Yelp adds predictive wait times and a new way for restaurants to share updates

With a new feature called Yelp Connect, Yelp is allowing users to go beyond customer reviews and see “what the restaurants have to say for themselves.”

That’s according to Devon Wright, Yelp’s general manager of restaurant marketplaces. He explained that with Yelp Connect, restaurants will be able to post updates about things like recent additions to the menu, happy hour specials and upcoming events. These updates are then shown on the Yelp homepage (which is already becoming more personalized), in a weekly email and on the restaurant’s profile page.

Consumers, meanwhile, can follow restaurants to see these updates, but Yelp also shows them to users who have indicated interest in a restaurant by making a reservation, joining its waitlist or bookmarking its profile.

Of course, restaurants are already posting this kind of information on social media, but Wright said Yelp allows them to reach “a high-intent audience” — people who aren’t just browsing for updates from their friends, but are actually looking to go out for a meal.

Guang Yang, the group product manager for Yelp Reservations and Waitlist, also noted that restaurants can set end dates for their Yelp posts, which could make them more comfortable sharing things like limited-time menus.

Yelp Connect will cost $199 per month for U.S. restaurants, but is available for a limited time at a price of $99 per month.

Wright described this is part of a broader evolution at Yelp, where “you don’t just want to discover a great restaurant, you want to transact [with] that restaurant.” So the company has added things like reservations, with Connect serving as “the final piece of that journey,” allowing restaurants to continue reaching out to consumers after their visit.


In addition to launching Connect, Yelp is also announcing an upgrade to its Waitlist feature, which allows consumers to see the current estimated wait time at a restaurant, and to join the queue directly from the Yelp app.

Yang said Yelp can now use real wait time data from a restaurant to predict the average wait at a given time — so if you want to get dinner tonight at 7pm, Yelp can tell how long you’ll probably have to wait. (These estimates are based on a party size of two; you’ll enter your real party size and get an updated estimate when you actually join the waitlist.)

Yelp is also using these predictions to power an additional feature called Notify Me. If you want to get seated at a certain restaurant at a certain time, you can hit a button to get a notification that will prompt you to join the waitlist at the right time — if you want to eat at 7pm, and the average wait time at 7pm is an hour, then you’ll get a notification at 6pm.

Yang said the algorithm is “pretty sophisticated,” and even incorporates some of the common situations that can confound these estimates, like kitchen closing times, or popular restaurants that have long a waitlist as soon as they open.

Still, he acknowledged that there will be times when the actual is different from what’s predicted, which may be challenging when you’ve told all your friends to meet you somewhere at a given time. But in those cases, he said most restaurants “acknowledge and understand, ‘Oh, something happened, wait time changed,’ ” and they’ll make accommodations if you show up later.

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This New Birthday Cake-Flavored Spice Blend Is About To Up Your Baking Game

McCormick & Company’s New Sugar & Spice Blends Come In Flavors Like Birthday Cake & Vanilla Blueberry

I love experimenting with recipes by adding different spices, whether it’s sizzling hot chili powder or aromatic cardamom. After all, adding herbs and spices are the quickest way to pack flavor into a meal. But sometimes you may get into the routine of using the same old spices. It’s time to give your spice rack a major upgrade this fall season with some newly released products from McCormick & Company that combine both sugar and spice in an all-in-one. McCormick & Company’s new sugar and spice blends come in flavors like Birthday Cake and Vanilla Blueberry and they sound like the perfect way to add some pizzazz to any beverage, dessert, or meal.

According to a McCormick representative in an email sent to Elite Daily, the Sugar & Spice Blends were released in July 2019 and retail for around $4.48. Instagram foodie account @CandyHunting first spotted the new sugar and spice blends in stores and shared it with fans on social media. The Sept. 10 post is captioned, “Sugar and spice and everything BIRTHDAY CAKE! McCormick has five new sugar and spice blends, which include Birthday Cake, Blueberry Vanilla, Apple Cinnamon, Vanilla Cinnamon, and Lemon Ginger. Found them at Meijer in with the spices.” The new sugar and spice blends are all featured on McCormick’s website, which gives a good rundown of the products. The Birthday Cake blend definitely stands out from the pack since it features bright and festive colors that will totally get you nostalgic for childhood birthday parties with fun decorations. The company describes the product as “a simple way to add the fun of a birthday cake to baked goods, desserts, milkshakes and more.” Likewise, the Blueberry Vanilla blend is a flavor boost for “desserts and smoothies,” and it’s ideal for those looking for a more fruity punch.

The blend that’s fitting for the fall season is the Vanilla Cinnamon. If you’ve been trying to recreate your favorite seasonal desserts and drinks at home (ahem, Pumpkin Spice Latte), the Vanilla Cinnamon could be the perfect hint of sweet and spicy you’ve been missing. For more savory meals, there’s the Lemon Ginger blend. The McCormick website even suggests using the blend in their Creamy Lemon Ginger Berry Salad recipe, which sounds like a tasty way to keep summer salad season going.

If you’re still hesitant about buying the new blends, you should check out the hype on social media, because it’s so real. Customers weighed in on the new product by responding to Instagram user @Candyhunting’s post. User @Kellyaisen commented, “Put dat birthday cake on every thang,” while @Jslacker5663 wrote, “So… much… NEED!!!” Fan @oneamyonejack captured the scene perfectly: “This sounds perfect for this fall and winter for oatmeal and toast before school! My kids eat cinnamon sugar toast every so often… oooh! On French toast!!” There are many innovative ways you can use these seasonings, so you better get brainstorming.

Whether you’re a seasoned home chef or a newbie in the kitchen, delicious spices are the secret to good cooking. IDK about you, but I’m excited to see what these new spice blends can do, and I can’t wait to stroll up to my next fall pot luck with some Birthday Cake-flavored cookies.

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In Mexicos Cartel Country, a Murderer Who Kills Murderers Tells His Story

CHILPANCINGO, MexicoThe safe house sits on a side street in a barrio that looks out on the well-lit downtown of Guerreros state capital and the dark foothills beyond. A late-model pick-up truck is parked in the street, and the surrounding alleys are scrawled with graffiti. Its just past sunset on a late summer evening and a woman is trudging up the hill with a basket of bread, calling out her wares. Otherwise the street is silent. Then the hit man steps from the shadows behind the parked truck and waves me on toward the safe house.

We sit at a bare table in the kitchen on the second floor. The tabletop is scored and oil-stained, as if machinery or heavy weapons often are served there. In one corner sits a shrine with small statues of the saints, Holy Judas among them. A hand-carved jaguar mask hangs on the walls. I notice that the hit man has seated himself at the table in such a way that he can see out both of the rooms windows at once. The curtains are open and the view looks out on the street below the safe house. A car approaching from either direction would be visible a long way off.

The hit man tells me in Spanish to call him Capache.

Is that your real name? I say.

That is what you can call me, Capache says.

The word translates as trap or trapper. That is what you can call me.

Capache was once a sicario for the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), which recently eclipsed the Sinaloa CartelChapo Guzmans old outfitas Mexicos largest criminal syndicate. Then, about two years ago, Capache switched sides to oppose CJNG and its allies. He currently serves with an autodefensa [self-defense] force that has taken the law into its own hands in the name of combating political corruption and organized crime.

Cartel members prey on society like vampires.

Over the last few years, as violence has reached historic levels, autodefensas have become increasingly common in Mexico. The Oscar-nominated documentary Cartel Land depicted the rise and fall of one such group. Academics have become increasingly interested in the phenomenon.

When a community is no longer protected by a sovereign state the contract between the government and the governed is effectively broken, says Robert Bunker, a professor at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, in an email to The Daily Beast. At that point local citizens who are being robbed, raped, and who are living under the constant fear of bodily injury and death have the option of either fleeing, joining the local crime groups oppressing them, or standing up and taking matters in their own hands as vigilantes.

Capache, having undergone a rigorous and bloody training regimen as a CJNG recruit, now uses his paramilitary background, his knowledge of the dark arts of assassination, to strike back against the narcos. He works as a cleaner in Chilpancingo, stalking and killing cartel members who, in his words, prey on society like vampires.

An autodefensa leader Ive interviewed in the past helped arrange a meeting with Capache, who has promised to share unique insights into the operational strategies used by two opposing sides in Mexicos worsening Drug War.

I feel good about the work I do, Capache says, without taking his eyes from the outside windows. Its not easy, and you have to watch your back. But Im proud of it, he says.

Im defending people who cant defend themselves. Im fighting back. The police dont do anything against the cartels. So if we dont, he asks, who will?

An Ascendant Cartel

Capache looks to be in his early twenties. He wears jeans and desert-issue combat boots. A tight-fitting, long-sleeve camouflage T-shirt shows off the shoulders of a dedicated weightlifter. Hes got skull tattoos on the back of his right hand, a stud earring, and a finger ring that bears the head of a snarling wolf.

Certain sicarios Ive met in the past have come across as arrogant, eager to boast about their exploits. Tout their love of violence for its own sake. Others are given to lamentations for their misdeeds. But Capache is different. Formal and soft-spoken, he talks of his past without braggadocio or any gnashing of teeth, but instead with an almost monotone matter-of-factness, as if the spirit of youth has been burned out of him by all hes seen. Turned into an old soul before his time.

I was just 14 when I left home to join the [Jalisco] Cartel, he says. The son of a single mother with 10 other children, Capache had stopped going to school the year before because the family had no money to pay for his tuition. He was working in a restaurant in the village of Ocotito when a childhood friend recruited him to enter the CJNGs training program.

We had nothing. No money to eat with. I was tired of seeing my mom go hungry. And I knew I could make 10 times more working for them. As soon as I heard the offer I knew thats what I had to do. Less than a week later I was on a bus for Jalisco.

You knew they would kill you if you refused.

CJNG leader Nemesio Oseguera, aka El Mencho, has long sought to control drug production zones in Guerrero, which is the point of origin for about 50 percent of the heroin that enters the U.S. Lately its also become an important staging ground for synthetic drugs like fentanyl, which is mixed with heroin in processing labs located in the states remote and lawless mountains. An extensive recruitment effort aimed at the masses of impoverished young men with bleak futures from across Mexico is one of the reasons CJNG has become so powerful so fast.

Less than a decade old, the CJNG has already proved itself to be an extremely violent, predatory, and ascendant cartel backed up by increasingly capable paramilitary forces, says Bunker. When pushed by the Mexican state it is also not afraid to directly strike back and ambush federal forces.

Menchos mafia is now present in some two dozen Mexican states, as well as the U.S., South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, according to Bunker. While many crime groups in Mexico act more like loose coalitions, with little top-down planning or organization, Mencho has taken a different tack.

As Bunker explains, part of the secret to his groups success is the centralization of CJNG under one leader and some capable senior officers, which allows for the close planning and coordination needed to shift its paramilitary units from one operational area to another.

Training Day

Capache arrived in Guachinango, state of Jalisco, with little more than the clothes on his back. He slept with other young recruits in a cluster of tents. Some of the instructors were retired members of the Mexican special forces. Others were active-duty military personnel who were also on the cartel payroll. One of the first things they told Capache was that he did not have the right to leave.

At first I missed my family and thought about running away. But if you tried to escape youd be hunted down and killed. I saw others try to get away and they were always caught. Some of those would-be escapees were doused with gasoline and burned alive in front of their comrades, Capache says. Others had explosives taped to their body and ignited.

There was no going back, he says, seated at the scarred wooden table in the safe house.

As an initiate Capache received general infantry-style training, including small-unit tactics, target practice with assault rifles, belt-fed machine guns and grenade launchers, and field-stripping weapons while blindfolded.

The dismembering of a victim and/or eating their flesh is a homicidal and heinous act that bonds [recruits] to the cartel.
Robert Bunker, U.S. Army War College

Large-scale gangs like the CJNG consider this kind of curriculum worth the cost of investment because criminal groups that field untrained gunmen get chewed to bits in [armed] engagements with cartel personnel that have better paramilitary and military levels of training, Bunker says.

In addition to such traditional schooling, Capache says he and other recruits were also forced to undergo arduous trials meant to desensitize them to pain. One such exercise involved forcing trainees to undress beneath wasp nests lodged in trees.

Then they [drill instructors] hit the nests with poles or rifle barrels until the wasps came out to attack us. You had to stand there for 10 minutes and without moving at all. If you moved or screamed they beat you for it, he recalls, so it was better just to take the pain.

After about three months of training it was time for the final exam, which involved cutting people up a special way, Capache explains. Recruits took turns administering a specific, byzantine series of stabs and slashes to a live victimusually a thief or petty criminal the cartel deemed deserving of such punishment. The first series of ordered knife cuts was meant to torture for information without killing. Then to strike fatal blows. And at last to cut up the body by hand for disposal.

And if someone didnt want to participate in such a test?

You knew they would kill you if you refused, he says. It was a way to prove you were loyal to the cartel.

Bunker says such rituals have become commonplace in Mexicos underworld:

The dismembering of a victim and/or eating their flesh is a homicidal and heinous act that bonds [recruits] to the cartel as if they had joined a cult. It is viewed as a rite of passage into your new life and burns your moral and ethical bridges with traditional society.

From Captive to Vigilante

Capache started work for the cartel as a halcon, or spy, in the city of Ameca, Jalisco. Posted in houses near strategic points around the city, he would spend 12-hour shifts calling out the movements of police, soldiers, or rival gang members to the local command center via coded radio transmissions. During this time he also helped package and ship assorted narcotics, including cocaine, marijuana and crystal meth. Later he served as a full-fledged sicario and says he was involved in seven or eight firefights against opposing bands or authorities.

Because he was big for his age, had excelled in the organizations training program, and served well in combat he soon graduated to serve in an elite, 35-man bodyguard unit. The platoon-sized force was in charge of security for one of Menchos regional commanders, a mysterious man known only as 090. (According to Capache, the numerical sequence was chosen because it is also the Federal Police radio code for a homicide.)

Finally he was sent back to Guerrero to help recruit others and pave the way for CJNGs takeover of the state. Hed been in the Chilpancingo area for only a few months before he was captured by an autodefensa force called the United Front of Community Police of Guerrero State (FUPCEG). One of the largest groups of its kind in the country, FUPCEG boasts a fighting force of almost 12,000 men stationed in more than 30 municipalities. After a half-year of re-education classes, as Capache calls them, he was invited to join FUPCEGs anti-cartel strike force.

Cartel foot soldiers joining policia comunitarios, or community police, as autodefensas are often called in Guerrero, is a relatively common occurrence. Although their expertise is valued by the self-defense forces, their presence can also contribute to a blurring of the line that separates vigilantes from the organized crime groups they seek to oppose.

At first Capache helped train the vigilantes fresh members, passing on what hed learned in Jalisco about tactical maneuvers and weapons training. He also took part in open battles in the mountains against a regional mafia said to be allied with CJNG, called the Cartel del Sur. Eventually he was sent to back to Chilpancingo, as part of several elite squads assigned to FUPCEGs clandestine limpieza [cleansing] program.

The autodefensa leaders held a press conference last March, boldly announcing that they would start targeting criminals in the city. The expansion of their operations came after a months-long campaign to liberate small towns and villages in the surrounding sierra from the Cartel del Sur, which is led by a particularly ruthless capo named Isaac Navarette Celis.

The Cartel del Sur wants to intimidate the population. They want to dominate Chilpo and control everything. They rob and extort, they kidnap and murder. If they see a woman they like on the street, they just take her. Their ambition leads them to do things they shouldnt, says Capache. Thats why were here to clean up.

Part of that cleaning-up process involves identifying members of the cartel for capture or assassination. When the order goes to out for a hit in Chilpancingo, Capache receives a message with directions on his cell phone. Shortly thereafter a man arrives at the safe house with an untraceable firearm, usually a semi-automatic pistol. (I like a 9 mm Beretta when I can get one, he says, because they almost never jam.)

Capache works as part of a three-man crew that includes a driver and a scout, and they take turns acting as the designated shooter. The safest method, he says, is to engage the intended target from the back of a motorcycle or car.

It gets more difficult when the mark is with a group or protected by bodyguards. In that case, we have women who help us to get them alone, he says. Once the target is vulnerable the women find an excuse to step away and make a phone call.

They tell us where they are and what hes wearing and after that its easy, says Capache. In case the targets are armed, he shoots them first in the head, then in the chest, instead of the other way around.

A Murder Outbreak

Local news reports indicate a string of unsolved killings of young men in and around the provincial capital in the wake of FUPCEG putting Navarette Celiss gang on notice this spring. Capache is reluctant to provide the names of his victims, and my sense is that he fears blowback from both his superiors in FUPCEG and law enforcement if he reveals traceable information. However, the independent press coverage from the last several months shows multiple public assassinations in the barrios and urban zones where autodefensa cells like Capaches are said to operate. Those reports also jibe with specific details of their preferred M.O., such as dismemberment and conducting hits by motorbike.

Capache claims five confirmed kills as part of the FUPCEG hit squad, but says that total doesnt count his work for CJNG or pitched battles with the autodefensas. Such combat experiences are messy, he says, and not like on TV.

Your friends pain helps you keep fighting because it makes you hunger for revenge.

Its hard to know if those he shot in firefights actually died or were only wounded, he says, and he doesnt want to overestimate a kill count that might be incorrect simply to look tough. In answer to a question about what he feels in battle, or during the act of killing an unsuspecting target, he says:

No siento nada mas que adrenalina. I feel nothing but adrenaline.

When I ask if he likes the adrenaline he confesses he does but says its also depressing when your friends get hurt or killed.

He glances away from the open windows to look me straight in the eyes.

But your friends pain also helps you keep fighting, he says, because it makes you hunger for revenge.

A Disturbing Peace

Critics point out that FUPCEGs undercover ops differ little, if at all, from the tactics employed by the cartels themselves.

They call themselves community police, but theyre really no different from sicarios, says Manuel Olivares, director of a Chilpancingo-based NGO called the Jos Mara Morelos y Pavn Regional Center for Human Rights. The NGO director also charges that the state government is complicit in allowing FUPCEG to operate outside the rule of law.

Ultimately theyre enabled by the politicians, he says. The criminals could never carry out a campaign of terror without their support and permission. The level of corruption [in Guerrero] is just incredible. We have a government that cares only for itself.

Bunker agrees with Olivares about the authorities turning a blind eye to vigilante justice in Chilpancingo.

If the autodefensas want to engage in extrajudicial killings by means of death squads to take cartel gunmen and their other personnel off the streets its a freebie for the overwhelmed authorities. Cartel del Sur has a barbaric reputation as far as torture-killings and other deprivations go, so [FUPCEG operations] remove some of the hardcore criminal element plaguing the community.

But Bunker also warns of the danger inherent in relying on civilian militias.

Once autodefensas form they are immediately susceptible to outside criminal influencessuch as cartel penetration and manipulationor they can become corrupted by their new found position of power and become an armed gang in their own right.

Indeed, some local press reports have linked FUPCEG to a shadowy group called the Sierra Cartel, a long-time rival of the Cartel del Sur.

Back in the safe house overlooking Chilpancingo, Capache insists FUPCEGs mission is not about taking over the narcotics trade.

Were here because the people have asked us for support. We came to keep the cartel from killing in this pueblo. Were not against selling coke or other drugs, so long as they dont hurt anybody, he says in that same neutral and affectless voice. All we want is peace.

Capache now makes enough from his work for FUPCEG to help his mother and siblings. He married not long ago, and has a daughter just a couple of months old. He cant visit his family often, he says, because he doesnt want to put them in danger.

Near the end of our interview, I ask him if he ever considers finding another line of work.

Capache says hed like to open his own restaurant someday, but admits it would be hard to leave the autodefensas.

The work is dangerous, but its for a good cause, he says. I finally feel like Im doing something right.

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Dear Son, Its OK to Be a Mamas Boy

My precious, precious boy.

Your love for your mama knows no end.

Since the beginning, you have clung to me; your safety net in this strange world.

When you are sad, it is me you seek. With lips poked out and your head hung low, you pour out your tiny frustrations through broken sentences and words only I can understand.

When the tears stream down your cheeks after yet another collision between your sweet head and the kitchen table, those tiny legs scurry straight to my open arms. I squeeze you tight and shower you with kisses, in the hopes that they will somehow ease your pain.

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When you’re tired, you interlock your tiny fingers with mine and sweetly look up at me and say “It bedtime, Mama…I seepy”, and we barrel up those stairs together straight to bed, where we snuggle and exchange “I love you’s” until those big brown eyes drift off into a peaceful sleep.

Everyone refers to you as a mama’s boy, as if it’s somehow a negative thing. They laugh and joke, and make comments here and there about how soft I am making you. They place a negative connotation on the thought of a male outwardly expressing his feelings. But now and forever, I want you to know that there is nothing wrong with that.

Please never allow anyone to declare that your love and need me for me somehow makes you less of a man. Hugs, kisses, loving words are always welcome and so appreciated. Those that tell you otherwise have been indoctrinated with the age-old idea that men aren’t supposed to show their emotions; a silly notion that I hope you shy away from.

Loving your mother does not make you too soft. It doesn’t make you overly emotional. It doesn’t revoke your manhood.

Loving me means that you respect the role I play in your life. Needing me means that I am doing my job as your protector. It means that I have proven myself to be worthy at the most important job God has ever given me.

My perfect baby boy, your love is so sweet and pure, and I’m honored to be the recipient of all of your sticky toddler kisses. My only hope is that they never, ever end. I know you’ll grow, and our relationship will go through seasons of change, but I promise to always be there for you. You are never too old to need your mother. I will always be your safe place to land.

For now, I’ll hold you close and pray that the clock ticks slowly. I want to savor these moments with you for as long as I can.

Wrap those arms around me, and tonight I’ll hold you tight, and we’ll drift off together with matching smiles. For I find my comfort and solace in your sweet toddler smell, my forever mama’s boy.

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You Can Now Get Carne Asada Steak At Chipotle For A Spicy Addition To Your Burrito

Courtesy of Chipotle

Chipotle’s New Carne Asada Protein Option Will Spice Up Your Burrito Bowls

Visiting Chipotle is seriously such a treat for any foodie. How could anyone not delight in the amazing amount of options available at the fast-casual restaurant? From insanely delicious guacamole to the fresh salsa, Chipotle takes customizing your menu to the next level. For the carnivores in the house, it’s your lucky day. Chipotle is introducing the Carne Asada, a brand new steak option that will roll out nationally on Sept. 19. Spice up your next order with Chipotle’s new Carne Asada protein option.

In a Sept. 17 press release, Chipotle announced its new Carne Asada steak, a premium protein cut into tender slices, seasoned with fresh squeed lime and topped off with hand-chopped cilantro and signature spices. Chipotle Rewards members were the first to hear about the new menu item, which BTW, has been approved for the Whole30 program and is paleo-friendly, if that matters to you. “Our Carne Asada steak is amazingly tender, hand cut, and grilled fresh every day. It performed incredibly well in the test markets and we’re excited to be introducing this terrific, new steak nationwide for a limited time,” said Chris Brandt, Chief Marketing Officer of Chipotle, in the press release.

Chipotle is making sure customers get the chance to try out the new Carne Asada steak, with free delivery on Carne Asada every Sunday in September using the Chipotle app or the Chipotle website to order. You’ll want to note that the minimum order $10 and the maximum order is $200, excluding tax. Act fast to get your hands on the meaty meal, since deliveries are all subject to availability.

Courtesy of Chipotle

The Carne Asada is totally worth the celebration, since it’s the company’s newest protein addition since the return of chorizo in Sept. 2018. Though Chipotle has largely stuck to the classic menu that fans know and love, the company has been keeping busy, sending plenty of new menu items to its New York City test kitchen, like quesadillas, nachos, chocolate milkshakes, avocado tostadas, and an updated salad. If you’re surprised Chipotle hasn’t rolled out a classic recipe like quesadillas yet, it’s because they take two and a half minutes to cook. It doesn’t seem like a long amount of time, but for a fast-casual restaurant like Chipotle, the customer experience of convenience and efficiency is paramount. “The worst-case scenario is the person in front of you orders a quesadilla,” Brian Niccol, Chief Executive Officer of Chipotle, told The New York Times.

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan that will take a pass on trying the Carne Asada steak, don’t worry. Since the fast-casual chain rolled out its new diet-based bowls, called “Lifestyle Bowls,” in January 2019, there are options for you like the Vegan Bowl and the Vegetarian Bowl. The Vegan Bowl comes with Sofritas, the highly popular vegan protein option that the company introduced in 2014. So, the next time you stop by your local Chipotle, remember that the world truly is at your fingertips. At this fast-casual restaurant, there’s always something for everyone.

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Some Of The Funniest, Alarming, And Unusual Cases Of Animals Getting Stuck And Needing Rescue This Year

It seems as if every other day some wily animal or another gets itself all wrapped up in some human-made contraption. From taco-stealing bears to soccer-playing deer, we’re rounding off a few of the funniest (and alarming) moments this year capturing wildlife getting mixed up with the wrong human crowd.

That Super Fat Rat That Got Stuck In A German Manhole

The internet had a solid laugh back in February when a particularly rotund rat got itself stuck in a sewer manhole in Germany, prompting local authorities to respond to the small animal’s rescue. A video captured at the scene showed the nine-person rescue team lifting the cover and rolling it to the side before helping the chubby female from her entrapment. Following her rescue, firefighters released the rat back into the sewer.

Florida Aquarium Staff Form Human Chain To Rescue Dolphins Trapped In Canal

Clever thinking by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) helped save a group of four dolphins trapped in a canal earlier this month. Volunteers formed a human chain to create a visual barrier to gently encourage the dolphins to go under bridges on the canal, which officials believe the dolphins perceived as physical obstacles. But don’t go trying this at home. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, similar actions are illegal in the wild and can result in harm to both humans and animals.

Black Panther Spotted Skulking Atop The Rooftops Of Small French Town

A black panther seen prowling rooftops in the small French town of Armentières made headlines in September after viral images showed the feline slinking along the second-story gutter of a block of six houses. It took authorities around 2.5 hours to finally apprehend the aptly nicknamed “Panther of Armentieres”.

The animal’s docile demeanor and well-trimmed claws led wildlife officials to believe that it was being kept as a pet by a local owner. After its capture, the cat was relocated to the Maubeuge Zoo about an hour away from the town.

A Mountain Lion Was Totally Busted Breaking Into This California Home

Then there was the mountain lion that invaded one California couple’s home after appearing to chase after their neighbor’s cat. First reported by local news station FOX40, the couple – who are in their 80s, mind you – say they were watching television when “all of a sudden” they “heard a big bang.” The couple was able to coax the animal into the bathroom where it locked itself inside while the duo barricaded themselves in a room. Responding officers reportedly broke the bathroom window, which the mountain lion promptly leaped to freedom through.  

Young Black Bear Gets Cozy In Montana Hotel Bathroom


Apparently, wild animals have an affinity for bathrooms. A young black bear climbed through a window and got comfortable in the bathroom of a Montana hotel in early September, reported local television station KRTV3. The bear was so cozy, in fact, that wildlife officials had to tranquilize it and carry it outside before releasing it in a more remote area.

Bear Cub Gets Stuck In Dumpster, Requires Police Assistance

While we’re on the topic of bears, let’s venture over to Lake Tahoe, California where a cub become stuck in a dumpster outside of a local motel. As any good sibling would do, a second cub attempted to help its sibling by climbing onto its mothers back to help the other out. When that didn’t work, officers from the sheriff’s department placed a ladder inside of the dumpster so that the little nugget could help himself out.

Hungry Bear Breaks Into Home, Raids Family’s Fridge

Okay, we just can’t get enough of these rambunctious bears. Another California family was caught off-guard when they were watching television and heard a noise coming from the kitchen late at night, reported UPI at the time. When they went to investigate, they were met with a black bear raiding the refrigerator and snatching taco meat and ice cream (I mean, at least it had good taste). The bear apparently entered the home through the family’s garage and police were able to shoo it away by shooting at it with a special bear round from a shotgun.  

Terrified Deer Dangles Above Ground After Becoming Trapped In Fence

Just a few hours away, a deer stuck in a fence in Lodi, California required a full-on fire department rescue, reported the local CBS television station at the time. Somehow, the deer had become trapped between two bars of a neighborhood fence. While trying to break free, the deer slipped and was captured dangling above ground before officials could come to the rescue. Eventually, rescue crews were able to get the animal out of the fence using jaws-of-life steel breakers, and she escaped to safety.

Truck Driver Rescues Another Deer Caught In A Soccer Goal

To be fair, deer have antlers and we would imagine those things are pretty tricky to navigate with. At least, that appears to be the case with one deer who got itself stuck in a soccer net on Long Island. Fortunately for the deer, a truck driver spotted the animal thrashing about and was able to coax the animal to the ground and patiently detangle the net from its antlers.  

A reminder though, in case you find yourself in the vicinity of an animal that appears to need help: contact the authorities or animal rescue first, before attempting anything yourself. Many people have caused more damage by intercepting in a situation they should have left to the experts. 

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Couple Spends A Year And $65k To Build Their Dream Yurt And It Looks Amazing

Home is where love resides, where memories are created, and family feels welcome, or however the saying goes. Be it all those cheesy things or not, every person needs a home. Some inherit it, others buy it, and then there are those who build it with their own hands. Zach Both and Nicole Lopez are the kind of people who shaped their own den with the help of friends and family.

They didn’t just build any house, as one would assume. The couple decided to go for a yurt. And while the word might bring images of simplicity and minimalism to mind, this yurt’s interior design tells a completely different story.

Both created a site titled “Do It Yurtself” where he not only details the process of constructing your own yurt out of a kit, but also offers helpful insight to anyone who decides to do something similar. The man describes the site as a friendly advisor. “An opinionated right-hand man who provides insight to those interested in building a yurt and embracing an alternative lifestyle,” the young filmmaker says. “This helping hand is free to use and completely void of expectation for something in return.”

In an interview with Bored Panda, Zach revealed some details on the project. Like the fact that it was Lloyd Kahn’s iconic Shelter book who introduced him to the world of yurts. “Among the pages describing indigenous building methods and vernacular architecture, you’ll find a smattering of paragraphs dedicated to the traditional tent-like structure often used by the nomadic tribes of Central Asia,” he explained.

A couple put a modern twist on a yurt to build their dream home from scratch

“The finished yurt is 730 sq ft with an additional bedroom loft that adds approximately 200 sq ft to the space,” Both told Bored Panda. He reiterated how easy it actually was to construct the yurt from a kit. “The actual yurt was built during a single weekend with a group of friends—most of whom had barely picked up a drill before,” he added. “Nicole and I stumbled through everything from running plumbing and electrical lines, to framing walls with sheetrock and resurfacing our salvaged wood flooring. It was our first time attempting any of it. The yurt acted as our construction laboratory where we could experiment and learn many new skills that we’ll carry into future projects.”

Image credits: Zach Both

Image credits: Zach Both

“For the past year, Nicole and I have been building a modern yurt 20 minutes outside of Portland,” Zach explains. However, to anyone discouraged by such a long time, he is quick to clarify. “The actual yurt structure goes up pretty quick,” the man explains in the FAQs of the site. With the base taking roughly 1-3 weeks to the actual construction of the yurt (from a kit) only 2-4 days, it’s not impossible to build such a structure in a month.

Image credits: Zach Both

“Our own little oasis about 20 minutes outside of downtown Portland. 30ft in diameter. 730 sq ft w/ an additional 200 sq ft loft. The exterior structure is a kit that we built (most yurts in the US are manufactured by about 10 different “yurt companies”). Interior was completely custom.”

“Day 1 at the site. Attempting to clear as many of the overgrown blackberries as we can”

Image credits: Zach Both

The man also mentions that the project was completely self-funded with the money he saved up from a previous job and cost roughly $65k in total. “The yurt structure came in at $31k [and] the platform base cost $10k,” Both elaborated. The rest of the expenses went to the interior (building supplies, furniture, and appliances). However, the man stresses that it’s always possible to go for cheaper options, they simply wanted to create “a modern yurt which came with modern costs”.
The star of their stunning yurt is the bedroom loft that is surrounded by dozens of plants. “Lots of pothos, philodendrons, prayer plants and some curly figs,” he said.

Image credits: Zach Both

“Once the ground was clear and relatively level, I set up all the string lines to mark out where our footings would go. Went with a Toro Dingo to dig the twelve footing holes. 3ft deep, 18 inches wide. It was so incredibly muddy, I had to use plywood sheets just so the dingo had traction to move. I was out there digging probably until 10 pm that night.
The concrete mix pictured is roughly 1/3rd of the total concrete we used. Totaled 128 80lbs bags, mixed on site and poured by hand. My dad took his one week off to help with this monumental stage of the build. Really couldn’t have done it without him!”

Once the base was done, they picked up the yurt kit from Washington and started with the door

Image credits: Zach Both

“I can count the number of carpentry projects I’ve undertaken on one hand,” Zach explained on his site. To anyone discouraged by building or carpentry experience needed, the man reassures that what is needed is very minimal. “If you don’t struggle following along with an Ikea manual, a yurt should not be any more technically challenging,” he said. It might need more people than a smaller scale project, but the principle is the same.

Image credits: Zach Both

“The lattice comes in a compact form and is stretched out like an accordion along the edge of the platform. Sketchy process putting in the first couple rafters. Up on the scaffolding, two people had to hold the ring up while another person up top slid the rafters into their appropriate holes.”

Image credits: Zach Both

And if that doesn’t completely win you over or you’re terrified of picking up a hammer and a saw, there are still options for you if a yurt is what you’re craving. “Each yurt manufacturer will most likely have their own preferred installer and will be able to direct to the right person,” the description on the site reads.

Image credits: Zach Both

“First layer of the roof is a fabric cover. This is what you see from the inside. The plastic sheeting is temporary so that the cover is not marked by the recently black stained rafters. Next comes the reflective foil insulation. We opted for two layers of this. Easily catches on to the wind on a breezy day! Once in place, this layer was stapled to the tops of the rafters underneath. The final vinyl cover is waterproof and weighs 200+ lbs. Quite the beast to install.”

Image credits: Zach Both

“We wanted to build an interior room with a circular loft inside the yurt. The room would house a bathroom (yay, privacy!) and the loft would become our bedroom. Fully kitted out mockup I made in Sketchup to try to nail down the style. Very modern and clean was what we were going for.”

After installing electricity and plumbing, the couple set out to decorate the interiors

Image credits: Zach Both

“Nicole doing a beautiful job sanding the finished floor. Using salvaged doug fir flooring probably added weeks to the project. PSA: FINISH FLOORING BEFORE PUTTING UP THE YURT.”

Image credits: Zach Both

“Building the planter up on the loft with my little brother, Silas.”

“This is more of a “faux” planter because there wouldn’t be any loose dirt inside. All plants would stay in their plastic pots”

Image credits: Zach Both

And the finished result is truly stunning!

Image credits: Zach Both

This is how the yurt looks from the inside

Image credits: Zach Both

Image credits: Zach Both

The source of heat and comfort – the wood stove. Zach jokes that they constructed it despite the manual for it being in Danish.

“Office. Here I am very concentrated on some difficult subtraction arithmetic”

Image credits: Zach Both

“In the kitchen enjoying watermelon we did not grow”

Image credits: Zach Both

“Here I am ditching Maya in our back entry to go up to the loft…”

Image credits: Zach Both

“…where Nicole is trolling people on Reddit”

Image credits: Zach Both

Image credits: Zach Both

“We’re not the first ones to build a yurt and we certainly won’t be the last. Our intention from the beginning was to create a free online guide for people interested in building their own yurts,” Zach added. ” I’m hoping it will become the first place people visit for information if they’re interested in what it’s like to build and live in a yurt,” the man concluded, referring to his site.

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Brexit vote ‘probably a mistake’, says Sir Paul

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionSir Paul McCartney tells BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis he has to “get inspired’ to vote

Sir Paul McCartney has said the Brexit referendum was “probably a mistake” and he will “be glad when it’s over”.

He had not voted in the referendum, he said, as he “didn’t see anybody saying anything sensible enough”.

Sir Paul said the current situation was “a mess” but added: “I think we’ll come through it, we always do.”

The former Beatle was speaking to BBC News as he – with daughters, Stella and Mary – released a book of personal photos, taken by his late wife, Linda.

Reflecting on the 2016 Brexit vote, Sir Paul said the arguments made during the campaign had been “all crazy promises”.

“What put me off was that I was meeting a lot of older people, kind of pretty much my generation.

“And they were going, ‘All right Paul – it’s going to be like it was in the old days, we’re going to go back.’ And it was like, ‘Yeah? Oh, I’m not sure about that.’ And that attitude was very prevalent.

“I vote for someone I believe in and so often there’s nobody I believe in. I have to get a bit inspired. At the moment I’m not really inspired.”

‘Little pieces of art’

Linda McCartney, who died aged 56 in 1998, began her photographic career in New York, shooting rock stars.

The book – Linda McCartney The Polaroid Diaries – compiles more than 200 photographs from her private collection and offers a glimpse into the family’s life in Scotland and southern England.

“For us, they’re just family photos but because it’s Linda, a great photographer, they’re little pieces of art,” Sir Paul said.

Image copyright The Polaroid Diaries, Taschen

“I’d been through a very difficult period at the end of the Beatles. It was like hell.

“But I’d just met this beautiful woman and we were raising a family, so we decided to escape, so we escaped to Scotland and lived a very funky life.”

The Polaroids show pet hamsters, a lamb in the kitchen, bath-times, birthday cakes and the McCartney children playing dress-up.

Mary McCartney said the photos showed a “simple” life, where as a baby she had slept in a bed made by her father from old potato boxes.

Image copyright The Polaroid Diaries, Taschen

“There’s a lot of Mum in these pictures,” said Mary, who, like her mother, is also a photographer.

Stella, a fashion designer, said her mother had captured “quite surreal moments” and talked of the difficulty in releasing such an intimate book.

“I find it quite hard because we’re a very protective family, we lived in the middle of nowhere all together and we didn’t really come out and talk about it,” she said.

“I grew up very much protecting the family unit.”

Image copyright The Polaroid Diaries, Taschen

Stella, who has previously advocated not washing clothes in the interest of the environment, was also asked about her role in the polluting fashion industry.

“I believe that the product I’m making is a far better solution to what is already existing in my industry,” she said.

“I want to try and promote that you can still have a healthy, fashionable luxurious business and you don’t have to kill animals and you don’t have to harm the planet.”

Sir Paul went on to defend the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who have been criticised for their use of a private jet.

“I think it’s unfair. People fly,” he said. “Give the girl a break. They do more good than harm.”

You can watch the full interview on Newsnight on BBC Two at 22:30 on Thursday. Catch up on iPlayer, subscribe to the programme on YouTube and follow it on Twitter.

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Let’s Face It: The 2019 Summer Movie Season Was Dreadful

With summer coming to a close, we can finally say goodbye to what was arguably the most horrendous movie season in the history of summer movie seasons. Good riddance.

Profits dipped and quality plunged. Ticket sales in the United States and Canada are projected to total $4.33 billion, a 2% decline from last year, according to the media analytics firm ComScore. But the fine print is what’s important. Disney monopolized the summer to a vast degree, meaning a disconcerting amount of that revenue belongs to one studio alone. Even sequels that seemed like surefire hits for rival companies — Warner Bros.’ “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” and Sony’s “The Angry Birds Movie 2,” for example — fell short of expectations.

Who can blame audiences for that? “King of the Monsters” was soulless cacophony. Why leave the couch? At the risk of sounding like a grumpy bore, the summer’s lineup had little to offer discerning moviegoers itching for variety, aside from a few gems (“Booksmart,” “The Farewell,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”).

The blockbuster deluge nowadays starts in mid- to late April, which gives us four months’ worth of existential crises rippling through the industry. Here are some upshots.

Disney Had The Quantity. Where Was The Quality?

Summer began with an “Endgame.” After 11 years and 22 installments, Marvel’s core “Avengers” franchise bid a three-hour adieu to Iron Man and the other OG crusaders who turned superheroes into Hollywood’s leading capital. Good luck to anything that hopes to unseat its spot atop the year’s box-office charts, where it became the fastest movie in history to earn $1 billion globally.

More tellingly, “Avengers: Endgame” was a harbinger of Disney’s huge summer payday, as well as a reflection of the studio’s overwhelming cultural sovereignty. No one can compete with the Mouse House, which in March added the 84-year-old 21st Century Fox to a cache that already includes Pixar, Lucasfilm and Marvel.

Disney followed “Endgame” with a live-action “Aladdin,” “Toy Story 4” and a pseudo-live-action “Lion King,” three overwhelming moneymakers that tweaked familiar stories from the ’90s. As a result, Disney can now claim four (including March’s “Captain Marvel”) of the year’s five highest grossers ― an imperialism that threatens to further homogenize Hollywood’s ethos. If Disney has no steadfast competition in the marketplace, what incentive does it have to amplify the creativity of its output? (Sorry, but no matter what you thought of the “Lion King” reboot, “creative” is not a word that applies.) 

This isn’t the only red flag in Disney’s corner. The studio’s leadership axed much of Fox’s development slate after the acquisition went through, which implies that Fox ― home of exemplars like “All About Eve,” “The Sound of Music,” “Alien” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” ― will be molded to resemble its parent company. Meanwhile, the forthcoming streaming service Disney+ announced new editions of “Home Alone,” “Night at the Museum,” “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” It’s old hat to bemoan the industry’s remake mania, but the summer has felt more unrelenting in this department than ever before.

Zazu, Mufasa and Simba in “The Lion King.”

Brad Pitt Lost To ‘The Lion King,’ Again 

Despite being summer’s highest-grossing movie without a franchise affiliation, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” debuted behind “The Lion King,” which held on to the No. 1 ranking in its second weekend. “Hollywood” is currently Quentin Tarantino’s second-highest-grossing feature behind “Django Unchained.” But one of the film’s leads, Brad Pitt, endured a bit of deja vu. For the third time in his career, his movie succumbed to those cats from Pride Rock.

In 1994, several months after the original “Lion King” had opened, “Interview with the Vampire” fell behind the Disney musical its sixth weekend in theaters. In 2011, “Moneyball” debuted to less revenue than a 3-D conversion of the ’94 smash. And now, this. Pitt still just can’t wait to be king.

Comedy Feels Like A Dying Art

Summer was once a laugh factory. From the ’80s through the 2000s, live-action comedies were as much a seasonal staple as action spectaculars and family fare. Almost every year, multiple comedies landed among summer’s 10 highest grossers. The sun didn’t shine without a major Eddie Murphy, Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, Whoopi Goldberg, Will Smith or Julia Roberts vehicle there to attract its rays. But as intellectual property has replaced movie stars as Hollywood’s box-office kingmakers, comedies built around A-list personalities have grown scarcer. This year, there was nary a “Trading Places,” “Back to the Future,” “Sister Act” or “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” to be found.

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is the closest we got to a hit comedy, but the cult of Tarantino occupies a rarified space that transcends genre classifications. Discounting it, “Yesterday,” “Good Boys,” “The Hustle,” “Long Shot,” “Booksmart,” “Stuber,” “Late Night,” “Poms” and “The Dead Don’t Die” all opened to middling sums, with most underperforming by significant margins. Even the most acclaimed of the bunch, “Booksmart,” which should have been every bit as fruitful as the similarly themed 2007 summer knockout “Superbad,” could only muster a depressing $22.7 million.

Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever in “Booksmart.”

The Reevesurgence Is Upon Us 

Let’s pause for some good news. Here’s to everyone who adores Keanu Reeves’ glower. 

In May, the third entry in the “John Wick” series defeated the odds, halting the three-week sweep that “Avengers: Endgame” enjoyed. “Wick” marks a rare series to maintain megasuccess without coasting on established source material. (The other example: “The Fast and the Furious,” which was recently spun off via the lucrative “Hobbs and Shaw.”) Later that month, adopting the ultimate movie-star power move, Reeves played a heightened version of himself ― aggressive, mysterious, bizarre ― in the Netflix rom-com “Always Be My Maybe.” Come June, he voiced a daredevil action figure in “Toy Story 4.” And in August, “The Matrix 4” was announced, ensuring the Reevesurgence has legs.

This quasi-comeback ― Reeves never went anywhere, after all ― is a refreshing example of a hardworking actor finally getting his due, and a testament to the alchemy of classic screen-star mojo.

So Many Great Actresses Wasted By Terrible Scripts

One of summer’s least lucrative horror stories: Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Tessa Thompson, Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss, Cate Blanchett and Diane Keaton were lost to bad movies. Not routine disappointments, but flat-out misdemeanors. 

I have a soft spot for “Ma,” which gave the 47-year-old Spencer her first lead role and is almost bonkers enough to overcome its own shoddiness, but “The Hustle” (starring Hathaway and Rebel Wilson), “Men in Black: International” (starring Thompson), “The Kitchen” (starring McCarthy, Haddish and Moss), “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” (starring Blanchett and based on a difficult-to-adapt bestseller) and “Poms” (starring Keaton and other top-notch septuagenarians) barely merited green lights. Over at Netflix, “Wine Country” (starring Amy Poehler and friends) and “Otherhood” (starring Angela Bassett, Patricia Arquette and a scandal-ridden Felicity Huffman) arrived with little fanfare and baffling banality.

If these films looked good on paper, you wouldn’t know it from the finished products. Each required its respective star(s) to infuse life into dead weight. Character-driven movies like these serve as alternatives to the more costly provisions that monopolize summer. But when none deliver, it’s harder to guarantee a diversified slate in the future.

Elisabeth Moss, Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish in “The Kitchen.”

Sundance Fare Didn’t Fare Well

Every January, distribution companies snatch up a smattering of movies at the Sundance Film Festival, some of which become blockbuster counterprogramming. Those that hit theaters in recent months were alarmingly DOA.

Amazon spent huge sums on “Late Night” ($13 million) and “Brittany Runs a Marathon” ($14 million), while Warner Bros. shelled out an eye-popping $15 million for the Bruce Springsteen singalong “Blinded by the Light.” It’s easy to see the appeal of these acquisitions: Each is an ostensible crowd-pleaser that would have obvious commercial clout in a less homogenous marketplace. But the disparity between Sundance’s indie sensibilities and America’s current moviegoing habits has never been greater. Amazon barely recouped its expenses on the poorly marketed “Late Night,” but at least the retail behemoth will benefit from exclusive streaming rights. Warner Bros., on the other hand, has to more or less cut its losses on “Blinded by the Light,” which bowed to a paltry $4.3 million in wide release. (“Brittany Runs a Marathon” just opened last weekend, so time will tell how far it can sprint.)

Meanwhile, “The Tomorrow Man,” “Ophelia” and “Luce” didn’t even crack $1 million in earnings. “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” scraped together $4.5 million ― a decent tally for an idiosyncratic gentrification drama without name-value stars, but nothing earth-shattering.

“The Farewell” was the only Sundance success story, and even it doesn’t look very flashy on paper. Featuring last summer’s breakout star Awkwafina, the family dramedy has amassed $14.7 million after more than a month in theaters. Trendy distributor A24 spent about $6 million on the movie’s rights, so without knowing how much subsequent marketing costs set the company back, that’s a profitable turnaround and a good omen for second-time director Lulu Wang, who in July booked a sci-fi feature for her next project.

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Listen To This: Blackout! – Perez Hilton

Trisha Paytas is giving us a cheap Britney Spears impersonation and it’s actually so satisfying! And not in an ironic way!


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Check out the Blackout-lite track Red Flags above!

Then CLICK HERE to listen to more music from Trisha Paytas!

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