Jennifer Lopez’s body Constance Grady – By Constance Grady@constancegrady Sep 29, 2019, 8:00am EDT


Jennifer Lopez as Ramona stands beside a pole-dancing pole in order to demonstrate some moves to Destiny (Constance Wu), who is seated on the floor, in the movie “Hustlers.”
Jennifer Lopez demonstrates some moves to Constance Wu in Hustlers.
STXfilms – © Motion Picture Artwork © 2019 STX Financing, LLC.

For most of Jennifer Lopez’s career, Jennifer Lopez has been seen less as an actress or a singer or a dancer than as a body.

That’s not to say she’s bad at acting or singing or dancing, or that no one knows she’s good at them. JLo has the classic “triple threat” breakdown, and she’s won critical and commercial acclaim for her work across all three of her media. She was hugely acclaimed for her work 1997’s Selena, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe. Billboard put her on their list of the greatest dance club artists of all time. She has two Grammy nominations.

But for all those accomplishments, for most of Lopez’s career, the discourse around her has been less about her body of work than it has been about her body.

“I find all 66 caramel-colored inches of Jennifer Lopez lying face down on a poolside chaise,” begins a profile of Lopez from 1998. “Her bikini top is slightly loosened, her nether regions are towel-draped, and a masseuse is kneading oil into the precipitous peaks and valleys of her formidable body. Her skin glints as if it were flecked with 24-karat gold.”

“And then there is her body,” wrote dream hampton of Lopez in Vibe in 1999. “Her butt, in particular, has overshadowed her formidable acting ability. It is written about, photographed lovingly (with her cooperation, of course). It is used as an example, in teen mags for girls and grown women’s fashion tomes, of a changing body ideal.”

Jennifer Lopez’s body has been a major cultural shorthand for ideas about sex, race, class, and gender norms for more than 20 years now. Her body in that famous green Versace gown from the 2000 Grammys red carpet led to the creation of Google Images. Directors go out of their way to center her butt in their movies.

Lopez herself has eagerly participated in the world’s focus on her body, but she’s also occasionally registered some ambivalence about it. When she was on the come up, she tended to explicitly rely on her curves to distinguish her from actresses striving after the heroin chic look that was in vogue in Hollywood at the time: in that 1998 Movieline profile, she says that she’d like to be known as “the Butt Girl,” because “that separates me from everyone else.” But by the 1999 Vibe article, she’d already started to get tired of the press’s focus on her rear. “I would love to read an article where it’s not even mentioned,” she said.

But by then it was already too late. The world’s obsession with Lopez’s body only grew. This year’s focus narrows in on the fact that at 50 years old, Jennifer Lopez still has the body to believably play a stripper and pull off an even skimpier version of her iconic Versace dress. We talk about JLo’s body so much that there is a thriving academic sub-discipline of peer-reviewed articles on the discourse about Jennifer Lopez, her body, and especially her butt.

Vanessa Friedman

@VVFriedman

20 years after she wore it first…JLo does the palm print again ⁦@Versace

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Hustlers, the new stripper movie in which Lopez’s performance has already started to generate Oscar buzz, is also interested in Jennifer Lopez’s body. But what makes Hustlers different — and a huge part of what makes Lopez’s performance in it so compelling — is that it’s not interested in Lopez’s body as a fetishized object. It is interested in the labor that Lopez does with her body and the capital that she produces with it.

Here’s how Hustlers started a new conversation about Jennifer Lopez’s artistry by focusing on her body as part of the work.

None of what Jennifer Lopez does in Hustlers looks easy. That’s the point.

Jennifer Lopez performs Ramona’s opening routine in Hustlers.
Barbara Nitke. 2019 STX Financing, LLC.

Lopez gets the diva entrance in Hustlers, a big, hyped-up showstopper that comes after we’ve already spent some time in the movie’s world and know what it looks like and how it works. It’s the kind of character introduction that tells us that now that we’ve gotten comfortable, we’re ready to meet the character who is the key to the way film operates. The diva is the one who sets the plot in motion, who is so charismatic that everyone else defers to them.

Lopez is playing Ramona, one of the old-guard strippers at a club where Destiny (Constance Wu) is the new girl. Before Ramona appears, we’ve already seen Destiny get the lay of the land: She’s done a little amateur spin around one of the poles and given a few dead-eyed lap dances.

But it’s clear that Destiny doesn’t fully understand how to make all of the money she needs to get out of this club. Her tips are meager, and management is ripping her off and taking away most of what little she’s earned. She doesn’t yet have the tools she needs to survive in this world.

Lopez’s Ramona does.

Ramona arrives in the world of Hustlers in a barely-there leotard, dancing to the top of the pole like she’s defying gravity while men hurl money at the stage. Within seconds, there’s so much money onstage that Ramona starts to roll in it Scrooge McDuck-style, only with a lot more thrusting; and while the men remain faceless the whole time, even when Ramona is motorboating them, the camera keeps cutting to a closeup of Destiny’s face, gazing at Ramona with awe.

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A new Senate report is the latest threat to NRA’s tax-exempt status — and maybe its survival – Catherine Kim Sep 28, 2019, 5:45pm EDT


Some experts believe if the NRA loses its tax-exempt status, it will be forced to shut down.

NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, former NRA president Oliver North, and the Institute for Legislative Action’s Chris Cox feature in displays at the 2019 National Rifle Association convention.
Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket/ Getty Images

Leaders of the National Rifle Association (NRA) traveled to Moscow using NRA funds, according to a new Senate report, raising the question of whether the organization broke laws governing nonprofit spending. If the association did in fact break those laws, it could lose its tax-exempt status — and according to a former IRS official, without its tax-exempt status, the NRA could be forced to shut down.

The report, which was compiled by Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee and released on Friday, investigates the relationship between NRA leadership and Russian nationals with Kremlin ties. Those nationals include Maria Butina, a 30-year-old Russian who was convicted last year for conspiring to act as a foreign agent. As Vox’s Andrew Prokop explained, her alleged goal was to “try to influence the Republican Party to be friendlier to Russia, by way of the NRA.”

Part of that relationship involved a 2015 trip to Russia during which Butina promised to introduce top NRA executives to powerful officials, and during which those executives were told they would be given opportunities to advance personal business interests.

The problem — aside from the fact that the NRA is accused of willingly establishing relationships with Russian nationals with close ties with the Kremlin — is that tax-exempt nonprofits aren’t allowed to use their funds for personal gain, as NPR has reported.

“This was an official trip undertaken so NRA insiders could get rich — a clear violation of the principle that tax-exempt resources should not be used for personal benefit,” Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement to CNN.

Republicans on the committee disagree with Wyden’s assessment. In their rebuttal to the report, Republican senators brushed off concerns of any finances violations, saying that NRA leaders who went to Russia did so to promote their personal businesses, and that only they only “concluded [the trip] with an NRA-focused goodwill purpose.” This, the Republicans argue, is “entirely normal behavior.”

Convincing its critics the Republican members of the committee are correct is an important matter for the NRA, which depends on its tax-exempt status to survive, according to some experts, like Marc Owens, the former head of the IRS’s tax-exempt organizations division. In April, Owens told the New Yorkerthat should it lose that status, the organization might cease to exist.

The report alleges the NRA and Russian actors formed improper connections

The report details a plan by Butina and Russian government official Alexander Torshin (who is now sanctioned by the US) to bring NRA leaders to Moscow to meet with officials there. According to CNN, Butina promised the visit would bring business opportunities and a potential meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2015, then NRA vice president Peter Brownell and other leaders accepted Butina’s offer; Brownell, who also owns a firearms business, was promised meetings with weapons companies that could benefit his own operations.

When the trip came under scrutiny, Brownwell and the NRA said the visit was an entirely personal one, made by NRA leaders, but not with NRA money. Brownwell’s lawyer also told the committee that the purpose of his client’s trip was strictly business and unrelated to the organization.

Despite these claims, however, the committee report maintains that the NRA was intimately involved during the trip preparation by creating “detailed itineraries, schedules, and briefing materials for the delegation, including former NRA President David Keene and then-Vice President Pete Brownell.” The report also stated that NRA funds were used to pay for some of the travel expenses. And then NRA president Allan Cors wrote to Torshin prior to the trip, promising that those chosen to attend would “represent the NRA and our five million members better than anyone else.”

Some of the money the NRA put into the trip was eventually paid back by Brownell, who sent the organization $17,000 in 2018 after concerns were floated about the visit. Still, the report maintains the NRA should have never paid anything for the trip, citing an email Brownell sent to employees at his company that stated the visit was “an opportunity to be hosted in Russia to broaden our business opportunities … to introduce our company to the governing individuals throughout Russia.”

The NRA is already facing questions about its nonprofit status at the state level

Wyden has called on the IRS to investigate the NRA and its status as a tax-exempt organization in response to the findings of his team. But he isn’t the only one scrutinizing the group’s finances.

New York Attorney General Letitia James also opened an investigation into the organization’s nonprofit status back in April, following reports of financial mismanagement. The District of Columbia’s attorney general said his office launched a similar inquiry in July, sending subpoenas to the NRA and its charitable arms to collect “financial records, payments to vendors, and payments to officers and directors.”

Both attorneys general hope to better understand “large monetary transfers, executive compensation, and the awarding of certain contracts that financial experts said could have violated laws governing nonprofits,” as Gabriela Resto-Montero has explained for Vox.

The NRA has not been able to respond to these investigations — or the Senate Finance Committee’s work — from a place of strength. As Vox’s Jane Coaston has reported, the NRA is thought to be low on funds, its accounts drained by lobbying efforts, court battles, reduced membership numbers (according to transparency organization OpenSecrets, its rolls have shrunk by 21 percent since 2016), and lately, both federal and state-level investigations. All told, gun advocacy group The Trace estimates the NRA to be roughly $43 million in debt.

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Do You Play with Your Cat? This Online Study Is for You! – Julie Hecht June 13, 2019


Dogs aren’t the only ones who can do science. The era of cat science is now

Do You Play with Your Cat? This Online Study Is for You!
Credit: Erica Leong Unsplash

You might be thinking “What’s this about cats? This is DOG Spies. A blog on the science behind the dog-human relationship.”

Yes, but…

My background is in applied animal behavior and welfare — the study of animals who find themselves under our care or management. Dogs are one such species. Cats are another. And it just so happens I live with a cat. Josh The Cat.

In the last few years, I’ve learned more about cat behavior, cognition, welfare, and relationships with people. And although more researchers are taking on cat questions — such as, is meowing a reliable way to measure personality in cats? or what kinds of scratching posts do cats prefer? — numerous questions remain, particularly when it comes to cats’ interactions with people.

A while back, I made a completely made-up chart comparing the amount of attention given to “Dog,” “Cat,” and “Dog and Cat” behavior and cognition research. While studies of companion cats are increasing, this chart is still pretty accurate, for a made-up chart.

Credit: Julie Hecht

Do you play with your cat? Join the science.

I believe the era of cat science is now. But we can’t do it without your help!

My PhD research explores our interactions with cats, particularly what cats and their people do together in the name of play. Play can mean different things for different species, and after previously studying play between people and dogs with Alexandra Horowitz, I’m now running an international, online, citizen science* project to learn how cats and their people play together. You and your cat are invited to participate!

Project: Play With Your Cat is worldwide and entirely online at CatsDoScience.com Participants must be 18 or older and play with their

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Amateur pro-Trump ‘sleuths’ scramble to unmask whistleblower: ‘Your president has asked for your help’ – September 28, 2019 at 6:00 a.m. CDT


The looming battle over President Trump’s potential impeachment has sparked an online hunt in the far-right corners of the Web as self-styled Internet sleuths race to identify the anonymous person Trump has likened to a treasonous spy.

Their guesses have been scattershot, conspiratorial and often untethered from reality, spanning a wide range of such unlikely contenders as presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and Vice President Pence.

Some of the online commentators and anonymous posters said they have been spurred to action by Trump’s fury, foreshadowing the online clashes that are likely to engulf any upcoming impeachment hearings and the 2020 campaign.

“Carpet bomb the memes. Everywhere,” one anonymous poster on the message board 4chan wrote in response to one of Trump’s angry tweets about the whistleblower. “Time to rise up. Your president has asked for your help.”

The quest to identify the person who crafted the politically explosive complaint against Trump has become a fixation across the most extreme corners of such platforms as Twitter, Reddit and Gab — and has spread onto conservative news sites, radio shows and TV broadcasts.

The Washington Post obtained video of President Trump giving a private speech to U.S. diplomats on Sept. 26. (Obtained by The Washington Post)

The president’s scornful portrayal of the whistleblower shaped and stoked the online conversation throughout the week, as it descended into a case study of the Internet at its worst — frenetic, fueled by rumor and frequently racist, misogynistic and crude.

“the whistleblower is not white,” one 4chan commenter asserted Thursday, probably misreading a part of the complaint in which the whistleblower calls himself or herself a “non-White House official.” “see second set of bullet points on page 3. trump only has a handful of non white staff. I wonder who it might be.”

The hunt for the whistleblower revealed a glimpse of how polarized partisan media and the Internet have become, in which every news event becomes an opportunity for online brawlers to steer mainstream conversations and defeat the other side.

“We’re seeing all the elements of information warfare play out online during this episode,” said Peter W. Singer, a senior fellow at the think tank New America. “There’s this crowdsourced manhunt to find out who did it, and once that identity comes out, everything in their life — what they majored in in college, where they like to eat dinner, where their kids went to school — will be pulled out in the hope there is one little nugget that can be weaponized against them.”

After the complaint was made public Thursday morning, pro-Trump commenters guessed the whistleblower is Hispanic or Jewish or Arab or African American and, many were sure, a woman — though rarely did the commenters use such delicate terms. A top choice soon became Susan M. Gordon, a former deputy director of national intelligence, though others thought a more probable candidate is CIA Director Gina Haspel.

Some commenters offered names or rough demographic characteristics, while others posted photos of potential suspects. One 4chan commenter focused on former national security adviser John Bolton as a contender, posting a close-up image of his trademark bristly mustache with the words “Operation Infinite Walrus!”

The speculation gained energy at several key moments, beginning with the release of the rough transcript of a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The frenzy accelerated with the release of the complaint itself and when Trump said the whistleblower, who he suggested should be prosecuted, was “close to a spy.”

Conservative commentator Bill Mitchell, who attended Trump’s social media summit in July, replied in a tweet: “No Mr. President, that IS a spy.”

On the pro-Trump Reddit message board r/The_Donald, a commenter using a pseudonym said, “This ‘whistleblower’ needs to be put in the public spotlight, and then f—ing prosecute him/her to the fullest extent of the law.”

Another replied, “I bet the whistleblower is the fired ambassador [to Ukraine],” referring to Marie L. Yovanovitch, a career U.S. diplomat recalled abruptly in May.

The guessing game took another twist after the New York Times reported the complaint was made by a CIA officer detailed to the White House. A conservative writer, Stu Cvrk, tweeted out his guess a few hours later.

“Is This Guy The Ukraine Phone Call Whistleblower?” Cvrk tweeted, linking to a post he wrote on RedState, a conservative news and commentary site.

“A source known to me at the State Department, who will remain anonymous, tells me that everyone is pointing to Edward ‘Ned’ Price as the whistleblower who came forward with the accusation that President Trump ‘abused his office’ during a phone conversation with the Ukrainian president,” wrote Cvrk. Price is a former CIA officer who retired in 2017 and is now a political analyst for NBC News.

Price, who was more amused than upset at the claim, said it made him concerned about the development of “discourse that is just divorced from the facts.”

“It’s part of the political atmosphere that we live in now,” Price said. “People are looking for anything on which to hang their tinfoil hats.”

Cvrk, in a direct Twitter message to The Post, stood by his assessment. “You didn’t seriously think he would admit it, did you?” he wrote, adding that he was insulted by the inference “that I am a tinfoil hat guy.”

On Friday, the Washington Examiner spread word of a $50,000 reward offered by two pro-Trump political activists known for smear campaigns, who called the scandal a “national disgrace” and said they hoped identifying the whistleblower would help put “this dark chapter behind us.”

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NRA denies discussing ‘special arrangements’ with Trump in return for its support – 09/27/2019 10:35 PM EDT


Wayne LaPierre

The National Rifle Association confirmed that CEO Wayne LaPierre met with President Donald Trump at the White House on Friday, but denied any discussions took place about “special arrangements” involving their ongoing support of the president.

The response came after the New York Times reported on the meeting Friday, stating Trump and LaPierre “discussed prospective gun legislation and whether the N.R.A. could provide support for the president” amid upcoming impeachment proceedings and his reelection campaign.

“The NRA is not inclined to discuss private conversations with the President,” an NRA spokesman said in a statement. “However, many of the accounts of the meeting, as reported in The New York Times, are inaccurate. The NRA categorically denies any discussion occurred about special arrangements pertaining to the NRA’s support of the President and vice versa.”

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Sandeep Dhaliwal: Texas mourns ‘trailblazing’ Sikh sheriff’s deputy – BBC News Sept 29, 2019


Sandeep Dhaliwal is seen in an image shared by Harris County Sheriff's OfficeHarris County Sheriff’s Office
Sandeep Dhaliwal was given permission to wear a Sikh turban while on duty

Tributes have poured in for a “trailblazing” Sikh sheriff’s deputy in the US after he was killed on duty.

Authorities said Sandeep Dhaliwal died after being shot from behind during a traffic stop in Texas on Friday. A man has been arrested and charged with murder. The motive is not known.

Deputy Dhaliwal made history as the first Sikh to become a sheriff’s deputy in Texas’s Harris County.

He also received permission to wear his turban and beard while on patrol.

“He wore a turban, he represented his community with integrity, respect and pride,” Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.

The Harris County sheriff said Deputy Dhaliwal “was a hero, he was a respected member of the community and he was a trailblazer”.

Officers shared photographs and videos of a “community-led” candlelight vigil held on Saturday to honour the sheriff’s deputy. Many residents also shared tributes to him on social media.

A video from one local resident showed Deputy Dhaliwal laughing as he allowed her son to handcuff him and then set him free. “He laughed and joked with all of us, and left a bright impression on my son who is deaf,” she said.

HCSOTexas

@HCSOTexas

A Harris County resident sent us a video of fallen Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal.

“He laughed and joked with all of us, and left a bright impression on my son who is deaf,” she said.

Deputy Dhaliwal is an incredible loss not only to our HCSO family but to the entire community.

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Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Deputy Dhaliwal was a “bold and groundbreaking law enforcement officer in the eyes of our county, our state, our nation, and around the world, because he sought and received permission to patrol while wearing the outward signs of his Sikh faith, including a turban and beard”.

“He was a walking lesson in tolerance and understanding,” he added.

Simran Jeet Singh, a senior religion fellow at the New York-based Sikh Coalition, described Deputy Dhaliwal as a “gem of a person” and a “beautiful soul”, according to the Associated Press news agency.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office said 47-year-old Robert Solis was charged with murder over Deputy Dhaliwal’s death. Authorities have not speculated on a motive for the attack but Sheriff Gonzalez said Mr Solis had an “active patrol violation warrant” for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon from 2017.

A funeral is set to take place on Wednesday.

Sikhism was founded more than 500 years ago in the Indian region of Punjab and has about 27 million followers around the world and more than 500,000 in the US. Male followers often cover their heads with turbans and refrain from shaving their beards.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-49869276

Many Vaping Illnesses Linked To Black Market ‘Dank Vapes’ Or Other THC Products – Allison Aubrey September 27, 20197:20 PM ET


Investigators have found that cannabis-containing vaping products are linked with many of the reported cases of vaping-related lung illness.
Mike Wren/AP

The mystery of the outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses is still not solved.

But investigators in Illinois and Wisconsin have found some clues, they announced Friday in a press briefing.

Investigators in these two states conducted detailed interviews with 86 patients — mostly young men — and 66% said they had vaped THC products labeled as Dank Vapes. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

What are Dank Vapes and how could they be fueling the outbreak?

“Dank Vapes appears to be the most prominent in a class of largely counterfeit brands, with common packaging that is easily available online and that is used by distributors to market THC-containing cartridges,” said a report from state investigators published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC has been warning since the outbreak began about the risks of buying products “off the street,” and Friday’s update highlighted the risks of the black market. Sometimes young consumers don’t even realize that they’re buying unregulated or illicit products.

“THC-based products were most often acquired from informal sources such as down the street from friends or from a dealer,” said Jennifer Layden of the Illinois Department of Public Health at the press briefing.

Around the country, law enforcement is trying to crack down on black market dealers. In Wisconsin earlier this month, two brothers were arrested for allegedly running a large THC vape ring.

And earlier this week, police in Waynesboro, Va., arrested three men and recovered more than 1,000 vape cartridges that were labeled as containing a 90% THC oil mixture.

“They’re labeled Dank Vapes,” Capt. Mike Martin of the Waynesboro Police Department says. “They appear commercially packaged, and there are a variety of different flavors.”

The mixture appears as “a standard-looking brownish oil. … It has the consistency of … maybe, like a motor oil,” Martin says.

“We’ve never seen a haul like this,” Martin says. He estimates they recovered about $35,000 worth of vaping product. “They were selling these [on] the street.”

One difficultly in unraveling this outbreak is that many of the patients around the country who have gotten sick acknowledge using both THC and nicotine vaping products and have used a wide variety of brands and products. In fact, the 86 patients in Wisconsin and Illinois reported using 234 different products.

Nonetheless, investigators now seem more focused on the role THC may be playing in this outbreak, since the majority of the people who have become ill around the country reported using THC or both THC and nicotine, according to a CDC report published Friday. And the CDC updated its warning against vaping to emphasize the risk of THC products: “CDC recommends people consider refraining from using e-cigarette, or vaping, products, particularly those containing THC,” the CDC’s Anne Schuchat said during a telebriefing Friday.

For people who are unsuspecting, black market products like Dank Vapes can be deceptive.

“Dank Vapes sounds like a cool name, it sounds like a cool product and it looks like legitimate packaging,” says Jeffrey Kahn, who operates a medical marijuana dispensary in Washington, D.C. But, he says, unlike the regulated products he sells, you don’t necessarily know what’s in black market products. “If one or two or hundreds of people are unscrupulously filling them with dangerous material, then people could suffer,” he adds.

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/09/27/765151187/many-vaping-illnesses-linked-to-black-market-dank-vapes-or-other-thc-products

FKA twigs: ‘An incredible woman always in the shadow of a man? I can relate’ Miranda SawyerSat 28 Sep 2019 04.00 EDT


Musician FKA twigs, photographed in London Sept 2019
FKA twigs: ‘I have a good taste barometer.’ Photograph: Campbell Addy/The Guardian

FKA twigs lives in a real house, in the real world, though this seems hard to believe. She appears so alien, in her music and her performances, in the way she presents herself, that you’d be forgiven for believing that she lived in a cryo chamber alongside bejewelled hip-hop robots, or a martial arts monastery surrounded by an enchanted thicket of thorns.

Twigs’ art is not of the stripped-back, real me, acoustics-and-grubby-jeans variety. She arrived on the scene in 2012, whispering like Tricky, clattering like the xx, romancing like Prince, singing like Kate Bush, yet not actually quite like anyone else. A polymath – she is a beautiful dancer and has directed pop videos and immersive theatre – she works in experimental hinterlands, creating atmospheres rather than singalong stories. For example: the sparse and sad track Cellophane, released in April as the opening single for her new album, was accompanied by a video that featured twigs athletically pole-dancing in a sparkly bikini before being eaten by a lookalike insect, falling into watery depths and being covered in orange mud by caring tortoise creatures. Twigs is about intensity, beauty, sexuality and freakiness.

Because of this, I’ve geared myself up for her to be a tricky interviewee. Distant. Abstract. Maybe a bit defiant. But twigs is not like this. She is friendly and quite serious. She has a light, RP voice with a slight lisp and a young face; though she is now 31, she can seem 10 years younger, especially when she laughs.

FKA Twigs performs at the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm, Pilton on June 28, 2015 in Glastonbury, England
At Glastonbury in 2015. Photograph: WireImage

We meet in her lovely home in east London. Her sitting room is olive green, with plants and a piano, fossils and tapestries and books about jazz. Preserved snakes twist under glass domes. There is a Diptyque Feu du Bois candle burning. The vibe is part museum of curiosities, part comfy boutique hotel. Her small dog, Solo, is lounging on the rug. “I found her in LA four years ago, behind a nail salon,” twigs says. “She was tiny, about six months old, and all alone.” (For the dog spotters: Solo enjoys chasing a ball and can do sit, paw and lie down. And, yes, she sleeps on twigs’ bed.)

Twigs thinks about how she presents herself. For this interview, she has dressed in an embroidered white shirt, Burberry shorts and white socks, with velvet ribbons at her throat. Her hair is partly dyed a wild red. Like the dancer she is, she’s poised but casual, plonking herself on the floor (all dancers sit on the floor). Sweetly, she has three types of posh juice for me to choose from, though she herself drinks herbal tea.

It’s taken her some time to sort her house out; for quite a while, she just had a sofa, a bed and a TV: “Very discombobulating,” she says. Before that, she’d been living in a rented house share, and didn’t have the money to furnish her new pad, though now she does (Nike appointed her creative director for a 2017 womenswear campaign, and she’s made an advert with Apple, so her money situation has improved). Anyway, even if she’d had the cash, she wouldn’t have been up for decorating; she has had a difficult couple of years.

Though she didn’t make it public – and refuses to talk about it with me – in 2017 she split up with her long-term boyfriend Robert Pattinson, the Twilight Saga actor who’s set to be the next Batman. Their relationship had brought her tabloid scrutiny and weird fan abuse: Pattinson fans can be rabid, and racially trolled twigs on social media. After their split, she no longer had a home base in LA – plus she was ill (more about this later) and, most importantly for her, she was in an artistic fug.

She found the new album – Magdalene, her second – really hard to make, she says, mostly because she wanted to change but couldn’t figure out how. She began work on it as soon as she had finished her first, LP1, but couldn’t find the right sound, and couldn’t write songs in the way she wanted. Producers assumed she wanted to work with the fractured, futuristic noise of LP1 again and she felt trapped. Though she managed one song – Day Bed, which ends the album, and is about being depressed – she was stuck, workwise, in an artistry of her own making.

“I find it easy to write over complete musical randomness,” she says. “But that’s not what I wanted. I wanted something simpler, something honest. It felt like I’d made this ornate golden birdcage, and everything was so intricate – like tapestries and beading and beautiful wirework. And I stepped in and I locked the door and I was like, oh my gosh, this is actually a nightmare.”

Her process of breaking free ended up being pretty thorough. Her music altered, her relationship ended, her health went haywire. A disciplined workaholic, twigs sees life as a matter of spinning plates – “You have family and friends, and you have adult things, like where you live and bills and stuff like that, then your health, maybe your relationship” – and, for a while, around 2017, nearly all the plates dropped to the floor and smashed. “Everything was in complete turmoil,” she says. “The only thing that didn’t get smashed or shaken was one or two great friends.”

Things came to a head in LA, in just one week. She’d been searching for the right musical collaborator, and had found one in cult electronica artist Nicolas Jaar. They wrote Cellophane together in about 20 minutes, and she was thrilled. But she also felt physically terrible. She had a lump in her stomach that she’d been ignoring for months and one day that week, she woke and found she couldn’t sit up. She phoned her stepfather. “I said, ‘OK, I fucked up. I have some terrible thing in my stomach and it’s really big and I must have stomach cancer and I’ve not told anyone and I just don’t think there’s any coming back.’” Twigs says this all in rapid-fire full tragedy mode, rolling her eyes at herself. What did your stepfather say? “He said, ‘Go to the doctor.’”

An ultrasound scan revealed not cancer, but fibroids – hormonal growths on her uterus. Twigs’s were enormous – “Two cooking apples, three kiwis and a couple of strawberries: a fruit bowl of pain,” as she described them on Instagram – and she had laparoscopic surgery, back in the UK. “They went in through three or four entry points” – she points at her stomach – “and pulled out the fibroids, like a string of sausages, through my bellybutton.”

She had been in pain for a while; plus the fibroids had been pressing down on her bowel and bladder, making her want to pee all the time and giving her unpleasant IBS symptoms. She remembers working on a video before the operation. “I had to do voguing in it and the choreographers, these two women, weren’t very nice and said, ‘You’re really lazy and you keep going to the toilet all the time.’ My whole life, I’d never been called lazy. It made me break down.”

Musician FKA twigs, photographed in London Sept 2019
Clothes and jewellery: Chanel. Photograph: Campbell Addy/The Guardian. Styling: Matthew Josephs. Hair: Rio Sreedharan at the Wall Group using Oribe. Makeup: Bea Sweet at JAQ Management using Marc Jacobs Beauty. Manicurist: Imarni at Imarni Nails

As if to prove how un-lazy she is, a few weeks after the operation she got a call from the director Spike Jonze. He wanted her to audition for an ad he was making for Apple’s HomePod. For the audition, she had to dance around this very room in front of her laptop, hoping her stitches wouldn’t split. “Then they said, ‘That’s great. Now can you do it again and, like, touch the objects in the room?’” She laughs. But being a pro – she had spent years as a dancer for hire – she did as they asked. “I was like, ‘Sure, from the beginning of the song or halfway through? No problem. You want it again, but in a crop top?’”

She’s joking, but both incidents indicate the same thing about her. Twigs is a worker. She moved to London from Cheltenham when she was 17 and spent a few years as a back-up dancer, hired to shimmy behind stars such as Ed Sheeran, Kylie Minogue and Jessie J. Even now that she’s an artist in her own right, she flips between being in charge, as a musician and director, and being directed, when she’s dancing. She’s more inclined to the former, though doesn’t mind being told what to do if she’s learning and she thinks the work is good. She likes collaboration, and “I have a good taste barometer”.

Anyhow, she wants to talk more about fibroids, because she had never heard of them until she got them, even though many women suffer with them, especially women of Caribbean origin (twigs is half Jamaican). She’s learned that they can be managed through stress management and diet: it’s important to avoid sugar and foods with oestrogen, she says – soy, dairy, non-organic meat. Also, receipts.

FKA twigs performs in concert at Park Avenue Armory on May 12, 2019 in New York City
In concert in New York in May this year. Photograph: Getty Images

Receipts? I say, wondering if I’ve heard her wrong.

“Yes. The paper they use, the ink, there’s something about it that’s got a lot of oestrogen and you ingest it through your skin.”

Hmm, I say, but when I check later, I discover twigs is right: receipt ink contains BPA, an artificial oestrogen, which can be absorbed through contact. God, what a tricky thing. She also avoids tap water, because it has traces of the pill in it, and can’t use hormonal contraception: “I’m a believer in western medicine, but there are other ways, depending on how your body works.” She has been really careful, but still her fibroids grew back within three months. Now she has six more, which she is managing. “As soon as I had my operation, I felt so much better,” she says, “like all these trapped-up feelings were released. But I’ve never felt the same since. I’m different.”

Musician FKA twigs, photographed in London Sept 2019
Jacket and blouse: Celine by Hedi Slimane. Jewellery: Bentley & Skinner. Tights: Versace. Slippers:Manolo Blahnik. Photograph: Campbell Addy/The Guardian

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Porsche Taycan Review: The Best Electric Car $150K Can Buy – ERIC ADAMS 09.28.2019 07:00 AM


Top speed in the Porsche Taycan electric sport sedan arrives with very little fuss on Germany’s autobahn. When the left lane clears just north of Hamburg, I mat the pedal and the white Turbo S—its profile reminiscent of a stretched 911, atop matching white 21-inch wheels—glides along as the speedometer needle tries to keep pace.

The Taycan moves with the thrust of an electric railgun, catching passengers and even drivers off guard with its seemingly unrestrained energy. But shocking as the launch can be—the more powerful Turbo S variant will reach 60 mph in just 2.6 seconds—the smooth highway offers little to upset the suspension. By 120 mph, I can feel the slipstream pushing me down, with no audible turbulence. That’s a result of the 0.22 drag coefficient, the best ever from Porsche, and more slippery than a Tesla Model 3. By 140 mph, just I’m expecting biblical-level wind noise and tire roar, the cabin’s vibe is surreal calm. At 160 mph, even the cars up ahead feel like they’re somehow already behind me. And still, the Taycan Turbo S, with its outrageous 750 horsepower (overboosted from the standard Turbo’s 616) and 774 pound-feet of torque, remains ready to do more.

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At the electronically limited top end of 162 mph, I take a moment to reflect. This and other performance EVs that will follow from Porsche and elsewhere—already in even faster and sleeker hypercar guises as prototypes from Lotus, Pininfarina, Rimac, Tesla, and more—are the way forward. My only wish at the moment: another 35 mph, or however much it would take to make this floating ghost of a car feel at least a little bit challenged. Eventually, I’m sure, we’ll all grow to love that slippery easiness and that masterful grace. And it’s worth noting the Taycan is a sport sedan, not a proper sports car. That’s in the future for Porsche, and it will presumably be more aggressive and visceral.

But with the Taycan, a central dilemma remains: It doesn’t feel as much like a classic Porsche as I’d hoped it would. Of course, things like the sound are different given the dismissal of the internal combustion engine—and I happen to love the electronically amplified whirr from the dual permanent magnet synchronous electric motors. But Porsches have always felt a bit on the edge, like they’re working. They communicate with their riders through vibrations in the pedals, seat, and steering wheel, generating feel as much as sound and movement. In the Taycan, I feel a bit detached. Along for the ride. The car is effortless. It hovers easily through twistier roads, but it doesn’t truly excite until I near the edge of adhesion and performance. And there, the computer puts a ceiling on the fun.

Such is the trade-off for driving the most advanced car in the world. Yes, Tesla has Autopilot, but that pseudo-self-driving system is arguably premature, and Elon Musk’s cars are built to standards below those of the more accomplished, old-dog carmakers. And yes, countless machines can go faster than 162 mph—Bugatti’s Chiron just hit 305—but few vroom with the insouciance of the Taycan, a testament to Porsche’s holistic design and engineering process. Nor does their technology truly stack up: Everything about the Taycan has been honed to performance perfection on the twists and straights of test tracks. The powertrain is a work of automotive art.

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Sure, many cars can outmatch the electric Porsche’s 162-mph top speed. But few vroom with the insouciance of the Taycan.PHOTOGRAPH: PORSCHE

NRA acted as “foreign asset” for Russia ahead of 2016 election, Senate report claims -IGOR DERYSH SEPTEMBER 28, 2019 10:00AM (UTC)


 

The National Rifle Association acted as a “foreign asset” for Russia leading up to the 2016 election, according to a report by Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee.

An 18-month investigation into the NRA’s Russia ties by the committee’s minority staff, which reviewed more than 4,000 pages of NRA records, found that NRA leaders promised Russians access to U.S. officials in exchange for Russian business.

The probe found that NRA officials used the organization’s financial resources, which largely come from member dues, to curry favor with Aleksander Torshin, who was then an official at Russia’s Central Bank, and his deputy, convicted Russian spy Maria Butina.

The investigation found that former NRA president David Keene organized a trip to Russia — despite NRA denials that the trip was officially endorsed by the group — during which Butina and Torshin brought a delegation of NRA officials to Moscow. Keene set up the trip on the promise of business opportunities in Russia, including possible deals with a Russian gun manufacturer that was under U.S. sanctions, according to the report.

Getting the trip launched and approved took some convincing from Keene and his wife, Donna. Writing to then-NRA president Allan Cors about his decision to skip the trip, Donna Keene wrote, “we’ve worked for 7 years to build trust with the Russians.”

Along with the trip, the probe found that the NRA gave Torshin and Butina “broad access to events” over three years, where both Russians met with top Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates. Pete Brownell, an NRA official who went on the Moscow trip, told investigators that he personally introduced Butina to Donald Trump Jr. at a 2016 event. The report also showed that the NRA in August 2015 hosted then-Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak, who became a central figure in the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the Finance Committee’s ranking member, said that the probe revealed that Torshin and Butina had “effectively used the promise of lucrative personal business opportunities to capture the NRA and gain access to the American political system.”

“This report lays out in significant detail that the NRA lied about the 2015 delegation trip to Moscow. This was an official trip undertaken so NRA insiders could get rich — a clear violation of the principle that tax-exempt resources should not be used for personal benefit,” Wyden said in a statement.

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