Tangential Content Earns More Links and Social Shares in Boring Industries [New Research]

Posted by kerryjones

Many companies still don’t see the benefit of creating content that isn’t directly about their products or brand. But unless you have a universally interesting brand, you’ll be hard-pressed to attract much of an audience if all you do is publish brand-centric content.

Content marketing is meant to solve this dilemma. By offering genuinely useful content to your target customers, rather than selling to them, you earn their attention and over time gain their trust.

And yet, I find myself explaining the value of non-branded content all too often. I frequently hear grumblings from fellow marketers that clients and bosses refuse to stray from sales-focused content. I see companies publishing what are essentially advertorials and calling it content marketing.

In addition to turning off customers, branded content can be extremely challenging for building links or earning PR mentions. If you’ve ever done outreach for branded content, you’ve probably gotten a lot of pushback from the editors and writers you’ve pitched. Why? Most publishers bristle at content that feels like a brand endorsement pretending not to be a brand endorsement (and expect you to pay big bucks for a sponsored content or native advertising spot).

Fortunately, there’s a type of content that can earn your target customers’ attention, build high-quality links, and increase brand awareness…

Tangential content: The cure for a boring niche

At Fractl, we refer to content on a topic that’s related to (but not directly about) the brand that created it as “tangential content.”

Some hypothetical examples of tangential content would be:

  • A pool installation company creating content about summer safety tips and barbeque recipes.
  • A luggage retailer publishing country-specific travel guides.
  • An auto insurance broker offering car maintenance advice.

While there’s a time for branded content further down the sales funnel, tangential content might be right for you if you want to:

  1. Reach a wide audience and gain top-of-funnel awareness. Not a lot of raving fans in your boring brand niche? Tangential topics can get you in front of the masses.
  2. Target a greater number of publishers during outreach to increase your link building and PR mention potential. Tangential topics work well for outreach because you can expand your pool of publishers (larger niches vs. a small niche with only a few dedicated sites).
  3. Create more emotional content that resonates with your audience. In an analysis of more than 300 client campaigns, we found the content that received more than 200 media mentions was more likely than low-performing campaigns to have a strong emotional hook. If your brand niche doesn’t naturally tug on the heartstrings, tangential content is one way to create an emotional reaction.
  4. Build a more diverse content library and not be limited to creating content around one topic. If you’ve maxed out on publishing content about your niche, broadening your content repertoire to tangential topics can reinvigorate your content strategy (and your motivation).

Comparison of tangential vs. on-brand content performance

In our experience at Fractl, tangential content has been highly effective for link building campaigns, especially in narrow client niches that lack broad appeal. While we’ve assumed this is true based on our observations, we now have the data to back up our assumption.

We recently categorized 835 Fractl client campaigns as either tangential or on-brand, then compared the average number of pickups (links and press mentions) and number of social shares for each group. Our hunch was right: The tangential campaigns earned 30% more media mentions and 77% more social shares on average than the brand-focused campaigns.

So what exactly does a tangential campaign look like? Below are some real examples of our client campaigns that illustrate how tangential topics can yield stellar results.

Most Hateful/Most Politically Correct Places

  • Client niche: Apartment listing site
  • Campaign topic: Which states and cities use the most prejudiced/racist language based on geo-tagged Twitter data
  • Results: 67,000+ social shares and 620 media pickups, including features on CNET, Slate, Business Insider, AOL, Yahoo, Mic, The Daily Beast, and Adweek

Why it worked

After a string of on-brand campaigns for this client yielded average results, we knew capitalizing on a hot-button, current issue would attract tons of attention. This topic still ties back into the client’s main objective of helping people find a home since the community and location of that home are important factors in one’s decisions. Check out the full case study of this campaign for more insights into why it was successful.

Most Instagrammed Locations

  • Client niche: Bus fare comparison and booking tool
  • Campaign topic: Points of interest where people post the most Instagram photos in North America
  • Results: 40,000+ social shares and more than 300 pickups, including TIME, NBC News, Business Insider, Today, Yahoo!, AOL, Fast Company, and The Daily Mail

Why it worked

Our client’s niche, bus travel, had a limited audience, so we chose a topic that was of interest to anyone who enjoys traveling, regardless of the mode of transportation they use to get there. By incorporating data from a popular social network and using an idea with a strong geographic focus, we could target a lot of different groups – the campaign appealed to travel enthusiasts, Instagram users, and regional and city news outlets (including TV stations). For more details about our thought process behind this idea, see the campaign case study.

Most Attractive NFL Players and Teams

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Client niche: Sports apparel retailer

Campaign topic: Survey that rates the most attractive NFL players

Results: 45,000+ social shares and 247 media pickups, including CBS Sports, USA Today, Fox Sports, and NFL.com

Why it worked

Since diehard fans want to show off that their favorite player is the best, even if it’s just in the looks department, we were confident this lighthearted campaign would pique fan interest. But fans weren’t the only ones hitting the share button – the campaign also grabbed the attention of the featured teams and players, with many sharing on their social media profiles, which helped drive exposure.

On-brand content works best in certain verticals

Tangential content isn’t always necessary for earning top-of-funnel awareness. So, how do you know if your brand-centric topics will garner lots of interest? A few things to consider:

  • Is your brand topic interesting or useful to the general population?
  • Are there multiple publishers that specifically cover your niche? Do these publishers have large readerships?
  • Are you already publishing on-brand content that is achieving your goals/expectations?

We’ve seen several industry verticals perform very well using branded content. When we broke down our campaign data by vertical, we found our top performing on-brand campaign topics were technology, drugs and alcohol, and marketing.

Some examples of our successful on-brand campaign topics include:

  • Growth of SaaS for a B2B software comparison website
  • Influencers on Instagram for an influencer marketplace
  • Global Drug Treatment Trends for an addiction recovery client
  • The Tech Job Network for a tech career website

Coming up with tangential content ideas

Once you free yourself from only brainstorming brand-centric ideas, you might find it easy to dream up tangential concepts. If you need a little help, here are a few tips to get you started:

Review your buyer personas.

In order to know which tangential topics to choose, you need to understand your target audience’s interests and where your niche intersects with those interests. The best way to find this information? Buyer personas. If you don’t already have detailed buyer personas built out, Mike King’s epic Moz post from a few years ago remains the bible on personas in my opinion.

Find topics your audience cares about with Facebook Audience Insights.

Using its arsenal of user data, this Facebook ads tool gives you a peek into the interests and lifestyles of your target audience. These insights can supplement and inform your buyer personas. See the incredibly actionable post How to Create Buyer Personas on a Budget Using Facebook Audience Insights for more help with leveraging this tool.

Consider how trending news topics are tangential to your brand.

Pay attention to themes that keep popping up in the news and how your brand relates back to these stories (this is how the most racist/bigoted states and cities campaign I mentioned earlier in this post came to be). Also anticipate seasonal or event-based topics that are tangential to your brand. For example, a tire manufacturer may want to create content on protecting your car from flooding and storm damage during hurricane season.

Test tangential concepts on social media.

Not sure if a tangential topic will go over well? Before moving forward with a big content initiative, test it out by sharing content related to the topic on your brand’s social media accounts. Does it get a good reaction? Pro tip: spend a little bit of money promoting these as sponsored posts to ensure they get in front of your followers.

Have you had success creating content outside of your brand niche? I’d love to hear about your tangential content examples and the results you achieved, please share in the comments!

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Create Your Buyer Persona in 5 Simple Steps

writing for personas

Do you know who your customers are?

More importantly, do you know what they want or need from you?

If you don’t, writing engaging email content for your audience will be a challenge. After all, it’s difficult to write content for someone you don’t know or understand.

That’s where buyer personas come in. A buyer persona is a fictional person who represents your ideal customer or a portion of your audience. Their interests, challenges and problems align with your audience’s.

With a persona, you can write more engaging email content that resolves your audience’s problems and speaks to their interests. On top of that, you can also use personas to improve your overall marketing!

Are you ready to create your own buyer persona? Read this post and get step-by-step guidance to build your very own persona.

Bonus resource: Complete your buyer persona as you read this post!

Download our free buyer persona worksheet.

Step 1: Research your target audience

The first step is to do a little research. Researching your audience will help you create a realistic persona, and possibly find interesting details about your customers you didn’t know before.

To get started, look at your current customer base. Who are your best customers and repeat purchasers? Are there any similarities between them?

By finding commonalities among your best customers, you can create a persona that’ll help you attract more great customers.

To gather information, try setting up a phone call or in-person interview with someone you love doing business with. This will allow you to ask follow-up questions based on their previous answers to get even more detailed information.

You can also research customers you’ve had a bad experience with to learn which kind of people aren’t the right fit for your product or service.

To quickly gather information from multiple people, you could create and send a survey email to your current subscribers.

The survey could ask questions like:

When do you open your emails?

What questions do you have about [Insert your industry]?

What kind of content would you like to receive from me?

What challenges do you have?

After a few years of using this research, conduct new research to refresh your buyer persona with updated information.

Step 2: Narrow down the most common details

Once you’ve completed your research, narrow down your results by finding the most common answers you received from customers and subscribers.

Then, weed through your research to determine the most important details that’ll affect how you communicate with your audience.

For example, if a majority of people share the same challenge, this will be an important detail to include in your persona.

Here is some of the information you should determine in this step:

  1. Demographics (age, occupation, etc.)
  2. Behaviors (skill level, interest in your product offering, how they use your product or service, what they read and watch, etc.)
  3. Challenges and interests

  4. Email preferences (how often they want to receive emails, when they open their emails, etc.)

Step 3: Create separate personas

Now that you’ve narrowed down the most common details about your customers, you should organize those details into separate personas.

To do this, identify people in your audience with the same challenges and goals and group them into their own category. These different categories will represent different personas.

For example, if you’re a fitness instructor, you may have clients who want to increase muscle and gain weight and others who want to lose weight. Since they have very different goals, you should create two separate personas for these clients.

If you find that you need to gather more information about a certain persona, go back and do more research to find the missing information.

Step 4: Give your personas names

The best way to write for and think about your buyer persona is to give them a name!

Assigning a name to your persona will remind you that you’re speaking to an actual person when you write emails. This can help you write more personalized content.

You can even take it one step further and find an image or photo to represent your buyer persona! Check out this example below:

Step 5: Start writing personalized emails

Now that you have a buyer persona (or personas!) with a name, face and details, you can start writing your emails and content with this persona in mind.

Your subscribers will engage with your emails more, because you can create more personal, relevant content for them. (And solve their problems!)

Not sure how to write effective emails for your new buyer persona? Download our free “What to Write in Your Emails” guide and get more than 45 fill-in-the-blank email copy templates and an email writing course.

what to write

The post Create Your Buyer Persona in 5 Simple Steps appeared first on Email Marketing Tips.

‘Pack up and get out’: flooded Houston ravaged by more rain from Tropical Storm Harvey

Floodwaters reached the roof lines of single-story homes on Monday and people could be heard pleading for help from inside as Harvey poured rain on the Houston area for a fourth consecutive day after a chaotic weekend of rising water and rescues.

The nation’s fourth-largest city was still largely paralysed, and there was no relief in sight from the storm that spun into Texas as a Category 4 hurricane, then parked itself over the Gulf Coast. With nearly 2 more feet of rain expected, authorities worried whether the worst was yet to come.

Texas officials said on Monday that six more people are feared to have died in the Houston area as a result of torrential rains unleashed by Harvey over the weekend.

Tricia Bentley, spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office in Harris County which includes the city of Houston, confirmed six deaths since Sunday that are potentially tied to Hurricane Harvey.

Harvey, which made landfall late on Friday as a category 4 hurricane and is now dropping heavy rain as a tropical storm, sent devastating floods pouring into Houston on Sunday. The rising water chased thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground and overwhelmed rescuers who could not keep up with calls for help.

The director of the National Weather Service warned that the catastrophic flooding that has overwhelmed the fourth largest US city and other parts of Texas was set to worsen in the coming days.

Director Louis Uccellini said up to 51cm of rain could fall in the coming days, on top of the more than 76cm some places have already seen.

Pack up what you need and put it in your vehicle and when the sun comes up, get out

Jeff Lindner

The disaster unfolded on an epic scale in one of America’s most sprawling metropolitan centres. The Houston metro area covers about 10,000 square miles, an area slightly bigger than New Jersey. It’s crisscrossed by about 1,700 miles of channels, creeks and bayous that drain into the Gulf of Mexico, about 50 miles to the southeast from downtown.

The flooding was so widespread that the levels of city waterways have either equaled or surpassed those of Tropical Storm Allison from 2001, and no major highway has been spared some overflow.

US President Donald Trump on Monday declared an emergency in Louisiana as part of the southern state was being pelted with rain. The declaration allowed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate relief efforts, as well as disaster relief funding

This action will help alleviate the hardship and suffering that the emergency has inflicted on the local population, the White House said.

President Donald Trump is set to visit Texas on Tuesday.

In a series of tweets, Trump said his administration was handling its responsibilities well.

Wow Now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood! We have an all-out effort going, and going well!

Later, he added: HISTORIC rainfall in Houston, and all over Texas. Floods are unprecedented, and more rain coming. Spirit of the people is incredible. Thanks!

Sewage-laden floodwaters dumped on Texas by Hurricane Harvey bring a higher risk of disease, such as bacterial infections and mosquito-borne illnesses, and the fallout may linger for years, experts warn.

Immediate risks from floods include death by drowning, often people drown in their cars as they try to flee, electrocution, and hypothermia.

The long-term picture could be even more dire, as communities grapple with immense amounts of polluted water in the streets, in homes and businesses.

When floodwater washes over a heavily populated metro area like Houston, it is sure to be dirty and dangerous, experts say.

There is sewage, all kinds of pesticide, waste, herbicides and toxins that we don’t even know of are all going to wash in, Ranit Mishori, a family doctor and a professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine. We are talking hundreds of different types of bacteria and viruses that could contaminate that water.

People can get sick simply by wading through dirty floodwater with a scratch or an open wound.

The biggest issue is the release of sewage and bacterial-related infections, said Howard Selinger, chair of family medicine at the Frank H Netter MD School at Quinnipiac University.

Dirty water can also infiltrate the drinking water system, raising the risk of contaminated water and with it, cholera.

Cholera causes acute diarrhoea, causing some three to five million cases of illness and more than 100,000 deaths each year worldwide.

The spread of cholera is one of the most significant dangers following any natural disaster, but especially flooding after a hurricane, said Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

With more than 450,000 people likely to seek help as a result of the floods, US emergency management officials said they were committed to getting federal resources to Texas as quickly as possible. More than 30,000 people were expected to be placed temporarily in shelters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said.

Agency director Brock Long said 50 counties in Texas had been affected by the flooding and southwest Louisiana was expected to see major falls also. The rain has been blamed in at least two deaths.

Residents living near the Addicks and Barker reservoirs designed to prevent flooding in downtown Houston were warned on Sunday that a controlled release would cause additional flooding that could spill into homes. The dams were coming under massive pressure that could have caused failure without the release.

The idea is to prepare pack up what you need and put it in your vehicle and when the sun comes up, get out, said Jeff Lindner, from the Harris County Flood Control District. And you don’t have to go far, you just need to get out of this area.

The Army Corps of Engineers started the reservoir releases before 2am on Monday ahead of schedule because water levels were rising at a rate of more than 15cm per hour, a spokesman said.

County Judge Robert Herbert said National Weather Service officials were predicting that river waters could rise to 18 metres, 90cm above 2016 records and what Herbert called an 800-year flood level.

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Sunday’s incessant rain covered much of Houston in turbid, grey-green water and turned streets into rivers navigable only by boat. In a rescue effort that recalled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, helicopters landed near flooded freeways, airboats buzzed across submerged neighbourhoods and high-wheeled vehicles ploughed through waterlogged intersections.

Some people managed with kayaks or canoes or swam.

How Harvey went from little-noticed storm to a behemoth

Volunteers joined emergency teams to pull people from their homes or from the water, which was high enough in places to gush into second floors.

The flooding was so widespread that authorities had trouble pinpointing the worst areas. They urged people to get on top of their homes to avoid becoming trapped in attics and to wave sheets or towels to draw attention to their location.

Judging from federal disaster declarations, the storm has so far affected about a quarter of the Texas population, or 6.8 million people in 18 counties.

Being forced to evacuate, live in a makeshift shelter, and losing one’s possessions can all cause mental trauma that lasts long after the event, experts say.

Hospitals may fill up quickly, and people may have a hard time getting life saving medications and health care.

Over the weeks and months to come, soggy buildings will grow mould, which can be toxic and can cause a host of health problems for people exposed.

The biggest storms to hit the United States since 2000

As the water rose, the weather service offered an ominous forecast: Before the storm that arrived Friday as a Category 4 hurricane is gone, some parts of Houston and its suburbs could get as much as 1,300mm of rain. That would be the highest amount ever recorded in Texas.

Some areas have already received about half that amount. Since Thursday, South Houston recorded nearly 630mm, and the suburbs of Santa Fe and Dayton had 690mm.

The breadth and intensity of this rainfall is beyond anything experienced before, the National Weather Service said in a statement.

Elderly nursing homes were inundated with chest-high waters, while residents were forced to flee their homes with what belongings they could carry.

Tom Bartlett and Steven Craig pulled a rowing boat through floodwater for a mile to rescue Bartlett’s mother from her home in west Houston. It took them 45 minutes to reach the house, where Marie Bartlett, 88, was waiting in her upstairs bedroom.

When I was younger, I used to wish I had a daughter, but I have the best son in the world, she said. In my 40 years here, I’ve never seen the water this high.

At the city’s main convention centre, which was quickly opened as a shelter, Houston resident Gillis Leho said she woke up on Sunday to find her downstairs completely flooded. She tried to move some belongings upstairs, then grabbed her grandchildren.

When they told us the current was getting high, we had to bust a window to get out, Leho said.

William Cain sought shelter after water started coming inside his family’s flat and they lost power. I live in a lake where there was once dry land, he said.

The amount of water was so unprecedented that meteorologists had to update the colour charts on the weather service’s rainfall maps.

Rescuers were giving priority to life-and-death situations, leaving many affected families to fend for themselves. Several hospitals in the Houston area were evacuated due to the rising waters.

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US teenager buys unusual souvenir from street vendor in Mexico: a Bengal tiger cub

A California teenager who says he bought a Bengal tiger cub on the streets of Tijuana for US$300 was arrested when he tried to bring it into the United States in his car.

Luis Eudoro Valencia was charged with smuggling a Bengal tiger into the United States after Customs and Border Protection officials found the furry cub lying on the floor of the passenger side of his 2017 Chevy Camaro during an inspection around 1.30am Wednesday at the Otay Mesa border crossing.

CBP officers are often faced with unusual situations, said Pete Flores, director of field operations for Customs and Border Protection in San Diego.

The 18-year-old US citizen, who lives in Perris, said he had purchased the tiger for US$300 from someone who was walking a full-sized tiger on a leash in Tijuana, according to court documents. Several tigers have been seized this year by Mexican authorities in Tijuana.

US Fish & Wildlife Service officials took custody of the cub and handed the male cat over to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park to care for it.

In January, Mexican authorities seized a Bengal tiger in Tijuana after a resident called police to report a man was walking a tiger on a dog leash through the neighbourhood. Officials said the four-month-old tiger had been living in a private home with children.

In April, Mexican officials seized a nine-month old Bengal tiger in Tijuana after the cub fell from a third-floor terrace onto a neighbour’s patio, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Despite the fall, the tiger appeared to be in good health.

Mexican circuses have been trying to get rid of exotic animals after a law went into effect in 2015 prohibiting such acts. Drug lords in Mexico have also been known to keep big cats as pets.

All species of tigers are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Importing an endangered species into the United States requires a permit from the US Fish & Wildlife Service and a declaration filed with the agency.

Prosecutors say Valencia lacked both.

Valencia could not be immediately reached for comment and the office of his court-appointed attorney, Robert Schlein, said he has not had a chance to speak to his client.

Valencia was released on a US$10,000 bond and ordered to appear for a preliminary hearing on September 5 in federal court in San Diego.

If convicted, Valencia could face up to 20 years in prison.

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Outside Trump rally, thousands of protesters swelter and shout before tear gas finally fills the streets

Thousands of anti-Donald Trump protesters gathered in Phoenix on Tuesday outside a campaign-style rally by the US President, engaging in shouting matches with his supporters over whether Trump harbours racist views.

The demonstrations remained peaceful until the end of the rally, when some protesters tried to break through barricades near an entrance to the convention centre where Trump was finishing his speech. Police, who said some protesters had thrown rocks and bottles at them, used tear gas to disperse the crowds.

Hanging over the sweltering city all day was the shadow of Charlottesville, Virginia, and Trump’s recent assessment that both sides were to blame for the violence at a recent rally there by white nationalists and his comments that some very fine people were marching alongside neo-Nazis.

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In an effort to prevent the Phoenix demonstrations from turning violent, authorities called in extra officers and put the National Guard on the ready.

At rally, Trump defends his ‘perfect’ response to Virginia violence

Barricades were erected to separate Trump supporters and opponents outside the Phoenix Convention Centre, where afternoon temperatures climbed past 37 degrees and the growing crowd sought shelter under mesquite trees lining the sidewalks.

Build that wall! Build that wall! Trump supporters shouted as the barricades went up.

This is a country for everyone! yelled a counterprotester.

For Ubaldo Cruz, the arrival of Trump in Phoenix was an opportunity.

I don’t want to regret not speaking up, Cruz, who does accounting work, said as a beastly sun slipped behind downtown office buildings, moments before Trump strolled onto the stage at the convention center. It’s one thing to complain with friends I wanted to show up and speak up.

The anti-Trump protests in Phoenix consisted of several marches downtown that converged at the convention centre.

Nearly 4,000 people indicated on Facebook that they would attend an anti-Trump rally at the Herberger Theater Centre, less than a block from the convention centre. In a separate post, about 3,000 people said they planned to attend a White Supremacy Will Not Be Pardoned event downtown organised by the Puente Human Rights Movement, a local immigrant rights group. No official crowd totals were released by law enforcement officials.

Among those to arrive about four hours before the rally was Wolf Schneiter, 62, who held an Alt-right delete sign to protest the far-right movement that has backed Trump.

I used to protest in the ’70s and ’80s, but I took a little time off, he said. Now it’s time to get back in the game.

Schneiter said he was dismayed by Trump’s comments about both sides being to blame for the violence in Charlottesville.

What was that about? I’m beyond words that we’ve come to this, he said. You can’t even condemn bigots? Unreal.

Kim Aimes, 64, marched alongside members of the Puente Human Rights Movement.

Aimes, a social worker from Prescott, about 160km north of here, is a member of Indivisible Group, a national network resisting the Trump administration.

He wants to come west, so, well, we’ll bring it, Aimes said. We’ll bring the fight to him.

Aimes held a sign that read, Hate Never Made a Great Nation.

I just think this country is not moving ahead , she said. We’re talking about Nazis and the KKK. That’s not normal.

Not far from where Aimes stood, three members of the Southern Arizona Militia wore sunglasses and held AR-15 rifles.

Y’all Nazis?an anti-Trump protester asked the men.

They did not move.

Y’all Nazis? he asked again.

Just here to keep the peace, one of the men finally replied.

Members of the John Brown Gun Club, who oppose Trump, were also carrying weapons as a community defence team.

Ross Hubbard of Phoenix held his navy blue Make America great again hat as he fanned his face with a leaflet while waiting in line for the rally.

This is America right here a great day what a time to be alive, Hubbard, 45, said. This will be the greatest show on Earth tonight.

Sharon Miller, 62, travelled from her home a short drive east in Mesa to cheer on Trump.

I’m so tired of everyone acting like they’re doing something so brave by standing up to our president They’re not, she said.

Once Trump took the stage, many of the protesters began to head for their cars. Others stayed until the end and the clash with police that filled the air with tear gas. Some people in the crowd began fighting and throwing rocks and bottles at police, Phoenix police spokesman Sergeant Jonathan Howard said.

This is crazy, so crazy, said Mira Ramirez, a 20-year-old Phoenix resident who was there to protest the president. Everything was great until the end.

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Family of kidnapped Chinese student Zhang Yingying asks Trump for help

Family members of a Chinese student presumed kidnapped in Illinois asked President Donald Trump on Tuesday to provide more resources to help find her.

Zhang Yingying, a 26-year-old visiting scholar at the University of Illinois from southeast China, disappeared on June 9. Police believe Zhang is dead, although no body has been found.

Brendt Christensen, a former master’s student at the university, has been charged with abducting Zhang. Christensen, 28, pleaded not guilty to the kidnapping last month and is scheduled to stand trial in September.

Zhang’s father, Zhang Ronggao, cited the president’s own role as a father in a letter sent to Trump earlier this month and read by Zhang’s boyfriend, Hou Xiaolin, at a news conference on Tuesday.

As a loving father to your own children, you can understand what we are going through, the letter said. We fervently request that you direct all available federal law enforcement and investigatory resources be used to find our daughter as soon as possible.

A White House representative could not immediately be reached for comment.

Hundreds demand ‘justice for Yingying’ as kidnap suspect makes first court appearance

Hou also told reporters at the news conference in Champaign, Illinois, that he and the family would not return to China until Zhang was found.

An online fundraising platform has collected more than US$137,000 to support the family’s stay in the United States.

The case has been watched closely by Chinese media, China government officials and Chinese students in the United States.

Zhang, who had been studying photosynthesis and crop productivity, was last seen when a security camera recorded her getting into a black car that the authorities linked to Christensen, according to court documents.

Christensen was placed under surveillance by federal agents who heard him talking about how he kidnapped Zhang, court records said. He could receive a life sentence if convicted.

Christensen’s attorney, Anthony Bruno, said in a phone interview on Tuesday that the defence received more than 1,000 pages of police reports related to the case earlier this month and expects to gain access to video evidence soon.

Suspect pleads not guilty to kidnapping Chinese scholar in US

Bruno said the defence plans to request a delay to the start of the trial to get more time to review the enormous amount of evidence received from the government.

A spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Springfield, Illinois, office referred questions to US Attorney spokeswoman Sharon Paul.

Paul said in a phone interview on Tuesday that prosecutors have no update on Zhang’s whereabouts and declined to provide details of the FBI’s search efforts.

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Magnificently-preserved Canadian dinosaur gets a name and a backstory

An extraordinarily well-preserved 110-million-year-old dinosaur found in a mine pit in Canada now has a name and evidence of a troubled past, researchers said Thursday.

With fossilized skin and scales, the dragon-like creature is actually a new kind of nodosaur, coined Borealopelta markmitchelli, after the museum technician Mark Mitchell who spent more than 7,000 hours painstakingly removing rock from around the specimen.

The report in the journal Current Biology described it as the best-preserved armoured dinosaur ever found, and one of the best dinosaur specimens in the world.

The 5.5-metre-long creature was first discovered in 2011 by a mining machine operator named Shawn Funk, who was working at the Suncor Millennium Mine in Alberta.

The entire animal would have weighed more than 1,300 kilograms. The portion recovered spans from the snout to the hips.

Unlike most dinosaur specimens, which consist of skeletons or bone fragments, this one is three-dimensional and covered in preserved, scaly skin.

If you just squint your eyes a bit, you could almost believe it was sleeping, said lead author Caleb Brown, a scientist at the Royal Tyrrell Museum where the creature is on display.

It will go down in science history as one of the most beautiful and best preserved dinosaur specimens the Mona Lisa of dinosaurs.

By studying its skin, researchers found that this plant-eater, though covered in armour and resembling a walking tank, likely faced a significant threat from meat-eating dinosaurs.

That’s because it employed a shielding technique known as counter-shading, which is also used by many modern-day animals.

Researchers used chemical analysis of organic compounds in the dinosaur’s scales to reveal the pigmentation pattern of this new genus and species of dinosaur, showing it had reddish-brown pigmented skin with countershading across its the body.

This may have helped it blend in with the environment when approached by a taller predator, researchers say.

But most contemporary animals that have countershading think deer, zebras or armadillos are much smaller and more vulnerable as prey, signaling that this nodosaur faced a real struggle to survive.

Strong predation on a massive, heavily-armored dinosaur illustrates just how dangerous the dinosaur predators of the Cretaceous must have been, said Brown.

Scientists are continuing to study the animal for clues about its life, including its preserved gut contents to find out what it ate for its last meal.

They believe that when the dinosaur died, it fell into a river and was swept out to sea, where it sank on its back to the ocean floor.

At that time, Alberta was as warm as south Florida is today, and rivers and oceans likely spread far further inland than they do now.

The dinosaur was first unveiled to the public in May, but it didn’t yet have a formal name.

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Trump’s son-in-law meets with Netanyahu to push for peace deal with Palestinians

Jared Kushner’s return to Israel this week bolsters White House efforts to broker a peace deal, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu examines what he needs to give Palestinians to bring ties with the broader Arab world out of the shadows, diplomats and Israeli government officials said.

Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and designated chief for Mideast diplomacy, met Netanyahu on Wednesday afternoon and was to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the evening. In his own trip to the region last month, Trump said nurturing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia could help produce the wider Mideast pact that former US President Barack Obama and his predecessors failed to deliver.

Kushner’s presence, weeks after Trump made the Israeli-Palestinian peace track a centrepiece of his first foreign trip as president, raises the stakes for everybody, according to Dan Shapiro, the Obama-era ambassador to Israel.

While both Netanyahu and Abbas say they’re eager to revive talks under the new administration, any conciliatory tone evident during Trump’s visit has evaporated.

Israel starts work on new settlement amid US peace push

Netanyahu said in a Facebook post on Tuesday he was proud to break ground on Israel’s first new West Bank settlement in decades, fulfilling a pledge to resettle residents evacuated from an illegal settlement outpost earlier this year. Israeli officials criticised Abbas’ government for continuing to name buildings and streets after militants who kill Israeli civilians.

Cabinet allies say Netanyahu’s primary focus now is on building relations with Arab states in the Persian Gulf, which already are cooperating quietly with Israel, primarily on security matters involving shared foes.

There’s a very good chance that we will soon have relations with what we call the Saudi coalition, said Communications Minister Ayoob Kara, the Israeli cabinet’s only Arab member. The Palestinian issue is No 3 on the agenda today, he said, behind security concerns about Iran and terrorism that Israel and Saudi Arabia have in common.

Kushner and Trump diplomatic envoy Jason Greenblatt, who accompanied the US president to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the West Bank last month, are returning to ask Netanyahu and Abbas about their priorities and potential next steps, the White House said in a statement on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbours have indicated a willingness to upgrade unofficial ties with Israel, but veteran diplomats say that will depend on Israel’s willingness to withdraw from West Bank territory and commit to Palestinian statehood, as spelled out in the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. That initiative also alluded to a right of return to Israel for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, a demand rejected across the Israeli political spectrum.

Kushner and Greenblatt are wary of proceeding too quickly and want to make sure that both Israelis and Palestinians are willing to make substantial compromises, said Nimrod Novik, a longtime envoy for former Israeli President Shimon Peres who still undertakes diplomatic tasks.

Neither side trusts the other, so you have an orchestra conductor in Washington to make sure that nobody feels like a sucker when they do something constructive and see that it’s not reciprocated, said Novik, an adviser to the US-based Israel Policy Forum.

Analysis: Netanyahu, at odds with the world over settlements, is pinning his hopes on Trump

Others say Trump needs to act quickly to sew up the deal before investigations entangling him eat away at his presidential power. After hosting Abbas and Netanyahu separately at the White House and visiting them in the Middle East, Trump has maximal leverage right now, Shapiro said in a conference call with reporters on Monday.

It’s very difficult for any party in the region to say no to Trump, said Shapiro, now a visiting fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. If the investigations drag on for a long period of time and there begin to be questions raised about the future of his administration, that will contribute to a lessening of his leverage.

Abbas, who previously said he would not enter peace negotiations unless Netanyahu froze all settlement construction, recently indicated he would drop the condition. Still, Netanyahu’s announcement of a new settlement on the eve of Kushner’s arrival drew a sharp Palestinian rebuke.

This is a serious escalation, Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in an email. It’s an attempt to undermine the efforts of the American administration.

Through US mediators, Israel and Saudi Arabia have discussed a variety of potential actions that would show their intention to develop open diplomatic relations once the conflict with the Palestinians is resolved, Kara said. On Wednesday, he suggested the naming of reformer Mohammed bin Salman as Saudi crown prince could speed peace and normalisation between the kingdom and Israel.

The two countries have a long history of covert defence cooperation, and Saudi Arabia has expressed interest in Israeli technology connected to cybersecurity, desalination and agriculture. Gestures being discussed include allowing Israeli businesses to operate in Saudi Arabia and authorising Israeli planes to fly over the kingdom, which would shave up to three hours off flights to Asia, Kara said.

Saudi Arabia won’t take such actions, though, unless Israel offers significant steps that allow its leaders to say they won significant concessions for the Palestinians, such as releasing prisoners, expanding construction rights in the West Bank or easing conditions in Gaza, said Joshua Teitelbaum, a senior research associate at Bar Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies.

There’s no benefit to the Saudis to allow overflights or low-level economic stuff when they can basically get what they want from Israel without that, he said. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

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Barbie’s boyfriend Ken gets a makeover: man bun, beefy bod

He’s been overshadowed by Barbie for decades, but now Ken is finally getting some attention.

Mattel is introducing 15 new looks for the male doll, including different skin tones, body shapes and hair styles. Barbie had a similar makeover more than a year ago, both part of the toy company’s plan to make its dolls more diverse and appealing to today’s kids.

Ken hadn’t changed much since he was introduced 56 years ago as Barbie’s blue-eyed, chiselled boyfriend. Now he’ll be sold in three body shapes: slim, broad and original.

He’ll have modern hairdos, such as cornrows and man buns, and come in seven skin tones. And he’ll also be sporting new fashions: think skinny ties, plaid shirts and graphic tees.

We are redefining what a Barbie or Ken doll looks like to this generation, said Mattel’s Lisa McKnight, who oversees the Barbie line.

Mattel is trying to fight falling sales of its iconic doll line at a time when many kids would rather play with an iPad. Barbie sales were down 13 per cent in the first three months of the year compared with the same period a year ago. A live-action Barbie film is in the works for next year, with hopes that the big-screen flick will spur doll sales as well.

Ken was in need of a makeover, said Jim Silver, the editor-in-chief of toy review website TTPM. He said kids who play with the revamped Barbie dolls don’t want an outdated Ken.

He’s part of the storyline and he has to fit in with the picture, Silver said, or you would lose sales.

Some of the new US$10 Ken dolls were being rolled out to shops and online stores on Tuesday, Mattel said, and all of them will be on store shelves by the holidays.

The El Segundo, California-based company also announced new Barbie looks on Tuesday, including one with a nearly shaved head and another with an Afro. Mattel has been tinkering with other lines to be more inclusive, such as adding its first boy doll for the American Girl brand.

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Cosby’s lawyers demand mistrial in rape case as judge orders jury to keep working

Lawyers for Bill Cosby demanded that a judge declare a mistrial in the entertainer’s sexual assault case on Friday, complaining that jurors were essentially rehearing the entire week of trial testimony as their deliberations passed the 45-hour mark.

Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven O’Neill rebuffed the argument, saying he could not stop the jury as long as it was willing to continue mulling whether the 79-year-old comedian was guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.

I have no ability to do anything other than what I’ve done in this case, O’Neill told Cosby’s lawyer, Brian McMonagle.

The judge also appeared angered by what he called a public misperception that there was a time limit on deliberations, which he suggested was fueled by statements from Cosby’s spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, on Thursday night urging O’Neill to end the trial.

The star of the 1980s TV hit family comedy The Cosby Show faces similar allegations from dozens of women, though only Constand’s led to criminal charges. Cosby has denied all of the claims.

The jurors told O’Neill on Thursday morning they were having trouble reaching a verdict on any of the three counts he faces, prompting the judge to give a standard instruction that they should keep working.

McMonagle has made at least five mistrial motions based on the length of the jury deliberations, according to O’Neill, who until Friday afternoon had held all discussions with the attorneys out of public view.

O’Neill told the defence that until the jury says it is still deadlocked, there was little he could do but provide them with any evidence they request.

The jury’s latest note, the ninth they have sent since deliberations began Monday evening, asked to rehear trial testimony from both Constand and her mother, Gianna.

‘I go into the area between permission and rejection’: Cosby’s lurid testimony read to jury

Earlier on Friday, the jurors reviewed portions of the sworn depositions Cosby gave during Constand’s civil lawsuit in 2005 and 2006, when he described the night in question.

Cosby did not testify at the trial, but the jury heard a police interview with him from 2005 as well as his depositions.

A hung jury could represent a clear victory for Cosby, allowing him to avoid what might have been years in prison for three counts of aggravated indecent assault.

But O’Neill asked the comedian on Friday whether he understood that a hung jury could also allow prosecutors to retry him.

Yes, Cosby replied.

Constand was the prosecution’s key witness, telling jurors that Cosby gave her three unidentified pills before taking advantage when she was disoriented to sexually assault her.

Cosby’s lawyers sought to discredit her by pointing to discrepancies between her testimony and statements to law enforcement in 2005, when she first reported the incident a year after it allegedly occurred.

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