Kolelinia's Halfbike "looks like somebody stripped away all the comfy bits from a real bike," said Andrew Liszewski at Gizmodo. There's no seat, no conventional handlebars, and only one wheel that resembles anything you'd see on a conventional bicycle. The rider pedals from a standing position and holds on to a vertical shaft that allows the Halfbike to be steered — and yes, it features a handbrake as well. The Halfbike is small enough to fit easily into an elevator and light enough to carry up the stairs. Kolelinia is trying to raise $80,000 via Kickstarter to put its invention into production, but you can already buy your own for $799.
Senator asks Trump vote-fraud panel for secret staff list, is referred to staffer arrested over child porn
Last week, Maryland police arrested Ronald Williams II on charges of child pornography possession and distribution, The Washington Post reported, and a senior administration officials said that Williams, 37, had been a researcher on President Trump's Commission on Election Integrity until he was abruptly fired last week. The commission's two Democratic members said Tuesday they had no idea the commission had any staff at all, other than executive director Andrew Kossack.
The two Democrats — Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap and Alabama probate court Judge Alan King — told ProPublica on Tuesday they had never heard of Williams until they read of his arrest, and were concerned to learn that Williams had worked alongside fellow commissioner J. Christian Adams at the Justice Department in 2006, when Williams was an intern helping Adams prosecute a pioneering Voting Rights Act case to protect white voters. Dunlap sent the commission a letter on Tuesday expressing his frustration and requesting all communication involving commissioners dating back to February.
On Wednesday, 18 Democratic senators also sent the commission a letter demanding more information on its activities, and separately, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) send a letter asking for a staff list and vetting criteria, noting, "If the commission's own members do not know who is working under its direction, how can the commission ensure accountability and transparency?" When the senators emailed their letters to the commission's public email address, ProPublica notes:
An automatic response email stated that the account no longer accepts public comments. Instead, commenters were directed to an "eRulmaking [sic] portal" or to submit written comments to "Mr. Ron Williams, Policy Advisor, Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity." [ProPublica]
Adams told ProPublica that Williams' "alleged behavior is appalling and incomprehensible," and "it would be hyper-partisan overreach to say that any grotesque behavior in his personal life is in any way a reflection of the vitally important work the commission is doing for the American people." Peter Weber
North Korea is perhaps the most isolated nation on Earth, with few people allowed to leave and everything controlled by a dynastic ruling family apparently more focused on building nuclear weapons that assuring food security for the nation's population. BBC News spoke with four people who escaped North Korea to find out what life there was like, what they miss (friends and food, mostly), and what parts of the world they were able to view before breaking free.
"From a very early age we were brainwashed to believe Americans are Yankee wolves," one woman said. "I used to think all Americans were dangerous, yellow-eyed, and devilish." "I would imagine American and South Korean men would have this thick chest hair wrapping all around them," another women said, laughing. Less funny was the belief instilled in citizens that they would die and the country would collapse when the godlike leaders died, or the weekly "Regular Critique," where you were forced to reflect on your wrongs and report those of people you knew. You can watch and learn more below. Peter Weber
The owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Shad Khan, is pretty sure he's figured out why President Trump can't stop talking about the NFL, and it has to do with a deal he wasn't able to close.
Khan argues that Trump, who on Wednesday said the NFL shows "total disrespect" for the country by not forcing players to stand during the national anthem, hasn't gotten over the fact that he tried and failed to buy the Buffalo Bills in 2014. "This is a very personal issue with him," Khan told USA Today on Wednesday. "He's been elected president, where maybe a great goal he had in life to own an NFL team is not very likely. So to make it tougher, or to hurt the league, it's very calculated." Khan, who purchased the Jaguars in 2011 for $760 million, said Trump's vitriol is "about money or messing with — trying to soil a league or a brand that he's jealous of."
Trump has been very vocal about players kneeling during the anthem as a peaceful way to protest police brutality, claiming it disrespects veterans and the military, while at the same time being accused of inadvertently insulting the family of a Green Beret who died in Niger earlier this month. "It's so bad," Khan said of Trump's alleged words. "It's below the lowest of the lowest expectations. It doesn't sound rational. It's bizarre." Khan, who has made his fortune manufacturing auto parts, donated $1 million to Trump's inauguration fund, and he told USA Today he was interested in Trump's proposed economic policies. He said he doesn't regret giving him the money, but "this ugly, toxic side sours the whole experience." Catherine Garcia
When President Trump said repeatedly last month that a Republican senator was in the hospital, Sen. Thad Cochran's (R-Miss.) office had to repeatedly point out that he was at home recuperating from a urological issue, not in the hospital. In good news for Republicans, Cochran is back in Washington to vote for a budget resolution that will pave the way for a GOP-only tax reform bill. The bad news, as Politico recounts, is that Cochran, who turns 80 in December, "appeared frail and at times disoriented during a brief hallway interview on Wednesday."
Cochran told reporters that he did not plan to retire from the Senate, where he has served since 1979, but "when queried about whether he would stay on as Appropriations chairman, Cochran seemed confused and just repeated the question," Politico said. When another reporter asked if GOP leaders had pressured him to return to Washington for the vote, he smiled and said, "It's a beautiful day outside." After being guided through a security checkpoint, Cochran started to walk into the wrong room, until a staffer led him up to the Senate chamber on the second floor. And inside the chamber, he voted yes for an amendment, despite his staff telling him to vote no, eventually changing his vote.
Cochran is one of the longest-serving Republican lawmakers ever, but he isn't all that old by Senate standards — Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) served until he was 100, for example. And he doesn't face re-election until 2020, Politico notes, though "Republicans are desperate for him to stay in office and avoid a special election," presumably elevating a less-establishment-oriented Republican to his seat. Peter Weber
While volunteering at a children's hospital, Blake Rockwell and the kids would talk about sports and watch games together, an experience that inspired Rockwell to start Special Spectators, a nonprofit that gets seriously ill children out of the hospital and onto the field.
— APS Pharmacy (@APSPharmacyFL) October 17, 2017
Rockwell launched the nonprofit in 2002, and since then, more than 10,000 kids and their families have received VIP treatment at college athletic games. Special Spectators works with children's hospitals and universities to set up the visits, with each one unique, but the kids typically meet the coaches and players, get to try on gear, attend a tailgate, sit in the best seats in the house, and go on the field, where they are greeted with cheers. "A lot of these kids, they're in it for the long haul," Rockwell told CNN. "Their treatment protocol might be three years. And their tanks start to run low. Days like this restore the spirit in these kids to continue to fight."
This is a matter close to Rockwell's heart; his older brother, Chuckie, was born with a congenital heart defect, and he wasn't able to play sports, but the kids in their neighborhood made sure he was involved, making him the referee during every game. Chuckie died at 10 years old, right before Blake was born, but he said he always remembered the kindness the other kids showed his brother, and that's why he decided to start volunteering at the children's hospital that treated Chuckie. Catherine Garcia
John Kelly was 'disgusted' that somebody 'politicized' his son's death, Trump's press secretary says
On Tuesday, anonymous White House officials, reportedly including Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, reached out to numerous news organizations to inform them that former President Barack Obama had not called White House Chief of Staff John Kelly in 2010 after his son, Marine 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed in Afghanistan. They did this because on Tuesday morning, President Trump had suggested to Fox News Radio, without being asked, that reporters "ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?" Maybe nobody took him up on the offer.
Trump's decision to invoke Kelly's son was seen by some commentators as lacking in taste and decorum, since Kelly himself has made an evident effort to keep Robert Kelly's death out of the realm of political debate. On Wednesday, Sanders said she believes that "General Kelly is disgusted by the way that this has been politicized and that the focus has become on the process and not the fact that American lives were lost. I think he's disgusted and frustrated by that. If he has any anger, it's toward that."
Sanders says Trump and John Kelly have spoken multiple times since Trump brought up Kelly's son's death https://t.co/iegHa7LE43
— Meg Wagner (@megwagner) October 18, 2017
Sanders said she's not sure if Kelly "knew of that specific comment" about his son beforehand, but that he and Trump "had certainly spoken about it, and he's aware. And they've spoken several times since then." Peter Weber
His champagne wishes were replaced with sparkling wine reality, and now, he's suing.
Daniel Macduff of Quebec booked a flight on Sunwing Airlines to Cuba, going with the airline because it advertised a complimentary champagne toast for passengers, BBC News reports. What he was served wasn't champagne from the French region it's named after, but rather sparkling wine, Macduff said, and even that was provided only on the outbound flight. Macduff's attorney, Sebastien Paquette, says this is a classic case of misleading marketing. "It's not about the pettiness of champagne versus sparkling wine," he told the BBC. "It's the consumer message behind it."
Sunwing's marketing materials clearly showed authentic champagne, Paquette said, but Sunwing, which calls the lawsuit "frivolous and without merit," argues the terms "champagne vacations" and "champagne service" were used to "denote a level of service in reference to the entire hospitality package," not to describe beverages passengers would receive. The company has made some changes, no longer referring to champagne in its marketing materials and clearly stating online to expect sparkling wine only on southern routes, but that hasn't stopped 1,600 other plaintiffs from joining the class action lawsuit, Paquette said. They are seeking compensation for the difference in price between a glass of champagne and a glass of sparkling wine, in addition to punitive damages. Catherine Garcia