May 17, 2018

In 9 out of 10 cases, brands using memes is a bad and not-funny idea. Incredibly, it turns out there is something that ruins a good meme even faster than a lame branded tweet, though: the U.S. military joking about killing people.

On Thursday, the United States Air Force dropped this rather alarming reference to the viral debate over whether this audio recording sounds like the word "yanny" or "laurel":

The alarm and backlash were immediate:

Some 300 members of the Taliban were reportedly killed fighting in Farah. Jeva Lange

Update 1:48 p.m. ET: The Air Force has deleted its tweet, writing: "We apologize for the earlier tweet regarding the A-10. It was made in poor taste and we are addressing it internally. It has since been removed."


Jared Kushner seems to think the mounting international tensions sparked by Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance will blow over.

President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser has urged him to stand by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, thinking the outrage sparked by the suspected murder of a Washington Post columnist "will pass," The New York Times reports.

Kushner reportedly pointed to other recent incidents that the public largely moved on from, such as when 40 children were killed in a Saudi-led airstrike last month. CNN reports that Kushner and the crown prince have a close relationship and have communicated privately on WhatsApp.

Saudi Arabia is considering placing blame for Khashoggi's suspected death on one of the crown prince's advisers, reports the Times. Officials will reportedly admit that bin Salman ordered General Ahmed al-Assiri to capture Khashoggi so he could be brought to Saudi Arabia for interrogation, but will say he didn't authorize Assiri to kill him. Khashoggi visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month to obtain a marriage document and has not been heard from since. The United States has reportedly been briefed on the Saudis' plans to blame Assiri.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that the United States would give Saudi Arabia a few more days to complete its investigation, at which point they will examine the facts before deciding whether to respond. Read more at The New York Times. Brendan Morrow


Sexual abuse allegations in Pennsylvania's Catholic Church are now the subject of a federal investigation, two sources told The Associated Press on Thursday. The Department of Justice has reportedly subpoenaed the state's Catholic dioceses for confidential files regarding the allegations.

This reported investigation comes after an August grand jury report unearthed the names of more than 300 Pennsylvania priests accused of child sex abuse. The massive report soon triggered similar investigations in other states, including New York.

Pennsylvania's statute of limitations prevented further investigation into a number of the report's allegations, though two priests were charged after its release, AP notes. Under federal law, a number of sex abuse crimes, including sex abuse with a minor, have no statute of limitations. Kathryn Krawczyk


Up next for Netflix? Some really bad PR, apparently.

Netflix executives are "nervous" about an upcoming Wall Street Journal investigation into its company culture, NBC News reported Thursday. While no specifics about the forthcoming article have been revealed, Netflix evidently expects something similar to The New York Times' 2015 investigation into Amazon, which described a "bruising" and "punishing" workplace where employees openly weep on a regular basis and are encouraged to sabotage one another.

The Times' exposé on Amazon also alleged that some workers dealing with illnesses or personal tragedies were "edged out" and not given any recovery time. One woman said that while fighting breast cancer, she became in danger of being fired and was put on a performance review plan. Unsurprisingly, the company dealt with substantial fallout following the article's publication.

Now, Netflix employees have reportedly been told to brace for a "critical" article about its culture apparently along those lines. The article will arrive at a time when the streaming giant has been enjoying some great press and growth. The company earlier this week announced that it beat its subscriber estimate in the third quarter of 2018, sending its stock soaring after a disappointing second quarter, per CNN.

But depending on the contents of the article, it remains to be seen how long-lasting any effects might actually be. As NBC News points out, three years after that New York Times investigation into Amazon, LinkedIn still ranks it as the #1 most desirable company in America. Brendan Morrow


Opioid addiction is an American crisis. So are negative campaign ads, if you ask Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.).

At least that's what the congressman implied during a Wednesday visit with incarcerated drug addicts at Virginia's Chesterfield County Jail. One inmate was particularly worried about finding a job after her release, and Brat insisted he could relate. "You think you're having a hard time? I've got $5 million worth of negative ads coming at me," Brat said on audio captured by WCVE, Richmond's NPR affiliate. "How do you think I'm feeling? Nothing's easy. For anybody," he continued.

Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat currently challenging Brat's seat this fall, soon tweeted that Brat's comparison of "the hardship of addiction and the struggles of recovery to his campaign" was "shameful." But Brat still hasn't clarified his comment, and even included WCVE's audio clip in a press release about the jail visit.

Brat does go on to tell the inmate "you've got it harder ... coming up with a job or whatever," per WCVE's audio. And in a tweet, Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter Graham Moomaw suggested Brat's comment "could've been at attempt at humor." Whatever the off-color comment was, it seemed to get President Trump's attention. Kathryn Krawczyk


TV isn't always meant to reflect real life, but when it comes to characters who are immigrants, even realistic shows are coming up short.

An analysis by the University of Southern California's Media Impact Project, led by the Norman Lear Center and shared with The Hollywood Reporter, found that in 143 sample episodes from 47 television series, immigrant characters were disproportionately portrayed as less educated and more involved in crime.

The immigrant crime rate is lower than that of native-born Americans, The Marshall Project found earlier this year. But in TV shows aired in 2017 and 2018, about 34 percent of immigrant characters were associated with crime. While less than 1 percent of immigrants have been incarcerated for non-immigration-related offenses, 11 percent of immigrant characters on TV are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated.

Meanwhile, shows also tend to overinflate the number of immigrants who are undocumented. Only 23 percent of immigrants on TV are American citizens, but in reality, 49 percent of immigrants are naturalized citizens. The study also found that just 7 percent of immigrants on TV held bachelor's degrees, and just 3 percent held doctoral degrees. In real-life America, 17 percent of immigrants are college graduates, and 13 percent hold a Ph.D.

"With immigrants, everything seems to fall into two categories: the criminal hustling the system, or the high-achieving, pristinely perfect 'good' immigrant," Noelle S. Lindsay Stewart, entertainment media manager for the nonprofit Define American, told the Reporter. "That doesn't allow for the complexity or humanity that real people have." See more results at The Hollywood Reporter. Summer Meza


Missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi was often critical of Saudi Arabia's government, but this wasn't what earned him a writing ban in the country two years ago. Rather, it was criticism of President Trump.

Saudi Arabia in 2016 banned Khashoggi from writing, appearing on TV, and attending conferences in the country, after he offered a light critique of America's then president-elect, The Independent reports. At a Washington think tank, Khashoggi said that Trump's Middle East policies were "contradictory," and he told The Washington Post that the incoming president's attempts for reconciliation in the region were "wishful thinking."

That was the final straw for Saudi Arabia, Wired's Virginia Heffernan points out. A Saudi spokesman quickly said that Khashoggi didn't represent the kingdom's views, and his newspaper column was subsequently canceled.

The State Department's own 2017 report on human rights in Saudi Arabia later noted that Khashoggi received a media ban "as the result of remarks he made that were interpreted as criticizing the president of the United States." This ban was reportedly lifted the following July, but by that point, Khashoggi had moved to the U.S. and feared he would be arrested if he returned home. He went on to write columns for the Post that often criticized Saudi Arabia's media suppression.

Earlier this month, Khashoggi went missing after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain a marriage document. Although Saudi Arabia's government denies any knowledge of what happened, Turkey says it has evidence that he was tortured and murdered in front of a Saudi diplomat.

In March 2018, Khashoggi told the Columbia Journalism Review that he was "so insulted" when the royal court told him he couldn't write anymore. "In America," he said, "you take freedom for granted." Brendan Morrow


Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has been compared to the Zodiac Killer and the very smushy blobfish. Even his fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) once joked about murdering him.

But his wife? "Everyone loves Heidi," a Houston Democrat told The Atlantic. “Every time I talk to her I think, 'you should be running for office, not your husband.'”

Heidi Cruz and her husband married just a year after working on former President George W. Bush's 2000 campaign together — a time when Ted looked like a "1950s movie star," she told The Atlantic. Ted insisted on playing the Disney classic "A Whole New World" at the ceremony, and has described their life as a "magic-carpet ride" ever since. "Sometimes I'm like, 'I hope we don't hit the cement,'" Heidi said.

Heidi generally "sees eye to eye with her husband on policy," The Atlantic notes. So for her, the hardest part of Cruz's Senate and presidential campaigns, as well as his current stint on the Hill, has been disrupting her expertly-coordinated life plan to be there for him. Heidi loved her first Treasury Department job, but gave it up when her husband became Texas' solicitor general. She again paused her Goldman Sachs job in 2015 when he decided to run for president. Their daughter Caroline even warned Heidi that all this sacrifice might not be worth it.

When President Trump was running his campaign against Cruz, he retweeted an attack on Heidi's appearance. In retrospect, that memory now just leaves her laughing, The Atlantic notes, as does a National Enquirer insinuation that Ted has "five secret mistresses." But when Cruz dropped out of the race in 2016, "I don't know that I even shed a tear," she said. Read more about Heidi Cruz's sometimes-magical life at The Atlantic. Kathryn Krawczyk

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