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20 Mar 16:12

Latin America Is Quitting Smoking, And Africa Is Taking It Up

by Anna Maria Barry-Jester

Over the past decade, Panama has adopted some of the strictest smoking laws in the world. In 2008, the country banned smoking in nearly all public spaces, indoor and out, as well as all workplaces and sports venues. That same year, it became the first country in the Americas to ban all advertising, promotion or sponsorship of tobacco products. It also requires 60 percent of tobacco packaging to be covered with health warnings.

These efforts helped Panama become the No. 1 nation at cutting smoking prevalence over the past 15 years, bringing the estimated number of smokers down to 191,200 this year, according to a World Health Organization report released Wednesday. The report details estimated smoking prevalence by country every five years starting in 2000, with projections through 2025.8 To figure out which countries had seen the biggest improvements, I calculated the percentage change in smoking prevalence from 2000 to 2015. Panama topped the list, with a 57 percent decline. I also calculated the percentage change projected from 2015 to 2025.

India, though it has more than 101 million smokers, now has 37 million fewer than it did 15 years ago, the largest drop in number of any country (India had the sixth-largest percentage decline in smoking prevalence).

Among the 26 countries that have seen an increase in smoking over the past 15 years, 16 are low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The biggest increase in smoking is in the Republic of Congo, where the WHO estimates that smoking prevalence jumped from nearly 6 percent in 2000 to 22 percent in 2015 and expects that number to climb all the way to 47 percent by 2025. Cameroon, Bahrain and Niger also saw increases of more than 100 percent over the past 15 years.

In East Asia, Indonesia is the only country to see an increase (though given its population, that increase is equal to nearly 30 million people), while in the Americas, Haiti was the lone country with an increase in smoking prevalence.

The 10 countries with the biggest decreases in smoking prevalence span continents and GDPs. Iceland and Norway, wealthy countries with strong public health systems, are second and third for biggest declines in prevalence, while Myanmar comes in fourth. While the WHO projections show Myanmar continuing on a downward trajectory, some inside the country are worried that a recent lift in sanctions is ushering in Big Tobacco.

Meanwhile in Uruguay, which holds fifth place, smoking prevalence dropped by nearly 50 percent over the past 15 years and is expected to decrease to just more than 14 percent by 2025. But the South American nation of 2.7 million is currently embroiled in a battle with Philip Morris, which claims that legislation requiring 80 percent of cigarette packs to be covered with health warnings is devaluing its “legally-protected trademark and brand.”

Uruguay has been getting help from the foundation of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to pay for legal fees in the lawsuit. And soon it may not be the only one; Bloomberg and Bill Gates announced a $4 million fund Wednesday to help developing countries fend off legal challenges from tobacco companies.

18 Mar 17:37

How To Bury Your Parents

by Geoffrey Redick

Michael, I am a pregnant lady, I can not deal with shit like this at work.

Your mom is going to die. Your dad is also going to die.


18 Mar 06:31

gravyholocaustsucks:It’s been driving me nuts trying to figure...


It’s been driving me nuts trying to figure out who old man Sean Penn looks like; finally figured it out Penn has devolved into Al Pacino from ‘Dick Tracy’

13 Mar 16:00

Hysteria and Teenage Girls

by Hayley Krischer
by Hayley Krischer

It was a typical Thursday night at Smash Burger. My friend was with her two sons who were furiously stuffing sweet potato French fries in their mouths. In the booth behind her, my friend saw a young boy who looked a lot like Justin Bieber. So she called her 16-year-old-niece, Kate (not her real name), a Justin Bieber fanatic since she was 12. Kate owns two life-size cardboard Bieber cut-outs—one with a squiggly black mustache drawn on his upper lip by a mischievous cousin—hovering over her bed.

No one knows yet that Justin Bieber was on a religious retreat in my small New Jersey town, at the home of the new pastor to the stars, Carl Lentz. Justin Bieber was just trying to have a burger in peace for about five minutes.

That all ends once Kate walked in and confirmed that, yes, it really was Justin Bieber. She screamed and fell to the ground on her knees. “She had a total nervous breakdown. Crying, hands shaking. She couldn’t move. I had to walk her to the booth,” my friend says. Kate’s screaming was Bieber’s cue to leave, but by then he was surrounded by a swarm of girls. He signed the autograph of a girl in a wheelchair, took a quick picture, left his uneaten food in the booth and bolted.

Kate cradled his empty soda cup in the booth, which is when my friend started filming her. And there she is, this young girl, her face stricken like she witnessed a shooting or an attack, tears and mascara streaming down her face, an expression society would call “hysterical.” Even the counter guy, who I spoke to a few days later, told me: “The Justin Bieber part was weird, but that girl screaming, that’s what made everything explode.” Kate babbled some half-coherent sentences like, “I’m going to die. Oh my God, Justin Bieber at Smash Burger. This is beyond my comprehension. I’m going to kill myself.” And then the phone rings. It’s Kate’s friend. “Alex,” she says, hiccupping through tears. “I’m holding his cuuuuuuup.”

All I wanted to do was hug her when I heard this story—I’ve had my own nervous breakdowns about musicians. What makes girls from the Beatles to Duran Duran to N’Sync to Michael Jackson to One Direction—full on freak out?

* * *

Hysteria has always been a women’s issue. The concept goes back about 4,000 years. In Ancient Egypt, hysterical disorders were said to be caused by “spontaneous uterus movement within the female body;” hysterical women who were diagnosed with a uterus too far “up” inside the body were treated with sour and bitter odors near her mouth and nose. If the uterus was too far down, then the putrid odors were placed near her vagina.

In Greek mythology, the Argonaut Melampus treated hysterical women who refused to honor the Greek’s massive phallic symbols and ran away to hide in the mountains from these Goliath-sized penises. During that time, the giant phallus was a representation of God, life and fertility. Melampus cured these virgins, according to research, by urging them to have sex with “young and strong men” because their uterus was being “poisoned by venomous humors due to a lack of orgasms.”

By fifth century B.C., Hippocrates was the first person to use the word “hysteria.” He took the notion of the poisonous uterus to another level—he believed that the “restless” uterus was because of a woman’s “cold and wet” body (as opposed to a man’s “dry and warm and superior” body). He explains that the uterus is a sickly organ—especially if it’s sexually deprived. Writes psychiatric researcher Mauro Giovanni Carta, “[Hippocrates] goes further; especially in virgins, widows, single, or sterile women, this “bad” uterus—since it is not satisfied—not only produces toxic fumes but also takes to wandering around the body, causing various kinds of disorders such as anxiety, sense of suffocation, tremors, sometimes even convulsions and paralysis.”

By the mid 1600’s, doctors like Thomas Willis and philosophers like René Descartes were explaining that hysteria wasn’t because of “bad” lady parts but as a psychological issue; specifically, a psychological women’s issue. For the next 200-250 years, hysteria was defined as part of female “nature,” a hostile “characteristic,” explains researcher Elanie Showalter in Hysteria Beyond Freud. “As a general rule,” wrote the French physician Auguste Fabre in 1883, “all women are hysterical and…every woman carries with her the seeds of hysteria. Hysteria, before being an illness, is a temperament, and what constitutes the temperament of a woman is rudimentary hysteria.” Meaning: women don’t need a reason to be hysterical. We just are.

By the late 1800s and the early 1900s, Freud took on hysteria, theorizing that some of hysteria had to do with traumatic events, but most of hysteria was because of sexual repression. I asked my therapist about this theory, and she told me that hysteria was treated as if there was nothing neurologically going on. “Doctors would take a woman, put her on a table and stimulate her clitoris to orgasm in hopes that she’d be cured of her hysteria,” she explained.

This wasn’t an enviable job though, historians say; doctors were burdened by the chore of bringing their patients to climax, complaining about how long it took. Husbands didn’t want to be sidled with this job of having to bring their hysterical wives to climax either. That's why the vibrator was invented, writes Rachel P. Maines in her book, The Technology of Orgasm. It was considered a medical instrument “in response to demand from physicians for more rapid and efficient physical therapies, particularly for hysteria.”

It wasn’t until the 1960s that feminists took the idea of hysteria and redefined it—feminist thinkers like Juliet Mitchell believe that hysteria was the first step to feminism, because it was feminine pathology that spoke to and against patriarchy. Hysteria, in other words, has always been a language that women have used to attempt to shut down centuries of mansplaining—and only until the 1960s were they successful at it.

* * *

In Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, two girls—9-year-old Elizabeth Parris and 11-year-old Abigail Williams—began having what was described as uncontrollable “hysterical” fits. They were screaming, crying, moaning, their bodies convulsed and they babbled incoherently. A doctor diagnosed the girls of being under the spell of witchcraft and soon, more girls became “afflicted” with the same symptoms. By the end of that year, 13 women and five men were accused of witchcraft and hanged, according to the Salem Witch Museum.

Though there have been a number of theories as to why this happened; some blame ergot (a fungus) poisoning, others say they were rebelling against their social standing, some historians say the fasting and the obsessive prayer rituals caused tremendous stress. Salem was very religious, it was a small settlement described by historians as “rife with anxiety,” a “crumbling providence.” The girls, in other words, did not just become hysterical out of the blue—there was a lot to be afraid of.

But because it spread from person to person like a social contagion, psychologists explain the hysteria in Salem as conversion disorder. Conversion disorder is a physical manifestation of psychological stress and anxiety. Like, say, the contagious hysteria that goes on at a Justin Bieber concert.

I started researching other cases of conversion disorder. In Monroe, Louisiana in 1952, 165 cheerleaders fainted during a football game. In 1998 in McMinniville, Tenneesse, a teacher noticed a gas-like odor and though the school was evacuated, her symptoms spread to 180 students and teachers. In 2007, in Chalco, Mexico, 600 girls became feverish and nauseated. But the most highly publicized case happened in 2012 in Le Roy, New York, when 14 students (13 girls, one boy), developed symptoms of involuntary twitching and clapping, snorting, muscle spasms and even loss of consciousness.

Two books came out this year based on the Le Roy incident: Megan Abbott’s poetic and creepy The Fever and Katherine Howe’s disturbing Conversion. Because Howe, who also wrote “The Penguin Book of Witches,” is something of a Salem encyclopedia, I spoke with her about the hysteria in Le Roy and if there’s a tie between what happened there and the hysteria surrounding pop stars. And though she was hesitant to name a connection, she did say that there seems to be an expression of excitement and release in conversion disorder.

“Here’s this space in which its almost socially sanctioned to release this kind of tension, especially for adolescent girls who are supposed to control themselves. It’s what they’re supposed to master as a teenager, to control themselves,” she said. Hysteria goes against every grain that adolescent girls learn: be good, be better than the next girl, don’t be loud, don’t be promiscuous. There’s an intensity to hysteria that’s significant, Howe says.

In fact, during her research of the Le Roy incident, she found that one girl described the experience as a “build up of tension which was then released by a verbal disorder and that she felt better if she gave into the physical disorder, the tic,” she said. “There’s a thread that connects it to female anxiety and female emotionalism.”

What is this thread, I wondered? I spoke to Jane Mendle, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Cornell University who specializes in adolescent girls. First, she made clear that the hysteria we see with girls in front of pop stars is not the same as what’s happening in conversion disorder. Conversion disorder is a diagnosable, psychological disorder; in the case of girls and rock stars, the term “hysteria” is really a metaphorical description of their behavior. But “that doesn’t mean that the elements of screaming and crying over rock stars and symptoms of conversion disorder in adolescent females aren’t driven by some of the same underlying principles,” Mendle told me. “There is a strong element of social contagion for both of these things.”

When a group of girls develop conversion disorder, it typically starts with somebody who is at the top of the social pecking order; the Queen Bee or someone close to her. But in the case of Bieber or One Direction hysteria, it may be more complex than just social ranking, because fame is more “valued now than it has been in the past,” Mendle says. A few generations ago, when girls were screaming over The Beatles or The Jackson Five, they didn’t have the option to share that experience on Instagram or Facebook. They shared it with each other, collectively, in the moment. Today’s fame component changes everything. “The majority of tweens and adolescents are extremely interested in becoming famous themselves—it is one of their top priorities for their lives,” Mendle says.

I ask her if this means fame alone would inspire hysteria. “To some degree,” she replied, “because fame as a value and considering Justin Bieber as a part of their lives, even though they’ve never met him, is really what has inspired a lot of this.”

What about conversion disorder? Even though it typically starts with the Queen Bee, there’s still an element that seems to be inspired by wanting attention. Mendle agrees. “One of the things that is most noticeable about conversion disorder is that it tends to occur in people who don’t necessarily command a lot of social attention; by social attention, I really mean society’s attention—in that they are not the focus of their society. And historically and traditionally that’s women,” she said. “So when you look to things like the Salem Witch Trials, these girls were by no means a focus of their community until they developed their physical symptoms. And then they became a center of a town’s narrative in a way they would have never have been able to otherwise.”

* * *

Doris Day’s “Que Sera, Sera” was number two on the Billboard chart in 1956. The narrative goes like this: A girl asks her mother about her future, “Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?” The mother replies:

Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera.

The mother isn’t wrong, the future isn’t ours, but when you look at it in the context of women’s place in society the song sums up patriarchal 1950s pretty well. There’s zero agency in it. There’s no question about her passions outside of looking good and being wealthy. Now look at the popular male artists of that same time: the dominators were ultra-macho crooners like Elvis, Frank Sinatra or Dion. As historian Kimberly Cura points out in her paper “The Beatles and Female Fanaticism,” Elvis used his sex appeal and pushy lyrics, Frank Sinatra had his sentimental crooner image and Dion had his womanizing songs like “The Wanderer,” which goes like this:

Oh well, I'm the type of guy who will never settle down
Where pretty girls are well, you know that I'm around
I kiss em and I love em cause to me they’re all the same
I hug em and I squeeze em they don’t even know my name

It’s no wonder girls lost it when The Beatles entered the music scene—they had remarkable differences to these hyper-masculine artists, namely in their lyrics. Adolescent girls went crazy when they heard “She Loves You,” a song that I never really paid much attention to because the chorus, “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah,” was repetitive and annoying. But revisiting the song now and deconstructing it, as well as giving it some historical context, changes it.

She said you hurt her so
She almost lost her mind
And now she says she knows
You’re not the hurting kind
She says she loves you
And you know that can’t be bad
Yes, she loves you
And you know you should be glad, oooh

The Beatles then become this sensitive guy vessel with this song, injecting your stereotypical blockhead male rhetoric with an emotional narrative. Look, you hurt this girl and she knows you didn’t mean it, and she wants to give you a second chance, so why don’t you talk to her, man? “’She Loves You,’ not only speaks of a common real-life dynamic between lovers, but also—and most importantly—places responsibility on the man, not his partner,” explains Cura.

These early Beatles songs created a world where women had freedom from traditional gender roles (like in Doris Day’s “Que, Sera, Sera”). “Women in The Beatles’ songs weren’t depicted as the idealized figures described in typical rock lyrics, but instead were represented fully-formed characters,” writes Cura. This was the key behind the hysteria that surrounded Beatlemania: women and girls were free to express themselves—finally!—because they were understood.

The same has to be said for Morrissey who not only openly embraced a fluid definition of sexuality, but who also wrote from the perspective of masculine sensitivity. His lyrics created a safe place for female fans to scream, to cry, to hand him roses on the stage while he sang. Morrissey reveled and embraced male vulnerability; he exhausted heartbreak. Take the lyrics to “How Soon Is Now:”

You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does
There’s a club if you’d like to go
You could meet somebody who really loves you
So you go, and you stand on your own
And you leave on your own
And you go home, and you cry and you want to die

In this song, he reveals his insecurity and his isolation—he goes to a club and can’t even be consoled because he’s so lonely. Morrissey sings countless songs like this—take “I Know It’s Over” in which he cries, “Oh mother, I can feel, the soil falling over my head. And as I climb into an empty bed. Oh well, enough said.”

Though Morrissey and The Beatles and Justin Bieber have little in common musically, they have everything in common as vulnerable lyricists; Justin Bieber takes the same page out of the Morrissey handbook, especially during his earlier mall days. In his movie Never Say Never he brings up a girl for each performance of “One Less Lonely Girl” and serenades her.

How many "I told you’s" and "start over’s" and shoulders have you cried on before?
How many promises? Be honest girl
How many tears you let hit the floor
How many bags you packed
Just to take them back
Tell me that how many either ‘or’s’
But no more if you let me inside of your world
There’ll be one less lonely girl

The appeal here, like with Morrissey, is that Justin Bieber talks to his subject as if he understands what true vulnerability and heartbreak is about. (And who am I to say? Maybe he does.) These kinds of lyrics allow girls to feel comfortable and secure, giving them permission to engage in hysteria, most noticeably after the introduction of the Beatles. Cura puts it like this: “The Beatles… was the first widespread outburst during the sixties to feature women—in this case, teenaged girls—in a radical context.”

Though lots of critics at the time wanted to write off the hysteria around the Beatles as yet another example of crazy, hormonal girls, or some kind of “social dysfunction,” or as depressive loners—their collective hysteria was really about them stepping outside of their prescribed identities. “Teen and pre-teen girls were expected not only to be good and pure, but to be the enforcers of purity within their teen society—drawing the line for overeager boys and ostracizing girls who failed in this responsibility,” writes journalist Barbara Ehrenreich.

Has much changed? Girls are still expected to act a certain way—but screaming over a pop star gives them a say. It’s like sexual release that’s allowed. Michelle Janning, a sociology professor at Whitman College, who has written about screaming girls, explains this in an email: “This bodily and vocal sexual expression could have two paradoxical interpretations: either a girl screaming at a concert is defiantly protesting girls’ sexual repression in a highly sexualized society, or she is doing so as an unsuspecting part of the larger project to maintain girls’ sexuality as controlled, quiet, and contained."

But performers like Bieber and Morrissey and The Beatles and Michael Jackson have something else in common: their somewhat androgynous man-boy looks. Adolescent girls see a feminine quality in these kinds of men, sociologists say, that reminded them of themselves. Girls feel safe around more androgynous singers because they’re not pushing the macho stereotype which can be intimidating to a teenage girl. Girls saw the (early) Beatles and Bieber as reflection of themselves, “a phenomenon that would be imitated in the future by androgynous stars such as David Bowie and Michael Jackson,” explains Steven Stark in Meet the Beatles. In the ‘80s, hysteria followed Duran Duran and Adam Ant, as Nina Blackwood, one of the early MTV “veejays” explained in an interview with CBS, “The guys were so beautiful. Not handsome in the classic "movie star" way, but actually pretty— lush lips, cheekbones a mile-high, porcelain skin— and they all knew how to apply make-up better than most women I knew."


It has to be the same reason women lost it around Franz Liszt, a pianist in Germany in the 1800s—so much that German critic Heinrich Heine, deemed it “Lisztomania.” Liszt also had that feminine quality (more so than other men that time who, at least in old-timey pictures, looked sort of inbred and hairy); Liszt was a Tori Amos kind of performer, historians say, in that he used his body liberally while he played, with “wild arms and swaying hips.” Women tore his clothes, pulled out pieces of his hair and one woman, wrote Alan Walker in a biography, picked up Liszt’s cigar stump, placed it in locket and monogramed it with his initials in diamonds.

The woman’s reaction to Liszt isn’t so far off from Kate’s who collected Justin Bieber’s cup. That plastic cup now rests on her bookshelf, sealed in a plastic zip lock bag.

* * *

“People started lining up five days ago.”

“I know they love me even though they don’t know me.”

“Because of you, we’re number one in 37 countries”


These are sound bites from the One Direction movie, This Is Us, which is cute and corny with stories about the boys and how they always wanted to be singers, but the primary story is of high-pitched soundtrack of thousands of screaming girls. They’re the screams of pleasure—which is exactly how the neuroscientist Daniel Levitin explains it to the Wall Street Journal. The screaming, he says, is from the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that allows us to feel pleasure—it’s the chemical in our brain that’s released when we eat chocolate, or when a compulsive gambler wins.

But Levitin's research also found something else interesting: because the neural pathways in our brains are forming when we’re teenagers, the music that we like as teenagers then becomes hardwired in our brains. It's not an accident that you still know that pretzel cross-legged move to Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” you studied a million times when you were 14. That’s not nostalgia, according to Levitin’s research; that’s your brain being hardwired to experience pleasure every time you hear that song.

I couldn’t help but think of the music I went hysterical over as a teenager—I wasn’t a Duran Duran girl in the ‘80s. I saved my hysteria for girls, not boys; my heart belonged to Madonna. I was 15 in 1986, the year her album “True Blue” came out—which had some amazing songs like “Live To Tell,” but also some really uninspiring, unremarkable songs like “True Blue.” There was also “Papa Don’t Preach,” which was a departure for Madonna—she changed her whole look from her “Lucky Star”/”Burnin’ Up”/”Borderline” days (which I had memorized the dance moves to as well, though I didn’t completely understand the sexual narrative yet).

In the “Papa Don’t Preach” video she wore boyfriend jeans, had short straight hair, a striped nautical shirt and carried a black motorcycle jacket over her shoulder. My mother called her a Jean Seburg knock-off, but I was mesmerized.


I watched the “Papa Don’t Preach” video on You Tube and remembered those weird arm movements and the dance from that video clearly—then the oddest realization came to me. I’m still influenced by her style from that time, the jeans, the striped shirt, even the motorcycle jacket is currently in my fantasy shopping cart—which, okay, you the jacket has been an iconic staple since Marlon Brando wore it in The Wild Bunch. But then I made another connection. I named my dog, a rescue I just got nine months ago, Trudy Blue. When I started singing the song “True Blue” to her, I couldn’t figure out why—it really bothered me. Why this song?

But now I get it. The dopamine release I experienced as an adolescent girl is still affecting me years and years later. My Madonna hysteria never really waned. When I tell people I follow her on Instagram, they ask me why. And I’m like, “#BitchI’mMadonna,” but the real reason has a lot more to do with chemical engineering.

I wonder what that means for the swarms of Bieber fans like Kate or the One Directioners depicted in their movie. I thought about the years I spent being a hysterical teenage girl, either obsessing over Madonna or later over Morrissey or later REM, or over any of the countless musicians that impacted my life. Science has a great deal to do with hysteria—you can’t ignore the chemical impact of dopamine, but hysteria defined women and girls more broadly than just that; hysteria has been a method of communication in which women have used to separate themselves from men for centuries. I though about that video of Kate in Smash Burger, wondering if she’ll one day look back at it embarrassed, but I hope she won’t. I hope she’ll see it as her individuality shining through, as a way she was able to be true to herself at a very specific time in her life.

Hayley Krischer is a writer living in New Jersey.

Girls screaming via Flickr Commons, Franz Liszt via Wikimedia Commons, and Madonna via Papa Don't Preach.

13 Mar 16:30

Dallas police talk child sex suspect off roof of Jack in the Box

by Matt Peterson

DUMBASS! a Jack in the Box?!

Staff writer Mallory McDonald reports:

An employee at a Dallas Jack in the Box threatened to jump off of the restaurant’s roof Thursday evening after police arrived to arrest him on an outstanding warrant.

Roman Arellano, 33, was wanted on a warrant charging him with … [visit site to read more]

13 Mar 14:25

Interesting criminal justice bills, developments at Texas Lege this week

by Gritsforbreakfast

I'm sure there are plenty of bad bills, but these look great!!

Here are a few items that caught Grits' attention at the Lege this week as the bill filing deadline approaches at the end of the day today.

House backs prison guard raise
Budget writers in the Texas House "added a 10 percent raise for correctional officers, citing numerous vacancies," reported Peggy Fikac at the SA Express News. Grits has suggested they adjust penalties for state jail felonies, as state Rep. Senfronia Thompson proposed this week (see below), and close a couple of units to pay for it.

Maintenance deferred at DPS, TDCJ
The Texas Department of Public Safety says it needs $370 million for deferred maintenance on its facilities, while the Department of criminal Justice offered a surprisingly low number of $165 million for needed maintenance at its 109 units and administrative facilities.

Scale back incarceration for low-level, nonviolent crimes
Rep. Senfronia Thompson has filed a bill adjusting penalties downward for certain nonviolent misdemeanor and felony offenses, including indexing property crimes for inflation and reducing penalties for low-level possession of marijuana and less-than-a-gram of other controlled substances by one penalty category. The bill includes most of the suggestions offered for reducing corrections costs at the state and county level offered last month in this Grits post.

Stop suspending licenses for Driver Responsibility surcharge nonpayment
Rep. Thompson also has an excellent bill which would forbid suspension of drivers licenses for nonpayment of the Driver Responsibility surcharge, which would eliminate many of the worst unintended consequences from the program.

Speeding up appointment of indigent counsel
Senators Kel Seliger and Royce West filed legislation setting limits on how long defendants can sit in jail before a judge appoints them counsel if they're indigent - one day in counties with more than 250,000, and three days in counties with less than 250,000 population. Rep. Garnet Coleman has similar legislation in the House.

Require criminal conviction for asset forfeiture
Sen. Konni Burton filed legislation that would void asset forfeiture proceedings if prosecutors failed to secure an underlying conviction.

Replace grand juries with full-time "probable cause juries"
Rep. Harold Dutton filed a bill to transform grand juries into full-time, permanent "probable cause juries." These would be three person panels - one appointed by the county judge, one by the presiding officer of the largest municipality in the county, and a third, presiding juror selected by those two people. These must be licensed attorneys who've practiced ten years and have not worked as a prosecutor for at least the last two. Interesting idea.

Re-open law enforcement records on closed cases
Rep. Dutton also filed legislation which would reinstate the original application of the Texas Public Information Act for law enforcement records, reversing a two-decade old catastrophe dating from when the Texas Supreme Court gutted the act and the Legislature codified their bad ruling instead of repairing it. Dutton's bill would allow exemptions to the Public Information Act for ongoing cases and open them up after the cases are closed, which is how the state operated for nearly three decades before 1996-97. See Grits' arguments in favor of a similar Dutton bill from 2007. IMO this is perhaps the most effective and important police accountability bill proposed at the Texas Legislature this session.

Don't keep license plate reader records not part of a criminal case
Rep. Matt Rinaldi filed legislation to require all images from government owned license plate readers to be destroyed within seven days unless they're part of an ongoing criminal investigation or prosecution. Another bill by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione would mandate destruction of images after 90 days.

Limit automated traffic enforcement
Rep. Gary Elkins filed a bill to eliminate automated traffic enforcement systems and another forbidding issuance of civil instead of criminal penalties for traffic offenses under municipal ordinances.

Increased penalty for First Amendment activity by CHL holders
Rep. Jason Villaba's just-filed bill criminalizing non-MSM citizen filming of police officers is already drawing fire, in part because it's actually more restrictive if the person doing the filming is carrying a firearm with a concealed carry permit.

Introducing the Texas Drone Corps
Rep. J.M. Lozano of Kingsville wants the governor's office to have a drone program. The bill doesn't say whether the governor would be authorized to arm the drones or outfit them with Stingrays/IMSI catchers, but there's no limits described on their use except that they be deployed for "state purposes. That couldn't be any broader.
13 Mar 04:27

Watch President Obama Read All Of The Mean Tweets People Have Posted About Him On ‘Kimmel’

by Andrew Roberts

Jimmy Kimmel
has come through to provide one of the best entries in the Mean Tweets series to this point. President Obama gets an entire segment to read all of the mean crap that people have posted to Twitter about him (minus the more hateful comments, I’m sure).

At this point in his presidency, Obama is probably ready to limp out of office. He’s had quite a battle for his entire run and some impossible hype to live up to, so it’s cool that he can laugh about it.

I’m sure folks will complain about this and say he’s got more important things to focus on, but that’s old news at this point. They should probably be more concerned about the price of Coors. The person who tweeted that isn’t lying, it’s expensive for a “cheap” beer. Hopefully Obama can hit his price lever in The Oval Office and get things back on track before he runs out of town.

(Via Jimmy Kimmel Live)

12 Mar 15:50

A Guy Bought A Banana That Was Filled With Deadly Boner-Causing Spiders

by Jason Tabrys
Wandering Spider


A UK family is lucky to be alive after Maria Layton’s husband bought a bunch of bananas from their local Tesco that were infested with Brazilian Wandering Spiders whose venom can kill and/or cause a four-hour erection.

Once again, there are bananas that can do the same thing that Viagra can, but there are other side effects. Please consult a physician if a spider bite makes your dick hard. This is not some Spider-Man sh*t; your ass is dying. Also, consult with the store where you got the dick-hardening spiders, even though that isn’t always a fruitful endeavor.

“Tesco were a bit useless, I was really concerned about the possibility of this dangerous spider and spider eggs in my house and really wanted some helpful advice on how to act. I wasn’t sure if other spiders or eggs had escaped when I ripped the bag open.

“I posted the picture on Tesco Facebook page and they told me to send the wrapper in so they could get the bar code to refund me! I was shocked, they failed to see the potential threat to me and my family and thought I was only interested in having a pound or so back.

“I called Food Standards but they said it wasn’t anything to do with them, I called Trading Standards but they were shut. I spent about an hour-and-a-half ringing round trying to get some help – while I had this potential killer spider in the house.” […]

When questioned if Tesco have a responsibility to the customer to send a pest control expert out to the house, a spokesperson from their customer service department said: “Our policy is for the customer to take the product back to the store where it can be investigated. We don’t have a service whereby someone can go out to the home.”

I used to work at a service desk, and if someone would have dropped a bag of death spiders in front of me and told me, “Ehlo, Guvnah. I rang up the service wankers after being in queue, and they told me to bring these to you.” I would have run so far and so fast while shouting, “KILL IT WITH FIRE!” This is why it’s comical to me that Tesco’s service reps said something like, “Just bring it on down to the store, pip-pip cheerio.” And as far as I know, that’s how British people speak.

As for what happened to the spider-finding lady and her family, I have no clue. The article doesn’t say, but hopefully someone finally took her call and took these crazy-scary spiders off her hands. Also, bananas? Nope.

Via Bristol Post

12 Mar 10:07

Are Prisoners Less Likely To Be Atheists?

by Mona Chalabi

Dear Mona,

I recently read an article that said most of the prison population is religious while there are very few atheists in prison. Please tell if this is true for the United States.

Caroline, 44, Philadelphia

Dear Caroline,

Data on religion in U.S. prisons is hard to find and usually comes from biased sources. Back in 1997, a blog post appeared on, a now-dormant anti-religion website. Beneath the headline, an author using the name Rod Swift published statistics apparently received from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) showing the religious affiliations of inmates. One number jumped out at Swift: 0.2 percent of the prison population was atheist.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 3.30.54 PM

That number became a routinely cited statistic that wasn’t really challenged or updated — until 2013. Hemant Mehta (a writer who, seven years earlier, had become famous for selling his soul on eBay) issued a new Freedom of Information Act request to the Federal Bureau of Prisons asking for updated figures about the religious affiliation of prisoners. Today, those numbers are still the most detailed ones available.

But first, a few caveats. While you may have been interested in the religious affiliation of the 1.4 million Americans being held in state prisons, this data only relates to federal prisoners — of which there were about 216,000 in 2013 (PDF).

The data here is self-reported, so it’s also dependent on whether prisoners were willing to disclose their religion. Seventeen percent of inmates listed “no preference” for their religion, but the Bureau of Prisons couldn’t clarify how that is different from the 3 percent of prisoners who described themselves as “Other,” so I decided to cut it out of the data.

Protestant 28.7% 44.0%
Catholic 24.0 25.1
Muslim 8.4 0.6
Native American 3.1 0.1
Pagan 2.0 0.1
Jewish 1.7 1.2
Churches of Christ 1.5 0.8
Buddhist 1.0 0.5
Jehovah’s Witness 0.7 0.8
Seventh Day Adventist 0.3 0.4
Mormon 0.3 1.4
Eastern Orthodox 0.2 0.4
Apostolic 0.2 0.4
Hindu 0.1 0.3
Atheist 0.1 0.7
Pentecostal 0.1 2.4
Sikh <0.1 <0.1

To answer your question, I used Census Bureau data from 2008 (it’s the most recent we have), but its categories are pretty different from the ones used by the Bureau of Prisons.

Take Rastafarians for example. According to the BOP, 1.9 percent of federal prisoners identify as Rasta, but the Census Bureau doesn’t list Rastafarians as a separate group. Instead, the Census uses one category titled “other religions” that encompasses a whole range of groups including people who practice Santeria (as 1.2 percent of prisoners say they do), along with Scientologists and Druids.51

There are other categories that don’t match up. According to the Census Bureau, 0.6 percent of Americans describe themselves as Muslim. In prison, that figure is 5.6 percent. It’s already a considerable difference, but an additional 1.8 percent of prisoners identified with the Nation of Islam and another 1.2 percent said they were “Moorish” (which the BOP said should also be considered a variant of Muslim). Altogether, the percentage of Muslims in the prison population is about 14 times higher than that of the general population.

There are other noticeable differences: a prisoner is 39 times more likely than an un-incarcerated person to identify his or her religion as American Indian. Conversely, prisoners are far less likely to be Protestant than the rest of the country.52

Most importantly though, Caroline, you appear to be right about religiosity in prison. Overall, almost 1 in every 1,000 prisoners will identify as atheist compared to 1 in every 100 Americans.


So what explains these discrepancies between religious affiliation inside prisons and outside them? I’ll set out a couple of possible theories.

  1. Maybe it’s income. We know that Muslims and Americans who identify with historically black Protestant churches tend to have lower incomes than the national average. And we know that 44 percent of federal prisoners earned less than $1,500 in the month prior to their arrest (I’m afraid the last time prisoners’ income was surveyed was in 2004, though, and those are 2004 dollars).
  2. Maybe it’s race. We know that even though African-Americans represented only 13 percent of the U.S. population in 2013, they represented 36 percent of the prison population. And we know that Muslims are almost twice as likely to be African-American as the U.S. population as a whole. (I think race is also probably relevant when we’re thinking about the over-representation of Rastafarians and Santerians in prison too.)
  3. Maybe it’s immigration. We know that most American Muslims immigrated to the U.S. sometime after 1992. And we know that 12 percent of the federal prison population is described as “non-citizens” (a term that means they’re foreign-born and, according to Ed Ross, a spokesman at the Bureau of Prisons, entered the country illegally).
  4. Maybe it’s conversion. Ross explained that prisons collect information on religious affiliation from inmates as part of the intake screening process. That information gets stored as part of their case management. But, he added, “anywhere along the way, inmates can have their information changed to reflect a change in their religious status. Anyone can find god or lose god while in prison.”

Ed got me thinking: If few prisoners bother to change their religious affiliation in the official data, the theories I’ve described above are more likely to be relevant. But if prisoners are letting officials know about their change of faith (which I’m told by the BOP is relatively easy to do; it can be as simple as mentioning it to the chaplain), then it’s possible that prison conversion is influencing these statistics.

In 2012, Pew Research Center conducted a 50-state survey of prison chaplains of various faiths (they’re state chaplains though, so they don’t work with the federal inmates I’ve mentioned above — sorry, it’s the best data I could find). Three-quarters of the chaplains they spoke to said “religious switching” was common among inmates where they worked. When asked which affiliations were growing, chaplains were most likely to list Islam (51 percent), followed by Protestant and Pagan.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 3.30.06 PM

Though almost all of the state prison chaplains describe spending their time organizing religious programs, many suggest that religious influence is coming from elsewhere in the system. Seventy-four percent of the chaplains said that efforts by inmates to proselytize or convert other inmates are either very common (31 percent) or somewhat common (43 percent) in the prisons where they work.

Anyway, you’re right about religiosity in prison Caroline: Atheists are underrepresented. But not all religious groups are equally over-represented. That’s an interesting finding, but it’s a limited one because we don’t know what percentage of inmates change their faith while in prison and why — without those stats, understanding religiosity in prison is a bit of a guessing game.

Hope the numbers help,


Have a question you would like answered here? Send it to @MonaChalabi or

12 Mar 19:00

“A creature created by witches to steal milk. Only women can create and own them”

by Mallory Ortberg

I have four of these.

Friend of the Toast (and of self) Sara Cantor just got back from a weeklong vacation in Iceland, and, as is my custom, I engaged her in conversation about her trip.

SELF: Sara! How was Iceland?

SARA: Look at this: Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 11.53.33 AM


Read more “A creature created by witches to steal milk. Only women can create and own them” at The Toast.

12 Mar 18:33

Wonder Woman Has A New Uniform Involving SLEEVES And PANTS - Cosplayers start your engines!

by Sam Maggs


Wonder Woman has a new look, and it’s arguably her most practical one ever. Lasso me a pair of those boots, stat.

Don’t get me wrong; I dig the classic WW look, but I also question its functionality on a basic level. I can barely wear a strapless dress to a wedding without checking my boob situation once every thirty to forty-five seconds let alone fighting hard-core crime in a bustier. I don’t even want to start on the potential wedgie situation she’s constantly facing.

By fitting the tailed corset over a… turtleneck thing, this new outfit retains the traditional Wonder Woman silhouette while still making her look tough as hell and not accidentally revealing any awkward camel toe. She’s even got her lasso! I’m not sure how I feel about the arm-blades, but we can’t win ‘em all.

Wonder Woman’s new outfit will appear for the first time this June in issue 41, but the downside of this otherwise-excellent redesign is that Wonder Woman will still be helmed by the same creative team of Meredith and David Finch. You know, the ones who have taken the book down an infuriatingly sexist road, including infantilizing Diana to the point where she looks like a pouty teenager and has been seen carrying a teddy bear into battle? If DC takes this new Wonder Woman look and appoints a new creative team to Wonder Woman who can use it to make a feminist, forward thinking new Wonder Woman book, then I’ll be fully on-board.

Until then, it’s pretty cool for cosplay purposes.

(via HitFix, cover by David Finch and Jonathan Glapion)

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11 Mar 22:00

Sarah Michelle Gellar Rapping As Cinderella Is Everything You Could Want In The World Ever

by Sam Maggs

Blocked for me, but want to watch later

Sarah Michelle Gellar. Rapping. As Cinderella. You heard me.

If you weren’t already sold, Whitney Avalon, who writes the raps and appears as Belle in the above video, said “These are silly, short little videos, but I think there is a message of standing up for yourself and being brave in a world where females are still fighting for equality and power and a voice. And it makes me cry with happiness that people are excited about that message.”

Now that’s a princess battle we can get behind.

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12 Mar 07:45

Revenge, Not Justice

by Dahlia Lithwick

One of the sad truths of the capital defense business is that some trial lawyers who show up to defend their clients have been known to sleep through their trials, fail to interview witnesses, or are too drunk to do their jobs. And yet reviewing courts almost invariably determine that such lawyers provided perfectly competent defense. As one Texas judge put it in the face of such allegations: “The Constitution does not require perfection in trial representation.” So, for instance, judges in Houston continued to appoint lawyer Jerome Godinich to represent capital defendants even as he missed one filing deadline after another, depriving his clients of crucial judicial review. That there is not really such thing as an ineffective lawyer is one of the cardinal rules of the death penalty machine. But dare to be an effective one? Well, that’s another story.

11 Mar 16:30

This Map Shows Where the Happiest and Unhappiest People Live in the US

by Melanie Pinola

All other things being equal, the south, parts of the west, and upper midwest are the happiest places in the United States according to a recent study.


09 Mar 21:57

NBA Power Ratings And Playoff Odds: Hornets Rising, Heat Falling

by Neil Paine

For archival purposes

With just about five weeks remaining in the 2014-15 regular season, we present another edition of FiveThirtyEight’s NBA Power Ratings. How do these numbers work? In a nutshell, each team is ranked according to a projection of its strength over the upcoming week — and the upcoming week only — using Real Plus-Minus (RPM) player ratings provided by Jeremias Engelmann and Steve Ilardi. For more details on the methodology, see our introductory rankings post.


A few observations on this week’s ratings:

  • Don’t look now, but the Charlotte Hornets suddenly have a 53 percent chance of making the playoffs in the East. Winners of six of their last seven games (including five straight), they also saw their long-term talent rating improve greatly with the prospect of guard Kemba Walker returning for the season’s stretch run. A knee injury has kept Walker out of action since late January.
  • The Atlanta Hawks, owners of the league’s second-best record, still rank just 8th in our power ratings. What’s going on? It’s not their loss Saturday to the lowly Sixers, nor is it a disconnect between the team’s winning percentage and its point differential (they rank third overall in Basketball-Reference’s adjusted efficiency differential, so they’ve been winning by margins plenty strong). Instead, the issue is similar to what plagued the Hawks last week: Injury-related playing time allocations are working against them in the short term. This time, FiveThirtyEight favorite Kyle Korver sat out over the weekend and is listed as day-to-day in the injury report, which means more projected minutes for Kent Bazemore. Since Korver carries one of the best RPM ratings in the NBA (+4.5) and Bazemore sports one of the worst (-3.8), any shift in minutes from the former to the latter takes a toll on Atlanta’s power rating.
  • The week’s two biggest risers are the New Orleans Pelicans and Dallas Mavericks, and both boosts come largely because key players are returning from injury.
  • Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis, owner of the seventh-best RPM in the NBA, suited up last week for the first time since aggravating his nagging shoulder injury on February 21, and his presence alone improved New Orleans by 2.5 rating points (to say nothing of the points gained by not having to play his backups as much). For Dallas, the big gains come with Tyson Chandler and Chandler Parsons re-joining the lineup. Our projections expect that pair to play about 54 combined minutes per team game over the upcoming week — an increase of 25 minutes per team game that yields a 1.9-point rating improvement for the Mavericks. They also project to gain 0.6 rating points via decreased minutes for players lower on the depth chart.
  • Since the news of Jimmy Butler’s injury broke too late to be accounted for in last week’s rankings, the full extent of its damage can be seen in Chicago’s power rating this time around. A reduction of 26 minutes per game to Butler’s projection cost the Bulls 1.7 rating points, while big playing-time upticks for low-rated wings E’Twaun Moore and Doug McDermott set Chicago’s rating back by another 1.5 points. The loss of Butler was much more damaging to the Bulls than that of Derrick Rose, whose injury only cost the team about 0.4 points of power rating after his backups were accounted for.
  • The Miami Heat have been hemorrhaging playoff probability for weeks now and are down to just a 30 percent chance of making the postseason despite sitting at 93 percent back on Feb. 2. The team has gone 7-8 since then, while Indiana, Boston and Charlotte — at that time, three of Miami’s chief competitors for the final pair of unclaimed Eastern Conference playoff slots — have gone a combined 28-14. But Miami’s bigger problem is that their talent pool has been drained, even after winning the trade deadline. Highly-rated players such as Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside, Luol Deng and prized deadline acquisition Goran Dragic are all injured (or listed as day-to-day), while the team is projected to give big minutes to poor RPM players such as Henry Walker, Michael Beasley and rookies Tyler Johnson and Shabazz Napier.
09 Mar 22:40

Poll: Public opinion supports criminal justice reform

by Gritsforbreakfast

TEXAS! Not at all Mississippi.

Excellent news from a new poll of a thousand Texas voters sponsored by the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Among the highlights:

Texans prefer drug treatment over prison by a 61 percent to 26 percent margin. The number bumps up to 73 percent when you limit the question to drug possession cases.

Some 71 percent of Texans believe the justice system should only be involved in extreme cases of chronic truancy, not workaday cases, while just 24 percent of respondents disagreed.

A solid 57 percent of Texans support adjusting property theft thresholds upward to account for inflation, with 37 percent opposed.

A similar number - 57 percent - supported reducing the time inmates spend in prison so they can be monitored on community supervision.

Clearly the public is ahead of their elected officials on these topics, though they have an opportunity to catch up to them over the next few months.
09 Mar 14:40

Is Tim Tebow Attempting One Last Shot At An NFL Comeback?

by Brian Sharp
Tim Tebow

Getty Image

The last time anyone saw Tim Tebow on a football field it was during the Patriots’ 2013 preseason, where he was eventually cut just before the regular season. Two full seasons have now passed since Tebow has been in the league, but that might change soon. According to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, Tebow is considering attending the NFL veteran combine later this month.

He is currently a college football analyst for ESPN, the results of which have been positive. But he’s apparently trying to catch on with an NFL team again, and quarterbacks coach Tom House has been working with Tebow since he’s been out of the league in order to improve his throwing accuracy. Over that time, House has seen improvement in Tebow’s passing skills, saying “[Tim has gone] from being a little inaccurate and [not throwing] a whole lot of spirals, to throwing very accurate and real good at spinning the ball.”

If that sounds like something a coach of a high school quarterback would say rather than a coach of someone trying to make a living in the NFL, you’re not wrong. Then again, after considering some of his lowlights from his Broncos days, this is perhaps a good start.

The veteran combine will take place in Phoenix on March 22.

[Boston Globe]


09 Mar 20:30

Approved Catcalls

by Emily Henry


by Emily Henry





























Emily Henry is a young, adult writer who is a young-adult writer, and she's wearing the same thing as last time you saw her. Her debut novel, THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD, will be available in 2016 from Razorbill/Penguin. She also tweets.

Illustrations by Hallie Bateman.

09 Mar 16:00

The Comment Section For Every Article Ever Written About Breastfeeding

by Nicole Cliffe

Previously: The Comment Section For Every Article Ever Written About Intimate Grooming and Tipping and Recipes and the Third Trimester. Nicole is happy to report that after not being able to breastfeed Kid One, Kid Two is breastfeeding like a champ. LIFE IS A RICH TAPESTRY.

Breast is best.

Your issue sounds like a tongue tie, go get it snipped.

Three pediatricians have examined him and said he doesn't have a tongue tie.

It could be a posterior tongue tie.

It COULD be a lip tie.

It's obviously a tie of SOME kind. Just start snipping things inside his mouth until the situation improves.

Read more The Comment Section For Every Article Ever Written About Breastfeeding at The Toast.

09 Mar 11:26


09 Mar 11:00

@thereal_saintfrancis_: Lent Me Your Ears by Nick Farrell and Rachel Farrell

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- -

03 Mar 23:00

World Time

by Tricia Louvar
by Tricia Louvar


Tricia Louvar is a professional creative sparkplug, a mover of words + ink + paint + sweat. She works, trains, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.

04 Mar 21:30

Stress Dreams, Ranked

by Haley Mlotek
by Haley Mlotek

1. Lost on the New York subway; late to meet a friend; the subway opens up inside a gym where a former co-worker is stationed behind the receptionist desk with the biggest, most sinister smile on her face.

2. Lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood of New York; pouring rain; what I thought was an umbrella turns out to be a very thick copy of Women's Health magazine, torn to shreds.

3. My lawyer calls with "news" but the phone is too static-ey to hear if she means "good" or "bad" news; I am yelling "What kind of news? What kind of news?!" when I wake up.

4. Out to dinner with a person I kind of know but am very intimidated by; she stares at me expectantly but I cannot think of a single question to ask her.

5. All of my GChats with Monica "Horny Jail" Heisey are automatically posted to Twitter; I spend all day sending text messages that say but what I meant to say was

06 Mar 20:00

If You Could Start Any Rumor About Yourself, What Would It Be?

by Jazmine Hughes
by Jazmine Hughes

Greetings, my dear readers. After six months editing this humble Drake-themed Toronto-sponsored placenta-covered hair accessory site, I have some truths that I can’t keep from you any longer. Here are some things I haven't been honest about:

I actually know how to do my makeup really well, I’m just too BUSY and IMPORTANT to do so.
I’m actually 105 and have been using placenta masks since day one.
I’m Haley’s Tyler Durden.
I’m Haley.
I’m the girl Drake is crying about in all his songs.
I definitely sweat like a normal person.
I once turned down a date with Donald Glover before he was famous.
I'm actually not a blogger, but more of a bored rich person like Cerie on 30 Rock and just hang around posting things until I can marry rich and design handbags.

Just kidding!!!!!! These are all rumors I made up ABOUT MYSELF. Rumors are fun when they're your own: they can be aspirational, or completely opposite from how you actually are, or just really funny and disgusting! For this month's One Big Question, I asked: "If you could start any rumor about yourself, what would it be? Be as horny as you'd like."

* * *

The only rumor I would ever want about myself is that I destroy everyone I have sex with due to the strength of my Beyonce-like thighs.
Pilot Viruet

* * *

Did you know that I was the inspiration for Leslie Knope? I don't know, it doesn't make sense because I am not into politics or Indiana or getting stuff done, but I heard it around.

(Side note: As a child I actually tried to start the rumor that I was the baby from "Papa Don't Preach," but I failed.)
Meredith Haggerty

* * *

I pass for sweet and unassuming, a Manic Pixie Nice Girl. But in those bland first impressions, I want to bridge the gap between persona and self and tell my co-workers, “I’m a government clone, I’m relying on corporate speak because I don’t know my work-play divide!” I want to tell my date, “My previous boyfriend was Zayn Malik, and he still sends me sexts so you’re not ~irreplaceable~.” All my fanfictions about myself boil down to that head-turning moment in movies where people stare and think, oh, if only we’d known how smart, pretty, funny you are.

The one rumor I need more than want realized cuts through the cookie-cutter nice girl persona and instills fear. I want people who say racist shit around a white Latina who will always pass for white-people agreeable to feel as if they have seven days to live, Ring-style. The guy who mentions ‘illegals’ in my class will get up and leave, never to return. Michelle Rodriguez will apologize sitting up. The next guy who asks me where my family is from will choke on his own well-intentioned spit, once he realizes the bruja that I am. I want those people to hesitate around me. I want that rumor to haunt me for the rest of my damned life, the scarlet letter I’d most proudly wear. Oh, if only we'd known where you saw yourself when we said 'us' and 'them.'
Monica Torres

* * *

I think it would be great if everybody thought I was a huge bitch.
Cat Ferguson

* * *

"Haley Mlotek is actually 300 years old. She feeds on the blood of thirsty men who slide into her DMs, expecting a #fun and #flirty chat. She can walk properly and with confidence in heels and often wears lipstick without obsessively checking it in her iPhone camera every two minutes."
Haley Bertha Mlotek

* * *

I want a rumor that I killed someone who wronged me. I want it to seem like if you cross me, you might end up dead. But I don't want it confirmed and I don't want to have served time. Maybe just someone who I did not like has ended up missing and the rumor is that I made it happen. Is that bad? I just want to be scary.
Gaby Dunn

* * *

I would like to start a rumor that I was one of the customers who contracted Hepatitis A from eating contaminated green onions at a Pennsylvania Chi Chi's location in 2003, but survived. I settled with the restaurant and won millions of dollars, but I'm not eligible to access it until I turn 25.
Gabby Noone

* * *

The only goal I’ve ever set for myself is to be “twenty-five sitting on twenty-five mill,” which means I have only six months to increase my net worth by whatever twenty-five million minus fifty six dollars and thirty cents is. Despite several brainstorming sessions with some business-minded friends, I’ve developed no viable businesses or come out with any surprise digital album releases. My brightest idea was for a start-up: BurritNo-Middle-Man—a burrito delivery app like Seamless, except you can only order burritos and someone delivers the burrito directly to your mouth, cutting out the metaphorical middleman of having to go downstairs to retrieve the order, go back upstairs, open the container, lift the burrito, and carry it all the way to your mouth. This is all just to say that the only thing I want for my 25thbirthday is for people—people I know and people I don’t—to be under the impression that I am sitting on twenty-five million dollars. I want people to come out of the fucking woodwork—especially those who claimed that BurritNo-Middle-Man wasn’t “feasible” and didn’t make “sense” and that “no one wants strangers delivering burritos to their mouths”—and grovel to be my friend.
Maria Yagoda
* * *

Okay my favourite rumour about me is one I accidentally started in this piece I wrote for The Cut where I joke about things I've "done" after listening to too much Taylor Swift. One of the things is "dated Jake Gyllenhaal," which is, like the rest of the things in the piece, 100% a joke. Now, though, the most searched term beside my name is "Monica Heisey Jake Gyllenhaal" and I am very attached to this as a fact. Everyone please continue to The Secret sweet, baby-faced JG into my life via Google, thank you for your hard work. One day he will move in with my partner and I and then the rumour "Monica Heisey is the happiest woman in New York" will be a true fact.
Monica Heisey

* * *

I've never been on a plane because I have metal bones. I was born that way. I can't get through any metal detectors or even get an MRI! When I was in elementary school the mean kids would stick magnets to my back. It was truly awful. The worst part has to be the weight, though. I mean, I'm tall and skinny but I weigh 600 pounds. I can't swim or get on elevators. Oh, and sex on top? Forget about it! Do you know how many men I've crushed? I live a lonely, lonely life. I've never broken a bone, though!
Veronica de Souza

* * *

"Jaya Saxena uses waffle-scented lube as perfume."
Jaya Saxena

* * *

I know it sounds pathetic, but I'd really like to get people on board with the "Akilah is Kerry Washington's cousin" rumor. It's completely false, but it's kinda like how if you hang out with really hot people, people assume you're really hot by virtue of just knowing them. Kerry isn't only hot, she's smart, she's talented, she's an it girl. We only really share cheekbones, but even if people thought I was her chubbier, younger cousin, that'd still give me some desperately needed street cred*.

*Cred on Scandal fan blogs.
Akilah Hughes

* * *

All the sexual rumors about me are positive and 100% true so I don't need to start any of those. My vagina already has five stars on Yelp and four $'s. So instead, I'd start the rumor that I'm in the Illuminati. Note: this is exactly what someone already in the Illuminati would say.
Alexis Wilkinson

* * *

It was I, and not noted cool guy Jermaine Dupri, who penned the 1992 Kris Kross hit "Jump." As a business savvy and prescient youth I wrote the song in the hopes of living off the royalties it would surely generate from being played before every single jump ball at every single NBA game ever. Though months after the release of "Jump" House of Pain put out "Jump Around," eating into my profits, the plan more or less worked, and now I just keep my day job in TV news for the lolz.
Sarah-Joyce Battersby

* * *

I only got my job at The Hairpin because I slept with Jazmine.
Anna Fitzpatrick

* * *

That Quentin Tarantino sucked my toes. Oh, wait….
Beejoli Shah

08 Mar 21:00

TSA Agent Finds Naughty Little Doggie in Checked Bag

by Hudson Hongo

Who's a naughty little stowaway? Is it you? Is it you? Yes it is! You're the naughty little stowaway who was found in a traveler's suitcase this week at New York's LaGuardia Airport.


05 Mar 17:41

Are Republicans Or Democrats More Likely To Survive The Apocalypse?

by FiveThirtyEight

Love this.

The polling firm YouGov released a poll Tuesday asking respondents: “How would you fare during the apocalypse?” The results, and especially the partisan split, engendered a healthy debate among the FiveThirtyEight staff. Here’s an edited transcript of our Slack conversation.

simone: So here’s a partisan YouGov poll on whether people think they could survive the apocalypse. Republicans think they’re more likely to survive the apocalypse than other people in their communities. Democrats and independents, less so. What do you guys think?


benc: Well, I think they’re right!

neil_paine: If you aggregated the whole population (all three groups), you’d see a definite pattern where the “survive longer” bin is larger than the “not survive as long” bin. So there’s definitely a bias across everyone to think they’d survive longer. … That’s one point. Another question is exactly how delusional the Republicans’ particular distribution is.

mona: I suspect that if they used nationalities instead of political affiliation here, you would see that most Brits don’t think they’ll survive too long. #realisticallylowlifeexpectations

benc: What would help you survive the apocalypse? Guns would probably help. Living out in the country away from other people/zombies/plagues would probably help. A distrust of the new robot-controlled government would probably help. Guess who have guns, live in the country and distrust the government? Republicans!

micah: I’m with Ben, if we’re talking a zombie apocalypse, being armed will help:


neil_paine: Can we look at the most likely apocalypses? Seems like those attributes @benc lists are more useful in some scenarios than others

simone: Yeah, what about global warming?

benc: Global warming is a good point, @simone. On the one hand, Democrats believe in it! On the other hand, they live on the coast and will all die.

neil_paine: I mean, shouldn’t our mean expectation be that no one is truly more prepared than others, and that survival will largely depend on random effects?

benc: Oh sure @neil, be all rigorous about it. Also, keep in mind people self-segregate by ideology. So when Republicans say they’d outlive others in their communities, they think they’d outlive other Republicans.

simone: I think Republicans are less likely to survive because they’re older. If our apocalypse is zombies, say, they’ll have a harder time outrunning them.

benc: Ooh, that’s a good point @simone. Then again, they also have more children.

jody: But the wording of this question is “apocalyptic disaster,” not “slowly rising sea levels.” This is tapping into conspiratorial thinking, where there’s actually an interesting common ground with the far right and far left. I think we need to bring in some polling on that front.

micah: Republicans also tend to live in more rural areas though, more places to hide from zombies.

jody: Useful: Statistical Mechanics Finds Best Places To Hide During Zombie Apocalypse. So who is more likely to read statistical modeling for advice on how to deal with Zombies — Republicans or Democrats?

[10:44 AM] natesilver: joined #apocalypse

carl: I think maybe we’re misreading the poll. “47% of Democrats say that they’d live as long as most other people in their community.” Sounds to me like it’s rooted in Democrats’ greater emphasis on reducing inequality.

mona: Black Americans are more likely to have thought about preparing for a natural disaster:


simone: And are more likely to be Democrats.

mona: Southerners are also more prepared!!!

carl: Notable: Highest-income families are least likely to have given no thought to natural disasters. Hypothesis: Lower-income families have other things to worry about.

mona: Other fascinating results in the poll, guys: ONLY 1 in 5 SAY THEY DON’T THINK THERE WILL BE AN APOCALYPSE.

neil_paine: @mona 80% say they think there will be an apocalypse, but 69% think it’s unlikely (39% very unlikely).

mona: Wikipedia says the next upcoming apocalypse is going to be sometime between now and September 2015, although the previous 30 or so entries appear to have been misguided. Unless, you know, everything we think we know actually isn’t real.

carl: I’m more interested in what people think will cause the apocalypse. Not surprisingly, way more Democrats think climate change will do it. Interestingly, more Republicans expect it to come from worldwide revolution. Unclear if they think revolution is more likely, or if Democrats consider worldwide revolution less apocalyptic. Also, I’m disappointed AI wasn’t one of the options. It’s terrifying.

simone: Wait, I think I understand the split! “The apocalypse” probably means the biblical apocalypse to Republicans. So, if more of them are Christian, they’re more likely to think they’ll go on up to the spirit in the sky on Judgment Day.

neil_paine: I think @simone is onto something here.

simone: It’s in the poll: “Asked what the most likely cause of the end of civilization is, nuclear war was the most popular option, chosen by 28% of Americans. Climate change and judgement day tied for second place with 16%, followed by worldwide revolution at 9%.”

mona: omg 2% zombies.


carl: A slightly higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats think weather is very or somewhat likely to cause a natural disaster in their community in the next year. Does that mean belief in extreme weather is nonpartisan, or do more Republicans live in extreme-weather territory?

micah: I really think for most apocalypses, living in a city is a huge disadvantage. Nuclear, disease, zombie, resource scarcity.

benc: Yeah, cities really didn’t work before technology and medicine, both of which would presumably be wiped out by the apocalypse. Then again, @micah, lots of food and supplies in cities.

neil_paine: Hmm, so maybe the community comparison in the question is meaningless to people who are far-flung in the middle of nowhere.

micah: It’s always the cities that get fucked up in disaster movies.

jody: @micah Disagree! The last couple years have seen the rise in a conversation about resiliency. This was a big post-Sandy buzzword in New York City. Density means more resources, less isolation, stronger community bonds, more infrastructure (if it’s well taken care of).

benc: @jody: Urban residents actually live longer than rural ones. Granted, that’s at least in large part due to access to health care, which might not fare so well when the doctors are all zombies.

simone: But do Republicans think an apocalypse scenario is “every man for himself” while Democrats expect the community to work together @jody? The wording of the YouGov question implies “every man for himself” I think.

benc: Do we think there’s a difference in survival likelihood for the libertarian wing of the GOP vs. establishment conservatives?

jody: @benc This is the interesting space for me. Has the “I’m ready for the apocalypse” wing of the GOP become a stronger voice over the last 8 years?

micah: Rand Paul would survive for sure.

walt: Rand Paul would be first to go. Rand Paul is an opthamologist.

benc: Is Hillary a prepper? She has a basement stocked with email servers!

walt: All of you are fuckin’ wrong. Who survives the apocalypse is hardly a city/country matter, it’s a notion of skills. Assuming you survive the contagion or whatever, the next step is (a) not dying from simple diseases and (b) producing food. The question is not who is going to survive by such matters of party affiliations.

jody: @walt that is, literally, the question.

walt: The Republicans would run out of gasoline in their trucks halfway down the desert and die of dehydration. Most people would die of dehydration. Which party is more equipped to hydrate properly? That’s the question.

benc: So basically, by @walt’s logic, Minnesotans are best prepared.

micah: Conclusion: Republicans are right. They are more likely to survive than Democrats and independents. (I would die within the first week.)

walt: So false. Republicans live in arid, hot climates.

benc: I say the most likely apocalypse is the robot apocalypse. In the absence of Neo, the best prepared are coders, who are all a bunch of damned libertarians. In the case of zombies, Republicans win. Plague goes to Democrats. And under no circumstances does anyone from FiveThirtyEight survive more than 15 minutes.

meghan: Wait — why are Democrats better at plague?

micah: Yeah? Plague hits cities hardest.

benc: Plague requires collective action, institutions. Probably some meetings. Democrats friggin’ love meetings.

simone: WHAT ABOUT JUDGMENT DAY? My money’s on the Rs for that.

walt: Oh def. Judeo-Christian apocalypse.

mona: This survey was the equivalent of asking, “Do you foresee that the unforeseeable might happen? If so, do you think you will do better than other people at surviving it?” i.e. ARE YOU BLOODY ARROGANT??

neil_paine: Ding ding!

benc: @mona, the poll was of Americans. We’re all arrogant.

Did you like this format? Let us know if you’d like to see more of these internal staff conversations, whether on important news topics or stuff like this. Leave a comment or send us an email!

04 Mar 19:00

How To Talk To Babies About Post-Structuralism

by Mallory Ortberg

How soon is too soon to begin introducing basic theory and Lacanian self-definition to an infant? A primer.

ME: what do we need to understand before we can understand post-structuralism
BABY: fnehhh
ME: very good
we need to understand structural linguistics
now what does "fnehhh" mediate between
BABY: fnehhh
ME: that's right
it mediates between abstract ideas and reality
BABY: fnehhh
ME: you've made your point, don't belabor it

Read more How To Talk To Babies About Post-Structuralism at The Toast.

04 Mar 18:30

Google CS First Teaches Kids Programming and Computer Science for Free

by Melanie Pinola


There are a wealth of ways for kids to learn computer science and programming these days. Add to the mix: Google's own CS First curriculum, a free program with a variety of themes for all kinds of kids' interests.


03 Mar 13:15

This Incredible Photo Of A Weasel Riding A Woodpecker Isn’t As Uplifting As It Seems

by Josh Kurp

Martin Le-May

This picture, taken by amateur photographer Martin Le-May, isn’t what it seems. It looks like the weasel is using a woodpecker as a Lyft, but actually, he’s trying to murder the poor guy.

The woodpecker landed in front of us and I feared the worst. I guess though our presence, maybe 25 metres away, momentarily distracted the weasel. The woodpecker seized the opportunity and flew up and away into some bushes away to our left. Quickly the bird gathered its self respect and flew up into the trees and away from our sight.

The woodpecker left with its life, the weasel disappeared into the long grass, hungry. (Via)

Here’s the un-zoomed shot, courtsey of Le-May:

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 11.41.31 PM


Caption contest? Caption contest. “Take me to your lead—weeeeeeeeee!”

Your turn.

Via Martin Le-May, iTV

03 Mar 14:00

Face Masks with Absolutely No Placenta Listed in the Ingredients

by Haley Mlotek

An oddly enjoyable read

by Haley Mlotek

Here are three face masks I have in current rotation, as well as a guide to using them appropriately and some little-known facts about the restorative powers of slathering a fine layer of goo over your lady face in order to trick a man into thinking you're pretty and then marrying you, lol, shoutout to my husband if he's reading this. None of them contain placenta because I have tried to be open-minded about the fact that The Hairpin is now exclusively a placenta products blog but honestly I am struggling with it at this point in time.

1. Chamomile Concentrate Anti-Blemish Masque, Aesop
Definitely my favorite, two tiny thumbs way up, I love this masque so much. The fact that they spell it with the "que" should tell you just how fancy you'll feel when you spread a very thin layer over your red pimply cheek while you think about how great and clear your skin was when you were eating well and exercising all the time and hope that you can buy your way to a conventional level of attractiveness because that is about all the effort you can be bothered to put it into anything that is not work/red-wine based social gatherings/all-day GChat conversation/constantly refreshing Twitter-related.

This is the masque I use when I really want to look nice but I don't have a lot of time; it dries in like five minutes, tops, so I put it on right before I get into the shower and I really do think my skin looks AND feels better immediately afterwards. Also it smells so good!!

Good for: people who believe acne is their body judging them for their poor life decisions.

2. Luminizing Black Mask, Boscia
Very good mask, not as fancy in the spelling, but still worth a try. I have heard from some friends with sensitive skin that it can be a little irritating, so, you know, I guess this is the obligatory part of my #beauty #content when I tell you to always do a patch test before a full face; drink the milk without buying the cow etc. Taking it off in front of a friend or a husband is always great because it looks fucking horrifying when you're peeling it off your face. It "dries," I guess, but the consistency stays kind of slick, so you look like you are peeling off whatever that black goo Scarlett Johansson trapped her victims with in Under The Skin, have you seen that? I just watched it, I liked it, I like any horror movie about torturing men that reminds me of my beauty products, so.

Good for: people who like to terrify their friends/roommates/significant others with their skincare regimens, also probably for people with tough not-sensitive skin shells and who want a good solid layer of skin removed.

3. Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask, Origins
Just bought this impulsively last weekend. I went into Sephora for "one quick second" to just replace "one moisturizer," ALWAYS a terrible idea, I can't even tell you what I bought or what I spent because listen I've already told you way too much about me and even I have my limits, but this was a last-minute addition to those little baskets Sephora employees hand out smugly like "lol yeah right you're only buying the amount of products you can fit in your tiny hands just take this and give us all your money you dumb bitch." Anyway what was I saying? Oh right, this mask. Yes. I am glad I bought it. I had been wanting a really traditional clay/charcoal type mask for those days when I just feel really UNCLEAN. Last Wednesday I had the worst day, like I commend the universe for the "kick me" sign it put on my back because it was truly effective, and so I went out for "just for one drink" which is basically like the "just running into Sephora for one product" of bars, and when I woke up the next morning I very calmly went straight to this bottle and slathered SO much ALL over my face and sat on the floor beside my bed with my back up against the frame until I could feel the mask crackling—this mask has a very satisfying multi-sensory layer to it, I love hearing it dry—and then I got up and took the HOTTEST shower and came out with all my problems and stresses steamed away. It was great.

Good for: people who are little babies about normal problems and like to put a skincare-treatment buffer between a bad day and a good day.

HONORARY MENTION: Fabulous Face Oil, Aesop
I use this every night. Lol jk I use this on the nights when I actually feel like taking care of my skin (a generous estimate would put this occurrence at three-four times per week) and it also smells so good. It feels so good. Like of all the dumb superfluous products you don't really need but rely on because they relax some base part of your lady brain, an OIL is SURELY the most luxurious texture available on the market. The product comes in a DROPPER. That is some top-notch-boss-lady-self-care-treat-yourself shit.

Good for: people who know they're fucking worth it (you).

Previously: What Happens If You Put Placenta On Your Face?