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USDA Establishes Rural Business Investment Program

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 11:14

(DES MOINES, Iowa) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Monday a new $150 million program designed to provide investment capital to help small agriculture-related business in rural areas with cash needed to expand.

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Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced in Cedar Rapids the formation of the first Rural Business Investment Company, a for-profit firm licensed by the USDA to invest in businesses that otherwise might not have the capital to increase business opportunities.

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The USDA traditionally has offered guaranteed loans or direct loans for rural businesses. The creation of the Rural Business Investment Company is a new way for USDA to establish a licensing procedure that makes Farm Credit bank funds available as investment capital. The banks cannot directly hold ownership stakes in companies through capital investment.

Under the new program the government has created a new business entity, the Rural Business Investment Company, to receive money from Farm Credit banks and set up an investment capital fund. The money will be managed by Advantage Capital Partners, a New-Orleans-based firm with experience in investing in small rural businesses. Advantage Capital will choose the companies in which the new funds will be invested.

The money comes from eight Farm Credit banks. Three in Minnesota include AgStar Financial Services in Mankato, AgriBank of St. Paul, and United Farm Credit Service in Willmar. Two in Texas are Capital Farm Credit in Bryan and Farm Credit Bank of Texas in Austin. Others are CoBank in Denver, Colorado; Farm Credit Services of America in Omaha, Neb.; and Farm Credit Services of Mid-America in Louisville, Kentucky.

In addition to the creation of the first Rural Business Investment Company announced Monday, the USDA is seeking applications for more. The businesses must be newly formed for-profit venture capital companies seeking to be licensed as an RBIC and intending to raise a minimum of $10 million in private equity capital.

Vilsack said a second RBIC application is already under review. The USDA intends to accept RBIC applications through 2016.

Vilsack said examples of the types of businesses that could receive money include biotechnology companies, regional food hubs, or companies making ag-related products seeking to expand into the export market.

“This new partnership will allow us to facilitate private investment in businesses working in bio-manufacturing, advanced energy production, local and regional food systems, improved farming technologies and other cutting-edge fields,” he said.

The program is aimed toward established companies that have received enough money to get off the ground but are now in position to increase the business but need additional capital to grow but are not interested in more debt.

“It’s designed to fill a very narrow but important piece that’s been missing from assistance and help available in rural areas,” Vilsack said.

Small agriculture related business in rural areas have often encountered difficulty getting investors interested in putting up money, Vilsack said. The program is designed to help fill that void.

He said it’s the first step in several activities planned this year he hopes will “create a buzz” about business activity in the nation’s rural areas.

Other steps include the formation of a nonprofit Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research funded by Congress in the Farm Bill passed earlier this year. It makes available $200 million in USDA money to create the foundation that is designed to attract another $200 million in private sector money to continue research in various agriculture-related fields.

Additionally, the White House Rural Council’s Investing In Rural America conference is set for July. The goal is to attract additional investments to rural America by connecting major investors with rural business leaders, government officials, economic development experts and other partners. The conference will promote opportunities to invest in rural America by highlighting successful projects in energy, biofuels and bio-products, infrastructure, transportation, local and regional food systems, and other areas.

Categories: Magazines

This Fast Food Company Is Finally Making A 9-Minute Long, Italian Short Film

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 11:08


Rather than stick a breakfast taco in a waffle or create a prom corsage out of fried chicken, Wendy’s strategy to go viral isn’t by creating a strange food hybrid but rather creating a 9-minute long, black and white, Italian short film for a relatively traditional Tuscan Chicken on Ciabatta sandwich.

That’s probably not what the internet was expecting.

The fast food chain’s CMO promised “to explode digital” when he joined Wendy’s two years ago, and he’s doing that by having foreign film loving millennials submit subtitles that can be written into the short film — which will be split into three acts.

Now we just have to wait, with bated breath, for a Fellini-esque take on a fried chicken sandwich. There might have been a reason why he never dedicated a short to fast food…

Categories: Magazines

The Best and Worst States for Infertility

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 11:04

If you’re struggling to get pregnant, the best states to live in are Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.

That’s according to a “fertility report card” from RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, which assessed each state based on whether they offer insurance coverage for in vitro fertilization (IVF), the number of fertility specialists in each state, and the prevalence of infertility support groups.

So what are the worst states for couples struggling to get pregnant? RESOLVE says it’s Alaska, New Hampshire, and Wyoming, which all were graded an “F.”

“For the second year in a row, we are working to highlight state-by-state disparities between access to support resources and fertility treatment, in an effort to motivate people to take action to improve their state’s fertility friendliness,” said Barbara Collura, President/CEO of RESOLVE. Insurance coverage is one of the biggest hurdles for IVF, with some states not providing insurance due to IVF not being a life or death issue, and for ethical reasons.

See a snapshot below, or view the full interactive here:

Categories: Magazines

Beyond Earth Interview: ‘No Civilization Game Would Be Made Without Sid. He’s the Guy.’

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:57

Turn-based science fiction games are scarce in gaming’s history, much less ones with insight into the history of the genre. There’s Julian Gollop’s X-COM (or Jake Solomon’s XCOM, the recent reboot), Brad Wardell’s Galactic Civilizations, Steve Barcia’s Master of Orion and the odd Civilization mod, but the one I’d wager most remember the fondest is Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri from 1999.

Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth is a spiritual sequel to the latter, a 4x (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) game that trades its namesake’s traditional obsession with things that’ve already happened for things that have yet to. It’s a game whose design team sounds as intrigued by the ramifications of our post-human future as they are obsessed with folding such heady concepts into a compulsive piece-pusher — something worthy both of the “one more turn” cliche and sci-fi’s legacy of stirring, often subversive fiction.

Firaxis unveiled the game at PAX East on April 12 — it’s due later this year. You can watch the PAX East panel’s announcement here:

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This is the second part of a two-part interview, here with the game’s lead designer David McDonough and lead producer Lena Brenk. The first part — with gameplay designer Anton Strenger, Sid Meier’s Civilization series senior producer Dennis Shirk and associate producer Pete Murray — is here.

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In Beyond Earth, you lead different factions with contrasting cultures. One of the critiques of Civilization V‘s take on culture was that it felt like a second tech tree instead of a feature unto itself. How does culture work in Beyond Earth?

David McDonough: There’s a system called virtues, which is an expression of what your civilization cares about, so who they grow up to be, what their priorities are and so forth. It’s been totally redesigned for this game, meaning it’s different from any previous Civilization. Culture drives the acquisition of items within a virtue table, and those items have a lot of cross-linking benefits in and out of other systems in the game — everything from city progression to tile improvement to military strategies to territorial acquisition and diplomacy and so on.

Lena Brenk: The way Anton designed it, the trees are a lot deeper, so you have a tree that you can follow down, the whole column through, and the more points you spend in one tree, you get kickers — additional bonuses that you rack up. If you go very wide and select virtues from different branches of different trees, you get kickers as well, but they’re different in that they give you bonuses for going in very different directions and not focusing on one tree. So the system is quite different from prior Civilization games.

Firaxis

Recognizing that realism’s subordinate to gameplay, how hard-science-minded have you been able to keep Beyond Earth, for those who relished that aspect of Reynolds’ Alpha Centauri?

DM: We care deeply about exactly that thing. When we set out to design the game, we were already huge fans of not just science fiction, but actual science, and one of the first things we did, and you can find this on Wikipedia, is that we pulled together the original reading list that the designers of Alpha Centauri assembled. I think between us on the Beyond Earth team, we’d read about half of that list before we got started, so we read the other half, and then some.

Every part of the game’s been designed with a very careful eye toward achieving the sweet spot Alpha Centauri did, with finding a plausible link between science that everybody knows and that’s real, and science fiction that makes sense and comes from it. I think one of the best expressions of this in the game is the technology web. The future is treading technological ground that we don’t know yet, and we get to invent it. So we start you in the center of a web surrounded by technologies that are more or less recognizable, that are based on present-day Earth technologies plus a few hundred years. But then it radiates outward to any of a dozen very different technological places, and they all end up in a very interesting sci-fi place that is definitely sci-fi, but also definitely plausible, and you can see the thread all the way through from today to then and how humankind could have gotten to that technology, and why they would have, and what they’d do with it.

So as you play the game, you get to make these really interesting choices along the way, like what kind of technology is important to me, what fits my needs on the ground, what’s going to help me achieve victory, what do I just find the most attractive, and by the time the game is over, you have a collection that represents your priorities as the human race. Your neighbors on the planet will have made a different set of choices, of course, and you’ll clash because your technologies don’t line up.

LB: I can attest to the enthusiasm with which the design team went at it, and the art team as well. We love history here at Firaxis, we love Civilization of course, but going into the future — far into the future — was really cool. It was a challenge, but such an opportunity for the art team to stretch their legs. The designers came up with the technologies and said this is what we’re going for, and then the art team came in and had to imagine what that would mean for units and leaders and the alien environment, how that would look and be represented in the game. The enthusiasm was incredible, and still is incredible, since we’re only pre-alpha at this point.

What’s the timeframe in the game? How many years are we talking, from launching your colony ship to an average game’s conclusion?

DM: That’s a good question, because we don’t say specifically in the game. And we do that on purpose so the player can enjoy imagining the answers to the questions they’re asking. We hypothesize that it’s roughly 200 to 300 years from today, that that’s when the seeding occurs, and once you land on the planet, you play forward by somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 years.

Firaxis

The reason I ask is that Alpha Centauri managed to sneak in some pretty out-there futurist notions, and if you follow guys like Ray Kurzweil today, you know he thinks this notion that Star Trek‘s going to happen in another century or two misses the point — that we’re going to be clouds of foglets or whatever long before we’d ever get to Roddenberry’s naval-metaphor view of humans sailing through space and yet somehow remain human as we define human today.

DM: Yeah, that was really the first kernel of the design, the first question we asked: What is the human race going to look like in 500 years, let alone 1,500 years? What kind of post-human weirdness is going to happen? There’s no shortage of interesting ideas in sci-fi, ideas that range from plausible to at the same time sort of terrifying.

We sculpted the game around three impressions of that, which we call affinity, and each one represents a concept somewhere between an ideology and a religion — it’s more just a philosophy of what humankind is going to be like by the time you reach the next great turning point in our history.

One of them, supremacy, is very focused on technology as the savior of humanity, that by embracing the machines and eventually integrating them to the point of replacing yourself, the future of humanity is forever assured — that these machines can survive any environment, we will never be displaced from our home again and we’re saved by the machines. Living as a nano-cloud is reflected in the ultimate extent of those technologies in the web and in some of the things you’re able to build, some of the wonders and so on. We go right up to that threshold and hint at it, then suggest to the player, “Look at this crazy place humanity’s arrived at, and just imagine what’ll happen next.”

Firaxis

It sounds like you’re hoping to use the new quest system as your primary storytelling mechanism.

LB: That’s right. In Civilization we’ve generally been able to assume that players know what the history of humanity has been, more or less, to date. You don’t need to be a historian to know who Genghis Khan was, or the Maya. That lets players tell their own story because they have a historical framework to do so.

When we’re going into the future, that framework’s obviously unclear. We still want the player to tell their own story, but giving them that framework was important, and so one of the ways we found to do this was the quest system. We use it to give snippets of information, little insights into the alien planet and the wildlife there, to give the player a feel for where they’ve landed.

Firaxis

You’ve also added a second strategic angle that’s an actual layer physically superimposed above the traditional one. How does the new orbital system relate to the planetary one?

DM: The core experience still transpires on the planet, so think of the orbital layer which exists above it as an augmentation: It’s a different way to play with the same pieces. You build orbital units in your cities, then launch them into orbit, which exists on a camera level above the planet’s surface. All of the orbital units are designed based on their effects on things on the ground (or water, as the case may be). And so everything from terraforming the ground, augmenting your improvements in your cities, buffing your military units or making military tactics possible to the point of outright bombarding holdings on the ground. And then the other way around, with things on the ground being able to shoot down orbital units. That’s how orbital play is done. Whatever your aims and ambitions and problems are on the surface of the planet, the orbital layer is an extension and complication of them.

Firaxis

Sid Meier was one of the lead designers on Alpha Centauri, and Beyond Earth carries his name in the full title. To what extent is that branding? Or put another way, how hands-on is he with Beyond Earth?

DM: Sid is really the benevolent uncle-godfather of all the designers at the studio. Every Civilization game bears his imprint and has his involvement in it. This is no exception. We never questioned that the game would be called Sid Meier’s Civilization. It belongs in the Civilization franchise and we want it to stand along with that incredible legacy.

That said, it’s a brand new experience, and it takes place literally beyond Earth. The title expresses exactly what the game is — that it belongs in the Civilization legacy, but that it’s a new idea within it. And as a designer I can tell you that Sid’s influence, his insight and his participation are extremely important. He’s always present, always willing to play the game and lend his thoughts and perspectives. I think no Civilization game would be made without Sid. He’s the guy.

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Categories: Magazines

Now You Can Explore the Star Trek: Voyager Deck With the Oculus Rift

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:45

The virtual reality headset Oculus Rift already allows users to enter far-flung lands such as Tuscany, Game of ThronesWesteros and Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment. Now Oculus owners can beam up to the famous spaceship from Star Trek: Voyager as well.

The new demo, created by independent developer Thomas Kadlec, features an incredibly detailed recreation of the Voyager’s bridge, complete with computer monitors lit up with buttons and windows that offer a view out to the stars. The demo was made using Unreal Engine 4, a new game development engine that should allow more complex worlds to be built for the Rift.

Oculus VR, the company behind the Rift, has released multiple iterations of its headset to developers, who have tinkered with the technology in fascinating ways. The company, which was bought for $2 billion by Facebook in March, has yet to announce when the Rift will see a release as a consumer product.

[The Verge]

Categories: Magazines

New York Knicks Fire Coach Mike Woodson

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:39

The New York Knicks organization fired its entire coaching staff, the team announced Monday, after failing to make the playoffs despite competing in a weak Eastern Conference.

Phil Jackson, the newly-minted Knicks president, said in a release that coach Mike Woodson and his staff would not be returning next season. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mike Woodson and his entire staff,” Jackson said. “The coaches and players on this team had an extremely difficult 2013-14 season, and blame should not be put on one individual. But the time has come for change throughout the franchise as we start the journey to assess and build this team for next season and beyond.”

Woodson had one year remaining on a three-year contract. Under Woodson, the Knicks won a playoff series for the first time in 13 seasons in the 2012-2013 season.

But the team fell short of being a title contender this year, as owner James Dolan had hoped. The Knicks began the season 3-13. They recovered in March, winning 12 of 15 games, but still missed out on a playoff spot.

Jackson, a 13-time NBA champion, said that the search for a coach would begin immediately, according to ESPN.

[ESPN]

Categories: Magazines

Parents: 234 Girls Kidnapped from Nigeria School

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:38

(CHIBOK, Nigeria) — Some 234 girls are missing from the northeast Nigerian school attacked last week by Islamic extremists, significantly more than the 85 reported by education officials, parents told the state governor Monday.

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The higher figure came out a week after the kidnappings when the Borno state governor insisted a military escort take him to the town. Parents told the governor that officials would not listen to them when they drew up their list of names of missing children and the total reached 234.

The discrepancy in the figures could not immediately be resolved.

Security officials had warned Gov. Kashim Shettima that it was too dangerous for him to drive to Chibok, 130 kilometers (80 miles) from Maiduguri, the Borno state capital and birthplace of the Boko Haram terrorist network blamed for the abductions.

Borno state education commission Musa Inuwo Kubo and the principal of the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School had initially said that 129 science students were at the school to write a physics exam when the abductors struck, after midnight on April 14. Twenty-eight pupils escaped from their captors between Tuesday and Friday. Then another 16 were found to be day scholars who had returned to their homes in Chibok before the attack. That left 85 missing students, according to school officials.

This latest confusion comes after the military had reported last week that all but eight of those abducted had been rescued — but then retracted the claim the following day.

Security sources have said they are in “hot pursuit” of the abductors, but so far they have not rescued any of the girls and young women, aged between 16 and 18.

Parents and other town residents have joined the search for the students in the Sambisa Forest which borders Chibok town and is a known hideout for the militants.

The kidnappings are believed to have been carried out by Nigeria’s Islamic extremist rebels, known as Boko Haram. Boko Haram — the nickname means “Western education is sinful” — is violently campaigning to establish an Islamic Shariah state in Nigeria, whose 170 million people are about half Muslim and half Christian. Boko Haram has been abducting some girls and young women in attacks on schools, villages and towns but last week’s mass kidnapping is unprecedented. The extremists use the young women as porters, cooks and sex slaves, according to Nigerian officials.

Boko Haram was on a rampage last week, staging four attacks in three days that began with a massive explosion during rush hour at a busy bus station Monday morning in Abuja, the capital in the center of the country, which killed at least 75 people and wounded 141.

Nigeria’s military and government had claimed to have the militants on the run and contained in a remote northeast corner on the border with Cameroon.

But extremist attacks have increased in frequency and become ever deadlier this year with more than 1,500 people killed so far, compared to an estimated 3,600 between 2010 and 2013.

Categories: Magazines

Bear Gets Head Stuck in Plastic Jar, Becomes IRL Winnie the Pooh

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:37

A bear was rescued after getting a jar stuck on its head near Sudbury. cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/WeirdNew… // http://t.co/WFOt88NVsK


  (@Canoe) April 21, 2014

A bear with a plastic jar stuck on its head was bumbling around a Canadian city early morning Easter Sunday — a scenario that the CBC joked is reminiscent of the iconic illustrations of Winnie the Pooh scarfing down honey in a pot face first.

Police found the black bear wandering around Lively (a part of Greater Sudbury, Ontario), unable to remove a plastic jar intended for birdseed from its head and “walking into a variety of objects including a police cruiser,” according to a statement from the Greater Sudbury Police. The bear was tranquilized and removed from the area.

Fortunately, residents have little to fear; black bear attacks are generally rare.

Categories: Magazines

John Lennon’s Doodles Up for Auction

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:33

I am he as you are he as you are me and we can buy the drawings from the Walrus himself.

Sotheby’s New York on June 4 will be auctioning off John Lennon’s drawings, poetry, and stories he created while touring with the Beatles. The doodles fall on the surrealist side with potbellied men walking other humanoid creatures, a giant Sherlock Holmes inspecting a tiny suspect, and a very hairy Snow White ready to bite into her apple.

The drawings and manuscripts haven’t seen the light of day for decades after spending almost the past 50 years in the personal archive of Lennon’s London publisher, but now you can catch a glimpse into the mind of the eggman. Goo goo g’joob.

Categories: Magazines

Boston Marathon Sees Smooth Start a Year After Bombings

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:28

The Boston Marathon started without incident Monday morning amid heightened security measures after bombings near the finish line of last year’s marathon killed three people and wounded 264 others.

Marathon officials have gone to great lengths to prevent another incident, forbidding backpacks and rucksacks, containers with more than one liter of liquid, and costumes that cover the face, CNN reports. Large signs are also banned, and unregistered runners and cyclists are no longer allowed to join the race.

On the one-year anniversary of the marathon attack last Tuesday, police arrested a performance artist who wore a veil and screamed as he carried two rice cookers in backpacks to the site of the original explosion last year. Kevin Edson, who has a history of hospitalization and mental health issues, was arrested and held on $100,000 bail before he was sent to a mental hospital.

Authorities accused brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev of the bombings. Tamerlan was killed days later after a shootout with police ended with Dzhokhar running over his brother with his car. Dzhokhar is awaiting trial.

Categories: Magazines

Smooth Moves: The History and Evolution of Honda’s ASIMO Robot

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:14

As the robotics realm continues to heat up, Honda’s ASIMO (short for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) is something of an old-timer.

It’s been around for 14 years, and has seen continual improvements – check out the above video for more of the backstory.

While some robots have a more menacing look – ahem, Atlas – ASIMO has always played the part of a cutesy, Jetsons-style robot meant, in Honda’s words, “to help those in society who need assistance.”

In that spirit, ASIMO is able to do things like opening and serving beverages. It knows sign language – both Japanese and English. It can avoid bumping into people in hallways. Stuff like that.

At the International Auto Show in New York last week, Honda showed off ASIMO’s latest improvements. The robot, once relatively rigid and… well, robotic, is now far more nimble, able to run, jump, climb stairs and kick soccer balls with more human-like dexterity.

 

Categories: Magazines

RECAP: Mad Men Watch: A Day’s Work

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:04

Finally, after a season premiere that saw most of its characters treading water trying to stay afloat, Sunday’s Mad Men was full of the kinds of boiling points, breakdowns and breakthroughs fans have been awaiting. And for once — maybe the episode’s Valentine’s Day theme had the writers in a good mood — almost all the characters walked away happy.

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When he’s not stuffing his face with Ritz crackers, Don Draper is still trying to pretend he’s not an unemployed alcoholic, but word of his Hershey meltdown has spread, and the lunch meetings he’s set up to get out of the house aren’t fooling anybody. Sally already saw Don in one compromising position (on top of Sylvia, cheating on the world’s coolest stepmom) and here Sally finds him in another when she shows up at SC&P only to find Lou Avery in her dad’s old office (no nude Freaks and Geeks alumna in sight, though). Just as Sally catches him in a lie about what he’s been up to, Don catches her in a lie about just how much she knows, and the two spend several minutes trying to out-Draper one another until Matthew Weiner and company bust out some character development. Sally seems perfectly content to lord parental disappointment over his head, as she does with Betty, but when Don confronts her about his current situation, she admits that seeing her father for who he really is legitimately traumatized her (to say nothing of the fact that he was totally doin’ it with the neighbor). “It’s more embarrassing for me to catch you in a lie than for you to be lying,” she tells him.

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Don’s awkward attempts at making conversation with Sally indicate he won’t be polishing a Father of the Year trophy anytime soon — after all, his idea of a bonding experience is to dine and ditch — but he knows that repairing their relationship beats wasting daylight with his new roommate the cockroach. The sincere effort pays off surprisingly quickly, with Sally tossing Don an “I love you” that even he’s shocked to hear by the end of the episode.

Back at the office, Joan is roped into her coworkers’ petty drama, rearranging secretary assignments to quell the completely displaced rage of Peggy and Lou Avery. Joan’s got better things to do—her Avon account, literally anything else—but her temper flares in front of Jim Cutler, who realizes she’s overworked and upgrades her office. Up until this point, Jim was the least interesting of all the partners, but Sunday’s episode suggests he’s not only one of the more attentive bosses (seriously, someone only just noticed that Joan hustles harder than anybody?), he’s also capable of a power play — his elevator remarks to Roger after butting heads throughout the episode sound like both an olive branch and threat. (Jim Cutler may seem like a nice guy now, but Harry Hamlin will always inhabit the character that did [redacted horrible thing] to [redacted character] on Veronica Mars, and I’ll never stop being suspicious.)

Joan’s old office ends up going to Dawn, and it’s hard not to see the quasi-promotion as a reward for her speaking up. After Sally shows up in Lou’s doorway while Dawn was out, Lou demands Joan reassign Dawn, but not before Dawn pipes up to say it was his own damn fault — she was out picking up a Valentine’s Day gift for his wife when Sally materialized. The outburst is, of course, what everyone who watches Mad Men has been thinking for years: How many times is some old white dude going to take his screw-ups out on somebody else before getting called out? More importantly, though, it puts Dawn — who’s been supplying Don with updates on the company’s accounts — in a better position to assist the Draper comeback that seems more likely than ever now.

The two characters who didn’t really get what they wanted this episode were Peggy and Pete. They have a few things in common: Their names both start with P, they once made a baby together, and they both deserve to have viral Tumblrs made in their honor: Pete Campbell’s Bitchface (which already exists) and Peggy Crying Behind Closed Doors (which is bound to happen at the rate this season is going.)

Sympathies for Peggy’s sad-sack routine are dwindling, and her fixation on the Valentine’s Day flowers she mistakes as a present from Ted felt like something out of a Tuesday night on FOX. It’s one thing for Mindy Lahiri or Jess Day to misinterpret signals and treat break-ups like battles to be won, but when Peggy gestures to the roses and shouts, “Are these some symbol of how much we’re loved?” it’s neither adorkable, insightful, nor funny, really — it just reveals what a mess she is. The creative team’s quips about how she’s not getting laid seemed cruel at first, but after observing the self-centered temper tantrum Peggy throws in this episode, it’s no wonder she’s the butt of their jokes. Just look at what they have to deal with on a regular basis.

Ted isn’t having the time of his life following their affair, either, but at least he keeps it together enough to remain the show’s sole voice of reason while Pete feels — surprise! — under-appreciated in Los Angeles. Pete’s existential hissy fit is only interesting for two reasons: First, it’s set off by the imminent return of the mysterious Bob Benson, who’s been in Detroit; second, it sends him running to his real-estate-agent girlfriend Bonnie (the delightful Jessy Schram, who, it turns out, also did a stint on Veronica Mars). Instead of some afternoon delight, though, she gives Pete a reality check and savvy business advice: If you want something, you have to fight to take it.

No, the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” didn’t start playing — that’s 10 months away in the Mad Men universe – but the title of Sunday’s episode, “A Day’s Work,” almost makes the same point. If you speak up and put a little work in, you just might find you get what you need.

Categories: Magazines

Discovery Channel Cancels Everest Jump After Deadly Avalanche

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 09:43

The Discovery Channel has canceled plans to air a live jump off the summit of Mount Everest following an avalanche that killed at least 13 people on the mountain last week.

“In light of the overwhelming tragedy at Mount Everest and out of respect for the families of the fallen, Discovery Channel will not be going forward with Everest Jump Live,” the network said on its website. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the whole Sherpa community.”

Jumper Joby Ogwyn was already on site preparing for the televised event to air on May 11 when an avalanche killed a group of Sherpa guides and support staff in the deadliest day in the mountain’s history. Ogwyn was unharmed. The Discovery Channel had planned several hours of programming around the jump and hoped it would be a ratings draw, the Associated Press reports.

The Sherpa community is currently threatening to boycott the upcoming climbing season unless the Nepalese government provides more compensation to the families of those killed and injured. Three people are still missing.

Categories: Magazines

Who Needs a Memory When We Have Google?

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 09:37

I have a confession to make: I’m an infomaniac.

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In high school, I was on the debate team and got an early taste of what it’s like to dig deep into information so that I could support my debate arguments. Ever since, I have been hooked on gathering and consuming information as part of my lifestyle. I still get a morning paper delivered to my house and I start my day by checking up on the local news. When I get to the office, I log on to all types of general news and tech sites to catch up on what I missed overnight. Curiosity is in my DNA and my type-A personality drives me to be addicted to information. In my line of work, this is good, but I admit that I overachieve in this area and it sometimes becomes overwhelming.

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For most of my early life, this was a manageable problem. In those days, I had newspapers, magazines and a set time to watch the network news every night at 6:00 PM. But from the beginning of the information age and especially with the advent of the Internet, the amount of information sources at my fingertips grew exponentially. I admit that, more often than not, I now have information overload. To put it another way, I have way too many tabs open in my brain at any given time.

It’s almost impossible to keep some that info straight or, even worse, remember most of it. That’s where Google and search engines come in. While I was at the TED conference recently, I talked with a lot of people from various industries. We often compared notes on things we were doing, people we know and items or events that we have been involved in over the years. What’s interesting is that the common denominator in many of these discussions is that when we got stumped on a person’s name, event or item we were talking about, instead of fretting about it, we all took out our smartphones and Googled for the answer. We almost always found what we were looking for, and the conversation continued only slightly interrupted.

In all honesty, that scene happens for me whether with business associates, friends or family. I clearly can’t remember all of the information I take in, so I now rely pretty heavily on Google and other search engines to either find the information I need at any given time or to jog my memory about the topic at hand.

I am sure that this has happened to a lot of people. The role technology plays as an extension of our memory banks has become quite important to us. I have found that when I’m digesting information now, many times I don’t even read the full stories — mostly just the headlines or a quick summary, knowing that if I ever have to recall it, I can just Google it.

In 2008 the Atlantic had a great article by Nicholas Carr titled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” In this excerpt from this article, Carr says:

For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price. As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.

I am not sure his premise that Google makes us stupid is exactly correct. In fact, I would argue that because of a search engine’s ability to help us quickly find the information we need, it’s actually making us smarter, to a degree. But what Google seems to be doing to me — and perhaps many others — is making our minds lazy. Many times, I may be told something without really concentrating on what is being said, knowing full well that as long as I get the bullet points straight, I can always go back and look up the info.

At first I wanted to chalk some of these memory lapses up to getting older. It’s just part of aging, right? But the more I read about aging, the more I realize that some of this is happening because we are not exercising our brains as much as we should be. More and more often, we’re relying on Google to be a fallback. We concentrate less on what’s in front of us, leaning on Google for anything we can’t remember.

A while back, my wife bought me a Nintendo handheld game system that included a game called Brain Age. It was my first foray into digital brain games, and I found that the more I used it, the more it helped me fine-tune my brain to be much more cognizant of what I was reading and observing. This game came out before everyone had smartphones, and now we have dozens of brain training tools such as my favorite, Lumosity, or Condura, another brain training app.

There are a lot of studies that talk about the Internet’s impact on memory. One that was highlighted in the New York Times in 2011 shared some specific research about this issue. In the article, Patricia Cohen wrote the following:

The widespread use of search engines and online databases has affected the way people remember information, researchers are reporting.

The scientists, led by Betsy Sparrow, an assistant professor of psychology at Columbia, wondered whether people were more likely to remember information that could be easily retrieved from a computer, just as students are more likely to recall facts they believe will be on a test.

Dr. Sparrow and her collaborators, Daniel M. Wegner of Harvard and Jenny Liu of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, staged four different memory experiments. In one, participants typed 40 bits of trivia — for example, “an ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain” — into a computer. Half of the subjects believed the information would be saved in the computer; the other half believed the items they typed would be erased.

The subjects were significantly more likely to remember information if they thought they would not be able to find it later. “Participants did not make the effort to remember when they thought they could later look up the trivia statement they had read,” the authors write.

Whether our brains have become lazy or not, the Internet has clearly impacted the way we read and digest information, and as stated in the Times’ article, search engines have now become just a part of our memory processes. Search engines are very valuable, but if they become crutches that dull our thinking and make our brains lazy, then I believe people will need to use things like Lumosity and other brain-tuning games to help them stay sharp.

Information overload makes it impossible for many of us to keep up with the constant stream of information that’s available. Because many of us try to consume so much information, most of us are forced to mostly skim highlights and summaries just to keep up. However, I believe we can’t let search engines impact our memory. At least in my case ,I don’t want that to happen, so I’m using these brain games to help me deal with this challenge.

Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market-intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to Big Picture, an opinion column that appears every week on TIME Tech.

Categories: Magazines

Kraft Recalls Hot Dogs That Are Actually Cheese Dogs

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 09:11

Call it a classic mix-up.

Kraft is recalling 96,000 pounds of Oscar Mayer Classic Wieners that are actually Classic Cheese Dogs in the wrong packaging, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Sunday.

The product labels are incorrect and don’t reflect ingredients like milk, which is an allergen for many people, according to a statement posted on the USDA website. The recall specifically applies to 16-oz packages of “Oscar Mayer Classic Wieners Made with Turkey & Chicken, Pork Added” and cases of ““Classic Cheese Dogs Made with Turkey & Chicken, Pork Added, and Pasteurized Cheese Product.”

The mix-up was discovered by a consumer who notified Kraft on April 18, and Kraft notified the FDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS.) Neither the company nor FSIS has received any reports of illnesses caused by the mistake.

Categories: Magazines

Take Five Seconds to Honor Game Boy’s 25th Anniversary

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 09:05

I’m not much for anniversary retrospectives concerning classic video game systems. Not that there’s zero value in examining history, but the older a console gets, the more it feels like we’re recycling the same factoids every time a gaming system reaches another large, round number.

So it goes with the Nintendo Game Boy, which launched in Japan on April 21, 1989. In case your memory is foggy from the last round of retrospectives five years ago, you’ll find more look-backs around the Internet on today’s 25th anniversary. (Jeremy Parish’s write-up for USGamer is pretty good.)

Personally, I prefer to let the above video do all the talking. That little start screen is all I need to unlock a trove of memories, from stuffing too many cartridges into my carrying case at home to slumping in the corner of a dingy gym next to my best friend, playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan while his mom Jazzercised.

Happy 25th anniversary, Game Boy.

Categories: Magazines

Morning Must Reads: April 21

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 08:34
  • “A shootout at a checkpoint run by pro-Russian militants near the town of Slovyansk left at least three people dead on Sunday, highlighting the fraying here in eastern Ukraine of a truce reached days earlier by diplomats in Geneva.” [NYT]
  • “Russia on Monday accused Ukraine of flouting an international accord meant to diffuse the crisis over its separatist east, as US Vice President Joe Biden was to about to arrive in Kiev in a show of support for its pro-Western leaders.” [AFP]
  • Proud host Hopkinton prepares for Marathon like no other [Boston Globe]
  • More from the Globe: “On the day before the first Boston Marathon since the bombings, Boston was awash with sunshine and determination, even as memories of last year cast an occasional shadow on the city’s festive spirit. Easter coincided with the most emotional Boston Marathon eve in the 118-year history of the celebrated event, and the Christian story of Jesus’ resurrection mirrored a sense of resilience.” [Boston Globe]
  • During Asia trip, Obama will renew effort to rebalance U.S. relationship with the region [Washington Post]
  • “The latest delay to a final decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline will reinforce a White House strategy to energize President Barack Obama’s liberal-leaning base before fall elections in which Democrats risk losing control of the U.S. Senate.” [Reuters]
  • Pipeline delay delights and dismays interest groups [TIME]
  • Napster billionaire’s next mission: conquer politics [Politico]
  • Grand jury considers whether Rick Perry went too far in seeking DA’s ouster [Dallas Morning News]
  • From the AP: “…the long-serving governor known for his Texas swagger is now the focus of a grand jury investigation that could cause more difficulty than any adversary has. What should have been a political victory lap for Perry could now wind up in a final tussle that has implications for his political future.” [AP]
  • Jeb Bush’s rush to make money may be a hurdle [NYT]
  • George W. Bush surprises on White House records [Politico]
  • Female House candidates struggle to break through despite GOP efforts [TIME]

 

Categories: Magazines

Sleeping Teen Killed When SUV Crashes Into Her Bedroom

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 08:16

A 16-year old California girl was killed in her bed Sunday when an SUV driven by an allegedly drunk driver slammed into her bedroom as she slept, authorities said.

A vigil was held Sunday night for Giselle Mendosa, a sophomore at Palmdale High School. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said the 20-year old suspect, Roberto Rodriguez, slammed his car into the Palmdale apartment complex, killing the high schooler and damaging two apartments, the Los Angeles Times reports. Sheriff’s officials told NBC that Rodriguez’s blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit, and witnesses say he may have been driving up to 80 miles an hour.

Rodriguez is due in court Tuesday on vehicular manslaughter and DUI charges. He was released on $100,000 bail.

“Sincerely, I’m sorry. It wasn’t my intention. Just, I’m sorry,” Rodriguez told NBC4′s Gadi Schwartz, though he would not answer questions about his alcohol levels.

[Los Angeles Times]

[NBC]

Categories: Magazines

White House Debates ‘Game-Changer’ Weapon For Syria

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 08:09

A former CIA director has called them “our worst nightmare.” A 2005 study found that just one could blow a $15-billion hole in the world economy. And the Obama Administration is thinking about sending them to Syria.

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They are shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles, capable of knocking helicopters and low-flying planes out of the sky. Syria’s rebels and their Arab government backers insist those weapons could decisively reverse the momentum in Syria’s three-year civil war, which may recently have shifted in favor of Bashar Assad’s regime.

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“The introduction of manpads could be a game-changer in Syria, like it was in Afghanistan in the 1980s with Stinger missiles,” an Arab official tells TIME, adding that he believes the Obama Administration has begun discussing the idea more seriously. Other sources say the issue is being debated at the White House, but that strong doubts remain about the wisdom of providing missiles to the rebels.

The issue is newly relevant amid recent reports that Syrian fighters are now using U.S.-made anti-tank weapons against Assad’s forces. Experts say it’s unlikely those weapons could have wound up in Syria without U.S. approval. Nor are they likely to shift the military balance in the conflict.

Anti-aircraft missiles might. For a president unwilling to intervene directly in a conflict that has claimed upwards of 100,000 lives, they might seem an easy and inexpensive way to force out Assad. The Syrian dictator has employed his air supremacy to bomb rebel outposts, resupply isolated forces, and force civilians to evacuate pro-rebel areas through terrorizing bombardments.

But supplying the lightweight missiles would involve huge risk. Senior Administration officials worry that the weapons—known technically as man-portable air defense systems, or manpads—could fall into the hands of terrorists intent on shooting down a civilian airliner. Syria’s rebel forces are now dominated by radical Islamists, some of whom recently overran a headquarters used by a moderate faction and looted weapons stored there.

Even hardened national security officials blanch at the thought of al-Qaeda with manpads. It was former CIA director David Petraeus who called that scenario a “nightmare” in January. A 2005 RAND Corporation study found that the shooting down of a civilian airliner might temporarily freeze air travel worldwide and produce total economic losses of more than $15 billion. That’s why, in the chaos following the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi, the State Department frantically hunted down loose manpads from his arsenal, while Petraeus’ CIA reportedly conducted a parallel effort.

Even so, some influential voices in Washington think the risk is worth taking. In a recent interview with TIME, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain singled out the Assad regime’s use of “barrel bombs,” crude explosive devices pushed out of helicopters whose primary function seems to be killing civilians. “I want to shoot them down,” McCain said. “To stop these atrocities I’m willing to take the risk of a manpad… falling into the wrong hands, because we’ve got to stop it.”

Obama officials are only willing to accept that risk, according to a Congressional aide familiar with the issue, if they can gain far more confidence in measures to control and monitor the weapons. That could involve supplying missiles in very small quantities—perhaps one or a few at a time—to carefully vetted rebels who would present videotaped evidence of their use before resupply, an approach proposed by Saudi officials, who would likely be the conduit for any transfer of the U.S.-made weapons. The catch here is that supplying manpads in small numbers will have little strategic impact, while larger quantities raise the risk that one will fall into the wrong hands.

Obama officials also want something more reliable than human oversight. They are exploring the potential for GPS tracking and remote “kill switches” that could render the manpads useless beyond approved areas. “The administration is thinking through this, but they’re fairly skeptical,” says the aide. “How do you do a kill switch that someone on the ground can’t undo?”

One former top Bush administration national security official recently told TIME that it’s possible to restrict the lifespan of manpads, standard versions of which can function for 20 years or more. “You can build obsolescence into manpads,” the official said. Anthony Cordesman, a military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies—who has proposed “a time clock” that can disable the weapons unless it is continually reset by a changing code–said in an interview this week that he was unaware of such technology being implemented.

But that may be changing: a security analyst tells the Wall Street Journal that some of the new anti-tank missiles in Syria bear a “complex, fingerprint-keyed security device that controls who fires it.”

Such technological advances don’t answer the question of whether manpads can save the day in Syria. While some experts concur that they could be a “game-changer”—terrorism specialist Charles Lister of the Brookings Institution used that very phrase in a recent PRI radio interview—that’s not a consensus view in Washington.

“Manpads alone would not play a decisive role,” Cordesman says. “They would limit helicopter movement and the use of aircraft, but that might provoke the use of Syrian artillery. It’s not clear that’s a good tradeoff.” Experts also say the effectiveness of manpads would depend on whether the U.S. provided advanced models, how well rebels using them were trained, and the larger ability of fractious rebel forces to take coordinated advantage of their new battlefield asset.

Even McCain seems to acknowledge that manpads would have a primarily humanitarian use, as a defense against helicopter-borne barrel bombs. And for now at least, that’s not reason enough for Obama to risk a $15 billion nightmare.

Categories: Magazines

Lindsay Lohan Reveals Miscarriage

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 08:08

Actress Lindsay Lohan has revealed she suffered a miscarriage while filming her recent documentary series.

Lohan, 27, broke the news during the finale of her eight-part series, which aired Sunday night on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network.

“No one knows this—and we can finish after this—I had a miscarriage for those two weeks that I took off,” Lohan tearfully said while reflecting on the documentary, which chronicled her life and career after rehab. “It’s a very long story, but that’s why on the show, when it says she doesn’t want to come down, I couldn’t move, I was sick. Mentally, that messes with you.”

She did not reveal the identity of the father.

“Watching this series, I just know how I felt at that moment, and I can relate to that girl, which sounds kind of crazy,” she said. “I’m like, ‘Oh my God, this is really sad, who’s helping her?’”

Categories: Magazines