confirmation number

Story 215: Cultural Exchange

The human steps onto the station from her shuttle, and walks into the scanner.  It flashes - no weapons.  I pity her, though there’s nothing I can do for her.  By tomorrow she will be a slave the same as me; the Gaunvans collect ambassadors like trophies.
“Hello there!  Amanda Thorn, ambassador for the Empire of Humanity.  You’re a Ixian, correct?”
Mimicking human body language, I nod my head.  "That’s correct.  Ix Malasan.  It is an honor to meet you.“
She smiles, reminding me again that she has somehow modified herself to breathe atmosphere suited to the Gaunvans rather than wear a respirator like myself.  Other than that she appears to be a standard human, something I am led to believe is less and less common as they pursue the bizarre compulsion humans have to alter their bodies.  Changing hair color, adding pigments to their skins in patterns and pictures, growing long tails or ears that mimic other species from their planet.  No other known species tampers with their bodies like this.
“Not to be undiplomatic, she says, "but the Gaunvans enslaved your people.  Why are you here?”
“We… reached a mutually beneficial agreement.  We would have lost in combat and been eliminated, so we chose to preserve what we could of our culture.  The Gaunvans are not naturally skilled at diplomacy, so they bring me along to assist and to show that peace can be made.”
She nods.  "Understood.  I can respect that choice.  How much freedom do you have, personally?“
Smart of her, to start planning for her future. "A fair amount.  I have free reign on the ship when we are in transit.  At the homeworld I have reasonably comfortable quarters.”
“Have you ever met the Empress, or…?”
“Oh, no.  No, while on the homeworld I am confined to my chambers - but they’re quite spacious.”
“Shame.  Okay, plan ‘A’ then.  Let’s get this over with.”

Despite my attempt at encouraging diplomacy, the Gaunvan commander starts with threats.  I don’t know why I bother.  He looms over the human, chitinous plates almost black in the dim light.  His pod of six is posted around the room, for show more than for actual security since she followed orders and came alone and unarmed.  "Failure to surrender will bring the full wrath of our army upon you.  Humanity will be crushed, and wiped from the universe.“
To her credit, she looks very calm.  "We live in a post-scarcity society.  Bloody conquest just seems silly, doesn’t it?”
“It is for the glory of Gaun!”
“Well, I’m not prepared to get into a religious debate with you,” she says, “since I doubt there’s anything I can do to change your mind.  Since you’re committed to this course of action, what are you willing to offer if we surrender?”
Now he goes back on script.  Maybe I am getting through to him a little?  He talks about the benefits of being enslaved, mainly the protections for up to twelve designated culturally historical sites.  They’ve been mostly good on their word on my homeworld, though they did use the area just outside of the Hahhn Memorial as a waste dump.

She nods as she listens.  There was a part of me that was worried she would argue, because the humans are somewhat childlike.  They don’t understand the horrors of war.  Certainly they fought in the past, but the last time they had to battle was more than two of their generations ago, so these ones have all grown up coddled and soft.  They play games with each other instead, silly competitions.  They make art, and play pretend, and alter their bodies for fun.  They don’t have weapons anymore, and wouldn’t know how to use them if they did.
“Well then,” ambassador Thorn says, “this is about what I expected.  On behalf of humanity, I would like to formally reject this offer.”
Oh no.  Foolish humans.  The galaxy will miss your innocence.  The commander makes an excited clicking noise, looking forward to combat.  He reaches a blade-tipped hand towards ambassador Thorn, but hesitates as every device in the room bleats out an alert - we’ve all lost communications with the outside.

Like one of the dances humans do, she gracefully pivots around while taking his hand.  She ends up close to him and places her other arm against his thorax, then… oh gods. Gods, what… she’s ripped his arm off.  It’s not possible.  The commander is clearly thinking the same thing, staring in mute shock at his dripping limb.
“I’d like to extend a counter-offer,” she says, and flips the arm around before jamming the bladed end into his neck.  The warriors around the room are fidgeting, uncertain.  They haven’t been told to attack, and don’t want to dishonor their commander by intervening in a fight with such a small creature.  She’s still holding the commander’s severed arm in his neck, but she rotates and heaves, lifting him off the ground with it for a moment… and then his head pops off, landing squarely on the conference table.  She allows the corpse to slide to the ground, and straightens her clothes as if they aren’t covered in ichor.

I don’t understand.

The warriors, now with no orders at all, finally act.  She smiles as they come for her, I suppose because she has done her duty to send this powerful message of resistance.  She can die in peace.  Or… no… She’s killing them.  She’s smiling because this is fun for her.  Though they’re partly killing themselves; if there had been two of them, prepared, strategic, they might have prevailed.  Watching six panicked fighters get in each other’s way while trying to stop a smaller, faster, and somehow impossibly stronger foe is almost hypnotic.  At least one is killed by the stab of a friendly lance due to pure confusion.  It’s over faster than I would have thought possible, severed limbs strewn across the room.  I’ve got some fluids splashed across my clothing.  Only one yet lives, and he is retreating.  She seems to be allowing it.

She follows behind, holding a lance.  The wounded and scared warrior scurries down the hallway towards his ship, looking back behind him as he goes.  She’s just… walking.  Calm.  And for some reason I’m following.  The last Gaunvan reaches the airlock and the second he enters his code she throws the lance - throws it! - and spears him.
“Come on, we’re stealing their ship.”  She says it like this is the most normal thing in the world.
“There are thousands more on board!  Thousands!  Almost all warrior caste!”
She smiles again, and keeps walking.  I see errors on the screens that we pass, messages indicating communications have been lost.  They can’t tell anyone what is happening here.  Even the communicators within the ship are on nodes rather than being wired, so the warriors at one end of the vessel won’t be able to coordinate with the other end.  Do they even know they’ve been boarded?
“How?”

We enter the bridge after she kills a handful of other guards with ease.  They’re too shocked by her presence to act in time.  Once the door are sealed and she is working on the control systems she starts talking to me again.
“Well, you know, we do like to be prepared.”
“But you… you ripped his arm off.”
“Yeah, that was super satisfying.”  She looks at me appraisingly.  "Oh, come on.  Is it really that surprising?  You knew we were into changing ourselves, right?  Being strong enough to pop an overgrown bug’s forelimb off isn’t rocket science.“
"Your people are so peaceful…”
“Oh, sure, most of them.  But we did that, too.  Tweaked ourselves over the years to decrease aggression and some of our tribalistic tendencies, increase empathy… all stuff that can be undone if needed.  Though for a good cause even the nicest of us can squish a bug or two.”
“You bond with Ry'ling devourers!”
“Those are the big fuzzy guys that look like cats, yeah?  Those guys are adorable!  But… look, liking some things that could kill us doesn’t mean we’ll sit back and get enslaved.  We didn’t put up with it well when we enslaved each other, and we certainly aren’t going to go for it now that we’re… finally… on the same page about slavery being unacceptable.  It was, uh, a longer time than we like to admit before the last hold-outs were convinced of that one.”

I can feel the ship un-dock.  We’re moving.  "What about all the warriors on board?  They’ll break through the doors eventually!“
"Not according to this control panel here.  Take a look.”
It says there’s no atmosphere in the rest of the ship.  Life signs are negative on all but two of the warriors, presumably the only ones that got to their suits in time.  She disabled all the safety measures, somehow.  She just killed… I check the life signs readout again to confirm the number… three thousand, six hundred, and fourteen soldiers.  Wait, how is it tracking that unless… “Are communications back up?”
“Yeah, I’m calling some friends.  The military is right around the corner, so to speak.”
“But Earth doesn’t have a standing military.”
She laughs.  Not just a little bit.  She’s actually doubled over for a moment, unable to catch her breath.  "Sweet Jeebus, you guys actually fell for that?  No standing military.  Have you read about us at all?“

Three ships appear seemingly out of nowhere, and one docks with the Gaunvan vessel.  Once the atmosphere is restored we head to the airlock to meet them, and I’m surprised by an entire platoon of Gaunvan warriors.  Speaking English.
"Okay boys, send your last goodbyes!  This is in all likelihood a one way mission.  Commander Thorn!  It is an honor to see you again, and might I say you look exquisite drenched in the blood of your enemies!”
She bows to him, blushing, and then salutes the Gaunvans.  Or… humans?  Can they change themselves this drastically?
“You’ve got two holed up in here somewhere.  Bridge is clear, have the techs bring the new brain on board.”
“New brain?”
She looks at me like she’s forgotten that I’m here, and then turns back to the others.  "Men, this is our new friend Ix Malasan who has just been liberated from his captivity.  He’s going to be helping with our intel.  Malasan, yeah, a new brain for the ship.  Once this vessel is cleaned up and back in service with a new crew we’ll be able to take it over whenever we want even if all of our boys get killed.  We cooked up a really sadistic AI for it.“
"But how do you know the protocols?  This was your first contact with the Gaunvans, they’ve never lost a ship anywhere near here!”
“No?  There wasn’t a mining colony disaster two years ago?”
“But that was just an accident… and you weren’t even involved in the war yet… and…”

The faux-Gaunvans have finished boarding.  The one that was talking to them before puts a bladed claw on ambassador - commander - Thorn’s shoulder.  "You coming with?“
"Naw.  Orders said I could only come if they allow ambassadors near extremely high value targets.  Malasan here says they don’t, so I need to wait for my next mission back on Earth.”
“It would have been nice having you with us, Thorn.  Well, maybe we’ll see each other again.  Suicide mission or not, I think I’ve decided to live through it.”
“Bold choice,” she says, and kisses him next to his lower mandibles.
He nods at me, then turns back to his men. “Okay everyone, we are now officially on the job.  And what is that job?”
In unison, they start chanting.

“FUCK! SHIT! UP!  FUCK! SHIT! UP!  FUCK! SHIT! UP!”

For a moment I nearly feel pity for the Gaunvans.  Nearly.  Commander Thorn leads me off of the ship, and I start thinking about what useful information I can provide the ‘harmless’ humans.  Fuck shit up, indeed.

2

The mobile network provider RBB’s phone is connected to confirms that (if the phone is pay as you go) in order for the SIM to stay active, someone needs to perform some kind of chargeable usage (a phone call or a text message, something like that, just topping up the credit should be adequate too).

In other words - we already knew this, but - someone is definitely still maintaining the number, nearly 18 months after OTRA ended and over a year since the phone was switched on for any period of time. (Either by paying a monthly bill or by switching it on and topping up or sending a text.)

[if you want to know why I think the phone is pay as you go and not on a monthly contract, click here. If anyone wants more information, send me an ask. I think I might rewrite my thoughts on that later on anyway.]

1. The phony iCloud breach

The scam: Scammers reach people by phone, saying their data was hacked or breached through iCloud, Apple’s online data storage service. The scam is so effective because it sounds plausible, what with all the reports of data breaches, Business Insider notes. The initial call is a robocall, which offers to connect the prospective victim to a live person who can “help.” The individual on the phone says they can fix the problem if provided personal information (which could possibly include your Apple ID password, credit card information). The scammers will use flattery and may even an offer of a free iTunes gift card to poach your information, Apple says.

What you should do: Never share your Apple ID or temporary verification codes with anyone, Apple advises. And using two-factor identification will add an extra layer of protection to your account. If you receive an unsolicited call, hang up immediately and contact Apple directly.

2. The shady taxi lost-and-found service

The scam: You are in a hurry and forget your bag or phone in the cab. What do you do? Use a helpful service, like Yellowcabnyc.com, to locate your missing item. Sounds legit, considering it has all the vital keywords like NYC and yellow cab, right? Unfortunately, this “service” offers to locate your lost item for $47, which of course goes directly into the scammer’s pocket and your item is seemingly never retrieved, the New York Post reported.

What you should do: If you lose something in a cab, call the cab company’s garage directly first, according to the City of New York government website. If you don’t recall the name of the cab company, you can complete this form. Additionally, you can call the lost property police precincts in each borough to see if your lost item was recovered. Not in New York City? You can still apply this advice no matter where you are, just by starting with the cab company’s office.

3. Airline ticket giveaway

The scam: If you put off booking that airline ticket for summer until now, you are probably thirsting for a last-minute deal. Then you happen to see an email or post on Facebook or Craigslist offering one. All you need to do is wire cash for the ticket to a Western Union account and you are given the ticket confirmation number. Unfortunately when it’s time to travel, you find out the “ticket” you purchased doesn’t exist.

Scammers steal credit card information and purchase airline tickets, Scam Detector says. They cancel the trip for credit but retain the ticket’s confirmation number. Then they sell the ticket at a “discounted” rate on a site like Craigslist, Kijiji, Oodle or Gumtree and make the sale look legit because they provide the confirmation number.

What you should do: If you purchase an airline ticket online, make sure you go directly through the airline site or a reputable site like Expedia or Kayak. While some deals may be tempting, they are most likely too good to be true. If you purchase a fraudulent ticket, share what happened to you on social media and contact the Federal Trade Commission.

4. The bogus government grant

The scam: Score! You receive a phone call that you’ve been awarded a healthy government grant because you paid your taxes on time. All you need to do is provide your checking account information so the money can be automatically transferred to your account, but also to cover a one-time processing fee. The caller may say they are from the “Federal Grants Administration” so the call sounds legitimate, but the scam is to obtain access to your bank account.

The hallmark of this scam is that scammers usually read from a script, congratulating you for your eligibility and confirming that your processing fee can be refunded if you aren’t completely satisfied, according to the FTC. Also, the phone number will not have a caller ID, although the call may appear to be coming from Washington, D.C. Additionally, know you’ll never have to pay money for a “free” government grant.

What you should do: Hang up and report the call to the Federal Trade Commission.

5. The imaginary vacation rental

The scam: The vacation rental house looks perfect online and the price is right — but is it? Fake vacation rentals and time-share offers account for about 8% of reports to the Better Business Bureau scam tracker in 2017. Scammers may hijack an actual vacation rental ad, posing as the agent to grab your money for the rental or will fabricate a fake ad, designing a property that doesn’t even exist, the FTC says.

What you should do: Before you pay for a vacation rental, be wary of someone asking you to wire the cash to them, the FTC advises. Also, anyone who cannot connect personally because they are out of the country or demands the security deposit up front should be a red flag. Also, if the listing seems too good to be true, it probably is, the BBB says.

6. The tax bill you don’t actually owe

The scam: About 5% of the scams reported to the BBB are criminals posing as IRS agents, threatening criminal prosecution for being remiss on paying your taxes. The “agent” claims they can waive arrest if you pay a hefty fine through a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer, the IRS says. The latest version of this scam includes the scammer telling the potential victim that two certified letters were mailed to the victim but were returned as being undeliverable.

What you should do: Know that the IRS will never ask for credit or debit information over the phone or demand immediate payment without the opportunity to appeal the amount, the IRS advises. Also, hang up the phone if you are contacted by someone posing as an IRS agent, the BBB says.

7. The jury duty scam

The scam: While missing your jury summons by mail could happen, you wouldn’t be harassed by someone on the phone if you do miss your notice. Scammers typically pose as a U.S. marshall or the local police, AARP says, claiming you may be arrested because you missed jury duty. Supposedly in order to confirm the call, the caller will ask for your Social Security number and any other ID and will then offer to wipe clean the warrant for your arrest if you pay a fine in the form of a prepaid debit or gift card.

What you should do: Federal courts will never ask for personal information by phone, the United States Courts says, and will not ask for Social Security or credit card numbers. Should you receive this call, hang up immediately and contact the agency the caller claims to be calling from, typically a government agency, Sheryl Presley, Oklahoma City Police Triad coordinator told AOL says.

8. The ransom call

The scam: Typically delivered under the cloak of night, the kidnapping scam plays on your fears that a loved one was kidnapped but would be returned safely as long as a ransom is paid. Scammers reach out by phone, email or Facebook message, claiming if you don’t pay up in the hour, your loved one dies, Men’s Health reports. The reason scammers get away with this is because they pick the right hour to deliver the scary message, usually in the middle of the night, so you are too disoriented to challenge or question the call.

What you should do: First reach out to the “kidnapped victim” before you jump to any conclusions, Men’s Health suggests. Even though you may annoy your buddy with a call at 2 a.m. to make sure they’re safe, shelling out thousands of dollars in “ransom” is far more annoying. Keep in mind, the scammers may have scanned your social media to identify a connection who posted about traveling or being on vacation, CBS Boston notes. This will make it harder to verify the whereabouts of your loved one. Call 911 in the event you receive a call like this and get police involved.

9. Fraudulent telemarketing calls

The scam: Just when you thought your mobile phone was safe, scammers target you with fake telemarketing calls. You first receive an email saying telemarketers may be calling your mobile phone, playing off the rumors of a 411 mobile directory, the FCC says. The idea behind the scam is if your number is listed on the 411 service, its open to telemarketing calls which is completely untrue and would be illegal.

What you should do: Never share any personal information or data by phone with a telemarketer. Most telemarketing calls placed to your mobile phone are illegal and should be reported to the FTC. Another trick: Block the caller on your phone so at the very least they’ll have to call from another number to reach you again.

10. The “spear phishing” email

The scam: While phishing accounts for 34% of the BBB’s complaints this year, “spear phishing” is on the rise. Phishing is when a business emails you and asks to “verify” your personal information, like your Social Security number, credit card numbers or passwords. “Spear phishing” gives the scam a more personal flavor, as it appears to come from someone you know and sounds more personal, USA Today says. This approach is far more dangerous because your guard may not be up, making you more likely to fall for this scam.

What should you do: As with any scam, be cautious of any emails asking for you to click on a link, USA Today advises. Also, legitimate companies aren’t going to ask for your password, and if a “friend” sends the email, reach out separately and ask if the friend really sent that message — sometimes tiny differences in an email address are hard to spot. Also, fraudulent emails are typically fraught with typos. Be wary of links that take you to a URL that begins with “http” rather than “https,” which is more secure. Read more (7/6/17)

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15 tips for traveling alone

I recently returned from a four-month trip around Europe. I backpacked to Spain, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Germany, Norway and The Netherlands, sometimes with my best friend, sometimes with new friends, and sometimes all alone. 

Travelling alone was one of the best experiences of my life. You’ll surprise yourself with your keen intuition, your ability to cope with a new language, your friend-making skills, your geographical bearings and overall just how much you enjoy doing whatever you want, whenever you want - from eating whenever, going wherever and doing whatever you feel like doing. Sometimes I had gelato for breakfast, once I spent six hours in a museum, a few times I slept til midday, I went to a music festival solo and I swam in the ocean morning, noon and dusk. 

But travelling alone can also be problematic and lonely if you’re not properly prepared. Here’s some easy tips that really enriched my experience travelling alone. 

1. Laptop smart
Not only is it exceedingly hard to navigate foreign transport sites from a phone, my laptop proved really valuable to me when I needed precious downtime, which was about once a week. I loaded up a portable hard drive with movies and boxsets so I could retreat into my own little world with my headphones on to watch a movie in bed when I needed a bit of ‘me’ time. 

2. Device smart
- I subscribed to Spotify Premium for $10 a month and built myself some playlists by mood - chill, happy, groovy, pensive. Then I downloaded them, so they were available offline.
- I also downloaded Tripit, an app that links with your email and builds you an automatic itinerary based on your email confirmations.
- I also downloaded Maps.me, an app with offline maps and GPS location so I was never lost. I dropped a (permanent) pin on the location of my accommodation in each city so I always had my bearings. 
- Also make sure your emails are accessible on your phone - I found the Gmail app to be the best option for me, because many of my emails were available offline - valuable when I needed an address or confirmation number, which was a lot!

3. Spend smart
I went with Citibank Australia, who offer a Citibank Plus everyday account with fee-free withdrawals and fee-free transactions anywhere in the world. Shop around your banks and see what deal you can find - don’t just go with your own bank, who might smash you with withdrawal and transaction fees. Every dollar counts when you’re overseas.

4. Insure smart 
This was a non-negotiable. I actually submitted two claims after this trip - one for a lost phone and another for a change of trip. Make sure you know what you’re entitled to before you commit to a policy - valuables up to $1,000 is essential if you’re taking that laptop or smartphone!

5. Pack smart
A few quick tips:
- Don’t take anything that needs ironing. You’ll never wear it, trust me. 
- Bring your runners so you can walk miles during the day. It really made all the difference for me - on days I wore them I could walk up to 30,000 steps without any pain whatsoever. 
- Bring your flip flops for showering. Tinea is rampant in hostel world!
- Bring exercise gear. I always moved from place to place in my exercise gear - it’s easy to sleep in on long haul bus-rides, and you don’t want to wear your 15kg pack with bad shoes - it hurts your ankles!
- Pack, then don’t take half the things you packed. Every little thing is a lot heavier on your back in the blistering heat, trust me. And they have toiletries in other countries too, you know!

6. Disembark smart
- Always carry some cash with you for the country you’re going to - for me, it was mostly euros. It was essential for my commute from the airport, and when I forgot to arm myself with currency, I was left disoriented, tired and wandering around trying to find an ATM while not getting robbed.
- It’s also worth Googling bus or train information before you board your plane, so you know the fastest and cheapest way to your accommodation before you land. Taxis are tempting - but will run your budget dry quickly. 

7. Book smart 
- Book directly through the website, not the compare-sites - it’s cheaper! This includes airlines, bus companies and train websites, and the hostel websites when it comes to booking your accommodation.
- Also, always book your bits and bobs in a private browsing section. Airline websites have algorithms that send the ticket prices up if they log your IP looking at a price a couple times to create a sense of urgency in you.
- But don’t feel like you need to map your whole plan out before you even leave home - I purposefully left gaps in my plan and life filled them in. I stayed with europeans I’d met overseas, travelled with new friends and went to countries that I had no plans on going to, like Norway (one of my favourite countries in the end!) 

8. Backup smart
After every country I backed up my phone to my laptop and my laptop to my hard drive. If you trust the Cloud, backup to there too. It is devastating to lose travel photos - they’re about the most important thing you own when you travel. 

9. Stay smart
- Hostelworld.com is the go-to site for hostels. If I was nervous about my choice, I’d usually book one night in and extend my stay if it felt right. I always read plenty of reviews for each place, particularly taking notice of the location rating. Cleanliness in the bathroom, uncomfortable beds or a tiny kitchen were things I could deal with. A 30 minute commute to the city was something that wore me down pretty quickly.
- Speaking of the kitchen - that ‘free’ shelf in the fridge is your best friend - use it!

10. Be alone smart
- Find a local pub and go and sit at the bar with a good book. Strike up a conversation with the bartender - they are probably bored out of their mind! Bartenders have a wealth of cultural knowledge about their city that you’d never find on Trip Advisor - ask for their hot tips on eating, drinking, shopping and the sights. I asked each bartender to draw all over a fold-up map in each city so I had a visual reference - it helped me pair things together that were close by so I could plan my days better.
- Also, do the walking tour on your first day. They are usually free (the tour guides live on tips) and they are the most useful introduction to a city - not to mention hugely interesting.

11. Commute smart
If you’re wondering if you should walk or get a metro, walk. If you’re wondering whether you should get the metro or a bus, bus. The metro is fast, but you see nothing. 

12. Dress smart
- If you’re spending the day exploring, wear one less thing than you think you need to. It’s awful being hot and sweaty, but easy to speed up if you’re feeling a little nippy. Plus, your thighs will thank you when they can crush steel between your rippling muscles!
- Runners are pretty much always the best option - you’ll double your productivity with them on. 

13. Mini-pack smart
Your daypack should contain:
- headphones
- a book
- a city map (to ask the locals to circle their favourite places on!)
- a knife and fork (plastic, for impromptu lunches in the park or by the water)
- a water bottle. Water is your best friend between all that exercise you didn’t realize you were doing (win!), the salty restaurant meals you’re eating (yum) and the drinking (inevitable). Drink it in litres - otherwise you’ll be perpetually dehydrated and wondering why you feel so tired. 

14. Wash, dry and iron smart
It’s inevitable you’ll have to wash atleast once a week. Face it, pretty boy. Mama aint here to help you now. 
- Every night, wash the underwear you wore that day in the shower. It takes five seconds, stops them from stinking up the place (we all know undies get the most dirty) and fresh undies are one of life’s little pleasures!
- You can iron out major creases by wetting a towel and wiping the clothing while it’s on you (it’ll dry), or bringing the item on a coat hanger into the shower area (the steam makes the creases drop out) 
- Splurge occasionally and get laundry done. Most hostels do it for less than $10, and having fresh clean dry clothing one of those amazing little things that lifts your spirits when you’re out of your comfort zone. 

15. Socialise smart
Talk to people! Everyone is the best version of themselves when they are travelling. Strike up conversations with people you would never usually speak to, especially those travelling alone as well. Ask them their story, compare itineraries, go on adventures together and who knows? You might just make a friend for life. 

BBC confirms: Tom Hardy ‘arrests fleeing motorbike thief' 

“Actor Tom Hardy apprehended a man who had allegedly stolen a motorbike in London, police have said. The Hollywood star stepped in after two teenagers on the bike crashed into a car in Richmond, south-west London, on Sunday afternoon. They ran off before one was was grabbed by the Mad Max and Taboo star and the other was arrested by a police officer. Two 16-year-olds have been arrested on suspicion of theft of a motor vehicle, police said.

A Richmond Police spokesman said: “We can confirm that there were two people on a stolen moped that went through a red light and crashed into another vehicle. The males ran off and one was detained by Tom Hardy.”

“Both suspects were initially taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesman later clarified the stolen vehicle was a motorbike and one of the arrested teenagers was riding pillion. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-39703528

Update: A spokesperson for Metropolitan police relayed the following statement to EW: “In an earlier Twitter ‘direct message’ reply to a BBC reporter, a local officer named an individual as having detained a male in connection with the below incident. The arresting officer has confirmed that a number of members of the public assisted police at the scene. We do not believe that it is correct to say that any one individual detained the suspect. We are not aware of any citizen’s arrest. It is, of course, Met policy not to name informants or witnesses. We regret that the name of any individual was released via a message to the BBC.” http://ew.com/news/2017/04/25/tom-hardy-teens-stolen-motorbike-lodon/

Get your story straight, Met police… ;)

3

A truck drove into pedestrians on a major shopping and tourist street in Stockholm and then crashed into an upscale department store on Friday, causing multiple injuries and fatalities. Police have not confirmed the number of deaths, but Swedish media outlets are reporting that at least three people were killed.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven says one person has been arrested in connection with the attack, The Associated Press reports. However, Swedish police reportedly contradicted that, saying no one was in custody.

Löfven also says there are indications the truck hit pedestrians as “a terror attack,” Reuters says. But Radio Sweden reports that the Swedish Security Service says there is no confirmation the incident was terrorism.

Injuries And Fatalities After Truck Strikes Pedestrians In Stockholm

Photos: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images (2) and Andreas Schyman/AFP/Getty Images

Editor’s Note: This is a breaking news story. As often happens in situations like these, some information reported early may turn out to be inaccurate. We’ll move quickly to correct the record and we’ll only point to the best information we have at the time.

mm yeah hey guys here’s your friendly reminder not to do the whole “what if being gay in night vale was normal and that’s why everyone accepts cecil and carlos being so open lololol” rhetoric for several reasons

first, there is literally no proof of being gay being “the norm” in night vale. like are we even listening to the same show. straight couples/characters are shown no hate or disapproval, and the number of confirmed straight relationships is about the same as confirmed gay relationships. what the fuck guys.

it undermines the fact that night vale has gay representation for gay representation’s sake. cecil and carlos are gay not because it’s a political statement or because it’s important to the over all plot, but rather because gay people exist and because we can have narratives outside of our gayness.

it’s homophobic to think that the acceptance of gay relationships/gay people is just part of the ~~~night vale weirdness~~~ because it implies being gay is weird and it implies that being straight is normal. yeah, being straight is THE NORM, as in it’s what’s common in society, but to say it’s normal implies being gay is weird/wrong/bad, which it’s fucking not. and again, this undermines the representation aspect of night vale. 

thinking gay acceptance is weird is also homophobic. like, i don’t even need to explain this one. if you think accepting gay people is weird then you’re a homophobe. (and again, there is a different between “what is common in society” and “this is what i think is normal in society”. while gay acceptance may not be COMMON in a lot of places in society, it doesn’t mean it’s weird.)

despite the feel of the show, night vale represents a future in which people are accepted for who they are and who they love without judgement. to think that this is weird or wrong or that it’s just part of the show’s ~~quirkiness~~ is messed up, especially considering places like this DO EXIST irl even if they’re not common. anyways, here was your friendly reminder. cut that “being gay is part of the night vale weirdness” shit out guys lol, it’s really not cool

I don’t post a lot on social media these days and I rarely if ever post anything personal. But I have two personal stories that I’ve never really told publicly that I feel I need to tell today.

About seven years ago there was a letter in my mailbox from the White House. To be clear, not just the White House, but from the newly elected President Of The United States. Wow, maybe this had something to do with his appearance in an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, but oddly enough it was addressed to my then 8 year old daughter. It seems that unbeknownst to her parents, my little girl mailed a letter to President Obama wishing him well and offering him advice as only an 8 year old could.

And he wrote back.

In the letter he thanked and commending her for passing along her thoughts and engaging in this wonderful thing we call Democracy. To this day I still tear up remembering the look on her face as she read that letter realizing that not only did the President Of The United States write back, but that she lived in a country in which this was possible.

Two years later I was sitting in my office at Marvel when my phone rings and a gentlemen claiming to be an assistant to the President Of The United States tells me that the POTUS would like to commission me to do a piece of art for him. Thinking it was a prank I told him I’d love to discuss it further but I was rushing off to a meeting and would gladly call him back. I took down his info, did a quick Google search and confirmed that the number on my caller I.D. was indeed coming from an office in the White House. Wait, what?!?

As it turned out a close friend of the President, Patrick Gaspard, who was the Director of the White House Office of Political Affairs, was leaving to take on his new role as the Director of the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Gaspard happened to be a HUGE Marvel Comics fan. We’re talking a full on True Believer since childhood, and President Obama thought that a perfect parting gift for his service to the administration would be a custom piece of art featuring Mr. Gaspard, himself and several Marvel heroes standing in front of the White House and for some godforsaken reason he was asking me to draw it. I of course had to get approval from the highest levels of Marvel where it was met with nothing but enthusiasm and a big thumbs up.

Now as unlikely as all of this sounds, nothing was more surreal than when I was sending off rough sketches to White House for the President’s approval and getting back notes. I’d never been more thrilled to get art revisions in my life! Once the piece was finished inked and colored by Danny Miki and Richard Isanove respectfully, I received word that the President was thrilled with the results and Mr. Gaspard was over the moon with the final framed surprise gift.

Admittedly, for those close to me that knew about the assignment, I’d make it a point to boast as often as I could that I was now officially the very first United States Sequential Artist Laureate. Quite frankly, I don’t see why that shouldn’t be a thing.

A short time later I was at San Diego Comicon signing books at the Marvel booth when someone extended a hand for me to shake. I looked up and the gentlemen said, “Do you recognize me?” How could I not, I had spent a week drawing him. It was of course Mr. Gaspard and he wanted to thank me personally for the art and to express how much Marvel had meant to him growing up and still means to him today. Patrick and I have kept in touch ever since and while his current tenure as Ambassador to South Africa is coming to an end, I’m looking forward to catching up with him when he’s back in the States and making good on my promise to bring him on to the set of Defenders or taking him to a Mets game.

And yes, I was lucky enough to meet President Obama. like I said, I don’t usually like to post things of a personal nature, but today I feel compelled to simply convey my own humble experience of having the great honor of meeting the most powerful man on the planet when he was in office. A man who was nothing but kind, appreciative and generous to me, who demonstrating a genuine love for the medium of comics and took more time than he ever needed to to express his appreciation for the work I created and the medium of comics itself. The same man who also took time to write a simple yet eloquent response in 2009 to a little girl who express love and hope, not for herself, but for her President and his future.

Godspeed President Obama, thank you for your service. I have no doubt and look forward to how you will continue to serve and change our world for the better.

Joe Quesada

  • Rock: I can’t keep doing this, I’m not your mom.
  • Uno: Well…
  • Yamato: You do exhibit rather… motherly behaviour, Rock.
  • Uno: Yeah, I mean, my parents live in Bermuda, and Jyugo’s parents died in that train accident…
  • Jyugo: Trains are fast.
  • Uno: So, you’re like our mom. Team mom. Team mom, team mom, team mom -
  • Rock: I’m not the team mom!
  • All: Team mom, team mom, team mom
  • Rock: Yamato, why are you chanting?!
  • Yamato: It is a catchy chant.
  • Jyugo: Team m -
  • Rock: ONE MORE CHANT, AND NO SLUSHIES AFTER THE JAILBREAK!
London Fire Brigade reveals scale of Grenfell Tower blaze is 'unprecedented'

Firefighters have said the fire at a Notting Hill tower block is “unprecedented” in scale.

A major incident was declared as more than 200 firefighters tackled the blaze at the Grenfell Tower in the Lancaster West estate near Ladbroke Grove.

Authorities confirmed there were a number of deaths but could not provide an exact figure after the fire erupted at about 1am.

Dany Cotton, the London Fire Brigade commissioner, said: “This is an unprecedented incident. In my 29 years of being a firefighter I have never ever seen anything of this scale.

​She added: “At this time I am very sad to confirm that there have been a number of fatalities. I cannot confirm the number at this time due to the size and complexity of this building, and it would clearly be wrong for me to speculate further.”

Crews were called shortly before 1am as flames engulfed the block from the second floor upwards “within seconds.”

The emergency services declared the blaze a “major incident” in the early hours.

London Ambulance Service said 50 people had been taken to five hospitals following the huge fire. Witnesses reported other people trapped on the upper storeys.

A large area surrounding the west London inferno remained in place this morning.

Commander Stuart Cundy, from the Metropolitan Police, said: “All the emergency services and other agencies continue to work together at the scene.

"Anyone who is concerned about loved ones in relation to the fire should contact Casualty Bureau which has been opened following the fire. If you do not get through immediately please do try again.

"Extensive cordons remain in place and a number of nearby residents have been evacuated as a precaution.

“The A40 is closed in both directions. We kindly ask that the public stay away from the area.”

Anyone concerned about a loved one should contact Casualty Bureau on 0800 0961 233 or 0207 158 0197.

I was rewatching The Brothers Jones the other night and something caught my attention that once again made me really start to question and consider Hades’ obvious obsession with Killian Jones… 

 In the flashback to when Hades appeared in the cabin of the ship with Liam, he tells the eldest Jones that he knows ‘a lot about him’. And he does. He knows about his dreams to join the Navy and captain a ship and he knows about Killian and he tells Liam he’ll make him a deal so Liam can fulfill those dreams and keep his brother alive. 

 And it really just struck me that this is… so frickin’ unusual?! Why does Hades, the god of the Underworld who makes it clear he had very limited powers in the 'overworld’ suddenly appear to Liam Jones, of all people, in his time of need knowing everything about him and Killian? It feeds back into the question to why Hades was so hell-bent (pardon the pun) on torturing Killian… 

 What is it about these two that’s drawing Hades’ attention (and Zeus, for that matter, later on in Killian’s case. Like THE GOD OF GODS brings Killian BACK TO LIFE)?? Why does he care about two slave sailors aboard a merchant vessel? Of all the far worse people Hades could be making deals with for souls to come down to his realm, he chooses LIAM?? 

 It’s been nagging at me since 5B aired and rewatching that episode just hit it home even more. It still feels like something bigger was at play there, and I’m still wondering what it is.

...

For those of you who don’t know there was an explosion at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. 

As far as I’m aware at the time of posting this, there is no confirmed number of fatalities, but there have been fatalities reported .

There is also over a hundred people injured, over a hundred people injured.

Now I personally may not be the biggest fan of Ariana Grande, but for the people who are joking about this, please fuck off. People have died. Have respect.

My thoughts and prayers go out to anyone and everyone who was involved in the explosion and everyone in the Manchester area.

Everyone please stay safe.