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June 17, 2019

@SudanMealProject isn't actually counting on your likes to hand out meals to children in Sudan.

Neither are @SudanMealProjectOfficial, @SudanMealOfficial, @sudan.meals.project, or pretty much any other Instagram accounts claiming to help people displaced during months of uprisings in Sudan. They're all just fishing for followers and engagement by falsely claiming they'll send a meal to Sudan for every like or share, Taylor Lorenz reports for The Atlantic.

Protests have rocked the northeast African country for months on end, forcing autocratic President Omar Al-Bashir from power in February but continuing as a military council now runs the country. Security forces have continually stormed protest camps, leaving dozens dead each time. It's all sparked a global outcry for those civilian protesters — though not necessarily because they're facing widespread starvation.

Sudan hasn't experienced a declared famine since the early 2000's, and near-famine conditions are actually more of the case in South Sudan, which is a completely separate nation. Yet dozens of Instagram accounts, all with the same steel-blue logo, are claiming they're helping the situation by purportedly sending meals overseas. They often claim one share of a post correlates to one meal sent overseas, which, as The Atlantic documents, is not true. They're largely just looking to grow their follower counts and engagement rates.

To make matters worse, as these accounts are exposed, they often change their Instagram handles to names like "@fakesudanmeal.project" and ask for shares to "expose" that the named account was fake all along. Instead, Lorenz recommends "amplifying the voices of actual Sudanese activists and organizations already working in the country, including Save the Children, UNICEF, and the International Rescue Committee." Read more at The Atlantic. Kathryn Krawczyk

February 22, 2019

The women who worked at a spa where New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft allegedly solicited a prostitute were in "sexual servitude," police say.

The Jupiter Police Department on Friday detailed the conclusion of a eight-month long prostitution ring investigation. As part of it, they uncovered that at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, women lived and were not allowed to leave, reports USA Today. Arrest records say the women were in "sexual servitude;" investigators are probing whether the spa was involved in human trafficking.

Police say they have video evidence of Kraft soliciting sex at this spa, which has since been shut down, and that he did so on at least two different occasions; they also say he appeared to be a "regular," according to NBC News. Police reportedly have evidence that Kraft, who faces misdemeanor charges, was driven to the parlor.

"We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity," a spokesperson for Kraft said. An "active arrest warrant" has been issued, police say. Brendan Morrow

November 1, 2018

A deep dive into the Twitter account of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) found that in 2017, he twice linked to articles on a white supremacist and anti-Semitic website.

Media Matters for America discovered the tweets, posted on Jan. 6 and Feb. 3, on Thursday, and King has not deleted them. King has a long history of retweeting neo-Nazis and making racist statements, and the website he linked to, The New Observer, published such headlines as "Jews Boast of Owning Hollywood — But Slam Gentiles Who Say the Same" and "Pro-Invasion Jewish Lobby Renews Attack on Trump" around the time he tweeted in February, Media Matters reports.

On Jan. 6, King tweeted: "Six months to remove all illegal immigrants. Pakistan & Afghanistan doing sweeping deportations. Too hard 4 America?" He then linked to a New Observer article that claimed if "a white or European nation should dare impose restrictions on illegal immigration" the "controlled media would pillory them as 'bigots' and 'inhuman.'" On Feb. 3, King tweeted about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, linking to a New Observer article with the headline "Four 'Dreamers' Arrested Smuggling Invaders into U.S. in 1 Week."

Media Matters says The New Observer has published articles attacking the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society (HIAS), the same organization that was mentioned by the suspect in last weekend's Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, and in 2014 called for the "physical geographical separation" of races. Read more about the website at Media Matters for America. Catherine Garcia

May 25, 2018

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) has lost the support of the National Association of Realtors after he told a delegation last week that homeowners shouldn't have to sell their properties to people whose lifestyles they don't agree with.

Members of the Orange County Association of Realtors met with Rohrabacher while lobbying for H.R. 1447, which expands the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to include anti-discrimination protections based on a person's sexual orientation and gender identity. One attendee told The Orange County Register that Rohrabacher said to the group, "Every homeowner should be able to make a decision not to sell their home to someone [if] they don't agree with their lifestyle."

On Thursday, Rohrabacher confirmed to the Register that he said this, questioning why homeowners can't "choose who they do business with. We've drawn a line on racism, but I don't think we should extend that line. A homeowner should not be required to be in business with someone they think is doing something that is immoral." He said he's not "anti-gay" personally, but "there are some fundamental Christians who do not approve of their lifestyle. I support their rights."

The National Association of Realtors pulled its support of Rohrabacher after getting a letter from the founder of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals. The NAR had recommended that members send Rohrabacher campaign donations. Rohrabacher, now in his 15th term and up for re-election, told the Register it was "sad to see" that the real estate group's priority is "standing in solidarity with making sure a stamp of approval is put on somebody's private lifestyle." Catherine Garcia

March 6, 2018

Police in Sutherland Springs, Texas, arrested two conspiracy theorists on Monday outside of the Baptist church where 26 people were killed last year, after they allegedly harassed the pastor and told him his daughter, who died in the mass shooting, "never even existed."

Robert Mikell Ussery, 54, and Jodie Marie Mann, 56, remain inside the Wilson County Jail. Ussery runs a website, Side Thorn, that calls the Sutherland Springs, Parkland, and Las Vegas Strip massacres "drills using crisis actors that were sold to the public as real," The Dallas Morning News reports. First Baptist Church Pastor Frank Pomeroy told the San Antonio Express-News that Ussery approached him in his car and started yelling, saying: "Your daughter never even existed. Show me her birth certificate. Show me anything to say she was here." Annabelle Pomeroy, 14, was one of 26 people killed in the Nov. 5 massacre, and Frank Pomeroy said Ussery and Mann, who goes by the name "Conspiracy Granny" online, were trying to bait him and another church member into a fight.

On a Sutherland Springs community Facebook page, residents have complained for months about Ussery and Mann, and Pomeroy said he was glad they didn't leave the scene before police could arrest them on Monday. "If it takes something happening before you get rid of these guys, then I'm just glad that this 'something happened' happened and nobody got hurt," he said. Catherine Garcia

October 5, 2017

A closed Q&A between Marvel Comics and comic book retailers erupted at the New York Comic Con on Thursday after one retailer became vocally critical of the publisher's decision to change the ethnicity, gender, and sexuality of some of the classic characters, Bleeding Cool reports.

The tensions began when an unnamed seller "specifically [expressed] his distaste for Iceman 'kissing other men,' and Thor 'becoming a woman,'" Newsarama writes. "The retailer's complaints sparked an outcry among the other retailers present in the room, some echoing his frustration, with multiple attendees raising their voices to speak over each other."

As Marvel editor Nick Lowe attempted to calm tensions, the original retailer further complained that comic fans leave his store "when they see that Thor is a woman and Captain America is a black man," and called for Marvel "creating new characters and not messing with the old guys. The old guys are solid."

"The words 'black,' 'homo,' and 'freaking females' were used multiple times," Bleeding Cool adds.

Marvel has been heavily criticized for a lack of diversity, although the publisher has experimented with a black, female Iron Man; a biracial Spiderman; a female Thor; and a Muslim Ms. Marvel. Still, the company's vice president of sales, David Gabriel, recently blamed poor sales on the fact that "people didn't want any more diversity. They didn't want female characters out there."

Many fans have dismissed such excuses, including comic book author G. Willow Wilson. "Who wants a legacy if the legacy is s---ty?" she wrote. "Let's scrap the word diversity entirely and replace it with authenticity and realism. This is not a new world. This is the world." Jeva Lange

Editor's note: This story originally mischaracterized a DC character as a Marvel character. The mention has since been removed. We regret the error.

August 25, 2017

Brace yourself: The highly anticipated boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor will finally take place Saturday night in Las Vegas. The bout has been years in the making, stemming from a 2015 interview with Conan O'Brien in which McGregor said, "I would box [Mayweather] if the opportunity arose."

The spectacle may end up being the most heavily bet-upon boxing match ever. Millions of dollars are tied to the fight, ESPN explains: fees from about 4.6 million pay-per-view purchases; more than $72 million in ticket sales; about $600 million in total revenue. Bookmakers additionally expect to handle more than $60 million in wagers, topping the roughly $50 million received for the record-setting bout between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in 2015. Multiple $1 million bets were placed on Mayweather on Thursday, ESPN reports; while more bets have been placed on McGregor, more money overall has been wagered on a Mayweather victory.

Mayweather, 40, is stepping into the ring for the first time in two years for the grudge match against McGregor. He's also putting his undefeated record on the line against the 29-year-old Irishman, a trained mixed martial artist who has never boxed professionally. The lead-up to the match has been marred by ugly press, including racially charged remarks by McGregor and the use of a homophobic slur by Mayweather.

The fight begins at 9 p.m. ET Saturday on pay-per-view, with Mayweather heavily favored to win. Kimberly Alters

April 26, 2017

Fox News reporter Jesse Watters swore Wednesday that he wasn't making any sort of sexual innuendo when he praised Ivanka Trump for how she handled her microphone during a recent appearance in Berlin.

Watters' clarification was in response to a remark he made on Tuesday's episode of The Five that raised eyebrows. After playing a brief clip of the first daughter speaking into the microphone at the Berlin event, Watters slammed the left for claiming they "really respect women and then when given an opportunity to respect a woman like that, they boo and hiss."

Trump was booed while speaking at a women's conference in Germany after she claimed her dad, President Trump, is a "tremendous champion of families."

Watters followed up his criticism of the left with a comment that some found to be, well, kind of suggestive. "So I don't really get what's going on here, but I really liked how she was speaking into that microphone," Watters said, grinning.

Watters explained in a tweet Wednesday that his remark "was in no way a joke about anything else." He just really, really liked Trump's voice, he said. Becca Stanek

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