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05 Mar 15:10

Method Man: Fuck the Secret Wu-Tang Record, Give It Away Free

by Jay Hathaway

Method Man: Fuck the Secret Wu-Tang Record, Give It Away Free

The Wu-Tang Clan's Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, the very limited edition—like, one copy only—secret album that RZA envisioned as a touring museum piece, has proven divisive, even inside the Wu itself.

Here's RZA, one year ago in Forbes:

"The idea that music is art has been something we advocated for years. And yet its doesn't receive the same treatment as art in the sense of the value of what it is, especially nowadays when it's been devalued and diminished to almost the point that it has to be given away for free."

And here's Method Man, this week in XXL, after finding out the album's eventual buyer will have to wait 88 years to release it to the public:

"What do you mean 88 years? Fuck that album. I'm tired of this shit and I know everybody else is tired of it, too. Fuck that album, if that's what they are doing. I haven't heard anything like that, but if they're doing crap like that, fuck that album. Straight up. I'm just keeping it 100. When music can't be music and y'all turning it into something else, fuck that. Give it to the people, if they want to hear the shit, let them have it. Give it away free. I don't give a fuck; that ain't making nobody rich or poor. Give the fucking music out. Stop playing with the public, man."

"I was cool with shit. But now, this is ridiculous," Meth added.

Offers for the only copy of the album, which is locked inside a silver box, have reportedly reached $5 million, and fans—excuse me, art connoisseurs—are expected to pay $30-$50 to listen to it at a gallery.

"The main theme is music being accepted and respected as art and being treated as such," RZA has said. "If something is rare, it's rare. You cannot get another."

Nah, the main theme is the same as it's always been: Cash rules everything.

[h/t NME, Photo: Getty Images]

05 Mar 18:30

How Unsafe Was Hillary Clinton's Secret Staff Email System?

by Sam Biddle

Sound and fury over what could conceivably be nothing, but OTOH did President Clinton forward her unsolicited herbal supplement emails to Soviet Iranghazigate?

How Unsafe Was Hillary Clinton's Secret Staff Email System?

When Hillary Clinton ditched government email in favor of a secret, personal address, it wasn't just an affront to Obama's vaunted transparency agenda—security experts consulted by Gawker have laid out a litany of potential threats that may have exposed her email conversations to potential interception by hackers and foreign intelligence agencies.

"It is almost certain that at least some of the emails hosted at were intercepted," independent security expert and developer Nic Cubrilovic told Gawker.

Within the instant classic "" domain, it appears there are three separate servers. The domain's blank landing page is hosted by Confluence Networks, a web firm in the British Virgin Islands, known for monetizing expired domain names and spam.

But the real worry comes from two other public-facing subdomains, which can allow anyone with the right URL to try to sign in.

One is, which provides a login page that apparently uses an SSL VPN—a protocol that allows your web browser to create an encrypted connection to a local network from any internet connection—to users to access their email. That sounds secure, and under the right circumstances, for regular users, it can be. But there are two huge problems with using it for the Secretary of State's communications with her staff and others.

How Unsafe Was Hillary Clinton's Secret Staff Email System?

First: Anyone in the world with that URL can attempt to log in. It's unclear what exactly lies on the other side of this login page, but the fact that you could log into anything tied to the Secretary of State's email is, simply, bad. If the page above is directly connected to Clinton's email server, a login there could be disastrous, according to Robert Hansen, VP of security firm WhiteHat Labs:

It might be the administrative console interface to the Windows machine or a backup. In that case, all mail could have been copied.

What's more troubling is the fact that, at least as of yesterday, the server at sslvpn has an invalid SSL certificate. Digital certificates are used to "sign" the encryption keys that servers and browsers use to establish encrypted communications. (The reason that hackers can't just vacuum the internet traffic between your browser and Google's Gmail servers and read your email is that your browser is encrypting the data to a public encryption key. The reason that you know that you are encrypting to Google's key and not to, say, the People's Liberation Army's, is that the Gmail servers have a digital certificate from a trusted third-party confirming that the key is theirs.)

When you attempt to access using Google's Chrome browser, this is what you see:

How Unsafe Was Hillary Clinton's Secret Staff Email System?

The apparent reason for that message is that the certificate used by Clinton's server is self-signed—verified by the authority that issued it, but not by a trusted third party—and therefore regarded by Google's Chrome browser as prima facie invalid. The government typically uses military-grade certificates and encryption schemes for its internal communications that designed with spying from foreign intelligence agencies in mind. But the setup? "If you're buying jam online," says Hansen, "you're fine." But for anything beyond consumer-grade browsing, it's a shoddy arrangement.

Security researcher Dave Kennedy of TrustedSec agrees: "It was done hastily and not locked down." Mediocre encryption from Clinton's outbox to a recipient (or vice versa) would leave all of her messages open to bulk collection by a foreign government or military. Or, if someone were able to copy the security certificate Clinton used, they could execute what's called a "man in the middle" attack, invisible eavesdropping on data. "It's highly likely that another person could simply extract the certificate and man in the middle any user of the system without any warnings whatsoever," Hansen said.

The invalid certificate would have also likely left Clinton vulnerable to widespread internet bugs like "Heartbleed," which was only discovered last spring, and may have let hackers copy the entire contents of the Clinton servers' memory. Inside that memory? Who knows: "It could very well have been a bunch of garbage," said Hansen, or "it could have been her full emails, passwords, and cookies." Heartbleed existed unnoticed for years. A little social engineering, Hansen said, could give attackers access to Clinton's DNS information, letting them route and reroute data to their own computers without anyone realizing. "It's a fairly small group of people who know how to do that," Hansen noted, but "it's not hard—it's just a lot of steps."

"It was done hastily and not locked down."

We don't know, of course, if the current state of Clinton's servers is representative of the security precautions that were in place while she was using it as Secretary of State. The system could have previously been hardened against attack, and left to get weedy and vulnerable after she left government. We don't know. But that's part of the problem—at the Department of State, there is accountability for the security of email systems. If we learned that State's email servers had been hacked or left needlessly vulnerable, there would be investigations and consequences. With Clinton's off-the-books scheme, there are only questions.

The final address behind ClintonEmail is a mail host,, which will kick back an error message when visited directly:

How Unsafe Was Hillary Clinton's Secret Staff Email System?

But if you plug in a different URL with the same mail server, you're presented with a user-friendly, familiar Outlook webmail login:

How Unsafe Was Hillary Clinton's Secret Staff Email System?

This is basically no more secure than the way you'd log into AOL, Facebook, or any other website. There's no evidence that Clinton (or her staffers) used this web interface to check their emails, as opposed to logging in through a smartphone or other email software. But its mere existence is troubling enough: there have been five separate security vulnerabilities identified with Outlook Web Access since was registered in 2009. These security bugs include doozies like "a flaw that may lead to an unauthorized information disclosure" (2010) and "a remote attacker can gain access to arbitrary files" (2014).

But even without exploiting software bugs, Hansen says leaving a public login page for something that's meant to be private is "pretty much the worst thing you can do." Clinton's Outlook form could've been susceptible to a brute force attack—where random combinations of words and characters are tried until one of them works—or an old fashioned denial of service assault. "Even if she had a particularly strong password," Hansen said, a brute force attack will "either work eventually—foreign militaries are very good at trying a lot—or it'll fail and block her from accessing her own email."

If Clinton had been using a government account, Hansen explained, her messages with colleagues would all be held within one relatively tidy system, monitored by the federal government. It's the difference between doing your laundry at home and dropping it off. But with a private account, you're introducing many separate points of failure; every single company in this custom system is a place to pry and attack. "Any joe hacker" could get inside with enough knowledge and time, according to Hansen.

"Pretty much the worst thing you can do."

Cubrilovic echoed Hansen's concern: "When you are a staffer in a government department, internal email never leaves the network that the department has physical control over," he told me. But "with externally hosted email every one of those messages would go out onto the internet," where they're subject to snooping.

Security researcher Kenn White agrees that private internet access stirs up too many dangerous variables while emails bounced from person to person:

I think the bigger security concern here is the complete lack of visibility into who has been administering, backing up, maintaining, and accessing the Secretary's email. If classified documents were exchanged, who viewed them? Were they forwarded? Where multiple devices (ie, mobile phones and tablets) configured to access the account? Was encryption required or optional for remote access?

Cubrilovic agreed that opting out of the government's system is an awful idea for someone with a hacker bullseye on her back: "having a high profile target host their own email is a nightmare for information security staff working for the government," he told me, "since it can undo all of the other work they've done to secure their network." The kind of off-the-shelf email service it appears Clinton used comes with a lot of inherent risk, especially since a pillar of her job is overseas travel:

With your own email hosting you're almost certainly going to be vulnerable to Chinese government style spearphishing attacks—which government departments have enough trouble stopping—but the task would be near impossible for an IT naive self-hosted setup.

While some of these hacking scenarios may sound outlandish or far-fetched, keep in mind that Clinton's emails would have been a prime target for some of the globe's most sophisticated state-sponsored cyberwarriors—the Chinese, the Israelis, the Iranians. The very existence of Clinton's private account was revealed by the hacker Guccifer, an unemployed Romanian taxi driver who managed to gain access to former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal's AOL account with relative ease. The Hillary account was reported by Gawker in 2013, and White House spokesman Eric Schultz used that story to argue that the Clinton email story was old news: "This was public years ago," he told Business Insider, linking to the 2013 Gawker story.

Which is another way of saying that foreign intelligence agencies have had two years to work on the target.

Photo: Getty

Contact the author at
Public PGP key
PGP fingerprint: E93A 40D1 FA38 4B2B 1477 C855 3DEA F030 F340 E2C7

05 Mar 04:55

Local FOX Reporter's Home Invasion Story Got More Dramatic Over Time

by Gabrielle Bluestone

Local FOX Reporter's Home Invasion Story Got More Dramatic Over Time

A new report in the Washington Post indicates that a well-known gun proponent and local DC FOX reporter lied about a home invasion that ended in a face-off with 15 supposed drug addicts.

Emily Miller, a reporter for WTTG-TV, likes to tell the story of the 2010 New Year's Day home invasion that led her to purchase a gun for the first time. As the Post points out, it's been immortalized on paper, in her book, "Emily Gets Her Gun . . . But Obama Wants to Take Yours," and on film, in a dramatic reenactment produced by the NRA:

The story she tells is terrifying—she says she came home to discover a man inside her home and followed him outside where 15 other men started running at her.

"It was the first time in my life I thought, I just wish I had a gun by my night table. Then I could defend myself if those men come in," she'd later tell the NRA.

But the official police report is much more mundane, the Post reports. Back when she reported it, she apparently told police she saw a guy by the side of the house and got a business card from him before he left.

"[Miller] stated that she left out to walk the dog at 1515hrs and when she returned at 1525hrs she observed [the suspect] exiting from behind the fence which leads to the side of the house. [Miller] asked [suspect] 'What are you doing here' and [suspect] stated 'I am delivering firewood,'" according to a supplemental D.C. police report.

[Miller] stated that she went into the house and felt that something was not right, so she exited the house to take a photo of [suspect's] vehicle. [Suspect] approached [Miller] and gave her a business card that stated [a tree service] and [suspect] left the scene. [Miller] stated that [suspect] was operating a silver pick up truck with landscaping on the side of it.

Miller's parlayed the story into a successful speaking tour—the Post notes she's appeared at several guns rights conferences—and published a book based on her popular Washington Times series about getting her gun license.

04 Mar 20:05

BEEP BEEP BEEP Taylor Swift Avoiding Paparazzi BEEP BEEP BEEP 

by Aleksander Chan

Taylor Swift Thursday

OK! Magazine has obtained the strangest 13-second clip—of one Taylor Swift backing up like a truck would to a loading dock to avoid having her face photographed by the paparazzi in West Hollywood. Coming through!


04 Mar 18:30

So, Philippe Reines Sent Us an Email

by J.K. Trotter

Philippe Reines, the longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, sent Gawker a long note last night after a reporter for the Washington Free Beacon, C.J. Ciaramella, emailed him about an article of ours concerning his and other Clinton staffers’ use of a private email accounts to conduct official State Department business. The entire exchange, including our response at the very bottom, can be found below. We’ll keep you posted if Reines writes back. (Update: Reines responded; see below).


28 Feb 15:55

Thanks For the Net Neutrality, Oligarchs

by Alex Pareene

"cute and cynical" reads a T-shirt I am making for myself and this post

"Net neutrality" will be the law of the land following the Federal Communications Commission's vote to reclassify broadband Internet services as public utilities. Please take some time this week to thank the outspoken citizens who made this possible. These heroes of the open Internet are regular folk, just like you and me, with names like Microsoft, eBay, Facebook, Google and Amazon. Congrats to a major industry on its lobbying victory!


02 Mar 16:45

There's a Monica Lewinsky Reference in Bill Clinton's Official Portrait

by Gabrielle Bluestone

There's a Monica Lewinsky Reference in Bill Clinton's Official Portrait

The artist who painted the official portrait of Bill Clinton currently hanging in the National Portrait Gallery says he also slipped in a sly reference to Monica Lewinsky and "the Clintons hate [it.]"

Pennsylvania artist Nelson Shanks pointed out the artistic liberty this week in an interview, telling he felt compelled to sully the portrait because Bill was such a goddamn liar.

Clinton was hard. I'll tell you why. The reality is he's probably the most famous liar of all time. He and his administration did some very good things, of course, but I could never get this Monica thing completely out of my mind and it is subtly incorporated in the painting.

If you look at the left-hand side of it there's a mantle in the Oval Office and I put a shadow coming into the painting and it does two things. It actually literally represents a shadow from a blue dress that I had on a mannequin, that I had there while I was painting it, but not when he was there. It is also a bit of a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held, or on him.

It's not clear how the Clintons figured out the reference, but Shanks claims they've been trying to bury it ever since.

And so the Clintons hate the portrait. They want it removed from the National Portrait Gallery. They're putting a lot of pressure on them. [Reached by phone Thursday, a spokeswoman from the National Portrait Gallery denied that.]

[image via AP]

01 Mar 22:00

Sierra Leone's Vice President Self-Quarantined for Ebola

by Brendan O'Connor

Samuel Sam-Sumana, vice president of Sierra Leone, has voluntarily placed himself under a three-week quarantine after the death from Ebola of one of his security personnel last Tuesday, the Associated Press reports. Sierra Leone recorded 18 new cases of Ebola last week, up from 16 the week before.


28 Feb 03:59


28 Feb 12:56

bl-ossomed: Cleopatra’s Underwater Palace, Egypt  I still...


Cleopatra’s Underwater Palace, Egypt 

I still don’t get why no one is LOSING THEIR FUCKING SHIT OVER THIS FIND






01 Mar 15:32

foodffs:25+ Of The Coolest Kitchen Gadgets For Food LoversReally...

02 Mar 02:20


02 Mar 14:33

misogynocology: is that sarah jessica parker


is that sarah jessica parker

26 Feb 20:28

Watch Vine Highlights From Today's Incredibly Thrilling Llama Chase

by Andy Cush

Watch Vine Highlights From Today's Incredibly Thrilling Llama Chase

Why is every single person in your office gathered around computer monitors, laughing and having a great time without you right now? Because there's a high-speed wild llama chase through suburban Arizona in action, and they're all watching the live stream. Breathe a sigh of relief and take a peek below.

Update: All good things must come to an end, and the llama chase is no exception. Here are the Vine highlights in case you missed it.

27 Feb 01:10

What Color Is This Goddamn Dress?

by Hudson Hongo

Since it hit Tumblr yesterday, the image below has started an internet schism that may never be healed. Some maniacs, it seems, see the dress as gold and white, while other completely reasonable people see it as blue and black.

What Color Is This Goddamn Dress?

This is not a joke. This is not a prank. This dress is blue and black but some people say it's not.

Buzzfeed even opened a poll to try to get to the bottom of this, and things are looking bad for the side of the sane:

What Color Is This Goddamn Dress?

In private discussions, Gawker staff have been unable to agree on the color of the goddamn dress or develop a workable theory as to why it appears different colors to different people. With that in mind, please take our own poll below, and remember, there's only one right answer (blue).

26 Feb 15:40

YouTube's Insanely Popular Disney Collector Might Be This Ex Porn Star

by Jay Hathaway

YouTube's Insanely Popular Disney Collector Might Be This Ex Porn Star

DC Toys Collector—better known as Disney Collector—is one of the most popular channels on YouTube, mostly because kids can't stop watching it. The videos star an anonymous woman unwrapping and playing with toys, describing all their features in a soothing, childlike voice. Disney Collector's face is never onscreen—we only see her hands.

This week, the Daily Mail claimed they'd figured out who those famous hands belong to: an Orlando-based Brazilian woman named Daiane DeJesus, formerly known as the porn star Sandy Summers.

The Mail was able to link DeJesus to Disney Collector because her husband, Messias Credidio, had previously been outed as the man behind Disney Collector's partner channel, BluCollection, which is filmed in precisely the same style. When reporters played Disney Collector's unboxing videos for DeJesus's former neighbors, they immediately recognized the voice as hers.

The British tabloid also tracked DeJesus to her current home and claimed to have shipping receipts showing toys were sent there from Germany.

Credido's ex-wife, Maribel Barreto, also provided confirmation that the couple are behind the popular toy channel: "Yes, they are the Disney Collectors. I can't say any more," she told the Mail.

There are still some loose ends, though: Is Barreto possibly working with the two on the channel, and maybe even playing the hands while DeJesus does the voiceovers? A rumor that started on the blog FranticMama last April named Messias Credidio, but claimed he was working with his wife, "Vera," 44. Maribel Barreto happens to be 44, while DeJesus is 29 or 32, depending on whether you believe her marriage license or her porn site bio.

YouTube's Insanely Popular Disney Collector Might Be This Ex Porn Star

Whether it's complete and accurate or not, the Mail's story is pretty rich tabloid fodder: the unseen woman who made an estimated $5 million last year entertaining toy-obsessed kiddos used to have a career entertaining boob-obsessed adults? The Mail imagines parents with no chill will be scandalized by this, and they're probably right, but come on: all you can see are her hands, and all she talks about are children's toys. You'd be crazy to give up something that keeps the kids quiet over a little thing like a porn star past.

[Photo: Sandy Summers/Twitter]

26 Feb 16:04

Massachusetts Is God's 7-11 as "Slurpee Waves" Wash Over Nantucket Coast

by Taylor Berman

Massachusetts Is God's 7-11 as "Slurpee Waves" Wash Over Nantucket Coast

Awful and endless as this winter has been, it's produced at least one worthwhile natural phenomenon: "slurpee waves." Amazing photos—taken by Jonathan Nimerfroh and published in Stay Wild Magazine—show the half-frozen waves of slush cresting and crashing into the beaches of Nantucket.

Nimerfroh explained the photoshoot to Stay Wild: "Just been super cold here. The harbor to the main land is frozen solid. No boats running.But yea, the day after I took these it actually froze up the shoreline for 200 yards out. Solid ice. I was totally tripping when I pulled up to the beach and saw this."

The full photo set is available at Stay Wild.

26 Feb 18:10

Christian Singer Let Fifty Shades Use His Song, Thinking It Was a Comedy

by Jay Hathaway

Paul Janeway, the golden-throated frontman of St. Paul and the Broken Bones, wanted to be a preacher until he was 18. Instead, he's got a song on the soundtrack to Fifty Shades of Grey —which, he told Mother Jones, he hadn't heard of before he licensed "Call Me" for the movie. He assumed it was just another romantic comedy.

"When they presented the licensing opportunity, they presented it as: It's going to be a huge movie, they want to put a decent amount of the song in the movie in a nonsexual scene," he told Mother Jones' Maddie Oatman.

That's exactly what happened, but he claims he didn't know it would be a nonsexual scene—the only nonsexual scene—in the middle of a very sexual movie:

I knew it was a book, but I had no idea what it was. So I was like, sure, big movie, good exposure. I'll be in this romantic comedy. Which is what I thought it was: a romantic comedy. It's a good way to make money in the music business, you know. Then I saw a preview for it, and I was like, "Oh, shit. Oh, no. What have I done?"

I don't know if I buy that an adult American in 2014 could have entirely avoided exposure to Fifty Shades of Grey—or didn't bother to Google the movie that wanted to use his song. Come on, man. A little research goes a long way.

To his credit, though, he's able to laugh (all the way to the bank?) about it now:

To me it's kind of funny. I'm glad it's in a nonsexual scene to be honest with you, not for my sake but for my family's sake. I don't have any moral things about it. It's not like we're in the movie—it's just a song for a minute.

25 Feb 00:06

Republicans Resigned to FCC Vote Expected to Enforce Net Neutrality

by Brendan O'Connor

The Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote on Thursday to regulate the Internet as a public good, the New York Times reports, and Republican lawmakers who have opposed the impending decision are backing down.


24 Feb 15:30

How Mice Turned Their Private Paradise Into A Terrifying Dystopia

by Esther Inglis-Arkell

How Mice Turned Their Private Paradise Into A Terrifying Dystopia

In 1972, animal behaviorist John Calhoun built a rat paradise with beautiful buildings and limitless food. He introduced eight mice to the population. Two years later, the mice had created their own apocalypse. Here's why.

Universe 25 was a giant box designed to be a rodent utopia. The trouble was, this utopia did not have a benevolent creator. John B. Calhoun had designed quite a few mouse environments before he got to the 25th one, and didn't expect to be watching a happy story. Divided into "main squares" and then subdivided into levels, with ramps going up to "apartments," the place looked great, and was always kept stocked with food, but its inhabitants were doomed from the get-go.

Universe 25 started out with eight mice, four males and four females. By day 560, the mouse population reached 2,200, and then steadily declined back down to unrecoverable extinction. At the peak population, most mice spent every living second in the company of hundreds of other mice. They gathered in the main squares, waiting to be fed and occasionally attacking each other. Few females carried pregnancies to term, and the ones that did seemed to simply forget about their babies. They'd move half their litter away from danger and forget the rest. Sometimes they'd drop and abandon a baby while they were carrying it.

How Mice Turned Their Private Paradise Into A Terrifying Dystopia

The few secluded spaces housed a population Calhoun called, "the beautiful ones." Generally guarded by one male, the females—- and few males — inside the space didn't breed or fight or do anything but eat and groom and sleep. When the population started declining the beautiful ones were spared from violence and death, but had completely lost touch with social behaviors, including having sex or caring for their young.

In 1972, with the baby boomers coming of age in a ever-more-crowded world and reports of riots in the cities, Universe 25 looked like a Malthusian nightmare. It even acquired its own catchy name, "The Behavioral Sink." If starvation didn't kill everyone, people would destroy themselves. The best option was to flee to the country or the suburbs, where people had space and life was peaceful and natural.

Today, the experiment remains frightening, but the nature of the fear has changed. A recent study pointed out that Universe 25 was not, if looked at as a whole, too overcrowded. Pens, or "apartments" at the very end of each hallway had only one entrance and exit, making them easy to guard. This allowed more aggressive territorial males to limit the number mice in that pen, overcrowding the rest of the world, while isolating the few "beautiful ones" who lived there from normal society. Instead of a population problem, one could argue that Universe 25 had a fair distribution problem.

The fact remains that it had a problem, and one that eventually led to its destruction. If this behavior is shared by both mice and humans, can we escape Universe 25's fate?

Top image: Yoichi R Okamoto, White House photographer.

[Sources: The Behavioral Sink, Crowding Into the Behavioral Sink]

24 Feb 17:55

Study: Weed Is 114 Times Less Deadly Than Alcohol

by Dayna Evans

Study: Weed Is 114 Times Less Deadly Than Alcohol

A new study published in a subsidiary of the Nature journal, Scientific Reports, found that marijuana is safer for users than a range of other substances, moreso than researchers previously believed. The study suggests that "risk management" should be redirected to legal alcohol and tobacco rather than mostly illegal marijuana.

According to a report in the Washington Post, the study attempted to discover "the risk of death associated with the use of a variety of commonly used substances." The study found that the deadliest substance, on an individual basis, was alcohol, followed by heroin, cocaine, and tobacco. From the Washington Post:

Given the relative risks associated with marijuana and alcohol, the authors recommend "risk management prioritization towards alcohol and tobacco rather than illicit drugs." And they say that when it comes to marijuana, the low amounts of risk associated with the drug "suggest a strict legal regulatory approach rather than the current prohibition approach."

The study also discovered that marijuana is 114 times less deadly than alcohol, which researchers were able to quantify by comparing lethal doses of certain substances to an amount used by a typical consumer of each drug. Through this, researchers learned that marijuana came with the lowest mortality risk to users out of all the drugs they studied (alcohol, tobacco, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, and meth among them).

As the Post points out, however, weed is not "safe" just because it's less deadly than other drugs:

There are any number of risks associated with marijuana use. Most of these risks involve mental health issues, and most increase the earlier you start using and the more frequently you use.


Happy (sort of) legalization day, Alaska.

[Image via AP]

24 Feb 18:16

The Justice Department announced today that it will not file federal civil rights charges against Ge

by Taylor Berman

see you in two years for the justice department not filing federal charges on the matter of Ferguson

The Justice Department announced today that it will not file federal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman for the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin.

24 Feb 18:30

A Chat with Sonia Van Meter, Woman Preparing for a One-Way Trip to Mars

by Jia Tolentino

A Chat with Sonia Van Meter, Woman Preparing for a One-Way Trip to Mars

Sonia Van Meter is the managing director of Stanford Caskey, a national Democratic opposition research firm. She's also one of 100 candidates selected by Mars One for Martian colonization in 2025. Many are skeptical of Mars One's prospects; many (like Buzz Aldrin) hope the mission succeeds. Regardless, Mars is the future that Sonia is preparing for, and we spoke on the phone last week.

I'm so excited to talk to you about this. I'm so… jealous.

Oh, I'm so glad to get to talk to you, too. So much of what I've been asked is how I could possibly leave my husband and family, how I could stand to be such a horrible woman. I would love for this story to be told with a hint of a feminist perspective for once.

There are plenty of other women in the Mars 100, right?

49 other women!

Do you think they're all getting this reaction?

I think a few of them probably have. Although there are a lot of single women, and I don't know how many of the other women have children who are young.

There are certainly plenty of men and women who are married, anyway. But I might be one of the candidates who has younger children, even though—not to be cold—my children are stepchildren, and they do have two biological parents who will take care of them. And in 2024 they're going to be 21 and 24. It's not like I'm leaving infants to twist in the wind. As an ancillary parent, I feel like it's incumbent upon me to demonstrate to them that there's no reason why they shouldn't pursue their dreams.

What did it feel like when you found out you were part of the Mars 100?

I was sitting at my desk when I got the email and it said, "Congratulations. You and 99 other people have made it to the next round." I don't think I breathed for about 90 seconds. I just sort of stared at it. I had this weird sensation as if someone had knocked the wind out of me; I was blown away, knocked out. This wasn't what I was expecting. I thought for sure I would be eliminated in this round. To be honest, I don't think I moved for five minutes straight.

Why did you think you'd be eliminated—and why do you think you weren't?

I assumed that they would want people with some expertise in engineering, technology, and medical care. That's not me. I have my skill set on this planet for sure, but I feel like on Mars I'd be less than useless.

I thought I would be eliminated after an interview with the medical officer when he asked some hard, specific technical questions about the planet. I didn't know everything; I figured I had dropped the ball. But on the questions he asked about why I want to go—perfectly reasonable questions for a mission like this—I stayed true to myself: here's what I want, here's what I believe. In hindsight, I realize what they were looking for was the kind of personality that can handle it. The mission is still 10 years out. You can train a person on a lot of stuff in 10 years. You can't train a person on patience, compassion, discipline, and tolerance.

What's your short answer about why you want to go?

I believe that this needs to be done. Space exploration benefits humanity immeasurably. The stuff we've gotten out of the space race is endless: MRI imaging, GPS, all kinds of fabrics, Velcro. When we sent our minds to a thing that seems insurmountable, we have to come up with all kinds of extraordinary solutions in terms of technology and medicine.

There's so much that comes out of an effort like this. It is expensive, but the glory behind space exploration is that it inspires people. You don't grow up wanting to be the person who invents GPS. You think about space, and you want to be part of that adventure. And then later when you walk down the path of your interests—hopefully, a STEM education with a liberal arts bent—then suddenly you find yourself being the person who invents GPS.

And you're excited about being a conduit for all this.

Yes, absolutely.

When did the application process start?

2013, around August.

How did the conversation go with your family?

At first it was no big deal. I said I found this thing online, it's a one-way trip to Mars, I'm going to apply just so I can throw my hat in the ring. I told my stepkids; they were like, "That's cool." It was almost effortless in that respect. Obviously there were questions that had be answered on the application in terms of family and psychological preparation, but it was such a far-fetched whim, a kind of pipe dream.

Once I made it into the top 1,064, that was more of a real thing. There were 200,000 and now there are us. Everything becomes clearer, sharper, more into focus. But even then, it seemed like such a huge endeavor. So many things have to happen in order for this to happen that it still seemed fantastical—still closer to daydream than reality.

Having gotten to the 100, it gets even clearer. Suddenly the world is watching. That adds a very new and exciting component. But again, it's still 10 years away, and 10 billion things have to happen in the right order to make this go. I don't think you're going to find a single candidate without a healthy dose of skepticism. But the thing that unites us is that we all want to see it happen.

What is the process like from now on?

Mars One is playing this very close to the chest. We don't know things more than one step ahead. The email let us know that we have a few months to kind of sit on this, absorb the reality—then they'll get back in touch with a contract.

The contract is for training, etc?

I presume so.

And they'll be winnowing everyone down to a group of 40?


What's the elimination process going to be like?

I think we've seen the last broad cuts of candidates. From here on out, I think what happens is that training starts, and people will withdraw or be eliminated. They plan on reopening the application process every two years for the next 10 years, and they'll supplement the existing pool with new applicants. They have to train people on technology, medicine, and all the equipment; they also have to find the right combination of individuals. The three people that will be journeying with you will be your lifeline, your bread and butter. They're creating blended families, essentially. The four very best qualified candidates may make a horrible team.

Do you know any of the other people yet? Is there a Mars listserv?

There's not a listserv yet, but we've formed small communities. We've gotten together a couple of times. There's a guy up in Boston who I've done some interviews with; he's a biologist and brings a really fantastic science component. They talk about doing this on a TV show and chronicling our training, but it's not Survivor or the Hunger Games. We can't attack each other. That would be completely antithetical to what we're trying to do.

Yeah, I imagine that they've actively sorted for people who are not going to be at each other's throats.

A few cuts before this round sort of shocked me: people who had military training, medical training. The only assumption I can make, and it's a huge assumption, is that it was a personality thing. You have to be incredibly driven and motivated, but you can't be too intense, too type A.

You've got to be laid-back enough to understand that this isn't a sure shot.

Absolutely. If you're going to spend eight months in a tin can in space with someone, you want someone who can chill the hell out. And who knows, I may not be that someone. I may get eliminated.

What's the age range?

I want to say it's roughly twentysomething to 60.

Okay so, like I said at the beginning of this interview, I am jealous of you. I have wanted to go to space for a long time, although I have only recently understood that I would like my life to end there. Important moments for me were: the Magic School Bus episode where the kid takes off his helmet on Neptune; Ray Bradbury Martian Chronicles; Mitt Liv Som Hund. What were yours?

My father is a huge aerospace fanatic, and when I was growing up, there was a rule: no TV allowed during the week. There was only one exception, for Thursday nights, when Star Trek was on. Star Trek, we could watch together.

Obviously, space exploration is the central theme of the show. But there are some really wonderful aspects otherwise: teamwork, collaboration, problem solving, multiculturalism, integration. All these wonderful themes that are somehow better addressed in a science fiction format than they could be on regular TV. Star Trek was this universe in which humanity is curious about the universe, appreciates its place in the universe, appreciates its boundaries and limitations.

Space exploration is an embodiment of all these things. In order to do space exploration, you have to be the best version of yourself. You have to believe in something, collaborate, and believe in something. It demands the very best of human nature.

Yes. But people don't talk to you like you're invested in this: they talk to you about your gender.

Let me preface this by saying I know my conception of going to space is very abstracted, and I generally don't think isolated actions can be judged for "how feminist" they are. But: the idea of a woman sending herself to space turns out two things that I find really elusive in both society and feminism today—a radical diminishment of the self, and also an incontrovertible assertion of agency. And this is why it makes me crazy that you're doing this thing that I think of as literally my dream, and people are like, "BUT WHO'S GONNA WATCH BABY?"

I think people have kind of made up their minds without knowing much about the situation. The people who don't like that I'm going would still find a reason to dislike this even if I weren't leaving a husband or children behind. And I'm not saying it's not a legitimate consideration or concern or criticism to think about where this leaves your family. But really, like Sally Ride said, you either get it or you don't. It's clear as day why you want to do this or it's not. People who don't understand it, you can't explain it to them.

I do have a husband, I have stepchildren. But this is bigger than me and any family—and my family is inclined to agree. I've been called every name under the sun, and I'm not going to tell them that they're wrong, but I would like for them to look at the bigger picture. I'm doing it for me, but also for them, for their families, families everywhere.

It also seems so fundamentally an issue of individual choice. Why should anyone feel personally affronted by your business?

We are used to seeing men go off and be explorers, do the dangerous thing. Men are the head of families, while women stay home and take care of children and act as the warm place to come home to. It's peculiar for people when the gender roles are reversed. Which isn't to say that there aren't precedents—female astronauts from way back in the day. It's been done, but it's not what people are used to.

It can be hard for people to relate to a person wanting to go into space, but people can relate to the family.

More unkindly, people can also relate to the idea that a woman's life is up for criticism. Magellan was married. Shackleton. It's crazy! But I'm wondering if you've tapped into the opposite also. Women like me who are like "FUCK YES."

Yeah, absolutely. Tons of men and women have been very supportive. And the worst stuff is mostly in internet comments, the bathroom graffiti of our time. I've had schools ask me to come speak to them; someone asked me to speak to their Daisy troop.

That's a huge reason I want to do this. I like to think of myself as a reasonably smart girl growing up, but I thought math and science weren't for me, thought I was good at English and the touchy-feely stuff. And all of a sudden, here I am, a potential astronaut. It's really important to me to know that little girls understand that gender is not something that has to define your lot in life.

What is the part of this that you daydream about? Any particular moment?

Mars has about 40 percent of the gravity of Earth, so an efficient way of getting around the planet is not going to be running or walking, it's going to be bouncing. That's something I daydream about: bouncing, bouncing across the habitat.

That rules. What do you imagine life is going to be like? What are you going to do to amuse yourself? Are you going to be working the whole time? Are you going to be literally staring into space?

They've made it very clear that a lot of work is going to have to go into establishing the settlement, making sure it's working properly, maintenance. There's going to be scientific research to be done. There are people on Earth who are going to ask some questions, because we are going to be the new rovers, the new satellites, and the new science labs.

But we are still human beings. We're going to need time to hang out, work out, play games.

Imagine cracking the first beer on Mars.

Growing the hops and the grain!

Has this made life more exciting for you now—to know that in 10 years you might never see any of it again?

Not really, to tell you the truth, and that's because it still seems like a fantastical moment.

What do you think is going to happen if you don't get picked? What's the ratio of relief to disappointment?

Split right down the middle. But actually, relief is inaccurate. The thing is, I love my life on this planet. I love my husband, I love my stepchildren, the city that I live in, the work that I do, the people I work with. I love the adventures that I'm only going to be able to have on this planet—seeing parts of this world, where there's no shortage of extraordinary things to do. I would be disappointed, for sure.

But so much of this for me is advocating for the mission, whether or not they send me. Of course I would love to be the first human being to set foot on that red sandy ground, to have the next words that come out of my mouth be the stuff of bedtime stories. But I recognize that the chance of that person being me is slim.

I'm going to ask you a dark question. Would it be worth it for you if the shuttle blows up before you get there?

It's certainly a possibility. Of the millions of things that have to go right, plenty of them are on the journey from Earth to Mars. Every human being who has ever flown in space has known the risks that come along with it. It's no secret that spaceflight is dangerous. We're taking our very first steps into this arena, and there are no guarantees.

But this entire endeavor—it's worth a human life. And I would hate to think that we stop looking up and going forward and stop reaching for the stars, literally, just because accidents happen.

Photos via Twitter and Nasa.

23 Feb 18:36

"Largest Leak Since Snowden" Kicks Off: Netanyahu Lied About Iran Nukes

by Sam Biddle

NSA leaker Edward Snowden's mammoth whistleblowing trove is still being worked through, two years after it was first leaked. Now, Al Jazeera and The Guardian are offering another blockbuster cache—"The Spy Cables."

The package, which Al Jazeera describes as a "digital leak," seems to have more in common with Wikileaks than Snowden's NSA files, containing a multitude of top secret memos between global spy agencies:

Spanning a period from 2006 until December 2014, they include detailed briefings and internal analyses written by operatives of South Africa's State Security Agency (SSA). They also reveal the South Africans' secret correspondence with the US intelligence agency, the CIA, Britain's MI6, Israel's Mossad, Russia's FSB and Iran's operatives, as well as dozens of other services from Asia to the Middle East and Africa.

The cables don't appear to detail how spy agencies do their spying—the sort of material Snowden provided—but rather the actual substance of foreign surveillance observations. And so far, the revelations are fascinating:

  • The first story yielded so far claims Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lied to the world regarding Iran's nuclear capabilities:

Less than a month after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's 2012 warning to the UN General Assembly that Iran was 70 per cent of the way to completing its "plans to build a nuclear weapon", Israel's intelligence service believed that Iran was "not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons".

  • Other memos show Israel obtaining pilfered weapon technology with the help of South Africa's government:

A Mossad secret service document leaked to Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit reveals that in 2010 Israel obtained stolen South African anti-tank missile technology.

South African intelligence covered it up. Years later, when two men charged with stealing the plans were put on trial in South Africa, prosecutors failed to release the full information of Israel's involvement.

  • A third leaked dispatch details an effort by MI6 to recruit a North Korean defector as he passed through South Africa:

"We request your support to assist our officer", the British cable stated, explaning that the MI6 operative would intercept the North Korean while in transit between flights "and encourage him to accept a long-term relationship with SIS".

The request of the South African service was that it "provide covert surveillance to identify [X] on his arrival" and "securely house him whilst our officer makes contact," MI6 wrote.

It's as of yet unclear how Al Jazeera sourced the South African briefings but eight years of top secret material from the world's most powerful and far-reaching intelligence agencies seems like at least as big a revelation as that of Snowden and Chelsea Manning.

24 Feb 14:45

Warren G and Kenny G Finally Did The Duet You Joked About in the '90s

by Jay Hathaway

It was a clear black night, a clear white moon, Warren G was on Jimmy Kimmel Live performing his 1994 hit "Regulate" with lite and funky sax god Kenny G, finally manifesting a toss-off joke you made 20 years ago into your living reality. Kind of a weird thing to use The Secret for, but you do you, friend.

R.I.P. Nate Dogg.

[h/t Vulture]

19 Feb 18:50

Year-Old Reddit Meme Sends Indonesian Police Into Panda Sex Panic

by Andy Cush

Year-Old Reddit Meme Sends Indonesian Police Into Panda Sex Panic

A Facebook alert from the public relations department of Indonesia's national police force warns parents of a scourge that may or may not be plaguing their nation: children wearing perfectly fashionable t-shirts that happen to feature an array of giant pandas making sweet, species-saving love to each other.

The post, published this week and flagged by Coconuts Jakarta, reads:

Year-Old Reddit Meme Sends Indonesian Police Into Panda Sex Panic

Translated to English via Coconuts, that's:


We appeal to the partners of the Police Public Relations division to be aware of the existence and circulation of children's t-shirts with indecent illustrations.

Any partners who know of such t-shirt being circulated or sold are kindly requested to immediately report them to the nearest police station.

But where did the panda sex shirt come from? A watermark adorning the right side of the offending photo points to the meme regurgitation engine 9GAG, where at some point it was posted under the headline "So a kid was wearing this shirt today..."

Whoever published the image to 9GAG likely stole it from Reddit's "WTF" board, where it was posted sans watermark under the same exact headline in late 2013. And a commenter on that post seemed sure he'd seen the panda sex shirt around before it even hit Reddit: "This photo has been circulating on the internet for a few days, Can confirm OP is a liar."

It had been an incredible journey for panda sex shirt, but it wasn't over yet. After Coconuts Jakarta picked up the Indonesian police story this week, the meme found its way back to Reddit, where it currently sits on the front page: "Indonesian Police ask public to help prevent the sale of kids clothes covered in pandas having sex."

A spot near the top of Reddit all but guarantees that certain websites (Gawker included) will pick up your story, and sure enough, panda sex shirt is now enjoying a second shot at memehood. The content machine churns on:

Are kids really running around Indonesia, sartorially proclaiming their love for copulating pandas? It's possible, but the real problem likely has less to do with neglectful parents than it does with some desk cop who got taken in by viral garbage that popped up in his Facebook feed, just like your weird Republican aunt.

[Image via Reddit]

19 Feb 02:55

How Eddie Murphy Almost Played Bill Cosby on SNL40, by Norm Macdonald

by Gabrielle Bluestone

Eddie Murphy's servicey appearance on SNL last week was historic in nature but ultimately bland—though not for lack of trying, says an especially chatty Norm Macdonald.


18 Feb 15:35

Pages From the Diary of the Slender Man Stab Tween Are Scary as Hell

by Sam Biddle

Pages From the Diary of the Slender Man Stab Tween Are Scary as Hell

Last summer, two 12-year-0ld girls from Waukesha, Wisconsin tried to murder their friend because they thought it would appease a mythical demon internet meme. What's almost as disturbing is what investigators later found in one of their bedrooms.

ABC News reports new evidence from the bizarre, ongoing court proceedings—diary pages from one of the alleged stabbers depicting her servitude towards the Slender Man, and photos of her occult-mutilated dolls. Kids are so complicated!

Several Barbies seem to have joined the dark worship of Slender Man:

Pages From the Diary of the Slender Man Stab Tween Are Scary as Hell

Pages From the Diary of the Slender Man Stab Tween Are Scary as Hell

Pages From the Diary of the Slender Man Stab Tween Are Scary as Hell

And there are pages and pages of tween doodles about Slender Man's omnipresent terror:

Pages From the Diary of the Slender Man Stab Tween Are Scary as Hell

Pages From the Diary of the Slender Man Stab Tween Are Scary as Hell

Pages From the Diary of the Slender Man Stab Tween Are Scary as Hell

Pages From the Diary of the Slender Man Stab Tween Are Scary as Hell

There's also this packing list of supplies for the attempted killing, which is almost sort of adorable if it weren't a list of supplies for an attempted killing:

Pages From the Diary of the Slender Man Stab Tween Are Scary as Hell

Always good to bring the will to live. The Washington Post reports that there are over 60 other images of the tall, imaginary, noodly killing demon in the girl's diaries, which her defense team hopes will spare her being tried in court as an adult.

18 Feb 17:00

Here's What We Know About ISIS's Alleged Organ Harvesting Operation

by Jay Hathaway

Here's What We Know About ISIS's Alleged Organ Harvesting Operation

Iraq's ambassador to the U.N. claimed Wednesday that ISIS has been forcing doctors to harvest organs from the bodies of the people it's killed, and then selling those organs to fund its operations, according to an AP report. Ambassador Mohamed Alhakim called for a Security Council investigation into alleged mass graves full of bodies with surgical scars and missing kidneys.

According to Alkalim, a dozen doctors have been killed in Mosul because they wouldn't take part in the Islamic State's organ trafficking scheme.

Unconfirmed rumors of ISIS removing and selling organs have been around since at least December, when Middle East news outlet Al-Monitor published an article with more detailed claims than Alkalim made this week.

Based on a report from one doctor in Mosul, Al-Monitor wrote:

Surgeries take place within a hospital and organs are quickly transported through networks specialized in trafficking human organs ... the organs come from fallen fighters who were quickly transported to the hospital, injured people who were abandoned or individuals who were kidnapped.

He said that organ sales yield large profits. A specialized mafia is engaged in these operations, in addition to medical institutions working in other countries. Without coordination among these parties, such a trade cannot be sustained, he said.

The Al-Monitor story also claims that the U.N.'s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed "the organization sells bodies and organs of injured people they arrest," a claim that was widely repeated by news sites in December, but seems to be based entirely on this single source. (As far as I can tell, there's no mention of the trafficking operation in OHCHR's published reports on Iraq, and Alkalim didn't mention OHCHR in his statement to the Security Council.)

The Islamic State is incredibly money-hungry, Newsweek reported in a detailed look at the revenue streams ISIS uses to support the 8 million people in its territories, including more than 10,000 active fighters. There's no mention of selling kidneys, but ISIS needs all the money it can get, and if they're willing to conduct small-time local kidnappings for as little as $500, moving organs isn't so farfetched.

There's still no conclusive evidence, though. The Islamic State is the international boogeyman of the moment, and its confirmed actions are heinous enough to make any rumor sound plausible, but it's also been the subject of several online hoaxes and conspiracy theories.

It's probably best to withhold judgment until the U.N. does what Alkahim suggests and examines the bodies.

[Photo: AP Images]

18 Feb 17:51

Uh-Oh: Beyoncé's Face Is Uh-Oh

by Allie Jones

Uh-Oh: Beyoncé's Face Is Uh-Oh

Two hundred and twenty-four apparently unretouched photos of self-styled Queen Bey Beyoncé were leaked on a website called The Beyoncé World this morning, sending shockwaves across the one inhabited by all of us. They come from commercial and ad shoots for L'Oréal's 2013 Feria and Infallible campaigns and should make you and Solange feel a little bit more secure about yourselves.

While The Beyoncé World deleted the trove of pics within about an hour, Complex managed to grab a few of them. Please take a deep breath...and then another one...and check them out below.

Uh-Oh: Beyoncé's Face Is Uh-Oh

Uh-Oh: Beyoncé's Face Is Uh-Oh

Uh-Oh: Beyoncé's Face Is Uh-Oh

Uh-Oh: Beyoncé's Face Is Uh-Oh

The Beyoncé World deleted the photos after receiving a negative response from the buzzing, insane Beyoncé fan army known as the Beyhive. The site owners posted this terrified missive explaining their decision:

Due to the disdain of the BeyHive, we have removed the photos. We don't want to cause any drama, nor do we wish to start fan wars. Some of the things we have seen posted were just horrible, and we don't want any parts of it. We were just posting the photos to share the fact that our queen is naturally beautiful, at the same time she is just a regular woman.

Some of the things we have seen posted were just horrible.

[Photos via The Beyonce World/Complex]