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IRS Gave $1 Million in Bonuses to Employees Who Didn’t Pay Taxes

Time - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 19:24

The federal agency in charge of tax collection has been awarding bonuses to employees who have not been paying their taxes on time, according to a new report by J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration.

The report reveals that the Internal Revenue Service gave a total of $1 million in bonuses to 1,150 workers who owed back taxes between October 201o and December 2012. The IRS paid out an additional $1.8 million in bonuses to workers facing other kinds of disciplinary problems over the same period, including improper use of government credit cards, drug use, threats of violence and unemployment-benefits fraud, according to the Associated Press.

George said the bonuses don’t violate federal rules but are inconsistent with the agency’s mission to enforce tax regulations. “These awards are designed to recognize and reward IRS employees for a job well done, and that is appropriate, because the IRS should encourage good performance,” George said in a press release. “However, while not prohibited, providing awards to employees who have been disciplined for failing to pay federal taxes appears to create a conflict with the IRS’s charge of ensuring the integrity of the system of tax administration.”

Despite the apparent contradiction highlighted by bonus program, the employees of the Treasury Department, which includes the IRS, still have better tax compliance than other federal agencies. Just 1.1% of Treasury workers owed back taxes in 2011, compared with 3.2% of federal workers overall, the AP reports. The tax-delinquency rate for the general public was 8.2% that year.

Categories: Magazines

Gone Girl Author: Reports of Movie Changes Are “Greatly Exaggerated”

Time - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 19:10

Gillian Flynn’s bestselling thriller Gone Girl is about to become a movie starring Ben Affleck, but fans of the marital murder mystery know adapting its alternating narrations and plot twists is no easy task.

In January, an Entertainment Weekly cover story suggested the film’s screenplay, which Flynn wrote, was a drastic departure from the novel and included a whole new ending — news that surprised fans as well as the film’s stars. “Ben was so shocked by it,” Gone Girl director David Fincher told EW. “He would say, ‘This is a whole new third act! She literally threw that third act out and started from scratch.’”

During a Reddit ask-me-anything Q&A on Tuesday, however, Flynn told fans not to worry about changes to the story. She wrote:

… those reports have been greatly exaggerated! Of course, the script has to be different from the book in some ways—you have to find a way to externalize all those internal thoughts and you have to do more with less room and you just don’t have room for everything. But the mood, tone and spirit of the book are very much intact. I’ve been very involved in the film and loved it. Working with David Fincher is pretty much the best place to start for a screenwriter. Screenwriting definitely works different parts of your brain than writing a novel. I do love that with novels, you can really sprawl out–it feels quite decadent. With screenwriting, you have to justify every choice. It’s a nice discipline, but definitely not decadent.

Flynn also discussed her writing process (“I treat it like a 9 to 5 job”), her upcoming young-adult novel (“No vampires”) and her career (she wrote her first two books while working full-time). She also revealed Gone Girl’s memorable “Cool Girl” monologue wasn’t originally intended for the book — it was just a writing exercise designed to flesh out the character Amy.

Gone Girl is not the only Flynn novel coming to the big screen: An adaptation of her second novel, Dark Places, opens in September, and Flynn told Reddit she “may have news to report in [the] next few months” about her first novel, Sharp Objects, which has been optioned. Unlike Gone Girl, which is her third book, Flynn says Sharp Objects lends itself very well to film — no Frankensteined screenplays necessary.

Here’s the first full Gone Girl trailer in case you missed it:

Gone Girl opens in theaters on October 3.

Categories: Magazines

Apple Will Let Mac Users Try Out OS X Betas (Finally!)

Time - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 18:38

If you’ve got a Mac and like trying out new software, Apple has a proposition for you. Join its new OS X Beta Seed program, and you’ll be able to download free test versions of future editions of OS X from the Mac App Store, before they’re released to the general public.

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As with all beta programs, what’s in it for the software developer in question is real-world testing. Apple will be able to get feedback from program participants while it’s still possible to fix any glitches which turn up.

With any other product and any other company, this wouldn’t be news: It’s the way things work, generally speaking. For instance, Microsoft released a free consumer preview of Windows 8 in February 2012, months before the final operating system shipped in October.

Apple, however, has usually held its betas close to the vest. It’s distributed them to people who pay $99 a year to register as an OS X or iOS developer, but doing so has required those folks to sign an agreement saying they won’t discuss the pre-release software in public.

Actually, that mandate is still in place: As the Verge’s Chris Welch points out, signing up for the Beta Seed requires you to agree that you won’t blog, tweet, share screen shots or otherwise spill the beans.

The Beta Seed site never says that signing up for the program entitles you to get every new version of OS X early. In fact, the only version of OS X it mentions by name is Mavericks, the current major release. So I don’t think it’s a given that Beta Seed testers will get immediate access to the next version after Mavericks when it comes along, possibly at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in June. But it would be nice if they did: It will have major new features, and any further Mavericks updates probably will not.

It’s traditional in stories such as this one to include a stern disclaimer that installing beta software can cause major problems and therefore isn’t for the faint of heart. I guess that’s true. Full disclosure, though: For years, I’ve installed most betas the moment I can get my hands on them. So far, I’ve lived to tell the tale. It may be risky, but it can also be a rewarding experience.

How about iOS? Apple isn’t making any mention at all of its mobile operating system, and it would be a much bigger decision for it to let consumers install such betas. Early versions of smartphone operating systems are far more likely to have crippling problems than desktop ones, and it’s tougher to reverse the process if you regret installing them.

I can’t imagine that Apple wants to provide tech support for people who install an iOS beta and then discover that their phone no longer functions as a phone. Maybe the company will cautiously provide seeds of very late, almost-done betas–also known by names such as “release candidates,” and typically just about as polished as final software. Here’s hoping.

Categories: Magazines

KKK Forms Neighborhood Watch in Pennsylvania Town

Time - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 18:28

A local chapter of one of the country’s most infamous white supremacist groups has launched a neighborhood watch in a Pennsylvania town.

Frank Ancona, the “imperial wizard” and president of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, said leaders of the local chapter in Fairview Township, Penn. got approval from the national organization to form the watch, PennLive reports.

Ancona said the watch group was formed in response to a series of break-ins. “It’s just like any neighborhood watch program. It’s not targeting any specific ethnicity. We would report anything we see to law enforcement,” he said. “We don’t hate people. We are an organization that looks out for our race. We believe in racial separation. God created each species after its kind and saw that it was good.”

The group has distributed flyers around the neighborhood that read: “Neighborhood Watch. You can sleep tonight knowing the Klan is awake.”

The controversial move by the organization comes as white supremacist groups face renewed scrutiny. Frazier Glenn Cross, the founder of the Carolina Knights of the Klu Klux Klan, was charged last week for the shooting murders of three people at Jewish community centers near Kansas City. As the Klan’s membership has dwindled from a high of nearly 4 million members nearly a century ago, many splinter chapters such as the Fairview Township group have been working to increase membership, through efforts ranging from a new radio station sponsored by an Arkansas chapter to flyers distributed in several Southern states that read “The KKK Wants You!”

Fairview Township police are aware of the Traditionalist American Knights’ actions but can’t prevent them from forming a neighborhood watch. “There’s not a whole lot we can do about it,” Lt. Jason Loper told the York Dispatch. “It’s a freedom of speech issue and, while vast majority of most residents don’t agree with their philosophy, we can’t discriminate against them…or we’ll open ourselves to a lawsuit.”

Categories: Magazines

Beyonce Assists Boots on Surprise Single 'Dreams'

RollingStone - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 18:25
Producer and singer Boots saved a Beyoncé-sized surprise for the last track of his Winter Spring Summer Fall mixtape a duet with Beyoncé titled "Dreams" The track is a slow-building strangely hypnotic and of course dreamy five-minute love song that finds Boots professing his lifelong love for someone A strong...

Categories: Magazines

Surprise! The New Axe Body Spray Ad is Super Romantic

Time - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 18:12

Axe is leaning away from their men-surrounded-by-ladies thing and getting a little sentimental in their new ad. Because sex sells, but love sells more. Even to guys.

Somehow they’ve gone from hundreds of women clawing at a single Axe-spraying bro to a hunky time-traveler chasing his true love through history. It’s sure to catch the attention of that 13-year-old who loves sword fighting and is just about ready to start wearing deodorant. Watch it here:

 

The company definitely recycled the costumes from Game of Thrones for that first part with the cavemen, but it’s still cute. And we’re pretty sure Jack Dawson from Titanic probably would have worn Axe.

Categories: Magazines

Spending Earth Day at Ground Zero for Climate Change In America

Time - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 17:54

We’ve all seen the iconic Blue Marble photo of the earth from space, the image that launched a thousand nature essays, but Bill Nelson and Piers Sellers are among the few people who have enjoyed that perspective on the planet in the flesh. Nelson is now a U.S. Senator from Florida, Sellers is a top NASA science official, and this morning, at an Earth Day hearing in my Miami Beach neighborhood, I got to hear the two former astronauts reminisce about the view from 10 million feet.

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Senator Nelson recalled the color contrasts in the Amazon that illuminated the growth of deforestation. “The earth looked so beautiful, so alive—and yet so fragile,” he said. “It made me want to be a better steward of what the good Lord gave us—and yet we continue to mess it up.” Dr. Sellers remembered catching a glimpse of the Florida peninsula between his boots during a spacewalk. When you go around the world in ninety minutes, he said, you realize it’s a very small world.

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“My take-home impression was that we inhabit a very beautiful but delicate planet,” said Sellers, a meteorologist who is NASA’s deputy director for science and exploration. “And the dynamic engine of planet Earth is the climate system that allows all life here to prosper and grow, including us humans.”

Now that climate is changing, and as Nelson said at the start of the South Florida hearing: “This is Ground Zero.” Scientists have documented that the seas along the Florida coastline have risen five to eight inches over the last fifty years, and Biscayne Bay now floods the streets of my neighborhood just about every month at high tide. “It’s real. It’s happening here,” Nelson said. “Yet some of my colleagues in the Senate continue to deny it.”

It is real, and it’s already a problem in my low-lying part of the world. Saltwater intrusion is increasing in the freshwater Everglades, which is causing problems for farmers in southern Miami-Dade County, and will make the government’s $15 billion Everglades restoration project even more expensive. The Army Corps of Engineers has estimated that over the next fifty years, Miami-Dade’s beaches will need about 23 million cubic yards of new sand to deal with erosion. Mayor Philip Levine says Miami Beach alone plans to spend $400 million to upgrade drainage infrastructure to prepare for a warmer world. The Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change’s “likely scenario” for 2010 includes seas rising as much as three feet; our county has $38 billion worth of property at three feet elevation or less. And while it’s too early to tie any particular storm to climate change, all the models predict more intense hurricanes coming through the Sunshine State. “The risk posed by coastal flooding is indisputably growing,” testified Megan Linkin, a natural hazards specialist at the reinsurance giant Swiss Re.

That’s incorrect. The risks posed by climate change, while real, are not at all indisputable. Lots of people, including most Republican politicians in Washington, still dispute them. As Senator Nelson said after the hearing, even Republican politicians in coastal areas—he cited Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina—rarely acknowledge the danger their constituents face from rising seas. “That would not be a popular topic in a Republican primary,” Nelson said.

But as Dr. Sellers pointed out, the IPCC believes the main cause of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels. And as Senator Nelson pointed out, it will take government action—he mentioned the possibility of a carbon tax—to reduce the burning of fossil fuels. “Otherwise, the planet will continue to heat up,” Nelson said.

Unfortunately, there is no chance of Congress passing a carbon tax anytime in the foreseeable future. President Obama couldn’t even get a cap-and-trade program through Congress when Democrats controlled both houses. Global warming has no juice as a political issue; people don’t think it really affects their lives.

That’s why Nelson held a hearing here at global warming’s Ground Zero, to try to show that global warming is already affecting lives. It was worth a shot, I guess. South Florida isn’t as threatened as those vanishing Pacific islands, but it’s basically America’s canary in the coal mine. Maybe my neighborhood’s outrage over the monthly lake in our Whole Foods parking lot will help spark a broader movement for change.

I doubt it, though. I get the political instinct to boil issues down to How It Can Affect You, but climate change is so urgent and invisible that if Congress has to wait for it to affect most Americans in tangible ways before taking action, Congress will be too late. Burning rivers and disappearing eagles helped build support for laws like the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act; rising temperatures—all of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since 1998—and extreme events like Superstorm Sandy don’t seem to be having much of a political impact. President Obama has helped launch a clean energy revolution, and he will soon propose new regulations on carbon emissions, but the public has shown little interest in the issue.

Ultimately, the local argument against climate change—it might flood your neighborhood—seems a lot less compelling than the global argument, the Blue Marble argument. This is a nice earth. It’s our home. It’s the only planet with ice cream and the Everglades and the NBA playoffs. We should try not to mess it up.

“Spaceflight allows one to stand back, or float, and literally take in the big picture,” Dr. Sellers said in his testimony. It’s a perspective we sometimes overlook back here on Earth. Otherwise, we might decide to stop broiling it.

 

Categories: Magazines

Ed Norton’s Charity Company Doesn’t Sound So Charitable

Time - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 17:51

What’s one of the rare blessings of living in an era characterized by tremendous asset inequality and a chastened, hamstrung welfare state? Charitable giving has by some accounts reached an all-time high, both among the general public and among the American wealthy. What a time to be alive.

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As has been the case with many a popular activity in our time, techies have now come along to philanthropy to offer the piggy-back ride they like to call disruption, claiming to fix something that may not have needed fixing while skimming a fee for doing business. The crowded crowdfunding field offers any number of sites that handle charitable donations, from Indiegogo to GoFundMe to Causes to JustGiving. All tend to follow the same basic formula, allowing users to register their own charitable causes and to donate to established ones. It’s hard for any one site to make a name for itself.

But on Monday one of the pack stepped forward from the others with big news: CrowdRise, a charity-specific crowdfunding venture, had landed $23 million in venture capital funding from a group including Twitter/Tumblr investors Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures, and Jeff Bezos’s personal investment fund, Bezos Expeditions. (This funding round followed an earlier seed round that included investment from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.)

Those big names join the biggest one that had previously been attached to the site: Edward Norton, the actor and director. Norton and a band of cofounders launched the site in November 2009 after they raised a surprising $1.2 million for a wildlife preservation concern in eastern Africa. They figured, If we can raise good money like this, why shouldn’t we let everyone else do the same? That was a giving notion, and it’s of a piece with CrowdRise’s passionate and playful message. The site’s motto says its users will “have the most fun in the world” while fundraising, and little jokes pepper its official literature. To wit: “CrowdRise is way more fun than anything else aside from being all nervous about trying to kiss a girl for the first time and her not saying something like ‘you’ve got to be kidding me.’” Fun!

But what does altruistic fun have to do with a $23 million round of funding? That cash would do some good in the pockets of the charities CrowdRise users support. The site’s literature explains its business plan this way: “When a donation is made through Crowdrise, we deduct a transaction fee so we don’t go out of business (GOB).” No, ExxonMobil’s corporate communications team would never write such a plain thing. But perhaps what they would write would not fudge things, either. Those transaction fees not only kept CrowdRise from going under but made the business promising enough to land all that venture money. As TechCrunch put it: “[CrowdRise is] profitable and … viewed the Kickstarter goal of $1 billion raised on CrowdRise as very doable.” (CrowdRise had not responded to questions from TIME as of late Tuesday afternoon.)

Capitalist techniques have gained an increasingly stable foothold in the world of nonprofits. Universities, hospitals and big foundations are lousy with MBAs and executives who command (citing market logic) salaries close to what their for-profit counterparts make. CrowdRise’s big-bucks waltz into this moral vacuum might be a little brazen—but at least it’s clever. The opposite of clever is the spirit that accompanies any event like this. A perusal of the comments on TechCrunch’s post, and the Twitter response to the same, indicates an unflinchingly positive reaction to the news. “Great to see.” “Psyched.” “Congratulations.” That’s a whole lot of accolades for a common middleman who just got a whole lot richer.

Categories: Magazines

Barack and Michelle Obama Remember Frankie Knuckles

RollingStone - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 17:50
President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have shared a letter offering their thoughts and prayers to the friends and family of Chicago house pioneer Frankie Knuckles who died earlier this month FACT reports Check Out these 5 Defining Tracks from Frankie Knuckles "Frankie's work helped open minds and bring people together blending...

Categories: Magazines

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Lost Money in 2012 and 2011

Time - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 17:42

Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle company Goop, famous for its weekly newsletter, was in debt and losing money through the end of 2012, the company’s corporate records reveal.

Unaudited financial statements for the privately-held company that were filed with the UK’s Companies House state that Goop reported a 2012 loss of around $39,000 (£22,954), Radar Online reports. That was a big improvement from 2011, however, when the company reported nearly $260,200 (£155,834) in losses.

The company had real revenue — the records show significant product sales and income from Groupon — but expenses exceeded gross profits. Compensation for Paltrow and recently departed Goop CEO Sebastian Bishop was one of the more notable administrative expenses. The two took in close to $589,000 (£350,000) together in 2012, nearly a third of the company’s gross profits that year and a significant increase from the almost $173,000 (£102,788) they received the previous year.

Categories: Magazines

Country Hall of Fame Taps Ronnie Milsap, Mac Wiseman, Hank Cochran

RollingStone - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 17:35
Ronnie Milsap Mac Wiseman and the late Hank Cochran will receive country music's highest honor later this year induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame The 2014 honorees were announced Tuesday at a press conference inside the downtown Nashville landmark's rotunda which houses the bronze plaques of its 121...

Categories: Magazines

How the Heck Do You Make Powdered Alcohol?

Time - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 17:34

The Internet was in a tizzy yesterday over what appeared to be the approval of powdered alcohol, which had the potential to be added to water or food, or snorted.

But if it sounds too ridiculous to be true, it probably is—for now. The labels for the powdered alcohol, branded “Palcohol,” were approved in error, and the product’s label approval was rescinded yesterday by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The company that makes Palcohol, Lipsmark, had this to say on its site: “We have been in touch with the TTB and there seemed to be a discrepancy on…how much powder is in the bag. There was a mutual agreement for us to surrender the labels. This doesn’t mean that Palcohol isn’t approved. It just means that these labels aren’t approved. We will re-submit.”

So while it appears powdered alcohol’s move to market has been stalled, we’re still scratching our heads: Considering how quickly liquid alcohol evaporates, do you make it powdered?

Palcohol, it turns out, is not the first attempt at a powdered alcohol. According to patent data, General Foods Corporation (now a subsidiary of Kraft) patented a couple of ways to make “alcohol-containing powder” in the early 1970s. In their process, they took a carbohydrate and broke it down through a process called hydrolysis, rendering it into a white powder. According to John Coupland, a professor of food science at Penn State University and spokesperson for the Institute of Food Technologists, they then combined that powder with pure liquid alcohol, which stuck to the powder, essentially capturing the alcohol in white dust. “It would feel dry to your hands,” Coupland says.

The Palcohol makers are not revealing how they make their product, which comes in cosmopolitan, mojito, margarita, and lemon drop flavors. “They say that they are trying to patent it at the moment, which suggests they have something novel, but I have no clue what that could be,” says Coupland.

So it looks like powdered alcohol is indeed possible, but won’t be for sale anytime soon. For now, you’re still going to have to consume your alcohol with dinner—instead of sprinkled on top of it.

 

Categories: Magazines

Courtney Love Knows 'You Know My Name' on New Song

RollingStone - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 17:10
Courtney Love won't release her double A-side single "You Know My Name"/"Wedding Day" until May 4th but the vicious chugging "You Know My Name" has already premiered on Steve Lamacq's BBC Radio 6 show You can check out the track above which finds Love in full beast mode wracking up...

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Watch Young the Giant Perform Live at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

RollingStone - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 17:10
For their latest album Mind Over Matter Young the Giant told us they were demonstrating "democracy at work" "Sometimes you can think about higher things and the social implications of what you're doing but at the end of the day just being and existing as a group together getting in...

Categories: Magazines

TIME 100 Alumni Who Continue to Inspire Change

Time - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 17:07

Over the past 10 years, TIME has chosen some of the world’s biggest movers and shakers for its annual list of the most influential people in the world. Many of them have continued to transform themselves and the lives of others long after their inclusion.

Take Hillary Clinton, for example. The one-time First Lady has appeared on the list seven times (including one time with husband Bill) as she evolved from senator to presidential candidate to Secretary of State to (unofficial) presidential candidate again. We’ve selected 10 other honorees that we think fit the bill.

Categories: Magazines

Hear Courtney Love Howl on “You Know My Name”: Listen

Time - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 17:03

Hole’s grunge classic Live Through This turned 20 years old last week, which prompted an outpouring of nostalgia for Courtney Love’s glory days — as well as a lot of bummed-out head-shaking at her spottier output in recent years: Hole’s poorly reviewed Nobody’s Daughter, Love’s poor-selling 2004 solo album, America’s Sweetheart.

But in advance of an upcoming tour, Love is releasing an double A-side on May 4, and the first song from it should serve as proof that Love’s still got it. “You Know My Name” is a thrilling punk workout that has Love screaming and spewing venom like the alt-rock banshee she once was. Just when the track seems to reach its peak, it ignites with a forceful hook: “All this world is burning up / It’s time that you retire.” Good thing she hasn’t.

Categories: Magazines

Apple’s Patent to Auto-Disable Texting While Driving Is Old News

Time - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 16:59

The idea that a master control device placed in your car or truck or rental vehicle might automatically deactivate your smartphone’s ability to text has been around for awhile: There’s an app that’ll disable phone texting if it detects motion above 10 m.p.h., for instance, or another from AT&T that’ll do so the same once you reach 25 m.p.h. We’ve written about a few ourselves in recent years, like Scosche CellControl, or TextBuster. They’re not really news.

Bear that in mind as you’re reading reports that Apple might (gasp!) have lockout designs on your handheld computing device while operating a motor vehicle. First, the news stems from a patent, and patents slot somewhere between hypotheticals and parking spaces. And second, Apple filed this particular patent back in 2008 — this is just the patent coming to light.

Here’s the gist, scraped from U.S. patent 8,706,143, published today for what Apple describes as a “Driver handheld computing device lock-out.”

…The lock-out mechanisms disable the ability of a handheld computing device to perform certain functions, such as texting, while one is driving. In one embodiment, a handheld computing device can provide a lock-out mechanism without requiring any modifications or additions to a vehicle by using a motion analyzer, a scenery analyzer and a lock-out mechanism. In other embodiments, the handheld computing device can provide a lock-out mechanism with modifications or additions to the vehicle, including the use of signals transmitted by the vehicle or by the vehicle key when engaged with the vehicle.

In other words, pretty much like the apps mentioned above. Apple’s imprimatur could carry significantly more water, of course, if it’s working with automotive manufacturers to make the technology work automatically (or optionally) with its iOS device lineup. And while anti-texting app-makers like Cinqpoint have talked about offering iOS versions down the line, your alternatives in iOS at this point are limited to workarounds that don’t actually disable texting, because Apple doesn’t allow it. Whether that’s because Apple’s been waiting to roll out its own solution, or for security reasons, say to prevent rogue apps hijacking your phone’s messaging capabilities, is anyone’s guess.

In the meantime, the real debate governing hard and fast anti-texting solutions is over here; that’s where the conversation has to start, anyway.

Categories: Magazines

U.S. Plans Military Exercises Near Russia

Time - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 16:54
MoreUkraine Leader Orders Forces To Resume Operations in Restive East

The United States will send hundreds of troops to eastern Europe for training exercises, the Pentagon said Tuesday, as the Americans look to reassure nervous allies that border Russia.

The U.S. will deploy roughly 600 troops already stationed in Europe to Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said Tuesday. The troops will be replaced with new units within about a month, and the U.S. expects to maintain a presence for at least the remainder of the year, he said.

“The message is to the people of Poland and Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia that the United States takes seriously our obligations,” Kirby said.

The U.S. is aiming to reassure allies in the region amid tensions on Ukraine’s eastern border, where Russia has amassed thousands of troops since it annexed the southern Ukrainian region of Crimea.

Vice President Joe Biden met with the Ukrainian leadership in Kiev on Tuesday, where he threatened new sanctions against Russia if it does not pull back its troops. He also said Russia should “stop talking and start acting,” days after international parties agreed on a joint roadmap to diffuse the crisis in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have occupied towns and cities. The separatists have so far defied the agreement’s stipulation that they disarm, and on Tuesday acting Ukrainian president Oleksander Turchinov called for police to resume “counterterrorism” operations in the region after the body of a recently abducted local politician with suspected torture marks was found.

Categories: Magazines

Fan TV Highlights Everything Wrong with Cable Right Now

Time - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 16:36

Fan TV has a simple proposition for Time Warner Cable customers: For $99, it will make your cable TV-watching experience better.

You buy the box and stick it in your living room, in place of a regular cable box. Instead of the the regular guide–cluttered with row upon row of channels you never watch–you get personalized recommendations, not just for stuff that’s on cable, but for shows and movies from other streaming video sources like Crackle and Redbox Instant. And instead of a huge, clunky remote, you use a touchscreen pad that responds to swipes and taps.

But as CNet points out, Fan TV also makes the experience worse in a few significant ways: You can only watch what’s available through Time Warner Cable’s mobile app, which means some channels may not be available. You also can’t record live shows for later viewing or watch recordings from another DVR. A full cable box stand-in this is not.

No disrespect to Fan TV, which has created what appears to be a pleasant interface and concept. But the whole setup is preposterous.

Here we have a cable company that is unwilling to reinvent its stodgy old system for watching television, but continues to increase prices year after year. To justify these higher prices, Time Warner Cable and other providers point out how they’re offering more channels than ever, regardless of whether subscribers asked for these channels. Meanwhile, the licensing costs to carry all these channels keep going up, and all subscribers get is more clutter in an increasingly mind-numbing TV guide interface.

So now, instead of addressing those problems, Time Warner Cable turns to another company that promises to fix the clutter–not for the same exorbitant prices you’ve been paying, mind you, but for an extra $99. Oh, but no DVR allowed. Sorry.

No wonder more people are ditching or skipping cable in favor of cheaper, smarter, more convenient online video services. And no wonder companies like Google and Apple have delayed or given up on plans to make cable TV better. It’s a lost cause.

On a section of Fan TV’s website, the company wonders aloud whether it’s crazy to compete with the tech giants and instead cozy up to pay TV providers like Time Warner Cable. At last, we know the answer.

Categories: Magazines

Electric Zoo Returns with Increased Security, Health Measures

RollingStone - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 16:30
EDM festival Electric Zoo will return to New York City's Randall's Island this summer with increased security and health measures following the drug-related deaths of two attendees last year The 50 Most Important People in EDM A press release outlined the new security measures which include drug-sniffing dogs stationed at all entrances...

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