Max Ehrenfreund has a big investigative piece about multilevel marketing companies, which recruit salespeople with the promise that you can make a tidy profit selling chocolate, or protein drinks, or other products. But it doesn't always work out:
Enrique Martinez didn't like chocolate, but he was eating as many as 10 pieces a day, drinking chocolate protein shakes and rubbing a chocolate-based skin cream on his face. It was expensive chocolate, too. Martinez and his wife, Michelle, were going through $2,000 in chocolate a month.
The debt they accumulated this way — more than $100,000 over five years — is now with a consolidation company. Their credit is ruined. There is a crack in the driveway at their home in Albuquerque from a 14-wheeler that once delivered 12,000 cans of chocolate energy drinks to their garage. [Washington Post]
These companies are often compared to pyramid schemes, but there is a key difference. A pyramid scheme is an outright fraud where new investors are used to pay existing ones, so if the supply of new recruits ever dries up, or the reality of the situation leaks out, it collapses immediately. These companies, by contrast, are structured around selling actual products, so they are often perfectly legal — and they make the recruits complicit in perpetuating the business, because otherwise they'll have no chance of making good on their investment.
But sadly, according to a legal expert interviewed by Ehrenfreund, up to 99 percent of multilevel marketing recruits will end up taking a loss. The whole story of Martinez and his wife is really worth reading in full. Ryan Cooper
The Late Show has been following the custody battle between Alex Jones and his ex-wife in an Austin courtroom, and on Tuesday's show, Stephen Colbert caught viewers up on the latest developments. But the battle for his children isn't the only fight Jones is waging. "Alex Jones' brand of fact-free truth-telling has been making him some enemies, like the powerful cabal known as Chobani yogurt," which is suing Jones for claiming that their plant in Idaho has been spreading "crime and tuberculosis" in Twin Falls, Colbert noted. "To be fair, Crime & Tuberculosis is one of Chobani's least favorite flavors — still better than pomegranate."
Jones is angry about the suit, and threatened Chobani on-air. "Take note, Alex Jones listeners — he just volunteered for you to fistfight a yogurt factory," Colbert said. But still, he feigned sympathy for Jones, due to his similar right-wing radio persona, Tuck Buckford, having faced some of the same problems. He played a clip, and The Late Show writers have been doing their homework. "George Soros doesn't want you to know the real value of yogurt, okay?" Tuck Buckford yelled. "That it's a natural protein-rich gamma ray shield to keep the Clinton Foundation from reading your dreams." Then things got messy: "You can't get in here, John Podesta, okay? You can't put yogurt on a pizza." Watch below. Peter Weber
On Sunday, a herd of wild boars overran an Islamic State position about 50 miles southwest of Kirkuk, killing three ISIS militants likely preparing to ambush local anti-ISIS tribes, according to tribal leaders and Kurdish military officials. Five other ISIS militants were injured, Sheikh Anwar al-Assi, a chief of the local Ubaid tribe, told The Times of London. "It is likely their movement disturbed a herd of wild pigs, which inhabit the area as well as the nearby cornfields."
Local tribes, Kurdish peshmerga fighters, Iraqi army troops, and some Shiite militias from Iran are fighting ISIS south of Kirkuk, as Iraqi and U.S. forces are focusing most of their energy on pushing ISIS out of Mosul. Three days before the boars attacked ISIS, al-Assi said, ISIS militants massacred 25 people fleeing to Kirkuk from ISIS-held Hawija, on the road from Mosul to Baghdad.
Brigadier Azad Jelal, deputy chief of Kurdish intelligence in Kirkuk, confirmed the boar attack, telling Britain's Telegraph, "three fighters from ISIL were near the peshmerga checkpoint in al-Rashad. They met some feral boars and the boars killed the three fighters. ... Some refugees saw the bodies on the edge of a farm when they were fleeing and they told us." Assuming you are rooting for the boars and not ISIS, this doesn't have a happy ending. "A few days later ISIL started to kill pigs around the area," Jelal said.
Boars don't normally attack people, but they are ferocious when they do, Newsweek says, quoting a 2006 article on boar attacks in the Journal of Forensic Medicine: "The boar has a typical method of attack wherein it steadily rushes forward, pointing the tusks toward the animal to be attacked and inflicts the injuries. It goes back, takes position, and attacks the victim again. This repeated nature of attack continues till the victim is completely incapacitated due to multiple penetrating injuries, which can have a fatal consequence." Peter Weber
Seth Meyers has questions that just aren't being asked by reporters during the daily White House press briefings — like "How long until President Trump causes the end of the world?" — so he brought Sean Spicer on his show to face a barrage of inquiries from the Late Night press corps.
Well, kind of. Thanks to the magic of editing, Meyers fired off such important questions as "Where did you guys find Steve Bannon?" with responses carefully culled from remarks Spicer has made at past briefings. (The answer, by the way, is "a system of tunnels and caves.") What really makes the video are the faces Spicer makes when Meyers "asks" certain questions and sets up dorky dad jokes for him ("How easy is it to buy lettuce in Washington?" "I think getting ahead of that could be an issue."). Watch the video — complete with Spicer's shout out to His Holiness Vladimir Putin — below. Catherine Garcia
He didn't stand on a stage or display any visual aids, but Pope Francis just gave the first papal TED Talk. Released Tuesday night, the talk, "Why the only future worth building includes everyone," is delivered in Italian, though TED provides an English translation. And while the pope doesn't mention religion until halfway through, it is essentially a sermon to the "creative minds" who watch TED Talks about the need for love and human solidarity in a world where "techno-economic systems" and human indifference leave many people discarded in a "culture of waste," and where hope is not just possible but crucial. "Life is not time merely passing by," he says, "life is about interactions."
Pope Francis structured the talk around three messages: A reminder that "we all need each other, none of us is an island, an autonomous and independent 'I,' separated from the other, and we can only build the future by standing together"; a hope that technology and scientific innovation lead to "more equality and social inclusion," not alienation and greed; and the need for a "revolution of tenderness." He explains the coming revolution in Christian terms:
For us Christians, the future does have a name, and this name is Hope. Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naive and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing. Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn't lock itself into darkness, that doesn't dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow. Hope is the door that opens onto the future. ... A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you. And then there will be another "you," and another "you," and it turns into an "us." And so, does hope begin when we have an "us?" No. Hope began with one "you." When there is an "us," there begins a revolution. [Pope Francis, TED Talk]
"The future of humankind isn't exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies," the pope concludes, though "they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a 'you' and themselves as part of an 'us.'" You can read his talk in English, or, watch Pope Francis deliver his TED Talk in Italian below. Peter Weber
The stray cats of Hartford, Connecticut, have a hero in Willie Ortiz.
The 76-year-old grandfather and retired welder has spent the last two decades feeding and taking care of feral and stray cats who call the streets home. He drives 22 miles a day in his 1988 Silverado to drop off food at 16 locations in Hartford and East Hartford, feeding about 68 cats. "The cats come out when they hear the sound of my engine," Ortiz told People. "They know my voice and they know the sound of my engine." He pays for all of the food, plus spaying and neutering cats and medication, by selling scrap metal that he collects.
Ortiz — who has never let sickness or weather stop him from helping the cats — wants to see the feral cat population drop, which is why spaying and neutering is so important to him. A friend set up a GoFundMe page to assist Ortiz with his costs, and after the story spread around the world, donations came pouring in from as far away as India and Portugal. As of Tuesday night, more than $31,000 has been raised for Ortiz, who will use the money to further his mission of feeding the cats and getting them fixed. "I was praying for some help, and the help came, and I was so glad that it came," he said. Catherine Garcia
Former Bachelor contestant Chris Soules has been charged with leaving the scene of a deadly crash, a felony, following an accident Monday night near Aurora, Iowa.
Police say Soules, 35, was driving his 2008 Chevrolet truck down a country road when he rear-ended a farmer driving a tractor; the pick up rolled into a ditch and the tractor went into another ditch. Soules, who was not injured in the crash, walked away from the scene, and was picked up by an unknown person, Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Scott Bright told The Des Moines Register. Several hours later, he was arrested at his home in Arlington, and on Tuesday was charged with a felony; if convicted, he could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.
Authorities say they are investigating if Soules was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash, and during his court appearance, Buchanan County Assistant Attorney Jenalee Zaputil said he refused to come out of his home to be arrested until a search warrant was obtained. The driver of the tractor has been identified by police as Kenneth E. Mosher, 66, a farmer living in Aurora. Friends say he was married with two children, a veteran, and a member of the American Legion. Soules first appeared on The Bachelorette in 2014, and was chosen to star in the 19th season of The Bachelor the next year. He later was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars and Worst Cooks in America. In 2005, he was convicted of drunken driving. Catherine Garcia
Last month, President Trump dismissed speculation that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's job is in jeopardy, telling a small working lunch that he's "not firing Sean Spicer" because "that guy gets great ratings. Everyone tunes in," The Washington Post reports. Trump reportedly added, proudly, that Spicer's daily briefings draw nearly as many viewers as daytime soap operas. "Clearly, Sean Spicer is a soap opera," Stephen Colbert joked on Monday's Late Show. "That explains why his character is constantly getting amnesia."
On Tuesday, The Late Show picked up the Spicer-soap opera thread again, this time splicing Spicer into his own soap opera, The Bold and the Babbling. (The actual soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful, not coincidentally, is on CBS, like The Late Show.) Instead of amnesia, though, the bold, babbling Spicer appears to have a paternity problem. Watch below. Peter Weber