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the politics of groceries
August 26, 2014

If the thought of buying a product that might benefit a political party you can't stand makes you recoil in horror, the BuyPartisan app is for you.

The goal of this free app is to let people find out more information about the brands they purchase and the ideologies of their leaders and employees. After downloading the app, a user just has to scan a bar code using their phone's camera, and then wait for the information to pop up: the number in red is for contributions to the Republican Party, blue for the Democratic Party, and green for others.

"For the first time ever, you're able to take that product and bring it to a whole new light," developer Matthew Colbert, a former Capitol Hill staffer, told the Los Angeles Times. "A quarter or tenth of a penny that went to a political contribution might not be something you know."

BuyPartisan looks at campaign finance data from top Fortune 500 companies, and the averages are computed after looking at the donation histories of the CEO, board of directors, employees, and affiliated political action committees. For example, by using that data, BuyPartisan found that Procter & Gamble scores an average of 70.25 percent Republican, while Celestial Seasonings is 91 percent Democratic.

The app has some critics, including Jack Marshall, president of ProEthics. Marshall told the Times that it's best to avoid intense partisanship, which could be fanned by this app. "You don't want every day to be an election," he said. "That's why we have elections periodically, so people can calm down and work together." Catherine Garcia

China Rising
12:20 a.m. ET
Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping used a speech during a parade showcasing China's military strength to announce that he is cutting 300,000 personnel from China's massive army. He described the reduction of the 2.3-million-strong People's Liberation Army as a gesture of peace, saying that China will always "walk down the path of peaceful development." Analysts suggest the move is unlikely to reduce regional tensions over China's expanding military presence, and probably has more to do with Xi's efforts to modernize the armed forces.

Xi made his announcement during a parade to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender at the end of World War II. The parade featured more than 12,000 soldiers, including some from Russia and elsewhere, tanks, advanced fighter jets and bombers, and a range of powerful missiles, some being shown off in public for the first time. Along with the show of force, China was also spotted for the first time deploying warships off the coast of Alaska, in international waters. Peter Weber

late-night wars
September 2, 2015

The free publicity apparently wasn't enough for Jeb Bush, so he turned his spot on Stephen Colbert's inaugural Late Show into a fundraiser for his already well-funded presidential campaign: If you send in $3, you'll be entered into a raffle for a ticket to the show and dinner with Woody Johnson, the billionaire owner of the New York Jets. "I think the contest is a great idea," Colbert said, in what he suggests will probably be his last pre-show online video, "but here's the thing: No one from Jeb's campaign asked me if this was okay with me, to raise money off my first show."

So Colbert responded with some jokes about the Bush political dynasty, Bush's political base — "if you can't afford $3, you're probably not voting for Jeb Bush" — and the wisdom of tying your campaign to the "winning tradition of the New York Jets." And then he announced his own contest, the winner of which gets to submit one (non-vulgar) question that Colbert will ask Bush. Shot, fired:

...and returned. Probably glad to be sparring with somebody other than Donald Trump, Bush tweeted this video to Colbert, managing to both rib Colbert and dampen his own fundraising efforts by lowering the contest fee to $1:

Well, Amy Schumer is funny. Maybe Colbert has found his stand-in host. Peter Weber

ladies and gentlemen we are delayed because of...
September 2, 2015

Congratulations, Queens! In addition to being the most diverse urban area in the U.S., boasting a massive beer garden, and hosting the city's best Chinatown, the borough of Queens is also home to seven of the 10 worst subway stations in New York City, according to a report by the Citizens Budget Commission.

The report evaluated the stations by the number of structural components in disrepair, weighted that against the total number of structural components at the station, then gave each station a percentage. Of the 33 stations in worst shape, roughly half are located in Queens, Capital New York reports. Here's the map:


(Citizens Budget Commission)

Lest non-Queens residents begin to gloat, the Metropolitan Transit Authority is ruining basically every New Yorker's commute. As New York notes, it will be 2067 before all 467 MTA subway stations are in a “state of good repair." Perhaps in the intervening 52 years, we can all learn to actually leave enough time for subway delays in our morning commutes. Kimberly Alters

This just in
September 2, 2015
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The six Baltimore police officers who were charged with the death of Freddie Gray, 25, while in their custody have had their defense motions rejected by a Baltimore judge on Wednesday. The officers' trial will begin next month; a pretrial hearing on September 10 will decide whether the case should be removed from Baltimore due to its publicity, Reuters reports.

Earlier Wednesday, protesters gathered outside the Circuit Courthouse to wait for the judge's decision. Gray's death in police custody — which was ruled a homicide — has become one of several centerpieces in the national discussion over police violence and the Black Lives Matter movement. Jeva Lange

Football is back!
September 2, 2015
Elsa/Getty Images

There are plenty of things that set Andrew Luck, 25, apart from other football players. As the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, Luck is posed to become the next football superstar in the vein of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady — he's destroyed passing records, bringing his team closer and closer to the Super Bowl each year. And, maybe most noteworthy of all, Luck is actually immensely likable and down-to-earth, both on the field and off.

He's always been this way, too: Luck was a star player at Stanford, and graduated as his high school's co-valedictorian. In a profile by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone, he humbly added that he had never thought, "I'm good enough to play in the NFL," taking his early successes and goals step by step. Now known for being bookish and weirdly friendly on the field ("Luck routinely compliments the NFL players who sack him or knock him down, saying things like 'Hey, nice hit!' as they try to beat his head in," Taibbi notes), Luck can't really imagine a time when the tides might turn against him:

Americans love to turn on their celebrities. In sports especially, we root for them on the way up, then pelt them on the way down. Once-adored superstars like LeBron and Brady became villains after too many years in contention. I ask Luck about that phenomenon given that it might be in his future. His answer is hilarious.

"I bet Tom Brady doesn't give a shit about what people think about him," he says. "Or Peyton. You play quarterback long enough, you hear some things. You have to have skin like an armadillo." [Rolling Stone]

Luck won't settle for simply being thick-skinned, like the rest of us mortals. Jeva Lange

This just in
September 2, 2015
STR/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama isn't the only one making a visit to Alaska this week, according to a new report from Pentagon officials. The U.S. military has spotted five Chinese navy ships off the coast of Alaska in the Bering Sea, heading in the direction of the Aleutian Islands. The presence of the Chinese ships, including three combat ships, a replenishment vessel, and an amphibious ship, marks the first time that the U.S. military has reported seeing "any such activity in the area," The Wall Street Journal reports.

Although China's defense ministry could not be reached by the Journal for comment, the presence of Chinese warships close to U.S. territory is likely connected to China's efforts to ramp up its military activity as its economic power expands. "I don't think we'd characterize anything they're doing as threatening," one defense official told The Wall Street Journal.

Other officials theorized that the ships' presence could be due to China's growing interest in using the Northern Sea Route to transport goods, since that route between Asia and the West can be up to several days faster than the Suez Canal route. "It's difficult to tell exactly, but it indicates some interest in the Arctic region," one Pentagon official said. "It's different." Becca Stanek

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Trump Fever
September 2, 2015
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Does Donald Trump cheat at golf? That's the subject of an investigation by The Washington Post, which offers a good amount of anecdotal evidence that he does. Trump, of course, denies the claims, and he does seem pretty confident in his prowess on the links, going so far as to say he would put the presidency on the line in a face-off with President Obama.

"His swing looks like it's coming along beautifully, his game looks much better," he told The Post. "I'd love to play him for the presidency." [The Washington Post]

How about Jeb Bush, the candidate that Trump loves to hate? "I'd love to play Jeb for the presidency," he told the Post. "That would be even easier than running against him in politics." Ryu Spaeth

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