Volkswagen is in deep trouble. These 5 points explain the whole unbelievable scandal.

Volkswagen is in deep trouble.

The grimace on this bright red Beetle pretty much says it all:


That is one anxious hatchback. Photo by Emelian Robert Vicol/Pixabay.

The car company is currently embroiled in a scandal that is rocking the United States and Europe.

And it is — to a large extent — bananas.

The coverage has been so scattered, it's hard to get a sense of what, exactly, the hell is going on. Which is a shame because you can basically sum the whole thing up in five admittedly bonkers bullet points:

1. Volkswagen is accused of installing a secret device in millions of cars that allows them to cheat on emissions tests.

This is what diesel exhaust looks like:

Photo by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency/Wikimedia Commons.

At first glance it might seem like building a machine that emits a thick, black smoke not unlike the ashen upchuck of a thousand demons belching from the maw of hell might not be super ideal for the environment, generally speaking.

But for years, Volkswagen has been making passenger cars powered with the stuff. Lots and lots of 'em. Passats, Jettas, Beetles, Golfs, Audi A3s — the full fist.

They had lots of good reasons to do so, too. Diesel vehicles often feature better engine performance and fuel economy. Volkswagen argued they were clean enough, and sure enough, year after year, its vehicles passed inspection. But here's the thing:

The whole time customers thought they were getting this?

You're telling me I've finally parallel parked this car, and now it might be recalled? Photo by IFCAR/WIkimedia Commons.

They were actually getting this:


Not pictured: Imperator Furiosa.

According to a blockbuster investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, many Volkswagen on-board computers were programmed with a secret algorithm that can sense when the car is being tested for emissions and lower the output of the engine accordingly. When actual tests were run, Volkswagen's diesel vehicles were spitting out up to 40 times (!!!) more nitrogen oxide than U.S. limits allow.

Initially, everyone thought the device was only installed in a few hundred thousand cars, all in the United States. But Volkswagen has since acknowledged that the modification was made to over 11 million vehicles worldwide.

This is exactly the type of extreme corporate malfeasance that usually results in coverups, denials, counter-denials, counter-coverups, and Matt Damon racing with smoking-gun documents in hand to a meeting with the FBI but Tilda Swinton is already waiting there with a hitman so no one ever finds out except maybe for his estranged ex-lover Jessica Chastain, who is seen opening a mysterious envelope in the very last shot.

"Oh God. Morris. Morris. I believe you, Morris. I finally believe you." Those are the lines Jessica Chastain's agent would — probably — negotiate an extra $300,000 for her to say. Photo by Mladen Antonov/Getty Images.

Yet somehow, none of that happened in this case. Mostly because:

2. The company said, "¯\\_(ツ)_/¯," and basically up and admitted to all of the above.

To recap, the United States government accused Volkswagen of manipulating consumers, hoodwinking regulators, deceiving shareholders, and poisoning the atmosphere our great Mother Earth provided for her children to enjoy for all eternity.

And Volkswagen's response was, essentially, "Yep."

A former Volkswagen executive, attempting to express human emotion. Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

Or, more specifically, "Yep, uh. Yeah."

The evidence appears to be so rock solid that the company is ... not really denying anything. Either Volkswagen is playing the most head-scratchingly amazing game of 17-dimensional chess anyone has ever played, or they are really, world-historically screwed.

3. The CEO has resigned but claims he didn't know anything.

Until Sept. 23, 2015, the buck at Volkswagen stopped with CEO Martin Winterkorn, seen here, probably watching James Bond struggle to free himself from a glass cage that's slowly running out of oxygen because, well, just look at him. Jeez:

"My plan is absolutely ... breathtaking, Mr. Bond," says Martin Winterkorn — probably. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Winterkorn has denied all knowledge of any wrongdoing, and yet almost immediately stepped down from his post, quietly disappearing into some hedges surrounding VW's Wolfsburg, Germany, headquarters, never to be heard from again.

"Into the mists of time, go I," says Martin Winterkorn — almost definitely. Photo by Nigel Jones/Geograph.

We are, I assume, supposed to see Winterkorn's denial as credible. Nevermind that this basically requires us to believe that some employee was sitting around the break room one day, halfheartedly playing Temple Run and thinking, "I've got this incredible idea for a complicated, quasi-legal international scheme that could either save the company or cost us billions and send dozens of our executives to prison. I'll just assume I have the green light."

But OK. We're with you, Marty. You do you.

4. The company has budgeted over $7 billion to deal with the fallout.

According to an NBC News report, Volkswagen has allocated $7.2 billion to "win back the trust of our customers" in the wake of the scandal. Not only is that, in corporate accounting terms, an everloving crapton of money, it's more than the nominal gross domestic product of 43 countries, as this street scene from Guinea-Bissau pretty well illustrates:

Guinea-Bissau would love to win back the trust of its customers, but it's gonna need to spend a hunk of that cash getting this old rusty tank out of the road first. Photo by Mariomassone/Wikimedia Commons.

There are at least two possible explanations for this.

One is that, well, Volkswagen did the math and realized that jacking their tiny, sketchy computers out of a bunch of lightly-used Passats and the ensuing awkward ad buy to admit what they did was really going to cost them.

The other is that Volkswagen is still hiding something they're really, really embarrassed about. Which, for a car company founded by literal Nazis is saying something.

You will enjoy the power steering, yes? Photo via German Federal Archive/Wikimedia Commons.

5. In a really bizarre, messed up way, this is good news for the environment. I know. I know. Just go with me here.

Many argue that here in the U.S., we should always be trying to cut our government "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." Which is all well and good so far as it goes. Until some jerkwad company decides to start ejecting sooty, greasy, demon smog into the air. And you can't breathe. And you're like, "Uh ... government? You in there?"

"Whew, yeah, uh ... so sorry about that whole thing. Government? You ... OK?" Photo by Yannick Trottier/Wikimedia Commons.

The Volkswagen bust is an example of the Environmental Protection Agency doing what it does best: protecting the hell out of the environment in a way that has not just national but global implications. It makes the decision not to drown the EPA, despite repeated calls to do so, pretty darn sage.

And the best part? We get it on the cheap. The EPA runs the U.S. taxpayer just over $7 billion a year. "Now wait a minute," you might be thinking, "I thought you just said that was a crapload of money." And in car company terms, it is. But in U.S. government terms, it's pocket change. The Department of Defense, for comparison, set us back nearly $500 billion in 2015. You could have 71 EPAs for every one DoD.

Thankfully, we don't need 71. Because, as the Volkswagen saga makes abundantly clear, at the end of the day, one jacked up, 'roided out EPA is plenty good for the Earth.

Gets no love, but amazing in the clutch. Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images.

Let's hope they keep on swinging for the fences.

Heroes
Youtube

Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

Most Shared
via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

Keep Reading Show less
Family