For those who have everything
February 9, 2014

No matter how good your childhood rubber band gun was, the Rubber Band Machine Gun "puts it to shame," said Amanda Kooser at CNET. This wooden behemoth (from $115) holds 672 rubber bands at a time and can fire 14 per second to distances up to 26 feet. A small, battery-powered motor rotates the magazine while the elastics themselves provide all the firepower. The gun's inventor, Ukrainian college student Alex Shpetniy, set up a Kickstarter campaign to launch manufacturing with $5,000 of outsider help; he quickly pulled in nearly $150,000.
The Week Staff

3:47 a.m. ET

A threat made online against "an unspecified university near Philadelphia" is being monitored by the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

The University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and Drexel University sent alerts out notifying students and faculty about the threat on Sunday, USA Today reports. On the University of Pennsylvania's Division of Public Safety website, a message said the ATF warned that the threat included a "specific date of Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, 1 p.m. Central time/ 2 p.m. Eastern time." Although the FBI and ATF said they have "no knowledge of any specific threat," the university said, in an "abundance of caution" it is monitoring the situation and has increased police, security officer, and CCTV patrols. Drexel University said on its website that the threat was posted on social media after Thursday's shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, USA Today reports. Catherine Garcia

3:20 a.m. ET

Mental illness is "the thing actors pretend to have in order to win Oscars," John Oliver beings on Sunday's Last Week Tonight, and that darkly comic tone carried through the entire hard-hitting segment on mental health. "We don't like to talk about it much," Oliver said of mental health, and "when we do, we don't talk about it well" — he singled out Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil as prime examples.

One sign of just how much Americans don't like to talk about mental health is that one of the only times it comes up is after mass shootings, "as a means of steering the conversation away from gun control," Oliver said, playing clips of several Republican presidential candidates reacting to the latest mass shooting, in Oregon. "It seems like there is nothing like a mass shooting to suddenly spark political interest in mental health," but that's actually the worst time to talk about it, Oliver said, noting research that shows the large majority of mentally ill people aren't violent and only 5 percent of shooting deaths are committed by mentally ill people.

But if America is going to talk about mental health, Oliver said, it might as well do it right. There are about 10 million people with a serious mental illness in the U.S., almost the population of Greece, he noted, "and most of us know a lot more about Greece than we know about our mental health system." So he gave viewers a brief overview of the system, starting with John F. Kennedy's never-funded attempt to shift the mentally ill from asylums to mental health clinic, touching on a terrible practice called "Greyhound therapy," and including the damning statistic that the most common place for America to house the mentally ill is in jail — 10 times more than in state psychiatric facilities. "Our whole system needs a massive overhaul," and it won't be easy, Oliver said. But "if we're going to constantly use mentally ill people to dodge conversations about gun control, then the very least we owe them is a f--king plan." Watch below. Peter Weber

hollywood 411
3:10 a.m. ET
Stephen Lam/Getty Images

The new $33.5 million film Steve Jobs opens Friday, but the Apple co-founder's widow reportedly tried her best to get the project scrapped, sources tell The Wall Street Journal.

Laurene Powell Jobs reportedly went to Sony Pictures Entertainment, which wound up passing on the movie after developing the script, and Universal Pictures, which is releasing the film, in an attempt to kill it. The film, directed by Danny Boyle with a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, is based on the biography Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson; before Jobs died in 2011, he cooperated with Isaacson on the book. Michael Fassbender stars as Jobs, and the movie looks at the launch of the Macintosh computer in 1984, the NeXT computer in 1988, and the iMac in 1998, while focusing on Jobs' relationships with several people, including daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Those real-life people chosen to be characters in the movie were interviewed by Sorkin, who said the final product is different from the book; Wozniak told The Journal it's "about Jobs and his personality. I feel they did a great job."

Others who were close to Jobs say the movie doesn't accurately reflect who he was as a person. Bill Campbell, a friend and Apple board member, told The Wall Street Journal that he hasn't seen the film, but believes "a whole generation is going to think of him in a different way if they see a movie that depicts him in a negative way." Producer Scott Rudin said Laurene Powell Jobs was invited to help develop the film, but declined. "She refused to discuss anything in Aaron's script that bothered her despite my repeated entreaties," Rudin said. She "continued to say how much she disliked the book, and that any movie based on the book could not possibly be accurate." Laurene Powell Jobs declined The Wall Street Journal's request for comment. Catherine Garcia

making strides
2:15 a.m. ET
Mario Tama/Getty Images

For the first time, this year the World Bank expects the number of people living in extreme poverty to fall below 10 percent of the world's population, to 702 million people.

The global poverty line was introduced by the World Bank in 1990, set at $1 a day. In 2008, it was adjusted to $1.25 a day, and after taking into consideration new data on cost of living in different countries, is now $1.90 a day, The Guardian reports. The World Bank projects that in 2015, 9.6 percent of the world's population will live in extreme poverty, down from 12.8 percent, or 902 million people, in 2012. "This is the best story in the world today," World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said. "These projections show us that we are the first generation in human history that can end extreme poverty."

In 1990, 1.9 billion people lived on less than $1.25 a day, compared to 836 million today, the UN says. The World Bank credits economic growth rates in emerging markets and education and health investments for the decrease in poverty rates. When it comes to the global poor, half live in Sub-Saharan Africa, the bank says, and by 2020, an estimated 50 percent of those living in extreme poverty will reside in countries that are torn apart by conflict and cut off from the rest of the world. Catherine Garcia

One word: Plastic
2:12 a.m. ET

Starting this month, large British retailers have to start charging customers at least 5 pence (8 cents) for each single-use plastic bag. In the U.S. — a huge consumer of plastic bags — some large cities have instituted bans on giving out bags for free, and several other countries, including Denmark and Ireland, have charged for using bags for years. The results have been stunning, The Economist says in the video below. If you live in one of those places, you probably know that the transition can be hard — you don't always remember to bring your own bag, for example, which is annoying — but this video makes the case that the "humble" plastic bag is so "horrible" it's worth doing, anyway. Watch below. Peter Weber

campaign 2016
1:18 a.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

On Monday in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton plans to announce proposals to close gun sale loopholes and repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which gives legal protection to gun manufacturers and dealers who sell guns that are used for criminal activity.

In 2005, while a senator from New York, Clinton voted against the law. A campaign official told Bloomberg that if Congress doesn't act, Clinton is in favor of using executive action to close a loophole that lets gun purchases move forward if a background check is not finished within three days. She will also announce her support for legislation that prohibits anyone with a history of domestic violence from purchasing or possessing guns, as current laws do not apply to convicted stalkers or people in dating relationships.

While in Florida on Friday, the Democratic presidential candidate spoke about Thursday's shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, where nine students were gunned down. "What is wrong with us, that we cannot step up to the NRA and the gun lobby, and the gun manufacturers they represent?" she said. "We don't just need to pray for these people. We need to act." Catherine Garcia

Sorry Charney
1:15 a.m. ET
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Early Monday, retailer American Apparel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, seeking to trim about $200 million in debt among falling sales, changing tastes, and an ongoing legal soap opera involving ousted founder Dov Charney. The reorganization plan, if approved by the bankruptcy court in Delaware, would wipe out Charney's $8.2 million stake in the company, as well as those of other shareholders, The New York Times reports, placing control of the company largely in the hands of five hedge funds or investment firms. The company didn't announce any new layoffs in the filing and said its 130 U.S. stores and Los Angeles manufacturing operation would stay open during the restructuring process.

American Apparel, launched in 1989, was "the one-time arbiter of edgy made-in-America cool," notes The Times, but its fallen-on-hard-times story isn't unique: "Stores that cater to teenagers, like American Apparel, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Aeropostale, have especially struggled in the face of an onslaught of 'fast-fashion' labels and an increasingly fickle demographic more interested in the latest app or gadget than a pair of jeans." Peter Weber

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