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RECAP: Dancing with the Stars Watch: Literally LMFAO

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 10:07

Welcome back to Dancing with the Stars, where you can expect bigger hair, higher scores and actual party rocking in the house — because for someone reason someone at ABC decided that LMFAO’s Redfoo deserved a spot at the judges’ table. To mark the momentous occasion of a 2011 pop culture relic and ersatz club hit purveyor making a primetime pit stop, the powers that be at DWTS anointed it “Party Rock Anthem” week. Obviously the festivities kicked off with a group dance to Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA.” Pretty sure there is a law that requires all “Party Rock Anthem” weeks nationwide to play that song at least twice. Thanks, Obama.

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Here’s what happened on Dancing with the Stars:

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Nene Leakes and Tony Dovolani: The duo hit the ballroom floor riding the legal-in-all-50-states high of having just learned that they were safe for another week. Their hip-hoppy salsa, set to Nelly’s “Hot In Here,” was like the Old El Paso mild variety of the saucy dance, despite the fact that Tony was half-naked again and Nene’s husband hit the floor with his bride. While the judges couldn’t help but note Nene’s lack of technique, Redfoo was just there to party and threw her a 9 like it was an illegal substance at a rave. 33/40.

Best/Weirdest Bergeronism of the Night: “Is it cold in here? Because both your nipples popped just now,” said Tom Bergeron to Bruno Tonioli.

Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas: Candace tried to infuse her cha cha with some hubba hubba, but because Tom Bergeron had just announced that she was in jeopardy of going home, she only managed to do an interpretive dance version of wanting to go home and pull the blankets over her head. The result wasn’t exactly a textbook example of “party rocking” to show sociology students of the future. Bruno thought he could see her “mental switch,” while Len wanted more fluid arms and even Redfoo was underwhelmed. 32/40.

James Maslow and Peta Murgatroyd: After scoring the first perfect 40 of the season, expectations were high for James and Peta’s quickstep. Their Grease-inspired routine was fast-paced and fun, but James was a little less Danny and a little more Putzie and the judges noticed. Even his #1 booster club president-for-life Carrie Ann thought his footwork could’ve been sharper. 35/40

Macy’s Stars of Dance: Derek Hough is a wildly skilled and dynamic choreographer, so it’s always fun to see him strut his stuff when he’s allowed to really create. For tonight’s routine, he teamed up with So You Think You Can Dance‘s Allison Holker for a hip-hop routine with a dance crew and neon lasers and giant robots that shot smoke (but sadly no sharks with lasers that would eat the dance crew after shooting them with lasers). It felt like a rave in a good way, and it was nice of Derek to try and make Redfoo feel right at home.

Danica McKellar and Val Chmerkovskiy: Continuing the trend of kicking dancers when they’re down, Danica and Val were told that they were in jeopardy (despite their high score last week) and then forced to cha-cha. The judges were thrilled by the routine, because they have a sadistic streak. Len deemed it the best dance of the night, while Bruno said that Danica ahd the “verve and vivacity of a purring little kitten,” and Redfoo thought Danica put “love in the club,” which in LMFAO-ese translates to a solid 9. 36/40

Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: Meryl and Maks served up a solid, intense and riveting tango that left the judges nearly speechless. Luckily Redfoo was there to sum it up: “I say E.T. phone home. You know why? ‘Cause that was out of this world!” 40/40

Drew Carey and Cheryl Burke: After it was announced that Nene was safe, Drew seemed to know that he was a dead man walking and went all in on in his role as a pimp in his pimp-themed tango. Despite his best efforts, the duo was not up to the daunting task of following in the footsteps of Maks and Meryl and their perfect routine. The judges couldn’t help but draw unflattering comparisons, even though Redfoo thought Drew was “all swagged out,” and that the routine was “pimped to the tenth degree.” 32/40.

Charlie White and Sharna Burgess: Charlie had a rough week because in between rehearsing his cha cha, he was showing off his gold-medal winning skills on Stars on Ice. But you don’t win Olympic gold by giving in to exhaustion, so the routine was solid and the judges seemed to agree. Carrie Ann Inaba said it had the holy trinity of hot, sexy and funky. 36/40

Amy Purdy and Derek Hough: After last week’s princess-themed slow dance, the couple’s wedding-themed jive to “Shout” was fast-paced and fun and.. sometimes you just have to sit back and remind yourself that Amy does not have feet and that when she does a cartwheel in the middle of the routine it is flat-out mindboggling (especially if you’re Redfoo). Len announced that he loves watching her dance and then Bruno asked her to marry him and that about sums up the judges’ feelings about Amy. 38/40

The Standings: Meryl and Maks lead the night with a perfect 40/40. Drew and Cheryl are in last place with 32/40.

Who Went Home: As the night drew to a close, Candace and Mark, Danica and Val, and Drew and Cheryl were all in jeopardy of leaving. Tom quickly told Danica and Val that they were safe, and that Drew and Cheryl were out. Drew graciously said his farewells and went back to his day job of dancing down the aisles of The Price is Right.

Best Reason To Come Back Next Week: Ricky Martin. No, really, that’s what they consider the highlight of next week’s show.

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Categories: Magazines

What Is Game of Thrones Doing With Jaime Lannister?

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 10:01

Note: Spoilers for this week’s Game of Thrones below.

Any way you cut it, Sunday night’s episode irreparably changes the way we see Jaime Lannister. His rape of Cersei just feet away from the body of their dead son was borderline unwatchable, and effectively undid all of the work done over the course of the last two seasons to make him a complex, bizarrely likable character.

Here’s the problem: We wanted to like Jaime. Sure, he’s done some of the most despicable things on a show full of despicable things — including but not limited to fathering children by incest, attempting to murder a boy who discovered said incest, and the cold-blooded murder of one of his own cousins — but despite all that, the Kingslayer remains one of Game of Thrones‘ most popular characters. He’s handsome, an incomparably skilled fighter and disarmingly witty. (The nickname doesn’t hurt, either.) MoreRECAP: Game of Thrones Watch: History LessonsRECAP: Game of Thrones Watch: Wedding Season in WesterosThe Real History Behind the Game of Thrones “Ward” System

When Jaime began his long march toward King’s Landing with another fan favorite (and one of Westeros’ few truly honorable citizens), Brienne of Tarth, it provided him with an opportunity to show a different, more sympathetic side of his character. He begins his journey insulting and challenging her at every turn, but before long he’s sacrificing his sword hand and squaring off with a bear to save her. Unexpected pairs of characters in the Game of Thrones universe often call for a spin-off buddy comedy show, but perhaps none were louder than those for Jaime and Brienne. She helped him rediscover his sense of chivalry, and he helped her to not be so morbidly serious at all time.

Upon his arrival at King’s Landing, it seems like we really are seeing a new Jaime. Humbled by the loss of his hand and imbued with a greater appreciation for duty, Jaime refuses to renounce his position as a member of the Kingsguard despite Tywin’s request that he do so. He holds his tongue when Joffrey insults his entry in the “Book of Brothers” and even has a charming left-handed sword lesson with Bronn. He’s still the Kingslayer, but he’s a kinder, gentler, more fan-friendly version of the remorseless badass that charmed viewers way back in the series’ first season.

Thing is, that gentler Jaime Lannister is also more fragile. Losing his hand has made him not only physically weaker but also weaker emotionally. The swagger and bravado that the Kingslayer possessed in spades was based on an ability he no longer (at least for the time being) possesses. He’s been shamed by his father, insulted by his son and rejected by his sister. Only his brother seems to want anything to do with him — and even Tyrion isn’t above poking a little fun at Jaime’s unfortunate circumstances.

That’s part of why his rape of Cersei is so maddening — it’s an act so unmistakably hideous that it undoes all the work that made him a dynamic and complex character. Whatever the motivation, it’s a defining event, one that should radically change our perception of Jaime; it wasn’t even characteristic of him. (Even George R.R. Martin, in the books, presented a different representation of the event.) It’s difficult to say why showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss changed this particular plot point. Here’s what Martin himself had to say in the comments section of his blog, more as context than as an explanation:

I think the “butterfly effect” that I have spoken of so often was at work here. In the novels, Jaime is not present at Joffrey’s death, and indeed, Cersei has been fearful that he is dead himself, that she has lost both the son and the father/ lover/ brother. And then suddenly Jaime is there before her. Maimed and changed, but Jaime nonetheless. Though the time and place is wildly inappropriate and Cersei is fearful of discovery, she is as hungry for him as he is for her.

The whole dynamic is different in the show, where Jaime has been back for weeks at the least, maybe longer, and he and Cersei have been in each other’s company on numerous occasions, often quarreling. The setting is the same, but neither character is in the same place as in the books, which may be why Dan & David played the sept out differently. But that’s just my surmise; we never discussed this scene, to the best of my recollection.

Also, I was writing the scene from Jaime’s POV, so the reader is inside his head, hearing his thoughts. On the TV show, the camera is necessarily external. You don’t know what anyone is thinking or feeling, just what they are saying and doing.

If the show had retained some of Cersei’s dialogue from the books, it might have left a somewhat different impression — but that dialogue was very much shaped by the circumstances of the books, delivered by a woman who is seeing her lover again for the first time after a long while apart during which she feared he was dead. I am not sure it would have worked with the new timeline.

That’s really all I can say on this issue. The scene was always intended to be disturbing… but I do regret if it has disturbed people for the wrong reasons.

The show is notorious for what some describe as excessively graphic violence and gratuitous sex scenes, but most of that is simply part of Martin’s style; if this change was made simply to meet the the show’s “shocking moments” quota, this an awfully cavalier place to make such a tweak — though, as Sonia Saraiya points out over at the A.V. Club, it’s not exactly the first time that Benioff and Wise done something like this. Or it could be that they wanted to prove to viewers that Jaime is not someone they can rely upon to be a heroic figure, though this would be a fairly crude way of accomplishing that goal. For the time being, the change can best be described as inexplicable.

Whatever the reasoning behind the change, this is the Game of Thrones universe that we’re stuck with: the one where the Kingslayer is at best one of the most warped anti-heroes on television, and at worst a villain just as morally bankrupt as his manipulative father and evil son. There may still be viewers who want to root for Jaime Lannister, but it’s clear that Benioff and Weiss will make it anything but easy — or fun.

Categories: Magazines

New Pretending-To-Be-Gay Show Faking It Is Actually Realistic, Says Showrunner

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 10:00
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When Carter Covington first heard the premise for the new MTV show Faking It, which premieres April 22, it seemed unrealistic — and maybe offensive. The show is about two high-school girls who pretend to be lesbians in order to become popular so that they can get elected homecoming queens; Covington worried that they would only be faking it “because straight guys find lesbians hot.”

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But now, Covington is Faking It’s showrunner, and the plot is based partially on his own real-life experiences. “I said, if I tried this, I really wanted one of the girls to have genuine feelings for her best friend, and to explore what that feels like,” he tells TIME. “That’s something as a gay man that I went through in the closet in high school, to have crushes on my friends and not be able to say anything.”

And that’s not where the real-life inspirations stop. Though the fictional high school Faking It presents is a far cry from the stereotypical schools of pop culture — jocks and cheerleaders on top, with kids subjected to bullying for being different —Covington says that his vision of high school is just an exaggerated version of reality, not a fairy tale.

“It isn’t this monolith that we expect, that high school’s just this horrible place for gay youth,” Covington says, citing his experience working with the Trevor Project as the source for his knowledge of the wide variety of experiences among today’s gay teens. “There are places where you’re celebrated for being an individual. I decided to take that and run with it and turn it into a high school that is the most accepting and tolerant high school that we’ve seen on television.”

And, he says, high school is the right time to set a story like Faking It: characters are of the age when “experimentation and questioning” is normal and, for teens of every orientation, sexuality is being defined. Covington notes that, until Faking It, he had no particular desire to revisit high school creatively after working on Greek and 10 Things I Hate About You. “If you told me five years ago that I’d be doing another high school show I would have laughed,” he says; “I thought I’d said everything I had to say.”

In a way, those other shows led him to this one: he was first brought on by Mina Lefevre, who came to MTV in early 2013 as head of scripted programming from ABC Family, home of Covington’s previous shows Greek and 10 Things I Hate About You.

Covington raves about working with the network; he claims that the relatively low budgets available to him as a showrunner at MTV — compared to the budget for a big network drama — were a big help, and may be part of the reason why the network has become a reliable home of innovative scripted programming for teens (like Awkward). He was encouraged to cast unknowns, to reach out to crew from the indie film world and to work with people who might be dismissed as unqualified if there were more money to hire TV veterans. “Once everybody accepts that they have half as much money as a network show but need it to look the same [as a network show], people get creative,” he says. But also he knows that the MTV audience is picky and tough to impress. Still, though audiences have yet to decide whether they’ll actually watch Faking It, there’s one thing Covington isn’t so worried about: whether they’ll think it’s, well, fake.

“My hope is that the MTV audience will watch this and find it funny but also be like, we’re just now getting a show like this?” he says. “If you look around the country, attitudes are changing about LGBT rights, but they’ve already changed among young people.”

Categories: Magazines

McDonald’s First Quarter Results Disappoint Wall Street

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 09:44

McDonald’s Corp. posted quarterly profits that came in below investor expectations Tuesday, though the fast food chain in its announcement highlighted that its revenues outperformed last year.

McDonald’s earned $1.21 per share on revenue of $6.7 billion in the first quarter of 2014, well below Wall Street expectations of $1.24 profit per share and $6.73 billion in revenue. Comparable sales fell by 1.7% during the first three months of the year, and operating income declined 3%.

Sales in McDonald’s outlets around the world open for at least 13 months increased by half a percent over the quarter but same-store sales in the U.S. dropped more than analysts anticipated. McDonalds blamed “challenging industry dynamics and severe winter weather” for the decrease in sales.

Categories: Magazines

LG’s Android Smartwatch Promises an ‘Always-On’ Display

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 09:43

LG has put up a teaser page for the G Watch, revealing that the Android Wear-based smartwatch will have an “always-on” display.

That’s a big difference from Samsung’s slew of Galaxy Gear watches, which keep the screen turned off until you flick your wrist upwards.

LG doesn’t explain what technology it’s using for its always-on screen, but a couple possibilities come to mind: It could be a “transflective” LCD screen, like the one on Sony’s SmartWatch 2. The SmartWatch 2′s color display can last for days on a charge, but it does go into grayscale mode to save power when it’s not actively in use. Another potential option would be Qualcomm’s Mirasol display technology, which can stay on for days in full color. We’ve yet to see Mirasol in a mass market product, but Qualcomm sells an experimental Mirasol-based watch, called Toq, for $250.

LG also said the watch will be water and dust resistant, and will come in both black with a black wrist strap and “champagne gold” with a white strap.

Power efficiency is one of the big issues facing current smartwatches, as size constraints leave little room for a decent-sized battery. In lieu of long-lasting, full color, inexpensive display technology, watch makers have had to make hard choices about screen quality versus battery life.

The first Android Wear watch makers seem to be aware of these problems, though they’ve been cagey about their solutions. Motorola has suggested that it solved the battery dilemma with some kind of power management technology in its upcoming Moto G, allowing the company to use a very small battery. But again, the details are unclear.

We’ll get some concrete answers in the next two or three months, when LG and Motorola are expected to launch their smartwatches. In the meantime, read all about why Android Wear seems pretty clever.

Categories: Magazines

Reddit Demotes Technology Section to Punish Lazy Moderators

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 09:35

Imagine, in whatever business, the president of the company demoting an entire department — something major like marketing or risk management or supply, for underperforming or simply screwing up. Not firing and replacing the department head, or laying off a bunch of meddling middle-managers, but downgrading the whole caboodle (and, weirdly, leaving its management intact). One minute the entire department has a seat at the president’s table, the next it’s skulking in a corner somewhere, otherwise un-messed-with, but warned to sort itself out on its own terms before returning to its default position.

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That’s essentially what just happened to Reddit’s entire technology community, known on Reddit as r/technology, a subreddit normally promoted on Reddit’s home page, now formally downgraded and bumped from its hallowed spot in the limelight. Because, writes the BBC, Reddit’s top yea-or-naysayers decided to demote it after reports emerged earlier this month claiming r/technology’s moderators were censoring several dozen words, among them “Anonymous,” “Bitcoin,” “Comcast,” “net neutrality,” “NSA” and “Snowden.”

Pretty serious charges for a site that prides itself on its commitment to candor and unfettered dialogue, which is why Reddit’s taking the issue so seriously. Reddit’s director of communications, Victoria Taylor, explained to the BBC that the site “decided to remove /r/technology from the default list because the moderation team lost focus of what they were there to do: moderate effectively,” adding, “We’re giving them time to see if we feel they can work together to resolve the issue.” Taylor says Reddit “might consider” putting r/technology back if the subreddit’s moderators can prove to Reddit and the r/technology community that they’ve rectified the problem (though that sounds like a catch-22 — the BBC says the community’s instead calling for the remaining moderators to go).

On the other hand, Reddit’s response sounds a little babies-out-with-the-bathwater. Imagine Google demoting the technology section of Google News, maybe hiding it under “science,” or folding it into “world,” or doing any number of things to obscure the section’s prominence as a linchpin of cultural interest and exchange. You wind up punishing the already-punished — the community itself — in other words (though how punished they are in the grand scheme, I’m not sure, since I don’t know how many visit Reddit through its front page, and other means of accessing r/technology, including Google search, are unaffected by the demotion).

As Wikipedia is to the encyclopedia, so Reddit is to the public forum: It’s what you get when you promote organized anarchy (or anarchy with a hierarchical veneer). It’ll thus be interesting to see how this plays out, since it’s all sort of undiscovered country. We’ll see whether the remaining moderators can rally the community or end up having to step aside. And depending how quickly this comes to a head, we’ll see whether Reddit’s decision to throw all of r/technology under the bus to discipline a few winds up being a more effective, efficient and counterintuitively fair solution than might have occurred had the site’s leadership simply removed the offending moderators.

Categories: Magazines

Feds: Powdered Alcohol Approved in ‘Error’

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 09:32

The federal government admitted Monday that its recent approval of Palcohol—a powdered alcohol which turns water into vodka and rum—was actually done in “error.”

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau granted Palcohol “label approval” on April 8 only to rescind it 13 days later, the Associated Press reports, after news of the product started to go viral.

US legalises powdered alcohol (yes really!) to sprinkle on drinks or food(!) bevlaw.com/bevlog/alcohol… http://t.co/y7MG0ui4fu
wine thinker (@robertjoseph) April 18, 2014

Palcohol’s parent company Lipsmark told the AP in an email that “there seemed to be a discrepancy on our fill level, how much powder is in the bag” and that the approvals were surrendered on the afternoon of April 21. Palcohol will have to resubmit labels for approval to the bureau, which is part of the Department of Treasury.

The government had originally approved various types of Palcohol—ranging from lemon drops to cosmopolitans. Various news outlets noted the approval of the product more than a week later, when it began covering the science and safety of the powdered drink. Although Palcohol has since rewritten its website, blogs captured the site’s original language which encouraged consumers to sneak the powdered alcohol into sporting events that don’t serve alcohol and expensive concert venues. According to SB Nation, Palcohol’s website originally stated:

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room….snorting Palcohol. Yes, you can snort it. And you’ll get drunk almost instantly because the alcohol will be absorbed so quickly in your nose. Good idea? No. It will mess you up. Use Palcohol responsibly.

The site has since clarified, “There was a page visible on this site where we were experimenting with some humorous and edgy verbiage about Palcohol. It was not meant to be our final presentation of Palcohol.” The company was not immediately available for comment.

[AP]

Categories: Magazines

Carrot Orange and Cherry Tomato? The 12 Wackiest New Ice Cream Flavors

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 09:30

Häagen Daz Japan will debut two vegetable flavors, Carrot Orange and Cherry Tomato, on May 12. Here’s a glimpse at other wacky new ice cream flavors that have been publicized worldwide so far in 2014:

Soy sauce ice cream with wasabi sesame topping at Chinatown Ice Cream Factory in New York City.

Blackberry Sage at Treat Dreams in Ferndale, Michigan, is exactly what it sound like: blackberries and fresh sage.

• Lick Ice Creams in Austin, Texas, has made Grapefruit Champagne Marshmallow, grapefruit ice cream with “champagne marshmallows.”

• Ample Hills Creamery in Brooklyn, New York, announced a whiskey butterscotch flavor boasting “homemade whiskey toffee coated in white chocolate.”

Butterscotch Rosemary Budino ice creamis the new spring flavor offered by Coolhaus, a fleet of artisanal ice cream sandwich trucks nationwide.

• Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams rolled out a pine-flavored Oregon Fir and Cedarwood Vanilla with a “small amount of Peru balsam (extracted from an Ecuadorian wood).”

• In Scottsdale, Arizona, Sweet Republic offers a beer ice cream, Hop Knot IPA.

Baskin-Robbins unveiled popcorn ice cream with buttered popcorn crisps and salty caramel ribbon.

Movie night! How about a scoop of Movie Theater Popcorn after your movie theater popcorn? http://t.co/ntpQn1Y5Og


Baskin-Robbins (@BaskinRobbins) January 19, 2014

• Salt & Straw in Portland, Oregon, says honey nougat and “heavy ribbons of bacon infused caramel plus candied pecans” make up its Xocolatl de Davíd Bacon Raleigh Bar Ice Cream.

• U.K. ice cream maker Charlie Harry of “Lick Me I’m Delicious” claims that his Viagra flavor “The Arousal” contains a 25mg dose of the blue male-enhancement pill in each scoop and tastes like champagne. He is also known for a “glow in the dark” kind made from the luminescent protein in jellyfish.

MORE: Two Scoops of Ube

LIST: 15 Funkiest Ice Cream Flavors on Earth

 

Categories: Magazines

Gun, Bomb Attacks in Northwest Pakistan Kill 9

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 09:28

Two separate gun and bomb attacks in northwest Pakistan left nine people dead Tuesday, Reuters reports.

A rush-hour car bombing in the Charsadda district killed three and left 33 others wounded; another six died and three more were injured in an attack on a police patrol in Peshawar.

The attacks come a week after the Taliban ended a 40-day ceasefire with Pakistan’s government. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif earlier promised to negotiate an end to hostilities with the Taliban. However, peace talks that began in February have yielded few results.

[Reuters]

Categories: Magazines

Poll: One in Four ‘Solidly Skeptical’ of Global Warming

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 09:20

Americans are becoming more divided in their opinion on impact of global warming and humanity’s role in the phenomenon, as the number of global warming skeptics has roughly doubled over the past 10 years to encompass one in four of the population.

The portion of Americans with mixed opinions about global warming has declined from 49 percent in 2001 to 36 percent today, according to a Gallup poll released on Earth Day Tuesday. Over the same period the number of people who are concerned about global warming and see mankind as its cause has held fairly steady at 39 percent, while the number of people who say they’re “solidly skeptical” of global warming has rocketed from 12 percent in 2001 to 25 percent today.

Women are significantly more likely than men to be concerned about the impact of global warming and humanity’s role in causing it. The age group 30 to 49 is most likely to be concerned about the phenomenon, while younger people aged 18 to 29 are less divided on the issue, least likely to be skeptical and most likely to have mixed views on the matter.

Education is not a good predictor of whether or not a person is concerned about global warming, with about 30% having some college and 30% no college in both groups. Education is a good predictor of whether one falls into the “mixed middle” on global warming, however: nearly half of that group has no more than a high school diploma and less than 25% finished college.

Categories: Magazines

Syrian Rebels Cling to Homs as Assad Launches New Assault

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 09:06

Opposition activists in Homs say anti-government forces were forced onto the defensive in Syria’s third-largest city Tuesday, as fighters under President Bashar al-Assad launched their latest brutal assault to expel the rebels who remain.

Some of the hundreds of rebels there have mentioned surrender, activists told the Associated Press, but others have ramped up retaliations against Assad loyalists by staging attacks like suicide car bombings in areas under government control. “We expect Homs to fall,” one activist using the name Thaer Khalidiya said. “In the next few days, it could be under the regime’s control.”

Assad’s forces are thought to be emboldened by victories against the rebels in areas between Damascus and the Lebanese border, where attempts at forcing the opposition out resulted in their supply lines being cut. Government blockades in towns around Damascus, which bred hunger among rebels, have also weakened their resistance.

Opposition factions still control large swaths of countryside and have bases near the Jordanian and Turkish borders. But the fight for Homs, a strategic area for its link between Damascus and Syria’s largest city Aleppo, underscores Assad’s aim to bat down rebel gains before the elections now scheduled for June 3.

[AP]

Categories: Magazines

REVIEW: Kelis Serves Up New Album Food

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 09:00

Can you smell what Kelis is cooking? In her 15-year career, Kelis Rogers has been hard to pigeonhole: She got her start as Pharrell’s go-to vocalist in The Neptunes’ posse, released three albums of spacey modern R&B and, following the birth of her son, entered the futuristic dance diva stage that motherhood so often inspires in pop stars.

With Food, her first album in four years (out April 22 on Ninja Tune Records), Kelis celebrates two more reinventions. One is culinary: The bossy saucier (literally — she’s a Le Cordon Bleu-trained sauce-maker) has her own condiments line and a Cooking Channel show that premiered in February. The other is musical: She ditched the raving beats of 2010′s Flesh Tone for producer Dave Sitek (known for his work with TV on the Radio and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and served up an organic batch of vintage American soul inspired by — what else from the woman whose milkshake brought all the boys to the yard? — the kitchen.

For an artist whose breakout song found her screaming “I hate you so much right now!” while sporting a rainbow afro, Kelis’ latest transformation isn’t her flashiest. Given that she once opened for Britney Spears and had will.i.am executive-produce her last record, the indie path isn’t the most obvious, either, but it suits her well: her smoky voice sounds more at home here than it did among the strobe lights of Flesh Tone. Take Kelis out of the club, and all the colorful cracks and scratches of her voice shine.

The album heats up when she has the full force of Sitek’s 13-piece band behind her, like on brassy first single “Jerk Ribs,” which lets the horns do the talking on top of a “Losing You”-like beat (à la Solange), or when she slows down to dish real talk about modern relationships. Over the staccato piano chords of “Rumble,” Kelis blows a cool kiss-off that’s both mature and loaded with sick burns: “You’ve got so many issues, but I guess something’s up with me too / I’m just fine by myself, but who’s gonna help you?” Blame record label struggles that at one point had her vowing to never make an album again, or blame an ex the press won’t let let her leave behindFood is the sound of a grown woman who’s over the bullshit.

It’s also the occasionally sleepy sound of a record made by just a few people. Maybe it’s the tryptophan talking, but Food is the first album in years that Kelis concocted with only one producer, which makes it difficult to digest in a single sitting — a meal with one too many courses that all taste the same. Some of the songs build to more than the sum of their ingredients, but a few are left to stew and fizzle out, lacking the spark even the slow-cooked slow jams of 2006′s Kelis Was Here pulled off amid Dr. Luke power pop and earthshaking Bangladesh beats. It’s telling that the song that best showcases her husky voice and the album’s love-smitten themes isn’t even one of her own, but a cover of Labi Siffre’s 1971 song “Bless the Telephone.” Sure, the sweaty call-and-response breakdown of “Fish Fry” will make any listener thirsty, but the most appetizing part about Food is imagining what course Kelis will serve up next.

Categories: Magazines

The Great Comcast vs. Netflix Battle Begins Anew

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 08:59

After months of pretending that that they liked each other just fine, Netflix and Comcast gave up the act Monday.

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In a letter to shareholders, Netflix came out in opposition to Comcast’s proposal to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion. “If the Comcast and Time Warner Cable merger is approved, the combined company’s footprint will pass over 60 percent of U.S. broadband households,” wrote Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and CFO David Wells. A newer, larger Comcast would wield “even more anticompetitive leverage” and allow it to charge “arbitrary” fees to online content producers for delivering their streaming video to customers, they wrote.

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Hours later, Comcast shot back, accusing Netflix of making “inaccurate claims and arguments.” “Netflix should be transparent that its opinion is not about protecting the consumer or about net neutrality,” wrote Comcast senior vice president Jennifer Khoury in a statement. “Rather, it’s about improving Netflix’s business model by shifting costs that it has always borne to all users of the Internet and not just to Netflix customers.”

The tête-à-tête comes two months after Netflix said it was pressured into paying Comcast to improve the video quality and loading speed of popular Netflix shows, like House of Cards.

Advocates for a so-called open internet pointed to that deal, reached in late February, as a clear violation—if not legally, then in spirit—of Comcast’s public commitment to net neutrality, which bars internet service providers from prioritizing some types of internet traffic over others. (While a DC court threw out the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules in January, Comcast had promised, as part of its merger with NBC Universal in 2010, to abide by them until 2018.) Open internet advocates worry large internet providers, like Comcast and Verizon, will wield too much power and be able to strong-arm online content producers into paying them huge sums to deliver their product to people’s homes.

Comcast, for its part, said that neither the February deal nor Netflix’s opposition to the merger has anything to do with net neutrality at all. “It’s all about Netflix wanting to unfairly shift its costs from its customers to all Internet customers, regardless of whether they subscribe to Netflix or not,” Khoury wrote.

Netflix’s decision to break its silence last night marks the end of what has been a rather awkward, months-long political dance between the two companies. Since Comcast announced in February its intention to buy Time Warner Cable, Netflix has been strangely silent about it, despite consumer rights activists, including Minnesota Senator Al Franken himself, begging the company to speak out. Netflix’s choice not to come out publicly was an indication that it, along with the majority of industry analysts, thought the merger was a done deal. (Time Warner Cable is a former subsidiary of TIME’s parent company, Time Warner.)

Despite the fact that fifty public interest groups have publicly opposed the merger, the Justice Department’s anti-trust team is unlikely to object to it, and while the FCC could impose certain regulations on the newer, larger Comcast, it’s not expected to hold the deal up indefinitely. As a result, the political calculus for Netflix was clear: if—or when—the merger becomes official, Netflix, along with all other content producers, will have to work with Comcast, whether they burn bridges before hand or not.

It’s possible that Netflix’s decision speak out last night is an indication that it will, going forward, cut its losses and actively fight the merger in coming weeks. If that’s the case, Comcast is prepared. In an effort to boost the chances that the merger goes through without a hitch, Comcast has begun exploring the idea of divesting 3 million customers to Charter Communications, or another cable provider, which would reduce its reach in the U.S. high-speed internet market.

In its letter Monday, Netflix specifically referenced that potential deal and said that it was not enough. Even after “the proposed divestiture,” the majority of American homes will have “Comcast as the only option for truly high-speed broadband,” Hastings and Wells wrote. “As DSL fades in favor of cable Internet, Comcast could control high-speed broadband”—and therefore the delivery of Netflix and other online content—“to the majority of American homes.”

 

 

Categories: Magazines

Self-Portraits of Planet Earth

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 08:58

Mars is nice and Jupiter has a big red spot, but there’s no more gorgeous planet in the known galaxy than Earth. On a day when we tend focus on the threats to the Earth—which are many—we should also take time to celebrate the varied beauty found throughout our home. Google+ collected photos from around the world tagged with #MyBeautifulEarth, and TIME editors culled through the images to find the very best. The pictures that will appear below (we will be updating all day) are a visual reminder of the Earth’s diversity, from fathomless oceans to glowing volcanoes to alpine glaciers. The only constants are color — and overwhelming beauty. This planet is a never-ending feast for the eyes, which is one more reason why we should try to take care of it, on Earth Day and every day.

Categories: Magazines

Morning Must Reads: April 22

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 08:33
  • Happy Earth Day! TIME talks to Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz who will toss out the first pitch at a Red Sox game on Tuesday in honor of Earth Day [TIME]
  • Not a single Republican has mentioned Earth Day in Congress since 2010 [National Journal]
  • Keystone pipeline may be big, but this is bigger [NYT]
  • Keystone route ruling should be overturned, Nebraska says [Bloomberg]
  • Court orders U.S. to release memo on drones, al-Awlaki killing [Reuters]
  • Spy agencies told to plug media leaks [WSJ]
  • The Aereo Supreme Court case is about to change TV forever [TIME]
  • “Vice President Biden pledged American support Tuesday to help Ukraine stage a successful presidential election next month and to defy Russian economic pressure, but he also warned Ukrainian leaders that they must confront the nation’s rampant official corruption to meet the high political demands of a frustrated public.” [Washington Post]
  • Obama’s strategic shift to Asia hobbled by pressures at home and crises abroad [NYT]
  • “The Supreme Court will consider Tuesday whether an anti-abortion group can challenge an Ohio law that could have restricted it from publicly accusing a political candidate of voting for taxpayer-funded abortions in Obamacare.” [Politico]
  • Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices [New Yorker]
  • GM’s recall troubles haunt former executive’s run for Congress [TIME]

 

Categories: Magazines

Cowboys And Indians Descend on Washington To Protest Pipeline

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 08:31

The National Mall in Washington, D.C., will look like a scene out of an Old Western this week, as the Cowboy and Indian Alliance holds a multi-day protest against the Keystone XL pipeline complete with teepees, horses and religious ceremonies.

The confederation of ranchers, farmers and members of Native American tribes kicks off the week of protest and civil disobedience Tuesday, Earth Day, with a horse ride on the Mall and the erection of a ceremonial teepee soundtracked by live music from the Indigo Girls.

The week’s activities will include religious rituals and a water ceremony “that will highlight the threat Keystone XL poses to water sources, especially the Ogallala Aquifer, along the pipeline route,” according to organizers. Events through the week are expected to draw about 200 participants, with a much larger group of 5,000 expected for a larger march on Saturday, Politico reports. Organizers said acts of civil disobedience and arrests will be part of the spectacle but wouldn’t offer details.

Protestors will not be sleeping in teepees on the Mall overnight because they did not receive the proper permits.

[Politico]

 

Categories: Magazines

Guy Gets Entire Day’s Worth of Food Dumped on His Head — for Charity

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 08:30

Raining Food starts cheerily enough with a few Apple Jacks bouncing off Steve Kardynal’s hirsute head as he mugs for the camera. But then things start getting weird — which probably won’t surprise anyone who has glimpsed the YouTube celebrity’s hilarious Chatroulette parody videos.

Shown in slow motion, the cereal is quickly followed by a cascade of milk, obscene amounts of ketchup, mustard, hot dogs, buns and much, much more. As Kardynal gets gradually obliterated by the torrent of food running down his head — meatballs, tootsie pops and Texas toast are all on the “menu” –his expression shifts from glee to despair and back again when dessert finally comes raining down.

We won’t spoil that final surprise for you, but suffice it to say that the video is not merely an homage to a typical American diet. It’s part of a campaign to help end hunger. Together with Alex Negrete — who posted his own equally gross/magnificent Raining Food 2 video — Kardynal is raising money to supply ready to use therapeutic food (RUTF) kits to those in need. Visit Action in Hunger to learn more and donate.

Categories: Magazines

Oscar Pistorius Denies Taking Pre-Trial Acting Lessons

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 08:10

A spokesperson for Oscar Pistorius has denied accusations that the athlete had taken acting lessons before taking the stand to defend himself from charges he murdered his girlfriend.

A South African newspaper columnist alleged that the Olympic athlete’s emotional testimony—during which he has repeatedly wept uncontrollably—wasn’t genuine. “I have it from a reliable source that you are taking acting lessons for your days in court,” Jani Allan wrote in an open letter to Pistorius on her website. “Your coach has an impossible task… Oscar, you are the latest in a long line of faux heroes.”

Pistorius, 27, testified that he mistakenly shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp four times through a locked bathroom door, thinking that she was a home invader.

A statement by Anneliese Burgess, the media manager for the Pistorius family, said Tuesday that the allegation was not just “totally devoid of any truth” but that it “makes a mockery of the enormous human tragedy involving the Steenkamp family and our client and his family.”

Pistorius’ trial will resume May 5.

Categories: Magazines

Leonardo DiCaprio In Talks to Star in Steve Jobs Biopic

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 08:01

When David Fincher passed on directing Sony Pictures’s Aaron Sorkin-penned Steve Jobs biopic, the dream of a reunion of The Social Network team died. But according to The Hollywood Reporter, the move may have paved the way for reunion of 2000′s The Beach director/star duo, as the studio is now reportedly eyeing Danny Boyle and Leonardo DiCaprio for the project.

The film will be based on Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs, which Sony acquired the rights to after the Apple mogul’s 2011 death. According to THR, Sony has already initiated talks with Boyle, who won the Academy Award for Best Director in 2008 for Slumdog Millionaire. Boyle is said to have already approached his first choice star DiCaprio about playing Jobs.

Though the baby-faced DiCaprio might seem like a surprise choice to play Jobs, the actor is known for tackling well-known figures in past biopics, like Howard Hughes in 2004′s The Aviator and J. Edgar Hoover in 2011′s J. Edgar. However, though no deals are finalized yet, something tells us that even if Leo signs on, the Jobs role won’t be the key to his own long-awaited Oscar moment.

[The Hollywood Reporter]

 

 

 

 

Categories: Magazines

Lytro’s New Illum Camera: Light-Field Photography Gets Way, Way More Serious

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 08:00

The first time I wrote about Lytro was back in October of 2011, when it announced its first product. I said it was “like no other camera you’ve seen before.” It wasn’t, and it isn’t.

The company’s $399 gizmo looks more like a pocket-sized kaleidoscope than a camera, and though it lacks many features standard on all other cameras, it uses light-field technology to create “living pictures” you can refocus after you shot them.

Since the camera’s debut, Lytro has added several new features–such as filters and an iPhone app–but the camera itself has remained the same. And even though it’s still the only light-field camera, it faces increasing competition from smartphone apps such as such as Google’s Android camera app. They use software alone to perform rough approximations of Lytro’s refocusing trick–usually very rough ones, but with the camera that’s already in your pocket.

Today, Lytro is announcing its second camera, the Lytro Illum. Rather than being what you might expect–an improved model at the same price point, or maybe even a lower one–it’s a radically different beast. Instead of going after garden-variety consumers, the Illum targets what the company calls “creative pioneers,” which it defines as professionals and passionate amateurs who are serious about staying on the cutting edge of storytelling technology.

So serious in fact, that they’re willing to pay $1,599 for this camera. That’s four times the cost of the original model (which remains on the market), and around the same price you might pay for a high-end consumer DSLR. The company will knock $100 off that price if you pre-order; it plans to start shipping the new model in July.

The basic light-field technology remains the same: Like the original Lytro, the Illum captures the direction of light in a scene as well as its color and intensity, giving it a fully three-dimensional understanding of the photos you take that other still cameras don’t have. That’s why you’re able to refocus photos after they’re taken and nudge them back and forth to see them from slightly different perspectives. But just about anything that the company could change about this new model, it did change.

The Lytro Illum Lytro

That starts with the form factor. The first Lytro looked a bit like a squared-off, pocket-sized kaleidoscope, but this one looks like…a camera. A sizable, professional, stylish one–it leans forward in an aggressive stance–with a large lens and an articulated 4″ touchscreen display on the back and a shutter button where you’d expect it to be. It also has a slot for SD memory cards and a removable battery, two features absent in the original model. And it sports GPS and Wi-Fi, two features which aren’t yet standard fare on professional cameras.

The company also gave this camera a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, the same one used in Samsung’s new Galaxy S5 smartphone. It says the new chip is 2,000 times more powerful than the mundane one in its original camera, allowing the new one to do much more sophisticated image processing.

The original Lytro camera Lytro

Shooting with the first Lytro is a bit of a trial-and-error job: The matchbook-sized screen is dinky, grainy and hard to see outside, and it’s tough to tell whether your photo will have enough depth of field to make for striking refocusing effects. The Illum’s screen looks big and beautiful, and there’s a neat dynamic preview that outlines the people and objects in your scene. This time around, you should have a much better idea of the end result before you press the shutter.

The big new lens should go a long way towards improving image quality. It’s a custom design with 8x optical zoom capability (30mm-250mm equivalent) with a constant aperture of f/2. Lytro doesn’t measure images in megapixels. Instead it uses megarays, and while it’s hard for us mere mortals to understand exactly what that means, the Illum’s sensor captures 40 of them, vs. the first Lytro’s 11. Photos are now in a standard 3:2 aspect ratio instead of the earlier model’s Polaroid-like square format, and Lytro’s sample images, at least, are much crisper and more detailed than previous “living pictures.”

Speaking of sample images, here they are. You can refocus and zoom around them; press the arrow icons to move between photos.

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As before, you can share Lytro photos online (like I just did above) and view them in the Lytro app for the iPhone and iPad. There’s also a new feature that lets you create videos that pan in and out of a still Lytro image, focusing the scene as they go. It looks a little like a 3D “Ken Burns” effect, and some of it is visible in the below video produced by Lytro.

By pushing the Lytro Illum so far up the photographic food chain, the company answers the challenge from smartphone apps by pretty much avoiding it. Judging from Lytro’s samples, nobody will look at Illum photos and say “My phone can do that.”

So does that mean that Lytro is opting out of the mainstream consumer market? I asked Ren Ng, the company’s founder and chairman, that question. He said that’s not the case at all: There will be further models aimed at a wider audience of snapshot takers, and Lytro still believes that all photography will be light-field photography someday.

For now, this camera is aimed at a relatively small group of people who are really smitten with light-field photography and willing to spend a lot of money to do it as well as possible. For them, it looks like it’s going to be neat. And at least the rest of us will have the opportunity to look at some of the pictures they shoot.

Categories: Magazines