May 1, 2014

There was once a time when the hotline psychic Miss Cleo's face was all over television, her Jamaican lilt urging couch potatoes to "Call me now!" for a reading. And people did: the Federal Trade Commission said that the Psychic Readers Network made more than $1 billion in shady profit.

In February 2002, the FTC filed a complaint against the company and Miss Cleo, alleging that they misrepresented the "free" readings and did not disclose the correct fees in advertisements. That was the beginning of the end for Miss Cleo, who says that she was just a spokeswoman, not the mastermind behind Psychic Readers Network.

She's kept a pretty low profile since, until now; today, she's featured in a new documentary, Hotline, which takes a closer look at telephone hotlines and their place in today's digital world:

Vice interviewed Miss Cleo (real name: Youree Dell Harris) in Toronto and asked her about everything, from what she did before joining the Psychic Readers Network to how much money she really made.

Some of the more interesting tidbits she shared include the fact that she was not "fresh from Jamaica," although her television accent would have you believe otherwise, and she never went to jail, despite rumors today that she's still rotting away in a cell. She made 24 cents a minute from each call (compared to the other psychics, who made 14 cents) and comes from a long line of "spooky people." Read the entire interview at Vice, and watch the video below to instantly be transported back to a commercial break during The Ricki Lake Show. --Catherine Garcia

March 19, 2018
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The Weinstein Co. has filed for bankruptcy, the company announced Monday, after dozens of women accused co-founder Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct and harassment.

Several women came forward last fall with their allegations of abuse against Weinstein, at the time one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood, and as more and more accusations were made, the company couldn't stay afloat. Earlier this month, a group of investors announced they made a deal to buy the Weinstein Co., but that collapsed after it was determined the company had more debt than previously disclosed.

The Weinstein Co.'s board announced Monday that the private equity firm Lantern Capital has made a "stalking horse" bid for the company's assets, which sets a floor for a bankruptcy auction. As part of its negotiations with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, some of the Weinstein Co.'s employees have also been released from nondisclosure agreements. "No one should be afraid to speak out or be coerced to stay quiet," the Weinstein Co. said in a statement. "The company thanks the courageous individuals who have already come forward. Your voices have inspired a movement for change across the country and around the world." Catherine Garcia

March 19, 2018
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Executives at Facebook are at odds over how to best respond to the spread of disinformation on the platform, several current and former Facebook employees told The New York Times.

The Times reports that Alex Stamos, Facebook's chief security officer, is leaving the company by August because of the tension. Stamos has been vocal about how important it is for the public to know how Russians used Facebook to spread fake news and propaganda before the 2016 presidential election, the current and former employees said, but he's been met with resistance from other leaders, primarily on the legal and policy teams.

Stamos came to Facebook from Yahoo in 2015, and in June 2016, he had engineers start to look for suspicious Russian activity on Facebook. By November, they found evidence of Russian operatives pushing leaks from the Democratic National Committee, the Times reports, but that same month, Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said it was a "pretty crazy idea" to think Russia influenced the election. More evidence was found by the spring of 2017, leading to internal arguments between Stamos, who wanted to disclose as much information as possible, and others like Elliot Schrage, vice president of communications and policy, who did not want to share anything without more "ironclad" evidence, the Times reports.

In a statement, Stamos said these are "really challenging issues," and he's had "some disagreements" with his colleagues. In response to the Times' story, he tweeted that he's "still fully engaged with my work at Facebook," and is "spending more time exploring emerging security risks and working on election security." You can read more on the backlash to Facebook's secrecy and the internal arguments at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

March 19, 2018

The world has shooting to thank for the Eric Trump we know today.

On Monday, President Trump's middle son responded to a Fox and Friends tweet about a New Jersey high school that allegedly suspended students over a photo taken at a gun range. Shooting guns "was a big part of my youth — it kept me away from drinking/drugs, taught me safety, discipline, consentration [sic], and so many other positive life lessons," he tweeted.

Several Twitter users helpfully pointed out that shooting didn't help Trump with his spelling, and also blasted him for a 2012 hunting trip to Zimbabwe, where he was photographed alongside his brother Donald Trump Jr., holding a dead leopard. Catherine Garcia

March 19, 2018
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The teen accessories chain Claire's filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday and will close 92 stores this month and in April.

The company announced it has reached an agreement with creditors to restructure $1.9 billion in debt, and is "confident" it will emerge from bankruptcy protection in September. The chain has 1,600 locations in the United States, mostly in malls, which don't have the foot traffic they used to due to competition from big box stores and online merchants. Just remember this: You may be able to buy glittery nail polish and bejeweled headbands online, but good luck getting Alexa to pierce your ears. Catherine Garcia

March 19, 2018
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In a blow to Republicans ahead of the 2018 midterms, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to Pennsylvania's newly drawn congressional map.

In January, the state Supreme Court ruled that the map drawn by Republicans in 2011 was gerrymandered and violated Pennsylvania's constitution, and last month, it voted 4-3 to approve a new congressional map that is less favorable to the GOP. Under the old map, Republicans regularly won 13 of the 18 districts, but with the new boundaries, Democrats are likely to pick up three or four seats. Catherine Garcia

March 19, 2018
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Attorneys for President Trump have given Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office written documents about events under investigation, including summaries of internal White House memos and correspondence, with the hopes that this will keep Mueller from having to ask about certain incidents, two people familiar with the situation told The Washington Post.

Trump's lawyers are concerned about Trump being able to handle an interview that could last several hours, and they have been negotiating the terms of a one-on-one meeting. The records do not detail Trump's version of events, the Post reports, but rather the White House view, and include documents related to the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian officials, and if Trump obstructed justice by trying to interfere with the probe. Catherine Garcia

March 19, 2018
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President Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen told his side of the Stormy Daniels story in a Vanity Fair interview published Monday, describing the negotiations that led to the now-infamous $130,000 payment to the adult film actress.

Cohen told Vanity Fair that until 2011, he didn't know that Trump had ever met Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. But when a website published an interview about the alleged affair between Trump and the porn star, Cohen says, Daniels' former attorney, Keith Davidson, called him to work on getting the story removed.

When Trump's presidential campaign placed new scrutiny on rumors of the alleged affair in 2016, Cohen called Davidson to get ahead of newfound media interest. Cohen asked Davidson how much it would cost to "own the story" and keep Daniels from talking to media outlets that were sniffing around the scandal. Davidson told Cohen that Daniels wanted $130,000, a number that Cohen says he found strange in its apparent randomness.

Cohen says that when he asked Davidson why Daniels would talk to media outlets in 2016, when she had denied reports of the affair half a decade ago, the answer was that "she needed the money." Davidson declined to comment to Vanity Fair on the matter.

Trump has consistently denied that he was ever sexually involved with Daniels. Read Cohen's entire interview — in which he also discusses an impromptu meeting he had with Daniels' current lawyer, Michael Avenatti — at Vanity Fair. Summer Meza

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