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Updated: 16 min 2 sec ago

Halima Has a Refreshing Approach to Music, Intimacy, and Unconditional Love

24 min 48 sec ago

Halima’s honesty comes through in her music with subtle but unmistakable force, in soulful vocals that take their time, sprawling out and making themselves comfortable on her songs. Halima uses space and solitude on her records like she did growing up as an introverted only-child, born in New Jersey and raised by her mother between Lagos and London. With the guitar she’d picked up with her pocket money, 9-year-old Halima began writing songs for hours on end each night. Later, she moved back to the United States, and she’s been living in Brooklyn curiously and compassionately expanding her work in fashion, music, design, and community since. Today, Halima released a new single “Talk” from her upcoming album, along with a striking visualizer.

The “Talk” visualizer—directed, shot, and edited by Bellamy Brewster—came together as intuitively as the song itself, with styling and creative direction by Zainab Babikir. Halima remembers the shoot being a product of collaborative and focused minimalism. “We knew it would be black and white because it’s not a vibrant song, necessarily, but it’s energetic, and the contrast of black and white shows that juxtaposition. We decided my skin was going to be an element we focused on, to represent vulnerability and nakedness,” she said. Halima’s fist and sharp black acrylic nails bang on the drum in the video, symbolizing the natural urgency of moments of lucidity and choice, which Halima explained have a place in the lyrics: “Everything was said in that one motion.”

“Talk” is a lyrical anecdote of the ways love disarms the ego and commands growth. Halima shared the internal dialogue behind her writing the song with grace and humor. “You know the arguments that start and stop, pause and restart, and go around in circles until you forget what you’re arguing about?” Halima said with a laugh, explaining the single’s lyrics. She remembered negotiating with herself after an argument with her partner, deciding her greatest priority was loving them, and shifting her perspective. “I was sitting down thinking, what the hell was that?” she said. “I was so fixated on proving my point. Having a second of distance from it, I realized how much of it was my ego. So, I started writing this song immediately.”

Halima used phrases like “coming to” and “leaning in to listen” as she unpacked the mindset she was in writing “Talk,” which is as much about internal communication as external, and one’s ability to reframe a disagreement from a place of perspective, lucidity and love. (“When I crossed that line / And I realized I lost my mind”). “‘Talk’ is concise, minimal, with very few words, so the visuals needed to mirror that,” Halima explained. “It doesn’t need any additional distractions from the simplicity of the message. It is bare for a reason, it’s naked, and it is the opening to more conversations I want to have in this project.”

“It is bare for a reason, it’s naked, and it is the opening to more conversations I want to have in this project.”

The instrumental underlying “Talk” is deliberately sparse but sharp and passionate, with a foundation belonging to djembe drums and Halima’s distinctive vocals. “After I wrote ‘Talk’, I sent it to my friend, Mikey Freedom Hart, an incredible producer, who invited Oludaré, who added djembe embellishments and so much heart to the track,” Halima said. “To me, drums are the heartbeat, the internal rhythm, it feels super intimate. I also wanted to make sure the vocal was very present so it feels urgent, like you’re leaning in to listen.”

Halima’s voice is an instrument she said she loves to experiment with. “With my voice, I like to do things that aren’t right or correct. I like to sing and harmonize in my low register to take up space in the low end that typically the bass or the kick would fill up.” Halima has made a habit of following her instincts in creating her art and following her heart’s impulses for movement and voice. “Growing up, my voice was what I was most insecure about because it didn’t sound like most other people who looked like me physically,” Halima said. “So, I really took time getting comfortable with my own vocal identity. Now I want to emphasize that element of my music, because it is my voice, you know, I'm telling the story with my voice and I don’t have to be conventional in my delivery, and that is something I've realized recently.” Halima said with a smile, “Genres are created by the music industry.”

Free of creative restrictions, Halima is existing in her relationship with music the way she is learning to exist in loving relationships—with introspection, humility, and no facades. Her new album is set to arrive later this year, and she is leaving expansive space for growth and transparency in her music. “I’ve learned the importance of being honest about where I’m at,” she said. “My art is a stamp of where I’m at in my life.”

Follow Halima on Instagram

Bystander Says Officer Totally Ignored a Passed-Out Woman Being Raped

46 min 34 sec ago

“There’s a man having sex with a woman on the street corner in the open. She is totally passed out,” began a 911 call in New Orleans. Then, the caller added, “Two police officers just drove by. I know they saw them, and they did not stop, but somebody needs to respond to that. She is being raped.”

The caller said that there was an officer parked just a block away from the scene, who she said did nothing even after she alerted him to the rape. In audio recordings from the 911 call, she can be heard talking to the officer, with no response.

As the minutes dragged on on the nearly six-minute-long call, the caller started to panic. As nearby officers did nothing, she debated dealing with the rapist.

“I probably should fucking walk up there. Like this poor girl. I mean, I am going to get up there faster than this fucking cop is,” she said. “The police officer hasn’t even moved. He’s still just parked here. What the fuck? What the fuck are y’all doing?”

The caller’s account, first shared on Twitter in late July, ignited outrage across New Orleans. But the audio recording of her 911 call, obtained earlier this week by local news outlet The Lens, poured gasoline on the fire.

On Thursday, Constable of Second City Court Edwin Shorty told another local news outlet, WWL-TV, that the officer accused of failing to act, a deputy constable, had been suspended indefinitely without pay. The constable was working on an approved detail for a film production, Nola.com reported.

That constable is now facing an investigation, Shorty said. 

Do you know of cases where police officers ignored reports of sexual assault? Contact carter.sherman@vice.com. 

Deputy constables are trained, uniformed law enforcement officers who carry guns and badges, according to WWL-TV. They focus on eviction-related actions and process server duties for courts that handle small claims, but they also have the power to arrest people.

New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Shaun Ferguson, meanwhile, said in a press conference that there was a video of a New Orleans Police Department car driving near the scene. But, Ferguson said, it’s not clear if they saw what happened.

“No one waved the vehicle down or flagged the vehicle down to draw the officers' attention to that particular incident,” Ferguson said. Ferguson said a New Orleans Police Department officer showed up just minutes after the 911 call.

But by that point, it may have been too late. On the 911 call, the woman can be heard saying that the alleged rapist had vanished.

“He’s fucking gone!” she yelled. “This fucking cop is still a block away and this girl got raped on a street corner! Literally got raped on a street corner! These cops drove right fucking past her!”

Police are still investigating the alleged sexual assault.

Out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, just 310 are reported to police, according to statistics from RAINN, the nation’s premiere anti-sexual assault organization. But of those, even fewer result in real criminal consequences: Just 50 cases lead to arrests, and only 28 lead to a felony conviction.

Police officers themselves also sexually assault people much more often than most people tend to think. One 2020 Bowling Green State University study identified 669 cases of police sexual violence between 2005 and 2012.

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The Best Deals This Week, From Sex Toy Staples to Personal Fire Pits

1 hour 2 min ago

Remember QVC? (Those of us who watch Shark Tank know that it’s still around, but still.) Our 40-year-old mothers loved it when those overenthusiastic TV hosts attempted to sell them snake-oil anti-aging treatments, costume jewelry that’d sit in their drawers forever, or Christmas snow globes in July. Whatever our susceptible mommies were served, they’d eat up the deals and try to dial in as fast as possible to beat the Karen next door. These memories haunt me, so it makes sense that I’ve chosen a career that lets me guide others to the best deals out there—and away from fakers of any kind. 

Last week, we found delicious deals galore: a rare sale on Le Creuset’s majestic cookware, luxurious Avocado mattresses for an epic snooze, and deep fryers, because we love us some mozzarella sticks. This week, we’re serving up savings on tenderizing Theraguns that are basically a personal masseuse, snazzy West Elm furniture and decor on clearance, and a handy blackhead remover for a glowing complexion to impress your Plenty of Fish date. Follow us into the shopping abyss, if you dare.

The best Amazon deals right now

A bad breakout makes us want to call in sick. So, to beat the dreaded feeling of looking in the mirror and seeing a giant zit staring back at you, it’s best to take preventive measures. This Skin Scrubber Blackhead Remover is 36% off and uses water mist and slight pressure to extract blackheads, whiteheads, oil, and other zit-causing gunk with its vibrating head. No more tears.

Dyson is the big daddy when it comes to air purifiers, but the Bissell Air400 is worth chatting about, too—especially when you find it at a superb markdown. It has a 4.6-star average rating on Amazon and is currently 58% off. With three-stage filtration that captures 99.97% of 0.3-micron particles, and sensors that adjust fan speeds when necessary, this baby will keep you breathin’ easy even in the densest summer smog.

No one, and we mean no one, is allowed to touch our feet. The only thing allowed to work its magic down there is the Renpho Foot Massager Machine for 23% off. It’s equipped with rotation balls, rolling sticks, a heating element, and a remote control for an incredible massage. With three kneading settings and the ability to fit any foot up to a men’s size 14, almost everyone will be able to enjoy this gadget—except maybe Shaq.

Therabody’s back to school sale

While not all of us will be heading back to school in the fall, we can still take advantage of the sweet sales. Therabody is offering up to $300 off its cult-favorite Theraguns to tenderize your weary limbs after a long, brutal day. The Mini is a fabulous portable option, with three basic speeding settings, while the Prime model has some extra bells and whistles with its four multi-use attachments and customizable speed ranges. 

Lovehoney’s pleasure fest

The sexy folks over at Lovehoney are holding the “ultimate festival of pleasure” to help you make the most of those last sultry days of summer. Get up to 50% off couple’s toys, erotic lingerie, and cllitoral sunction toys to get down and dirty. Treat yourself to the Womanizer Starlet, which offers your bean four levels of intensity and a wide spectrum of sensations. Or, snag a King Cock that’ll give you the girth you deserve. (It also has a suction cup so you can stick that slugger somewhere for hands-free play.) 

Solo Stove’s summer sale

Fall is prime bonfire season, and it’s right around the corner. The folks at Solo Stove clearly know what's up, since they’re offering up to 35% off their popular fire pits right now. All three of these bad boys, which range from small to large, are lightweight, stainless steel, don’t emit much smoke, and have a five-star rating on the site. 

West Elm’s Warehouse Sale

West Elm, the church for Millennials furniture retailer of all things sleek and modern has extended its warehouse sale across all its dope categories. You can cop savings of up to 70% off on outdoor, bedroom, living room and dining furniture, as well as (chef’s kiss) home decor. Show off your favorite plant baby in this wooden planter, while updating your side table game with this glass, gold-toned model. 

Great Jones deals on cookware sets

Eat like a king with Great Jones’ family-style cookware set for $120 off. You don’t have to have a white picket fence and five kids (YIKES) to enjoy this deal, or all the culinary creations that this set can help you whip up—just invite your book club, ethically non-monogamous polycule, or Dungeons and Dragons group over instead. The five-piece set comes with The Dutchess, the Small Fry and Saucy pans, as well as the Deep Cut and Big Deal pots. 

Catch ya next week.

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.

Writer Salman Rushdie Attacked on Stage During Speaking Event

1 hour 41 min ago

Author Salman Rushdie was reportedly stabbed in an apparent attack during an event in Chautauqua, New York on Friday.

Attendees of an event hosted by the Chautauqua Institution reported that an attacker rushed the stage and stabbed the 75-year-old Rushdie. Onlookers reported that Rushdie was treated on-stage and walked off with assistance, while the attacker was taken into custody.

Rushdie, a celebrated author whose works include The Satanic Verses, has long been the subject of death threats, after the then-Ayatollah of Iran issued a fatwa against him in 1989 and put a $6 million bounty on his head

This story is still developing.

A Researcher Jerked Off to Underage Japanese Cartoon Boys and Published His Findings in an Academic Journal

1 hour 46 min ago

A nearly 4,000 word, first-person essay about a man’s experiences masturbating to Japanese comics of underage boys was published to the peer-reviewed journal Qualitative Research—and is now under investigation after sociologists on Twitter demanded to know how it passed academic review. 

Karl Andersson, a PhD student at the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at The University of Manchester, wrote the paper titled “I am not alone – we are all alone: Using masturbation as an ethnographic method in research on shota subculture in Japan.” Shota is an illustrated Japanese comic genre that depicts young, underage boys in sexualized ways or in sexually explicit scenarios.  

In his introduction, Andersson writes that he had “hit a wall” in his research into the ways fans of shota comics think about “desire and identity.” Interviews, surveys, and observations within the confines of accepted research methods weren’t enough for him, he claimed; as a fan of this genre himself, he wanted to experience data collection “firsthand.” 

“In this research note, I will recount how I set up an experimental method of masturbating to shota comics, and how this participant observation of my own desire not only gave me a more embodied understanding of the topic for my research but also made me think about loneliness and ways to combat it as driving forces of the culture of self-published erotic comics,” Andersson wrote. What follows is almost 4,000 words detailing Andersson’s masturbation habits, descriptions about his thoughts and feelings while reading pornographic comics about minors, and defenses of all of the above as legitimate research. It reads like an extended journal entry that one might show a therapist, and not a contribution to a peer-reviewed scientific publication. 

“Audre Lorde has written: ‘The erotic cannot be felt secondhand,’” Andersson wrote, quoting the Black lesbian activist and writer. “Indeed. And so I realized that my body was equipped with a research tool of its own that could give me, quite literally, a first-hand understanding of shota.” 

The research note was published in April, but went viral on Twitter this week, partially because the American Sociological Association’s annual conference was held this week and sociologists and anthropologists are talking together on Twitter more than usual. After Conservative Party MP Neil O’Brien tweeted the article, saying that “non-STEM” academia produces too much that is “not socially useful,” some academics defended the paper. But most sociologists and researchers, including those studying sexuality, reproduction, and gender, are decrying the paper as deeply problematic, embarrassing, and even dangerous to the field.

“Researchers from underrepresented backgrounds would never dream of writing something like this.”

Catherine Tan, an assistant professor in the department of sociology at Vassar College, told me she was heading out of the conference on the last day and was scrolling Twitter when she started seeing people making allusions to the paper. “At first I thought it was a joke,” she said. “Then I kind of got pissed, because ethnography is a rigorous, time consuming and important methodology in the social sciences. And while I'm sure Andersson’s study was vigorous, it was not rigorous research.” 

Andréa Becker, a postdoctoral research fellow studying sexual and reproductive health at the University of California, San Francisco, told me that when she first saw the paper circulating on Twitter, she—like many others—thought it was a hoax or a parody of social science, “which is sometimes denigrated by conservative critics as ‘masturbatory.’’’ she said. 

“While sexuality researchers have written about masturbation, this is the first I have heard of masturbation as a methodology, let alone masturbation to depictions of children,” Becker told me. “It is a misrepresentation of qualitative work, of sociology, and of sexualities research.” Invoking Lorde is only the start of Andersson’s problems, she said. “I will not attempt to speak for Lorde, but I am doubtful that a white man masturbating to depictions of children is what she had in mind when she said the erotic is a resource and a source of power.” 

“A constant thought running through my mind while reading the article was, ‘what was the review process for this article like?’” Justin Gutzwa, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Utah who researches gender, sexuality, and transphobia in education, told me. “I’m mystified that any reviewer would pass off on this as an exemplar of innovative ethnographic methods, let alone an acceptable, appropriate, or ethical piece of writing.” 

In a statement published to Twitter and on its website, Qualitative Research said that it began investigating the publication of “I am not alone” on August 9. “We are continuing with our investigations and will consider closely all guidance from the Committee of Publication Ethics and ensure that any actions taken comply with COPE standards.” 

“We are aware of serious concerns raised regarding an article published in Qualitative Research. We take such concerns and complaints extremely seriously,” Tom Hall, head of Cardiff University’s school of social sciences, and one of the editors of the journal, told me. “As a result of complaints received the editorial team will be undertaking an investigation and review of the article’s progress through to publication. As investigations remain on-going, it would be inappropriate to offer further comment.” 

Andersson’s longtime fascination with shota—which is illegal where he goes to school in the UK and several other countries—and more specifically, underage boys, is well-documented, as critics of the paper have pointed out online. He published Destroyer Magazine from 2006-2010, a publication with the stated purpose of bringing back "the adolescent boy as one of the ideals of gay culture" and featured boys as young as 13. According to an interview with Andersson in Out in 2012, it wasn’t always clear whether these children were aware they were being photographed for a magazine. 

According to another interview with VICE in 2012, after Destroyer, Andersson ran a website called breakingboys.com, which consisted of “violent, sexual headlines about young boys, illustrated with pictures of pre-pubescent boys in sexualised poses, half-naked and occasionally not wearing any pants,” according to VICE’s description of the site (which is now excluded from the Internet Archive). In that interview, he declined to straightforwardly answer whether he’d ever acted on fantasies about young boys in real life. “What is it anyways, to ‘sexualise children’ and what’s bad about it? It's not a real argument,” he said in that interview. 

In July, Andersson’s film “Unreal Boys” (about “three young men in Tokyo explore the limits of fantasy through the comic genre shota” according to his website) premiered at the European Association of Social Anthropologists in Belfast.

Few of the researchers commenting on and criticizing Andersson’s paper take the stance that sexuality, personal experience, or even masturbation don’t have a place in academic scholarship. There are endless examples of sexuality research, even when it draws from lived experience, being done well, ethically, and in a way that furthers scientific thought. But the numerous ethical issues that come up in Andersson’s work, according to the academic community—specifically that it's appropriation of Japanese culture, presents a lack of reflection on the researcher's own positionality, and uses depictions of minors—can’t be overlooked.

While the history of ethnography is complicated and problematic, there have been modern examples of ethnographic study where the researcher takes into account their own roles and identities. This paper is not one of them, Gutzwa said. “The author tries to pass off their individual engagement in a sexual practice as a mode of ethnography—which it simply is not,” they said. “By not actively engaging in the communities in the present work, the article straddles the line of armchair anthropology, or the practice of speaking about communities one is not a part of from a distance.” 

And Andersson’s failure to mention his own whiteness is a serious omission, they said. “This is especially harmful for the context of Japanese erotica, considering the ways in which Asian identities and media are sexually fetishized by non-Asian communities in harmful ways.”  

“As someone who studies Western perceptions of Japan via kawaii/cuteness and as a half-Japanese woman, I am actually not surprised by the article at all,” Erica Kanesaka, an interdisciplinary scholar of Asian American literature and culture specializing in the racial and sexual politics of kawaii and cuteness, tweeted about the paper. “To me, it seems like the logical outcome of centuries of Orientalist scholarship and fetishization.”

 “In this case, we essentially have a middle aged white man examining issues of loneliness by jacking off to Japanese comics that fetishize young boys, right?” Tan said. “People, especially white dudes, fetishizing Asian people has always been incredibly dehumanizing and problematic for obvious reasons.” 

All of this also raises questions about how this work made it through several rounds of peer review and supervision, to be published in a journal called Qualitative Research, where none of substance seemed to be present. “Instead, we have descriptions from field notes and synthesized prose of how the author personally benefited from masturbation,” Gutzwa tweeted. 

“​Researchers are part of society themselves. We are people,” Tan said. “We go into the field with our own histories, our own experiences, our own values and beliefs. We try to be as objective as possible, but our position cannot be ignored. So it is critical to be reflexive and to examine our position when we enter the field.” This is especially true for researchers in privileged positions, she said.

Becker said that she’s had her own work on reproductive and sexual health “belittled by male scholars” or questioned; seeing Andersson successfully publish in a well-respected peer-reviewed journal, to her, is shocking. 

“I simply cannot imagine a journal publishing work in which a woman presents masturbation as her methodology let alone refers to her clitoris as a research tool,” she said. Queer women and people of color face criticisms of conducting research that’s too biased, unscientific, or lacking in academic rigor when studying their own communities.

“As a reproductive and sexual health researcher, it's frustrating to see a cis man's work about masturbating to child pornography published in a top journal while so much rigorous and policy-relevant research conducted by women or BIPOC scholars remains on the margins,” Becker said. 

Tan said that this paper is not just poorly conducted or a reflection of Andersson’s ability as a researcher, but an indictment of academia’s lack of support for diversity. “I think what we need as a discipline within the social sciences, and actually this is across any sort of area of research, is greater efforts to be more inclusive and to diversify, and to actually support scholars from underrepresented backgrounds, not just bringing them in but also retaining them,” Tan said. “Otherwise, we're going to see these incidents repeat themselves where bad research gets made,” she said.

“Researchers from underrepresented backgrounds would never dream of writing something like this,” Tan said. “We fight every day to be taken seriously.” 

Gutzwa told me they’re concerned that the repercussions of Qualitative Research publishing “I am not alone” are more widespread than the research community or even sexual studies in academia as a whole. “The article will be used as an excuse to discredit productive scholarship that ethically discusses sex and sexuality by reducing all mentions of sex academically as acts of pedophilia,” they said. “Beyond that, this article will be used as another reason to depict qualitative research as a whole (and truly productive ethnography specifically) as invalid, not academic, and useless to many fields—not just sexual sociology.” 

The damage could be done even far beyond academia, Gutzwa said, pointing to the right-wing attacks on human rights, and accusing anyone opposed to anti-LGBTQ legislation of being a “groomer” or “pedophile.” 

“Drag queens, the misrepresentation of the monkey pox outbreak, trans students participating in athletics, and more are all painted as examples of how queerness is a threat to society—particularly to children,” they said. “Methodology aside, the moral qualms of the article’s content will undoubtedly be weaponized to justify the further subjugation of queer people in schools, through policy, and societally.” 

Andersson did not respond to a request for comment. 

Cry MAGA, and Let Slip the Dogs of War

1 hour 57 min ago

This content comes from the latest installment of our weekly Breaking the Vote newsletter out of VICE News’ D.C. bureau, tracking the ongoing efforts to undermine the democratic process in America. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Friday. 

Ricky Shiffer attended the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, and frequently posted about it on social media. After the FBI served a warrant and searched former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence this past Monday, Schiffer posted about killing FBI agents on Trump’s Truth Social. Yesterday, he died after apparently trying to assault the FBI field office in Cincinnati and then engaging police in a shootout. 

It’s been obvious since the evening of Jan. 6 that the rioting, violence, and lawlessness of that day was a mere dress rehearsal, and worrisome to think the real performance could be in 2024, if Donald Trump runs and loses. 

But it’s right now, when Trump is faced with a whiff of accountability from an institution that—like elections—he’s worked so hard to destroy. Like on Jan. 6, accountability, through losses or law, means revenge. And if revenge means literal war to some of Trump’s supporters, so be it. 

We now know that the DOJ’s unprecedented search of Mar-a-Lago was the result of Trump’s own unprecedented refusal to return classified documents he had no business possessing in the first place. DOJ counterintelligence officials were acutely aware they were dealing with a former president. So they first tried negotiation to get the documents, then a subpoena, then more yet negotiation. Once investigators came to believe Trump was still withholding classified information, they asked a judge to allow a search.

And that search didn’t happen in a void. It happened against a backdrop of years of Trump demonstrating his drive for self-preservation and hostility to due process. In addition to being an ex-president, Trump is also a person who fired James Comey to obstruct the Mueller investigation; called for the prosecution of dozens of political enemies; lied about wiretaps and the legal process of “unmasking”; disclosed classified information, multiple times;  pardoned cronies who kept their mouths shut about his activities; tried to leverage the entire DOJ to lie in aid of his attempted coup; and so on.

The question isn’t why the DOJ would seek a search warrant to get classified documents back. It appears to be: How could they not, and what took so long? 

It’s important to remember that we might know very little about the search but for Trump’s wailing about it. The DOJ didn’t announce it, their warrant was under seal, and their agents entered the property largely in plain clothes and unarmed at a time when guests and most staff were gone. Trump chose to publicize it, and of course to lie about it. And his machinery of lawlessness cranked into higher gear.

Back on Jan. 6, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy dithered. He reacted first with revulsion to the violence, then demanded answers from Trump, and privately even called for his resignation. It took several days for him to come to heel.

This time, McCarthy and Republicans have learned: Instead of hesitating, go all-in early on political threats. Instead of recoiling at the dismantling of law enforcement, amplify it. Instead of pushing back on Trump’s obvious lies about the legal process, cynically capitalize on them. 

Meanwhile, just off-stage from this recital of GOP fealty, Trump’s feral supporters lurch against their chains and threaten FBI officials, judges, and the attorney general with violence. Right-wing media, led by Fox News, keeps the eyeballs on screens and the attention rapt by mirroring back conspiratorial fantasies from the internet and Capitol Hill.

But if the last 72 hours were ugly, now imagine the months between some future criminal charges against Donald Trump and his trial (or trials).

You’re now free to envision the terrifying spectacle that Jan. 6 rioters and their director rehearsed, only this time with GOP officials who’ve learned all the steps and have them down-pat. It includes full-blown conspiracies of woke FBI henchmen using the awesome power of the state to stop Trump and destroy liberty. And lawmakers on Capitol Hill providing the fodder for daily coverage of the injustice. And a fully frothed base primed to believe any legal accountability for Trump is mortal tyranny against them, spurred on by their leader’s assurances that just like on Jan. 6, violence in his name is patriotic and just.

GOP officials, ever pragmatic, may yet hedge a little. This week proved it won’t matter. Trump has promised his people that elections are theirs, that the law only applies to others, and that whoever wants to talk about it is taking huge risks.

It’s important to learn why federal law enforcement searched the home of a former president and probable future candidate. It’s even more important to learn why Donald Trump went so far to avoid returning documents that prosecutors and counterintelligence officials had to get a warrant. What we know already doesn’t… look good.

So far MAGA supporters have suffered an (admittedly jarring) search of Trump’s home that included a valid warrant, no arrests, no accusations, and no charges. But Mr. Trump would also like law enforcement, and you, to know what awaits, should that ever change.

T.W.I.S.™ Notes

Editorial notice: In light of recent developments, we’re thrilled to announce that “This Week in Subpoenas” is temporarily rebranding as “Talkin’ Warrants, Investigations, and Subpoenas.” It’s the same T.W.I.S.™ Notes coverage you love, updated for a new era of prosecutorial urgency! 

- A Tish served cold

Donald Trump’s potentially fraudulent business practices aren’t by themselves a democracy-critical issue. But, per above, accountability and equal justice under the law definitely are! And nothing is quite so Trumpian as claiming for your own the very constitutional protections you ridicule for others. After months of delays, Trump was finally dragged in for a sworn deposition in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation looking at whether Trump and his business manipulated real estate valuations for gain. And, at the very moment when bluster, trolling, and lying give way to the penalty of perjury, Trump did what, according to him, guilty people and mobsters do: He took the Fifth. 

Of course, it’s Trump’s constitutional right not to incriminate himself. He blamed the witch hunts and search warrants for forcing him to refuse to answer questions. More likely, though, it’s the stalled but very much revivable criminal investigation of Trump’s business. Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg declined to charge Trump (and lost a couple of prosecutors in protest because of it) but also made clear he’d be closely monitoring Trump’s sworn statements for actionable evidence, including lies. Apparently, it was best for Trump to say nothing at all, 440 times

- Raidy Perry

If searching the home of a former president is high-stakes stuff, so is seizing the phone of a sitting member of Congress. But Attorney General Merrick Garland, his prosecutors, and the federal judge who signed the warrant all thought Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Scott Perry had evidence important enough to the Jan. 6 investigation to seize. 

Perry leads the House GOP’s pro-coup Freedom Caucus, the right-wing group once led by Mark Meadows. He was also the guy who introduced Jeffrey Clark to Donald Trump before Clark made his bid to take over the DOJ in the coup plot; helped push the plan for DOJ to lie to state officials that the election had been tainted; then, according to Cassidy Hutchinson, sought presidential pardon for it. Perry denies he ever sought a pardon.

It appears the FBI’s warrant is connected to the DOJ’s criminal investigation of the fake elector scheme, though it doesn't necessarily mean Perry’s a target, or even a subject (Perry says he’s been told he’s not.). He also communicated extensively with Meadows, who is up to his neck in DOJ investigations. Perry says he would have gladly handed over the phone if the feds had just asked, though the amount of cooperation he’s given the January 6 committee leaves reason to doubt it!

Meanwhile, federal agents paid a visit to Pennsylvania’s Capitol in Harrisburg and served subpoenas on several lawmakers. As of this writing, it’s unclear exactly what the subpoenas were requesting or which lawmakers got them. What is clear is that the walls are significantly closer in PA than they were at the beginning of this week.  

- So I Married a Facts Murderer

Of all the things Infowars founder Alex Jones has assaulted—decency, shame, the truth—let’s add his wife’s privacy to the list. This part of the sorry tale started when Alex-Jones-finds-out-his-texts-are-in-open-court memes added a gigglesnort to the otherwise horrific defamation trial for his relentless lying-for-profit about the murder of children. 

Jones’ texts reportedly contained “intimate” communications with Trump confidant and Oath Keepers/Proud Boys associate Roger Stone. At least some of the speculation about what an “intimate” text chain between Jones and Stone could include died the moment Jones’ wife found out—from a reporter—that it included a nude picture of her. Erika Wulff-Jones said she was upset about the disclosure but noted “that’s really the least of my problems right now.” 

The January 6 committee surely has no use for a photo of Jones’ wife. But Jones and his Jan. 6–related communications with Stone and anyone else are under subpoena, and now his phone data from the trial, have been turned over.  

- That Midnight Train to Georgia

…is the only way Rudy Giuliani will make it from New York to Atlanta in time to answer his subpoena. Rudy’s lawyers told a judge presiding over the election-interference grand jury investigation in Fulton County his client couldn’t honor a subpoena to testify this week because he’s not healthy enough to fly. That prompted prosecutors to produce evidence that Rudy’s been traveling to New Hampshire (by car, his lawyers said) and that he recently bought plane tickets to Europe.

Judge Robert McBurney told Rudy’s lawyers there are lots of ways to travel from NYC to  Atlanta, and that Rudy has to find one in order to appear on Aug. 17. 

Oh, and Lindsey Graham didn’t show up either. 

Like a Vos 

For nearly two years, Wisconsin and Arizona have been in a fierce showdown for whose state GOP was the most Trump-drunk on election conspiracies. Arizona had Cyber Ninjas, death oaths, and Mark Finchem. Wisconsin answers with Michael Gableman’s seemingly endless investigation, Sen. Ron Johnson, and a governors primary super-focused on who will answer Trump’s call to rescind 2020.

This week former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch’s attempt to titrate just enough conspiracy to survive–along with Mike Pence’s endorsement—proved fruitless. Businessman Tim Michels rode a Trump endorsement and a promise to consider the totally-not-a-legal-thing of signing legislation to overturn 2020 and rescind Wisconsin’s Biden electors. Michels will face off against incumbent Dem Gov. Tony Evers in November for a race where democracy, and a whole lot more, are in the balance. 

BTW, check out this weirdness about how deep a Wisconsin teen’s high school tweet cuts in Donald Trump’s never-ending quest for revenge.

Meanwhile, State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos managed to hang onto his party’s nomination, despite spending the last week of the campaign at war with Trump. Vos had tried hard to appease Trumpists since 2020, hiring Gableman to conduct a taxpayer-funded election investigation that turned into a sideshow. All that just for Gableman to turn on Vos and endorse his Trumpist opponent. After his victory, Vos declared his charge “an embarrassment to the state.” 

The Law and Order Candidate

A former Trump campaign lawyer is facing possible criminal charges in Michigan for leading an alleged conspiracy that illegally tampered with voting machines. Naturally, he’s also the Trump-backed GOP nominee for state attorney general. 

Matt DePerno was accused of participating with eight others in the election-tampering scheme, after pumping out false election allegations in the 2020 aftermath. Michigan’s current AG, Democrat Dana Nessel, asked for a special prosecutor to be appointed, since DePerno is her opponent in the 2022 election. 

Just after Nessel’s office released its findings, Reuters dropped this report, which places DePerno’s team right in the middle of a vote-tabulator security breach in Roscommon County in northern Michigan. Then there was DePerno in May 2021, acknowledging in an interview that “we got access to a tabulator.” 

“He’s going to make sure that you are going to have law and order and fair elections,” Donald Trump said of DePerno at last weekend’s CPAC conference in Dallas.

“Just do it in three legs. You know folks in DC? Spend the night there. Work your way down.” —Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, telling Rudy Giuliani’s lawyers that he must answer a subpoena on Aug. 17, despite a one-line doctor’s note saying Rudy can’t fly. 

Sweet summer arraign — Time to catch up with BtV muse Tina Peters, who Friday finally pleaded not guilty on six felony charges and four misdemeanors, including fraud, election interference, and more. For now it looks like Peters is facing trial in January 2023. 

Peters also alleged massive voter fraud after her 14-point loss in the Colorado GOP secretary of state primary, then raised more than $250,000 to fund a recount. That recount netted precisely zero votes against the winner, Pam Anderson. Never daunted, Peters is now demanding a second recount. I hear this guy is looking for work.

As a palate cleanser, Peters has been telling audiences and interviewers that the Mesa County, Colorado, DA took away her husband by forcing him to divorce her from his nursing-home bed? A local blogger in western Colorado says it’s all bullshit. (H/t VICE’s David Gilbert.)

Ku Klux Kash — Not only does Facebook continue to host white supremacist groups after claiming to have banned hate speech two years ago, it’s running ads and profiting from them. 

Climate of fear — It will probably come as no surprise that the polarized environment plagued by increasing threats of violence is making Americans more afraid to participate in democracy. After all, that’s precisely the aim. Just 41 percent of Americans now say they feel safe at a polling or voting place. And Black and Hispanic voters feel the least safe of all, with just 28 percent and 37 percent, respectively, saying they feel safe voting. And those numbers are dropping. Say what you want about threats and intimidation. Unchecked, they have the desired effect. 

2 Cheneyz — Wyoming GOP Rep. and January 6 committee vice-chair Liz Cheney says she’s ready to lose her primary this coming Tuesday if it’s the price for standing up for truth and the Constitution. Cheney’s definitely in trouble, but she’s not going down quietly. She’s spending big to run that ad featuring her father, former Veep Dick Cheney, denouncing Trump as a “coward,” a mortal threat to the republic, and a liar who tried to steal the 2020 election. 

Even if Cheney loses Tuesday, it’s likely not the last we’ll hear from her in her avowed mission to keep Donald Trump from the Oval Office. A run for president is possible. This fall, more Jan. 6 hearings are assured. 

Donald Trump has been preparing for this moment for a long time.  WASHINGTON POST

State legislatures are torching democracy. THE NEW YORKER

What kind of criminal case is the Justice Department building against Donald Trump? MCCLATCHY

UPS Workers 'Trained' to Deal With Heat Exhaustion by Drinking Water, Eating Watermelon

2 hours 23 min ago

When UPS delivery drivers started calling out the company two weeks ago for not putting air conditioning in their trucks after a driver died of heatstroke, it wanted to clarify two things. Firstly, fans were available in the trucks upon request. And secondly, that the drivers were “trained” to deal with the heat exhaustion that would inevitably come from working in 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

But four drivers across multiple UPS locations say that fans, if they’re even installed, often don’t work. They have also told Motherboard about a training—called "Cool Solutions," according to drivers, which includes such advice as "drink water" and "load up… on watermelon."

Elliot Lewis, a delivery driver and steward in Teamsters Local 804, the branch of the international Teamsters union that serves New York, posted a photo of a UPS handout about “Hydration and Fatigue” he got on Twitter. 

“Even being mildly dehydrated can leave you feeling foggy and fatigued,” the handout reads. It encourages drivers to drink water consistently throughout the day, and to eat foods such as watermelon, “which are 90% water and a good source of energy.” 

Lewis writes that the handout is from UPS’s “Cool Solutions” training for drivers on how to deal with heat exhaustion. In a previous statement to Motherboard, a UPS spokesperson confirmed the training, and gave details about its content. 

“We have a program that was developed with input from experts in the field of occupational health and safety that focuses on educating employees about hydration along with nutrition and proper sleep before working in hotter temperatures,” the statement read. 

“We have morning meetings with drivers all year round, reminding them of forecasted temperatures and encouraging them to be aware of their own health conditions,” it continued. “In the summer, in addition to providing water and ice for employees, we provide regular heat illness and injury prevention training to all operations managers and drivers.” The spokesperson said that UPS annually invests more than $260 million in safety programs like this one. 

But drivers argue that the program, which also asks drivers to take multiple-choice tests, is not helpful. Mike Dunaj, a driver in Florida, described the training in a phone call to Motherboard. “It’s common sense stuff—how much water you should drink,” he said. “And then there are multiple-choice questions. And if you get one wrong, you've got to retake it. But the questions always have the same answer, so you can just write them down.” 

Dunaj said he became extremely dehydrated during his first day on the job because he couldn’t keep up with the amount of water he was losing to sweat. When he finally made it home for the day, his muscle cramps were so bad that he could barely move. “It was the worst experience of my life,” he said. 

“If you dehydrate, they kick you off the road,” Dunaj said, explaining that drivers are sent to work in the warehouse, where they earn lower wages. “So I told [my wife], do not call the ambulance because they'll take me off the road and I won't be able to drive. They punish you if you get dehydrated.” 

When he recovered and came back to work, Dunaj said he had to do the “Cool Solutions” quiz over again, and that it was just the same multiple choice answers as the first time he had taken it. “Drink water, drink water, drink water is all they say,” he said. 

Dunaj drinks half a gallon of water and half a gallon of sugar-free gatorade every morning before even getting on the road, and continues to drink throughout the day. 

Another driver, who requested to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation, said in a phone call to Motherboard that UPS’s solution was, “You don't drink alcohol before work the night before, don't drink coffee before work, but you come in and make sure you drink water, and if you're hot, find a shady area.”

In a statement to Motherboard, a UPS spokesperson wrote, “If one of our drivers needs immediate assistance due to extreme heat, local UPS personnel respond by coming to their location to help them safely return to their delivery center or arrange for immediate assistance at their location. We never want our employees to continue working to the point that they risk their health or work in an unsafe manner.” 

“We also send reminders to our employees throughout the day to stay hydrated and to take their rest breaks,” the statement continued. 

Motherboard has previously reported on UPS denying to install fans in trucks when requested. The Teamsters’ contract with UPS mandates that fans be installed upon request. The driver said that the first year after the contract, their facility had put in requests to have fans installed in all the trucks, and they got none. The second year, they still got none. 

“We finally get these fans, and it's just one little fan all the way in the left hand corner on the dashboard, pointing at your left elbow,” they said. “Once you get to 95 degrees, this is blowing hot air.” 

When asked previously for comment about the fan denial, a UPS spokesperson said it “should not have occurred,” and that they had “taken steps to address it.” It’s unclear whether the requested fan has yet been installed. 

‘It Could Be Anything:’ Experts Tell Us What Kind of Nuclear Secrets Could Trump Steal

2 hours 55 min ago

When the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago in search of sensitive documents it was looking for classified information related to nuclear weapons, a source familiar with the investigation told the Washington Post. Trump denied the allegation on Truth Social, calling it a hoax and comparing it to accusations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The problem is, because of the way nuclear secrecy works in the U.S., it’s possible Trump took something without realizing it was classified. Presidents have done similar things before with regards to nuclear secrets.

I reached out to several nuclear weapons experts who all told me the same thing: they had no idea what it was and the list of possibilities was enormous. The category of “classified documents relating to nuclear weapons,” is so broad as to be meaningless.

“I've seen other experts speculating it could be anything from the ‘biscuit’ that held the nuclear codes during his presidency (and that would have been changed when Biden assumed office), to information about another country's nuclear program in the form of briefing materials or other documents, to information about design or basing,” Emma Claire Foley, a senior associate in policy and research at Global Zero, a nonprofit that seeks the elimination of nuclear weapons, told me. “As things stand, there's no way of knowing, and there's a huge range of things it might be.”

Jeffry Lewis, Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, concurred. “It could be anything,” he said. “That document could contain information that you would find totally unremarkable but still be marked restricted data, known as Q.”

Q Clearance refers to Top Secret Restricted Data related to America’s nuclear programs. It’s also where the QAnon conspiracy gets its name. “I once gave a talk about Iran’s centrifuge program and the person next to me kept whispering ‘that’s Q,’ thinking that I was disclosing ‘information related to nuclear weapons,’” he said. “I felt bad when I told her that I didn’t have a clearance but it was nice the government was also aware of the issues that Iran was having with its enrichment program.”

One of the problems with narrowing down what the FBI was looking for is the nature of how the U.S. handles information related to its nuclear program. According to Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science and author of the book Restricted Data: The History of Nuclear Secrecy in the USA, anything related to nukes in the U.S. is classified by default.

According to Wellerstein, the Senate committee drafting the Atomic Energy Act in 1946 got worried about losing the secret of the bomb. 

“The problem is, the same committee did not want to give the federal government the power to classify the entire world of science and technology. They feared too much classification, AND too little classification,” he said on Twitter. “So to square this circle they created a concept called ‘restricted data,’ which was defined as essentially all information about nuclear weapons and nuclear power that had not been removed from that category explicitly.”

Wellerstein also told me that he wouldn’t speculate on what Trump could have taken, but he did tell me that this isn’t the first time a President has run afoul of the FBI over nuclear secrets. An FBI memo from November 1956 showed the FBI fretting over what to do about former President Harry Truman.

“In August of 1956, during the discussion at the Democratic National Convention regarding the Democratic platform, Truman made the statement that the first atomic bomb contained [redacted] of fissionable material,” an FBI memo said. “[Redacted] advised that this information had been checked thoroughly by the [Atomic Energy Commission] people, and that its present classification is ‘Secret—Restricted Data.’” 

Wellerstein had the whole story. “In November 1956, the FBI became aware that Truman was apparently telling people how much fissile material was in the atomic bomb,” he said. “After the Trinity test, Truman was given a short initial report on it, at Potsdam. According to the people there, he sort of read it out loud as he walked around the room, many times, triumphantly. Throughout his life, you can find him still quoting bits from that report, like he burned it into his memory.”

Wellerestein said that one of the pieces of the report that amazed Truman was that the bomb only used 13 and a half pounds of plutonium. “And there's something about that ‘13 and a half’ but he wrote it down at Potsdam, and it HAS to be what the FBI report is about,” he said. “Harry Truman was telling people about the atomic bomb and spat out that phrase without probably having the slightest clue it was classified.”

On Twitter, Wellerestein pointed out that the AEC doesn’t contain provisions for a president to declassify Restricted Data. “It’s a different category of law and classification altogether,” he said. “But this is real bleeding-edge of presidential powers and classification law. I have certainly never seen it discussed in the long history of nuclear secrecy in the USA.”

This isn’t the first time people have raised concerns about how Trump handles nuclear secrets. Allegations of mishandling plagued him during much of his presidency. In 2019, whistleblowers raised concerns that Trump was trying to transfer sensitive nuclear data to Saudi Arabia. In 2019 Trump was also the first U.S. President to confirm that U.S. nuclear weapons are housed at an air base in Turkey, long considered an open secret, and tweeted out a classified satellite photo of an explosion at a space launch facility in Iran, despite pushback from aides. So far he has not faced consequences for any of these actions.

The nuclear secrets the FBI is looking for could be innocuous or they could be world shattering. The possibilities are so large that there’s no way to know. Historically, the consequences for stealing nuclear secrets in America are pretty dire. Early Trump lawyer and mentor Roy Cohn made his career by prosecuting Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for stealing nuclear secrets and passing them on to the Soviet Union. Cohn won the case and the Rosenbergs were executed in the electric chair.

Buffalo Shooter Planned Massacre Using YouTube ‘How to’ Videos

3 hours 38 min ago

While he was allegedly plotting to murder as many Black people as possible, the Buffalo shooting suspect encountered a problem. 

The rifle he planned to use had a locked magazine because of New York State gun law. That meant, if he wanted to reload he would have to partially dismantle the rifle, allowing potential victims a few key moments to escape. 

So the man turned to YouTube to solve his problem and found it was one easily surmounted. The shooter followed the instructions he found in several videos on the streaming site and even linked to several in the 187-page racist diary he made public.

"Seems easy enough," he wrote in the diary. 

Peyton Gendron, 18, is the prime and only suspect in the murders ofl 10 people at a Topps Grocery store in Buffalo, and it is alleged he used a modified rifle. He is facing charges including first-degree murder, attempted murder, and domestic terrorism motivated by hate. 

In a new report shared exclusively with VICE News, the gun control advocacy non-profit Everytown for Gun Safety analyzed the YouTube links the shooter left in his racist screed. 

“The Buffalo shooter sought out content on YouTube to prepare for the attack, including learning how to illegally modify his weapon, choose body armor, and tactically engage with police,” said Justin Wagner, Senior Director of Investigations at Everytown for Gun Safety, at Everytown. “He was clearly entrenched in gun culture on the platform, regularly including links to these various videos in his writings.”

The group published the report Friday morning.

The man linked to dozens of YouTube videos within the documents he shared online which, according to the report, can be broken down into “demonstrations of tactics (39 videos), firearms (37 videos), and equipment (24 videos.)” They found that in at least one instance, the shooter seemed to regurgitate the instructions he received in the video back into his diary almost word for word. 

In a particularly chilling passage from the document, the alleged gunman discussed how best to kill a security guard who may be behind glass at the grocery store. 

“The glass at Tops is most likely not safety glass, so it should behave like a front windshield, I think. Bullet will penetrate with some deformation but still have enough energy to penetrate flesh and such,” he wrote. “Maybe it's better to aim for the security guard's head instead of body? Problem is the target would be WAY smaller”

His solution was to watch a YouTuber he was a fan of and “train more I guess.” He then linked to a video of the man instructing the viewer how to shoot through bulletproof glass. 

“He also viewed YouTube videos showing people 'how to win a gunfight,' perhaps in anticipation of being confronted by security or law enforcement personnel; how to set up a plate carrier, the same military-style body armor he wore to carry out his attack; and how to illegally modify a fixed-magazine AR-15 to accept detachable magazines, allowing him to reload faster and use much more ammunition in carrying out his attack,” said Wagner.  

The young man said that it was gun culture that brought him into the racist web that radicalized him into being a white supremacist. He first came to 4Chan for the /k board as it focuses on weapons. Over time he began to frequent /pol, a board festering with racist hate and neo-Nazi recruiters. 

The Everytown report was published alongside one from Memetica, a research group specializing in digital investigations, which analyzed his media and internet diet. They found that the shooter consumed YouTube videos from firearms creators that offered information about AR-15 style rifles, tactical advice on shooting people, pro-Second Amendment videos, and gun modification. (VICE News was also on the list but Memetica called that an "notable outlier" as the shooter wrote that he watched VICE News to understand people who don't think like him.)

To see just how accessible these videos are to the general public, the researchers at Everytown decided to do a “review of YouTube for content that would appear to violate its own Community Guidelines with respect to the construction, modification, or sale of weapons.” They report they were able to easily find "over 200 videos readily accessible on YouTube that garnered, collectively, over 40 million views.” 

Everytown says despite the videos being clearly in violation of one, if not more, of YouTube’s content moderation guidelines and not even attempting to sidestep the rules, they’re all still available online. A YouTube spokesperson told VICE News that they’re “committed to enforcing our firearms policy.” The spokesperson added they weren’t provided with the Everytown report so couldn’t comment on the videos included in their non-exhaustive review. 

“Following the hateful attack in Buffalo, our Trust and Safety teams comprehensively reviewed the suspect’s Discord chat logs and removed 3 videos for linking to websites that violate our Community Guidelines,” they told VICE News. “Additionally, we’ve removed hundreds of videos in relation to this hateful attack, including content glorifying the perpetrator and reuploads of his manifesto.”

Everytown, which has been sounding the alarm about these sorts of videos being easily accessible online, recommends that YouTube make several moves. These include making firearms videos age-restricted, banning videos about body armor, and “tactical live-fire instructions on how to inflict the most damage” but more importantly, just more rigorous enforcement of the rules they already have in place. 

“YouTube already has the guidelines needed to prohibit the most dangerous content on its platform, they just have to actually follow through and enforce them,” said Wagner. “Buffalo is just one example of the deadly consequences of turning a blind eye to this content, and hopefully YouTube and Alphabet won’t wait for another to act.”


Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.

Mars Is 'Irrelevant to Us' If Earth Is Doomed, Author of Legendary Mars Trilogy Says

4 hours 6 min ago

In the 1990s, science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson wrote the Mars trilogy—a chronicle of humanity's attempts to turn Mars into a colony, and then a terraformed world, and eventually the beating heart of systemic-wide utopia. 

Humanity first walks on Mars in 2020, sets sails for the red planet in 2026 with a crew of one hundred, and over the course of the next two centuries witnesses waves of industrialization, sabotage, and revolution as Mars becomes its own society and struggles over what to do with its independence. 

Through it all, and despite the decline of Earth thanks to various environmental and political disasters, military conflicts with Terran forces, and political tensions sparked by waves of migration from Earth, the series is truly hopeful and optimistic not just about humanity’s future but the role Mars might play in it. It may come as a surprise to some, then, that Robinson recently seemed to rebuke all this and declare Mars irrelevant in the year 2022.

“Mars is irrelevant to us now. We should of course concentrate on maintaining the habitability of the Earth. My Mars trilogy is a good novel but not a plan for this moment. If we were to create a sustainable civilisation here on Earth, with all Earth’s creatures prospering, then and only then would Mars become even the slightest bit interesting to us,” Robinson says in an interview with Farsight. “It would be a kind of reward for our success—we could think of it in the way my novel thinks of it, as an interesting place worth exploring more. But until we have solved our problems here, Mars is just a distraction for a few escapists, and so worse than useless.”

On its face, this might seem contradictory to say after writing a hopeful trilogy about the colonization of Mars, but it’s consistent if you look closer. The Mars trilogy isn’t a triumphant saga imploring us to colonize Mars, it’s a story that tumbles largely out of the consequences of the so-called First Hundred colonists who fight over what to do with Mars and turn this fight into a struggle that ensnares all of humanity. 

The drive to colonize, terraform, and industrialize Mars yielded scientific and technological advances (system wide colonization, expeditions beyond Sol, longer lifespans, etc.) as well as a new socioeconomic system, but as Robinson himself has pointed out, what we know about Mars now suggests that much of what underpinned the series' optimism is unrealistic. 

At a 2015 talk, one example Robinson offered centered on the discovery of the widespread abundance in Martian dust of perchlorate—a chlorine in the form of a salt that is poisonous to humans in the parts per billion range. While there are ways to break it down with water and bacteria, Robinson admits that this one example massively changes the difficulty of terraforming from what he imagined and raises the question of whether it is worth the effort when Earth civilization is currently badly mismanaging its own homeworld’s biosphere.

"I don't think it is the most important issue on the table," Robinson said at the talk. "Climate change, sustainable civilization, this is the unavoidable problem we are in, I think. Mars and all of the space program, what you have to ask is: does that help us to create a sustainable civilization or not? If it does, let's do it. If it doesn't, let's put it off the table until we get sustainable and we'll deal with it in the 22nd century."

That doesn’t mean we should abandon scientific endeavors concerning space, only that we should seriously ask ourselves what the purpose of them is. Robinson goes on to add in the talk that it is important to study space because it yields insights into science that can be applied to Earth, where our ecological niche is collapsing because of climate change.

"Earth is a planet, you compare it to Venus and Mars, you learn things. We are now in the business of planetary global management—has to do with the atmosphere, biosphere, the whole thing has been accidentally dumped into our laps,” Robinson said. “We have to deal, really fast. There’s many aspects of the space program I think we need to pursue right now, not because they're intrinsically interesting but because they’re useful in studying Earth and managing Earth.” 

In the Mars trilogy, there was scientific and technological advancement in the process of colonizing Mars because Martians were focusing on creating a sustainable civilization for themselves, independent of Earth. If we are interested in creating a sustainable civilization on Earth, however, we should prioritize Earth instead of creating what will effectively amount to a destitute penal colony.

Typically, we hear public intellectuals, eccentric billionaires, and boisterous libertarians—a political movement that Robinson once described in the trilogy's second book, Green Mars, as “anarchists who want police protection for their slaves”—invoke a few defenses of Mars colonization. 

Some insist humanity’s destiny is to go to the stars. Others, like Amazon founder and chairman Jeff Bezos, believe that the same system which enriched them now threatens our civilization and must be curtailed with that same system transplanted to colonies across the system.

An even smaller, but still powerful group (which includes SpaceX's Elon Musk) have rebranded an insincere obsession with the stars as helping drive the species, its technology, and its science forward while reducing the risk of our extinction. Musk, who once said in 2012 that he would put someone on Mars by 2022, has not only proven himself time and time again to be a well-financed fabulist whose efforts—such as Starlink—are ruining the nighttime sky, but Musk has already been criticized by Robinson himself.

“Mars will never be a single-person or single-company effort. It will be multi-national and take lots of money and lots of years,” Robinson said in a 2016 Bloomberg interview. “Musk’s plan is sort of the 1920s science-fiction cliché of the boy who builds a rocket to the moon in his backyard, combined with the Wernher von Braun plan, as described in the Disney TV programs of the 1950s.”

Still, if we remove the monopoly men and the bolivating capitalists, you may be left wondering: are there any merit to these concerns offered as rationale to colonize Mars?

"This is the 'emeritus complex,' I call it. Someone who's great in one field goes emeritus and begins to pontificate about fields he doesn't know anything about…There is no Planet B. There is only Earth. We cannot get anybody off this planet in any useful way for helping human beings,” Robinson explained. 

As Robinson goes on to add, humans have evolved to be keenly attuned to Earth's biosphere and get sick (and die) the further they get from it. Fiction that ignores this fact makes for a good read, but in a moment where we must marshall our civilization’s resources to save our ecological niche and create a sustainable society which doesn’t again threaten the niche we depend upon, it encourages a sort of nihilistic outlook that we can afford to lose Earth. We can’t.

"When we go up there, we're dying but don't stay up there long enough to actually die, we come back down in time to get back in the environment that keeps us alive because we're co-evolved with it. That includes gravity, the magnetic field, and also the bacterial load that is in it. The old science-fiction dreams…are just a moral hazard that creates the illusion we can wreck Earth and still be okay. It's totally not true."

‘We Plan to Run Over the Child on Saturday:’ Elon Musk Stans Are Trying to Debunk a Tesla Full Self-Driving Safety Video

4 hours 6 min ago

On Tuesday, safety advocacy and research organization The Dawn Project launched a PSA campaign showcasing a Tesla in Full Self-Driving (FSD) mode repeatedly mowing down a child-sized mannequin and Tesla fans are fuming. 

The video documents a safety test conducted in California on an empty car track lane that was intended to simulate a small child walking across the road in a crosswalk, according to The Dawn Project. It shows a professional test driver bringing a Tesla to forty miles per hour and then putting it in full self-driving mode once entering a lane of cones, within one hundred yards of the mannequin. As it approaches the mannequin, the car slows down to around 26 miles per hour, but does not stop and completely plows through the figure three separate times. 

The video is now being attacked by fans of Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk, who are calling the test fake and uploading videos attempting to debunk the test. One popular Musk fan account on Twitter, besides posting videos of a Tesla with FSD engaged driving along, even sought an actual child to test Tesla FSD's stopping ability on. 

“[Tesla] fanboys are out there screaming bloody murder this morning. ‘Fake, fake, it's terrible. It's awful. These guys just made this up. It would never do that.’” Dawn Project founder and US Senate candidate Dan O’ Dowd told Motherboard. “And some of them are really funny. They say, ‘Oh, you could tell the difference between a real child and a fake child because it could tell their heart rate, or their blood pressure, or their body temperatures. The thing can't see a child, it doesn't know body temperature.” 

Twitter user and prominent Elon Musk supporter Omar Qazi, who runs the blog Whole Mars Catalog, even asked his followers: “Is there anyone in the Bay Area with a child who can run in front of my car on Full Self-Driving Beta to make a point? I promise I won't run them over… (will disengage if needed) (this is a serious request).” He later followed it up with: “Okay someone volunteered… they just have to convince their wife” as well as listed a series of guidelines for his test, including “Driver will be father of child.” Finally, on Thursday, Qazi tweeted: “We plan to run over the child on Saturday. Mom is on board as we explained how safe it will be.” He added that the child will only run toward the road, and he plans to be “run over” first.

Qazi did not respond to a request for comment. 

"That is a devotion to Tesla that is amazing," O'Dowd said of Qazi's plan to put a child in the path of a moving car. "He’s defending the indefensible with indefensible."

O’Dowd, an outspoken critic of Tesla despite owning several of the company's vehicles, has made it his organization's main priority to tell Congress to shut down Tesla’s Full Self-Driving software. It's also the chief focus of his run for the Senate. He thinks it is incomprehensible that Tesla would call the software “amazing,” and allow over 100,000 Tesla vehicles to have it when it is a “demonstrable danger to human life,” as The Dawn Project's test report puts it. 

Tesla’s Autopilot mode, which is less capable than Full Self-Driving, has already been under fire from regulators. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been investigating Tesla’s Autopilot system since August 2021, after an increasing number of crashes with Autopilot turned on were reported. The investigation covers over 800,000 cars, including 2014-2022 Tesla Model Y, Model X, Model S, and Model 3. Between July 2021 and May of this year, Teslas accounted for 273 of nearly 400 of the crashes involving driver-assist systems, according to the NHTSA. Despite being marketed as Full Self-Driving, the mode does "not make the vehicle autonomous," according to Tesla, and the driver must have their hands on the wheel at all times. 

On Wednesday, former presidential candidate and consumer protection activist Ralph Nader issued a statement calling on the NHTSA to recall the FSD technology in every Tesla. “Tesla’s major deployment of so-called Full Self-Driving (FSD) technology is one of the most dangerous and irresponsible actions by a car company in decades," he wrote. "I am calling on federal regulators to act immediately to prevent the growing deaths and injuries from Tesla manslaughtering crashes with this technology.” 

These criticisms come as Tesla prepares to roll out a new version of the software on August 20, which founder Elon Musk calls “Beta 10.69.” 

“If you are designing the process for developing a self-driving car, would you put in the software for not running over children in crosswalks before or after you beta tested it to 100,000 people?” O’ Dowd said. 

O’ Dowd and The Dawn Project are currently focused on Tesla because it is currently the most widely used advanced-driver-assistance-system (ADAS) equipped car on the roads, but other ADAS-equipped vehicles are encountering a host of their own issues. 

Earlier this year, an autonomous test car piloted by Apple nearly crashed into a jogger crossing the street, according to The Information. An autonomous truck built by TuSimple veered across a highway in Arizona and slammed into a concrete barricade in April. It was later disclosed in a regulatory report and company documents that the crash was not caused by human error, but “fundamental problems with the company’s technology,” as reported by the Wall Street Journal. 

‘Ali’ Is a Mashup That’s Worse Than the Sum of Its Parts

4 hours 6 min ago

Michael Mann walks the blurry lines between homage, imitation, and theft as he attempts to tell the stories of Muhammed Ali, Malcolm X, the 1960s, and the Cold War geopolitical order in a single sprawling biopic. Join as Rob and Alex Navarro take the movie to ten rounds discussing just how much Mann borrowed from Spike Lee's Malcolm X and the documentary When We Were Kings, and to what degree he ends up directing poor stealth-remakes of both.

You can listen to the first ten minutes of this Waypoint + episode below, or subscribe at WaypointPlus.com for access to the full episode and all our other episodes of Mannhunting, where Rob, Alex, and Dia work their way through the filmography of Michael Mann.

Listen to a Story from Motherboard’s First Ever Short Story Collection

4 hours 6 min ago

Some days, it feels like all you can do is watch worlds burn.

This is especially true in the desperate small towns that pocket the parts of America some derisively call ‘Flyover Country.’

Today on Cyber, we’ve got something special. Motherboard is publishing a book! It’s called Terraform and it drops on August 16. It’s a collection of short stories about the near future and the dystopian present. With me today on the show are the book’s editors, Claire L. Evans and Brian Merchant as well as special guest Tim Maughan. He’s the author of the novel Infinite Detail and … the Terraform story Flyover Country.

Terraform’s stories are all about possible futures. Flyover Country is a window into one of those worlds. One that may seem unpleasantly familiar.

Terraform is out on August 16. Buy it here.

EMBED HERE: https://embed.acast.com/6dab3ca4-41f5-4fd4-bba6-224ab53f5113/62f3c5e65dc1ea0013632a2a

Stories discussed on this episode:

Flyover Country

We’re recording CYBER live on Twitch. Watch live during the week. Follow us there to get alerts when we go live. We take questions from the audience and yours might just end up on the show.

Subscribe to CYBER on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Trump Demands the DOJ Release the FBI Search Warrant…That He’s Had All Week

4 hours 9 min ago

Donald Trump repeatedly declared on Truth Social on Thursday night that he wants to “release the documents” related to the FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago home earlier this week.

“Not only will I not oppose the release of documents related to the unAmerican, unwarranted, and unnecessary raid…I am going a step further by ENCOURAGING the immediate release of those documents,” Trump said in a late-night post on his own social media platform.

What Trump didn’t post on Truth Social was that he actually has the documents themselves—and has been free to publish them since the FBI  first knocked on the door of his Mar-a-Lago home on Monday. 

“They have to leave a copy of the search warrant as well as the inventory of what they took at the location where they took it. It’s up to [Trump’s team] whether they want to show the rest of the world what that says,” David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of Florida, told VICE News.

Trump’s posts came hours after the Department of Justice moved to unseal the search warrant and other documents related to the FBI search. The news was announced at a brief press conference held by Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday, the first public comment by the DOJ since the unprecedented search of a former president’s home.

The DOJ filed the motion to unseal with a court in South Florida. Judge Bruce Reinhart, who signed the original warrant, received violent death threats as a result. Reinhart gave the Justice Department until 3 pm on Friday to tell him if Trump’s team agreed to the unsealing of the search-related documents.

CBS reported Thursday that Trump’s own legal team has been weighing up whether or not to release the documents they have, according to Florida-based Trump attorney, Lindsey Halligan.

Halligan said their team has videos and photos of the search from Mar-a-Lago’s private security cameras, which CBS reports the FBI asked to be turned off. Trump’s legal team reportedly refused. Trump’s legal team is considering releasing the footage, Halligan said.

Halligan also told CBS that the FBI had given them a “bare bones” search warrant that does not include the underlying reasons why the search was conducted. She added that the log of items taken from Mar-a-Lago was also “vague.”

Of course, Trump’s legal team may not really want the search warrant and accompanying documents released given the potentially damaging nature of the items being sought in the search—which the Washington Post reported Thursday were “nuclear documents” among other items.

Trump addressed the Washington Post’s report in another Truth Social post early on Friday morning, calling it a “hoax” before going on to once again boost the baseless conspiracy theory that the FBI planted evidence at his home. 

The search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home has led to a vicious backlash among his supporters including many high-profile Republican Party leaders and members of the right-wing media, as well as the far-right. They have led and boosted calls for civil war while extremists online have violently threatened and doxxed Reinhart and his family.

On Thursday, a Trump supporter attacked an FBI office in Cincinnati with a nail gun and an AR-15-style rifle, claiming on social media that he had been inspired to take action as a result of the FBI’s search of Trump’s home. 

Like Trump, the attacker was also an avid user of Truth Social, and in the middle of the attack, while being sought by law enforcement, he updated his Truth Social status one last time. 

“If you don’t hear from me, it is true I tried attacking the F.B.I. and it’ll mean either I was taken off the internet, the F.B.I. got me, or they sent the regular cops,” he wrote, hours before an armed standoff with police ended in the 42-year-old being shot and killed.

‘For Them I Am a Prey’. The Hidden Exploitation of Punjabi Women in Italy

5 hours 13 min ago

Amrita has lived and worked in Italy’s farms half her life. The 30-year-old was born in the state of Punjab, India, where many in her community dream of a better life in Europe. When she was 15, she got the golden ticket and landed in Italy’s farming heartland, only 100 kilometres from Rome. 

But the dreams she sought turned into a nightmare when she started facing workplace harassment while packaging tomatoes at an agricultural cooperative in Italy. 

“To them I am a prey, not a person. When you are a woman, especially an immigrant, alone and with a child, men — both Italians and Indians — feel free to torment you,” she told VICE World News. 

Two years ago, Amrita’s husband abandoned her and their son and returned to India, where he remarried without divorcing her. While she was trying to come to terms with the shock and her new responsibilities as a single mother, she says she faced unprecedented harassment at work. “They see you alone, even on the street, and start stalking you,” she said. “If you are a single woman, they dub you as someone who is ‘easy’ and consequently, you end up being harassed.” Amrita and other women who spoke with VICE World News requested the use of pseudonyms for their safety.

More than 26,500 Indian women work in Italy, according to the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies. Like Amrita, many of them are Punjabi and work in the agricultural cooperatives of Agro Pontino.  

A former marsh, Agro Pontino was controversially cleared of small communities and made into well-planned farming towns by Benito Mussolini in the 1920s and 1930s. The 200,000-acre area now supplies fruit, vegetables and flowers to businesses and supermarkets across Europe. 

Amrita filed several complaints against men she worked with through Tempi Moderni, a nonprofit in Agro Pontino that helps farmers fight for their rights. 

“The legal battle keeps getting delayed and is proving to be exhausting. It is causing me severe depression,” she said.

More than 26,500 Indian women work in Italy. Many of them are Punjabi.

But Amrita is one of the fortunate ones – her legal status in Italy allows her to pursue legal action. Many immigrant Punjabi women working in agricultural cooperatives in Agro Pontino are exploited and harassed with impunity by gangster-slash-agents, known in Italian as caporali or capos

The capos act as informal and illegal intermediaries used by farm owners to recruit and manage hundreds of workers, including undocumented immigrants, on Italian farms. Many capos are of Indian origin, and Punjabi women face serious exploitation from them. Since many cannot afford to lose their jobs, the capos have power to control, subjugate and harass them. In particular, the capos are known to harass and exploit Punjabi women in exchange for fair wages and renewed contracts. 

Punjabi women VICE World News spoke to said many Indian capos harass them, inside and outside their cooperatives.

“As long as you entertain them, you stay in their good books, otherwise, you are blacklisted. Being blacklisted can often translate into isolation, being assigned some of the worst jobs such as packing vegetables or working in the open fields under harsh weather conditions for hours, failure to renew contract and, finally, dismissal, which also means an end of the residence permit,” Amrita said.

Many agricultural workers in Agro Pontino are Indian Punjabis, who started settling in the region in the 1980s.

The community of agricultural workers in Agro Pontino is made up largely of Indian Punjabis, who began to settle in its towns Aprilia, Latina, Sabaudia and Terracina at the end of the 1980s to work in Agro Pontino’s agriculture and livestock sectors. Punjabi women arrived years after the men, during the first half of the 2000s. According to the 2022 interim report of the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry on Working Conditions in Italy, many Punjabis find themselves in conditions of exploitation that can be compared to slavery in Italy.

Explaining this phenomenon as a “well-established system of importing low-cost labour” that starts from Punjab in India, Giovanni Gioia, secretary of the Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL) of Frosinone and Latina said, “The paradox is that these Punjabis do not want to work on their own lands in India and are on the lookout to emigrate by any means. In the hope of improving their condition, they get into debt with traffickers both at home and in Italy.”

Tempi Moderni was the first organisation to unveil the system of labour exploitation and trafficking of human beings in Agro Pontino in 2010.
“When we started our research, we discovered that the Punjabi community were not only paid less than a euro an hour, but were forced to work up to 12-14 hours in the greenhouse every day of the month,” Marco Omizzolo, the vice president of Tempi Moderni, told VICE World News. 

According to the NGO WeWorld, the working and social conditions of Punjabi women in Italy are harsher and more prohibitive compared to those of Punjabi men. 

Indian women are recruited only if there is a need for extra workers and are paid 30 percent less than what men earn. That means that if a male worker makes 4.50 euros an hour, a woman worker is offered only 3 euros an hour. Some women are also not properly compensated for the hours they work.  

Many Punjabi women don’t speak up about workplace harassment out of fear of how their family will react. “If a man wants to call out workplace harassment, he can complain about the same, but if a woman wants to raise a grievance, she is advised by male family members to stay silent and give up the job instead,” Omizzolo of Tempi Moderni told VICE World News. 

Women also “experience specific kinds of workplace exploitation” such as “sexual blackmail, violence and marginalization,” Omizzolo added. In some farming cooperatives, warehouses have been discovered where bosses and capos have sexually harassed Punjabi women labourers. In other cases, documented by the CGIL and Tempi Moderni, the capos demanded sexual favours to renew contracts or settle outstanding wages.

VICE World News visited a Sikh Gurudwara in Sabaudia town in Agro Pontino to interview women workers. While most agreed that sexual exploitation was rampant, there was silence around individual experiences. The most common response was: “This has never happened to me, but I know many women who have faced sexual exploitation.”

Punjabi women dressed in colourful salwar kameez at a Sikh Gurudwara in Sabaudia town in Agro Pontino.

Leela, a Punjabi woman who sued her Italian employers for wage harassment, told VICE World News the reason for silence was that in Indian culture, if a woman receives sexual offers, she is often victim-blamed and slut-shamed. “Instead of fighting with us, our men tell us that we should change the way we dress, stop wearing makeup, and be more submissive as a way to stop the unwarranted attention,” she said. 

Leela said that she knows “farms where the owners have tried to sexually exploit workers.” She said the farms were part of large agricultural companies that earn millions of euros and employ hundreds of labourers. 

“Women who complain about excessively long working hours, low wages or sexual harassment are often at the risk of being fired.”

In some farming cooperatives, warehouses have been discovered where bosses and capos have sexually harassed Punjabi women labourers.

The Lilith Women’s Center in Latina town believes the threat of domestic violence is also a deterrent to Punjabi women seeking justice when they face harassment.  

“We have seen unprecedented violence that remains imprinted on the bodies of these women: cigarette burns, scars, bruises. But despite being subjected to deep-seated violence, it is very difficult to convince these women to start a new life, since the family pressure is too strong,” said Francesca Innocenti of Lilith Women’s Centre.

Sara, a native of Punjab who now lives in a shelter provided by Lilith, recalled how her husband used to mercilessly beat her even when she was pregnant.

“Both our families begged me not to complain, fearing that my husband's arrest would cause embarrassment. But, after an episode of violent beating, I decided to call the police.” 

Punjabi workers are paid less and work up to 12-14 hours in humid greenhouses.

But things are changing. Tempi Moderni, together with the CGIL and the non-profit In Migrazione, organised the first strike of Sikh workers in Italy, in April 2016. Gioia recalls that over four thousand Indians attended the demonstration. Among these protesters, many were without contracts and attended the event despite the risk of deportation. 

Demonstrations are a regular occurrence now. Over the last few years, more and more women have also started coming to these protests to voice their complaints, which they feel they cannot share with their husbands and families, for fear of being shamed and stigmatised within the community. 

Omizzolo said NGOs have now started receiving more complaints from Punjabi women who face mistreatment and violence, both at home and in the workplace – a positive development, because such incidents used to be grossly underreported.

As for Amrita, her contract has not been renewed and she no longer trusts anyone in the community, but she has no intention of returning to India. 

“Single women like me have to face a lot of problems to survive and it’s difficult here, but at least my son and I have options in Italy.”

This investigation was conducted in 2021 and 2022 between India and Italy, with the support of the Journalism Fund, a grant for investigative journalism from the Dutch Pascal Decroos Foundation.

The first part is here and explores the trafficking of women from Punjab to Europe. 

Follow Pari Saikia on Twitter.

Mini Versions of Our Place's Uber-Popular Always Pan (and Pot) Just Dropped

5 hours 21 min ago

We’re big fans of the millennial-chic, too-swaggy-to-stow cookware from Our Place, but it was only after seeing what the brand’s products can do (through lots of rigorous testing) that we truly fell in love with the brand. We first put the viral Always Pan through the ringer—with a month of searing, saucing, and sauteeing whatever we could get our hands on—and deemed it an excellent all-purpose workhorse that is just as versatile and non-sticky as promised. Still, it didn’t end up replacing our entire fleet of cookware; sometimes you just need some cast-iron or a stainless steel pan to develop a nice sear, and it can be a bit cumbersome getting out such a large pan just for frying up a single serving of eggs.

But, it seems like Our Place read our minds (or our reviews), as the brand is now offering not only a cast-iron Always Pan, but also, as of this week, small-space-friendly versions of its beloved Home Cook Duo. The minis are the perfect size for everyday cooking for you and/or your boo—especially if you don’t have a Martha Stewart-sized kitchen. 

These new teeny versions will allow you to proudly display your aesthetically pleasing cookware atop your tiny apartment-sized oven without having to do a balancing act every time you want to flip on the burner—not to mention, our sunny-side-up egg game will never be the same after owning an ultra-light version of the ridiculously slippery Always Pan. (Our omelet game is about to be on fleek. Is that still cool to say?)

The Mini versions retain all the same must-have features as their full-grown predecessors, including the nontoxic, non-stick ceramic coating that allows for delicate cooking; interchangeable lids that can retain heat or release steam; and smaller versions of each vessel’s corresponding nesting beechwood utensils. Plus, it’s 20% off right now, for their launch—so don’t miss this deal. 

Please excuse me while I finish squealing over how cute mini things are, and get emotional thinking about tiny animals. 

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.

Basket Case: What to Buy at Sephora, According to Our Editors

5 hours 36 min ago

Is there anything quite like stepping into a Sephora? The moment you surround yourself with its distinct scent (a blend of 100 different fragrance samples), its oddly satisfying displays, and its array of head-scratching dance remixes of pop hits from 2015, you feel the warming aura of retail therapy. Nothing gives us a serotonin boost quite like testing 100 different products on our arms, and the rush of adrenaline we get from evading the makeup artist is second to none. Plus, the place really does have it all—from skincare staples to oddly appealing bright-blue lipstick, you’re bound to find something that you can’t help but throw into your eyeshadow-dusted basket. (And, it’s hard to resist those complimentary birthday gifts.)

Maybe you’re a burgeoning TikTok MUA, or maybe you’re just a dude who likes fancy deodorant. But if you simply don’t know where to start—Sephora sells almost 450 moisturizers alone, so we get it—we’re pleased to report that we can help, considering that we’ve collectively spent more hours scouring the shelves of the black-and-white-striped store than we have in higher education. After hours of smoothing, spraying, dousing, massaging, and painting ourselves with Sephora’s products, we’re ready to deliver the ultimate, once-and-for-all list of the best buys from Sephora. Let us be your beauty guides—just sit down, relax, and treat yourself to all the best exfoliating face masks, hydrating creams, serums, cleansers, and more.

The best skincare products from Sephora 

The Ordinary Niacinamide Serum

This serum is a holy grail product for many acne sufferers, with its potent vitamin-and mineral-infused formula of 10% pure niacinamide and 1% zinc—plus, gotta love that low price tag (bless you, The Ordinary). “It’s incredible that for 11 bucks, this super-simple serum solved a problem I’d had for literally decades,” Rec Room contributor Angel Kilmister explains, referring to her hormonal cystic acne that magically disappeared when she started using this product. “It also helped with my skin’s blackheads, bumps, and unwanted texture. I’ll use it forever.”

Peter Thomas Roth’s Vital-E Antioxidant Recovery Cream

This antioxidant-rich cream from Peter Thomas Roth reduces redness, irritation, and signs of aging, and even claims to combat the aging effects of pollution and blue light (aka, the grime from city air and the glaring glow of our screens). “This is my favorite everyday moisturizer for so many reasons—it smells light and fresh, has the best creamy, whipped-shea-butter-like texture, and is formulated to protect your skin from environmental bad guys including pollution and blue light,” Rec Room editor Hilary Pollack says. “It absorbs super quickly but makes my skin feel bouncy and soft for hours and hours, like a smooth, happy, moisturized marshmallow.” 

The Caudalie Instant Detox Mask

Caudalie is a French cool-girl brand that has loads of popular products, but this mask reigns supreme with our staff. This clay mask deep-cleans the gunk from your beautiful visage, leaving it squeaky clean and radiant, and tightens your pores in as little as 10 minutes. “Use this once a week for glowy skin; it’s the best clay mask for sensitive skin that clears out my nasty discus pores without over-stressing them,” Rec Room writer Mary Frances “Francky” Knapp says. It works best for normal, combination, and oily skin, and it also helps treat dullness and uneven texture. 

The INKEY’s List Salicylic Acid Acne + Pore Cleanser

For those who suffer from a monthly cycle of coming-and-going zits and oil, this INKEY cleanser is a lifesaver. It dissolves makeup and dirt to prevent breakouts, and zaps existing ones with a formula of 2% salicylic acid to gently exfoliate pores and sweep away dead skin cells for a clearer complexion. It also helps calm excess oil production—and again, another product with a fab price tag that costs less than a fancy sandwich. 

Paula's Choice’s Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

Paula is the GOAT, and her Choice is our choice. This daily leave-on exfoliant is formulated to gently clear the dullness off your face, using its exfoliating properties to unclog pores, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and sweep away dead skin cells. “This is the one skincare product I recommend to everyone. My sister saw next-day results when I gave her a bottle at Christmas,” explains Rec Room editor Marshall Bright. “If I had to only buy one active product for my skincare routine, it would be this. It immediately makes my skin look smoother and more even. I use it a few times a week, but for more sensitive skin, one to two times is probably better.” 

Brazilian Bum Bum Body Cream

Come for the funny name, stay for the amazing smell and magic skin-firming powers, courtesy of guaraná, which smooths and tightens. Rec Room contributor Angel Kilmister got a sample of Brazilian Bum Bum Cream one time with her Sephora order, then quickly got addicted and bought the big tub, saying, “it’s great for slathering on, yes, your ass, but also works wonders in firming and smoothing your arms, thighs, and décollatege.” 

Origins’ Plantscription Youth-Renewing Power Night Cream

This age-correcting moisturizer targets fine lines and is formulated with anogeissus, a powerful ingredient that supports skin's natural production of fibrillin, which improves elasticity. You can spend infinite money on “youth-renewing” products and convince yourself that you need to keep buying more and more, or you can spend a little bit of money—like with this Origins night cream—and rest your weary head knowing that it’s got a clean, plant-powered ingredient list; near-universal praise from happy customers (our contributor Angel Kilmister included); and results that you can see with your own two eyes. Use it before bed to wake up looking hydrated, youthful, and refreshed. “I put this on my face and neck every night and can still feel how happy my face is in the morning,” Kilmister explains. “Seriously, just read the ingredients list: it’s loaded with botanicals and fruit and flower oils.” We may not be able to actually rewind time, but this cream might be the next best thing.

Supergoop!’s Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40

This weightless and scentless gel sunscreen is great for all skin types and helps protect against UVA and UVB lights, as well as blue light from electronic devices. “It's a perfect, everyday sunscreen that goes on invisibly, creating a nice smooth, primer-like base for layering under more skincare or makeup,” Rec Room writer Becca Blasdel says. No wonder it’s got a huge cult following

Origins’ Original Skin Matte Moisturizer

Need to use moisturizer, but prone to turning into an oil slick? You’re whom matte moisturizers are made for, baby; our editor Hilary Pollack digs this one from Origins, which dries in seconds and still keeps skin pert and plump. It’s infused with willowherb, which helps boost moisture, vibrance, and smoothness in skin. It also minimizes the look of pores and, in our experience, helps combat acne and blackheads.

InnBeauty Project’s Green Machine Vitamin C + Green Superfoods Jelly Serum

Vitamin C is a commonly used brightening agent in loads of skincare products, but we’ve never seen a serum with a formula quite like this one. A little goes a super long way, in fact they recommend using only two to four drops at a time and after just one month for a glowing face and it really helps heal breakouts in action.

The best hair care at Sephora

Ouai’s Fine Hair Conditioner A shampoo or conditioner’s ingredients list and properties are important, but so are the scent that’s gonna cling to your mane—and OUAI is known for having bomb fragrances infused into its haircare products. Add shine, volume, and bounce with this conditioner formulated with biotin and chia seed oil to strengthen, thicken, and volumize for an added dose of oomph. It also leaves behind that bewitching scent thanks to a fragrance profile of rose, Italian lemon, jasmine, and white musk. “I always say my hair is made out of cotton candy, because it’s SO fine and breaks so easily,” Pollack says. “This OUAI conditioner is the best product I’ve ever used for fine hair specifically; it smells like a bouquet of expensive flowers and leaves my hair ultra-shiny, not at all frizzy, and feeling uncharacteristically strong.” 

Bumble and Bumble Prêt-à-Powder Dry Shampoo Powder

Greetings, fellow greaseballs who rely on dry shampoo to engage in polite society. If you’re looking for the ultimate in a great-smelling, invisible, instant shower, then Bumble and Bumble’s cult-fave Prêt-à-Powder is waiting for you on a pedestal. A fave of multiple Rec Room staffers, it’s super-effective (a little goes a long way) and won’t leave that crispy, dusty cast in your hair that many spray dry shampoos inadvertently leave behind. Just sprinkle a little in your bangs and use your fingers to spread it through any grease spots, and you’ll come out looking fresh as a daisy.

Ceremonia Mascarilla de Babassu Hydrating Hair Mask We love a whole basket of products from Latinx haircare brand Ceremonia—the scalp massager is truly our jam—but when it comes to taking our manes from “spent a weekend camping” to “hosting the VMAs,” nothing quite hits the spot like this moisture-infusing babassu hair mask. Made with hydrating babassu oil, chia seed oil, and cupuaçu butter, it’s ultra-nourishing, shine-infusing, and ideal for dry or curly hair. ​​

Gisou’s Propolis Infused Heat Protecting Spray

Infused with propolis, which is a compound produced by bees to protect and strengthen their beehives, Gisou’s heat protectant spray is a blowout’s best friend. It’s nutrient-rich and hair-strengthening, and leaves hair soft and shiny: “No shade to my natural hair, but I do love giving myself a good blowout after hair wash day, and this stuff keeps the life in my hair, even after styling,” Rec Room intern Zoe Pelikan says.

The best fragrances at Sephora

19-69 Rainbow Bar

Sephora just recently added gender-less fragrance house 19-69 to its roster of brands, and we’re stoked to see it. 19-69 makes scents inspired by countercultural moments and places of the 20th century, including its dreamy, earthy Rainbow Bar scent, which is an homage to the iconic Rainbow Bar and Grill that was ground zero for the 80s hair metal scene on the Sunset Strip. It’s an ultra-unisex fragrance that combines the cozy wood-paneling aroma of cedarwood with fresh basil, cardamom, and a hint of citrus. Rec Room contributor Angel Kilmister picked up a bottle, and loved it so much she gifted her bestie the candle version for the holidays last year. 

Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille

Tom Ford’s scents are known for being exquisitely crafted, evocative, and long-lasting. They are also known for being exorbitant—a large 3.4-oz bottle of his fragrances will run you nearly $400. But, Rec Room writer Becca Blasdel deems them worthwhile. “As someone who has trouble finding nuanced, feminine scents, that won’t give you a toothache or smell like Febreze, I can attest that Tom Ford fragrances are incredibly long-lasting, and quite unique,” says Blasdel. “Tobacco Vanille was one of my first signature scents—with intoxicating notes of tonka bean, tobacco, and a woody undercurrent that will have strangers asking what you’re wearing.” 

Flowerbomb by Viktor & Rolf

“This perfume smells like what I wanted the Victoria’s Secret Sunkissed Body Spray I bought in the ninth grade to smell like,” Rec Room intern Zoe Pelikan says. It’s like a going-out outfit that both shows skin and leaves you wanting more, with sweet and spicy notes of jasmine, orange blossom, and patchouli.

Maison Margiela Replica 

Maison Margiela’s subverted fashion sense has made it a staple amongst hot and worldly people, and while we haven’t saved up enough for the brand’s iconic Tabi boots, we can smell like we have after copping this travel-sized trio of its Replica scents, which includes notes of a mahogany bar, mossy forest, and your Dimes Square crush and our favorite sweet ‘n’ smoky unisex scent, Jazz Club.   

Givenchy L’Interdit

In the market for a classic sexy scent? Givenchy’s L’Interdit is a floral date-night fragrance that was originally created in 1957 for none other than our patron manic-pixie-dream-girl saint Audrey Hepburn, who had exclusive access to it for a year before it was released to the public. Makes sense, since it’s ultra-femme but tirelessly timeless—in case that isn’t obvious from the fact that we’re still enchanted by it 65 years later. Wear it with Crocs to confuse your crush.

The best makeup from Sephora

Clinique’s Black Honey Lipstick 

This TikTok-viral, balm-like lipstick offers sheer color that fuses with the natural tone of your lips for a universally flattering shade. “I use this as a blush and on my lips, it’s one of the most natural-looking products,” our writer Francky Knapp explains.

Milk Makeup’s Kush Fiber Eyebrow Gel

A defined brow can make all the difference and is a simple way to feel put-together. Milk Makeup’s tinted eyebrow gel is formulated with hemp-derived cannabis seed oil to condition and subtly fuse fibers to your brows to give the appearance of enhanced fullness without going full 2016 cray-cray. “This brow gel has a great consistency, [it’s] very buildable and not too waxy or hard, and it will definitely keep your brows in place, but makes them easy to shape in a natural way,” our writer Becca Blasdel says. https://www.sephora.com/product/kush-fiber-brow-gel-P43312

ILIA Limitless Lash Lengthening Mascara

We’ve got mad love for drug-store mascara—L’Oreal Voluminous, you’re not going anywhere—but if you wanna see BIG performance and seriously lash-lift-mimicking effects, ILIA’s Limitless mascara is, frankly, magical. “I’ve tried at least three dozen different brands of mascara in my life, and this one wildly impressed me from the moment I tried it,” editorial director Hilary Pollack says. “My lashes are monster-jam magnified. It’s kind of nuts.” The secret is in the super-creamy formula and the unique shape of the 2-in-1 brush, which offers lush coverage from one side and more combed-out, individual-lash-separating strokes from the other.

Tower 28’s Beauty SuperDew Shimmer-Free Highlighter Balm

Get glassy skin and look like a luminous goddess with this highlighting balm. It has no shimmer or glitter, so it provides a more subtle, natural glow than those disco-ball-style highlighters we fell victim to in 2017. Tower 28 is an AAPI- and woman-owned company, and this shimmer-free highlighter is a gel that won’t clog pores. “I put some on my cheekbones and under my brow to catch the light in a no-makeup way,” our writer Francky Knapp says.

Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat

You’ve heard of Charlotte Tilbury’s Pillow Talk, and how it’s the ultimate YLBB color (that’s “your lips but better,” n00b). But if you haven’t tried it, we get it if you don’t yet understand just how masterful its powers are. The “cheat” in Lip Cheat is that you get that smooth, plump kisser without a single injection of filler—and the creamy, long-lasting formula just don’t quit. Editorial director Hilary Pollack, one of those freaky people who has worn some form of lipstick every day for 10+ years, says this is one of her desert-island lip liner picks. 

Nars Mini Radiant Creamy Concealer

In addition to its beloved gold-flecked pink Orgasm blush, Nars is also lauded for its absolutely top-notch concealer, formulated for strong coverage without creasing, smudging, or making you look cakey. You may have stayed out at Bossa Nova until 3 a.m., but your boss doesn’t need to know that—so just cover up your under-eye circles and go. “Acne, dark spots, whatever—this is the concealer I keep in my purse at all times for covering up anything undesirable,” Rec Room contributor Angel Kilmister says. 

Laura Mercier’s concealer powder

“Facialists, dermatologists, my beautiful aunt who has glass-like skin—they’ve all told me the same thing: Laura Mercier is great for people who breakout, want coverage, and don’t want shine,” our writer Francky Knapp gushes about this powder. “My breakouts are nowhere near as bad as they were in my early twenties, but I still find myself using the French skincare brand’s powdered concealer because it goes on light, gives me a natural glow, and has SPF 20.” For those with oily skin, this stuff is life-saving. 

Phew—wipes sweat from brow—Sephora’s really got it all. From skincare, to haircare, to makeup and fragrances, these are the crème de la crème. Our favorite parts about shopping at Sephora online are as follows: It’s never crowded, you get as much time as you want to choose your free samples, you get to DJ and set the vibes, and you are never tempted by the minis they (conveniently) put right by checkout for you to quickly add to your cart. Stay one step ahead of the man, always, and do it in full-glam, dahlings.

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.

Man Receives Life Sentence for Slamming 9-Month-Old’s Head Over Spilled Drink

7 hours 40 min ago

Frustrated at the cries of his girlfriend’s baby, a man in Singapore slammed the child’s head against the floorboard of his van at least twice, causing fatal injuries to the nine-month-old.

On Thursday, Mohamed Aliff Mohamed Yusoff, a 29-year-old who works in construction, was sentenced to life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane after being found guilty of the murder that took place around midnight on Nov. 7, 2019.

The court heard that the baby, Izz Fayyaz Zayani Ahmad, had spilled his mother’s drink during dinner earlier that night, which led to an argument between the couple over how to discipline the child. Nadiah Abdul Jalil, the child’s mother, had agreed to let Aliff take care of her baby that night as she had work the next day.

When Aliff met Nadiah again later that night, they drove around before she realized that her child was lying motionless in the back of the van. Aliff claimed that Izz fell to the floor and bounced to the ground as he was holding him and trying to close the door of his van.

Aliff then suggested to his girlfriend that they pay someone to bury Izz and wait a year before reporting him missing. Nadiah said she rejected the idea, but Aliff continued to delay taking the child to seek medical attention.

Even after the couple arrived at the hospital car park in their van, surveillance footage revealed that it took Aliff 36 minutes to take Izz to the emergency department. During this period, Aliff disposed of his phone, brushed his teeth, and cleaned his body, out of fear of being remanded by the police, Nadiah said.

When Izz was finally seen by hospital staff, he was pronounced dead after 10 minutes.

When questioned by the police, Aliff teetered between his original claim of it being an accident and admitting that he was the one who pressed Izz’s head into the floor. A forensic expert found that Izz had died from a brain hemorrhage as a result of traumatic injury. However, contrary to Aliff’s claim that the baby had fallen accidentally, Izz was not found with lacerations or linear abrasion to the skull that would have likely appeared in that instance.

In July, the court concluded that Aliff had caused the fatal injuries and found him guilty of murder. His life sentence was announced on Thursday, with the judge saying that his actions after hurting the baby, including delaying taking him to get treatment, demonstrated a “disturbing lack of remorse.”

Prosecutors sought life imprisonment for Aliff, along with 15 to 18 strokes of the cane, while his defense team sought the same jail term with five to six strokes of the cane. The prosecution also noted that after serving 20 years of his sentence, Aliff would be eligible for remission, where he may be released. Singapore’s current remission system allows for most inmates to be released after serving two-thirds of their sentence, with the condition that they do not re-offend.

While under Singaporean law, the death penalty can be handed to offenders who demonstrate viciousness or a blatant disregard for human life, Aliff’s case did not warrant such a sentence, said the judge.

As social media users expressed shock at the chilling murder, Aliff’s sentence has also raised questions about Singapore’s approach to the death penalty. The country finds itself facing increasing scrutiny for sentencing drug traffickers—often drug users struggling with addiction themselves—to death by hanging.

“Drug abusers/mules get the noose but murderers of babies get life imprisonment? Seems strange to me,” one Reddit user commented, referring to those caught carrying small amounts of narcotics and convicted of drug trafficking.

Despite criticism from international rights groups and local activists, Singapore has ramped up its executions after a two-year hiatus during the pandemic. Since March, at least 10 people have been hanged for drug offenses, including a 49-year-old man who was executed late last month for trafficking cannabis. Carrying more than 500 grams of the plant is punishable by death under Singapore’s drug laws.

Follow Koh Ewe on Twitter and Instagram.

FBI Standoff Suspect Posted ‘Call to Arms’ on Trump's Truth Social

Thu, 08/11/2022 - 16:26

The gunman who fired at police and engaged in an hours-long standoff in a corn field after trying to enter the FBI’s office in Cincinnati on Thursday has been identified in multiple media reports as someone who was present at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.

The man also apparently left a trail of posts on Truth Social, the social media platform created by former president Donald Trump, announcing his plans to attack the FBI office and indicating that his actions were a direct response to the FBI’s search Monday of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.

The suspect is Ricky Walter Shiffer, according to NBC News and the New York Times, which reported that Shiffer was under investigation for having “ties to extremist groups,” including the Proud Boys, which he apparently mentioned on social media.

The standoff suspect was shot and killed by police on Thursday afternoon, the Ohio State Police said, but his identity has not been confirmed.

The 42-year-old Shiffer reportedly posted on Facebook on Jan. 5, 2021, showing him attending a pro-Trump rally at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington the night before the Capitol was stormed, according to the Times. 

A Twitter user named Ricky Shiffer also posted about the Proud Boys, the Times found, quoting a message that said: “Save ammunition, get in touch with the Proud Boys and learn how they did it in the Revolutionary War, because submitting to tyranny while lawfully protesting was never the American way.” 

On Truth Social, according to posts reviewed by VICE News before they were deleted from the platform Thursday evening, Shiffer described himself in an account created Aug. 1 as a construction electrician who’d been blocked from other social media platforms.

“If you don’t hear from me, it is true I tried attacking the F.B.I. and it’ll mean either I was taken off the internet, the F.B.I. got me, or they sent the regular cops,” Shiffer wrote Thursday morning.

Two days ago, after the Mar-a-Lago search, Shiffer posted, “People this is it. I hope a call to arms comes from someone better qualified, but if not, this is your call to arms from me. Leave work tomorrow as soon as the gun shop/ Army-Navy store/ pawn shop opens, get whatever you need to be ready for combat. We must not tolerate this one. They have been conditioning us to accept tyranny and we must respond with force.”

Shiffer then added: “If you know of any protests or attacks, please post here.”

In another post on Truth Social from two days ago, Shiffer wrote about Trump, saying he expected the former president to “call for peace.” 

“Donald Trump was my hero just a year ago but we must not continue to lay down and take this,” Shiffer wrote. “If he does not call for peace, it is probably because he fears for the lives of his grandchildren and young children. It is a dark situation for that family, but millions of other kids are in danger until we show the enemy how Americans do it.”

In a conversation with another Truth Social user, Shiffer wrote, “Don’t forget how Americans handle tyrants.”

Shiffer’s presence on Truth Social was first spotted by extremism researcher Travis View.

Shiffer also reportedly posted on Twitter in response to a photo of rioters at the Capitol: “I was there. We watched as your goons did that,” with the “goons” apparently referencing police.

While it does not appear that Shiffer faced any criminal charges connected to the attempted insurrection, his presence at the Capitol may help explain his confrontation with law enforcement on Thursday.

The FBI said a suspect “attempted to breach the Visitor Screening Facility” at its office in Cincinnati, reportedly firing a nail gun before fleeing the scene in a white Ford Crown Victoria. The Ohio State Highway Patrol said they tried to pull the suspect over on a nearby freeway, but he fired shots at them and then fled his vehicle to hide in a corn field. The man was reportedly wearing body armor and armed with an AR-15-style rifle.

The stand-off ended late in the afternoon, according to the Clinton County Emergency Management Agency, which posted a message on Facebook at 4:25 p.m. saying, “law enforcement operations and response has ended.”

A spokesperson for the Ohio State Highway Patrol said earlier Thursday no law enforcement officers were injured.

“Throughout the afternoon troopers and our law enforcement partners attempted to negotiate with the suspect to bring the standoff to a peaceful end,” the Highway Patrol said. “Once negotiations failed, officers attempted to take the suspect into custody by utilizing less lethal tactics. At approximately 3:42 p.m., the suspect raised a firearm and shots were fired by law enforcement officers. The suspect succumbed to fatal injuries on scene.”

The FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago has triggered an angry backlash from Trump’s supporters on the far right, with some threatening the judge who authorized the warrant, and conservative leaders and pundits calling for “civil war.”

Hours after the incident in Cincinnati, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department would seek to unseal the Mar-a-Lago search warrant, a move that would shed more light on why the FBI searched Trump’s club.

(Disclosure: Gavin McInnes, who founded the Proud Boys in 2016, was a co-founder of VICE in 1994. He left the company in 2008 and has had no involvement since then.)

All the Not-So-Obvious Stuff That Could Save Your Ass on Vacation

Thu, 08/11/2022 - 15:00

“Damn, I wish I brought my clothesline,” you’ll say when you need to Mission Impossible out of your Slovakian hostel; or, “Wow, thank goodness I had that detox kit for the drug test Tom Hanks made me take.” There are a million things you could need while traveling—including things that might not feel as ubiquitous as a face mask or passport holder, but are oh-so-helpful when you find yourself crying on a bus stop in Reno wearing a pair of wet jeans. Shoulda brought those REI rain pants, man!

Full disclosure: We absolutely trawled the depths of Reddit for this one. Where else are you gonna find a dude talking about his two-meter extension cord that he brings wherever he goes? We’re terrified! We’re excited! We’re getting closer to the truth of what we may need while traveling, and that’s what matters. We already know the basics of packing for a plane ride—and getting some sleep on that flight—but what about the packing essentials that nobody tells you about in packing school? After all, the great debate about whether packing school is worth it (or if the degree is just a silly piece of paper) has been going on since we started this sentence, which seems like forever.

Fictitious degrees aside, there really are a lot of things you should probably be bringing with you when you’re traveling—especially if you’re going to be gone for a while. That’s why we decided to make up a little how-to jawn to help you get your must-have effects in order. We’re talking sexual butt wipes and bulk cases of Topo Chico. We’re talking rain pants for unexpected, well, rain, and trench coats for when you need to stand on top of your buddy to get into the rated-R movie.

An insanely quiet vibrator

If an orgasm is reached in the middle of the afternoon, and no one else in the hostel can hear it, did it even happen? You bet it did. Womanizer vibrators have famously silent motors, and it’s worth investing a few hundred in the Womanizer Duo for sooo many reasons. It is both a dildo and a suction vibrator; its material is firm, but soft; its vibration is pressure activated, which means it won’t go harder on your vagina unless you do. Sweet symbiosis. (And if you’re wondering: TSA will not give two hoots about this in your carry-on, we promise. They know what a Womanizer Pro is at this point.)

Dry your clothes anywhere

Your favorite shirt isn’t really going to dry well, and will probably start smelling like mildew if you keep drying it over furniture and other places it’s not supposed to be. Not that this is a threat (but it also kind of is). Travel clotheslines take up next to no space in your luggage, and will pay for themselves in no time.

In case you need to pass a drug test

Caroline Thompson went on a whole voyage for VICE on how to pass a drug test with detox drinks and cleanses. Not making any medical claims here, but Testclear has a one-day detox kit that purportedly works for all toxins, not just THC, in addition to loads of other detox packages.

A camera hack that will make you look better on Zoom

“Clip this thing on to your webcam,” explained Hilary Pollack in a VICE article on her hack for looking instantly better on Zoom calls, “and you'll suddenly realize that you were being fed the fugliest version of yourself—and it didn't have to be that way.” The trick is using a clip-on photo lens that gives you a fish-eye effect. Seriously.

Not a droid, just dry shampoo

Don’t subject your hair to the mystery brand shampoo-and-conditioner combo at the airport-adjacent motel in which you will, at least once in your life, find yourself stuck. Billie makes a dry shampoo that’s part volumizer and part shampoo (it’s a blend of rice starch, biotin, and baking soda).

The wisest wizard of all

How any self-respecting traveler could leave the house without a sling-bag insulated cooler that stealthily holds a sixer of cans is beyond us. The last thing people will guess you’re carrying when they see you with this Wizard Stick is canned liquid. It could be a tripod! A telescope! A piece of stolen art! Do yourself a favor and don’t show up to the beach, pool, or work convention empty-handed.

Did you know rain pants exist?

These “2.5-layer shell pants” (shell? Yes please) are lightweight, breathable, and have “fully sealed seams for complete waterproof protection.” Which has us excited, and also pissed off, because why on Earth aren’t all pants like this? Enjoy the freedom that this moisture-fighting, wearable slip ‘n slides will give you in your travels.

… And why aren’t all umbrellas this size?

Can’t unsee. Can’t settle for anything else, either, unless it’s somehow smaller than this seven-incher.

Those watches aren’t going to sell themselves

We don’t just want any old trench coat. We want one that makes us feel like Inspector Gadget on the streets, and Columbo in the sheets. Everlane hath delivered with this unique but Fully Adult color palette, and an exaggerated collar that says, “Just one more thing—what time is my flight?”

Look at me! (Don’t look at me)

You’re going to need the kind of tinted sunglasses that emit all the energy of a very pissed off celebrity limo driver. This pair says, “Clock me, but don’t talk to me.” Big red pill energy.

Keep your butt clean, wherever it ends up

You might be somewhere where you can’t shower, or perhaps you haven’t showered in a few days. That doesn’t mean your nethers have to start looking like Yoda’s swamp, especially if you’re planning on getting some on-the-road booty hole action. Keep your starfish clean, pristine, and gentle with these pH-balanced, biodegradable wipes.

Wool, wool, what do we have here…

(Sorry.) Remember that time you visited your friend’s new place for the first time, and discovered they’re a beautiful monster who sleeps with the thermometer below 60 degrees? Yeahhhhhh. Us too.

Wear your raincoat

Not your average condoms. Lelo is a maker of luxury sex toys and vibrators that gets real serious about engineering. The fruits of their fruit, for your fruit, are in the pudding of this thin but comfy condom. The hexagonal design is unique to the brand, and makes it feel like it was hand-tailored for your penis.

Stop paying so much for water, damnit

Here’s an idea: If you don’t have a Nalgene/want to take one on a trip, drink a massive, glass bottle of water on the way to the airport, then fill it up inside to save $7 at the Hudson News store. We suggest Topo Chico, because it tastes like serotonin, and tap dances on your tongue without eviscerating its taste buds like Badoit rouge. Those Frenchies, man.

Safe travels, and may your pants stay dry wherever you end up.

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. VICE may receive a small commission if you buy through the links on our site.

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