March 5, 2014

Everybody hates Barbie. Except, presumably, the people snapping up one of Mattel's iconic dolls every three seconds around the world (according to Mattel). There are lots of knocks against Barbie — she's so indecisive she's held 150 careers since 1959! — but by far the biggest is her unrealistically proportioned body. If the large-breasted, thin-waisted doll were a real woman, she wouldn't have enough body fat to menstruate and probably couldn't even walk. Pittsburgh artist Nickolay Lamm is the latest dollmaker to try to unseat Barbie (or at least bring her down a notch) with a "normal" version.

Last August, Lamm created an "Average Barbie," reshaping Mattel's version to conform to the body measurement of a 19-year-old girl, according to CDC statistics. Now he's trying to commercialize the concept with Lammily, a sporty brunette. All he needs is about $95,000 in crowdsourced funds to make an initial batch of 5,000 Lammily dolls. Maybe he will succeed in toppling the statuesque Barbie where others have failed.

Look, I understand the concern about female body image. But try extending the "normal" Barbie premise to other areas of popular culture: What Ford F-150 could compete with a Transformer; what boy compares favorably with Harry Potter? Peter Weber

10:19 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Two surveillance planes were flown over Baltimore last weekend, and the ACLU isn't happy about it.

The Washington Post reports that the planes used infrared technology to track movement, and they were aided by the FBI, according to anonymous officials. Now, the ACLU is demanding information about the flights' legal authority, since the technology often adds "the movements of people under no suspicion of criminal activity into a government dragnet," according to the Post. 

"A lot of these technologies sweep very, very broadly, and, at a minimum, the public should have a right to know what's going on," Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU, told the Post.

Officials told the Post that the ACLU will file information requests about the planes with the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the FAA on Wednesday. The FBI has not commented on the flights. Meghan DeMaria

Nobody suspects the Masonic Fraternal Police Department
10:16 a.m. ET

California police have arrested three people claiming to represent a modern incarnation of the Knights Templar, one of whom, Brandon Kiel, works alongside state Attorney General and U.S. Senate candidate Kamala Harris.

So how does one get caught impersonating a pseudo-biblical police force?

The three suspects — Kiel, David Henry, and Tonette Hayes — allegedly sent letters to police departments around southern California identifying themselves as the Masonic Fraternal Police Department. They even had a real website for the fictional group claiming jurisdiction in 33 states "including Mexico City" and differentiating the MFPD from other police departments with the simple explanation, "We were here first!"

Yet when the real police met with the fake police, the latter couldn't offer coherent information about their organization, leading the former to conclude it "was not a legitimate police agency," according to a statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department. Subsequent raids turned up weapons, badges, and uniforms for the phony cops.

"I always see them with their uniforms, so I thought they were part of any department," a neighbor for one of the suspects told the local CBS affiliate. "I didn't know it was a fake one." Jon Terbush

2016 Watch
9:21 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Jeb Bush says the strife in Baltimore proves the war on poverty "failed" to expand opportunity in America's most disadvantaged communities. In a Chicago Tribune op-ed published Wednesday, the presumptive 2016 candidate writes that Democrats are wrongly responding to the unrest with calls to increase government spending and reform the criminal justice system.

Trouble is, from the War on Poverty to the persistence of liberal big city mayors, the same government programs have been in place for over a half-century — and they have failed. We have spent trillions of dollars in the War on Poverty, and poverty not only persists, it is as intractable as ever. This represents a broken promise. And it feeds the anger of Baltimore. [Chicago Tribune]

More effective solutions to Baltimore's underlying ills, Bush adds, should involve overhauling the education system to make it more accountable, and "acknowledg[ing] that an effective anti-poverty program is a strong family, led by two parents."

"Our goal should be to build up families," Bush writes.

Last week, Bush offered similar remarks about the potential for education reform to break "dependency" on failed big government policies. Jon Terbush

Rest in peace
9:13 a.m. ET
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

In a moving Facebook post, Sheryl Sandberg pays tribute to her late husband, SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg, who died from head injuries after collapsing on a treadmill. 

Sandberg describes meeting Goldberg when she moved to Los Angeles. "He showed me the internet for the first time," Sandberg writes. She adds that while the couple "did not get nearly enough time together," she is incredibly grateful for the time they shared:

We had 11 truly joyful years of the deepest love, happiest marriage, and truest partnership that I could imagine... He gave me the experience of being deeply understood, truly supported and completely and utterly loved — and I will carry that with me always. Most importantly, he gave me the two most amazing children in the world.

Dave was my rock. When I got upset, he stayed calm. When I was worried, he said it would be ok. When I wasn't sure what to do, he figured it out. He was completely dedicated to his children in every way — and their strength these past few days is the best sign I could have that Dave is still here with us in spirit. [Facebook]

Sandberg concludes that while the days following Goldberg's death have been "the darkest and saddest moments" of her life, "11 years of being Dave Goldberg's wife, and 10 years of being a parent with him is perhaps more luck and more happiness than I could have ever imagined."

Read Sandberg's full post over at Facebook. Meghan DeMaria

Green thumbs down
9:13 a.m. ET
Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

Talk about totally failing to get a vote of confidence. Garden State residents, who have voted Democratic in the last six presidential elections, would rather see Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, or Scott Walker in the White House over their own Governor Christie, according to a new poll from Monmouth University.

In fact, only 1 in 4 residents say Christie has a decent shot at winning the GOP nomination in 2016.

Why all the ill will? It's likely that New Jerseyans feel their concerns have been overshadowed by Christie's Oval-Office-shaped aspirations. And, of course, the Bridgegate scandal hasn't helped shift souring attitudes. But when it comes down to it, a majority — 67 percent — of voters say Christie just doesn't have the right temperament to lead the country.

"The message from New Jersey voters seems to be as simple as ABC — anybody but Christie," said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. Lauren Hansen

bon appetit
9:09 a.m. ET
Courtesy Genie

If the 15 to 30 minutes you wait for food delivery feels like an eternity, Israeli company White Innovation may have the solution to your impatience, Reuters reports.

Meet the Genie, described by its creators as a real-life "replicator" — the popular Star Trek machine that could create meals on command. The Genie operates via a mobile app, on which its user can cue up one of a variety of snacks, meals, or desserts. Pop the corresponding pod into the coffee-maker-size device, and 30 seconds later, breakfast/lunch/dinner is served. The pods hold freeze-dried, all-natural ingredients that stay good for one to two years, giving the Genie's creators hope that in addition to a fun fad for gastronomes, the device could eventually prove useful for troop deployments or in developing countries.

Watch a video of the machine in action, over at Reuters. Sarah Eberspacher

9:07 a.m. ET
Mike Windle/Getty Images

When Avengers: Age of Ultron writer/director Joss Whedon suddenly quit Twitter this week, just days after the release of his polarizing new blockbuster, many speculated that his decision was motivated by a barrage of hate from internet trolls — specifically, attacks from "militant feminists" angry about the depiction of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in the Avengers sequel.

In an interview with Buzzfeed, Whedon dismissed those claims. "That's horses--t," he said. "Believe me, I have been attacked by militant feminists since I got on Twitter. That's something I'm used to. Every breed of feminism is attacking every other breed, and every subsection of liberalism is always busy attacking another subsection of liberalism, because god forbid they should all band together and actually fight for the cause."

So why did he quit Twitter? To go to "the quiet place" as a writer as he focuses on developing his first post-Avengers project. "[Twitter is] like taking the bar exam at Coachella," said Whedon. "It’'s like, Um, I really need to concentrate on this! Guys! Can you all just… I have to… It's super important for my law!"

"The real issue is me," continued Whedon. "Twitter is an addictive little thing, and if it's there, I gotta check it. When you keep doing something after it stops giving you pleasure, that’s kind of rock bottom for an addict. … I just had a little moment of clarity where I'm like, 'You know what? If I want to get stuff done, I need to not constantly hit this thing for a news item or a joke or some praise, and then be suddenly sad when there's hate and then hate and then hate."

For more from Whedon, click over to Buzzfeed. Scott Meslow

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