A new airplane was unveiled in Switzerland Wednesday that its builder hopes will fly all the way around the earth using only solar power in 2015.
The Solar Impulse 2 has a 236-foot wingspan—longer than a Boeing 747—covered in 17,248 solar cells that power four electric motors, which in turn drive the plane’s propellers.
Weighing in at 5,000 pounds, the Solar Impulse will ferry just one pilot at a time and not much else at a top speed of 87 mph. To cross the vast Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the plane will have to stay airborne for at least five days at a time, gaining altitude during the day when the sun is out and slowly descending about 5,000 feet in the evening when it’s dark.
The plane will be piloted in shifts by the two founders of the Solar Impulse project, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg. Though the plane, they say, could theoretically fly indefinitely, the pilots cannot.
“So we have a sustainable airplane in terms of energy,” Borschberg told the Associated Press. “We need to develop a sustainable pilot now.”
The flight will take place in 20 airborne days over the course of three months in 2015. It will be grounded on the remaining days to allow the two pilots to switch off. The plane will be tested in May and June this year.
Prince George, King of Infants, is being celebrated worldwide for successfully completing his first playdate. Official photos of the event were released by the palace this week — as were the other children once they promised to say only nice things about him. Sadly, no toddlers were invited to this event, as their ability to walk and talk would have probably upstaged Newborn Baby Prince George.
One of the mothers in attendance gave a statement to U.K. newspaper, The Mirror: “Different children develop differently, but George is very advanced for his age. He was crawling and wanting to walk in an advanced way — more so than my son, who is younger than him.”
Wow. Way to throw your own kid under the bus for palace brownie points. You forgot to mention that Prince George was far more attractive than the rat-faced gremlin you are ashamed to call your flesh and blood.
The Express reported that Prince George “made a little girl called Paige Stevens cry after taking a wooden doll from her.” Suck it up, Paige. He has an army at his disposal and could have taken the house you live in if he wanted, so count your blessings.”
A witness told The Daily Mail that Prince George was quite “the bruiser,” which the palace quickly brushed off by saying that he “is currently teething.” Nice try, George, but we’re all teething.
Honest Toddler’s first book The Honest Toddler: A Child Guide to Parenting (Simon & Schuster) comes out April 22, 2014.
Signals from a site deep in the Indian Ocean picked up by an Australian naval vessel Tuesday have led investigators to believe they’re closing in on the site of the lost Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.
“I’m now optimistic that we will find the aircraft, or what is left of the aircraft, in the ‘not-too-distant future,’” said Angus Houston, the Australian official overseeing the search. “But we haven’t found it yet, because this is a very challenging business.”
The search area has now been reduced to an area of 22,364 square miles, roughly the size of West Virginia, located more than 1,000 miles northwest of Perth, Australia.
The search for the Boeing 777, which vanished with 239 souls aboard on March 8, has neared a critical stage as time runs out to locate the plane before the battery life expires in its “black boxes,” which send off the signals authorities believe they’ve picked up. Batteries on the black boxes are designed to last roughly 30 days, an expiration date that passed Tuesday. Once authorities have determined to stop using the ping locator that scans for black box signals a drone submarine will be deployed to painstakingly create a sonar map of the search area seabed, something that may be “not far away,” Houston said.
Locating the boxes once the batteries have run out would be extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, according to the Associated Press.
“Hopefully in a matter of days, we will be able to find something on the bottom that might confirm that this is the last resting place of MH370,” Houston said.
The former IRS official at the center of a scandal over the targeting of conservative groups was directly involved in questioning the tax-exempt status of the groups, according to documents released Wednesday. MoreScience Proves It: The Senate Really Is Junior HighBitcoin ATM Comes to Capitol HillMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostAuthor Holly Peterson's Love Advice: Look for a Best Friend People
The release of emails sent by Lois Lerner was the latest attempt by congressional Republicans to keep focus on the scandal, which briefly buffeted President Barack Obama in the early days of his second term when it was revealed the IRS had closely scrutinized conservative political groups applying for tax-exempt status. The scandal ultimately fizzled without evidence of a connection to the White House and with revelations that liberal groups were also targeted, but Republicans have sought to keep it alive and compel Lerner to testify after she invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to do so.
The tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday sent a formal letter to the Department of Justice detailing what it called Lerner’s wrongdoings and urging prosecutors to pursue criminal charges. Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said in a statement that the Department of Justice has “a responsibility to act, and Lois Lerner must be held accountable.”
“It is also important that the American people know what really occurred at the IRS, so this powerful agency cannot target American taxpayers ever again,” Camp added.
In 2013, Lerner admitted several conservative groups seeking 501(c) (4) status—which is reserved for social welfare groups that engage in political activity—got special scrutiny, but she denied she was directly involved with the decision making. She instead faulted employees in a IRS office in Cincinnati. But emails released Wednesday show Lerner acted to ensure denials for groups with conservative leanings, particularly Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, a conservative group co-founded by political strategist Karl Rove.
In the emails, Lerner inquired why Crossroads had not been audited by the IRS and later detailed her plans to deny the organization tax-exempt status.“The organization at issue is Crossroads GPS, which is on the top of the list of c4 spenders in the last two elections. It is in the news regularly as an organization that is not really a c4,” one email dated Jan. 4, 2013 reads. “You should know that we are working on a denial of the application, which may solve the problem because we will probably say it isn’t exempt.”
Republicans say this proves that despite a finding by the IRS Administrative Review Board that Lerner didn’t act inappropriately, she is guilty of wrongdoing. The letter, which all Republicans on the committee voted to send, also says Lerner may have exposed taxpayer information by using her personal email to conduct business and providing “misleading statements” to questions from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
The committee’s Democrats, 14 of whom voted against sending the letter, dismissed the latest Republican rhetoric as a political ploy. Ranking Democrat Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) said Republicans want to “declare this a scandal and keep it going until November.” The Department of Justice is already investigating the matter.
“I wish I could come up with some other rationale for what you are doing, but I cannot,” Levin said.
Updated at 10:15 p.m. ET
One girl was killed and at least 14 people, most of them children, were injured after a car slammed into an Orlando, Fla., daycare center Wednesday.
A law enforcement spokesperson said some of the injured were in “very, very serious condition,” the Associated Press reports. The Associated Press reported that 13 were hospitalized and two others were treated at the scene.
According to the highway patrol, a Dodge Durango slammed into another vehicle, which then ran over a curb and rammed into the KinderCare building. The Durango then fled the scene but was located nearly two hours later. Authorities are searching for Robert Corchado, 26, who the highway patrol says was the driver of the Durango, according to the AP.
The KinderCare facility serves children from six weeks to 12 years old.
Archimedes had geopolitics about right when he declared “Give me a place to stand, and I will move the Earth.” The U.S. military has little place to stand when it comes to Russia’s threats against neighboring Ukraine, giving it little leverage when it comes to changing what’s happening on the ground there. That fact has led to outrage among congressional Republicans, who want President Obama to do more to thwart Russian President Vladimir Putin’s expansionist goals. MoreObama Pledges Help For Troubled Soldiers At Fort Hood MemorialShooting at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina Leaves 1 Marine DeadMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostAuthor Holly Peterson's Love Advice: Look for a Best Friend People
It also has triggered shrugging shoulders among U.S. military officials who concede there is little they could do militarily to stop Putin—even if Washington wanted to try. Pentagon officials say the Russian forces now staged just outside Ukraine could invade and seize the eastern half of the country in as little as three days. Popular Among Subscribers The Taliban’s New Campaign of Fear Subscribe The Mindful RevolutionThe Virtual Genius of Oculus Rift
Instead of threatening a military response, Obama and his troops have unleashed volleys of rhetoric threatening tougher sanctions as a way of trying to deter Putin, as well as sending “signals” designed to make him think twice.
In recent days, the U.S. military has:
- Sent Ukraine 300,000 Meals-Ready-to-Eat.
- Suspended all military-to-military relations with Moscow.
- Dispatched the destroyer USS Donald Cook to the Black Sea “to reassure NATO allies and Black Sea partners of America’s commitment to strengthen and improve interoperability while working towards mutual goals in the region,” Army Colonel Steven Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said Wednesday.
- Extended the stay of the destroyer USS Truxtun in the Black Sea to reassure one-time Warsaw Pact-turned-NATO members Bulgaria and Romania, whose navies trained with the warship.
- Boosted its number of F-15 fighters patrolling over the once-Soviet Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from four to 10 to reassure those three NATO allies.
- Dispatched 12 F-16s to Poland to reassure that one-time Warsaw Pact-turned-NATO member.
The U.S. has drawn a red line: it will defend its NATO allies, as required by treaty, but Ukraine is on its own.
“The United States and our allies will not hesitate to use 21st century tools to hold Russia accountable for 19th century behavior,” Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday. “We’re using 21st century tools, which are the tools of diplomacy, to bring people together in other countries to put sanctions in place.”
Such threats didn’t sway Senator John McCain. “What you’re doing is talking strongly and carrying a very small stick—in fact, a twig,” the Arizona Republican told him. “Here we are with Ukraine being destabilized, part of it dismembered, and we won’t give them defensive weapons.”
“Sending MREs is basically,” Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said at a second hearing, “expanding our school lunch program.”
“Their forces have been in the field for a very long time, and need those supplies,” countered Derek Chollet, the assistant defense secretary for international security affairs. He added that the Pentagon is trying to help Ukraine “without taking actions that would escalate this crisis militarily.”
That’s a bracing change for the U.S., which for the past generation has seen itself as the world’s lone super power, able to flex its military muscles when and where it wanted. It concedes the inevitable: if Putin, despite world opprobrium, orders the up to 80,000 troops he has positioned on the border to roll into Ukraine, neither the U.S. nor its European allies appear willing to do anything to stop him.
It’s what the military calls the “tyranny of time and distance” that makes any U.S. military intervention in Ukraine challenging. Not only are the U.S. assets needed thousands of miles away, Russian troops and weapons are close at hand. The U.S. has done little militarily with Ukraine; this year the Pentagon is providing about $4 million in military aid—$11,000 a day. A significant slice of the Ukrainian population is pro-Russian. And the U.S. public opposes U.S. military action in Ukraine (an interesting poll reveals that the less Americans know about Ukraine, the more they support U.S. military action there).
“I don’t think anybody on this committee wants to go to war with Russia over the Ukraine,” Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said. “But we do want to find a way to stop them from further aggression.” That quiver of options is largely limited to stepped-up economic sanctions and international ostracism. (“Mr. Putin very much enjoys the international spotlight,” Chollet said. “Russia is finding itself more and more alone in the world, and that will have an effect as well”).
Yet even as the U.S. refrains from military action in Ukraine and objects to Putin’s takeover of Crimea last month, it agreed to cut its nuclear arsenal as part of a 2011 arms pact with Russia. “Both sides have agreed this is important,” a senior defense official told the Wall Street Journal.
Nearly 20 years ago, the U.S., Britain and Russia signed a deal in Budapest that guaranteed “the existing borders of Ukraine” in exchange for Kiev giving up the nuclear weapons it had inherited from the Soviet Union. A senior U.S. official told reporters in December 1994 that this so-called Budapest Memorandum was also important, confirming the security assurances reached earlier that year among the three nations. “You might remember the crisis in April with regard to the Black Sea fleet and Crimean questions,” the U.S. official said. “They were an important sign at that time, that both Russia and the United States were committed to the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
But unlike Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, which obligates all 27 other members of the alliance to come to the aid of one that is attacked, the Budapest Memorandum is merely a memo. “I say this to our Western partners: if you do not provide guarantees, which were signed in the Budapest Memorandum,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk has said, “then explain how you will persuade Iran or North Korea to give up their status as nuclear states.”
If you’re like most people, it’s been a while since you thought of the U.S. Senate as “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” a term popularized by, well, the U.S. Senate. Instead, you think of it more as a junior high cafeteria, where cliques form, snits play out and someone is always trying to give someone else a legislative wedgie. You don’t get a 9% approval rating by behaving like grownups. MoreBanning GMO Labeling Is a Bad Idea—For GMOsGeorge W. Bush’s Paintings of World Leaders Appear to Be Based On Good Ol’ Google SearchesMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostAuthor Holly Peterson's Love Advice: Look for a Best Friend People
Now there’s proof that the cafeteria image is more than just metaphor. According to a new study by the University of Toronto School of Management’s Julian Chown and Christopher Liu, one of the least appreciated variables in determining whether any two senators will work and play well together is how close they sit to each other on the Senate floor—a jock table versus nerd table dynamic if ever there was one. Popular Among Subscribers The Taliban’s New Campaign of Fear Subscribe The Mindful RevolutionThe Virtual Genius of Oculus Rift
The investigators relied on a very big data set to do their work, surveying the seating chart and the ever-changing Senate make-up over the course of 10 Congresses—the 96th to the 106th, from 1979 to 2001. Some of the people who filled the seats then were institutions themselves: Edward Kennedy, Robert Byrd, Bob Dole. Some were one-term wonders: Carole Mosley Braun, Paula Hawkins, Mack Mattingly. There were, of course, only 100 senators at a time in any sample group, but over the course of those two decades, the number of s0-called dyads—the total number of possible one-on-one pairings between any particular pair of senators—was huge, a whopping 53,955.
As a measure of the senators’ collegiality, Chown and Liu looked to the number of bills they co-sponsored—essentially putting their names on another senator’s piece of legislation, either because they really did support it and planned to work for it, or because it’s just a free and easy way to take a ride on someone else’s work, often for legislation that will appeal to the voters at home. Either way, senators who can’t abide each other rarely get close enough to co-sponsor anything.
The researchers calculated that in a Senate chamber that measures 52 ft. by 85 ft. (16 m by 26 m), any one senator sits an average of 30 ft. (10 m) from any random other, though they may be as close as shoulder to shoulder if they share adjacent desks or as far as the full 85 ft. apart if they sit on what the researchers call the “distal wings” of the chamber. Since seniority determines who chooses desk location first when positions are shuffled every two years, it’s the newbies who typically find themselves sitting off at the sides and the ones with more longevity who gravitate toward their BFFs.
On the whole, any two senators who sat farther apart than the 30-ft. mean co-sponsored 7% fewer bills than the average senator, while those who sat closer than 30 ft. co-sponsored 7% more. Such a single-digit difference doesn’t seem like much, but during a 20-year sample period in which the share of bills the Senate actually passed ranged from a low of 4% to a high of just 17%, every edge a piece of legislation could garner meant a lot. That’s truer now than ever as Congress after Congress continue to set serial records for least productive ever.
A place of privilege, power and titanic egos like the Senate is hardly typical of all workplaces, but the get-close-to-do-good-work rule applies everywhere. One of the reasons telecommuting has been less successful than advertised is that even if technology makes it easy to get work done anywhere in the world, it can’t replace serendipity—the random scrap of exchanged conversation or the unplanned meeting of two people in a hallway that leads to great things, and sometimes great friendships. Marissa Mayer took a lot of heat when she assumed the reins at Yahoo and promptly canceled its generous telecommuting policy—and her decision may yet yield nothing but employee ill-will—but it was based on solid research in human behavior.
None of this may save Congress from itself. Children who can’t get along sometimes simply need to be separated for the sanity of the grownups around them. But if, as President Barack Obama perhaps naïvely hoped before the 2012 election, the partisan fever ever does break in Washington, the simple act of rubbing elbows—sometimes literally—on the Senate floor may turn out to be one of the simplest and best good-government tools there is.
Wylie Dufresne was taking a rare day off when, around 7 p.m. on April 8, he got the call every chef dreads. There had been an electrical outage on New York’s Lower East Side and because his restaurant WD-50 was closed that night, there was no one around to take care of all the raw fish and vegetables in the walk-ins that would soon begin to go bad. Racing to his restaurant, considered one of the finest examples of molecular gastronomy in the United States, he fretted: Would he be able to save the produce that packed his walk-refrigerators? Would he be able to afford to get the damn system fixed? MoreMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostAuthor Holly Peterson's Love Advice: Look for a Best Friend PeopleTour Confidential: Will We See a First-Time Masters Winner This Year? Sports Illustrated'Survivor' result: Talk about it! Entertainment Weekly
His anxiety was soon displaced by shock, when he walked into the pitch-black restaurant and found not ruined ingredients and burnt-out appliances but a video playing in the dining room—one that had his face superimposed onto a creepy David Lynch character who appeared to be talking to him. It was greater still when the lights came up and there, shouting “Surprise!” with all their hearts, was a dining room filled with 65 invited guests, and 29 of the world’s most acclaimed chefs. Popular Among Subscribers The Taliban’s New Campaign of Fear Subscribe The Mindful RevolutionThe Virtual Genius of Oculus Rift
“That is going to the best surprise party ever,” said René Redzepi, one of the participating chefs, as the minutes before Dufresne’s arrival ticked down. He turned out to be right: despite complicated logistics worthy of a minor military invasion and dozens sworn to secrecy, the guest of honor had absolutely no idea it was coming. But another, more profound surprise lay in store. For the 17 chefs who flew in on their own dime—Redzepi of Denmark’s Noma, Rodolfo Guzmán of Chile’s Boragó, Ana Ros of Slovenia’s Hisa Franko, Ben Shewry of Melbourne’s Attica, Blaine Wetzel of Washington State’s Willows Inn—as well as the local chefs like David Chang, Gabrielle Hamilton, and Daniel Boulud, the dinner was turned out to be that rarest of opportunities. One more in ever-evolving series of feasts known as Gelinaz, it turned out to be a precious chance to reconnect with the reasons that drew them to cooking in the first place.
As chefs have become more than just cooks—they are seen now as celebrities, as corporate businesspeople, as artists, even as public intellectuals—the demands upon them have increased. Most of them manage more than one restaurant, or at least regularly entertain offers from international investors eager to have them open one (or more) in Los Angeles or Beijing. They run labs and test kitchens designed to supply them with a never-ending source of new ideas. They churn out cookbooks tracing their trajectories, and publish Op-Eds denouncing misbegotten areas of food policy. To promote their restaurants, they maintain a steady presence on Twitter and Instagram, and star in serious-minded documentaries about their work. And they regularly travel the world, giving talks and participating in gatherings designed for them to share ideas with their peers. It’s a long way from the days when chefs simply had to please diners with delicious food and a well-run dining room.
Gelinaz dinners before (the name is partly inspired by the chef who, along with food writer and bon vivant Andrea Petrini, co-founded it, Fulvio Pierangelini), were never intended to be part of the chef rat race. In fact, they were designed for just the opposite: by bringing together a number of chefs to riff on a single, signature recipe, they would, it was hoped, spark creativity and friendships. At a gathering in June 2013 in Ghent, Belgium 23 chefs interpreted a 19th-century recipe for a chicken-and-aspic timbale; that fall they went to Lima to riff on an octopus dish by Gastón Acurio. A ticket to each cost around $700—a price that was intended to offset the cost of flying all these chefs in from around the world and paying for their ingredients. Dufresne with Gelinaz co-founder Andrea Patrini. Derrick Belcham/Matthieu Buchsenschutz
Although most diners at those two Gelinazes were happy with the experience, the chefs were not. They found it limiting to focus on just one recipe didn’t like the pressure to perform that such an expensive price tag brings, and they were uncomfortable with the fact that, because the remaining costs were picked up by local sponsors, they had to spend chunks of their time together showing up at tourism or corporate events and talking to the press. The essential experience had been lost, and when a third meal was planned for New York, they staged a minor rebellion, and Petrini was forced to cancel the public Gelinaz he had planned for April.
But that’s when the chefs stepped in to change it. Instead of a single recipe, they would riff on three of them. They would avoid the obligations of perfection that paying guests imposed by making it by invitation only—two guests per chef. “It’s not right for guests to pay because we’re doing this in order to play,” said Pierangelini. “If we want to play, we should pay for our own toys.” They would cut back on the need for sponsors, and thus retain more control of their time, by paying for their plane tickets and the two Brooklyn apartments where they would all share rooms themselves (early plans to bar sponsors altogether failed when the chefs learned the cost of renting WD-50 for the night). And although they all admire Petrini, they would do all this not just because he asked, but for a purpose. They would do it to honor Wylie, a chef they adore for his talent and humility.
After Dufresne recovered from the shock (always prepared, chef Ana Ros, commented, “The two people I invited are doctors—just in case he has a heart attack.”), the dinner began with Dufresne’s own cooks preparing the standard versions of three signature WD-50 dishes: Cold Fried Chicken, Shrimp Noodles, and Scrambled Egg Ravioli. Those dishes may sound standard on paper, but they are anything but. Known for his highly imaginative, modernist approach to cooking, Dufresne serves the chicken, for example, with a cube of buttermilk ricotta and a sprinkling of caviar. Wylvie Dufresne as The Colonel. Derrick Belcham/Matthieu Buchsenschutz
“That’s the challenge,” said Patterson referring to the task of reinventing Dufresne’s creative recipes, “how do you outmodern Wylie?” The first group of chefs to serve, including Chang, Noma’s Rosio Sánchez, and Empellón’s Alex Stupak, didn’t try: they put down crowd-pleasing buckets—with Dufresne’s face where the Colonel’s would go—of fried chicken and biscuits, accompanied by big tins of caviar. But succeeding courses were creative indeed: Redzepi and Ben Shewry eschewed the chunk of protein that the chicken dish requires for a fermented chicken broth, that the served with hand-ground grits, their corn flavor heightened with fermented corn juice. In Patterson’s group, which included Alex Atala, Claude Bosi, Gabrielle Hamilton, and Kondo Takahiko, each contributed a single ravioli—same casing, different filling—to a dish meant to represent the ways that immigrants influence host cultures. And in one of the star dishes of the evening , Sweden’s Magnus Nilsson, and France’s Agata Felluga, served a small heap of noodles swirled with baby scallion and topped with an intense shrimp paste atop a frankly gorgeous ice plate.
But all the excitement in the dining room didn’t match the energy in the kitchen. The out-of-town chefs had arrived on Sunday night. Holed up in two Brooklyn apartments, they ate their dinners in private to avoid be recognized in public, and did their early prep work at restaurants—their staff sworn to secrecy—scattered throughout the city. By the time the chefs convened at Wd-50’s kitchen early Monday afternoon, the buzz was palpable. Negotiating for limited counter space, and working from complex charts that determined which team could have which stovetop during what exact period of time., they began their real collaboration.
Redzepi and Shewry’s had spent the entire day before trying to perfect their dish and still weren’t happy with it. “We want it to be good not just for the diners but because we’re doing it for Wylie,” Redzepi said as he tossed out the umpteenth iteration of the dish. Patterson stepped into help things along by squeezing a shot of Srichacha into the broth. Wetzel and Martínez couldn’t figure out the proper plating for their dish until someone suggested the serve the clams on a separate piece of slate. Those who weren’t busy stepped into the plate the dishes of those who were, and the kitchen became so crowded with chefs that the waiters, bearing precarious trays of used glassware, had to fight their way through to the dishwasher. Observing it all, Shewry could only marvel. “Imagine if someone did all this for you,” he said. “It would be the highlight of your career.” Redzepi and Shewry’s fermented chicken broth. Derrick Belcham/Matthieu Buchsenschutz
As the pace began to pick up, Dave Chang stepped into expedite, then later turned over the reins to Daniel Boulud, who ran the pass with an efficiency—a steady stream of instructions punctuated with a French-accented go go go—that awed the others. They marveled again as the four-starred Boulud, working with his existential opposite, Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese, plated their dish, the evening’s final: an exquisite mashup of French and Chinese that paired a creamy shrimp sabayon that looked like a breakfast bun with a demitasse of soup based on XO sauce into which the diner was expected to blow two straws whose content contained shrimp “noodle.” “It’s like a very nice uptown French restaurant came downtown and got beat up by a Chinese restaurant,” Boulud said as he presented the dish.
When it was all over sometime toward midnight, Wylie sat on the pass in the kitchen, and though overwhelmed with emotion, managed to get out a few words of thanks to his friends and colleagues. Applauding raucously, Redzepi turned to Shewry. “It’s so easy to forget, but this is why we do it,” he said. “How lucky are we that we get to make a person happy?”
Joe Ransom (Nicolas Cage) runs an illegal tree-poisoning operation for a company that plans to fill the land with healthier, more profitable saplings. Most of his employees are bottom-of-the-working-class, but one is Gary Jones (Tye Sheridan), the 15-year-old son of the abusive, alcoholic Wade (Gary Poulter). Joe, an ex-con who medicates his hard life and bad dreams with booze, cigarettes and whores, is an essentially moral person: a pillar of his community, respected by the shopkeepers and indulged by the local sheriff. When he becomes the father figure Gary never had, Wade takes savage objection. More8 Young Adult Books That Should Be Movies (And Who Should Star in Them)REVIEW: Only Lovers Left Alive: A Vampire Duo to Die ForMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostAuthor Holly Peterson's Love Advice: Look for a Best Friend People
Oh, the twisted roads that Cage and director David Gordon Green took to get to Joe. Green, a graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts, made the tender, acute pre-teen drama George Washington when he was 24 and carved an artful indie niche with All the Right Girls, Undertow and Snow Angels. He then joined his former UNCSA classmate Danny McBride for a spell of gross-out Hollywood comedy, directing McBride in Pineapple Express, Your Highness and the HBO series Eastbound and Down. Now he’s returned to grim, sensitive indieland with this adaptation, written by Gary Hawkins, of Larry Brown’s 1991 novel by the same name.
(READ: Richard Corliss’s review of David Gordon Green’s George Washington)
Cage’s trip from indie to mainstream and back again is better known — we might say notorious. After three early movies (Rumble Fish, The Cotton Club, Peggy Sue Got Married) for his uncle Francis Ford Coppola, he brought his mopey, explosive verve to such sweet eccentricities as the Coen brothers’ Raising Arizona and David Lynch’s Wild at Heart. His work as a suicidal alcoholic in Leaving Las Vegas earned him an Oscar in 1996, and the same year he found a parallel career as a action star in Jerry Bruckheimer’s The Rock.
Since then Cage has alternated Bruckheimer blockbusters (Con Air, Gone in Sixty Seconds, the National Treasure tandem, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) with more urgent work in small films like Kick-Ass and Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant remake. At 50, he’s still got the weirdest and most watchable acting style of any star whose movies have grossed nearly $5 billion worldwide. “I don’t believe in the term ‘over the top,’” Cage told Lee Cowan in a CBS News Sunday Morning profile this week. “I believe in the term ‘outside of the box.’ Let’s take chances, let’s keep trying new things, and that’s how you reinvent yourself. And that’s how you stay fresh.”
He also needs a sympathetic milieu, director and character, and found all of them here. His Joe motors and flails through a part of America that never emerged from the recent recession — or maybe from the Great Depression. Everyone is exhausted from brutal work or from trying to find it. In the first bloom of morning, they trudge as if they’ve been up all night with a sick relative. And for some, weariness has festered into malice. Gary’s dad Wade, who calls himself G-Dawg, is a wily, vengeful coot with a gift for bringing tragedy to a sad town.
Shooting near Austin, Texas, Green cast non-actors in most of the supporting roles. Poulter, who lends Wade a surly charisma, was a homeless man who died not long after his one movie. By that standard, the young Sheridan is an old pro: three movies by his 17th birthday. He had similar roles as Brad Pitt’s middle son in The Tree of Life and Matthew McConaughey’s adoring avatar in Mud. A gifted, unaffected performer, he’s always playing decent kids who try to connect with men undeserving of being his dad.
(READ: Mary Corliss’s review of Mud)
But the movie belongs to Cage, in a performance that recalls why he is fitfully acknowledged as one of cinema’s most powerful and subtle actors. His eyes reflect the haunt of past crimes in Joe; his torso — large, muscular, tattooed and somehow spent — shows the wear of life on a complicated soul. Like Green, Cage has gone outside the box and back to basics, for a well-drawn character study that, like Joe’s bad dreams, is memorable and haunting.
For a few hours it was possible in the halls of the U.S. Congress to buy the crypto currency that at least one Senator said should be banned. MoreBought an App Recently? Apple May Owe You a RefundFacebook Is Tweaking Its Privacy Settings. AgainMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostAuthor Holly Peterson's Love Advice: Look for a Best Friend People
In a hallway in the Rayburn House of Representatives office building Tuesday night, a gaggle of media encircled Colorado Democrat Rep. Jared Polis as he inserted his hand into a palm-reading device, and then placed a $10 bill into a refrigerator-sized purple kiosk. Out of the machine came a piece of paper with the unique code for 0.02 bitcoin. It was the first bitcoin ever purchased on Capitol Hill, at least from a machine that printed receipts.
The kiosk was an ATM owned by the startup Robocoin, a Las Vegas-based firm that sells machines for exchanging dollars for bitcoins, the stateless, cryptography-based digital currency that has enthralled libertarians, bewildered financial regulators, drawn the ire of establishment politicians. Typically it takes days and a certain amount of tech savvy to exchange dollars for bitcoins. With Robocoin, the process is complete in about 10 minutes. “I think that may be the fastest way in the world to get bitcoin,” said Robocoin CEO Jordan Kelley.
Rep. Polis helped organize the demonstration to dispel what he feels are misconceptions among some in government about the nature and promise of bitcoin.
“Healthy skepticism and some intrigue as well,” said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) when asked what he thought of bitcoin after seeing the ATM at work. House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) also made a stop by the event.
But Johnson’s “healthy skepticism” is a far cry from the outright contempt some in Congress have visited upon bitcoin, which critics worry could be used to facilitate black market trading (as it did in the now-defunct website Silk Road), money laundering and other illegal activity. In February, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) wrote a letter to regulators calling on the U.S. government to ban bitcoin “and prohibit this dangerous currency from harming hard-working Americans.”
Those comments—which Manchin has since walked back—are what inspired Rep. Polis to help organize Tuesday’s Robocoin demo.
“When I saw that serious politicians were talking about banning something, a concept that has great benefits for humanity,” said Polis, a tech entrepreneur before starting his career in Congress, “I decided to step in and show that there are those of us here that have a countervailing viewpoint: that alternative currencies enhance freedom, enhance economic opportunity, particularly for the world’s most disadvantaged, and can reduce transaction costs across our entire economy.”
Underneath the demo gimmick, the event served to highlight what bitcoin boosters see as the currency’s unique advantages and to dispel some of the murkiness surrounding a currency most closely associated in the popular imagination with the illegal online drug trade. As Polis noted in his remarks, “the currency of choice is still dollars” for greasing the wheels of illegal activity of any kind around the world. The amount of illegal activity funded by bitcoin is still a fraction of a fraction of that facilitated with good old-fashioned cold hard cash.
Bitcoin boosters hope the currency could one day help bring banking services to the poor by dramatically lowering the cost of a financial transaction, like cashing a check, a service for which the bankless poor currently pay a premium at check cashing shops. Biometric security features, like the Robocoin ATM palm reader, could actually make the cryptocurrency less anonymous and reduce theft by tying bitcoins to the individuals who own them.
As bitcoin has come to prominence in recent months, the big question for government has been “if the regulators should just wait and see or if they would want to ban it,” said John Russell, Robocoin co-founder and CTO. “I would encourage them to wait and see and watch what the community is going to be able to do.”
Oscar Pistorius refused to look Wednesday, as prosecutors in his murder trial displayed graphic photographs of his girlfriend’s corpse Wednesday.
The 27-year-old South African elite runner who stands accused of pre-meditated murder in the killing of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, 29, on Valentine’s Day 2013. Pistorius admits he shot Steenkamp but insists it was an accident.
“I will not look at a picture where I’m tormented by what I saw and felt that night,” Pistorius said, sobbing and diverting his eyes. According to the Associated Press, there were audible gasps in the courtroom, including from Steenkamp’s mother, as images of the dead woman’s head, blonde hair drenched in blood and tissue protruding out at bullet wound in the back, flashed on multiple TV screens. “As I picked Reeva up, my fingers touched her head. I remember. I don’t have to look at a picture. I was there,” Pistorius said.
“It’s time that you look at it,” chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel said in response.
“You killed her. You shot and killed her,” Nel added. “Take responsibility for what you’ve done, Mr. Pistorius.”
Pistorious told the prosecutor that the shooting was “a mistake,” adding, “I’m human. I have sins.”
When the short film “Of God and Dogs” took the Short Film Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival in January, no one should have been surprised. A powerful piece that explores murder, guilt and an unusual quest for redemption, it was the kind of film that that seemed destined for critical acclaim. But the filmmakers weren’t some budding auteurs fresh out of film school. “Of God and Dogs” was produced by the Abounaddara Collective, a group of Syrian social activists and documentary makers based in Damascus who decided to combat the standard media narratives about the conflict in the country with intimate portraits of anonymous citizens—both inside Syria and in exile. The short films, ranging in length from 26 seconds to 12 minutes, address themes as varied as a woman’s reasons for taking off the veil to the confession of a young Free Syrian Army soldier who killed a man he knew to be innocent—the subject of “Of Gods and Dogs.” New videos are posted every Friday on Vimeo.
Abounaddara is the Arabic nickname for a man with glasses, a reference that reflects the peculiar take on the world when it is seen through the eyes of filmmakers more interested, according to the collective’s manifesto, in “stories of everyday life [rather] than in grand narratives.” Though the content isn’t overtly political, members of the collective prefer to remain anonymous, a stance that has its roots in the pre-war days when the artistic freedom of Abounaddara’s filmmakers was at risk of being curtailed by government censorship. Founded four years ago, most of the collective’s pieces are posted online only. The subjects are unnamed, as is the location of filming. Most take place in Syria, or among Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.
Some of the collective’s early, pre-war pieces are elegantly produced portraits of Damascus’ artisans and laborers, a celebration of an art and culture that is likely to be forever stolen by a conflict that has seen so much destroyed. Each is cleverly titled. The “Smiters For Damascus,” about the ancient craft of brass hammering, warns in a subtitle, “Enemies, take flight! The Damasceneurs are striking back.”
Another piece, ostensibly about a traditional fabric painter in an old Syrian souk, captures a spirited exchange in which a potential client asks for a widows’ discount. The fabric painter tartly responds that he is a widower too, at which point the widow’s daughter weighs in with the offer of her mother in marriage, as a way to score a cheaper price. Like all the other pieces by the collective, there is no narration. The subjects reveal their characters through their own voices, and invite the viewer to join in their laughter as the mix of commerce and marriage proposals takes an uproarious turn.
But art, no matter how much it attempts to eschew politics, cannot stand apart from the kind of violence and destruction that has rocked Syria over the past three years. More recent pieces reflect the country’s new reality, even as the short films attempt to break free from the shadow of the war. In “Snapshots From History In the Making,” a Syrian protestor is caught in the middle of an existential crisis by an aerial bomb attack in his neighborhood. He doesn’t even flinch as a round of detonations shake the pink walls of his room. “It won’t be long,” he says matter-of-factly. “The plane will pause, then it will come back for a second raid.”
The short films are by turns poetic, poignant, inspiring or, in the case of a 26-second video in which the camera hovers over the shrouded corpse of a child who starved to death in a besieged part of Yarmouk, depressing. Some are all of those things at once. “Death is so ubiquitous that we cling to life even more,” says a middle-age exile in the 3-minute soliloquy that makes up “Confessions of a Woman.” She admits to the shame of living in a borrowed apartment even as she speaks of recently falling in love—for the first time. “Now I tell myself, I’m sorry that I didn’t do it sooner.”
Even though the collective’s work shies away from overtly partisan statements, a theme of fierce independence and a love for Syria’s multi-sectarian fabric shines through, particularly in pieces poking fun at Islamist rebels who would remake Syria in their own image. “The Islamic State for Dummies” allows one such fundamentalist to hang by his own noose as he struggles to explain why establishing an Islamic state in Syria does not mean taking the country back 1,400 years. “Whoever opposes cutting a thief’s hand,” he says, defending Islamic law, “It means that you are a thief or want to steal without accountability.”
Another thought-provoking piece, titled “Marcell,” allows the pro-rebel female protagonist to justify her decision to stop wearing a veil the moment Islamist rebels in her town started demanding it. “I will not yield,” she declares, her thick hair tumbling in curls around her shoulders. “Do we want to leave the fate of our children up to the military?” she asks, referring to Islamist militants. “If so, we might as well do it now, by reconciling with the regime.”
While some of the documentaries are clearly well produced affairs complete with music and deft editing, most are uncut and unrehearsed. They are delivered straight to camera, visible evidence of the preoccupations of a people determined not to be defined by war, but to live in spite of it. “War or no war, we’re still hip, right?” a beautician and teacher asks her class as she demonstrates how to craft an elegant wedding updo in a darkened bunker.
About a month ago, T-Mobile doubled the data on its basic $50 per month plan, from 500 MB to 1 GB. Now, the 500 MB plan is back, and it’s $10 cheaper.
There’s just one thing missing: All other T-Mobile plans offer “unlimited” data at reduced speeds when you exceed your monthly allowance. The new $40 per month “Simple Starter” plan has a hard limit of 500 MB. You won’t get hit with overage charges automatically, but if you want to keep using data that month, you’ll have to pay extra.
Also, Simple Starter is for individual users only. For families, T-Mobile still requires a Simple Choice plan, which starts at $80 per month for two lines and $10 per month for each additional line.
As with other T-Mobile plans, Simple Starter includes unlimited talk and text, and you can still use your phone as a mobile hotspot as part of the 500 MB allotment.
The new plan is just the latest volley in what seems like an escalating price war between T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Last month, AT&T also tweaked its plans, eliminating its 1 GB offering and cutting the price of its 2 GB plan by $15 per month. And last week, Verizon cut the price of its 10 GB and higher plans by $5 per month for users on its Edge early upgrade program. Both carriers had already overhauled their pricing structures in February, likely in response to T-Mobile.
All of these changes are tough to keep track of, but worry not; we’ve updated our pricing charts for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, so you can find the cheapest wireless plan for your needs.
Bank of America is paying $772 million in refunds and fines to settle accusations by the government that it illegally deceived 2.9 million customers into purchasing additional credit card services, regulators said Wednesday.
The deal, announced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, is the largest refund ever ordered by the three-year-old CFPB, as well as the largest settlement over credit-card add-ons won by the federal government, the Associated Press reports.
“Bank of America both deceived consumers and unfairly billed consumers for services not performed,” CFPB director Richard Cordray said. “We will not tolerate such practices and will continue to be vigilant in our pursuit of companies who wrong consumers in this market.”
Bank of America has not admitted to or denied the accusations, but a statement from the bank said it had already ceased offering the products in question and refunded “the majority” of affected customers.
The feds claim that from 2000 to 2011, the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank billed 1.5 million customers a total of $459 million for various identity-protection products without the proper authorization. From 2010 to 2012, the bureau says Bank of America also exaggerated or misstated the benefits of two credit-protection programs that allowed some customers to cancel credit-card debt in instances of unemployment or other hardships, allegedly misleading another 1.4 million customers into paying $268 million.
In addition to those refunds, Bank of America will pay $20 million and $25 million in civil penalties to the CFPB and the office of the Comptroller of the Currency, respectively.
Americans in two states have voted on ballot initiatives that would have required the labeling of any foods made with genetically modified ingredients (GMOs, for short). And twice, voters rejected those initiative in close ballots—thanks in part to tens of millions of dollars spent by GMO crop developers like Monsanto and industry groups like the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). You’d think then that GMO supporters in the food industry would be feeling pretty confident that they could win on genetically-modified food legislation.
Apparently you’d be wrong. Republican Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas introduced on Wednesday new legislation that would nullify any attempt by states to require GMO labeling. More than two dozen states so far are considering bills that would mandate some form of labeling, with Maine and Connecticut having so far passed labeling measures into law. According to Pompeo, that’s enough to mandate a federal response:
We’ve got a number of states that are attempting to put together a patchwork quilt of food labeling requirements with respect to genetic modification of foods. That makes it enormously difficult to operate a food system. Some of the campaigns in some of these states aren’t really to inform consumers but rather aimed at scaring them. What this bill attempts to do is set a standard.
The bill—the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act”—would prohibit any mandatory labeling of foods made with bioengineering. The bill would also make it virtually impossible for states to block any efforts by food companies to put a “natural” label on any product that does contain GMO ingredients, requiring the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to create regulations that specify the maximum level of accidental GMO presence allowed in foods that come with a non-GMO label.
Translation: it’s almost as if the bill’s drafters were trying to hit on every fear that GMO-phobes have. It’s not surprising that the Environmental Working Group (EWG)—an environmental non-profit that has been deeply skeptical of GMOs—has called the bill the “Deny Americans the Right to Know Act.” As Marni Karlin, the director of legislative and legal affairs at the Organic Trade Association, said in a statement:
Consumers, particularly the eight out of ten American families who buy organic products, want to know what is in their food. Rep. Pompeo’s bill ignores this consumer demand for information. Instead, it ties the hands of state governments, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Food and Drug Administration concerning GMO labeling. It is fatally flawed.
It’s worth noting that even though ballot initiatives to require GMO labeling have twice failed, polls indicate strong support for labeling nationally. A New York Times survey last July found that 93% of Americans believe that foods containing GMO ingredients should be labeled. But we’re still a long way from that happening. While both Connecticut and Maine have passed laws mandating labeling, the measures don’t actually kick in until other nearby states approve similar laws. It seems a little early to pass a federal law to nullify state laws that aren’t actually in power yet.
In reality, though, arguments about GMO labeling tend to be arguments about GMOs—their usefulness and their safety. Confusion is rampant over GMOs, and if you want smart, straight reporting on the subject, check out Nathanael Johnson’s great series at Grist, which is summarized here. Like Johnson, I think the hazards posed by GMOs are “negligible to non-existent.” While they have yet to really fulfill their promise, GMOs can be a useful tool as the world tries to figure out how to feed billions more people without significantly increasing farmland, something that would be far worse for the environment than any genetically modified crop.
But the fact that I think properly regulated GMOs can be an important part of global farming is also why I think this bill is a mistake. Would a patchwork of laws mandating GMO labeling in some states and not others be an enormous and costly headache? Yes. But the same surveys that show support for GMO labeling also show deep distrust of bioengineering in food. And a lot of that distrust stems from the sense that GMOs are somehow being foisted on consumers without their knowledge or their consent. As Johnson notes, that increases the sense of risk around GMOs:
In a famous paper on risk perception, published in Science in 1987, Paul Slovic pointed out that people judge voluntary, controllable actions as much less risky than those that are involuntary and out of their control. Similarly, people see the unknown as much more risky than the known. Genetically engineered foods are, for most people, both unknown and uncontrollable.
By passing a law that would preemptively ban any attempt to require labeling, GMO defenders are playing into the hands of their opponents, making bioengineering feel far more risky than it really is. GMO advocates are losing this battle—see a company as mainstream as General Mills announce that a flagship product like Cheerios would now be made without genetically modified ingredients. If the food industry was smart, it would take a leading role in establishing a national standard for GMO labels. But given the bloody way this endless debate has played out, I wouldn’t expect a truce any time soon.
To dislike pop music is to be pop culture’s grumpy old man, but as it turns out, lots of us are grumpy old men — even people who are young women the rest of the time. MoreThis Doo-Wop Remake of Ellie Goulding’s “Burn” Is Possibly Better Than the OriginalVIDEO: Rascal Flatts Admits to Lip Syncing at ACM AwardsMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostSurprise! Wylie Dufresne's Epic Anniversary Dinner People
The latest edition of the 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair monthly poll is about music, and the results align with widely held attitudes toward pop. It looks like, no matter how old you are, you always believe the music was better when you were growing up. Nearly half of respondents said that this decade (i.e., the last three years and change) has the worst music of any recent time period; the report notes that that particular finding came from respondents in all age categories. In addition, about a third of respondents said they’d most want their kid’s music education to comprise learning about the Beatles — or, for another third, Mozart — as opposed to a more recent artist like Michael Jackson.
So, in short, these poll results seem possibly unscientific — given the lack of info on about methodology — and definitely boring. Kids these days! Science has even proved that such a poll will have such a result: research by neuroscientist Daniel Levitin has found that the music people like when they’re teenagers is the music they tend to like for the rest of their lives; the people who are adolescents now probably weren’t the ones answering the survey.
But the topic is still worth a quick second look, in light of a debate that has had music-criticism circles worked up for weeks. Here’s what happened:
A few weeks ago, Ted Gioia wrote a piece for The Daily Beast taking modern music criticism to task, focusing on his observation that folks who would have once written about a musician’s sound and technique are now focused on the star’s lifestyle and fame. Then, this past weekend, the New York Times Magazine featured an essay by Saul Austerlitz about “poptimism,” deriding the trend of music critics agreeing too readily with “the taste of 13-year-olds.” In their own ways, both essays make the point that today’s pop is getting a pass. In that narrative, there existed a good-old-days time when critics were unswayed by the lure of pop. Today, they argue, a variety of factors — maybe a desire to reclaim the idea of a mass culture despite the fracturing influence of the Internet; maybe the economics of getting the maximum number of clicks on an article — have conspired to let pop off that hook.
The response to both, in insider circles, was heated. But the CBS poll offers another counter-example to those points, suggesting that consumer attitudes toward pop are pretty much the same as ever. Today’s music isn’t getting a pass from listeners any more than new music ever has, so critics who talk about it — for whatever reason, in whatever way — aren’t just capitulating to trends.
After all, remember that figure about a third of respondents wanting their kids to learn about the Beatles? When the Fab Four was an example of brand new pop, older critics and non-critics alike had the response you might expect:
Some music critics wrote about the Beatles the way Gioia suggests that critics should be looking at today’s artists: a New York Times article from August 13, 1965 asked music experts to analyze Beatles’ songs to find out why they had so many fans. The headline declared the experts “stumped.” Sounds familiar.
Dove’s empowerment-as-advertising Real Beauty campaign has taken a recent turn towards deception—and it’s a deception that is so obvious to viewers, it’s become almost insulting to watch. MoreHear the Los Angeles Philharmonic Play Through a 5.1 EarthquakeFather Banned From Naming His Son ‘WikiLeaks’Men Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostSurprise! Wylie Dufresne's Epic Anniversary Dinner People
The concept of the four minute spot above is simple and only unpredictable to anyone completely unfamiliar with psychology: Unilever’s Dove has created a “revolutionary” magical beauty patch (RB-X) that will pump bursts of self-confidence into what you’ll soon start seeing as Michelle Obama-quality arms. After two weeks, it will enhance women’s perception of self-beauty.
Suspect as the product sounds, real-life women tell a real-life psychologist their very real-life insecurities—”If I was more confident I would have the ability to like approach a guy maybe”; “I almost kind of avoid marriage lately because I, you know, feel bad about myself”— and then join a “trial” to test the product and keep a video diary to track the change. Just as marketers predicted, while at first the women saw no difference (because it was a placebo?), in a couple days they were getting called pretty by coworkers (placebo effect?), smiling at strangers (placebo effect?), and confidently dress shopping. (Dare I say placebo effect?)
Dove then has the beaming, beautifully confident women women gush about RB-X and how this has “definitely been a life altering experience” only to reveal that the patch was, in fact, a placebo. It contained nothing all along. The music swells, tears fall, we were beautiful all along.
For ten years, Dove’s Real Beauty campaign has used female empowerment as an advertising tactic, wooing female customers by proving they are more beautiful than they think they are and that their bodies should be a source of pride rather than anxiety.
And Dove has used said feel-good strategy with great success. Real Beauty Sketches, in which a forensic artist was employed to draw sketches of women who underestimated their looks, became the eighth most-watched (says Visible Measures) and fourth most shared (says Unruly Media) video ad of all time. With a success like that, it’s no wonder that Dove has tried to replicate and replicate the model with hopes that women will share branded video content not because it’s for a beauty product, but because it exposes the fault of their own insecurities and make them feel beautiful.
As someone who tears up during emotionally fraught pet food commercials, I’m overall okay with some degree of emotional manipulation in the name of marketing. Even though there is an argument to be made that the ads problematically show beauty is paramount when evaluating self-worth, I kind of liked Real Beauty Sketches because I could identify with the insecurities and believed the concept of the ad.
And that’s why I think Dove has failed in its latest Real Beauty iteration. While I believe that I would hide from a camera on a bad hair day, and I believe that I would accentuate the size of my nose to a forensic artist who asked me to describe myself, I just can’t believe the thinly-veiled marketing ruse that there is a patch that can make us more beautiful. It makes women seem too gullible, too desperate, and overall helpless against the all-knowing master manipulators at Unilever.