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2018-01-21T10:14:57.489Z
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This article was published in collaboration with the Marshall Project.

I was released in 2015, after serving 20 years for murder in New Mexico. While inside, I worked as a baker in the cafeteria at the Corrections Department. Then, when I got out, my first job was in that same kitchen, serving green-chili cheeseburgers and burritos and chicken-fried steak.

I was the first ex-prisoner allowed to work in the state system as part of something new called the Returning Citizen Program. The idea was that the Corrections Department would hire guys back after they got out. The goal was to reduce recidivism, to give people the skills they need to be successful.



They needed someone who would represent the new program well, and I think it helped that I had interacted with the public already, selling bracelets and earrings I’d made at a prison craft fair. I donated the profits to the Ronald McDonald House, and the program officials had let me be interviewed by a newspaper while I was still inside.

I was a bit apprehensive about going back to the same place I’d been incarcerated all those years. But this was different, since I wouldn’t actually be living in a prison. Mostly, I was afraid of small things: What if I did my taxes wrong, and the IRS sent me back to prison for real? What if I accidentally violated...

Within the first minute of our phone call, Texas state governor candidate Lupe Valdez emphatically tells me, “I’m the best candidate!” A half hour later, she’d end the conversation with the exact same words and a light chuckle.

It’s a winning attitude she’ll need as she takes on Texas’s current Republican governor, Greg Abbott, in this November’s election. And though the cards are stacked against her—the chances she’ll defeat an incumbent were already low before reports emerged that her campaign is running on just $46,000 (versus Abbott’s $43 million)—the underdog spirit of Valdez’s campaign, and hopes it could be a force in turning out Latino voters, make it more valuable than the sum of its parts.

A large part of that has to do with her backstory: Valdez, 70, was the first out lesbian and the first Latina to become a sheriff in the state, a position she held for 12 years before quitting last month. That decision was partly motivated by a wave of discriminatory legislation in the state, including a transphobic bathroom bill introduced last year and a decision this June by the state’s Supreme Court that limits the applicability of federal same-sex marriage laws to marriage benefits.

In Texas, where Abbott is reviled among LGBTQ constituents for his advocacy on behalf of both of those efforts, Valdez’s campaign represents a rebuttal to a rise of conservative politics and racist, xenophobic, and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. VICE...

When Bill Cosby went to trial last June for allegedly drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004, it was in many ways a test of how much the judicial system had caught up with rapidly changing public opinions about sexual assault in America. When a verdict couldn't be reached, it was proof that a gulf still exists between average jurors and the media world that disgraced the legendary comedian.

Now, Cosby will face a retrial in Pennsylvania on April 2, and his prosecutors reportedly want to make a major change to their strategy the second go-around. According to the New York Times, the Montgomery County district attorney's office has asked that 19 accusers—of the roughly 50 who have publicly accused Cosby of assault—join Constand in testifying against the comedian. Judge Steven T. O'Neill, who presided over the first trial, only let one additional accuser testify last year.

When prosecutors asked for a second trial, experts speculated that it might be a bit of a fool's errand. The thinking was that if they changed their strategy too significantly, it would be obvious grounds for an appeal later on. But the national conversation has about consent has progressed immensely since even last summer, with accusations against people like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey illustrating to the general public that powerful men sometimes have a bevy of victims who don't come forward for years. Perhaps in...

Though it was only started five years ago as a UK charity campaign, the Dry January challenge is rapidly becoming a worldwide phenomenon. With a reported 3.1 million Britons and countless others around the globe now in their third week of teetotaling, I worried that the monotony of clean living might be starting to frustrate the participants.

I based this worry primarily on the mood of my own roommate, who’s giving the challenge a go, and cited Dry January as the source of his recent irritability. It seems that it’s in our very nature as humans to seek out consciousness-modifying experiences, and too much time facing the bleakness of existence head on can be a lot to deal with. So, to help my roomie and all other Dry January folk present and future, I decided to explore alternative, all-natural, and substance-free ways of getting fucked up that might provide them some mental escapism in this trying month.

As luck would have it, I’d just been given an updated copy of The Book of Highs: 255 Ways to Alter Your Consciousness Without Drugs. First published in 1973, the compendium lists every conceivable means, positive or negative, of soberly blowing one’s mind. While some of the examples included were a bit of reach (e.g. sleep, movies, golf)...

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

If you’ve ever seen a couple “seeking a third” on Tinder, you might have wondered what it’s like for polyamorous people on dating apps. Though it’s possible that couple you saw were “unicorn hunters” (a controversial descriptor referring to couples looking for a woman to have sex with), there are lots of poly people in varying kinds of relationship arrangements seeking sex, love, both, or even just friendship online.

While some sites, such as OkCupid, have features that have made poly people feel more comfortable and welcomed, there’s at least one major dating site that outright rejects married people from signing up—Plenty of Fish—and recommends they sign up for the once-hacked extramarital affair site Ashley Madison (honestly WTF). Anyway, VICE reached out to a number of people who practice some form of polyamory to ask them about their experiences with online dating apps and sites like OkCupid, Tinder, and Facebook dating groups.

The Best (and Worst) Sites

“[I’ve used] Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, and Facebook [poly] dating groups. OkCupid is definitely leading the way in terms of being more accommodating to both polyamorous people and trans people. They have a lot of ways to define your relationship orientation. I always leave that I am seeing someone, even if I’m not in a big relationship at the time.” —Heath, 38

“My three favorites for online dating are FetLife, Reddit, and Pure. The reason I like FetLife is because it’s a...

For the past few weeks, it seems like everyone in America has been asking themselves one question: Why the hell are teens filming themselves biting into Tide Pods? Inexplicably, the poisonous laundry globs have been munched, cooked, and, because there is no God, vaped for internet fame. What started as a joke about the detergent balls being mysteriously appetizing has officially gone too far.

Luckily, one Brooklyn pizzeria has offered a solution: an edible "Pied Pod" aimed at saving the teens.

"Listen. We're concerned about the youths. They're eating laundry detergent pods. We needed to do something," Vinnie's Pizzeria in Brooklyn wrote on Instagram Thursday. "Our Pied Pods have [those] bright, alluring colors that youths crave BUT are 100 percent edible and 100 percent not poison."

As soon as we saw them, we felt the same inexplicable urge that's spurred countless teens toward bodily harm and YouTube glory. So we called up Sean Berthiaume, the co-owner of Vinnie's and inventor of the Pied Pod to try some for ourselves.

For Berthiaume, the idea to transform one of the world's most delicious memes into an actual delicacy came to him in a dream.

Check out Marlene Krause's website, webstore, and Tumblr.

Dick art is unavoidable. From the skies to the screen, some people seem unable to stop themselves from making almost anything phallic. Most of the time, dick graffiti is pretty harmless—until the canvas becomes somebody's face.

According to the Aspen Times, 25-year-old Stephen Elmore was drinking with a few friends at a house in Aspen, Colorado, before ending up passed out in the living room. That's when one of his friends decided to throw it back to high school and pull one of the oldest pranks in the book—drawing dicks all over Elmore's face.

Apparently Elmore didn't handle it too well and decided to try to find out who drew the dicks. Fingers were pointed, and a fight broke out after Elmore accused one of the fellow revelers of "drawing dicks on his face." Finally, the homeowner, a 37-year-old woman, fessed up to the crime, saying that, actually, she just drew "balls." That's when Elmore disappeared into the basement and, according to the cops, set the garage on fire.

"I asked Elmore what started [the fire], and he said, 'It was just like by her… drawing penises on my face,'" a local cop wrote in an affidavit. "I asked Elmore if he was just really pissed off and he said, 'Yeah come on man… this is bullshit.'"

Luckily, no one was hurt in the blaze, and it only damaged a...

On The VICE Guide to Right Now, VICE's daily podcast, we delve into the biggest news of the day and give you a rundown of the stories we're reading, working on, and fascinated with.

Today we talk about Steve Bannon's refusal to speak in front of the House Intelligence Committee for 11 hours, Democrat Patty Schachtner's win for a Wisconsin Senate seat over Republican Adam Jarchow, and the ten members of the National Park System Advisory Board who resigned over frustrations with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Then we delve into what the stars have in store for us this year with VICE's in-house astrology expert, Annabel Gat, and what our president can expect based on his astrological sign.

You can catch The VICE Guide to Right Now Podcast on Acast, Google Play, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

This article is part of a weeklong series looking back at the first year of Donald Trump's presidency.

During Donald Trump's presidential campaign, North Korea barely came up. The reality TV star didn't spend too much time on foreign policy—or any policy, really—and in his big "America First" campaign speech in April 2016 that covered global politics he mentioned North Korea only as a problem the US needed to pressure China into solving. Back then, "America First" sounded like old-fashioned isolationism, or maybe even some sort of mercantilism. In any case, it didn't seem like a President Trump would get the US into new wars.

The idea that Trump would forgo international adventures and focus on a domestic agenda has long since gone up in smoke. Hawks in the White House seem to be itching for direct conflict with Iran. Trump has expanded the US military presence in Afghanistan. The use of Special Operations Forces remains on the rise. Most terrifying of all, it seems like every day there's a new sign that an all-out return to war with North Korea is on its way.

North Korea was always going to be a major problem for Trump—Barack Obama explicitly warned his successor about the danger the nuclear-armed nation poised. Throughout the first year of Trump's presidency, North Korea continued to develop an arsenal that could wipe out...

On an all-new episode of VICELAND's HAMILTON'S PHARMACOPEIA, host Hamilton Morris tracks down a handful of low-profile scientists who specialize in making MDMA. His search takes him to a chemist who's responsible for about 1 million MDMA experiences, and Hamilton checks out the laboratory in his shed to see what it takes to make the psychoactive drug.

HAMILTON'S PHARMACOPEIA airs Tuesdays on VICELAND at 10 PM. Find out how to tune in here.

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

Everyone's favorite dystopian tech-anxiety anthology series Black Mirror returned to Netflix with six new episodes. For each one, VICE is going to be exploring some of the ideas raised in the episode with key figures in the show, and the wider world of science and technology.

First up, the "USS Callister"—a Star Trek–like space ship with a twist. The cheesy missions taking place onboard are actually part of a jailbroken video game run off the personal laptop of a tech developer.

This interview contains some spoilers.

VICE: Where did the idea for this episode start? Did you know you wanted to do something in space?
Charlie Brooker: Yeah, it was literally that precise discussion. We were on the set of “Playtest” from season three, and there's a lot of special effects in that. We were discussing what we were going to do next because this was around the time we started to plan season four. Sometimes, when we are talking about and working out what we’re going to do next, we do it in term of specific genre. So we said, “Oh, what haven’t we done yet: musical, or a police procedural.”

Space was one we hadn't done; so how would we do a space episode? What would make a space episode a Black Mirror episode? And also because we were dealing with special effects on "Playtest," this is a tool box I haven't really used much in anything I’ve written. What happens if...

On The VICE Guide to Right Now, VICE's daily podcast, we delve into the biggest news of the day and give you a rundown of the stories we're reading, working on, and fascinated with.

Today, we're going into the archives to bring you one of our favorite interviews. VICE sat down with the groundbreaking artist Marina Abramović to talk about building a career off of subversive performance, and how she's still pushing boundaries, causing controversy, and influencing young people.

You can catch The VICE Guide to Right Now Podcast on Acast, Google Play, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Check out our profile on Abramović online now.

The New Zealand beach town of Whangamata has long been a popular destination for folks looking to have a good time on New Year's Eve, when thousands of teens come to drink, dance, and see some fireworks. But in an effort to cut down on the drunken mayhem, the town imposed a public drinking ban over the holiday—a law that apparently didn't stop a few crafty, determined drinkers from setting up their own boozy sanctuary off the coast.

According to the BBC, the group spent Sunday building a makeshift private island off the Coromandel Peninsula, constructed out of sand, seashells, and a few wooden planks. The revelers set it up at low tide, and dragged out a picnic table and a cooler so they could get blasted out on "international waters," see some fireworks, and stay away from the cops.

"We thought it would be a good laugh and the drinking ban would be a gray area if we were on our own island," organizer Leon Hayward told TIME.

While the less creative among us were getting weird at some shitty club or the Times Square Olive Garden, Hayward and his cohorts drank well into the night out on the sea. According to Stuff, they did a pretty solid job building their structure, because the thing was still standing on Monday morning. Photos of the makeshift island started floating around online after David Saunders posted a picture to...

Check out Allison Conway's Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

Where is the line between truth and sensationalism? The question has dogged the true-crime genre since its inception, and it’s a difficult one to unpack. When does an investigation—and its presentation—become exploitative rather than honest? We’re not any closer to a clear answer, but the scrutiny that the genre demands has, by proxy, affected a sea change in how we consume and think about stories told by and about women.

Casting JonBenet, Alias Grace, and I, Tonya are all based on true stories. Casting JonBenet is loosely centered on the murder of six-year-old child beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey; Alias Grace is a fictionalized account of the life of Grace Marks, who was convicted and pardoned for murdering her employer and his housekeeper; and I, Tonya is a biopic of Tonya Harding, whose fame as a figure skater was eclipsed by her alleged involvement in an attack on fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan. While the three navigate the thornier parts of true crime differently, they all examine the agency—or lack thereof—of their subjects, and how popular fascination and bias have played into the exploitation of these stories.

As a docufilm and a biopic, respectively, Casting JonBenet and I, Tonya are most explicit about the way people engage with true crime. ...

According to Louisiana's Slidell Police Department, Michael Neu is not affiliated with any African royalty. After an 18-month investigation, local investigators concluded that he's just a con artist with a prolific track record. Last Thursday, the 67-year-old was arrested and charged with 269 counts of wire fraud and money laundering for serving as a middleman in a variation of the so-called Nigerian prince scam, NOLA.com reports.

The scheme Neu is charged with running predates the days of dial up and usually follows the same narrative. In one iteration, someone claims that a benefactor—often a Nigerian prince—left you an inheritance, but that your bank account information is needed to transfer the funds. In some versions, the scammers ask victims to send money that will later be reimbursed along with the funds—though it never is, and the funds don't exist.

Neu's arrest is notable because—while the Nigerian prince scam has reached a certain level of cultural saturation—very few perpetrators get caught. The Slidell Police Department said in its statement that the investigation is ongoing but "extremely difficult as many leads have led to individuals who live outside of the United States." According to the New York Times, some of the money was wired to Nigeria.

It's unclear why a local police department's financial crimes unit took on the case, as Neu allegedly participated in defrauding people all over the country. A public information officer in Slidell did not return a request for comment...

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

Spirituality has always been a prominent part of the Star Wars universe, from Han Solo dismissing the force as a “hokey religion” in 1977, to more explicitly organized versions of the Jedi Order in 2016’s Rogue One and the most recent The Last Jedi.

That fictional worldview, however hokey, has spilled over into the real world. The 2001 Australian census famously found that more than 70,000 Aussies identified, religiously, as Jedi Knights (that same year, Canada recorded 20,000 of its own Jedi). You could be forgiven for dismissing that number as a wide-scale exercise in trolling, like voters identifying Deez Nuts as their favored candidate in an American presidential election. But Jediism is a very real phenomenon (although it's smaller in scale than these census results might suggest), and the Jedi aren’t kidding, as we can plainly see in American Jedi, now available on iTunes.

The new doc follows three aspiring Jedi as they work to earn a place in the community. These aren’t fans or cosplayers taking their geeky obsession to the next level, though. It’s immediately clear that their belief in Jediism is part of a deeper worldview and a genuine quest for answers and belonging.

The...

After 43-year-old Eric Garner was killed by an illegal NYPD chokehold on Staten Island in 2014, his daughter Erica cried out for police reform in America. Her dad's alleged offense—selling loose, untaxed cigarettes—fit into a pattern of law enforcement preying on communities of color for minor offenses, and Erica, like thousands of others, demanded accountability from police who seemed to occupy as much as they protected and served.

When Erica Garner died at just 27 this weekend after a heart attack and subsequent coma, a long-standing conversation about self-care in activist circles resurfaced. But those who know racism kills in this country can't be blamed for seeing another culprit here.



A few weeks after Eric Garner's killing, Michael Brown, 18 and unarmed, was shot dead by Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, spurring nationwide protests among those weary of an unrelenting police brutality. The wait-and-let’s-see-what-the-justice-system-does approach that prevailed in 17-year-old Trayvon Martin’s 2012 shooting death, where wannabe cop George Zimmerman got off scot-free, was over. The extrajudicial killing of Eric Garner was a crucial catalyst for the genesis of the Black Lives Matter movement, as people across the country chanted his final words, “I can’t breathe.”

Erica Garner's...

When revelations about Harvey Weinstein's alleged sexual misconduct broke in October, Rose McGowan became one of #MeToo's most outspoken members, publicly accusing the producer of rape and backing up women who came forward with their own stories. Now that crusade will be chronicled for TV in a new documentary series for E!, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

McGowan, who shifted to directing after acting in cult films like Scream and Grindhouse, will star in and executive produce a five-part series called Citizen Rose. According to E! News, the series focuses on her battle to take down alleged sexual predators and her work on a "memoir/manifesto" called BRAVE. Both the book and the two-hour premiere will drop on January 30.

"You are formally invited into my mind and world. I am thrilled to partner with E! to amplify my message of bravery, art, joy, and survival," McGowan said in a statement. "As I ready my book, BRAVE, I realized I wanted to show how we can heal through art even when being hounded by evil."

According to a statement from E!'s Amy Introcaso-Davis, the executive vice president of development and production, Citizen Rose follows McGowan from the time the first accusations against Weinstein were made public. Aside from accusing the producer herself, McGowan has used her Twitter account—with more than 900,000 followers—as a megaphone for stories from other alleged victims, and called out...