How does a Russian public servant afford a $620,000 watch?

It was the perfect summer wedding for the perfect power couple: Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s mustachioed press secretary, was to marry Olympic champion ice dancer Tatiana Navka in Russia’s resort town of Sochi.

The couple booked Sochi’s premiere Rodina hotel overlooking the shores of the Black Sea.  Celebrities and VIPs from the Russian world of politics, sport, and entertainment arrived in droves.  Caterers — along with food and wait staff — were flown in sfrom Moscow. State television even gave coverage of the celebration on the national evening news.

But the perfect planned wedding day took an unpredictable turn when a guest posted a photo on social media of the couple embraced in a nuptial kiss. The problem? The picture inadvertently revealed that Peskov was wearing a watch. And not just any watch at that.

Wrapped around Peskov’s wrist was a Richard Mille limited edition RM 52-01 “skull model” valued at at $620,000 — more than four times the Kremlin official’s declared salary.

Cue the online melee and a growing PR disaster.

Russian blogger/opposition leader Alexey Navalny was the first to accuse of Peskov of outright corruption, noting the watch cost more than most Russians’ apartments.

“The happy groom has been working for the State since 1989, and couldn’t earn so many millions legally,”  wrote Navalny on his blog.


Soon Russians were posting photos of their own watches online and detailing the comparatively modest pricetags. Several simply drew pictures of Peskov’s ‘skull watch’ on their arms with a pen.  Pictures of mock Peskov skull-themed handbags, jewelry and other high end accessories went viral online.

Peskov was quick to deny allegations of wrongdoing — noting the watch had been a wedding gift from his wife.  “How could I not wear it?” he told reporters in a morning Kremlin briefly usually devoted to the President’s activities.

Navka, too, went public to explain the gift, saying she had worked hard to earn enough money to give her bethrothed the Mille watch.

But Russian bloggers soon discovered earlier photos of Peskov sporting the Mille ‘skull’ watch, in addition to several other expensive timepieces.

‘Watching’ as political bloodsport is hardly new in Russia. In recent years, Kremlin critics have repeatedly seized upon luxury timepieces as symbolic of entrenched corruption among the country’s political elite.

In 2012, Russian opposition members publically acccused Mr Putin of owning a series of expensive watches, including a $500,000 Lange & Söhne. That same year, bloggers discoverd a photograph of Russian Patriarch Kirill — a close ally of President Putin’s — wearing a $36,000 timepiece.  A subsequent effort to digitally scrub the watch from the offending photo the Church’s website only made things worse. The watch was no longer on the Patriarch’s wrist, but the watch’s reflection was still visible on the table where Kirill’s arm lay.

“For us it’s a symbol of corruption. For them it’s probably a symbol of their status,” says Anton Pominov, head of Transparency International, Russia, a NGO that monitors corruption practices globally.

Pominov notes that, whatever the truth, the Peskov watch scandal is just the latest episode to reinforce Russia’s reputation as a corrupt place. Transparency International currently ranks Russia at 127th place on the organization’s ‘Corruption Perceptions Index’, alongside Nigeria and Iran.

Indeed, the Kremlin launched its own high-profile anti-corruption campaign earlier this year.  New anti-corruption efforts include requirements that all public servants declare their salaries and holdings. State media has lavished coverage on the arrests of several high-profile politicians accused of stealing breathless sums.  Russia will even play host to the next United Nations Convention against Corruption in St. Petersburg this November.

Yet Transparency International’s Pominov worries these measures amount to more simulcraft than real reform. “It’s very easy to imitate anti-corruption fights,” says Pimonov, “but it’s very hard to prove that the anti-corruption crackdown something they actually mean.”

Now, if all that sounds like a long way to travel from a luxury watch sighting at a Sochi wedding this past weekend, consider that Peskov and his bride may have yet another problem on their hands.

According to Russian tradition, gifting a watch at a wedding is tantamount to very bad juju for the relationship. Rosa Syabitova, host of the popular dating show Let’s Get Married on Russian state television, tells The World that, in Russia, wedding watches are associated with “giving your time away on this earth…even death.”

But Syabitova admits, superstitions aren’t for everyone.  Even she doesn’t see what all the fuss is about over Peskov’s watch. “If you’re successful, and you live on a certain level and socialize with people of a certain status, of course you wouldn’t even dream of giving something cheap,” says Syabitova. “But I understand why journalists have to cover it. You’re providing information to average people.”

Indeed. To most of whom a $620,000 ‘skull watch’ — Peskov’s even has its own twitter page — tick-tick-ticks like a scandal whose time has come.

Probably the same way some of our shitheads afford them…….

Google Street View Cars Now Sniff Pollution


Cities are happening places, every neighborhood a different personality, each street a new experience. And around every corner, a different atmospheric mixture of pollutants to clog your lungs, cloud your eyes, and congest your heart.

It’s no secret that cities have bad air, but until now it’s only been possible to describe how bad in ordinal terms: Los Angeles is bad, but not as bad as Bakersfield, but both are nowhere near as nasty as Beijing. Now Google has partnered with an environmental testing startup to measure air quality within a city. And not just block by block, but hour to hour, day to night.

On July 29, Google announced that three of its Street View cars had spent over a month driving through Denver, gathering data on nine different pollutants. Each car was equipped with a suite of environmental sensors built by Aclima, a San Francisco-based company. Now the project—which also involved partnering with the EPA, the Environmental Defense Fund, and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab—is coming to San Francisco, and its creators hope it will lead to a global network of air quality sensors with open data that will let you plan your outdoor excursions (and inhalations) to avoid the most polluted locations and times of day.

The sensors sitting in the back of the cars started out in Google’s offices . “When we started working with Street View we had already deployed the largest environmental sensor network in the world,” says Davida Herzl, CEO of Aclima, the company that built the sensors. For years, the company has been collecting air quality data from more than 500 multi-sensors (each a package of 12 sensors) across 21 different Google offices around the world.

That network helped Aclima train their software, but taking the network outdoors had some additional complications. Too much humidity can gump up the air and make it hard for the sensors to get an accurate reading, and wind shifts can make it hard for the machines to get accurate counts. “In order for people to make decisions they need to know they can rely on that data,” says Herzl. So while Google helped Aclima get their sensors into the field, the startup partnered with the EPA, the EDF, and Lawrence Berkeley to fine tune their hard- and software.

“With the advent of cheaper, better sensors we have an opportunity to understand the patterns of pollution,” says Steve Hamburg, chief scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, which will be using data as part of in its ongoing mapping project with Google. This isn’t Hamburg’s first rodeo with environmental sensors on cars. In 2014, the EDF teamed up with Google to deploy methane detectors on Street View cars to sniff out infrastructure leaks in Boston, Indianapolis, and New York City’s Staten Island.

To Hamburg, the eventual goal is to have a distributed network of sensors, priced so anyone interested in monitoring the atmosphere around them can afford to join in. “In post-Fukushima Japan, people there found a relatively cheap Geiger counter, made it available, then crowdsourced the data to make maps of radiation patterns that were orders of magnitude more spatially explicit than government data,” he says, adding that he envisions a similar network for environmental pollutants.

But deploying a nationwide—or even neighborhood-wide—sensor network will be a lot harder for pollutants. Radiation is relatively easy to detect: Interference is relatively easy to tease out, and levels don’t really fluctuate throughout the day. Pollution sensors, though, need to account for shifts in wind, temperature, and humidity, and because of that, they’re typically pretty pricey.

Exact costs depend on the pollutant, but range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Aclima’s is a multi-sensor, which means a single unit could cost well into the tens or hundreds of thousands. Or it could be much lower. The company was mum on pricing details. Aclima works with both off-the-shelf sensors, and those built in-house. “We partnered with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to develop the world’s smallest particulate sensor,” says Herzl. She didn’t provide details, but indicated that her company’s products aren’t quite as cheap as she’d like them to be, and bringing the price down was a major goal.

For Google, both the methane detectors and this current project are part of a project called Google Earth Outreach. In an email, the company says it would make its data available to local and state governments to help them improve air quality, for example by mitigating pollution exposure (by planting trees, perhaps) or passing regulations. Once collected by the cars, the data gets uploaded to cloud servers where it gets validated by Aclima’s staff scientists. The data currently is not available for download, but Google says it will be eventually.

Denver was all about making sure that mobile sensing collected good data. “In the Bay we’re partnering with a number of different groups and scientists to explore the applications of this data,” says Herzl. Sniffing for pollutants is way more productive than Street View’s previous extracurricular activity: intercepting data from public Wi-Fi routers . And if all goes according to plan, that data will eventually help soften the edges of your city’s smoggy air.

Ronda Rousey and a few facts about her……..


Rousey’s mother, AnnMaria De Mars, was the first American (male or female) to win the World Judo Championships.
Rousey was born with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. She’s stated she spoke “gibberish” until roughly age 6.

Rousey’s first passion was swimming, which she gave up after her father’s suicide when she was eight.

After just six years of judo, Rousey reached the 2004 Olympics at age 17.

She also reached the 2008 Olympics, where she won a bronze medal.

Rousey considered seeking gold at the 2012 Olympics before making the switch to mixed martial arts.

In 2010, Rousey made her mixed martial arts debut, a submission win in just 23 seconds.

In 2011, Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White said women would “never” fight in the UFC. By 2013 he welcomed them, thanks mainly to Rousey.

Miesha Tate is the only person to get out of the 1st round with Rousey. (She’s 0-2 against her with talk of a third fight.)

Rousey has a particularly bitter rivalry with Tate, refusing to shake her hand after the second win.

Rousey’s fight game has been evolving, with knockouts in three of her last four fights instead of the usual arm bar submissions.

These knockouts required 66, 16 and 34 seconds.

Mike Tyson’s legendary Michael Spinks KO took 91 seconds. Ten of Rousey’s 12 pro wins required less time.

Rousey has four pro victories in under 30 seconds, just missing another in this weekend’s KO of Bethe Correia, which took 34.

Rousey’s “dream” opponent is usually cited as Cris “Cyborg” Justino, who normally fights in a weight class 10 pounds above Rousey.

Rousey has urged Justino to stop being “pumped full of steroids” and drop to her 135-pound weight class for the bout. (Justino had a positive test in 2011.)

Rousey got the late wrestling legend Roddy Piper’s permission before adopting “Rowdy” as her nickname.

While fighting at least twice a year, she’s found time for three movies (notably Furious 7) since 2014, with Mark Wahlberg’s Mile 22 in production.

Rousey credits an ex-boyfriend she dubbed “Snappers McCreepy” taking nude shots without her permission as inspiration for stripping down for ESPN‘s 2012 Body Issue.

Rousey later did SI‘s 2015 Swimsuit Issue. She refused to diet for it so the world would see her at her “walking weight.”

Ronda Rousey is decidedly not a “do-nothing bitch.”

Super Fucked up dipshit of the day: Wounded Warrior fund thief


The community of Lodi, Ca. is rallying behind a local A&W restaurant after a thief stole donations they’d been collecting for the Wounded Warrior Project. Staff believe the suspect is a repeat customer.

“The guy came in, ordered ice cream, and as soon as she turned around to make it for him, he grabbed it and ran out the door,” Petter Knight of A&W said. “It’s terrible. We were pretty sad.”

The theft absolutely crushed employees. The thief made off with about $50 in Wounded Warrior donations.

“The Lodi police responded quickly,” Knight said. “They were looking at our video within an hour.”

 

And they weren’t the only ones. Knight uploaded the security video to Facebook, reaching 20,000 people by Saturday morning.

“I think it’s horrible and I hope they catch the guy,” one customer responded.

The post generated some identification of a potential suspect. More than that, it fired up the community who refused to let the donation box stay empty long.

“Wounded Warrior is one of our favorite charities,” one donor said.

“This little town looks after its own,” another customer said.

Staff said they’ve made back what was taken from them, in more ways than one.


Retro of the day: Aretha Franklin


Respect” is a song written and originally released by American recording artist Otis Redding in 1965. The song became a 1967 hit and signature song for R&B singer Aretha Franklin. The music in the two versions is significantly different, and through a few minor changes in the lyrics, the stories told by the songs have a different flavor. Redding’s version is a plea from a desperate man, who will give his woman anything she wants. He won’t care if she does him wrong, as long as he gets his due respect, when he comes home (“respect” being a euphemism). However, Franklin’s version is a declaration from a strong, confident woman, who knows that she has everything her man wants. She never does him wrong, and demands his “respect”. Franklin’s version adds the “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” chorus and the backup singers’ refrain of “Sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me…”

 

 

Franklin’s cover was a landmark for the feminist movement, and is often considered as one of the best songs of the R&B era, earning her two Grammy Awards in 1968 for “Best Rhythm & Blues Recording” and “Best Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Performance, Female”, and was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2002, the Library of Congress honored Franklin’s version by adding it to the National Recording Registry. It is number five on Rolling Stones list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[1] It was also included in the list of Songs of the Century, by the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. Franklin included a live recording on the album Aretha in Paris (1968).

Aretha Franklin version

Year

Chart

Position

1967 R&B Singles Chart

1

Billboard Hot 100

1

Australian Singles Chart

1

Canadian Singles Chart

2

Italian Singles Chart

7

UK Singles Chart

10