August 19, 2016

Sketchy Swimmers And A Heartbreaking Photo


Many of you asked us to cover the 2016 election in more detail! While we tend to avoid the minutiae of the election in favor of more global news in this email, we decided to launch a weekly 2016 election email. Sign up here for our #pnut4prez beta!


#BrazilNuts: Ryan Lochte No Longer The Pride Of USA

Well, this is awkward. Brazilian law enforcement is calling Ryan Lochte out on his claim that he and three other swimmers were robbed at gunpoint. Video surveillance provides a completely different story than Lochte’s testimony, unless of course by “robbers” he meant “security guard” and by “victims” he meant “vandals.” According to police, a taxi driver brought the Olympians to a Shell gas station at 6 am after the boys had been partying at a place called Club France. While at the gas station, the swimmers vandalized a bathroom door, doing serious enough damage for a security guard to approach them while other people called the police. Witnesses said that Lochte’s crew paid money to the manager before leaving. Basically, the boys embraced the stereotype of the obnoxious American tourist partying on vacation, and, like so many of the frat guys who studied abroad before them, it backfired.

Syria: Another Photo That Shook The World Into Inaction

So many heartbreaking photos have come out of Syria since the civil war started in 2011 that the world has almost become immune. But yesterday, the photo of five-year-old Omran Daqneesh sitting silently in an ambulance, dazed and confused after being pulled from the rubble following an airstrike, moved people the world over. The airstrike was likely conducted by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or his Russian/Iranian allies.

But… why?

The Syrian Civil War has morphed into a never-ending quagmire. Following protests against his dictatorial rule, President Bashar al-Assad cracked down forcefully against those that opposed him. Wary of another Middle Eastern war, the US refused direct intervention. Regional allies of the protestors and the President waded into the country, fighting proxy wars and settling old scores. Those that hoped for a better, democratic life were marginalized and civilians, particularly children, payed the ultimate price, with almost half a million killed and millions fleeing as refugees. The result is a deadly stalemate and a lost generation as the majority of Syria’s population, and particularly its children, face mental trauma associated with the war.


Uber Would Like You To Know That The Future Is Here

Yesterday Uber announced that self-driving cars would be hitting the streets of Pittsburgh as early as this month. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told Bloomberg that he wants to replace the one million Uber drivers on the streets with self-driving cars. The move is bound to shock Google, Tesla, Ford, Apple, General Motors, Lyft and your Great Aunt Gertrude who are all clamoring to enter the self-driving car space. While this sounds super cool, the news does leave us with two very important questions: What happens to the one million drivers Uber just hired and will now replace? Do driverless cars surge?

US Justice Department Seeks Slightly Better Option

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced plans to end the US Justice Department’s use of private prisons after officials decided the privately owned prisons were much worse than federal correctional services. The problem with private prisons wasn’t exactly a secret. Just peruse this 35,000-word undercover exposé of a private prison guard in Louisiana, or this investigation into the questionable deaths that take place in privately operated facilities. While this move seems like a step in the right direction, it won’t be an overnight solution. The Justice Department isn’t terminating its contracts with 13 private prisons but instead will “review” them whenever they come up for renewal in the next five years.

World’s Worst Practice Makes Comeback In Russia

Here’s a topic we hoped we wouldn’t have to report in 2016: female genital mutilation. A fierce debate has sparked in Russia, after a civil society group found FGM to be common among Muslims in mountain villages in Dagestan. It also didn’t help that multiple clerics in the North Caucasus began defending the indefensible practice. Regional Muslim leader Ismail Berdiyev suggested all women should undergo FGM but later withdrew the remark, only to be defended by a senior Orthodox Christian priest, Vsevolod Chaplin. But don’t confuse that with the feel-good idea of interfaith dialogue, Chaplin clarified that Orthodox Christian women didn’t require FGM because they are “not promiscuous anyway.” He also added that “Feminism is a 20th Century lie,” winning the hearts of women everywhere. Mufti Berdiyev was grateful for such support, emphasizing that “God made woman so that she could give birth and bring up children.” No word yet on whether he confused “woman” for “Russian nesting doll.”


Iran: The United States admitted that a $400 million payment to Iran was used to “leverage” the release of several American prisoners. Initially, the US said their recent $1.7 billion payment to the nation was to settle a decades-old financial dispute over the sale of American weapons. Speculation increased, however, when it was reported that the cash payment coincided with the prisoner release.

Louisiana: Local volunteers in Louisiana, who have named themselves the “Cajun Navy,” are taking their boats on the water to search for and rescue people who have been trapped by the floods. The “army” gets their calls for help through social media.

Turkey: At least 12 people have been killed and 219 wounded in three separate bomb attacks in south east Turkey. Turkish officials blamed the PKK for the attacks.

Gawker: After being the cornerstone of Gawker media for 14 years, will be shutting down next week. The decision comes from Gawker’s new owner, Univision, who bid $135 million for the publisher’s portfolio in a bankruptcy auction earlier this week.


Sad Man Thought He Was Dating Katy Perry For Six Years

In what might be the longest, saddest incident of catfishing, or luring someone into a relationship by assuming a false identity online, a man from Tennessee thought he was secretly dating Katy Perry for six entire years. Spencer Morrill was so convinced that his internet love affair was with the real Katy Perry that he spent a quarter of his savings on buying her an engagement ring using his great grandmother’s jewels. While we don’t like to laugh at such a sad break-up and reality check, he did invite MTV into his home to help him meet Katy in real life, only to meet an impostor instead. When MTV’s hosts insisted that his relationship with the pop star wasn’t real, he refused to believe them. I guess you could say he’s just the one that got away.


Yes, I want to sound marginally more intelligent: