Sex Cults, Iguana Killings, and America's Drinking Problem: The Best Gizmodo Stories of the Week

Image: Google, Warner Bros., Illustration: Gizmodo / Apple / Pixabay

What a ridiculous time to be alive. Tensions are escalating around the world. Schools are spying on our kids. One of America’s most successful airlines keeps screwing with our dogs. And even our toothpaste is lying to us. But here’s to brighter times this spring, which is right around the corner. Cheers!

America’s Binge-Drinking Problem Is Even Worse Than We Thought

Image: Netflix

Many of us enjoy the odd glass of wine or beer, but every once in a while we like to throw down and get completely wasted. But for many Americans, these binge-drinking sessions aren’t as “every once in a while” as we’d like to believe. New research shows that nearly 20 percent of all US adults participate in binge-drinking—and when they do, they go hard.

How Conservative Activists Catfished Twitter

Illustration: Angelica Alzona

Mo Norai has worked in Silicon Valley for a decade. He’s done stints at Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Apple, but only as a contract worker, meaning he has missed out on the tech giants’ storied perks, benefits and job security. So when he was approached last April by a recruiter from a company called Tech Jobs Box about a full-time job, he was intrigued.

A woman named Kelly Dale contacted him via LinkedIn promising that “salary and benefits would be competitive.”


“It really hooked me,” Norai told me last month.

But in fact, there was no job. Tech Jobs Box wasn’t a real company. Kelly Daleand the rest of his new “colleagues” were actually operatives for Project Veritas, a conservative investigative group founded by James O’Keefe that specializes in secretly recording people.


Google’s Smartwatch Program Is a Mess, and a Name Change Won’t Fix That

Image: Google

Google recently announced it would rename its four-year-old smartwatch operating system from Android Wear to Wear OS. Ostensibly, the purpose of this rebranding is to prevent scaring off iPhone owners from purchasing smartwatches running Android Wear, which for a long time has supported pairing with both Android and iOS devices. As Google puts it, Wear OS is “ a wearables operating system for everyone.”

It’s a seemingly minor change, and it might even help Fossil, Movado, and Luis Vuitton sell a few more wrist bangles to style-conscious shoppers who don’t know the difference between an OS and an ostrich. But lurking behind all of this are much bigger problems that Google needs to address that if it wants Android Wear or Wear OS or whatever’s its called to succeed.


US Court Finds Anti-Robocall Rule Made Nearly Every Smartphone User a Criminal

Photo: AP

A federal appeals court on Friday overturned a portion of an Obama-era rule aimed at curbing unwanted calls from nuisance telemarketing companies.

Specifically, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found that a provision intended to limit robocalls was too broadly defined. The FCC had expanded the definition of what constituted an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) to the point that it may have been construed as applying to basically anyone with a smartphone.


Ready Player One Is an Orgy of Nostalgia in All the Wrong Ways

Image: Warner Bros.

The early reactions to Ready Player One after its screening at SXSW were mostly positive, but don’t count io9's among them. It isn’t so much a movie about loving old video games and other cultural artifacts. It’s about loving to love those things, which makes Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of the bestselling novel feel hollow despite—or maybe because of—the relentless pop culture references it throws at you.

When You Can Make ‘JFK’ Say Anything, What’s Stopping Him From Selling Doritos?

Graphic: Jim Cooke, Photo: Getty

On Friday, The Times of London teamed up with a tech company and a creative agency to digitally recreate “the speech JFK would have made in Dallas had he not been assassinated.” The Dallas Trade Mart speech never happened—Kennedy was killed the day he was supposed to deliver it—but thanks to artificial intelligence, you can now listen to “JFK” give the 22-minute speech in his own voice.

As posthumous recreations like this become more common, however, some thorny legal and ethical questions arise. For instance, what is stopping ad companies from making late presidents and deceased celebrities (known in the entertainment industry as “delebs”) say anything they want?


Wild Wild Country is the Best Documentary About a Homicidal 1980s Oregon Sex Cult That You’ll See All Year

Image: Netflix

The Rajneesshee cult started building their utopian city of the future in rural Oregon during the early 1980s. And while it all began with peace and love, it ended with attempted murder, the exploitation of thousands of homeless people, and cult leaders who ordered the poisoning of an entire town by spraying salad bars with salmonella.

Fitbit Did What You Wanted and Basically Made a Pebble

Photo: Harrison Weber (Gizmodo)

I haven’t asked for a lot from Fitbit over the years. Really only one thing. I would like another Pebble—a gorgeous smartwatch that lasts for days, has a healthy selection of apps, and isn’t sized to fit the wrist of a seven foot tall, 300-pound football player. Finally, I think, Fitbit might be giving me what I wanted.

Florida Wildlife Officials Are Killing Invasive Iguanas by Smashing in Their Skulls

Photo: Skye am i (Wikimedia)

As part of a $63,000 research project to devise new and effective ways of pruning back the skyrocketing iguana population in south Florida, wildlife officials in the state have started to smash in the heads of iguanas, saying it’s a quick and “humane” form of euthanasia. Sounds dreadful—and it is—but the situation in Florida is more complicated than it appears.

Everything We Learned About the Avengers’ Fight Against Thanos in the Latest Infinity War Trailer

Gif: Marvel Studios

We just got our latest huge look at Avengers: Infinity War. Amid the sound and fury of Thanos imposing his will upon Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, we also got some very intriguing glimpses of the Avengers’ plans to fight back against the Mad Titan. Here’s everything we found.

AirDrop Is Your iPhone’s Most Underrated Tool

Illustration: Gizmodo / Apple / Pixabay

For all the complains you can levy against Apple—user-hostile repair and upgrade practices, The Great Slowdown, removing the headphone jack—there remains an undeniable truth: Overall, the user experience you get from using Apple’s devices is simply better than anything else. And this is doubly true if you stay within Apple’s walled garden. Things just. work well together. And work well together. iMessage, Siri, iCloud—they’re all built in, and require minimal effort to get up and running.

Nowhere is this more apparent to me than with AirDrop.


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Andrew Couts

Managing Editor, Gizmodo

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