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How to succeed in Silicon Valley without really trying (at all)

woman cocktail party

How to succeed in Silicon Valley without really trying (at all)

Alex Leo

Alex Leo

Want to blend in with the startup crowd? These all-purpose clichés mean absolutely nothing. Which goes a long way at a cocktail party full of founders

The narcissism and exclusiveness of the tech world is well-documented, well, everywhere. Whether it’s a startup co-founder writing a manifesto about his hatred of the homeless and of girls who “are obviously 4’s but behave like they’re 9’s” or a plush bus system in San Francisco only available to the tech elite, we as a group may not be the most sympathetic. This obliviousness also extends to our expectation that you know everything about the happenings of the tech scene, whether you work in it or not.

Five Reliable Ways to Wreck Your Marriage or Relationship

Five Reliable Ways to Wreck Your Marriage or Relationship

By Peg Streep

Taking a serious look at what research knows to be the behaviors and stances most likely to take a marriage down

How Congress cut and ran on Syria

How Congress cut and ran on Syria


President Barack Obama has yet to explain why he has the constitutional authority to wage it in the first place. Two weeks ago, anonymous White House sources claimed that Obama’s new initiative was covered by old congressional authorizations for military campaigns against Al Qaeda in 2001 and Saddam Hussein in 2002. But these initial efforts at justification provoked a chorus of professional criticism coming from all points of the political spectrum.

The administration has responded with silence. Neither the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel nor the White House Counsel has issued a serious legal opinion presenting its side of the argument. This represents a profound breach of the rule of law. Worse yet, Congress’ failure to address the constitutional issues during its regular session threatens to create a legal vacuum which only the courts will be in a position to resolve. Unless extraordinary steps are taken, the result will be the worst of all possible worlds, in which a problematic Supreme Court decision only exacerbates the ongoing crisis of constitutional legitimacy.

The War Powers Act requires the president to gain congressional consent within 60 days of launching a new military campaign; if he fails, the act requires him to terminate his initiative within 30 days. The administration started the time clock on Aug. 8 when it began attacking ISIL. This makes Oct. 7 the deadline for congressional approval and Nov. 6 the termination date for further attacks if he fails to gain the requisite consent. The administration asserts, however, that these requirements don’t apply since the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force can be stretched to cover the military problems of 2014.

Last week, Congress refused to confront the merits of these much-criticized claims or to take the up-or-down vote required by the act. It chose instead to adjourn for two months of electioneering and take up the matter more seriously in a lame-duck session in December. These vague assurances from leadership, however, don’t modify the Nov. 6 deadline established by the War Powers Act. They serve only to deflect attention from the looming prospect of judicial intervention once the statutory clock ticks beyond the deadline requiring an end to the campaign against ISIL.

Until Nov. 6, judges will predictably refuse to consider the large legal questions raised by the current impasse. The Constitution grants them jurisdiction only over “cases or controversies,” and they have traditionally insisted that litigants have a distinctively personal interest before they will attempt to resolve a dispute. But after Nov. 6, many members of the armed forces will satisfy this basic requirement for legal standing. They will be personally involved in supporting the ISIL mission, and will rightly want to know whether they are engaged in an illegal war. If Congress remains absent, and the president remains silent, the stage will be set for the courts to fill the constitutional vacuum.

Alibaba's Jack Ma Is China's Richest Person, Survey Shows

Alibaba's Jack Ma Is China's Richest Person, Survey Shows

By Eva Dou

Alibaba Founder Jack Ma and His Family Are Worth About $25 Billion, According to Hurun Report

Alibaba's blockbuster $25 billion stock offering has made Jack Ma the wealthiest man in China, according to a new survey, as investor enthusiasm for Chinese technology names enriches a new generation of Internet moguls.

Mr. Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., and his family have a net worth of about $25 billion following last week's initial public offering, according to the Hurun Rich List, an annual survey compiled by the Shanghai-based research group Hurun Report released on Tuesday. That puts him at the top of a list long dominated by property magnates. An Alibaba spokeswoman declined to comment.

He isn't alone. Half of this year's top 10 were technology executives, including the top executives at Internet conglomerate Tencent Holdings Ltd., search engine provider Baidu Inc., e-commerce website Inc. JD and smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc. Meanwhile, only two major property investors made the list amid a swooning Chinese real-estate market.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton: It's complicated

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are pictured. | AP Photo

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton: It's complicated


Just over a year ago at the request of the White House, Hillary Clinton worked the phones with about a half-dozen senators, trying to sell Congress on authorizing military strikes against Syria. Weeks later, at the Clinton Global Initiative, the former secretary of state defended President Barack Obama against Republican efforts to defund his health care overhaul.

Since then, the relationship has become more complicated: During her summer book tour, Clinton pointedly highlighted differences with her former boss over how the early stages of the Syria civil war were handled.

On Tuesday, Clinton and Obama were together again at the Clinton Global Initiative in Midtown Manhattan, the seventh time the sitting president has attended the glitzy charity-meets-ideas event. Former President Bill Clinton praised Obama, and the president offered kind words for both Clintons. The joint appearance highlighted a reality for the current president and his former secretary of state: Her political needs aren’t always in sync with his, but more often than not their interests do align.

Hillary Clinton needs to keep Obama’s supporters behind her if she runs for president in 2016. After Clinton was quoted in The Atlantic last month knocking Obama’s foreign policy mantra — “‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” she said — a few days later she issued a statement declaring her deep support for the president and insisting she wasn’t trying to attack him.

Some Obama advisers, meanwhile, see Clinton as a lifeline — the best chance the lame-duck Democrat has to preserve his legacy, particularly Obamacare, after the open-seat election in 2016.

Whether Obama himself views the situation that way is unclear. But so far, a number of former Obama aides have made an effort to show unity between the two sides.

Would You Like 5.5 Billion YouTube Views?

Would You Like 5.5 Billion YouTube Views?

Learn how to get attention for your YouTube channel

Obama’s Iraq Is Not Bush’s Iraq

Obama’s Iraq Is Not Bush’s Iraq

By Michael Tomasky

The war against ISIS may fail. But morally, it’s the opposite of Bush’s war, and if it succeeds, it will do so for precisely that reason.

In fact it’s hard for me to imagine how the differences between the two actions could be starker. This is not to say that they might not end up in the same place—creating more problems than they solve. But in moral terms, this war is nothing like that war, and if this war doesn’t end up like Bush’s and somehow actually solves more problems than it creates, that will happen precisely because of the moral differences.

First and most important difference, plainly and simply: Obama didn’t lie us into this war. It’s worth emphasizing this point, I think, during this week when Obama is at the United Nations trying to redouble international support to fight ISIS, and as we think back on Colin Powell’s infamous February 2003 snow job to Security Council. Obama didn’t tell us any nightmarish fairy tales about weapons of mass destruction that had already been destroyed or never existed. He didn’t trot his loyalists out there to tell fantastical stories about smoking guns and mushroom clouds.

Hope Solo Is Not "Like" Ray Rice

Hope Solo Is Not "Like" Ray Rice

Comparisons between the football player and female soccer star obscure the history of domestic violence.

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

To say the female soccer star accused of assault is the same as the football player who pummeled his fiancé erases the historical truth about domestic violence.
Five air strikes hit Isis territory in Syria near Iraqi border

US president Barack Obama and advisers meet with representatives from the countries that have participated in air strikes against Isis in Syria

Five air strikes hit Isis territory in Syria near Iraqi border

Reuters in Beirut

Raids carried out on Al-Bukamal near border crossing follow overnight strikes on Islamic State strongholds at Turkish border.

Five air strikes hit territory controlled by Islamic State (Isis) in Syria near the Iraqi border on Wednesday, following overnight attacks on the group’s strongholds along the Turkey border.

Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said warplanes had carried out raids west of the city of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, near Turkey, and Al-Bukamal on the Iraqi border.

It was not clear who had carried out the raids, but Adulrahman said the jets that struck Kobani flew in from the direction of Turkey.

“The people there, the activists, say [the strikes] are probably the [international] coalition, not the regime,” Abdulrahman said, referring to the Syrian government. “The strength of the explosions are greater. Like yesterday.”

A US-led alliance launched air strikes on Isis in Syria on Tuesday – an assault described by a US military spokesman as “only the beginning”.

Al Qaeda Plotters in Syria ‘Went Dark,’ U.S. Spies Say


Al Qaeda Plotters in Syria ‘Went Dark,’ U.S. Spies Say

Eli Lake

U.S. intelligence agencies learned this summer of a plot from al Qaeda veterans in Syria to attack European and American airplanes. Then the Khorasan Group went dark.

Over the summer, as ISIS fighters were winning swaths of territory in Iraq, U.S. intelligence agencies were also focused on the group’s ostensible jihadist rivals in neighboring Syria.

American analysts had pieced together detailed information on a pending attack from an outfit that informally called itself “the Khorasan Group,” to use hard to detect explosives on American and European airliners.

As the Khorasan Group came closer to executing the attack, however, U.S. intelligence agencies lost track of the plotters. “We had some information on their plans that did not pan out over the summer,” one senior U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast. “They shut it down and went dark.”

Since 2012, the U.S. intelligence community has tracked the movement of several senior al Qaeda planners into Syria where they have set up operations aimed not at Bashar al-Assad’s regime, like many of their fellow militants. Instead, these planners were focused on Europe and America. At first, the group was believed by U.S. intelligence agencies to be al Qaeda’s senior operatives and linked to al Qaeda’s franchise in Syria known as al-Nusra. But beginning in the spring, the intelligence community began to call the outfit “the Khorasan Group,” named in part because many of its members are affiliated with the Khorasan Shura, a leadership council within al Qaeda. Khorasan in Jihadist literature refers to the region that includes Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

“My suspicion is what we are hearing about Khoresan is only part of the group,” said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, an expert on al Qaeda at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. “It strikes me as quite possible we are only hearing about the external operations wing and not the entire organization.”

Obama: The Most Secretive President?

Obama: The Most Secretive President?

By Lloyd Grove

A presidential administration expected to be more open and transparent than preceding ones has become focused on keeping secrets, and preventing legitimate public inquiry.  

“The Obama administration--after first starting out by making promises of greater transparency, lessening over-classification, providing greater protections for whistleblowers--has in fact turned its back, and done virtually the same thing as the Bush administration,” said Shamsi, who directs the ACLU’s National Security Project.

US ties itself in legal knots to cover shifting rationale for Syria strikes

Image released by the US central command of an airstrike on Syria on Tuesday.

US ties itself in legal knots to cover shifting rationale for Syria strikes

Dan Roberts in Washington 

Lawyers use Iraq's right of self-defence and weakness of Syrian regime – which US has undermined – to justify failure to seek UN approval

US government lawyers have invoked Iraq’s right to self-defence and the weakness of the Assad regime as twin justifications for US bombing in Syria, in a feat of legal acrobatics that may reopen questions over its right to intervene in the bitter civil war.

In a letter to the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, released near 24 hours after attacks began, US ambassador Samantha Power argued that the threat to Iraq from Islamic State, known as Isis or Isil, gave the US and its allies in the region an automatic right to attack on its behalf.

“Iraq has made clear that it is facing a serious threat of continuing attacks from Isil coming out of safe havens in Syria,” Power wrote.

“The government of Iraq has asked that the United States lead international efforts to strike Isil sites and military strongholds in Syria in order to end the continuing attacks on Iraq, to protect Iraqi citizens and ultimately to enable and arm Iraqi forces to perform their task of regaining control of the Iraqi borders.”

The brief letter did not mention the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, which rested on erroneous claims of weapons of mass destruction and arguably contributed to its current instability, but stresses instead the country’s right to self-defence in the face of this new threat.

“The United States has initiated necessary and proportionate military actions in Syria in order to eliminate the ongoing Isil threat to Iraq, including by protecting Iraqi citizens from further attacks and by enabling Iraqi forces to regain control of Iraq’s borders,” it said.

The US also argued that there was legal right to pursue Isis inside Syria due to the weakness of that country’s government – a regime the US has been actively urging be undermined by rebel groups for much of the past two years.

“States must be able to defend themselves, in accordance with the inherent right on individual and collective self-defence, as reflected in article 51 of the UN Charter, when, as is the case here, the government of the state where the threat is located is unwilling or unable to prevent the use of its territory for such attacks,” Power wrote.

The legal circumlocutions to avoid requesting a UN security council resolution match similar efforts to avoid requesting specific legal authority from Congress.

Fearing that US politicians up for re-election in November may balk at voting for a third military attack on Iraq and being sucked into a Syrian quagmire, the White House has avoided seeking a fresh authorisation of the use of military force, preferring to rely on early authorisations against al-Qaida granted after the 11 September 2001 attacks.

Tempest over Obama's tea cup salute

Americans weren't amused after the White House posted a Vine video clip showing the commander-in-chief casually saluting a pair of US Marines while holding a coffee cup

Tempest over Obama's tea cup salute

By David Martosko

Commander-in-chief sparks anger by saluting US Marines with drink in his hand.

President Barack Obama saluted a pair of United States Marines on Tuesday while holding what appeared to be a styrofoam cup in his saluting hand, a breach of military regulations that won't win him fans among veterans and servicemen.

Obama is known for drinking tea, not coffee, when he travels, especially before delivering speeches. 

His quasi-saluting gesture was an instant embarrassment for the White House, and not because his environmentally taboo drinkware clashed with the green-policy speech he was on his way to deliver at a UN Climate Summit.

Obama's casual approach to the moment as he left his Marine One chopper at a helipad in New York City came at a time when he had just ordered U.S. fighter planes to fly perilous missions in the skies over Syria.

Twitter predictably erupted, with most commenters expressing outrage and a few insisting that it wasn't a major mistake.

Vince Vaughn joins Colin Farrell in ‘True Detective’

Vince Vaughn joins Colin Farrell in ‘True Detective’

Vince Vaughn joins Colin Farrell in ‘True Detective’

Vaughn (“Wedding Crashers”) has been cast in the role of the criminal, Frank Semyon, who is in danger of losing his empire when his move into legitimate enterprise is upended by the murder of a business partner.

Farrell will play Ray Velcoro, a compromised detective whose allegiances are torn between his masters in a corrupt police department and the mobster who owns him.

Five Secret Nonverbal Cues You Probably Don’t Know About

Five Secret Nonverbal Cues You Probably Don’t Know About

By Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D.

Body language, or nonverbal communication, is not a formal language like verbal communication. There are, however, subtle nonverbal cues that often occur out of awareness that can have a powerful impact on others. Here are some of the common, but lesser-known body language cues.

Pupil Dilation. A series of research studies found that pictures of attractive women were rated as even more attractive if their pupils were larger. This goes back to the ancient Egyptian practice of women putting poisonous belladonna in their eyes which caused their pupils to dilate.

When Women Should Say "Enough is Enough" to Social Media

When Women Should Say "Enough is Enough" to Social Media

By Jill P. Weber, Ph.D.

Teenage girls and adult women are often emotionally bruised when social media becomes their North Star for finding meaning and purpose in life. There are limits to what social media can positively provide and female users who do not understand these limits may struggle in a variety of ways.

Why Michael Bloomberg Went Back to Work

Talking about feelings: Michael Bloomberg (right) revealed on Monday his reasoning behind returning to work -- he doesn't want to saty at home with girlfriend of 14 years Diana Taylor (left)

Why Michael Bloomberg Went Back to Work

Bloomberg says he went back to work so he could avoid talking about feelings with his girlfriend.

The 72-year-old made the half-serious remark about his girlfriend of 14 years, Diana Taylor, on Monday at the Bloomberg Markets Most Influential Summit.

'Well, the alternative, in my case, is staying home and talking to Diana about feelings,' Bloomberg laughed when a moderator asked what inspired the decision.

After Bloomberg and his co-panelist, Bridgewater Associates LP Founder Ray Dalio, stopped giggling along with the audience, the billionaire former New York City mayor listed more reasons behind the decision.

'Successful people are driven. They want to be from the moment you get up 'til the moment you go to bed, you want to be overscheduled and rushing from one thing to another,' he said. 'There's no greater high.'

Larry Ellison Bought an Island in Hawaii. Now What?

Larry Ellison Bought an Island in Hawaii. Now What?


It is among the smallest and least trafficked of Hawaiian islands — a quiet, spectacular place where Cook Island pine trees vault up everywhere, like spires or giant peacock feathers — and can feel like a charming wormhole to an earlier era. There is only one town, Lanai City, where virtually all of the island’s 3,200 residents live. Ellison now owned a third of all their houses and apartments; the island’s two Four Seasons-run hotels; the central commons at the heart of Lanai City, called Dole Park, and all the buildings around it; the town swimming pool; the community center; the theater; a grocery store; two golf courses; a wastewater treatment plant; the water company; and a cemetery. In a single sweeping real estate deal, reported to cost $300 million, he had acquired 87,000 of the island’s 90,000 acres. And he would subsequently buy an airline that connects Lanai to Honolulu as well. On all of Lanai, I heard of only a handful of businesses — the gas station, the rental-car company, two banks, a credit union and a cafe called Coffee Works — that are neither owned by Ellison nor pay him rent.

Ninety seven percent of Lanai may be a lot of Lanai, but it’s a tiny part of Ellison’s overall empire. Ellison, who stepped down as C.E.O. of Oracle on Sept. 18, is estimated to be worth $46 billion. He made an estimated $78.4 million last year, or about $38,000 an hour. He owns a tremendous amount of stuff — cars, boats, real estate, Japanese antiquities, the BPN Paribas Open tennis tournament, an America’s Cup sailing team, one of Bono’s guitars — and has a reputation for intensity and excess. Recently, The Wall Street Journal reported that when Ellison has played basketball on the courts on his yachts, he has positioned “someone in a powerboat following the yacht to retrieve balls that go overboard.” One biographer called him “a modern-day Genghis Khan.”

At a public meeting on Lanai last year, an Ellison representative explained that his boss wasn’t drawn to the island by the potential for profits but by the potential for a great accomplishment — the satisfaction one day of having made the place work. For Ellison, it seemed, Lanai was less like an investment than like a classic car, up on blocks in the middle of the Pacific, that he had become obsessed with restoring. He wants to transform it into a premier tourist destination and what he has called “the first economically viable, 100 percent green community”: an innovative, self-sufficient dreamscape of renewable energy, electric cars and sustainable agriculture.

Ellison has explained that Lanai feels to him like “this really cool 21st-century engineering project” — and so far, his approach, which seems steeped in the ethos of Silicon Valley, has boiled down to rooting out the many inefficiencies of daily life on Lanai and replacing them with a single, elegantly designed system. It’s the sort of sweeping challenge that engineering types get giddy over: a full-scale model. Of course, there are actual people living inside Ellison’s engineering project — a community being hit by an unimaginable wave of wealth. But unlike all the more familiar versions of that story, Lanai isn’t being remade by some vague socioeconomic energy you can only gesture at with words like “techies” or “hipsters” or “Wall Street” but by one guy, whose name everyone knows, in a room somewhere, whiteboarding out the whole project.

Black Bear Kills Rutgers Student

In wake of fatal bear attack in New Jersey, how often do humans meet bears?

By Jacob Axelrad

A Rutgers University student who was killed in an attack by a black bear has prompted questions about how common such attacks are and what the best way is to stay safe in the event of a human-bear confrontation.

Five young men, all from Edison, N.J., were in the Apshawa Preserve when a 300-pound black bear started trailing them. Frightened, the men started to run. They split up. Four of them returned to find each other. One was missing. His name was Darsh Patel, 22, and he was majoring in information technology and informatics. 

 The bear is being examined at a state lab to understand what prompted it to go after the hikers. Bear attacks are so uncommon that Patel's death was the first recorded fatal attack in New Jersey since before the Civil War.

In the rare instance humans do come into direct contact with bears, experts offer a few tips to improve chances of survival. First and foremost, avoid feeding the bears. In New Jersey, for example, intentionally feeding bears is illegal and carries a fine of up to $1,000, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. People are also advised to remain calm should they see a black bear passing through a residential area, as it that is not an issue "as long as it is behaving normally and not posing a threat," said Kelcey Burguess, DEP senior wildlife biologist, in a June release. 

Other behaviors to avoid with black bears include not sneaking up on them, playing dead, or running away. (The only time playing dead works, according to ABC News, is in the case of a brown bear who was attacking as a defense.) In the event of a direct confrontation with a bear, make a commotion and appear as big as possible, The Washington Post said, citing experts on the best ways to survive a bear attack.
The Politics of Over-the-Counter Birth Control

The Politics of Over-the-Counter Birth Control

By Sara Libby

Some Republicans have come out in favor of contraception—putting Democrats in a tight spot.

Making birth-control pills available without a prescription has become an unlikely midterm-election issue. Even more surprising is that the idea is mostly being pushed by Republicans. Democrats are in the unusual position of pushing back hard, insisting the move would actually limit access and breathlessly reminding voters, We're the ones who've cared about women all along!

The bickering over the details about how such a plan might work and whose concern for women is more sincere obscures a pretty amazing fact: Everyone seems to agree that selling birth control over the counter is a good idea. That's remarkable consensus within the minefield that is women's health.

As recently as last year, progressives like journalist Amanda Marcotte thought over-the-counter birth control was a lofty, out-of-reach goal: "Standing up for OTC birth control pills would absolutely be a hard, long fight, but it would be one that demonstrates that the pro-choice community really means it when we say we trust women with their own health-care decisions."

Bin Laden spokesman sentenced to life in prison for al-Qaida role after 9/11

Suleiman Abu Ghaith, 48, sits in court in Manhattan.

Bin Laden spokesman sentenced to life in prison for al-Qaida role after 9/11

Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law Suleiman Abu Ghaith, convicted in March, became voice of al-Qaida recruitment after 9/11

Associated Press in New York 

Defiant to the end, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law was sentenced on Tuesday to life in prison for acting as al-Qaida’s spokesman after the September 11 terror attacks.

Suleiman Abu Ghaith was sentenced by US district judge Lewis A Kaplan, who said he saw “no remorse whatsoever” from the 48-year-old imam.

“You continue to threaten,” the judge said. “You sir, in my assessment, still want to do everything you can to carry out al-Qaida’s agenda of killing Americans.”

Abu Ghaith was the highest-ranking al-Qaida figure to face trial on US soil since the attacks. The Kuwaiti cleric became the voice of al-Qaida recruitment videotapes after the 2001 attacks. He testified at trial that his role was strictly religious.

Just before he was sentenced, Abu Ghaith said through an interpreter that he “would not come here today and seek mercy from anyone but God”.

“At the same moment you were shackling my hands and intending to bury me alive, you are at the same time unleashing the hands of hundreds of Muslim youths,” he said. “They will join the ranks of the free men soon and very soon the world will see the end of these theater plays.”

As he announced Abu Ghaith’s sentence, Kaplan said that “as recently as 15 minutes ago, you continued to threaten”.

Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves.


By Jennifer Hamady

Refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.

"Forgiveness has nothing to do with absolving a criminal of his crime. It has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of being a victim." –C.R. Strahan

Decoding Apple's Secret Formula

Decoding Apple's Secret Formula

By Mark Goulston, M.D., F.A.P.A.

How does Apple create excitement to your core?

What Jobs intuitively knew and then was able to directly convert into visionary products was that there is a dichotomy between people being in their comfort zones and being excited which is part of a basic ambivalence in human nature.

California woman can't get drivers license in Texas

Connie Wilson (right) with her spouse Aimee (center) and their son Aidyn

California woman can't get drivers license in Texas 

A woman from California who moved to Texas says the state is denying her a driver's license with her new married name. Texas doesn't recognize same sex marriage 

By James Gordon

A woman from California who just moved to Texas has been told she is not eligible for a state driving lisence because her same-sex marriage isn't legally recognized there. Connie Wilson, her spouse, and three kids have moved to Houston but the last thing she was expecting was having issues in obtaining a Texas driver's license. Upon presenting her California marriage license to a DPS employee as a secondary form of identification, she was told that because gay marriage isn't legal in Texas, the certificate could not be used as a form of ID. 

In Defense of Nude Selfies

In Defense of Nude Selfies

By Amanda Marcotte

Why take sexy photos on your camera? For the same reason you have sex: It’s fun. The first thing humans do when we have access to a new technology is ask how we can get off to it.

A mere few weeks after a major dump of stolen nude photos of famous women, it’s happening again. Another bunch of naked pictures, likely stolen from cloud storage, are being released by sleazy operators with an overblown sense of entitlement to women’s bodies. That this is an unconscionable act of privacy invasion that is leaving its victims devastated should be obvious, but one of the victims, Gabrielle Union, put it best in her joint statement with her husband, Dwyane Wade: “I can’t help but to be reminded that since the dawn of time women and children, specifically women of color, have been victimized, and the power over their own bodies taken from them.”

This is sick and harassing behavior and the only people who should be held accountable for it are the people who are sharing the pictures. Should you need any further proof, a quick dip into the discussion forums about this at Reddit should remove all doubt, being as they are a wasteland of racism, misogyny, and a complete disconnect from any sense that other people have feelings worth considering. Or how they game out how to get away with as much of this as possible without running into legal trouble. A couple have a flutter of conscience, but only enough to say that maybe you shouldn’t rub the victims’ noses in it, but not enough to stop sharing the pictures.

But one kind of Reddit thinking has, sadly, gone past that cesspool and broken into more mainstream arenas: The thinking that blames the victims for this because they took the pictures in the first place.
Half of Americans See Gay Sex as a Sin

Half of Americans See Gay Sex as a Sin

Emma Green

For the most part, acceptance of gay marriage is growing. But according to a new survey, acceptance of gayness is not.

A new Pew poll on religion in public life found that exactly half of respondents said they consider "homosexual behavior" sinful, a five-percentage-point increase since May 2013. This view is most prominent among white evangelicals and black protestants; more than three-quarters of each group said they see gay sex as a sin.

This bump is accompanied by a slight dip in the portion of respondents who said they support same-sex marriage—49 percent said they were in favor, which is a five-point drop since February. This is roughly the same level of support seen among Americans in 2013.

Another gay-rights issue—whether businesses should be forced to provide services, like catering or cake-baking, at same-sex weddings—split Americans in roughly the same way. Forty-nine percent said vendors should be required to serve at gay ceremonies, while 47 percent said they should be allowed to refuse.

The President Goes After Terrorists in Syria

The President Goes After Terrorists in Syria

Four observations about the coalition that is now launching airstrikes into the country

By Jeffrey Goldber

So, our reluctant, hesitant, wan, diffident loner egghead of a president somehow managed to pull together a potent Arab coalition and launch an air war against extremists of the Islamic State terror group on their home turf. Very surprising, given his reputation.

Defying expectations is one thing; winning a war in which victory has not yet been adequately defined is another. And yet, President Obama has taken the first, significant steps to at least slow, and possibly reverse, ISIS's expansion.

3. This struggle is now owned by the United States. President Obama has spread around the risk, but make no mistake, this is an American fight. If President Obama wasn't convinced that the U.S. is—and should be—the world's sole remaining superpower, he is now. Our reluctant president came to the conclusion that it would be insane for the civilized world to allow the barbarians of ISIS to overspread the Middle East. He looked around, and realized that the only country that could lead the anti-ISIS campaign was his. He's right, alas, and this leadership has a cost. ISIS was mainly interested, for the moment, at least, in securing its own borders, and building the infrastructure of a state. I have a feeling its long-term planners woke up this morning newly interested in finding ways to hurt Americans.

Mark Harmon: the World’s Biggest TV Star
By Jason Lynch

Don’t tell him, but Mark Harmon is a big deal. That’s what happens when you’re the star of NCIS, a drama with ratings that rival Sunday Night Football and The Big Bang Theory.

There are certain behaviors we’ve come to expect, even demand, from our TV stars: Regularly gracing magazine covers, becoming permanent fixtures on red carpets, making frequent talk show appearances, signing on for glossy ad campaigns, routinely juggling movie roles and instagramming/tweeting up a storm. Kerry Washington, Sofía Vergara, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Hamm, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres—hell, even Kim Kardashian—all have held up their end of the bargain. We know seemingly everything, sometimes too much, about them.

And then there’s the curious case of Mark Harmon. He’s the lead of a little CBS drama called NCIS, which returns Tuesday for its 12th season. While it may not be a show you watch, nearly 20 million people tune in every week (8 million more than the average audiences for Scandal and Modern Family), a number that skyrockets to 35 million when you factor in those who watch it in syndication on USA.

NCIS, which stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service, is not only the third most popular show on TV (just behind Sunday Night Football and The Big Bang Theory), but was recently named the most-watched drama in the world, with more than 57.6 million viewers globally in 2013. The show, which has spawned two spinoffs (the newest, NCIS: New Orleans, also premieres Tuesday), is now “a billion-dollar franchise,” as CBS Entertainment Chairman Nina Tassler declared this summer—and Harmon is at the center of it.

Harmon is an anomaly in today’s overshare-first-ask-questions-later pop culture: an anti-celeb. There’s no gushing about the secrets of his 27-year marriage to Mork & Mindy star Pam Dawber (which is more like 270 in Hollywood years), no off-the-cuff speeches about politics or anything else controversial; no statements, in fact, that aren’t in some way related to his show. And his actions speak just as softly as his words: when you search “Mark Harmon” on TMZ, not a single story comes up, which doesn’t even seem possible. He’s perhaps the only person in Hollywood who says he wants his work to speak for itself, and actually means it.

So why hasn’t the actor made more of his stardom, either for good or evil? “One of the big reasons I took this job in the first place, it was about really trying to stay home,” says Harmon. “I had a young family. And the first day on this show was 22 hours. We had a lot of those in the first 4 or 5 years here. We’ve learned how to do it better. We’re still doing a 14-hour-day and my wife says, ‘You’re the only person in Hollywood who’s happy about working a 14-hour day!’ I said, ‘Well, compared to where we came from, that’s a huge improvement.’ There’s immensely talented people on this show and one of the nice things about being there is, everybody has a voice. We don’t keep secrets. It’s just an enjoyable job. And I say that, having had them where it’s not.”

Strikes targeted cell plotting attack

A U.S. missile is launched in strikes against the Islamic State. (EPA)

Strikes targeted cell plotting attack

Terrence McCoy

In addition to a campaign against the Islamic State, the U.S. also hit overnight a little known, but well-resourced al-Qaeda cell.

The Pentagon said in a statement early Tuesday morning that U.S. warplanes conducted eight strikes west of Aleppo against the cell, called the Khorasan Group, targeting its “training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communications building and command and control facilities.”

The attacks bring broader attention to the group of clandestine al-Qaeda operatives, which U.S. officials first warned of last week. The group “has established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations,” the Pentagon said.

Muhsin al-Fadhli

The mission of the Khorasan, led by longtime al-Qaeda leader Muhsin al-Fadhli, appears to be different than other militant groups operating in Syria.

Its objective in Syria isn’t to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, or accumulate land and resources like Islamic State. Rather, its members have come from Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan to exploit the flood of Western jihadists who now have skin in the fight — and possess very valuable passports. According to the Associated Press, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri dispatched the group to recruit those Western fighters, who have a better chance of escaping scrutiny at airports and could place bombs on planes.

Twenty-Somethings Moving Back Home

Twenty-Somethings Moving Back Home

By Melissa Deuter, M.D.

Maybe she graduated from college and hasn’t had time to find a real job yet. Or perhaps he washed out of military training. Or, maybe college or the first job experience was a flop. For a variety reasons, record numbers of twenty-somethings are moving back home to live with their parents.

GOP Asks Obama To Reveal His Secret Amnesty Plans

GOP Asks Obama To Reveal His Secret Amnesty Plans

Neil Munro

President Barack Obama listens to leaders of Baltic States for a joint news conference at the Kadriorg Art Museum in Tallinn

Obama has a December surprise for American families

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