Harry Potter and his ilk are cheapening the once-respected U.S. Postal Service's stamp program, according to Benjamin F. Bailar, a former postmaster general.
"The stamp program should celebrate the things that are great about the United States and serve as a medium to communicate those things to a world-wide audience," Bailar wrote in a letter to current Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. "To prostitute that goal in the pursuit of possibly illusory profits does not make sense to me."
Bailar's letter, obtained by The Washington Post, also acted as a resignation from the Citizens' Advisory Stamp Committee, an exclusive group of notable Americans that offer their advice on suitable faces and images to be used on postage stamps. Bailar, 80, is a well-known stamp collector whose resignation highlights "a rift within the stamp community over whether the cash-poor Postal Service should pursue commercial subjects... at the expense of traditional cultural images."
Committee members were reportedly especially miffed by last November's Harry Potter stamp series, on which they were not consulted beforehand.
"While (the stamps) may support a drive to 'sell the product' with abundance of pretty and popular culture subjects, the result is a program that lacks gravitas," Bailar's letter added.
Harry Potter, the boy wizard who must lead a life-or-death battle on which the world's fate rests, might argue that his seven-book series has some gravitas, but since he corresponds by owl, he probably hasn't even seen the offending stamps.
In a new Boston Globe article, Michael Kranish dives into Jeb Bush's four years at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, during which he "smoked a notable amount of pot," according to his classmates. Bush's classmates also told the Globe that he "sometimes bullied smaller students."
Bush's classmates also told the Globe that he wasn't particularly interested in politics at the time. Bush apparently "refused to join the Progressive Andover Republicans club and often declined even to participate in informal bull sessions with classmates."
"I drank alcohol and I smoked marijuana when I was at Andover," Bush admitted to the Globe. "It was pretty common." Peter Tibbetts, one of Bush's early friends, told the Globe that the first time he "got really stoned" was when he smoked hash with Bush, who reportedly played Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride" to mark the occasion. As for the reports of bullying, Bush told the Globe that "it was 44 years ago, and it is not possible for me to remember."
"Using a selfie stick is a little like eating an oyster for the first time. Don't knock it until you try it," said Joanna Stern at The Wall Street Journal. If you're going to take a picture of yourself in a particular setting, the photo might as well be good, and putting your camera phone at the end of a pole really helps. You can buy a version online for $5, but don't. The Quik Pod Extreme ($62) from Digipower is one of a handful of higher-quality options. It's our favorite because it's light, telescopes down to a manageable size, and has a confidence-inducing grip.
Arizona health officials are monitoring 1,000 people, including nearly 200 children, who may have been exposed to measles.
CBS 10 reports that officials are worried about transmission of the disease at the Super Bowl, because there is a 90 percent transmission rate for anyone who comes into contact with infected people.
Hundreds of people may have been exposed to the virus after a second measles case, which stemmed from the outbreak at Disneyland, was diagnosed. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, the recent outbreak is due, at least in part, to parents not vaccinating their children, because the measles vaccine is 99 percent effective. Experts have suggested unvaccinated people who have been exposed to measles stay at home for three weeks.
"A lot of people don't realize measles is the most contagious infectious viruses that we know of," CBS News medical contributor Dr. Holly Phillips said on CBS This Morning on Friday. "Not only can people cough and sneeze it on you, it lingers in air for up to two hours, it lives on surfaces for up to two hours, so you can be exposed and not even realize it."
Rita Jeptoo, a Kenyan runner who has won the Boston and Chicago marathons, has been banned from competition for two years after failing a drug test, Athletics Kenya announced Friday.
Jeptoo was provisionally suspended after her A sample tested positive, and she asked for a B sample check, which also "tested positive for a banned substance," Reuters reports. Last year, Jeptoo told reporters that the allegations about her using drugs were "lies."
"Storage is not sexy," said Raymond Wong at Mashable. But Samsung's new Portable SSD T1 drive offers both security and speed "in high style without going overboard." It packs an incredible terabyte of data storage in a drive the size of a business card, weighing less than an ounce. The drive is so small that "Samsung says you can slide it into a wallet." The compact drive will help security-minded users feel at ease, too, with some "real NSA-level protection." And unlike traditional hard drives, which have moving mechanical parts, the T1 is solid state, which means "it can be thrown around like a hot potato and the stored data will be safe." It's also fast — with the right equipment, you can transfer a 3GB file in eight seconds. But this high-capacity, high-speed drive also comes at a high-price: $599 for a whole terabyte, $299 for 500GB, and $179 for 250 GB.
Prosecutors have dropped an assault case against George Zimmerman after his ex-girlfriend, Brittany Brunelle, recanted her story.
State Attorney Phil Archer told The Associated Press he wouldn't file a formal charge against Zimmerman, because there were no other eyewitnesses from the alleged event. According to Brunelle's original statement, Zimmerman allegedly threw a wine bottle at her and destroyed her cellphone.
"While it is clear that the officers had probable cause to arrest Mr. Zimmerman... the subsequent recantation by the victim of her initial statement.. precludes my office from proceeding further," Archer said in a statement.
Zimmerman was arrested three weeks ago. Three days later, Brunelle asked in a statement that prosecutors not file charges against Zimmerman. She said that she "was under no pressure and had been offered no money" to make that statement, AP reports. The statement was released Friday by the State Attorney's Office.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged that the league has had a tough year at a news conference Friday, The Boston Globe reports. "It's been a year of humility and learning," he said.
This season has seen domestic abuse controversies involving Ray Rice hitting his now-wife, Janae Rice, and Adrian Peterson hitting his child. There's been considerable talk about the Washington Redskins' name, which many consider a racial slur. Medical concerns over players withstanding multiple concussions and, later in life, brain trauma, have grown. And most recently, the New England Patriots are under investigation for cheating for allegedly deflating footballs to gain an advantage to get into the Super Bowl.
On Deflategate, Goodell has no answers yet, though he did indicate the balls were tested at halftime of the AFC Championship matchup versus the Indianapolis Colts. "We will not compromise the investigation by engaging in speculation."
The commissioner also announced he's installing a chief medical officer in the league.
If you've got good digestive health, you could be making an easy $13,000 a year.
People infected with the bacteria C. difficile need fecal transplants to help their gut. Without constant antibiotics, sufferers may undergo "extreme gastrointestinal distress" and may even become housebound, The Washington Post reports. To help these patients, a company called OpenBiome delivers frozen stool transplants to those in need.
The healthy fecal transplants can be transferred to those with the C. difficile bacteria through endoscopy, nasal tubes, or swallowed capsules. According to the Post, OpenBiome has already shipped roughly 2,000 treatments to 185 hospitals nationwide. And it pays: Donors get $40 per sample, with an extra $50 for those who come in five days a week. So for a year's worth of donations, you could be looking at $13,000.
Don't get too excited, though: The donations have to be made on-site in Medford, Massachusetts, and only about four percent of prospective donors pass the "extensive medical questioning and stool testing," the Post notes. But if you make the cut, you'll be helping others in addition to making some fast cash.
"Everyone thinks it's great that they're making money doing such an easy thing," OpenBiome co-founder Carolyn Edelstein told the Post. "But they also love to hear us say, 'Look, your poop just helped this lady who's been sick for nine years go to her daughter's graduation.'"
Turn off Friends and step away from your laptop. A new University of Texas study says binge-watching shouldn't be considered a "harmless addiction."
People who experience depression and loneliness are more likely to binge-watch TV than others. Predictably, the same goes for people with low levels of self-control.
"When binge-watching becomes rampant, viewers may start to neglect their work and their relationships with others," said researcher Yoon Hi Sung. "Even though people know they should not, they have difficulty resisting the desire to watch episodes continuously."
In other words, if you want a healthy social life, you might just have to stop trying to keep up with the Kardashians.
In early January, Vice President Joe Biden interrupted his vacation on the Caribbean island of St. Croix to make a one-day trip to Brazil for the inauguration of the country's president, Dilma Rousseff. Hotel and vehicle costs alone for the veep's single day visit totaled $421,000.
About $191,000 of that went to hotel costs, which is more than the median price of a house in the United States. While Biden clearly knows how to travel in style — his vehicle requirements included 22 cars, 28 vans, three trucks, one bus, and one SUV — maybe next time he could just use Skype?