5 Crazy Stories From The Early Days Of Disneyland

As we’ve mentioned many times in the past, your favorite purveyor of childhood memories and nostalgia isn’t as wholesome as you like to think. From sidelining Mickey Mouse’s true creator to backstabbing Robin Williams, there are plenty of whimsical cartoon skeletons in Disney’s closet, and we aren’t done airing them all. You can blame our broken childhood, penchant for fun-ruining, or plain old spite, but it’s a drug that we can’t kick. So let us tell you about …


The Pirates Of The Caribbean Ride Was (And Might Still Be) Decorated With Real Skeletons

Think fast, what’s your favorite ride at Disneyland, and why are you lying about it not being Pirates of the Caribbean? It might have resulted in Johnny Depp’s career being extended way beyond its natural lifespan, sure, but it’s so cool, what with the waterfalls and the pirates and the cannons and the real desiccated skulls laying everywhere.

Kidding. They aren’t “everywhere” anymore. There are only a few left in the ride … they think.

You see, when the ride was built in 1967, it cost $105 million — a sum that went into making PotC the most in every way possible, from the animatronics to lighting to special effects to puffy shirts. According to a book by former Disney producer Jason Surrell, the only problem they had was finding decorative skeletons that didn’t look like they’d spent the best part of the last century sitting in your grandma’s attic. Utilizing the sort of ingenuity that lands you the job of designing theme park rides, the team hit up some friends at UCLA Medical Center and asked if they wouldn’t mind handing out some medical specimens.

Joe Penniston/FlickrYou know, for the kids.

And it worked! The ride was a smash hit with park patrons, who probably weren’t aware that they were now subject to the dumbest curse imaginable. Over time, the skeletons were replaced with better-looking replicas and given a proper burial. Or at least, most of them were. Maybe. Although it’s hard to say for sure, there’s reason to believe that there are still a few genuine body parts occupying the ride, identifiable thanks to the fact that they look a lot more … discolored than the fakes, and also possess anatomical features that it’s doubtful model makers would have bothered to include.

Harsh Light/FlickrHint: It’s the one that got turned into a freaking bed.

It’s hard to confirm these as real without security attempting to turn you into a human pinata, but the legends might be true about there being a disembodied head at Disneyland, folks. We all just made the mistake of thinking that it was Walt’s.


You Could Fly To Disneyland By Helicopter … Until Two Crashed In The Same Year, Killing 44 People

Driving to Disneyland with a car full of children is an experience equal to journeying through the nine circles of Hell, except we don’t remember The Divine Comedy making reference to anyone having to poop at the world’s dirtiest truck stop.

It’s not like the good ol’ days, when tourists were able to beat the crowds entirely and fly straight into the park, courtesy of a frequent helicopter shuttle provided by Los Angeles Airways. Visitors could fly from LAX to a heliport built near the park (and back again) in a little under 20 minutes, all for the princely sum of $4. Alongside luxury and the obligatory cocaine-like ego boost that riding anywhere in a helicopter provides, riders were also able to experience a breathtaking view of the park that few have seen since those halcyon days … albeit for a very good reason.

Disney History InstituteAnd no, sadly it wasn’t something like “awful complimentary peanuts.”

In May 1968, a shuttle carrying 20 passengers and three crew crashed en route to LAX from Disneyland after encountering mechanical difficulties. Whilst flying over the city, witnesses reported that the helicopter started lurching uncontrollably. Although the crew attempted to lighten the load by throwing cargo over the side, their efforts to reduce how badly gravity was trying to screw them were proven to be for naught by the helicopter suddenly nosediving into the ground. Everyone aboard was killed, in what was deemed the then-worst civilian helicopter disaster in U.S. history. Unfortunately, there was about to be competition in that department.

Disney History Institute“Welp, at least this is never, ever happening again.”

In the aftermath of the accident, it was found that a single missing bolt had caused the rotor blades to essentially dismantle themselves in midair. You’d expect such a failure with the needing-to-have-working-rotors-in-order-to-not-kill-a-bunch-of-people machines to cause the fleet to be grounded while they were checked for problems, and they were. It’s too bad that almost immediately after service was resumed, the same freaking thing happened again.

In August 1968, only three months after the first crash, a copter travelling from LAX to Disneyland carrying 18 passengers and three crew dropped out of the sky from a height of 1,500 feet after, you guessed it, the rotor blades separated from the craft. All 21 people aboard were killed in what was probably the then-second-worst civilian helicopter disaster in U.S. history, including the grandchild of the CEO of Los Angeles Airways. The service was grounded again, and the ensuing lawsuits, legal costs, and strike actions shuttered the shuttle — which, let’s face it, was probably just as well at that point.


Disneyland Used To Have “Real” Mermaids (Swimming Near Razor-Sharp Propellers)

In building Disneyland, Walt Disney strived for a level of immersion just shy of hallucinogenic. Nothing in the park — nothing — could remind his guests that they were paying crazy amounts of money to ride average-ish fairground rides and cheer as their kids kicked a costumed performer in the groin. This is the same philosophy that resulted in a supervillain-esque tunnel complex being built beneath the park (although we’re not sure where the communal underwear fits into this).

So when the time came to build a mermaid lagoon to drive submarines into, you can bet that Uncle Walt made damn sure that they were the most mermaid-y-acting mermaids money could buy, up to and including their willingness to damn near shear their faces off.

In 1959, Disneyland opened Submarine Voyage, a ride which allowed visitors to experience what it was like to ride in a submarine and journey through the briny depths of the oceans, including seeing sea monsters and mermaids. Of course, we don’t mean real mermaids, because as you know, Disney wouldn’t go into genetic engineering until they created Justin Timberlake in the ’90s. We’re talking about starfish-bra-wearing, fake-tail-clad women who made an easy $45 a week by swimming in the waters of the ride and sunning themselves on a rock, to the delight of onlookers. As it happens, however, the ride’s submarines used real propellers for authenticity, and so the mermaids would frequently have to worry about being sucked into and vaporized by the blasted thing.

Santa Monica PressOn the upside, if the propeller chopped off their legs, they could probably charge extra for the added authenticity.

Being half-naked women having fun in the sun, the mermaids would also have to contend with lecherous dudes jumping the fence and swimming out to them, presumably in the hope of fertilizing their eggs. That is, when they weren’t showering the mermaids in dollars bills and rolls of quarters like dancers at the world’s happiest/weirdest strip joint. The problems with male guests, as well as the general dangers of asking people to swim in a dirty pool of flotsam, jetsam, and razor blades, eventually convinced Disney to call quits on this one and stick to cartoon merfolk.


The CIA Advised Walt Disney On Preventing The Government From Meddling With Disney World

Not too long ago, we told you about how Disney World is, legally speaking, a secessionist state outside of the reach of the guvmit and its unfair insistence on rules and stuff. It’s a pretty weird arrangement for what is essentially a high-class Chuck E. Cheese’s, but how did it come to be in the first place? We’re pretty sure that though Walt Disney was an eccentric motherflipper, he had better things to do than host a coup d’etat. Well, that’s partially correct, in that he didn’t have the time — no, he palmed the job off to the CIA, who were more than happy to help. They had experience in this sort of thing, after all.

After he’d finished purchasing the land for their proposed park, Disney was left with more than 40 square miles under his company’s control. Eager to keep as much of that out of the government’s grasping mitts as possible, Disney teamed up with William Donovan (also known as the “Father of the CIA”) and Paul Helliwell (a lawyer who was part of efforts to overthrow Fidel Castro) to help build, lest we remind you, a cartoon-character-filled theme park.

Florida Development CommissionDespot Center was later renamed EPCOT.

So how do you solve a problem like government oversight? Oh, that’s easy: You create two ghost cities (the City of Bay Lake and the City of Lake Buena Vista) and populate them with your own workers, who, in exchange for certain privileges, agree to run the town in whatever way their corporate overlords want. Under this arrangement, Disney gets what it wants (freedom from the state, zero taxation, exemption from environmental regulations, maybe a goat sacrifice or two), and the workers get what they want, i.e. to live next to Disney World and line-cutting privileges at Space Mountain.

There are some pesky issues with this, namely that it violates certain parts of the Constitution and requires that all workers toe the line politically unless they want to be homeless. But that’s a small price to pay for wholesome, family-friendly fun, right?


A Former Nazi Interrogator Made The Mosaics In Cinderella’s Castle

As anyone who has ever undergone a midlife change in career knows, that stuff is hard to pull off. There’s all the doubt about whether you did the right thing, the constant line of questioning about why your old place was so bad, and the general confusion that comes from, say, spending 50 years as a coal miner, only to take up fluffing. For Hanns Scharff, however, it was a pretty easy, stress-free decision to move into the illustrious world of designing the mosaics that adorn Disneyland and EPCOT. After all, his previous job was “Nazi interrogator.” And no, we don’t mean that he interrogated Nazis.

During World War II, Scharff served as an interrogator with the Luftwaffe, tasked with dredging information out of captured Allied pilots and other POWs. He only managed to avoid being assigned a shift as a gallows tester at Nuremberg because he was one of those rare interrogators who didn’t like hurting people. He’d only fallen into the job butt-first after his superiors were wiped out in a (non-Disney-related) plane accident, not because of any raging bloodlust. Consequently, he wasn’t totally down on beating people, figuring that there must be a better way, gosh dang it. Even if he was working for the actual Nazis and all.

Scharff found that “better way” in the art of manipulating minds. Instead of strapping pilots to chairs and electrowiring their nuts, Scharff would simply let his newfound friends talk. One of his favorite gambits was to use his extensive intelligence network to build up a complete picture of each pilot and then lord his superior knowledge over them, making sure to get certain pieces of information wrong. His prisoners, desperate to one-up him, would then correct him, not knowing that they’d given him the information that he needed.

Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.If you ever wondered what would happen if Mr. Rogers was in a teleporter accident with Hitler, there you go.

His success rate was also helped by his habit of taking his prisoners on long walks through the local woodland, where they would share cigarettes, frolic, and talk about, like, home and the war and stuff that in a parallel universe lost them the war. Scharff would also arrange other experiences for his guests: dining with high command, visiting the local zoo, enjoying baked goods provided by Scharff’s wife, and so on. It was pretty much how you’d get a toddler to spill war secrets. One prisoner was even afforded the opportunity to fly a Messerschmitt fighter plane, albeit one with little to no fuel and no machine guns. Scharff was kind, but he wasn’t as gullible and easily manipulated as, um, our guys.

Despite being a foot soldier for history’s great evil, Scharff was well-respected by his prisoners, and come the end of the war, he was able to hit up some of his old contacts for advice about moving to the United States. Once there, he discovered his true passion: mosaic art. He established a workshop in New York City. His business booming, he subsequently moved to California, where he was soon contracted to decorate Cinderella’s Castle and EPCOT. It’s all well and good stealing Nazis for NASA, but did they ever make a child smile? We think not.

From Screen to Theme
From Screen to ThemeJust, you know, try not to mention any state secrets near here.

Adam Wears is on Twitter and Facebook, and has a newsletter about depressing history that you should totally subscribe to. It’s really good, honest.

Mermaid tails are actually pretty heavy-duty gear and you do not want to be sucked into a propeller while wearing one.

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Donald Trump’s 6 Very Real, Very Insane Tips For A Good Life

Whatever you make of him politically, there’s no denying that Donald Trump has been alive for a long, long time. That is literally the least that we can give him. So it stands to reason that he must know something — that he must have some standards or guidelines by which a person can live their life. What a rich source of lifestyle advice he would be, if only he’d share this with us. If only he could find some time in his day to talk about himself.

Oh, it turns out he can.


Never Let Go Of Your Grudges

Much of Trump’s life can be defined by the grudges he’s held. Nobody thinks about Rosie O’Donnell that much under normal circumstances. “When people treat me unfairly, I don’t let them forget it,” he told reporters during his presidential campaign in 2016. It doesn’t seem to matter that he’s often wealthier or more powerful than the people he’s holding grudges against. That’s not the point. The point is the revenge itself. “If people screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard,” he explained in 2011.

Media organizations he doesn’t like suddenly find themselves blacklisted from campaign rallies and press briefings. One failed business deal in Mexico, and later he’s ranting about how most Mexicans are “rapists” who “bring in drug and crime.” When he won the Republican presidential primary in 2016, he took almost no steps toward reconciliation with his former foes, instead dishing out insults left and right to people he no longer needed to attack. And when Puerto Rico was stricken by a hurricane this summer, Trump dedicated a lot more effort than “none at all, are you crazy?” to a running feud with the mayor of San Juan.

Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesHmm … theres a Puerto Rican I dont get along with. Better screw over three million of them so she knows it.

When NFL players began kneeling during the national anthem, Trump didn’t just criticize the players like most conservative commentators; he focused a lot of his rage on the NFL itself, calling it weak and out of control. Which doesn’t make a ton of sense … until you realize that Trump has long held a grudge against the league for refusing to let him buy a team in the 1980s. And when he tried to buy the Bills in 2014, only to get outbid, he reacted the only way he knows how: with shockingly petty tweets about how boring the league was.

And then there’s the massive grudge he holds toward his predecessor, Barack Obama. Trump spent quite a bit of Obama’s first term cheerleading the birther movement because of, well … let’s say his passion for birth certificate formatting quirks. For some reason, he then attended the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. There, Obama lit into him. For a solid two and a half minutes, Trump could do nothing more than slowly rock back and forth, tight-lipped, while Obama dished out insult after insult. The guy’s probably never had to sit through anything like that before, and the psychic impact it’s made on him can’t be underestimated. If you’re ever in any doubt about the motivations behind Trump’s actions as president, know that he’ll always do the opposite of whatever Obama would, be that building a health plan, entering the Paris Accords, or reading.


Decorate Like A Dictator

Being wealthy is great. You should definitely be born into that if you can. But it’s not enough on it’s own. You have to let people know you’re wealthy, so they know you’re better than them, and to go fetch you food and pelts. You can do that by shouting at them all the time (and you should; never stop shouting), but when your voice gets tired, or they simply get too far away, you’ll need something else. You’ll need to let your surroundings do the talking for you.

Which brings us the Trumpian aesthetic. The author of a book called Dictator Style identified a number of key design traits featured in the residences of most famous dictators: overly ornate decorations, big swinging chandeliers, marble everything, mismatched French furniture, that kind of thing. Decor which shouted wealth but not class, none of it presented with any kind of design or stylistic intent. And when this author saw pictures of Trump’s penthouse in Manhattan, he saw the same thing there. Vanity Fair even ran a side by side comparison of one of Trump’s mansions and a palace used by Saddam Hussein, and the similarities were not hard to find.

Vanity FairIts the aesthetic equivalent of shouting.

But The Donald does have one decorating quirk all his own: the desire to hang up obviously fake things, like this cover of Time that was proudly framed in five of his golf courses.

Angel Valentin/The Washington PostIt seems this was during Times brief First day using MS Paint series of covers.

It is completely fake. There was no Time issue printed on the date on the cover, and Trump was never on the cover of Time during the year it was supposedly made. And that’s not the only fake thing at his golf courses. Consider this sign:

Rob Carr / Getty ImagesAnd it is our great honor to do a modest amount of research to check if this is true.

Yeah, that’s fake too. Historians who know the area have no idea what battle took place there, and have never heard it referred to as the River of Blood.

Years ago, Trump’s biographer was interviewing the man on one of his presumably marble-coated personal jets. Hanging on the wall of the plane was a painting, a Renoir.

Pierre-Auguste RenoirSpecifically, the most famous painting by Renoir, which apparently no one is keeping track of.

The biographer knew this painting, and knew that the original was in a gallery in Chicago. But Trump insisted that this was the original, and wouldn’t take no for an answer. He didn’t get rid of it after being called out, either. The thing showed up on the background of an interview with his wife after his campaign victory.

Fox NewsNice to add a splash of color to the uniformly gold room of horror.


Eat Fast Food And Nothing But Fast Food

Every celebrity lifestyle guide is at least 50 percent bizarre ultra-healthy diet tips — exotic grains, free-range kale, and egg white omelets all prepared by their aboriginal spirit-nutritionist, Klevin. Trump’s guide would have a similar section, but y’know, the total opposite.

First, let’s discuss his taste in steaks: well-done, with a side of ketchup, which the flavor experts among you will recognize as “not optimal.” We’re talking steaks so well-done they used to “rock when they hit the plate.” Now look, elitism is shitty, in food and all other things.

Trump SteaksCase in point.

Not everyone likes their steaks mooing, so if a guy likes to eat his steak well-done, that’s fine. It’s fine.

The ketchup is a little much, though.

The other staple of the Trump diet: the 2,400-calorie McDonald’s meals he’s been known to consume. That’s multiple Big Macs, Filet-O-Fishes, and chocolate shakes. Kentucky Fried Chicken, pizza, and Diet Coke reportedly make up the rest of his diet, and if that describes yours as well, congratulations on already thinking like a billionaire, I guess?

McDonandsThough maybe we should make time for the Friends dont let friends order Filet-O-Fish talk.

There’s an interesting explanation for this love for overcooked meats and salt: Trump is a germaphobe. Imagine how risky an acai root indigenous power bowl or something would look to him, all covered in fruits and grains and stuff that clearly once touched the earth, all prepared by someone with their hands. You could then see the appeal of mass-produced, pre-packaged foods. Not if you think it through at all, but if you took a cursory glance at those two options, and you were absolutely certain that the first thought that entered your head was always 100 percent factually indisputably correct for all time, forever and ever, amen, you might see where he’s coming form.


Be Born With Superior Genes

If you had to pick the perfect human, the one person whose intelligence, grace, and physical attractiveness surpassed all others, it’d be Donald Trump, right?

Well, there’s a reason for that. Trump has good genes, as he’ll tell you himself. It’s part of his so-called “racehorse theory of life,” which states that some people are bred to succeed, thanks to the genetic material provided by their parents. We’re not reaching here. He brings up his genes all the time. His health? Excellent, thanks for asking, and a result of his good genes. Same thing with his energy! Luck? He was born with it! He once even said he had a genetic gift for real estate development, which … scientists are not really rushing to confirm.

Pawel Marynowski/Wikimedia CommonsInvestors, either.

Anything positive that his family does is proof of the same genetic greatness. He regularly mentions his uncle who went to MIT. His granddaughter, who’s learning Mandarin, is more proof of Trumpian greatness. His kids have inherited the belief too. Here’s his son going on about his incredible genes, including his mother’s fictitious Olympic skiing background.

This kind of thinking is a little troubling, especially when we consider another famous political movement obsessed with superior genes. Yes, it’s usually hyperbolic to compare people you disagree with to Nazis. But not when they actually believe what Nazis believe. To the millions of Americans who might not have perfect genes, it is a little disturbing that their president said, “‘All men are created equal.’ Well, it’s not true.”

Remember this?


That would be the president doing an impression of a disabled reporter. It was a joke, but you know, not a “ha ha” one. And he now sets policy for disabled Americans!


Fill Everything With Asbestos

Asbestos was once used as a fireproofing agent, because it is extremely effective in that role. It also causes cancer, and is extremely effective at that as well. But for some reason (it’s probably money), Donald Trump has only ever really cared about that first bullet point. In his 1997 book, he suggested the drive to remove asbestos was led by the mafia, which controlled the asbestos removal business. In his view, asbestos was “100 percent safe, once applied,” which is true about undisturbed asbestos. But it does have a nasty habit of getting disturbed, which lowers the safety level a few (dozen) percentage points.

Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesOf course, that assumes you take safety advice from qualified scientists. Trump is having none of that.

Which is why for a few decades now, we’ve had regulations mandating asbestos use and treatment. This makes it a giant and expensive pain in the ass for anyone who owns buildings, e.g. Donald Trump. And seeing as Trump isn’t a huge fan of spending his own money and also has a casual relationship with facts, you can probably now deduce how he’s taken this position. On that note, he was once sued in the 1990s by Polish construction workers who claimed they were exposed to asbestos dust without protective equipment. But that’s probably a coincidence.

Anyways, whether it’s science, regulations, or angry Poles, nothing has ever changed The Donald’s mind. He still loves asbestos, and is even on the record suggesting that it could have prevented the World Trade Center towers from collapsing on 9/11. He was even on Twitter about it, because he’s been on Twitter about everything. Whatever the opposite of a grudge is, Donald Trump has it for asbestos. Which means that if you want to be a winner, you’re going to need a carcinogen of your own to love.



Exercise And Sleep Are For Losers

On the subject of exercise, Donald Trump has a very hot take: don’t. He believes that a person is like a battery, with a fixed amount of energy, and that unnecessary exercise uses that energy up. He’s even mocked others for exercising. When he found out that one of his executives was training for a triathlon, he told the man he’d “die young because of this.”

This lines up pretty neatly with the exact opposite of what scientists say, which is that while exercise might temporarily reduce your energy, it strengthens your body, thus allowing it to be stronger and store more energy in the future. You already knew that because you went to gym class once or read anything about food ever. But who are you going to trust? Scientists and common sense? Or a winner with confusing ideas about batteries?

And then there’s the matter of sleep. For a long time, Trump has claimed that he gets very little of it, from 90 minutes to four hours a night. You should probably do the same. And what can you expect to do with all that extra time you’ll have, being exhausted and grumpy? Well, if you want to be like Trump, you’ll makes deals and plot revenge.

New York MagazineEverybody knows 3 a.m. is the ideal time to sit awake, sharpening a dagger and reciting the names of everyone whos ever wronged you. Thats Business 101.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends seven hours or more of sleep per day for an adult, which suggests that Trump has been wrecking his body and mind for decades now. Come to think of it, that does jive with a few things we’ve seen in the news …

Get a leg up on Donald Trump’s granddaughter and start learning Mandarin yourself with Rosetta Stone.

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Court determines military burn pits caused lung disease in service members

The thousands of U.S. military personnel and private contractors whose health was compromised by the dense black smoke of burn pits – and who were then denied proper treatment – may finally be vindicated by a recent court ruling.

A judge under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office for Workers’ Compensation Programs decreed last month that open-air burn pits — where thousands of chemicals were released into the air after trash and other waste were incinerated at American military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan — are connected to lung disease, Fox News has learned.

The decision marks a victory for the nearly 64,000 active service members and retirees who have put their names on a Burn Pit Registry created by the Veterans Administration, bringing them one step closer to getting adequate medical coverage, something that has never been guaranteed. Private contractors who were also exposed to the burn pit toxins also have been denied coverage.

“This case has legitimized the disease,”  former contractor Veronica Landry of Colorado Springs, whose case was a part of the recent ruling, told Fox News. “There are many people out there who are still not getting the treatment they need.

“This ruling changes that.”

Veronica Landry, who worked for a private contractor on Mosul Air Force Base in Iraq, retuned home with PTSD and lung-related health issues.  (Courtesy of Veronica Landry)

Soldiers have fallen gravely ill or even died from exposure to burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq, but they are not the only ones who have gotten sick. Civilian workers and private contractors like Landry are also suffering an array of maladies including cancer, respiratory problems and blood disorders and, like military victims, they say they are being ignored.

But private employees don’t even have the Veterans Administration to lean on. Landry filed her case with the Labor Department for this very reason.

“I’m really grateful that the Judge looked over our case,” Landry said. “That’s why this is so important. We wanted to make sure that others can get help.”

Landry said in her testimony that she was exposed to smoke from the burn pits “every day” while working at Mosul Air Force Base in Iraq for Kellogg, Brown, and Root [KBG], and that “every plastic water bottle that every soldier drank out of was also burned in the burn pits.”

“I knew what danger I was going to face when I went to Iraq, but I never imagined that I would bring it back home.”

– Veronica Landry

Landry was sent home early after developing PTSD and making matters worse, she started to develop problems with her lungs and other ailments  such as migraines, chills and dangerously low blood pressure. She has been in out of hospitals for nearly ten years.

When symptoms flare up, Landry experiences severe pain and wheezing every time she takes a breath due to inflammation of her lungs. Tasks as simple as speaking can cause her to become light-headed when her condition acts up. She also suffers from fibrosis, which causes her to experience shallow breathing and swelling of her legs and feet from pitting edema.

KBG’s insurance company, AIG, has refused to assist with her medical bills, but the recent judicial ruling made clear that AIG should be covering her expenses.

“This evidence is sufficient to establish Ms. Landry suffers from deployment-related lung disease,” reads a line of the ruling obtained by Fox News. “Ms. Landry need not introduce affirmative medical evidence to show working conditions caused the alleged harm. She need only show working conditions which could conceivably cause the harm alleged.”

The court’s conclusion was that AIG and KBR should be covering Landry’s expenses.

“Employer [KBR] and Carrier [AIG] are liable for all past, present, and future reasonable and necessary medical treatment related to claimant’s work-related post-traumatic stress disorder and deployment-related lung disease,” reads the order.

Landry says she fears the long-term health issues that could arise from her exposure to open air burn pits.  (Courtesy of Veronica Landry)

Officials for Kellogg, Brown, and Root declined to comment on the ruling, instead referring to a previous comment made to back in 2016 when Fox News first reported on Ms. Landry.

“At the limited number of bases where KBR operated burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, KBR personnel did so safely and effectively at the direction and under the control of the U.S. military,” read the written statement. “KBR complies with all applicable laws and contractual obligations, which includes providing the federally mandated and specified insurance coverage required for employees working overseas supporting the U.S. government.”

KBR insurance provider, AIG, did not respond to requests for comment.

Those in the military community feel that the ruling will help to shine an overdue light on the complications that have arisen for those exposed to burn pit fumes while serving their country.

“I believe this is a case of common sense and victory for military contractors and we can only hope that the same common sense is applied to our military war heroes and their widows,” Rosie Torres, founder of Burn Pits 360, an advocacy group for service members who have fallen ill, told FoxNews.com.

Thousands of U.S. military personnel who served on bases in Iraq and Afghanistan were exposed to the dense black smoke from burn pits where everything from IEDs to human waste was incinerated.  (Public Domain)

Torres, whose husband, LeRoy Torres, became ill almost immediately after his return from Iraq in 2008, said that the federal ruling grants them evidence that determines that there is a strong association between lung disease and exposure to burn pits.

“Thousands of Veterans have lost their careers, some have taken their own lives and their widows are left without benefits,” Torres said. “The actual numbers are obscured by a broken system. Unless we address this honestly, unknown thousands even millions will fade into history as the invisible and unacknowledged casualties of our country’s longest war.”

“We are tired of being stuck in a system of bureaucracy.  Being told your lung disease or cancer is psychosomatic, losing your job and being denied benefits is only something the VA can fix.”

While Landry has been able to keep her symptoms under better control through diet and constant care, she fears what the future may bring.

“The progression of my disease is scary for me,” she says. “Will the nodules on my lungs turn to cancer? We don’t know?”

“I knew what danger I was going to face when I went to Iraq, but I never imagined that I would bring it back home.” 

Perry Chiaramonte is a producer with Fox News Channel’s Investigative Unit. Follow him on Twitter at @perrych

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2018/02/15/court-determines-military-burn-pits-caused-lung-disease-in-service-members.html

Chuck Todd nailed why Trump’s SOTU just didn’t cut it for so many Americans.

NBC’s Chuck Todd has an issue with President Trump’s first State of the Union address.

It’s not that it was a bad speech, necessarily. It’s just that the Donald we all know didn’t give it.

Speaking on MSNBC after the State of the Union, Todd dove into why Trump’s inauthentic speech failed to deliver.

Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for SiriusXM.

“It is hard to judge these speeches because we know it’s not him,” Todd said. “It’s him reading off a teleprompter.”

“There are some things he says that sound like him totally, you know. He’ll throw in a ‘beautiful’ and an extra ‘totally.’ But you can tell he is reading it. He doesn’t own it. … I think [the Trump administration] would be better off letting him ad lib because it would be authentic. There is a missing authenticity here.”

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

After others on the panel began laughing at the thought of the president improvising the State of the Union, Todd clarified what he meant.

“You guys are laughing,” he said, grinning. “I’m being semi-serious here.”

Americans know the president as a man who jabs at political opponents using disparaging nicknames on Twitter — not a guy who genuinely wants to bring people together, Todd explained. “I’m just saying; the Donald Trump we know as a country, that we interact with every day, with his Twitter feed, with the asides and all of this — the guy that likes to give us all nicknames — that isn’t who you saw [at the State of the Union], right?”

Beyond tone, Trump’s attempts at bipartisanship also fell flat to many because he’s thrived on divisiveness throughout his first year in office.

Unifier-in-chief? Eh, not so fast.

Although the White House touted Trump’s first State of the Union as “bright and optimistic” — a means to bring parties together — the branding may not have stuck. Polling from last year found the overwhelming majority of Americans believe Trump does more to divide the country than unite it. One speech won’t flip that figure overnight.

Reaction shots of many Congresspeople in the audience showed that not everyone was impressed by Trump’s speech. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

And when it comes to the issues, Trump’s calls for unity just didn’t sync up with reality.

Trump took sole credit on job creation, shrinking the unemployment rate among black Americans, and boosting manufacturing — all signs of an improving economy that surfaced under President Obama. When it came to issues like immigration, health care, and national security, Trump played to his own base, blasting Obamacare, cheering the existence of Guantanamo Bay, and highlighting a necessity to stand for the national anthem.

“President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address was billed by the White House beforehand as a speech that would be ‘unifying’ and ‘bipartisan,'” Jonathan Allen wrote for NBC. “It was neither.”

But even if it were, would Americans buy it?

“You don’t see this Trump very often so I don’t know if it can sell anything,” Todd concluded on MSNBC. “That’s my point here. So I don’t know how much ability this version of President Trump does to persuade anybody because you don’t see it very often.”

You can watch Todd discussing his thoughts on the State of the Union at MSNBC.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/chuck-todd-nailed-why-trump-s-sotu-just-didn-t-cut-it-for-so-many-americans

Florida Democrat removed from office, faces corruption charges following FBI sting

A Florida mayor was removed from office Friday after her arrest on three felony charges.

Joy Cooper, 57, mayor of Hallandale Beach, allegedly solicited illegal campaign contributions for herself and two political allies, the Sun Sentinel reported, citing court documents. 

Gov. Rick Scott issued the executive order suspending Cooper from office in the city just north of Miami. The mayor was accused of accepting campaign contributions through former attorney Alan Koslow.

Following an undercover FBI investigation, Cooper, who surrendered Thursday, has been charged with money laundering, official misconduct and exceeding campaign contribution limits, the report said.


Court documents stated undercover agents gave Koslow $8,000 in cash in Aug. 2012. Cooper was also accused of soliciting funds for Anthony Sanders, the former commissioner of Hallandale Beach. He resigned from his position in Aug. 2017 following allegations of misconduct, the Sun Sentinel reported.

She also has been charged with soliciting contributions in a government building, a first-degree misdemeanor with a one-year maximum sentence.

The felonies carry maximum prison sentences of five years.

Larry Davis, her attorney, said she plans to plead not guilty.

Cooper, a Democrat, has been the city’s mayor since 2005 and previously served on the city commission beginning in 1999.

“I can assure you that I will vigorously fight these allegations in court,” Cooper said in a prepared statement obtained by the Sun Sentinel.

The news outlet reported Cooper emptied her office before turning herself into Main Jail in Fort Lauderdale Thursday. She was later released from the jail Thursday night.


Eric Fordin, a developer, told the Sun Sentinel he was “shocked” by the allegations against Cooper.

“(She) has always been so aboveboard. I recall her writing a check for $2.45 for a soda at the grand opening of one of our hotels because she could not accept a drink,” Fordin said.

Fordin said he was never asked or pressured by the mayor or other Hallandale Beach politicians for contributions.

Vice Mayor Keith London will take over Cooper’s duties while she is suspended.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/01/27/florida-democrat-removed-from-office-faces-corruption-charges-following-fbi-sting.html

The outgoing White House voicemail message now blames Democrats for the government shutdown

The outgoing voicemail message at the White House has been changed to blame the Democratic Party for the ongoing government shutdown. According to reports from several outlets, calls to the White House comment line go unanswered; then a message plays accusing the Democrats of holding the military “hostage” amid negotiations over immigration.

“Thank you for calling the White House,” the message says, as detailed by The Hill. “Unfortunately, we cannot answer your call today because congressional Democrats are holding government funding, including funding for our troops and other national security priorities, hostage to an unrelated immigration debate.”

The message then advises callers to leave their comments on the White House website.

The government shutdown began at midnight local time on Saturday morning after Congress failed to come to an agreement on passing a continuing resolution to fund the government. The GOP is currently attempting to force the Democrats to accept its terms on the immigration debate, including on the Obama administration-era DACA program, the visa lottery system, and the construction of a wall along the southern border with Mexico.

The Democrats are attempting to secure protections for DACA recipients. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also attempted to use the funding of the children’s health insurance program as a bargaining chip; the program was not renewed last year, imperiling the health insurance of approximately 9 million children.

The shutdown has spurred feverish efforts on both sides to define who’s to blame. President Donald Trump himself has branded it the “Schumer Shutdown,” while Democrats have framed it as the “Trump shutdown”—the Twitter trends showed that many people believed the latter.

Notably, it’s the first time that a government shutdown has occurred when one party has controlled the House, Senate, and the presidency. It remains to be seen if and when both sides of the aisle will agree to a deal to end the shutdown.

Read more: https://www.dailydot.com/layer8/white-house-voicemail-blames-shutdown/

6 Unpredictable Dangers Of Being An Atheist

Are you an atheist? If so, that’s totally cool. We don’t have any fake hundred-dollar bills to give you which reveal that “true wealth comes from the Lord” when they unravel. However, we do have some rough news: While a lot of people act like atheism is shunning the responsibility that comes with religion in order to waste time wearing black clothes and getting to third base with unmarried demons or whatever, it actually means taking up a few unforeseen hardships. For example …


Everyone Thinks Atheists Are Immoral — Even Atheists

Let’s start with the fact that everyone apparently thinks atheists are the scum of the Earth, according to many surveys. I don’t particularly believe in God myself, so I’m just as disappointed by this news as anyone. And while I’d love to hold this up as an example of believers being jerks, those same polls show that even atheists hate and mistrust other atheists. Even we can’t wrap our heads around the idea of someone having a moral code without a higher power to enforce it.

To determine how this anti-atheist bias works, researchers asked 3,000 people in 13 countries the most reasonable question ever: “If there was a person who used to torture animals as a child, then they grew up and became a teacher who murdered a bunch of homeless dudes, would you figure this person was an atheist or religious?” I wish that was my joke, because it’s kind of awesome, but it’s not. That’s literally the question they asked. And across the whole study, people were twice as likely to suspect the killer of being an atheist. Even atheists believed the person was more likely to be an atheist. Incidentally, I’m pretty sure I had that teacher for art history.

In a second study which polled Canadians and Americans, participants were asked to imagine a hit-and-run driver fleeing after hitting a parked car, then later finding a wallet and stealing all the money. What a shitberg. They then asked participants if said shitberg was more likely to be a teacher, an atheist teacher, or a rapist teacher. Your first inclination here might be to wonder why, in both this example and the previous one, all the shitbergs are teachers. Maybe people aren’t biased against atheists as much as they just hate teachers. The second takeaway here is that yes, people suspected the driver of being an atheist over a rapist. Over a goddamn rapist. Come on.


Atheism Is Still Political Suicide

If the year 2017 taught you nothing else about politics, it should be that politics is worse than having a hedgehog chew a hole through one of your kidneys. We’ve experienced financial tomfuckery, sexual harassment and assault, enough lies to choke a circus elephant, and more childish insults than a roast battle at a daycare. People the world over will officially tolerate anything from politicians — except atheism.

In the grand scheme of things people hate from their elected officials, it looks like atheism is getting close to the last straw. 37 percent of people would be less likely to vote for a politician who’d had an affair, and 41 percent would be less likely to vote for one who’d had financial problems, but 51 percent would be less likely to vote for an atheist. A bankrupt philanderer could become president if he claimed to be Christian. Can you imagine? What a world, am I right?

A Gallup poll suggests that 58 percent of Americans would be willing to vote for an atheist candidate, and while that number sounds promising, the polls also show that only a socialist would have less support, at 47 percent, and a Muslim candidate would have 60 percent support, while a gay candidate comes in at 74 percent. So for the socialists/atheists out there who were hoping for a like-minded government some day, it looks like we’ll probably be colonizing Mars before that happens.


Atheists Make Everyone Think Of Death

If you’re a religious sort of person, what comes to mind when you think of atheists? Is it some smug Richard Dawkins kind of guy trying to explain the miracle of magnets to you with so-called science? Or is it the cold, grim hand of death? Bet it’s that second one. And also that first one. But mostly that second one, since atheists just make everyone think of the Reaper, apparently. This, as you can imagine, does not improve people’s attitudes toward them.

Researchers found this out via studies that began with putting subjects in a morbid mindset with questions like “What’s going to happen to you after you die?” and “How many explosive charges do you think you could plant in your own butt before using a Slip ‘N Slide becomes a fatal mistake?” (Paraphrasing — they were all about death, is the point.) Another group was asked dark but non-death-related questions.

Everyone was then asked their opinions on Quakers and atheists. As expected, everyone thought the first group were just smug-ass oatmeal jockeys, and had much darker thoughts about the second one. But while there were negative views on atheists across the board, the subjects who were focusing thinking about death really, really hated them.

A second study just had people do some fill-in-the-blanks fun after being asked to think about atheism, pain, or death. The atheism and death crowd both filled in their blanks with that gloomy, morose shit, with the study concluding that the very idea of atheism is existentially threatening to a ton of people. So if you’re an atheist and you find yourself on the shit end of some evangelical hatred, it’s only because your entire being threatens not just that person’s existence, but their entire understanding of said existence. You literally cause people to question the fabric of their reality. Good for you! But before we go patting ourselves on the back too hard …


Atheists Aren’t As Open-Minded As You’d Think

If you had to guess who is more open-minded between atheists and religious folk, you’d probably choose atheists without even putting much thought into it. “Conservative” tends to be synonymous with “religious,” and “liberal” goes hand in hand with “atheist,” right? Well hold onto your non-denominational butts, because it looks like there are some circumstances in which atheists tend to be more rigidly dogmatic than their happy Christian counterparts.

Now, don’t go writing letters to your congressperson about what a lying asshole I am, because odds are they’re probably more of a lying asshole anyway. Plus I’m Canadian, so I can abuse whatever narrative I want in the U.S. and no one can stop me, save a very skilled and unceasingly polite beaver and syrup technician. But I’m also citing a study which does support the notion that when “it came to subtly measured inclination to integrate views that were diverging and contrary to one’s own perspectives, it was the religious who showed more openness.”

Does this mean gay people are going to be way more welcome at Roy Moore’s Evangelical Jamboree and Sidewalk Sale? Probably not. The point of the study was mostly to show that close-mindedness is not the exclusive purview of the religious, and that atheists can actually become so dogmatic in their disbelief that anything that challenges that lack of belief will be met with more rigidity than information which may challenge the beliefs of someone who is religious. In short, everyone loves to put their fingers in their ears and yell “Nuh-uh, I can’t hear youuuuu” sometimes.


Atheists Are More Prone To Addiction

When you hit high school, a whole new world opens up to you, in which super cool kids who wear leather jackets and use switchblade combs offer you beers and cigarettes and that wicked electric lettuce. Will you give in to peer pressure, or will you remain stalwart and square? What makes you more likely to choose one over the other? Fear of divine retribution, apparently.

Studies of both Swiss and Mexican / Mexican American youth have shown that those who have a religious affiliation benefit from a protective effect when it comes to substance abuse. Religiosity is associated with less use of alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana … despite the fact that even the godless teens grew up in a world full of anti-drug PSAs and preachy sitcom episodes.

Numerous studies show that if a religious or spiritual community expresses direct prohibitions and limitations against use or abuse, the followers are probably going to go along. This may not just be about fearing eternal hellfire; it could also be that simply having a community of like-minded people provides a sense of acceptance and belonging. That support group means you’re less likely to want some sweet Schnapps for breakfast, and also they’ll be able to help you resist it if/when you do.


Atheists Just Might Die Sooner

There’s evidence to suggest that religious people who regularly attend church have a longer lifespan than people who don’t, like your friendly neighborhood atheist. So the people who believe there’s something after life have to wait longer to find out than the people who don’t, on average. That’s a final insult for someone — you just need to decide for whom.

A study of 75,000 middle-aged nurses in the United States showed that participants who regularly attended church services over a 20-year period, as in once a week, had a 33 percent lower risk of dying during the study period than those who didn’t. Jesus saves! Maybe!

The thing to keep in mind with this research is that it isn’t exclusively faith that’s keeping anyone alive. The same data shows that countries that are much more religious overall, such as places in Sub-Saharan Africa, still have much higher mortality rates than the U.S. Conversely, more secular nations like Japan have higher life expectancy overall. So what’s the point? It’s in the difference between the two.

People who are not religious in the U.S. are, as every other entry here shows, walking piles of rapidly steaming shit in the eyes of everyone else. Atheists are the gangly, body-odor-laden children of the Babadook. That special brand of ostracism places atheists, by and large, outside of social involvement. If you’re not trusted as a politician, if you’re not as able to engage in charitable and community outreach projects because most of them are organized by churches and religious groups, if people assume you’re a rapist teacher, then you don’t have that same support base as religious people. On average, you don’t have the encouragement of others, or a ton of organized people who will take an interest in your welfare. And you would if you lived in a predominately secular nation, where many of these community groups are also secular and atheists are more accepted as part of the community.

Is the conclusion here that religious people are inadvertently killing atheists? I never said that, and neither did you. Not even sure who typed that sentence. But you can conclude that in a nation that leans more toward religion, those who do not partake have social disadvantages that the majority does not take into account. The majority just wants them to burn in a Hell they don’t even believe in, which they’ll get to slightly earlier.

Nothing wrong with being a child of the Babadook. Get Babashook!

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Read more: http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-unpredictable-dangers-being-atheist/

Trumps Budget Cut for HIV/AIDS Would Kill 300,000 People Per Year, Report Says

Three-hundred thousand deaths per year.

Thats the human cost of President Donald Trumps proposal to cut $1 billion cut from global HIV funding in 2019, a 20% reduction from current levels, according to a report by the ONE campaign. And it comes just when American-led efforts are paying off, and the global tide of the epidemic appears to be turning.

Ironically, the proposed cut lands mostly on the program responsible for Americas success in this area, PEPFAR (the Presidents Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief), initiated by George W. Bush and beloved of Trump-voting evangelical Christians today, many leading HIV relief organizations are religiously affiliated.

There has been bipartisan support for PEPFAR over the years, but Trumps budget cuts it by $800 million, in addition to $225 million to be cut from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Both would be unprecedented cuts for the agencies.

And yet, PEPFAR is working. Based on epidemiological research, PEPFAR alone is credited with saving 11 million lives over the past 15 years. PEPFAR was also a catalyst for other countries, and private actors, to invest more and to combat other diseases at the same time as HIV.

These efforts have yielded significant results. There has been a 47 percent decrease in AIDS-related deaths since 2003, and new, inexpensive anti-retroviral medications have turned the tide in several countries.

Meanwhile, USAID, PEPFAR, and the United Nations have committed to the goals of, by the year 2020, diagnosing and treating 90% of people with HIV and reducing new infections to 500,000 per year. Globally, it is estimated that 36.7 million people are living with HIV. At present, 17 million of them are not receiving any form of treatment.

These are not only humanitarian successes but strategic ones as well. At its worst, the HIV epidemic has destabilized U.S. allies; controlling the epidemic means reducing chaos. And from a purely self-interested point of view, HIV relief is part of the United States soft power, which maintains its leadership position relative to adversaries like Russia and China.

The reaction of LGBTQ and HIV advocates has been predictable: a consortium of HIV organizations wrote to congressional leaders last fall, when the cuts were first rumored, worrying that the U.S. commitment to ending AIDS is waning.

Now that the cuts are actually in the proposed budget similar cuts were rejected by Congress last year, and most likely will be again the response has been swift.

The United States has been a leader in the fight to end the AIDS epidemic around the world and these programs are vital to the health of millions around the world, David Stacy, Government Affairs Director at the Human Rights Campaign, told the Daily Beast. The Trump-Pence Administration is abandoning a bipartisan effort that Presidents Bush and Obama championed. Cutting essential funding for these life-saving services jeopardizes not only LGTBQ people but significantly undermines the overall health infrastructure in these countries.

Former president Bush himself took to the Washington Post last year, when Trump proposed a smaller cut to PEPFAR in the 2018 budget. When we confront suffering when we save lives we breathe hope into devastated populations, strengthen and stabilize society, and make our country and the world safer, Bush wrote. We shouldnt spend money on programs that dont work, whether at home or abroad. But [the government] should fully fund programs that have proven to be efficient, effective and results-oriented.

The question, then, is why. Why now? Why cut a program that is working, that is supported by people across the political spectrum, and that is tiny in comparison to other government programs? (Trumps budget adds about $12 billion to military spending, bringing the total to $686 billion.)

Why bother making friends when you can defeat your enemies?

The Trump administration is saying nothing. U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Deborah Birx said during the last round of proposed cuts that Translating that money into the most effective programs that we can, that reaches the most lives in the most impactful way thats our job. In other words, well make do with what weve got and Im not going to say anything bad about my boss.

Presumably, some of the impetus from the cuts comes from an America First philosophy that American strength is defined solely by how big the button is on Trumps desk, rather than by how America leads worldwide in issues like global health. Thats why the State Department is in tatters, with empty offices throughout the Truman Building, while the Pentagon is going back on steroids. Why bother making friends when you can defeat your enemies?

Or perhaps the administration believes that others will step in to fill the void America leaves behind: private foundations, other governments, the tooth fairy. Let someone else foot the bill for a change, right?

Or maybe no one in the White House really cares how many Africans die of AIDS.

Or it may be that the cut to global HIV funding is part of the administrations overall abandonment of people with HIV. Domestic HIV spending is also being slashed in the new budget. And recall, Trump recentlyfired the entire Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS apparently over their refusal to endorse ineffective abstinence only programs and has closed theWhite House Office of National AIDS Policy.

If HIV is being singled out, that, too, begs the question of why. For almost two decades, national Christian organizations have moved beyond the stigmatization of HIV/AIDS that marked the 1980s and 1990s. As Bushs op-ed pointed out, 2 million babies have been born to HIV-positive mothers without passing on the infection. WorldVision, a Christian global relief organization, is running HIV prevention programs in Africa.

Are we really going back to the Eighties, when HIV/AIDS was a gay disease and Reagan White House officials joked about it? Trump himself seems trapped in the decade making comments about Haitians having AIDS, for example. Is that what this is all about? Is that the reason for the slashing of effective health programs here and abroad?

And if not, then what is it?

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/trumps-budget-cut-for-hivaids-would-could-kill-300000-people-per-year-report-says