This Seaweed-Based Edible Packaging Could Help Save Our Seas

With our oceans overflowing with waste, many of us do our best to recycle. But what if we didn’t have to? What if packaging could be biodegradable, or even edible? Well, thanks to startup company Evoware, this could be the future.

The company has created a new kind of packaging material from seaweed. It is totally biodegradable and edible. Just imagine buying a burger wrapped in paper and simply wolfing down the paper with your meal. Maybe it could even be given a complimentary ketchup flavor? Mmmm delicious. If that doesn’t sound too appealing, you can simply chuck it on the compost, guilt-free.

The product can also dissolve in hot water, meaning you could drop a packet of sugar into your coffee without needing to dispose of the wrapper. It’s even healthy, packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and also halal. 

Ong Tek Tjan, a food and drink retailer in Jakarta, Indonesia, sells ice cream in Evoware’s special biodegradable cups that can be eaten. They taste like jello and come in a variety of flavors, from mint to green tea.

“I too support this environment-friendly cause,” he told Reuters.

Evoware’s innovative new products don’t just cover food either, they can be used to package things like sanitary towels, soap, and even toothpicks.

Evoware World/Youtube

Tackling the problem of plastics is one of the biggest challenges we currently face. They’re polluting our oceans, harming animals, and even affecting the world’s deepest living sea creatures. It’s clear that the way we use and dispose of plastics urgently needs to change.

This is what inspired Evoware. “I saw how much plastic waste is produced here, which takes hundreds or thousands of years to degrade and contaminates everything,” Evoware co-founder David Christian told Reuters.

Based in Indonesia, the second biggest contributor to ocean plastics, Evoware decided to take action. Each year, 8 million tonnes (8.8 million tons) make their way into our oceans, a vast amount of which is from food packaging. By 2050, there will be more plastic bobbing through our seas than fish. 

Not only is Evoware attempting to solve the issue of waste, it also aims to help out seaweed farmers who are often very poor, affected by long marketing chains and loan sharks. What’s more, they often produce more seaweed than there is demand for. Enter seaweed-based packaging.

“Our mission is to create innovative solutions from seaweed to solve [the] plastic waste issue, while increasing the livelihood of Indonesia’s seaweed farmers,” Evoware wrote on their website.

Various other companies are taking similar steps, but at present, cost is an issue. Nevertheless, let’s hope that in future, these products can hit the global market, as time to reverse our waste problem is quickly running out.

[H/T: Ecowatch

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FDA Issues Warnings To Companies Making Fake Claims Marijuana “Makes Cancer Cells Commit Suicide”

Within a relatively short period of time, large parts of the US have passed some form of legalization which allows the possession and distribution of medical marijuana. There’s relatively sturdy evidence that marijuana can help tackle some symptoms for a handful of conditions, such as reducing chronic pain or stimulating the appetite of people undergoing chemotherapy.

This relaxation of the law has helped bring marijuana out of the shadows and into the shiny world of marketing and advertising. So, just like any other advertised product or drug, bold claims about cancer-curing properties require bold evidence, which currently doesn’t exist.

That’s why the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has publicly issued warning letters to a bunch of companies to stop peddling unproven claims about products containing cannabidiol. The FDA says four companies – Greenroads Health, Natural Alchemist, That’s Natural! Marketing and Consulting, and Stanley Brothers Social Enterprises LLC – have all made claims about the cancer-curing properties of their product on their websites, social media, or in shops.

Their advertising has included claims such as: “[cannabidiol product] makes cancer cells commit ‘suicide’ without killing other cells,” “anti-proliferative properties that inhibit cell division and growth in certain types of cancer,” “Combats tumor and cancer cells,” and “effective in treating tumors from cancer – including breast cancer.”

So far, these claims remain unverified by science. Despite the memes and the fuzzy YouTube videos you might have seen, there simply isn’t enough evidence to say that cannabinoids or cannabis can cut the risk of cancer in people.

“Substances that contain components of marijuana will be treated like any other products that make unproven claims to shrink cancer tumors,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.

To become FDA-approved, a drug or product must undergo an evaluation of whether they work, what the proper dosage is, how they could interact with other drugs, and whether they have dangerous side effects. Otherwise, you could be wasting your time and money on drugs that don’t actually do what they claim or, worse still, harming your health.

“We don’t let companies market products that deliberately prey on sick people with baseless claims that their substance can shrink or cure cancer and we’re not going to look the other way on enforcing these principles when it comes to marijuana-containing products,” Gottlieb added.

“We recognize that there’s interest in developing therapies from marijuana and its components, but the safest way for this to occur is through the drug approval process – not through unsubstantiated claims made on a website. We support sound, scientifically-based research using components derived from marijuana, and we’ll continue to work with product developers who are interested in bringing safe, effective, and quality products to market.”

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Say hello to the first-ever hijab-wearing Barbie


In 2018, Barbie will wear a hijab—and young Muslim girls will finally see themselves represented in the iconic doll.

Barbie announced at the Glamour’s Women of the Year summit on Monday that Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad would be the next woman to be honored with a Barbie in her image for the doll’s “Shero” line, a program that celebrates boundary-breaking women intended to inspire the next generation.

Muhammad made headlines during the 2016 Summer Olympics when she became the first Muslim-American woman to compete while wearing a hijab and the first female Muslim-American to win a medal.

“Barbie is celebrating Ibtihaj not only for her accolades as an Olympian, but for embracing what makes her stand out,” Sejal Shah Miller, vice president of global marketing for Barbie, said in a press release. “Ibtihaj is an inspiration to countless girls who never saw themselves represented, and by honoring her story, we hope this doll reminds them that they can be and do anything.”

The doll will be the first ever Barbie to wear a hijab in history, according to People.

“I think it’s revolutionary for Barbie to take a stand in this moment that we’re in—and I would say, as a country, to have a doll wear a hijab and be the first of its kind,” Muhammed told People. “There has never been a Barbie doll to wear a hijab before. I’m really excited to have this moment happen in my life and also for all these little girls now who can shop for Barbie doll that may look them, may wear a hijab like they do, or like their mom does, or like a friend does. But also have kids who aren’t Muslim, who don’t wear a hijab, to also have the opportunity to play with a doll that wears a hijab.”

Barbie, Muhammad, and others took to Twitter to celebrate the ground-breaking announcement.

Muhammad told HuffPost the announcement was extra special to her because she grew up playing with Barbies that represented inclusion and diversity.

“My mom made efforts when I was a kid to bring dolls into the house that were only dolls of color,” she said. “So I only had brown Barbie dolls growing up and I think that was an effort made by my parents to see us reflected in the dolls we played with. It’s revolutionary to make all kids—no matter your skin color, your gender, your ethnicity, your religious beliefs—feel included.”

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Google Pushed Illegal Phone Spyware to Snoop on Your Spouse

Theyre the sort of capabilities you might ordinarily prescribe to a cybercrime group or law-enforcement agency: intercepting text messages, remotely eavesdropping on phone calls, or sweeping up emails and social-media messages en masse.

But dozens of firms around the world sell powerful mobile-phone spyware to the everyday consumer, and in many cases with the explicit purpose of enabling surveillance on husbands, wives, and lovers.

And though the U.S. Justice Department has convicted people who use this technology as well as those who sell it, Google, through its ad services, has kept on running advertisements for many of the companies that offer it, The Daily Beast has found. After being informed of the issue, Google removed thousands of offending ads, but the news still highlights how Silicon Valley companies are sometimes unwitting accomplices to the sale of illegal technology, and how those same companies often let dubious clients slip through the cracks.

Spy on wife app […] invisible mode, a Google ad from one company read Monday.

With these pieces of malware, an attackerbe that a jealous or suspicious lover or stalker, for examplewill need physical access to the targets mobile phone. Typically, theyll visit a webpage that hosts the malware and download a specially crafted app, which can keep itself hidden from the user, and that will then collect whatever data from the phone the attacker wants and send it to them in an email or store it in an online account to access later. Software is available for both Android and iPhone devices, but for the latter the phone needs to be jailbroken, which allows the installation of unauthorized apps. With Android phones, the attacker may need to turn off a security setting for similar reasons.

The threat from this software, though, is real: Spouseware has a long history with domestic and sexual violence, and even murder. In one recent case, a man allegedly used spyware to monitor his ex-wifes phone during divorce proceedings. And a 2014 NPR investigation found that three-fourths of 70 surveyed domestic-violence shelters came across victims whose abusers had listened in on conversations using some form of hidden app.

Companies sell this software for anywhere from $20 to a few hundred dollars, depending on how potent its capabilities are and how long the stalker wants to use it. Hundreds of thousands of people have purchased this type of software over the years, judging by a number of data breaches that included customer records.

And, it works: This reporter previously bought a piece of spyware for $170 that, among other things, tracked the phones GPS location and siphoned photos taken with the devices camera. A colleague in New York even sent a text message to the phone in Europe and triggered the devices microphone and recorded a conversation.

Many of these companies market their products directly to those wanting to spy on their beloved. In 2014, the Justice Department ordered the creator of a piece of consumer malware called StealthGenie to pay a $500,000 fine. A woman was also sentenced to three years of probation for using the software.

According to internal data belonging to one spyware company called FlexiSpy that was acquired by Motherboard, the firm researched search-engine optimization phrases such as how to catch a cheating spouse, and how to know if your husband is cheating.

These recently discovered ads on Google seem to follow that same sort of marketing strategy. On Monday, typing terms such as spy on wifes phone or spy app wife, for example, would sometimes return adverts for related products. These ads would appear prominently on the page, with some being in the first few results.

#1 Wife Android SpyLimited Time 50% Off, another recently uncovered Google ad reads.

Other adverts were less explicit in whether the software could be used to target a spouse; but in the consumer-spyware industry, that sometimes means very little. Even when a companys website says the software should only be deployed to monitor children or employeeswhich can be done legallycustomer-support reps will often undermine those statements entirely, by admitting that customers can use this on their wifes phone without permission. In a similar way, although the company linked to the first Google ad makes it very clear on its website that the software should only be used legally, the advert itself markets the product for spying on someones wife. The company behind this ad did not respond to a request for comment.

Thanks for flagging these to us. We strictly prohibit advertising of these kinds of services and have removed these ads. When we find ads that violate our policies, we take immediate action to disable the offending sources, a Google spokesperson told The Daily Beast in a statement.

These adverts violated Googles Enabling Dishonest Behavior policy, which includes products or services that enable a user to gain unauthorized access (or make unauthorized changes) to systems, devices, or property. This would also cover items such as malicious hacking services and radar-jammers, the policy continues. The Daily Beast confirmed that the previously scrutinized search terms no longer return any adverts as of Tuesday.

This response sits in stark contrast to how YouTube, which is owned by Google, handled a similar situation. When Motherboard found that networks of YouTubers were making videos advertising spyware to monitor lovers, and were taking a cut of any referred sales, YouTube reacted with a proverbial shrug, left many of the videos online, and did not provide a statement.

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David Cassidy obituary

Actor and singer who became a teen idol thanks to The Partridge Family but always hated his superstar status

Girls are following me around theyre ruining my whole life! cried Keith Partridge in a fraught moment on the 1970s sitcom The Partridge Family. Keith, played by David Cassidy, was the shows heartthrob, and for its four-year run Cassidys offscreen life mirrored his. Teenage girls didnt just follow him around they spirited themselves into hotels, camped in the air-conditioning unit of his house and howled at the sight of him. At his peak he received 25,000 letters a week and his fan club was said to be the biggest in the music business.

Cassidy, who has died aged 67 after several years of living with dementia, was a new kind of teen idol. While the Monkees had been groundbreakers in using television as a route to adolescent hearts, Cassidys weekly appearances were just one strand of an unprecedented marketing plan. Recognising that his run at the top would be brief, the TV studio ensured that every possible cash stream was exploited: 12-hour filming days were followed by night-time recording sessions both for his own albums and those released under the Partridge Family name and weekends were spent playing concerts.

If there was a surface where his photo could appear, it did on everything from lunchboxes and plastic guitars to pillowcases and dresses. The merchandising earned Cassidys handlers about $500m of which, he claimed in a lawsuit in 2011, he received only $5,000 and turned the young performer into a worldwide star.


Share your memories and tributes to David Cassidy

If you have memories and tributes to David Cassidy you can share them via our form here. There’s also an option to upload any photos you may have perhaps of a meeting with Cassidy or some memorabilia.

Most teen idols eventually find fame a grind, but Cassidy resented it almost from the start. His aim was to be recognised as a serious actor, but that was scuppered by playing cute Keith, the eldest of five singing siblings. I was pigeonholed as a teen idol [and] theres no credibility, he said in the 80s. I paid a tremendous personal price its a very empty, isolated, lonely existence.

He often reminisced bitterly about the turn his career had taken: just before The Partridge Family, he had believed he was on his way to professional acclaim after winning one-off roles in a handful of US TV dramas. But while he proved competent, nothing could distract attention from his fine-boned prettiness. Even before The Partridge Family launched in 1970, the teen magazines were circling, with introductory articles such as David & Those Special Kisses. Gloria Stavers, editor of the top-selling 16 magazine, said: Id been waiting for [someone like] him for years. Cassidy, for his part, responded: Ill feel really good when its over.

Cassidy performing in Birmingham in 2012. Photograph: Steve Thorne/Getty Images

Born in Manhattan, New York, David was the only child of Jack Cassidy and Evelyn Ward, both actors. His parents divorced when he was six, and at 11 he moved to Los Angeles to live with Jack and his second wife, the actor Shirley Jones, who later played his mother in The Partridge Family. David had a fractious relationship with his father, an alcoholic who resented both Joness success and his sons eventual superstardom. Jack died in a house fire in 1976, and David later spent five years in therapy to gain perspective.

His father had spurred his interest in acting, however, which he followed as soon as he finished school. Moving back to Manhattan, in 1969 he landed a role in a Broadway show, The Fig Leaves are Falling. It closed after four nights, but a casting director spotted him during the run and he returned to California, where he quickly picked up TV roles that deployed his ability to project boyish, fresh-faced vulnerability.

His stint as Keith Partridge made him an instant star. At 20, he looked young enough to pass for 16-year-old Keith, but where Keith was wholesome, Cassidy dabbled in drugs and loved the blues, once boasting that BB King had let him carry his guitar. The disconnect wasnt apparent to fans, who assumed he and Keith were interchangeable in 1972, a frustrated Cassidy made a point of posing naked for Rolling Stone magazine, and revealed in the accompanying interview his partiality to drink, drugs and sex. Though his fans were shocked and titillated, the article did not achieve his primary aim, which was to attract a more mature audience.

He had been hired on the show as an actor rather than a singer, but when his surprisingly resonant voice turned out to be more than passable, he was drafted in to add real-life vocals to the songs mimed every week (he and Jones were the only cast members who sang on Partridge Family albums). He had huge hits with both Partridge material and his own records. The first Partridge single, I Think I Love You (1970), reportedly sold 4m copies, and some of Cassidys own records, notably Cherish (1971), How Can I Be Sure (1972) and Daydreamer (1973), were inescapable on early-70s radio.

One of his biggest markets was the UK, where, in 1974, a 14-year-old fan was crushed during a crowd surge at one of his London gigs and died several days later. Cassidy had already announced his retirement from both touring and The Partridge Family; after the girls death, although he continued to make records and act, his idol status began to dissipate.

He had moderate success as a more adult rocker, returning to the UK Top 10 in 1985 with the dramatic ballad The Last Kiss. He also received an Emmy nomination in 1978 for an appearance in the US drama Police Story.

The 90s and 2000s were filled with jobs in Broadway and West End musicals, including a well-received turn in Blood Brothers. He also appeared in Las Vegas and on the 2011 series of Celebrity Apprentice, the latter after being persuaded by the then host, Donald Trump.

Cassidy was married three times: to Kay Lenz (1977-83), Meryl Tanz (1984-88) and Sue Shifrin, a songwriter, whom he married in 1991. He and Shifrin had a son, Beau, and he had a daughter, Katie, with Sherry Williams, a model.

His last decade was punctuated with problems caused by alcoholism. Between 2010 and 2014 he was arrested three times for drink-driving and he was sentenced to 90 days in rehab after the 2014 offence. The sentence coincided with Shifrin filing for divorce, followed a year later by Cassidy declaring bankruptcy. He continued to tour, but fans complained that he seemed drunk onstage and was forgetting lyrics to his songs. In February, after falling down at a concert, he revealed that he had dementia, the disease of which his mother and maternal grandfather had died.

His children survive him, as do Jones and his half-brothers, Shaun, Ryan and Patrick, from her marriage to his father.

David Bruce Cassidy, singer and actor, born 12 April 1950; died 21 November 2017

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The death of Lil Peep: how the US prescription drug epidemic is changing hip-hop

This week, rapper Lil Peep died of a suspected overdose. Hip-hop has always been open about recreational drug use but how did constant references to depression and prescription painkillers move into the mainstream?

Pop a Perky just to start up / Pop two cups of purple just to warm up Quavos lyrics swim through the slow, narcotised production of Slippery, a track by rap trio Migos that has become one of the genres biggest hits of the year with nearly 150m views on YouTube. For the uninitiated, Perky is Percocet, a painkiller made up of paracetamol and the opioid oxycodone; purple is a drink made from codeine-based cough syrup. Quavos drug use is as improvisatory as it is blithe, and is just one example of a rap scene where substance abuse has become normalised.

This permissiveness has claimed a talented victim in Lil Peep, a New York-born 21-year-old rapper who died this week of a suspected overdose. On his Instagram in the hours leading up to his death, he said he was taking magic mushrooms and honey (a kind of super-concentrated version of marijuana, turned into a wax); another picture sees him with an unidentified substance broken into pieces on his tongue. He is also filmed dropping bars of Xanax, the anxiety medication that has become perhaps the most fashionable drug in 2017s rap scene, into his mouth.


Why is there an opioid crisis in America?

Almost 100 people are dying every day across America from opioid overdoses more than car crashes and shootings combined. The majority of these fatalities reveal widespread addiction to powerful prescription painkillers. The crisis unfolded in the mid-90s when the US pharmaceutical industry began marketing legal narcotics, particularly OxyContin, to treat everyday pain. This slow-release opioid was vigorously promoted to doctors and, amid lax regulation and slick sales tactics, people were assured it was safe. But the drug was akin to luxury morphine, doled out like super aspirin, and highly addictive. What resulted was a commercial triumph and a public health tragedy. Belated efforts to rein in distribution fueled a resurgence of heroin and the emergence of a deadly, black market version of the synthetic opioid fentanyl. The crisis is so deep because it affects all races, regions and incomes

Lil Peep also rapped about drug-taking: I hear voices in my head, they tellin me to call it quits / I found some Xanax in my bed, I took that shit, went back to sleep; Sniffin cocaine cause I didnt have no Actavis / Smokin propane with my clique and the bad bitches; Gettin high cause my life dont mean shit to me. His vision of drug-taking was not without pleasure, but certainly a means of escape as well as straightforward hedonism a marked change in rap culture.

Three drugs are most commonly associated with hip-hop: alcohol, weed and crack. The former is often used merely as a straightforward wealth signifier: Hennessy and Courvoisier cognac, Cristal champagne, Patrn tequila and Grey Goose vodka. Blended with a gin and juice, Snoop Dogg hymned the relaxing properties of marijuana (laaaaaid back…) while Cypress Hill synthesised its paranoia with the creepy malevolence of B-Reals voice.

Crack cocaine was a different prospect: the rappers never got high on their own supply. On Clipses Grindin, Pusha T says that four and half [ounces] will get you in the game and that he is known in the neighbourhood as Mr Sniffles, but his laser-precise flow suggests sobriety and business nous. On the 2014 mega-hit Trap Queen, Fetty Wap introduces his girl to his stove hes not showing off his new Aga, but rather where they will cook crack together. The songs pop beauty conjures a couple revelling not in the drugs high, but the emancipation it gives them as a result of cash from its sale. By shamelessly leveraging the glamour of criminality, these rappers appeal to prurient middle-class audiences (including a sizeable white demographic) and by pointing a route out of poverty, they appeal to working-class ones too.

Around the turn of the century, rappers increasingly started dabbling in designer drugs, too, particularly ecstasy. Eminem recorded two songs from The Slim Shady LP while high on it, while mentor Dr Dre suggested on Bad Intentions, take an X pill, how the sex feel? A little-noted detail is that the civic euphoria of Jay-Zs Empire State of Mind is powered by the drug: MDMA got you feeling like a champion / The city never sleeps, better slip you an Ambien. Kanye West sees a whole party melting like Dali after dropping molly, raps now-favoured name for ecstasy (also namechecked by the likes of Tyga, Rick Ross, Rihanna and, infamously, Miley Cyrus). In their songs at least, there are no comedowns, only the dizzy, meaningless highs.

But at the same time, prescription drug addiction took hold of the US last year, 91 people a day died of opioid overdoses. Thanks to a robust marketing campaign, sales of the opioid painkiller OxyContin grew from $48m (36.5m) in 1996 to $1.1bn in 2000; in 2012, 282m prescriptions were made for it a bottle for every American. Its popularity has tailed off slightly, but other prescription drugs often used recreationally have joined it, arguably in part thanks to the inadvertent marketing by rappers, who have swapped uppers for downers.

Lil Pump with a drug-shaped cake. Photograph: Jerritt Clark/WireImage

The attention-deficit medicine Adderall has been rapped about by Danny Brown and sung about by Justin Bieber; as well as Migoss championing of the aforementioned Percocet, Futures Mask Off, another huge rap hit this year, has a chorus that runs Percocet, molly, Percocet.

But its Xanax the drug Lil Peep boasted about taking six of in a video hours before his death that has become the most prevalent. Each pill is an oblong divided into five chunks, with X A N A X imprinted on each; as a design it has real visual impact that enhances its appeal. A$AP Mob-affiliated DJ crew Cozy Boys were formerly known as Blackout Boys, and used Xanax bars as their logo; current hot property Lil Pump celebrated getting a million Instagram followers with a Xanax-shaped cake. Etsy is weirdly full of Xanax jewellery. Guesting on iLoveMakonnens track Tuesday, even the clean-cut Drake admits to having Xans in an Advil bottle before swiftly reassuring us theyre just for that nights boo: I dont take them shits but you do.

Xanax now underpins an entire subgenre of rap: sometimes dubbed SoundCloud rap, as many of its progenitors upload it to that music streaming service, it is characterised by a fug-headed mumbling flow; raw, lo-fi production full of clouds of noise; and constant references to depression and prescription painkillers. Along with rappers such as Yung Lean, $uicideboy$ and Lil Xan, Lil Peep was at the heart of this scene; it has moved into the mainstream, too, with Lil Uzi Vert, whose track XO Tour Life features a couple discussing suicide. Spotify caught on, dedicating a playlist to the style called Tear Drop its top 10 is now full of Lil Peep, with a tribute reading: Gone too soon We will always remember you.

This style is also called emo, but where that word has previously been used to describe punks who analysed their own emotions with a forensic level of detail, here the emotion is underanalysed: these rappers feel bad, but theyre not sure why.

The fact that some of them are unable to verbalise what theyre feeling, leads them to fall back on rap cliches around bitches and clips, and simply compounds the overall feeling of desperation. This is an inevitable cultural byproduct of the US, where the marketplace has been allowed to triumph, and silence moral concerns about the availability of these drugs. Because theyre profitable, people are allowed to just get on with self-medicating, without trying to understand the reasons for their sadness.

But perhaps these rappers ennui goes wider than mere Xanax, and into a numbing effect of our wider culture. One of the most chilling aspects to Lil Peeps death is that his cries for help were so public, and yet went so unanswered perhaps as a result of the paradoxically distancing effect of social media. He wrote on Instagram hours before he died: I need help but not when I have my pills but thats temporary one day maybe I wont die young and Ill be happy? But were inured to see Instagram as performative, not real, and its inherently aspirational vibe along with the sheer visual noise of its scrolling feed drowns out individual torment. That Spotify named its playlist Tear Drop, selling back these artists real pain, doesnt help.

Rap has always told its drug stories in more than just its lyrics. Snoop conjured the sensuality of his own buzz through his very vocal cadence and languorous G-funk backing, as well as his words. In Houstons chopped and screwed scene, rap tracks are radically slowed down, designed to match and enhance the corporeal sluggishness that comes from drinking codeine cough syrup. And its the same with this new breed of rapper: their deadened flow and sad, anxious production replicates the anti-high of Xanax in sound. It can be hard to tell which of them are genuinely troubled and which are like the fake gangstas of the crack era trading off the glamour of drugs and pain. But the tens of millions of streams theyre getting mean it doesnt matter: their popularity shows that people are hearing their own pain, fellow participants in a culture that has been left to manage its own wellbeing.

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Six universities told to change adverts

Image caption Universities have been told to be more careful about advertising claims

The advertising watchdog has told six UK universities to take down marketing claims that could be misleading.

Leicester, East Anglia, Strathclyde, Falmouth, Teesside and the University of West London have all had complaints upheld against them.

The Advertising Standards Authority is warning against exaggerated claims made to attract students.

Chief executive Guy Parker says students need “good evidence” when making such a big financial commitment.

“Misleading would-be students is not only unfair, it can also lead them to make choices that aren’t right for them,” said Mr Parker.

For the first time universities are going to be issued with guidance on avoiding misleading information.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said that intensifying competition between universities now has a “touch of the Wild West about it”.

“Universities should be careful about their claims, which need to be robust, truthful and useful.

“But it is a good thing that they are telling potential applicants more than they used to in the past.”

Image caption There are dozens of different university rankings

Hundreds of thousands of young people are currently deciding their options for applications for courses next autumn.

The Advertising Standards Authority says universities trying to recruit students have to be able to objectively prove the claims they are making about their high status.

The watchdog wants to stop unjustified claims and offer a clearer explanation of achievement in rankings and league tables.

Complaints were upheld against six universities:

  • Falmouth University has been told to stop describing itself as “the UK’s number one arts university” or “the UK’s number one creative university”.
  • Teesside University had a complaint upheld for saying it was the “Top university in England for long-term graduate prospects”.
  • University of East Anglia has been told not to use the claim “Top 5 for student satisfaction”.
  • University of Leicester must stop claiming to be “a top 1% world university”.
  • University of Strathclyde has been told to change the claim “We’re ranked No. 1 in the UK” for physics.
  • University of West London must stop claiming to be “London’s top modern university – and one of the top 10 in the UK”.

Many of the challenges from the watchdog have been about how information from rankings or comparison tables have been presented.

“If you’re making claims about your national or global ranking, student satisfaction or graduate prospects, make sure you practise what you teach… by backing up your claims with good evidence,” said the head of the watchdog, Mr Parker.

The universities involved have argued that they have put forward accurate information – but there could be greater clarification.

‘Everyone in the top 10 for something’

“We don’t set out to mislead or confuse prospective students,” said a statement from the University of Leicester.

The university says its claim to be in the top 1% in the world is based on figures from several international rankings.

Image caption Universities are having to compete to recruit students

“While we disagree with the Advertising Standards Authority on their assessment methodology, we will abide by their ruling,” said the University of Leicester.

Teesside also defended its claims over graduate prospects.

“We strongly believe that the marketing message was accurate, but we respect the decision of the Advertising Standards Authority ,” said a spokesman for Teesside University.

The University of West London says it has fully complied with the ruling: “The advertising that was the subject of investigation has been removed and will not appear in our future marketing materials.”

Charles Heymann, a higher education communications adviser, had been head of communications at the University of Reading when it was told to stop using the claim to be in the top 1% of world universities.

“It’s a wake-up call to the whole sector. I suspect it pretty much kills off “top 1%” as a strapline and sends a clear message that universities need to be whiter than white in their advertising.”

Mr Heymann said that rankings could “exaggerate very marginal differences between individual universities.

“It’s tempting for marketing teams to push the boundaries as far as they can go in emphasising them. At some point, most universities will be in the top 10 or 25 for something.”

A spokesman for Universities UK said: “With a proliferation of university rankings, data and awards now in existence, there is a need for clearer guidelines for universities in how they use this in a way which is clearly understood by students.”

Do you think you might have chosen a university based on a misleading advert? Please share your experience by emailing with your stories.

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Harvey Weinstein had secret hitlist of names to quash sex scandal

Producer hired team to investigate 91 film industry figures in attempt to stop harassment claims going public

The Observer has gained access to a secret hitlist of almost 100 prominent individuals targeted by Harvey Weinstein in an extraordinary attempt to discover what they knew about sexual misconduct claims against him and whether they were intending to go public.

The previously undisclosed list contains a total of 91 actors, publicists, producers, financiers and others working in the film industry, all of whom Weinstein allegedly identified as part of a strategy to prevent accusers from going public with sexual misconduct claims against him.

The names, apparently drawn up by Weinstein himself, were distributed to a team hired by the film producer to suppress claims that he had sexually harassed or assaulted numerous women.

An extract from Harvey Weinsteins hitlist.

The document was compiled in early 2017, around nine months before the storm that blew up on 5 October when the New York Times published a series of sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein.

Individuals named on the list were to be targeted by investigators who would covertly extract and accumulate information from those who might know of claims or who might come forward with allegations against the film producer. Feedback was then to be relayed to Weinstein and his lawyers.

The size of the list 85 names appear on one document, with an addendum identifying another six individuals appears to corroborate claims that sexual misconduct allegations against the 65-year-old were an open secret throughout Hollywood.

Prominent stars were among the first tranche of individuals on the list to testify publicly against Weinstein. Among those named were the actress Rose McGowan, who days after speaking out accused the producer of raping her. Another was Laura Madden, who told how Weinstein pestered her for massages at hotels in Dublin and London, beginning in 1991. McGowan and Madden were among the first to speak out against Weinstein last month.

Rose McGowan
Photograph: Richard Shotwell/AP

A typed note on the document appears to suggest that by February 2016, Madden had already been targeted by one of Weinsteins hired investigators. Her view of the producer is, says the note, very bitter.

Another name is Zelda Perkins, a London-based production assistant for Weinsteins Miramax film company, who left the firms London offices on Brewer Street in Soho in 1998 after, she says, enduring years of sexual harassment by her boss. Last month Perkins revealed that she had broken a confidentiality agreement to describe alleged sexual harassment by the Hollywood producer.

Also on the list is the English actress Sophie Dix, who has described how her career trajectory was massively cut down after an alleged sexual assault by Weinstein in a London hotel and who was among the first to come forward.

Although at least 10 individuals are based in London, the majority live in New York, with others from Los Angeles. They include individuals working in acquisitions, marketing and distribution, along with producers, publicists and human resources staff, as well as actors. Forty-three men are named and 48 women.

Weinstein, the list confirms, was aware that the New York Times was gathering testimony from his victims long before it first ran the story. A public relations professional is named alongside a note stating that HW [Harvey Weinstein] in contact w/him. Friends w/Jodi Kantor. Kantor is the New York Times journalist who broke the story that immediately engulfed the producer and the film production company he co-founded with his brother.

Sophie Dix Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

More than 50 of the names have been coloured red to highlight those who should be prioritised by investigators individuals Weinstein most keenly wanted to target. The names of the actresses McGowan, Dix and Madden are all coloured red.

Following an initial list of 85 names, another six individuals were identified during August 2017, including the actress Annabella Sciorra, who two months later publicly alleged she was raped by Weinstein after he barged into her apartment in the 1990s.

Also named on the later list is the US actress Katherine Kendall. Weeks later she revealed how a naked Weinstein literally chased her around his New York apartment in 1993.

Another is a former Weinstein employee, Lauren OConnor, who documented several allegations against the producer in a 2015 memo in which she described a toxic environment for women at Miramax.

Interestingly, the document includes the filmmaker Brett Ratner, who has been accused of sexual harassment or misconduct by six women in the wake of the Weinstein allegations.

Annabella Sciorra Photograph: Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

It is unclear whether Weinstein intended subsequently to approach any of the individuals on the list with a non-disclosure agreement. Evidence has emerged which shows that over the past three decades Weinstein reached at least eight settlements with women, according to two company officials speaking on condition of anonymity, after he was confronted with allegations including sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact.

Not surprisingly, considering the psychological abuse and bullying allegations emerging from his former film studio Miramax, more of the film studio employees are also named. Among them is Kathy DeClesis, former assistant to Weinsteins brother Bob, who has revealed that she told him about Harvey sexually harassing women over a period of 25 years.

So far, more than 50 women have come forward with allegations of rape, harassment and inappropriate behaviour, prompting police investigations in the US and UK.

Weinstein unequivocally denies all claims of non-consensual sex, a spokesman for the producer has said. The spokesman dismissed reports that the producer hired spies to stop claims, saying: It is a fiction to suggest that any individuals were targeted or suppressed at any time.

The producers alleged targets were often young, aspiring actresses. Among the high-profile names who have spoken out against Weinstein are Angelina Jolie, Cara Delevingne and Kate Beckinsale.

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What Tennessee’s fall trees looked like to people with colorblindness until now.

There’s a powerful new ad showing how Tennessee is helping make the Smoky Mountains a bit more beautiful this fall for those who have colorblindness.

The Tennessee Department of Tourism Development released something special — the rare instance of a state-sponsored video, featuring the experiences of five people, that genuinely tugs at the heartstrings.❤️

Every October and November, the Great Smoky Mountains are draped in gorgeous shades of reds, yellows, and oranges — sights that draw people near and far to the east side of the state. However, for about 13 million Americans with colorblindness (most of whom are men), the Volunteer State’s radiant rolling hills appear as duller, brownish versions of their true selves.

“Everybody at work was saying how pretty the colors are,” one man, who has colorblindness, says in the video — a joint effort between the state’s department of tourist development and marketing agency VML. “You don’t know that you’re missing it because you never saw it to begin with.”

To make the colorful mountains pop for people who couldn’t see them, Tennessee has installed “colorblind-less” viewfinders at three locations in the area.

The viewfinders — installed at Ober Gatlinburg, the westbound I-26 overlook near Erwin, and Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area — are equipped with glass that enables those with red-green colorblindness to see a fuller spectrum of hues, according to Knox News.

For the guys featured in the video — none of whom had ever seen the Smokies in all their red and yellow glory — the special viewfinders brought the brightness of the Tennessee mountains to life.

Their reactions speak for themselves.

“Wow,” one man muttered to himself softly, sniffling, the experience somewhat bittersweet.

“I’m glad to have seen it,” he says. “I just wish I had seen this all my life.”

“Unbelievable,” another says.

“I feel like now I know why people come from miles and states around just to see this.”

“[It’s] kind of like how I would imagine the difference between here and heaven.”

Tennessee didn’t have to move mountains, so to speak, to make the Smokies more beautiful to millions of people. There are small things we can all do in our own communities to make our schools, parks, cities, and homes more inclusive for every guest to enjoy. And that’s the truly beautiful thing.

Way to go, Tennessee.

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