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03 Sep 16:00

The Secret Story Of How Bubonic Plague Nearly Broke Out In New York City

by Raphael Orlove on Foxtrot Alpha, shared by Taylor Berman to Gawker

The Secret Story Of How Bubonic Plague Nearly Broke Out In New York City

This is the story — kept secret at the time, still largely unreported today — of how the most infamous disease in history broke into New York City in the midst of World War II. This is the story of the ominously-named “Wyoming matter,” and how it took me months to track down evidence it ever happened.

I wasn’t looking for this story. I bumped into it reading Up in the Old Hotel, a collection of old New Yorker stories from ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s all written by Joseph Mitchell. It’s a great book, very neatly written, filled with lots of snapshots of life in the city’s most romanticized era.

And there’s also a detailed description of how it was all at risk of infection by the disease that killed some 50 million people in the 14th century.

http://www.amazon.com/Up-Old-Hotel-J...

In 1944, Mitchell wrote the short essay ‘Thirty-Two Rats From Casablanca’ for the New Yorker (later republished in Up in the Old Hotel), which describes the hellish presence of brown rats in the city. There are lamentations from city health inspectors, rat-filled nightmares by city drunks, and horrifying descriptions of day-to-day humanity sharing space with rats.

There’s a particularly memorable line about a stableboy who tried to kill a rat on a West Side riding academy with a broom handle. The rat scampered up the handle and tore a thumbnail off the kid’s hand, in broad daylight. Think about that the next time you find a rat in your apartment.

Worse than these passages are the notes on how the rats carry plague, and how their populations in port cities spike in times of war — which, mind you, was very much raging in 1944. One consultant on the staff of the Department of Health gives a lengthy description of how many plague-carrying fleas live on the average rat and how many are found on the average ship.

He concludes with the line “I don’t care to generalize about this, but I will say that if just one plague-infested rat got ashore from a ship at a New York dock and roamed for only a few hours among our local, uninfected rats, the resulting situation might be, to say the least, quite sinister.”

Sinister. That’s not a word you use lightly.

How Plague Beat New York’s Quarantine

Mitchell continued his essay noting how few bubonic plague outbreaks there had been in the United States. We only had a few recorded incidents, pretty much all on the West Coast and none worse than the bungled 1900 San Francisco flare up. Mitchell then changed his tone and began the description of NYC’s brush with the Black Death.

There has never been an outbreak of the plague in New York. There have, however, been two narrow escapes. In 1900, plague-infected rats were found in ships in the harbor of New York, as well as in the harbors of San Francisco and Port Townsend, Washington. They got ashore only in San Francisco, causing the first Black Death epidemic in North America.

Plague rats were found in New York Harbor for the second time early in January of 1943. Among themselves, health officials refer to this discovery as “the Wyoming matter.”

Emphasis mine, because “the Wyoming matter” is the most amazing name for a disaster that has not yet been turned into a Hollywood blockbuster. Mitchell claims that he was the first to learn about the incident. In his article, he says he heard about it a year later in 1944 when he met with Dr. Robert Olesen, the medical director of the New York Quarantine Station of the Public Health Service.

“The Wyoming matter has been one of the best-kept secrets in the history of the Public Health Service,” Olesen told Mitchell. Olesen added, “there’s no reason to keep it secret any longer.”

The job of the Quarantine Station was to keep infectious diseases out of the busy (and strategically important) New York City ports. They looked through cargo coming from other ports with recent outbreaks, they checked ships for clean bills of health of their sailors, and they did quite a lot of work in ratproofing.

Mitchell recounts an explanation from Dr. Olesen of how the Public Health Service inspected ships back then. Ships were boarded by six different inspectors from six different services, looking and smelling for rats. (Rats are described as having the same smell as cats, only not as bad.) The officials used tear gas to flush out any hidden stowaways and then unleashed hydrocyanic gas. That’s what killed the rats.

Officials then plucked out the dead rats, combed them for fleas and snipped out their livers. The fleas and the livers got ground up, mixed into solutions, and then injected into guinea pigs. If those guinea pigs got the plague, you knew you had an infestation.

For 22 years, Dr. Olesen explained, the Quarantine Station staff regularly carried out these guinea pig plague injections and no bubonic plague turned up. They felt their work was “routine and futile.” Olesen’s description of how things went pear-shaped probably had quarantine station workers wishing for their usual tedium.

Now then, late in the evening of January 10, 1943, the French freighter Wyoming arrived from Casablanca, North Africa, with a miscellaneous cargo, mainly wine and tobacco. A big convoy came in that evening, sixty or seventy ships, and we didn’t get to the Wyoming until the next day.

Casablanca was on the plague list at that time; there had been an outbreak in December, shortly before the Wyoming sailed. The crew was carefully examined. No sign of illness. Then the captain brought out a de-ratization certificate stating that the ship had recently been fumigated — in Casablanca, if I remember correctly — and was free of rats; looking back, I feel sure the official who signed this certificate had been bribed.

Olesen then described how the ship was allowed to dock in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and how some longshoremen spotted rats near her. Officials then fumigated the ship, scoured it for rat corpses, and performed their flea-and-rat-liver pâté test on two guinea pigs.

Both guinea pigs sickened and died.

This was it, confirmation that plague-carrying rats had reached New York. The city had been breached, and the Quarantine Station was one step behind a potential outbreak.

The Quarantine’s Secret Extermination

By the time the Quarantine Station confirmed that the Wyoming had brought plague-infested rats into New York, it was January 29th and the Wyoming had moved to Staten Island for repairs. They ripped open the inside of the ship, pulled out all of its gear and opened every enclosed space in the holds. They refumigated, killing another dozen rats.

On the same day we got in touch with Dr. Stebbins, the Commissioner of Health for the city, and told him about the situation. We were terribly apprehensive. The Wyoming had touched at piers in rat infested sections in three boroughs and there was, of course, a distinct possibility that infected rats had got ashore and were at that moment wandering around the waterfront, coming in contact with local rats and exchanging fleas.

Mr. Holsendorf, in his capacity as the Health Department’s rat consultant, quickly got together some crews of trappers and put them to work setting break-back traps on the the Brooklyn pier, the Manhattan pier, and the Staten Island pier, and in buildings in the vicinity of each pier. The trapping was done unobtrusively; we were afraid a newspaper might learn of the matter and start a plague scare.

Secret rat trappings! This was getting good. The Quarantine officials then broke from the normal protocol and sent their first rats out for autopsies at local hospitals in early February, rather than at their laboratory. Working with nearby hospitals was faster, and time was of the essence.

We waited for the report with considerable anxiety. It was negative on every one, and we began to breathe easier. Mr. Holsendorf and his crews trapped from the end of January to the middle of May and the reports continued to come in negative. At the end of May we concluded that no Wyoming rats had got ashore, and that the city was safe.

But no rats had got ashore, he wrote.

And that’s the story of the Wyoming matter. Plague-bearing rats made it all the way up to New York City’s piers but unbelievably did not spread their disease to the city’s local rat population. You could say thankfully, you could say miraculously.

Researching An Outbreak Avoided

New York City had every reason to be hit with the Black Death and it somehow scraped by. Where things get particularly strange is why you haven’t heard anything about the Wyoming matter since it happened. Furthermore, Joseph Mitchell had a reputation for “mixing fact and fiction,” as a very recent profile from the Atlantic states. The guy isn’t exactly a reliable source.

That meant that I had to confirm this history myself, and that process turned out to be just as bizarre as the actual event.

The first thing I did was look for other references to the Wyoming matter. I quickly discovered that Mitchell’s account is pretty much all that has been written about the incident. The excellent book Rats, Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants mentions the story, but the only reference is Mitchell’s article. The New York Times left out the Wyoming matter entirely in a 2004 report on rats in the city, as this letter to the editor implies.

http://www.amazon.com/Rats-Observati...

I got in touch with Dr. James Colgrove at Columbia, the man who literally wrote the book on epidemics in New York City, in the hopes that he’d have some confirmation of the story. Not only had he never heard of the incident, he couldn’t find any reference to it in his personal library. He told me “it doesn’t sound as if the episode was significant enough to have garnered any sustained attention” as an explanation.

http://www.amazon.com/Epidemic-City-...

With nothing turning up in academia, I followed in Mitchell’s footsteps; I went to the Public Health Service. Only the Public Health Service isn’t the Public Health Service any more. It’s the Department of Public Health. Changes in federal administration, I was soon to find out, were going to make my investigation very difficult.

Getting ahold of the Department of Public Health was simple. They told me they’d look into their records to see if anything turned up. A few very eager weeks and several follow-up voicemails later I got a call. They didn’t have anything in their diseases archive on the Plague. Nobody in New York actually contracted the disease, they explained, so there wasn’t any record of it being here. I was looking for evidence of an outbreak that never happened.

Even so I was quite confident that something would turn up. I figured the next place to look would be the Quarantine Station itself. Surely they would have some record of their own successful defeat of the most infamous disease in human history. I called the library at the Center For Disease Control, since they’re the agency that oversees Quarantine. An impossibly kind man answered the other end of the line (he’s a Jalopnik reader!) saying he and his coworkers would leave no stone unturned looking for a reference to the Wyoming incident.

Days later I got a very polite call stating that the CDC’s records don’t go back far enough to cover the event. They came up short by decades.

Several more calls and waits and voicemails later I ended up speaking with Don Spatz, the Officer In Charge of the CDC in Greater New York.

“In 35 years I’ve never heard of it.” Spatz immediately admitted that he knew nothing about it, there was nobody left who was working in quarantine at the time, and the retrospective book he had on the station’s history didn’t have anything I mentioned to him. Looking further would be difficult for me, he explained, because of the particular nature of the Quarantine Station’s authority.

They were housed under the Department of Health and Education, Spatz explained, and before that they were under the U.S. Treasury Department. Before that they were with the Public Health Service, which joined with Quarantine under the Dept. of Health Education and Welfare, then they ended up in the CDC in the ‘60s. Back in the 1940s, Spatz told me, they were with the Federal Security Agency. I looked them up and, I shit you not, the FSA served as a cover agency for the War Research Service, which was a secret biological weapons project by the government.

Spatz had no absolutely idea which agency would be responsible for housing any Quarantine Station records from the ‘40s at this point.

Almost completely out of ideas, I called the National Archives. Another very nice operator picked up, and listened to me once again relay every detail I had about the Wyoming matter in the hopes that somebody would have any idea where a record would be kept. “Lord have mercy,” she gasped over the phone when I got to the part when the rats tested positive for the first time in 22 years of lab work.

She told me to email her supervisor, and her supervisor sent me to the National Archives in New York, and that’s when I got the phone call.

The Threat Of Plague Was Real

The National Archives at New York City did indeed hold the records for the New York Quarantine Station, and a search through their records turned up something by Olesen mentioning plague and the Wyoming specifically. They were located a few subway stops down from my office.

I made an appointment as soon as possible and quickly found what I was looking for. Tucked into the station’s complete record of their Quarantine Transactions were these two lines from a monthly report.

GUINEA PIG INOCULATED JAN. 1 1943, FROM A POOL OF 12 FLEAS (X. CHEOPIS) RECOVERED FROM RATS KILLED BY FUMIGATION OF THE FRENCH S/S “WYOMING”, RESULTED IN THE DIRECT RECOVERY OF A PURE CULTURE OF PASTEURELLA PESTIS.

GUINEA PIG INOCULATED JAN. 19, 1943 FROM POOLED TISSUE OF 15 RATS RECOVERED FROM FRENCH S/S “WYOMING”, RESULTED IN ULTIMATE RECOVERY OF A PURE CULTURE OF PASTEURELLA PESTIS.

Pasteurella pestis (now referred to as Yersinia pestis) is the scientific name for the plague, and this was the first time I was seeing it in an official government document. I found further confirmations in a handful of other documents. The 1943 annual lab report gave the precise counts of the damage (15 plague infected rats and 12 fleas). Finally I had a government record clear enough that I wasn’t relying on Mitchell’s words alone. Our threat of plague was very real.

Accused Incompetence And An Unfinished Report

A letter dated March 10, 1943 from the City of New York’s Health Commisioner Ernest Stebbins, however, cast some confusion over the matter.

Dear Dr. Olesen:

Thank you very much for your letter of March 6, and the copy of your letter to the Surgeon General.

I am sorry that you were not able to obtain confirmation from either laboratory. We are, however, continuing the trapping to obtain samples of the rat population which without question will be adequate to demonstrate the fact that plague has not been introduced into New York City.

Sincerely yours,

Ernest L. Stebbins, M.D.

C o m m i s s i o n e r.

This implies that at some point during the extraordinary lab work, outsourced from the Quarantine Station to local hospitals, somebody failed to get a confirmation that plague really resided in any rats.

Furthermore, I found a troubling line in Olesen’s 1943 annual report. Under the subheading ‘Plague Infection,’ he briefly details the Wyoming matter, but implies that there was more evidence of plague getting around, evidence that was lost.

THERE IS NOT THE SLIGHTEST DOUBT THAT PLAGUE INFECTION WAS ENCOUNTERED BOTH IN FLEAS AND IN RAT TISSUES AFTER THE FUMIGATION OF A VESSEL WHICH ARRIVED IN JANUARY, 1943. HOWEVER, OWING TO INCOMPETENT LABORATORY PROCEDURES IT WAS UNFORTUNATELY NOT POSSIBLE TO SECURE CONFIRMATION OF THIS IMPORTANT FINDING. A COMPLETE ACCOUNT OF THIS OCCURRENCE HAS ALREADY BEEN SUBMITTED.

Olesen goes on to describe a lack of staff at the Quarantine Station’s labs as “particularly embarrassing.” Indeed he complains many times about staff shortages and trouble with maintaining his operations during World War II. He particularly stresses the how his work has been “intensified and complicated” by convoys both because of their volume (“sometimes as many as 60 ships in a few hours”) and their need to maintain some secrecy about wartime movements. “Therefore it is impossible to institute preliminary infestation inspections without seriously dislocating the war effort,” Olesen describes in a report, pointing the fundamental weakness of the Quarantine Station to keep plague out of New York.

I flipped ahead to the annual report made by the ship sanitation division and the ‘Laboratory’ subheader.

The routine examination of rats and their ectoparasites for evidence of plague infection was continued. Plague infection in rats and fleas was demonstrated to exist on one vessel entering the Port of New York from Casablanca, Africa. A special report of all the circumstances and findings was made.

A complete report was made! This was a huge breakthrough. The only problem was that I didn’t have this report and I couldn’t seem to find it in any of the archival documents I’d pulled.

So I took two more days, and I checked every single file that could possibly maybe tangentially be related to the plague. I read everything from a letter written by Olesen wherein he dissed a novice reporter at Pic magazine for publishing an error-filled article that could have been better written by “a fifth grade pupil” to an individual $3.70 bill for King Syrup for the Quarantine Station’s quarters. There was no sign of the mysterious complete official report.

And then I realized that the document I was looking for was the very first one I saw at the article. I just couldn’t believe that it was the official report.

The Secret Story Of How Bubonic Plague Nearly Broke Out In New York City

Here’s why I didn’t realize what I had first seen was what I needed all along. There are only three pages, printed on the back sides of scrap paper, heavily edited by hand. The first two pages introduced the events as I had already heard them, and the third seemed to set up a discussion of the difficulty in the rushed lab work. And then, halfway down the page, the report ends mid sentence.

“The infestation inspection of the ‘Wyoming’ was undertaken,” and it stops there. No further clarification of how the fleas were processed, or how the lab report may have been screwed up, or how exactly they campaigned to keep the incident secret, or why they did not wish to go public now that the whole mess was over.

The Secret Story Of How Bubonic Plague Nearly Broke Out In New York City

You cannot make this shit up.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Wyoming matter happened. The only thing that’s still missing are the exact details of how these plague fleas got analyzed. Is that why this incident hasn’t been championed by the Quarantine Station, the Public Heath Service, the government altogether? I have no idea.

I’d need to find the final version of Olesen’s report. I have no idea where it is or if it exists.

Now, it’s hard to know exactly what to take away from the Wyoming matter. It certainly isn’t complete trust in the government’s system of containing plague at the time. The Wyoming did get into New York and it did so carrying plague-ridden rats, and it allowed those plague-carrying rats to intermingle with the omnipresent rat population of ultra-dense lower Manhattan, as well as Brooklyn and Staten Island.

After going through all of these documents, it seems more like luck than anything else that kept the city from the most infamous disease in history.

The other question that remains is this: how much of a crisis was actually averted? Well, that’s also hard to say, since there aren’t too many plague outbreaks in modern American history to compare it to. But if you go on the only one we do have, things don’t look so great.

Grim Lessons From America’s Other Outbreak

Much of why I have little trust in the idea that the government would be able to totally control things in New York City had the Wyoming rats let their fleas galavant through the city blocks is because of the spread of the plague in San Francisco 1900.

This was the first recorded case of plague in the continental United States and, not shockingly, it did not turn out well. Particularly worrying is not how the bubonic plague spread from Hong Kong to San Francisco’s Chinatown. What’s troubling about that history is how everything was covered up.

As the aforementioned book Rats details, the Chinatown community hid their plague-ridden corpses from local inspectors, fearing punishment. There’s a description of one dead family member being propped up Weekend At Bernie’s-style with his hands over dominoes to fool investigating physicians.

This was understandable. Racist politicians were all to happy to advocate burning Chinatown to the ground. Rumors spread that any Chinatown resident seen going to the plague detention camp the city set up on an island in the harbor would be killed. Even when the local government and businesses found out, they and the California governor tried to suppress any knowledge of the plague. They feared a a boycott of San Franciscan goods, decline in rail travel, and a sharp loss in tourism.

And the San Francisco elite did an extremely good job. They got the press (including William Randolph Hearst’s The Examiner as well as the Associated Press) to claim the plague was merely a scare and a fabrication. They got the quarantine of Chinatown lifted. They went so far as to accuse the top contagion expert in the country (fortuitously working in San Francisco at the time) of planting the plague on the patient zero found in a flophouse. They eventually got him reassigned to Detroit in the midst of the crisis.

What’s particularly troubling is that we still have sporadic cases of the plague in the middle of the U.S. and they all stem from rodents that caught Yersinia pestis originating in San Francisco 1900 as this article explains. Plague spread from San Francisco to the rodents of California, and those rodents continued to spread the disease deeper into the country. As the book Rats notes, there are more rodents currently infected by plague than there were in Europe during the time of the Black Death. All that differentiates now from then is that our plague-carrying rodents tend to live in very sparsely-populated areas. I’m talking about plague-carrying prairie dogs, here.

Even so, a teen died of the plague a few months ago, an unnamed adult died a week ago, and another man is recovering as we speak after picking up a flea from a dead chipmunk in his backyard. Those are in Colorado only. A kid in Los Angeles County caught the plague only a few days ago.

Had plague caught on in the crowded streets and apartments of Brooklyn and Manhattan (incidentally the Wyoming landed not far from two of the city’s current Chinatowns) 70 years ago, it’s safe to assume that it would have continued to spread out through the rest of the country. That’s what it did after San Francisco; that’s what it would have done if it had stuck in deeper into New York. And the East Coast is much denser than the West, let alone the 1940s East compared to the 1900s West.

So be very thankful that the Wyoming matter turned out the way it did, and if you see a copy of that full report, please let me know.

Image Credit: Jim Cooke


Contact the author at raphael@jalopnik.com.

30 Aug 18:26

Watch This Wiener Dog Escape His People and Run Forever and Ever and Ever

by Mark Shrayber on Jezebel, shared by Brendan O'Connor to Gawker

This is pure exhilaration. This is pure life. This, if Taylor Swift were writing about it, would just have the words “squad goals” written over and over again with a few emoji and hashtags thrown in. This dog is living your best life and you didn’t even know it.

According to USA Today, this adorable puppy took flight during an event in which the El Paso Chihuahuas staged a race to find out once and for all who was “the fastest wiener in El Paso.” I don’t know if this dog was the winner, but there’s no way some other puppy was going to win that prize, right? He may have broken the rules, but he’s living his life right.

Contact the author at mark.shrayber@jezebel.com.

31 Aug 19:00

Ashley Madison Code Shows More Women, and More Bots

by Annalee Newitz on Gizmodo, shared by Jason Parham to Gawker

After searching through the Ashley Madison database and private email last week, I reported that there might be roughly 12,000 real women active on Ashley Madison . Now, after looking at the company’s source code, it’s clear that I arrived at that low number based in part on a misunderstanding of the evidence. Equally clear is new evidence that Ashley Madison created more than 70,000 female bots to send male users millions of fake messages, hoping to create the illusion of a vast playland of available women.

Read more...










31 Aug 23:05

Over 200 Of Hillary Clinton's Emails Contain Classified Information

by Joanna Rothkopf on The Slot, shared by Brendan O'Connor to Gawker

Hillary Clinton has been dealing with a months-long migraine atop her many other migraines after it was revealed that she used a private email server to conduct official secretary of state business. Nothing classified was sent over the insecure server, she insisted, and the hype was partisan overreaction. It turns out, however, that that’s not really true.

Read more...










25 Aug 03:09

straightallies: unpopularopinions111: straightallies: unpopularopinions111: Is the legalization...

straightallies:

unpopularopinions111:

straightallies:

unpopularopinions111:

Is the legalization of gay marriage not enough? What more do you need?

we need blood

You’re not helping..

*bangs fists on table* we need blood! we need blood! we need blood!

25 Aug 03:09

batmilks: unpopularopinions111: When people make a mockery of a serious post. *chanting grows...

batmilks:

unpopularopinions111:

When people make a mockery of a serious post.

*chanting grows louder* blood! blood! blood! blood! BLOOD! BLOOD! BLOOD!

26 Aug 19:05

Almost None of the Women in the Ashley Madison Database Ever Used the Site

by Annalee Newitz on Gizmodo, shared by Taylor Berman to Gawker

Almost None of the Women in the Ashley Madison Database Ever Used the Site

When hacker group Impact Team released the Ashley Madison data, they asserted that “thousands” of the women’s profiles were fake. Later, this number got blown up in news stories that asserted “90-95%” of them were fake, though nobody put forth any evidence for such an enormous number. So I downloaded the data and analyzed it to find out how many actual women were using Ashley Madison, and who they were.

What I discovered was that the world of Ashley Madison was a far more dystopian place than anyone had realized. This isn’t a debauched wonderland of men cheating on their wives. It isn’t even a sadscape of 31 million men competing to attract those 5.5 million women in the database. Instead, it’s like a science fictional future where every woman on Earth is dead, and some Dilbert-like engineer has replaced them with badly-designed robots.

Those millions of Ashley Madison men were paying to hook up with women who appeared to have created profiles and then simply disappeared. Were they cobbled together by bots and bored admins, or just user debris? Whatever the answer, the more I examined those 5.5 million female profiles, the more obvious it became that none of them had ever talked to men on the site, or even used the site at all after creating a profile. Actually, scratch that. As I’ll explain below, there’s a good chance that about 12,000 of the profiles out of millions belonged to actual, real women who were active users of Ashley Madison.

When you look at the evidence, it’s hard to deny that the overwhelming majority of men using Ashley Madison weren’t having affairs. They were paying for a fantasy.

The Evidence Mounts

Nobody disputed the dramatic gender disparity in the Ashley Madison user base, including the company itself. 5.5 million profiles are marked “female” in a database of roughly 37 million people.

Almost None of the Women in the Ashley Madison Database Ever Used the Site

It’s also a matter of public record that some percentage of the profiles are less than real. A few years ago, a former employee of Ashley Madison sued the company in Canada over her terrible work conditions. She claimed that she’d gotten repetitive stress injuries in her hands after the company hired her to create 1,000 fake profiles of women in three months, written in Portuguese, to attract a Brazilian audience. The case was settled out of court, and Ashley Madison claimed that the woman never made any fake profiles.

Still, there is a clause in the Ashley Madison terms of service that notes that “some” people are using the site purely “for entertainment” and that they are “not seeking in person meetings with anyone they meet on the Service, but consider their communications with users and Members to be for their amusement.” The site stops short of saying these are fake people, but does admit that many profiles are for “amusement only.”

Based on this evidence, we’ve got some clear indications that many of the profiles are fake. To find out how many, though, we have to dip into the company’s non-public information, contained in the data dumps.

The question is, how do you find fakes in a sea of data? Answering that becomes more difficult when you consider that even real users of Ashley Madison were probably giving fake information at least some of the time. But wholesale fakery still leaves its traces in the profile data. I spoke with a data scientist who studies populations, who told me to compare the male and female profiles in aggregate, and look for anomalous patterns.

My analysis had to be entirely based on the profiles themselves, not the credit card data. There is no such thing as a “paid account” for women because women don’t have to pay for anything on Ashley Madison. As a result, I couldn’t use “paid account” as a proxy for “real,” the way analysts have done with the male data. Plus, the credit card data does not list gender — so it would have been impossible to be certain of gender ratios in the credit card information anyway.

In the profile database, each Ashley Madison member has a number of data fields, including obvious things like nickname, gender, birthday, and turn-ons; but the member profile also contains data that is purely for administrative use, like the email address used to create the account, and when the person last checked their Ashley Madison inbox.

I started my search in an obvious place. Were there any patterns in the personal email addresses that people listed when they signed up? I figured that if I were an admin at Ashley Madison creating fake profiles, I would use ashleymadison.com for the email addresses because it’s easy and obvious. No real Ashley Madison customer would have an Ashley Madison company email. So I searched for any email address that ended in ashleymadison.com. Bingo. There were about 10 thousand accounts with ashleymadison.com email addresses. Many of them sounded like they’d been generated by a bot, like the dozens of addresses listed as 100@ashleymadison.com, 200@ashleymadison.com, 300@ashleymadison, and so on.

A quick comparison of men’s and women’s email addresses revealed that over 9 thousand of these ashleymadison.com addresses were used for female profiles, while roughly 1000 went to men or to profiles where no gender was specified.

This pattern was telling, but not damning. What it suggests is that the majority of obviously fake accounts — ones perhaps created by bored admins using their company’s email address, or maybe real women using fake information — were marked female. These fakes numbered in the thousands, which is exactly what Impact Team suggested.

Next I looked for patterns in IP addresses, which can reveal the location of the computers people used to open their accounts. The most popular IP address among men and women belonged to a company called OnX, which hosted Ashley Madison’s backups. That could mean a number of things, including that those were all accounts created by people working at Ashley Madison. It could also mean that there was a mass migration of data at some point and everybody’s IP address was changed to Ashley Madison’s host address. There were no weird gender anomalies in this data, though — about 82 percent of these OnX IP addresses belonged to men, which is close to the percentage of men in the database.

But the second most popular IP address, found in 80,805 profiles, was a different story. This IP address, 127.0.0.1, is well-known to anyone who works with computer systems as a loopback interface. To the rest of us, it’s known simply as “home,” your local computer. Any account with that IP address was likely created on a “home” computer at Ashley Madison. Interestingly, 68,709 of the profiles created with that IP address were female, and the remaining 12,000 were either male or had nothing in the gender field.

Almost None of the Women in the Ashley Madison Database Ever Used the Site

That’s a huge disparity. In a database of 85% men, you’d expect any IP address to belong to about 85% men. So it’s remarkable to discover that about 82% of the accounts created from a “home” IP address are female. This strengthened the pattern I’d already seen with the ashleymadison.com email addresses — obviously fake accounts were overwhelmingly female, and numbered in the tens of thousands.

Another weird detail was that the most popular female last name in the database was an extremely unusual one, which matched the name of a woman who worked at the company about ten years ago. This unusual name had over 350 entries, as if she or someone else was creating a bunch of test accounts. The most popular male name, on the other hand, was Smith, followed by Jones. This matches typical name distribution in the North American population.

That said, I also found millions of unique IP addresses and emails among the women, just as there were among the men. That’s exactly what you’d expect from a random batch of 37 million people. I also saw data for men and women in the “birthday” field that looked perfectly normal for a very different reason: both genders had obviously fake birth dates. Two-thirds of men and women claimed their birthdays fell in January. This is a standard sign of people picking the first month that pops up in the drop-down menu. Obviously, the actual population has birthdays falling fairly evenly during all months. But the online population, filling out forms on a sex site? Their birthdays tend to clump around the easiest month to pick on a form, and this kind of fakery is actually a sign of humanness.

Again and again, the female profiles showed patterns that suggested a disproportionate number of them were fake accounts or test accounts. Still, the numbers were only in the tens of thousands. And a lot of the other data looked relatively normal.

Where the Women Aren’t

Then, three data fields changed everything. The first field, called mail_last_time, contained a timestamp indicating the last time a member checked the messages in their Ashley Madison inbox. If a person never checked their inbox, the field was blank. But even if they’d checked their messages only once, the field contained a date and time. About two-thirds of the men, or 20.2 million of them, had checked the messages in their accounts at least once. But only 1,492 women had ever checked their messages. It was a serious anomaly.

Almost None of the Women in the Ashley Madison Database Ever Used the Site

The pattern was reflected in another data field, too. This one, called chat_last_time contained the timestamp for the last time a member had struck up a conversation using the Ashley Madison chat system. Roughly 11 million men had engaged in chat, but only 2400 women had.

Almost None of the Women in the Ashley Madison Database Ever Used the Site

Yet another field, reply_mail_last_time, showed a similar disparity. This field contained the time when a member had last replied to a message from another person on Ashley Madison. 5.9 million men had done it, and only 9700 women had.

What all these fields have in common is that they measure user activity. They show what happened after the account profile was created, and how an actual person used it by checking messages, chatting, or replying to messages. They measure what you might call signatures of real human behavior. Only a paltry number of women’s accounts actually looked human.

But what about that seemingly odd disparity between the numbers of women checking messages (1492), and replying to messages (9700)? Even that can be explained by looking at how actual humans use Ashley Madison.

When you log into your Ashley Madison account, you’re prompted to answer messages before you visit your inbox. A dialog box pops up, suggesting that you reply to all your messages in bulk, with a canned reply like “I only reply to full messages,” or “Please send me a message and photo.” In other words, you can reply to several mails at the same time without ever actually checking or opening your mail. So it’s easy to imagine that perhaps a few thousand real women had accounts, and replied to almost 10 thousand messages after being prompted. But only about 1500 of them ever clicked the button to open their inboxes.

Almost None of the Women in the Ashley Madison Database Ever Used the Site

Both the Impact Team and disgruntled users of Ashley Madison have called the site fraudulent, mostly because the company charged men to shut down their accounts — and then actually kept their data. I found ample evidence of this kind of fraud in the database. There were 173,838 men’s accounts with the email address listed as <paid_delete>, and 12,108 women’s accounts. All other data in those accounts had been retained.

It’s worth noting that those 12,108 <paid_delete> women’s accounts may represent the only true number we’ve got for women who used the site. After all, paying to delete an account is a sure sign of activity, though of course it’s evidence of disengagement rather than the amorous engagement that Ashley Madison promised.

Overall, the picture is grim indeed. Out of 5.5 million female accounts, roughly zero percent had ever shown any kind of activity at all, after the day they were created.

The men’s accounts tell a story of lively engagement with the site, with over 20 million men hopefully looking at their inboxes, and over 10 million of them initiating chats. The women’s accounts show so little activity that they might as well not be there.

Sure, some of these inactive accounts were probably created by real, live women (or men pretending to be women) who were curious to see what the site was about. Some probably wanted to find their cheating husbands. Others were no doubt curious journalists like me. But they were still overwhelmingly inactive. They were not created by women wanting to hook up with married men. They were static profiles full of dead data, whose sole purpose was to make men think that millions of women were active on Ashley Madison.

Ashley Madison employees did a pretty decent job making their millions of women’s accounts look alive. They left the data in these inactive accounts visible to men, showing nicknames, pictures, sexy comments. But when it came to data that was only visible on to company admins, they got sloppy. The women’s personal email addresses and IP addresses showed marked signs of fakery. And as for the women’s user activity, the fundamental sign of life online? Ashley Madison employees didn’t even bother faking that at all.

There are definitely other possible explanations for these data discrepancies. It could be that the women’s data in these three fields just happened to get hopelessly corrupted, even though the men’s data didn’t. Or maybe most of those accounts weren’t deliberately faked, but just represented real women who came to the site once, never to return.

Either way, we’re left with data that suggests Ashley Madison is a site where tens of millions of men write mail, chat, and spend money for women who aren’t there.

Art by Tara Jacoby

Thanks to Carlos Aguilar and Josh Laurito for tips and help analyzing the Ashley Madison dataset.


Contact the author at annalee@gizmodo.com.
Public PGP key
PGP fingerprint: 85E3 8F69 046B 44C1 EC9F B07B 76D7 8F05 00D0 26C4

27 Aug 03:00

"National Dog Day" Sounds Fake But Who Cares Here Are Like 50 Dogs

by Hudson Hongo

According to various #websites, August 26 (today!) is #NationalDogDay. In light of this news, an obvious question might be, “Wait, what governing body even has the authority to declare such a holiday?” However, an even more obvious answer is, “What’s it matter, you drip, don’t we all deserve to see a bunch of dogs?”

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26 Aug 02:00

"Go Back to Univision": Donald Trump Ejects Reporter From Press Conference

by Hudson Hongo
V

woof

On Tuesday, Donald Trump’s security temporarily removed Univision anchor Jorge Ramos from a press conference in Iowa after the journalist tried to confront the presidential candidate about his immigration policy without being called on.

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24 Aug 18:53

Twitter Suddenly Kills Politwoops in Thirty More Countries

by J.K. Trotter on TKTK, shared by J.K. Trotter to Gawker

Earlier this summer, Twitter suddenly and unilaterally disabled the U.S. version of Politwoops, a website which tracked tweets that had been deleted by American politicians. At the time, Twitter believed the site was violating the lawmakers’ privacy. (“Honoring the expectation of user privacy for all accounts is a priority for us,” a spokesperson told Gawker in June, “whether the user is anonymous or a member of Congress.”) Now Twitter has gone even further and disabled the Politwoops of thirty more countries, as well as a similar website for diplomats and embassies called Diplotwoops. The effect of doing so is clear: Twitter has made government officials significantly less accountable to the public for what they say and do online.

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22 Aug 03:19

Viral Miscarriage Husband’s Ashley Madison Apology: This Was Before We Went Viral

by Allie Jones

The popular Christian vlogger Sam Rader—best known for “surprising” his wife with her own positive pregnancy test in a viral video—has admitted to using an account on the cheating website Ashley Madison . In a YouTube video with his wife Nia by his side, Sam claims that God has forgiven him for seeking extramarital sexual partners online. http://gawker.com/viral-christia...

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23 Aug 18:10

Viral Miscarriage Vlogger Sam Rader Kicked Out of Conference After Threatening Violence

by Allie Jones

According to reports from other vloggers who attended the conference, the viral Christian vlogger Sam Rader was ejected from the Vlogger Fair conference in Seattle yesterday for “threatening violence” against one or more people. This incident allegedly occurred just one day after Sam admitted to using a paid account on the cheating website Ashley Madison.http://gawker.com/viral-christia...

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23 Aug 16:52

pyrrhiccomedy: based on extensive observation, I believe that my cats have only a tenuous grasp on...

pyrrhiccomedy:

based on extensive observation, I believe that my cats have only a tenuous grasp on how much of my body is “me”

It’s like, Head: definitely Big Friend, note eyes and noise-hole.

Hands: 90% certainty of Big Friend, 10% possibility of toy. comprised of two main parts, the rubby-rubby and the wriggly-scritchers. does Big Friend control them with her mind? the mechanism is unclear.

Arms, aka “Cuddle Snakes”: do these help Big Friend’s hands from getting lost? good place to sit.

Torso: ??? we have no idea what this is. smells like Big Friend but serves no observable purpose. treat as terrain.

Legs, see: “The Lap Conundrum”: 25% chance of Big Friend, totally uninteresting. WHEN LAP: 90% chance of Big Friend, excellently warm. where does the lap go? our finest cat scientists seek the answer to this mystery, but no breakthroughs as of yet.

Feet, aka “Twitchy-Kickers”: 10% chance of Big Friend, 90% chance of foe. all attempts to communicate have ended in hostility. Destroy on sight.

24 Aug 15:35

outintheblack: fuckyeahwomenprotesting2: freedominwickedness: ...







outintheblack:

fuckyeahwomenprotesting2:

freedominwickedness:

In medieval culture, an event like a royal christening is not a private party; it’s the public social event of the year. To not invite any person of rank to such an event is a deadly insult.

Maleficent is certainly someone you wouldn’t want at a party, but she’s also someone powerful enough that only a fool would ever dare treat her with such blatant disrespect. The only way the King and Queen could possibly have gotten away with not inviting Maleficent was to not invite any of the fairies at all; inviting the other fairies and excluding her is explicitly taking sides in the conflict between the fairy factions.

Which means they made themselves her sworn enemies, and she responded by treating them as such from then on. If you actually get into analyzing the social dynamics of the scene, it’s very clear that Maleficent was willing to show mercy at first by giving the King and Queen a chance to apologize for their disrespect to her. She doesn’t curse Aurora until after she gives them that chance and they throw it back in her face with further disrespect.

And yeah, if the King and Queen had done the properly respectful thing and invited her, Maleficent would have given Aurora a scary awesome present. Moreover so would the other fairies, because at that point both sides would be using it as an opportunity to show off and one-up each other. What they gave her before Maleficent showed up was basically just trivial party favors by fairy standards.

How do you know so much about the social dynamics of medieval fairies

Because the very first things anyone reading a legit fairy tale will realize right away is
A) there are Rules and
B) ignore them at your peril

20 Aug 17:19

Man in Charge of North Vegas Water System Once Poisoned an Entire Youth Football Team

by Gabrielle Bluestone
V

shrug

Man in Charge of North Vegas Water System Once Poisoned an Entire Youth Football Team

A man who was once convicted of poisoning a group of children because they allegedly bullied his son was, until this week, in charge of the drinking water for a much larger group of people: the citizens of the city of North Las Vegas, who probably, most likely, had nothing to worry about.

He’s since been reassigned, but according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, city officials were unaware of Jerome Breland’s 2001 criminal conviction when they put him in charge of the city’s water system.

According to the AP, Breland declined to disclose his crime in his Nevada Drinking Water Distribution and Treatment Operators license application—and with good reason: he’d already demonstrated what might happen when given access to drinking water. The details, via the Review-Journal:

Accounts of the specifics differ, but one fact is consistent throughout the criminal case: Breland wanted to hurt a child or children on the team who he felt had wronged his son.

Breland told police he was tired of seeing his child get picked on, so he mixed ipecac into a bottle of juice, then gave it to his son for practice with explicit instructions not to drink it and to remain silent when other children did, according to a police report. Ipecac is an over-the-counter medicine that causes vomiting and was once used in the emergency treatment of certain kinds of poisoning.

The boy told police he repeatedly warned his teammates not to drink from the bottle, but that only exacerbated the problem by causing more children to drink from it, according to the report.

At Breland’s sentencing, parents and children recounted their confusion and horror at Breland’s actions and claimed it was Breland’s boy who was the bully.

Breland did spend the last eight years working directly with the city’s water without, to anyone’s knowledge, poisoning anyone. Still, he’s been reassigned to the waste water division while state officials investigate the complaint, which was filed with the Division of Environmental protection.

Anyway, it’s all good, say city officials.

“There’s no harm to the water,” North Las Vegas Assistant City Manager Ryann Juden tells FOX 5 Vegas. “There’s no need to be concerned about anything.”


Image via AP. Contact the author at gabrielle@gawker.com.

18 Aug 19:30

Sword-Swinging Robber Runs Up Against Store Owner With Bigger Sword

by Jay Hathaway

When two men, armed with one machete between them, ran into a Pittsburgh mini-mart Friday night with the intention of robbing it, they weren’t counting on the store owner having his own sword. And unfortunately for them, his was much, much bigger.

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19 Aug 00:30

FDA Approves "Pink Viagra," Twice-Rejected Sex Pill For Women

by Hudson Hongo

Tuesday evening, the Food and Drug Administration approved female libido drug flibanserin, making it the first accepted medication for treating low sexual desire in women, The New York Times reports.

Read more...










18 Aug 00:30

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's Lawyers Ask for New Trial Outside Boston

by Hudson Hongo

In a filing that extensively cites jurors’ social media feeds, lawyers representing Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appealed his conviction on Monday, saying it was impossible for their client to receive a fair trial in Eastern Massachusetts.http://gawker.com/boston-maratho...

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15 Aug 18:00

AT&T Went Above and Beyond to Help the NSA Spy on the Internet

by Brendan O'Connor
V

So, AT&T was FAIRVIEW

According to documents provided to the New York Times and ProPublica by Edward Snowden, AT&T and the NSA have maintained for decades a “highly collaborative” relationship that has facilitated the government agency’s ability to spy on enormous quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States.

Read more...










15 Aug 19:00

According to one A-list wedding planner, tabloid magazines are now flying camera drones over celebri

by Brendan O'Connor
V

This cyberpunk future seems acceptable/inevitable.

According to one A-list wedding planner, tabloid magazines are now flying camera drones over celebrity weddings: “At one event I did recently in the Hamptons, one came in over the water... To the world of celebrities, that is horrible. What do you do: Shoot them down?” Hey, why not!

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13 Aug 03:05

Chelsea Manning Faces "Indefinite Solitary Confinement" for Possession of Expired Toothpaste

by Hudson Hongo

Chelsea Manning, who is currently serving a 35-year prison sentence for leaking government documents to WikiLeaks, has been threatened with possible “indefinite solitary confinement” for a series of seemingly trivial infractions, including owning expired toothpaste and “sweeping food onto the floor,” her lawyer said on Wednesday.

Read more...










12 Aug 16:00

The Best Meteor Shower of the Year Is Tonight, and Here’s How to Watch it

by Ria Misra on io9, shared by Leah Beckmann to Gawker

The Best Meteor Shower of the Year Is Tonight, and Here’s How to Watch it

The Perseids is my favorite meteor shower of the year, and this year is likely to be the best one in recent memory. Here’s when, where, and how to watch it—and just what is going to make this year so spectacular.

Top image: 2010 Perseids / image courtesy of Michael Menefee.

What Are the Perseids?

The Perseids are an annual meteor shower that greets us at the end of each summer. We’ve actually been seeing a few Perseids scattered around the sky since early last month, but the bulk of them will spill over into the sky tonight and tomorrow night. But if the Perseids are just one meteor shower out of several a year, what is it that makes it the absolute best?

The Best Meteor Shower of the Year Is Tonight, and Here’s How to Watch it

Part of it is timing. Some astronomers will try to convince you of the superiority of cold-weather meteor showers, mumble-lying something (usually through chattering teeth) about “clarity” and “crispness.” Don’t be fooled: Summer meteor showers are absolutely where it’s at, and the Perseids peaks at exactly the right moment of the season, just as summer is winding down, but well before any sort of cold snap has fully hit.

But even more than the season, the Perseids appeal is really all about the fireballs.

Image: 2012 Perseids over Wyoming’s Snowy Range / David Kingham.

Comet Swift-Tuttle is responsible for the Perseids—the dust and ice from its trail is what we’re watching burn up in our atmosphere when we see meteors. Swift-Tuttle passes through Earth’s orbit every 133 years and the closer it is to us, the thicker that trail—and the Perseids that we see here below—becomes. The comet is not due to come closest to us again until 2126, but that still leaves a pretty thick cover for us to see this year, with NASA estimating rates of at up to 100 meteors visible per hour.

The Best Meteor Shower of the Year Is Tonight, and Here’s How to Watch it

Image: GIF of Swift-Tuttle orbit, made from data generated with JPL’s small body database.

That meteor shower rate alone would make for a pretty fantastic show. Fireballs, however, are a very special subsection of those meteors. They are unusually big and flashy, with a brightness higher than that of either Jupiter or Venus, and often even brighter than the moon.

The Best Meteor Shower of the Year Is Tonight, and Here’s How to Watch it

Image: 2010 Perseids: Yes, they really are that bright / David Kingham,

The number of fireballs that you see during the Perseids simply blows every other meteor shower out of the water. It has more on average than every other meteor shower combined, excepting the Geminds and the Orionids.

The Best Meteor Shower of the Year Is Tonight, and Here’s How to Watch it

Image: Fireballs over five years charted / NASA.

Even the Geminids, the only shower that comes close in number, just doesn’t touch the Perseids in terms of brightness. The Perseids are without a doubt the biggest, baddest, and brightest meteor shower around.


Okay, but why is this year so special, then?

So, if the Perseids are pretty active every year, what makes this year exciting? Well, it’s more about what we’re not getting, than what we are. That’s right, I’m talking about our old enemy, the moon.

Image: The moon’s phases for all of 2015 timelapsed / NASA.

The new moon actually falls on August 13th, but the moonlight tonight from the almost completely waning crescent should also be pretty much negligible, meaning that for the two nights when the Perseids will be falling the thickest, we’ll have almost complete darkness against which to watch.

The Best Meteor Shower of the Year Is Tonight, and Here’s How to Watch it

Image: 2010 Perseids / Fred Bruenjes via NASA.

Of course, moonlight isn’t the only enemy of the meteor shower: There’s also cloud cover. But even that is looking likely to be not much of a problem for most areas this year, with the weather looking relatively clear around the country.

When (and where in the sky) can I see the Perseids?

At a rate of over 100 Perseids per an hour, simply looking up should be enough to see at least a few. The majority of them, though, will be clustered around the top of the constellation Perseus. If you’re having trouble tracking that, look for Cassiopeia first, Persesus is below it, and the radiant—the spot where the meteors appear to branch out from—should hover somewhere right between the two:

The Best Meteor Shower of the Year Is Tonight, and Here’s How to Watch it

Image: International Meteor Organization.

As for timing, you’ll see a few as soon as it gets dark but things will start to really heat up at around midnight. From then, you’ll have all night until the dawn to catch the show.

Okay! I’m in. So, how do I get ready to watch this thing?

Let’s get this out of the way: This particular meteor shower is going to be bright enough and bold enough that even a quick trip to your own backyard or rooftop is likely to yield at least something to be seen. But with just a bit of time and preparation, we can do far, far better. So let’s do it.

Where do I watch it?

The first thing you’re going to want to do is pick out a place to watch from. Make sure you drive out far enough that you’re out of range not just of the light, but of anything—whether buildings or trees—that’s going to get between you and your view of the sky. Keep an eye on the terrain around you, both natural and human-made, and try and get yourself to some higher ground, particularly those of you reading us from out in the mountains.

The Best Meteor Shower of the Year Is Tonight, and Here’s How to Watch it

Image: Star trails from the 2013 shower at the Mount Lemonn Sky Center, Adam Block / University of Arizona.

If you want, you can connect with a local astronomy group, many of whom are planning group events this week. Not only will they know the good spots near you to set up camp, there will also likely be plenty of telescopes, binoculars, and cleverly-aimed cameras among the crowd to get a closer look at what you’re seeing.

But really, there’s no need to overthink it: a blanket spread out in the grass, any likely-looking patch of dark sky, and nothing but your own eyes will also do you just fine.

The Best Meteor Shower of the Year Is Tonight, and Here’s How to Watch it

2010 Perseids / image courtesy of Michael Menefee.

What do I need to bring?

You don’t really need much, but there’s a few things you may want. You (wisely) chose to check out a summer meteor shower, but a light jacket isn’t a bad thing to have on hand—you may be out there for quite some time and it can get cooler around dawn. Similarly, some water, snacks, bug spray, and a blanket or two will probably be appreciated at some point in the night. I also have an old star wheel I like to bring, for ease of constellation tracking. But there are plenty of good apps as well that will get the job done (Sky Map is my personal choice). Just make sure you’ve downloaded your star map app of choice to your phone before you head out.

The Best Meteor Shower of the Year Is Tonight, and Here’s How to Watch it

Image: GIF made via footage from NASA.

Some people will also tell you that this is a good time to break out the camping chairs. Those people are wrong and possibly seeking some kind of obscure and elaborate revenge against you for murky reasons. Keep an eye on them, and then remember that you’re going to be tilting your head upwards for hours, possibly from midnight clear up until dawn. So make it easy on yourself and your neck: reclining chairs, a lie-down on that blanket you brought, even the hood of your car will all do quite nicely for our purposes.

Ugh, it’s cloudy/my car broke down/I’m trapped in a submarine. Why is everything the worst?

Why, indeed? But, cheer up, friend! It’s meteor shower day, the most wonderful day of the year. And, even if you can’t see it yourself, you can still share it with the rest of us through these sites:

The Best Meteor Shower of the Year Is Tonight, and Here’s How to Watch it

Image: 2010 Perseids / ESO.

11 Aug 19:35

Megyn Kelly Is Receiving Death Threats From Rabid Donald Trump Supporters: Report

by J.K. Trotter

Megyn Kelly Is Receiving Death Threats From Rabid Donald Trump Supporters: Report

Gabriel Sherman of New York magazine has a lengthy report about Donald Trump’s tense relationship with Fox News and its star anchor Megyn Kelly, whom Trump recently accused of unfairly targeting him during last Thursday’s televised debate (during which, Trump seemed to allege, Kelly had been menstruating). The internal conflict—placing Kelly and Trump in competition for the approval of Fox boss Roger Ailes—has apparently gotten so toxic that Trump supporters have begun threatening Kelly’s life:

For a few days, Ailes didn’t know how to handle Trump’s full-throated attack on Kelly, who accused Trump of sexism during the debate. Eventually, as I reported yesterday, he made the same choice he always does: follow the ratings, and mend fences with Trump. But that process has meant that Fox has had to mute its defense of Kelly, who is now watching uneasily as the Fox audience turns on her: According to one high-level source, Kelly has told Fox producers that she’s been getting death threats from Trump supporters.

Megyn Kelly ranks among Fox’s most prized talent, both publicly and within the channel’s pecking order; it would require extraordinary circumstances for Ailes not to vociferously defend her integrity or her ability to interrogate presidential candidates. But now we know the circumstances under which Ailes won’t go to bat for Kelly: When Donald Trump is attacking her. “Fox’s famously aggressive PR apparatus has not gone after Trump to defend Kelly,” Sherman notes, referring to the notoriously cruel tactics of Fox publicist Irena Briganti. Ailes’ initial defense of Fox News—“I’m extremely proud of all of the moderators”—didn’t even mention Kelly’s name.

Ailes and Trump seem to have patched things up—the latter appeared on Fox this morning—but not without fracturing Ailes’ seemingly omnipotent ability to bend Republican candidates to his will. According to Sherman, Ailes initially refused to talk to Trump after the candidate went after Kelly, but blinked after he began appearing on CNN and MSNBC to trash Fox and Kelly:

After Trump told Sean Hannity in a weekend phone call that he was “never doing Fox again,” appeared on four non-Fox public-affairs shows on Sunday, and did interviews with Today and Morning Joe on Monday, Ailes raised the white flag and picked up the phone on Monday morning. “Roger wanted a friendly relationship,” the source explained.

The rest of Sherman’s piece is well worth studying not only for Fox’s embarrassing loyalty to Trump, but also for the many holes Sherman punches in the story Fox News has been telling, through numerous interviews and profiles, about Megyn Kelly’s vaunted reputation within the company and her personal relationship with Roger Ailes. Ailes may have discovered Kelly, and mentored her; but his diplomacy toward Trump came at the cost of humiliating her. If Trump’s war on Fox exposed anything beyond Ailes’ cowardice, it’s the fact that you can be Fox’s most prominent female anchor and still be valued less than a joke candidate.

Email/chat: trotter@gawker.com · PGP key + fingerprint · DM: @jktrotter · Photo credit: AP

11 Aug 20:30

Prisoners Say They Were Beaten, Choked In Aftermath of Killers' Escape

by Jay Hathaway

Prisoners Say They Were Beaten, Choked In Aftermath of Killers' Escape

In the days after convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat escaped Clinton Correction Facility, corrections officers allegedly beat, choked, and threatened to waterboard the inmates remaining in their block, prisoners told the New York Times. The abuse was ostensibly part of an effort to find the escapees, but the Times reports it seemed more like “a campaign of retribution.”

The abuse reportedly centered on inmates from Matt and Sweat’s unit, the honor block, who were transferred to other prisons or put in solitary confinement after the escape. They’d made it to the honor block based on good behavior, and there’s thus far no evidence linking any of them to the escape.

Still, the man in the next cell over from Matt and Sweat, Patrick Alexander, says he was handcuffed, taken to a broom closet with a bag over his head, and slammed repeatedly against the wall while guards screamed “How much are they paying you to keep your mouth shut?”

He wasn’t the only one, according to the Times.

More than 60 inmates have filed complaints about being beaten or otherwise physically abused by corrections officers, but the state corrections department says there’s no “credible evidence substantiating the inappropriate use of force during the transfer of inmates from Clinton Correctional Facility.”

Alexander and other inmates say they were denied medical care after their brutal interrogations, and told not to tell medical staff how they got their injuries, and were allegedly made to sign documents covering for their abusers:

Paul Davila, another resident of the honor block, wrote in his complaint that after he was beaten during an interrogation, he was pressured to “sign a report stating, ‘I was not assaulted.’”

“Left with no other choice,” he wrote, “I signed.”

Now they’ve lost the honor block privileges and prison jobs they’d earned through years of good behavior, even though they say those freedoms had nothing to do with Sweat and Matt’s escape—the night shift guards’ laziness did.

And now, the Times speculates, the guards are taking that failure out on inmates in a frantic attempt to “exonerate themselves for the security lapses that contributed to the breakout.”

[NYT. Photo: AP Images]

11 Aug 12:09

that-nintendo-guy: this entire experience was so surreal and I...

V

oculus dating sim



that-nintendo-guy:

this entire experience was so surreal and I had to share it immediately

11 Aug 18:20

This exchange is perfect.



This exchange is perfect.

10 Aug 17:22

Vlogger Couple Grieves Miscarriage Three Days After Announcing Pregnancy in Viral Video

by Allie Jones
V

:|

Last Wednesday, the popular vlogger couple Sam and Nia Rader posted a video announcing to the world that they were pregnant with their third child. The twist: In the video, Sam “surprised” Nia with her own positive pregnancy test after stealing some of her urine from the toilet. Thanks to its insane premise, “HUSBAND SHOCKS WIFE WITH PREGNANCY ANNOUNCEMENT!” has now garnered upwards of 11 million hits on YouTube. Sam and Nia celebrated this spiraling success, and, one could argue, the pregnancy itself, with a second video on Thursday titled, “WE’RE GOING VIRAL!”
http://gawker.com/all-is-lost-ni...

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10 Aug 22:20

Marco Rubio Explains Science: A Human Cannot Become a Cat

by Ashley Feinberg
V

The gauntlet has been thrown down. Internet, I await your response.

Yesterday, Marco Rubio went on national television to reaffirm his awful anti-abortion beliefs to the public. And of course, to confirm that humans are not, in fact, cats.

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09 Aug 23:59

kykiske: the president of nicovideo plays one of arino’s mario...

V

fair troll



kykiske:

the president of nicovideo plays one of arino’s mario maker stages

10 Aug 12:00

goddog



goddog