Scraped, Splattered – But Silent No More. Finally, The Dinner Plate Gets Its Say

Caption from @emptyplatesofny: “I wouldn’t say that I’m famous, but Brad Pitt has eaten off me before…” — Clint, West Village; Delicious banana nut bread Courtesy of Brandon Scott Wolf hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of Brandon Scott Wolf

Plates have long had a seat at the table, but they’ve suffered in silence – quietly bearing the indignities of everything from barbecue sauce to mustard stains.

Until now.

In February 2016, Brooklyn-based comedian Brandon Scott Wolf created an Instagram account called “Empty Plates of New York,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Wolf posts pictures of empty plates after eating meals around New York, describes the meal, and then includes a “quote” from the plate. (“Life can get messy, but thankfully I always find my way to the dishwasher,” muses Lawrence, a brown plate from Midtown.)

“Plates have voices as well,” Wolf tells The Salt. As of this writing, his account has 2,098 followers.

About This Headline: The headline for this story was chosen through our NPR Live competition “Head to Head,” in which we pit two NPR employees against each other — and the public — to come up with the best headline for a story. Watch the battle here.

That said, after we chose the winning headline — “Empty Plates Full Of Feelings” — we changed our minds and chose one of the runners-up instead. (Hey, it’s a lot of pressure making a choice live! We now sympathize greatly with all Bachelorettes.)

Wolf says the muse struck when he was trying to increase his social media presence. He had a Facebook, a Twitter account and a website where women could apply to date him, but no Instagram.

“I started looking at the app, and it was primarily food and pictures of Ariana Grande,” Wolf says. “I thought, I could do something with food.”

He took inspiration from the popular project “Humans of New York,” which pairs portraits of people with autobiographical quotes from the subjects. Then Wolf added a twist: Ditch the people for plates.

“I honestly say, ‘What does this plate have to say?’ ” Wolf explains. “I end up writing from the viewpoint of a basket who says, ‘Hey, I’m not a plate, but I identify as a plate.’ “

Caption from @emptyplatesofny: "You may not think it from the looks of me, but I suffer from depression." — Carol, Park Slope; Delicious teriyaki salmon with asparagus

Caption from @emptyplatesofny: “You may not think it from the looks of me, but I suffer from depression.” — Carol, Park Slope; Delicious teriyaki salmon with asparagus Courtesy of Brandon Scott Wolf hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of Brandon Scott Wolf

“At first, I thought he was kidding, but he actually is serious about it,” says college friend Dan Sepe, who works in PR – an industry that seems to have failed plates completely.

Sepe, who has eaten out many times with Wolf, recounts a post-meal photo shoot at a Korean restaurant. “He took the plate and was positioning it. … It was very apparent that people were looking and going, what’s this guy doing with this plate?”

Still, Sepe believes in Wolf’s project. “He’s telling the story from the plate’s perspective,” Sepe says. “It’s less about the person, and it’s more about the plate.”

Wolf aims to post one plate picture per day. He compares his images to the work of splatter artist Jackson Pollock “for obvious reasons.” The prospect that some people might find his dirty plates unappetizing or even disgusting doesn’t trouble Wolf. “Like most people say of art of any kind,” he says, “as long as you feel something and want to talk about it, that’s good.”

Caption from @emptyplatesofny: "Platers gonna plate!" — Tony, East Williamsburg; Delicious chipotle spiced chicken and bison with brown rice and mixed vegetables

Caption from @emptyplatesofny: “Platers gonna plate!” — Tony, East Williamsburg; Delicious chipotle spiced chicken and bison with brown rice and mixed vegetables Courtesy of Brandon Scott Wolf hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of Brandon Scott Wolf

Some of his Instagram followers appreciate the lack of culinary appeal. “I like that it doesn’t make me hungry,” says follower Samantha Jane Gurewitz, who works primarily as a makeup artist in New York City.

The empty plates are also a hit with the artist’s mother. “The empty plates show me that he nourishes himself correctly,” says Andrea Wolf. She says she never had trouble getting her son to clean his plate as a child and that his favorite food was broccoli. “I’m so proud of my son. I just can’t say enough about him … I’m maybe his biggest fan.”

But Wolf hopes to dish out more than just Instagram photos. He’s toying with the idea of a cookbook featuring exclusively pictures of empty plates and potentially donating proceeds to the Food Bank for New York City. Until then, he continues to bring power to platters and succor to saucers.

“The Internet is very strange,” says Wolf of his Instagram’s success. But he says the project is helping him grow. “This project is based on the dedication to write every day,” Wolf says, “and really a testament to the amount of time I have on my hands.”

Caption from @emptyplatesofny: "Never meet your heroes. They always get eaten." — Julian, Fort Greene; Delicious Buffalo chicken meatball hero with French fries

Caption from @emptyplatesofny: “Never meet your heroes. They always get eaten.” — Julian, Fort Greene; Delicious Buffalo chicken meatball hero with French fries Courtesy of Brandon Scott Wolf hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of Brandon Scott Wolf

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Invisibilia: The Unbearable Lightness Of Footwear

Isabel Seliger for NPR

Isabel Seliger for NPR

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from the latest episode of the Invisibilia podcast and program, which is broadcast on participating public radio stations.

Walking among the California redwoods, drifting blank-brained on a break from college, I got to thinking about shoes. I can’t say why, exactly. Perhaps it was because they were touching my feet.

My own shoes were performing admirably, I must admit. I was trudging on mud and bugs and roots and who knows what without feeling much of anything.

Now, they were performing admirably, I must admit. I was trudging on mud and bugs and roots and who knows what without feeling much of anything.

And that, I realized in a flash, was a problem. Not that I had been stepping on gross stuff and snuffing out the lives of little things that, frankly, may not have deserved it. The problem was that I really couldn’t tell.

Do clothes have the power to transform us? The latest episode of the NPR podcast Invisibilia explores seven stories about how the clothes we wear affect us more than we think (though perhaps less than we hope).

Life and death and dog poop — it all basically felt the same underfoot.

I began thinking about the festering evil behind pollution, behind climate change, callousness and all the others ways we forget to consider each other and the world around us. Maybe shoes are to blame.

I realize this idea is so simple it could be taken for stupid. Bear with me for a moment.

When we invented footwear — probably some 40,000 years ago, according to paleoanthropologists — we also slipped a surface between ourselves and the world. Where we once were touching the ground with skin, touching all the time like lovers, shoes changed all this. With shoes, we swapped intimacy for a well-regulated separation.

Perhaps the moment at which we began walking only on objects of our own construction was the same moment we convinced ourselves that the world is of our own making. With shoes came pride, forgetfulness. Maybe Adam never even had to eat the apple at all. Maybe all he had to do was slip into a fresh pair of loafers.

It’s a discovery I didn’t know what to do with. And I still don’t, to be honest — despite the years since, which I thought would make me smarter. But at the time, it felt as if a grand symbolic gesture was in order.

Isabel Seliger for NPR

Isabel Seliger for NPR

I unlaced that faithful shoe of mine. I wiggled out of it, wadded my sock inside, cocked my arm behind my head in a pose I was sure looked heroic. With the great weight of all the world’s dashed dreams on my shoulders I threw that shoe, that sad proof of all we’ve lost, as hard as I could, as far as I could.

It might have flown for miles — if it hadn’t hit the tree 2 feet in front of me. The shoe gave out a defeated plop. The tree’s trunk tossed off a few splinters. I know, because when I put it back on a few minutes later, I could feel them, wedged deeply in the sole.

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Watch Father John Misty, White Denim And More At The XPoNential Music Festival


WXPN in Philadelphia is hosting its own music festival this weekend, and you can watch many of the acts live on VuHaus, public radio’s new music discovery platform.

Friday’s Webcast Schedule

  • Rosemary Fiki – 4 p.m. ET
  • Queen Of Jeans – 4:35 p.m. ET
  • Billy Hector – 5:05 p.m. ET
  • White Denim – 5:45 p.m. ET
  • Father John Misty – 6:30 p.m. ET
  • The Suffers – 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Shawn Colvin & Steve Earle – 8:20 p.m. ET

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The Morning After: Donald Trump Rails On 'Dishonorable' Ted Cruz

Vice presidential running mate Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., right, looks on as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during an goodbye reception with friends and family following the Republican National Convention.

Vice presidential running mate Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., right, looks on as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during an goodbye reception with friends and family following the Republican National Convention. Evan Vucci/AP hide caption

toggle caption Evan Vucci/AP

In a press conference that was supposed to serve as a victory lap after the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump went on the offensive against Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Trump said that even if Cruz offered an endorsement he would not take it. “I don’t want his endorsement,” Trump said. “If he gives it, I won’t accept it, just so you understand.”

Trump also made referred once again to a conspiracy theory linking Cruz’s father to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

“I think he’s a lovely guy, a lovely guy,” Trump said about Cruz’s father. “All I did was point out the fact that on the cover of the National Enquirer, there was a picture of him and crazy Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast. Now Ted never denied that it was his father.”

Trump was, of course, reacting to Cruz’s speech at the convention. Cruz did not endorse Trump. Instead he urged Republicans to “vote your conscience.” Trump said that Cruz changed his speech at the last minute and that was “dishonorable.”

“You are bound by the speech and bound by the pledge,” Trump said referencing a pledge the GOP candidates signed saying they would support the eventual nominee.

Trump also addressed attacks during the campaign on Cruz’s wife Heidi saying he didn’t start the fight (remember this?) Trump added that he really liked Heidi, and she was the only thing their children had going for them.

Cruz defended his convention speech during a breakfast with the Texas delegation on Thursday. “I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my family,” Cruz said.

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Cleveland, Rocked: Music At The Republican National Convention

As balloons fell after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump accepted his party nomination last night, the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ rang through the arena. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Throughout the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week, there was a persistent and obvious theme of discord on repeat. Call it “Music vs. Meaning” and let us sing some of its many verses: Musicians expressed resentment at Donald Trump and his party’s use of their songs. Acts — both on and off the arena floor — tried to send messages, with varied levels of success, about their political views. Intentionally or not, the possible future First Lady snuck a viral refrain from a 1987 pop song into a speech that was already problematic. The whole week was studded with such uncomfortable, perplexing and frankly odd moments.

Quite a few bands whose music has been used along Donald Trump’s campaign trail have made their unhappiness very public: The O’Jays. The surviving members of Queen. George Harrison‘s estate. Adele. Earth, Wind & Fire. REM’s Michael Stipe. The Turtles. Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler (though he said his objection was financial, not ideological). Neil Young (though he, like Tyler, eventually said he was concerned about money and permission). And perhaps most famously now, The Rolling Stones — more on them later.

Legally, however, the GOP and the Trump campaign can use all those songs, as Melinda Newman (a former colleague of mine at Billboard) explained in Forbes this week, as long as the rights holders are paid: “The sad truth is for many artists, they can not keep their songs from being used in this context even if they vehemently disagree with the politician who is using the song.”

The only use that such unhappy musicians can prohibit is in political commercials — and so far, Trump has not needed to rely on paid advertisements to get his message and visage in the public eye. (By contrast, a suit involving music used in a Ted Cruz campaign commercial during the primaries will go ahead, a judge in Seattle ruled earlier this month.)

Other musicians who have in the past publicly said that they don’t necessarily agree with the Republican platform took a different tack. The convention’s house band this year was led by guitarist and former Saturday Night Live musical director G.E. Smith. This isn’t the first time that Smith and his bandmates have played a Republican convention. As Smith explained to Guitar World in 2013, he’s taken these gigs on with family bills in mind: “Well, not only will this pay for several years of Josie [his daughter]’s school, but I can hire six or seven of my friends, and give them a really good pay day too … We may not be Republicans, obviously, but it was really interesting.”

Nonetheless, Smith and his fellow musicians put together some intriguing song choices together to entertain the delegates. Among them was David Bowie’s “Station to Station,” which includes lines like “It’s not the side-effects of the cocaine/I’m thinking that it must be love/It’s too late to be grateful.”

And one of the band’s picks on Wednesday was, according to Newsday, a huge crowd favorite: Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” — a song which was, Diamond claimed in 2007, written in honor of one very notable Democrat: Caroline Bouvier Kennedy — the current U.S. ambassador to Japan. (Diamond later said that his cute back story was only partly true.)

“Sweet Caroline,” a crowd favorite, plays at #RNCinCLE ahead of first speaker

— Newsday (@Newsday) July 20, 2016

Other artists were a little more directly confrontational with the delegates. Four years ago, singer Stephan Jenkins explained why his band, Third Eye Blind, turned down an invitation to play a private party during the Republican National Convention: “They are in fact, a party dedicated to exclusion…If I came to their convention, I would Occupy their convention.”

This year, however, Third Eye Blind, a band whose popularity was at its peak about twenty years ago, morphed into a Trojan horse of anti-Republican sentiment when they played a charity show at Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with the apparent purpose of riling up the GOP attendees at the show. They played almost none of their ’90s hits, and Jenkins taunted the crowd with comments like, “Raise your hand if you believe in science!”


On the other side of the stealth spectrum was the debut of Prophets of Rage, a supergroup featuring members of some more obviously political groups: Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Rage Against the Machine’s guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk, alongside B-Real from Cypress Hill. As the New York Times‘ Joe Coscarelli pointed out, they played for — and rallied beside — like-minded audiences in Ohio. He jotted down sketches of their time in Cleveland: “Prophets of Rage, meanwhile, face an entirely friendly room eager to mosh and scream along to aggressive anti-establishment songs written two decades ago.”

But some of the most interesting intersections of — and muddlings between — music and politics this week came out of the Trump campaign itself. One of the highest-profile moments at the convention this week actually seemed to carry certain musical resonances, even if none were intended. After the sections of Melania Trump’s Tuesday evening speech that her husband’s campaign now says were taken from Michelle Obama came words that seemed to be a Rickroll: “He will never, ever give up. And, most importantly,” Mrs. Trump said, pausing just then to let her words fully sink in, “He will never, ever let you down.” Yesterday, CNBC reported that Rick Astley’s now-immortal 1987 hit “Never Gonna Give You Up” has enjoyed a 19 percent surge in Spotify streams since Tuesday night.

PBS NewsHour YouTube

Throughout his primary battles, Trump’s campaign soundtrack has included recorded tracks that expressly seemed to be aimed at simply amping up the audience, like Adele, The Beatles, and Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.” But Trump has also thrown in some curveballs that make it plain that at least somebody on that campaign has an ear for using music as theater. His playlist has often included a recording of Luciano Pavarotti singing the Puccinia aria “Nessun Dorma” (None Shall Sleep) from the opera Turandot.

Here’s one case in which the lyrics actually do appear to reflect Trump’s political intentions. “Nessun Dorma” ends with these words: “All’alba vincerò! Vincerò, vincerò! (“At dawn, I will win! I will win, I will win!”)


But in case that high-culture song is a bit too coded, the Republican candidate’s arrival in Cleveland on Wednesday was reportedly heralded by a recording of Jerry Goldsmith’s music for the 1997 flick Air Force One, starring Harrison Ford.


As the balloons and confetti (eventually) began to rain down last night at the Quicken Loans arena, however, rock ‘n’ roll had the last word on Trump — or maybe exactly the inverse happened. The evening’s last musical selection was the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Commenters on Twitter last night made hay of the seeming disconnects in meaning between the song and the convention’s spectacle of unity. But Trump has long used that tune in particular as one of his campaign’s anthems, despite the band’s fury and a request the band sent to the GOP candidate’s team earlier this year to stop using it.

No one from the Trump campaign has explained exactly why “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” has become such a staple selection at his events — at one rally in Carmel, Ind. back in May, for example, the song was played at least four times at that single campaign stop. But in May, Trump himself responded to the Stones’ request in a way that appeared to slough off any implications of the song’s lyrics entirely: “I like Mick Jagger. I like their songs,” he told CNBC.

Republican National Convention YouTube

Over at The New Yorker‘s website earlier this week, Amanda Petrusich published an essay about some of those apparent paradoxes of meaning, along with some of the musicians she’s encountered in Cleveland this week. “In this particular context,” she wrote — citing famous examples like “Born in the U.S.A.” and “This Land Is Your Land” — “it doesn’t matter if there’s a staggering fissure between what a thing really means and what someone else wants it to mean. All that matters is that it sounds cool.”

Trump’s response to the Stones bulwarks Petrusich’s point. But it’s also true that there’s something of a bargain that artists — musicians, poets, painters, whatever — implicitly make when they put their work out into the world. They can create with whatever intention they want, but the receptors of that art — the public — are inevitably going to receive and interpret that output with their own filters, experiences and frameworks. There can be a big split between what is legally allowable and what makes artists happy. That is the deal. And once the creative work is public, others can assign whatever meaning they want to it— consciously or unconsciously, earnestly or cynically.

And forever after, those works carry, in our communal memory, not just the artists’ intentions about that output (correctly understood or not), but also the resonances of how that music is later used by others. Even if Richard Wagner had not been an anti-Semite himself (which he certainly was), would most people be able to completely divorce his compositions from how they were loved by Hitler and the other Nazis? A less loaded Wagner example: Can anyone today hear his “Ride of the Valkyries” without instantly flashing to Apocalypse Now?

Artists can make their displeasure widely known, of course; it’s easier today than it’s ever been, and absolutely instantaneous thanks to social media. But as soon as musicians feel the need to publicly disassociate themselves from their own work, they are that much farther away from their creations. There’s an intercessor, an interloper. After last night, will we ever be able to hear “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” again without feeling a slight tug of a certain memory — not of Mick Jagger singing, but of Donald Trump shouting?

Next week, we’ll be looking at the intersection of music and politics at the Democratic National Convention, which begins Monday in Philadelphia.

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'Heat Dome' Causing Excessive Temperatures In Much Of U.S.

Lightning streaks across the sky over Port Washington, Wis., on Thursday. A phenomenon called a "heat dome" is causing temperatures well above 100 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Lightning streaks across the sky over Port Washington, Wis., on Thursday. A phenomenon called a “heat dome” is causing temperatures well above 100 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Jeffrey Phelps/AP hide caption

toggle caption Jeffrey Phelps/AP

It’s really hot in most of the mainland United States right now. The National Weather Service predicts temperatures in the triple digits through the weekend in much of the South, Midwest and along the East Coast.

The culprit: a “heat dome.”

It’s a real meteorological event — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration even took the time to define it in the agency’s warning this week:

“A heat dome occurs when high pressure in the upper atmosphere acts as a lid, preventing hot air from escaping. The air is forced to sink back to the surface, warming even further on the way. This phenomenon will result in dangerously hot temperatures that will envelop the nation throughout the week.”

Forecasters are predicting extreme heat and a high pressure ridge to create a "heat dome" across a large section of the United States.

Forecasters are predicting extreme heat and a high pressure ridge to create a “heat dome” across a large section of the United States. NOAA hide caption

toggle caption NOAA

The National Weather Service has issued excessive-heat warnings and heat advisories for much of the central U.S., including the Plains, Mississippi Valley and the South, and warns that the heat wave will move east over the weekend, enveloping the Mid-Atlantic.

Last year was the hottest year ever globally — or it was until 2016 got off to a sweltering start. NASA announced this week that the first six months of this year have been the hottest since 1880, which is when people started keeping reliable records, NPR’s Christopher Joyce reports.

He writes:

“Let’s look at June. Scientists took temperatures from around the world and got a June average. What they found was a world that was 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the average June in the 20th Century. How about January? Hottest ever. Same with February, March, April and May. Every month in 2016 has been warmer than ever, at least since people started keeping reliable records — that was 1880.

“How much warmer is 2016 so far? Overall, this year has been almost two degrees warmer than what people experienced in the 20th Century.”

When the weather gets excessively hot, it can be deadly. The National Weather Service recommends that people take precautions such as staying indoors in air-conditioned spaces, drinking enough water, wearing lightweight clothing, and eating “light, cool, easy-to-digest foods such as fruit or salads.”

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Study: The Digital Divide Between Latinos And Whites Is Shrinking

Immigrant and Spanish-dominant Latinos drive the narrowing gap

Pew Research Center

After years of lagging behind other ethnic groups when it comes to accessing the Internet, the “digital divide” between Latinos and whites is now at its narrowest point since 2009.

A new study from the Pew Research Center found that the percentage of Latino adults who report using the Internet increased from 64 percent to 84 percent between 2009 and 2015, a faster growth rate than that of whites going online in the same period (80 percent to 89 percent).

As a result, the gap in Internet use between Latinos and whites shrank from 16 percentage points in 2009 to just 5 points in 2015.

Pew researcher Mark Hugo Lopez says these findings aren’t necessarily surprising; they’re reflective of larger trends. There are more than 55 million Hispanics in the U.S. today, and the nation’s Hispanic residents are the fastest growing population group — and youngest — in the country.

The implications of the study, however, push back at perceptions of who we tend to think of as fluent Internet users. “That story is changing,” says Lopez. “And that’s based on the diversity of the Latino community.”

Immigrant and Spanish-dominant Latino users up, but still a smaller group

Broadband Subscription rate steady among Hispanics and blacks

Pew Research Center

Another consistent trend, the study found, was that Hispanics born outside of the U.S., and those whose primary language is Spanish, still use the Internet at the lowest rates, though that rate is rising.

The share of Hispanics who were born outside the country and use the Internet grew from 51 percent to 78 percent between 2009 and 2015. During that same period, the pool of Spanish-dominant Hispanics who use the Internet doubled, from 36 percent to 74 percent.

A large share — 91 percent — of U.S.-born Latinos report using the Internet, while an even larger share — 94 percent — of Latinos who primarily speak English are more likely to go online.

How Latinos access the Internet

Latinos tend to access the Internet through mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. In fact, according to Pew, Latinos have been “among the most likely to own a smartphone, to live in a household without a landline phone and where only a cellphone is available, and to access the Internet through a mobile device.”

Lopez says Latinos are more likely to live in homes where their only means of getting online is through a mobile phone with Internet access. According to the study, the share of Hispanic adults accessing the Internet through a home broadband connection increased by just one percent since 2010, to 46 percent. Meanwhile, 55 percent of blacks and 73 percent of whites accessed the Internet through a home broadband connection in 2015.

When it comes to accessing the internet through a mobile device, Latinos actually browse the web on their phones at slightly higher rates than whites and blacks. 80 percent of Latinos surveyed say they access the Internet through a mobile device, compared to 76 percent of whites and 77 percent of blacks.

The difference is in what the Pew researchers behind the survey call “smartphone dependence.” Only 10 percent of white smartphone owners rely solely on mobile devices to access the Internet. Hispanic (and black smartphone users are twice as likely — 23 percent and 19 percent respectively — to rely wholly on mobile phones to get online.

A 2015 Pew study — while not focused specifically on the Latino community — found that the cost of owning a computer and subscribing to a broadband connection at home continues to be a “substantial challenge” and barrier for those who aren’t accessing the Internet.

Because of this, Lopez says Latinos are often choosing “between one or the other” — a mobile phone or a computer. This is why Latinos are more likely to live in a home where only a mobile phone is available. But this can have disadvantages. “Even a smartphone can’t necessarily substitute for all the things you can do on a computer,” says Lopez. “Like job applications for example.”

As for why Latinos still lag behind other ethnic groups overall in terms of Internet use, Lopez says it has to do with the diversity of the Latino population.

“Half of the Hispanic adult population is foreign born,” says Lopez. “Any trends among immigrant Hispanics is going to have an impact on Hispanics overall.”

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WATCH: Facebook Tests Internet-Beaming Plane

Facebook's unmanned plane takes off in Arizona on June 28 for its first full-scale test flight. The solar-powered plane is designed to deliver wireless Internet to the ground as it flies over.

Facebook’s unmanned plane takes off in Arizona on June 28 for its first full-scale test flight. The solar-powered plane is designed to deliver wireless Internet to the ground as it flies over. Facebook hide caption

toggle caption Facebook

Facebook just announced the first full-scale test flight of its unmanned, high-altitude airplane, Aquila. The plane isn’t finished yet — the 90-minute test flight only assessed its take-off and low-altitude flying capabilities — but its ultimate goal is to provide wireless Internet to the ground as it flies.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg shared a video of the test flight.

The lanky plane has a wingspan slightly longer than a Boeing 737 passenger jet, and it’s made of lightweight carbon fiber and powered by the sun. Although the Internet delivery antennae have yet to be attached or tested, a company press release describes the future capabilities of the aircraft:

“When complete, Aquila will be able to circle a region up to 60 miles in diameter, beaming connectivity down from an altitude of more than 60,000 feet using laser communications and millimeter wave systems. Aquila is designed to be hyper efficient, so it can fly for up to three months at a time. The aircraft has the wingspan of an airliner, but at cruising speed it will consume only 5,000 watts — the same amount as three hair dryers, or a high-end microwave.”

The test flight late last month over the Arizona desert lasted just over 90 minutes, according to Facebook.

The plane, called Aquila, has a wingspan longer than a Boeing 737.

The plane, called Aquila, has a wingspan longer than a Boeing 737. Facebook hide caption

toggle caption Facebook

The plane is one of a handful of new Facebook initiatives to provide Internet access to places and people who don’t have it. Just this week, the company’s Connectivity Lab published a paper describing a light-based communication technique for sending information without wires, and last year the company announced it is working on delivering Internet by satellite.

Google is also testing airborne wireless Internet delivery with its stratospheric balloon network, which is still in a pilot stage in the southern hemisphere.

Tech companies have a lot to gain from the race to deliver wireless Internet to the world, Wired reports:

“If they expand the Internet’s reach, they expand the reach of Google and Facebook. But they’re also helping the world communicate, which is why this short flight over the Arizona desert is so important. By Facebook’s estimates, about 1.6 billion people live in areas that don’t offer mobile broadband.”

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Share And Share Alike

This game is about music sharing. Every answer in this quiz is the name of a song whose title is shared by more than one artist. For example, if we said, “This is a Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch song featuring Marky boxing and making out, and a memorable Beach Boys tune that features a theremin,” you’d say “Good Vibrations.”

Heard on Loudon Wainwright III: ‘Please Discover Me Now!’

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