TIME Business

This Is the First Item Ever Sold on eBay

As the online auction website celebrates its 20th anniversary, a look back at the unlikely item that helped launch the brand

In honor of eBay’s 20th anniversary Thursday, note that one of the most valuable brands on the Internet started with the sale of one of the least valuable items imaginable: a broken laser pointer.

Over Labor Day weekend in 1995, the site’s founder Pierre Omidyar wrote code for “AuctionWeb” and launched it as a personal project out of a spare bedroom in his Silicon Valley town house. He had bought a $30 laser pointer with the intention of using it to make flashy presentations, but ended up using it to make his cat chase the red dot, according to The Perfect Store: Inside eBay, a book written by former TIME senior writer Adam Cohen. Omidyar decided to list the $30 laser pointer, which broke two weeks after it was purchased, because “it would be a good way to test out AuctionWeb, he figured, and it would cost him nothing,” Cohen wrote. In the listing, he admitted the item didn’t work, even with new batteries. While no one bid on it for a week, a bidding war started the next week, and the product first listed for $1 ended up selling for $14.83.

Four years later, Cohen wrote, AuctionWeb — known as eBay — had grown to be an “online retailer valued at more than Sears, or Kmart and JCPenny.” Today, Forbes reports Omidyar’s personal net worth is $8.4 billion and lists the site as one of the “50 most valuable brands in the world. It boasts 157 million buyers, about 25 million sellers, and 800 million listings.”

Read Next: The 20 Weirdest Things Ever Sold on eBay


Need a Parking Spot Right Away? Startup Has an App for That

This small business aims to beat the hassle of finding a parking spot.

You know the routine: you get in the car, put the address in your phone’s map app and you drive into the city. Then you spend more time trying to find parking than you did driving. Enter SpotHero. Mark Lawrence, CEO and founder, says the idea started from that frustration in Chicago. “When we first started, we actually just had a blog,” he says, which covered different tips and tricks to make finding parking easier. Lawrence has no background in startups or tech, let alone a tech startup. SpotHero lets drivers pay right from their smartphone and takes a small commission from the reservation.

TIME iran nuclear deal

Iran Nuclear Deal Reaches Key Number of Senate Supporters

A major foreign policy victory for President Obama

Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland announced this morning that she will support President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran, giving the administration sufficient support in the Senate to ensure a major foreign policy victory for the president in his final 18 months in office.

“No deal is perfect, especially one negotiated with the Iranian regime,” Mikulski said in a statement released mid-morning in Washington. “I have concluded that this Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the best option available to block Iran from having a nuclear bomb. For these reasons, I will vote in favor of this deal.”

Mikulski’s support caps a summer of lobbying by the White House and the State Department in the face of resolute opposition to the deal by Republicans, many of whom criticized negotiations to begin with and argued the deal would empower Iran’s regional ambitions and ultimately enable Tehran to get nuclear weapons.

In weeks of testimony, briefings, letters and phone calls, Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and other senior administration officials argued the deal would constrain Iran’s nuclear program, open the door for further diplomatic progress and delay any decisions about a military confrontation with the mullahs for at least a decade.

Mikulski became the 34th Senator supporting the deal, hardly a resounding victory for the administration’s position—it is the bare minimum number of Senators Obama needs to ensure he can deliver on his end of the deal with Iran. If Obama cannot win another seven fence-sitting Democrats before a vote on disapproving the deal later this month he will have to veto that resolution and rely on the Democrats to prevent being overridden by Congress.

But after nearly three years of intense, sometimes secret negotiations that delivered on Obama’s 2008 campaign pledge to try diplomacy instead of military force in the confrontation with Iran, the Senate milestone guarantees him a key legacy victory for his second term, and his presidency.

The administration began its lobbying immediately after inking the deal in July. Secretary of State John Kerry made multiple appearances on Capitol Hill in front of House and Senate committees defending the deal, along with Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. President Obama engaged Jewish groups in an attempt to convince them the deal would not endanger Israel. And he and Kerry personally responded to written and other questions from lawmakers in both chambers of Congress.

Republicans came out hard against the deal from the outset. Influential leaders like Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee expressed early skepticism about the deal’s ability to constrain Iran. But the issue quickly took on a political cast for Republicans, as presidential candidates turned it into a campaign talking-point. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said the deal “will make the Obama administration the leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism” because it would lift sanctions on Tehran. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee compared the deal to the Holocaust, saying Obama would “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”

That rhetoric may have been more effective as a way of attracting attention on the campaign trail than in convincing Democrats who were genuinely debating the merits of the deal. While Senators Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez came out against the deal, in recent weeks centrists like Chris Coons and Bob Casey came out in favor, laying out detailed arguments for their support. The administration likewise won over Democratic House members from heavily Jewish districts in New York and Florida as the summer wore on.

Administration officials say the Republicans ended up undercutting themselves. “It became clear early on that a lot of Republicans were going to oppose the deal without even reading it or understanding the details,” says a senior administration official. “And a lot of the Republican opposition was offensive and truly partisan in nature,” the official says.

The administration framed the debate as a choice between war or diplomacy, with military options still on the table if Iran broke its commitments and tried to go nuclear. The White House argued that the deal was simply a responsible diplomatic effort that put off a war for at least a decade. That argument gained traction with Mikulski, who said Wednesday that “The military option is always on the table for the United States. We are not afraid to use it. But military action should be the last resort.”

In the case of Mikulski, the administration also had an inside line. Before she became a Senator her chief of staff in the House was Wendy Sherman, who was the lead U.S. negotiator for the administration on the Iran deal. Sherman ran Mikulski’s campaign for the Senate. And the current State department liaison to Capitol Hill is also a former Mikulski staffer who traveled to Vienna last month with the Senator for discussions with nuclear arms inspectors over implementation of the deal.

TIME Texas

Texas County to Fund More Body Cameras After Video of Officer Shooting

Officials approved $1 million in new cameras following the fatal shooting of Gilbert Flores by two sheriff's deputies

Officials in Texas’ Bexar County voted Tuesday to fund additional body and dashboard cameras for uniformed officers following the release of video footage that purportedly shows sheriff’s deputies shooting and killing a Hispanic man in San Antonio after he had raised both his hands in an act of surrender.

Commissioners of Bexar County, where San Antonio is located, approved almost $1 million to fund hundreds of cameras, the New York Times reports. The county has had a body camera program in place for more than a year, but only eight officers, all of whom are motorcycle officers, wear them.

On Monday KSAT 12 News released a video of 41-year-old Gilbert Flores interacting with two deputies on Friday morning. Officials say the deputies were answering a domestic disturbance report and that Flores had injured a woman and an 18-month-old child when he resisted arrest. In the footage, Flores appears to raise his arms in surrender as the officers come near him but is later shot to the ground.

“I don’t understand why he was shot,” said Michael Thomas, who recorded the video and said Flores wasn’t making any threatening gestures. “Both of his hands were up.”

[New York Times]


TIME Business

Watch a Young Serena Williams Predict a Lifetime of Excellence

"If you were a tennis player, who would you want to be like?"

Gatorade’s latest “Win From Within” ad features an ever inspiring Serena Williams in a series of flashbacks from her career. The tennis champ, who is currently competing in the U.S. Open, has been put on a pedestal of being perhaps the best in the sport — and this ad completely backs that up.

If Williams wins the U.S. Open, she will be the first woman to win a calendar year Grand Slam — which includes a sweep of the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open — since 1988.

Watch as the young athlete is interviewed about who she wants to be like when she grows up. Her answer? She wants people to be like her.

TIME Television

Watch American Who Took Down Terrorist on French Train Talk To Jimmy Fallon


Anthony Sadler was one of three Americans who helped stop a terrorist attack

Three weeks ago Anthony Sadler was just an American tourist on a European vacation. Now, he’s an American hero chatting with Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show.

“I look back and there’s the gunman just coming in the train cocking an AK,” Sadler told Fallon during his show on Tuesday. “And I was like is this real is someone playing a joke?”

Sadler, along with two American friends also traveling on vacation, charged and subdued the terrorist, saving dozens of lives and earning international praise.

But Fallon couldn’t allow Sadler’s appearance with landing a few cracks. In addition to discussing Sadler’s heroic actions, Fallon devoted much of the segment to joking about the trio’s time in Amsterdam, where their train originated. The Netherlands capital is known for it’s loose laws allowing drugs and partying.

“You’re in Amsterdam because it’s so pretty there?” said Fallon before cracking up laughing. “You’re taking photographs, you’re taking in the art scene there. Of course, that’s what people do in Amsterdam!”

TIME India

Watch Tens of Thousands of Hindus Gather For Kumbh Mela Festival

This year the festival has attracted attention for its ban on pilgrims taking selfies

Tens of thousands of Hindu pilgrims have participated in the traditional washing away of sins at Kumbh Mela Festival in western Indian since the festival began this past weekend.

The festival, which is held every third year, is considered one of the world’s largest gatherings and lasts more than a month. Despite the length of the festival, bathers only have a few seconds to bathe in order to make time for others. Millions are expected to participate before the end of this year’s festival, Agence France-Presse reports.

This year, the festival has attracted attention for its ban on pilgrims taking selfies, reportedly a measure designed to help manage crowds.

TIME remembrance

Watch an Earsplitting Eulogy for Wes Craven

Be warned, turn down your speakers

Wes Craven fans found a fitting way to lament the director’s death — a montage of screams from his most memorable movies. The master of horror died from brain cancer on Sunday, but his films survive in the hearts and nightmares of people everywhere. Relive some louder moments in the aptly titled video Screams from YouTube channel ScreenCrush.


TIME viral

Watch This Prominent German Literary Critic Scrutinize Ikea’s Catalogue

After all, the catalog is the most circulated book in the world

Hellmuth Karasek is probably Germany’s most famous living literary critic, and so perhaps it is his intellectual duty to examine the book that calls itself the world’s most circulated. That book is Ikea’s annual catalogue, with twice as many copies as the Bible printed each year.

In a new promotional video for the Swedish furniture firm, Karasek turns his faculties to the catalogue, treating it as if it’s an attempted piece of literature.

“It is a furnished novel,” he says. “The characters are forced to crowd themselves between the furniture, they seldom get their say, they barely speak coherently — and yet this work has become such a success.”

He then goes on to disdainfully read aloud from its pages. Watch for yourself.


TIME Texas

Second Video Emerges of Texas Shooting by Deputies

"All I can tell you is the video is disturbing"

(SAN ANTONIO) — A second video has emerged that gives authorities a “very clear view” of a confrontation between deputies and a Texas man who had his hands raised before he was shot and killed, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood described the new video and one broadcast earlier as “disturbing,” but cautioned against a rush to judgment as authorities investigate the shooting that killed 41-year-old Gilbert Flores northwest of San Antonio.

An initial video recorded by a motorist from some distance was posted online by a San Antonio TV station. It shows Flores outside a residence Friday facing two deputies when he raises his hands — one arm obscured by a utility pole. The deputies fired multiple times.

Sheriff’s officials say Flores was armed, though didn’t specify with what, and that nonlethal efforts to subdue him, including a Taser, were unsuccessful. LaHood declined to say Tuesday whether Flores’ arm motion was surrender.

“I don’t know what his intent was,” he said. “All I can tell you is the video is disturbing. But my encouragement to everyone is to press the pause button.”

San Antonio attorney Thomas J. Henry, who is representing the family, said in an interview Tuesday that the initial video appears to show that deadly force was unnecessary but he is seeking more evidence.

“From a lay perspective, seeing the video, it does appear the immediate danger is gone because he had both hands in the air,” Henry said. “Now there are other videos and other pieces of evidence that we want to gather.” He said the family is considering filing a lawsuit to compel authorities to turn over more evidence.

Flores’ death is the country’s latest law enforcement shooting to draw heavy scrutiny for using deadly force in a situation where it may not have been necessary. Law enforcement officials in the U.S. have expressed concern that the deadly confrontations have spawned retaliatory shootings of officers, including last week’s death of a suburban Houston deputy at a gas station.

The second video was recorded by a witness closer to the incident, LaHood said, but he declined to provide further information about what it reveals or when authorities acquired it. An investigation is underway to determine whether the deputies will face criminal charges or whether the danger to them was imminent, LaHood said.

Deputies Greg Vasquez and Robert Sanchez, who were not equipped with body cameras at the time of the encounter, have been placed on administrative leave. Sanchez has worked more than 20 years with the sheriff’s office and Vasquez has been with the agency more than 10 years, according to records with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. Both had received training in use of force and nonlethal devices.

Michelle Lee, a special agent for the FBI in San Antonio, confirmed Tuesday that “experienced civil rights investigators” are monitoring the investigation.

The deputies had responded to a domestic disturbance, authorities have said, and found a woman at the residence with a cut on her head and a baby who appeared to be injured. Sheriff’s officials have not indicated whether they believe Flores harmed the two.

Attempts to contact members of Flores’ family were unsuccessful Tuesday, but Henry said that Flores’ wife is devastated. The couple have a child who is just 21 days old, he said.

Bexar County court records show Flores was convicted in 2003 of aggravated robbery, and the San Antonio Express-News reports he also has a conviction for assault with a deadly weapon.

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, who represents part of the San Antonio area, said in a statement that Friday’s shooting was “extremely disturbing.”

“This incident is further evidence that police officers and deputies should wear body cameras,” he said. “The widely supported technology brings transparency and accountability that protects law enforcement and civilians alike.”

Bexar County commissioners approved a county budget Tuesday that includes more than $630,000 to provide deputies with body cameras and also cameras for patrol vehicles.

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