It’s not the first time we’ve seen in-game footage of Star Citizen — not by a long shot — but it is a lovely, long, lens-flare-blue gander at Chris Roberts’ flamboyantly crowd-funded (to the tune of $41 million and climbing) deep-space simulator. The game won’t be out until 2015 (and then, I’d guess if we’re lucky), but it looks to be coming along nicely, though most of what you’ll see here is a little mundane. MoreInterview: Sid Meier’s Civilization Beyond Earth Might Be the Alpha Centauri Sequel You’ve Been Waiting ForHere’s How Far Mario Travels in Super Mario Bros.Men Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostSelena Gomez and Justin Bieber Hit Coachella Together People
Armaments, check. Dogfighting, check. A window-dressing planet, check. G-forces callout, check. The most interesting wrinkle may be the in-helmet radar, which illustrates a lock-on using quarter-circle brackets that tumble from foreground to background like the halo of stars in Paramount Pictures’ pre-movie logo. In other words, a little distracting and unnecessary. In fact I thought it was a new type of weapon at first.
“You should probably skip to 3:16,” the person who put up the YouTube video snapped at Pax East 2014 advises. Yep, you probably should, because those first three minutes are just the demonstrator crashing and restarting.
Space is boring. It’s unfathomably big. Not a lot happens. It’s nowhere near as interesting as Alfonso Cuaron’s beautifully shot but ultimately nonsensical fantasy version. You have to add noise and nonsense physics and time compression and narrative silliness to make it interesting.
That’s not this demo, which is more about proving that in 2014, we still know how to design vertical and horizontal strafe, that bodies in zero-G cockpits can still respond to gravitational forces, that asteroid fields can be more enticing if you drop them in low-orbit near a planet (pity the poor occupants of that planet, assuming it’s occupied, who probably have extinction events routinely) and that different weapons firing simultaneously look nifty so long as the tracers are color-coordinated.
But then we’re looking at the disjointed scraps of something that’s not even a game yet. The apparently high school-age audience (that mistook a space sim demo for a sporting event where dimwits shout half-intelligbly) didn’t seem to mind. Yes, the demonstrator bounces off an asteroid toward the end (several times). Did you think that was a feature? That you were watching a representation of what you’ll play in one or maybe two years?
Mind you, a Digital Combat Simulator game Star Citizen will never be. If all you want is painstakingly bleeding-edge Newtonian fidelity, you want DCS, whose simulations are peerless. But give Star Citizen‘s design team time to figure out where, between arcade and simulation poles, it wants to be. Chris Roberts’ first Wing Commander leaned firmly toward the former, but his later games grew in complexity and depth. Star Citizen looks increasingly like it might slot somewhere in the vicinity of Egosoft’s X-series, meaning fairly sim-ish — and that’s to say nothing of the trading or living universe elements we haven’t seen yet.
When Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2 arrived last October, I was among the first to get one, heading out to a nearby Microsoft Store on launch day to claim my pre-order. I’d been waiting a long time for a 2-in-1 device that was powerful enough as a laptop, comfortable enough to use as a tablet and still lighter than my other laptops. The Surface Pro 2 seemed to fit the bill, though it was more expensive than what I’d originally hoped to pay. MoreNvidia Shield Takes PC Gaming on the Road, but Mileage May Vary [Update]Lenovo ThinkPad 8 Review: A Classy Windows Tablet, with QuirksMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostSelena Gomez and Justin Bieber Hit Coachella Together People
My impressions were mostly positive after 30 days with the Surface Pro 2, but I did have some issues, particularly with the software. Now that six months have passed, and Microsoft has released a major update for Windows 8.1, I’m ready to re-evaluate: Still Digging the Hybrid Popular Among Subscribers The Rise of Fake Pot Subscribe Common Core Sparks Parent RevoltChristians and Tyrants
Read enough Surface Pro 2 reviews, and you might internalize this refrain: It’s too heavy as a tablet, and too awkward as a laptop. It’s an understandable complaint. The Surface Pro 2 is trickier to balance on your knees, and its 2-pound frame isn’t comfortable enough to hold up with one hand. You must also get used to the idea that the Surface is foremost a device that you use in landscape mode.
But by forcing the Surface into those molds overlooks the ways that the hardware excels. The integrated kickstand lets you use the tablet while laying in bed, without holding it up with your hands or strapping on a separate stand, and you can even fold the keyboard underneath for added stability. Compared to larger touchscreen laptops, the Surface’s compact size is easier to use on an airplane tray table, and when it’s in your lap, you don’t have to reach as far to touch the screen. The Surface Pro 2′s design has a lot to offer, but only if you can get beyond the preconceived notions of what a tablet or laptop should do. Unexpected Annoyance: Booting Up
Some Windows devices offer “Connected Standby,” which lets them stay on Wi-Fi while sleeping and pull in updates from the Internet, but the Surface Pro 2 isn’t one of them. I didn’t think I’d be too inconvenienced by the few seconds it takes to wake the Surface from a sleep state, but as the months have passed, it has become a mental barrier when I’m reaching for a computing device. Those extra seconds, plus the time it takes to reestablish a Wi-Fi connection and reconnect to all my Internet services, are just enough for me to reach for my smartphone or another tablet for quick hits of e-mail or Twitter, saving the Surface for more intensive tasks. The Trackpad Is No Longer Awful
It’s funny how the mind works. Before Microsoft added double tap-and-drag support to the Type Cover 2 and Touch Cover 2 last week, I’d start feeling annoyed before I even tried to drag and drop anything. Almost every time, I’d run into problems while trying to hold down the trackpad’s tiny button with one hand, and drag my finger around with the other. My frustration was so hard-wired that it’s taken me a few days to stop dreading every text selection or drag-and-drop operation. But it’s much better now.
Not all is right with the Type Cover 2, however. Responsiveness to two-finger scrolling is still widly inconsistent from one app to the next, and there’s still a dead zone as you scroll your fingers down from the top of the trackpad, taking away from what is already a small surface to work with. I use the touchscreen more often than I expected, but not always because I want to. Windows 8.1 Still Feels Unpolished (and It’s Not Always Microsoft’s Fault)
Windows in its current state is a vast improvement over the version that shipped in 2012, but it’s still not living up to its potential. Partly, that’s because of third-party Windows Store apps. The selection of high-quality apps is too small, and the ones that do exist aren’t always up to par with other platforms (ahem, MLB.tv). And I’m sorely missing a Windows Store version of HipChat, which, if it existed, would probably let me cut out the desktop completely in my daily work routine.
The operating system itself also introduces its own problems. On some occasions, a chunk of battery life has vanished for reasons unclear. And when I’m watching a video on the desktop, Windows doesn’t seem to understand that it should stay awake, which means I can’t use Chromecast without switching to a separate power profile that never sleeps. If I do that, I have to make sure to switch back when I’m finished watching. I shouldn’t have to think about it at all.
Oh, and Google Chrome is still atrocious on the Surface. Proper support for the tablet’s high-pixel density display is absent, and one update earlier this year actually stopped the Type Cover 2 from scrolling properly. Feeling Conflicted About a More Windowed Windows
One of the major new features in the Windows 8.1 update is the ability to display Windows Store apps on the taskbar. With this option enabled, the taskbar doesn’t stay confined to the desktop. It actually pops up on the Start screen and inside Windows Store apps when you move the cursor to the bottom of the screen.
I understand that this is one more step toward letting people stay out of the new interface entirely, while still letting them enjoy new kinds of Windows apps. This plan will be complete later this year, with the restoration of the Start menu and a windowing system for apps. But it also feels like a retreat from having the desktop as just one app among many — something you’d fall back to when modern apps weren’t enough. As polarizing as that idea was, I liked it.
For now, these new features can be disabled, and maybe it’ll stay that way, but that’s beside the point. Having all these options adds complexity to a system that should be getting simpler. Do I launch Twitter through the taskbar on the bottom, or the recent apps list on the right? There’s no good reason for me to have to make that decision. My Wife May Have Fallen for the Novelty
I previously wrote that my wife was smitten with the Surface Pro 2. But over the last few months, the things I’ve mentioned here have added up. She gets annoyed by the erratic behavior of Chrome, the dinky trackpad, the occasional bugs and the smallness of desktop elements on the screen. She’s less receptive to Windows Store apps than I am, so her attempts at using touch on the desktop have led to frustration. It’s a hassle to keep finding the stylus, because the Surface Pro 2 offers no place to store it while the charging cable is plugged in. She still uses the Surface for Office, and enjoys whipping together flyers in Publisher with the touchscreen, but for basic e-mail and Calendar tasks, she often reaches for our Chromebook instead. It Still Has Its Magic Moments
Despite these criticisms, I don’t regret the purchase. The Surface Pro 2 still serves the purpose I had in mind from the start: It’s powerful and capable enough for my work (and even for some PC gaming), but lets me switch into consumption mode without pulling out a separate device. Those times when I’m moving back and forth — for instance, to slack off on Twitter between spurts of writing — are when it all clicks.
The Book of Mormon continued its reign as a critical darling of musical theater on Sunday night, scoring four Olivier Awards statues at Britain’s version of the Tonys.
The musical created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, which opened in London’s West End in Feb. 2013, snagged the statues for Best New Musical, Best Actor for Gavin Creel, Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical for Stephen Ashfield, and Best Theatre Choreographer for Casey Nicholaw.
The Book of Mormon’s success at the Olivier Awards echoes its performance at the 2011 Tony Awards in New York, when the comedy musical won a whopping nine awards, including Best Musical.
Also earning a stack of awards was the drama Chimerica, Lucy Kirkwood’s play about an American photojournalist on a mission to find a long-captured subject of a photo he snapped at Tiananmen Square in 1989. The play won awards for Best New Play, Best Director for Lyndsey Turner, and Best Set Design and tied for awards for Best Lighting Design and Best Sound Design. (Turner also happened to be one of three women who was nominated for the prestigious directing award, which marks a surprising contrast to film awards.)
Two stars of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire dedicated the MTV Movie Awards’ biggest honor to their late co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman on Sunday night.
“I know that if Philip were here, he would think this was really cool,” Josh Hutcherson said alongside Sam Claflin, while both accepted the award for Movie of the Year. “To have him in our movies was one of the coolest things in the world. He’s one of the actors I’ve looked up to my entire life, and we think about him every day on set. Wherever he is, this definitely goes out to him.”
Hoffman died of a toxic drug mix in February, according to a medical examiner. Though his death rocked the cast of the record-breaking film series, it has not posed major production problems for the final two Hunger Games movies, the first of which opens in theaters in November.
Can you picture a glitzy, extravagant update of a Western classic? It seems like Baz Luhrmann can.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Luhrmann — the Australian auteur of The Great Gatsby, Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! – is in talks to direct Kung Fu, a big-screen adaptation of the 1970s martial arts Western series. The show starred David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine, a Shaolin monk who travels through the American Old West. The show was cult favorite and also the origin of the oft-repeated phrase “young grasshopper.”
THR also reports that if Luhrmann does sign on, he’d likely do a rewrite on the script, penned by Black Swan writer John McLaughlin, which is currently thought to be set in China, rather than the Old West. There’s no details on what vision Luhrmann would bring to the remake, but considering his past films — which have used 3D, music and fish tanks with varying levels of success — the possibilities are endless.
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad on Monday claimed the upper hand in what he described as a “turning point” in the country’s civil war, reports the BBC.
Government forces loyal to Assad have been gradually reclaiming rebel-held towns near the border of Lebanon for the last few months. The president’s army has also managed to secure Syria’s main north-south highway, allowing them to cut off crucial supplies to the rebels. Assad claimed this showed his forces winning what he called the “war against terror.”
“This is a turning point in the crisis,” said Assad. The president is expected to announce soon that he will run for a third term in office.
Since the civil war between rebels and pro-government forces erupted in Syria over two years ago, more than 150,000 people have been killed and millions more have been driven out of their homes.
- “Turning to force to try to restore its authority in the vital industrial east, Ukraine’s government announced Sunday it was sending in troops to try to quash an increasingly brazen pro-Russian insurgency, despite repeated warnings from the Kremlin.” [AP]
- How the Obama Peace Process Went ‘Poof’ [Politico]
- Four Years Later: The Heartbreaking Failure of Haiti’s Recovery [New Republic]
- Window Open On Secret Camp Within Guantanamo [AP]
- “The end of the war in Iraq and the winding down of the war in Afghanistan mean that the graduates of the West Point class of 2014 will have a more difficult time advancing in a military in which combat experience, particularly since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has been crucial to promotion. They are also very likely to find themselves in the awkward position of leading men and women who have been to war…” [NYT]
- Kansas City Shooting Is Hate of An Ancient Vintage [TIME]
- “Lawmakers are gone from Washington for their two-week spring break, having packed with them the chances for big-ticket legislation through the rest of the year.” [National Journal]
- Obama’s Real Job: Fundraiser in Chief [National Journal]
- For Hillary Clinton and Boeing, a Beneficial Relationship [WashPost]
- K Street Loses a Loyal Ally in Kathleen Sebelius [WashExaminer]
- “Casino king Sheldon Adelson wants to ban Internet gambling. But states are moving fast to legalize, and even the super PAC billionaire may not be able to stop them.” [Slate]
Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius called the rollout of the government’s healthcare reform law “terribly flawed” and said the administration’s original predictions about its timetable were “flat-out wrong” in a Sunday interview on NBC’s Meet the Press following her resignation last week.
Sebelius attempted to stay positive while acknowledging the failures of the rollout. “Could we have used more time and testing? You bet. I’ve said that from the start,” she told NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell. “But the site actually works. And the great thing is, there’s a market behind the site that works even better. People have competitive choices and real information for the first time ever in this insurance market.”
The rollout of the Affordable Care Act was flawed from its Oct. 1, 2013 launch date, mostly because of technical glitches and web outages affecting the federal Healthcare.gov site. Republicans cite the flawed launch as further evidence that the Affordable Care Act represents unacceptable government overreach. But despite the poor rollout, the number of enrollees in healthcare plans under the law ended up exceeding the Obama administration’s target of 7 million people.
Sebelius also partially attributed the technical failures to the fact that the administration didn’t know until 6 months before enrollment which states would be building their own sites and which would be using the federal site, calling the web development “a moving target.”
The former Secretary also said she didn’t think the White House oversold the program, but instead said that the problem of reforming health insurance was so thorny it defied easy solutions. “I think what we said from the outset was, you know, this was fixing a very broken market– where individuals really were on their own,” she said. “If you were healthy and wealthy, you could get coverage. If you weren’t, you were pretty much on your own”
When asked whether her resignation was voluntary or whether she had been ousted, Sebelius said she had been planning to leave at the end of the first term but didn’t want to jump ship before the health care rollout was complete.
When you’re number two in a business category, as Avis famously told us, you have to try harder. Which would tend to suggest that whoever’s in third place needs to work even harder still.
That’s certainly been Microsoft’s strategy with Windows Phone. Its mobile operating system still lags far, far behind Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS in market share, but the company has never behaved as if it thinks the game is over. It started by giving the software a fresh and imaginative interface and has been at least as serious about upgrades as anybody else, trying both to match the competition’s features and carve off its own niche as a more people-centric approach to the smartphone.
Two weeks ago, at its Build conference in San Francisco, Microsoft announced the operating system’s next version. There’s enough that’s new in this version that it wouldn’t have been false advertising to call it Windows Phone 9. But its name is Windows Phone 8.1, bringing the version number in line with that of Windows 8.1.
That consistency isn’t just a marketing ploy. Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 are based on the same technical underpinnings, and Microsoft is rolling out tools to let developers create a single application that can run on Windows PCs, Windows phones and the Xbox One console, with an interface and capabilities that adjust themselves appropriately to the device in question. Over time, that could help address Windows Phone’s single biggest shortcoming: It’s rarely near the top of the priority list for companies that make apps.Windows Phone 8.1′s home screen Microsoft
People who are registered as Windows Phone developers–which is free, and doesn’t require you to actually be a developer–can download a preview version of 8.1 and update their Windows 8 phones starting today. Microsoft says that the software will ship on new phones–such as three upcoming Nokias–starting in late April or early May, and will be available to all current Windows phone owners within the next few months. I tried the preview on a Nokia Lumia Icon phone provided by Microsoft.
Windows Phone 8.1′s flagship new feature is Cortana–the voice-controlled intelligent assistant that’s its answer to Apple’s Siri (introduced in 2011) and Google’s Google Now (2012). The name is an allusion to the holographic, artificially intelligent advisor in Microsoft’s Halo games; that Cortana’s voice actress, Jen Taylor, did some recording for Windows Phone’s Cortana, although for the most part, Siri, Google Now and Cortana sound like robotic triplets.
You can call up Cortana by pressing a Windows 8.1 phone’s search button. Microsoft is labeling it as a beta, and says it’ll get smarter as millions of people use it. It’s awfully ambitious, striving to deliver both the personality of Siri and–with the help of Microsoft’s Bing search engine–the deep trove of knowledge of Google Now. And it performs some new tricks of its own.
In that last category, Cortana understands some complex requests beyond the ken of Siri and Google Now, such as ”Schedule the Reno trip for Monday through Thursday.” It’s also particularly adept at reminders. For instance you can tell it to remind you to buy key lime frozen yogurt the next time you’re at Safeway—either a specific Safeway, or any Safeway. Or to nudge you to ask your boss for a raise the next time you talk to him on the phone.Microsoft
Besides handing your questions and requests—which you can either speak or type—the service shows you news stories (based on interests you specify). It has a do-not-disturb feature called Quiet Hours, which can shield you from calls, texts and notifications while permitting people you specify as part of your Inner Circle to break through. Like Google Now, it can scan your email so it can issue helpful reminders related to matters such as travel plans. The section where you set up all of this is called Cortana’s Notebook, and it makes it easy to determine what the service knows about you, your preferences and your relationships.
Cortana mtches Siri and Google Now in a bunch of areas, and surges ahead in some. But there are at least a few where it’s surprisingly shallow. I tossed what I thought were some softball questions its way—such as “What time is it?”—which stumped it. Nor could I figure out a way to use it to send e-mail; neither “Email Marie” nor “Send an email to Marie” worked. I can’t imagine these issues will linger for long.
The service is also less clever than Siri and Google Now in some cases when it comes to keeping track of the subject of your queries: All three services understand “How old is Barack Obama?”, but only Siri and Google Now get the follow-up question “How tall is he?” (Then again, if you use Cortana to pull up a list of sushi restaurants, it understands “Call the third one,” which Siri and Google Now do not.)
Cortana is personified on-screen as a simple pulsating animated circle, but it doesn’t want to be thought of as mere software: Like Siri, it calls you by name and provides jokey responses to questions such as “Will you marry me?” and “Which is better, Windows Phone or iPhone?” I’m at least as happy with Google Now’s less aggressively ingratiating approach, especially since its on-screen interface–with swipeable little cards displaying tidbits of information–is the most fully evolved of the bunch.
(Of course, all three of these assistants are capable of being eerily helpful one moment, and hopeless the next: For instance, none of them gave me a direct answer when I asked “What time is Mad Men on tonight?”)
Overall, Cortana doesn’t set a new standard for the category, but it’s already impressive in multiple respects–and a solid platform for future invention on Microsoft’s part.
Beyond Cortana, Windows Phone 8.1 sports lots of other little improvements. Here’s a non-comprehensive list of highlights:
- Action Center appears when you swipe down from the top of the screen. Replicating features already in Android and iOS, it provides one-tap access to settings such as Airplane Mode and, for the first time in Windows Phone, a way to review notifications from apps if you didn’t happen to be looking at your phone when they arrived.
- You can choose a wallpaper to display behind the Live Tiles on your home screen — although it shows through only with certain tiles that are transparent, resulting in a pretty darn subtle effect.
- Word Flow, a new feature in the on-screen keyboard, lets you blast through text input by gliding your fingertip around without lifting it from the display–a concept that originated with Swype and is now standard functionality everywhere except on the iPhone. Microsoft’s version gets no points for creativity, but it’s a very credible implementation; it set a Guinness record for input speed.
- Internet Explorer now sports several features seen in other mobile browsers, including a private browsing mode, a password manager, a de-cluttered reading mode and the ability to get to open browser tabs across all your copies of IE.
- A super-clever feature called Wi-Fi Sense lets you give friends you specify access to your home wireless network–automatically, and without revealing the password to them. (Friends who also also have Windows 8.1 phones, that is.)
- The calendar has some tweaks, including a new weekly view, and Xbox Video, Xbox Music and podcasts have been broken up into more powerful, stand-alone apps.
At this point, for the first time since it debuted in 2010, Windows Phone is nearly free of glaring gaps in its functionality compared to Android and iOS. The last striking one I can think of is the absence of full-blown speech-to-text dictation; a rudimentary version is available in Messaging and Mail, but not throughout the operating system. And maybe the lack of folders for organizing apps, although Nokia has a fix for that.
Other than those, all the big holes in the Windows Phone story involve third-party apps. The situation is nowhere near as dire as it once was: I was relieved, for instance, to discover that both of the banks I do business with offer wares in the Windows Store. But among the no-shows I pined after were Flipboard, Secret, Facebook’s Paper and Dropbox’s brand-new Carousel.
Bottom line: We still live in a world in which only iPhone users can be reasonably confident that they’ll get versions of hot new apps at least as early as anyone else. For Windows Phone owners, the app situation, for now, is still “maybe, eventually.”
For those who can accept that reality, and are willing to consider dumping whatever smartphone platform they’re currently using, Windows Phone 8.1 offers an experience that’s fun, fluid and just about feature-complete. It may be an outlier, but it’s a choice, not an echo, and it’s clearly viable in a way that the fourth-place mobile OS, BlackBerry 10, is not. If you hear this operating system calling your name–most likely on a Nokia Lumia–there’s no reason not to answer.
On Friday, Sprint announced the launch its new kid-friendly Sprint WeGo phone, a low-cost starter device for ages 5 to 12 that offers plenty of parental controls and tracking features.
“Sprint WeGo is the perfect starter phone to give parents peace of mind while teaching kids responsibility – how to keep track of a device, charge it and care for it – at a low price,” said Sprint VP of Product David Owens in a company press release. “This device has all of the basics without anything younger children don’t need just yet.” Sprint
The simplistic, water-resistant WeGo allows you to program up to 20 trusted phone numbers for your child to contact and be contacted by. It also offers 50 pre-programmed outgoing text message options (“yes,” “no,” “Call me please,” and the like) and a corded panic alarm that sends you an instant SMS notification with your child’s location.
Parents, meanwhile, get a large number of tracking and safety features. Built-in GPS lets you immediately find or track your child at any time. You can also get low battery alerts, SMS read receipts, abduction (speed) alerts and wake alerts (if your child isn’t up and moving in the morning by a certain time) sent directly to you by SMS message or email.
There are no fancy smartphone features or apps on this child-friendly phone, but that’s part of why service for the device is so inexpensive. Sprint WeGo service starts at $9.99 per month, which includes 1,000 minutes of talk and 1,000 text messages. The phone itself can be purchased for $0 down and 24 monthly payments of $5.
For more on the Sprint WeGo, visit the company’s website. For more on deciding when to hand a child his or her first phone, check out the results of this recent Microsoft parenting survey and Techlicious’ Is Your Child Ready for a Smartphone quiz.
This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.
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The price of beef has reached its highest level in almost three decades and is expected to stay high in the near future.
Declining cattle supply and increased demand from China and Japan caused the average retail cost of beef to jump to $5.28 a pound in February, the Associated Press reports. That’s almost 25 cents higher than the average cost in January and the highest price since 1987.
Jim Robb, director of the Livestock Marketing Information Center, told the AP that economists expected consumers to look for substitutes for beef as ranchers in Texas and other parts of the country battled droughts while prices rose.
Beef isn’t the only meat getting more expensive. A virus that has killed millions of pigs has caused the price of pork to rise. The average retail cost of chicken has also increased to $1.95 per pound, the highest price since October.
“I think these higher food prices are here to stay, including beef,” Dale Spencer, a rancher and former president of the Nebraska Cattle Association, told the AP.
Libyan prosecutors on Monday prepared to begin the trial of deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi’s two sons, reports Reuters.
Saadi Gaddafi and Saif al-Islam will be tried alongside more than 30 former officials of the Gaddafi regime in the capital city Tripoli’s Al-Hadba prison. The case’s chief investigator, Sidiq al-Sour, said that Saadi would not be present on Monday due to ongoing investigations, but procedures would carry on against the others. They face charges including war crimes and corruption.
Since the overthrow of Gaddafi, Libya has suffered from weak governance, with armed protesters blocking oil exports and former revolutionary fighters refusing to hand over their weapons. Human rights organizations have also expressed concern over the fairness of the North African state’s justice system.
“So far, there have been problems with legal representation. Many of those on trial did not a have a lawyer from the beginning – the cornerstone of a fair trial,” said Hanan Salah, Libya researcher with Human Rights Watch. “If they don’t get fair trials then it casts doubt over whether the new Libya is not about selective justice.”
A contestant named Julian kept getting very close to winning big on Friday’s episode of Wheel of Fortune -- but then he just kept messing up big.
First, the University of Indiana freshman lost his chance to play for $1 million when he bungled the answer “Mythological Hero Achilles.” All the letters were turned over, so it seemed like he had this one in the bag. But when he went to solve the puzzle, he pronounced Achilles like “A-chill-us.”
The three seconds of deafening silence that followed were heartbreaking. Eventually Pat let Julian know that they couldn’t accept that, and the next contestant eagerly swooped in.
Unfortunately, Julian makes a few more blunders as the episode rolls on. For example, he guesses “on-the-spot dicespin” (what?) instead of “on-the-spot decision,” again allowing the contestant to his left to swoop in once more.
Looks like we now know what Julian’s Achilles’ heel is.
The days of size-0 stars talking about how little they can eat to stay in the business seem to be fading into darkness. Now, it’s Jennifer Lawrence talking pizza and French fries, Mindy Kaling saying she eats like a 6-foot-3 man and Gabourey Sibide throwing shade at cruel Twitter trolls commenting on her weight. MoreWhite House, Congress Should Remember Pope Francis During Budget ProcessThe Rise of Fake PotMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostJack Gleeson of Game of Thrones: 5 Things to Know People
The floodgates of real-body talk have been opened. But it’s not just on social media or alongside Jimmy Fallon. Women like Kaling are scripting their own TV shows, making body image discussion part of the plotlines. It’s become more acceptable to discuss body realism as opposed to idealism, but is all this talk about bodies helping women with self-image issues or eating disorders or does this new focus fuel our obsession with how we look? If anything the conversation is even more focused on appearances than before. Popular Among Subscribers The Rise of Fake Pot Subscribe Common Core Sparks Parent RevoltChristians and Tyrants
Kaling’s show The Mindy Project, which she stars in and writes, never fails to tease her insecurities or her so-called atypical size. At times the jokes are actually hilarious and very relatable, like a fan favorite that’s often quoted: “I’m not overweight, I fluctuate between chubby and curvy.” But others, while funny, seem unnecessary. On a recent episode, when her character excused herself from work for an appointment, a colleague asked if she was getting lap-band surgery. Later in the episode, when she sat on a man’s lap, the chair crumbled beneath them.
And the conversation continues on social media where Kaling has become known for her frank comments about weight. When she posted a fan’s illustration of herself on Instagram using the hashtag #thickthighs, troves of followers applauded what they thought was hilarious and honest. “It takes a lot of effort to look like a normal-slash-chubby woman!” Kaling told Jimmy Kimmel when explaining the backhanded compliments she receives from fans about her shape.
In a recent Vogue feature, Kaling is referred to as a ‘curvaceous comedienne,’ essentially a fancy term for ‘she’s not skinny.’ The story describes her as a ‘fluctuating size 10’ and highlights the ways she dresses for her shape, which focus mostly on looking as small as possible with a few of her thoughts about fashion sprinkled in. The article quotes Kaling about taking chances with her outfits: “I don’t want my tombstone to say, she hid her imperfections on the red carpet.” Soon after the issue’s release, she was hailed for wearing a crop top to the 2014 Paley Fest. People praised her on the web, but it’s going too far to call someone courageous for that. And Kaling agreed, telling Kimmel she didn’t think it garnered acclaim. Still, it’s wonderful that Vogue chose to feature a woman outside its normal scope of Karlie Kloss-types, but the story could have been more about Kaling herself than about her body.
Joking about the ridiculous standards set by pop culture and celebrities can make women feel better about their bodies, about being ‘normal/chubby’, but it also reinforces the comparison factor that some experts say drives body image issues and an increase in eating disorders among women and men. “The key is an acceptance strategy,” says Dr. Kenneth Weiner, CEO and Founder of the Eating Recovery Center. “We see the prevalence of eating disorders continue to rise in the face of an environment that has a need for women to experience dissatisfaction with their body.” Eating disorder prevalence is hard to track, since there’s no standardized method and so many cases go unreported. Still, Dr. Russell Marx, chief science officer of the National Eating Disorder Association, says they appear to be on the rise in adolescents–with young people suffering from eating disorders at an earlier age than previous generations.
Kaling’s so-called imperfections are also the things that make her so-called normal, so her commentary about them creates a disconnect between the idea of accepting yourself as is and seeing yourself as normal, versus constantly calling out your supposed flaws.
Other experts say that the appearance of more diversity in the body shapes of the people on television is a positive development. “In the same way that we don’t know what contributes to disordered thoughts about body image, we don’t know what confers a healthier message,” says Dr. Evelyn Attia, the director at Columbia Center for Eating Disorders. “But it’s nice to have a period of time where people are trying on these messages, where celebs are getting the word out that there are lots of healthy bodies, lots of healthy definitions of beauty,” Attia says. “It’s a bit of a refreshing chapter.”
Attia suggests that the best option is for women to get to “a place of neutrality” when it comes to body image, which means neither extreme satisfaction or dissatisfaction with one’s body but a form of acceptance that size and shape isn’t the end all be all of success and happiness. It’s hard to know whether discussing crop tops and imperfections help women reach a point of neutrality. And it’s worth noting that there are also celebrities who don’t fit the unattainable size-0 standard and choose not to dwell on it all. Take Christina Hendricks, who’s almost always referred to in conjunction with the word voluptuous or curvy. The Mad Men star refuses to discuss her body or body image, which is perhaps closer to the neutrality that Attia recommends.
The fashion industry and some media outlets have been trying to shift the conversation and encourage better body image, but whether it makes a difference is hard to know. In 2012, Seventeen launched a ‘Body Peace Treaty’ campaign, designed to encourage young women to make peace with their bodies, but there’s little evidence it’s made a true impact. And though Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign sheds light on how women define themselves, it only fuels the discussion of unattainable standards. None of these efforts have limited the number of bikini body gossip magazines on stands. In 2005, a campaign spearheaded by researcher Carolyn Becker and a sorority sought out to ban ‘fat talk’ to help prevent eating disorders and negative body image. While commendable, of course, the campaign never really took off the ground.
Though laughter is often good medicine, Weiner suggests that being disparaging and demeaning about your size and weight is far from the ticket to acceptance. “Poking fun at yourself because you’re larger? If anything, I see that as part of the problem.”
India’s democracy is an impressive thing to behold. In preparation for the national polls now underway, election materials have been ferried by air, sea and elephant to give over 800 million people the chance to have their say in the formation of the next government. Turnout in some of the most remote parts of the nation has already been impressive, reaching figures of over 70 and 80% in parts of the northeast that voted last week.
Less impressive are the backgrounds of some of the lawmakers Indians have to choose from. National Election Watch (NEW) and the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), an election watchdog group in India, have determined that 17% of the candidates running for seats in Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of parliament, in the first five phases of the nine-phase vote have declared that they have criminal cases against them. The groups, which analyzed the self-sworn affidavits that candidates submit to India’s election body, found that 557 out of 3305 candidates had declared criminal cases against themselves. Of those, 328 faced were cases related to serious crimes, such as rape and murder.
By major party, that breaks down like this: 23% of Congress Party candidates in the first five phases have declared criminal cases against themselves, 34% of Bharatiya Janata Party candidates, and 16% of Aam Aadmi Party candidates. The states and territories with the highest percentage of candidates with criminal cases are the archipelago of Lakshadweep off India’s southwest coast at 50%, Goa at 32% and Kerala at 74%.
Though candidates’ records in the last four phases have yet to be examined, the numbers seem to be on track for an improvement over the last Lok Sabha elected in 2009, in which some 30% of parliamentarians had declared criminal cases against them. But even with corruption and cleaner governance being focal points this election season, it’s unclear how much attention voters will give their candidates’ records in 2014. “I don’t think its’s an election issue,” says ADR head Anil Verma. “We keep making noises and try to educate the voter of these issues.”
Last month, India’s Supreme Court ordered the lower courts to try lawmakers facing criminal charges within a year of the case being filed. The order is part of a ongoing effort to clean up the ranks of India’s halls of power; in July, the apex court ruled that lawmakers convicted of certain crimes would be immediately disqualified from office. If the judiciary upholds this latest order, Verma says, it could have a big impact on the next house. But he’s not optimistic for a major house cleaning to take place any time soon. “I don’t see it happening,” Verma says. “Let’s see how the judicial system goes.”
Oscar Pistorius once again broke down weeping during the fourth day of cross-examination in Pretoria on Monday. He stands trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Feb. 28 last year.
Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel continued to grill the Olympian about details of the night when he shot Steenkamp through the bathroom door of his gated-community home. Pistorius maintains that he mistook the 29-year-old model for an intruder.
Pistorius’ story has come under intense scrutiny from Nel, who argues that the double-amputee athlete — known as “Blade Runner” due to his trademark prosthetic limbs — intended to harm Steenkamp after the couple had quarreled.
Nel focused on the position of duvet and jeans in the bedroom, and Pistorius’s assertion that Steenkamp was in bed when he got up to fetch a fan and heard a noise from the bathroom.
“If Reeva was in bed she would have heard that as well?” asked Nel, accusing the defendant of “tailoring evidence.”
“I say that it’s improbable that you would have not, having heard a window open … asked her if she heard it,” he added.
Pistorius replied that she may not have said anything as “she would have been as scared as I was.”
Also under examination was the position of a duvet and pair of the victim’s jeans in the couple’s bedroom, as were alleged inconsistencies between Pistorius’s bail statement and his witness testimony regarding the noise he heard.
“I’m saying, and it’s the state’s case, Mr Pistorius, that she wanted to leave and that you weren’t sleeping, you were both awake,” said Nel, asking why the jeans were not in her otherwise impeccably packed bag.
Nel then asked Pistorius if he recalls what he screamed at the intruder in the bathroom.
“I screamed, I said ‘get the f— out of my house,” says Pistorius, his voice wavering with emotion. “Get the f— out of my house.”
“If there’s somebody in your house in the middle of the night, I’m sure anybody would want to chase them out,” he added, breaking down to the point that Judge Thokozile Masipa ordered a recess.
Pistorius stands accused of murder, first-degree murder and culpable homicide. He denies all charges.
The case continues.
BOSTON—While survivors and others gather for a solemn ceremony to mark the anniversary of the bombings at last year’s Boston Marathon, runners from around the world will be arriving in brightly-colored running gear just outside to prepare for this year’s competition. MoreMan Who Lost Legs In Boston Bombing Will Be A FatherBoston Bomb Squad Blows Up Pressure CookerMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostJack Gleeson of Game of Thrones: 5 Things to Know People
It’s a disconnect that exemplifies a rare, if not singular, challenge: the need to commemorate a tragedy that coincides with an iconic annual event. And it means planners have to balance grieving about the past with staging an athletic spectacle that’s all about positive emotion.
“It really is a huge pendulum sweep,” says Dusty Rhodes, who is in charge of the tribute.
A unusual calendar quirk will help: The Boston Marathon is always run on the third Monday in April. Last year’s marathon was on April 15, the earliest possible date, while this year’s will be on April 21, the latest. That gives organizers six days between the anniversary of last year’s bombings and the runners’ gathering at the starting line.
“What we really want to have happen on Tuesday is the appropriate focus on the victims and the community and the enormity of the impact and the sadness and the challenge, and then move forward,” says Rhodes. “Come Wednesday morning after the tribute, let’s go and have the world’s best marathon that we can have.”
The commemoration will recognize the three people killed by two bombs placed on Boylston Street during last year’s marathon, an MIT police officer fatally shot by the alleged bombers three days later, the 264 who were hurt in the blasts, many of them gravely, and the firefighters, police, hospital employees and others who responded to the emergency.
Participants will file out of a local convention hall behind an honor guard and place a wreath at the freshly painted blue-and-yellow finish line. They will observe a moment of silence at 2:49 p.m., the exact moment when the first of the bombs exploded.
Church bells will ring citywide at 2:50 p.m. along with the horns of boats in the city’s famous harbor. The finish-line flag familiar from the photographs of last year’s chaos will be raised, and church bells will play Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”
“By the time we get to the end of the tribute program, it’s about hope,” Rhodes says. “We’ve done well, we’re a team, we’ve been a strong team, and we will be a strong team. And that’s the tone we close with. It’s a microcosm of what the whole week will be.”
For all of that, officials say they can’t predict, and don’t presume to dictate, how people will remember the events of last year while also watching this year’s race unfold.
“That’s not for us to reconcile,” said Tom Grilk, executive director of marathon parent the Boston Athletic Association. “It’s for us to provide people with an opportunity to do what they do and to remember and react the way they wish.”
As for the marathon itself, Grilk hopes it “will be what it has always been, an international athletic event and a day of celebration and joy for the runners and spectators along the way and volunteers,” he says. “What we have heard from people is that we along with them have to move forward, have to display that determination, colored by that history that happened before.”
Corporate America is whistling while it works: According to digital music service Spotify, 61% of people stream music during the workday with 36% saying they use music to get them through the day. One person’s motivational music can be another’s nails-down-a-chalkboard irritation, so all of this music-streaming almost certainly means there are a lot of annoyed colleagues sick of listening to their co-workers’ music, tired of raising their voice to be heard over headphones and the like. MoreMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostJack Gleeson of Game of Thrones: 5 Things to Know PeopleWatson's Masters win has its roots in his wild style of golf Sports Illustrated'Game of Thrones' recap: 'The Lion and the Rose' Entertainment Weekly
We’re not saying you need to work in silence, but there are some good music etiquette practices you should observe that will help keep you in harmony with your fellow workers.
Some companies don’t let workers wear headphones. The experts are unanimous: If you’re allowed to, you probably should. But that doesn’t let you off the hook from good music etiquette.
“Don’t wear headphones 24/7,” says Harvard Business Review writer Anne Kreamer, who wrote about office music in a 2012 blog post. “You’ll isolate yourself.”
“Never wear your ear phones away from your desk – anywhere,” says business etiquette consultant Ellen Reddick. It doesn’t matter if you’re just going to the bathroom, down the hall to the copy machine, down to the lobby for a snack — if you’re leaving your desk, take them off.
“Don’t hum along or tap your foot or desk,” Reddick says. It kind of defeats the point of headphones if your co-workers have to listen along anyway.
On that note, Kreamer says it’s important to make sure you’re the only one who can hear that music coming from your headset. “Be sensitive to your co-workers and ensure they can’t hear bass sounds leaking out.”
If you’re not using a headset, you need to have a conversation with the other people who work within earshot.
“Trying to attain group consensus is also a smart idea,” says Vicky Oliver, consultant and author of several business books, including, 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions. “Do yourself a favor and ask those who are sitting nearby if they mind if you listen to music while you work, and, assuming they don’t, what type of music they’d prefer to hear.”
If you’re listening without headphones in shared space, you might want to stick to mainstream tunes: Spotify says 10% of survey respondents admitted to judging a co-worker based on their choice of music.
And keep it down, Oliver advises. “Always turn the volume to low if you work in an open space without walls,” she says.
Spotify says pop music is the most popular, with rock a close second. But if you work with a huge fan of Gregorian chants or the Three Tenors and your music is shared, Oliver suggests trading days: Pink today, Puccini tomorrow.
And finally, don’t make your music a higher priority than your colleagues. “If someone come to your desk, remove your ear phones — both of them,” Reddick says. “Do not just remove one to talk with another person.” It sends them a not-so-subtle signal that you’re only half-listening to them.
Counterfeit products may cost the global economy up to $250 billion a year, according to estimates from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Millions of those shipments enter the United States. MoreMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostJack Gleeson of Game of Thrones: 5 Things to Know PeopleWatson's Masters win has its roots in his wild style of golf Sports Illustrated'Game of Thrones' recap: 'The Lion and the Rose' Entertainment Weekly
While government agencies do their best to crack down on counterfeit goods, they only manage to catch a fraction of the fake products that enter the United States. Still, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) values that seized fraction at staggering amounts. The value of counterfeit goods seized rose by 38.1% in 2013, from $1.2 billion in 2012 to $1.7 billion last year. Popular Among Subscribers The Rise of Fake Pot Subscribe Common Core Sparks Parent RevoltChristians and Tyrants
Based on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of the genuine versions of the counterfeit goods, some of the most valuable imitations were of handbags and wallets, watches and jewelry, and consumer electronics. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the nine most counterfeit items seized in 2013, based on their retail value.
The value and number of seizures changes considerably from year to year, depending on what items were being counterfeited, as well as law enforcement activity. Therese Randazzo, director of CBP policy and programs on intellectual property rights, explained that, in some cases, increases in seizures are the result of such activity. In other cases, such as footwear, decreases in seizures can also reflect the success of prior campaigns by CBP and other agencies, she added.
In some cases, changes in the number and value of goods seized did not move in tandem. For instance, while the number of watches and jewelry seized remained roughly the same between 2012 and 2013, the value of those seizures rose by 169%. According to Randazzo, fluctuations will occur with luxury goods like handbags, watches and other types of jewelry in particular, because there is such a large range of values with these products.
Luxury items tend to be the most counterfeited products because they are more valuable, according to Randazzo. And with better counterfeiting methods, there is a greater challenge of detection as well as potential for even higher profits, she explained. Consumers can no longer take for granted obvious signs of imitation such as poor stitching or bad zippers. “Now, the quality [of fake products] has improved so dramatically that [criminals] have been able to charge at prices closer to the price of the genuine article.”
China’s role as manufacturer for a broad range of authentic products, as well as its intellectual property rights framework, may contribute to the country’s high levels of counterfeiting. About $1.2 billion of the $1.7 billion worth of imitations picked up by U.S. law enforcement agencies originated in mainland China. More than $400 million worth of seized goods came from Hong Kong, which CBP classified separately.
The process and methods of detecting these counterfeiting operations is constantly evolving. The increased number of seizures in 2013, according to Randazzo, can be explained in part by new collaborative efforts between CBP and various partners, including China Customs, the customs agency for the People’s Republic of China. The success of such operations has resulted in a measurable increase in the number and value of seizures and the ability to target and intercept shipments of knock-off products, she added.
Based on information provided by the CBP, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the nine most counterfeited items seized by officials based on the MSRP of the genuine article. We looked at the number of shipments of each product type confiscated in both 2013 and 2012. We also reviewed CBP data by country to identify the value of counterfeit goods produced in specific countries.
These are the nine most counterfeited products in America.
4. Wearing Apparel/Accessories
> MSRP of seized goods: $116.2 million
> Pct. of total seized goods: 7%
Last year, the United States seized almost 10,000 shipments of counterfeit apparel and accessories, by far the most of any commodity and up 26.8% from the year before. In all, more than $116 million worth of such items were seized. Like with other goods, exactly what type of product is being counterfeited matters, Randazzo noted, with haute couture knockoffs assigned a higher MSRP than blue jeans, for example. Last year, the CBP, in conjunction with other federal and local agencies, conducted “Operation Red Zone,” which seized $17.3 million worth of fake sporting apparel — jerseys and ball caps — and other collectibles coinciding with the 2013 Super Bowl.
3. Consumer Electronics/Parts
> MSRP of seized goods: $145.9 million
> Pct. of total seized goods: 8%
The dollar amount of counterfeit consumer electronics products seized rose by 40% in 2013, to $145.9 million from $104.4 million in 2012. Further, consumer electronics comprised 8% of the total value of items seized last year, making it the third most frequently seized fake product. The number of seizures of counterfeit electronic products grew in conjunction with their total value. There were 5,656 such seizures in 2013, a 44% increase from the 3,928 seizures in 2012. According to a report by the CBP, one particularly big seizure in 2013 was by a joint CBP and China Customs operation. The two-month long operation resulted in 1,735 electronics shipments being seized, removing more than 243,000 counterfeit consumer electronic products from the market.
> MSRP of seized goods: $502.8 million
> Pct. of total seized goods: 29%
The value of seized imitation watches and jewelry grew by 168.9% between 2012 and 2013, considerably more than that of any other commodity. In total, the value of watches seized was more than half a billion dollars in 2013. Last year, there were 1,729 seizures, 21% less than there were in 2012. Randazzo noted that the different trends in value and seizures may be a product “of what’s targeted and seized in a given year.” For example, fake versions of high-end watches, which retail for thousands of dollars, can boost the values of counterfeits seized. The Federation of Swiss Watch Industry estimated that some 120,000 imitation watches were seized worldwide in 2013.
> MSRP of seized goods: $700.2 million
> Pct. of total seized goods: 40%
Handbags and wallets were again the most seized counterfeited product, by MSRP, in 2013. The roughly 2,200 shipments seized had a total MSRP of more than $700 million, accounting for 40% of the total value of all goods seized. Because these products are valued so highly, a drop in total handbag and wallet seizures between 2012 and 2013 did not correspond with a drop in the market value of the items seized. In fact, while seizures fell by 17% in that time, the value of goods seized rose 37%, or by nearly $189 million. Randazzo explained that the retail value of the genuine goods can increase the value of the seized counterfeits considerably. While a fake Coach bag is often valued in the hundreds of dollars, “if we seize a counterfeit Hermes bag, the value …of some of those bags is thousands of dollars.” Most such counterfeits originate in mainland China, which alone accounted for more than half a billion dollars in fake purses last year, according to the CBP.