You can now get help with voter registration through a Facebook bot

You can now register to vote via Facebook messenger bot.

Getting help with voting registration can now be as simple as a quick chat with a bot.

The Ad Council just launched an automated tool within Facebook’s messenger platform designed to walk prospective ballot casters through the sign-up process and provide election-day logistic information with a bit more personality than the average online form.

The nonprofit PSA maker is hoping the program, named GoVoteBot, will not only simplify and personalize the task, but also provide some amusement along the way.

“It has a bit of a cheeky personality,” said the Ad Council’s VP of campaign development, Dzu Bui. “But it’s completely nonpartisan it has no opinion on who you vote for.”

Type a simple introductory greeting to the bot, and it will respond with a dropdown menu of options including a polling location finder and absentee options in addition to registration options and links.

Once you inform the bot that the process is completed, it responds with a celebratory note: “Youre looking at one proud GoVoteBot!”

A sample conversation with the bot.

Image: ad council

The integration is made possible by data pulled from Google Civic the search giant’s repository of electoral information and the U.S. Vote Foundation.

Facebook is donating free ad space to promote the effort, along with several ad networks and media companies. The campaign also involves outdoor digital billboards and a forthcoming online commercial.

The Ad Council, which is committed to non-partisanship in all of its campaigns, has a decades-long history of encouraging civic engagement. But this project marks the first time it has ever experimented with automated bots.

The original plan for the campaign was even more ambitious a full-scale online voting system but the group quickly realized that the individual state rules governing such an undertaking would entail an impractical amount of help from the federal government.

So the creative team pivoted and decided a tool within Facebook’s newly launched bot network might pique the interest of young people, who are notoriously apt to be no-shows at the polls.

“We set out to encourage millennials to vote, but wanted to find a fun and simple way to have a conversation where they are,” said Chloe Gottlieb, the EVP and executive creative director at ad agency R/GA, which partnered with the Ad Council on the campaign.

“For us, it made sense to create this on Facebook Messenger. We designed it to pull in thousands of data points from all 50 states and then streamed it into one interface [participants] could use quickly and easily.

More specifically, the Facebook ads will target newly eligible voters and people who’ve just moved, two groups especially likely to skip registration, according to various studies.

Facebook first launched its big bot push in April at its annual F8 developer conference, although the initial batch left a lot to be desired. By July, the number of bots on the platform had grown to 11,000.

To strike up a conversation with GoVoteBot, simply type its name into a new message window in the Messenger app, standalone website or chat bar on the Facebook homepage.

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We spent the day hanging out with 20,000 corpses for London Month of the Dead

Must… resist… temptation to make ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ comparison…

LONDON Paris has its jaw-dropping bony catacombs, the Czech Republic has its ornate church of skeletons, but in typically British fashion, Londons cathedral to death is far less showy. In fact, it’s on a roundabout.

Yes, the capitals biggest gang of dead people live on a traffic island.

Closed to the public, the Rotunda is a mysterious structure that’s attached to the Barbican complex as part of the Museum of London. It’s where we choose to kick off London Month of the Dead an event that sets out to investigate the capitals relationship with its deceased residents and make five new dead friends (see below).

Now in its third year, the month is marked by a series of morbid musings, from mutant-taxidermy workshops to talks on female necrophilia law and histories of severed heads (all for a good cause: raising money to restore London’s magnificent seven cemeteries).

Having been granted special permission to enter the museums ossuary, the doors open up to rack upon rack of cardboard boxes containing paupers, prostitutes and plague victims, who rub shoulders with nobles, bon viveurs and even a former Bank of England governor.

“You didn’t like one another in life, and now you’re sharing a box.”

None of the 20,000 deceased are less than 100 years dead, due to the Human Tissue Act. But all dating from pre-history through Roman London, the medieval period and up to Victorian England have made their unlikely union here, as a result of the capitals relentless property development.

Its a reflection of a dynamic London its never still, its always changing, says Museum of London curator of human osteology Jelena Bekvalac. “Most [of the collection] dates up to the 1850s when a lot of the cemeteries in London were shut down, because it was all a bit nasty and unpleasant.” (Thats a euphemism for horrific gothic scenes of cemeteries becoming so overcrowded that limbs would protrude from the ground.)

In London, wherever you tread, human remains are rarely far away. When an office block goes up, the land beneath yields its secrets. A mile away, next to Spitalfields Market, investment bankers are supping flat whites in Costa on the ground floor of RBSs offices, oblivious to the enormous plague burial site below them.

RBS offices now stand on the burial grounds of one of the largest medieval cemeteries in Europe, founded in Spitalfields in 1197.

Image: Google street view

When the former grounds of St Mary Spital were unearthed in the late 1990s, some 10,500 individuals were scooped up in what was the single biggest excavation of medieval human remains in the world. In their place lie some well-to-do shops and residences, the inhabitants of which presumably have yet to witness the cautionary tales of former-burial-ground living (see The Shining and Poltergeist).

The excavation was due to a development of the market area, recalls Bekvalac, as she guides us around the Rotunda. Although the excavation covered a large area, it wasnt the entire site. There are still probably burials that are underground in the other half.

The Rotunda: home to a whole lot of dead people.

Image: mashable

Death doesn’t discriminate. Which is why this collection is unique because high class and low class folk, from across the city and spanning centuries, are united here. Nowhere else has anything like it. Next to the people excavated from the Chelsea Old Church (posh) are those from St Brides Workhouse (far from it).

“They’d probably be utterly appalled to think they are in the same vicinity, let alone the same shelf! she says. You didn’t like one another in life and now you’re sharing a box… And some of them might have been unpleasant in life, but I’m a positive person, so I tend to think they’re all lovely.”

Visitors, she says, expect to see skeletons hanging from the ceiling, but instead the imagination is put to work. “It never ceases to amaze me whenever I come in here to think I’m with all these different people from all of these times. You think, ‘wow, what did you do, where did you live?’ she says. Your mind goes round and round making up little stories about them. Its a lovely space.

The pattern of Londons history lies within these boxes.

Image: mashable

Bekvalac uses the word lovely a lot it’s a soothing lyrical tic that takes the chill out of a stroll around Londons warehouse of the dead. It occurs that youd be happy to have her packing your own skeleton into polythene bags.

“I seem to have a penchant for old men with no teeth.”

So, why are these remains kept? Because the bones express what happened to their owners at different periods in history, whether death was through ill health or being unceremoniously bludgeoned. “As we become more urban, we change within the environment we pick up diseases, infections, metabolic disorders like rickets and scurvy, access to food… You begin to see a very distinct variation in peoples status, low or high, and see patterns.”

Some skeletons have names, most do not but all are handled with equal respect. She says: “Just because we dont know their name, doesn’t mean we treat them differently. Because everyone once had a name. But you do get attached to some it’s a bit like doing your own family history, you get to know more about them than your own family.”

Here Bekvalac shares her best dead friends with us:


Gideon has a classic elongated head shape, while medieval people’s skulls are more rounded. Why did our skulls change shape over time? Nobody yet knows…

Image: Mashable

First up, we meet Gideon Hand from the celebrity baking family that created the Chelsea bun. Gideon has terrible teeth. “I seem to have a penchant for old men with no teeth,” laughs Bekvalac. “I have a particular liking for some of those from Chelsea Old Church who lived in a lovely market area, known as the ‘village of palaces’, with open spaces. More central parts of London had really awful living conditions, horrible poverty. But these people lived longer they’ve got the buffer of living in a nicer environment.”

“Around this time was an increase in sugar consumption,” she notes of the bakerys 18th century heydey. With the introduction of sweet treats came a rise in tooth decay and people losing their teeth earlier, which affects your overall health and mortality. Gideon, though, lived into his 60s and is hanging on to a few molars, though they’re not the greatest.

Richard a.k.a. Captain Bun

Jelena swoons at the dashing, heroic jawbone of known eccentric, Richard Hand.

Image: mashable

There’s not much left of Richard Hand, who lived into his 80s. But the last surviving member of the Hand family, in his day, swanned around Chelsea in a long coat and fez, as a commissioned officer in the Staffordshire Militia. Gloriously, he was known as Captain Bun.

“So you have this lovely image in your mind, even though I couldn’t find any pictures of him,” says Bekvalac. “There are pictures of the business, because that’s where royalty and other people would go to get their buns.”

The Hands made a mint from Royal patronage of the Chelsea Bun House, which closed in 1839 having laid waste to their dental health.

Image: public domain

“We’re lucky when we have two or three people from the same family. Because of what I’ve been able to learn about them, I’ve created my own character of him wafting around Chelsea, fitting in with the artisans of the area. I like his eccentricity he doesn’t look like someone who conformed.”

Nameless man

This skeleton was found in the Liverpool St Crossrail site, an area known as New Church Yard and Bedlam, where burials spanned the Great Plague.

Image: mashable

“This lovely person, unfortunately we don’t know who they are, but they were excavated at the Liverpool St Station site in 1985. We don’t give the skeletons names,” insists Bekvalac. “We’ll only know the name if we have a coffin plate and generally they will be higher-status individuals.

Crossrail has meant more excavation is being done into the area known as New Church Yard, which was established in 1569. “Initially there would have been single burials there; but as we go into the 1600s, you get different outbreaks of plague, and then you have 1665 and you get these mass graves,” she says.

This individual, aged 36-45, was found in a lead coffin. “There may be something that looks like gout in the big toe, which you might associate with a richer lifestyle. He’s rather lovely in that he’s very complete, though sadly we don’t have the coffin plate.”

Nameless woman

‘We try to read the skeleton to find different markers to formulate an idea of what their life was possibly like,’ says Jelena.

Image: mashable

This lady was resting under Spitalfields Market. “She has very nice cheekbones, a beautiful skull and symmetrical face,” says Bekvalac of the 36-to-45-year-old. “Cheekbones do a lot for ladies. Sadly, when we become post-menopausal, we begin to pick up features that are more male.”

She’s “very medieval” and is dated to 1250-1400: “We might not know this lady’s name, but we can try to sort of reconstruct her life, as much as we can. We don’t always know what has caused their death. If you look closely at her teeth, you will see scarring of the enamel and that’s telling us that there might have been some sort of famine, something’s putting her under stress, or maybe a childhood disease.”


Milborough grew up in the West Indies and died in Chelsea in 1807, aged 68.

Image: mashable

“Here she is, a lovely lady,” says Bekvalac, as she plucks out one of her favourite people from the shelf. “Milborough fascinates me, because she’s come from a plantation background (in the West Indies), and it’s an insight into a particular point in time. She died before the abolition of slavery. To know her thoughts on it would be phenomenal.”

Remarkably, a descendent of Milborough once saw the skeleton at an exhibition and was then able to flesh out her life story. In her will, Milborough left her jewellery, but also slaves, to her daughter.

“We find that difficult to get our head around now, so I’d like to ask her lots of questions she’d be a fascinating character. To have grown up there and come back to Chelsea, that would have been quite something.”

In case you were wondering, the relative, while surprised to see their ancestor on display in a glass cabinet, was, says Bekvalac, “happy to know that Milborough was with us.”

Some of the Museum of London skeleton collection will be unboxed for Tunnel: the archaeology of Crossrail in Docklands, Feb. 10 to Sept. 3, 2017.

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England’s academy trusts ‘run up debts of 25m’ – BBC News

Image caption More than half of England’s secondary schools are run by self-governing academy trusts

Debts run up by 113 academy trusts in England amount to almost 25m, figures obtained by the BBC suggest.

The numbers raise “serious concerns about the accountability” of the system, said Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee.

More than half of England’s secondary schools are run by self-governing academy trusts.

The government said financial oversight of academies was “more robust than in council-run schools”.

The DfE’s Education Funding Agency investigated one academy trust, Lilac Sky Schools, over its financial governance.

It runs nine primary schools in Kent and East Sussex. The most recent accounts show a deficit of 665,972.

‘Threatened with closure’

And last year one of its schools was threatened with closure because of poor academic performance.

In the year 2013-14, Lilac Sky Schools Trust (LSST) paid 800,000 to outside companies set up by co-founders Trevor Averre Beeson and his wife Jane Fielding.

The Education Funding Agency has since ordered that payments to these companies cease.

Ms Fielding, who was an LSST managing director, was also paid a salary totalling 200,000 over the years 2014 and 2015.

Mr Averre Beeson’s daughter, Victoria Rezaie, who was employed by the trust as a principal, received a salary of 63,298.

Image caption The figures were obtained through Freedom of Information requests

Another daughter, Samantha Busch, was employed by LSST for 16,593.

In November, the Regional Schools Commissioner’s office for London and south-east England issued a pre-termination warning notice to the trust over “unacceptably low” standards at LSST’s Marshlands academy in East Sussex.

The trust now has to hand nine schools to other trusts before the end of the year.

‘Results, results, results’

“At first it looked like this would be a good thing,” said the parent of a child at a Lilac Sky School.

“Parents were impressed. Very soon the school was flooded with ‘Lilac Sky’ managers, and ‘outstanding achievement coaches’, of course all wearing something lilac.

“But soon afterwards problems began to emerge with the departure of experienced staff, and their replacement by less experienced teachers.”

The parent added: “All the time the pressure was on results, results, results and that meant the less able got left behind.

“Many of the non-core, fun things that are an everyday part of most primary schools were cut – swimming lessons, music lessons, school trips.

“However money was made available to send children who were soon to sit Sats on Sats booster courses at other Lilac Sky schools in the county.

“As far as I’m concerned this was all about business and making money and little to do with educating children.”

‘Successful teachers’

Trevor Averre Beeson responded by saying: “We are extremely proud of Lilac Sky Schools Limited.

“Since 2009 we have run over 17 schools and worked in hundreds more, nine of which were removed from special measures in very quick time, four improved significantly and four new schools opened to Ofsted’s satisfaction.

“The deficit for the trust in 2015 was due to costs associated with setting up four new primary academies. The individual schools themselves were all in surplus.”

He said that his wife and daughter had been employed by the trust “because they were already successful teachers”.

And he added: “We voluntarily decided that our companies should stop providing services to the trust when I also resigned as CEO and trustee in early 2015.”

‘Our money’

The scale of the deficits accumulated by academy trusts was revealed in a Freedom Of Information request obtained by BBC 5 live Investigates.

Perry Beeches, which runs five schools in Birmingham, had a deficit of 2.1m in the last financial year.

Former chief executive Liam Nolan, who quit earlier this year, was criticised for receiving 80,000 a year as a consultant to the trust in addition to his 120,000 salary as head teacher.

Mr Nolan declined to comment.

Meg Hillier said some trusts “show a complete disregard for the use of public money”.

Image copyright Joe Raedle
Image caption The Regional Schools Commissioner declared standards at Lilac Sky Schools Trust were unacceptably low

She added: “This is not their money they are spending, it’s our money. There are rules about how this is done for a good reason.

“This is not about whether the academy system is good or bad for education, it’s about how taxpayers’ money is spent.

“These figures raise serious concerns about the transparency and accountability of the system.”

In a statement, the Department for Education said: “All academies operate under a strict system of financial oversight and accountability, more robust than in council-run schools. Where issues are identified we can and do take direct action.

“All academy trusts must balance their budgets from each academic year to the next. Only a tiny number (4%) of academy trusts reported a deficit at the end of the academic year 2014-15 and we continue to monitor them very closely.”

The programme will be broadcast on BBC 5 live on Sunday 9th October at 11:00 BST. Listen online or download the programme podcast

Related Topics

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The loudest sound in Birmingham was of doors being slammed shut | Andrew Rawnsley

The Tories are hurtling towards a hard Brexit and a riven Labour party is no position to stop them

Seeking sustenance in a Brummie cafe to get me through the Tory conference, I heard myself request a full English Brexit. Thats what it does to your head: several days of close confinement with Conservatives salivating over departure from the European Union.

Back in the conference hall, the full English Brexit was being served up by Theresa May and all the mini-Mays in the cabinet as they sought to satisfy the audiences appetite for the starkest form of rupture with our partners of the past four decades. There are several possible ways of exiting the EU. They range from amicable separation to bitter divorce. The Tory gathering in Birmingham set Britain on a course that leads to the most turbulent, disruptive and hazardous form of departure. It was the working assumption of all the cabinet ministers I spoke to, and this was so regardless of which side they took during the referendum, that it is now near inevitable that Britain will cease to be a member of the single market. Among those Tories who have always yearned for that outcome, I found them talking as if it was a given. Even more significantly, ministers who would once have recoiled in horror from that prospect now sound resigned to it.

This is hugely significant and how we got to this point needs some explanation. In June, it was not a given that Britain would do Brexit the hard way. Out had won, but only narrowly. There was much room for interpretation of what that meant. There was quite a lot of talk from leading Outers about needing to respect the 48% who voted the other way. Once the forces of Remain had recovered from the shock of their defeat, they initially remustered around the cause of preserving British membership of the single market and with it the trade and investment on which so many livelihoods depend. They could cite the Tory partys election manifesto. This had clearly suggested that, even if Britain voted to leave the EU, a Conservative government would sustain membership of the single market. The manifesto promised: We are clear about what we want from Europe. We say: yes to the Single Market. That, Remainers declared, was the trench where they would dig in.

That trench is still there, but I found very few people left defending it in Birmingham. The Tories are plunging towards hard Brexit and a riven Labour party is not in a fit condition to stop them. After an initial period of complacency, investors are waking up to the prospect that Britain could lurch out of the EU without reliable access to her most important markets. The more loudly her activists cheered Mrs May, the faster came the plunge in the pound. By the end of the week, sterling had dropped so vertiginously that one pound didnt buy one euro at bureaux de change. As it has become clearer that Britains government is tilting towards the Full Monty Brexit, so European leaders have hardened their language about the penalty that will entail.

Why has this happened? A large part of the explanation is Mrs May and how she is choosing to resolve the paradox of being a prime minister tasked by the voters to deliver an outcome that she campaigned against. Many of the hardline Tory Brexiters were highly wary when she first moved into Number 10 because she had been a Remainer, albeit a near-invisible one, during the referendum campaign. Now the Brexiters speak of Mrs May in glowing terms. It turns out that having a Remainer as prime minister has worked perfectly for us, one remarked to me. She has to keep proving to us and the party that she is serious.

She threw them three big lumps of meat. One of those announcements was really spin disguised as meat. Her Great Repeal Act will in reality transfer EU law into British law, to then be removed or amended at a later date. Her more substantial announcement was that she would trigger article 50, the formal notification to the EU that Britain wants a divorce, no later than March next year. This creates an unforgiving timetable for what will be a horrendously complex and fraught negotiation.

Even some of the Brexiters in the cabinet are starting to sober up to the reality of it. To describe the inundation of papers on the subject that he is consuming, one minister adopted an Americanism and told me it was like drinking from a fire hydrant.

That negotiation will not be made easier by the prime ministers third, and most significant, act. That was to set a firm face against trying to find any accommodation with EU countries over freedom of movement. We are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration again, she declared. One of her cabinet confirmed to me that they plan to approach the negotiations by telling the EU that freedom of movement is simply not on the table; they only want to talk about trade. If you believe that the Out vote was powered by opposition to migration, then the only form of Brexit that respects the referendum result is a mode of departure that ends freedom of movement. This position has a logic to it and some of the recanting Tory Remainers contend that this logic is too powerful for them to argue with it. Resistance, they say, is futile. It is impossible to reconcile rejecting freedom of movement and the jurisdiction of the European court of justice with continued membership of the single market. So Britain will be left to gamble on trying to get some sort of tariff deal with EU countries at a time when they are in no mood to do us any favours.

Stockholm Syndrome describes how some hostages become traumatically bonded with their kidnappers. Remainers in the cabinet often sounded like they were the psychological captives of the Brexiters. Amber Rudd, a liberal Tory who was a star of the Remain campaign, was one of the ministers who made a hostage-video sort of speech to the conference. The home secretary announced that companies would be forced to declare how many foreigners they employed, as if attracting skilled people from abroad was a mark of shame. In her setpiece at the end of the conference, Mrs May denounced citizens of nowhere. That was a clever applause line with unclever implications for a country that thrives by attracting overseas talent and investment. It is this that will be noted by the rest of the world, not fatuous rhetoric about Britain going global. The conference resounded to the slam of doors being shut.

There were a few voices of resistance. One was the effervescently gobby former minister Anna Soubry. Another was the former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan. They stood out so much because those prepared to argue openly for a softer Brexit were so thin on the ground in Birmingham. Tory resistance to hard Brexit has been badly weakened by what has been happening in the Labour party since the referendum. In its immediate aftermath, Labour MPs declared that they would battle to preserve membership of the single market. Then they examined the vote in their partys traditional heartlands in Wales, the north of England and the Midlands and grew terrified by the strength of the Out vote there.

The Labour conference in Liverpool was notable for the number of prominent MPs from its centrist wing declaring they could no longer defend unrestricted freedom of movement. Jeremy Corbyn has another position again. He is hostile to the single market but in favour of unlimited migration. The net result is that the Tory soft Brexiters do not think that they can rely on support from the main opposition party.

Business and the City are becoming increasingly agitated that Brexit will not be the soft landing they hoped for. Representatives of manufacturers at the conference spoke of becoming more depressed by the day. But the mood of the times is not sympathetic to business arguments. It was striking to witness a Tory conference eagerly applaud a Tory prime minister lacerating corporate Britain. Some Tories say publicly, and more will say privately, they are willing to sacrifice some prosperity if that is the price of curbing immigration. This made it especially ironic that the Tories met in Birmingham, a melting-pot city whose prosperity was built on entrepreneurship and trade. Never has the Conservative party sounded less like a friend of business. Never has the Conservative party sounded more hostile to liberal free markets. Were the Labour party under a different form of management, the Tories might be more nervous of alienating business by taking the hard route to Brexit. But not in a century of Sundays are the CBI and the City going to ally themselves with Mr Corbyn.

Free-market liberals still have some champions in government, notably at the Treasury, which thinks the economic impact of a hard Brexit will be severe and long lasting. Philip Hammond, the chancellor, told the conference that the referendum result was not a vote to make Britain poorer. That he would not have said unless he feared his colleagues are pushing in a direction that will leave Britain very much the poorer. The chancellor sounded like a man losing the battle. Lost it will be unless he finds some more friends and quick.

Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary, was one of few Tories prepared to call for a softer Brexit. Photograph: Steve Back/Barcroft Images

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Tiny Town Celebrates Autumn With Adorable And Creative Hay Bale Trail

We don’t have to tell you what a popular season fall is. But then, it’s always been a time of celebration.

In the old days, it was all about bringing in the harvest, the literal fruits of the spring and summer’s labor. It was also a time to celebrate your family, honor your ancestors, and prepare the hunker down for the winter.

So it’s no surprise that across the country, towns big and small like to celebrate fall. In southwestern Kentucky’s Todd County, the towns of Elkton, Trenton, Guthrie, and Allensville all come together to celebrate fall in a truly unique and totally delightful way.

It’s called the Bale Trail.

Because Todd County is rural and most of the business is agriculture, it means that there’s a lot of hay around come fall. As is customary on farms, the hay is gathered into bales, which can range in size from small rectangles that can be picked up to massive cylindrical rolls.

During the days of the Bale Trail, hay bales get decorated and placed all over the county. And some get really creative and really big.

The decorated bales are judged, and prizes are awarded for Most Creative and Fan Favorite (voted via Facebook), and while there are cash prizes, the real fun is in getting creative and playing around with hay. Even bears love hay!

Check out some of the highlights of the Bale Trail below from this year and years past. This year’s winners were announced October 1, but the creations stay up until Halloween.

[H/T: Only In Your State]

Todd County encompasses the towns of Elkton, Trenton, Guthrie, and Allensville in southwestern Kentucky.

Every year the county gathers to celebrate the fall, with fairs and festivals, and it also hosts the Bale Trail, where decorated hay bales dot the county. They can all be seen along a driving route, as can the natural beauty of the region.

And it’s easy to see that autumn really is a gorgeous time of year here.

Bale trail participants can use either baled or loose hay, so the result is all kinds of shapes, structures, and creations.

This piece, a take on Grant Wood’s iconic painting,American Gothic, celebrates the region’s farmers.

Others relied on accessories rather than paint for color and character. Thissnow family iscovered in white sheets, and the snowman’s top hat looks like a painted metal barrel.

Others didn’t bother with color or much decoration at all, like these artfully crafted creatures.

Local businesses made their bales reflect their services. This piggy bank, which won a Fan Favorite award, sat in front of Heritage Bank.

For the Bale Trail, it’s referred to as “Hay-ritage Bank.” Hay puns are also a big part of the Bale Trail.

And you can see that on this enormous Toots-Hay Roll.

Others liked to pay homage to their favorite characters, like this one created to look like Olaf fromFrozen.

Or this Minion, a perennial favorite.

Other places got really creative and made hay characters, like this life-size couple outside a gift shop.

An elementary school took advantage of the round shape of the bales to create these emoj-hays.

This owl’s feathers were created using what looks like another harvest staple: corn husks.

Then again, a square bale has its advantages, too. You can create a pretty great Rubik’s Cube by stacking a bunch together.

This giant fire hydrant combines a lot of techniques. It’s got the cylindrical bales for shape, sculpted hay for details, and accessories for the caps and chains. There’s even some “water” coming out!

Which was your favorite?

Let us know, and check out more about the Bale Trail on the Todd County websiteand Facebook page, and don’t forget to SHARE this creative fall celebration with your friends!

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6 Things Every Grocery Store Cashier Knows To Be True

Price check on totally annoying customers, please

1. You have to bury any old people that die in your checkout line: Not every old person dies in your line, but after one dies and you have to pay for the funeral and personally dig their grave, you start to think theyll all die.

2. If a customer guesses correctly whether or not youre wearing a belt underneath your apron, their groceries are free for life: A cashiers nightmare. Every grocery worker knows when it comes to interacting with customers to stick to the small talk.

3. Grapes are pretty much the worst returns to deal with: So many people return the grapes without the skin and expect to be reimbursed. No skin, no refund. Come on, people.

4. The conveyer belt is a great way to clean your tongue: Bad breath on the job? Just place your tongue on the conveyer belt and let it go to town.

5. If cornmeal curfew is at 10:00, everyone will wait until 9:55 to buy their cornmeal: Its like rush hour for cornmeal. The. Worst.

6. Pointing a laser at your bok choy at home only reminds you of work: Running a red laser across bok choy used to be your favorite way of winding down after a long day, but now it just reminds you of your job. Sigh. Such is the life of a grocery store clerk.

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ATM inventor among four Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame additions – BBC News

Image copyright James Goodfellow and PA
Image caption James Goodfellow invented the automated cash machine but received just a 10 bonus

The man who invented the automated cash machine is one of four engineers to be added to the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame.

James Goodfellow is being given the accolade along with telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell, lighthouse designer Robert Stevenson and structural engineer Sir Duncan Michael.

The hall of fame was launched in 2011 by The Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland.

It now has 27 members.

Gordon Masterton, chairman of judges for the hall of fame, said: “We are delighted to welcome more recent engineers like Duncan and James into this pantheon of Scottish engineering, as well as some of the notable older pioneering engineers.

“Scotland can rightly claim to have provided the educational base for many of the world’s greatest engineers who have gone on to lead great companies and make world-changing inventions. Duncan Michael and James Goodfellow are living proof that this tradition is alive and well.”

‘Recognises contribution’

Collectively, the 27 members in the hall of fame tell a story of 450 years of world-beating engineering innovation that has led to massive improvements in the quality of life and economy in Scotland, the UK and worldwide.

Welcoming the announcement of the new inductees, Sara Thiam, director for the Institution of Civil Engineers in Scotland, said: “It is wonderful to see great engineering getting recognition.

“Many don’t realise the human impact that civil engineers, and engineers in general, make upon everyday life. But the induction of someone like James Goodfellow highlights an innovator of a piece of engineering most of us use every day in life without thinking.

“Civil Engineers, and other engineers, create the environment we live in, so they have a massive impact on all our lives. The hall of fame attempts to recognise that contribution.”

James Goodfellow

Image copyright James Goodfellow

James Goodfellow, who was born in Paisley in 1937, received just a 10 bonus for his invention and patent of automated cash machines that used pin numbers.

“My task was to design the means of allowing a customer, and only a genuine customer, to actuate the dispenser mechanism,” he said.

“Eventually I designed a system which accepted a machine readable encrypted card, to which I added a numerical keypad into which an obscurely related Personal Identification Number had to be entered manually, by the customer.

“This pin was known only to the person to whom the card was issued. If card and keypad inputs agreed, the cash dispenser mechanism was activated and the appropriate money was fed out to the customer.”

Automated telling machines (ATMs) spread throughout the world and there are now an estimated three million machines.

Mr Goodfellow continued to generate innovative design ideas and leadership throughout his career and was twice a recipient of IBM’s Outstanding Technical Achievement Award.

Sir Duncan Michael

Image copyright Arup and BBC

Sir Duncan Michael, who was born in Beauly in 1937, reached the highest level in global consulting engineering through his excellence in structural engineering and business expertise, and restructured Ove Arup and Partners into a global business.

In 1957 Arup had joined with Jorn Utzon to design the Sydney Opera House which was to be a highly complex construction. Sir Duncan’s part of the project was the “side shells”‘ which supported all the spherical roof surfaces as key elements of the project.

He was knighted in 2001.

Alexander Graham Bell

Image copyright Getty Images

Alexander Graham Bell was born in Edinburgh in 1847 and emigrated with his family to Canada in 1870.

The following year he moved to Boston and became interested in transmitting the human voice over wires.

In 1875 came up with a simple receiver that could turn electricity into sound and was granted a patent.

The Bell Telephone Company was created in 1877 and by 1886 more than 150,000 people in the US owned telephones.

In January 1915 Bell was invited to make the first transcontinental phone call from New York to San Francisco.

When he died on 2 August 1922, at the end of his funeral the entire telephone system in North America was shut down for one minute in tribute to his life.

In 1888, Bell was one of the founding members of the National Geographical Society and has been ranked as among the 100 Greatest Britons.

Robert Stevenson

Image caption The Bell Rock Lighthouse was among 15 lighthouses built by Robert Stevenson

Robert Stevenson was born in Glasgow in 1772 and was the father of David, Alan and Thomas Stevenson who all became engineers. His grandson was the famous author, Robert Louis Stevenson.

His first assignment as an apprentice was the supervision of the erection of a lighthouse on Little Cumbrae.

From these beginnings he realised the importance of lighthouses and that the marking of navigation hazards would save countless lives and greatly improve the safety of near coastal shipping.

In total, Robert Stevenson was responsible for building more than 15 lighthouses, including the Bell Rock Lighthouse at Arbroath in 1811.

Stevenson was also responsible for a number of bridges in Scotland including the Stirling New Bridge, Annan Bridge, and Hutcheson’s Bridge over the Clyde in Glasgow.

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Jamie and his Lion: The adults who take their soft toys to work – BBC News

Image copyright Jamie Knight

Most of us have a favourite soft toy from childhood. A silent ally who over time becomes sidelined and left on a shelf. But for some adults they remain an essential presence never leaving the side of their owner.

“Most people know me as Jamie + Lion. It’s really not a big deal,” says Jamie Knight, a 27-year-old developer for the BBC who lives in London with Lion, a 4ft-long soft toy – sometimes known as a plushie – which never leaves his side.

“I’m autistic, which is a posh way of saying I have a different way of thinking and perceiving the world. For me the typical environment is pretty chaotic. A sudden loud announcement in a supermarket is pretty similar in effect to a flash-bang grenade used to confuse people during wars.

“My brain needs more structure than most. The more predictable the world is, the better chance I have of being able to process it.”

Jamie’s coping strategies include eating the same meal every night – filled pasta with sauce – and having Lion at his side, no matter where he goes.

“He is a toy, I’m not deluded into thinking he is alive,” he says.

Carrying an object around brings some structure and consistency to his environment. The toy lion has a familiar texture and smell which helps in those moments when he feels “overloaded”.

What is autism?

  • A developmental disability that affects how people perceive and interact with the world
  • More than one in 100 people are on the autism spectrum
  • People may be under- or over-sensitive to sounds, find social situations a challenge, experience a “meltdown” if overwhelmed
  • Asperger’s syndrome is a form of autism. Often of average or above average intelligence, people have fewer problems with speech but may still have difficulties with processing language

Source: The National Autistic Society

“Another way he helps is with deep pressure. My sense of shape is sometimes a bit floaty. I can loose the edge of my body and feel as though I am floating apart. Hugging Lion – I pull him into my chest – provides the input my body needs to stop the floating feeling.”

Prof Bruce Hood from the University of Bristol says the common childhood trait of needing a soft toy for comfort may be carried into adulthood, as Jamie has suggested, by those particularly attracted to routine.

“The reason children develop these relationships is still uncertain, but could arise from self-soothing or habitual routine formation with familiar objects. For example they have been shown to be useful to reduce the stress of attending the dentist.”

Most people “grow out of strong attachment” but “individuals with autism generally prefer structure and routines which may explain it,” he says.

Image copyright Mitchell
Image caption Artist and performer Tilley Milburn relies on her pig Del to negotiate everyday life

Lion wasn’t always so visible. In the past Jamie tried to conform to some kind of “normal”. This wasn’t so successful so, instead of attempting to “defeat” his autism, he decided to work with it.

Lion mostly remained at home while Jamie was at secondary school but as he got older and demands changed, he needed more consistency. “During my college years he was always with me,” he says. “He was pretty popular.”

Jamie’s autism means at times he is non-verbal – unable to talk – although he can communicate using messaging services and apps which is how he spoke to me, with Lion sitting on his lap. He also knows enough sign language to “get by” which his friends have also learned so they can communicate together.

It means he will generally work from home, but when he does go out he says reaction to Lion is “minimal to nothing”.

“I think to everyone else it’s a much bigger deal than it is to me. In fact Lion has been really cool for my career rather accidentally. He’s really memorable, and that has helped people remember me.”

Pigs and the Asylum

Image copyright James Leadbitter

Listen to the latest Ouch podcast with comedian and performer Tilley Milburn and her pig Del and the artist James Leadbitter also known as The Vacuum Cleaner.

They talk about their latest works and the different experiences they had of staying in residential care facilities and experiencing face-down restraint.

Follow BBC Ouch on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to the weekly podcast.

Lion also acts as a prop in situations Jamie finds uncomfortable, such as giving someone a hug, Lion can step in and hug them instead.

He says the toy has become part of his identity and that he’d lose something valuable if it weren’t there.

For actress and comedian Tilley Milburn her “lady pig” Del is someone she can rely on.

Diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 20 she was living in a residential care home when she spotted the patchwork pig in a shop. It would become her best friend and collaborator, a character with its own voice who even pipes up in business meetings.

“Del is a soft toy, but she’s more than that to me. I’ve had toys that have come and gone. Del is the first soft toy that I’ve really given a personality and voice to.”

Growing up she had no more attachment to soft toys than most, but moving to a residential care home as a young adult left her isolated.

Image copyright Mitchell
Image caption Tilley and Del (centre) perform with a variety of artists involved with the organisation Heart n Soul in London

“I was quite withdrawn at the time, I was living in a care home and I was struggling to adjust in that environment, mainly because I just couldn’t go about freely – go for a walk.

“Del started off being a source of comfort and a way of communicating at times with the carers and even my mum.

“My mum always says that Del’s more reasonable than me, so she’ll ask to talk to Del.”

The duo work together visiting community groups, performing comedy shows, singing and collaborating on a comic strip, but Del doesn’t always talk.

“It’s not an addiction. I wouldn’t say it’s an obsession. Sometimes we can go through a whole meeting where Dell will hardly get a word in edgeways.”

Tilley says she has always felt slightly different to others and is aware of stares when she’s out, but sometimes having Del on her side helps her gain control of the situation.

“I’m a bit naughty because I complain about people staring at me and I get fed up with people pointing at me, sniggering. I think sometimes, ‘I’m going to give them something to look at,’ and get Del out.”

Using a soft toy as a proxy can be a way to navigate the sometimes alien world, but like their owners the toys’ personalities may develop or alter.

For Jamie, having Lion by his side is not necessarily a long-term fixture, but it works for now.

“Lion is changing over time, as am I. Maybe one day he might be with me less, maybe one day he won’t.”

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Host city for 5m Great Exhibition of the North to be revealed – BBC News

Image copyright BBC/Steve Partridge/Geograph
Image caption The four shortlisted bidders are (clockwise from top left) Blackpool, Bradford, Newcastle-Gateshead, Sheffield

Four towns and cities in the north of England are waiting to discover which one will win the right to host the 5m Great Exhibition of the North in 2018.

An announcement is due in the coming week to reveal whether Blackpool, Bradford, Sheffield or Newcastle and Gateshead will stage the exhibition.

Former Chancellor George Osborne came up with the idea as part of his Northern Powerhouse package.

As well as the 5m for the exhibition, he pledged 15m for a legacy fund.

This is what the bidding towns and cities are promising to do if they win:


The seaside resort’s Great Exhibition will be in the ornate Winter Gardens, which houses venues including the Opera House (said to have the biggest stage in Europe), Empress Ballroom and Olympia exhibition area.

The exhibition will be along the theme of Pleasure Palaces, offering the “latest and greatest in UK popular culture for the last 130 years”.

There will be a Digital Palace, a Palace of Invention, a Palace of Earthly Wonders, a Palais De Dance, a Palace of New Realities, a Palace of Industry and a Palace of Dreams.

And a Palace of Popular Art will celebrate creations including northern TV crime dramas, music and light art, to tie in with the Blackpool Illuminations.

They hope to attract at least 400,000 visitors and the exhibition will be used to continue the restoration of the Winter Gardens.


If Bradford is chosen, a 10-week exhibition titled Futurescope, “the biggest and most connected exploration of our imagined futures that has ever taken place”, its bid promises.

It will, organisers say, use “great art, design and business innovation, food and drink, culture, and digital technology to bring people together”.

The exhibition could give the National Media Museum – the main venue – a much-needed boost, while other locations will include the City Park, Impressions Gallery and Kala Sangam South Asian Arts centre.

It will include a crowd-sourced exhibition of the 100 most influential objects from the north, a futuristic virtual reality experience and six giant connected sculptures that will be placed in northern cities.

Local heroes will also be celebrated – artist David Hockney has been invited to create a new work and the Bronte sisters will be commemorated on the 200th anniversary of Emily’s birth.

Newcastle and Gateshead

These twin cities will take visitors onto the streets with three themed walking routes guiding people to venues and attractions.

The Arts Circuit, Design Circuit and Innovation Circuit will all start at an exhibition about northern pioneers and trailblazers at the Great North Museum: Hancock.

Visitors will then traverse Newcastle before crossing the River Tyne and converging on the Baltic art gallery, which will invite five northern and five international artists to create work on the exhibition’s themes.

The 77-day exhibition, with the overarching theme of The Blazing World – The Fires of Invention, will begin with an opening ceremony featuring a bridge of illuminated drones.

During the event, 50 writers will be tasked with “rewriting the narratives of the north”, while the organisers promise to “connect artists with scientists and inventors to work closely”.


Sheffield’s exhibition will “confound stereotypes about the north” with a “dynamic and diverse” account encompassing heritage, art, science, manufacturing and city living.

Large neon signs will be located at motorway junctions across the north, point the way to the region as part of an installation titled Northern Lights.

Visitors will then find exhibits in venues like the Millennium Gallery, Tudor Square and Site Gallery as well as satellite venues in Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster.

Performance highlights will include the premiere of The Yorkshire Musical, a promenade show inspired by cutlery craftsmen and Song for the North, a collaboration with Manchester’s Halle Orchestra.

And on Devonshire Green, 20 containers will be turned into “test laboratories” to showcase the work of leading researchers in areas from housing to e-health.

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Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet reshuffle prompts new Labour row – BBC News

Image copyright Reuters

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is facing a row over his new shadow cabinet, after the chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party said he was not informed about the reshuffle.

John Cryer said in a letter to MPs that the party leadership had not told him or sacked chief whip Rosie Winterton about the changes.

The PLP had held talks with party leaders over shadow cabinet elections.

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said he was willing to continue the discussions.

His reshuffle has seen deputy leader Tom Watson appointed shadow culture secretary, as well as the return of several MPs who quit the shadow cabinet in the summer in protest at Mr Corbyn’s leadership.

In other appointments, Jon Ashworth became shadow health secretary, John Healey returned to housing and Diane Abbott became shadow home secretary.

In his letter, Mr Cryer mentioned how, in early September, the PLP voted “overwhelmingly” for the return of elections to the shadow cabinet.

“This led to negotiations involving myself and the then chief whip, Rosie Winterton, and people from the leadership team.

‘Deep regrets’

“As far as Rosie and I were concerned, the talks were held in good faith with the aim of striking an agreement which would allow some places to be filled through elections while the leader would retain the right to appoint others.”

Mr Cryer said it then became clear on Wednesday that a reshuffle was under way, which “had not been discussed or mentioned” during the talks.

“It now seems to me that the party’s leadership did not engage in the talks in any constructive way,” he added. “Obviously, I deeply regret this turn of events.”

The spokesman for Mr Corbyn, who was re-elected as leader last weekend following a challenge by Owen Smith, said: “Shadow cabinet elections will be considered by Labour’s national executive committee as part of a wider party democratisation at a special meeting next month.”

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson says that while some of Mr Corbyn’s critics have been welcomed back to the front bench, very few of his allies have departed.

The Labour leader’s hold on his party’s levers of power is firmer than ever, he adds.

Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet appointments

Image copyright PA
Image caption Diane Abbott, Shami Chakrabarti, Nick Brown and Keir Starmer have new roles within Labour
  • Shadow home secretary – Diane Abbott
  • Shadow attorney general – Baroness Chakrabarti
  • Shadow Brexit secretary – Sir Keir Starmer
  • Chief whip – Nick Brown
  • Shadow health secretary – Jon Ashworth
  • Shadow business secretary – Clive Lewis
  • Shadow Welsh secretary – Jo Stevens
  • Shadow defence secretary – Nia Griffith
  • Shadow culture secretary – Tom Watson
  • Shadow women and equalities minister – Sarah Champion
  • Shadow diverse communities minister – Dawn Butler

Labour’s new shadow cabinet in full

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