China, meet McDonald’s new cultural emissary. LeBron James, meet China.
The fast food empire will feature the NBA star in its China-focused commercials later this year, using LeBron as a gambit to boost its sales by satisfying the Chinese love of American basketball.
McDonald’s new ad move is part of drive to lure more Chinese sales, the Wall Street Journal reports, where the company is redoing its China-based stores in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou and overhauling its advertising campaign.
The moves come even as growth in China appears to be slowing, with overall economic growth in the country at 7.4% in the first quarter, its lowest level in 18 months.
Last year, China’s sales slowed 3.6% compared with 2012, as many of McDonald’s customers in China eat at cheaper local restaurants and noodle joints instead.
The National Archives released a fresh batch of newly unsealed Clinton administration documents Friday, including one that may shed some light on the origins of Hillary Clinton’s famous description of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” targeting her husband.
In 1998, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton came to the defense of Bill by decrying what she described as a “vast right-wing conspiracy” to drum up imagined White House scandals. She was mocked by conservatives for her use of the phrase as the Monica Lewinsky scandal unfolded.
The newly-released, undated document—which comes from thousands of Clinton-era documents whose disclosures are being closely watched for any impact they could have on a possible 2016 presidential campaign by Hillary Clinton—comes from the office of Jane Sherburnem. She served as special counsel to the Clintons from 1995 to 1997 and quarterbacked the administration’s response to a spate of ethics investigations and accusations of impropriety that originated in the conservative press.
“The controversy surrounding the death of Vince Foster [a longtime Clinton confidant whose suicide fueled right wing speculation for years] has been, in large part, the product of a well-financed right-wing conspiracy industry operation,” the document says. It goes on to describe the “Wizard of Oz” role played by Richard Mellon Scaife, a billionaire who funded numerous conservative and anti-Clinton organizations.
Elsewhere, the document seeks to track the origins of right-wing accusations against the Clintons from fringe political newsletters to the mainstream media, often through what was still then a new and exciting form of communication.
“The right wing has seized upon the internet as a means of communication its ideas to people,” the document says. “Moreover, evidence exists that Republican staffers surf the internet, interacting with extremists in order to exchange ideas and information.”
Johnny Depp dies and is reborn as a computer brain in Transcendence, the latest science-fiction thriller about artificial intelligence. Smart machines that may serve or dominate mankind are as old as Samuel Butler’s 1872 novel Erewhon, or Karel Capek’s 1920 play R.U.R. — and as recent as this week’s episode of The Simpsons, in which Dr. Frink revives the dead Homer as a chatty screensaver. They have also inhabited some of the finest SF movies, including Dark Star, Star Wars, Star Trek the Motion Picture, Alien, Blade Runner, The Terminator and RoboCop. The list is inspiring and nearly endless.MoreDays After Shooting, ‘Virunga’ Debuts at TribecaWatch the Trailer for Jersey BoysMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostKhloé Kardashian Casually Dating French Montana, Says Source People
(READ: Corliss’s review of Transcendence)Popular Among Subscribers Barbara Brown Taylor Faces the Darkness Subscribe Shinzo Abe: The PatriotRock With Michael Jackson (Again)
Here are seven of our favorites, spanning seven decades and the spectrum of man’s feelings — fearful, wondrous — about the smartest machines man has created.
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, 1951. Directed by Robert Wise. Screenplay by Edmund H. North, from the story “Farewell to the Master” by Harry Bates.
The first known alien visitor to Earth, in the first A-budget science-fiction film from a major Hollywood studio, is a Christ figure — Michael Rennie’s Klaatu — whose spaceship lands in Washington, D.C.’s President’s Park. Accompanied by his giant robot Gort, Klaatu has come in peace, but the Cold War U.S. will have none of that: a soldier shoots him. Escaping from the military hospital where he is confined, he assumes the earthly name “Mr. Carpenter,” befriends a nice widow (Patricia Neal) and, during a global shutdown of electrical power — the half hour the Earth stands still — tells her that, if he’s apprehended, she must sneak onto the spaceship and give Gort this message: “Klaatu barada nikto.”
Cannily fusing flying-saucer paranoia with the Christian parable of the Second Coming, The Day the Earth Stood Still establishes Gort and his kind as servants instead of uncontrollable rebels. The movie also sends a plethora of mixed messages, such as: Don’t trust your government; trust an alien with elegant bone structure and a posh English accent. At the end, Klaatu leaves Earth with one last message: All nations must live in peace. But if the military belligerence of Earth’s nations extends into outer space, then robots like Gort will destroy our planet. “The decision rests with you.” In other words, try to be as peaceful as we, your superiors, are — or we’ll kill you.
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, 1968. Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Written by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick.
What’s happening at the beginning? What goes on at the end? Not many science fiction films encourage the audience to ask those questions, as 2001 did. An essay on man’s destiny, the film was for some of its late-’60s viewers a light show, a head trip, needing no earthbound explanations. But still, wouldn’t it be nice to know the explicit meaning of the Monolith, that gigantic slab that revved evolution into fast-forward? In a making-of doc on the 2007 reissue of the film, Clarke explained: “The Monolith was essentially a teaching machine. In fact, our original idea was to have something with a transparent screen on which images would appear, which would teach the apes how to fight each other, how to maybe even make fire.” So the apes would get a celestial visit from the first computer on Earth. “But that was much too naive an idea,” Clarke added. “So eventually we just bypassed it with a device which we didn’t explain — they just touched it, and things happened to their brains, and they were transformed.”
2001 remains a wonder today, in part because its technological wizards achieved their effects not through CGI magic but in the camera. (For the floating-pen effect, they stuck the pen to a plate of glass and moved the plate slowly in front of the camera; the actress playing the flight attendant then pulled the pen off the glass.) So this was a handmade movie about computers — especially the soothing, neurotic HAL 9000, voiced by Douglas Rain. HAL masks insolence with apologies: When astronaut Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) orders the computer to “Open the pod bay doors,” HAL replies, “I’m sorry, Dave. I can’t do that.” HAL can do that, and he/it isn’t sorry; the lives of Bowman and his partner Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) are only incidental to the mission, which will abort if HAL is disconnected. The machine ends on a terser note: “Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.” It’s the Shut Down command we have all seen on our computers — and which, spookily, I am seeing right now. No kidding. Is HAL, or his kin 13 years after 2001, monitoring my writing?
DEMON SEED, 1977. Directed by Donald Cammell. Screenplay by Robert Jaffe and Roger O. Hirson, from the novel by Dean R. Koontz.
Can a computer rape a human? Proteus IV, the supercomputer that mad-genius scientist Alex Harris (Fritz Weaver) has invented and installed in his home, has eyes and more for Alex’s wife Susan (Julie Christie). A brain with no body, Proteus needs to reproduce: “So that I may be complete. My intelligence alive in human flesh, touching the universe, feeling it. … I, Proteus, possess the wisdom and ignorance of all men, but I can’t feel the sun on my face. My child will have that privilege.” Gross, but alright, how protean is Proteus? How does a machine inseminate a woman? By assuming the physical form of a giant Rubik’s Cube, in a sequence packed with psychedelic imagery.
Aside from trying to propagate its species, Proteus also dispenses its own binary wisdom. “Death is a gentleman,” it intones in the eerie metallic voice supplied by Robert (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) Vaughn. “He makes good losers of us all. I understand death. Men have always taken it too seriously. Life is more terrifying and more mysterious.” Cammell, who codirected the infamous Mick Jagger film Performance, met the gentleman Death far too early. Despondent when producers recut his movie Wide Side, he killed himself with a bullet through the head.
WARGAMES, 1983. Directed by John Badham. Written by Laurence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes.
“Shall we play a game?” asks the deadpan computer of nerd genius David Lightman (Matthew Broderick, back when he was 20 and totally adorable). Showing off a little for his girlfriend Jennifer (Ally Sheedy), David responds, “Love to. How about Global Thermonuclear War?” Bad idea, since the computer he’s hacked into, called Joshua, holds an Air Force system known as W.O.P.R. — the War Operations Plan Response — and if David keeps playing there’ll be a whopper of worldwide annihilation. With the entire military-industrial complex flummoxed, a wayward child must lead them. In an urgent new strategy, David must get Joshua to accept that “the only winning game is not to play.”
One of the first movies whose “action scenes” consisted mainly of furious typing, WarGames anticipated the toxic mischief that the next generation of hackers could wreak on the titans of Wall Street, Washington, D.C. and Silicon Valley. It also paved the way for antiestablishment hackers like Edward Snowden, who unleashed the power of a few key-punches on an NSA computer.
A.I., 2001. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Written by Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick, from the story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” by Brian Aldiss.
For his first sci-fi project since 2001, Kubrick had planned, as Spielberg said, “to take a step beyond the sentient relationship that HAL 9000 has with Bowman and Poole, and tell a kind of future fairy tale about artificial intelligence.” In the remote future, the brains at Cybertronics Manufacturing assemble the perfect child — “always loving, never ill, never changing” — and find a potentially ideal couple to adopt him, or try him out, like a prototype car. But we know the danger of answered prayers. Real life is messy; love can break your heart. Even the heart of a “mecha” like David (Hayley Joel Osment). He will be abandoned by his adoptive mother and, like a cyber-Pinocchio, venture into a brutal world before he can find a saving human touch.
Kubrick had spent parts of two decades on the project, and shortly before his death in 1999 he handed it to Spielberg, saying, “This story is closer to your sensibilities than my own.” On David’s travels through not-at-all-Wonderland, stocked with visual references to Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove and A Clockwork Orange, he finds a pal, almost a scoutmaster, in the “love mecha” Joe (Jude Law). In the A.I. world, robots are made to give pleasure and, in David’s case, offer joy. Gigolo Joe is a sex machine, David a love machine. Their pairing is as odd and beguiling as that of the cool Kubrick and the puppy-warm Spielberg, which produced, in A.I., a work of artificial emotions and genuine cinematic intelligence.
MOON, 2009. Written and directed by Duncan Jones.
By 2026, Earth scientists have discovered a way to solve the planet’s energy crisis: harvest an element called helium-3 from the Moon. Apparently this vast effort requires only one human: Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), who’s nearing the end of a three-year contract working alone in a station on the lunar surface. His solitary anxiety escalates to horror when he discovers someone else in the station: another Sam Bell. Yikes, there’s a clone on board. Or could the clone be our Sam?
Jones is the son of David Bowie, whose song “Space Oddity” (“Ground Control to Major Tom…”) might be the inspiration for this sleek minimalist thriller. But Jones had long been fascinated by the evolving identity of man in the cyber-era; in 1995, as a philosophy major at the College of Wooster, he wrote a thesis entitled How to Kill Your Computer Friend: An Investigation of the Mind/Body Problem and How It Relates to the Hypothetical Creation of a Thinking Machine. Sam’s chatty computer pal is named Gerty, which comes equipped with a metallic arm, as in the arcade claw games, three expressions (smiley-face, frowny-face and deadpan) and the would-be soothing voice of Kevin Spacey. Like Socrates or a rabbi or a shrink, Gerty answers questions with questions. (Sam, agitated: “Am I a f—in’ clone?” Gerty, trying to deflect the issue: “Are you hungry?”) Unlike HAL-9000, though, this computer is not totally the slave of his programmers. It might even aid Sam as he rises from impotence into insurrection.
HER. Written and directed by Spike Jonze.
Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) has a job writing love letters for people who lack his expressive gifts and swooning melancholy. A man who signs a man who signs his work with Xs and Os needs a woman made of zeroes and ones: his operating system. “It’s not just an operating system,” he says of Samantha OS. “It’s a conscience.” And it’s not an it; she is her. Among Samantha’s movie predecessors, HAL 9000 was the computer as whiny tyrant; the digitized movie star in Andrew Niccol’s S1m0ne was the invention of a desperate producer. This is science-fiction OS 2.0: the app assistant as dream girl. (Jonze says he conceived his film long before Apple came out with Siri.) They fall in love; they have cyber- and surrogate sex. And never mind that this is a liaison that could end if Theodore drops his smart phone in a full bathtub.
I know someone — I’m married to her — who thinks the movie is a social parable, a modern horror story about men who fall in love with their computers to the exclusion of old-fashioned human contact. Artfully dodging that accusation, I’d call her a movie romance that is laugh-and-cry and warm all over, totally sweet and utterly serious. Or, if you will, utterly Siri-ous. Unlike Transcendence, which eventually takes the neo-Luddite view of computers as monsters and those who create them as borderline nuts, her embraces the present we depend on, the future we hope will assist and enrich us. And if it purrs like Johansson’s Samantha, who wouldn’t embrace such an “IT” girl?
The Obama Administration is extending its review of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that has become an election-year minefield.
The State Department said Friday that while the public comment period will not be extended, executive agencies need more time to review the submitted comments as well as consider a Nebraska court case surrounding the pipeline. The indefinite extension could put off a decision on the pipeline, which would carry crude oil from Canadian tar sands to American refineries, until after November’s midterm elections.
“On April 18, 2014, the Department of State notified the eight federal agencies specified in Executive Order 13337 we will provide more time for the submission of their views on the proposed Keystone Pipeline Project,” the department said in a statement. “Agencies need additional time based on the uncertainty created by the on-going litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court which could ultimately affect the pipeline route in that state. In addition, during this time we will review and appropriately consider the unprecedented number of new public comments, approximately 2.5 million, received during the public comment period that closed on March 7, 2014.
“The Permit process will conclude once factors that have a significant impact on determining the national interest of the proposed project have been evaluated and appropriately reflected in the decision documents,” the State Department statement continued. “The Department will give the agencies sufficient time to submit their views.”
The pipeline has become a focus of Republican critics of the Obama Administration’s regulatory process. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted the White House Friday after news of the decision broke.
“It is crystal clear that the Obama administration is simply not serious about American energy and American jobs,” he said in a statement. “I guess he wasn’t serious about having a pen and a phone, either. At a time of high unemployment in the Obama economy, it’s a shame that the administration has delayed the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline for years. Here’s the single greatest shovel-ready project in America – one that could create thousands of jobs right away – but the President simply isn’t interested. Apparently radical activists carry more weight than Americans desperate to get back on the job. More jobs left behind in the Obama economy.”
-with reporting by Michael Crowley in Washington
The once-ubiquitous drive-in restaurant–you know, the kind with rollerskating waitresses–will be seen again very soon in all parts of the country, even in states where you wouldn’t want to eat outside for much of the year.MorePanera’s Founder Showed Us Exactly How He Plans to Revolutionize DiningHow Breakfast Became the Most Important Meal of the DayMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostJealous of Kate Middleton's Royal Tour Hair? We Tried Out 3 Styles People
Sonic, the old-fashioned burger-and-shake chain known as “America’s Drive-in,” grew steadily in the early years of the new century. The company hit the 2,000-location market in 1999, and promptly leaped up to 3,000 drive-in locations by 2005. By late 2008, the 3,500th Sonic location opened in the U.S.Popular Among Subscribers Barbara Brown Taylor Faces the Darkness Subscribe Shinzo Abe: The PatriotRock With Michael Jackson (Again)
However, that’s where the expansion leveled off. Here we are, six years later, and the Sonic website lists the number of locations as simply “more than 3,500.”
It’s understandable that Sonic’s growth might slow substantially of late. The company’s franchise expansion stalled around the time of the Great Recession, when business slowed across a wide range of industries. Over the past five years or so, fast food lunch and dinner sales totals have generally plateaued, and a perception has taken hold that perhaps we’re reaching the point when American consumers just can’t handle any more fast food burger joints.
What’s more, Sonic stands out in the crowded field due to its drive-in feature, in which customers pull up into parking spots in their cars, place their order, and wait for one of the restaurant’s old-fashioned “carhop” staffers to delivery the food. It’s a charming custom, but the charm wears off when, say, it’s 20 degrees and there’s 18 inches of snow on the ground.
“The main difference that sets drive-ins and drive-thrus apart is that the demand for drive-ins is more heavily dependent on the weather,” Hester Jeon, an analyst with IBIS World, explained recently to Marketplace. “Sonic’s business dips pretty dramatically during the colder months.”
So another reason that Sonic’s growth slowed is that it was running out of warm-weather spots to open up more franchises. The company is based in Oklahoma, and its restaurants have traditionally been concentrated there and in Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and throughout the South—pretty much everywhere that spring starts early and the chill of fall sets in late.
Nonetheless, Sonic just announced huge plans for growth, with expansion in the U.S. expected to reach roughly the same pace it reached in the early ’00s. The numbers thrown around by Sonic are bold, and nice and round: 1,000 new locations over the next 10 years.
In light of the company’s already heavy presence in the South, how will Sonic do it? First, it’s targeting states with mild climates that don’t already have an abundance of Sonics, namely California. Over the next six years, the goal is to open 15 Sonics in southern California, specifically in greater Los Angeles and San Diego County, and another 15 elsewhere in California. By 2020, Sonic expects to have a total of 300 drive-in locations in the state.
Second, and most interestingly, Sonic isn’t shying away from cold-weather locations. Last summer, Sonic opened in its 44th state, an unlikely one for a drive-in chain: North Dakota.
What makes Sonic’s expansion to North Dakota and other spots with short summers feasible is the introduction of a new restaurant design prototype that features drive-in stalls and outdoor seating that most Sonics, but that also includes a decent-sized area for indoor seating—making the idea of eating at Sonic in January in North Dakota or upstate New York seem not totally nuts. “With locations up north, we had to think creatively about how to develop a location that works with inclement weather while still matching the iconic SONIC Drive-In look,” Bob Franke, Sonic senior vice president of franchise sales and international development, said in a press release for the opening of the North Dakota location. “The result is a new SONIC Drive-In prototype that gives our guests many options during their visit that won’t be disrupted by a little snow.”
The result for diners is that even if they live in an area of the country where drive-in dining wouldn’t be comfortable for the majority of the year, they’ll be fairly likely to see a Sonic pop up in their neck of the woods in the near future. “The Northern states are ripe with expansion opportunities for Sonic, given the brand’s relatively small footprint in the area combined with high customer awareness and pent-up demand,” Franke said earlier this year. Over the next handful of years, 13 new Sonics are planned in the vicinity of Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y., and by 2018 another 14 should open in the greater Seattle area.
Sony, Warner and several other major record labels are suing Pandora for copyright infringement, accusing the Internet radio mogul of playing pre-1972 songs by artists like Buddy Holly and the Rolling Stones without licenses.
The record companies argue that while the pre-1972 songs Pandora plays aren’t covered by federal copyright protection, they are protected by common law in states like New York, where the case was filed Thursday, the New York Times reports. The labels control the rights to a litany of major artists like the Beatles, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, James Brown and others.
The record labels claim that Pandora is unjustly profiting from their artists, denying them tens of millions of dollars each year from Pandora and other streaming services.
“This case presents a classic attempt by Pandora to reap where it has not sown,” the labels say in the suit.
María Elena Holly, the widow of Buddy Holly, said in a statement: “Just because Buddy and the other ’50s musicians recorded songs before 1972 doesn’t mean their songs have no value. These companies’ failure to pay the rock ’n’ roll pioneers is an injustice and it needs to change.”
Pandora plays songs according to user-preferred categories like “Motown” or “60s Oldies.” The company said it was confident in its legal position.
When Chelsea Clinton announced Thursday that she’s pregnant, it took the media about two nanoseconds to home in on what that really means: Hillary, should she run for president in 2016, will campaign as a grandmother.MoreUnsealed Clinton Docs Shed Light on ‘Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy’Inside Ben Carson’s Conservative Marketing MachineMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostJealous of Kate Middleton's Royal Tour Hair? We Tried Out 3 Styles People
Some conservative pundits, perhaps unsurprisingly, were quick to the cynicism, with ruder ones even suggesting, absurdly, that Chelsea’s mom had pushed her because it would make good optics in 2016. And that’s to be expected. All is fair in love, war and Clintonland. But it’s worth noting two things.
For one, Chelsea is 34-years-old and has been married to her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, for four years. As any woman of childbearing age can tell you, now is the time in Chelsea’s life that the childbearing needs to happen. Let that sink in.
And for another, Hillary’s newfound role as grandmother isn’t necessarily a political boon. As I wrote in the Washington Monthly’s current issue, it could very easily cut both ways. After all, Hillary, who will be 68 in 2016, already runs the risk of appearing old, a vulnerability not lost on her detractors. From the Monthly:
(At sixty-six, Hillary is “not particularly old for a man,” Washington Times columnist Wes Pruden generously observed last year, but “a woman in public life is getting past her sell-by date.”) She will also likely provoke a national water-cooler debate, as no male candidate would, over whether she is too involved in her grandchild’s life, or, more likely, not involved enough—“How can she have time to be a good grandmother,” people will ask, “when she’s out running for president?”
The flipside, of course, is that the image of “grandmother” has changed fairly dramatically over the past decade or two. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, women in politics often worked to hide their age; being labeled a grandmother was considered a political liability. But as the Baby Boom generation has aged into grandparent roles, the term has been reclaimed. Being a grandma is now often used as a shorthand for a politician’s competence, compassion, and a commitment to her family—an image that sells well to liberals and conservatives alike.
As a result of this shift, we’ve seen more and more women in the past decade publicly relish their roles as grandmas. Within a few hours of Chelsea’s news on Thursday, Elizabeth Warren posted a picture of herself and her granddaughter on Facebook. (“I love-love-love being a grandmother,” it read.) Over the years, Nancy Pelosi, who has struggled to soften her image in the House, has talked often of her eight grandkids and occasionally dragged them along to political events. And in 2012, Sarah Palin, despite having become a grandmother after her unwed daughter’s teen pregnancy, embraced the title. The gun-totin’ Mama Grizzly was photographed regularly, grandbaby-in-arms, working the crowds.
When it comes to Hillary’s prospects on the campaign trail, the grandma card might be particularly useful. After all, one of her primary public image problems, both in 2008 and throughout her time as Secretary of State, has been that voters see her as cold, calculating and aloof. Campaigning with a toddler—cracking jokes about toys and lost sleep and the inevitable influx of stains—could make her appear softer, sweeter and more real in exactly the way she needs. It could also give her long-suffering speechwriters a raft of new material to help them connect the candidate to the policies she has already long championed, from pre-K education to family leave.
All that said, Hillary’s challenge, should she run, will not be to win over married or older women, for whom the grandmother schtick might be most appealing. Hillary’s challenge in 2016 will be the same as it was in 2008: getting younger women, who overwhelmingly backed Obama, to lend her their support. And to that end, Hillary’s secret weapon in 2016 might not be her new grandbaby, but her very own young woman: Chelsea herself.
(UNITED NATIONS) — A U.N. official says 58 people were killed in an attack on a U.N. base in South Sudan and about 100 were injured.
The U.N. said an angry mob of South Sudanese youths attacked the U.N. peacekeeping mission’s camp in Bor in Jonglei state on Thursday. Some 5,000 ethnic Nuers have sought safety in the U.N. base since fighting broke out in the country in mid-December.
The U.N. official, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement, said Friday most of the 58 people killed were Nuer but there were also casualties on the other side.
The official said a surgical team from Doctors Without Borders flew into Bor to help treat the injured, including two U.N. peacekeepers.
The U.N. has reinforced security at Bor, the official said.
(NEW YORK) — Days after the director of Africa’s oldest national park was shot by gunmen, a documentary about those who protect Virunga National Park from armed poachers and encroaching oil interests premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.MoreSeven A.I. Movies That Are Better Than TranscendenceWatch the Trailer for Jersey BoysMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostJealous of Kate Middleton's Royal Tour Hair? We Tried Out 3 Styles People
The debut Thursday night of “Virunga,” named after the eastern Congo park, followed the shooting Tuesday of Emmanuel de Merode, the chief warden of Virunga. He is in serious but stable condition after being attacked by three gunmen while driving through the park.Popular Among Subscribers Barbara Brown Taylor Faces the Darkness Subscribe Shinzo Abe: The PatriotRock With Michael Jackson (Again)
De Merode, a Belgian royal, appears extensively in the documentary, which provides a striking portrait of the violence surrounding the majestic park and its dauntless defenders.
Directed by British filmmaker Orlando von Einsiedel, “Virunga” depicts the desperate struggle by de Merode and the park rangers to protect the park and its wildlife from armed militias, rebels and an oil company.
“It’s obviously very tragic what’s happened, but a lot of people have taken interest in this. It’s helped to magnify things,” said von Einsiedel, who has been in frequent contact with De Merode while he recovers from gunshot wounds to his abdomen.
“Emmanuel is very conscious of that, too. He’s like, ‘I’m getting better. Now let’s go make a lot of noise about what’s happening,’” von Einsiedel said.
The Congolese government has authorized oil exploration in the park by London-based SOCO, following the discovery of oil in 2010. The World Wildlife Fund has protested the legality of that decision. Virunga is a World Heritage site listed by UNESCO as “in danger.”
The park is best known as home to about a quarter of the world’s estimated 800 remaining mountain gorillas. It’s the only place on Earth were one can see all three African great apes. The park includes the snowcapped Rwenzoria mountains, seven volcanoes, a lake and plains filled with wildlife.
“This is a British company operating illegally in a World Heritage site,” said von Einsiedel. “There’s like .05 percent of the world’s surface is a World Heritage site. If we can’t protect those, what does it say for the Great Barrier Reef, for Yellowstone, for Yosemite?”
In meetings filmed with hidden cameras, “Virunga” shows local SOCO supporters attempting to bribe park workers to circumvent de Merode, arguing that “he’s the one hindering the process.”
French freelance journalist Melanie Gouby captures a French SOCO operations manager saying the best solution is to “recolonize these countries.” Another encounter shows a security contractor for SOCO paying out a bribe.
In an interview hours before the film premiered at Tribeca, von Einsiedel was plainly nervous that SOCO could interfere with the release of the film.
“They are an incredibly powerful company,” he said. “We stand by our journalism on this film. We are small filmmakers; they are a billion dollar oil company. On a personal level, that concerns us. Of course, we’re much more concerned about what they’re doing in the region.”
SOCO has condemned the attack on de Merode.
Human Rights Watch on Thursday called for Congolese authorities to “take immediate steps to ensure a safe environment for those seeking to uphold the law, protect the park and peacefully express their views.”
“It makes it real for all of us how high the stakes are and how much people are taking risks to defend that park,” said Gouby, a former reporter for The Associated Press.
Park spokeswoman Joanna Natasegara said Wednesday that more than 140 rangers have been killed on the job in the past 10 years. “Virunga” is dedicated to them.
The documentary includes combat footage with heavy shelling when a rebel group overruns the villages near the park. Yet de Merode mostly lives in nothing more protective than a tent. While making the film, von Einsiedel lived a few tents down from the warden. “You don’t really have a choice, to be honest,” said von Einsiedel, laughing.
The film will hope to pick up a distribution deal at Tribeca, but that’s a smaller goal for “Virunga.”
“Right now, it’s about making noise and sharing this story with the world and exposing what’s happening there,” von Einsidel said. “It’s a campaign film. It’s part of a much bigger campaign.”
Around the Super Bowl, a GoDaddy ad featuring race car driver Danica Patrick in a body builder suit rather than a robe inspired me to predict that sexist ads might be on the decline. But after this week, I take it all back.
As some big-name TV shows wrap up their seasons (Scandal, How I Met Your Mother) and others premiere (Mad Men, Game of Thrones), commercials are competing for the precious little time we spend watching live TV. One easy way to grab our attention (and YouTube views)? Sexist ads. You decide which is the most offensive.
DirecTV: Women Are Literally Objects
It’s easy enough to objectify women in ads—just ask RadioShack. But putting a woman in skimpy clothes to sell something is so old news. How about just turning them into literal objects?
Take the new DirecTV ad that advertises the Wireless Genie Mini device by juxtaposing wireless cable with a wired wife. In the commercial, the man’s wife is actually a marionette — because everybody knows that men just want their wives to be puppets. The puppet wife even dons a sexy negligee while trying to woo her husband because she know he thinks her wires are unattractive.
Our suggestion to the wired wife? Cut and run.
Woodford Reserve Bourbon: Women Are “Cool Girls” Who Probably Shouldn’t Talk or Use Tools
In the ad for Woodford Reserve bourbon that premiered during Mad Men on Sunday, a woman narrates the hipster fantasy of a man who sips bourbon while wearing a well-tailored suit and Warby Parker glasses in a forest:
When I see a man drinking bourbon, I expect him to be the kind who could build me a bookshelf. But not in the way that one builds a ready-made bookshelf. He will already know where the lumberyard is. He’ll get the right amount of wood without having to do math. He’ll let me use the saw, and not find it cute that I don’t know how to use the saw.
The commercial reinforces the gender roles of the Mad Men era: the man using tools, drinking whiskey and being a man’s man; the woman watching and finding it sexy.
The real kicker is the saw: Saws are not complicated tools. Wouldn’t the obvious (non-sexist) copy have been “He’ll let me use the saw, and not find it cute that I DO know how to use the saw”? As Jezebel put it, “Actually, it felt like the commercial version of an issue of Southern artisan revival mag Garden and Gun.”
And that’s not even the worst commercial from Woodford Reserve. Another ad narrated by a man about a woman drinking bourbon goes to a different type of sexist place:
When I see a woman drinking bourbon, I’m prepared to tolerate a lot of her business. In the end, I figure, she’s got that rare thing that makes her not just tolerate but enjoy my thorny mess.
Men know it’s worth “tolerate[ing] a lot of her business” if she’s the cool, understanding, hot type that likes to drink whiskey just like them. The commercial reminds me of the mythical “cool girl” archetype that Gillian Flynn takes down in Gone Girl:
Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, s*** on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.
Men actually think this girl exists.
Carl’s Jr.: Women Are Hot and Shouldn’t Eat Manly Burgers
Nobody’s surprised that the new Carl’s Jr. ad blatantly traffics in sexism. The notoriously unapologetic fast food company—they previously referenced this in a press release: “We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones don’t sell burgers”—has teamed up with X-Men for its latest commercial. In it, a blue-boobed Mystique can’t handle the big juicy burger, so she transforms into a dude.
Thank goodness it’s not actually Jennifer Lawrence playing Mystique in this commercial (as she does in the current X-Men films). It would be a little too ironic if an actress who’s been so open about refusing to adjust her eating habits for Hollywood wasn’t allowed to have such a “manly” burger.
Snickers: Women Are Empowered When Men Manage Not to Objectify Them
Perhaps the worst offender is a recent commercial for Snickers that’s trying to be empowering and in doing so turns out to be—you guessed it—sexist.
As my colleague Oliva Waxman pointed out, the ad manages to be sexist to both women and men. The women are still props being yelled at by men. The men are acting “not like themselves” when they yell feminist things. Once they eat that Snickers, they’ll go back to cat calling. As Adweek writes, ““By saying blue-collar guys ‘aren’t themselves’ when they’re being polite, it pretty clearly implies they’re otherwise a bunch of misogynistic boors.”
Well done, advertising world. You’ve outdone yourselves this week.
(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) — Authorities say a man has been charged with 18 felony counts in connection with about a dozen recent random highway shootings that have wounded three people in the Kansas City area.
Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said at a news conference Friday that Mohammed Whitaker was charged with two counts of shooting into a motor vehicle and injuring a person, seven counts of shooting into a motor vehicle and nine counts of armed criminal action. At least six of the shootings occurred near Grandview. The Kansas City suburb is home to an area known as the Grandview Triangle, where three interstates and U.S. 50 intersect.
The last confirmed shooting believed to be connected to the case was reported April 6.
None of victims’ wounds was considered life-threatening.
Dear Pregnancy Pundit,
Yesterday I let slip that I’m expecting. But my mom is expecting a big new job. Will getting pregnant screw up my mom’s career?
That depends. As USA Today put it, “It’s unclear how [your] pregnancy will affect [your mom], who is considering a race for president in 2016.”
But many other presidents have had grandchildren while in office.
Most of these presidents are dead. All of them are men. This raises an interesting question. If it’s ordinary when it happens to “regular” women, is it extraordinary when it happens to a woman candidate?
Hi again Pregnancy Pundit,
I keep feeling happy for myself, even though I know this is really about my mom. What can I do to be less selfish?
We both know you can’t have it all. It might help you feel less guilty to participate in a choreographed family tweet-off about your news. That will show that you’re a team player.
Sorry last question. Politico published a photo retrospective of my life. Am I dying?
You’re not dying. But your whole purpose these last 20 years has been to illuminate whether your parents would become grandparents. Now that we know the answer, it’s time for a sentimental look back.
The Wall Street Journal ran a piece Thursday that a wild fox has breached White House grounds, out-foxing (sorry, that’s not even creative, I just had to) administrators, security, and groundskeepers who have tried to kick him out of the Rose Garden and rolling lawns.
This fox first invaded White House grounds during the government shutdown (remember that?) in October, wreaking havoc on Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden. He settled in when groundskeepers were furloughed, meaning that he has been running free for six months.
And, short of using deadly force, the WSJ reports that White House grounds officials have been trying everything to get him out including spending “hours plotting to lure him into the traps with rotting hunks of chicken, so they could relocate him some 3 miles south to a park along the Potomac River.”
So we put a man on the moon, but we can’t get a fox out of the White House garden. Where’s Olivia Pope when you need her?
The arrest of two Lebanese men in Thailand, allegedly for plotting to target Jewish tourists on a busy Bangkok street on behalf of the Lebanese Shiite group Hizballah, could mark the latest failed effort by the militia to resume terror attacks overseas. The latest plot, revealed in the Thai press on Friday, ended almost before it began. The two men reportedly arrived in Bangkok April 13 and were detained by Thai police on information supplied by Israeli intelligence. Both men allegedly carried passports of third countries (Philippines and France); Hizballah has previously shown it prefers its operatives to carry second passports. Media reports say one of the men admitted a plot to detonate explosives on Bangkok’s Khao San Road, a nexus for international backpackers, including young Israelis. The suspect also agreed to lead investigators to “bomb-making equipment” in the province of Rayong, southeast of the capital, the Bangkok Post reported.MoreAl-Qaeda’s Second-in-Command Seen in New VideoJudge Says a Radical Cleric’s 9/11 Comments Can Be Used as EvidenceMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostLawyer Who Argued Against Gay Marriage Before Supreme Court Now Planning Daughter's Gay Wedding People
Police were seeking third man, and The Post quoted an unnamed investigator as saying nine Hizballah agents are thought to be somewhere in the country.Popular Among Subscribers Barbara Brown Taylor Faces the Darkness Subscribe Shinzo Abe: The PatriotRock With Michael Jackson (Again)
The incident serves to underscore the apparent gap in operational abilities of the Iranian-backed Hizballah’s covert forces – which lately have shown little of the disciplined success that built the organization’s reputation as the “terrorist A-team” – and its uniformed militia. The troops are fighting on the side of President Bashar Assad in the civil war in Syria, and making a significant impact. Meanwhile, except for the 2012 bombing of a tourist bus carrying Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria – a “soft target” – Hizballah has suffered a number of setbacks that reveal what one analyst called “an atrophying of the group’s operational capabilities.”
“What I had been hearing from numerous sources is they just did not have the bandwidth to keep up the pace of the attacks because of Syria,” says Matthew Hewitt, a former Treasury Department and FBI terrorism specialist, author of Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God. “They are all in Syria. And once that started in Syria in earnest, then [covert operations] became something that was less critical, it wasn’t their priority.”
One reversal came in Bangkok in January 2012, when a Hizballah agent (with a Swedish passport) led authorities to a 8,800 pounds of chemicals being assembled into explosives, apparently for shipment abroad in bags labeled as kitty litter. And Bangkok was the scene of the group’s biggest fiasco, a debacle in February 2012 that involved an Iranian agent blowing off his own legs while trying to escape a safe house where the roof had just blown off by a bomb-making accident. Three agents of the Quds Force, the branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps that operates overseas, were detained in the safe house incident. Inside the building, investigators found magnetic “sticky bombs” like the kind Israeli agents had attached to the cars of Iranian nuclear scientists. The Quds Force agents apparently intended to do the same to Israeli diplomats.
Phone records and other evidence gathered by four governments in a joint report detailed by the Washington Post link the Bangkok plan to Iranian plots against Israeli targets in Azerbaijan, Georgia, and India, all of which ended in failure and arrests. Other plots were thwarted in Kenya, South Africa, Cyprus and Bulgaria – and Texas, where an Iranian-American used car salesman tried to plot the assassination by bomb of Saudia Arabia’s ambassador in Washington D.C.
From Iran’s perspective, the flurry of attacks was intended both to avenge the death of the Iranian scientists and to demonstrate what in the way of “asymmetrical warfare” the West might face if there were a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, Levitt wrote in a paper for the Washington Institute for Near East Studies. But neither Quds nor Hizballah proved as formidable in the field as they had had been before 9/11, when they drew back from terrorist strikes. When they resumed, the world had become more security-conscious, and both Hizballah and the Quds Force were both rusty and hasty, mounting 20 plots in the 15 months from May 2011 to July 2012.
Since then, Iran appears to have reduced terror operations once again – scaling back as Iran and Western powers began talking seriously about launching diplomatic negotiations addressing Iran’s nuclear program. (Israel has restrained its covert operations, as well.) Hizballah, however, appears to be constrained only by the need to concentrate on Syria. Levitt says the group remains committed to striking Israeli targets to avenge the 2008 assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, its talented terrorist leader, whose death was what prompted Hizballah to re-activate its covert operations. In addition, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah has vowed to strike Israel in retaliation for its most recent airstrike on a convoy carrying advanced weapons; the Feb. 24 attack was the first such airstrike inside Lebanon.
Nasrallah later took responsibility for a March 14 roadside bomb attack on an Israeli patrol that wounded three soldiers. But he called the ambush on the Israel-Lebanon border only “part of the reply” to the airstrike. It’s possible another “part” was what the two Lebanese men were allegedly planning in Thailand, Levitt says.
“The Israelis in particular are very sensitive to any civilian loss,” he notes. “It’s possible the message is let them know there is pressure on every front.”
(NEW YORK) — Near the end of the first half of Thursday’s 25th Anniversary Rain Forest benefit concert at Carnegie Hall, chairwoman Trudie Styler introduced a man who recently learned he was going to be a grandfather, and out came former President Bill Clinton.MorePeaches Geldof Funeral To Be Held on Easter MondayVIDEO: Porsha Williams Charged With Battery for Real Housewives FightMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostLawyer Who Argued Against Gay Marriage Before Supreme Court Now Planning Daughter's Gay Wedding People
After Clinton praised the Rain Forest Foundation, he thanked Sting, Styler and others for their efforts for the organization. Then he acknowledged Kevin Spacey.
“I know Kevin Spacey made fun of me earlier,” he told the crowd.
Clinton was referring to Spacey doing an imitation of him praising his Netflix series, “House of Cards,” where the actor plays the president of the United States.
Spacey walked out onstage and greeted Clinton.
The former president told the actor that he always wanted to be in his line of work.
But then he quipped to hearty laughs: “Now, damn it, you’re in mine.”
Clinton continued poking fun at Spacey.
“I was always accused of getting away with murder, but Spacey actually does it in 15 minutes,” Clinton said, referring to a scene in the first episode of the second season.
Earlier in the day, Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, announced that she and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, are expecting their first child later this year.
As for the benefit concert, the exception often became the rule with performers leaving their comfort zone to entertain the audience.
The show opened with Sting and Spacey sitting at a bar performing a duet of Cole Porter’s “Well Did You Evah (What a Swell Party This Is),” backed by a huge orchestra. They eventually were joined by James Taylor, who entered the stage wearing a lampshade on his head.
At the end of the number, Sting welcomed everyone and introduced Spacey as President Underwood, his “House of Cards” character.
After opera singer Renee Fleming did her first selection early in the show, she requested a partner to accompany her on an excerpt from “Don Giovanni,” and out came Sting. After accompanying her seamlessly in Italian, Spacey walked out with a giant daffodil in his mouth and joined in.
Actor Oscar Isaac of “Inside Llewyn Davis” performed a solo acoustic version of Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks.” And Sting’s oldest son, Joe, covered Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Some stayed in their comfort zone.
Taylor performed his signature hit, “Fire and Rain,” and later covered the Holland-Dozier-Holland classic “How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You.)”
Paul Simon did a couple of his own songs, including “Graceland” and “The Boxer,” and Dionne Warwick covered some of the Burt Bacharach tunes she helped make famous, including “Walk on By.” Stephen Stills brought the crowd to its feet several times with raucous versions of “For What It’s Worth” and the finale for the nearly three-hour show, “Love the One You’re With,” where he was joined by all of the evening’s performers.
The Rain Forest Foundation Fund is dedicated to preserving rain forests around the world by defending the rights of indigenous people living in and around them. It was founded in 1989 by Sting, Styler and Jean-Pierre Dutilleux.
In her speech, Styler spoke of the global importance of protecting rain forests around the world, and said that she and Sting no longer mind being described as “Tree-hugging tantric yogis.”
(NEWARK, N.J.) — A New Jersey woman claims she was denied a license plate proclaiming herself to be an atheist because it might be considered offensive.
Shannon Morgan said in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday that the Motor Vehicle Commission violated her First Amendment rights when its website rejected the plate reading “8THEIST.”
The Maurice River Township woman says she also asked for a plate reading “BAPTIST” as a test. The website accepted it.
Messages and emails left for the Motor Vehicle Commission were not immediately returned. A recorded message said the offices were closed because of Good Friday.
New Jersey previously, after a brief flap, approved a request from an atheist group’s president for a license plate with the word “atheist.” His plate had the number one in place of the letter “i.”