility and how do you take all the anonymized rich data we had to work on things like traffic congestions or infrastructure planning.  There’s a whole Strava Metro piece. Strava is working with more than 130 cities on how they can use the data to make their city better for pedestrians, runners, and cyclists. 

Image: stephanie hannon/strava screenshot

There are a lot of companies chasing health and fitness information. In your opinion, what gives Strava a competitive edge to them? 

Well, I’m going to remind you that I’ve worked here for 20 hours. I think a lot of what makes Strava unique is how well, and first of all early, they were really focused on a type of athlete and a certain experience, and they did that so well they got significant adoption. The learnings from that and being so ruthlessly focused are big. When they moved from cycling to running, they kind of were able to take the lessons but acknowledge that the same way to motivate people doesn’t necessarily look the same. They were able to build on their product and engineering team to build a new feature set. And then from running to multi-sport and from being an activity tracker to a social network. A lot of what makes it special is how powerful the product is. Building on the core user base, but being able to expand. In London, I think we have more runners than cyclists. And then the power of the platform, the vision to be able to serve all athletes is also what makes it special. 

Do you think Strava is at a disadvantage because it doesn’t make its own hardware, at least not yet?

I’m optimistic. The fact that we have 300 devices that integrate with the platform and the fact we have 20,000 thirty-party apps built on our open API, I think that’s a strong signal that we’re going to be with all types of athletes and all devices. I don’t think building our own hardware is a necessary part of that. 

What do you think your biggest challenges in this new role?

I like to say opportunity. As a user, I think there’s so much to build on. There’s incredible success that Strava’s already had. Any opportunity for a product leader to figure out what to work on because there’s no end of ideas. So I think some of the things I care about is how to be the best at multi-sport and continue to invest in those experiences. We want those people to have great experiences on the product and invest in the platform. 

A personal thing I feel very strongly about is discovery. I was just in Sydney, Australia over the holidays, and I was standing by the top of a bridge and I was holding my mobile phone. I know Strava has great data about places I can go, but it’s not sourced up in an easy, consumable way, so that’s a massive opportunity.  

You’ve held a lot of different roles: engineer, product manager, CTO. What’s been the common thread in your career, and how do you see Strava furthering it?

Where I feel most proud and motivated is technology that makes the world better for people. That looks and feels like different things. In the early days of Gmail, how can we give this version of online email free to very institution in the world and that was a really powerful quest. As we talked about I was obsessed with transit information and then at Facebook I was able to say how do you create a safe space for a billion people to communicate and then at the Hillary campaign I had a quest which I feel really passionate about, and I think a lot of people will lead a better life if this person is elected. 

Getting behind that was really easy, so in a similar way, when I look at Strava and the benefit of living a healthy active life and the power of data and community can inspire people to do that. We’re having incredible success at Strava, and I hope by me being here we can accelerate it and amplify it and reach more athletes globally. 

Read more: http://mashable.com/2018/01/04/stephanie-hannon-strava-cto-hillary-clinton-greylock/

Jerry Van Dyke, comedian and actor, dead at age 86

Jerry Van Dyke, comedian, actor and younger brother of Dick Van Dyke, died Friday afternoon at his Arkansas home at the age of 86.

Van Dyke’s wife, Shirley, confirmed her husband’s death to TMZ. Shirley said her husband’s health began deteriorating after they were both involved in a car accident two years earlier.

TMZ reported Dick Van Dyke visited his brother at his home during the holidays.

Jerry Van Dyke was a well-known comedian who used perform at various military bases and appeared on television programs. The comedian made his debut on his brother’s hit show, “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and also appeared in “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Judy Garland Show.”

Van Dyke was also known for his role on “Coach” where he played Assistant Coach Luther Van Dam. The role garnered him four Emmy nominations. His latest television appearance was on ABC’s hit show “The Middle” in 2015. 

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2018/01/06/jerry-van-dyke-comedian-and-actor-dead-at-age-86.html

A Completely Hollowed Out 19th Century Building from Above

Seen here is the completely hollowed out St. Elizabeths Hospital (Center Building) from above. First opened in 1855, JMA Preservation is working with Shalom Baranes Associates (SBA) on the restoration of the National Historic Landmark Center Building at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast, Washington, DC. [source] For those interested, this type of historic restoration is known as facadism.

According to MTFA Architecture:

The building was the first Federal psychiatric hospital in the country, with patients arriving beginning in 1855. At its inception, the complex was known as the Government Hospital for the insane. It was constructed in multiple phases following an echelon plan designed by Thomas Story Kirkbride with the ardent support of mental health advocate Dorothea Dix and architect Thomas Ustick Walter, concurrently the Architect of the Capitol. The exterior of the Center Building is firmly set in the Gothic Revival style and is owned by the General Services Administration (GSA).
 
The building is to become the new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security. While the exterior core will be restored, the interior is being reconfigured and the historic cruciform section of the building is to be reconstructed. JMA Preservation is responsible for the restoration of the remaining historic materials including the brick, sandstone, and cast iron on the exterior walls. JMA Preservation conducted a thorough paint analysis of the windows, wood trim, and plaster in the cruciform section prior to demolition to inform GSA and SBA with guidelines for reconstructing the interior finishes. JMA Preservation has contributed to final construction documents, specifications, and construction administration for this complex restoration project. [source]

Read more: http://twistedsifter.com/2017/12/st-elizabeths-hospital-hollowed-out-aerial-washington/

Joe Biden swoops in to console Meghan McCain over her father’s cancer diagnosis

An emotional moment between former Vice President Joe Biden and Meghan McCain occurred on The View on Wednesday.

Meghan’s father Senator John McCain was diagnosed with glioblastoma six months ago, an aggressive brain cancer that sadly carries a low survival rate. Despite undergoing an operation, McCain has continued to serve on the United States Senate, famously thwarting his own party’s attempt at repealing Obamacare this summer.

Biden’s son Beau passed away in 2015 from the same cancer. So, when he made an appearance on the talk show, Meghan started off by telling Biden that she was unable to finish his book, Promise Me, Dad, and that she thought about Beau every day. As Meghan became emotional, Biden immediately stepped in, switching seat to get closer and to console her.  

“Look, one of the things that gave Beau courage—my word—was John. Your dad, you may remember when you were a little kid, your dad, took care of my Beau. Your dad… became friends with Beau. And Beau talked about your dad’s courage—not about illness—but about his courage,” Biden told Megan.

Biden then spoke about some of the scientific breakthroughs that have occurred recently, in an attempt at telling Meghan that there is some hope for her father’s condition.

At the exact right moment, Biden swooped in with some much needed comedy, joking about how he and McCain had very different political views, but the two could still depend on each other to be there for one another. 

“The thing that I found—and Beau insisted on, your dad is going to insist on—is you’ve got to maintain hope. There’s hope. You have to have hope,” Biden said, encouraging Meghan.

“I swear, guys, we are gonna beat this damn disease,” Biden concluded as the audience applauded.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/12/13/joe-biden-meghan-mccain-cancer-the-view/

Wagamama apologises after sickness threat

Image copyright Unite Hospitality

Restaurant chain Wagamama has apologised after a manager warned workers they face disciplinary action for calling in sick over Christmas.

A note on a rota at a London branch of the restaurant chain said it was the responsibility of ill staff to find colleagues to cover shifts.

Wagamama said the manager “feared team member shortages” and “regrettably decided to take this highly unusual approach”, which is not company policy.

A union posted the rota on Facebook.

A note beneath the rota states: “No calling in sick! may I remind you that if you are unable to come in for your shift it is your responsibility [underlined] to find someone to cover your shift (as per contract and handbook).

“Calling in sick during the next 2 weeks will result in disciplinary action being taken”.

‘Not company policy’

Wagamama insisted the rule was “strictly not company policy”, and said it was an “isolated incident” at its North Finchley restaurant.

A spokesman for the Unite Hospitality union said: “To threaten workers with disciplinary action for being sick is not just morally reprehensible, it may be unlawful under the Health and Safety Act and Equality Act as it discriminates against those with long-term physical or mental health conditions.”

Image copyright Alamy

Wagamama, which has been owned by the London-based private equity firm Duke Street Capital since 2011, has more than 100 branches across the UK.

A Wagamama spokesperson said: “Following reports of a notice posted in our North Finchley restaurant we can confirm this was an isolated incident and is strictly not company employment policy.

“The manager involved feared team member shortages over the festive period and regrettably decided to take this highly unusual approach.

“As a company we treat all our team with the greatest respect and understand and appreciate the hard work they all do. We sincerely apologise for what has happened and wish all our team members and customers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

‘Blood was boiling’

The person who brought the rota to Unite Hospitality’s attention is a friend of someone who works at Wagamama in North Finchley.

“They sent me that picture,” he told the BBC. “They didn’t want me to share it at all. But my blood was boiling. I needed to do something about it.

“I don’t believe it is company policy. It might have been an idea of the manager because he doesn’t know the law.”

Image copyright Google Maps
Image caption The rota was put up at Wagamama’s branch in North Finchley

He said the note attached to the rota could be “dangerous for the health and safety of people”.

“If you force people to work when they are sick they can poison the food. There is something very wrong.”

He said many of the staff at that branch were young workers from Eastern Europe and “maybe they are scared to lose their jobs or they don’t know the law themselves”.

Boycott call

The Green MSP for the West Scotland region, Ross Greer, was one of the first people to post a photograph of the rota on Twitter, writing: “That’s the end of my custom with @wagamama_uk. Treat your staff with some respect.”

@dtaylor5633 also expresses concern about the potential health risks.

The rota note has led a #boycottwagamama campaign on Twitter, with people voicing concern the policy may lead to sick workers undertaking shifts.

However, other people say customers should not “vilify a whole company” because of an issue related to a single branch. Former employees in other branches have also taken to social media to say they have not experienced similar practices.

Related Topics

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42473679

Unbound raises $2.7 million for womens sexual wellness

Unbound, a sexual wellness startup for women, recently raised $2.7 million from Founders Fund, Slow Ventures, Arena Ventures, SoGal Ventures and others. Founded by Polly Rodriguez of Women of SexTech, Unbound aims to empower women to own their sexuality.

“Raising money is always hard but it took an exceptional amount of resilience,” Rodriguez said.

Unbound’s bread and butter is three-fold: content related to sexual health, wellness and pleasure, individual sex toy products and a quarterly box of curated products. Unbound started as a third-party seller for sex products like vibrators and lubricant. In recent months, it’s been developing and selling its own in-house products. Down the road, the goal is to completely shift away from the third-party reselling business.

“The transition from selling third-party to predominantly your own products isn’t always the smoothest,” she said. “In the next year, ideally, most things will be made in house.”

Currently, the bulk of what’s sold on Unbound are vibrators. The company also sells bundled items, like a strap-on box, g-spot box, a kink box and menopause box.  Unbound expects to do around $2 million in sales by the end of this year.

At some point, Unbound will also expand into brick-and-mortar to be more experience-driven. Rodriguez envisions Unbound becoming something like Planned Parenthood 2.0, where people can get mammograms, pap smears and other “things women dread.”

“Female sexual health and wellness can become this thing we don’t dread,” she said.

Rodriguez decided to start the company after her battle with cancer and radiation-induced menopause. During that time, she said wanted to make sure she was taking ownership over her body and sexuality.

But the shopping experience for lubricant “mortified” her, she said. “It stuck with me as a terrible experience.”

In addition to empowering women and solving problems that are specific to them, Rodriguez wants to educate the public around women’s health and sex.

“People often assume that anything adult is all the same thing,” Rodriguez said. “Anything from hardcore pornography to very simple lubricants. One of the things our company and women of SexTech seek to achieve is to really provide more categorization,” Rodriguez said. “And it helps to decrease the stigmas and taboos associated with sexual health and wellness.”

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/12/22/unbound-raises-2-7-million-for-womens-sexual-wellness/

A Manager of $42 Billion Fears Bubble in World’s Biggest Stocks

The world’s biggest companies could be hiding the biggest risks.

That’s because companies such as Amazon.com Inc. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd are overvalued, according to Robert Naess, who manages about $42 billion in stocks at Nordea Bank AB, Scandinavia’s largest bank.

“I’m a bit worried about the valuation of these very popular companies,” Naess, portfolio manager, said in an interview in Oslo on Friday. “The big stocks have become more expensive. There’s danger of a bubble in them.”

Naess and his partner, Claus Vorm, quantitatively analyze thousands of companies, investing in those with the most stable earnings and avoiding expensive stocks, a strategy which has delivered a 10 percent return for the Global Stable Equity Fund this year. It has returned 12 percent on average in the past five years, beating 75 percent of its peers.

They prefer “boring” stocks, unlike the global behemoth technology companies that have led the global stock rally. Tech stocks sold off at the end of November, with the single worst day on record for the so-called FANG stocks. One of those stocks, Amazon, which has risen 55 percent this year, has a price-to-earnings ratio of 275 for 2017, compared with 18.2 on average for MSCI World Index.

“Long-term, 5-10 years, stocks that are expensively priced, such as Amazon, Tencent and Alibaba, will give a low return,” Naess, who also shuns Facebook, Inc., said. “I’m pretty certain that in the next 10 years the return on those will be lower than the market.”

The fund holds Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc., which are “reasonably priced”. It has also bought a stake in Merck & Co., Inc. and increased in Amgen Inc., CVS Health Corporation and Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc.

Naess sees about 12 percent upside for the global developed stock market in the next 12 months provided companies continue to deliver expected earnings growth.

“2018 looks OK,” he said. “Normally, I think the earnings estimates are too high. But I believe earnings estimate could be too low next year given earnings are so good this year.”

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-11/a-manager-of-42-billion-fears-bubble-in-world-s-biggest-stocks

    Bad News, Everybody: Hydrogen Peroxide Is Useless

    OK, so hydrogen peroxide is good for some things, such as creating an uninspired volcano for your school science fair. But what it’s not great at is disinfecting cuts and scrapes.

    When you pour hydrogen peroxide on a wound, that telltale foam is surely the death rattle of a thousand screaming bacteria, right? Well, it turns out it’s nothing but a chemical reaction to the enzyme catalase, which is found in our blood and cells. When hydrogen peroxide meets catalase, it turns into oxygen gas and water, and boom! Medically reassuring fizz ensues.

    Trenten Kelley/flickrFollowed by the medically reassuring stinging and crying … uh, so we’ve heard.

    But after centuries of blindly trusting the stuff, scientists have found that hydrogen peroxide doesn’t prevent bacterial growth or reduce the risk of infection at incision sites. In fact, it may actually slow the healing process. Thanks, brown bottle of lies!

    The alternative? Flush the wound with running tap water or saline, then use a mild soap to clean the surrounding area. Top it off with a thin layer of Vaseline for added moisture and protection. (Antibiotic ointments can lead to swelling and allergic reactions.) And despite the lore that wounds should breathe, they heal best when covered and moist. So slap on a bandage and change it regularly. As for the remaining peroxide in your medicine cabinet … have you ever considered going blonde?

    If you loved this article and want more content like this, support our site with a visit to our Contribution Page. Please and thank you.

    Read more: http://www.cracked.com/article_25404_bad-news-everybody-hydrogen-peroxide-useless.html

    Ibuprofen may increase risk of fertility issues in men, study suggests

    High doses of the common painkiller over a long period of time may put men at greater risk of fertility problems and other health issues, research indicates

    Men who take high doses of ibuprofen for months at a time may be at greater risk of fertility issues and also other health problems, such as muscle wastage, erectile dysfunction and fatigue, scientists have found.

    Research on healthy young men who took the common painkiller for up to six weeks showed that the drug disrupted the production of male sex hormones and led to a condition normally seen in older men and smokers.

    The 18 to 35-year-olds who took part in the study developed a disorder called compensated hypogonadism within two weeks of having 600mg of ibuprofen twice a day. The condition arises when the body has to boost levels of testosterone because normal production in the testes has fallen.

    Doctors in Copenhagen who led the study said that while the disorder was mild and temporary in the volunteers, they feared it could become permanent in long-term ibuprofen users. This would lead to continuously low levels of testosterone, because the body could no longer compensate for the fall.

    Our immediate concern is for the fertility of men who use these drugs for a long time, said David Mbjerg Kristensen at the University of Copenhagen. These compounds are good painkillers, but a certain amount of people in society use them without thinking of them as proper medicines.

    In March this year Jii Dvok, Fifas former chief medical officer, warned of an alarming trend among elite football players to abuse legal painkillers such as ibuprofen. Before he stepped down in November 2016 he asked players about their use of over-the-counter painkillers and found that nearly half of those who played in the past three World Cups took anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, every day.

    Bernard Jgou, a senior author on the study at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, said he saw no problem in people taking ibuprofen to alleviate pain in the short term for toothache, for example but warned against taking the drug for months on end if it was not strictly necessary.

    We normally see this condition in elderly men, so it raises an alarm, Jgou said. We are concerned about it, particularly for healthy people who dont need to take these drugs. The risk is greater than the benefit.

    The finding comes after repeated warnings from other researchers that ibuprofen can raise the risk of heart attacks in the general population and cause medical problems for pregnant women and their babies, including a more than doubling of the risk of miscarriage.

    In the latest research, scientists looked at the impact of ibuprofen on 31 healthy young men over six weeks and performed further tests on cells and pieces of human testes in the lab. Ibuprofen lowered testosterone production in the tissues, but levels of the hormone remained the same in the men. This is because the pituitary gland at the base of the brain had ramped up levels of another hormone that drives the production of extra testosterone.

    In the living body the pituitary gland kicks in to compensate for this, but the brain is pushing more to get the same amount of testosterone, Kristensen said. If you go on and stress the pituitary gland over the long term, this state could become permanent and you develop a more serious condition. Details of the study are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    William Colledge, professor of reproductive physiology at the University of Cambridge, who was not involved in the research, said: Its a fascinating study that suggests that men should be cautious about using high doses of ibuprofen for extended periods. While the findings needed to be replicated in further studies, he said, a precautionary approach made sense. Based on these data, I personally would be very reluctant to take ibuprofen for longer than the 10 days normally indicated on the packet.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/jan/08/ibuprofen-may-increase-risk-of-fertility-issues-in-men-study-suggests

    Jake Tapper picks the PERFECT screencap for a piece on Trump’s mental fitness

    As Twitchy reported earlier, lawmakers concerned about President Trump’s mental health invited a Yale psychiatry professor to brief them in December, although Geraldo Rivera says Trump is “sharp, focused, and exactly as he’s been for the last 40 years.”

    Read more: https://twitchy.com/brettt-3136/2018/01/04/jake-tapper-picks-the-perfect-screencap-for-a-piece-on-trumps-mental-fitness/

    Trump Takes On Amazon Again, Urging Much More in Postage Fees

    President Donald Trump said the U.S. Postal Service should charge Amazon.com Inc. more to deliver packages, the latest in a series of public criticisms of the online retailer and its billionaire founder.

    The post office “should be charging MUCH MORE” for package delivery, the president tweeted Friday from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, where he’s spending the holidays.

    “Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer?” Trump told his 45 million followers.

    Trump regularly criticizes Amazon and its chief executive officer, Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post newspaper and is currently the world’s richest man. In August, Trump accused the company of causing “great damage to tax paying retailers,” even though the internet giant began collecting sales tax on products it sells directly in April.

    As with prior missives targeting the company, Trump’s message appeared to concern investors. Amazon’s stock had gained the past three days, but dropped 0.6 percent to $1,178.68 at 12:41 p.m. in New York.

    A sudden increase in postal service rates would cost Amazon about $2.6 billion a year, according to an April report by Citigroup. That report predicted United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. would also raise rates in response to a postal service hike.

    Amazon didn’t respond to requests for comment.

    ‘Last Mile’

    Amazon regularly uses the Postal Service to complete what’s called the “last mile” of delivery, with letter carriers dropping off packages at some 150 million residences and businesses daily. It has a network of more than 20 “sort centers” where customer packages are sorted by zip code, stacked on pallets and delivered to post offices for the final leg of delivery.

    While full details of the agreement between Amazon and the Postal Service are unknown — the mail service is independently operated and strikes confidential deals with retailers — David Vernon, an analyst at Bernstein Research who tracks the shipping industry, estimated in 2015 that the USPS handled 40 percent of Amazon’s volume the previous year. He estimated at the time that Amazon pays the Postal Service $2 per package, which is about half what it would pay UPS or FedEx.

    Both shippers were up less than 1 percent Friday. Higher postal service rates would benefit private carriers by making their rates more competitive.

    But the postal service’s losses have little to do with Amazon and more to do with its large health-care obligations and the dwindling use of first-class mail. USPS charges some of the world’s lowest stamp prices.

    The president’s tweet also assumes that Amazon would be forced to pay if the Postal Service increased its rates for packages. But Amazon has been setting up its own shipping operations in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world to minimize costs.

    For more on Trump’s Twitter storms, check out this podcast:

     

    $62 Billion Loss

    The Postal Service reported a net loss of $2.1 billion in the third quarter of 2017 and has $15 billion in outstanding debt. The service has lost $62 billion over the last decade.

    USPS’s chief financial officer, Joseph Corbett, wrote in a post for PostalReporter.com in August that the service is required by law to charge retailers at least enough to cover its delivery costs.

    “The reason we continue to attract e-commerce customers and business partners is because our customers see the value of our predictable service, enhanced visibility, and competitive pricing,” he wrote.

    He said Congress should pass provisions of legislation introduced last year by former Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, that would allow the postal service to raise some rates and discontinue direct delivery to business customers’ doors.

    Amazon is experimenting with a new delivery service of its own that is expected to see a broader roll-out in the coming year. Under the program, Amazon would oversee the pickup of packages from warehouses of third-party merchants and delivery to home addresses.

    Despite the occasional anti-Amazon tweet, Trump is unlikely to target Amazon with any action because the company is creating jobs by building new warehouses around the country. It’s also expected to generate 50,000 new positions with its second headquarters, said James Cakmak, analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt & Co.

    “The interests of Amazon and the administration are largely aligned – even factoring the dislocation to retail – given the positive headline potential around new job creation with fulfillment centers and HQ2,” he said.

      Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-29/trump-says-u-s-post-office-should-charge-amazon-much-more

      Trump: I’m a ‘very stable genius’

      Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump slammed reports questioning his mental stability in a series of tweets Saturday morning, writing he’s a “very stable genius” after the publication of an expos about his first year as President put the White House into damage-control mode.

      “Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence … ” Trump wrote, referring to questions raised about the mental fitness of the former President, who disclosed in 1994 that he had Alzheimer’s disease.
      “Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart,” the President continued. “Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star … to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!”
        After his tweets Saturday morning, Trump told reporters at Camp David that Wolff is a “fraud” who doesn’t know him.
        “I went to the best colleges, or college,” he told reporters. “I had a situation where I was a very excellent student, came out and made billions and billions of dollars, became one of the top business people, went to television and for 10 years was a tremendous success, as you probably have heard, ran for President one time and won. Then I hear this guy that doesn’t know me at all, by the way, didn’t interview me, said he interviewed me for three hours in the White House. Didn’t exist, it’s in his imagination.”
        Trump continued: “I never interviewed with him in the White House at all; he was never in the Oval Office.”
        Wolff told “Today” show host Savannah Guthrie on Friday that he “absolutely spoke to the President” while working on “Fire and Fury.”
        “Whether he realized it was an interview or not, I don’t know, but it certainly was not off the record,” Wolff said. “I’ve spent about three hours with the President over the course of the campaign, and in the White House. So, my window into Donald Trump is pretty significant.”
        The remarkable spectacle of Trump defending his mental stability comes after the President and some of his top officials spent the last few days countering claims in author Michael Wolff’s new book, “Fire and Fury,” about Trump’s mental fitness to serve as President. The book, which went on sale Friday, also paints the picture of a President who neither knows nor cares about policy and doesn’t seem to perceive the vast responsibilities of his role.
        CNN has not independently confirmed all of Wolff’s assertions.
        Trump’s tweets also come after reports surfaced that a dozen lawmakers from the House and Senate received a briefing from Yale psychiatrist Dr. Bandy X. Lee on Capitol Hill in early December about Trump’s fitness to be president.
        “Lawmakers were saying they have been very concerned about this, the President’s dangerousness, the dangers that his mental instability poses on the nation,” Lee told CNN in a phone interview Thursday, “They know the concern is universal among Democrats, but it really depends on Republicans, they said. Some knew of Republicans that were concerned, maybe equally concerned, but whether they would act on those concerns was their worry.”
        The briefing was previously reported by Politico. Lee, confirming the December 5 and 6 meeting to CNN, said that the group was evenly mixed, with House and Senate lawmakers, and included at least one Republican — a senator, whom she would not name.
        Lee’s public comments are highly unusual given protocols from medical professional organizations — including the 37,000-member American Psychiatric Association — banning psychiatrists from diagnosing patients without a formal examination.
        The White House has taken issue with the claims in Wolff’s book since excerpts of it began to surface online ahead of its publication, with press secretary Sarah Sanders calling it “complete fantasy” and an attorney for Trump sending a “cease and desist” threat to the book’s author and publisher.
        Trump issued a scathing statement on his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, saying he had “lost his mind” after the book quoted Bannon making negative remarks about Trump and son Donald Trump Jr.
        The book quoted Bannon as calling a June 2016 meeting between a Russian lawyer and the President’s eldest son, son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”
        Bannon also reportedly told Wolff: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”
        Trump lit into Bannon in a tweet Friday night, saying he “cried when he got fired and begged for his job.”
        “Michael Wolff is a total loser who made up stories in order to sell this really boring and untruthful book,” Trump wrote. “He used Sloppy Steve Bannon, who cried when he got fired and begged for his job. Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone. Too bad!”
        Wolff reiterated his belief that it is becoming a widespread view that Trump is unfit for presidency, telling BBC Radio in an interview overnight that it’s a “very clear emperor-has-no-clothes effect.”
        “The story that I have told seems to present this presidency in such a way that it says he can’t do his job,” Wolff said in the interview. “Suddenly everywhere people are going, ‘Oh my God, it’s true, he has no clothes.’ That’s the background to the perception and the understanding that will finally end … this presidency.”
        Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told CNN in an exclusive interview on Friday he’s never questioned Trump’s mental fitness, despite reports he once called Trump a “moron.”
        “I’ve never questioned his mental fitness,” Tillerson told CNN’s Elise Labott. “I have no reason to question his mental fitness.”

        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/06/politics/donald-trump-white-house-fitness-very-stable-genius/index.html

        Photographer Reveals The Addicted Side Of The Streets Of Philadelphia, And Its Terrifying

        Kensington Avenue in North Philadelphia is infamous for drug abuse and prostitution. The Avenue runs 3 miles through what is now a dangerous and crime-ridden neighborhood. Kensington Blues is a photography series by Jeffrey Stockbridge, 36, that documented the struggles and the dark reality of local residents.

        Between 2008 and 2014, the photographer took a series of intimate portraits of people capturing a side of Philadelphia that is rarely seen or talked about. The residents shared their stories, talking about drugs, prostitution and other struggles of their lives.

        “The goal of my work is to enable people to relate to one another in a fundamentally human way, despite any commonly perceived differences”- Jeffrey shared on his website. “I rely on the trust and sincerity of those I photograph to help me in this process.”

        Take a look at the powerful images below.

        “We out here so we can get money so we has somewhere to rest our heads. We look out for each other. If I can’t get money, she gets it, and whatever money we get we share…We need quick money cause we need somewhere to sleep every day. I mean, trust me, we don’t want to be out here doing this. This is the last thing I want to do….

        “We out here so we can get money so we has somewhere to rest our heads. We look out for each other. If I can’t get money, she gets it, and whatever money we get we share…We need quick money cause we need somewhere to sleep every day. I mean, trust me, we don’t want to be out here doing this. This is the last thing I want to do. But I do what I have to do to take care of my sister. Cause she’s all I got and I’m all she’s got.”

        Al lives in a house off Kensington Avenue without electricity or running water. He sometimes rents his upstairs bedroom to prostitutes in need of a private location for engaging in sex and drug use.

        “I’m 55 years old, I have a master’s degree in psychology, but after my husband, mother and father, died in a car accident two years ago, I lost my whole family, my career, one, my health, all in one go.”

        She told that she often sleeps on the streets during the day to protect herself at night.

        They still have children, whom they gave away to a special agency for their protection. “We gave the kids away, people say it’s a selfish act, but I think it’s the best I could do for their better future,” Rachel said.

        She is 25 years old, working in the sex industry since she was 18.

        “I’ve been raped, and, you know, almost killed really”

        A local resident, at the time she was 41. Carol told the photographer that she had been doing heroin for 21 years and it became “the love of her life”.

        The veins in Sarah’s arms were no good for injection, so she asked Dennis for the drug to be injected to her neck.

        “I don’t just do this for drugs. I do this because I wanna eat, because I like to buy clothes, because I like the small things, you know. I did have a normal life once but…I really believe, like if my, if my family say like, “Mary come, come home stay with us” like, if I could I would…”

        He struggled with drug addiction after being released from prison. Sepsis developed in his left leg. Because of his addiction, he failed to meet the treatment regimen and eventually the doctors had to amputate part of the leg.

        Matt shoots Brian in the neck in front of the McPherson Square Library on Kensington Avenue. It’s 10 AM on Sunday morning.

        Maria: “I’ve been here almost 8 years and I see a lot of bad stuff going around. They say when you go between it, you gonna do it too.” Robert: “You don’t need no cable, you don’t have to watch TV. You just gotta sit out here. You see drama, you see soap opera, you see violence and crime.” Maria: “You even see sex.”

        “I don’t really ask people for a lot, I get my money, like I don’t like to, cause a lot of times to get people to take care of you, you have to lie to them. And then lead them on and make them think that you’re gonna get clean. And then, and then it ends up getting to be too much, where they’re trying to control what you do….

        “I don’t really ask people for a lot, I get my money, like I don’t like to, cause a lot of times to get people to take care of you, you have to lie to them. And then lead them on and make them think that you’re gonna get clean. And then, and then it ends up getting to be too much, where they’re trying to control what you do. And I’d rather just get the money and end it at that with no strings attached cause I don’t need someone following me around, trying to track me down like, trying to drop me off at rehabs and shit.”

        “I went into rehab, for, like, snorting cocaine, taking oxies, perks, and I met people that did dope and smoked crack, and, you know, like, one thing led to another, and I was just, I was, I wanted to try it, and I did.”

        “I sold a lot of drugs and was involved with a lot of like, stuff that had to do with shooting guns and all. Most of it was uh selling drugs and collecting money that was owed to me and it caused me getting into a lot of trouble.”

        “What I’m doing I really don’t particularly care to be doing, but I do it anyway, and I’m not ashamed of it ’cause if I was ashamed of it, I wouldn’t do it….Until I decide to change it’s what I’m gonna do. Hopefully, like, the will of God…will make me strong enough and give me the determination to stop and get some help.”

        Read more: http://www.boredpanda.com/portraits-kensington-blues-jeffrey-stockbridge/

        Trump Super PAC Gets 12-Year-Old Girl To Interview Roy Moore

        A Trump-supporting super PAC arranged to have a 12-year-old girl interview Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore for a campaign video.

        The girl, Millie March, is well known in the political sphere for her rampant support of Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign, even though she’s not old enough to vote. The super PAC America First Project, a pro-Trump advocacy group founded by former Breitbart staffers, arranged for March talk to Moore for the campaign spot.

        “We decided that we were going to bring Millie to Alabama, after everything that’s happened in this Alabama Senate race up until this point,” says America First Project’s Jennifer Lawrence in the video’s preamble to March’s interviews with Moore and his campaign manager, Rich Hobson. Lawrence adds that the group wanted to bring March to Alabama “to show there is a wide range of people who support Roy Moore.“ 

        Moore has been accused by one woman of sexual assault when she was a teenager and he was in his 30s, and numerous other women have said he pursued and sexually harassed them when they were teens.

        Youtube

        March opens her interview at Alabama GOP headquarters by asking Moore whether he’ll support Trump in building a wall between the United States and Mexico. 

        “I think the military can be used down with the border patrol … and stop illegal aliens coming across the border,” Moore answered. He added: If we need to stop it permanently, we build the wall, and I think it would be not an inexpensive way to do it.”

        March then asked what Moore believes are “the most important issues to the voters of Alabama.” He replied religious liberty, health care, and taxes.

        Multiple women have come forward to accuse Moore of sexually assaulting or harassing them. Leigh Corfman told The Washington Post in November that she was 14 years old when Moore assaulted her. The allegations have led many celebrities and politicians, including some Republicans, to speak out against Moore, and the hashtag, #RightSideOfHistory, encourages voters to not elect Moore.

        Moore has repeatedly denied the allegations against him. President Donald Trump, who also has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault and sexual harassment, has endorsed Moore, saying: “Roy Moore denies it. That’s all I can say.”

        The special election for the Alabama Senate seat is Tuesday. 

        Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-super-pac-girl-roy-moore_us_5a2e9698e4b0a290f05255a9

        11 Gifts For People Who’d Definitely Rather Be Sleeping Than Exchanging Presents

        Have you ever noticed that finding the perfect gifts for people who love to sleep is almost too easy? You know the friend we’re referring to here, don’t you? She’s easily the sleeping beauty of your squad who just #CantEven with Monday through Friday mornings. She’s the BFF who you wouldn’t blink twice at if you saw her shooting coffee through an IV to get her through 8 a.m. seminars and late nights at the office. Any gift that has to do with her bedroom, nighttime wardrobe, or a wind-down routine is one she’s going to be grateful for because, for her, sleep is life, and she can’t get enough of it (who can?).

        Plus, if you think about it, a better night’s sleep is just one of those things everyone appreciates, but rarely gets enough of. Just because your giftee might be lazing in bed late into the morning doesn’t necessarily mean they’re getting the quality sleep the average human needs to function. In fact, if your friend is clocking in over six to eight hours of sleep every night, their bodies might be trying to overcompensate for a lack of a good rest. Therefore, as far as I see it, the most generous gift you can give them is an accessory or two to either a) better their space or b) prepare their body properly for sleep. Here are a few ideas to help you get the job done.

        1A Sleek Sleep-Tracking Watch

        wesoo

        Wesoo K1 Fitness Watch and Sleep Monitor, $29.99, Amazon

        Fitness trackers are still a thriving trend in wearable tech, but have you noticed this one major upgrade recent models have installed in their machinery?

        According to a new report issued by the sleep experts at Sleep Cycle, Americans’ sleep quality has decreased by 10 percent from 2016 to 2017 (ouch). I have a hunch that this might be why technology brands are issuing trackers that not only count your steps and calories burned, but that also monitor your sleep quality metrics.

        Wesoo’s band is a bestseller on Amazon with a 4.5 star rating and unique sleep design that truly does it all.

        2Their New Nightcap

        Lipton

        Lipton Herbal Supplement Bedtime Bliss, $4.38, Walmart

        Obviously, your girl has to switch to decaf eventually if she ever wants to fall asleep.

        Remind her by gifting this doze-inducing sip from Lipton that combines chamomile leaves, mint, and orange peels to ease you into a comfortable sleep state “like a lullaby in a cup.” Slip a Barnes & Noble gift card in her holiday card, and you’ve just set her up for the sweetest of dreams.

        3A Comfy Pair Of PJs

        Adore Me

        Sleepwear Set in Christyna, $19.95, Adore Me

        I cannot be the only person obsessed with cozy, holiday-themed pajamas. This season, Adore Me has expanded their merchandise with a ton of his-and-her styles to choose from, but the Christyna style is hands down my favorite of them all.

        For some reason, black, white, and red plaid just looks like pure Christmas to me. Plus, the set is made stretchy for optimal comfort and with cotton for all the snuggly feels.

        4An Aromatic Bath Bomb

        Lush USA

        The Big Sleep Jelly Bomb, $8.95, LUSH USA

        If your giftee religiously takes baths before slipping into something comfy and hopping into bed, Lush’s newest sleep-inducing bomb is about to be her new favorite bathroom accessory. It’s the perfect formula to relax her body and mind, as notes of lavender, neroli, and chamomile fragrances transform her tub into an aromatic soak.

        5A Soft Blanket To Snuggle Under

        Bed Bath & Beyond

        Madison Park Ruched Faux-Fur Throw, $39.99, Bed Bath & Beyond

        Who couldn’t use a gigantic throw blanket to hibernate in throughout the winter months?

        Madison Park’s blanket is made from 100 percent faux-fur, features micro-fur for extra warmth on those freezing nights, and it’s also huge enough to share, so maybe she can finally stop hogging the covers when you sleep over.

        6An Overnight Mask To Enhance Their Beauty Sleep

        Too Cool For School

        Too Cool For School Pumpkin Sleeping Pack, $20, Sephora

        Beauty sleep isn’t a myth, ladies. When you sleep better, you feel better, and when you good, you good. See how that works?

        Chances are, your sleepy friend likely clocks in the recommended six to eight hours of sleep every night, which means her skin is probably glowing, but there’s always room for improvement, right?

        Too Cool For School’s overnight mask will enhance her skin’s recovery cycle with superfood ingredients and natural enzymes. Plus, it smells like pumpkin, and I can’t imagine a better way to fall asleep than with the scent of pie all around you.

        7An Artistic Diffuser

        Saje Natural Wellness

        Aromaart High Tide Ultrasonic Diffuser, $84.95, Saje

        Essential oils for sleep are super trendy right now, but it doesn’t look like the fad is fading anytime soon. Trust me, I’m not the type to talk up the trends if I haven’t done the research myself, and diffusers are a must for bedroom.

        TBH, diffusers can be super ugly and cheap-looking, but this Saje model is the prettiest piece of functional decor I’ve ever seen. The beautiful pattern was designed by San Francisco artist Heather Day, and was inspired by the healing powers of the deep, blue sea. So much zen, so many aromas to lull your giftee to sleep.

        8A Soothing Candle

        Primal Elements

        Primal Elements Tahitian Vanilla Two Wick Color Bowl Candle, $19.90, Amazon

        Doesn’t this candle look good enough to eat? I can guarantee my 9-year-old niece had no idea just how lovely this candle was going to make my apartment smell when she gifted it to my husband and me last Christmas, but this decadent display is still burning bright, and veiling our home with the scent of sweet vanilla 12 months later.

        You don’t necessarily need essential oils to practice aromatherapy, and if your bestie has a sweet tooth, this yummy-scented candle from Primal Elements will have her dreaming of sugar plum fairies year round (not kidding, it’s good for 60 hours of burn time).

        9Go Old School With This Digital Alarm Clock

        Peakeep

        Peakeep Battery Digital Alarm Clock, $12.99, Amazon

        I don’t have to tell you that smartphones are low-key ruining our lives, especially in the bedroom (and no, I’m not referring to your libido). No matter how much a person sleeps, the blue light that shines from your cell phone is messing with your sleep cycle, but what’s a girl to do when her only means of an alarm is via smartphone?

        Be the best friend you are and buy your sleeping beauty a digital alarm clock. This old school model from Peakeep has a snooze option, so she can squeeze in a few extra minutes of shut-eye if and when she wants. It’s also a “smart nighttime clock,” which means it has sensory lights that turn a subtle blue at night.

        10A Sleepy Supplement

        Sun Potion

        Sun Potion Organic Ashwagandha Powder, $36.99, iHerb

        Adaptogens like ashwagandha are another social media trend that’s actually making a difference in how people are sleeping. This is definitely the perfect gift for anyone who you know has wanted to try adaptogens for themselves, but couldn’t commit to the pricy purchase.  

        Trust me, I recently put Alaina Sullivan’s moon milk recipe for Bon Appétit to the test when I was tossing and turning through an awful couple of nights, and I was genuinely impressed by just how relaxed I felt by adding ashwagandha to my nightcap. Your giftee will love the combination of the powder’s sleep and overall health benefits.

        11Slippers They Can Sleep In

        Out From Under

        Out From Under Scruffy Slipper Sock, $16, Urban Outfitters

        If your BFF takes a lot of heat for wearing slippers to bed, offering a pair of Out From Under’s scruffy slipper socks tells them you’re on their side (or, at the very least, won’t judge them for it).

        I’m a fan of this creamy-colored pair, specifically because they’re subtle enough to wear with roomy Uggs on really cold days.

        Read more: https://elitedaily.com/p/11-gifts-for-people-who-love-to-sleep-cherish-their-snooze-time-more-than-anything-7599549

        This Family Doesn’t Feel Pain, And Now We Know Why

        The Marsilis family are pretty much real-life superheroes. Six members of this Italian family have a rare genetic mutation that causes them to have an extremely low sensitivity to pain, meaning they’ve had broken bones and otherwise painful injuries without barely noticing. On top of this, they can also eat hot chili peppers with ease.

        Scientists have recently been studying this fascinating family in the hopes of understanding the responsible genes and even creating new methods of pain relief. Their findings were published this week in the journal Brain.  

        “The members of this family can burn themselves or experience pain-free bone fractures without feeling any pain. But they have a normal intraepidermal nerve fibre density, which means their nerves are all there, they’re just not working how they should be,” study lead author Dr James Cox of University College London, said in a statement.

        “We’re working to gain a better understanding of exactly why they don’t feel much pain, to see if that could help us find new pain relief treatments.”

        The members of the family endowed with this gene variant include a mother (aged 78), her two daughters (aged 52 and 50) and their children (two boys and one girl, aged 24, 21, and 16). In homage to the family – the only known people with this genetic mutation – the researchers named the condition Marsili syndrome

        Letizia Marsili, the 52-year-old family member with the condition, spoke to BBC News and explained how they have never seen the condition as a negative, although it does have its downsides. For one thing, they often damage the roof of their mouths on hot drinks because they are unaware they are burning themselves. Similarly, her 24-year-old son has extremely delicate ankles due to numerous microfractures acquired while playing soccer.

        For the scientists, the family has proven to be an invaluable tool for understanding the genetics of pain and potentially inspiring a future treatment for chronic pain sufferers. They obtained DNA from each family member and mapped out the protein-coding genes in the genome, eventually identifying the novel point mutation in the ZFHX2 gene. They then bred mice that had the same mutation in the ZFHX2 gene. As you would imagine, these mice also gained a considerable tolerance to pain.

        “By identifying this mutation and clarifying that it contributes to the family’s pain insensitivity, we have opened up a whole new route to drug discovery for pain relief,” said study co-author Professor Anna Maria Aloisi. “With more research to understand exactly how the mutation impacts pain sensitivity, and to see what other genes might be involved, we could identify novel targets for drug development.” 

        Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/this-family-doesnt-feel-pain-thanks-to-rare-gene-mutation/

        SERIOUSLY!? City of Seattle’s response to reports about new soda tax proves prog pols FAILED Econ-101

        The city of Seattle had a new soda tax kick in on January 1st, and it’s quite a doozy:

        Read more: https://twitchy.com/dougp-3137/2018/01/06/seriously-city-of-seattles-response-to-reports-about-new-soda-tax-proves-prog-pols-failed-econ-101/

        House approves tax reform bill, as Trump eyes major legislative win

        The House on Tuesday approved a massive tax overhaul that would usher in steep rate cuts for American companies, double the deduction millions of families claim on their annual returns and make a host of other changes as part of the biggest rewrite of the tax code since the Reagan administration. 

        The bill passed on a 227-203 vote, with 12 Republicans defecting to join Democrats in opposition. The Senate started debate shortly afterward, with a vote expected overnight.

        Due to a parliamentary glitch, however, the House will likely have to vote one last time before the legislation can be signed. Three provisions in the House version violated Senate budget rules, so they will have to be stripped before a final House vote on Wednesday. 

        Ahead of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell predicted in an interview on Fox News that the bill would be approved by both houses and President Trump would sign it into law soon.

        “It’s going to pass and he will sign it in all likelihood this week,” McConnell said Tuesday evening on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

        The $1.5 trillion package, presuming it clears Congress in the end, would hand Trump his first major legislative victory just days before year’s end and the congressional recess.

        “Today, we are giving the people of this country their money back,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., declared Tuesday on the House floor.

        At an earlier news conference, Ryan said that “families at every income level get a tax cut,” vowing that a family of four making the median income would see a tax cut worth over $2,000. 

        WHAT THE TAX BILL MEANS FOR YOU

        ‘Today, we are giving the people of this country their money back.’

        – House Speaker Paul Ryan

        “This is real relief, and people are going to see this in their paychecks before too long,” Ryan said. He added that “this is the greatest example of a promise being made and a promise being kept.”

        Democrats sustained their vocal opposition to the bill – they’ve dubbed it a “scam” benefiting the wealthy – into the final moments before the vote. And protesters were escorted out after shouting out during Ryan’s floor speech, “You’re lying!”

        Ryan, Trump and other supporters have countered the criticism by claiming the bill would unleash economic growth. The speaker led a round of applause on the House floor minutes before the vote, while thanking “architect” Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

        The floor action comes after GOP leaders worked to win support from the last remaining holdouts on the Senate side. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Bob Corker of Tennessee backed the bill last week, while Susan Collins of Maine and Mike Lee of Utah endorsed it late Monday.

        Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, came around to supporting the tax bill in the end.  (AP)

        Barring any unexpected reversals, the bill is expected to narrowly pass the Senate in a matter of hours.

        Passage would give Trump a major victory on the domestic front, after repeated attempts to overhaul Obamacare failed in the face of internal Republican divisions and unified Democratic opposition. The tax bill does include one major rollback of the Affordable Care Act, repealing the individual mandate requiring Americans to buy health insurance.

        The changes to the tax system are more sweeping.

        The final bill – a combination of previously passed House and Senate legislation – would slash the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. It would double the standard deduction used by about two-thirds of U.S. households, to $24,000 for married couples. And the $1,000-per-child tax credit would double to $2,000, with up to $1,400 available in IRS refunds for families who owe little or no taxes.

        The corporate tax cut would be permanent, while the tax cuts for individuals would expire in 2026.

        The Trump administration presumes that the doubling of the standard deduction would lead to even more families claiming it.

        But those who itemize would lose some deductions.

        The bill would set a new $10,000 cap on the deduction that millions use in connection with state and local income, property and sales taxes. The cap remains in the final bill. It also would cap the mortgage interest deduction at $750,000, down from $1 million.

        At the same time, the bill would lower the top rate for individual and married filers from 39.6 percent to 37 percent. Further, it would set a deduction for “pass-through” business income at 20 percent. And it would curb the so-called estate tax.

        These provisions and others fueled Democratic complaints that the legislation was skewed to favor corporations and the wealthy – while expanding the deficit.    

        On the House floor, Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., mocked Republicans who say passage of the bill would be a Christmas gift to the American people.

        “I have never seen such intellectual dishonesty,” Sewell said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s more like the Grinch that stole Christmas.”

        Sewell said recent elections, where Democrats won races in New Jersey, Virginia and Alabama, show that voters don’t want the tax bill to move forward.

        “But here we are, watching the fiscal hawks of the Republican Party blow through every red light on the way off the cliff, adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit,” she said.

        House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., spoke in front of a giant sign that read, “#GOPTAXSCAM.”

        The bill would bring average initial tax cuts for Americans across all income lines, but by 2027, it would boost average levies for everyone earning up to $75,000, which includes most taxpayers, Congress’ nonpartisan tax analysts estimated Monday.

        A separate study by the Tax Policy Center, a private nonpartisan group, found that individual taxes would be reduced on average next year by $1,600. That ranged, on average, from $60 for people earning below $25,000 to $7,640 for those making above $149,000. Those in the top 1 percent, earning over $733,000, would see average tax cuts of $51,140.

        Fox News’ Alex Pappas and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

        Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/12/19/house-approves-tax-reform-bill-as-trump-eyes-major-legislative-win.html

        Starbucks Christmas Tree Frappuccino just tastes like sugar and regret

        Please drive this away from me.
        Image: STARBUCKS

        Nothing says Christmas like a cold cup of sugar. 

        At least that’s what I kept telling myself as I took a sip, and another one of the Christmas Tree Frappuccino. It’s Starbucks’ latest concoction that has people running out to corporate coffee shops, where they spend $5 and most likely take a bunch of smartphone photos to later post on social media. 

        Like this: 

        Like any good business reporter, I jumped on the trend Sunday. After my editor shared a piece by The Denver Post reviewing the drink and some tweets of people’s reactions, I asked if I could go get one and try it myself. Because that, my friends, is reporting. 

        Well, I’ve been wanting to get one ever since my sister shared the Starbucks ad in our family group Thursday morning. 

        Three hours later, my mom shared a picture of hers. Her review: “It is delicious.” Her favorite part was the candied cranberry topping. 

        Image: screenshot

        Image: screenshot

        I had participated in two of the previous limited-edition Starbucks drinks. 

        The Unicorn Frappuccino, a trend debut, was actually not too bad in my biased opinion. Though I think I was on an emotional high because I drank them with Chloe the Mini Frenchie (RIP). 

        important coffee meeting with @kerrymflynn who you would share a unicorn frappuccino with? 🦄☕️

        A post shared by Chloe The Mini Frenchie (@chloetheminifrenchie) on

        The Zombie Frappuccino was strange, but I was also in the middle of emceeing an event in Columbus, Ohio. 

        I definitely couldn’t let this one escape me. 

        And so that’s how I ended up drinking 420 calories on a Sunday morning. Fortunately, I live four blocks from a Starbucks, so it wasn’t too burdensome to put on a jacket and walk out in the cold weather for a frozen beverage. 

        The most embarrassing part was probably ordering when I asked for a “Christmas Tree Frappuccino” and the barista replied, “What?” So then I had to repeat myself over a cringeworthy order while the person in front of me just sipped her cup of hot coffee. 

        I waited to take a sip until I could take photos. Because, of course, that’s exactly what Starbucks wants us all to do. All of our tweets are free ads. Actually, they’re not just free. We’re not getting paid. We’re paying them. Starbucks is making money having us all make ads for them. It’s brilliant, and I’m happy to be part of it. 

        I got home and looked at the drink on my counter. The Matcha whipped cream had melted to half its height from before. I finally noticed that there was no candied cranberry topping. But I regretfully took a sip. And oh man, it was not good.

        Thin Mints are great (Disclosure: I’m a Girl Scout). Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream is awesome. 

        The Starbucks Christmas Tree Frappuccino is not either of those things. Every sip of this beverage is an overload of sugar. I’d rather crush up a bunch of Thin Mints and mix them with some ice and milk in a blender than continue sipping this. 

        I’m not going to tell you not to get a Christmas Tree Frappuccino because you can probably make your own decisions. But this is not good and you can spend $5 on something else. If you need the picture, go to Starbucks and just wait for someone else to order one. But be good to yourself, and don’t drink it. 

        Please. 

        Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/12/10/starbucks-christmas-tree-frappuccino-review-sugar-regrets-photos/

        31 Days of Happiness Countdown: Carrie Fisher’s dog is in the new ‘Star Wars.’ (Day 13)

        Thanks for stopping by for Day 13 of Upworthy’s 31 Days of Happiness Countdown! Each day between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31, we’re sharing stories we hope will bring joy, smiles, and laughter into our lives and yours. It’s been a challenging year for a lot of us, so why not end it on a high note, with a bit of happiness? Check back tomorrow for another installment!

        This red carpet stud is Gary Fisher.

        Photo by Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Images.

        If that floppy tongue looks familiar, that’s because Gary was Carrie Fisher’s therapy dog.

        She adored him. And she always brought him along for the ride.

        Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Wizard World.

        Fisher, who lived openly with bipolar disorder and died at age 60 last year, said Gary had always been a soothing presence by her side. “Gary is very devoted to me and that calms me down,” she told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in 2013. “He’s anxious when he’s away from me.”

        But Gary, who reportedly now lives with Fisher’s former assistant, is staying in the spotlight. He’s even starring in the new film, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” which Fisher filmed before she passed away. And honestly, he looks as cute as can be … for galaxy far, far away standards, at least.

        Someone spotted a wrinkly four-legged alien in a sneak-peek image of the new film and asked, “Wait, is that Gary?”

        Clair Henry of the “Star Wars” fan site Fantha Tracks tweeted at director Rian Johnson, asking if the “cute little creature” was, in fact, Fisher’s old pup.

        Here’s that pic a little bit closer.

        Image via Clair Henry/Twitter.

        Johnson spotted her tweet and confirmed: Yep, that’s him!

        (Granted, it definitely looks like Gary had been through the makeup and prosthetics department.)

        Gary, you’re a silver screen star!

        Fans are feeling lots of emotions over the latest “Star Wars” film — the last time Fisher’s General Leia Organa will grace cinema screens. For millions, Fisher was more than just a princess all these decades: She was a fighter, fierce friend, and an outspoken advocate for combating the stigma surrounding mental illness. She helped so many people simply be themselves.

        It’s wonderful to know that part of her lives on in her best furry little friend.


        31 Days of Happiness Countdown: DAY 1 / DAY 2 / DAY 3 / DAY 4 / DAY 5 / DAY 6 / DAY 7 / DAY 8 / DAY 9 / DAY 10 / DAY 11 / DAY 12 / [DAY 13] / DAY 14 / DAY 15 / DAY 16 / DAY 17 / DAY 18 / DAY 19 / DAY 20 / DAY 21 / DAY 22 / DAY 23 / DAY 24 / DAY 25 / DAY 26 / DAY 27 / DAY 28 / DAY 29 / DAY 30 / DAY 31

        Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/31-days-of-happiness-countdown-carrie-fisher-s-dog-is-in-the-new-star-wars-day-13

        Girl has blunt message for Aetna after her brain surgery request was denied

        (CNN)Cara Pressman sobbed in the big red chair in her living room. The 15-year-old tried to absorb the devastating news relayed by her parents: that their insurance company, Aetna, denied her for a minimally invasive brain surgery that could end the seizures that have haunted her since she was 9 years old.

        “When my parents told me, I went kind of blank and started crying,” she said. “I cried for like an hour.”
        Her friends had been lined up to visit her in the hospital for the surgery three days away, on Monday, October 23. Between tears, she texted them that the whole thing was off.
          It was supposed to be a joyous weekend. Cara’s grandparents had come to town to celebrate their 90th birthdays, a jubilant party with more than 100 family and friends crowding her home. The party did go on — just with a lot more stress.
          Cara had multiple complex partial seizures that weekend. When the seizures strike, her body gets cold and shakes, and she zones out for anywhere from 20 seconds to two minutes, typically still aware of her surroundings. Her seizures can be triggered by stress, by being happy, by exerting herself — almost anything. “It’s like having a nightmare but while you’re awake,” she said.
          In the six weeks since the denial, Cara has had more than two dozen seizures affecting her everyday life. Her message to Aetna is blunt: “Considering they’re denying me getting surgery and stopping this thing that’s wrong with my brain, I would probably just say, ‘Screw you.’ ”

          Aetna: We’re looking out for what’s best for patients

          The Pressman family and, separately, Jennifer Rittereiser, a 44-year-old mom who has struggled with seizures since she was 10, approached CNN in recent weeks after they were both denied, by Aetna, for laser ablation surgery, a minimally invasive procedure in which a thin laser is used to heat and destroy lesions in the brain where the seizures are originating.Aetna is the third-largest health insurance provider in the country, providing medical coverage to 23.1 million people.
          Neurologists consider laser ablation, which is performed through a small hole in the skull, to be safer and more precise than traditional brain surgery, where the top portion of the skull is removed in order for doctors to operate. The procedure is less daunting for the patient and parents who make decisions for their children: No one likes the idea of a skull opened and a chunk of brain removed.
          In denying Cara her surgery, Aetna said it considers laser ablation surgery “experimental and investigational for the treatment of epilepsy because the effectiveness of this approach has not been established.”
          “Clinical studies have not proven that this procedures effective for treatment of the member’s condition,” Aetna wrote in its rejection letter.
          The insurance company did approve her for the more invasive and more expensive open brain surgery, called a temporal lobectomy, even though her medical team never sought approval for the procedure.
          The laser surgery is approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is widely recognized within the epilepsy community as an effective treatment alternative to open brain surgery, especially when the location of seizure activity can be pinpointed to a specific part of the brain.
          Dr. Jamie Van Gompel, a neurosurgeon at the Mayo Clinic, disputes Aetna’s assessment. He is not involved in Cara’s care nor Rittereiser’s treatment, but he said Aetna’s assessment is wrong.
          “I would not call it experimental at all,” said Van Gompel, who is leading a clinical trial on the surgery at Mayo as part of a larger national study. “It’s definitely not an experimental procedure. There’ve been thousands of patients treated with it. It’s FDA-approved. There’s a lot of data out there to suggest it’s effective for epilepsy.”
          Van Gompel said a temporal lobectomy carries a much higher risk of serious complications, including the possibility of death. “It’s a big jump to go to a big invasive procedure,” he said.
          Recovery time after open brain surgery can range from six to 12 weeks. By contrast, a patient who undergoes laser ablation can be back to work or at school in less than two weeks. The pain from laser surgery is much less, and extreme headaches are fewer than with open brain surgery, Van Gompel said.
          While laser ablation has not yet undergone large randomized controlled trials, Van Gompel said existing data shows it’s effective more than 50% of the time. He hopes the current clinical trial will show a success rate of 60% to 70% or better in epilepsy patients. Temporal lobectomies, he said, have a slightly better rate, of more than 70%.
          Pressed by CNN for a better explanation on its denial, Aetna stood by its rejection for Cara and Rittereiser, saying it was in the best interest of the patients. But the language was softened slightly.
          “Clinical effectiveness and our members’ safety are the primary criteria we use in determining whether a treatment or service is medically necessary,” Aetna said. “There is currently a limited amount of evidence-based, clinical studies related to laser ablation surgery. As noted by the Epilepsy Foundation, only studies with a very small number of participants have been used to report the effectiveness of this procedure. We consistently evaluate any new studies or additional evidence when developing our clinical policy bulletins, and will continue to do so for this procedure.”
          Contacted for reaction, the Epilepsy Foundation strongly objected to Aetna’s remarks, saying the insurance company took its information out of context. Laser ablation surgery “has emerged as a new minimally invasive surgical option that is best suited for patients with symptomatic localization-related epilepsy,” said Dr. Jacqueline French, the chief science officer with the Epilepsy Foundation.
          “This technology is much less invasive than the alternative, which involves removing a sizeable piece of brain, at a substantially higher monetary and personal cost,” French said. “This path should be available, if the treating epilepsy physician has recommended it, without delay or barriers.”
          Phil Gattone, the president and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation, said insurance denials and other barriers to treatment have become a common battle for thousands of Americans with seizure disorders.
          Gattone knows first-hand the pain of what Cara’s parents are going through. His own son began having seizures when he was 4 and underwent brain surgery in the early 1990s. “It was extremely challenging for our family to make a decision to remove part of our child’s skull and brain for a surgery that we hoped would end the devastation of seizures that were stopping his development,” Gattone said. “We took this leap of faith and made the decision, and it worked out the best for him.”
          But he added that he and his wife wished laser ablation surgery had been available back then. The device used for laser ablation surgery was approved by the FDA nine years ago. “I know that my wife and I would’ve found much more comfort if we had had (laser ablation) as an option,” he said.
          Gattone said people with seizures, their caregivers and their doctors should not be “spending critical time in the midst of a health-care crisis, filing paperwork, making appeals or otherwise going through the motions of administrative paperwork” trying to get approval for a life-changing operation.
          “The Epilepsy Foundation can understand no reason why an insurance company would place any barrier to delay a treatment that may save an individual’s life, promote the development of the young child’s brain or bring about seizure control,” Gattone said.

          Mom who crashed with kid in car gets denied

          Jennifer Rittereiser lost consciousness behind the wheel of her silver SUV while driving with her 7-year-old son, Robert, in April. Her SUV rammed into a car in front of her and struck it again before veering into oncoming traffic. Her vehicle careened down an embankment, flipped over and came to rest on its side amid a tangle of brush. She narrowly missed slamming into a guardrail and several trees.
          Mom and son somehow managed to walk free unharmed.
          “People were amazed,” she said. “They had a helicopter on the way, actually. I am extremely fortunate just from that sense.”
          Rittereiser has battled seizures since she was 10 and has been able to function with an array of medications in the three decades since. For much of her life, she could tell when the seizures might come.
          These weren’t like the seizures depicted in Hollywood movies; she wouldn’t fall to the ground and writhe. She would zone out for a spell. She could understand people and could still function but couldn’t speak back — or if she did, her words were garbled.
          As an executive in the health care industry, Rittereiser has fallen asleep during meetings. When she senses a seizure coming, she rushes to the bathroom to hide until they go away. One time, she says she urinated on herself at her desk without realizing it.
          Rittereiser had a crash in 2014 in which she rear-ended a car after she had a seizure. No one was hurt in that crash, but she stopped driving for more than a year. Her medications were tweaked, and her seizures were largely kept in check, until the crash this April.
          She was soon evaluated by an array of doctors and recommended for laser ablation surgery. After 34 years of struggling with seizures, she thought her ordeal might finally come to an end. Surgery was set for June 16.
          But in late May, Aetna denied the surgery. She fought Aetna’s decision through a lengthy appeals process. Aetna refused to budge.
          “It’s just not right,” Rittereiser said.
          She said she recently went to Aetna’s website to look up the company’s values. She felt nauseated. “Everything in their core values is not being shown in the way I’m being treated. They’re talking about promoting wellness and health and ‘being by your side.’ “
          She paused, contemplating the company’s “by your side” catchphrase, saying it’s “the most ridiculous thing, because they are the biggest barrier to my success and my well-being going forward.
          “It drives me crazy.”

          Dad: ‘You get so angry’

          Julie Pressman stood near an elevator at her doctor’s office when word came that Cara’s surgery had been denied. The mom fell to the floor and wept.
          She called Cara’s father, Robert. He was at the airport picking up his 90-year-old parents for their birthday party. Mom and Dad rallied for their daughter and gathered strength to break the news. That’s when Cara sat in the red chair, crying inconsolably.
          “Telling Cara was horrible,” her mom said. “Horrible.”
          “It’s just so frustrating for us to know there’s a solution out there — a way to fix our daughter — and some bureaucratic machine is preventing this from happening,” Robert Pressman said. “You get so angry, but you don’t know who to take it out on, because there’s no particular person that’s doing it. It’s this big bureaucracy that’s preventing this from happening.”
          Julie and Robert said the most beautiful day of their lives came on August 20, 2002, when Cara popped into the world and met her 2-year-old sister, Lindsey, for the first time. “That was the day we became a family,” Julie said. “Our love for those girls is amazing. How we got this lucky is beyond us.”
          But that luck has been tested. When Cara was 9, she’d complained of extreme headaches for much of the day one evening, and then in the middle of the night, she began seizing uncontrollably. The family had two black Labradors that had gone to her room and barked like crazy to alert her parents. Cara had bitten her tongue, and blood was running down her face when they got to the room.
          It was a terrifying scene. She was rushed off in an ambulance and underwent a battery of tests. Mom, Dad and Cara never thought they’d still be battling seizures six years later — let alone an insurance company. She’s had seizures on the soccer field, during softball games, on stage during plays, in the classroom. Almost everywhere.
          How does she envision a life without seizures?
          “I don’t know,” she said. “I’ve never had a life without seizures.”
          “You will. You will,” her dad told her.
          “I just don’t know when,” she responded.
          Mom: “It will happen, kiddo.”
          Her mother calls Cara a feisty, petite powerhouse with big marble eyes and long eyelashes and a funny wit to match. She’s a naturally gifted athlete, singer and dancer, but her parents feel that her seizures have kept her from reaching her full potential.

          See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

          They long for the day when the seizures are gone. The parents said they have paid $24,000 for insurance with Aetna this year. They’re determined to get Cara laser ablation surgery with or without the insurance company’s help. They will appeal Aetna’s latest rejection — but they’re not optimistic.
          In preparation, they’ve begun exploring raiding their retirement funds to pay the $300,000 out of pocket. “Cara is worth every penny, but man,” her mom said. ” ‘Screw Aetna,’ indeed, to quote my kid.”

          Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/11/health/aetna-surgery-denied-for-girl/index.html

          Macron awards US scientists grants to move to France in defiance of Trump

          Frances president awards millions of euros to 18 American scientists to relocate in effort to counter Donald Trump on the climate change front

          Eighteen climate scientists from the US and elsewhere have hit the jackpot as Frances president, Emmanuel Macron, awarded them millions of euros in grants to relocate to France for the rest of Donald Trumps presidential term.

          The Make Our Planet Great Again grants a nod to Trumps Make America Great Again campaign slogan are part of Macrons efforts to counter Trump on the climate change front. Macron announced a contest for the projects in June, hours after Trump declared he would withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord.

          More than 5,000 people from about 100 countries expressed interest in the grants. Most of the applicants and 13 of the 18 winners were US-based researchers.

          Macrons appeal gave me such a psychological boost, to have that kind of support, to have the head of state saying I value what you do, said winner Camille Parmesan, of the University of Texas at Austin. She will be working at an experimental ecology station in the Pyrenees on how human-made climate change is affecting wildlife.

          In an interview with the Associated Press, Parmesan described funding challenges for climate science in the US and a feeling that you are having to hide what you do.

          Trump has expressed skepticism about global warming and said the Paris accord would hurt US business by requiring a reduction in climate-damaging emissions.

          We will be there to replace US financing of climate research, Macron told the winners in Paris on Monday.

          If we want to prepare for the changes of tomorrow, we need science, he said, promising to put in place a global climate change monitoring system among other climate innovations.

          The research of the winning recipients focuses on pollution, hurricanes and clouds. A new round of the competition will be launched next year, alongside Germany. About 50 projects will be chosen overall, and funded with 60m ($70m) from the state and French research institutes.

          Initially aimed at American researchers, the research grants were expanded to other non-French climate scientists, according to organizers. Candidates need to be known for working on climate issues, have completed a thesis and propose a project that would take between three to five years.

          The time frame would cover Trumps current presidential term.

          Some French researchers have complained that Macron is showering money on foreign scientists at a time when they have been pleading for more support for domestic higher education.

          Macron unveiled the first winners at a startup incubator in Paris called Station F, where Microsoft and smaller tech companies announced projects to finance activities aimed at reducing emissions.

          Mondays event is a prelude to a bigger climate summit Tuesday aimed at giving new impetus to the Paris accord and finding new funding to help governments and businesses meet its goals.

          More than 50 world leaders are expected in Paris for the One Planet Summit, co-hosted by the UN and the World Bank. Trump was not invited.

          Other attendees include Arnold Schwarzenegger, who took a spin on a Parisian electric bike Monday to call attention to health problems caused by pollution.

          The Hollywood star and former California governor argued that Trumps rejection of the Paris climate accord doesnt matter, because companies, scientists and other governments can pick up the slack to reduce global emissions.

          Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/11/macron-awards-grants-to-us-scientists-to-move-to-france-in-defiance-of-trump

          Grandma’s Sweet Introduction Text To Grandson’s Girlfriend Escalates Quickly

          You’ve gotta love these unexpected, hilariously awkward little gems that are bound to pop up between an eccentric, loving grandmother and the poor ‘ol grandson/granddaughter’s significant other. In grandma’s defense, she clearly took a liking to her grandson’s girlfriend, and is only promoting awareness of her health!

          Read more: http://cheezburger.com/3890693/grandmas-sweet-introduction-text-to-grandsons-girlfriend-escalates-quickly