An upcoming six-part HBO documentary is telling the absolutely bonkers story of a former police officer-turned-corporate security auditor who scammed more than $24 million worth of cash and prizes out of McDonald's—and he's almost certainly the reason why your uncle never got that one piece he needed to win big at McDonald's Monopoly. "This story has got everything," the trailer promises. "Revenge, drugs, greed… Ronald McDonald."
McMillions, which is based on a Daily Beast piece by Jeff Maysh, focuses on a mysterious figure named "Uncle Jerry," who managed to get his hands on the winning McDonald's Monopoly game pieces, and then sold them to other people who would cash them in for six-and-seven-figure checks. Uncle Jerry would take a cut of the prize money, the "winner" would make the kind of irrational decisions that people who get an unexpected pile of cash tend to make, and the world—and the Monopoly game—would go on. "From 1989 to 2001, there were almost no legitimate million dollar winners," one McMillions interviewee says.
"Uncle Jerry" was eventually outed as Jerome Jacobsen, a man whose resume was littered with false-starts and missteps, before he ended up overseeing security at Simon Marketing, the company that handled all of McDonald's promotions, which ranged from creating Happy Meal toys to printing the piece for its Monopoly game.
After a series of suspicious winners started claiming prizes, the FBI got involved. As they continued to investigate "Uncle Jerry" Jacobsen, their list of other participants in the scam expanded from eight people to 53 disparate individuals, including a self-described mob associate, a convicted drug trafficker, and a Mormon father of five, his wife, and her sister.
According to Maysh, Jacobsen also anonymously mailed a $1 million winning piece to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Despite being connected to "Uncle Jerry's" scam, McDonald's awarded the full $1 million prize to the hospital.
More than 50 people were convicted of mail fraud and conspiracy. (The trial began in a Florida courtroom on September 10, 2001, but by mid-morning the next day, the outcome didn't seem to matter as much anymore.) "All I can tell you is I made the biggest mistake of my life," Jacobsen said during his testimony.
That's probably an accurate statement—but it also makes for a hell of a story. McMillions premieres on HBO on Monday, February 3.
It Would Have Been 'Utterly Irrational' For Trump To Notify Democrats Of Soleimani Strike: Dobbs
President Trump would have been 'utterly irrational' to have shared plans to strike Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the country's second-most powerful person, according to Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs.
The Friday comments come amid outrage from Congressional Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
"I think Chuck Schumer was born complaining," Dobbs told White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham on "Lou Dobbs Tonight,"...
...adding "And I wouldn’t expect any quick change in his behavior. There is also, I think, a good case to be built that it would be utterly irrational of the Trump Administration to brief the very people who are trying to unseat him, remove him from power, to overthrow his presidency and to have done everything in their power to do so."
Hilariously, on Saturday the White House delivered Congress notification of the Soleimani strike two days later.
The notification, required by law within 48 hours of introducing American forces into armed conflict or a situation that could lead to war, has to be signed and then sent to Congress, according to the officials with knowledge of the plan.
Lawmakers expected the document to publicly lay out the White House’s legal justification for the strike on General Suleimani, Iran’s top security commander, who officials have said has been behind hundreds of American deaths over the years. But the notification first sent to Congress late Saturday afternoon only contained classified information, according to a senior congressional aide, likely detailing the intelligence that led to the action. It is unclear whether the White House will send a separate, unclassified document. -NYT
In response, Pelosi said in a Saturday evening statement that the notification "raises more questions than it answers," such as "serious and urgent questions about the timing, manner and justification of the administration’s decision to engage in hostilities against Iran."
Pelosi added: “The highly unusual decision to classify this document in its entirety compounds our many concerns, and suggests that the Congress and the American people are being left in the dark about our national security.”
Pelosi added: “The Trump Administration’s provocative, escalatory and disproportionate military engagement continues to put servicemembers, diplomats and citizens of America and our allies in danger,” adding it was taken without the consultation of Congress
"Happening Everywhere In Retail" - Home Depot Links Surge In Thefts To Opioid Crisis
The opioid crisis is evolving and is now becoming a burden on retailers, as addicts race to brick and mortar stores, hoping to steal merchandise, and if successful, sell it on the street or pawn it for cash to pay for their next fix.
An absolutely shocking account of this has come from Home Depot executives, who warn that the nation's out of control opioid crisis has sparked a massive surge in thefts in stores across the country.
Bloomberg says the thefts have been so bad in 2019, that it will likely weigh on Home Depot's operating profit margins next year.
"This is happening everywhere in retail," Chief Executive Officer Craig Menear told investors on a Wednesday morning call.
"We think this ties to the opioid crisis but we're not positive about that."
Home Depot is the first retailer to suggest that the opioid crisis has sparked a recent surge in in-store thefts.
The National Retail Federation has said retailers lose, on average, $51 billion per year, but that number is likely to climb in the years ahead due to the opioid crisis.
In one instance, Menear told investors during the call that thieves were apprehended by law enforcement after attempting to steal $16.5 million worth of goods, of which $1.4 million was headed to Home Depot's stores.
He said many Home Depot stores have been taking high-value inventory, like power tools, off sales floors to avoid thefts.
"We have to be vigilant about it," Ann-Marie Campbell, Home Depot's executive vice president of U.S. stores, said.
"We have initiated several pilots to reduce shrink across the board."
Bloomberg said the increased thefts, possibly linked to opioids, was a "significant" reason why the home improvement retailer's operating profit margins will slide to 14% in 2020.
Home Depot shares slid 2% Wednesday on the news of a weakening outlook and increased thefts.
With millions of Americans addicted to opioids and cycling in a life of poverty as income inequality is the widest in the nation's history, their only hope for the next fix is to steal merchandise from retailers for quick cash to fund their addiction.
This is likely a widespread problem that could become a drag on retailers in the 2020s as the opioid crisis shows no signs of abating in the intermediate future.
With weather now so de rigeur as the scapegoat for weak performance, we suspect it's only a matter of time when other retailers blame opioid-related thefts for their financial woes.
Disney’s new streaming service includes trigger warnings on old movies that caution the viewer about “outdated cultural depictions.”
The launch of the new Disney+ service in the United States made available many classic films, but they could not be presented without the need to genuflect to political correctness.
Movies including Dumbo, Lady and the Tramp, The Aristocats, Peter Pan and The Jungle Book all feature the trigger warning in their plot descriptions due to negative racial stereotypes like the Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp, the Native American characters in Peter Pan, and the crows in Dumbo.
“This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions,” reads the disclaimer.
Movies deemed too controversial due to their stereotypical depictions of non-white people, such as the 1946 film Song of the South, are not included as part of the Disney+ service.
There is a constantly increasing number of movies and songs that are being forgotten or done over in order to conform to the ever changing social mores of progressivism.
John Legend and Kelly Clarkson recently released a re-recorded version of Baby, It’s Cold Outside, completely changing some of the supposedly “misogynistic” lyrics.
The song was a total flop, receiving almost twice the number of thumbs down than thumbs up on YouTube.
Get woke, go broke.
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Half The World's Banks Won't Survive The Next Crisis, McKinsey Finds
More than half of the world's banks are at risk of collapse in the next global downturn if they don't start preparing for late-cycle shocks, McKinsey & Company warned in its latest global banking outlook.
The consultancy firm warned on Monday, in a 55-page report titled The last pit stop? Time for bold late-cycle moves, that 35% of banks globally are "subscale" and will have to merge or sell to larger firms if they want to survive the next crisis.
"A decade on from the global financial crisis, signs that the banking industry has entered the late phase of the economic cycle are clear: growth in volumes and top-line revenues is slowing, with loan growth of just 4% in 2018—the lowest in the past five years and a good 150 basis points (bps) below nominal GDP growth. Yield curves are also flattening. And, although valuations fluctuate, investor confidence in banks is weakening once again," McKinsey said.
Kausik Rajgopal, a senior partner at McKinsey, told Bloomberg that "we believe we're in the late economic cycle and banks need to make bold moves now because they are not in great shape," adding that, "in the late cycle, nobody can afford to rest on their laurels."
The report warned that 60% of global banks are experiencing "returns below the cost of equity." And even warned that when the next recession strikes, "negative interest rates could wreak further havoc."
McKinsey said fin-tech startups are rapidly evolving the industry, and legacy banks risk "becoming footnotes to history" if they don't immediately invest in technology. For instance, the report said, Amazon and Ping An are two technology firms that are quickly acquiring market share from the traditional banking sector.
Fin-tech firms allocate at least 70% of their budgets to technological advancements, while legacy banks only invest 35%.
Rajgopal also told Bloomberg that legacy banks "need to get much more comfortable with external partnerships and being able to leverage talent externally."
Mergers and acquisitions will be the only way these at-risk legacy banks survive.
McKinsey called for global banks to make "bold late-cycle moves" to avoid collapse before the next recession strikes.
Traditional dinner parties might be a thing of the past, but millennials are still getting together to eat. | Getty Images/Maskot
Like many things millennials “killed,” the dinner party has simply adapted for the post-recession era.
When hosting a dinner party, Martha Stewart suggests starting to cook and prepare food at least a week in advance. You should have a theme, she says, and all the details of your party — every course of the meal, the decor, the cutlery — must match the theme.
For people in 2019, these rules sound antiquated to the point of being absurd.
In 2012, New York Times writer Guy Trebay lamented that the dinner party was dead. “The seated dinner, with its minuet of invitation and acceptance, its formalities and protocols, its culinary and dietary challenges, its inherent requirements of guest and host alike is under threat, many say.”
He’s partly correct: The classic seated, multi-course, formal dinner party, with its china and linens, its cocktails and boeuf bourguignon, is dead. Most young adults today — specifically, millennials, who are in their mid-20s to late 30s by now — don’t have the money, time, or space for the types of elaborate dinner parties their parents and grandparents might have hosted decades ago. Dinner parties were once a way to show off your wealth and social status, but millennials hit by the Great Recession have neither.
That doesn’t mean dinner parties have become obsolete in 2019: They’ve just evolved. Millennials prioritize friendships, so they still value gathering with their friends and loved ones over food and drinks, but they’ve changed the playbook to adapt to our post-recession economy. That means formal dinners served on china with a roast and martinis have been replaced by having friends over to your apartment for chili night and White Claws. The cornbread might get a little burnt, some people might have to sit on the floor, but the important thing is getting together with friends and enjoying each other’s company — not stressing out about tablescapes and etiquette.
“I think the millennial dinner party now equates to casual but well thought out: good group of like-minded friends; easy-going cooking; BYO approach; on-point music on the record player in the background,” says Alisha Miranda, a 33-year-old writer in Philadelphia. “Most importantly, it’s about low-key chill vibes.”
Nikki Rappaport, a 32-year-old marketer in DC, agrees. “I don’t even know what a formal dinner party would entail for me and my friends,” she says. “To me ‘formal’ means, dishes prepared hours in advance, elegant plating and linens, multiple courses, and a clear divide between host and guest. My friends and I don’t really have the time — in planning or in hosting — to make our gatherings more formal. And honestly, it just doesn’t sound as fun.”
When it comes to cooking inspiration, Instagram-happy 30-somethings today don’t look to Julia Child or Martha Stewart — they look to Alison Roman, whose first cookbook Dining In was a hit in 2017, when some of the recipes went viral on Instagram. Roman’s forthcoming second cookbook, Nothing Fancy, focuses more specifically on recipes for dinner parties. But Roman is clear about her philosophy: “I have always been allergic to the word ‘entertaining,’ which to me implies there’s a show, something performative at best and inauthentic at worst,” she says. “But having people over? Well, that’s just making dinner, but you know, with more people. Unfussy food, unfussy vibes, and the permission to be imperfect.”
“To do that formal entertaining — that’s a lot of pressure. You’re performing, it’s an event. You have to do a lot of preparation, and you have to have the right kind of tools and the budget to pull it off,” Roman tells Vox. “But having people over can be as regular as you want it to be. No matter where you live, no matter how big your kitchen is, no matter your budget, you can definitely invite people into your home and share food with them. Nothing should prevent you from doing that.”
How dinner parties became a signifier of class, wealth, and sophistication
The dinner party isn’t a modern invention; it has ancient roots, going as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held massive feasts with dozens of guests. “People have gathered together over food for as long as we’ve been human, but what exactly that looks like has changed considerably depending when and where we look,” says Julia Skinner, a culinary historian and founder of Root Kitchens, a food history and fermentation organization, over email.
More recently, there was a shift toward dining rooms in the home for smaller, more intimate dinner parties — and they were also a sign of wealth: “The permanent dining room set as we know it didn’t appear until the Early Modern period. Dining sets gradually became smaller, as wealthy folks favored more intimate gatherings and as shifts in economics meant that the middling classes could also afford a home with a small room (rather than a great hall) dedicated to eating.”
And then came the fancy silverware: “The Victorians added a lot of specialty tableware to their dinner parties, as part of the many, and often subtle, social norms that dictated who was part of the group — and who was not,” Skinner says. “Things like special lettuce and pickle forks, for example, as well as separate plates for every single possible food, specialty glassware, different spoons for every course.”
By the mid-century period, that era of housewives throwing glamorous dinner parties, the precedent had long been established. As the post-war economy boomed and the middle class grew, it became increasingly more common for people to entertain guests in their homes, and that period of prosperity brought with it “an expectation that the food will be pretty substantial and that it most likely will be served in courses,” Skinner said.
McMansion Hell blogger Kate Wagner also wrote about the American obsession with formal entertaining spaces and dining rooms in Curbed last year: “Elite houses, from the domus of a Pompeian politician to the Palace of Versailles, from Biltmore to McMansions in subdivisions named Biltmore, have always maintained a separation of formal and informal space. … One of the simplest reasons so many clamor for formal spaces is because they are a signifier of wealth and prestige, a sign of having ‘made it.’”
And for many, those beautiful dining rooms, and the elegant dinner parties that take place in them, are aspirational, Wagner writes: “We think our spaces will create the lives we want: If only we had a great room with an expansive deck, we could finally host big, sophisticated, straight-out-of-Mad Men parties.”
All of this is to say that as the dinner party evolved over modern history, the ability to throw a dinner party became a signifier of class status. Hosting a dinner party required having a home big enough to host gatherings and comfortably seat people at a dinner table, the money to supply guests with several courses of food and alcohol, the time to prepare elaborate meals, and the disposable income to furnish your home with sets of formal dinnerware, stemware, candles, table decor, and all the other trappings of formal dinner parties. Having a dinner party was a way to show off your extensive social connections, your wealth, your place in society. It was a sign of having good taste — which is ultimately all about class anxiety.
Post-recession millennials don’t have the money to buy big houses, fancy furniture, or china
Meanwhile, it would be an understatement to say that millennials have some financial anxiety.
The shift towards rentals and apartments over buying spacious single-family homes means very few millennials have the physical space for a 12-person reclaimed wood dining table, or room for a dinner table at all.
“No one I know has the space or the time to devote to what a formal dinner party entails,” says Elizabeth Gerberich, a 25-year-old living in Austin, Texas. “I don’t know anyone who owns a dining table that can comfortably fit more than three people at a time because no one I know has an apartment with an actual dining room.”
And aside from a sheer lack of square footage, millennials’ mounting debt and stagnating wages also mean they have less disposable income to spend on furnishing their homes with the accoutrements of fancy dinner parties of the past: dining room furniture, fancy china place settings, cloth napkins, crystal stemware, and fancy silver flatware.
In the New York Times, Guy Trebay noted that “Few … still see the point in accumulating china, silver and crystal at all. ... Prime real estate once allotted to the staples of the bridal registry at Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue flagship have now been supplanted by cases of leather accessories.”
Boomer parents also report having a hard time giving away their china to their millennial children, because they simply don’t want it. That lack of space once again plays a role here — they have less storage space to hold such heirlooms (have you ever seen a china cabinet like Mom’s in a 500 square foot apartment?), and they also move more often and don’t want to be weighed down by heavy furniture through every cross-country move.
Millennials value friendships, and love entertaining — just don’t call it that
Despite the lack of space, money, and formality, today’s 20- and 30-somethings still love to entertain — they just would never call it “entertaining.” They’re not having formal dinner parties to show off their wealth or their class status — because they don’t have any. But millennials deeply value friendships and social connections, and they prioritize getting together with friends.
Gerberich says that for her, dinner parties are usually potluck style sitting around someone’s coffee table. “When my friends and I gather for dinner, we all make food and bring it to someone’s apartment where we sit around the coffee table — either on the couch, the floor or a variety of chairs — to eat,” she says. “Usually the person hosting makes the main dish and others bring sides and drinks. None of us regularly make food for more than one or two people, so when we gather for dinner, we’re often making dishes like chili or empanadas that we wouldn’t make just for ourselves.”
Caitlin Zinsser, a 37-year-old human resources professional in the Chicago suburbs, says that her friends dub their informal gatherings “Crappy Dinner Parties,” or CDPs for short. Many of her friends have children, and lack the time to spend hours preparing formal meals. “Our house is never perfectly clean, and our good friends don’t care. They help themselves to beverages since they know where everything is in the kitchen,” she says. “We take turns preparing and cooking our dishes together while others play with the kids. It’s chaotic, but so much less stressful. As working parents, it’s hard to make time for friends — so these dinner provide a monthly opportunity to see our dearest ones without worrying about childcare, the expense of a meal’s worth of extra groceries, and tons of cleanup — everyone pitches in.”
The millennial version of a dinner party is more likely to involve cheap beer or spiked seltzer than hand-shaken martinis, and simple, easy-to-cook food like sheet pan chicken or instant pot tacos, with an assortment of snacks picked up at the Whole Foods antipasto bar — olives, cheeses, hummus, chips, dips. It’s not about impressing or keeping up with the Joneses by serving coq au vin and fussing over cocktails all night — it’s about keeping it simple and low-stress, making do with what you have, and enjoying the company of the friends you love.
Rappaport also observes that formal dinner parties, for millennials, “seem like too much of a hassle (and would stress me out!) and [are] not the point of why I want to have dinner with my friends — which is to have some quality time together, make some good food, try new things like a new cocktail or recipe, create a fun night together, and not be so stressful or create a giant mess at home that I wouldn’t want to do it again.”
Roman describes this dinner party philosophy well in the introduction to Nothing Fancy, which comes out on October 22; for millennials, it’s the exact antithesis of the aspirational mindset Wagner described in Curbed that led to the rise of formal entertaining spaces in homes. “This is not about living an aspirational life; it’s about living an attainable one,” Roman says.
Roman tells Vox: “Cooking for people is really a kind gesture. And it speaks volumes about your priorities and what you care about and how you want to spend your time,” she says. “And it doesn’t have to be a thing that causes you anxiety or stress. It should be a thing that promotes wellbeing, and love and joy, and a state of relaxation. It shouldn’t make you feel inadequate, worrying about, oh, is my apartment nice enough? Do I have matching silverware? Am I gonna fuck up this rib roast? It should be like — no, I’m doing a nice thing for people that I like, and they’re coming over and I’m feeding them and that’s enough.”
A big part of the new dinner party mindset is embracing the messiness of real life, and abandoning perfectionism, she added. Mistakes happen, and that’s okay. “I’ve had people over where I’ve burnt something so bad that you couldn’t eat it so I ordered pizza. I’ve invited more people over than I could feed and then we had to basically eat like, garlic bread for dinner, which is delicious. You just gotta make do with what you have, and have a really good time doing it.”
“Because remember why you’re there: you’re there to have fun with people that you love and that you care about. And as soon as you lose sight of that, it’s negating the purpose of having people over to begin with.”