Trending News to finish up 2015

Which news stories captured our attentions in the last part of 2015? Take a look.

  1. 1

    J.K. Rowling Loves "Black Hermione" - Take That, Twitter Critics

    Black actress Noma Dumezweni has been cast as Hermione in "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child."
    It’s an interesting time to be in geek fandom these days. We’ve barely had time to process the new “Star Wars” movie having a female main character and a black Stormtrooper, and now the new “Harry Potter” sequel has a black actress playing Hermione Granger - and before borderline-racist critics could even pick up steam, J.K. Rowling herself endorsed it on Twitter.

    Earlier we mentioned that a “Harry Potter” sequel is coming to the theater in London. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” will pick up where the epilogue left off, 19 years after the end of the war with Voldemort, as Harry’s son Albus heads off to Hogwarts for the first time - and the play’s producers have made a pretty daring casting choice:

    Harry will be played by 36-year-old Jamie Parker, an original member of Alan Bennett’s History Boys cast at the National Theatre, while Paul Thornley has been cast as Ron Weasley.
    Ron, his hair now receding, is married to Hermione – a part won by Noma Dumezweni, 45, who was born in Swaziland to South African parents fleeing apartheid. She moved with her mother and sister to Suffolk when she was seven.
    The idea of a black Hermione has been a fan favorite in Tumblr communities advocating for greater diversity. People have been drawing fan art of the character for years. As a girl from a working-class family, determined to prove herself in a posh upper-class school while being called “mudblood” by bigots like Draco Malfoy, Hermione has a lot of appeal for minorities in the “Harry Potter” fandom.
    J.K. Rowling has been aware of this discussion for a while, so when it started trending online, she didn’t hesitate to give her blessing:

  2. 2

    Miss Universe Crowns the Wrong Contestant in the Most Epic of Fails

    Host Steve Harvey is never going to live this one down.
    Today, we are all united in the sincerest gratitude that we are not Steve Harvey right now.

    At the 2015 Miss Universe pageant, host Steve Harvey announced that Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez was the winner, beating out first runner-up Miss Philippines Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach. Gutierrez cried with joy, hugged Wurtzbach, received her crown, waved the Colombian flag and blew kisses to her adoring fans - and that was when Harvey had to shuffle onto the stage next to her and announce that he’d read the card wrong.

    “Okay, folks… I have to apologize,” he says - and you might not want to look directly at his face when he says it, just in case his expression makes you drop dead from secondhand embarrassment. “The first runner up is Colombia. Miss Universe 2015 is Miss Philippines.”

    The following two minutes have to be among the most awkward in TV history, as both contestants struggle to keep their beauty pageant smiles on their faces while the crowd roars in shock and outrage, and the crown is taken off Gutierrez’s head and placed on Wurtzbach. It honestly sounded like there was about to be a riot for a second.

    “Let me just take control of this,” a miserable Harvey said. “This is exactly what’s on the card. I will take responsibility for this. It was my mistake.”
    The internet has been enjoying itself immensely with jokes and memes about Steve Harvey ever since this happened. Our host Anna Lore has a rundown of the best ones, plus a reminder of why you maybe don't need to feel all that sorry for him.

  3. 3

    30% of Republicans Want to Bomb Agrabah You know, the country from Disney’s “Aladdin.” Which is not real.

    If you’re wondering why “Agrabah” is trending on Twitter today, you can thank those scamps at Public Policy Polling - they’re trolling the Republicans with trick questions again. So silly!

    Also I’m deeply worried about the election now.

    According to a new PPP poll, 30% of Republican primary voters - who are generally more hardcore than people who vote in the general election - are in favor of military intervention in Agrabah because it’s a national security threat. This is particularly true of Donald Trump supporters.
    To be fair, though, if I was taking a political poll and came across this question, I would laugh about it and play along, because I grew up watching Disney movies and I’m a dork. I’m quite willing to believe lots of Americans think Agrabah is a real place, but there’s no way to know if any of the respondents, Republican or Democrat, were being serious when they answered the question.
    On a more serious note, the poll also reveals that 46% of GOPers support a national Muslim database, 26% believe Islam should be illegal and 54% are in favor of banning Muslims from the US.

  4. 4

    Internet Has Schadenfreude-gasm Over Martin Shkreli Arrest Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

    You remember “Pharma Bro” aka Martin Shkreli, right - the white dude with the super-punchable face who raised the price of Daraprim, a drug that treats a condition related to AIDS, from $13.50 to $750.00 and then was all “haters gonna hate, bitches!” when everyone yelled at him? And then later he purchased a rare Wu-Tang Clan album for $2 million and said that entitled him to become a rap mogul or something? (There’s a quote from him about Taylor Swift in that Wu-Tang article that made me yell “oh my GOD” in the middle of the office, by the way.)

    Well, he was arrested for fraud this morning, and the internet can’t get enough of it. I mean, the pun potential in “Pharma” and “Karma” alone is enough to keep us going for days.

    Shkreli is facing charges of securities fraud related to his time as a hedge fund manager and running the biopharmaceutical company Retrophin. Federal officials said his business dealings were “a securities fraud trifecta of lies, deceit and greed” and he basically treated the company like a giant Ponzi scheme.
    And then there’s the joke that is being made far and wide on social media, summed up by this comedy piece by Andy Borowitz of the New Yorker:

    Minutes after Shkreli’s arrest on charges of securities fraud, the attorney, Harland Dorrinson, announced that he was hiking his fees from twelve hundred dollars an hour to sixty thousand dollars.
    Shkreli, who reportedly received the news about the price hike while he was being fingerprinted, cried foul and accused his attorney of “outrageous and inhumane price gouging.”

    “This is the behavior of a sociopath,” Shkreli was heard screaming.

  5. 5

    Man Stops Traffic on the Freeway to Propose to His Girlfriend Let’s hope his fiancee loves him, because everyone else hates him.

    Imagine this scenario: you’re in your car trying to get home after a hectic day, you’re stuck in traffic on the I-45, you live in Houston of all ungodly places, and suddenly traffic grinds to a halt because some dude had his friends block the highway so he can propose to his girlfriend and post it to Instagram.

    Do you a) go “Aww, that’s so sweet, I hope they have a wonderful life together” or b) feel like screaming out the window or maybe flooring it and running them over? Because I know which one I’d pick.

    Vidal Valladares decided to make his wedding proposal a memorable one by inspiring hundreds of cases of road rage on Sunday. In a photo he later put on imgur, he said: “When you shut down one of the biggest and busiest freeways in the entire country (I45) and you ask your girl if she wants to marry u, That moment is priceless love u @mlwycoff #shesaidyes”.

    Uhhh, nope, that moment is obnoxious and could lead to a collision or one of your friends getting run over, you moron. (Sorry, I live in LA - we’re very touchy about traffic.)

    Local news reports that he also gave an off-duty police officer the middle finger for honking at them. He’s been charged with obstruction of a roadway, which is a misdemeanor. If convicted, he could face up to six months in jail or a $2,000 fine.

    His attorney insisted that he wasn’t trying to hurt anyone and certainly wasn’t doing it for attention, I mean how dare you think such a thing:

    ”Mr. Valladares' intentions were purely romantic. The spot where he proposed had significant meaning to his fiancee. This was not done to grab personal attention, but done merely as a romantic gesture. It is unfortunate that criminal charges were filed.”

  6. 6

    Killer Mike Backs Bernie Sanders in Six-Part Interview “You are different. Why?”

    It’s one of the more striking images of the 2016 presidential campaign - Vermont senator Bernie Sanders sitting down in a barber shop across from rapper Killer Mike, talking about economic freedom and social justice.

    Killer Mike endorsed Sanders for president last month, spending a day with the senator and giving a speech at a rally in front of thousands of people. They shared a meal at Atlanta’s Busy Bee Cafe, then had a lengthy discussion at Mike’s barbershop, the SWAG Shop.

    That discussion has now been released as a six-part interview on YouTube, covering topics like community, protest, healthcare, voting and the idea of a rigged economy. If you’re a Bernie Sanders supporter or even just want a better idea of what he stands for, it’s definitely worth a listen.

    “I rap about a lot of the stuff that you rant about, and I want to talk about that,” Mike says early in the interview, describing his personal journey of becoming aware of his role in the community. “I’m a kid that grew up on the west side of Atlanta not far from here, working class community. I like money. I’ve always considered myself a capitalist. I’ve always tried to invent ways to make money.”

    Sanders made his case as to why his Democratic Socialism stance is important for the black community and America as a whole. “When we talk about rights, you have freedom of speech, you can go out on a street corner and give a speech. You have the Constitutional right to do that. But you know what, to be truly free, you need economic rights as well. You can go out and give a speech, but if you don’t have any food in your stomach, you don’t have a house, roof over your head, you don’t have any education, are you really free?”

    Rolling Stone elaborates:

    The six-part conversation could help Sanders build support among young people and, crucially, among black voters, whom he desperately needs to win over if he is going to gain any traction against his rival Hillary Clinton. A recent poll in the early primary state of South Carolina found an overwhelming 80 percent of black Democrats support Hillary Clinton. Sanders has acknowledged the ground he still needs to make up with minority voters, even as he emphasizes that his platform goes further than any other candidate's to address issues that disproportionately impact black and Hispanic communities with proposals that seek to raise the minimum wage, end mass incarceration, and make higher education more accessible.
    The entire interview is available on Killer Mike’s YouTube channel - one of only two projects uploaded to the channel since it was launched a year ago.

  7. 7

    Facebook Removes Controversial “Peace on Earth” Family Photo The internet does not take kindly to images of women and girls with their mouths taped shut.

    I’m sure this family’s idea for a Christmas card photo seemed a lot funnier in their heads.

    The latest internet outrage is this viral photograph, now deleted by Facebook, taken by Louisiana-based photographer Hannah Hawkes. It shows a wholesome-looking family of five grouped between pine trees, the mom and two little girls with their arms bound by a string of Christmas lights and their mouths covered with green duct tape, while the dad holds up a “Peace on Earth” sign and the little boy gives a thumbs up behind them.
    The photo was shared hundreds of times before it was taken down, as angry commenters said the picture promoted violence against women or at least the idea that girls should be seen and not heard. This was countered by a bunch of “why can’t you people take a harmless joke!” plus one comment I saw about how all these complaining liberals would be perfectly happy if the mom had ABORTED THOSE KIDS, WOULDN’T YOU (oh my god, calm down). Basically it was as loud and unproductive as viral Facebook discussions usually are.

    My reaction to this picture is a weary “ehhhhhhh, whatever.” Girls never shut up, am I right? Not like little boys, they’re never noisy and annoying. (Also the way they’re posed just looks weird - like the War on Christmas has developed a very festive hostage situation.) But if I or any of my liberal-minded friends had received this picture in a Christmas card, we would probably just roll our eyes and chalk it up to having perfectly nice but sometimes weird relatives who we should probably have a quiet word with later. It’s only when it becomes an anonymous Facebook post on an official company page that it becomes a reason to get out the pitchforks.

    Hawkes has since replied to the controversy on Facebook:

    After being silent, now isn't that ironic, I would like to speak! I have been called every name in the book, and have received some very hateful and vulgar comments and messages. I would like to say that as a female I do NOT and have never promoted violence to women! I do not support abuse, or the degradation of women. My controversial photo was taken by request by the family, and was in no way meant to promote abuse. This photo was taken with humor in mind, and was meant as a comical Christmas photo. I personally know this family, and have known them for many years. They are not abusive to their children in any shape or form. Also, I would like to add that no one was harmed during the process! So everyone have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and MAY GOD BLESS you and yours!
    Let’s hope that family’s holiday season hasn’t been too rattled by having their picture splashed everywhere, and that everyone has a second thought or two about the ideas we put in children’s heads about how girls and women should be treated.

  8. 8

    MSNBC, CNN Dig Through San Bernardino Shooters’ Home Viewers were shocked as reporters held up papers, photos and ID cards on live TV.

    One of the difficulties of running a media site like What’s Trending is figuring out how to handle tragic news like the San Bernardino shooting. When most of what we cover is funny internet trends, is it our place to try to deal with things like mass shootings, or should we step aside and let seasoned reporters handle it?

    That internal debate gets a lot more difficult when organizations like MSNBC and CNN are trending because they’re ransacking a potential crime scene on live TV.

    Social media is blowing up today because journalists from MSNBC, CNN and other outlets stormed the San Bernardino shooters’ apartment after the landlord pried open the door.

    From the Atlantic:

    The result was disturbing. On live national television, reporters sifted through the remains of the lives of Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. They picked over children’s toys. They held up photos, speculating about whether the woman depicted in one might be Malik. They displayed Social Security cards and driver’s licenses with readily identifiable information—and not just for the deceased suspects. […]
    As if the journalistic irresponsibility of baselessly speculating while holding up images of potentially innocent people on TV wasn’t bad enough, it beggars belief the scene wasn’t taped off and guarded. Reporters were given free rein to walk through an apartment that is an important part of the investigation, and they were allowed to handle what one would expect to be evidence. Police didn’t appear to know the media tour was going on.
    The Washington Free Beacon posted this video clip of an MSNBC reporter digging through a child’s bedroom - flipping through a calendar, shuffling through a desk and digging through a trash can - while anchor Andrea Mitchell tried to direct things from the studio.
    “There is something so strange about all of this,” said Mitchell at one point, sounding kind of dazed. “Obviously this is all unfolding live, we had no expectation that they were going to open up the house at this moment…”

    She later said that the landlord allowed the press tour and the FBI had already removed all useful evidence beforehand.

    Everybody from viewers to other reporters and media critics are shocked at what’s going on.
    ***the video clip was removed due to copyright issues.

  9. 9

    San Bernardino Shooting: US Averages One Mass Shooting a Day in 2015 Today’s tragedy is mass shooting #355 for 2015, according to Reddit’s Mass Shooting Tracker.

    As another mass shooting unfolded in San Bernardino today, Reddit’s Mass Shooting Tracker took up the grim task of tallying the latest numbers.

    This was number 355 in the United States for 2015. That’s 21 more shootings than there have been days in the year so far, or 1.06 mass shootings per day.

    From the Washington Post:

    As many as three attackers opened fire at a holiday party for county employees in San Bernardino, Calif., on Wednesday, killing at least 14 people and injuring 17 others in what the city’s police chief described as an act of domestic terrorism.
    The active shooting scene erupted at the Inland Regional Center, a complex that houses a conference center and a facility serves people with developmental disabilities.
    We’ve already surpassed the total number of shootings in 2014 and are well above the pace of 2013, when there was a total of 363.
    Reddit’s Shooting Tracker is run by subreddit GunsAreCool (an angrily sarcastic name for a subreddit devoted to pushing for gun reforms and criticizing the National Rifle Association), which crowd-sources media reports of shootings and notes every event that involves four or more people shot (either wounded or killed) in a single spree or setting, without a cooling off period. Over the last year the tracker has been cited by CBS, the Economist, CNN, The Guardian and many other mainstream news outlets.

    GrC says keeping such a list debunks the NRA argument that covering mass shootings will result in more shootings via copycats. “In fact, many of these shootings do not receive more than a day’s worth of local coverage. Yet mass shootings continue to occur anyway. We actually think mass shootings should receive more publicity, not less.”

  10. 10

    Internet Outrage Over Woman Who Taped Dog's Mouth Shut Facebook user "Katie Brown" is the target of a police investigation after this disturbing image went viral.

    UPDATE: Police have tracked down Katharine Lemansky after a three-state search and charged her with animal cruelty. She is scheduled to appear in court Dec. 14.

    It’s like a new version of “Has Justine Landed Yet” - have the police tracked down that lady who taped her dog’s mouth shut?

    You’ve probably seen this picture over the holiday weekend of a distressed-looking Chocolate Labrador with duct tape wrapped around his muzzle. It was posted to Facebook by a woman calling herself Katie Brown, with the caption “This is what happens when you dont shut up!!!”

    The social media backlash must have been swift and furious, because soon afterward she posted “Dont panic everyone it was only for a minute but hasnt barked since… POINT MADE!!!” But the damage was done - the photo was shared more than 200,000 times and thousands of people were trying to find her, report her to police and have her dog taken away.

    Now it’s Monday, the woman hasn’t been found yet and the dog hasn’t been rescued. Is she going to be able to wait this out, or will the internet not rest until the police find her?

    Her Facebook page - which was completely public long after the backlash started, though it looks like some posts have been removed or made private by today - says she lives in South Daytona, Florida and went to college at Central Connecticut State University. Police departments in both these cities have been flooded with angry calls. Her page also says she’s self-employed; otherwise her employer would have been caught up in this too.

    An official investigation is underway, but it’s reached the point where police are begging people not to flood their phone lines about this story, as it could impact their ability to respond to other emergencies. An Avon Police Department spokesperson said the situation “is causing a serious strain on our dispatch center.”
    The South Daytona Police Department told local news outlet KRON they have information that indicates the dog is okay, though that’s not good enough for her angry critics. They've figured out that Katie Brown is actually called Katharine Lemansky and she owns property in both Florida and Connecticut. Her property in South Daytona appears vacant and is under code enforcement action.

    Once Lemansky and her dog are found, the police say they’ll proceed as with any other criminal investigation. Whether the internet will get the revenge they’re crying out for remains to be seen.

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