One of the more popular memes of the absurdist state of our lives right now is the “imagine explaining this headline to someone from” format. Something weird and ridiculous happens, like “Eminem demands white fans rescind support for President Donald Trump,” and people will say, “Imagine explaining that to someone from 2000,” the gist being that someone from the past would hear that and would be confused as fuck.
Of course, you can’t really do that without a time machine—but this weekend, we got a taste of what it was like.
Joshua Boyle and wife Caitlin Coleman were captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2012 while reportedly hiking in a remote area outside of Kabul. The Canadian citizens, as well as the two children they had while in captivity, were just rescued in an operation in Pakistan.
In an interview with the Toronto Star, recounting their experience, Boyle said that their captors kept outside information to a minimum during their five-year ordeal, noting that he did not know Justin Trudeau had become prime minister of Canada.
And when he was filming a “proof-of-life” video, Boyle said he was told that Trump was president. Boyle said he thought they were joking. “It didn’t enter my mind that he was being serious,” he said.
Alton Brown reviews dumbest kitchen gadgets
To be fair, that’s pretty much how you’d expect anyone to respond.
The Google, Apple and Facebook workers who helped make technology so addictive are disconnecting themselves from the internet. Paul Lewis reports on the Silicon Valley refuseniks who worry the race for human attention has created a world of perpetual distraction that could ultimately end in disaster
Justin Rosenstein had tweaked his laptops operating system to block Reddit, banned himself from Snapchat, which he compares to heroin, and imposed limits on his use of Facebook. But even that wasnt enough. In August, the 34-year-old tech executive took a more radical step to restrict his use of social media and other addictive technologies.
Rosenstein purchased a new iPhone and instructed his assistant to set up a parental-control feature to prevent him from downloading any apps.
He was particularly aware of the allure of Facebook likes, which he describes as bright dings of pseudo-pleasure that can be as hollow as they are seductive. And Rosenstein should know: he was the Facebook engineer who created the like button in the first place.
A decade after he stayed up all night coding a prototype of what was then called an awesome button, Rosenstein belongs to a small but growing band of Silicon Valley heretics who complain about the rise of the so-called attention economy: an internet shaped around the demands of an advertising economy.
These refuseniks are rarely founders or chief executives, who have little incentive to deviate from the mantra that their companies are making the world a better place. Instead, they tend to have worked a rung or two down the corporate ladder: designers, engineers and product managers who, like Rosenstein, several years ago put in place the building blocks of a digital world from which they are now trying to disentangle themselves. It is very common, Rosenstein says, for humans to develop things with the best of intentions and for them to have unintended, negative consequences.
Rosenstein, who also helped create Gchat during a stint at Google, and now leads a San Francisco-based company that improves office productivity, appears most concerned about the psychological effects on people who, research shows, touch, swipe or tap their phone 2,617 times a day.
There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called continuous partial attention, severely limiting peoples ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ. One recent study showed that the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity even when the device is turned off. Everyone is distracted, Rosenstein says. All of the time.
But those concerns are trivial compared with the devastating impact upon the political system that some of Rosensteins peers believe can be attributed to the rise of social media and the attention-based market that drives it.
Drawing a straight line between addiction to social media and political earthquakes like Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump, they contend that digital forces have completely upended the political system and, left unchecked, could even render democracy as we know it obsolete.
In 2007, Rosenstein was one of a small group of Facebook employees who decided to create a path of least resistance a single click to send little bits of positivity across the platform. Facebooks like feature was, Rosenstein says, wildly successful: engagement soared as people enjoyed the short-term boost they got from giving or receiving social affirmation, while Facebook harvested valuable data about the preferences of users that could be sold to advertisers. The idea was soon copied by Twitter, with its heart-shaped likes (previously star-shaped favourites), Instagram, and countless other apps and websites.
It was Rosensteins colleague, Leah Pearlman, then a product manager at Facebook and on the team that created the Facebook like, who announced the feature in a 2009 blogpost. Now 35 and an illustrator, Pearlman confirmed via email that she, too, has grown disaffected with Facebook likes and other addictive feedback loops. She has installed a web browser plug-in to eradicate her Facebook news feed, and hired a social media manager to monitor her Facebook page so that she doesnt have to.
Like the sun, some beautiful things will hurt you if you stare at them for too long. Mascots, for example. They all have dark sides, and they’re not even hiding them; they just hope we’re too busy to think about them for too long. But I’ve got all the time in the world, baby, and you won’t believe what happens when you stare at a mascot for too long. You start to see things. Dark things.
The Hamburglar Is Eating Children
This all started when I fell down an internet rabbit hole one night and thought for a little bit too long about the Hamburglar, the thieving McDonald’s mascot. First off, a child who has to steal food to survive is not a whimsical mascot. That’s someone in the deepest throes of desperation. Can anyone just, like, give him a nibble of their Quarter Pounder? But wait, that’s not the dark part.
After some more thought, you realize that the Hamburglar, a character whose sole defining characteristic is that he steals hamburgers, exists in the same universe as Mayor McCheese and Officer Big Mac, both of whom have hamburgers for heads. So now the question you have to ask yourself is this: “Is the Hamburglar stealing people’s heads? Is he actually a Headburglar?”
Wait, if cheeseburgers and Big Macs are people, and the Hamburglar who’s eating them is a murderer, does that mean we should stop eating them too? If Mayor McCheese is a gigantic hamburger, does that mean we’re eating the children of his species? Yes. YES IT DOES. We’re EATING THE KIDS.
See the truth that you can’t unsee. It’s canon in the McDonald’s universe that hamburgers are children. They are talking, learning, sentient children, who are being slowly picked off by an evil clown … wait a second, this is starting to sound familiar. A town where children routinely disappear, while the mayor and law enforcement are no help. There’s a clown who’s taking the children away. IT and 1980s McDonald’s commercials have the same overarching plot. IT was written in 1986, right around the heyday of the McDonaldland commercials. So it’s official: IT was inspired by McDonald’s commercials. There is nothing more horrifying than those. Except …
Franken Berry Is The Result Of A Godless World
Obviously I’m not sugarcoating anything for you guys, so let me come right out and say that Franken Berry is a pile of stitched-together corpses that we use to sell cereal to children. We harness the powers of the dead to bring them one unhealthy breakfast after another.
But he’s not necessarily stitched-together corpses. He could be constructed from the corpses of some race of berry people. But we do see him get struck by lightning and come to life in his very first commercial appearance. So he was definitely dead at one point, and now he’s definitely alive again, and his sole purpose seems to be to get you to eat this cereal. And that sounds highly suspicious to me.
I’m not sure who thought what was originally an allegory for the horrendous repercussions of man playing God would make a great company spokescorpse, but I have to say, that person knew their shit. I feel morally obligated to eat Franken Berry now. For me, coming back from the dead would, I imagine, spark questions like “Who am I?” or “What is the meaning of life?” or “Do I deserve to exist in this state?” But I guess “Hey kid, let these sharp strawberry squares tear up your mouth!” is pretty important too. In it’s own way.
Snuggle Bear Is A Furry Pervert
When I was a kid, I was terrified of Snuggle Bear. I refused to go near piles of laundry for fear that he might be hiding in there. My mom tried to tell me he was a “good bear,” so I shouldn’t be afraid of him, but I feel like you shouldn’t try to guess a bear’s moral alignment. That’s literally the first rule of camping.
There’s no such thing as a good bear or a bad bear. There are just bears. They are animals, and you shouldn’t let them in your house, unless you’re also a bear. It will definitely poop in there, and probably also try to eat you. However, it’s hard to avoid a bear when it can apparently teleport into laundry piles, so that’s bad. Surprise! “There’s a bear in your laundry” is literally never a good surprise.
Then there’s the fact that he sneaks into people’s houses while they’re gone to sniff their laundry. Soooo he’s at least a little bit of a pervert, right? If anyone else does that, they are definitely a pervert. Why is it OK for Snuggle? Is it because he’s a bear? I don’t watch a lot of nature documentaries, but is that something bears do in the wild? Do they also send you weird DMs on Twitter and give hugs that last too long? I’m just trying to find the line when it comes to bear perversion.
Or is the Snuggle commercial making the point that bears are OK as long as they are perverts? They obviously can’t harm us, because they need us to create that yummy-smelling laundry they want to huff. So don’t forget, kids: If you see a bear in the woods, make sure it’s a pervert before you approach it.
Mrs. Butterworth Needs To Shut Up
Mrs. Butterworth is a pleasant-looking woman of syrup that might as well be your grandmother, if she was filled to the brain with syrup. And her ad campaign asks the question “What would you do if a tiny woman showed up in your kitchen and just begged you, absolutely begged you, to drink her blood?” What if she was all, “My blood is the tastiest blood in the world! Just try it! Try it once! Please, please drink my blood.”
OK, Mrs. Butterworth Corporation, you want to make your bottle look like a lady, and I get that. It’s kind of a cool-looking bottle. But I DO NOT want it to come alive and speak to me. Sometimes I like it when inanimate objects come to life. Toy Story is cute, but if Buzz were constantly begging Andy to put him in his mouth, it would be significantly less appealing.
If you go to YouTube and binge-watch Mrs. Butterworth commercials, which I did because again, so much time on my hands, you’ll start to feel like Mrs. Butterworth is a little bit full of herself. In her efforts to convince you to drink her blood, she just will not shut up about how thick and rich she is. I’ve got news for you, Mrs. Butterworth: There is only one thick rich woman whom literally everyone wants to see at breakfast and her name is Rihanna. So you can just chill.
Chuck E. Cheese Will Give You All Diseases
Why would I want to eat at a restaurant owned by a mouse? I don’t care how many skateboards Chuck E. Cheese rides; I’m not buying pizza from a rat, no matter how down with the rad kids he seems to be. I’ve worked in restaurants before. Every time I sit down to eat somewhere other than my own home, I’m actively suppressing an image of a kitchen full of Chuck E. Cheese’s bastard children Tony Hawking all over my food.
If eating out is difficult, eating at Chuck E. Cheese’s is impossible. I know 500 children have directly licked, snotted, or bled on every surface in that place. I’ve met children, and I know their ways. Then Chuck E. Cheese’s hangs a smiling mouse giving me a thumbs up over my table, as if to say, “I approve of how many of my little mouse babies scuttled all over you pizza!” That’s how the Bubonic plague was started, I’m pretty sure.
CEC Entertainment, Inc
Couldn’t they have chosen any other animal that enjoys the X-Games to be their mascot? Isn’t there any fun animal that doesn’t famously invade kitchens and give people leptospirosis? Here, Chuck E. Cheese’s, I’ll pick a new mascot for you. What’s the first sport that pops into my mind? Snowboarding! And the first animal? Filth! Oh shit, this is actually harder than it sounds.
Charlie The StarKist Tuna Has Earned A Glorious Death
Writing this article has taught me that we as a culture apparently have an insane hidden urge for our food to beg us to eat it. Charlie the StarKist Tuna mascot is a suicidal tuna who begs for death in every commercial. All that he wants is to be eaten. He has no other aim or goal in life. He tries and tries to prove to StarKist that he is worthy of consumption, but they will not allow him the sweet release of death.
With the heartless pragmatism only a large corporation could muster, StarKist denies him the death he so craves every time, and they do it with such joy. “Sorry Charlie,” they say. “We don’t want fish with good taste. We want fish who taste good.” HAHAHAHA, you bland asshole.
How do they know what Charlie tastes like if they won’t give him the dignity of at least slicing off part of his side, mixing it with some mayo and onion, and tasting it like a true American? I don’t know about you, StarKist Tuna, but I believe in a country where everyone is given an equal opportunity to pursue their dreams. If Charlie wants to die by being shoved into a can of your fine tuna, I think you should at least give him a chance! Please join my letter-writing campaign to StarKist Tuna, asking them to show someone publicly killing and eating their mascot. It’s just the right thing to do.
The Pillsbury Doughboy Is A Valiant Anti-Hero
The Pillsbury Doughboy is made of dough, but he’s also a baker who tries to get you to eat things made from dough. He’s the Hannibal Lecter of mascots. Well, we never see him eat the product he advertises himself. That would be weird, as again, he’s made of dough. He can’t be a dough cannibal. So I guess he’s more like the Sweeney Todd of his universe. He just wants us to eat his people. I say this because he has a tiny chef hat and he’s occasionally seen assisting in baking, but why?
First of all, you should know his real name is “Poppin’ Fresh,” and he has a family. It’s a pretty large extended family which includes his wife Poppie, his grandfather Granpopper, and a son named Popper. Did the Arrested Development theme just start playing in anyone else’s head? That’s a lot of people depending on him. People he would have a strong urge to defend from, say, others who may want to consume their tasty dough bodies. Maybe Poppin’ Fresh is just doing what needs to be done to keep his family going?
In a mascot world of child thief clowns, reanimated berry corpses, and pervert bears, Poppin’ Fresh is actually kind of a Walter-White-esque antihero. Sure, he’s joyously feeding the flesh of his kind to others, but he’s doing it for his family, and you kind of have to love him for it. Also, sometimes his commercials say “wiener” a lot:
Burger King’s new campaign focuses on bullying and … ruining customers’ sandwiches? (iStock)
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and Burger King is joining forces with NoBully.org to bring awareness to the cause with a new video advertisement.
The anti-bullying campaign, which the burger chain describes as “eye-opening” in a press release, “brings the issue even closer to home with an experience that took place in a Burger King restaurant.”
The campaign, known as “Bullying Junior,” begins with some upsetting personal shares from students, each of whom relays a time they were bullied. After every high schooler tells his or her story to the camera, an unsettling statistic flashes across the screen: “30 percent of student worldwide are bullied each year.”
Following the kids’ earnest confessions, the ad cuts to the inside of Burger King where an experiment of sorts is taking place: A bunch of bullies (who are paid actors) are bullying a high-school junior (also an actor) inside the Burger King. First they tease and push him, then they pour a drink on his food.
The bullied teen begs for them to stop while most of the customers in the store (not actors) can be seen ignoring what’s happening to the boy.
Then, the ad cuts to the inside of the Burger King’s kitchen, where a staffer (also an actor) is seen “bullying” a Whopper Jr. by punching and smashing it. This burger, and several just like it, are then served to unsuspecting Burger King customers.
Once the customers receive their food, the video reports that “95 percent of the real-life customers reported the bullied Whopper Jr.” to the staff. However, that statistic is jarringly juxtaposed with the next on-screen message, which states that just “12 percent” of the customers stood up to the bullies on behalf of the young actor who was being mistreated.
The “shocking and not so shocking” outcome is that people are more interested in the meal — the one they paid for, and expected not to be trashed — than they were in the high schooler who was being bullied right in front of them, the press release says.
“We know that bullying takes on many forms, physical, verbal, relational and online. But the first step to putting an end to bullying is to take a stand against it,” said CEO and Founder of NO BULLY®, Nicholas Carlisle. “Our partnership with the BURGER KING® brand is an example of how brands can bring positive awareness to important issues. You have to start somewhere and they chose to start within.”
Burger King has also tackled the issue of bullying in the past, albeit from the other side.
Back in 2015, the chain ran a campaign in France encouraging customers to “make fun of people who don’t have a Burger King close to home.” Called “Whopper Provocation,” the campaign asked patrons to submit photos of themselves enjoying Burger King, which would be used in advertising materials in cities where there is no Burger King.
The 2015 ad also concluded with a voiceover asking, “It’s always fun to make fun of others, right?”
The 13th edition of Michelin’s Bib Gourmand guide for New York has been announced. The “cheap eats” version of the famous dining list describes 127 restaurants in the five boroughs, including 14 new spots this year.
The chief criterion for Bib Gourmand winners are that a meal for two courses plus dessert or wine can be had for $40 or less, tax and tip excluded. (Whether that’s accurate or not is another story.) Anonymous inspectors visit the restaurants to make their recommendations. This year, the number of new Bib Gourmands in New York equals the total number of Michelin-starred restaurants in Washington, D.C., in 2018.
Still, this number is smaller than last year’s New York Bib Gourmand list, which named 132 restaurants in its guide. In 2016, there were 133 restaurants that made the cut. That year, 27 new places were named.
This year’s additions include some newcomers: Star chef Enrique Olvera notably didn’t get a Michelin star for Cosme, his New York restaurant, or Pujol, his scene-defining spot in Mexico City. But his casual Mexican spot, Atla, made the Bib Gourmand list this year. And some are not new at all, such as Luzzo, the old-school pizza joint in the East Village.
Mexican food was big for the guide this year with such additions as El Molcajete and Patron in the Bronx, as well as Atla.
It’s a list dominated by Manhattan and Brooklyn, although 15 restaurants are named in Queens, seven in the Bronx, and three in Staten Island. The full list is below.
New York Michelin Bib Gourmand 2018
(An asterisk denotes a new entry. All neighborhoods are listed by their designation in the Michelin guide.)
al Bustan (Midtown East) Angkor (Upper East Side) *Atla (Greenwich and West Village) Atoboy (Gramercy, Flatiron, and Union Square) Baker & Co. (Greenwich and West Village) Bar Primi (East Village) Beyoglu (Upper East Side)
Cho Dang Gol (Midtown West) Chomp Chomp (Greenwich and West Village) *ChouChou (East Village) Ciccio (SoHo and Nolita) Congee Village (Lower East Side) Cotenna (Greenwich and West Village) Dim Sum Go Go (Chinatown and Little Italy) DOMODOMO (Greenwich and West Village) Don Antonio by Starita (Midtown West) Donostia (East Village) 00 + Co (East Village) El Parador (Midtown) HanGawi (Midtown East) *Hao Noodle & Tea (Greenwich and West Village) Hecho en Dumbo (Greenwich and West Village) Hide-Chan Ramen (Midtown East) High Street on Hudson (Greenwich and West Village) Hunan Bistro (East Village) J.G. Melon (Upper East Side) Jin Ramen (Harlem, Morningside, and Washington Heights) J. Restaurant Chez Asta (Harlem, Morningside, and Washington Heights)
Katz’s (Lower East Side) Khe-Yo (TriBeCa) Kiin Thai (Greenwich and West Village) Kiki’s (Lower East Side) Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen (Midtown West) Land of Plenty (Midtown East) Larb Ubol (Midtown West) Laut (Gramercy, Flatiron, and Union Square) Lupa (Greenwich and West Village) *Luzzo’s (East Village) MáLà Project (East Village) Mapo Tofu (Midtown East) Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too (Upper West Side) Momofuku Noodle Bar (East Village) Momofuku Ssäm Bar (East Village) Oso (Harlem, Morningside, and Washington Heights) New Malaysia (Chinatown and Little Italy) *Norma Gastronomia Siciliana (Midtown East) Nyonya (Chinatown and Little Italy) Pippali (Gramercy, Flatiron, and Union Square) Prune (East Village) Ribalta (Greenwich and West Village) Rubirosa (SoHo and Nolita) Russ & Daughters Cafe (Lower East Side) San Matteo (Upper East Side) Sip Sak (Midtown East) Soba-Ya (East Village) Somtum Der (East Village) Spotted Pig (Greenwich and West Village) Streetbird Rotisserie (Harlem, Morningside, and Washington Heights) Supper (East Village) Szechuan Gourmet (Midtown West) Tertulia (Greenwich and West Village) *Tfor (Greenwich and West Village) Turkish Kitchen (Gramercy, Flatiron, and Union Square) Uva (Upper East Side) Zoma (Harlem, Morningside, and Washington Heights)
Achilles Heel, Williamsburg *Alta Calidad, Park Slope *Bunker (Fort Greene and Bushwick) Buttermilk Channel (Downtown) Chavela’s (Fort Greene and Bushwick) East Harbor Seafood Palace (Sunset Park and Brighton Beach) Egg (Williamsburg) Falansai (Fort Greene and Bushwick) Frankies 457 Spuntino (Downtown) Freek’s Mill (Sunset Park and Brighton Beach) Ganso Ramen (Downtown) Gladys (Fort Greene and Bushwick) Glasserie (Williamsburg) Good Fork (Sunset Park and Brighton Beach) Gran Eléctrica (Downtown) Hometown Bar-B-Que (Sunset Park and Brighton Beach) Kings County Imperial (Williamsburg) Lea (Park Slope)
Llama Inn (Williamsburg) Mile End (Downtown) *Miss Ada (Fort Greene and Bushwick) Olmsted (Park Slope) Paulie Gee’s (Williamsburg) *Pok Pok Ny (Sunset Park and Brighton Beach) Prime Meats (Downtown) Purple Yam (Park Slope) Rider (Williamsburg) Roberta’s (Fort Greene and Bushwick) Shalom Japan (Williamsburg) Sottocasa (Downtown) Speedy Romeo (Fort Greene and Bushwick) Runner & Stone (Sunset Park and Brighton Beach) Rye (Williamsburg) Tanoreen (Sunset Park and Brighton Beach) *21 Greenpoint (Williamsburg) Vinegar Hill House (Downtown) Xixa (Williamsburg)
WILMINGTON, Del. – The Latest on a shooting at an office park in northeastern Maryland (all times local):
The owners of a granite business in Maryland where an employee shot and killed three of his co-workers say they are heartbroken at the loss of their employees.
Ron Cherry, a lawyer representing Advanced Granite Solutions, read a statement Thursday from the owners outside the business where the shooting took place Wednesday. He said the owners are grieving and “trying to make sense of a senseless act.”
Police say Radee Prince shot five of his co-workers, killing three and critically wounding two others. Radee was captured late Wednesday after a multi-state manhunt.
The company has set up a gofundme.com page to raise donations for the victims and their families.
The widow of a man killed in a workplace shooting in Maryland says her husband was so concerned about the gunman’s temperament that he brought it up in church prayer sessions.
Fifty-three-year-old Bayarsaikhan Tudev (BYE’-er-sock-un TOO’-doov) is one of three people shot and killed Wednesday at a granite manufacturer in Harford County, Maryland.
Police said 37-year-old Radee Prince shot five co-workers Wednesday at Advanced Granite Solutions. He was captured after a 10-hour manhunt during which he also wounded an acquaintance in Wilmington, Delaware.
Tudev’s widow, Gerelmaa Dolgorsuren, (geh-RIJJ’-meh (DULL-ger-sor-en) told The Associated Press on Thursday that her husband described multiple times how Prince was always angry.
Tudev was a native of Mongolia who came to the U.S. in 2005. He and his wife settled in Arlington, Virginia, which has a large Mongolian-American community.
Dolgorsuren said her husband liked his job so much that he endured a regular commute of more than two hours. She said her husband always felt that he was living the American dream.
A man accused of killing three of his co-workers at a Maryland granite company and wounding three other people has been arraigned in a Delaware court.
Radee Prince was arraigned just after 8 a.m. Thursday. He is being held on $2.1 million cash bail.
Prince is charged in Delaware with attempted murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and other weapons charges. Those charges relate to the shooting of an acquaintance Prince is accused of wounding at a used car lot in Wilmington after he allegedly shot five people at Advanced Granite Solutions in Edgewood, Maryland. Maryland police are expected to seek his return to that state to face charges in the workplace shooting. Two of Prince’s co-workers remain in critical condition.
Two people who survived an office shooting in Maryland are still in critical condition.
A spokeswoman says the two victims were still listed as critical Thursday morning at the University of Maryland R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center. She declined to release additional details on their injuries.
The wounded victims were among five employees of a kitchen countertop company who authorities say were shot Wednesday by a co-worker. Three people died.
Authorities conducted a massive manhunt for the suspect, Radee Prince, a 37-year-old machine operator at Advanced Granite Solutions. Police said Prince drove to Wilmington, Delaware, after the shooting and shot and wounded a man he had a “beef” with at a used car lot.
Delaware police and federal agents arrested Prince late Wednesday.
A multistate manhunt that kept the Mid-Atlantic region on alert for more than 10 hours ended when law enforcement officers on foot chased down a man they say shot six people, killing three, in two separate shootings.
Police in Maryland and Delaware say 37-year-old Radee Prince shot five co-workers Wednesday at a granite company in Maryland, then drove to Wilmington, Delaware, and shot an acquaintance in the head. Wilmington Police Chief Robert Tracy says police and federal agents arrested Prince in Wilmington.
Police say Prince killed three colleagues at the start of the workday at Advanced Granite Solutions in Edgewood, Maryland, and seriously wounded two others.
Authorities say Prince then drove to a used car lot about 55 miles (90 kilometers) away in Wilmington and opened fire on a man. The man survived and identified Prince to police.
Puerto Rico (CNN)After Hurricane Maria toppled the bridge that connects him to the rest of civilization and ripped the roof and walls off his house here in the central mountains of Puerto Rico, Ramn Sostre raised a weathered American flag above the wreckage.
It worked, if temporarily. Helicopters came. So did a tarp, food and bottled water.
Yet little else has changed. His roof is still missing, as are some walls. He and his cat, Tipo, sleep in the kitchen. When the wind blows at night, rain soaks them. The power is out, as it is for roughly 3 million Puerto Ricans, or more than 80% of the island’s residents. More than a thirdof households in the US territory, including much of Sostre’s community, are without reliable drinking water at home. That’s roughly 1 million American citizens.
One month after Hurricane Maria, these realities are starting to feel less like an emergency and more like the new way of life — a nightmarish loop that resets each day the sun rises.
“You wake up and it’s this mess as far as the eye can see,” Sostre told me.
Much of the island feels like it was hit by a storm yesterday
The US government says it is committed to helping Puerto Rico but is confronted with challenging circumstances, including some roads that are narrow, muddied and impassable for large aid-delivery vehicles. There also are pre-existing problems with power and water systems. Puerto Rico is “an island sitting in the middle of an ocean … a very big ocean,” as President Donald Trump said on September 26, making Hurricane Maria more distant than two other recent storms that hit the US mainland, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
After traveling the island for three days, however, and conducting interviews with residents and federal officials and experts, it’s clear the level of suffering is far outpacing relief.
Much of the island feels as if it were hit by a storm yesterday, not one month ago. Mountains are covered in branchless trees, stuck in the dirt like the walking sticks of giants. Power lines are tangled about like spaghetti dropped from the sky. Sheet metal from roofs and fencing has been turned into floppy strips of chewing gum, scattered on the hills. Not only are people such as Sostre exposed to the elements, but supplies of clean drinking water are woefully inadequate and environmental health experts fear a public health emergency could be brewing.
On Tuesday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, said it had 1,700 personnel deployed in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, which also were hit by Hurricane Maria. Yet nearly 2,600 FEMA staff — about 900 more — remain deployed to Hurricane Harvey, nearly two months after that storm hit the Gulf Coast of the mainland United States.
In their defense, FEMA officials point out also that 20,000 other federal staff and military have been deployed to respond to Hurricane Maria.
“(P)lease understand that every disaster is different geographically and demographically and there is no point of comparison from one to the other. Numbers are a snapshot in time for any given day; it is like comparing apples to oranges,” FEMA said in an emailed statement. “Please note that numbers do not save or improve lives, missions and progress do; for example, (Texas) may need more people to support housing, while (Puerto Rico) may need more generators and poles to support the grid.”
Others see it differently.
“I thought we’d learned our lesson after (Hurricane) Katrina where the response was awful, both carelessly slow and incompetent,” said John Mutter, a professor at Columbia University and an expert in international disaster relief. “In Puerto Rico, it doesn’t look like we’ve learned anything at all — or we just don’t care.”
‘If I don’t drink water, I’m going to die’
The situation is particularly bad when it comes to water.
There are 3.4 million people in Puerto Rico, and about 35% of households were without access to safe drinking water as of Tuesday, according to government estimates. The World Health Organization says each person needs at least 2.5 liters per day for drinking alone, with a recommended daily allotment of up to 15 liters per dayincluding basic cooking and hygiene.
Yet FEMA has provided 23.6 million liters — 6.2 million gallons — of bottled water and bulk water since the storm hit on September 20, said Justo Hernandez, FEMA’s deputy federal coordinating officer. That includes water delivered to hospitals and dialysis centers, he said.
That’s only roughly 9% of the drinking water needs for the entire territory.
It’s an even smaller fraction if you include basic cooking and hygiene needs.
“The potential for cholera and diarrheal diseases is quite high” without bottled water, said Mutter, the disaster recovery expert at Columbia in New York, who recommended the WHO standard. “What you will get is contaminated wells and surface water. It’s a situation where you really should be drinking bottled water. If you can’t get bottled water … that’s trouble.”
Volunteer groups and nonprofits also are helping with supplies. FEMA says it has distributed drinking-water purification tablets and deployed six mobile-filtration systems. And there are efforts to distribute water-purification tablets and to tell locals who can’t find bottled water either to boil the water or add bleach or water-purification tablets.
But many residents remain desperate, week after week, for drinking water.
Lines for water — potable or not — are long in many parts of the island. Rumors of contamination are rampant. Even as some taps turn back on, residents worry about drinking from faucets, which sputter and, in some locations, produce hazy liquid. Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, the water utility in Puerto Rico, says on its website that residents should boil the water and add bleach even after service is restored.
“If I don’t drink water, I’m going to die. So I might as well drink this water,” one resident said.
‘There is a public health crisis here’
One afternoon, I met Wilfredo Santiago while he was collecting water from a spout along Highway 10. The area smelled something like a pet store, and Santiago told me there likely are dead squirrels, rats and horses in the hills.
Santiago knows it may be unsafe, but his 9-year-old daughter bathed in the water stream while he filled up a number of plastic bottles with the liquid. A line of cars waited to do the same. He took the water home to an apartment complex in Utuado, an interior city. On the floor in the kitchen, there were 37 jugs of the stuff, bottled in containers meant for Sprite, Pepsi and cranberry juice. The family collects water from a gutter to flush the toilet. There’s no running water here, and bottled water is expensive and hard to come by, he told me. The grocery store in town had none. Deliveries to the area by government officials come infrequently, he said.
Across the street is the municipal emergency management office, which helps distribute FEMA aid. Héctor Cruz Cruz, its director, told me everyone in that complex is fine — they all get bottled water delivered through the complex’s manager. He disputed the claims of Santiago and about a half-dozen of his neighbors who said they are short on water and often struggle to find it.
“It’s dangerous,” Santiago told me, referring to drinking and bathing with water from the mountains, “but we have no choice.”
All of this is concerning to public health experts.
“Our biggest worry is that as people get desperate and sort of give up on safe water sources that they are going to rely on things like streams and pipes that just come out of a spring or a mountain,” said Erik Olson, head of the health program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. “It’s just really a desperate situation.”
“There is a public health crisis here,” Catherine Kennedy, a vice president at National Nurses United, said from Puerto Rico. “They need water. And we haven’t seen much of FEMA.”
‘I step out of my bed and there’s water’
Hernandez, the FEMA official, said this relief effort is “a marathon,” not a sprint.
But President Donald Trump already is emphasizing the finite nature of federal attention.
“We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!” Trump tweeted on October 12.
Carmen Rivera Rodriguez, a 55-year-old resident of “P.R.,” didn’t see that tweet. She has heard next to nothing about Trump or the federal response to this storm. When we met outside a supermarket in Comerío, about 20 miles southeast of Sostre and his American flag, she told me she hasn’t even been able to reach her sonin the mainland United States because there’s virtually no cellular service here — 75% of antennas are down — and she doesn’t have a car.
Rivera was wearing a cast on her left arm.
She fell while trying to sweep rain out of her living room.
That was October 11 — 21 days after the storm.
Rivera invited me to her home, which is on a cleared and accessible road on the side of a mountain. When you step inside the house, your foot splashed in inch-deep water, sending ripples throughout the home across linoleum floors. This is what she was scraping with a squeegee when she slipped and fell. Her roof is gone, except for over the kitchen and a small garage, where she sleeps. And it rains most afternoons here, lately. “Just imagine. I step out of my bed and there’s water. I go to the bathroom and I have to bring an umbrella,” she said.
The same week Trump visited Puerto Rico, throwing paper towels to hurricane victims on October 3, Rivera told me she heard a truck driving by her home with loudspeakers blaring what seemed like good news: US government workers would be in town tomorrow.
The next morning, she said, she awoke at 4 and hitched a ride into the valley so she could apply for a tarp to stop it from raining indoors. Mold is growing on a baby picture of her now-grown son, which hangs on the plywood wall of her living room.
Her right eye is pink and puffy, which she figures is a symptom of being damp for one month.
She waited in line for hours and filled out a government form, she said.
As of October 15, 25 days after the storm, the tarp hadn’t come.
FEMA has distributed 38,000 tarps on the island, said Hernandez, the FEMA official.
The need for roofing help is estimated at 60,000 homes, he said.
Puerto Rico is part of America and yet it isn’t.
It’s a territory of the richest nation on Earth — a country founded in opposition to colonialism. It’s a place where the federal government oversees a financial crisis and controls certain aspects of commerce and shipping, but where Americans can’t cast ballots in presidential general elections, and where the island’s one representative in Congress can’t vote, either.
Sostre, the man who was trapped on the other side of a broken bridge, was right to fly the Stars and Stripes above his home and to say, “Soy americano,” or “I’m an American.”
Rivera, for her part, doesn’t think much about the politics.
She only wants to stay safe and dry.
Nights have been the hardest, she said as darkness fell over her neighborhood and the island’s coquí frogs began their electronic chorus. Rain splashed on the floor as she talked. The situation is so bad Rivera prays to God asking that if another storm comes, she won’t survive it.
“I’m not ready to live through something like that again,” she said, crying.
Yelp is great for checking out what the community thinks of a certain restaurant. It’s also great for a healthy helping of drama.
Sweet Dixie Kitchen in Long Beach, California is at the center of a controversy after a disappointed customer revealed that its chicken sandwich was created using Popeyes chicken. The drama has since been called Popeyegate.
The whole thing went down when Yelper Tyler H from Los Angeles posted a 1-star review claiming he spotted employees bringing boxes of Popeyes chicken into the kitchen.
“I wanted to believe that this was just a snack for the workers, but alas it was not. I ordered the Chicken and Waffles to see whether or not they were serving Popeyes to their customers. I thought the chicken tasted suspiciously like Popeyes and was also rather stale,” Tyler wrote.
His server admitted the restaurant does in fact use Popeyes chicken on its $12.50 chicken sandwich. They then comped his meal, although Tyler did have other complaints, aside from the fast food chicken.
Owner Kimberly Sanchez decided to respond to the allegations, and confirmed that the restaurant does in fact use Popeyes chicken.
“We PROUDLY SERVE Popeyes spicy tenders- the best fried chicken anywhere and from New Orleans,” she wrote.
OK, Sanchez. While Popeyes does taste good, calling it the “best fried chicken anywhere” is absolutely offensive.
Sanchez then went on to list a variety of other ingredients they outsource, which is completely and totally normal for a restaurant. However, outsourcing fast food fried chicken and reselling it on a sandwich for $12.50 is at the very least, misleading, considering it was not noted on the menu.
Sanchez claims the restaurant doesn’t have the ability to fry chicken on its premises, which is also completely fair. But, again, misleading that it wasn’t noted on the menu.
It also doesn’t help that the restaurant hashtagged #scratch, #local, and #homemade on a picture of its fried chicken sandwich last month.
The about section has since been updated, and even includes a jab at the chicken they import.
Tyler later called out the hypocrisy of the restaurant’s reasoning for using Popeyes with an update to his review:
In response to the response. If you think Popeyes serves the best fried chicken then you really don’t know what you’re talking about.
I challenge you to be honest with your customers…put it on your menu that you “proudly” serve Popeyes chicken. You do this for coffee…why not for Popeyes chicken
After some stories called out the controversy, Sanchez took to the company’s Facebook page to vent, and attempt to justify their use of outsourced foods with comparisons that didn’t exactly add up.
Here’s the full text from the Facebook post below, just in case it goes offline.
The owner of Sweet Dixie has a message to share with all our customers.You got a part of a story-from both a yelp review and from Brian Addison at the Long Beach Post/FoodBeast- who did not confirm this story with us and then posted half truths – the very thing he has accused us of doing. On our menu- roughly 95% is house made- starting with a potato lets say- which we cut, season and cook- and make potato salad. We make quiche- as in crack each egg and measure spices and cream, and I put it in a pie crust that was made elsewhere (isn’t made here) We use the best product I can buy to make the items on the menu- some of them again, come from other companies, vendors, establishments just like any other place you eat at. Because that’s how the chicken works too. We use a ready made chicken – and always have – even before we decided to go with a certain chain as opposed to a food distributor brand fried chicken.Your local coffee place in Long Beach maybe selling you (does sell actually) Rossmore pastry or Babettes pastry and breads you had that lunch sandwich on and if you ask where it comes from they tell you- but it isn’t on their menu. We have sold biscuits to places and those places used them as their ‘made from scratch’ biscuits. Integrity- despite this wave of ‘Popeyegate’, is what my food is about – no matter what you want to say. I outsource very few items. Outsourcing is when a restaurant brings in a fully cooked or ready made product which if you count all the frozen things Sysco provides to pop in an oven and serve, is alot. The things we say we make from scratch, we do and that is most of what we serve. We always have said where we get the things we don’t make here- who ever is claiming we didn’t isn’t being honest. And we have never claimed we make each and every item. We do use some ready to go products as ingredients for items on our menu.The yelp person was not only told where we source our chicken from, when he said he didn’t like it, we bought his meal. As for ‘plastering it on the menu’, we don’t, just like every other place you eat – that doesn’t mean it isn’t transparent- we don’t list the ready made Kielbasa or hot links or puff pastry or pie shells or baguette- I could go on – because we bring the items in- ready made- and then use them as ingredients in a dish – like the chicken – and make something that is then made here – an original dish we thought up- like the chicken slider with a head of cabbage we grated to make the wasabi cole slaw and the raw tomatoes we cooked down for 3 hours to make the tomato jam and flour that went into a mixer and became a biscuit and the chicken we bring in to put with all that.And we charge for the ingredients and labor that goes into that dish. We will continue our business the same way we have always done- honest that we make nearly all from scratch, saying what we do make from scratch, and when we can’t, we will use the second best thing available to us. And we will be glad to let you know which is which- just like we always have.
Since Popeyesgate broke, both negative and positive reviews have been posted to the restaurant’s Yelp page. One person comically pointed out that Sweet Dixie could have been using Popeyes for a long time without anybody noticing.