Dating site matches Americans fleeing Trump with Canadians

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Eugene, Oregon, U.S., May 6, 2016.

Reuters/Jim Urquhart/File Photo

A dating website is pledging to match Americans who can’t live with a Donald Trump presidency to Canadians looking for love, facilitating the pledge often made by U.S. voters to move to Canada if the real estate billionaire is elected.

“Maple Match makes it easy for Americans to find the ideal Canadian partner to save them from the unfathomable horror of a Trump presidency,” the Maple Match website reads, before offering a waiting list for interested singles.

Trump’s bombastic campaign to lead the Republican Party to the November presidential election has alarmed some Americans, both liberals and those in his own party, and the pledge by some to move to Canada if he is elected has gathered steam.

In February, the island of Cape Breton on Canada’s Atlantic coast marketed itself as a tranquil refuge for Americans seeking to escape should Trump capture the White House.

The Maple Match website allows users to add their name to a waitlist matching dismayed U.S. voters with interested single Canadians, adding “We’ll let you know the next steps soon!”

Officials with Maple Match did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Chief Executive Joe Goldman told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp that more than 10,000 singles and about 2,500 Canadians had signed up for the website’s waiting list as of Tuesday morning.

The dating site was also active on Twitter, suggesting its matchmaking service would help Americans avoid the difficulties of gaining Canadian citizenship.

“Oh yes. Maple Match. Make dating great again,” Twitter user @RebekahSage said, playing on Trump’s campaign pledge to “Make America great again.”

“To heck w @Tinder, @MapleMatch offers to not leave you thinking ‘what did we just do?’ in 2016,” Twitter user @KeldaPharris tweeted on Tuesday.

“I can’t wait to meet my Canadian buddy! Thanks @MapleMatch,” user @mollye_malone said on Twitter.

While the pledge to “move to Canada” has been made in elections past, it rarely plays out in reality.

Migration data from after Republican George W. Bush’s 2000 election and 2004 re-election — other moments when liberal Americans pledged to move to Canada in protest -– suggests few followed up on their promises. While immigration to Canada increased during the years of Bush’s elections, the rise was not more than increases in other years, data from the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies show.

(Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Taco Bell's Snapchat Game Is Strong Among Teens. But Does It Sell Tacos?

Youth Radio tweeted taco and unicorn emojis to @tacobell and within seconds received a video of a unicorn eating a taco, seen here in this screen grab.

Youth Radio tweeted taco and unicorn emojis to @tacobell and within seconds received a video of a unicorn eating a taco, seen here in this screen grab. Courtesy of Youth Radio hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of Youth Radio

Here are two obvious statements: One, many teenagers love fast food. Two, many of them hate listening to adults. And these are real problems if you’re a fast food company.

Increasingly, companies like Taco Bell and McDonald’s are trying very hard to reach teens like me by using social media. Over the past few months, I’ve been working with NPR business reporter Sonari Glinton to examine how well some of these campaigns are working — including asking some of my friends at Youth Radio to weigh in.

While they generally like the humor in brand campaigns, Nila Venkat explains: “It makes me think they are funny on social media. Doesn’t mean I want to eat their hash browns.”

That doesn’t surprise Lauren Johnson, a digital marketing reporter at Adweek. “Social media and millennial marketing is an extremely tough area for brands right now,” she says. “The agencies tend to be a bit older, so they’re trying to understand what millennials talk about with their friends, and how that can be translated into marketing that feels that same way.”

On one hand, the goal of these companies isn’t new. Since the birth of modern marketing, businesses have been trying to reach the elusive teenager. But as Sonari points out, when he was a teen 23 years ago, marketing was a form of one-way communication — companies speaking to teens via TV commercials or print ads. New technology has brought new expectations. Teens today expect brands to engage with them online 24/7. And some companies are doing a better job than others.

Marketing experts say Taco Bell’s laid-back approach is one to watch. But it’s tough to say how much, if any, of its success is due to social-media savvy. So we decide to go to the belly of the beast — the belly of the Bell, if you will — Taco Bell headquarters in Irvine, Calif.

Taco Bell’s command center is as cool as can be for a corporate office. The break room has a soda fountain complete with Taco Bell cups. We meet with the company’s chief marketing officer, Marisa Thalberg, in a room called “the fishbowl.”

“We have lots of screens where we can see everything that’s going on in social media about the brand and about the world,” Thalberg says of the room. “Which is great, because it keeps us really plugged in.”

Burger King's Chicken Fries emoji would very much like to be part of your text conversation.

Burger King’s Chicken Fries emoji would very much like to be part of your text conversation. Courtesy of Youth Radio hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of Youth Radio

Taco Bell prides itself on being a pioneer in engaging with consumers on social media platforms like Snapchat and Twitter. This past November, taking advantage of the newly created taco emoji, the company launched a social campaign called #TacoEmojiEngine, consisting of 600 gifs and photos.

Thalberg explains how it works: “If you tweet at Taco Bell and type the taco emoji plus any other emoji, you’re going to get tweeted back an original piece of content. You could do it right now, while we’re talking. Go to Twitter.”

So we do. One of my producers tweets a taco and a unicorn emoji. Within seconds, she receives a video of a horse eating a taco and turning into a unicorn.

Cool, I think. But it doesn’t really make me want to eat Taco Bell.

And that’s the thing: Just because a brand makes teens laugh doesn’t mean they’ll buy its products, or confirm that the companies are even on the right track.

I tell Thalberg that I think Taco Bell’s social media brand is interesting in that it is “self-aware.”

There’s a big pause.

“What do you mean by self-aware?” she asks.

I think about it. “Like, hmmm… like a stoner-at-midnight vibe,” I say.

Quicker than you can tweet a video of a taco-eating unicorn, she says: “I really don’t think that’s our vibe. I think that implies … the stereotype of Taco Bell, but not at all who we are. I think what makes us unique is that there’s an authenticity to who we are that makes us feel like a likable friend.”

She acknowledges that this sounds like a typical brand response. And it does. In my opinion, that’s too bad. Why don’t they just embrace the stoner vibe? Maybe that would give them the kind of authenticity that appeals to the tricky teen demographic.

But it’s clear to me and Sonari that fast food brands don’t always understand what it’s like to be a teenager. And even if they do manage to impress teens someday, those kids will soon become adults — and companies will have to move on to the next group of teens … and the next media revolution.

This story is part of a series reported in collaboration with Youth Radio on the future of fast food. NPR business reporter Sonari Glinton contributed to this report.

What are your options for inexpensive meals in your area? What can you get for $5 or less? Share your photos of your #5dollarchallenge meal on Twitter or Instagram – be sure to flag @youthradio. (And remember to direct message @youthradio if you’ve got a private account!)

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'Window Into The Future': Scientists Document Disappearing Islands

Two young men ride in a dug out canoe just off shore in Honiara, Solomon Islands, in 2012.

Two young men ride in a dug out canoe just off shore in Honiara, Solomon Islands, in 2012. Rick Rycroft/AP hide caption

toggle caption Rick Rycroft/AP

In what is being billed as a “window into the future impacts of global sea-level rise,” scientists have documented how the ocean swallowed up five small islands that were part of the Solomon Islands archipelago northeast of Australia.

Writing in the Environmental Research Letters, the researchers say this is the first scientific account of how climate change is affecting coastlines in the Pacific.

The six Australian scientists combined satellite images and interviews with locals to examine 33 islands. They found that during a period from 1947 to 2013, five vegetated reef islands had disappeared and six other islands had severe shoreline recession. Two villages have been destroyed and Taro Island, which is inhabited, is likely to become “the first provincial capital globally to relocate residents and services due to the threat of sea-level rise.”

CNN reports:

“‘The human element of this is alarming. Working alongside people on the frontline who have lost their family home — that they’ve had for four to five generations — it’s quite alarming,’ the study’s lead author, Simon Albert of the University of Queensland, told CNN.

“… The Solomon Islands are a sparsely populated archipelago of more than 900 islands that lie east of Papua New Guinea, and as low-lying islands are particularly vulnerable to sea-level rises.”

ABC News adds:

“In March, James Hansen, a NASA scientist who is extremely influential in the study of climate change, estimated that seas could rise by seven meters in the coming century, a figure that would likely decimate coastal communities, if proved accurate.

Losing Ground, a report issued by the nonprofit news organization ProPublica in 2014, demonstrated that large swaths of the Louisiana coastline are being lost to rising sea levels, and a 2011 study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey determined that the state’s wetlands were being lost at a rate of “a football field per hour.” South Florida, the Carolinas, and the Jersey Shore are also in danger of losing land due to sea level rise, according to an interactive map created by Climate Central, an organization of scientists.”

Discovery reports that in the Pacific, the rise has been “in the 3 to 5 millimeters per year range.”

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Obama Gets All In His Blackness At Howard

President Barack Obama gives his commencement address to the 2016 graduating class of Howard University.

President Barack Obama gives his commencement address to the 2016 graduating class of Howard University. Susan Walsh/AP hide caption

toggle caption Susan Walsh/AP

“Be confident in your heritage. Be confident in your blackness,” President Barack Obama told graduates and their families at Howard University’s 2016 Commencement Ceremony. It was one of many moments in a speech that honored the achievements of black folks — many Howard alumni — and called on graduates to get and stay politically active. His speech was met with laughter, generous applause, and largely positive reviews. Paul Holston, editor-in-chief of Howard’s student newspaper The Hilltop, wrote that Obama’s address was “strong, eloquent, and inspirational,” and would “go down as one of the most significant moments in Howard University’s history.”

Howard students weren’t the only ones cheesing over the speech. Janell Ross at The Washington Post lauded Obama’s call for “empathy and [an] expanded moral imagination” as one of the few surprising and thought-provoking messages that graduates will receive this season. On Twitter, Slate writer Jamelle Bouie called the speech “a great mediation on democracy AND a celebration of black life.” Mathew Rodriguez at Mic described Obama’s speech as “one of the best and blackest he’s given.”

Melissa Harris-Perry, editor-at-large of Elle, wrote that Obama’s speech was remarkable in its treatment of gender as well as race, and proved “that he is our most black, feminist president to date” by highlighting the genius of black women like Lorraine Hansberry, Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer and Zora Neale Hurston:

“Once again, [Obama] put black women at the very center of the stories he told and the lessons he imparted. As he warmed up, he jokingly referred to ‘Shonda Rhimes owning Thursday night’ and ‘Beyonce running the world.’ They were casual references, not central themes of his talk, but even here he deployed two boss black women as representatives of black excellence and achievement.”

The tone surprised some African-Americans who had been critical of what they see as the president’s habit of talking down to primarily black crowds. The last time Obama spoke at an HBCU’s commencement was at Morehouse College in 2013, where he was criticized for promoting a finger-wagging brand of respectability politics with remarks like these:

“Just as Morehouse has taught you to expect more of yourselves, inspire those who look up to you to expect more of themselves. We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. And I have to say, growing up, I made quite a few myself. Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. I had a tendency sometimes to make excuses for me not doing the right thing. But one of the things that all of you have learned over the last four years is there’s no longer any room for excuses.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates responded to that speech by calling out what he saw as the double standard Obama used in addressing African-Americans. In a piece called “How the Obama Administration Talks to Black America,” Coates wrote that the president acts like someone “who sees holding African Americans to a standard of individual responsibility as part of his job. This is not a role Barack Obama undertakes with other communities.”

Lord I hope Obama doesn’t do a repeat of his Morehouse speech at Howard. Let’s use this one to celebrate black accomplishment.

— Donovan X. Ramsey (@iDXR) April 14, 2016

Some observers who were worried that the president might affect the same scolding posture at Howard were pleased, if not entirely won over. Michael P. Jeffries, over at The Boston Globe, said that the Howard speech was more earnest in its depiction of structural inequality:

“…noting that a black woman is only paid 66 cents for every $1 earned by an equally qualified white man, and that mass incarceration has exploded since [Obama’s] college days. In one striking passage, he reminded the audience: ‘We have cousins and uncles and brothers and sisters who we remember were just as smart and just as talented as we were, but somehow got ground down by structures that are unfair and unjust.’ Rather than individual failings, Obama shifted responsibility away from black families and toward the institutions that produce black suffering.”

Still, Jeffries observes “how much further [Obama] has to go” to fairly depict race in America. In his speech, Obama praises Black Lives Matter activist Brittany Packnett as someone who broke with the orthodoxy of her movement to enact change. But, according to Jeffries:

“What Obama left out is that Packnett is not an anomaly among Black Lives Matter leadership. Protesters have interrupted campaign events for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump, but activist DeRay McKesson certainly believes in voting: He ran for mayor of Baltimore. The Chicago-based Black Youth Project has protested mayor Rahm Emanuel and held rallies in the name of Rekia Boyd and other victims of police violence. The organization has also published research reports, and its directors have worked with several well established and likeminded groups, including the NAACP.

So, in many respects, Black Lives Matter is already living out the charge put forth by the president.”

Clarence B. Jones, at HuffPost Black Voices, wrote that “the content of what President Obama said, and the way in which he spoke it were engaging; at times, powerfully moving.” But he agreed with Jeffries’s sentiment that the president undersold the accomplishments of the BLM movement when he chastised young people for not turning out to vote in midterm elections:

“It is not enough to patronizingly lecture that ‘the perfect’ ‘should not be the enemy of the good or the better.’ He should have not just singled out Brittany Packnett, a leader in the Black Lives Matter Movement, for praise in meeting with him and other establishment political leaders. He should have said, flat out, like ‘Straight Outta Compton,’ that leaders of the Movement, like Dr. King earlier, had forced America’s conscience to confront the reality of successive police shootings of black men, in several circumstances where the use of non-lethal force appeared to be an available option to effect an arrest.

In effect, President Obama should have acknowledged that he AND ALL America owe a debt of gratitude to the courage and leadership of the Black Lives Matter movement in highlighting the apparent systemic racism in our criminal justice system when applied to African-Americans in several or our communities, nationwide.”

BLM activists themselves had some things to say about Obama’s speech. DeRay McKesson tweeted his approval of the president’s remarks, but also warned about oversimplifying the message:

“Obama’s commencement speech at HowardU today was important, as we both reflected on the past in blackness and our future. Obama’s speech was complicated, as he noted the role of compromise in the work of progress, while maintains a commitment to one’s values. Obama also rightly noted that awareness is not the win, but is the initial work that creates space for later wins. [He] also noted the work of activists like [Brittany Packnett], noting that we will have to be intentional in how we change systems/structures. In many ways, this speech echoed themes he offered when [she and I] met with him a month ago. He is becoming more explicit re: discussing blackness.”

McKesson continued:

“We protest to change the world, not to continue protesting until the end of time. Awareness must lead to work focused on concrete solutions. Obama’s focus on voting was not an indictment of the movement, of protest, or of organizing. Don’t reduce his speech to this stale reading.”

Still, others weren’t blown away by the speech. Maya Rhodan at Time magazine described Obama’s Howard speech as another replica from the “mold he often leans on in remarks to black audiences.” She offered up the president’s time-tested speech recipe: “a nod to our nation’s racial history, a pit-stop on his presidency, and a call to pay it forward.”

Over at The Guardian, Steven W. Thrasher reflected that “part of Obama’s genius as our first black president is that he can provoke so many responses…even in the course of a single speech.” But that genius is complicated. Thrasher was inspired by Obama’s address until “respectability politics started to creep in,” and the president began urging the crowd to empathize with “the refugee, the immigrant, the rural poor, the transgender person and yes, the middle-aged white guy who you may think has all the advantages, but over the last several decades has seen his world upended by economic and cultural and technological change and feels powerless to stop it.” Here’s more from Thrasher:

“Why did the nation’s first black president feel the need to equate the transgender person who can’t use the bathroom in North Carolina, and the unfairly maligned immigrant with that ‘middle-aged white guy’?

Who feels so threatened by the ‘cultural’ change of living under a black president and living under conditions a little more like those black Americans have endured for hundreds of years that he’s likely voting for Donald Trump?

Who isn’t losing all of his white privilege, because he still has a black president telling black grads to get in his head?

You can read Obama’s full remarks here, or watch a video of the speech below:


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Is Donald Trump Playing The 'Man Card'?

A volunteer for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump leaves a card in a front door as he canvasses a neighborhood in New Hampshire.

A volunteer for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump leaves a card in a front door as he canvasses a neighborhood in New Hampshire. David Goldman/AP hide caption

toggle caption David Goldman/AP

Could gender be a decisive factor in a general election match-up between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton?

“You know, she’s playing the woman’s card,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Spokane, Wash., over the weekend, reiterating a critique he’s used against Clinton since becoming the de facto presidential nominee for the Republican party. “If she didn’t play the woman’s card she would have no chance, I mean zero, of winning.”

But, some experts see Trump’s comments about women as a veiled warning for men.

The gender gap in American politics is nothing new; men and women often don’t see eye to eye when they vote.

“In every presidential election since 1980, women have been more likely than men to support the Democratic candidate,” said Jennifer Lawless, the director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University.

This year, that traditional gender gap seems to be growing into a gender gulf.

Polls show about 70 percent of women currently have an unfavorable opinion of Trump.

Usually, in elections, Lawless says the gender gap strategy is easy to explain.

“What the Democrats want to do is make sure they drive up that support among female voters,” she said. “And, what the Republicans want to do is close that gap to the best of their ability.”

But, Trump’s tactics are difficult to define.

In a rally over the weekend, Trump took his claim that Clinton is using the “woman’s card” further.

“She’s going — did you hear that that Donald Trump raised his voice while speaking to a woman,” he said. “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I mean all of the men — we’re petrified to speak to woman anymore, we may raise our voice.”

Trump then continued with a new complaint.

“You know what? The women get it better than we do, folks,” he said.

The comment seemed counter-intuitive for a man trying to improve his status with women voters. But, Dan Cassino, a political scientist at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey who focuses on political psychology, says Trump’s talk about women is not about women. It’s a message directed at men.

“This is an appeal, saying basically to other men — ‘hey, the women are ganging up on us, the women are using their gender to get power from us — that’s what the woman card is — all the women are gonna get together and vote for Hillary Clinton, we have to band together as men to stop Hillary Clinton.'”

Cassino says Trump is playing on gender resentment.

And, Cassino’s research has found that gender roles make a difference for some voters. In a recent recent presidential poll, he conducted an experiment where he asked voters this question:

“There are an increasing number of households in which the woman makes more money than the man, how about in your household?”

Cassino discovered that when men were asked that spouse income question at the beginning of the poll — they were more likely to support Trump over Clinton, regardless of the actual answer to the income question.

The mere question seemed to provoke a gender role threat, according to Cassino.

But, gender bias cuts both ways.

After Trump’s comments about the “woman’s card,” Clinton used the attack as a hugely successful fundraiser — selling pink “woman cards” and “deal me in” t-shirts. Her campaign brought in $2.4 million in just a few days.

“It certainly is appealing to donors and political activists,” said Lawless. “That kind of messaging can be helpful for a Democrat, and particularly a Democratic female candidate.”

If Clinton is playing the woman card by focusing on pay equity or childcare, said Kelly Dittmar with the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics, “then, surely, Donald Trump has been playing the man card, by talking about the ways in which his opponents are, in fact, not masculine enough for the office.”

“There’s been multiple ways that Donald Trump’s sort of played his own man card,” Dittmar said. “Just by talking about the size of his manhood, in the most direct and overt ways, but he’s also taken on the tactic of talking about other candidates as weak or little, like ‘Little Marco,’ and even making fun of Jeb Bush for needing his mommy, infantilizing Jeb Bush.”

Dittmar says Trump also uses the “man card” by playing into stereotypes about aggression — with his tough talk of building a wall or bombing the s*** out of ISIS.

Of course, the big question is — does all this messaging have an effect on voter turnout?

Deborah Jordan Brooks at Dartmouth College has studied the link between gender, voter participation and negative ads. She’s hesitant to use her historical research to hypothesize about the current presidential election; she says Trump vs. Clinton would be unpredictable.

But, her research in the past offers some clues; and because no one else has recently studied this connection, it’s probably the best guide we have.

Brooks found women weren’t really affected one way or the other by negative campaigns. But, men were.

“Independent men were especially likely to vote after seeing uncivil negative messages — the kinds of attacks that throw in extra insults.”

In other words, insults seem to mobilize men.

“Incivility produced a real gender difference between men and women, men seemed to like it.”

Republicans usually try to shrink the gender gap by courting women. But, maybe Trump has calculated it makes more sense to embrace his gender gap, and focus on men.

Of course, the caveat is that by talking to men, Trump could also unintentionally energize Democratic men — who would be eager to vote against him.

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Guest DJ: Weezer's Rivers Cuomo

Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo. The band’s latest release is the self-titled “White” album. Sean Murphy/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Sean Murphy/Courtesy of the artist

It’s hard to imagine an artist who works harder or cares more about what his fans think than Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo. For the past 20-plus years he’s been a tireless and meticulous songwriter who maintains incredibly detailed spreadsheets with hundreds of titles for songs that don’t yet exist, and lyric fragments organized by word and syllable count. He obsessively studies the intricacies of other well-loved pop songs, cataloging every element, trying to understand why they work and how he can make his own songs better.

With every note Cuomo agonizes over, he’s thinking about the complicated relationship he’s had with Weezer’s fans. For some, the band has never lived up to its 1994 debut release, the self-titled “Blue” album, and that weighs heavily on Cuomo. And even though plenty of critics and fans think Weezer’s latest record, the self-titled “White” album is as good as anything the band has done, that hasn’t kept Cuomo from fretting over every review.

On this week’s show, Rivers Cuomo joins us to share some of the stories behind the band’s new record and to play some of the songs by other artists he’s loving now, from the propulsive pop of Panic! At The Disco to dance beats of Gwen Stefani. He also talks about what it’s like to reach middle age, have kids and how he stays inspired to write songs that still resonate with young people.

You can hear our entire guest DJ session with Rivers Cuomo with the link above, or read edited highlights below.

On the agony of releasing a new album:

“I always feel great about the record — increasingly great about the record — as we get closer to the release. I just feel on cloud nine. Super optimistic and confident. And then it comes out and I’m faced with the reality that it’s not perceived as great as it was in my mind. And then I kind of crash for a few weeks, and then pick myself up again and just start working on the next one.”

On working with producer Jake Sinclair for the “White” album:

“He’s definitely super focused on the old-school Weezer sound from our ’90s records. He [was] in a Weezer cover band called Wannabeezer and he played all my parts. So he really knows the subtleties of where I come from. I want to do a lot of crazy, weird new stuff. But we love our fans and we don’t want to totally alienate our audience. It’s not like we’re making a first record. We have this big relationship, this long term relationship going, and we want to evolve and grow in a way that keeps everyone on board to the extent that that’s possible. So as it turned out, it was helpful to have somebody who was taking care of that base, who’s on that pole, so I could pull as hard as I want in another direction from the other pole and trust that it was going to end up as a pretty balanced record between the classic sound and some new sounds.”

On songwriting:

“I’m trying to write songs so that I don’t even know what they’re about, and they’re pulled from so many different places that I’m piecing it together to suggest a story that never happened or a person who never existed. It’s a mystery to me and I love to contemplate it, but I can’t say what it is. But I’ve always got my eyes open, my ears open. If I see a slogan on a shirt I’ll put it in my phone, or if I overhear a cool phrase in a conversation. I read all the time, underlining words, and I put them all in a big list of lines and lyrics and I like to put them together and move them around and jumble them up until it all clicks and I think, ‘Whoa! There’s this interesting world I’ve created here.'”

On aging and joining Tinder for inspiration:

“I think at the root of a lot of what guys do and guys in bands do, the initial spark is about wanting to meet girls. And sometimes that’s why you start a band. That’s why I’ve been doing social media stuff. I posted songs to MySpace in the early days and wanting to meet a girl was part of that. But now [I feel like], ‘Yeah I want to meet girls, but I also want to write songs, so I have to meet girls.’ I think there’s always going to be a lot of personal stuff in [Weezer’s songs], but at this stage in my life it’s not that interesting. People wouldn’t be that interested in what’s going on in my day-to-day life, whereas in my 20s, it’s more like most people in the audience could relate to that. So I still draw on my own life or dreams, but sometimes you have to be more vague or reduce a situation down to a more primal level. At the bottom of a lot of a middle-aged person’s emotional reactions, a lot of it is the same stuff driving kids. It’s just not appropriate for all audiences if I’m talking about driving kids to school or something. I’ve written those songs and they don’t get very far. The band hears them and says, ‘Dude, nobody wants to hear that.'”

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'It's Just the Beginning Now,' Says Man Freed From Serving Two Life Sentences

The sign out front of the Federal Correctional Institution in Fairton, N.J., where David Padilla was serving 19 years for nonviolent drug offenses before receiving clemency.

The sign out front of the Federal Correctional Institution in Fairton, N.J., where David Padilla was serving 19 years for nonviolent drug offenses before receiving clemency. Tim Larsen/AP hide caption

toggle caption Tim Larsen/AP

David Padilla spent nearly 20 years turning himself into a model inmate in federal prison. So when Padilla got called to the warden’s office last December, he said, the first thought on his mind was, “Did I do anything wrong?”

Padilla’s leg started shaking. Then, he got the news he was about to be freed.

“Before he could finish, I was crying,” said Padilla, who first sat down with an interview with NPR nearly two years ago. “I had so many dreams of being released from prison, and every time I wake up, I’m in my cell.”

Five days later, from the parking lot of the prison in Fairton, N.J., Padilla’s four children captured the reunion in a cell-phone video. Wife Lisette ran toward her husband, crying, as Padilla clutched a manila envelope and declared, “I’m home, y’all. It’s over.”

That was Christmas week, 2015. In April, Padilla joined his family for good, after nearly four months in a halfway house.

Adjusting to family life

One recent morning, in the living room of their row house in Northeast Philadelphia, the Padillas said they still can’t believe he’s home for real. The couple sits close together on the couch, holding hands.

“It’s a beautiful thing to be home after spending 19 years, one month, 10 days in federal prison,” said Padilla, who served all that time for nonviolent drug offenses. “This doesn’t happen to people like us. You know, we are minorities, and it’s a blessing.”

Padilla is adjusting to life on the outside, amid so many changes, small and big, like this one at the movies.

“The size of the chairs, my goodness, it’s like a recliner,” Padilla said. “When I hit the bottom and reclined back, I was like, yo, man, this is awesome.”

Then, there’s cell phones and apps. Padilla marveled at the technology, but he has trouble wrapping his head around the way people behave now.

“I see no one talking, I mean, I see people just looking down at their phones and, at that time, I didn’t know what they were doing, but what they were doing was texting,” Padilla said of a recent visit to a pancake restaurant. “I mean, this place was full, right Lisette? And you could hear a pin drop in there.”

David has pledged that won’t happen in his home. The family got a bucket, and they put their phones in the container during family time. Family time is something they all cherish. They’re still getting used to seeing their father outside an antiseptic prison visiting room, and getting less private time with their mom.

For his three grown-up kids’ teen years, David was in prison. Son Pablo has just turned 14, leading to some tense moments in the house. David has become the disciplinarian.

“He’s learning that men do certain things in the house,” Padilla said. “Men take the trash out; men do chores around the house. Men do the dishes too. And I’m not just telling him, I’m showing him.”

Getting to work

With the help of a friend and a social services program, Padilla secured a job cleaning tour buses. He’s working the night shift for $11 an hour. During the day, Lisette has a list of projects for her husband to do. It all starts in their kitchen.

“We started a little demolition already,” Padilla said, pointing to a cabinet he removed. They’ve stacked a new microwave, tiles for a back splash, and some other supplies under another counter.

Padilla said he’s turning to YouTube videos for construction tips and leaning on an old friend for support.

That friend is Efrain Rosa, who served alongside Padilla at the Fairton prison for about 10 years. Rosa helped him get a job, and they see each other several times a week, including at a recreation center in a rough part of Philadelphia.

Making amends

The Waterloo playground here used to be the turf of drug dealers. Needles littered the ground. Men had to wear bio-hazard suits to clean up the lot. Now, Rosa tends it carefully, noticing if anything is out of place. On the day we met, Rosa pumped air into a basketball for some of the neighborhood children, part of a youth mentoring program known as MIMIC, Men in Motion in the Community.

Padilla’s signed up to volunteer there, too. He said he wants to make amends for his role in moving drugs through the community.

“You know, my three charges were drugs, and drugs trickles down all the way to the community,” he said. “This is my way of giving back, telling the kids there’s options, there’s other ways.”

Padilla said he wishes he had those kinds of role models when he was a young man. The expectations were low for him. It wasn’t until prison that he found a job and got a real education.

Back at home, in Northeast Philadelphia, he and Lisette are looking to their shared future. They’re already planning to celebrate a special day next year. Padilla pointed to a large, framed photo on the living-room wall.

“Look how young we look in that picture,” he said. “That’s our wedding picture. That was April 15, 1987. When I see that picture a lot of memories come back. Next year it’s going to be 30 years of marriage, and it’s just the beginning now.”

When they got married, David was 20; Lisette, only 17. The odds were against them, Padilla said.

But he knows he’s beaten the odds more than once.

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Philippines Elects First Transgender Member Of Congress

Geraldine Roman walks past a campaign poster during an April 30 trip to the town of Orani, in the province of Bataan, north of Manila. The 49-year-old, a member of a powerful political family, has won a seat in the nation's lower house, according to unofficial results.

Geraldine Roman walks past a campaign poster during an April 30 trip to the town of Orani, in the province of Bataan, north of Manila. The 49-year-old, a member of a powerful political family, has won a seat in the nation’s lower house, according to unofficial results. Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images

Unofficial results show that the Philippines is electing its first-ever transgender member of Congress — Geraldine Roman, who’s winning nearly 62 percent of the vote in her district, according to polls.

Like many Filipino politicians, Roman is part of a political dynasty: She will be taking over her House seat from her mother, currently a representative of Bataan, who has hit her three-term limit. Roman’s father held the seat before that.

“The fact that she comes from a prominent and politically powerful family definitely helps her candidacy in this conservative, predominantly Catholic country where abortion, divorce and same-sex marriage are all illegal,” Michael Sullivan reported for NPR in the run-up to the election.

Now Roman has claimed victory — a significant milestone.

The status of LGBT people in the Philippines made headlines earlier this year, when boxer and politician Manny Pacquiao compared gay people to animals. (He later apologized.)

And according to the AFP, there are currently no openly gay politicians active at the national level in the Philippines.

CONGRATS to Bataan 1st Dist.Rep. Geraldine Roman. First elected transgender congresswoman in Philippine history.

— LADLADofficial (@LADLADofficial) May 10, 2016

Roman told the AFP her life “has not been a secret,” and that her father always encouraged her to be confident in the face of teasing about her gender.

Roman transitioned in the ’90s. She speaks three European languages and lived in Spain before returning to the Philippines to take care of her father when he fell ill, the AFP writes.

Ahead of the election, she told the news agency that a victory would be “a statement that even transgender people can serve our country and should not be discriminated against.”

The AFP noted the many challenges:

“On the most basic front, a law was passed in 2001 making it impossible for transgender Filipinos to change their name and sex.

“In 2010, the election commission also barred the Ang Ladlad party, which represents the LGBT community, from contesting the polls, accusing it of ‘immorality which offends religious beliefs.

“The Supreme Court overturned the commission’s ruling, but Ang Ladlad failed to win a seat in Congress in the past two elections.”

Roman is a member of the ruling Liberal party.

She told AFP she will campaign for an LGBT anti-discrimination bill and for the legalization of gender transitioning. But she has emphasized, both to AFP and to Reuters, that her campaign hasn’t been about her gender identity — it’s been focused on her family legacy.

“At the start, my opponents are trying to convert my gender into an issue and it turns out that people don’t mind,” Roman told Reuters.

“People look beyond the gender and look at what you offer and what’s in your heart. That is the most important thing.”

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Budweiser Will Call Itself 'America,' For A Limited Time

Budweiser is calling itself "America" for the summer.

This Bud’s for you, America.

Here’s to America the beautiful. Hold her high this summer. #ThisBudsForYou

— Budweiser (@Budweiser) May 10, 2016

Budweiser is renaming its beer “America” for the summer. The special cans and bottles will be available May 23 through the presidential election in November, owner Anheuser-Busch said Monday.

The Atlantic notes that’s just in time for peak beer season: “Summer is the best-selling season for beer — about one-third of all U.S. sales are between Memorial Day and Labor Day.”

The cans, in addition to the usual patriotic flare, will have phrases from the Pledge of Allegiance and lyrics from “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful,” the company said.

“We are embarking on what should be the most patriotic summer that this generation has ever seen, with Copa America Centenario being held on U.S. soil for the first time, Team USA competing at the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Budweiser Vice President Ricardo Marques said in the press release.

Amid all the talk of patriotism, the Internet was quick to point out that Anheuser-Busch sold itself to Belgian brewer InBev for about $50 billion in 2008. As The New York Times reported at the time:

“The deal marks a sharp reversal for Anheuser, based since it was founded in St. Louis. When InBev announced its initial $46.3 billion offer last month, Anheuser mounted a fierce defense. It drew upon its heritage and its history as a major benefactor of its hometown, and argued that it could increase its profits alone.”

Budweiser is calling itself “America” for the summer. Anheuser-Busch hide caption

toggle caption Anheuser-Busch

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