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21 Jan 17:04

Court reverses $10.1 million judgement against Nintendo in Wii patent case

by Kyle Orland
Turns out Nintendo wasn't infringing on a 1999 patent when it made this controller.

Enlarge / Turns out Nintendo wasn't infringing on a 1999 patent when it made this controller. (credit: Marlith)

Remember the Nintendo Wii? Years ago, a few companies tried to claim they had patented the system's innovative motion-sensing controller technology before Nintendo did and thus deserved a cut of the massive profits Nintendo derived from the platform. One of those companies, iLife, even managed to secure a $10.1 million judgement against Nintendo in 2017 after a jury found that the Wii (and Wii U) infringed on the Dallas-based company's 1999 patent for a body-mounted fall-detection system.

Now, over two years after that judgment, a Dallas federal court has overturned that monetary award and invalidated iLife's patent altogether.

iLife's original patent describes a system that determines whether someone is falling by "process[ing] said sensed dynamic and static accelerative phenomena as a function of at least one accelerative event characteristic to thereby determine whether said evaluated body movement is within environmental tolerance." On the surface, that's somewhat similar to the accelerometer-based movement detection on the Wii Remote, even if the use case is entirely different (and even if there's no evidence iLife actually sold any device that implemented the patented idea).

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21 Jan 17:00

New twist on marshmallow test: Kids depend on each other for self control

Could you resist these Oreos? Maybe if you depended on a friend to help you delay gratification.
Enlarge / Could you resist these Oreos? Maybe if you depended on a friend to help you delay gratification.

In the 1970s, the late psychologist Walter Mischel explored the importance of the ability to delay gratification as a child to one's future success in life, via the famous Stanford "marshmallow experiment." Now a team of German researchers has adapted the classic experimental setup with German and Kenyan schoolchildren and found that kids are more likely to delay gratification when they depend on each other. They described their findings in a recent paper in Psychological Science.

As we previously reported, Mischel's landmark behavioral study involved 600 kids between the ages of four and six, all culled from Stanford University's Bing Nursery School. He would give each child a marshmallow and give them the option of eating it immediately if they chose. But if they could wait 15 minutes, they would get a second marshmallow as a reward. Then Mischel would leave the room, and a hidden video camera would tape what happened next.

Some kids just ate the marshmallow right away. Others found a handy distraction: covering their eyes, kicking the desk, or poking at the marshmallow with their fingers. Some smelled it, licked it, or took tiny nibbles around the edges. Roughly one-third of the kids held out long enough to earn a second marshmallow. Several years later, Mischel noticed a strong correlation between the success of some of those kids later in life (better grades, higher self-confidence) and their ability to delay gratification in nursery school. Mischel's follow-up study confirmed the correlation.

Mischel himself cautioned against over-interpreting the results, emphasizing that children who simply can't hold out for that second marshmallow are not necessarily doomed to a life of failure. A more nuanced picture was offered by a 2018 study that replicated the marshmallow test with preschoolers. It found the same correlation between later achievement and the ability to resist temptation in preschool, but that correlation was much less significant after the researchers factored in such aspects as family background, home environment, and so forth. 

Attentiveness might be yet another contributing factor. As we reported last year, kindergarten children whose teachers rate them as being highly inattentive tend to earn less in their 30s than classmates who are rated highly "pro-social," according to a 2019 paper in JAMA Psychiatry. In fact, inattention could prove to be a better predictor of future educational and occupational success than the marshmallow test. A single teacher's assessment may be sufficient to identify at-risk children.

Still, the ability to delay gratification is definitely a desirable quality. Among other benefits, it helps facilitate cooperation with others. (Mischel's interest stemmed from his own three-pack-a-day smoking habit; he kept trying, and failing, to quit.) For this latest study, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology designed a slightly different version of the marshmallow test to explore the cooperative benefits of self-control.

"For instance, for people to share their food with others—for which they might earn a good reputation or reap long-term reciprocal benefits—they must resist the immediate temptation to eat the food themselves," the authors wrote. "Likewise, a researcher aiming to contribute to a collaborative project must withstand the urge to watch entertaining videos on the Internet."

  • Solo condition: two children each get a cookie. If they wait to eat it, they get a second cookie.
  • Interdependence condition. Two kids get a cookie, and if both wait to eat it, they each get a second cookie. If they don't, neither gets another cookie.
  • Dependence condition. Two kids each get a cookie and must wait to eat it so that their partner can also have a second cookie.

The 200 subjects were all five- and six-year-old children from two distinct cultures: Germany and the Kikuyu tribe of Kenya. The experiments were conducted in a lab in Germany and in local schools in Kenya. Prior to the experiments, the children played a collaborative game of balloon toss as a warm-up exercise.

There were three experimental setups. In the "solo condition," two children were each given a cookie—an Oreo for the German children, a vanilla cookie for the Kikuyu children—and told that if they could wait to eat it, they would receive another cookie. This is essentially the classic marshmallow test, since the result for both children was not in any way affected by what their partner did. For the "interdependence condition," both children were given cookies and told that if they both successfully waited to eat it, both would get a second cookie. But if one child couldn't delay his or her gratification, neither child would receive a second cookie.

Finally, for the "dependence condition," both children were given a cookie. Each child was told that if they could refrain from eating it, both they and their partner would get a second cookie. However, each child thought that their decision would not be affected by whatever their partner decided. In other words, they thought their partner depended on them, but they did not depend on their partner.

The researchers found that the Kikuyu children were a little more likely to wait it out in general than the German children, which they attribute in part to cultural factors. But in both groups, there were significantly more children who chose to delay gratification in the interdependence condition than in the solo condition—evidence that children begin developing a sense of social obligation to others at a young age. In other words, "children are more willing to delay gratification for cooperative than for individual goals," the authors wrote. However, there was no clear difference between the solo and dependence conditions. Interdependence is the key.

Nor was this a rational calculation, i.e., weighing the cost of holding out with how much value the second cookie held for the child. If that were the case, the authors suggest, kids would have been less likely to delay gratification in the riskier interdependence scenario. Instead,  "Children may have been motivated to delay gratification because they felt they shouldn't let their partner down," said co-author Rebecca Koomen, "and that if they did, their partner would have had the right to hold them accountable."

"The fact that we obtained these findings even though children could not see or communicate with each other attests to the strong motivational consequences that simply being in a cooperative context has for children from early on in development," said co-author Sebastian Grueneisen.

DOI: Psychological Science, 2020. 10.1177/0956797619894205  (About DOIs).

21 Jan 16:58

Over a dozen new bills target trans youth, LGBTQ advocates warn

SALT LAKE CITY — At the urging of conservative advocacy groups, Republican legislators in more than a dozen states are promoting bills that focus on transgender young people. One batch of bills would bar doctors from providing them certain gender-related medical treatment; another batch would bar trans students from participating on school sports teams of the gender they identify with.

The proposed laws, if enacted, “would bring devastating harms to the transgender community,” said Chase Strangio, a transgender-rights lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union.

He warned that the medical bans — now pending in Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and South Dakota and likely to surface elsewhere — could trigger suicides among young people yearning to undergo gender transition.

The bills’ goals have been endorsed by several national conservative groups, including Alliance Defending Freedom and Eagle Forum.

“We’ve got lots of legislators working on this,” said Gayle Ruzicka, an activist with Eagle Forum’s Utah chapter. “We don’t let this happen to children.”

The bill recently introduced in South Dakota would make it a felony for medical providers to perform operations or administer hormone therapy to help minors change their gender. The Missouri bill would subject doctors to revocation of their license if they administered gender-reassignment treatment, and parents who consented to such treatment would be reported to child-welfare officials for child abuse.

“I cannot imagine what happens to transgender people if these criminal bans pass,” said the ACLU’s Strangio, a transgender man. “I don’t think we can possibly raise the alarm enough, because people are going to die.”

The medical director of the Trevor Project, a youth suicide prevention service, also expressed dismay, saying the bills could deprive some young people of potentially life-saving treatment. “They would force doctors to make an untenable decision and could result in their imprisonment for providing best-practice medical care,” said Dr. Alexis Chavez, a transgender psychiatrist.

A Utah legislator, Republican Rep. Brad Daw, said he has accepted Eagle Forum’s request to begin drafting such a bill, though his current proposal now contains some changes from the language suggested by the advocacy group.

While his bill would ban surgeries and hormone therapy for minors, it would allow puberty blockers — medications that temporarily puts puberty on hold.

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“We want to do what we think is reasonable practice, which is put off that kind of one-way ticket decision until the youth is an adult,” he said.

Daw said he wants to be sensitive and respectful to transgender kids and their families but remains concerned about medical steps toward transitioning.

“What we want is really good policy off the bat,” said Daw, who’s still drafting the bill for the legislative session that begins Jan. 27.

For transgender kids and their families, though, the idea of putting those steps out of reach is terrifying. Robyn Rumsey of Roy, Utah said her child was withdrawn and angry before coming out as transgender at age 12.

“As parents we were completely thrown, to say the least,” she said. In consultation with a counselor and doctors, Dex Rumsey gradually began wearing short hair and boy’s clothes, then began using puberty blockers and eventually testosterone.

“It wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly," Robyn Rumsey said. It's made her son, now 15, into a happy, thriving person, she said. The family is considering surgery later this year.

“We have seen this child completely turn around,” she said. Dex considered suicide before coming out, and if he didn’t have access to hormones she worries those thoughts would return. Just learning about the idea of a ban sent him into a panic and a sleepless night, she said.

“I know that it would be a life or death situation for my son. We would be desperate to find help and medication for him,” she said.

Dex Rumsey said the time since he’s started hormone therapy has been the happiest of his life.

“I was never comfortable under my own skin. I always felt wrong, disgusting and I hated myself. These hormones have allowed me to feel comfortable with who I am. It’s allowed me to be happier. I don’t hate myself, I’m not depressed, I don’t feel suicidal anymore,” he said.

That kind of sentiment should be a particular concern to state leaders looking to bring down the state's suicide rate, said Troy Williams with the group Equality Utah.

If a law were to pass, Dex Rumsey said he’d want to leave the state. “I don’t think they realize the damage these types of things are causing,” he said.

The Alliance Defending Freedom is also leading a nationwide campaign to prevent transgender girls from competing with other girls in high school sports. It has filed a federal discrimination complaint on behalf of Connecticut girls who competed in track-and-field and say state’s inclusive policy on transgender athletes has cost them top finishes and possibly college scholarships.

“Forcing female athletes to compete against biological males isn’t fair and destroys their athletic opportunities,” said attorney Matt Sharp, the ADF’s state government relations director. “Likewise, every child deserves a childhood that allows them to experience puberty and other natural changes that shape who they will become.”

So far this year, bills to restrict transgender students’ sports participation are pending in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Washington state, according to the ACLU. Idaho State Rep. Barbara Ehardt told the Idaho Statesman she’s preparing a similar bill. In several cases, the bills would override trans-inclusive policies adopted by state high school athletic associations.

The Alabama measure, titled the Gender Is Real Legislative Act, would bar any K-12 public school from participating in interscholastic sports events which allow trans athletes to compete according to their gender identity.

“The GIRL Bill seeks to support female student-athletes, so that they may compete against each other and not have to compete against male students with an unfair advantage,” said the bill’s author, Rep. Chris Pringle.

Several national women's rights and sports organizations are pushing back, saying that barring transgender people from sports teams aligning with their gender identity often means they are “excluded from participating altogether.”

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21 Jan 16:55

Guessing Names Based on What They Start With

I’m really bad at names. A lot of the time when I meet someone new, the name goes in one ear and out the other. If I manage to remember the name short-term, remembering long-term is still a toss-up in favor of forgetting.

But sometimes I can remember the first letter and then I can cycle the alphabet on the second letter to jog my memory.

I wonder: If I can remember the first letter or two, can I use name data from the Social Security Administration to make an educated guess about the full name?

Put in your sex, the decade you were born, and start entering your name below. I’ll try to guess your full name before you’re done.

Oh, so that’s why sometimes people call me Nick (or why people often call Amelia the more common Amanda).

This is based on data from the Social Security Administration, up to 2018. It’s relatively comprehensive, but there are a few limitations. First, it’s data for the United States, so the numbers don’t really apply elsewhere. Second, the SSA doesn’t include names with fewer than five people in a year, so the chart doesn’t cover more unique names. Third, there were no Social Security Numbers before 1935, so the name counts are fuzzier for years before that.

But like I said, the data still has a wide range. I aggregated the annual data by decade and calculated percentages by dividing name counts by total number of Social Security Numbers provided.

Before you enter anything, the chart shows the most popular names for the given sex and decade. Then as you enter a name, the chart shows conditional probabilities. The more information you give it, the stronger the guess.

It’s a simplification of how we remember names I am sure, but it seems to do a decent job.

In reality, this is me all of the time:

But from now on, when I can’t remember someone’s name, I’ll make them slowly spell it out so that I can guess based on this data. It will be so awkward, yet so satisfying.

  • This was inspired by Amelia McNamara’s curiosity as to why so many people call her Amanda.
  • I used name data from the Social Security Administration, which is current up to 2018. But Social Security Numbers weren’t a thing until 1935, so the name data before that is more fuzzy.
  • The SSA data, which is annual, doesn’t include names with fewer than five people. And to keep file size down, I limited the above names to those with at least 100 people in each decade.
  • I used R for analysis and D3.js for the interactive.
21 Jan 16:51

Immune discovery 'may treat all cancer'

By James Gallagher Health and science correspondent

Breast cancer cells Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption The new technique could kill a wide range of cancer cells, including breast and prostate

A newly-discovered part of our immune system could be harnessed to treat all cancers, say scientists.

The Cardiff University team discovered a method of killing prostate, breast, lung and other cancers in lab tests.

The findings, published in Nature Immunology, have not been tested in patients, but the researchers say they have "enormous potential".

Experts said that although the work was still at an early stage, it was very exciting.

What have they found?

Our immune system is our body's natural defence against infection, but it also attacks cancerous cells.

The scientists were looking for "unconventional" and previously undiscovered ways the immune system naturally attacks tumours.

What they found was a T-cell inside people's blood. This is an immune cell that can scan the body to assess whether there is a threat that needs to be eliminated.

The difference is this one could attack a wide range of cancers.

"There's a chance here to treat every patient," researcher Prof Andrew Sewell told the BBC.

He added: "Previously nobody believed this could be possible.

"It raises the prospect of a 'one-size-fits-all' cancer treatment, a single type of T-cell that could be capable of destroying many different types of cancers across the population."

How does it work?

T-cells have "receptors" on their surface that allow them to "see" at a chemical level.

The Cardiff team discovered a T-cell and its receptor that could find and kill a wide range of cancerous cells in the lab including lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney and cervical cancer cells.

Crucially, it left normal tissues untouched.

Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption T-cells attack cancer cells

Exactly how it does this is still being explored.

This particular T-cell receptor interacts with a molecule called MR1, which is on the surface of every cell in the human body.

It is thought MR1 is flagging the distorted metabolism going on inside a cancerous cell to the immune system.

"We are the first to describe a T-cell that finds MR1 in cancer cells - that hasn't been done before, this is the first of its kind," research fellow Garry Dolton told the BBC.

Why is this significant?

T-cell cancer therapies already exist and the development of cancer immunotherapy has been one of the most exciting advances in the field.

The most famous example is CAR-T - a living drug made by genetically engineering a patient's T-cells to seek out and destroy cancer.

CAR-T can have dramatic results that transform some patients from being terminally ill to being in complete remission.

However, the approach is highly specific and works in only a limited number of cancers where there is a clear target to train the T-cells to spot.

And it has struggled to have any success in "solid cancers" - those that form tumours rather than blood cancers such as leukaemia.

The researchers say their T-cell receptor could lead to a "universal" cancer treatment.

So how would it work in practice?

The idea is that a blood sample would be taken from a cancer patient.

Their T-cells would be extracted and then genetically modified so they were reprogrammed to make the cancer-finding receptor.

The upgraded cells would be grown in vast quantities in the laboratory and then put back into the patient. It is the same process used to make CAR-T therapies.

However, the research has been tested only in animals and on cells in the laboratory, and more safety checks would be needed before human trials could start.

What do the experts say?

Lucia Mori and Gennaro De Libero, from University of Basel in Switzerland, said the research had "great potential" but was at too early a stage to say it would work in all cancers.

"We are very excited about the immunological functions of this new T-cell population and the potential use of their TCRs in tumour cell therapy," they said.

Daniel Davis, a professor of immunology at the University of Manchester, said: "At the moment, this is very basic research and not close to actual medicines for patients.

"There is no question that it's a very exciting discovery, both for advancing our basic knowledge about the immune system and for the possibility of future new medicines."

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21 Jan 16:51

Democrats should talk about child care costs in a broader way

Democratic presidential candidates greet each other before a debate on January 14, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Child and family policy got a brief moment in the sun Tuesday night during a CNN Democratic debate when moderator Brianne Pfannenstiel observed that child care is a “huge expense for many new families and a problem especially acute in rural Iowa.” Despite the expense, she said, “many families don’t have the option of quitting a job because that income is needed.”

Some Democrats in the race have plans that could deliver significant and much-needed help to young families. This should be fertile policy terrain for the party to reach out to voters it needs, but several of the candidates delivered slightly odd answers in the debate that narrowed the problem and sold their own policies short.

Democrats are increasingly the party of college-educated professionals, and those who make it under the klieg lights of the debate stage are unusually ambitious and successful people. The pitch made on the stage was aimed directly at this group of voters, while missing the chance to reach women with moderately traditionalist worldviews, lower-income people who really need help from an activist government, and unmarried parents.

Government-funded child care can be an enormous help to people struggling to balance child-rearing responsibilities with their career aspirations. But as Pfannenstiel noted about rural Iowans in particular, child care is just a useful form of financial assistance to families with different structures and personal goals. It’s a mistake for career-oriented politicians to project their own set of priorities onto everyone else.

Democrats are too hung up on a niche situation

The debate question was directed initially at former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who began by saying he supported a greater federal role in providing subsidized child care. He explained why by observing that “until we do, this will be the biggest driver of the gender pay gap. When somebody like the voter has to step out of the workforce because of the reason, she is at a disadvantage when she comes back in. And [it] can affect her pay for the rest of her career.”

Buttigieg is correct in noting that the gender pay gap arises primarily because of parenting norms rather than just overt labor market discrimination. But the mechanism he is positing, where the high cost of child care leads women to drop out of the labor force, which leads to a lifelong earnings penalty even when they return, does not appear to be the central part of the story.

Instead, economist Claudia Goldin’s research shows, the big issue has to do with the structure of work expectations. In many professions, like law or finance, there are large financial returns to being able to drop everything at a moment’s notice and be at a client’s beck and call. This is incompatible with the reality that kids get sick, someone needs to go to parent-teacher conferences, and schools close randomly for a week in March. Whoever shoulders those responsibilities garners an earnings penalty, and that person is usually the mom.

This is a serious issue (for much more on it, see the Explained episode about the gender pay gap), but it doesn’t have that much to do with child care expenses.

More broadly, women dropping out of the workforce because they can’t afford child care may be a less common scenario than it seems. More common is probably the reverse, like in Pfannenstiel’s example — a parent who might prefer to stay home full time or part time but can’t afford to do so.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, following up on Buttigieg’s answer with her personal story, sketched out a worry similar to his.

“We went through one child care after another, and it didn’t work,” she said recounting her struggles as a young mother. “If I hadn’t been saved by my aunt, I was ready to quit my job. I think about how many women of my generation got knocked off the track and never got back on. How many of my daughter’s generation get knocked off and don’t get back on.”

This is obviously a real issue, especially for Warren’s generation. But while child care affordability impacts virtually all parents, the particular concern Warren is raising of child care expenses forcing a woman “off the track” of career success is a bit idiosyncratic.

One-third of children in the US have unmarried parents, for starters. Of the remaining two-thirds, many don’t have a parent who earns enough money that having the second parent drop out of the labor force would even be an option. Many others have a parent who stays at home because that’s what he or she prefers. And while lots of people have fulfilling careers that give them an important sense of meaning and identity, plenty of others are just doing a job to get by.

Democrats actually have policy ideas that would help all kinds of families, but they’re really just talking about one kind.

Subsidized child care means you have more money

If you’re the parent of a young child, the great thing about a federal program to subsidize child care costs is that it would give you more money.

If you have big career goals that are being pinched by child care costs, this helps you. You might not have been forced to drop out of the labor market otherwise. But with the cost of “ordinary” child care now defrayed by the government, you have more money to spend on hiring child care for times when inconvenient schedules lead to work/life balance conflicts (say, you and your spouse both need to work late one night because there’s a presidential debate, so you hire a babysitter).

But subsidized health care helps if you’d like to have a second or third kid but just don’t earn enough money to support a larger family. Or if you’re a single parent worried that you won’t be able to afford Christmas presents for your kids. It might even make it possible for you to work fewer hours per week and spend more time with your family.

The point isn’t that candidates should be singling out a particular thing as the one true goal of subsidized child care. But they are selling their policies’ merits short by portraying them as narrowly about preventing ambitious women from being pushed off the track into roles as stay-at-home moms.

Indeed, though nobody mentioned it Tuesday night — or, as far as I can recall, on other debate nights — virtually all Democrats in Congress have united around the idea of creating a universal child allowance that would give parents of young kids cash that they could use to address any of the many expenses of child-rearing in whatever way they see fit.

Democrats should try to win some traditionalist votes

One surprising thing, to me, about the way that dialogue played out is that many of my points could have been taken from a book Warren wrote years ago called The Two-Income Trap.

Warren’s point in that book was that for most families, putting all parents to work is not a lifestyle choice but a financial necessity driven by stagnating wages. But she argues that two-income arrangements create hidden financial instability because they also lock families into arrangements that feature high fixed expenses like child care.

The book earned praise from cultural conservatives, and in it, Warren goes out of her way to address cultural conservative concerns — arguing that child care subsidies should be structured to provide benefits to stay-at-home parents rather than operating as a straight transfer to working parents.

She also expresses anxiety about the future of childbearing in America: “If the word gets out that families with children are nearly three times more likely to collapse into bankruptcy will even more women decide not to have children?” This would be one way out of the trap. But the text denounces those who “view parenthood as nothing more than another ‘lifestyle choice,’ not so different from joining a commune or developing a passion for windsurfing.”

The argument is that society has an obligation to support parents and families so that people don’t opt to avoid childbearing.

In the time since the book was published, however, the fertility rate has dropped to a record low. That’s not because people have stopped wanting to have kids — it’s because people have stopped having as many kids as they say they’d ideally like. And when surveyed as to why, the No. 1 answer is the expense of child care.

In other words, the exact scenario Warren warned about has come to pass. And Democrats’ child care and child allowance ideas, especially if tweaked a little to be friendlier to stay-at-home-parents, could be a big part of the solution to a problem that traditionalist-minded people care about and that anti-tax, anti-spending conservatives simply can’t fix.

21 Jan 15:52

How we made Captain Planet and the Planeteers

Barbara Pyle, co-creator/executive producer

In 1980, America’s Global 2000 Report to the President took the current trends of the planet – population pressures, overstretched resources – and projected them 20 years into the future. It read like armageddon. CNN founder Ted Turner handed me the report as my job description. I wasn’t a film-maker – I began as a photojournalist for NBC, capturing social issues in 70s New York – but he preferred that I learned to make films than for him to find another producer who understood the environmental crisis we were facing.

Captain Planet is a metaphor for international cooperation with a penchant for bad puns and 60s music. Not unlike the UN

Ted called me into his office and said: “Captain Planet.” “What’s that, sir?” I asked. He said: “That’s your problem.” And my problem it was.

We lifted the characters and locations from environmental documentaries I had made with Nick Boxer. The Planeteers and many of the characters were based on real people. The world didn’t need another male macho superhero, so we made Captain Planet the quintessential antihero. He can’t exist without the combined powers of the Planeteers. Gaia, the spirit of the Earth, called them together when the degradation of the planet became too dire for her to bear.

Each Planeteer controls a power of nature: earth, wind, fire, water – and heart. Heart is the most important power, as without it there can be no compassion. Captain Planet himself is a metaphor for international cooperation, with a penchant for bad puns and 60s music. Not unlike the UN.

Never in our wildest dreams did we think our over-the-top storylines would come true. In one episode, Planeteer Wheeler renounces his powers and visits a future where flooding and food shortages are the new normal. We set it in 2025, but it is already happening.

The show became a global phenomenon: people recognised their countries and their neighbours. The merchandising was hard for me to stomach, but business does what business does. Captain Planet’s image was prohibited on single-use products. The action figures were made from plastic scrap and only recycled paper was used.

Our goal was to arm a generation with the knowledge to find more sustainable ways of living on the planet. The millennials are living proof that it worked. These adult Planeteers are growing into positions of power, bringing their knowledge to bear to make the changes we need. This work is critical, because today, it’s as if the show’s eco-villains have come to life. Opposing them are legions of inspired people worldwide, marching to combat the climate crisis. However, we are almost at the point of no return. The fate of our species – and all living things – is now truly in our hands.

Earth spirit Gaia and the team of Planeteers
Arming a generation … Earth spirit Gaia and the team of Planeteers Photograph: Hanna-Barbera/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

David Coburn, actor who voiced Captain Planet

I’d been acting professionally since I was 13, and had a voiceover career by the time of the show’s audition. They asked me to perform a scene where Captain Planet gets washed clean of toxic goo. I made a “dog shake” sound before I said my line, and got the gig.

I later discovered I’d replaced Tom Cruise, who had already recorded the first five episodes. Everyone on the voice cast was grateful to be associated with the project, and worked for minimum wage. This seemed amazing to me given some of the A-listers I recorded with: Jeff Goldblum, Meg Ryan, Malcolm McDowell … Whoopi Goldberg, who voiced Gaia, brought in her Oscar (best supporting actress for Ghost) for us to play with.

David Coburn.
David Coburn. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy Stock Photo

It’s fun to play a bad guy, and I enjoyed giving Captain Pollution – Captain Planet’s evil clone – a valley accent. This wasn’t a swipe at Bill and Ted, or Snake from The Simpsons: it was just the voice that, in the early 90s, represented total irresponsibility.

There was one scene where MAL, the evil computer voiced by Tim Curry, gloated about pollution causing stronger storms and melting the Greenlandic ice sheet. The show was very prophetic in many ways, and it’s alarming that the knowledge that fed into it has been ignored for so long. But I do think the conversation is changing now. Younger people are becoming more vocal and doing the job that we adults have neglected. I wrote to Greta Thunberg recently: if she’s reading this, Captain Planet would love to help out.

When production ended, I wrote to Al Gore, inspired by his documentary An Inconvenient Truth. I’d dreamed of seeing environmentalism incorporated into the school curriculum. Children are the only demographic on the planet who aren’t motivated by profit.

I was in New Zealand once for a commercial shoot, and encountered an environmental rally. Somebody had a Planeteers poster over his head, so I asked him how he knew the show. “Everyone knows Captain Planet, mate!” came the reply. I introduced myself – I had to prove I was for real by reciting my catchphrase, “The power is yours!” – and suddenly found myself on stage addressing 3,500 people while still dressed for the gym.

21 Jan 15:52

Now, even quilters are angry: How a social-justice design started a feud

A quilt by Sara Trail, founder of Social Justice Sewing Academy, is entitled “Rest in Power, Trayvon.” (National Quilt Museum)
A quilt by Sara Trail, founder of Social Justice Sewing Academy, is entitled “Rest in Power, Trayvon.” (National Quilt Museum)
“Activist ABCs” by Bianca Mercado is one of the works on display as part of the SJSA exhibition. (National Quilt Museum)
“Activist ABCs” by Bianca Mercado is one of the works on display as part of the SJSA exhibition. (National Quilt Museum)

A usually cheery online community of quilters has been ripped apart by a sewing challenge depicting a No. 2 pencil erasing the “in” from the word injustice.

Some members of the National Quilt Museum’s Block of the Month Club, which gives out quilting patterns from an array of artists, objected to the January block, claiming it introduced politics into the 13,400-person group. The design was created by the Social Justice Sewing Academy, a California nonprofit loosely tied to Black Lives Matter that is featured in a new exhibition at the Paducah, Ky., museum.

There’s never been a dust-up like this within the two-year-old international group, members said. Backlash over the block’s perceived political undertones led to charges of intolerance. Then, new versions of the design set off a second round of angry posts and a debate over whether the changes made their work ineligible for a highly coveted label they can receive for assembling 12 challenge blocks into a quilt.


The angry posts pushed the museum’s chief executive, Frank Bennett, to jump into the fray with a statement that encouraged tolerance.

“Let’s be an inclusive community and consider voices different from our own,” Bennett wrote in a post on Jan. 6 that tied quilting to movements to end slavery, promote suffrage and eradicate AIDS. “Let’s embrace our diversity and show the world our humanity.”

Two weeks later, the controversy was still raging, much to Bennett’s surprise.

“I think of the word ‘injustice’ like ‘peace’ and ‘love.’ I don’t understand how injustice is a political notion. Everyone wants to see more justice. It’s universal,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post. “We need to do better than this.”


The clash among quilters is the latest politically tinged controversy to hit online crafting communities. Last summer, the website Ravelry — a knitting and crochet group with some 8 million members — announced it was banning any post, comment or pattern connected to President Trump and his administration.


SJSA founder Sara Trail was surprised by the backlash to the [in]justice design, especially since she chose the pattern because of its universal message. “It’s a ‘G’ block, if we’re on a movie-rating scale,” Trail said, adding that it was adapted from a block created by a Baltimore teenager. “If we go deeper, [critics of the design] may not like the organization behind it.”

Trail started SJSA after the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American teenager whose death led to the start of Black Lives Matter. The instructions for the block describe SJSA’s history and mission.


“There was a whole bunch of hoopla right after it posted. Everybody was one side or the other,” Theresa Rose, a quilter from Utah, said. “The whole world is just angry, and it doesn’t take much to put anybody over the boiling point.”


Early criticism of what some saw as the block’s liberal leanings led to a wave of quilters who suggested adapting the design to their liking, an idea that led to pictures of a pencil writing the word love, and another rearranging the letters to create “Just [image of a bee] nice.”

“That is not doing the quilt block. That’s gaslighting,” said Lisa Woolfork, of Charlottesville, leader of Black Women Stitch, a digital space “where it is safe to be black in the larger sewing and crafting community.” Woolfork hosted a special Jan. 8 segment of her podcast, “Stitch Please,” on the Block of the Month Club dust-up.


“There’s a whole lot of white fragility in the quilting community,” she said. “There’s something about the SJSA that this group doesn’t like.”

After two weeks of angry posts, quilters including Jan Johnson of Sparks, Nev., were calling for members to put a lid on it. “Drop it and move on,” Johnson posted last week.


“There is no quilt police,” she said in a phone interview. “Everyone is doing what they want, as long as they do the technique” per the instructions.

Katy Sakash of Madison, Conn., politely noted that such revisions could be insulting to some in the community.

“ ‘Instead of erasing justice, I wanted to write ‘love,’ ” Sakash said, quoting some of the posts. “That’s nice and sweet and everything, but you can say that because you don’t experience injustice. I don’t think they realized how dismissive the replacement blocks were coming off.”

21 Jan 15:49

The Elder Scrolls 6 could be heading into full production as Bethesda begins hiring spree

The Elder Scrolls 6 could be heading into full production at Bethesda Game Studios, as newly discovered vacancies posted on the developer's website has led fans to believe that it's finishing up work on upcoming sci-fi RPG Starfield, and finally moving onto the next instalment in the acclaimed fantasy series. 

As first spotted by a user on Reddit, Bethesda Game Studios is hiring for a number of programmers to push "the bleeding-edge of RPG development for the PC and consoles" and assist with the "implementation of new gameplay features: player and characters’ behaviors, combat and powers mechanics, user interface, etc".

(Image credit: Insomniac)

PS5 specs – what's inside the next-generation PlayStation console?

In addition, the studio is also recruiting a Video Editor to create trailers for its games, implying that Starfield is almost ready to be unveiled to the world with a full marketing campaign, TV spots and all. 

Putting the two together, it sounds like Bethesda has almost completed development on Starfield, and is ready to begin full-time work on The Elder Scrolls 6... or at least that's what fans are hoping for. 

The studio itself hasn't said anything about either game since first revealing them as next-gen projects at E3 2018, but - with the release of PS5 and Xbox Series X scheduled for later this year - it feels as though we could be hearing more about both titles very soon.

Of course, the studio is still hard at work supporting Fallout 76, too, but we'd advise keeping your eyes peeled to GamesRadar in the coming months for all and every new piece of Elder Scrolls news as soon as it surfaces. 

Check out the biggest new games of 2020 and beyond still on the way, or watch the video below for our latest episode of Dialogue Options. 

21 Jan 15:49

Pro-gun activists threaten to kill state lawmaker over bill they misunderstood

Virginia’s only socialist state legislator said he has been the target of multiple death threats over a bill that pro-gun activists misinterpreted as a potential threat to their rights.

The legislation introduced by Lee Carter, a 32-year-old Bernie Sanders-endorsed socialist, would allow public school teachers to strike without being fired, and has in fact nothing to do with guns. But some gun rights activists wrongly interpreted it as an attempt to fire law enforcement officials who might refuse to comply with gun control laws introduced by Virginia’s new Democratic legislative majority.

The result, Carter said, has been a torrent of threats and abuse on social media, from promises to vote him out of office, to claims that “this is tyranny and you know what we do to tyrants,” to explicit threats of murder, like, “I’m going to make sure you don’t live through this legislative session” or “I’m going to kill this guy, y’all make sure you don’t forget my name.”

Carter, says he has been so concerned about the death threats that he has started openly carrying a handgun to protect himself.

On Monday, when tens of thousands of gun rights activists will converge on the state capitol in Richmond for what is expected to be a volatile demonstration against the new gun control bills introduced by Virginia Democrats, Carter said that he plans to be in hiding, at an undisclosed location, concerned that he might be a target of violence even in his own home.

Among the threats against him, Carter said, there had been frequent mentions of Monday’s pro-gun protest, “and a lot of people saying, ‘We’re going to kick off the second American civil war. This guy is going to be the first one to die. Make sure you show up armed.”

Carter said he had reported a handful of what seemed to be the most serious social media threats to Virginia’s capitol police.

The Virginia governor, Ralph Northam, declared a state of emergency on Wednesday in advance of Monday’s pro-gun rally, citing law enforcement intelligence that armed anti-government activists were traveling from other states to join the rally, some of them with the goal of “violence, rioting and insurrection”.

Carter, who was re-elected to Virginia’s general assembly this November, said that the legislation that had led to death threats against him had originally been introduced last year. It was designed to repeal current Virginia law, which bars all public employees from striking, a policy that has been on the books since at least the 1950s, he said.

Public school teachers in other states have used strikes “to successfully raise the alarm about the conditions that they are teaching kids in”, Carter said. As a supporter of workers’ rights, he said, he wanted to make it possible for Virginia’s teachers to strike without being fired.

His original bill did not even get a hearing last year, he said, in part because his fellow lawmakers were concerned about the possibility of strikes by police officers undermining public safety. So he re-wrote the bill language, allowing all public employees except law enforcement officials to strike without penalty, and re-introduced it for the 2020 legislative session.

But when some gun rights activists read the bill, they claimed it meant something entirely different. Carter’s bill to allow teacher strikes was written into a broader narrative “that spread like wildfire within the conspiracy-minded parts of the rightwing internet”, he said, claiming that the state’s Democratic governor was working to confiscate Virginians’ guns, and that his new legislation was designed “to fire cops who don’t confiscate guns”.

That conspiracy theory relied upon a basic misreading of the bill text, which in fact kept longtime Virginia law intact for law enforcement officers, and created a new exemption for other public employees.

While a gun rights YouTube channel had appeared to be central to spreading the misreading of his bill to a wide audience, Carter said that some of the misinformation about his bill appeared to be fueled by police unions, and even by a fellow Republican state lawmaker – all people, he said, who should be able to accurately read legislation.

A gun rights activist outside the Virginia state capitol building as the general assembly prepares to convene in Richmond, 8 January 2020.
A gun rights activist outside the Virginia state capitol building as the general assembly prepares to convene in Richmond, 8 January 2020. Photograph: Jonathan Drake/Reuters

A longtime gun owner and marine veteran himself, Carter said he has never introduced any legislation related to guns, and that he considers himself a moderate when it comes to gun laws – supportive of universal background checks, for instance, but skeptical of an assault weapons ban.

“I got re-elected without saying the word gun once,” Carter said.

That was not the case for some of Virginia’s Democratic politicians, who had campaigned on gun violence prevention as a central issue in November’s elections. After Democrats won full control of the state government for the first time in 26 years, Virginia’s Democratic governor announced that passing gun control laws, including an assault weapons ban, would be a top priority.

Carter said he saw this choice as a “terrible idea”, one that played directly into conspiracy theories that have circulated in rightwing groups for decades. The draft legislation for a Virginia assault weapons ban, which was originally written to include a ban on the possession of military-style weapons, sparked fears of confiscation among Virginia’s gun owners, and helped fuel a passionate grassroots movement against gun control across the state.

“[The extreme right] has been saying for years that an assault weapon ban is going to be their excuse to start killing people,” Carter said. “I tried to have this conversation with my colleagues, but, frankly, a lot of my colleagues don’t want to believe that that’s out there.”

“I won’t even say it’s like a landmine, because a landmine you can’t see. There’s a big button on the ground that says, ‘If you step here, it will explode’ and Democrats just stomped on it, because they didn’t want to believe that it exists.”

Instead, he said, he believed Democrats had an “head in the sand” mentality, he said, “that we can enact this policy, and that it will be fine”.

“Their faith in institutions is so strong that they refuse to believe it’s not shared by everyone.”

While Carter has previously kept guns for self-defense in his home, he said he has never before regularly carried a gun in public. Now, he said, he will be continuing to monitor internet chatter, and showing up armed to public events when he believes there might be heightened risk of an attack.

“I am having to take steps to protect myself and protect my family,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that we’ve gotten to this point.”

21 Jan 15:49

Here Are 20 Headlines Comparing Meghan Markle To Kate Middleton That May Show Why She And Prince Harry Are Cutting Off Royal Reporters

The UK media outlets that currently make up the royal rota are the Daily Express, the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror, the Evening Standard, the Telegraph, the Times, and the Sun.

Here is a look at 20 stories from these outlets that appear to show a double standard between press coverage of Meghan and Kate. BuzzFeed News has reached out to all of the outlets featured below for comment.
21 Jan 15:48

Meghan gets twice as many negative headlines as positive, analysis finds

The Duchess of Sussex gets more than twice as many negative headlines as positive ones, according to Guardian analysis of articles published between May 2018 and mid-January 2020.
21 Jan 15:47

With no funding, possible delay for trail tunnel at Bethesda Purple Line station | WTOP

While the tunnel has been promised for years, the county said construction costs have continued to rise. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

The tunnel that would carry runners and cyclists on the Capital Crescent Trail beneath Wisconsin Avenue may not be ready when the Bethesda Purple Line station opens in approximately two years.

The proposed budget by Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich includes no money for the tunnel, which would be funded by the county, adjacent to the state’s light-rail project.

Daily construction is underway along Wisconsin Avenue and nearby streets for the Bethesda station and rail infrastructure.

While the tunnel has been promised for years as a way for cyclists, runners, and walkers to avoid having to cross busy Wisconsin Avenue at street level, the county said construction costs have continued to rise.

County spokesman Neil Greenberger said funding for the tunnel was not included in the capital improvement plan Elrich announced this week.

“The scope of the project changed as it was further studied,” said Greenberger. “It needed to be a longer tunnel than originally believed, and that boosted the cost significantly.”

Greenberger said funding for the project “could be added in the future, and we will continue to study alternative ways to build it at a more reasonable cost.”

Without funding, progress on the tunnel would be delayed, disappointing bicycle advocates who say the feature has been promised for years.

In the meantime, the county has funded a surface trail that follows 47th Street at Elm Street Park. Cyclists and others would cross Wisconsin Avenue at a light, and cross Bethesda Avenue, to rejoin the trail at Woodmont Avenue.

Trail advocates have said the tunnel is more than just a convenience for people traveling under their own steam — it is part of the region’s trail network, which can help minimize the number of cars on local roadways.

The Capital Crescent Trail, when completed, will provide a continuous route from Silver Spring to Georgetown.

The 16-mile line between Bethesda and New Carrollton will open in stages — in Prince George’s County by the end of 2022, and in Montgomery County in mid-2023.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2020 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

20 Jan 20:45

Frontier, an ISP in 29 states, plans to file for bankruptcy

by Jon Brodkin
A Frontier Communications service van parked in a snowy area.

Enlarge / A Frontier Communications service van. (credit: Mike Mozart)

Frontier Communications is planning to file for bankruptcy within two months, Bloomberg reported last week.

The telco "is asking creditors to help craft a turnaround deal that includes filing for bankruptcy by the middle of March, according to people with knowledge of the matter," Bloomberg wrote.

Frontier CEO Bernie Han and other company executives "met with creditors and advisers Thursday and told them the company wants to negotiate a pre-packaged agreement before $356 million of debt payments come due March 15," the report said. The move would likely involve Chapter 11 bankruptcy to let Frontier "keep operating without interruption of telephone and broadband service to its customers."

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

19 Jan 12:56

The Trump administration wants to weaken Obama’s school lunch rules. Again.

by Catherine Kim
Obama talks with students having lunch. First Lady Michelle Obama visits a Maryland school given a 2009 USDA prize for promoting health. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

On her birthday, the Department of Agriculture announced it plans to nix school lunch requirements championed by Michelle Obama.

Friday marked the Trump administration’s second attempt at loosening regulations governing school meals that were implemented under former President Barack Obama. The administration’s latest target: fresh vegetables and fruit.

The current meal regulations were established under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 spearheaded by Michelle Obama. That law set new standards for school meals for students in grades K-12 to ensure children were receiving more vegetables, fruits, whole-grain rich foods, and fat-free milk. For example, the law required students to have fruit with every school breakfast, and mandated schools serve a set amount of a variety of vegetables that include both leafy greens and starchy plants.

But the Department of Agriculture argues the Obama-era rules are leading to high costs and rampant food waste. On Friday — Michelle Obama’s birthday — the department announced its proposal to change those rules.

“Schools and school districts continue to tell us that there is still too much food waste and that more common-sense flexibility is needed to provide students nutritious and appetizing meals,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement to The New York Times. “We listened and now we’re getting to work.”

The Department of Agriculture’s own research on the effects of the Obama-era rules undercuts this claim, however. In its 2019 “School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study,” the department found no dramatic changes in the amount of food waste, and also found compliance with the rules led to better participation rates in school meal programs.

Experts fear that should the rules be changed, schools will try to substitute fresh fruit and vegetables with more cost-efficient foods that lack nutrition. For example, experts worry baked sweets like muffins could be substituted for servings of fruit, and that potato products such as french fries could replace green vegetables.

The department has admitted new foods might be introduced, but has framed that as a good thing. It wants to lower financial barriers for schools serving a la carte items like hamburgers in the hopes that expanding access to these items will limit waste. In the past Perdue has argued that the most important thing is making sure students eat — he said in 2017 he believes healthy meals are “ending up in the trash” because they simply aren’t appetizing to students.

“If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition — thus undermining the intent of the program,” he said.

But advocacy groups object to this sort of thinking. The National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity argues the new rules could create a “giant junk food loophole” because “side dishes like cookies and fries, which could be offered once in a while as part of a balanced lunch, could be offered a la carte every day.”

This isn’t the first time the administration has rolled back parts of the Obama-era rules. In 2018, the Agriculture Department finalized a rule that allowed schools to abandon their commitment to lowering sodium and increasing whole-grain foods.

That decision is now being challenged in court by a coalition of six states and Washington DC, which claims the changes present health risks to children.

As with the 2018 rule, dissent around the newest regulation change is beginning to surface, primarily among Democrats. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) tweeted Friday, “The Occupant is trying to play petty with the food our babies eat. Add it to the list affirming that the cruelty is the point with this White House.”

With lawsuits against the first set of rollbacks to the lunch restrictions already in motion, if the new rules are successfully implemented, it may be merely a matter of time before they, too, are challenged in court.

Children from low-income families would be most affected by the new rules

For many low-income children, school is the only opportunity to access a nutritious meal. As Vox’s Gaby Del Valle wrote when the Department of Agriculture first began relaxing the Obama-era rules:

For the 30 million students who depend on free and low-cost school lunches that are subsidized by the federal government, the relaxed nutrition standards could be hugely detrimental.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was a game-changing way of providing low-income students with healthy meals — by relaxing these rules, the Trump administration is exacerbating a system where only those who can afford to eat healthy will be able to do so.

One of the consequences of the changes could be an increase in obesity rates, according to research from the Food Research and Action Center. And as Dr. Rachel Borton, the director of the Family Nurse Practitioner online program at Bradley University, argued in an op-ed for The Hill, poor eating in childhood can have lasting effects — particularly if habits are formed, or if students remain on a nutrition-poor diet over the course of a number of years.

“If those students don’t have access to the nutritious options provided by the school, they may turn to low cost, processed foods that are high in calories but sparse in nutrients. Immediate effects of this type of diet include weight gain and poor physical health,” Borton wrote. “Long-term impacts range from increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and a slew of other unfortunate health outcomes.”

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was created to combat these health concerns — and there’s proof that it worked, according to the Department of Agriculture’s 2019 review of the program. That study found scores for the Healthy Eating Index (which measures the quality of the diet) shot up drastically from 49.6 in 2009-2010 to 71.3 in 2014-2015.

These scores, however, could go down following the Trump administration’s new rollbacks. And if schools fail to properly serve their students, it is students whose only meals come during the school day who will hit the hardest.

19 Jan 12:56

The National Archives edited a Women’s March picture to be less critical of Trump

by Catherine Kim
The 2017 Women’s March in Washington, DC. A censored version of this image hung at the National Archives. | Mario Tama/Getty Images

The National Archives wanted to avoid politicizing a picture of the Women’s March by blurring out signs critical of Trump. Historians aren’t happy.

The National Archives is facing criticism for editing an image of the 2017 Women’s March in order to make it less “political” — and for making the photo less critical of President Donald Trump to do so.

The image — a 49-by-69-inch photograph depicting a sea of women flooding Pennsylvania Avenue on January 21, 2017 to protest Trump’s inauguration — leads the National Archives’ exhibit “Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote.” The show opened in May to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage; the image of the Women’s March is juxtaposed with a 1913 black-and-white photo of a woman’s suffrage march in the exact same location.

The 2017 photo, however, has been altered, as The Washington Post’s Joe Heim reported Friday.

The Archives confirmed that it had blurred signs that were critical of Donald Trump, blotting out the name of the president at least four times. In one instance, Heim found that Trump was blurred out a sign that read, “God Hates Trump,” causing it to simply read, “God Hates.”

The Archives also blurred out words related to women’s anatomy such as vagina and pussy. For instance, “vagina” was blotted out of a sign comparing laws around reproductive health and those governing firearms that read: “If my vagina could shoot bullets, it’d be less REGULATED.”

Archives spokeswoman Miriam Kleiman told The Washington Post that the organization decided to alter the images to avoid controversy, considering the current political climate.

“As a non-partisan, non-political federal agency, we blurred references to the President’s name on some posters, so as not to engage in current political controversy,” Kleiman said. “Our mission is to safeguard and provide access to the nation’s most important federal records, and our exhibits are one way in which we connect the American people to those records. Modifying the image was an attempt on our part to keep the focus on the records.”

Of course, as observers like historian Marama Whyte have pointed out, by censoring the image, the Archives have created a political controversy over the accurate preservation of historical records and the appropriateness of a federal agency erasing criticism of a leader.

The Archives has claimed such controversies were not intentional, and that it censored words related to women’s anatomy due to concerns of being perceived as having created an exhibit inappropriate for a younger audience.

Kleiman told Post the Archives only alters images if they are used as “graphic design components” (like in promotional materials) and emphasized that artifacts are never changed. In this case, the Women’s March image was deemed a promotional display because it is used as the opening image that greets visitors at the beginning of the exhibit.

The decision to censor the photo was made by a group of people, including agency managers and staff members. Heim reported that an archivist appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009, David S. Ferriero, supported the decision to edit the photo after participating in decision-making talks.

These statements have done little to satisfy the Archives’ critics, however. On Twitter, Yale historian Joanne Freeman called the decision “dangerous” given the Trump administration has worked hard to undermine the public’s trust in institutions — the president has called the press the “enemy of the people” and described the FBI as “badly broken,” for example — and wrote, “don’t get me started on the irony of women’s voices being erased...from the Women’s March.”

Doctoring an image from the Women’s March silences women’s voices

Freeman’s tweet speaks to two major problems with the National Archives’ decision. It is an institution that is supposed to document history, and in altering a historic artifact without notifying its audience, the Archives undermines the trust it asks the public to have in its collection of primary sources.

“Information integrity as we learn time & again is the coin of the realm for democracy’s minimal function,” Karin Wulf, a historian and professor at William and Marry, wrote on Twitter. “If the [National Archives] was going to present an altered image they should have indicated what they did & why. That would have preserved our mutual need for info. integrity.”

The choice also had the effect of silencing women’s voices in an exhibit that was meant to honor and celebrate them, as Purdue University history professor Wendy Kline told The Washington Post.

”Doctoring a commemorative photograph buys right into the notion that it’s okay to silence women’s voice and actions,” Kline said. “It is literally erasing something that was accurately captured on camera. That’s an attempt to erase a powerful message.”

The irony of the entire situation, as historian and Muhlenberg College professor Jacqueline Antonovich points out, shows “how easily we can sanitize the suffrage movement itself, blurring out all of the inconvenient parts we don’t want to grapple with.”

And although the decision does not appear to have been motivated by any requests by the president — who has been openly critical of federal agencies he sees as questioning his behavior in any way, such as the FBI — there is also the issue that censoring criticism of a chief executive is something more commonly done in an authoritarian state than in a healthy democracy.

None of this is a good look for the National Archives, and all of it could have been easily avoided. As Eileen Clancy, a media archivist and student at the City University of New York, points out, the curators could have picked a different image rather than misleading the public.

In response to its critics, the National Archives tweeted Saturday, “We made a mistake.”

It has pledged to remove the altered photo, and said it “will replace it as soon as possible with one that uses the unaltered image.” And it said its staff had learned a valuable lesson from the furor, writing, “We apologize, and will immediately start a thorough review of our exhibit policies and procedures so that this does not happen again.”

18 Jan 13:16

Discworld fans are right to be nervous about the BBC's 'punk rock' The Watch

by Alison Flood

Terry Pratchett’s books about Ankh Morpork’s City Watch have been adapted into a ‘punk rock thriller’ – and some are not happy

We Terry Pratchett fans have been lucky in recent years. We were given Good Omens, which thanks to co-author Neil Gaiman’s shepherding and incredible performances from David Tennant and Michael Sheen, was a joy to watch. And we were told that BBC America was developing The Watch, a series based on Pratchett’s stories about Ankh Morpork’s City Watch. Yes, we were a little nervous to read that Pratchett’s fierce, dark, sardonic stories were to become a “startlingly reimagined … punk rock thriller” that was “inspired by” the books. But we stayed faithful, for it was promised that the show would “still cleav[e] to the humour, heart and ingenuity of Terry Pratchett’s incomparably original work”.

But nerves were jangling even more fiercely on Friday as the first glimpses of the forthcoming show were shared by the studio. They look … kind of cyberpunky? Is that electricity? Where is their ARMOUR? Should we have been more wary about that “inspired by”?

Continue reading...
18 Jan 13:14

The Virginia gun rights rally raising fears of violence, explained

by Jane Coaston
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) talks to the media at the Virginia Capitol on November 6, 2019, in Richmond. | Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Why an annual Lobby Day has resulted in a state of emergency and online calls for a civil war.

On Monday, thousands of gun rights supporters will descend on Richmond, Virginia, for the Virginia Citizens Defense League’s annual Lobby Day. And so will a host of militia groups, conspiracy theorists, and far-right extremists, some of whom believe the rally in Richmond will represent the first shot of a new civil war, or as some users of the /pol/ forum term it, “boogaloo.”

In response, the governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, has declared a state of emergency for Monday due to intelligence he says shows “a threat of an armed militia groups storming our capital.” One member of the Virginia General Assembly was so beset by death threats that he is currently staying in a safe house. The organizer of the rally is concerned enough to emphasize on a popular gun site that Monday’s rally is supposed to be a “peaceful event about gun rights and NOTHING ELSE.”

On Thursday, the FBI announced the arrest of three white nationalists in Maryland, members of a neo-Nazi training network called the Base — the English translation of the Arabic term “al-Qaeda.” The three, including one former Canadian army reservist who went missing last summer, were allegedly heading to Richmond. According to the FBI, they had recently constructed a machine gun and obtained thousands of rounds of ammunition and body armor. Three more members of the network were arrested on Thursday in Georgia.

The Lobby Day was intended to be an opportunity for Virginia gun owners to voice their displeasure with proposed gun control measures. Instead, the event has raised fears of mass violence akin to — or worse than — Unite the Right.

How gun control legislation led to a gun rights rally

The Lobby Day is an annual event for the VCDL, a pro-gun rights group, normally attracting a few hundred gun rights advocates to Richmond to lobby members of the state government. (The National Rifle Association has a separate lobby day, which was held January 13.)

This year, though, Virginia is on the cusp of actually passing gun control laws. A host of gun control bills are winding their way through the Virginia legislature, which is newly under Democratic control. They include a bill requiring background checks on all firearms purchases and transfers, a bill limiting the number of handguns that can be purchased per month, a bill to permit localities to ban guns from specific events and venues, and “red flag” legislation that would permit law enforcement to take guns from people deemed risks to themselves or others.

Such a legislative push was almost inevitable as gun control groups, reacting in part to a mass shooting in Virginia Beach, dramatically outspent the NRA (which is based in Virginia) and other gun rights groups during the 2019 election. That helped Democrats gain control of the state legislature for the first time in more than two decades, as I wrote in November:

Democrats didn’t win either the House of Delegates or Senate seat for Virginia Beach, but across the state, gun control was the top issue for voters and for Democratic candidates, according to one poll, with several candidates running explicitly on vows to “take on the NRA” to pass gun control legislation. According to Everytown, that focus (and money) resulted in at least three flipped seats that helped Democrats take control of the legislature. Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday that he now hopes to be able to pass a slate of gun control measures, and “because of that Virginia will be safer.”

Right now, Virginia has comparatively loose gun laws — the state permits open carry and does not require a permit to purchase or possess a rifle, shotgun, or handgun, but it does regulate gun shows. That means the four gun control bills mark a sea change for a state long noted as a gun rights haven.

And the commonwealth is closely divided on the issue of guns. Virginia’s recent political shift toward the Democratic Party elides just how divided the state is politically between Republican-leaning and less populated rural areas and Democratic-leaning urban and suburban regions in the north of the state and around Virginia’s flagship universities, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech. The economic, cultural, and demographic differences between the two regional types are so extensive that, as the Virginia Mercury’s Bob Lewis put it last year, they make “Virginia feel more like two states than a commonwealth.”

As National Review writer Charles C.W. Cooke — who has written extensively on gun policy — told me in an interview: “Democrats run the legislature and the executive branch, but they don’t run the legislature by much.”

And for some gun owners, the bills constitute what gun rights advocate and Lobby Day speaker Cam Edwards called the “the most anti-gun legislative agenda in [state] history.”

“There are bills in the legislature that would turn the vast majority of the state’s gun owners into felons simply for maintaining possession of their ammunition magazines or legally purchased suppressors,” Edwards said. “We’ve seen legislation that would turn Virginia gun owners into felons for selling a shotgun to their brother without a background check, though gifting that same shotgun to that same brother would be legal.”

In response, gun rights advocates in Virginia have taken action. More than 80 counties in Virginia out of 95 have declared themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” where proposed gun control legislation would not be enforced despite passage at the state level under the argument that those laws would be unconstitutional. (Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has argued that such resolutions have no legal force.)

Advocates for Second Amendment sanctuaries in Virginia are arguing that the Second Amendment trumps state law, Cooke told me. “Government officials who swear to uphold the Constitution cannot violate that Constitution,” he said. “If one believes that these laws would violate the Constitution, then one has no choice but to declare one’s opposition to them.” Hence, “sanctuary.”

Monday’s Lobby Day was intended to be another opportunity for gun rights advocates to speak out against the proposed legislation. But it has also attracted what Edwards called “bad actors” who were “seeking attention and a spotlight.” And some groups even claim to be seeking the beginnings of a race war.

Extremists hoping for violence have latched onto Lobby Day

The Lobby Day has attracted interest from Virginians legitimately interested in gun rights — and not just right-wing groups. According to an interview with Vice News, the Richmond-based Antifa Seven Hills is joining the protest because, as a spokesperson put it, “I think it’s been pretty important for us to focus on the fact that gun control in America has a legacy of racist enforcement.”

But the legislation being discussed has been heavily distorted online by far-right individuals and websites, with some claiming the proposed bills will result in full-scale gun confiscation by the government.

“There’s a great deal of fear and uncertainty surrounding some of these bills, which has been exacerbated in part by some on the pro-2A side for their own purposes, whether it’s to sell prepper products on their website or to generate clicks,” Edwards said. VCDL’s language has largely attempted to reflect caution, as the group says on its Lobby Day information page, “The eyes of the nation and the world are on Virginia and Virginia Citizens Defense League right now and we must show them that gun owners are not the problem.”

One Virginia legislator, Lee Carter, has been targeted with death threats. Carter, a democratic socialist who represents the state’s 50th District, has supported a bill that would permit teachers to go on strike but continue the longstanding practice of forbidding law enforcement from doing so — which some online (including a Virginia House of Delegates member) have twisted into an argument that Carter wants to punish sheriffs in “Second Amendment sanctuaries” for not obeying state gun laws.

As Gen’s Aaron Gell reported:

For Carter, the mischaracterization has become a matter of personal safety. “Now there’s a massive internet conspiracy theory that I’m working hand in hand with Gov. Northam, whom I can’t stand, the National Guard, and the UN, to go door-to-door taking people’s guns,” he explains. “It’s gotten to the point where people are openly discussing murder, and they want me and Governor Northam and Attorney General Herring to be the first ones dead.” The governor and AG have security details, he notes; state delegates do not.

Ironically, as Carter told Gell, though he supports some gun legislation being proposed (including universal background checks), he is a gun collector and a gun rights supporter who believes liberals and minorities should embrace gun ownership for their own safety. (He hasn’t yet responded to a request for comment from Vox.)

The Lobby Day is also receiving considerable attention from some groups connected with the violent Unite the Right rally held in Charlottesville in 2017; several groups and entities banned from armed protest in Charlottesville because of United the Right are expected to attend the rally in Richmond.

Unlike Unite the Right, which was planned and organized by explicit white nationalists, Lobby Day is a longstanding event, and VCDL is not a white nationalist organization. On the gun rights website Ammoland, VCDL president Philip Van Cleave attempted to tamp down tensions, discouraging attendees from carrying long guns at the rally for appearances’ sake, and (though arguing on the same site that Democrats may have invited extremist groups to turn the rally violent on purpose) making it clear that Lobby Day is not supposed to be a protest:

We are NOT there to have arguments with the other side. They lobby, we lobby, and never the two shall meet. Just ignore them.

And we are not there to push any other agenda. Our total focus is on protecting our right to keep and bear arms. Period. This is not about flags, statues, history, etc. Just guns.

If you somehow find yourself being harassed by the other side, don’t engage them. They could well be baiting you and recording what you do for propaganda purposes. If necessary, go find a police officer and let them take care of the person causing the disturbance. Otherwise, just ignore them and go about your business.

But the extremist rhetoric and explicit threats of violence online have raised real concerns from law enforcement, leading Virginia to declare a state of emergency and ban guns on state Capitol grounds. Those threats center on the idea that Richmond could be the site for the violent beginnings of a civil war, one sparked by restrictions on gun rights.

One far-right site falsely claimed in December that individuals attending Monday’s Lobby Day will have their guns confiscated at roadblocks across the state, that Virginia has “been chosen as the deliberate flashpoint to ignite the civil war that’s being engineered by globalists,” and that all of this will end with the United Nations occupation of America and nationwide gun confiscation.

“To all those who mocked our warnings about the coming civil war, you are about to find yourself in one,” the author, Mike Adams, wrote. “Sure hope you know how to run an AR platform and build a water filter. Things won’t go well for the unprepared, especially in the cities.”

This is common rhetoric for militia groups, said Sam Jackson, an assistant professor in the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity at the University at Albany who studies the Oath Keepers, a militia group expected to attend the rally on Monday.

“The anticipation of violation of gun rights is common among militia groups more broadly — pretty easily seen in all the ‘molon labe’ patches worn by militia folks,” Jackson said. (“Molon labe” is a classical Greek phrase meaning “come and take them.”) “Several novels that are important for the group depict war between Americans and the American government that begins with attempts at gun control.”

But beyond civil war, others expected to attend Monday’s rally are explicitly calling for a race war, in which white Americans will kill nonwhite Americans and Jewish people to establish a white ethnostate. Using the term “boogaloo” — a sarcastic reference to the 1980s film Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo that implies a “Civil War 2” of sorts — users of online forums like /pol/ are using Richmond as the impetus for the beginnings of a race war. They use phrases like “fuck all optics,” a reference to the last post shared on the social networking site Gab by the Tree of Life shooter, which has become a motto of sorts for white nationalists.

They’ve been encouraged by conspiracy theorists like Infowars’ Alex Jones, who said on January 8 that he and others from Infowars plan to attend the Richmond rally because “we’ve had two revolutionary wars basically start in Virginia, and it looks like one may start again.” He’s claimed that any violence that takes place at the rally will be a “false flag,” and in an interview with white nationalist Richard Spencer — who helped organize 2017’s Unite the Right rally — Jones invited Spencer to attend the rally.

The rally has also attracted attention from the ultra-violent neo-Nazi network the Base, an accelerationist white nationalist group that believes in using violence to overthrow the US government, foment a race war, and create a white ethnostate. The Base intends to operate internationally, with cells in multiple countries to evade detection by authorities. The group holds so-called “hate camps” where members receive paramilitary training and meet other members, including those from other countries.

One of the men arrested by the FBI earlier this week was a Canadian Army Reserve active combat engineer who, according to an investigation by the Winnipeg Free Press, “spoke on multiple occasions about committing acts of racially motivated violence and sabotage” in interviews with a reporter embedded in the terrorist group.

According to the criminal complaint, the Canadian reservist and two fellow Base members had manufactured a working machine gun, practiced using the gun at a range in Maryland, and purchased 1,500 rounds of ammunition.

Monday’s gun rights Lobby Day in Richmond was intended to be, according to its organizers, “a peaceful day to address our Legislature.” But some expected to attend hope otherwise. As one poster on the /pol/ online forum put it regarding Virginia’s proposed gun restrictions, “This is solid proof that voting accelerationism will work. Only such a civil conflict can bring about what we need.”

18 Jan 13:05

21 kids sued the government over climate change. A federal court dismissed the case. 

by Umair Irfan
Protesters attend a rally outside the US Supreme Court held by the group Our Children’s Trust on October 29, 2018. Their banner reads, “We demand a climate recovery plan #youthvgov.” The Juliana v. US climate change lawsuit has been dismissed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

Plaintiffs in the Juliana v. US lawsuit alleged the government violated the rights of young people to a safe climate.

A three-judge panel in the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to dismiss the Juliana v. US lawsuit on Friday, a seminal case involving 21 young people who sued the federal government for violating their right to a safe climate. The decision is a blow to climate activists and shows the limits of the courts’ willingness to assign legal responsibility to the government for the harms caused by greenhouse gases.

The judges all agreed that climate change is an urgent, threatening problem, but ruled that the plaintiffs, who were between the ages of 8 and 19 when the suit was filed, didn’t have standing to sue. They also said that climate policies must come from the legislative branch. “The panel reluctantly concluded that the plaintiffs’ case must be made to the political branches or to the electorate at large,” according to the ruling.

Writing for the majority, Circuit Court Judge Andrew Hurwitz conceded that climate risks are growing and that young people stand to suffer the worst impacts of rising average temperatures, like increasingly destructive floods and fires.

“In the mid-1960s, a popular song warned that we were ‘on the eve of destruction,’” he wrote. “The plaintiffs in this case have presented compelling evidence that climate change has brought that eve nearer.”

Andrea Rodgers, a senior attorney at Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit backing the youth who filed the lawsuit, described the decision in an email as “unprecedented and contrary to American principles of justice.” Her organization has vowed to appeal the ruling in the coming weeks.

As politicians have failed to deliver adequate climate policies, courtrooms have emerged as a prominent venue for advancing an agenda to limit emissions, and the Juliana case was one of a number of climate change lawsuits working their way through various US courts. More than a dozen cities and counties have filed suit against companies like Exxon for the climate-related harms caused by their products. But the Juliana case stood out among climate lawsuits because it challenged the federal government rather than fossil fuel companies.

Despite proposing a novel legal theory — that a safe climate is a civil right and that the government has violated it through policies like leasing public lands for coal mining — the suit managed to get surprisingly far. It survived several motions to dismiss and intervention by the US Supreme Court.

But what the plaintiffs wanted — a government plan to phase out fossil fuels and pull greenhouse gases back out of the air — was not something the courts could provide. “Reluctantly, we conclude that such relief is beyond our constitutional power,” Hurwitz wrote.

However, District Court Judge Josephine Staton thought otherwise and did not mince words in her dissent. “It is as if an asteroid were barreling toward Earth and the government decided to shut down our only defenses,” she wrote. “Seeking to quash this suit, the government bluntly insists that it has the absolute and unreviewable power to destroy the Nation.”

The Juliana case has been the highest-profile lawsuit filed by Our Children’s Trust, but the group has also filed similar climate change civil rights suits on behalf of young people in state courts.

Aji Piper, a plaintiff in the Juliana v. United States climate lawsuit speaks at the first hearing of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, on Capitol Hill April 4, 2019 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Aji Piper, 19, was a plaintiff in the Juliana v. United States climate lawsuit.

While the 9th Circuit ruling was a setback for climate activists, many are undeterred from using the courts to fight climate change and hold polluters accountable. Recently, some law students have also begun to protest against the law firms representing fossil fuel companies in these climate suits, pressuring firms to drop them as clients and urging classmates not to work for them.

Climate litigation has also emerged as an issue in the 2020 campaign for president. Many of the Democratic contenders have called for fossil fuel companies to be held liable for climate damages and for sowing disinformation. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has gone as far as to call for criminal prosecution of greenhouse gas emitters.

All the while, more suits and legal complaints are being filed. On Thursday, a group of four indigenous tribes in Louisiana filed a human rights claim at the United Nations. They argued that the US government, through its contributions to climate change and its failure to stop it, has violated the rights of these groups, who are seeing lands eroded by rising seas.

So climate change still has many more days in court to come.

18 Jan 13:03

The Sanders Campaign Researched Whether Warren Could Be Both Vice President and Treasury Secretary at Once

by Ryan Grim

The presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders has researched the question of whether the same person can serve as both vice president and treasury secretary, according to three sources on the campaign. The person the Sanders campaign had in mind with the inquiry was Sen. Elizabeth Warren, his rival for the nomination and the bane of Wall Street over the last decade. The inquiry did not rise to the level of an official legal analysis undertaken by the campaign attorney.

The answer is yes: There is nothing in the Constitution that bars the vice president from also serving as treasury secretary. Sanders has made no final decisions on a potential running mate or cabinet officers and did not direct the inquiry, nor was he involved in it, as he considers such questions premature and presumptuous. “No conversations are happening about any positions in a potential Sanders administration. Our campaign is focused on winning the nomination,” said campaign manager Faiz Shakir. The research into the question of Warren’s dual eligibility reflects the political affinity that has long existed between the two — an affinity that was dealt a setback over the past week, as the pair clashed over the contents of a year-old private conversation. The sources were not authorized to speak publicly about internal deliberations. “Not only have I not written a memo, I haven’t had any phone calls, emails, or communications about it,” said Brad Deutsch, the campaign’s lawyer.

The research into the question of Warren’s dual eligibility reflects the political affinity that has long existed between the two.

Warren and Sanders have been allies since at least 2008, before she came to Washington to chair a panel with oversight of the Wall Street bailout. An author of books on the struggles of the middle class and an expert on bankruptcy law, she was invited by Sanders to a Vermont town hall, where the two talked about their shared agenda. Sanders was a strong supporter of her effort to create a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the wake of the financial crisis and privately lobbied President Barack Obama to name her the head of the new agency. Ideologically, Sanders and Warren are largely aligned when it comes to Wall Street, though Warren has concentrated more attention on bankers, meaning that the two different skill sets could complement each other in the same administration.

Warren, after her election to the Senate in 2012, lobbied for and won a seat on the Banking Committee, where she continued to hammer away at Wall Street and its feckless regulators. Warren’s is the type of oversight and policymaking Sanders could envision leading from the perch at the Treasury Department, sources said, with the added power of being vice president as well. Though no serious discussions have begun about a cabinet or running mate, the campaign wanted to know whether such a scenario was constitutionally permissible.

The news of the Sanders’s camp interest in a dual role for Warren comes after a week of tension between the longtime allies.

Not long after meeting with Sanders at the end of 2018 to discuss her impending presidential run, Warren hosted an off-the-record dinner with a number of journalists, according to sources with knowledge of it. At the dinner, Warren was asked about her meeting with Sanders, and in the course of the discussion, she relayed that Sanders had warned that he didn’t believe a woman could beat Donald Trump in 2020. Different reporters recalled the comments differently, a mirror image of the dispute between Warren and Sanders over exactly what Sanders said — with Warren saying that Sanders argued a woman couldn’t beat Trump, while Sanders said that he only said that Trump would weaponize misogyny against a woman, not that it would work. (The Intercept was not at the dinner. Most politicians hold informal, off-record dinners or meetings with journalists, though it’s not something Sanders is known to do. Occasionally details from those meetings leak, but it’s rare.)

From there, the piece of news entered the journalistic bloodstream, circulating among reporters as gossip but not finding its way into print. On Monday, it finally did, with CNN’s M.J. Lee reporting that according to four sources — described as “two people Warren spoke with directly soon after the encounter, and two people familiar with the meeting” — Sanders had told Warren, according to CNN’s paraphrasing, that “he did not believe a woman could win.”

It was widely assumed in the immediate aftermath of the story that Warren’s campaign had planted the story. Indeed, CNN anchor Erin Burnett said as much on air. But Burnett was merely making an assumption and had no inside knowledge of the sources, two CNN sources told The Intercept.

Since Warren told the story more broadly to a group of journalists, CNN’s sources could have come from outside the campaign.

On Monday, Warren told The Intercept that her campaign did not intentionally plant the CNN story. That Warren told a number of journalists about the meeting a year ago adds context to that statement. If Warren had only told her closest advisers about the meeting, then it would be logical to assume that her campaign dictated the timing of the story, dropping it just ahead of a debate, and just weeks before the primary, to undercut Sanders. But since Warren told the story more broadly to a group of journalists, CNN’s sources could have come from outside the campaign. The revelation does not rule out the possibility that someone in her campaign was a source, but it opens up other possibilities as well.

In chat groups and in private conversations with people outside the campaign, Warren aides have insisted that they were not the source of the leak and only learned about it in the midst of debate prep, contributing to the delayed response. The first time the campaign saw Sanders’s on-record denial was in print in the CNN story. “What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist, and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could,” Sanders said. After the story broke, the tension continued to escalate.

Neither camp took potential off-roads. Sanders could have allowed that since he had said that “Trump is a sexist … who would weaponize whatever he could,” he could understand how Warren may have inferred that he didn’t think a woman could overcome such obstacles. Warren could have said that she takes her friend at his word that he didn’t mean it, and the press could have moved on. Neither gave an inch, though, and Warren issued a blunt statement. “I thought a woman could win; he disagreed,” Warren said in her statement, that didn’t come until 7:30 in the evening, after the story had festered for much of the day.

At the debate the next night, Sanders said it was “incomprehensible” that he would have said such a thing. Warren was prepared with remarks about the ability of women to win elections. After the debate, she confronted him on stage with cameras still running.

Since then, though, the camps have sought to deescalate.

Kristen Orthman, a spokesperson for Warren, declined to comment on the dinner, but said in a statement, “Everyone in this primary is focused and must be focused on our shared goal: beating Donald Trump. That’s the message we are sending to our supporters and our staff so we can make big, structural change to improve people’s lives.”

Shakir had a similar message. “Our message internally and externally is to stay focused, stay positive, and keep the people who are struggling out there and need transformational change at the front of our minds,” he said.

Update: January 18, 2020
This story was updated with comment from campaign attorney Brad Deutsch.

The post The Sanders Campaign Researched Whether Warren Could Be Both Vice President and Treasury Secretary at Once appeared first on The Intercept.

18 Jan 13:03

City Of Dallas Shuts Down Business Of Man Who Called Cops 414 Times In 20 Months To Deal With Criminals Near His Car Wash

by Tim Cushing

Let's talk about nuisance abatement laws. These are laws cities can use to shut down businesses that appear to draw more than their fair share of the criminal element.

If you're a fan of asset forfeiture, you'll love nuisance laws. By abdicating their law enforcement responsibilities, cities can have their lower cost cake and eat your property too. It's win-win for cities, who love to use laws like this to effectively seize property from citizens who have the misfortune to operate legitimate businesses in high crime areas.

Here's how it works in Dallas, Texas. The city says business owners must pay for their own security devices and personnel to keep their businesses free of criminals. No business will be compensated for these additional costs. All cops need to do is throw a couple of placards at the business and the city takes it from there. Criminal activity in the area is now the responsibility of businesses in the area. Can't get criminals to get off your property? Too bad. It's the city's property now.

The Dallas police chief has a new tool in her arsenal to force home and business owners to address crime on or near their properties: shame.

On Wednesday, the Dallas City Council passed a "nuisance abatement" ordinance allowing Police Chief U. Renee Hall to identify properties that tolerate criminal activity and try to get the owners to address it.

The new ordinance allows city officials to slap a sign on properties identified as sites of "habitual criminal activity."

The first efforts involve shaming the business owners for things they likely cannot control. This isn't the only step taken, though. The placards are the beginning. If the city feels the business owner isn't doing enough to control crime in the area (surely that's a law enforcement job?), it can shut the business down and keep fining it for anything and everything it can think of until the business owner is insolvent and has to sell the property.

A South Dallas car wash owner has been fighting the city on and off for most of three decades over its application of nuisance laws. The city has already shut down Dale Davenport's car wash. City council members claim Davenport is to blame for the crime that surrounds his business. It also claims he's done next to nothing to solve a problem he didn't create.

Davenport fought back. He demanded the city turn over 911 call records linked to his business in order to show the problem isn't his, but the Dallas Police Department's. After several months of being stonewalled, he has finally obtained the documents he needs to show the city it's not doing all it can to combat crime. Jim Schutze of the Dallas Observer has been following this fight for years and has the details.

After a two-year tooth-and-nail battle with the city, Davenport’s lawyer, Warren Norred, recently forced City Hall to cough up the official record of 911 calls Davenport has been making all along, begging police to come to his place of business.

It's not just a few calls scattered over several months. Davenport called the cops constantly, asking them to come deal with the criminal element that seemed to feel it could just hang out at his place of business. The city says crime is Davenport's fault. The record(s) [PDF] show this is a failure of city agencies, most notably the Dallas PD.

On and on the 911 reports go for 414 single-spaced pages... And that covers only 20 months from 1/5/18 to 9/25/19. Dale Davenport and his father, Freddy Davenport, have been calling the cops to their property for 27 years.

Davenport is suing the city and the hundreds of pages of 911 calls are vital to his litigation. The city wants to take his property, claiming he hasn't fulfilled his obligations as a citizen and business owner. 414 pages of 911 calls says otherwise. Davenport (and his father before him) have been pleading for the city to clean up a crime-infested area filled with drug houses and the criminal element drawn to this area by the (apparently) unchecked drug trade.

The PD's newly-formed Nuisance Abatement Team doesn't appear to have made any impact here, other than posting placards on businesses it believes aren't doing enough to fight the crime the Dallas PD should be fighting. Paying taxes should entitle you to city services, but only thing Dallas wants to give Davenport in exchange for his involuntary contributions is all the blame for the crime that surrounds him.

Fourteen years ago, a state committee investigation [PDF] found Dallas' nuisance laws had been abused severely and regularly.

Sworn testimony before the house committee described specific cases of misuse of the statute by city officials such as:

• Targeting of a few, select businesses in high-crime areas, while ignoring more serious crimes occurring on surrounding properties;
• Directing businesses to hire certain security personnel with the clear suggestion that hiring these select individuals would diminish the city's threatened enforcement of nuisance abatement;
• Parking a large number of police cars in the parking lot of a business owner as a retaliatory act toward that owner, who had challenged the city's nuisance action against him and had testified in court on behalf of an individual who was acquitted of charges for resisting arrest while on the business' property;
• Using calls to police requesting assistance by the business as marks against that business in the city's criteria for evidence of nuisance abatement violations;
• Directing a hotel property owner to run criminal history checks on all guests, which is a possible violation of the guests' civil rights and could potentially subject the business to legal liability; and
• Sanctioning a local car wash owner because marihuana was found in the pants pocket of a person working on the property. It was suggested by the city legal department that the owner needed to conduct random pat-down searches of persons working on the property on a regular basis -- an act prohibited by law even for law enforcement officers.

To sum up:

[T]he committees are gravely concerned that the problems stemming from Dallas' use of the nuisance laws are the result of a unique and incorrect interpretation of those laws by city officials -- wrongly taking the laws to mean that fighting crime is no longer the city's responsibility but has instead now become primarily the responsibility of private citizens and businesses; and that private citizens can be held strictly liable for crimes that take place on or near their property even when they are not involved in that crime, have taken affirmative steps to prevent the crime, are themselves victims of that crime, and have reported the crime, requesting the assistance of law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, the body of evidence available to the committees also strongly suggests that the city uses the nuisance laws to intimidate, promote cronyism, and inappropriately use law enforcement personnel, specifically uniformed police and code enforcement officers, to deliver not-too-subtle messages of coercion and retaliation to legitimate businesses and property owners who refuse to submit to such tactics.

It's 2020. Nothing has changed. The city continues to shrug off its responsibilities and put private business owners in the impossible position of clearing out nearby crime without relying on the law enforcement services the city is supposed to provide to taxpayers. I guess the city believes it's only obligation to business owners like Davenport is to staff 911 call centers. Other than that, they're on their own until the city shuts them down.

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17 Jan 19:19

Joe Biden Can't Tell The Difference Between The 1st Amendment & Section 230; Still Thinks Video Games Cause Violence

by Mike Masnick

Joe Biden is the latest Democratic candidate for President interviewed by the NY Times editorial board, and if you're interested in tech policy, well, it's a doozy. Biden seems confused, misinformed, or simply wrong about a lot of issues from free speech to Section 230 to copyright to video games. It's really bad. We already knew he was on an anti 230 kick when he gave a confused quote on it late last year, but for the NY Times he goes even further:

Charlie Warzel: Sure. Mr. Vice President, in October, your campaign sent a letter to Facebook regarding an ad that falsely claimed that you blackmailed Ukrainian officials to not investigate your son. I’m curious, did that experience, dealing with Facebook and their power, did that change the way that you see the power of tech platforms right now?

No, I’ve never been a fan of Facebook, as you probably know. I’ve never been a big Zuckerberg fan. I think he’s a real problem. I think ——

CW: Can you elaborate?

No, I can. He knows better. And you know, from my perspective, I’ve been in the view that not only should we be worrying about the concentration of power, we should be worried about the lack of privacy and them being exempt, which you’re not exempt. [The Times] can’t write something you know to be false and be exempt from being sued. But he can. The idea that it’s a tech company is that Section 230 should be revoked, immediately should be revoked, number one. For Zuckerberg and other platforms.

CW: That’s a pretty foundational laws of the modern internet.

That’s right. Exactly right. And it should be revoked. It should be revoked because it is not merely an internet company. It is propagating falsehoods they know to be false, and we should be setting standards not unlike the Europeans are doing relative to privacy. You guys still have editors. I’m sitting with them. Not a joke. There is no editorial impact at all on Facebook. None. None whatsoever. It’s irresponsible. It’s totally irresponsible.

There is so much to talk about here. First of all, Biden admits upfront that the reason he thinks CDA 230 should be repealed is because of his personal dislike of Facebook's founder and CEO. It's one thing to argue that the platform creates harms and therefore we need a different regulatory approach, but to start out by saying you just don't like the guy, and use that as the basis for punishing the entire internet is... really something.

Second, Biden seems to be (again) confusing the 1st Amendment with Section 230. It's not Section 230 that allows people to post false things on Facebook. It's the 1st Amendment. You know, the thing that Biden is supposed to "protect and defend" if he becomes President.

Third, the comparison with the NY Times is completely offbase. The NY Times is also protected by Section 230 if a third party says something on its platform, they cannot be sued. And, similarly, if Facebook itself said something that violated the law, it can be sued. All 230 does is put the liability in the right place: on the actual speaker. Facebook is not "exempt" from any law. Biden is just wrong.

Fourth, he's not even talking about reforming 230, he's talking about revoking it. That's insane and would lead to crippling litigation and vast silencing of the public. It's not even in the realm of reasonable discussion.

Fifth, notice at casual he is about lumping in the rest of the internet, just because he dislikes Facebook. Take away 230 for the entire internet, even as it's what enabled free speech to really flourish on the internet. And, again, it's amazing how confused he is thinking that 230 is the issue when it's actually the 1st Amendment.

Sixth, the point about "editors" is also completely nonsensical. Editors have nothing to do with it, unless he's saying that no one should be allowed to be posted on the internet unless it's been edited first.

And just to be clear here, a lot of what Biden says in this interview is factually false. Yet, here, he's arguing that the NY Times should be liable for posting his falsehoods. And Facebook should be liable if people repost them there. And I should be liable because I'm posting his nonsense here. This is not someone who understand even the first thing about Section 230, how the internet works, or free speech online.

He continued with more word salad:

CW: If there’s proven harm that Facebook has done, should someone like Mark Zuckerberg be submitted to criminal penalties, perhaps?

He should be submitted to civil liability and his company to civil liability, just like you would be here at The New York Times. Whether he engaged in something and amounted to collusion that in fact caused harm that would in fact be equal to a criminal offense, that’s a different issue. That’s possible. That’s possible it could happen. Zuckerberg finally took down those ads that Russia was running. All those bots about me. They’re no longer being run. He was getting paid a lot of money to put them up. I learned three things. Number one, Putin doesn’t want me to be president. Number two, Kim Jong-un thinks I should be beaten to death like a rabid dog and three, this president of the United States is spending millions of dollars to try to keep me from being the nominee. I wonder why.

Civil liability for what? What exactly is the legal violation he's talking about? And notice, again, that he immediately resorts to a personal vendetta and stuff about Russia, ignoring that Facebook has a huge team constantly fighting and trying to take down Russian ads. Yet, Biden falsely states that Facebook was leaving them up to give Zuckerberg money. Does he not know how any of this works?

Of course, then he more or less admits the reason he hates Silicon Valley is because they opposed him on SOPA/PIPA. If you don't recall, for years, Biden was one of Hollywood's biggest friends in the Senate. Even once he became VP, he convened a "summit" about copyright in which he only invited maximalists. In the White House, he was the main voice pushing for SOPA/PIPA and apparently got quite upset when Obama eventually came out against the law. Here, he tries to rewrite history, pretending that SOPA/PIPA was just about "protecting" copyright and artists, when it was actually a massive tool for internet censorship -- and notice how he calls an internet exec "a little creep." He goes on to display near total ignorance and direct hatred for Silicon Valley and innovation.

There are places where [President Obama] and I have disagreed. About 30 percent of the time, I was able to convince him to my side of the equation. Seventy percent of the time I wasn’t when we disagreed, when he laid something out. And you may recall, the criticism I got for meeting with the leaders in Silicon Valley, when I was trying to work out an agreement dealing with them protecting intellectual property for artists in the United States of America. And at one point, one of the little creeps sitting around that table, who was a multi- — close to a billionaire — who told me he was an artist because he was able to come up with games to teach you how to kill people, you know the ——

CW: Like video games.

Yeah, video games. And I was lectured by one of the senior leaders there that by saying if I insisted on what Leahy’d put together and we were, I thought we were going to fully support, that they would blow up the network, figuratively speaking. Have everybody contact. They get out and go out and contact the switchboard, just blow it up.

And then one of these righteous people said to me that, you know, “We are the economic engine of America. We are the ones.” And fortunately I had done a little homework before I went and I said, you know, I find it fascinating. As I added up the seven outfits, everyone’s there but Microsoft. I said, you have fewer people on your payroll than all the losses that General Motors just faced in the last quarter, of employees. So don’t lecture me about how you’ve created all this employment.

The point is, there’s an arrogance about it, an overwhelming arrogance that we are, we are the ones. We can do what we want to do. I disagree. Every industrial revolution, every major technological breakthrough, every single one. We’re in the fourth one. The hardest speech I’ve ever had to make in my life, I was asked to speak at the World Economic Forum, to give an answer on, to speak to the fourth industrial revolution. Will there be a middle class? It’s not so clear there will be, and I’ve worked on it harder than any speech I’ve ever worked on.

The fact is, in every other revolution that we’ve had technologically, it’s taken somewhere between six years and a generation for a government to come in and level the playing field again. All of a sudden, remember the Luddites smashing the machinery in the Midlands? That was their answer when the culture was changing. Same thing with television. Same thing before that with radio. Same thing, but this is gigantic. And it’s a responsibility of government to make sure it is not abused. Not abused. And so this is one of those areas where I think it’s being abused. For example, the idea that he cooperates with knowing that Russia was engaged in dealing with using the internet, I mean using their platform, to try to undermine American elections. That’s close to criminal.

I can't even follow half of that word salad. It's nonsensical word spewing. The fact that the big tech companies don't employ so many people directly, completely misses the point that was being made: that the internet has enabled so many jobs around the world, not directly at those companies, but enabling so many people to start their own companies and businesses, and to create jobs at other companies because of the internet. Notice that Biden's world view is totally focused on how many jobs are created by single large companies. That's completely missing the point.

And that final paragraph is just bizarre. He's suggesting government has to "level the playing field" with each new technological revolution. But he can't explain when or how they did that. When or how did they do that with the Luddites? When or how did they do that with TV? When or how did they do that with radio? What is he even talking about?

At the end of this section he also insists that the internet is bad for children:

Well the tech industry, look, not everyone in the tech industry is a bad guy, and I’m not suggesting that. What I’m suggesting is that some of the things that are going on are simply wrong and require government regulation. And it’s happened every single time there’s been a major technological breakthrough in humanities since the 1800s, and this requires it. For example, you have children?

CW: No.

Well, when you do and you’ll watch them on the internet, it gets a little concerning. What in fact they can see and not see, and whether or not what they’re seeing is true or not true. It matters. It matters. It’s like — well, anyway.

It's like -- well, anyway. Yeah. Look, there is false information on the internet. There is false information elsewhere. Hell, much of this interview with Biden is him spewing false information. Perhaps children shouldn't be allowed to read it.

Or, perhaps, we teach our children how to be good information citizens, and teach them how to be skeptical and how to do more research. Perhaps, it's the job of parents and school teachers and other mentors to teach kids how to take in, filter, and understand information. Having politicians who don't know the first thing about the internet come in and tell them how to run things doesn't fix any of that. Indeed, it only makes the problem worse, by sweeping reality under the rug.

Not that any of the candidates running for President seem particularly good on tech policy, but Biden's outright hatred for the internet, and "creeps" in Silicon Valley seems to have completely clouded his thinking.

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17 Jan 19:17

Great British Sewing Bee 2020 Series 6

Picture Shows: Patrick Grant, Esme Young, Joe Lycett – (C) Love Productions – Photographer: Mark Boudillion

We are so excited that The Great British Sewing Bee TV show is back in 2020 for series 6 and will be returning to our screens on BBC Two. In this TV programme sewers take on garment challenges each week to crowned the best home sewer in Britain. We have been eagerly awaiting series 6 since the sewing bee was last broadcast in early 2019. We will be sharing all the news about the new contestants and each week a run down of the episodes with sewing patterns featured.

When will Sewing Bee series 6 be on TV in 2020?

We are currently waiting for the date to be confirmation for the start of series 6 in 2020 but it is likely to be a similar date to last year with the series launching in February or March. We will keep you updated with all the sewing bee news on our newsletter, social media and here on the website.

Is there a book to accompany the new Sewing Bee series?

Yes and it’s now available to pre-order on Amazon: The Great British Sewing Bee, Sustainable Style written by the lovely Alex and Caroline of Selkie Patterns! Including five full-sized pattern sheets with 27 projects for women (sizes 8-22) and men (sizes XS – XL), this book accompanies series 6. The book aims to encourage makers from beginners to advanced to reduce, reuse and recycle on their creative journey to sew a considered closet. The book will include lots of tips on looking after your clothes and sewing machine along with fitting tips, information on natural and sustainable fibres plus ideas on how to revamp existing clothes. The book will be published by Quadrille on 26th March 2020.

You can discover the sewing patterns designed by Selkie Patterns here and read our interview with Alex from Selkie Patterns here about her job as a costume designer.

Images: (Left) Quadrille, (Right) Selkie Patterns

Who are the sewing bee contestants for series 6?

We are eagerly awaiting news of who was successful in their application to be on series 6 of the sewing bee. Check back here soon for all the news!

Who are the sewing bee judges?

Esme Young

Esme Young studied at Central Saint Martins and also teaches pattern cutting there. She is co-founder of fashion label Swanky Modes and a costume designer, working on films such as Bridge Jones (the bunny outfit!) and Trainspotting.

Patrick Grant

Patrick Grant is a British Fashion designer and Saville Row working as a creative director for Norton & Sons, E. Tautz & Sons and Barbour. Patrick has been a judge on all series of the sewing bee. Patrick launched the social enterprise, Community Clothing to rejuvenate the British manufacturing industry, find out all about this exciting project here.

Joe Lycett

Joe Lycett is a British comedian and TV presenter. You may recognise him from TV shows such as Never Mind the Buzzcocks, QI, 8 out of 10 Cats and most recently on Channel 4, Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back. He replaced Claudia Winkleman in 2019 series 5 as the third presenter on the sewing bee.

Sewing Bee Episode guide – series 6 (2020)

As the sewing bee episodes are announced on BBC Two later this year we will be sharing the details here including projects sewn by the contestants and the sewing patterns featured, from independent and commercial pattern companies. In previous series contestants have faced three tasks per episode including a pattern challenge, upcycling challenge and to create their own garment for a theme.

Where can I talk about about the sewing bee TV show with other makers?

Each week during the series we chat about the episode in our friendly Facebook group after the show has aired on BBC Two. Come join the fun! Visit our blog to keep up with all the details of each sewing bee episode and subscribe to our YouTube channel for special vlogs and newsletters.

Great British Sewing Bee Series 5

What happened in each episode of The Great British Sewing Bee series 5?

Catch up with all the sewing bee news from series 5 with our ultimate guide to the show! Each week on the blog we shared all the details of each sewing bee episode along with pattern suggestions, you can find a list of episodes on our dedicated Sewing Bee series 5 guide here. Visit our blog to keep up with all the details of each sewing bee episode and subscribe to our YouTube channel for special vlogs and newsletters.

Who are the sewing bee contestants and judges in series 5?

We’ve shared all the details of the sewing bee contestants and judges over on our dedicated page for series 5, take a look here.

Sheila, Jen, Mercedes, Alexei, Joe Lycett, Riccardo, Tom, Janet, Ben, Leah, Juliet, Esme Young, Patrick Grant – (C) Love Productions – Photographer: Mark Boudillion

Great British Sewing Bee series 4

Sewing Bee Episode guide – series 4 (2016)

Did you get caught up in the excitement and now can’t remember which sewing patterns were featured? Have no fear, catch up at your leisure on our sewing blog where we will have lots of sewing inspiration from each episode of series 4. In each of the sewing bee eight episodes, the contestants will have to complete three tasks. The first is a surprise dressmaking pattern, the second a refashioners project and finally fit a sewing pattern to a model.

Sewing Bee Episode 1 Guide – Contestants will be sewing a panelled women’s top, women’s skirt and refashioning a maternity dress. Have a read for some pattern inspiration (plus patterns used in the episode) and tutorials for how to make them.

Sewing Bee Episode 2 Guide – Contestants will be sewing patterns for children and babies. In the first task contestants will make a baby gro, then refashion a bridesmaid dress into a child’s outfit before finally creating a child’s cape. Have a read for some pattern inspiration (plus patterns used in the episode) and tutorials for how to make them.

Sewing Bee Episode 3 Guide – Contestants will be sewing lingerie and nightwear patterns. In the first task they will make a soft cup bra, then refashion a silk scarf before fitting a luxury robe to a model. Have a read for some pattern inspiration (plus patterns used in the episode) and tutorials for how to make them.

Sewing Bee Episode 4 Guide – It’s International Week! Contestants will be sewing a Chinese inspired top, refashioning a Sari and making a garment using African wax prints to fit a model. Have a read for some pattern inspiration (plus patterns used in the episode) and tutorials for how to make them.

Sewing Bee Episode 5 Guide – This week was all about the 1960’s and according to Joyce, sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Contestants made a colour block dress for the pattern challenge, refashioned a shower curtain for the second challenge and finally fitted a coat or jacket to a model. Have a read for some pattern inspiration (plus patterns used in the episode) and tutorials for how to make them.

Sewing Bee Episode 6 Guide – This week was all about sewing activewear. In the first task, contestants has to sew a men’s cycling top using Lycra® fabric. In the alterations challenge, contestants had to refashion a 1980s style ski suit into a children’s jacket. In the final challenge, contestants had to sew and fit a yoga outfit to a model.

Sewing Bee Episode 7 Guide (semi-final) – This week was all about puzzling patterns pattern cutting. The first task was to sew a asymmetric skirt inspired by Japanese pattern cutting. In the refashioning challenge, the contestants has to create a garment from a duvet and use all the fabric. In the final challenge, the contestants had to draft their own pattern and fit it to a model.

Sewing Bee Episode 8 Guide (final) – This week was the last episode in the series about focused on evening wear. The first task was to make a men’s shirt with collar and stand. In the refashioning challenge, the contestants had to create a little black dress from a men’s dinner suit. In the final ever challenge of the series, the contestants wowed the judges with fitting a gown to a model.

The Sewing Bee contestants – series 4 (2016)

There is always plenty of interest about who the sewing bee contestants will be each year, find out all about them on the BBC website.

From left to right: Rumana, Angeline, Duncan, Charlotte, Josh, Jade, Tracey, Joyce, Jamie and Ghislaine.

Jamie, 44 is from Exeter and is a member of The Fold Line community. Jamie likes to sew modern menswear and tailoring. Follow Jamie on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Rumana, 27 is a junior doctor and fellow Londoner. She likes to make garments for herself and babies clothes. Check out her blog, The Little Pomegranate and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Angeline, 30 works in public relations and is also a designer. She likes to sew vintage dresses and ball gowns. Discover more on her website, Angeline Murphy and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest and Instagram.

Duncan, 32 is a fellow Londoner and tutor. He likes to sew modern menswear. Follow Duncan on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.

Charlotte WINNER, 43 is also a fellow Londoner and medical science journal editor. She sews clothes for herself and her children and also quilts and knits. Find out more about Charlotte on her blog, Charlotte Newland, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

 Josh, 23 is from Cardiff and is an Entrepreneurship Engagement Manager. He likes to sew casual menswear and has his own label, Treatment Clothing. Follow Josh on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

 Jade, 18 is from Sussex and a student. She likes to sew clothes for all her family, including her pets. Follow Jade on Twitter.

Tracey, 53 is from Derbyshire and a retired primary school teacher. She likes to sew clothes for herself, her daughter and through her website Polkadot designs. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Joyce, 71 is from West Sussex and a retired school admissions officer. She likes to sew for herself and her family.

 Ghislaine, 43 is a fellow Londoner and likes to sew garments for herself

Great British Sew Bee book review – series 4 (2016)

Read our Great British Sewing Bee book review, From Stitch to Style by Wendy Gardiner, published by Quadrille.

Special Sewing bee Blog Series (2016)

We’ve some exciting special sewing bee blog posts from series 4 by some of your favourite bloggers and sewing celebrities.

Chinelo Bally’s Freehand Fashion sewing book

Read a review of Chinelo’s sewing book here, no patterns required!

Image copyright: Pavilion 

Interview: Chinelo Bally

Read an interview with Chinelo about her love of African print fabrics.

Image copyright: Vliseo

Interview: Jennifer Taylor

Read our interview with Jennifer Taylor about her career as a sewing ambassador.

Great British Sewing Bee book reviews

Check out our review all three sewing books from the previous series 1 – 3 of the sewing bee. Please note: there was no book to accompany series 5.

The Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric by Claire-Louise Hardie – series 3 (2015)

The Great British Sewing Bee: Sew Your Own Wardrobe by Tessa Evelegh- series 2 (2014)

The Great British Sewing Bee by Tessa Evelegh – series 1 (2013)

Disclaimer: Please note that this page about The Great British Sewing Bee is not linked to or endorsed by the BBC programme/Love Productions. Where images are not our own they remain the copyright of the author. 

17 Jan 17:17

Steam support is in the pipeline for Chrome OS

by Sean Riley

In an interview with Android Police last week at CES, Google’s Director of Product Management for Chrome OS, Kan Liu indicated that the Chrome team has been working on Steam support.

Now before you get too excited, there was no talk of delivery dates, so don’t go looking for Steam support in the next Chrome OS update release notes. Liu did elaborate slightly on how the feature would be implemented though, it would rely on the Linux compatibility in Chrome OS. According to Android Police’s David Ruddock, there was a strong indication that the Chrome Team is working directly with Valve on this project, but Liu would not give official confirmation of this fact.

This could be viewed as a hedge for Google against Stadia and the idea of cloud gaming being the answer for gaming on Chrome OS. Yes, we did see Samsung announce some impressive Chrome OS hardware at CES 2020, but the Galaxy Chromebook is still a far cry from a gaming laptop.

However, I think this is more likely just a way to augment casual gaming on Chrome OS, which at the moment is left to Android support and the Play Store. Liu cited gaming as the most popular category of Play Store downloads on Chromebooks and Steam would certainly open up a whole host of additional options even if AAA titles were beyond the scope of most Chromebooks.

While I do believe that a higher-end Chromebook market can and will exist, I find it more plausible that AAA on-device gaming will be ceded to high-end gaming laptops or consoles, cloud gaming is simply a cleaner solution to this problem for Chrome OS. However, this would make for a solid one-two punch with Steam covering casual titles and Stadia there for the high end when your actual hardware isn’t up to the task.

Speculating is fun, but Google was unwilling to provide any further comment on these efforts after the interview, so it seems a safe bet that we are quite a ways off from seeing this functionality hit our Chrome OS devices, but it’s an interesting potential sign of things to come for Chrome OS regardless.

Can you imagine yourself buying a gaming Chromebook if the hardware and Steam support were to arrive someday?

Source: Android Police

17 Jan 13:31

Maryland Gov. Hogan proposes tax break for some retirees to keep them in state | WTOP

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday a plan to give 230,000 retirees in the state $1 billion in tax relief over five years.

Hogan’s plan would eliminate state income tax for those earning $50,000 or less, and it would slash state income tax for those earning $100,000 or less by 50-100%.

If adopted, the plan would be the biggest tax reduction in Maryland in more than 20 years.

Hogan, a Republican, said he’s proposing the legislation because he frequently hears from retirees who say they don’t want to leave their grandchildren in the state that they’ve made their home, but that it’s too costly to stay in Maryland.

“They keep telling me that retirement taxes are too high, and they’re moving to Delaware, or South Carolina, or Florida, where they won’t take so much out of their retirement checks,” Hogan said.

He added that he’d like to do more in the future.

“When I first ran for governor, I said that once we solved our budget crisis and turned our economy around, I wanted to eventually reach the point where we could eliminate all our retirement taxes just as other states have done,” Hogan said. “And this is still our goal.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2020 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

17 Jan 12:52

A federal judge stopped Texas from ending its refugee program

A girl holds a baby amid tents at Kaibe refugee camp in Aleppo, Syria, on October 21, 2019. 
Esra Hacioglu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Refugee resettlement agencies breathed a sigh of relief after a federal court ruling prevented Texas from shutting its doors to refugees under an executive order from President Donald Trump that allows state and local authorities to block refugees from settling in their areas.

A Maryland federal judge blocked the executive order on Wednesday, meaning that states will no longer be able to veto refugee resettlement. Had the court not intervened, Texas would have abdicated its position as the state that has historically accepted the highest number of refugees nationwide and likely emboldened eight other states to consider turning away refugees.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision not to accept refugees, announced last Friday, came as a surprise to local refugee resettlement agencies and conflicted with the positions of cities including Houston, Dallas, and Fort Worth, which have been major destinations for refugees in Texas.

The ruling could be overturned if the Trump administration appeals, setting up another potential battle over Trump’s immigration policy in the courts — a prospect that most refugee advocates are bracing for. But at least for now, the court’s ruling means that Texas will continue to resettle refugees as normal in 2020, averting adverse impacts not only on refugees themselves, but also on refugee resettlement resources and infrastructure.

Abbott’s decision came as a surprise

It’s not entirely shocking that Texas would decide not to accept refugees, given its previous attempt to reject Syrian refugees.

In the wake of the Paris terror attacks in late 2015, Texas and 30 other states declared they no longer wanted to take in some of the 5.6 million Syrians who have been displaced since 2011 by the ongoing civil war. But at that time, states didn’t have the legal authority to simply refuse refugees; that was the prerogative of the federal government.

Texas has nevertheless been a leader on refugee resettlement: From October 2018 to October 2019, the states took in 2,457, or about 8 percent, of the 30,000 total refugees resettled in the US, according to the US Refugee Admissions Program. By comparison, the three other states that resettle the highest number of refugees — California, New York, and Washington — resettled 1,841, 1,845 and 1,947 refugees respectively over that period.

That’s why refugee advocates had lobbied Abbott as well as other Texas political leaders at all levels of government to express support for resettling refugees after Trump announced his executive order in September.

Chris Kelley, a spokesperson for Refugee Services of Texas, which helps resettle hundreds of refugees across the state annually, said that the governor was expected to accept refugees in light of the fact that 42 of 50 states, including many with Republican governors, had already announced they would do so. A number of Texas mayors had also urged Abbott to accept refugees, including Republican Betsy Price of Fort Worth.

“As Mayor, I’ve witnessed the mutually beneficial impact of resettling almost 2,600 refugees in Fort Worth since 2016, I don’t want to risk fixing anything that is not broken,” Price wrote in a December 2 letter. “Their stories and path to the United States are now an important part of our own story in Fort Worth.”

Advocates also had positive conversations with a number of Texas officials about resettling refugees, making the governor’s decision to reject them all the more unexpected, Kelley said.

“We were optimistic, in fact, that the governor would announce his support for accepting refugees given what other governors, particularly Republican governors, were doing to accept refugees,” he said. “All of us were caught off guard and surprised and deeply disappointed.”

Texas’s decision to reject refugees would have created a resource problem

Had Texas been allowed to go through with its plan to reject refugees, refugee agencies would have had to redistribute refugees to other states throughout the US. Capacity wasn’t an issue — Trump has slashed the national refugee admissions cap from 110,000 to 18,000 during his time in office, meaning that states are accepting fewer refugees than they are able to support.

But that redistribution could have created other problems: Many refugees already have family in the US, particularly in Texas, and sending them to another state could leave them with little choice but to be separated from their families.

Once refugees are assigned to be resettled in a particular state, that state agrees to provide them with critical social services, including health care, affordable housing, and help finding a job. Refugees are free to move to other states in the US after they’ve been resettled, but doing so means they would no longer be able to access the services that help them assimilate.

“They would have to face an impossible choice of choosing to be nearby family or forgoing some very basic support services,” Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said.

If refugee families choose to move to another state soon after arriving, that could also overwhelm local resources to support them. That would undermine one of the goals of refugee resettlement agencies, which is to create an orderly process to ensure no one location is taking on too many refugees at once, O’Mara Vignarajah said.

Local resources to resettle refugees also might have shrunk had Texas decided not to accept them in 2020. Refugee agencies depend on federal funds to administer their resettlement programs and have used those resources to build up substantial infrastructure for those programs in Texas for decades — losing those funds would be devastating to those agencies.

“All of the support services that are designed around the initial welcome and integration of refugees would start to corrode,” Cindy Huang, vice president of strategic outreach at the refugee resettlement agency Refugees International, said.

That’s already started to happen since Trump lowered the refugee cap. The Trump administration restricted organizations that resettle under 100 refugees annually from obtaining federal funding. And according to a June report by Refugee Council USA, refugee resettlement agencies have had to suspend 51 programs in 41 offices across 23 states, including three offices in Texas.

In other states that considered rejecting refugees — including Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida, which all have large resettlement programs — that has also been a concern.

Now that states can’t just reject refugees, refugee resettlement agencies will be able to stay afloat. But one (perhaps unintended) consequence of Trump’s executive order remains: It has galvanized bipartisan state and local support for resettling refugees.

“The silver lining is that it’s made refugee resettlement a state and local issue,” Huang said. “It’s creating this opportunity for people to be directly confronted with this, and what people are responding is, ‘I don’t think that’s what being an American means.’”

17 Jan 12:47

Fetching With Wolves: What It Means That A Wolf Puppy Will Retrieve A Ball

Scientists put several litters of wolf puppies through a standard battery of tests. Many pups, such as this one named Flea, wouldn't fetch a ball. But then something surprising happened.

Christina Hansen Wheat

Some wolf puppies are unexpectedly willing to play fetch, according to scientists who saw young wolves retrieve a ball thrown by a stranger and bring it back at that person's urging.

This behavior wouldn't be surprising in a dog. But wolves are thought to be less responsive to human cues because they haven't gone through thousands of years of domestication.

Exactly how dogs emerged from a now-extinct population of ancient wolves is a mystery. Wolves are large, dangerous carnivores, and yet they were the first animals that humans tamed. More than 15,000 years ago, when humans were still hunter-gatherers, this large predator somehow began cozying up to people, eventually becoming their "best friend."

To try to get clues about how that happened, scientists such as Christina Hansen Wheat of Stockholm University in Sweden have been studying the differences between dogs and modern wolves. As part of her work, she raised litters of wolf puppies, feeding them and acclimating them to her presence but not playing with them or training them.

At the age of 8 weeks, the wolf pups were put through a series of standard behavior tests that were administered by a person the wolves had never met.

One researcher says that the willingness to fetch might not be a dog trait, but a trait that existed in ancestral wolf populations.

Christina Hansen Wheat

This set of tests is normally used by dog breeders, says Hansen Wheat, to assess how their puppies act in social situations. "The fetching test just happened to be part of this test battery. It wasn't something we were targeting at all," she says.

The person conducting the test threw a tennis ball and urged the wolf puppy to bring it back. Two litters of puppies utterly failed to do this, surprising the scientists not at all.

"There's some hypotheses out there that the ability to understand human social cues is a unique dog trait, a trait that arose after domestication had been initiated," Hansen Wheat explains, so fetching on command is not a behavior expected in wolves.

But then a third litter went through the tests. And as she watched through a window, one of the wolf puppies went for the ball and returned it to the tester, according to a report in the journal iScience.

"When I saw the first puppy fetch — I still get goosebumps when I talk about this — it was such a surprise," Hansen Wheat says. "It wasn't just one puppy, it was actually three of them. That was very exciting."

Because three of the 13 tested wolf puppies spontaneously did this, a willingness to fetch might not be a dog trait, she says. Instead, it might be a wolf trait that existed in the ancestral wolf populations.

"It might have been something that we have tried to select upon during early domestication," Hansen Wheat says. "Wolf puppies doing this during early stages of domestication might have had a selective advantage, if they managed to establish a connection to our forefathers."

She notes that researchers who work with wolves typically have few animals to test. That means scientists simply might not have enough wolves to detect rare traits, making it hard to see variations as they attempt to compare wolves with dogs.

"I think it will surprise dog owners as much as it surprised me that wolves actually can fetch a ball, or retrieve a ball for a person," she says.

Evan MacLean, who studies dog cognition at the University of Arizona, says this is an interesting observation that no one has made before.

"To my knowledge, this is actually the first test ever to look at whether wolves do something like this," he says.

Watching the video, MacLean sees two discrete behaviors: first, chasing the ball and biting it, and then later coming back to the person while carrying the ball. To him, it doesn't appear to be exactly the same kind of goal-oriented game of "fetch" that a dog would play with its owner.

"But I think it's an intriguing observation," he says. "I think it opens up a series of interesting questions and other studies you could do to try to look at this in a more controlled and systematic way."

Would the wolves behave this way if there were distractions in the room, for example, or if the ball were thrown by a machine instead of a person?

There's no agreement on how dog domestication happened — whether some brave wolves started hanging around human camps to get scraps or whether humans actively kidnapped wolf puppies to raise them.

In recent times, MacLean notes, wolves have been extensively hunted by humans, so today's wolves might be more skittish around people than past wolf populations were. "It's possible that the modern populations are quite different than the population that actually gave rise to dogs," he says.

Dogs do seem to be sensitive to human gestures, such as pointing, in ways that other species are not, including our closest relatives, chimpanzees.

"Dogs have become special in that regard," MacLean says, "and some people, myself included, have made claims that maybe this is something really unusual about dogs, and something that changed during dog domestication."

Three of the 13 wolf puppies tested spontaneously fetched a ball.

Christina Hansen Wheat
17 Jan 12:47

Neutrogena's Free Skincare App Actually Works...Mostly

An extremely small sample of my skincare products. Also me humblebragging about my score.
Photo: Victoria Song (Gizmodo)

The worst part about skincare is all of the trial and error. There’s the researching of ingredients, torturing yourself listening to YouTubers review products, draining your bank account to buy said products, and then finally, trying them. All that effort usually ends up with me cocking my head to the side as I stare at my reflection, unsure if my investment did anything or if it’s all in my head. Last week, I met up with Neutrogena at CES 2020 to talk about their app, Skin360. I walked into the meeting a bit skeptical—after all, their last CES announcement, MaskID, still hasn’t seen the light of day. But after a week of playing around with the Skin360 app, I think Neutrogena might be on to something.

The idea behind the app is simple. You take a selfie, the app then analyzes your skin and gives you a score out of 10 across five parameters: wrinkles, fine lines, dark circles, smoothness, and dark spots. You then set a skincare goal—something you want to improve, like getting rid of your fine lines. Depending on what your goal is, you’ll get different recommendations. Once that’s set, the app will then ask how dedicated you are to a skincare routine, and then poof. You get a personalized routine. Through it all, there’s a chatbot called NAIA who will check in every few days about your goals, your stress levels, how often you exercise, and sleep quality. You can also read articles about specific issues, like how to minimize the size of your pores or an explainer on exfoliation.

Neutrogena's relaunched app that tracks your skincare progress

Participation is flexible! You only really need to interact once per week. Can input your own products.

Can be slow. Some features are finicky.

Skin360 itself isn’t new. A version of the app has been around for a couple of years, but previously you had to buy a separate scanner. It only cost $50, but that’s enough to make someone on a budget pause. After all, you’d still have to pay for your entire skincare regimen and a piece of hardware that takes up additional counter space. With the app relaunch, Neutrogena smartly decided to nix the additional hardware entirely, meaning the only thing you need to use the app is your smartphone.

Sometimes things sound good on paper but don’t live up your expectations. When I wrote up the…

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The other smart thing Neutrogena did was allow users to input their own products within the app for recommended skincare routines. Previously, you were limited to Neutrogena products only. That makes sense because, well, capitalism. It’s also just not realistic—something Neutrogena admitted to me in person. For example, the app might suggest you cleanse, moisturize, and put on sunscreen in the morning. The default product recommendations will be, as you might expect, Neutrogena products. However, let’s say you already have a cleanser you like. In that case, you can manually add your own.

One thing I appreciated about using the Skin360 app was it wasn’t something I had to interact with every day. I could if I wanted, but it wasn’t necessary. If you’re really lazy about tracking your daily habits, you can simply log into the Skin360 app once a week. You get prompted by NAIA every 7 days to take a new scan and voilá. You can see if you’ve made any progress based that week. If you enable notifications, you might even get a prompt to rate your sleep, stress, and exercise levels for that week. Alternatively, you could be that person who scans their face and logs morning and evening routine every daily.

Me in Vegas, a dry crusty bitch, versus me at home four days later, moisturized as hell.
Photo: Victoria Song (Gizmodo)

While the app is well-designed, it isn’t quite as polished as I’d like. I found it to be somewhat laggy when interacting with NAIA. The bot would ask me to rate my week, and unless I moved the rating slider around beforehand, I couldn’t submit my answer. Sometimes replies from NAIA were also slow. Other features, like side-by-side selfie comparisons, were finicky. By default, the app would show me the same two pictures despite saying they were from two different dates. It took me a second to realize I had to go into the menu and manually pick dates to get the photos to refresh.

The most annoying quirk was adding my own products to routines. While there was an impressive number of brands to choose from, it doesn’t have every single one out there. For instance, I use a few Nature Republic products but that brand happens to not be included. This would’ve been fine if I could’ve just typed it in manually, but that wasn’t an option. I had to opt for the neutral “brand” from a dropdown menu, and skipping that field wasn’t possible. While entering products, you also have to note what skincare concern that product might be addressing. That’s fine for some products but doesn’t necessarily apply to say, a makeup remover.

None of these annoyances were what I’d call dealbreakers, but it’s definitely something Neutrogena ought to fix via app updates.

As for who this app is for, the obvious answer is skincare dweebs. For Skin360 to be valuable, you need to have the kind of personality that likes experimenting, recording results and reviewing data. If you hate that, this isn’t the thing for you. You also have to enjoy skincare or at least have the desire to improve the quality of your skin. If you’re the sort of person who just splashes cold water on your face in the morning, this also won’t be your cup of tea. But, if you’re lurking in the r/SkincareAddicts subreddit or have more moisturizer samples than you know what to do with, Skin360 offers a more convenient way of logging your trial-and-error. Though, I will say its scoring system may catapult your neuroticism to new heights. Am I vain for taking multiple selfies to see if my dark spots score improves? Absolutely, but that’s a quality I know about myself.

That said, if you suffer from body dysmorphia, then this app—and others like it—should be avoided. Sure, assessing your skin quality is an important factor in improving it. If you want to be generous, it’s a metric skincare companies offer to help people. Cynically, it’s something that ramps up insecurity so you buy whatever it is they’re hocking. In fairness, the Skin360 app will never describe your skin as bad. It breaks down overall scores from 1-4.9 as ‘Okay’, 5-7.9 as ‘Good’ and 8-10 as ‘Great.’ That’s nice, but it bears reminding that no company is truly altruistic and self-quantification isn’t something you have to volunteer yourself for.

If you like self-quantifying, you can choose to log whether you did your morning and evening routines each day.
Photo: Victoria Song (Gizmodo)

The main selling point for me is that it doesn’t cost anything to try. There’s no downside. If you hate it, you can just delete it. If you like it, ay! You spent zero for a useful resource and tool. For the past week, I’ve been “working” on improving my skin’s smoothness. A week isn’t enough time to have definitive results. However, after spending all of CES neglecting any sort of healthy routine, using this app did get me regularly slathering on sunscreen again.

Personally, what I’ve been looking for is a more convenient way to figure out if a specific moisturizer or serum is working the way I want it to. The fact I can use Skin360 to track whether a product is effective, beyond whatever my eyeballs perceive, appeals to me. I’m not sure whether I’ll continue logging every day—there’s only so much self-quantifying I can do before I burn out. (See: the Oral-B Genius X smart toothbrush. After I reviewed the thing, I quickly tired of having my phone out while brushing every day. I deleted the app a few weeks later.) That said, I’m more likely to stick with this experiment for a while, simply because my participation is flexible. It won’t completely eliminate trial-and-error in my quest for better skin, but it will make the whole process easier to visualize. And I’m all for that.


  • Neutrogena’s relaunched Skin360 app now requires no hardware and is free for download.
  • Also features a chatbot called NAIA who checks in with you each week.
  • Works on iOS and Android
  • You take a selfie, get a score, and then a recommended skincare routine based on your goals.
  • While it’s mostly a good app, it can be a bit slow or finicky.
  • If you’re lazy, you only have to use the app about once a week.
17 Jan 12:46

Watchmen Season Two Is Never Going to Happen Now

Goodbye, Lube Man. Goodbye, eggs. Goodbye, glass masks. Most importantly, goodbye Yahya Abdul-Mateen in his most thirst-inducing, godlike performance yet. Watchmen, despite earning serious critical acclaim and ending its season one finale on a major cliff-hanger, isn’t coming back to HBO for a second season after all.

HBO programming chief Casey Bloys revealed as much to USA Today on Wednesday, telling the outlet that creator Damon Lindelof really, truly doesn’t want to make a second season. And without Lindelof at the helm, Bloys continued, the network isn’t interested in pursuing a second season either.

“It’s really in Damon’s thinking about what he wants to do,” Bloys said. “If there’s an idea that excited him about another season, another installment, maybe like a Fargo, True Detective [anthology] take on it, or if he wants to do something different altogether. We’re very proud of Watchmen, but what I’m most interested in what Damon wants to do.”

However, Lindelof confirmed to USA Today that, again, he has no interest in a second season, but has “given my blessing” to HBO if they wanted to take a crack at it anyway. However, Bloys said that without Lindelof, that’s a no-go. “It would be hard to imagine doing it without Damon involved in some way.” Lindelof, for his part, left at least a little bit of room open when speaking to Vanity Fair in December: “When I show back up in January, hopefully the antenna will be back up again. If it receives something that feels like it could be another season of Watchmen, I would definitely be inclined to pursue it. There is no guarantee of if and when that’ll happen.” But for now, it seems like a permanent exit.

So, that’s that. Hope you liked it while you had it. Remember way back when, when the main concern was how the show would move forward if star Regina King, who only signed on for one season, decided to go elsewhere? Simpler times. Besides, those fears were ultimately dashed back in December, when King said she would “absolutely” do a second season.

“Yes, I would absolutely,” she said when asked by Vulture about starring in more Watchmen. But then she continued, foreshadowing this very predicament that Watchmen fans find themselves in: “I know that Damon doesn’t even kinda have an idea of an entry point and an ending for a second season. And I know he wouldn’t come onboard for a second season unless he did. I don’t want there to be a second season if it’s not going to at least be comparable to this first season, which is going to be really hard to do.”

Perhaps the only person soothed by this news is Watchmen author Alan Moore, who has been famously ornery about adaptations of his watershed graphic novel. As such, he’s not involved with the HBO series at all. “My book is a comic book,” he said in a 2005 interview. “Not a movie, not a novel. A comic book. It’s been made in a certain way, and designed to be read a certain way: in an armchair, nice and cozy next to a fire, with a steaming cup of coffee.” Well, that certainly sounds like a nice way to mourn the death of the series.

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Photograph by Ethan James Green.


Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

16 Jan 22:54

The PinePhone starts shipping—a Linux-powered smartphone for $150

by Ron Amadeo
  • The front and back of the PinePhone. [credit: Pine64 ]

Pine64 has announced that it is finally shipping the PinePhone, a smartphone that takes the rare step outside the Android/iOS duopoly and is designed to run mainline Linux distributions. The PinePhone starts shipping January 17 in the "Braveheart" developer edition.

This initial "Braveheart" batch of devices is meant for "developer and early adopter" users, according to the Pine64 Store. The phone doesn't come with an end-user OS pre-installed and instead only comes with a factory test image that allows for easy verification that the hardware works. Users are expected to flash their own OS to the device. There are several available, from Ubuntu Touch to Sailfish OS, but they are all currently in an unfinished alpha state. Pine64 says that only enthusiasts with "extensive Linux experience" are the intended customers here—this isn't (yet?) a mainstream product.

It's hard to mention PinePhone without mentioning that other Linux smartphone, the Purism Librem 5. They could both end up running the same software one day, but the two companies are taking totally different approaches to hardware. Purism has a hardline requirement for the hardware: it needs to be as open and freedom-focused as possible, which means the company couldn't use the typical supply chain that exists for Android phones. Purism has only a limited amount of open source-compatible vendors to choose from, and it uses M.2 socketed chips for the closed-source Wi-Fi/Bluetooth and Cell modem. The result is a device that is very thick (16mm), hot, and expensive, at $750. The PinePhone is less averse to binary blobs and is a lot closer to a normal smartphone. It's a more reasonable thickness (9mm) and a more reasonable price: $150.

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