We KNEW it! This NYT tweet ‘sums up’ everything that’s wrong with the NYT

Read more: http://twitchy.com/sd-3133/2017/03/02/we-knew-it-this-nyt-tweet-pretty-much-sums-up-everything-thats-wrong-with-the-nyt/

‘This is rich’! Elizabeth Warren outs herself as shameless Wall Street shill

Read more: http://twitchy.com/sd-3133/2017/04/18/this-is-rich-elizabeth-warren-outs-herself-as-shameless-wall-street-shill/

She persisted: Commander of Navy destroyer that launched missile strike on Syria is no nasty woman

CNN has been known to serve up the fake news, but the network pretty much summed up the state of the women’s movement in the U.S. with its recent tweet noting thatNew York’s “Fearless Girl” statue part ofa marketing promotion by State Street Global Advisors stood its ground, even during a light snowfall.

The media has pretty much lost what was left of its collective mind over what isn’t much more than a viral advertisement, so it’s nice to see someone give some attention to a real-life female (if you’ll excuse the gender-binary term)who could show quite a few nasty women a thing or two about women’s empowerment.

Read more: http://twitchy.com/brettt-3136/2017/04/08/she-persisted-commander-of-navy-destroyer-that-launched-missile-strike-on-syria-is-no-nasty-woman/

The Home Where Jeremiah Lexer Murdered His Family Is Now A Haunted House

These days, most haunted houses have some kind of fabricated backstory. In Talbot, Tennessee, however, Frightmare Manor claims that the horrors found within its walls are very real.

According to local legend, Jeremiah Lexer was a father, grandfather, and wealthy plantation owner, but he also had a dark side. Unbeknownst to his relatives, Lexer suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He was able to manage his conditions (at least, that’s what everyone thought) until one fateful day in July 1902.

On that day, Lexer sharpened his axe and murdered his entire family. After dismembering their bodies, he committed suicide by throwing himself out a window.

Read More: This Guy Came Across A Cabin In The Woods, And What He Found Inside Is So Disturbing

As if that wasn’t horrifying enough, law enforcement had another big shock coming. On the property were 30 shallow graves, each containing dismantled bodies of Lexer’s murder victims over the years.

Unsurprisingly, the house sat untouched for quite some time. No one wanted to live in a place marred by such tragedy.

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Just when it looked like the property was doomed to rot and decay, it was turned into a haunted house! And not just any haunted house — one of the best on the East Coast.

Among the haunt’s five attractions is the “Lexer Jump,” which allows guests to simulate the serial killer’s infamous suicide.

And, of course, there’s always an actor dressed up as Lexer himself, axe and all.

Read More: The 30 Best Haunted House Reactions You’ll Ever See

What do you think? Is Frightmare Manor a real house of horrors or is the story of Jeremiah Lexer a clever marketing scheme? Let us know in the comments!

Personally, I’m not taking any chances. See ya never, Frightmare Manor!

Read more: http://www.viralnova.com/frightmare-manor/

10 Things You Should Stop Saying At Work If You Want To Sound More Confident

If you’ve been out in the working world for any amount of time, you’ve probably prefaced a question to your higher-ups by saying that it’s “probably stupid,” and you’re certainly not alone.

We all have great ideas, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t communicate them with confidence. And our bosses are human, too. They might not cover every single bullet point in every single meeting, so it’s on us to ask questions! There’s nothing wrong with that. If you feel like your workplace confidence could use a boost, here are a few words, phrases, and speech habits you should totally avoid using in the office.


1. Unless you’re asking your boss about their opinion on string theory during a marketing meeting, your question probably isn’t stupid. There’s absolutely no way to remember everything your higher-ups have ever said, so ask for clarification when you need it! It’ll help you perform to the best of your ability, and that’s better for everyone involved.


2. This speech pattern is often associated with Valley Girls, but according to the BBC, both men and women are increasingly guilty of finishing statements with questions in the workplace. It’s probably in an effort to sound relatable, but it ends up reading as insecure. Don’t say, “This positioning would work better on Facebook, you know?” Just make your point, be secure in your response, and keep it moving. Try not to sound like you’re seeking approval.


3. If you walk by your boss and accidentally smack her in the back of the head, say you’re sorry. If you’re sending her an email asking to use some paid time off, don’t. Don’t be “sorry” for “bothering” your bosses! Part of their job is making sure that all of their employees are good to go. You’re fine.

4. Being met with silence after making a statement can be intimidating, but let that silence work in your favor. Instead of blathering on incessantly until your coworker adds their input, let them sit with your ideas for a second. Doing so is a non-verbal way of saying, “I got this, and you’ll get it, too.” (But if the blank stares persist for more than a few minutes, step back in.)

5. When it comes to sounding authoritative, this common phrase is a killer. Clients don’t want to hear that you think you can help them. Your boss doesn’t want to hear that you think you can nail that big presentation. You know what you’re doing, so make sure you convey that as clearly as possible.


6. This one is tricky in an increasingly digital world. If you communicate with coworkers via email or through chat services like Slack, it’s tempting to use exclamation points and smiley faces to convey enthusiasm for fear of sounding cold. And this, my friends, is something of which I’m guilty as charged. If you’re still around and getting your work done, your managers like you. Don’t worry so much about coming across as a big ol’ bubble of enthusiasm. (Duly noted, me.)

7. Please, please stop saying “synergy.” Please. If you want to sound like you know what you’re talking about, don’t use any words or phrases that make you sound like you’re resting on verbal standbys. Don’t call a potential client “low-hanging fruit,” and quit telling people how things are “at the end of the day.” The more original you sound, the more worthwhile your ideas will appear to anyone listening.


8. If any of your coworkers need you to elaborate an idea, they’ll ask (preferably without doing the whole “this might sound stupid” thing). Talk through your thoughts without sounding like you’re second guessing yourself. If you don’t sound confident in your ideas, don’t expect anyone else to get on board.


9. Just do it. Constantly making lateral moves at work isn’t going to help you grow, so approach each new task as a learning opportunity. Are you a Photoshop novice? Let YouTubers be your guides. Never put together an office newsletter? Google some formatting tips. Learning on your feet is a skill in itself. If you really can’t figure it out, just be upfront about it and go from there.

Getty Images

10. Ironically, this phrase will inspire approximately zero people to trust you. Remember that confidence and arrogance are not one in the same. Instead of leaving your coworkers hanging, spend time articulating exactly why they should place their faith in you. Knowing what you’re talking about will make you come off as secure, not cocky.

Although we all feel insecure at work sometimes, projecting self-assuredness helps everyone, yourself included, feel better about how things are going. You can do it!

Read more: http://www.viralnova.com/workplace-confidence/

Elizabeth Warren: ‘I consider myself as having a Native American background’


At tonight’s Massachusetts Senate debate, moderator David Gregory asked Democrat Elizabeth Warren if she considered herself a minority. Logic dictates that Warren, who has been under fire for months for cooking up stories about her Native American heritage (or lack thereof) and marketing herself as a “woman of color,” would consider her answer carefully so as not to make an even bigger fool of herself than she already has. Logic clearly does not exist in Warren’s universe.

Rather than admit that she’s probably not a long-lost Cherokee warrior princess, Fauxcahontas doubled down on her story. And, naturally, mockage ensued:

I like the Windows bubbles background, personally MT "@mviser: Elizabeth Warren: "I consider myself as having a Native American background."

— Michelle McCormick (@TexMex817) October 1, 2012

I Consider her To Full of Shit ! RT @BretBaier: Elizabeth Warren: "I consider myself of having a Native American background."

— Travis Carlen (@TravisCarlen) October 1, 2012

Turns out this is something you can just choose. MT @BuzzFeedAndrew: E Warren: "I consider myself of having a Native American background."

— AG (@AG_Conservative) October 1, 2012

Yep! Easy-peasy! Conservatives, who consider Warren to be a doofus, decided to get in on the action:

Is that it? Hell, then I’m a Rockefeller. MT @BuzzFeedAndrew: E Warren: "I consider myself of having a Native American background."

— RB (@RBPundit) October 1, 2012

Thank you Elizabeth Warren..I knew there were more people like me who consider themselves of being spawned from Unicorns #masendebate

— S.M (@redsteeze) October 1, 2012

And I consider myself a cyborg. RT @BuzzFeedAndrew: Elizabeth Warren: "I consider myself of having a Native American background."

— JP Quinn (@JPQ904) October 1, 2012

Elizabeth Warren "I consider myself of having a Native American background" | I consider myself starting shortstop material. #doesntmakeitso

— I Paid 4 This Mic (@IPaid4ThisMic) October 1, 2012

I believed my parents when they told me I was a princess.“@Elizabeth Warren: "I consider myself of having a Native American background."”

— L. C. Watson (@AugustusBeau) October 1, 2012

Why does Warren continue to claim an ancestry that isn’t hers? Here’s one possible explanation:

Well, someone needs to believe it.@BuzzFeedAndrew Elizabeth Warren: "I consider myself of having a Native American background.

— kim jossfolk (@shoegal90) October 1, 2012

As long as Lie-awatha insists on running with her “Native American background,” here’s hoping that Ace of Spades gets to moderate the next debate.

Read more: http://twitchy.com/2012/10/01/elizabeth-warren-i-consider-myself-as-having-a-native-american-background/

These 44 Facts About Your Favorite Fast Food Joints Will Surprise You. #12 Changes Everything!

Regularly eating at fast food restaurants is fairly normal for most people around the world. They’re a staple of modern society. Even if you don’t frequent them yourself, most likely you have some restaurants in your home town. No matter how familiar you are with the fast food industry, you probably still don’t know these 44 nuggets of trivia collected by BuzzFeed. The next time you order a Big Mac, you’ll be way more informed about the meat and the company in general. 1. McDonald’s hamburgers don’t rot. The low moisture of the burgers leaves the meat dehydrated, basically turning it into jerky.

2. McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets come in four shapes and they have names: the boot, the ball, the bone, and the bell.

3. A 32 oz. McDonald’s sweet tea has as much sugar as two and a half Snickers bars. 4. You cannot be more than 107 miles from a McDonald’s in the contiguous USA. 5. McDonald’s turns away a higher percentage of applicants than Harvard. 6. McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish was originally developed for Catholic customers, since they tend to abstain from meat on Fridays.

7. Burger King is called “Hungry Jack’s” in Australia.

8. Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas went back to school to earn his GED in 1993 at the age of 61. He didn’t want people to see his success and feel inspired to drop out of high school. 9. The founders of Outback Steakhouse never visited Australia, and have no interest in going. 10. Taco Bell has twice attempted to open stores in Mexico. Their food was even labeled as “Authentic American Food.” 11. Chipotle buys some of their avocados from singer Jason Mraz.

12. There is a secret menu item at Chipotle called a “quesarito” where a burrito is wrapped using a cheese quesadilla.

13. After graduating from culinary school, Steve Ells wanted to open up his own fine dining restaurant. In order to raise the necessary money he started Chipotle. 14. After he left the company, Colonel Sanders disliked KFC so much that he described it as “the worst fried chicken I’ve ever seen” and called the gravy “wallpaper paste.”

15. Because of a successful marketing campaign 40 years ago, KFC chicken has become a traditional Christmas dinner in Japan. KFC is so popular that customers place their Christmas orders two months in advance.

16. Two companies prepare KFC’s Original Recipe chicken. One company only has half of the secret recipe, and the other company has the second half. The complete recipe only exists in one place: locked inside a vault at KFC’s headquarters. 17. Subway’s most popular sandwich, the Italian B.M.T., is named after the Brooklyn Manhattan Transit. 18. After receiving complaints that their “footlong” sandwich was only 11 inches long, Subway responded by saying, “”With regards to the size of the bread and calling it a footlong, ‘Subway Footlong’ is a registered trademark as a descriptive name for the sub sold in Subway Restaurants and not intended to be a measurement of length.” 19. Subway is the largest restaurant chain in the world, with more restaurants than McDonald’s.

20. To accommodate workers at the World Trade Center building, Subway installed a mobile restaurant that moved up the building as they finished each floor.

21. At a cost of around $1,000,000, Pizza Hut made a delivery to the International Space Station in 2001.

22. Before 2013, the number one buyer of kale was Pizza Hut. They didn’t serve it, they used it as a decoration for their salad bars.

23. Pizza Hut once sued Papa John’s because they claimed that “fresher ingredients” didn’t make “better pizza.” 24. Pizza Hut uses 300 million pounds of cheese each year, which accounts for 3% of U.S. cheese production. 25. Arby’s got its name from the acronym “R.B.,” which doesn’t stand for “roast beef,” but rather “Raffel brothers,” who founded the restaurant.

26. Five Guy’s fries are the most unhealthy in America, with nearly 1,500 calories and 71 grams of fat.

27. Shaquille O’Neal owns 10% of all Five Guys restaurants in North America. 28. Chick-Fil-A is not closed on Sundays for religious reasons. They close on Sundays because the founder didn’t like working on Sundays. 29. The first 100 people who go to a new Chick-Fil-A when it opens get a free meal every week for a year. 30. Panera Bread once sued Qdoba and argued that burritos were sandwiches. 31. On average, Starbucks has opened two new stores every day since 1987.

32. The original doughnuts from Dunkin’ Donuts had a handle (to make dunking easier).

33. Domino’s Pizza had to cancel their “30 minutes or less” guarantee because drivers kept causing accidents while rushing to deliver pizzas on time, resulting in at least one fatality. 34. Mark Cuban once criticized someone by saying that they “would not even be able to manage a Dairy Queen.” Dairy Queen offered Mark Cuban a chance to manage Dairy Queen for a whole day, which he accepted. He didn’t do a great job.

35. Dairy Queen restaurants in Texas have a different menu from all other DQ restaurants in the world. You can only get a Steakfinger Basket at a Texas Dairy Queen.

36. IHOP adds pancake batter to their omelettes in order to make them “fluffier.” 37. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream has chunks in it because Ben has anosmia and relies on “mouth-feel” when eating. 38. Because of the restaurant’s reputation to stay open after disasters, the “Waffle House Index” is used to informally assess the damage of a storm. 39. Waffle House sells more steak than any other restaurant. 40. If you laid all of the bacon that Waffle House serves in a year end-to-end, it would wrap all the way around the equator.

41. White Castle burgers have five holes punched in each patty so they cook faster and don’t need to be flipped.

42. Founded in 1921, White Castle was the first fast food restaurant. 43. Colonel Sanders’ favorite food was White Castle. 44. Denny’s was once open year round, so when they decided to close for Christmas, many of the stores had to hire locksmiths because their doors didn’t have locks. (H/T BuzzFeed) It’s hard to imagine life without fast food, whether you love it or not. The industry is full of secrets and this list just scratches the surface. Share the delicious knowledge by sharing this with others, click on the button below.

Read more: http://viralnova.com/fast-food-trivia/

12 Everyday Items That Were Strangely Invented During Wartime

It’s undeniable that war is terrible.

Moving political agendas forward by using war (even to protect the citizens of a country) always results in tragic deaths. On the flip side, though, it can also create economic growth and some surprising inventions.

Necessity is the mother of all inventions, and that is doubly true during wartime. These items (some of which you use daily) were created during times of war. Did you have any idea?

1. Tabasco hot sauce

In the 1850s, a soldier gave his banker friend in New Orleans named Edmund Mcilhenny some delicious Capsicum hot peppers from Mexico. He was serving in the United States-Mexican war when he found them. The man loved the peppers so much, he planted them on his wife’s family’s plantation on Avery Island, just off the Louisiana Gulf Coast. Eventually, the Mcilhenny family used the peppers to create Tabasco Sauce. The sauce was eventually so popular, it was included in C-Rations for soldiers fighting overseas during World War I.

2. Individual tea bags

For soldiers on the front, it can be difficult to gain access to common food staples. Supposedly, in 1908, a U.S. tea importer named Thomas Sullivan accidentally invented the modern teabag by sending samples of his loose leaf to customers in small silk pouches. For the troops in World War I, this was a happy discovery, as they could then brew individual cups of tea.

3. Sanitary napkins

Kotex sanitary napkins were created as a result of the invention of cellucotton, which is a pulp by-product of processed sugar cane. The absorbent, but disposable, substance was used to dress soldiers’ wounds during World War I. Then, nurses used it for sanitary pads while stationed overseas. As a result, Kimberly-Clark began marketing Kotex disposable sanitary pads in 1920.

4. Hostess Twinkies

Originally, in the 1930s, Twinkies were made with a banana filling. During World War II, however, there was a sudden banana shortage and Hostess had to pivot. Instead, they created Twinkies with vanilla cream filling…which were a hit and led to the modern Twinkie.

5. Canned goods

The Emperor Napoleon and a chef named Nicolas Appert created a modern household staple: canned goods. In 1795, Napoleon was worried about getting food to troops that were off fighting his war. So, he offered a prize of 12,000 francs to any man who could find a way to safely preserve food. After 15 years of attempts, Nicolas Appert perfected the canning process.

6. Wrist watch

Although wrist watches were created before World War I, their regular use by soldiers made them extremely popular. Watches allowed officers to efficiently time their actions with others (without using visual cues and giving themselves away). Soon after the war, everyone in London was wearing a wrist watch.

7. Portable x-ray machine

At the beginning of World War I, the portable x-ray machine was invented and perfected by scientists. In particular, the famed scientist Marie Curie worked with countless teams to outfit Red Cross trucks with mobile field units. This technology eliminated many hours of travel time for patients with severe injuries, potentially saving their lives.

8. Blood banks

Before World War I, if a dying patient desperately needed a blood transfusion, doctors would need to find a willing and healthy patient to donate the blood. Thankfully, physicians soon discovered that, by adding sodium citrate to the blood, donated blood could last outside of a patient’s body without coagulating. Dr. Oswald Hope Robertson then created the first blood bank on the battlefield of France in 1917.

9. Duct tape

A woman named Vesta Stoudt was working at a plant during World War II when she noticed something alarming. The packaging of the cartridges she was inspecting was faulty. The paper tape sealing off the ammunition was hard to remove because it would rip, making it difficult for soldiers to quickly access the package’s contents in the field. As a result, she invented duct tape. Not only would it seal the boxes, but it could be removed without tearing.

10. Embalming

Although even early Egyptians were embalming their dead, it wasn’t until the Civil War that U.S. surgeons discovered how to preserve a body so that it could be sent home for a proper burial. It’s believe that a Dr. Thomas Holmes perfected the process and embalmed over 4,000 bodies of deceased Union soldiers.

11. Antibiotics (such a penicillin)

Penicillin’s creation may be one of the most important discoveries of all time. It was originally discovered in 1928 by Scottish scientist Sir Alexander Fleming, but it was in 1941 that doctors realized that Penicillin could be used to treat wounds for soldiers. After that, the limits and benefits of the drug were explored and it’s still used all over the world.

12. Instant coffee

The “essence of coffee” was created for Civil War soldiers in the 1860s. Small instant coffee cakes were given to Union troops as part of their rations. After that, the popularity of instant coffee exploded.

(via All Day)

The inventions that were a result of war don’t justify the violence, but it is fascinating what positive things can coalesce as a result.

Read more: http://www.viralnova.com/products-created-during-wartime/

How Dikembe Mutombo’s Finger Changed The NBA

Five years after his retirement, one of the greatest shot-blockers in NBA history is as visible as ever, thanks to a trademark finger-wag that helped him become an icon and clear a path for the league’s globalization.

Dikembe Mutombo doesn’t remember the first time he wagged his finger in a basketball game, but he does remember why. In 1992, the 7-foot-2-inch rookie center was an NBA All-Star, but he played on a bad team, the Nuggets, in a midsize city, Denver. And he was from a country, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), that most Americans can’t place on a map. Sneaker companies were dishing out multimillion-dollar endorsement deals to the league’s best and best-known players, and Mutombo knew he needed to establish a marketable trademark move to accompany the prodigious blocked shots for which he was already making a name.

“Back then, I would shake my head when I used to block shots,” Mutombo, now 47, recalls at his Atlanta foundation’s headquarters, where he spends much of his time these days. “I really didn’t have a signature…I had to come up with something [for when] I was dominating a game.”

Mutombo, wearing a light blue dress shirt with sleeves two inches too short, sinks into his black leather office chair, extends his long legs the width of his wooden desk, and sends a text to his wife, Rose. Inside the bright green-and-yellow office, reminders of Mutombo’s career are scattered alongside photographs from trips to Africa. Several boxes of new high-tops rest on a spare table, alongside a Mutombo-licensed basketball. In front of his monitor sits a mouse pad prominently displaying his face, which, much to Mutombo’s surprise, was — is — still very much everywhere.

The Mutombo sneakers — a black high-top festooned with colorful accents and an African print — that Adidas released in 1993 were accompanied by a now legendary ad in which the rising star solemnly proclaims, as tribal drums pound in the background, “Man does not fly in the House of Mutombo.” Shortly after, Mutombo debuted his move: that defiant single-finger shake after every blocked shot. In addition to making opponents think twice about attacking him in the paint, the wag quickly turned into his calling card, equal parts intimidating, cocky, playful, and goofy. In the process, a reputation, and a global marketing icon, was born.

Over the course of an 18-year professional career that saw him block 3,289 shots and star in dozens of ads, Mutombo turned his taunt into one of professional sports’ most celebrated gestures. And today, it’s everywhere. An instantly ubiquitous Geico commercial, in which Mutombo plies his not-in-my-house trade in grocery store aisles and office break rooms, is approaching 5 million views on YouTube. Besides the TV spot, the shot-blocker recently lent his deep voice and likeness to an Old Spice-sponsored browser game. Cheekily titled “Dikembe Mutombo’s 4 1/2 Weeks to Save the World,” the retro game lets players guide a jet-pack-strapped Mutombo through space, throw deodorant sticks at laser-firing enemies, and destroy villains with a giant hoagie. In recent months, the wag has made public appearances faking out an NBA mascot, endorsing a U.S. Senate candidate, and showing up at this year’s NBA All-Star Game festivities.

Serge Ibaka Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE / Getty Images

And these are just the wag’s official engagements. To punctuate highlight-reel heroics, countless athletes have adopted the gesture, from the current Congolese NBA players Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo, to the feared Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, to Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero, who last year doled out a menacing wag after tagging out Dodgers slugger Yasiel Puig at home plate. And that doesn’t begin to count the legions of playground heroes and backyard champions who have made the wag their own.

“Whenever [someone does] the finger wag, nothing comes to mind but Dikembe,” says Knicks legend and fellow Georgetown alum Patrick Ewing, who mentored a young Mutombo and coached him years later. “Like when people stick out their tongue, you don’t even have to say [Michael Jordan’s] name. You already know who they’re emulating.”

The wag has become so famous that today it nearly outshines the staggering things Dikembe Mutombo achieved on the court. He appeared on eight all-star squads, earned four NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards, and blocked more shots than anyone in the league’s history with the exception of Hakeem Olajuwon. But if Mutombo eventually reaches the Hall of Fame — he becomes eligible in 2015 — it’ll have more than a little to do with the cultural influence of his right hand’s index finger. In other words, the wag is what made Mutombo Mutombo, what turned a lumbering non-native English speaker who excelled on the forgotten end of the floor into a bona fide superstar.

Mutombo while playing for Georgetown in 1990 Bob Stowell / Getty Images

Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo (nicknamed “Deke”) was born in 1966, the seventh of 10 children, in Kinshasa, the capital of what is now the Congo. His father was a school superintendent who required his young son to contribute to his school tuition. As a child, Mutombo dreamed first of becoming a doctor, and the first sport he loved was soccer. It wasn’t until his late teens that he began playing basketball.

Mutombo in 1990. Doug Pensinger /Allsport / Getty Images

Mutombo joined Congo’s junior national basketball squad, where he played alongside his older brother, Ilo. The younger Mutombo’s size and athleticism quickly caught the eye of a visiting American diplomat and former basketball coach in 1986, who sent word of the massive Congolese to Georgetown’s then-head coach John Thompson Jr., who had only two years earlier coached the Hoyas to their first national championship. Mutombo received a U.S. Agency for International Development scholarship and enrolled at Georgetown in 1987. Ineligible his freshman year due to an NCAA snafu, he joined the basketball team the following season. Mutombo, who now speaks nine different languages, slowly learned English and acclimated to America and American basketball.

“He was tall, thin, and lanky at the time,” recalls former Georgetown point guard Mark Tillmon. “He didn’t really know how to play… He was so green that Charles Smith and I were blocking his shots.” Tillmon and Smith are 6 feet 2 inches and 6 feet, respectively.

Mutombo entered the 1988–9 season as an anonymous third-string big man. The 7-foot-2-inch center was so unknown to the public that Thompson wryly told reporters during a preseason press conference to watch out for the 5-foot-10-inch point guard he had recruited from the Congo. Mutombo averaged only 11 minutes per game his first year, but flashed glimpses of his devastating defensive potential. During a January 1989 game against St. John’s, the Hoyas’ star center Alonzo Mourning picked up two early fouls and landed on the bench. Thompson yelled down to Mutombo, “Africa, Africa, come here.”

“He said, ‘Son, I’m going to put you in,’” Mutombo recalls. “‘I know you’re not playing, and I’m not asking you to do much. All I want is for you to go out, block shots, and rebound. Do not try to score! Do nothing.’”

Mutombo blocked 12 shots, a single game school record. Thompson soon began playing Mourning and Mutombo alongside each other, forming a towering front line that the press nicknamed “Rejection Row.” Once timid and green, Mutombo became confident, even cocky as an upperclassman. During his senior season, incoming freshman forward Robert Churchwell remembers Mutombo’s trademark mix of playfulness and intimidation — the wag’s primary ingredients.

“I could never dunk on Dikembe,” Churchwell says. “He would always say, ‘Robert, what are you trying to do? You can’t do that to me!’”

Dikembe Mutombo posts up against Shawn Kemp of the Seattle Supersonic in Seattle Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Prior to the early 1990s, the NBA lacked a significant global presence. The league had featured foreign players since its inception, but they were largely journeymen who received little fanfare. In the ‘80s, talented European players Dražen Petrović, Vlade Divac, and Detlef Schrempf made a name for non-Americans in the league. Around the same time, 7-foot-7-inch Manute Bol and the young star Hakeem Olajuwon had NBA scouts looking on the African continent for more big men. But these players were rare exceptions in a league dominated by Americans.

The 1992 Summer Olympics were a watershed event for the league on the international stage. For the first time, the IOC allowed professionals to play for their home countries, and the U.S. fielded the Michael Jordan- and Magic Johnson-led Dream Team, widely considered one of the greatest collections of talent to ever play a team sport together.

The dynamic Americans raised the game’s international profile to unprecedented heights. Basketball quickly turned into one of the world’s most played sports. The NBA today is televised in 215 countries and territories, and since 1991, the number of foreign NBA players on opening-day rosters has quadrupled.

The Dream Team set the stage for a player like Mutombo, who was blessed with an infectious personality and radiating intelligence, to become its first real ambassador, particularly in Africa. And the wag would become his passport.

But first, he needed to land on an NBA roster. Despite Mutombo’s obvious potential, he was still raw when he entered the 1991 draft at 25. Nevertheless, he caught the eye of Bernie Bickerstaff — then the Nuggets’ president and general manager — who was revamping the defense of the league’s worst franchise. He selected Mutombo with the fourth overall pick.

“There was no doubt in terms of who we wanted [to draft],” Bickerstaff says. “We wanted to rebuild the program. Dikembe was a starting point.”

It would take three years for Mutombo to drag the Nuggets far enough out of the cellar to give the wag a national stage: the 1994 NBA playoffs. The Nuggets, who snuck in as the Western Conference’s eighth and lowest seed, faced the league-best Sonics. No eighth seed had ever defeated a top seed, and most beat writers, analysts, and fans wrote off Denver against the title contenders and their explosive power forward, Shawn Kemp.

The Sonics dominated the opening two games and stood on the verge of a series sweep (first-round series were best of five until 2003). Before Game 3, Mutombo told the press that he had dreamt about a comeback series win. The media scoffed, as did Kemp and his teammates. But Mutombo responded with 19 points, 13 rebounds, and 6 blocks, helping the Nuggets win their first postseason game in six years. Momentum swung in Denver’s favor. They staved off another elimination game in a Game 4 overtime win. And by then, Mutombo was in the Sonics’ heads.

“Once he started to wag that finger, guys would get caught up and really try to challenge him,” Kemp says. “He was trying to get them to play his own game, which was [getting them to try] to attack him to make it easier for him to block shots.”

Game 5 also went to overtime. The announcers gushed over Mutombo, comparing him to Bill Russell, the legendary Celtic. With around 1:25 left, Denver held a slim 96-94 lead. Near the three-point line, Kemp rolled off a pick to grab an inbound pass from Schrempf. Kemp glared at Mutombo, darted right, then left, and leapt toward the basket. The Nuggets center gathered, extended his right arm toward the scoreboard, and met Kemp at the rim.

“Another block by Mutombo!” roared the announcer. It was his eighth block of the game and his 31st in the series, shattering the previous playoff record.

“[Kemp] thought he had me,” Mutombo recalls. “He went up strong, and boom! I stopped it.”

The Nuggets went on to win the game, and Mutombo grabbed the game’s final rebound. He clenched the ball, shrugged off Kemp’s final jabs, and collapsed to the court. Although the Nuggets lost in the next round, their dominant, finger-wagging giant was one of the biggest stories — if not the biggest story — of the 1994 playoffs.

“The finger wagging thing … became contagious and iconic,” remembers Bickerstaff. “It became a part of him.”

In large part because of the wag, Mutombo commanded huge attention during his first free agency in the summer of 1996. By then, he had claimed his first Defensive Player of the Year award and returned to the playoffs. The Nuggets lowballed Mutombo, and he signed a five-year contract for more than $50 million with the Atlanta Hawks, years in which he played the best basketball of his career. He won three more Defensive Player of the Year awards, two rebounding championships, and the 1999 IBM Award given to the league’s biggest statistical contributor to his team.

And Mutombo’s greatest years as a player coincided with his greatest years as a taunter. “The finger wag was at an all-time high in Atlanta,” says former Hawks guard Steve Smith. “He blocked shots, took away points, and would do it to crowds and players. People hated it on the road.”

Home fans erupted at every wag. Lenny Wilkens, then the Hawks’ coach, remembers Mutombo’s swaggering presence on those mid-’90s Hawks teams. “He liked to let you know you couldn’t just walk to the basket on him if he was there.”

Mutombo’s reputation as a fearsome rim protector didn’t go unnoticed by the league’s superstars, who itched to dunk over the giant. For his part, Mutombo took enormous pride in not allowing dunks against the game’s great leapers, especially Michael Jordan, who was in the midst of his second three-peat with the Bulls. “I didn’t want to be in one of his posters,” Mutombo says. “There was one of Michael flying above every big man in the league. It took him years [to] dunk on me.”

Mutombo talked trash about that streak on the court for more than six years. At the 1997 NBA All-Star game, he jokingly asked the league’s biggest star if he needed help from a teammate to climb Mount Mutombo. “Mike, you want me to call Scottie?” Mutombo quipped in the Eastern Conference locker room.

Months later, the famously vindictive Jordan returned the favor. During a second-round playoff matchup, Jordan caught a baseline pass from Bulls center Luc Longley and brutally slammed over Mutombo with his right hand. Jordan slowly stepped backward, glared at Mutombo, and wagged the finger back. The refs called a technical.

“The stadium went crazy,” Mutombo recalls. “They had to stop the game. Everybody [was like], ‘He got you, Deke, he got you! You cannot talk trash no more. He got you!’”

Opposing players weren’t the only group upset by the wag; complaints piled up from coaches and referees slowly started cracking down. Mutombo initially refused to stop for them or even for then-NBA Commissioner David Stern.

“I received a call from the commissioner, who said that it would be better if I could stop waving to the players,” Mutombo says. “I disregard[ed] it. I kept doing it and getting technical fouls.”

Eventually, Mutombo devised an ingenious solution: aiming his finger toward the crowd to avoid those calls. The wag was so deeply ingrained in Mutombo’s presence and personal brand that fully stopping was never an option.

“Everything became just about finger wag,” Mutombo says. “TV, everybody that want[ed] me to do something want[ed] me to do it with my finger wag. It’s a signature. When you do it more than 2,000 times, you really have an identity.”

Dikembe Mutombo playing for the Atlanta Hawks in 1997. Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Bismack Biyombo Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE / Getty Images

In 1997, when Mutombo was fresh off his second Defensive Player of the Year Award, Bismack Biyombo was a basketball-obsessed 5-year-old in Lubumbashi, the Congo’s second largest city. Biyombo adoringly watched Mutombo play, and hoped that one day he could do the same.

“There’s not many people [from Congo] who made it to the league,” Biyombo says. “Looking at him, you thought it was possible too. As you know, watching him, the finger [wag], and all that stuff, we had to start stealing it.”

1997 was a big year for Mutombo in and out of basketball: In December he started his eponymous foundation, which is devoted to improving health care conditions throughout the Congo. The foundation’s early work involved sending medical supplies, pharmaceutical items, hospital beds, and ambulances to Kinshasa. And all along the way, Mutombo used the wags to spread awareness about the dire health situation in his country.

“It’s an identity people can buy into easily,” Mutombo says. “I can help with a campaign [that] says, ‘No, no, no!’ We want to say ‘no!’ to polio, ‘no!’ to malaria.”

Mutombo’s growing profile allowed him to raise tens of millions for the foundation’s health care initiatives, and to become an NBA global ambassador, a CARE spokesperson, and a youth emissary for the United Nations Development Program. Last summer, Forbes featured him on the cover of the magazine’s philanthropy issue alongside the likes of prominent 21st-century nonprofit emissaries Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Nobel Peace Prize-winning economist Muhammad Yunus, and Bono.

A decade of humanitarian work culminated with the 2007 opening of the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital. Named for Mutombo’s late mother, the $29 million facility is a state-of-the-art 170-bed hospital with the country’s first CT scanner and an invaluable fistula-repair program. Mutombo contributed $23 million of his own money and convinced players and owners to chip in more than $1.2 million.

“From the finger wag, I was able to raise many, many, many dollars from corporations and individuals to save lives in Africa,” Mutombo says. “I had a dream to become a doctor, but my dream was transformed by building a hospital [and] carries the same life mission.”

Between his accomplishments in the NBA and his philanthropy, Mutombo became an icon in the Congo on the order of Manny Pacquiao in the Philippines — a national sporting hero renowned for great deeds at home and abroad. He made hoop dreams, and global accomplishment, seem possible in a war-torn nation that lacked a rich basketball history. Biyombo, now an imposing 6-foot-9-inch center with the Charlotte Hornets, frequently borrows the wag as a tribute after his own blocks.

“Mutombo said, ‘You’re going to have to buy that. You can’t steal my finger like that. I own it,’” Biyombo recalls. “I do it sometimes and don’t realize it. It just became a habit that’s now mine.”

Dikembe Mutombo with Shaquille O’Neal during game three of the 2001 NBA Finals. Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The wag’s last brush with the NBA limelight came during the 2001 Finals, which matched Mutombo’s 76ers against the Shaquille O’Neal-led Lakers. With his jagged elbows, pesky flopping, and occasional wag, Mutombo got under Shaq’s famously thin skin, and reminded the world of his prowess as a defender. Though the Lakers won the series, Mutombo calls the matchup “one of the best battles I ever [had] in my career.”

The wag’s presence on the NBA’s largest stage took Mutombo’s celebrity to unprecedented heights. Conan O’Brien invited him onto Late Night, where they chatted about Shaq, the Congo, and the Rumble in the Jungle. Following the appearance, Mutombo landed another wave of commercials, and his solid play continued into the next year, when he earned another all-star appearance.

But the 2002 nod would be Mutombo’s last. Nagging injuries and diminishing results limited his role with the Sixers, Nets, and Knicks from 2002 to 2004. Mutombo joined the Houston Rockets for his final five seasons, in which he mentored a new international icon, Yao Ming.

Mutombo’s final in-game wag came during the 2009 NBA playoffs. In the opening first-round game against the Trailblazers, Mutombo sidestepped his way into the paint, impeded an uncontested Brandon Roy drive, and extended his right hand to the ceiling of the Rose Garden. Winding up for a dunk, Roy had to force an awkward last-minute layup attempt that Mutombo altered slightly — not exactly intimidating, but effective. Mutombo turned beneath the basket, cocked his hand high, and brandished his finger one last time at Trailblazers fans. Ming, the Rockets’ starting center, rose from the bench and wagged back.

Late in the first quarter of Game 2, Mutombo ruptured a tendon in his right knee. After the game, at the age of 42, he announced his retirement.

Five years after the end of his basketball career, Dikembe Mutombo finds himself in a curious position: He’s as famous as ever.

“Being retired, I never knew your name [could] be regarded as an icon for something,” Mutombo says. “A new generation can identify me … just from the finger wag.”

Dozens of terrific NBA players have faded into obscurity away from the court, and it’s possible Mutombo, without the wag, would today be a respected but forgotten minor star — a freakish athlete with accented English, not really part of the popular American sports, and cultural, consciousness. Instead, a playful gesture born from a marketing campaign made Mutombo one of the league’s first true global icons. More than that, it ensured that he became an essential part of the history of the game.

“[The wag] gave me an identity,” Mutombo says. “I made the promise to myself that by the time I walked away from this game, I [would be] remembered. I knew I wanted to be remembered for blocking shots. I was letting the world know who I am.”

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Read more: http://www.buzzfeed.com/maxblau/how-dikembe-mutombos-finger-changed-the-nba

It’s a SNAP: 7-Eleven now marketing pizza with food stamp logo [photos]


Obama’s food-stamp nation, 7-Eleven edition:


Looks that way. There’s even a sign at a Virginia 7-Eleven with the SNAP logo and not one, but two exclamation points.



And if the line’s long, there’s always Starbucks for your “supplemental nutritional” needs”


Can we get a ruling on this?



Obama’s food-stamp nation: ‘We accept EBT’ signs are everywhere

FreedomWorks’ Kristina Ribali: Weaning people off food stamps is real SNAP challenge

For votes? For Thanksgiving? Confused, entitled Twitter users thank ‘cutee’ Obama for extra food stamps

Entitled Obama supporters rejoice that they can keep their food stamps

Food stamps recipients double under Obama; Result? Selling food stamps for an iPhone 5 is all the rage

Food stamp fraud all the rage on Twitter

Read more: http://twitchy.com/2013/09/13/its-a-snap-7-eleven-now-marketing-pizza-with-food-stamp-logo-photos/

People Like Box, But They Love Its Sneaker-Wearing, Always-Tweeting CEO

Congrats Twitter, but for IPOs.

1. Box shares started trading today on the New York Stock Exchange, about ten months after the cloud storage and app company filed to go public. Shares rose 65% despite the company’s non-existent profitability thanks to high sales and marketing costs.

Box closed the day valued at $2.8 billion.

Brendan Mcdermid / Reuters

Online data storage provider Box Inc Co-Founder and CEO Aaron Levie © rings the opening bell to celebrate his company’s IPO at the New York Stock Exchange January 23, 2015.

3. But everyone was really happy about it! It’s 2015’s first big tech IPO. Also Box’s co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie, who is Silicon-Valley-famous for his twitter quips, (sometimes) big hair, and colorful sneakers.

Brendan Mcdermid / Reuters

Steve Jennings/Getty Images


Tomorrow’s Schedule: 7 AM: Wake up, drink lots of coffee8 AM: Do this and that10 AM: Work

— levie (@Aaron Levie)

Thanks to the amazing employees, customers, partners & investors who got us here! Now, I must take a nap.**Not a forward looking statement

— levie (@Aaron Levie)

8. Levie has spent a lot of time at the head of growing, but still private company (Box was founded in 2005), which has won him a lot of goodwill among investors and other tech executives who’ve gone through the process.

9. Like Drew Houston, the CEO of Dropbox, the other hot storage startup with that has “Box” in its name.

Congrats @levie and team at $BOX!

— drewhouston (@Drew Houston)

11. Or Y Combinator president Sam Altman

coming out of my twitter blackout for one tweet only to say CONGRATS @levie and @BoxHQ!

— sama (@Sam Altman)

13. And HubSpot founder Dharmesh Shah

Congrats, @levie on the IPO. Hope you had a nice nap and got some rest. It’s all easy-going from here. 🙂

— dharmesh (@Dharmesh Shah)

15. And the head of the biggest and most profitable software company of all time, Satya Nadella. (Funny enough, some think Box will get acquired or crushed by Microsoft.)

Congrats @levie on your #BoxIPO!

— satyanadella (@Satya Nadella)

17. Speaking of Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise business, the head of if, Scott Guthrie, had an unflashy, utiltiarian congratulations.

@levie congrats Aaron!

— scottgu (@Scott Guthrie)

19. Former Windows boss Steve Sinofsky spread the congratulations all around to the company’s investors.

Congratulations to @dfjjosh. Made the bet when @boxhq was just 3 people!

— stevesi (@Steven Sinofsky)

Best time for messaging? While on the NYSE floor and @SquawkAlley way to go @levie and team.

— stevesi (@Steven Sinofsky)

22. Venture capitalist and early Twitter investor Chris Sacca got in on the #congratstwitter action

@levie Hell yeah, man. Congratulations have been a long time coming.

— sacca (@Chris Sacca)

24. Zendesk CEO Mikkel Svane, whose company was the hottest enterprise software IPO of last year, wondered what took so long.

@levie about effing time. But welcome to the club. And congrats on a fantastic opening!

— mikkelsvane (@Mikkel Svane)

26. Former Facebook executive and venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya

This: $BOX. Congrats @levie and @mamoonha

— chamath (@Chamath Palihapitiya)

28. Anthony Noto has seen tech companies face the public market from every angle: he was Twitter’s lead banker during its IPO and now serves as its CFO (he also was going to work for the hedge fund that owns a big chunk of Box but joined Twitter instead).

Congrats to Aaron @levie and the $BOX team! Huge milestone to celebrate

— anthonynoto (@Anthony Noto)

30. .8% of all of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s tweets have been for congratulating Aaron Levie and Box.

Congratulations to @levie and the Box team on their IPO and for creating a great company!

— tim_cook (@Tim Cook)

32. Congrats Aaron, your Box stake is worth about $95 million! Now you have to explain this to investors every 90 days!

Read more: http://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/everyone-loves-aaron-levie

Newt Gingrich to use Google Glass to convert Piers Morgan


The #ifihadglass hashtag you might have seen trending this afternoon was a marketing effort by Google to promote its upcoming release of the Internet-enabled Google Glass eyeglasses (the ones Matt Drudge warned you about). Some who tweet what they’d do with the glasses will be chosen to receive a pair early. (They still have to pay the $1,500 price tag, though.)

New demo movies give an idea of what the glasses can do, but are they powerful enough to make Piers Morgan see straight? Is this a more realistic goal than the manned moon base?

#ifihadglass i could get @piersmorgan to see my point of viewgoogle.com/glass/start/@projectglass

— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) February 21, 2013

You’ll need more than glass! > RT @newtgingrich #ifihadglass i could get @piersmorgan to see my point of view google.com/glass/start/

— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) February 21, 2013

Gingrich really wants in on Google Glass. He has a backup plan if Google doesn’t go for the Piers Morgan thing (which it should).

#ifihadglass i would take it on tours of zoos and museums to share the animals and fossils — @projectglass google.com/glass/start/

— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) February 21, 2013

Read more: http://twitchy.com/2013/02/20/newt-gingrich-to-use-extraordinary-power-of-google-glass-to-convert-piers-morgan/

Failure To Launch: How New Mexico Is Paying For Richard Branson’s Space Tourism Fantasy

One of the poorest states in the nation has invested nearly a quarter of a billion dollars and 10 years in creating a hub for Richard Branson’s space tourism company, Virgin Galactic. Some see it as the crown jewel of a new space age while others call it a carnival for the 1 percent — but with persistent delays and mounting financial strain, Spaceport America is just trying to avoid becoming New Mexico’s costliest, most futuristic ghost town.

They came from the north by helicopter, flying over scattered cattle and mesquite brush and yucca plants straining skyward. To the east was White Sands Missile Range, where the first atomic bomb was detonated, and further east was Roswell, where the streetlamps are little green alien heads. Below them was that old muddy snake, the Rio Grande, and just west, a town called Truth or Consequences. But the men on that cherry red Bell 206 LongRanger chopper were not sightseeing. They were headed to the middle of the desert, where they planned to launch a bunch of spaceships.

It was December 2005, and Rick Homans ran the New Mexico Department of Economic Development for Gov. Bill Richardson. Homans sat shotgun in the LongRanger and behind him were three Brits: two top dogs in a company called Virgin Galactic and the godfather of all things Virgin, billionaire Richard Branson. He had recently licensed technology that in 2004 won the $10 million Ansari X Prize by taking the first privately built manned ship to an altitude above 62 miles, the internationally recognized boundary of space. Branson was confident that by 2007 they’d be making that trip on a daily basis.

As the chopper flew deeper into the desert, the men shouted louder into their bulky headsets. Homans knew he might not get another chance to spitball with these men he considered some of the top branding minds in the world, and so he had them brainstorming, a round robin of hollering over the propeller noise, to figure out a name for the place they were headed. And Richard Branson was the one who finally said it.

The name was one that encapsulated all the ambition of the project, one that suggested a collective ownership — the hope that access to space would soon be available to anyone who wanted it. It was one that outshined the rather mundane Southwest Regional Spaceport, by which the project had been known for the decade before Virgin Galactic flew into New Mexico. It planted a symbolic flag, a gesture fashioned in roughly the same spirit as Armstrong and Aldrin driving the Stars and Stripes into the surface of the moon 36 years earlier. Here at the beginning there was more than a little bit of the old space race bleeding into the new one, even though the New Space Race was not about a cold war, but a commercial one.

And so they called it Spaceport America.

Almost nine years later and little is known about Spaceport America. All the talk is of Virgin Galactic, the self-proclaimed “world’s first commercial spaceline”; since 2004 more than 700 people have forked over at least $200,000 for a ticket on the two-hour flight. Many of these “future astronauts” are celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Bieber and Tom Hanks and Brangelina. (The Winklevoss twins bought their pair using Bitcoin.)

This is what they’ve paid for: WhiteKnightTwo, the Galactic mothership, will fly to 50,000 feet with SpaceShipTwo strapped to its underbelly. SpaceshipTwo and the six ticket holders seated inside will then be released from the airplane and rocket at up to 2,500 mph to sub-orbit some 70 miles high where they will be weightless for a few minutes before gliding back down to Earth and sipping champagne in the Astronaut Lounge and slapping high fives the way only people who have been to space can slap high fives. By 2012, 3,000 tourists were supposed to have made this trip, a goal not reached in part because of problems with rocket development, including a 2007 fatal explosion at test facilities in Mojave, Calif. There have been a number of the kinds of technological delays that one might expect from a fledgling industry, but nearly every year Galactic promises to begin operations anyway. The last nine years of promises without a spaceflight recently culminated in Branson biographer Tom Bower calling the billionaire Virgin mogul an overvalued and “aging sun lizard” whose Galactic company is a total sham.

But the untold story is one about New Mexico and its taxpayers, the people who paid for and built Spaceport America. The saga of their decade-old quarter-billion-dollar gamble on the aging sun lizard’s quest to dominate the commercial space industry often gets overshadowed in favor of playing up the diminished, yet quintessentially American dream of space travel. But whether the dream will be realized or whither or crash and burn, it will happen here in New Mexico, down the road from a town called Truth or Consequences.

There’s an ashtray for every barstool, and the pool table is right in the doorway, and beyond that there’s lots of room for two-stepping or staggering. I’m in Truth or Consequences at the Pine Knot Saloon on an uncharacteristically frigid New Mexico day in late November. On my drive in, the local radio had bemoaned Virgin Galactic failing to begin operations from Spaceport America in 2013. Richard Branson would not, they said, rocket to the edge of space with his kids on Christmas as he had hoped. Galactic would not be ready to fly for another year. Nobody at the Pine Knot seems too bothered by the news. There’s a man lying on a bench beside a telephone booth, napping before his night shift. Three guys slowly orbit a game of pool. Everything in the saloon is pine and covered in a little bit of sweat from joy and a little bit of sweat from toil, and there’s that thick bar air from years of liquor-swelled dreams that don’t quite break but just get stagnant and hang around.

The Pine Knot is the only bar in Truth or Consequences, a town with a population of about 6,400 and an annual median income south of $22,000. The largest employers are Wal-Mart and the public schools. Half the storefronts in the historic downtown are shuttered. Main Street stays pretty empty except for an Art Hop one night a month, when you can buy any kind of turquoise jewelry or Navajo rug or get your tarot read by Christopher the Bohemian Vagabond. The real treasure of downtown is its spas, which are fueled by countless natural hot springs. The name of this town was, in fact, Hot Springs until Ralph Edwards held a contest in 1950 that required the winner to rename itself after his popular radio show, Truth or Consequences. Though a handful of citizens moved out in protest, the name stuck. Now, 60 years later, their identity is on the brink of another unlikely and controversial makeover.

I’m hanging around the Pine Knot waiting to get a good look at Spaceport America. I’m sort of obsessed with it because I lived most of my life just on the other side of the mountains in a town called Alamogordo. I grew up gazing at these New Mexico skies. When I attended the 2007 XPRIZE Cup held near Alamogordo I stood next to a mock-up of a Galactic spaceship and told a local news crew that I aimed to be the first-ever poet in space. The poetry thing hasn’t worked out, but here I am still wondering if I’ll ever be able to wake up one morning in my own bed and then spend the afternoon weightless. But tonight I’m stuck at the bar because the one road leading out to the spaceport is down to one lane and that one lane is frozen over.

Even though I’ve visited Spaceport America once before, my experience of it wasn’t matching the hype. New Mexico Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson had told me, “It can become an iconic destination like the Sydney Opera House or the Statue of Liberty.” Christine Anderson, executive director of New Mexico Spaceport Authority, also likened the building to the Sydney Opera House and told me it is an “iconic jewel in the desert.” Richard Branson (whose representatives at Galactic declined interview requests for this story) said at a 2011 dedication ceremony, “It could be one of the Seven Wonders.” I want to look at it again the way any of us want to look the future in the eye, to know for sure whether Spaceport America represents a paradigm shift for human travel or a boondoggle for one of the poorest states in the nation or a carnival fad for the 1 percent or a cathedral for a new kind of space-age spirituality.

When I ask the guys at the pool table if this is, in fact, the closest bar to the spaceport, they respond with an incredulous “Huh?” They’re aware of the spaceport’s existence, but they don’t know why I’d care to ask about it because, as they say again and again, not much is going on out there. Nobody’s flying to space.

Or, almost nobody. Bonnie, who calls herself a “sometimes employee” of the bar, smokes and smokes and tells me all about the “ashes of dead people that get launched into space over there.”

“That old guy from Star Trek and some astronauts,” she says. “They pay a bunch of money to just shoot their ashes in the air. Into space! And so we have to just … What? … Breathe them in?”

In the absence of Galactic operations, the only passengers who have lifted off from Spaceport America are the cremated remains of people whose families have paid UP Aerospace to launch their dead loved ones on a final joyride.

UP Aerospace is one of a few small commercial space startups that have been operating at Spaceport America over the last eight years. Together those startups have conducted 20 launches. But these have been relatively small rockets at a vertical launchpad secondary to the prized Virgin Galactic terminal, and they create a minuscule fraction of the revenue needed to operate the spaceport. UP Aerospace’s first operation, the first launch from Spaceport America in 2006, malfunctioned well before it got suborbital, crashed, and spilled the ashes of a veterinarian in the desert. Celestis is the company handling sales of space burials for clients like James Doohan (“that old guy from Star Trek”) and Gordon Cooper (the last of America’s Right Stuff astronauts to orbit Earth in Project Mercury). About its burials the company says, “Celestis missions are environmentally friendly in that no cremated remains are released into space.”

Bonnie assures me, though, that some of those ashes from Spaceport America’s first “tourist” are still scattered out there in the desert.

The Pine Knot Saloon: “They pay a bunch of money to just shoot their ashes in the air. Into space! And so we have to just … What? … Breathe them in?” Photograph by Arlen Albert

Out there in the desert means, specifically, 18,000 acres in the middle of the Jornada del Muerto, a stretch of mostly barren land between the sharp San Andres Mountains and the rolling Cabello Mountains that got its name from having killed so many Spanish travelers in the 17th century. Despite now being home to The World’s First Purpose-Built Commercial Spaceport, that area is still pretty remote and difficult to access. First, you have to get to Truth or Consequences. (A road connecting the spaceport to the larger southern city of Las Cruces is still incomplete.) Then you have to take a nearly hour-long bus ride along the one paved road that is sometimes down to that one lane. You could make the drive in your own vehicle but you’ll be turned away at the gates by a security guard sitting in a shack with black plastic bags on the windows — only official vehicles allowed. And anyway, you should leave the driving on this road to the professionals or the seasoned locals. Besides having steep drop-offs and winding wildly like all canyon roads, this one is infamous for flash floods, and last year one of them took the life of an Arizona worker on his drive home from tiling the dome roof of the Spaceport Operations Center.

I first took a bus to the spaceport in the summer of 2013, four years after construction on the main terminal began and two years after the lion’s share was complete. Virgin Galactic had finally begun paying its $1 million-a-year lease to New Mexico in January, but only after insisting on a $7 million upgrade to the still unused runway and the passage of state legislation that limited liability for themselves and their chain of suppliers in the case of an accident. But the real delay was the fact that Galactic was nowhere close to having their rocket motor perfected. And so the place was built but empty. There were 12,000 feet of pristine runway. There was the futuristic-looking terminal designed by the world-renowned architecture firm Fosters + Partners. It’s a strange building that fades up from the reddish desert in the shape of a horseshoe, and grows from almost sand-level on the south side into a three-story wall of glass that curves around the face of building. That spherical glass wall looks north over the runway like the cornea of a giant eye blinking open out of the desert after about a billion years of sleep.

“The then-governor said to me, ‘If you build me a spaceship, I’ll build you a spaceport.’ And I replied, ‘Well, I guess if you’ll build me a spaceport, then I’m gonna build you a spaceship.’ And then we shook hands.” Sir Richard Branson and friends rappel down the exterior of Spaceport America, October 17, 2011. Frederic J. Brown / AFP / Getty Images

Back in October 2011, Branson had rappelled from the roof of the terminal with his kids and a team of similarly suspended ballet dancers and declared Spaceport America open for business. He christened the terminal The Gateway to Space and showered it with champagne. But two years later, when my tour group visited in the summer of 2013, the champagne was all dried up. The Gateway to Space was an amazing thing to encounter in the midst of all that open range, but the facility had the eerie sense of one of the many ghost towns that you can find within miles in any direction, leftover from the New Mexico mining boom of the late 1800s. The building was immaculate on the outside but the guts of it were hollow, unfinished — like the façade of a movie set. The only people there were three firefighters who stayed busy washing their massive F-550 truck that was already so shiny from lack of use I wondered if they weren’t actually trying to scuff it up to give the monster a bit of character.

On the runway there were some skid marks, suggesting that Virgin Galactic had begun moving its operation from the test facilities at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California to its purpose-built home in the New Mexico desert. But the burned rubber, a security guard said, was from Will Smith’s private jet. The Fresh Prince had been there, just a few weeks earlier, shooting promotional photos for the doomed After Earth.

“We planned rocket races. Like NASCAR. But with rocket planes.”

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson mentions this offhand over the phone from his office in Santa Fe. He was governor from 2003–2011 with a brief 2008 presidential run sandwiched between the two terms. Today he’s just back from charity work in South Africa. I’m sitting on the ceramic tile floor of my adobe room at the Pink Pelican Motel in Truth or Consequences, killing time, still waiting for that November ice to melt off the lane leading to the spaceport.

The Rocket Racing League, though it sounds cartoonishly implausible, is an actual business that had hoped to operate at Spaceport America, but it ran into financial trouble and failed to build any kind of worthwhile fan base after its single exhibition at the Tulsa International Airport in 2010. Despite these kinds of burnouts, it’s hard not to feel absolutely confident about the future of the spaceport when talking to the guy still referred to by his entourage as the Gov. He’s reflective now that he’s not actively campaigning, a slow talker not because the words take time to formulate but because he wants to make sure they have time to settle in. We talk about his dreams of playing pro baseball and his backup dreams of being an astronaut. We talk about our years of gazing up at the New Mexico skies. More than once he says, “I consider the spaceport my legacy accomplishment.”

“I liked the idea of New Mexico and space. I thought a spaceport fit in.” The Gov says this like it was a decision he made on the fly, as nonchalant as a kid’s backup dream of being an astronaut. Rick Homans incubated the spaceport project as secretary of economic development in order to entice Virgin Galactic to the state. But even he confirms the gut decision. After a 15-minute presentation in 2004 about Galactic and a spaceport, the Gov simply looked at Homans and said, “Don’t screw it up, Dickey. Get out.”

“And from that moment on he never once wavered in his support for the project,” Homans says. “I have huge admiration for him as a political figure, to make a decision like that and then stick with it.” But that confidence must have stemmed in part from the guarantee that New Mexico would be the exclusive home of Virgin Galactic. Branson’s own story of that partnership, which he recently told to a crowd of businesspeople in the empty hangar of The Gateway to Space, is epic: “The then-governor [Richardson] said to me, ‘If you build me a spaceship, I’ll build you a spaceport.’ And I replied, ‘Well, I guess if you’ll build me a spaceport, then I’m gonna build you a spaceship.’ And then we shook hands.” Nine years later the ship Branson built hasn’t yet made it to space. But New Mexico has a spaceport.

The idea existed long before the Richardson administration. In June of 1963, just a month after the final orbital flight of NASA’s Mercury program, New Mexico Gov. Jack Campbell sent a letter to President John F. Kennedy that reads, “We in New Mexico believe the first inland aerospace port should be based here and earnestly solicit your acceptance of our views.”

By 1979 there actually was a spaceport of sorts operating in New Mexico. The White Sands Space Harbor was created to help NASA pilots train for landings. On March 30, 1982, the Space Shuttle Columbia landed there. The Space Harbor is a mere 50 miles east of Spaceport America, but its 35,000 feet of shuttle-ready runways have not been operational since NASA ended the shuttle program in 2011. And that brings the total amount of spacecraft runway in southern New Mexico not actively being used for space travel to almost 9 miles.

A V-2 rocket just after launch at the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico. NASA.gov

In the late ’90s, the current site of Spaceport America was in the running to become the home of the Venture Star, a reusable spaceplane NASA contracted Lockheed Martin to build as a replacement for the space shuttle. But when that program was canceled in 2001, the plans for a Southwest Regional Spaceport languished until Virgin Galactic flew into town and the project got rebranded: Spaceport America.

The difference between these other spaceport projects and the one that finally materialized was Galactic’s commitment to the state and its primary focus not on scientific breakthrough or exploration, but the unprecedented and undeniably sexy industry of space tourism. “I did a lot in the area of new job-creating initiatives, and I wanted to bring international prestige to the state,” Richardson says. “Space tourism could do that.”

The Gov was famous for getting behind big-eyed projects. Some, like the $300,000 he spent to convince the Mexican government to co-sponsor an NFL franchise in the region, never panned out. Others, like tax incentives to lure filmmakers to the state, have been incredibly successful. He says more than 135 films have been produced in the state because of those incentives — everything from Transformers to The Lone Ranger. The producers of Breaking Bad cite those tax incentives as the primary reason they chose to base their production in New Mexico rather than California and, as a result, an entire cottage industry of tourism has sprung up around the fame brought to Albuquerque by Heisenberg and his blue meth.

But many in New Mexico fear space tourism has already proven to be a flop leftover from the Richardson administration. One of the more outspoken critics of Spaceport America is Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, a conservative think tank in New Mexico. “Politicians have these big dreams and frequently they sell people and give this rosy picture of, Oh yeah, this is how we’ll fix the poor economy,” he tells me. “In reality space tourism is far more speculative and dubious than anyone actually knows. It’s like building an airport before the Wright Brothers had their first flight. That’s what New Mexico did.”

Bobby Allen, a county commissioner in Truth or Consequences, recently spoke to the Santa Fe New Mexican about the lack of return on his county’s investment: “Over a period of 10 years, we’ve been promised a lot of stuff. To date, we have seen none of it, not for the little people here in town.”

The “stuff” they’ve been promised dates back to Rick Homans’ 15-minute pitch in 2004. Homans tells me the original vision was for New Mexico to be the center of not just space tourism, but the whole commercial space industry. “You create research hubs that are focused on creating those technologies,” he says. “You become an innovation center. You have to do those things that are important and public to lay claim to being the epicenter of a new industry. That was our vision.”

But any informed observers will say the Mojave Air and Space Port in California is where all the breakthroughs are percolating. That facility recently released a promotional video calling itself “The Modern-Day Kitty Hawk,” and it may very well be right. Including Virgin Galactic, there are 17 commercial space companies using 19 rocket launch sites at Mojave. “It is the center of aerospace entrepreneurial development,” says Galactic CEO George Whitesides. “There is nowhere else where you can design, build, install, and test space equipment all in the same place. Mojave is the only place in the world.” While Galactic still plans to fly its tourists from Spaceport America, the dream of New Mexico becoming the “epicenter of a new industry” never materialized. One ray of hope is that Elon Musk’s powerhouse rocket company, SpaceX, recently signed a three-year lease with Spaceport America for tests of its Falcon 9R, a vehicle designed not for tourism but for lucrative NASA work carrying payload and eventually astronauts to the International Space Station. SpaceX continues buying up cheap land near Brownsville, Texas, to build its own spaceport in a poor rural area, so it may not be in New Mexico for long.

And so there have been almost none of the thousands of high-quality jobs Spaceport America was supposed to create over the last decade. Galactic job offerings announced via Twitter in the final months of 2013 were for nearly 50 positions to be based in Mojave, ranging from jobs like systems engineering lead to hydraulics systems engineer to propulsion test manager. In that same period only nine jobs to be based at Spaceport America were advertised, and those jobs were not lucrative engineering gigs but decidedly more menial positions like warehouse manager and diesel technician and manager of maintenance. In the first months of 2014, some seemingly more lucrative jobs have been announced for New Mexico, like hybrid engineer and mission engineer and astronaut instructor. But for every one job based at the New Mexico spaceport, there are still another five announced for Mojave.

In the absence of attracting a significant portion of the burgeoning commercial space industry, Spaceport America has been forced more and more to rely on the promise of its anchor tenant, Virgin Galactic, and that company’s most immediate goal of providing an “unforgettable adventure” and “luxury life experience” for its ticket holders. But if the murmurings of boondoggle slowly arose over a decade as none of the high-quality jobs materialized to transform the economy, they have reached a crescendo as some New Mexicans realize that after all this time it may only be the 1 percenters who benefit from the state’s investment.

“What you have is one of the poorest states in the country and the taxpayers in this state subsidizing the business of a billionaire for the benefit of multimillionaires,” says Gessing.

Richard Branson, 2005 Charles Sykes/REX USA

Whitesides, the current Virgin Galactic CEO, often fields these kinds of questions. This one was fired at him in November at an Association of Science Writers meeting in Gainesville, Fla.: “With all the problems on Earth, why are we creating amusement park rides in space for rich people?” Whitesides responded by pointing out that Galactic is a privately funded company. “You have a right to talk about your tax dollars,” he said. “But these aren’t your tax dollars.” Galactic is owned in part by Branson and in part by Aabar Investments, a company controlled by the government of Abu Dhabi. But Spaceport America is, of course, owned by New Mexico and its taxpayers.

Galactic’s response to questions about the greater relevance of its venture, beyond just good times for rich folks, increasingly plays up the possibility of intercontinental point-to-point travel via sub-orbital spaceship. It says these early space tourism jaunts are a kind of stopgap on the way to revolutionizing world travel. The idea is that you endured rich pricks lugging around brick cell phones in the ’80s and ’90s so you could have an iPhone in your pocket today. And now you should allow the rich their space tourism so that tomorrow (maybe 15 or 20 years by Galactic’s estimate) you can travel across the world from London to Sydney in two hours or from Dubai to Vancouver in an hour and a half.

Superfast intercontinental travel seems to have been in the Galactic mind since the very beginning. As early as an October 2003 interview with Charlie Rose, you can hear Branson bemoaning the retirement of the Concorde supersonic airplanes and the inability of his Virgin Atlantic airline to purchase and continue operating those planes. Between the lines you see him formulating some kind of plan to replace the Concorde. Mostly he lashes out at his airline nemesis, British Airways, and scolds the British government for completely subsidizing the building of the Concorde airplanes without ensuring that it would benefit all the people of Britain: “As far as the British public is concerned, we, the British public, paid for the Concorde and not British Airways.”

Photograph by Arlen Albert

Now the tables have turned and the members of New Mexico’s public are the ones with their money on the line for Branson. I asked Mark Butler, the Virgin Galactic manager in charge of operations at Spaceport America, if the company would continue to use the New Mexico spaceport should its business model shift toward intercontinental travel. He responded by email, “It is too early to say.”

That is undoubtedly true. But as Gessing points out, it is hard to imagine international travelers ever heading out to the remote Jornada del Muerto desert before rocketing off to Paris for dinner. And anyway, Galactic’s SpaceshipTwo doesn’t rocket off until 50,000 feet. Until then it’s strapped to WhiteKnightTwo, which operates much like any other airplane. Many runways at many airports in the world, then, could conceivably be retrofitted for the flights.

Even if Galactic’s business model does not shift toward intercontinental travel anytime soon, it’s currently in the process of building a spaceport in Abu Dhabi, this time with its own money and the money of the Abu Dhabi-controlled company that owns almost half of Virgin Galactic. Galactic is tight-lipped about the project, and despite repeated questions, I could get no one in the company to confirm anything other than the fact that the project was underway and it is expected to be completed in the next few years. But presumably, the oil-rich Galactic investors in Abu Dhabi will spare no expense to create a luxury life experience for their ticket holders that far surpasses anything the New Mexico taxpayers can afford. And this brings up all sorts of visions of Spaceport America 10 or 15 years down the line, the creosote and cacti taking over again, just as abandoned as it was when I first visited.

Photograph by Arlen Albert

There is one group of people who can be the saviors of Spaceport America, if and when they show up. Christine Anderson, the current director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, calls them by this oxymoronic name: Terrestrial Space Tourists. She tells me the hope is to have a full 50% of spaceport revenue come from these old-fashioned tourists, not the few who can afford a ticket on SpaceShipTwo, but the many people like you and me who are expected to show up and gawk without ever leaving the Earth.

“I think any commercial spaceport that wants to be self-sufficient needs to have a second source of revenue coming in,” she says. “In our case, it is tourism. For Mojave [Air and Space Port], it is windmills. Just like most airports do not get all their money from airplane traffic; they get it from concessions.”

There is plenty of precedent for this. During the moonshot, a launch from Cape Canaveral, like that of the Saturn V rocket and Apollo 11 shuttle on July 16, 1969, drew hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country to beaches and bridges and islands for miles in every direction. But that was a free-for-all picnic situation where the pilgrimage had a distinctly patriotic feel and everyone was at least guaranteed the fireworks show of a 36-story behemoth of engineering blasting off with a force equivalent to 1 million pounds of TNT. Spaceport America is isolated and can’t offer such a spectacle. And Galactic’s technology isn’t 1 million pounds of TNT fireworks show — SpaceShipTwo ignites its rocket at 50,000 feet, so any observers on the ground will only be watching WhiteKnightTwo take off horizontally, much like any other plane.

So Christine Anderson has been hunting for a $21 million loan to help make the place more enticing to the much-needed Terrestrial Space Tourists. “Several years ago we had a company called IDEAS from Florida help us plan that whole visitor experience,” she says. “Many of the company employees are former Disney Imagineers. We’ll have a 3D theater on site and we’ll have a restaurant and we’ll have a little observation deck that you can walk out to and watch as the spaceships take off and land.”

Anderson wanted to have all of this ready so that its opening coincided with the first flights of Virgin Galactic, which she hopes will begin later this year and draw about 200,000 people annually. That number of expected Terrestrial Space Tourists has been consistently revised downward over the last decade as the spaceship launch delays have piled up and reality has set in. Also likely to cut into this number is the fact that for the time being, none of this visitor experience will actually be built; Anderson recently shelved the ambitious plans in order to save money in the wake of increasing boondoggle talk. For the foreseeable future, the relatively small public gallery of The Gateway to Space will be the only area for visitors who have not paid for a ticket.

Despite New Mexico being at the end of a decade-long limb for Galactic, the company has no specific plans to help with the Terrestrial Space Tourism effort in New Mexico. Mark Butler, the Galactic manager at Spaceport America, explains via email, “The primary attraction of this tourism program is expected to be Virgin Galactic operational spaceflights, so that is what our primary contribution will be.” Its focus is largely on that other group, the Rich Space Tourists.

One thing Terrestrial Space Tourists can still look forward to is a welcome center in Truth or Consequences. This building is slated for construction on land the New Mexico Spaceport Authority has already purchased on the outskirts of town, situated conveniently between a Walmart and a Holiday Inn. This is where bus rides to the spaceport will originate. “But we’re also working on the mobile theater,” Anderson says. “You won’t just be sitting on a bus for 45 minutes; you’re going to be in a digital experience learning about space and New Mexico.”

When I’d taken the bus to the spaceport in summer 2013, there was no digital experience. I took notes on my iPad while our tour guide explained to us that we were getting a sneak peek at the future. His own notes were in a bulky three-ring binder — the standard tour guide technology for the last 70 years. Slipped into one of the wrinkled plastic sheaths was an old photocopy of the famous “Earthrise” photo from the 1968 mission of Apollo 8 in which Earth floats in the dark distance of space like a little blue marble swirled all over with white clouds. It’s been called one of the most important photographs ever taken because it showed people on Earth a new global perspective. Nobody ever mentions that a full half of the Earth isn’t visible in the photo, lost in shadow so that the little blue marble appears hacked in half.

When we talk about space tourism, particularly the sub-orbital kind that Virgin Galactic plans to conduct from Spaceport America, we’re talking a lot about that blue marble — the view we can get of ourselves from way up there. And this is how our spaceport out in the Jornada del Muerto begins to take on all sorts of spiritual dimensions.

The Overview Effect is a term coined by Frank White in 1987 to describe the experience of viewing Earth from space and the effect such an experience has on the viewer forever after. David Beaver of The Overview Institute, a group spawned from White’s work, writes this about the view of Earth from space: “Nearly every astronaut has told of changes or reinforcements of attitudes, perspectives and motivations; deep effects on intellectual, emotional and even spiritual levels.”

As Richard Branson says in a November 2009 Virgin Galactic promotional video, “This will be a trip like no other. It will give those that travel with us a unique and life-changing perspective of our planet.” Some version of this claim runs throughout all Branson’s discussions of his space venture, and because of his persistent giddiness and his flowing golden locks that have faded to dirty white, there’s a sort of young Gandalf-ish wizardry about him contributing to the sense that his pitch for space tourism is mixed with more than a little bit of mysticism.

World View, another tourism company that has considered making a home at Spaceport America, plans to give people a taste of the Overview Effect via balloon ride. Its balloons carry a passenger capsule to only a third of the height of Galactic’s spaceships, about 20 miles up, but it claims tourists will see the curvature of the Earth and the twinkle-speckled black of space. The flickering piano and epiphanic strings of its promotional video’s score plays beneath slow-motion renderings and shows that despite its rides not technically getting to space, it’s selling the same spiritual experience as Galactic, though its can be had for only $75,000. Another of these balloon “space” tourism companies based in Spain even claims that its passenger experience may be superior to Galactic’s because its space capsule provides room for passengers to meditate.

Brian Binnie is one of the few who have actually experienced what Virgin Galactic is selling. In 2004 he piloted to an altitude of 69.6 miles the X Prize-winning SpaceShipOne that became the prototype for Virgin Galactic’s current vehicle, SpaceShipTwo. Binnie describes Galactic’s passenger experience this way:

“Even though you’re just, as a passenger, sitting there, you are fully engaged. Your senses are pegged. There’s a lot of vibration. There’s a lot of noise. There’s a lot of G-forces on your body. For a minute and a half you’re saturated by that. But at rocket motor shutdown it’s as though somebody throws a switch and just like that the noise and the vibrations, the shaking, the shuttering, the shrieking and the shrilling of that rocket motor all disappears. And right with it you become weightless. And weightlessness means all the tension that was there is gone. … you can drift to the nearest window and now you have this body sensation coupled in with that view. It’s otherworldly.”

David Beaver is wary of these selling points. “It appears that the Overview Effect has either become marginalized by some of the more esoteric of the astronauts’ experience, or minimized as simply thrilling or aesthetic experiences.” Beaver, it seems, wants the view to be about social and political change, which he figures can’t happen if it’s sold as either religion or entertainment or some amoral combination of the two.

He does say that ultimately we should have faith in Virgin Galactic and other commercial space companies because, like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, he believes the likelihood that we’re destroying our home planet absolutely demands that we become an interplanetary species sooner rather than later.

Perhaps most telling was a story Beaver recounted about his buddy Frank White, the original champion of the Overview Effect, who recently flew to New York to meet with Branson. When Frank asked why Galactic never talks specifically about the Overview Effect, Branson responded, “I didn’t want to encroach on your brand.” And Frank laughed and told Branson there was no way something so profound as the cosmic view of Earth should ever be reduced to such a thing. But the strategy of Galactic has largely been to use the transformative and spiritual aspects of space travel in service of its brand.

“Galactic will put the Virgin brand on the American map in a way money can’t buy,” former CEO Will Whitehorn told Wired in 2005. “Every time someone mentions space travel, they’ll mention Virgin.”

Galactic has also used the ingenious strategy of getting celebrities to publicize the brand by purchasing a ticket. Add to that announcements like Lady Gaga being scheduled to perform on a Galactic flight or a sweeping deal with NBC that will include a flagship reality show called Space Race and live coverage of the inaugural flight across all NBCUniversal networks that aims to rival Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. All of this shows how Galactic can maybe afford delays — they give them more time to build an enormous brand in an unprecedented market before ever delivering a product.

The powerhouse of that brand is what’s got many in New Mexico excited to see the flights start, to see the money and the prestige come rolling in. But it’s got just as many concerned the money and prestige, if it ever shows up, isn’t going to just roll into small southern New Mexico towns so much as steamroll through them.

Photograph by Arlen Albert

“I’m leaving town soon, but by god, I’m still the mayor for a few days.”

I meet with John Mulcahy in November during his last days in office as mayor of Truth or Consequences, though he doesn’t seem to have an actual office, so we meet in a multipurpose room attached to the civic center. There’s a leak in the roof and a bucket placed pretty close to under the leak and a maintenance man occasionally popping in to size up the rise of water. The good news: The ice is finally melting and the road to the spaceport is likely to be passable. The bad news: This is not the only leak in town.

Mulcahy talks mostly about the challenges he’s faced trying to ease the town toward preparing for the tourist boom promised by the spaceport. The problems are big enough that they’ve contributed to him stepping down as mayor in favor of heading up economic development in Roswell, where there’s already an entrenched cosmic brand. The gist of the problems in Truth or Consequences, he says, is that so much of the town is in disrepair and there’s not much money.

“We’re trying real hard to fix our blight,” Mulcahy says. “We’re painting. Fixing roads. And I don’t mean spend a bunch of money. I mean get out and clean up your yard. Put the roof back on. Put the door on the front door. It’s a poor community.” Because of the cold, Mulcahy wore his cowhide work gloves to our meeting; he now twists them into and out of knots as he talks to me. “We’ve seen this coming,” he says. “It didn’t sneak up on us.”

Mulcahy says 60% of the town is on a fixed income from Social Security or welfare. Most all of the students at public schools are on a free lunch program. Because the town is largely populated by senior citizens, the Senior Meal Program at the civic center is one of the largest gatherings on any given day. While nearby Elephant Butte Lake brings in around 900,000 visitors a year, the campers and fishermen aren’t exactly rolling in with big money.

When I ask Christine Anderson how the New Mexico Spaceport Authority is working to help with economic development in Truth or Consequences, she says, “We meet with all the communities. But again, it’s their job, not ours. We share our thoughts with them and our projections with them. But ultimately its up to them.” The concern, as Mulcahy puts it, is that “a lot of players with very deep pockets” will roll into the community and transform the place into something unrecognizable, into some gold-plated playground that overshadows their unique culture.

The Virgin Galactic experience is undoubtedly, for the astronauts who purchase the tickets, a luxury experience. They will want luxury accommodations. Michael Blum, a Galactic ticket holder and former PayPal executive, recently said to a crowd in Las Cruces, “I love the Hotel Encanto, but it’s not up to the international standard that these people [Galactic astronauts and their entourages] are accustomed to.”

The Hotel Encanto is likely the swankiest hotel in all of southern New Mexico. So Blum’s remarks, while intended to urge locals toward luxury development, were also an indictment of their current way of life. For Mayor Mulcahy they were a warning sign about the dangers of deep pockets erasing the unique identity of Truth or Consequences. Even my room at the Pink Pelican Motel might not survive. It doesn’t meet Blum’s “international standard” of luxury. It’s too pink. Too crumbling adobe.

Across the street from my motel is its sister business, the Pelican Spa, one of 10 locally owned hot-spring spas in town. When I’d soaked in one, there was a nearby washing machine rumbling and a family of five laughing in the bath next door. Blum might not like it, but it seemed pretty good to me. I could dip my head under the steaming water and the rumbling of the washing machine felt something like a rocket ride, and then when I surfaced all the nearby laughter brought me back to Earth.

The hot springs flow from beneath the town at over 2 million gallons a day, pumped into baths all over downtown and even to the backyards of some houses. The geothermal waters come up at over 100 degrees, spiked by the earth with minerals including gold and silver and mercury, a brew championed for centuries by the locals as having vast healing properties. In the first half of the 20th century, Hot Springs, N.M., was a major destination for those seeking therapeutic experience, physical and spiritual, boasting as many as 50 medicinal spas for the old body-and-soul soak.

So Mulcahy’s call to “step up and say we’re gonna manage this deal” is as much about seizing economic opportunity as it is about preserving the culture that, even without the spaceport, makes the place unique. It’s a mysticism that dates all the way back to early Native American tribes who used the hot springs and surrounding area as sacred ground — neutral in war and prized for healing battle wounds and prime for talks of peace. It’s a mysticism that seems born to cradle, many centuries later, the launching point for that more spiritual notion of the Overview Effect where the blue marble becomes the only way we see ourselves, all calm and in it together.

“When we talk to people about why they want to spend the money to go up to space, we hear a lot about that view when they look back at Earth. That it is weirdly an incredibly grounding experience,” says New Mexico Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson. “We think that’s actually what a trip to New Mexico can do for people, even if you’re not able to go to space and look down at Earth, coming here can really ground you. The culture and adventures here are so unique — how you feel when you leave and how they’re truly adventures that feed your soul.”

Photograph by Arlen Albert

As part of Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration for the last three years, Jacobson has worked aggressively to rebrand the state. Her campaign is called “New Mexico True,” and the slogan she repeats several times as we talk is “adventure steeped in culture.” Indeed, much of the tourism media for New Mexico is about recreational activities alongside Native American and Hispanic culture. The True brand largely ignores the presence of the aerospace industry, suggesting maybe that aerospace is not True to New Mexico. But Jacobson thinks this can change and says she does have plans to create a Space Trail that will originate at Spaceport America and direct Terrestrial Space Tourists to related sites around the state via touchscreen kiosks.

Currently the New Mexico tourism website features nothing about Spaceport America, though there are features devoted to film locations and ghost towns and the state’s penchant for green chili cheeseburgers. The True brand is taking its time going Galactic, either because it (like everyone else) is waiting for Galactic’s first flight or because current Gov. Martinez was a bit annoyed at inheriting the old Gov’s troubled “legacy” project or because it is mindful of not letting Galactic overshadow traditional New Mexico culture. That last bit is likely the case and so then there’s a kind of tussle around Spaceport America, a battle to be the defining brand.

Even the New Mexico Spaceport Authority has gotten into the branding game in the last year, sporting a brand-new logo that looks like the Star Trek insignia dipped in the Stars and Stripes and tipped on its side. The logo is on T-shirts and hats and it looms large in the tiny Operations Center adjacent to The Gateway to Space. All three of these brands, Galactic and Spaceport America and New Mexico True, need to co-exist in order for the spaceport to succeed. The Overview Effect (the real potential for political and social change), because it is not a brand, may get lost in all that marketing. And anyway, at this point Galactic’s brand undeniably dominates. The spaceport is not just any mythological eyeball rising out of the desert. The Gateway to Space, when all lit up, is designed to resemble the Galactic logo: a blue iris modeled after Richard Branson’s own eye. From a descending SpaceShipTwo, after you’ve seen the holy curve of the Earth, you’ll get to glide quietly down into the big eye of a billionaire.

The ice finally melts off the road and runs into the dam. The bus rumbles through the canyon and over a few cattle guards, and the water in Elephant Butte Lake is rising for the first time in years. After soaking at the Pink Pelican and drinking at the Pine Knot, I’m finally headed to the spaceport again. As we steer around stray cattle in the road, Spaceport America peeks out of the red desert on the horizon. When we get close enough, it finally blinks open and the three stories of glass gleam in the sun so I have to squint when looking directly at it.

I wonder what it might be like to sit inside, just before rocketing to space. I think of Pat Hynes, director of the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium and a Galactic ticket holder, who told me of sitting in the third floor of the The Gateway to Space that will become the Astronaut Lounge, complete with a champagne bar. She was there one afternoon meeting with the U.K. spaceport delegation when everyone stopped to watch as a thunderstorm rolled into the valley, the whole of the storm visible because of the open desert horizon and the massively panoramic windows looking north over the runway. That view from inside the Astronaut Lounge must be great, a stark precursor to what they will see from above.

But most of us, the Terrestrial Space Tourists, will be gazing at the building as I am, from the outside. We will get the same p

Read more: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jgwheel/failure-to-launch-how-new-mexico-is-paying-for-richard-brans

What was Obama then? Bill Clinton’s ‘new refrain about Hillary’ sounds familiar

Bill Clinton is campaigning for Hillary in New Hampshire today, and he’s now marketing his wife’s candidacy in a most familiar way:

Wasn’t bringing “change” what 2008 (and 2012) were all about?

Desperate times call for desperate exceptions.

Read more: http://twitchy.com/2016/01/20/what-was-obama-then-bill-clintons-new-refrain-about-hillary-sounds-familiar/

Applebees offering 18-cent wings in honor of Peyton Manning


Thanks to Peyton, Citizens of Denver can go to Applebees for 18-cent wings!!

Broncos fans are seriously being spoiled here. Not only did Peyton allow them to trade away Tim Tebow, now they’re getting dirt cheap wings too!? It just doesn’t seem fair…

From Yahoo:

The rush to capitalize on Peyton Manning’s decision to join the Denver Broncos continued on Tuesday.

Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar announced that its chicken wings will go on special at all Colorado locations in honor of No. 18 now through Friday. Fans can get the beloved appetizer for 18 cents each during Happy Hour (3-6 p.m.) and after 9 p.m. The only other catch to getting 10 wings for just $1.80 is you have to sit in the bar area.

Ok, this might be taking things a bit too far. Applebees ad celebrating 'Peyton Manning' – get 18cent wings all week. #cashingin

— Brian Sullivan (@Taliesn) March 20, 2012

Great to see companies like Applebees jump on marketing opps to celebrate Peyton's arrival in Denver w/ 18 cent wings: http://t.co/EAnGAFtq

— Maria Miller (@melzeymiller) March 20, 2012

Read more: http://twitchy.com/2012/03/24/applebees-offering-0-18-wings-in-honor-of-peyton-manning/

For The Hardworking Folk Of Davos, The Swiss Franc Is The Real Star

Despite making everything in Switzerland about 15% more expensive, the Swiss National Bank’s decision to lift its cap on the value of the country’s currency has given many at the World Economic Forum a reason to smile. And to speculate.

Ruben Sprich / Reuters

DAVOS, Switzerland — Well before the piano bar at the Hotel Europe — the main after-hours party hub for attendees of the World Economic Forum — started to heat up for the night, piano player Barry Colson was ebulliently high-fiving a handful of the movers and shakers who had begun to trickle into the venue.

It was Tuesday night, the eve of the forum’s first official day, and five days after the Swiss National Bank lifted a cap on its currency, sending the Swiss franc skyrocketing more than 15% in mere hours. The piano bar was set to host a number of events throughout the week, including this evening, when it would swell to over a hundred people crowding around Colson to hear him play an hours-long slew of American oldies.

But it wasn’t the spirit of anticipation and admiration that Colson was celebrating — it was the rise of the Swiss currency. Its sudden increase had just elevated him a little closer to the wealth of those who surrounded his piano, though not anywhere near them at all, really. There were more than a few billionaires here.

“I made three grand more already this month than last year, all off the franc!” shouted Colson, a Canadian who has a monthlong residency at the Hotel Europe around forum time. He shared a high-five with a nearby partygoer, then both held hands aloft in a victory pose for a photo.

“The people here,” he said, motioning to the hotel’s bar staff, “they’re all over the moon!”

The next evening, one of the revelers who’d heard Colson croon Don McLean’s “American Pie” to a crowd of swaying VIPs 24 hours earlier praised the Swiss franc’s jump. It meant an unexpected post-Christmas bonus for him and his Geneva-based colleagues.

“Oh, it’s wonderful!” said the public relations executive in a taxi back from one of the many caviar-and-champagne-fueled parties that dot this idyllic Alpine town during the forum. “It’s fantastic. I just got a 15% raise!”

In a handful of shops that line the town’s main promenade, workers were thrilled at their respective raises, but also a little worried about what the franc’s increased value would mean for tourists coming to town after the WEF concludes on Saturday.

“For us it’s very nice,” said Tina Wilhelm, the proprietor of McPaperLand, a stationery and toy store near the “protest” area of Davos, where activists are corralled during the WEF and allowed to make their issues known at the opposite end of town from the Congress Centre. “But for tourists, we have a lot from Germany and France; it is now more expensive. Already to ski it is 70 or 80 francs. Then, if you want to eat up there it’s another 120 francs. We hope they still come.”

(Today, one Swiss franc is worth $1.14. It was trading almost exactly equal to the dollar prior to the Swiss National Bank’s surprise decision.)

A steady stream of customers filed into the Migrolino market, just down the promenade. Along with the Pronto Co-op grocery chain, it was among some of the larger businesses in town that cut the prices on their items after the franc rose, in a bid to encourage tourism in the area once the forum’s millionaire and billionaire visitors leave town.

“It’s great,” said the Migrolino’s smiley store manager, who identified himself only as Sandro. The franc’s sudden rise is “much better than all the other things going on in the world. People have already bought their apartments for the forum this year, so they come and spend. But after and next year, it might go down.”

Indeed, for those who make their money outside of the country and were merely stopping through for the annual gathering of the global business and political elite, the currency’s rise sparked conjecture and indifference. Davos and the surrounding Alp towns are notoriously expensive, especially when the WEF comes to town, but most attendees are either fabulously wealthy or able to pass on their expenses to a company or government. In many cases, they’re both.

A basic hotel room with scant amenities can go for 600 francs a night during the WEF. A stick of deodorant at the local pharmacy costs 16 francs, and it will set you back 120 francs to have your hair shampooed and blow-dried at the town’s main salon, if you so choose. Need a ride to Klosters, Davos’ neighbor town 7.5 miles to the northeast where hundreds of forum participants stay? That will be a staggering 100 francs, not including tip.

Still, you were hard-pressed to find anyone really complaining too much about the currency’s sudden increase.

“We booked everything in advance and paid for it in advance,” said Ben Rattray, CEO of crowdsourcing petition website Change.org. “So I didn’t really notice.”

Perched at a coffee bar inside the Congress Centre, Natalie Jaresko, Ukraine’s finance minister, noted that the owner of her favorite shop in Klosters, the Pine Cone, had bemoaned the franc’s increase and its potential impact on the the already slow tourist season the region was experiencing due to a lack of snow. But here at the forum, she said, attendees didn’t seem too worried.

“It hasn’t affected me very much,” Jaresko told BuzzFeed News, as two nearby women in full-length mink coats and brightly patterned Louis Vuitton silk scarfs angled for the bartender’s attention to score their free banana smoothies and cappuccinos.

Noting the women’s smoothies, Jaresko added, “We get all of this free food at the WEF, so maybe it’s costing them more. But I don’t think it’s affecting many people attending here.”

Free food and booze is ubiquitous at a number of many official WEF-sanctioned events, as well as, of course, the countless — perhaps thousands — of parties, offsite panels, country-sponsored lunch buffets (the “Make in India” lunch appears most popular), and marketing pop-ups (“activations, in marketer speak) that overtake nearly every square inch of town.

Expense accounts abound, so individuals may not feel the rapid drain of their bank balances all that acutely. But what about companies, many of whom deploy small armies to man their activations at various Davos branding pop-up hot spots like the Pepsico Café (known throughout the rest of the year as Schneider’s), where everything on the menu, from pizza to pasta to sandwiches, is made from ingredients of Pepsi products, or Ernst & Young’s networking outpost, EYHaus, at the Hilton Garden Inn?

At least one Fortune 50 company’s chair didn’t seem all that concerned with the currency rise’s effect on the week’s total bill, but more with the economics behind it.

“I was traveling to Switzerland on the day it was announced,” Steve Almond, global chair of Deloitte, told BuzzFeed News. “It made me think, Do markets behave rationally? It reminded me of some of the causes that led to the global financial crisis.”

Others harbored a more micro and rather mystifying theory on just what was behind the timing of the franc’s rise. One attendee, wishing to remain anonymous for fear of retribution from the forum, said he’d heard some attendees express shock that the WEF’s founder and global big shot, Klaus Schwab, once described by The New Yorker as probably the most connected man in the world, couldn’t convince the head of the Swiss National Bank to delay the big currency decision until after the forum had concluded.

It’s a revealing theory, one that ascribes almost supernatural power and influence to Schwab, But perhaps, after breathing too much thin Alpine air and experiencing the dizzying display of global power and wealth Schwab’s people manage to put on each year, you can’t blame some for seeing the WEF’s leader in near mythical terms.

But cooler heads dismissed such talk. “There’s no way that could be true,” said Warren Fernandez, editor of the Straits Times, Singapore’s largest newspaper, and a media leader at the WEF. “There’s just way too much riding on that decision. It’s too significant.”

Read more: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mariahsummers/at-davos-the-swiss-franc-is-star

Here Are The 25 Most Insanely Expensive Things Money Can Buy. Seriously, $250 For A Hamburger?!

Ugh. I’m not rich, so maybe I just don’t get it. But when I see my credit card statement, where I’m struggling to buy groceries, and then I see the purchases of rich people, I get frustrated. Don’t you? It’s not like they shouldn’t be able to spend their money how they want. They earned it. I just can’t believe the prices they PAY for some of those things. It’s insane. Well, maybe not as insane as these purchases. They go to a whole new level. Check’em out!

25. Chess Set: Charles Hollander
Having a price tag of $600,000, and with 320 carats of black and white diamonds only seven of these luxury chess sets have ever been created. Although another set known as the Jewel Royale has been rumored by some websites to be the most expensive in the world at $9.8 million it was never actually created and remains little more than a concept.

24. Burger: Le Burger Extravagant. For $295 you can have this insanely priced burger from Serendipity 3 in NYC, served of course, with a gold toothpick.

23. Car: 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO. Price Tag: $35 million. Not long ago this 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO became the most expensive car ever when it was sold in the United Kingdom to a private collector.

22. Camera: Susse Freres daguerreotype camera. Dating back to 1839, this daguerreotype camera sold at auction in 2007 for $775,000 and is believed to be the oldest commercially manufactured camera in the world.

21. Tokyo real estate. At $1,200 per square meter, this surpasses former favorites London and Paris.

20. Hotel Room: Royal Penthouse Suite, Hotel President Wilson in Geneva = $65,000 per night. Luckily it comes with 10 rooms and 7 bathrooms so you can split the bill.

19. Television: PrestigeHD Supreme Rose Edition. For $2.3 million, you get a TV covered in hand sewn alligator skin studded with an obnoxious amount of diamonds.

18. Piano: Heintzman Crystal = $3.2 million (at auction).

17. Cigar box: Gurkha Black Dragon. Price: $1,150 each. Introduced in 2006, these Honduran cigars arrive on your doorstep in a chest constructed out of camel bone. Unfortunately we regret to inform the cigar enthusiasts among you that only 5 chests were ever produced.

16. Motorcycle: Dodge Tomahawk V10 Superbike = $700,000 and reaches 60mph in 2.5 seconds, with a top speed of 300mph.

15. Want an expensive watch? Check out the Haute Joaillerie from Chopard for $25 million.

14. Champagne: Heidsieck Monopole 1907. In the late 90′s an underwater search party stumbled across a century old shipwreck containing 2,000 bottles of this French champagne. Now, you can get a bottle for $25,000.

13. Speakers: Transmission Audio Ultimate System. Spanning over 40 feet, these will set you back $2 million.

12. Painting: Number 5, 1948. Ok, this is seriously worth $140 million. We know, right! While Jackson Pollock’s work has certainly drawn its share of criticism for obvious reasons, any person that can shower a canvas with blobs of paint and then sell it for 7 figures probably doesn’t care very much about what other people think.

11. House: Antillia Mumbai. You can move in for $2 billion. You read that right. $2 billion. Named after the mythical Atlantic island of Antillia, this house in downtown Mumbai, India has over 600 full time staff.

10. Picture: Rhein II. This photo of the Rhein river in Germany is worth $4 million. Really.

9. Sculpture: L’Homme qui marche (Walking Man) = $104.3 million.

8. Ring: Chopard Blue Diamond. Price: $16.26 million.

7. Yacht: History Supreme. Valued at $4.8 billion, it’s made with over 100,000 kg of gold and decorated with everything from T-Rex bones to miniature meteorites.

6. Feather: Extinct Huia Bird. $8000.

5. Jeans: Spin Jean by Damien Hirst. With only 8 ever made, this will cost you $27,000.

4. Cellphone: iPhone 3GS Supreme Rose by Stuart Hughes = $2.97 million.

3. Domain Name: Insure.com. Price? $16 million. When Quinstreet, the California based marketing firm, bought insure.com in 2009 they went down in the Guinness Book of World Records for owning the most expensive domain name ever.

2. Drawing: Raphael’s Head of a Muse. $47.9 million.

1. Parking Spot: Manhattan. Price: $1 million. Located in eight-story luxury condominium building at 66 E. 11th St in downtown Manhattan, this million dollar parking spot is worth more than 6 times the national price of a single family home.

From paying $250 for a hamburger, to $4.8 billion for a boat made from dinosaur bones, I don’t know whether to be impressed or disgusted. You be the judge 😉 Source: YouTube via List 25

Read more: http://viralnova.com/25-most-expensive-purchases/