‘I Will Never Stop Looking,’ Vows Missing Man’s Pregnant Fiancée

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The pregnant fiancée of James Matthew Ragan, a Bristol, Tennessee, man who disappeared during a fishing trip last week, says she’ll never give up the search.

“I can’t give up hope … I gotta keep going and I gotta keep praying,” his fiancée, Jennifer Laughlin, told WJHL-TV on Thursday.

Ragan, 41, was last seen on the afternoon of Feb. 9, when he set out for a fishing and camping trip at South Holston Lake, a 1,600-acre body of water that’s popular with area anglers. He told Laughlin that evening he’d set his camp up and was preparing to go fishing, according to his fiancée. Before he hung up, he said he loved her and promised to call later. That call never came, Laughlin said. She reported him missing on Feb. 11.

Ragan’s family and friends have been searching each day for him ever since he vanished. Organizations east of Knoxville have joined the hunt, along with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency and South Holston Rescue Squad.

Jim Bean, director of Sullivan County’s Emergency Management, told The Bristol Herald Courier, “I really feel for the family. They need some closure.”

Ragan’s overturned canoe was found last Saturday, north of the U.S. Highway 421 bridge, WCYB News reported. As a result, authorities have been treating the case more as a recovery than a rescue, searching the water with cameras and sonar devices.

The methods are upsetting to Ragan’s 17-year-old daughter, Hannah, who has spent every free moment scouring the shoreline.

“They’re trying to recover the body instead of rescuing him,” she told the Herald Courier, adding that her father could still be alive.

“The unknown is the worst part.”

 The search is scheduled to resume Friday morning.

 David Lohr covers crime and missing persons. Tips? Feedback? Send an email  or follow him on Twitter.

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10 Years Later, Britney Spears’ Head-Shaving Moment Is Still Unforgettable

The world had already been watching Britney Spears unravel for years when she walked into a hair salon in Tarzana, California, a decade ago and shaved her head. Days later, a bald Spears attacked a photographer’s car with an umbrella while at a gas station before speeding away.

Photos from these incidents have become lasting reminders of Spears’ downward spiral, and even spawned an inspirational meme declaring, “If Britney can make it through 2007, then I can make it through today.” 

It’s a moment in pop culture history that’s seared into the memories of anyone who even remotely followed celebrity culture in the aughts. But in the context of Spears’ overall breakdown, this event wasn’t even the “rock bottom” that would lead to a hospital stay and her current conservatorship.

While we associate haircuts in pop culture with positive outcomes — a post-breakup fresh start, a makeover — the drastic act of shaving one’s own head takes on a different meaning. Spears literally removed one of her most clearly feminine signifiers, one that was seen as “desirable” on a pop starlet who had been sexualized from the get-go.

Images of a wide-eyed Spears bald as the day she was born, gritting her teeth, are memorable not only because they are visually jarring when compared to her polished pop-star looks, but due to the nature of the act itself.

“She seemed to be trying, with befuddled brilliance, to tell the truth. She recoiled from celebrity culture by mortifying her own flesh. She stripped herself, publicly, of her sexuality. She presented herself as a grotesque,” Mark Stevens wrote in New York Magazine months after the incident. “Few gestures are as symbolically rich as the shaving of a head. That’s what monastics do when they reject the flesh to dedicate themselves to the spirit. In boot camp, soldiers lose their individuality with their hair. Delilah cut off Samson’s to make him defenseless.”

For Spears, this was an act of defiance and liberation; throughout her life and career, she was rarely the one in control.

“I was going through so much artificial stuff with my kids and Kevin at the time. He’d just left me and I was devastated,” she told MTV in an interview for the 2008 documentary “For the Record.” “People thought that it was me going crazy and stuff like that, but people shave their heads all the time. I was going through a lot, but it was just kind of like me going through a little bit of rebellion, or feeling free, or shedding stuff that had happened, you know?”

Spears’ message was hard to forget, but the circumstances that led to that moment are just as important to remember. 

She seemed to be trying, with befuddled brilliance, to tell the truth.
Mark Stevens, New York Magazine

Spears burst onto the music scene in 1999 in pigtails and thigh-highs, openly promising to stay a virgin until marriage. She released three albums in as many years and became the reigning princess of pop, selling millions of records. But fame, success and wealth don’t insulate anyone from life’s problems. By 2002, Spears was dealing with a difficult breakup from Justin Timberlake and coping with her parents’ divorce. Not long after, the cracks started to show.

By the time Spears was distressed enough to shave her head in 2007, she had annulled one quickie Vegas marriage, wed backup dancer Kevin Federline, gave birth to two sons, and filed for divorce. Spears had already spent the last few years derailing the carefully crafted image her managers cultivated for her throughout her marriage to Federline.

“Federline gave Britney license to fully embrace her white-trash side — walking into gas-station restrooms barefoot, dumping ashtrays out hotel windows, wearing novelty tees like I’M A VIRGIN, BUT THIS IS AN OLD SHIRT and, most notably, not strapping the kids into car seats,” Vanessa Grigoriadis wrote in Rolling Stone in 2008.

Spears’ behavior was increasingly erratic, and after becoming newly single, she was a fixture in the Los Angeles club scene. Wild nights with Paris Hilton, among other things, eventually landed Spears in rehab in Antigua. She left treatment a day later, headed back to LA, and went to see her kids. But Federline, who had teamed up with her mother and her manager, refused to let her near the boys until she agreed to register for rehab in Malibu. Furious at their demands, it was in this state that Spears drove to Esther’s Haircutting Studio and shaved her own head.

The events that transpired in the months and years after this incident make it seem trivial in comparison.

After losing custody of her children, the singer locked herself in a room with her son Jayden and refused to hand him over to her ex-husband. This led to the singer’s hospitalization in a psychiatric wardwhere she was held involuntarily for observation.

It was then Spears effectively lost her freedom. A judge awarded her father control of Spears’ personal and financial affairs  ― a conservatorship that remains in place to this day, despite the singer’s attempts early on to fight it

 “If I wasn’t under the restraints I’m under right now, with all the lawyers and doctors and people analyzing me everyday and all that kind of stuff. If that wasn’t there, I’d feel so liberated and feel like myself,” Spears revealed in “For the Record,” adding that she felt her life was now “too in control.”

 “There’s no excitement, there’s no passion, there’s no nothing,” she said. “It’s just like ‘Groundhog Day’ every day, you know?”

The conservatorship, which reportedly remains in place indefinitely due to a medical issue and has never been publicly disclosed, is not something Spears has spoken about since talking to MTV in 2008 ― that is, until recently. 

While her comments were ultimately cut from the final broadcast, fans at a September 2016 taping of the “Jonathan Ross Show” reported that Spears finally addressed the conservatorship. 

“I felt like a lot of decisions were made for me, so I wanted [’Glory’] to be my baby and I’ve been really strategic about it,” she reportedly said, explaining that she’s slowly been able to gain more control over her own life. 

Spears, of course, is a success story. Today, the 35-year-old singer headlines in Las Vegas, making $30.5 million last year. She’s clearly flourished under her father’s watch, but there’s an unsettling irony that history will remember her most desperate attempt at autonomy.

Hit Backspace for a regular dose of pop culture nostalgia.

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Teacher Proposes To Colleague In Class And The Kids Go Wild

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What happens when two teachers get engaged right in front of their fifth grade students?

A whole lot of screaming. 

Science teacher Jason Seifert, 39, stood before his class at Harry Russell Elementary School in West Carrollton, Ohio, on Valentine’s Day. His girlfriend and colleague Ally Barker, 28, stood beside him.

“There is a rumor going around that Ms. Barker and I are dating. So it’s about time we address that,” Seifert said in a video that has since gone viral. He went on to confirm that they were in fact an item, but were about to become something more, much to Barker’s surprise.

Check out the adorable exchange in the video above, and make sure your volume is on.

Seifert isn’t the first to arrange an in-class proposal, made even more exciting by the energy of giddy kids losing their minds. Last year, first grade students played a big role in seeing their teacher get engaged in another adorable proposal. 

H/T ABC News.

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Hawaii May Be America’s Wildest Island

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There’s no doubt Hawaii is a wildly gorgeous paradise, but every once in a while, a video of the islands gives us a whole new appreciation for the Aloha State.

And “Hawaii ― The Pace Of Formation,” the video above, does just that.

Filmed by a team of Los Angeles-based videographers, this video features stunning footage of Hawaii’s Big Island, including moments of mesmerizing time lapse. It’s a soothing four minutes of oozing molten lava, rushing waterfalls, crashing waves and the whispers of winds from the highest point on the island, Mauna Kea.

The video serves as a relaxing reminder that Hawaii is always a good idea for getaway.

Want to see what the photographers went through just to get the footage? Watch their adventures in the video below.

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Emma Watson Addresses That ‘Beauty And The Beast’ Stockholm Syndrome Question

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Is “Beauty and the Beast” just a sweetly animated telling of an 18th-century French author’s fairytale about realizing beauty isn’t skin-deep? Or is it, as people have suggested on the internet for years, a perfectly Disney-fied story about one woman’s descent into Stockholm syndrome at the hands of an abusive partner?

Emma Watson, who stars in the upcoming live-action remake, has now weighed in.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the actress explained how the question was one she specifically examined as she decided whether to take on the role of Belle. (We’d expect nothing less from our Hermione, who’s turned into a strong advocate for women’s rights and voices off-screen.) 

Since the film is set to come out with Watson front and center, you can guess at the conclusion she drew. She doesn’t think the story quite fits with Stockholm syndrome, named after the psychology theory that hostages can be made to sympathize with violent captors, or that it sends girls the message that sticking by an abusive partner might change him for the better.

The actress believes the love that develops between Belle and the Beast is untainted because Belle retains much of her autonomy after willingly sacrificing herself for her father to go live with the Beast. In other words, she “gives him hell.”

“Belle actively argues and disagrees with [Beast] constantly. She has none of the characteristics of someone with Stockholm syndrome because she keeps her independence, she keeps that freedom of thought,” Watson told EW.

The “Harry Potter” actress believes her character knows she deserves to be treated well, and fights back to prove it.

“She gives as good as she gets. He bangs on the door, she bangs back. There’s this defiance that ‘You think I’m going to come and eat dinner with you and I’m your prisoner — absolutely not,’” Watson said. The relationship between Belle and the Beast seemed to particularly strike the actress for the gap “where there is this genuine sharing” between the two as they move from disliking to eventually liking one another.

Watson has made sure to advertise the fact that this rendition of the Disney classic is rooted in less dusty old values than other fairytales. Her Belle is given a neat feminist twist ― she’s the inventor, not her father. The actress told EW late last year that the character has a new backstory, “which was that she had invented a kind of washing machine, so that, instead of doing laundry, she could sit and use that time to read instead.” 

Obviously. Hogwarts: A History doesn’t read itself.

“Beauty and the Beast” is set for release March 17.

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Wonder What Hillary Clinton And Kate McKinnon Talked About At Dinner

On Wednesday, reportedly just before catching a Broadway show-slash-lovefest at the Palace Theatre, Hillary Clinton went out to dinner. Accompanying her was “Saturday Night Live” star and professional Clinton impersonator Kate McKinnon.

Page Six revealed a photo of the event, which the outlet said involved “lots of laughter” coming from the women’s table at New York’s Orso.

Clinton has shown herself to be a fan of McKinnon’s comedic impressions in the past, appearing on the show in late 2015. McKinnon has also shown herself a fan of Clinton’s, using the typically punchy cold-open on “SNL” after Nov. 8 to sing a heartbreaking rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” 

Wonder what they talked about.

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What’s For Dinner: Brothy Poached Chicken, The Quickest Meal

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Need more ideas? Check out What’s For Dinner

Sometimes we need a reminder that dinner is actually pretty easy to make happen. It certainly doesn’t feel like it at the end of the day, when our energy levels are in the red.  

This brothy poached chicken soup recipe is the perfect example of a recipe that takes almost zero effort. There is minimal chopping that needs to take place, and the liquid you use to poach the chicken is the base for the soup, which makes it all come together as a meal.

It’s healthy. It’s easy. And it is just the soul-warming, nutritious meal you need to end the night on a high note. Get the written recipe for Brothy Poached Chicken from Bon Appetit and cook dinner tonight.

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How To Tell Which Foods Are Safe To Eat When They’re Moldy

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Mold is usually a pretty clear indicator that food is past its prime ― most instincts will encourage people to steer clear. And it’s a good instinct, because some molds produce mycotoxins, which are poisonous substances that can make you very sick. (Aflatoxin is one type of mycotoxin that has been found to cause cancer.)

But just because some molds will make you sick doesn’t mean all will. Take a look at blue cheese that’s covered in the stuff, and celebrated on cheese plates everywhere. That’s a mold we actually enjoy eating.

And then there are the molds that grow on foods we wish they didn’t. It’s a bummer, but we have good news: mold doesn’t always mean food is doomed for the trash. These are the moldy foods we’re going to talk about today.

In an effort to fight food waste, here’s a list of foods ― put together by the USDA ― that are still safe to eat, even after they start growing mold. Just cut the moldy part off, or scrape it away, and enjoy.

1. Hard salami. Scrape off the mold and continue enjoying your cured meat. It’s actually normal for a self-stable product such as this to develop mold over time.

2. Hard cheese. In those rare instances when cheese actually lasts long enough in the fridge to develop mold, you can rejoice in the fact that it’s still entirely edible. Just cut off the moldy part, and roughly an inch around it, and chow down. Just be sure you don’t cross-contaminate the moldy and good parts of the cheese when cutting.

3. Firm Fruits. Firm fruits like bell peppers (yes, it’s technically a fruit) that have a low moisture content can still be eaten if mold appears. Just cut around the small mold spots and it should be good to go. Softer fruits, such as peaches, should be tossed because the high moisture content means it can be contaminated below the surface. 

4. Firm Vegetables. Firm vegetables with low moisture contents ― such as cabbage and carrots ― can be eaten even after light mold appears. Just cut away the spot and an inch around it.

Some foods ― usually soft foods with high moisture contents ― should be tossed once mold appears. This includes lunch meats, cooked pasta, cooked grains, soft cheese, yogurt, sour cream, jams, breads as well as soft fruits and vegetables. 

If you’re not sure what’s safe, don’t take the risk. Toss it ― or compost it. Just know that next time your favorite hunk of cheddar has a small spot of mold, you can just cut it off and still enjoy your cheese.

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Congressman Channels ‘Stranger Things’ To Blast Donald Trump’s America

Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. And this is certainly one of those times, according to Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.).

On Thursday, the Democrat used the House floor to compare life under President Donald Trump’s administration to “The Upside Down” — the creepy parallel universe in Netflix’s supernatural drama “Stranger Things.”

Standing next to a sign of the show’s logo that was tweaked to read “Trump Things,” he lamented how under Trump “right is wrong, up is down, black is white.”

Cicilline cited the inconsistent decisions that the White House has made in the four weeks since Trump’s inauguration ― such as the signing of an executive order “to spend $20 billion on a border wall, while Flint, Michigan, still goes without clean drinking water.” “This is not a TV show, this is real life,” he said.

“We have a president unlike any we have ever known,” he continued. “And like Mike, Dustin, Lucas and Eleven, we must remain focused on the task at hand, and hold this administration accountable, so we can escape from our own version of ‘The Upside Down.’”

Watch Cicilline’s full speech in the clip above.

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Creationist Ken Ham’s Giant ‘Noah’s Ark’ To Feature Dinosaurs vs. Giants Diorama

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A new display going into the creationist Noah’s Ark attraction in Kentucky shows what appears to be gladiator-style fights involving humans, giants and a dinosaur.

Ken Ham, founder of the group that runs the attraction, tweeted images of the new diorama on Thursday:

The dinosaur is visible in the far right of the first image, which has a giant on the left apparently about to spear a human.

Ham, who believes in a strict literal interpretation of the Bible, claims the planet is roughly 6,000 years old, that humans existed alongside dinosaurs and that Noah even carried dinosaurs with him on the ark during a global flood roughly 4,300 years ago. 

Scientists estimate that dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago, or a good 64.8 million years before the first homo sapiens, who evolved roughly 200,000 years ago.

There is no scientific evidence for a race of giants.

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