TIME Crime

Mystery White Flags on Brooklyn Bridge Provoke Social Media Frenzy

"We will not surrender"

The New York Police Department has removed a pair of white flags that mysteriously replaced the American stars and stripes on top of the Brooklyn Bridge Tuesday morning.

While the unexplained security breach is under investigation by police, the incident has incited a slew of social media confusion and some conspiracy theories.

Has Brooklyn surrendered?

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams issued a statement that no, “We will not surrender our public safety to anyone, at any time.”

Were the flags in question actually American flags that had been whitewashed? Oren Yaniv of the Daily News said yes:

Even more suspiciously still, the police folded the flags in a ceremonial manner after taking them down:

While Adams is approaching the confusing stunt very seriously — “If flying a white flag atop the Brooklyn Bridge is someone’s idea of a joke, I’m not laughing. The public safety of our city is of paramount importance, particularly our landmarks and bridges that are already known to be high-risk targets.” — others online are taking a lighter approach.

It’s a marketing stunt for a little-remembered British singer of the 1990s:

Some thought it was a message from the borough on the other side of the bridge:

Others speculated what Brooklyn might be giving in to:

If it helps, public officials aren’t sure either. In the words of an NYPD Deputy Commission for Public Information officer to Business Insider, “We don’t know anything.”

TIME animals

Ohio Man’s Therapy Ducks Fall Foul of Local Ordinances

Iraq war veteran Darin Welker holds one of his ducks at his home in West Lafayette, Ohio on July 10, 2014.
Iraq war veteran Darin Welker holds one of his ducks at his home in West Lafayette, Ohio on July 10, 2014. Trevor Jones—AP

Veteran Darin Welker says raising the birds helps him overcome PTSD from the Iraq War

Darin Welker loves his ducks. He feeds them, looks after them, and sometimes the Iraq War veteran from West Lafayette, Ohio just watches them interact. But Welker’s community doesn’t share the same affection for his feathered friends.

On Wednesday, the Associated Press reports, Welker will appear in a local municipal court facing a minor misdemeanor charge for raising 14 ducks in violation of local village rules. He could face a fine of up to $150.

Welker, an Iraq War veteran, says he’s been raising the ducks as a form of therapy for a back injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Welker told the AP that although the Department of Veterans Affairs paid for his back surgery in 2012, they did not provide mental or physical therapy.

In March, he got the ducks to help fill that void, after hearing raising them could be therapeutic.

“Taking care of them is both mental and physical therapy,” Welker told the AP. “[Watching them] keeps you entertained for hours at a time.”

In West Lafayette, however, raising ducks or any farm animal violates a 2010 ban on housing “chickens, turkeys, ducks, live poultry or fowl of any kind, horses, ponies, cows, calves, goats, sheep, or live animals of any kind except dogs, cats, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, birds or mice.”

But there is hope for Welker and his ducks. A local woman fought to keep the pot-bellied pig she and her daughter use for therapy in 2013. Mary Smith, the pig’s owner, told the Coshocton Tribune at the time that she would rather move than give up her pig. “He’s part of our family,” Smith said.

Smith obtained a letter from her doctor confirming her pig was for therapy. According to the AP, Welker has already gotten a letter from the mental health department of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs recommending he keep the ducks.

[AP]

TIME viral

Dog Casually Relieves Itself in the Background of a BBC Weather Report

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During a live report for BBC Breakfast, weather presenter Carol Kirkwood was totally upstaged by a dog that wandered into the shot and then squatted to calmly relieve herself. Back in the studio, the show’s hosts naturally began to giggle and tell Kirkwood not to turn around.

The pooch was later outed as Connie, who belongs to a BBC producer:

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, BBC confirmed that it was a “number one”.

WATCH: Hilarious Camera Error on BBC News

WATCH: BBC Reporter on Royal Baby Watch Is Already Bored

TIME

Daily Mail Takes Down George Clooney Article After Actor Blasts it in Op-Ed

Omega Le Jardin Secret
Actor George Clooney arrives for the red carpet of Omega Le Jardin Secret dinner party on May 16, 2014 in Shanghai, China. Feng Li--Getty Images

The actor slammed the "Daily Mail" for a false story about his fiancee's family, prompting the publication to apologize and remove the piece

What a week for celebrity op-eds!

First, we have Taylor Swift opining on the future of the music industry for the Wall Street Journal and now we have none other than George Clooney sounding off in USA Today. The subject of Clooney’s op-ed? The Daily Mail, which Clooney essentially chews up and spits out. Clooney rages against a story in the publication that claimed his upcoming nuptials to human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin was a major source of contention for his fiancée’s family, particularly her mother, Baria, who supposedly opposed their engagement on religious grounds.

Clooney writes:

It says Amal’s mother has been telling “half of Beirut” that she’s against the wedding. It says they joke about traditions in the Druze religion that end up with the death of the bride.

Let me repeat that: the death of the bride.

First of all, none of the story is factually true. Amal’s mother is not Druze. She has not been to Beirut since Amal and I have been dating, and she is in no way against the marriage.

Clooney goes on to write that an incorrect story about a celebrity isn’t the issue — as he’s apparently “used to the Daily Mail making up stories” about him — but that this particular story goes beyond celebrity gossip: “The irresponsibility, in this day and age, to exploit religious differences where none exist, is at the very least negligent and more appropriately dangerous.”

The actor, who is the son of retired broadcast journalist Nick Clooney, explains that he has respect for right to freedom of speech — and knows that it will interfere with his private life from time to time — but he seems to view the publication as far more sinister. He writes:

The Daily Mail, more than any other organization that calls itself news, has proved time and time again that facts make no difference in the articles they make up. And when they put my family and my friends in harm’s way, they cross far beyond just a laughable tabloid and into the arena of inciting violence.

For its part, the Daily Mail denies fabricating the story. In an email to TIME, a MailOnline spokesman said that the “story was not a fabrication but supplied in good faith by a reputable and trusted freelance journalist … However, we accept Mr. Clooney’s assurance that the story is inaccurate and we apologize to him, Miss Amal Alamuddin and her mother, Baria, for any distress caused. We have removed the article from our website and will be contacting Mr. Clooney’s representatives to discuss giving him the opportunity to set the record straight.”

Yet Clooney certainly isn’t the first person to strike back at the British publication, which was named the most widely read news website in the world in 2012 with upwards of 52 million visitors a month. Just a few months ago, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling won a libel lawsuit against the paper; singer Elton John and business mogul Alan Sugar have also won libel suits against the Daily Mail.

And then there are those who have leveled their criticism specifically against the publication’s website, Mail Online, which traffics largely in celebrity gossip. The site’s “Femail” section, which tends to focus on women celebrities and their bodies and what they may or may not be wearing at any given moment they’re caught by the paparazzi, is known for being petty or cruel or demeaning.

Though criticism lobbed at the website’s “Femail” content doesn’t tend to center on whether the stories are factual or not, many do view them as destructive in another way. In 2012, Observer columnist Eva Wiseman wrote that she was partaking in a self-inflicted boycott of the Mail Online, because “I was boring myself with my constant outrage at the sidebar’s dissection of women, and worried that it was making me more judgy … As judgmental as the sidebar, whose camera is constantly focused on pop stars’ thighs.”

While it might be hard to reconcile the denunciations of the Daily Mail and its extreme popularity — again, 52 million visitors a month on the website — it appears as if Clooney has struck a fresh cord of outrage. Online and social media comments, including many from journalists and editors, are almost unanimously and forcefully in support of the actor. As Clooney himself notes, the Daily Mail “must be so very proud.”

TIME

Kansas Woman Sets House on Fire to Kill Spider

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Spider walk Getty Images

No one was injured

A Kansas woman found herself in a precarious situation Friday after she set her duplex on fire to kill a spider.

Five firetrucks later, the police proved to be less than sympathetic with the plight of the single lady as she struggled to deal with the arachnid. According to the Hutchinson News, 34-year-old Ginny M. Griffith’s Macgyvered form of pest control (lighting towels on fire throughout her house) was rewarded with an arrest and aggravated arson charges. She is being held on a $7,500 bond.

No one, including the other people who occupied the other half of the duplex, was injured, and the fire was extinguished in minutes without causing structural damage.

[Hutchinson News]

TIME Television

Diane Sawyer to Leave ABC’s World News

Diane Sawyer attends A Celebration of Barbara Walters Cocktail Reception Red Carpet at the Four Seasons Restaurant on May 14, 2014 in New York.
Diane Sawyer attends A Celebration of Barbara Walters Cocktail Reception Red Carpet at the Four Seasons Restaurant on May 14, 2014 in New York. D Dipasupil—Getty Images

Veteran newscaster will leave World News in September, ABC says

News anchor Diane Sawyer will step down from ABC’s World News this September.

“After wonderful years at “World News” I decided it is time to move to a new full time role at ABC News,” said Sawyer.

Beginning September 2, weekend World News anchor David Muir will assume her position, becoming Anchor and Managing Editor of the program. The World News switch is not the only change—George Stephanopoulos, anchor of GMA, will become Chief Anchor for ABC News.

Sawyer, who once anchored Good Morning America and Primetime, will continue to appear across ABC platforms, tackling, “big issues and extraordinary interviews,” said ABC.

“I’ll be joined by an incredible team of journalists dedicated to enterprise reporting, innovative approaches to breaking news and new ways of thinking about big issues and events around the world,” Sawyer said. “I can’t wait to continue bringing more of my specials to prime time and appearing on all ABC News broadcasts, as well.”

TIME News

Little Boy Finds Mummified Body in Empty House Because Horror Movies Are Real

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Mummy Getty Images

Yes, this is real life

A curious 12-year-old boy ventured into a semi-hidden abandoned house in Dayton, Ohio Sunday. He then found a mummified corpse hanging by a rope in the closet.

This isn’t a viral marketing stunt for the next season of American Horror Story. The movie-trope occurred in real life, and the body of resident Edward Bruton is thought to have been hanging there since 2009. Being stored in the closet may have helped prevent the body from decomposing too heavily.

While the coroner suspects suicide, no official cause of death has been determined.

[CNN]

TIME Media

Here’s a Newspaper You Might Actually Want to Read

PaperLater targets an online audience that's nostalgic for newspapers

The days of reading a newspaper with a cup of Joe might be making a comeback. For those nostalgic for the morning paper — but yearning for the customization possibilities of online news — PaperLater might be for you.

It’s a news service that grabs user-selected online content and collates it into a printed newspaper that’s delivered to your doorstep.

Run by The Newspaper Club, a newspaper printing company based in the U.K., the project is currently in its beta phase and only available to Britons for now.

The company is optimistic. The Newspaper Club head of engineering Tom Taylor told PrintWeek that he expected to be producing thousands of papers per week as soon as more users joined.

But don’t expect the personalized newspaper experience to be cheap: each issue costs $8.37 (£4.99).

[PrintWeek]

TIME viral

Enjoy This Compilation of the Month’s Funniest News Bloopers

From Freudian slips to bizarre on-air antics

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Another month, another assortment of hilarious newscast malfunctions. Do beware that there’s some NSFW language, along with a blooper that actually appears to be a hoax.

TIME Media

NPR Lays Off 28, Cancels Tell Me More

NPR New Headquarters
Bill Clark—Getty Images

The radio network, which has hundreds of member stations across the U.S., announced the cuts as part of a larger effort to cut costs by $7 million this year

NPR announced Tuesday that come August 1, the public broadcaster will eliminate 28 jobs and end its weekday show Tell Me More due to budget cuts.

An NPR spokesperson told Poynter in an email that eight of the eliminated positions are not currently filled. Tell Me More host Michel Martin and executive producer Carline Watson will stay at NPR to continue covering race, faith, gender and family.

“These times require that we organize ourselves in different ways and that we’re smarter about how we address the different platforms that we reach our audiences on,” Kinsey Wilson, NPR’s Executive Vice President and Chief Content Officer, said in a statement. “We’re trying to make the most of the resources that we have and ensure that we keep radio healthy and try to develop audience in the digital arena.”

The network hopes to reduce its costs by $7 million a year with the aid of these cuts and a combination of buyouts.

Last March, NPR canceled Talk of the Nation, although executives said that it had nothing to do with the company’s deficit.

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