Posts tagged with "Social media"

Judge orders Michael Cohen to be released from prison, returned to home confinement

July 24, 2020

A federal judge on Thursday ordered that President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and “fixer,  Michael Cohen be returned to home confinement, after the he was sent back to prison earlier this month over a dispute with federal corrections officials, The Hill reports.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, accused the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) of trying to violate Cohen’s First Amendment rights by imposing a gag order as a condition of his home confinement.

“I make the finding that the purpose of transferring Mr. Cohen from furlough and home confinement to jail as retaliatory, and it’s retaliatory because of his desire to exercise his First Amendment rights to publish the book and to discuss anything about the book or anything else he wants on social media” and elsewhere, Hellerstein said during a court hearing on July 23.

Cohen had been writing a book about his time working for Trump and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit this week alleging that he was sent back to prison in retaliation for the tell-all. Cohen is serving a three-year sentence for various charges, including fraud and lying to Congress.

“This order is a victory for the First Amendment,” Cohen’s attorney Danya Perry said in a statement after the hearing. “The First Amendment does not allow the government to block Cohen from publishing a book critical of the president as a condition of his release to home confinement. This principle transcends politics. We are gratified that the rule of law prevails.”

Cohen had been released to home confinement in May amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic’s effects on the prison population, The Hill said..

Earlier this month, Cohen and his attorney met with corrections officials to finalize the terms of the home confinement agreement and objected to a number of the conditions, including a prohibition against speaking with the media or publishing any sort of writing.

According to the report by The Hill, Justice Department officials detained Cohen during the meeting over his objections and sent him back to prison.

The DOJ denied that the gag order was aimed at stopping Cohen from proceeding with his book or that his being returned to prison was retaliation over the planned publication.

During Thursday’s hearing, Hellerstein, who was appointed to the court by former President Clinton, appeared disturbed by the manner in which BOP officials decided to reincarcerate Cohen and the gag order that they tried to impose upon him.

“I’ve never seen such a clause,” Hellerstein said. “In 21 years of being a judge and sentencing people and looking at the conditions of supervised release, I’ve never seen such a clause.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which defended the BOP’s move in court, did not immediately respond when asked for comment.

Research contact: @thehill

Is the face familiar? Plastic surgeon Stephen Greenberg ‘unpacks’ Kellyanne Conway’s new look

June 25, 2020

Never mind the alternative facts she spouts in her position as White House spokesperson. What about her alternative face?

Senior White House Adviser Kellyanne Conway looked noticeably different during an appearance on the Fox News early morning talker Fox & Friends on Monday, June 22—causing speculation on social media that she may have had some work done.

Indeed, Page Six of The New York Post reported that some viewers “ … said it looked like the 53-year-old mom of four had been run through Zoom’s “Touch Up My Appearance” filter.

“In Hollywood, I believe we call that ‘refreshed,’” snipped actress Kristen Johnston, implying that Conway had gotten cosmetic work done.

Manhattan-based plastic surgeon Dr. Stephen Greenberg told Page Six that the White House counselor’s smoothed-out appearance could be the result of procedures—including “injections like Botox, and either fat transfer to the face or fillers, an upper and lower eyelid lift, face-lift and a nose job.”

Greenberg notes that her “cheekbones seem lifted and she doesn’t seem to have extra skin around her eyes” and that her “nose tip is more shapely and smaller.”

Research contact: @nypost

Oh, you’re such a ‘Karen,’ whatever that means

May 15, 2020

It is the eye-rolling rejoinder that makes Karens everywhere—but especially on social media—grind their teeth: “Okay, KAREN.”

Indeed, while it may be familiar and frequently used first name, on the Internet, “Karen” has come to stand for so much more, according to a report by The Guardian.

Judging by the popular meme, Karen is a middle-aged white woman with an asymmetrical bob who happens to be as entitled as she is ignorant—and she’s asking to speak to the store manager.

However, The Guardian notes,  “As the meme has become more prominent in online discourse, its meaning has become confused, and criticism has been voiced that it is sexist—catching real-life Karens in the crosshairs.”

“I spend a lot of time on Twitter, so I find it rather annoying,” Karen Geier, a writer and podcaster from Toronto told the news outlet. “Anything you say, people can be like, ‘Okay, well, whatever, KAREN’ —but that’s not even how the meme is supposed to be used. It’s supposed to be about people who want to speak to the manager.”

Know Your Meme, a Wiki-style site that defines Internet culture, added “Karen” last year as an extension of the “‘Can I speak to the manager’ haircut” meme, born of Black Twitter back in 2014. “Whenever you want to signal that that character’s a Karen, you’ll just toss that haircut on,” says the editor-in-chief, Don Caldwell.

The choice of moniker has been linked to the 2004 film, Mean Girls, in which a character says, outraged: “Oh my God, Karen, you can’t just ask someone why they’re white”—a meme in and of itself.

But more likely, The Guardian says, the name was chosen for its association with whiteness. “Growing up as a kid in the 1990s, I remember people—particularly, other black—being like, ‘You don’t look like a Karen,’” recalls Karen Attiah, an editor at The Washington Post. “It was an unspoken thing, but Karen was a white, older lady’s name.”

When Attiah was born in 1986, she told The Guardian, “[the use of the name] Karen” was already in decline, having peaked in the United States in 1965. In 2018 there were just 468 baby Karens born. “We’re kind of a rare breed,” she says.

Her mother, who had immigrated from Nigeria, chose the name so that Attiah could “easily move around in a white-dominated world”. “It has afforded me, I think, a certain privilege,” says Attiah.

It is that privilege that the meme sets out to skewer. In 2018, it was among a handful of female names to become attached to a spate of viral videos showing white women racially targeting people of color. The antagonist of one such clip, of a woman calling the police over a group of African American men having a barbecue in a park in Oakland, California, came to be known as BBQ Becky (another name applied to white women online).

The meme is therefore rooted in black American Internet culture, says Attiah—an attempt to find humor in real-world racism and oppression. To call someone a Karen is to target a particular behavior: “It’s a very specific definition and, if you’re not acting that way, it shouldn’t bother you,” says Attiah, implying that “to try to hijack the meaning of the meme is “a pretty Karen thing to do.”

The meme has new resonance in the time of coronavirus, increasingly being applied to those who are protesting against social distancing measures or treating the pandemic as permission to unfairly police others.

Karen Sandler, an attorney and software freedom advocate, tells the Guardian that, at first she was “a little sad” to see her name being applied so negatively – “but it’s just so funny, and also clearly, a little bit true”.

It has in some ways been a wake-up call, says Sandler. “I never want to be ‘a Karen’ in the way the meme suggests and, since it’s my name, I think about this often. It has helped me really appreciate the advantages that I have in life, and emboldened me to speak out when I see people being ignored or disadvantaged.”

The Karen character serves as a reminder to support people who are being ignored or overlooked, says Sandler, and to use her Karen powers for good. She included it in a recent talk she gave as an example of how everyone—not just Karens—can learn to be more mindful of others.

“The only way we’ll help our societies to become fully equal is if we each are willing to speak out for other people who have more to lose by speaking up. And Karens are known for their voices!”

Research contact: @GuardianUS

Rude awakening: Find out the story behind this amazingly grumpy baby photo

February 27, 2020

They are calling it “the scowl seen ‘round the world.” A photo from Brazil has gone viral for catching the expression of a newborn baby girl who appears to angrily stare down the doctor who delivered her by C-section.

Photographer Rodrigo Kunstmann, who snapped the now-famous picture of Isabela Pereira de Jesus, said her family burst out laughing when he showed them the image.

“They were like, ‘This could be an internet meme!’” Kunstmann, 32, told TODAY Parents on NBC-TV in the United States through a translator. “Everybody thought it was funny.”

But don’t be fooled by Isabela’s expression. Kunstmann has been in touch with her parents and they insist she has an easy, gentle disposition.

“She’s very sweet,” Kunstmann revealed. “The picture was just a moment.”

Still, it’s fun to imagine what was going through Isabela’s mind when she made her entrance into the world.

“Do NOT disturb my sleep for this! Lol,” wrote one person on Kunstmann’s Facebook page.

Added another, “She’s mad at the Dr. for taking her from her warm and dark and peaceful world into a bright room with a lot of people awing over her.”

“I remember when I first laid eyes on her after her birth, that was the face she was making,” Musa’s mom, Justine Tuhy, previously told TODAY Parents. “She was born via C-section at 41 weeks, so we assume she is annoyed she was evicted.”

Research contact: @TODAYshow

Neuroscientist calls ‘Blue Monday’ idea ‘rubbish’

January 21, 2020

If you’ve heard that the third Monday in January—January 20 this year and known as “Blue Monday”—is the saddest day of the year, or that through some dark magic the date has power over your life or mood; don’t believe it, Canoe reports.

The idea of Blue Monday first surfaced in 2005, when a UK-based company called Sky Travel identified the date using an equation relied on variables such as weather, debt, time since Christmas, and time since failure of new year’s resolutions. Since then, the notion has become a popular hook for publicists promoting everything from retail to vacation therapies.

But it’s not a real thing, experts say.

In fact, neuroscientist Dr, Dean Burnett of Wales told Canoe that he was forced to become a reluctant, but tireless, warrior fighting what he calls the “ludicrous” concept of Blue Monday after being quoted without context in an article about the day some years ago.

Burnett calls the equation, and the whole concept, “rubbish.”

“It’s not a thing,” said Burnett. “This nonsensical equation was made up by a travel company to encourage people to take more holidays this time of year, and they found an academic to put his name to it.”

Burnett, who has spent years working in psychiatry and has an extensive background in mental health, told the Toronto-based news outlet,  “There is no such thing as a 24-hour depression, like a flu. Mental health just doesn’t work that way and the idea that it does is actually quite harmful.”

Nonetheless, the idea gets a lot of traction through social media.

“It’s a work of genius: Mid-January everyone is a bit bleak. If you are led to believe it’s the most depressing day of the year, it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. Any other day you might not give any attention to the little negative things that happen, but, ‘Oh, it’s Blue Monday’ legitimizes focusing on it,” Burnett said.

He hopes to turn the day around and use it to promote mental health by encouraging people to support mental-health charities, as he is doing through a gofundme page entitled “Rethink Blue Monday.

“If we can associate it with a more genuinely positive thing, then we can help redirect it to something more positive. Mental health is an ongoing problem, not something that happens one day a year,” Burnett told Canoe.

Research contact: @canoe

National Lampoon returns with ‘Radio Hour’ podcast, but no Trump jokes

December 18, 2019

The relaunch of National Lampoon—the famed comedy studio for live performances, films, TV, social media, and audio productions—begins in earnest this week with the December 19 debut of National Lampoon Radio Hour, a sketch comedy podcast written and performed by Cole Escola, Jo Firestone, and clutch of rising-star comedians, Variety reports.

On the latest episode of Variety‘s Strictly Business podcast, National Lampoon President Evan Shapiro—hired last May to revive the brand—discusses the guiding principles behind the comeback of a phenomenon that was a primal force in the careers of Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Bill Murray, John Hughes, Christopher Guest, Harold Ramis, Michael O’Donoghue and other heavyweights.

The company founded in 1970 as a humor magazine by Harvard Lampoon alumni—and later, expanded into a radio sketch comedy series, albums, and live stage shows.

As industry legend goes, the founders of National Lampoon turned down the offer from Lorne Michaels to develop the original “Radio Hour” into a TV series. That prompted Michaels to hire away many from the Lampoon stable to kickstart Saturday Night Live for NBC in 1975.

Given National Lampoon’s history with the Radio Hour, a podcast made sense to start a new era for the company. During the interview recorded in the comedy performance space at Brooklyn’s famed Union Hall, Shapiro also shared a clip from the new-model  Radio Hour—featuring a spoof of ABC’s enduring reality series The Bachelorette.

Video of the podcast performers in action on each episode will be uploaded to National Lampoon’s YouTube channel — a precursor to what Shapiro hopes will be a TV development pact for the property, Variety reports. Shapiro sees the podcast and YouTube offshoot as a handy way to “monetize the development process.”

The industry news outlet says the podcast also takes a cue from the Lampoon’s past by offering promising young comedians “a safe haven and format where they can really do anything,” Shapiro says. “It’s a platform to critique and satirize mainstream culture.”

The company now aims to integrate itself back into the cutting-edge comedy world with the podcast, live shows around the country and at a dedicated performance space in New York, and a host of film and TV projects in development.

“We want to be the brand that people want to wear on their chest,” Shapiro said. The live component of the comedy business gives them an opening to become part of what Shapiro sees as “the comedy lifestyle” for hard-core fans of standup, improve, and sketch troupes. “Media brands that have engaged communities, ones that are sustained over time — those are going to be the truly successful media enterprises” of the future, he said.

One thing listeners won’t hear on “Radio Hour,” which is set for an 11-episode initial run as weekly installments, is an avalanche of Trump-related humor. True to the spirit of the company that generated such box office smashes in 1978’s Animal House and the Chevy Chase-led Vacation movie franchise, National Lampoon aims to offer a “twisted mainstream” skewering of contemporary culture. But it will not be overtly political — an edgy choice, given the environment.

“We are going to take on culture, not politics,” Shapiro said. “We’re holding up a mirror to the culture that needs to know that those jeans do make your ass look fat.”

Research contact: @Variety

Why Facebook may know when you last had sex

September 11, 2019

Did you think that you and your partner or spouse were the only ones who knew (maybe, aside from your next-door neighbors) when you two last had sex? Wrong. Facebook may know, too, according to a September 9 report in The New York Times. And they also may know when it’s “that time of the month.”

How is that possible?

According to the UK-based privacy watchdog, Privacy International, at least two menstruation- and ovulation-tracking apps, Maya and MIA Fem, have shared intimate details of users’ sexual health with Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform, as well as other entities.

In some cases, the data shared with external social media (which are self-recorded by users in the app) included:

  • When a user last had sex,
  • The type of contraception used,
  • Her mood, and
  • Whether she was ovulating.

The Times notes, “The findings raise questions about the security of our most private information in an age where employers, insurers, and advertisers can use data to discriminate or target certain categories of people.”

The information was shared with the social media giant via the Facebook Software Development Kit, a product that allows developers to create apps for specific operating systems, track analytics, and monetize their apps through Facebook’s advertising network. Privacy International found that Maya and MIA began sharing data with Facebook as soon as a user installed the app on her phone and opened it, even before a privacy policy was signed.

Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne told the new outlet that advertisers did not have access to the sensitive health information shared by these apps. In a statement, he said Facebook’s ad system “does not leverage information gleaned from people’s activity across other apps or websites” when advertisers choose target users by interestBuzzFeed first reported the news.

However, the fact is that today, many apps still are not subject to the same rules as most health data.

Some of the apps even have come under scrutiny as powerful monitoring tools for employers and health insurers, which have aggressively pushed to gather more data about their workers’ lives than ever before under the banner of corporate wellness. Plus, it appears the data could be shared more broadly than many users recognize, as flagged by the Privacy International study.

Several period- and pregnancy-tracking apps have been called out for sharing health data with women’s employers and insurance companies, as well as for security flaws that reveal intimate information, the Times reports.

Deborah C. Peel, a psychiatrist and founder of the nonprofit Patient Privacy Rights, based in Austin, Texas,  told the Times that people expect their health data to be protected by the same laws that protect their health information in a doctors office, but that many apps aren’t subject to the same rules.

“Most people would want to make their own decisions about what’s known about their sex life, about whether it’s shared or not,” said Peel. “Right now we have no ability to do that.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Cheap thrills: Dollar General’s new $5 beauty brand is going viral

September 10, 2019

Fashionistas, take note: There’s a new brand in the beauty business—and it’s not sold at swanky cosmetics counters for big bucks, or at drugstores, either.

Launched last spring, Dollar General’s humble, $5-and-under Believe Beauty cosmetics line is available at the chain’s 15,000 locations nationwide—and it has gone viral, thanks to the raves of social media beauty bloggers.

According to a report by CNN, Dollar General partnered with a beauty manufacturer on the private-label line of lipsticks, eye shadows, foundations, nail polishes, and skin care essentials; and is giving it prime real estate at stores: It’s displaying the 150-product collection in dedicated sections at the end of store aisles, making it easy for customers to find.

The aspirational brand is “an important part of our strategy,” CEO Todd Vasos told the network news outlet.

Dollar General executives say they developed the brand to bolster the company’s hold on existing customers and improve its thin profit margins. Dollar General also hopes to draw Millennials with the brand. Millennials probably won’t post online about snacks or a new mop they bought at Dollar General, but they love showing off their new makeup online, CNN notes.

Dozens of Believe reviews on by beauty vloggers on YouTube already have racked up hundreds of thousands of page views. One 16-minute YouTube review from a beauty vlogger has 125,000 views. Instagram is flooded with more than 3,000 posts using “#believebeauty.”

All that social media attention means free advertising for Dollar General. It boosts the company’s image with younger shoppers and is helping lift the dollar-store empire.

“People like those kind of videos because it’s something different,” Taylor Horn, a blogger who reviewed Believe on her YouTube channel, told CNN Business. Her channel has more than 750,000 followers.

“It’s cool when lines like Believe Beauty launch, where it’s accessible,” she said. “I think it’s more achievable and the things that your everyday consumer can afford.”

Dollar General is following a similar strategy to Walgreens, Target, Zara, Forever 21 and even 7-Eleven, CNN points out. These companies have all added their own in-house cosmetics lines in recent years.

Research contact: @CNN

Fat cat finds foster family

September 3, 2019

There’s just more of him to love. Mr. B., a 26-pound cat who was surrendered to the Morris Animal Refuge in Philadelphia, finally has found a foster home.

The shelter received more than 3,000 adoption applications after it posted Mr. B’s plight on social media—tweeting, “OMG, big boi…is a chonk of a chonk. He redefines the term. …Can you give him a home?”

In fact, MSN reports, the tweet was shared more 14,000 times and became the subject of numerous headlines as people fell hard for the chunky Mr. B.

After the two-year-old feline was placed in a loving home, the shelter sent its thanks on August 22, tweeting, “Sweet chunky Mr. B’s amazed by the huge outpawing of interest in him.”

The shelter said on its website that it will continue to work with Mr. B’s new foster family to help resolve the cat’s health and behavioral issues so that they might eventually offer him a permanent home.

“While the goal is to make this Mr. B’s forever home, the family will be able to provide him with a safe and comfortable environment while we learn more about him and his needs,” the Morris Animal Refuge website said.

The shelter also revealed that Mr. B’s viral post helped bring in over $1,800 in donations and the shelter has sold more than 400 Mr. B CHONK shirts.

Morris Animal Refuge has not divulged either the name or location of the foster family, in order to allow them some privacy and the opportunity to bond with Mr. B.

Research contact: @MorrisAnimal

Last licks: Woman caught on social media licking store ice cream and putting it back faces years in jail

July 8, 2019

A woman who licked more than her lips at a Walmart store may find herself in the “cooler” soon. The “mystery shopper” (who has not yet been identified by authorities) went viral on social media recently for licking a tub of ice cream and returning it to the frozen food display.

Now police say that, when they find her, she faces up to 20 years in prison for the prank, according to a July 4 report by NBC News.

The footage of the escapade—which already has been viewed more than 11 million times— shows the so-far unnamed woman opening a container, running her tongue across the ice cream; then laughing as she places the violated dessert back in the freezer, in a branch of Walmart in the city of Lufkin, eastern Texas.

She could face a second-degree felony charge of tampering with a consumer product, the Lufkin, Texas, Police Department said in an email statement to NBC News. The charge comes with a two- to 20-year prison term and up to $10,000 in fines, according to Texas state penal code.

Police also want to speak to the man she was with, who is thought to have filmed the incident and can be heard encouraging the woman to “Lick it, lick it.”

According to NBC, investigators also are in discussions with the FDA and additional federal charges could be made.

“Our detectives are working to verify the identity of the female suspect before a warrant is issued for her arrest on a charge of second-degree felony tampering with a consumer product,” a police spokesperson said.

“As that portion of the investigation continues, detectives are focusing on identifying the male (in the green shirt) behind the camera seen in images of the two entering the store together.”

Blue Bell Creameries, the local manufacturer of the ice cream brand the woman licked, has called the incident a “malicious act of food tampering.”

All tubs containing the mix of creamy vanilla ice cream with swirls of chocolate fudge and dark-chocolate-covered roasted peanuts have been removed from the store’s shelves as a precaution, the company said. The specific carton believed to be compromised was found among the lot.

In an earlier statement, the company explained that its cartons are frozen upside down in production, which creates a natural, tight seal by freezing the lid to the tub, meaning consumers would notice if any tampering occurred upon opening a fresh tub.

Research contact: @NBCNews