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In this Sunday, April 22, 2018 image taken from video footage by China's CCTV via AP Video, an injured passenger receives medical treatment at a hospital following a bus accident in North Hwanghae province,... (Associated Press) In this Sunday, April 22, 2018 image taken from video footage by China's CCTV via AP Video, an injured passenger receives medical treatment at a hospital following a bus accident in North Hwanghae province, south of Pyongyang, North Korea. A traffic accident in southern North Korea has killed dozens... (Associated Press) BEIJING (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has met with China's ambassador and visited a hospital where Chinese tourists were being treated after a deadly bus crash. The crash Sunday evening killed 32 Chinese and four North Koreans, and two Chinese were seriously injured. China's official Xinhua News Agency said late Monday that the tourist bus fell from a bridge in North Hwanghae province in southern North Korea. Photos provided by the North Korean government on Tuesday showed Kim meeting with Ambassador Li Jinjun at the hospital and at the Chinese Embassy. China's Foreign Ministry said a medical team and diplomats were sent to help. It described the North Korean casualties as "workers." All visitors to North Korea must be accompanied by minders. Chinese tourists make up the vast majority of visitors to North Korea, where they often pay homage at sites related to China's participation in the 1950-53 Korean War. China and North Korea share a lengthy border and a traditional friendship. China remains Pyongyang's largest trading partner, although commerce has dropped off by about 90 percent under United Nations sanctions. Only about 5,000 Westerners visit the isolated, hard-line communist state each year. Americans have been banned from traveling to North Korea without special permission from the U.S. State Department since September amid concerns about the fate of those detained there in the past. The cause of the crash wasn't mentioned. Chinese state broadcaster CCTV showed the mangled wreckage in the dark with rain falling and rescue vehicles on the scene. North Korean roads are often bumpy and poorly maintained. There is usually no lighting other than headlights at night, even on major roads outside of the cities. Drivers tend to travel at whatever speed they feel is safe, making the roads even more dangerous, particularly when the weather is bad. ||||| Image copyright AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS Image caption Mr Kim was pictured in state media speaking to an injured Chinese tourist North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has expressed "bitter sorrow" over a bus accident that left 32 Chinese tourists and four North Koreans dead. The accident took place on Sunday night in North Hwanghae province, when the tour bus plunged off a bridge. It is rare for North Korea's tightly-controlled media to report on negative news, and for Mr Kim to acknowledge the incident itself is even more unusual. China is the North's main political ally and largest trading partner. "[Mr Kim] said that the unexpected accident brought bitter sorrow to his heart," the official KCNA news agency reported. "He couldn't control his grief at the thought of the bereaved families who lost their blood relatives." Image copyright AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS Image caption Mr Kim expressed his 'sorrow' to Chinese ambassador Li Jinjun (2nd R) The North Korean leader was pictured visiting injured passengers in hospital. The report said he "personally learned about the treatment". He also visited the Chinese embassy in Pyongyang, where he met the Chinese ambassador to North Korea Li Jinjun and "expressed his heartfelt condolences and sympathy." China and North Korea have been long-time allies. Mr Kim's rapid visit to the injured people - and the reporting of it - is likely to be seen in part as a way of protecting his image among the Chinese population. Chinese tourists make up an estimated 80% of foreign tourists to North Korea - providing an important source of currency for Pyongyang. Mr Kim earlier this year visited Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, his first known foreign trip since he took office in 2011. China is responsible for virtually all of North Korea's food and fuel aid and by many measures, can be considered its most important partner. North Korea recently announced it was halting all nuclear and missile tests, as it builds up to major summit with the leaders of South Korea and the US.
– A crash that killed 32 tourists from North Korea's chief ally brought "bitter sorrow" to the heart of leader Kim Jong Un, according to Pyongyang's official KCNA news agency. The agency—in a rare admission of bad news—said the Chinese tourists and four North Koreans were killed when a tour bus plunged off a bridge in North Hwanghae province, south of the capital, the BBC reports. Kim "couldn't control his grief at the thought of the bereaved families who lost their blood relatives," KCNA said. The AP reports that China, source of the vast majority of foreign tourists to North Korea, has sent diplomats and a medical team to assist.
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Wesley Snipes Begins Serving 3-Year Prison Stint Email This Wesley Snipes began serving a three-year sentence at a federal prison in Pennsylvania on Thursday for failure to file income tax returns. Snipes, 48, arrived shortly before noon at the Federal Correctional Institution McKean in the tiny northwestern Pennsylvania town of Lewis Run, federal prisons spokesman Ed Ross said. He had been ordered to surrender by noon. The minimum security prison camp is worlds away from the harsh prison fortresses depicted in the Snipes' films 'Undisputed' and 'Brooklyn's Finest.' The minimum-security camp doesn't have fences around its perimeter. The 300 nonviolent inmates live in barracks that feature two-man rooms, daily showers and double-feature movie showings Friday through Sunday. Alas, no NC-17, R or X ratings allowed, which knocks out much of Snipes' action-heavy repertoire. The most jarring aspect of the celebrity's stay might be the five daily head counts, three during the overnight hours. And Snipes, who earned a reported $13 million for the 'Blade: Trinity' sequel, will have to adjust to earning just pennies an hour handling kitchen, laundry or other campus chores. He can spend just $290 a month at the prison commissary. Wesley Snipes began serving a three-year sentence at a federal prison in Pennsylvania on Thursday for failure to file income tax returns. Snipes, 48, arrived shortly before noon at the Federal Correctional Institution McKean in the tiny northwestern Pennsylvania town of Lewis Run, federal prisons spokesman Ed Ross said. He had been ordered to surrender by noon.The minimum security prison camp is worlds away from the harsh prison fortresses depicted in the Snipes' films 'Undisputed' and 'Brooklyn's Finest.' The minimum-security camp doesn't have fences around its perimeter.The 300 nonviolent inmates live in barracks that feature two-man rooms, daily showers and double-feature movie showings Friday through Sunday. Alas, no NC-17, R or X ratings allowed, which knocks out much of Snipes' action-heavy repertoire.The most jarring aspect of the celebrity's stay might be the five daily head counts, three during the overnight hours. And Snipes, who earned a reported $13 million for the 'Blade: Trinity' sequel, will have to adjust to earning just pennies an hour handling kitchen, laundry or other campus chores. He can spend just $290 a month at the prison commissary. 2010 AOL LLC. All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL. Snipes has appeared in dozens of studio films, from 'White Men Can't Jump' and 'Demolition Man' in the early 1990s to the blockbuster Blade trilogy.None of which will score him any points at McKean, officials insist."We recognize that he is high profile, but we treat all our inmates the same," spokeswoman Shirley White told The Associated Press last week.According to U.S. prosecutors, the actor failed to file any tax returns for at least a decade, and owed $2.7 million in taxes on $13.8 million in income from 1999 to 2001 alone.Snipes, a dues-paying member of a tax-protest group that challenges the government's right to collect taxes, described himself at his 2008 sentencing as a naive truth-seeker."I am an idealistic, naive, passionate, truth-seeking, spiritually motivated artist, unschooled in the science of law and finance," said Snipes, who had pursued theater and dance from an early age, attending the vaunted High School for the Performing Arts in New York City.Tuesday night, he told CNN's "Larry King Live" that he was not nervous about reporting to prison.On Wednesday, he made a last-minute request for a new trial. In the emergency motion, Snipes said that the judge erred by not allowing defense attorneys to interview jurors about misconduct allegations.At McKean, if he reports as scheduled, he can pursue his spirituality at weekly meetings of nearly any religious group imaginable, from Wiccans to Jehovah's Witnesses to Spanish-speaking Evangelical Catholics.The martial-arts enthusiast can get his exercise playing sand volleyball or indoor basketball, or work out on an elliptical machine or stair climber. And he can tap into his fun side through badminton, bocci or bridge.Should he pull a muscle in a pickup game, the infirmary copay is just $2.But it's not all fun and games.The daily wake-up call is at 6:35 a.m. The mundane jobs run seven hours a day. There's little fashion flair to the prison-issued khakis. And contact in the visitors room is limited to "a kiss," according to the prison handbook.Snipes has tried to delay his arrival while he takes his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the trial judge said he had gotten a fair trial.U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges saw in Snipes "a history of contempt" for U.S. tax laws, the judge said at sentencing.Never mind that the actor, changing course, had delivered $5 million in checks to the IRS that day. Hodges imposed consecutive one-year terms for the three misdemeanor convictions."Someday, every fighter loses," says the prison boxer Monroe Hutchens, played by Snipes, in 2002's "Undisputed." "In the end, everybody gets beaten. The most you can hope for is that you stay on top a while." ||||| Wesley Snipes Weighs Options: 'Don't Send Me Up the River, Yet' Email This A defiant Wesley Snipes sat down with Larry King on Tuesday night to talk about his tax-related conviction and his three-year jail sentence, which is due to begin later this week. The 'Blade' actor told King he believes there were irregularities in his case and said he plans to file a request with the Supreme Court to review them. "We still have prayers out there, Larry, and we believe in miracles. Don't send me up the river, yet," he said on A defiant Wesley Snipes sat down with Larry King on Tuesday night to talk about his tax-related conviction and his three-year jail sentence, which is due to begin later this week. The 'Blade' actor told King he believes there were irregularities in his case and said he plans to file a request with the Supreme Court to review them."We still have prayers out there, Larry, and we believe in miracles. Don't send me up the river, yet," he said on 'Larry King Live.' Snipes said he relied on the advice of tax professionals and doesn't believe he deserves such a stiff sentence for failing to pay taxes. He also argued that his case was misrepresented in the media."Any man would be nervous if his liberty was at stake," Snipes told King when asked about going to jail. "Right now, I'm more upset and disappointed that the system seems to not be working for me."Snipes didn't play the blame game with his financial team, but claimed that he wrongly relied on their advice for his affairs.The 48-year-old 'White Men Can't Jump' star was convicted in 2008 in a Florida court on three misdemeanor counts of willful failure to file income tax returns.Prosecutors in Snipes' case argued that the actor had not paid any taxes on the reported $38 million he earned since 1999. Although the star was acquitted of more serious felony charges, a Florida judge has ordered Snipes to begin serving his three-year sentence for his 2008 tax conviction.Snipes is scheduled to serve his time at a federal prison in Pennsylvania. ||||| The date is set for Wesley Snipes, and he's finally out of options. The 'Blade' hero was ordered to start his 3-year jail sentence for tax evasion on Dec. 9 at noon, AP reports.Snipes is scheduled to serve his time at a federal prison in Pennsylvania. Snipes, who has been free on bail since the 2008 conviction, has attempted to have his case overturned to no avail.Prosecutors in Snipes' case alleged that the actor had not paid any taxes on the reported $38 million he earned since 1999, in addition to several misdemeanor offenses. Although the star was acquitted of more serious felony charges , a Florida judge has ordered Snipes to begin serving his three-year sentence for his 2008 felony tax conviction. ||||| When actor Wesley Snipes enters prison Thursday, he'll leave behind his wife, young children and celebrity neighbors in the wealthy Florida enclave made infamous by next-door neighbor Tiger Woods. FILE - In a Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009 file photo, actor Wesley Snipes poses during the photo call for the film "Brooklyn's Finest" at the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy. Snipes reports to the Federal... (Associated Press) The prison camp in Lewis Run in northwestern Pennsylvania pales by comparison, but is still worlds away from the harsh prison fortresses depicted in the Snipes films "Undisputed" and "Brooklyn's Finest." Federal Correctional Institution McKean, a minimum-security camp, doesn't have fences around its perimeter. The 300 nonviolent inmates live in barracks that feature two-man rooms, daily showers and double-feature movie showings Friday through Sunday. Alas, no NC-17, R or X ratings allowed, which knocks out much of Snipes' action-heavy repertoire. The most jarring aspect of the celebrity's stay might be the five daily head counts, three during the overnight hours. And Snipes, who earned a reported $13 million for the "Blade: Trinity" sequel, will have to adjust to earning just pennies an hour handling kitchen, laundry or other campus chores. And, he can spend just $290 a month at the prison commissary. Snipes has appeared in dozens of studio films, from "White Men Can't Jump" and "Demolition Man" in the early 1990s to the blockbuster Blade trilogy. None of which will score him any points at McKean, officials insist. "We recognize that he is high profile, but we treat all our inmates the same," spokeswoman Shirley White told The Associated Press last week. According to U.S. prosecutors, the actor failed to file any tax returns for at least a decade, and owed $2.7 million in taxes on $13.8 million in income from 1999 to 2001 alone. Snipes, a dues-paying member of a tax-protest group that challenges the government's right to collect taxes, described himself at his 2008 sentencing as a naive truth-seeker. "I am an idealistic, naive, passionate, truth-seeking, spiritually motivated artist, unschooled in the science of law and finance," said Snipes, who had pursued theater and dance from an early age, attending the vaunted High School for the Performing Arts in New York City. Tuesday night, he told CNN's "Larry King Live" that he was not nervous about reporting to prison. On Wednesday, he made a last-minute request for a new trial. In the emergency motion, Snipes said that the judge erred by not allowing defense attorneys to interview jurors about misconduct allegations. At McKean, if he reports as scheduled, he can pursue his spirituality at weekly meetings of nearly any religious group imaginable, from Wiccans to Jehovah's Witnesses to Spanish-speaking Evangelical Catholics. The martial-arts enthusiast can get his exercise playing sand volleyball or indoor basketball, or work out on an elliptical machine or stair climber. And he can tap into his fun side through badminton, bocci or bridge. Should he pull a muscle in a pickup game, the infirmary copay is just $2. But it's not all fun and games. The daily wake-up call is at 6:35 a.m. The mundane jobs run seven hours a day. There's little fashion flair to the prison-issued khakis. And contact in the visitors room is limited to "a kiss," according to the prison handbook. Snipes has tried to delay his arrival while he takes his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the trial judge said he had gotten a fair trial. U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges saw in Snipes "a history of contempt" for U.S. tax laws, the judge said at sentencing. Never mind that the actor, changing course, had delivered $5 million in checks to the IRS that day. Hodges imposed consecutive one-year terms for the three misdemeanor convictions. "Someday, every fighter loses," says the prison boxer Monroe Hutchens, played by Snipes, in 2002's "Undisputed." "In the end, everybody gets beaten. The most you can hope for is that you stay on top a while." ___ Online: McKean FCI: http://www.bop.gov/locations/institutions/mck/index.jsp
– Wesley Snipes enters prison in Pennsylvania today to serve a three-year sentence for tax evasion—and though the minimum-security McKean prison camp isn't exactly a five-star resort, it's not as bad as it could be. The AP gives details on what his life will be like: No fences: But he will submit to five daily head counts, three of which are overnight. Living quarters: He'll have a two-man room in the barracks, where the other 300 nonviolent inmates live. Daily schedule: Wake-up time is 6:35am, and jobs are performed for seven hours per day. Conjugal visits: He'll have to limit himself to just a kiss in the visitors room. Money: He can earn pennies an hour by doing laundry or other chores, and is allowed to spend $290 a month at the commissary. Entertainment: Double-feature movies are shown Friday through Sunday, but no R-, NC-17-, or X-rated films are screened. Exercise: Sand volleyball, indoor basketball, exercise machines, badminton, bocci, and bridge will be available to him. Medical facilities: The copay at the infirmary is only $2. Church: Almost any group you can think of, including Wiccans, hold weekly meetings. Click for more, including why Snipes failed to pay taxes—or watch his Tuesday night appearance on Larry King Live.
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Iran releases American spies on bail Share | Email | Print Iran releases US detainees Shane Bauer (L) and Joshua Fattal (R) on Wednesday, September 21, 2011. The Judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran has confirmed the release of two US nationals, who had been convicted of illegal entry and espionage in Iran, on bail. Branch 36 of Tehran's Appeals Court has agreed to commuted the detention sentences of the two US nationals to release on a total bail of USD 1,000,000, a statement released by Iran's Judiciary said on Wednesday.Shane Michael Bauer and Joshua Felix Fattal had earlier been sentenced by Branch 15 of Tehran's Revolution Court to eight years in prison on charges of illegal entry and espionage.Sarah Emily Shourd, who had also been detained along with Bauer and Fattal, was released in September 2010 on a USD500,000 bail.Bauer, Fattal and Shourd were arrested on Iranian territory in July 2009 after illegally crossing the border from the mountains of northern Iraq's Kurdistan region.They were later charged with espionage after the Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi found "compelling evidence" that the three US citizens had been cooperating with US intelligence agencies.MAB/HGH ||||| Two American hikers jailed in Iran since 2009 were freed from prison Wednesday and flown to Oman, where they were reunited with joyful family members. Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal, both 29, were released Wednesday evening local time after spending more than two years in prison on charges of illegal entry and espionage since they and a companion, Sarah Shourd, were arrested on the border between Iraq and Iran while hiking in the mountainous region. Shourd, who was freed last year and is engaged to Bauer, was on hand in Oman to greet the two as they ran down the stairs from the private plane that picked them up in Iran and flew them to freedom. “We’re so happy we are free,” Fattal told reporters at Muscat International Airport in Oman. “Two years in prison is too long,” Bauer said. He expressed hope that Wednesday’s release would lead to “freedom for political prisoners in America and Iran.” After making their brief statements, Bauer and Fattal left the airport with their families. The release came a day before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly in New York, and it seemed timed at least in part as a goodwill gesture ahead of the speech. “We are thrilled,” said President Obama, also in New York for the U.N. session, after being informed of the release. He told reporters it was a “wonderful day” for the two men’s families “and for us.” In a statement issued later by the White House, Obama praised “the tireless advocacy” of the families. He also expressed gratitude to Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the ruler of the tiny monarchy on the Arabian Peninsula, and to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, the Swiss government and others around the world “who have worked steadfastly over the past two years to secure the release of Shane and Josh.” A convoy of official cars left Tehran’s notorious Evin prison about 6:30 p.m. local time (10 a.m. in Washington), the government-controlled Islamic Republic News Agency reported. The plane carrying the hikers left Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport and arrived in Oman about 3:40 p.m. Washington time. The two men raced down the aircraft’s stairs to embrace family members waiting on the tarmac, television images showed. Both men were surrounded by journalists and U.S. Embassy officials, as Bauer hugged Shourd, who was released from Evin prison in September 2010 on medical grounds. “Today can only be described as the best day of our lives,” the family members said in a joint statement reported by the Associated Press. “We have waited for nearly 26 months for this moment,” it added. “We now all want nothing more than to wrap Shane and Josh in our arms, catch up on two lost years and make a new beginning, for them and for all of us.” Masoud Shafiei, an Iranian lawyer representing Bauer and Fattal, spent two hours inside the prison complex earlier in the day completing paperwork for the Americans’ release. He told the semiofficial Iranian Students News Agency that the government of Oman had paid $1 million bail for Bauer and Fattal. Oman also reportedly paid bail last year to secure the release of Shourd. After signing the papers, Shafiei waited outside the prison with the Swiss ambassador to Iran, Livia Leu Agosti, who represents U.S. interests in the country because Washington and Tehran do not have diplomatic relations. When two Iranian government cars left the prison complex, presumably with the Americans inside, Shafiei and Agosti sped after them. Bauer and Fattal were convicted of espionage charges in a closed trial last month. They denied being spies, maintaining that if they crossed the Iranian border, they did so accidentally while hiking with Shourd. Ahmadinejad told journalists from The Washington Post and NBC News last week that Bauer and Fattal would receive a “unilateral pardon” and would be home “within days.” The next day, Iran’s judiciary, which is led by Shiite Muslim clerics who once supported Ahmadinejad but now oppose him, reacted angrily, stressing that Ahmadinejad did not have the authority to free the men. On Sunday, the men’s release was delayed again because one of the judges whose signature is required on the bail paperwork was on vacation. Shafiei said that he had received the second signature Wednesday morning. The controversy over the hikers was the dominant backdrop as Ahmadinejad headed to New York on Monday to participate in the annual U.N. General Assembly session. News of the release was welcomed Wednesday by officials from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who were part of a delegation of U.S. religious leaders and American Muslims who traveled to Iran to ask that the hikers be allowed to leave. “We believe the efforts of the recent interfaith delegation to Iran offer a positive example of bridge-building initiatives that may be undertaken to help promote mutual understanding and cooperation between nations,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement. “We hope our government will now address the issue of Iranian citizens detained in the United States with the same spirit of compassion.” Staff writer William Branigin in Washington contributed to this report.
– After being jailed for more than two years, American hikers Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal walked out of Evin prison free men this morning, confirms Iranian state television. Their lawyer had said earlier that they would be released within hours, after a vacationing judge returned and the second signature needed to free them on $1 million bail was secured. In a statement quoted on a semi-official Iranian news agency, the country’s judiciary confirmed the bail request had been “accepted,” reports the Washington Post.
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Have you seen this music video for Canadian band the Arcade Fire's single "We Used to Wait"? Well, actually, it's not quite a music video—it's a website. But it does some pretty amazing stuff. So, the Arcade Fire. You probably have an opinion about them, and their new album. (Mine is: "Kids these days! Really, kids from all the days!") But even if you hate them, and their music, you should head over to thewildernessdowntown.com, which describes itself as "an interactive film." And, well, it is! But it's a lot more than that. If you navigate over to the site, you're encouraged to "enter the address of the home where you grew up." (I got this message when I typed my parents' home address: "Your address doesn't contain enough Street-View and/or Google Maps data to 100% enjoy this experience," but I'd say I was still able to 90% enjoy the experience.) Once you hit "enter," the "film" starts, and your browser begins to open windows—a video of a kid running in a suburb pops up, and then a window with some odd vector animations of birds. One window has a satellite shot of a suburban neighborhood—I assume if my address contained enough Street-View data that's what I would've gotten—and at some point, you're asked to write a postcard to your younger self (I know, I know. Barf). The whole time, the Arcade Fire's "We Used to Wait" is playing. Say what you will about the indie-goth aesthetics and the irritating, aggrandizing treatment of histrionic middle-class teen angst (both Arcade Fire trademarks!), "The Wilderness Downtown" works amazingly well as an internet "piece"—part video, part interactive project, part regular old website, part irritating bauble, coded with HTML 5 and billed as a collaboration with Google. And as music videos appeared to have moved off your television permanently, with the exception of various esoteric MTV channels, it's not too hard to see a future where "interactive films" like this (but maybe better!) replace the standard clip. Chris Milk, the director of the project (it was produced by Radical Media), is a veteran music video guy, so it's not like it's a whole new industry springing up—just eyeing the possibility of moving from one set of screens to another—and taking advantage of all the things the web can offer. And that could end up being pretty cool! I mean, it could also end up being awful. But I'm hoping for "cool." Update/Note: The site is optimized for Chrome; it also works in Safari, though not quite as well; other browsers seem to be hit-or-miss. [The Wilderness Downtown; Radical Media] ||||| As if I wasn’t already obsessed enough with the new Arcade Fire album, The Suburbs, it just got better. You can visit this website to create a personalized, interactive music video for the song “We Used to Wait.” Just enter your own suburban childhood address and the magic of Google images will have you flying over your old street. I got kind of choked up when I saw San Rosendo Dr. and the cul-de-sac where I used to ride my bike, the place where my brother and I built forts, and even my swimming pool. It took me all the way to the window outside of my old bedroom! Hello, nostalgia, I love you. [Stereogum]
– The Arcade Fire’s music video-slash-website is a harbinger of things to come. The Wilderness Downtown is an interactive experience that combines video of a kid running through a suburb, animated birds, satellite views of the neighborhood where you grew up (you provide the address), and an invitation to write a postcard to yourself as a child, all as the band’s “We Used to Wait” plays. “Say what you will about the indie-goth aesthetics and the irritating, aggrandizing treatment of histrionic middle-class teen angst, The Wilderness Downtown works amazingly well as an Internet ‘piece’—part video, part interactive project, part regular old website,” writes Max Read on Gawker. “And as music videos appeared to have moved off your television permanently, with the exception of various esoteric MTV channels, it's not too hard to see a future where ‘interactive films’ like this replace the standard clip.” Click here for an even more positive reaction at The Frisky.
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Be your own boss, set your own schedule, and have more time to pursue your goals and dreams. Join us and put the power of Amazon behind you. Build your own schedule. Opportunities available 7 days a week. Schedule ahead or pick up any available block of time. Make $18-$25 an hour and easily track your earnings with the Amazon Flex app. Want to build the future of delivery? Amazon is hiring for job openings in engineering & technology, product management, and design. © 2018, Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates ||||| Who delivers Amazon orders? Increasingly, it’s plainclothes contractors with few labor protections, driving their own cars, competing for shifts on the company’s own Uber-like platform. Though it’s deployed in dozens of cities and associated with one of the world’s biggest companies, government agencies and customers alike are nearly oblivious to the program’s existence. In terms of size, efficiency, and ruthlessness, Amazon has few equals. The least publicly accountable of the big tech companies—Google, Apple, and Facebook face considerably greater scrutiny—Amazon’s stock is one of the most valuable on the market, it’s among the fastest-growing companies in the United States. Atop its vast empire, CEO Jeff Bezos commands the single largest personal fortune on the planet. Estimates place Amazon as the recipient of approximately one third of all dollars spent online. Control over the manufacture, storage, sales, and shipping of an extraordinarily diverse set of products has led the company to expand into film and TV production, web hosting, publishing, groceries, fashion, space travel, wind farms, and soon, pharmaceuticals, to name just a few. It’s a new kind of company, the likes of which the American economy has never before seen and is legislatively ill-prepared for. Ingenuity alone doesn’t account for Amazon’s dominant position. The company’s Economic Development Team works hard to secure state and local subsidies, which research from watchdog group Good Jobs First indicates surpasses $1 billion, a figure which the advocacy group’s executive director, Greg LeRoy, freely admitted to Gizmodo is far from comprehensive. Infrastructure in the company’s home base of Seattle has strained to keep pace with Amazon’s meteoric growth, and the city has experienced massive increases in housing costs. While North America’s metro areas—including Seattle—scramble to offer attractive incentives to host Bezos’s second headquarters, research indicates that when Amazon comes to town, it might be killing more jobs than it creates. The majority of consumers, however, either don’t know or don’t care. Strip Amazon to its most familiar elements, and it’s a devilishly simple everything-store with limitless stuff-supply. You buy it. It shows up. Fast. Demand for those blocks and the desire to finish them quickly led to what one driver described as “physical fights [...] when someone tries to jump the line.” Near the very bottom of Amazon’s complicated machinery is a nearly invisible workforce over two years in the making tasked with getting those orders to your doorstep. It’s a network of supposedly self-employed, utterly expendable couriers enrolled in an app-based program which some believe may violate labor laws. That program is called Amazon Flex, and it accomplishes Amazon’s “last-mile” deliveries—the final journey from a local facility to the customer. Advertisement While investigating the nature of the program, we spoke to 15 current or former independent drivers across nine states and two countries whose enrollment spanned between a few weeks and two years, as well as three individuals attached to local courier companies delivering for Amazon. Their identities have all been obscured for fear of retribution. A great opportunity to be your own boss To understand the issues faced by the independent contractors handling last-mile delivery for Amazon requires some knowledge of how Flex works. When Amazon selects one of its facilities—what drivers refer to as a Fulfillment Center* (FC)— for participation in Flex, it blankets Craigslist and other sites with local ads describing Flex as “a great opportunity to be your own boss,” sometimes as many as twelve ads a day. Each FC is distinguished by three letters and a number—DLA5, for instance, refers to Riverside, California—and many of the over 50 cities Flex operates in have more than one. An interested driver goes through a preliminary screening online and finishes their application through the app, passes a background check allegedly administered by a company called Accurate Background. Accurate Background did not respond to multiple requests for comment and Amazon declined to comment on which companies or services it uses for this purpose, but claimed the check pulls from, among other signals, court records, the sex offender registry, and data analysis from US and global organizations. One driver told Gizmodo he was approved in under four hours. Others wait over a month. According to a Flex contract furnished to Gizmodo, the only requirements to entry are modest: be 21 or older, pass Accurate Background’s vetting, own a smartphone with Flex installed, and have access to a car, bike, or public transportation. No company cars. No uniforms. Just a non-photo ID badge. The training is similarly minimal. One driver attended an optional hour-long training at an FC. A veteran driver alleged he was asked to participate in a conference call. The consistent element reported to Gizmodo was being made to watch approximately 20 videos which fresh Flexers view from the comfort of their phones. “Watch videos of their expectations of you and their rules, agree to the rules,” a Georgia-based driver said. “That’s about it.” No drivers reported being trained on matters of workplace safety, and as one UK-based driver succinctly put it, “honestly it seems they take on anyone.” Amazon declined to describe its Flex driver training except to say that videos were among the materials used in onboarding. Work is secured by grabbing “blocks” through the app, measured in hours, with an associated route and payout. Flex’s blocks cover multiple local arms of Amazon—including Fresh and Restaurants—but the two most common, based on individual testimony and online posts, are Logistics, which covers standard packages, and Prime Now which handles same-day purchases. Regardless, the procedure is largely the same once a driver lands a block: get in line behind the other cars at the FC, check in, receive a pre-sorted rolling cart or shelf of goods for the route, scan and pack them into the car, then follow the Flex app’s “suggested” driving directions to each stop. Advertisement A driver sharing his experience with and tips for Flex on YouTube Block length and package count vary considerably between Prime Now and Logistics: Prime Now blocks can be as little as two hours, while five hour blocks have reportedly been offered to Logistics drivers with larger vehicles; 15 packages for a slim Prime Now block and as many as 90 on a Logistics run. Amazon’s own Craigslist ads show compensation varies by location, but among the drivers Gizmodo spoke to, pay averaged $20.50/hr—not bad by the standards of the gig economy. And similar to Uber’s “surge pricing” in the rare event that blocks go unclaimed, Amazon will sometimes increase to incentivize drivers to accept it. Still, all but three drivers we spoke to did not consider Flex their primary means of income, and of those who did one also contracts with UberEats and Grubhub, another was seeking additional work, and the third alleged to have been deactivated by Amazon despite delivering through floodwaters in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Arguably Amazon Flex, like Uber, is best used as supplemental income, and for many drivers it works well for that purpose. For others it’s a necessity. In major cities like New York and San Francisco—coincidentally located in the states that employ the largest numbers of couriers—Uber can be a living. Flex can’t. A difficult road Despite being able to fulfill hundreds of millions of orders per year, drivers report Amazon’s data at the local level can be lacking, leading to misalignments between block times and package numbers. “The block that I signed up for was four hours, but when I got to the facility they were struggling to find something for me to do, so I only ended up having three packages to deliver,” a driver told Gizmodo of a recent block picked up from a newly-opened FC. But according to a more veteran driver, Amazon’s bad bets cut both ways. “They won’t pay you for working over your allotted block time,” he told Gizmodo. “They said it evens out because when you work a three hour block and finish in two they still pay you for three, but it doesn’t even out.” Another alleged that Amazon’s systems struggle to estimate door-to-door time or handling large apartment buildings, leading to a “99% probability that you will exceed your block end time.” Additionally, two drivers in completely different regions of the US both claimed Flexers’ hours are capped at 40 hours per week. “As [independent contractors], we should be able to work as much as we wish since we take the blocks we want to work. It used to not be this way when I first started working for them,” the San Antonio-based driver bemoaned. But lately, drivers at a number of FCs have found it harder and harder to secure enough hours for 40 hours to be a meaningful limitation. A Philadelphia-based driver told Gizmodo, “Last year when I started it was easy to secure two four hour blocks a day and I was complaining that they would put us on payroll locks so I wouldn’t exceed 40 hours a week. How times have changed!” Demand for those blocks and the desire to finish them quickly led to what one driver described as “physical fights [...] when someone tries to jump the line.” Advertisement Amazon would not comment on whether it caps drivers’ hours, but characterized the program as a part-time opportunity. It claimed, in a statement to Gizmodo, that it “received overwhelmingly positive response[s] from drivers participating in the program.” The company also suggested that workers seeking more traditional full-time arrangements are encouraged to apply elsewhere within Amazon. A number of drivers have alleged they’re reprimanded by FC workers if their vehicles are unable to fit all the packages for a block, and fear being “ticketed” for returning packages they weren’t able to deliver. One reported getting written up by one FC employee for following the explicit instructions of another. While in and of themselves these incidents tend not to have serious repercussions, as little as two incidents have led to drivers being deactivated. Amazon told Gizmodo that it has performance expectations for its contractors which it expects them to meet or exceed, and sometimes those metrics are used to justify a termination. Other times, being notified your time with Amazon Flex has ended comes as a vague boilerplate email about violating the program’s terms of service. A Flex contract provided to Gizmodo states that drivers “may provide Amazon with data about your use of such Licensed Materials, your geo-location and related tracking data, including your location, movements, speed at which you are traveling, and other personally identifiable information,” and that “ if you choose to deny Amazon access to this information, this could affect the availability and functionality of the Amazon Flex App and your participation in the Program.” Presumably, this data is used to increase the company’s own routing efficiency. While Amazon does not pay drivers for work if it exceeds a given block’s time, it’s unclear if Flex continues to track drivers while off-hours. Lack of oversight and scarcity of work through Flex have caused cheating to proliferate. Drivers turn to auto-tap applications like FRep and Repetitouch to scoop up blocks much faster than human fingers are capable of, and once these practices become widespread at an FC, more scrupulous drivers either stoop to these methods or accept that regular hours won’t be possible. Though nearly every Flexer we contacted was familiar with the use of these types of software only one admitted to using it personally. “Most drivers at my warehouse are using some form of bot or macro to secure blocks, including myself,” he wrote. “Though Amazon recently sent out a threatening email regarding their use (threatening to terminate us for using them). That email is the main reason why I’ve cut back on my own use of them.” Video uploaded to YouTube even appears to show one such app running on an iPhone left charging inside inside a Fulfillment Center, screen blinking away at a feverish pace. Amazon told Gizmodo such software violates its Terms of Service. Advertisement Neither FRep or Repetitouch were built specifically for Flex, according to their respective creators. “From what I heard, there are people who heavily rely on it for their income and apparently there’s a lot of competition for jobs in general. Thus, I’m not surprised that some Flex drivers try to get an edge,” Erwin Goslawski, the German student behind Reptitouch told Gizmodo. “I can imagine that this makes it rather difficult for other users to grab jobs, however, which makes it more likely that more and more users decide to use such tools.” Despite the enormous amount of access Amazon is afforded to its drivers’ phones, “botting” remains popular and poorly policed. At least one device was built specifically to increase the likeliness of landing blocks—the Flexbot. It’s creator, a former driver named Tim McDaniel who suffers from arthritis, claims to have made it “just to level the playing field to able-bodied folks,” though certainly some of the customers who have paid $130 for the contraption—a pair of Arduino-controlled mechanical fingers—do so to avoid detection by Amazon’s software. Unlike software alternatives, Amazon told Gizmodo that Flexbot does not violate its terms of service. McDaniel originally sold Flexbot 6 on Amazon, but had his account shut down after he “fell behind on customer relations.” Add to this a general sense of disorder, from simple issues of whether or not Flexers are allowed to drive with passengers, to integral aspects of the gig like when new blocks become available. “When Flex first started all blocks were released at 10 PM. Then they changed to all blocks being released exactly 24 hours in advance. Now they have changed to completely random times,” one driver told Gizmodo. “This causes us to have to constantly use our phone to look for blocks and waste time that we are not being paid for just to find work.” There’s no easy way for this disposable workforce to have their problems addressed. While drivers are given a support number, Flexers claim its only purpose is to assist during the course of a block—to get the door code to an apartment building, for instance. “There’s no liaison, just hot-headed warehouse managers that will terminate a driver for anything they want,” a driver reported. And from other testimony, terminations occur frequently and with little explanation. Boilerplate emails reprimanding drivers for supposedly missed packages contain little information: only the date of the infraction, but not the package or address. Whether the package was stolen or an unscrupulous customer merely took advantage of Amazon’s willingness to offer refunds, it’s the courier who takes the fall. “It’s frustrating because Amazon will always believe the customer,” a driver claimed, echoing the sentiments of many others. “Even with photo or bodycam evidence. We have no support. And one customer too many and we’ll get that termination email.” To combat confusing rules—due both to changes in the program over time and quirks of individual FCs—drivers tend to share information over closed Facebook groups, Reddit, and gig economy forum Uberpeople. The largest of these boasts a membership of over 20,000. According to a moderator of one such community, a change in the Flex program takes place approximately every six weeks, sometimes buried inside a Terms of Service update. Many of the posts in these digital break rooms can be summarized as: Here’s what happened to me. Is this normal? But no matter how experienced, the advice of other, equally powerless people can only go so far in certain situations. Advertisement So where can a driver go to resolve an issue or dispute their termination? That leaves one final option: Flex’s reviled support email line. “It’s as if they scan it for keywords and then have a copy-and-paste type response to everything,” a Detroit-based driver told Gizmodo. “Literally I got the same email twice.” Unfortunately this appears to be a common occurrence. Flex, as part of a pilot program Amazon is rumored to be using to take on UPS, Fedex and others, is a constantly shifting set of systems with a number of redundancies. Besides drivers, some cities also employ motor scooter couriers and—in Manhattan at least—“Johnny walkers” who gather around delivery trucks and roll their packages to buildings on foot. But by far the biggest threat to self-employed Flexers (and vice versa) are “white vans”—third-party local couriers Amazon also contracts to do last-mile work. Joining the fleet The arrangement is virtually the same as Flex, only scaled up to accommodate bigger vans and larger package counts—as many as 270 per run, according to one source—and with pay going to the company to distribute as it sees fit, rather than to individual drivers. The major draw for Amazon—though it declined to comment on most aspects of these local business arrangements—appears to be the ability to count on a reliable number of couriers all capable of hauling an equally reliable volume (300 cubic feet or large is the required van size) of parcels. Amazon considers these companies, just like individual Flexers, to be contractors, though drivers still have to run Amazon’s software while working, and still have to pass a check from Accurate Background. “We have to background check the guys [that deliver Amazon packages]. We have to use their background check company. They won’t even tell us what the criteria is,” a California-based courier business owner said with clear frustration. A dispatcher for another last-mile courier claimed that applicants who don’t pass Accurate Background’s vetting simply aren’t hired by the company he works for. UPS spokesman Dan McMackin told Gizmodo that Amazon is not a threat to UPS—whose drivers are both full employees and the single largest contingent of long-lived Teamsters labor union—because “ecommerce is bigger than one customer.” In his opinion, good courier work requires a skilled, consistent workforce, and retaining that pool of labor means providing solidly middle-class wages and benefits. However much he claims to dislike doing business with large, often pushy customers, the California courier said he finally agreed work with a company like Amazon because, “the writing’s on the wall that Amazon’s gonna take over the whole delivery industry in the next ten years.” “The writing’s on the wall that Amazon’s gonna take over the whole delivery industry in the next ten years.” Advertisement Worryingly, courier company owners allege their drivers can be individually deactivated from using the Flex app. “They tier people out, it’s called, because you get a tier one offense, you cannot log into the app anymore,” the California boss claimed. “Amazon does fire people.” But deactivation is only the most extreme action within a larger scheme of control. “Fulfillment center managers control [...] what drivers can come, what can’t,” a New Jersey courier company owner told Gizmodo. “If you make a mistake in there, if you have a mouth on you and use curse words, they don’t allow that whatsoever, and they’ll take you out in a heartbeat. They’ll even take out the whole company if they want to.” That capriciousness, coupled with having significantly more at stake, also explains why, of the many dozens of courier companies advertising for Amazon route drivers, only three spoke to Gizmodo about working with Amazon. One company owner, who did not agree to answer questions about his relationship with Amazon, wrote back in an email that “anything Amazon related is really not up to me to accept on interview or not.” Asked if such companies are under non-disclosure agreement, Amazon declined to comment. Worse still, Amazon has a history of contracting courier services that themselves subcontract their drivers, which led to it being named in lawsuits in 2015 (against Scoobeez) and 2016 (against Courier Logistics Services.) The complaints in these suits included failure to pay minimum wage, failure to compensate overtime, failure to provide meal periods, employee misclassification, and violations of the unfair competition law. Still, at least one recent hiring ad on Craigslist from a courier company explicitly sought independent contractors to run Amazon routes. Technically, all drivers in these arrangements are required by Amazon to be full employees of those local delivery outlets, not contractors like individual Flexers. Yet Amazon’s background check policy insinuates itself into the hiring decisions these companies are able to make—especially if Amazon is provides the lion’s share of work for these local outfits—and testimony around pushy FC workers and app deactivations suggests Amazon also wields the power to functionally fire drivers as well. Amazon declined to comment specifically on any facet of its arrangement with third-party couriers, except to confirm that they are subject to the same background checks. Over the limit “I do think that Amazon is breaking the law. I think it’s breaking the law in a pretty widespread way,” Shannon Liss-Riordan, an attorney well known within courier circles for representing drivers from Lyft, Grubhub, Uber, and more recently few Amazon Flex, told Gizmodo. Though Amazon would likely disagree, the legality of the relatively new mass-contractor model remains an open question. “I do think that Amazon is breaking the law. I think it’s breaking the law in a pretty widespread way.” Advertisement The way Liss-Riordan sees it, the issue at hand is labor misclassification: Amazon and similar companies pay drivers to do the work of employees, but treat them as independent contractors, denying them basic amenities like health care, benefits, and workers’ compensation in the event of an on-the-job injury—something which two of the drivers we spoke to reported experiencing. As Catherine Ruckelshaus, general counsel and program director for the National Employment Law Project, explained, the determination of whether a worker is doing the job of a contractor or employee comes down to a few key factors: among them, the right to control how the work is done, its permanence, the level of specialization required, and how integrated it is into the business paying for it. Some of the drivers we spoke to had run deliveries for Flex for up to two years, which suggests continuing rather than gig-based work. And where integration is concerned, the Prime Now arm of Flex is particularly suspect, in Ruckelshaus’s opinion. “If Amazon’s promoting one-day delivery, that’s likely to be found to be integrated to Amazon’s overall products or services that it’s providing to customers,” she said. Most damning though is Amazon’s apparent level of micromanagement. “If something’s relatively low-skill, you don’t have to show that the company, like an Amazon, told them exactly ‘take a left here, take a right there, drop this package off first,’ they mostly just want you to go from A to B, get this thing done, they don’t tell you how to get the thing done,” Ruckelshaus said. “So if Amazon is actually taking that amount of detailed oversight and control, that’s very powerful, strong evidence that it has the right to control because it’s actually exercising control over pretty minute details of the job.” If Amazon has been engaging in misclassification on a massive scale, why haven’t there been lawsuits? Beyond the expense of retaining legal representation, Flex’s terms of service also include an arbitration agreement which waives drivers’ rights to a class-action lawsuit against Amazon. It’s a common practice for comparable gigs, affecting some 25 million contracts. And though the version of the Flex contract made available to Gizmodo gives drivers the ability to opt out within two weeks of signing, it seems few do. Individual drivers looking to escalate an issue can’t bring it to court, keeping whatever ruling might have resulted from becoming valuable case law. “These companies have been very effective at wielding their arbitration clauses,” Liss-Riordan said. The result, in Ruckelshaus’s view, is that “the company doesn’t feel the heat because it doesn’t have to pay off all of its drivers, it only has to pay off the ones that bring their claims, and then nobody else knows—Did that guy win? What happened? It’s harder to change the practices across an entire company when it’s individual private arbitration.” While drivers are free to opt in to Liss-Riordan’s current Flex suit, the class-action gag keeps her from sending notice to driver who might benefit from joining. Compounding the difficulty of driver going up against a powerful and well-insulated company, of the governmental and regulatory regulatory agencies Gizmodo reached out to for comment on Amazon’s business practices, few seem to have ever heard of the Flex program or have an official stance on it. Even the National Labor Relations Board, which by its own description “acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices,” declined to comment on Flex, and further declined to comment on whether or not Flex even fell under the purview of the agency. Mounting regulatory pressure against Uber may have led Instacart to start walking back it’s contractor model, but no such outrage is directed at Flex, one imagines, because so few people even know it exists. Advertisement Both lawyers seemed most troubled to see these practices employed by a company of the size and wealth of Amazon. “It’s too bad that Amazon is continuing to pursue these structures, because it doesn’t have to. All it has to do is pay the minimum wage, that’s all,” Ruckelshaus said, sounding defeated. “It seems like they’re jumping through a lot of hoops to avoid being an employer for not really a good economic reason.” Similarly, Liss-Riordan, pointing to structural legal issues, said that “difficulties in enforcement are leading a company like Amazon, which is a major player and obviously could afford to do it right, to lead it to shift to a system where more and more of its drivers don’t have the benefits of employment.” “It’s too bad that Amazon is continuing to pursue these structures, because it doesn’t have to.” Flex is indicative of two alarming trends: the unwillingness of legislators to curb harmful practices of tech behemoths run amok, and a shift towards less protected, more precarious opportunities in a stagnant job market. Under the current administration, it’s unlikely either will receive the attention it deserves. There is a glimmer of hope for Liss-Riordan and the scores of Flexers she hopes to help though. On October 2nd, the US Supreme Court’s new term began. Among its cases is one which will determine the legality of arbitration clauses like the one Amazon uses to shield itself against the drivers it refuses to acknowledge as employees. The constantly shifting, secretive nature of Amazon makes it difficult to report its activities to the public. If you have information about company, we’d like to hear from you. Reach out to the author via email with tips or to request secure communications through Signal, Wickr, or SecureDrop.
– Amazon has an open secret that few pay heed to: a "nearly invisible workforce" that works to get consumers their packages on demand, per Gizmodo. Bryan Menegus dives into the company's Flex program, responsible for the firm's "last-mile" service, which involves getting ordered goods to a customer from the last local shipment site on the delivery chain. But while the driving program is described online by Amazon as letting those interested "be your own boss, set your own schedule, and have more time to pursue your goals and dreams," Menegus—who chatted with 15 current or ex-drivers from nine states and two countries, as well as with three contractors from local courier companies tied to Amazon—instead paints it as an exploitive system that considers its drivers "utterly expendable" and offers them little recourse to address issues or unfair practices. What he found is that getting into the Flex program can be simple: Entry criteria are "modest" (e.g., being over 21, having a smartphone with the Flex app), as is training. One UK driver says: "Honestly, it seems they take on anyone." But once on board, drivers say they face faulty data systems, altercations between drivers vying for prime routes (and high-tech cheating to claim those routes), and a lack of support from "hot-headed warehouse managers" who take a "customer is always right" attitude. And one labor attorney thinks not everything is on the up-and-up when it comes to how the company handles its drivers: considering them contractors, but treating them like employees, with all of the responsibility and few benefits. "I think it's breaking the law in a pretty widespread way," she says. More on the Flex program, part of the "constantly shifting, secretive nature of Amazon," here.
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Howard Stern said on his program Wednesday that Trump will hate being president and the role will be detrimental to his mental health. Stern and Trump are long-time friends, with Trump making numerous appearances on Stern's radio show over the years. "I personally wish that he had never run, I told him that, because I actually think this is something that is gonna be detrimental to his mental health too, because, he wants to be liked, he wants to be loved," Stern said. "He wants people to cheer for him." "I don't think it's going to be a healthy experience. And by the way, he's now on this anti-Hollywood kick. He loves Hollywood. First of all, he loves the press. He lives for it. He loves people in Hollywood. He only wants hobnob with them. All of this hatred and stuff directed towards him. It's not good for him. It's not good. There's a reason every president who leaves the office has grey hair." Trump frequently appeared on Stern's radio program over the past two decades, engaging in the kind of crude talk about women and celebrities typical of the shock-jock's show. During the campaign, CNN's KFile surfaced demeaning comments Trump made about women on the show. Stern said he considers Trump a friend, but is opposed to his politics. "I like Donald very much personally. I was shocked when he decided to run for president, and even more shocked that sort of, people took it seriously," Stern said. "I remember saying to him when he announced his presidency, I remember being quite amazed, because I remember him being for Hillary Clinton," Stern added. "And I remember him being very--I mean he was pro-abortion. So the new Donald Trump kind of surprised me." Stern said he doesn't believe Trump has had a change of heart on issues like abortion, but is instead playing to his base. The radio host said he also believed Trump ran for president solely to get a larger contract from NBC for "The Apprentice." "I think it started out as like a kinda cool, fun thing to do in order to get a couple more bucks out of NBC for The Apprentice, I actually do believe that," Stern said. "He just wanted a couple more bucks out of NBC, and that is why Donald is calling for voter fraud investigations. He's pissed he won. He still wants Hillary Clinton to win. He's so f—ing pissed, he's hoping that he can find some voter fraud and hand it over to Hillary." ||||| Howard Stern wishes Donald Trump had never run for president — for Trump’s own sake. During Wednesday’s episode of his eponymous radio show, Stern said he doesn’t think running the country is “going to be a healthy experience” for Trump, whom he considers a longtime friend even though their political beliefs are very different. “I personally wish that he had never run,” Stern said. “I told him that because I actually think this is something that is going to be detrimental to his mental health too, because he wants to be liked, he wants to be loved. He wants people to cheer for him.” Trump has made numerous appearances on Stern’s show over the years, and the veteran shock jock said Wednesday, “I like Donald very much personally. I was shocked when he decided to run for president and even more shocked that people took it seriously.” An avowed Hillary Clinton supporter, Stern said he remembers a time when Trump backed her as well. Questioning the sincerity of Trump’s shift to the other end of the political spectrum, Stern added, “I don’t believe that, for example now, that he’s had some sort of rethink on abortion and all this. I think he’s sort of playing it to his constituency, which is this religious right.” Stern also addressed Trump’s recent feuding with the entertainment industry and the media. “He’s now on this anti-Hollywood kick,” Stern said. “[Trump] loves Hollywood. First of all, he loves the press. He lives for it. He loves people in Hollywood. He only wants to hobnob with them. And all of this hatred and stuff directed towards him, it’s not good for him. It’s not good. Listen, there’s a reason every president who leaves the office has gray hair.” Hear more of Stern’s thoughts on Trump here.
– Howard Stern goes back a ways with President Trump, who has been a regular guest on his show for decades. On Thursday, Stern generated headlines for voicing a concern about the man he considers a friend: Becoming president "is something that is gonna be detrimental to his mental health, too, because, he wants to be liked, he wants to be loved," Stern said, per Entertainment Weekly. "All of this hatred and stuff directed towards him. It's not good for him. It's not good." Also of note: Stern says he thinks Trump ran only as a contract ploy. "I think it started out as like a kinda cool, fun thing to do in order to get a couple more bucks out of NBC for The Apprentice, I actually do believe that," Stern said, per CNN. He added that Trump always liked Hillary Clinton and thinks the "new Donald Trump" merely latched onto a conservative base because it was the most effective route to victory. “I don’t believe that, for example now, that he’s had some sort of rethink on abortion and all this." No response, at least yet, from Trump himself.
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Men sit outside the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center in Albuquerque, N.M., Thursday, July 3, 2014. A veteran who collapsed in an Albuquerque Veteran Affairs hospital cafeteria 500 yards from the emergency... (Associated Press) ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A veteran who collapsed in an Albuquerque Veteran Affairs hospital cafeteria — 500 yards from the emergency room — died after waiting 30 minutes for an ambulance, officials confirmed Thursday. It took a half an hour for the ambulance to be dispatched and take the man from one building to the other, which is about a five-minute walk, officials at the hospital said. Kirtland Air Force Medical Group personnel performed CPR until the ambulance arrived, VA spokeswoman Sonja Brown said. Staff followed policy in calling 911 when the man collapsed on Monday, she said. "Our policy is under expedited review," Brown said. That policy is a local one, she said. The man's name hasn't been released. News of the man's death spread Thursday at the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center among veterans who were visiting for various medical reasons. Lorenzo Calbert, 65, a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War, said it was sad that a fellow veteran had to die so close to where he could have received help. "There's no reason for it," he said. "They have so many workers. They could have put him on the gurney and run faster than that ambulance." Paul Bronston, a California emergency-room physician and chair of Ethics and Professional Policy Committee of the American College of Medical Quality, said it may sound ridiculous that staff had to call 911 but that practice is the standard at hospitals. Typically, an ambulance would arrive faster, and other factors can stall workers trying to rush patients to the emergency room on foot, he said. "The question I would have (is) ... was there an AED (automated external defibrillator) on site as required?" he said. Bronston said 90 percent of those who collapse are afflicted by heart problems and an AED could help them. It was not known what caused the man to collapse or whether an AED was nearby. The death comes as the Department of Veterans Affairs remains under scrutiny for widespread reports of long delays for treatment and medical appointments and of veterans dying while on waiting lists. A review last week cited "significant and chronic system failures" in the nation's health system for veterans. The review also portrayed the struggling agency as one battling a corrosive culture of distrust, lacking in resources and ill-prepared to deal with an influx of new and older veterans with a range of medical and mental health care needs. The scathing report by Deputy White House chief of staff Rob Nabors said the Veterans Health Administration, the VA sub agency that provides health care to about 8.8 million veterans a year, has systematically ignored warnings about its deficiencies and must be fundamentally restructured. Marc Landy, a political science professor at Boston College, said the Department of Veterans Affairs is a large bureaucracy with various local policies like the one under review in Albuquerque. Although the agency needs to undergo reform, Landy said it's unfair to attack the VA too harshly on the recent Albuquerque death because it appears to be so unusual. "I think we have to be careful," he said. "Let's not beat up too much on the VA while they are already facing criticism." ___ Follow Russell Contreras at http://twitter.com/russcontreras ||||| A military veteran died Monday after waiting for an ambulance to take him 500 yards to the emergency room. As it turns out, the problem was he was already at the Veterans Affairs Hospital. Advertisement A 71-year-old Albuquerque veteran died Monday at the VA hospital. He collapsed in the cafeteria, which is next to the main hospital building. Staff followed VA policy that said personnel must call 911 for a medical emergency that happens outside the main hospital. Target 7 spoke with the veteran's family. They asked that he remain unidentified because they are considering legal action. VA officials told the man's family he collapsed at 12:19 p.m. The Albuquerque Fire Department said they dispatched a rescue unit at 12:26 p.m. That unit arrived at the hospital at 12:33 p.m. Albuquerque ambulance said their paramedics got to the veteran at 12:39 p.m. Nearly 14 minutes passed from the time he collapsed to the time medics arrived at the scene. They drove him on the complex from one building to the other. It takes four minutes to walk from the cafeteria to the VA's emergency room. By the time the ambulance got to the cafeteria, loaded up the veteran and drove him around the building, it was too late to save the veteran. When Action 7 News asked the VA why the man wasn't helped on property or even wheeled on a gurney to the ER, a spokesperson said, "We are currently reviewing our policy on it." Officials cannot confirm if any doctors were present in the cafeteria when the man went down. Workers are required to call 911. Mobile users: Tap here for video AlertMe ||||| ........................................................................................................................................................................................ A veteran who collapsed in a cafeteria at Albuquerque’s Veterans Affairs hospital died after waiting 20 to 25 minutes to get to the same hospital’s emergency room, located about 500 yards away, a VA spokeswoman confirmed Thursday. An Albuquerque Fire Department spokeswoman said it took an ambulance about 11 minutes to be dispatched and arrive at the cafeteria, which is about a five-minute walk from the emergency room, officials at the hospital said. VA spokeswoman Sonja Brown said VA staff told her that at least 20 minutes elapsed between the man’s medical episode and when he arrived at the ER. Kirtland Air Force Medical Group personnel, who regularly eat lunch at the cafeteria, performed CPR until the ambulance arrived, Brown said. Staff followed policy in calling 911 when the man collapsed on Monday, she said. “Our policy is under expedited review,” Brown said. Brown said the policy is a local one, and Jean Schaefer, spokeswoman for the Phoenix-based regional VA network, said these types of medical center policies vary across VA campuses, depending on what facilities are there. Brown also said she’s not aware of any vehicles owned by the VA that could have transported the veteran. National Veterans Affairs representatives did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. The man’s name hasn’t been released. News of the man’s death at the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center spread Thursday among veterans who were visiting the center for various medical reasons. Lorenzo Calbert, 65, a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War, said it was sad that a fellow veteran had to die so close to where he could have received help. “There’s no reason for it,” he said. “They have so many workers. They could have put him on the gurney and run faster than that ambulance.” An Albuquerque Fire Department spokeswoman said law prohibits disclosing how long it took for the ambulance to get from the cafeteria to the hospital. She also said Albuquerque Ambulance arrived before AFD, and a spokeswoman there said the ambulance arrived “well within” 10 minutes, which Brown said is unlikely. However, Brown said that, if the ambulance company and AFD are correct about their response times, it would have taken at least 10 minutes for the veteran to be driven the 500 yards between the cafeteria to the hospital. Under a policy instituted in 2010 and signed by then-director George Marnell, the VA medical center Code Blue Team is to respond to medical emergencies in six buildings on the 88-acre property off of San Pedro SE. The buildings include the main hospital in Building 41, but the cafeteria or canteen aren’t mentioned. Code Blue Team members include a physician, an intensive care unit nurse, a health technician, a nursing supervisor, an anesthesiologist, a respiratory therapist and a pharmacist, if needed. The policy goes on to state: “For medical emergencies out of the Code Blue Team response areas, the Albuquerque EMS system via 911 will be activated,” the policy states. Outpatients or non-patients responded to by Albuquerque EMS who have suffered a cardiac and/or respiratory arrest will be transported to the VA medical center’s emergency department, the policy adds. Outpatients or non-patients who haven’t suffered a cardiopulmonary arrest will be transported per Albuquerque EMS protocols. And all medical emergencies involving children regardless of the location on the VA Medical Center campus are to be dealt with by Albuquerque EMS via a 911 call. The policy requires medical center staff who witness a life-threatening event to give CPR or emergency aid regardless of the location. Staff members are to remain with the individual until emergency help arrives. Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a statement Thursday, saying her office has been trying for two days to get information from the VA about “whether its policy may have contributed to the delay in care. “In any case, the inability of officials to answer basic questions in a timely fashion is yet another reason the public has lost faith, and why we are demanding an outside investigation and immediate reform at the Albuquerque VA.” The death comes as the Department of Veterans Affairs remains under scrutiny for widespread reports of long delays for treatment and medical appointments and of veterans dying while on waiting lists. A review last week cited “significant and chronic system failures” in the nation’s health system for veterans. The review also portrayed the struggling agency as one battling a corrosive culture of distrust, lacking in resources and ill-prepared to deal with an influx of new and older veterans with a range of medical and mental health care needs. The scathing report by Deputy White House chief of staff Rob Nabors said the Veterans Health Administration, the VA sub agency that provides health care to about 8.8 million veterans a year, has systematically ignored warnings about its deficiencies and must be fundamentally restructured. Marc Landy, a political science professor at Boston College, said the Department of Veterans Affairs is a large bureaucracy with various local policies like the one under review in Albuquerque. Although the agency needs to undergo reform, Landy said it’s unfair to attack the VA too harshly on the recent Albuquerque death, because it appears to be so unusual. “I think we have to be careful,” he said. “Let’s not beat up too much on the VA while they are already facing criticism.”
– Another black eye for the Veterans Health Administration? A 71-year-old veteran died on Monday after waiting up to 30 minutes for an ambulance—while already at a Veteran Affairs hospital. Officials say the man collapsed in the Albuquerque hospital's cafeteria, which is around 1,500 feet from the emergency room, about a four-minute walk, the AP reports. By the time medics arrived, loaded him into the ambulance, and drove him around the building, it was too late to save him. A VA spokeswoman says staff followed policy by calling 911 when the man collapsed, but that "policy is under expedited review." The man's family has asked that he remain unidentified because they are considering legal action, KOAT reports. The case comes after a long series of reports of serious deficiencies at the VA, including dozens of veterans dying while on "secret waiting lists," the Albuquerque Journal reports. Rep. Michelle Grisham says her office has been trying for days to get the VA to answer "whether its policy may have contributed to the delay in care." In any case, she says, "the inability of officials to answer basic questions in a timely fashion is yet another reason the public has lost faith, and why we are demanding an outside investigation and immediate reform at the Albuquerque VA."
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Starting in 1996, Alexa Internet has been donating their crawl data to the Internet Archive. Flowing in every day, these data are added to the Wayback Machine after an embargo period. ||||| Democrats were gleeful this week when Donald Trump blurted out in Tuesday's debate that “wages [are] too high.” But as Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley prepare to debate Saturday night, the Democrats have a wage problem of their own: American incomes have dropped during the Obama presidency. It's a vulnerability that Republicans haven't figured out how to exploit, and it's clearly one of the biggest weaknesses in the Obama economic recovery. Story Continued Below In 2014, the last year for which Census data are available, median household income was $1,656 lower than it was in January 2009, when President Barack Obama took office. A recent survey by the private firm Sentier Research showed household income finally rose this year above its level in June 2009, when the Great Recession ended — but only by 1.3 percent. That's a terrible record for any presidency. But that such stagnation occurred during a Democratic one is potentially a big problem for Democratic candidates, and especially for Clinton, who's running on her role in that administration. “I think that there are two phenomena here,” said Stuart Stevens, a senior strategist in Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. “Those who normally are the most articulate, passionate voices for those who are doing least well in the economy have been muted over the past seven years” because they don’t want to undercut Obama. That should create an opening for Republicans. But “Republicans have never been great at talking about this,” Stevens said. The Republican candidates’ wage conundrum isn’t about excoriating the Democrats. They’re all too happy to call out Obama for failing to lift incomes. “These last seven years,” Bobby Jindal said at this week’s GOP “undercard” debate, “inequality has gone up. Only the top 10 percent have seen their incomes go up.” Rick Santorum said not once, not twice, but three times that the middle class was “hollowing out.” In the primetime debate that followed, Jeb Bush said “the disposable income of the great middle is down 2,300 bucks … Jobs are being created, but they’re lower-income jobs than the jobs that were lost.” But while the GOP candidates are eager to state the wages problem, they struggle to explain how they would fix it. “It’s a bit awkward,” says Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at Dartmouth, “if Republicans are talking about the need for wage growth and opposed to a minimum wage increase.” Only one of the Republican presidential candidates has endorsed a specific minimum-wage hike: Rick Santorum, who would raise the hourly minimum to $8.75, up from the current $7.25, over a period of three years. The Democratic field, meanwhile, proposes raising the minimum to $12 (Clinton) or $15 (Sanders, O’Malley). Ben Carson expressed in the September CNN debate tentative support for an unspecified increase. He also said he favored a lower “starter” minimum wage for young people. And Carson said the wage minimum should rise automatically with inflation “so that we never have to have this conversation again.” Romney also favored indexing the minimum wage, figuring, like Carson, that it would remove the topic permanently from the partisan arena. (Because the minimum wage is popular, politicizing it mostly hurts Republicans.) “It was a position [Romney] had as governor and a position he kept,” Stevens said, “and he ended up with a higher percentage of the GOP vote than Bush in 2000.” (Actually, Romney muddied his support in 2012 by proposing the minimum be indexed not only to inflation but also to “the jobs level throughout the country, unemployment rate [and] competitive rates in other states, or, in this case, other nations.”) But earlier this week Carson appeared to back away from his pro-minimum wage stance. “I would not raise it,” Carson said at Tuesday’s debate, “because I'm interested in making sure that people are able to enter the job market and take advantage of opportunities.” The Carson campaign didn’t answer POLITICO’s request for clarification, but spokesman Doug Watts told the Daily Beast that Carson’s position was unchanged. “His answer focused on the lower tier, which he does not believe needs raising, as it is an entry-level wage. He believes in a second, higher tier that, once determined, is indexed,” Watts told the Daily Beast’s Gideon Resnick in a post-debate email. The other Republican candidates all oppose raising the minimum wage, and two of them — Carly Fiorina and Jeb Bush — have indicated a preference for leaving the matter to the states. Then there's Trump, who since Tuesday has clarified that when he said wages were too high he was referring to the minimum wage, not to wages in general. (He did not propose lowering it.) Perhaps no candidate has underscored the Republicans’ wage dilemma more than Marco Rubio. “You can’t live on $10 an hour,” Rubio said in October. “You can’t live on $11 an hour.” That would indicate, logically, that still less can one live on $7.25 an hour. But Rubio opposes raising the federal minimum. To Republicans, “raising the minimum wage is a Band Aid solution,” explains Matthew Dickinson, a political scientist at Middlebury College. Lara Brown, a political scientist at George Washington University, says Republicans aren’t necessarily wrong about that. “The Democratic solution is dealing with the minimum wage. But the vast majority of people in the country are not making the minimum wage.” Instead, the Republican candidates favor stimulating the economy mainly through tax cuts and deregulation. But such policies yielded only modest growth in median household income under President Ronald Reagan, and a decline under President George W. Bush. Awareness has grown that sluggish wage growth is a long-term problem that's prevailed for four decades (excepting a period of brisk wage growth during the tech boom of the late 1990s). “Wages for the bottom 90 percent of the economy have been stagnant for 40 years,” Mike Huckabee said at Tuesday’s debate. Huckabee blamed the Federal Reserve. He favors a return to the gold standard, along with Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. But this position, long favored by many in the party’s more conservative wing, has never stirred much excitement among voters. The most dramatic initiative that Obama has undertaken to intervene in the wage economy has earned almost no mention from the Republican field. That’s the Labor Department’s proposed rule to more than double (to $50,440) the threshold under which virtually all salaried employees would qualify for time-and-a-half pay if they worked more than 40 hours in a given week. The overtime rule, which is expected to increase by five million the number of workers eligible for overtime pay, was welcomed warmly by Clinton and especially by Sanders and O’Malley. Congressional Republicans have denounced it as burdensome, echoing strong opposition by the business lobby. But the GOP’s presidential candidates have been largely silent on the topic. “It will probably become an increasing topic of debate,” said Dickinson, “particularly as the Labor department prepares for a final rule.” But with a final rule now not expected until late in 2016, “this one’s not close enough to fruition to become a target of attack.”
– Politico has an interesting article on what it's calling "the Democrats' wage problem," a major takeaway of which is that the average American income has actually gone down during Obama's years as president. The median household income in 2014 was more than $1,600 lower than it was in January 2009, according to Census data. And while a recent survey says median household income is finally above its 2009 level this year, it's barely 1% above it. Politico calls this "one of the biggest weaknesses in the Obama economic recovery" and says it could be a big problem for Hillary Clinton since she was part of the administration. However Politico reports none of that is to say Republicans know how to fix stagnant wages or have even shown themselves able to capably address the issue. “It’s a bit awkward if Republicans are talking about the need for wage growth and opposed to a minimum wage increase," one political scientist tells Politico. Only one GOP presidential candidate—Rick Santorum—has a proposal to raise the national minimum wage, and it's more modest than similar proposals from any of the Democratic candidates. The majority of the other Republican candidates favor fixing stagnant wages through tax cuts and deregulation, policies that only exacerbated the problem under George W. Bush. Read the full story here.
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You can’t judge a movie by its source material: the much-maligned jukebox musical genre gave us “Rock of Ages,” yes, but it also made “Singin’ in the Rain” possible. And we were all worried about “The Lego Movie” before we saw it. So let us be clear that “The Emoji Movie” is not a soul-crushing disaster simply because its dramatis personae are the range of emotive faces and symbols that live inside your cell phone. It is a soul-crushing disaster because it lacks humor, wit, ideas, visual style, compelling performances, a point of view or any other distinguishing characteristic that would make it anything but a complete waste of your time, not to mention that of the diligent animators who brought this catastrophe into being. On a story level, it cobbles together pieces of everything from “The Wizard of Oz” to “Smurfs: The Lost Village” (coincidentally, Sony Pictures Animation’s prior release), and thematically it hits a tediously familiar litany of kid-movie messages: Be yourself. People can be more than one thing. Parents should support their children. Candy Crush is super awesome. Watch Video: 'The Emoji Movie': First Trailer Reveals Hidden World In Your Smartphone OK, that last one is a new feature, since the premise of a movie set entirely inside a smartphone has clearly opened up new potentials of product placement, whether its characters are riding boats down the musical streams of Spotify or walking through other people’s photographic memories in Instagram. As with Sony’s “The Angry Birds Movie,” this is a film that’s shameless about its origins as a pocket doodad; it also resembles that previous film by being completely shrill and stupid. Within the phone of a hapless high-school freshman named Alex (voiced by Jake T. Austin, “The Fosters”), an emoji named Gene (T.J. Miller) excitedly prepares for his first day on the job in Textopolis. The “excitedly” part is a problem, since Gene is supposed to be a jaded “Meh” emoji, but he can’t stop himself from expressing a variety of emotions on his round yellow tennis-ball face. READ MORE See The Emoji Movie's latest POWER MOVE. PowerRank: 1383 His professionally underwhelmed parents, played by Steven Wright and Jennifer Coolidge, worry that his propensity for feelings will get him into trouble, and they’re right: when Alex clicks on him, the scanner registers Gene making a weird nonsense face, which infuriates the perpetually-cheery Smiler (Maya Rudolph), whose face bears a constant grinning rictus even when she’s calling for “malfunction” Gene to be deleted. Gene’s only hope is to team up with Hi-5 (James Corden) to find Jailbreak (Anna Faris), a hacker who can get them off the phone and into the cloud. Anti-virus bots are eluded and lessons are learned, but to piece together the film’s dreary plotting is to give it more thought than screenwriters Tony Leondis (who also directed), Eric Siegel and a presumably paycheck-collecting Mike White ever did. (And at least one of them will have to live with the fact that he wrote the dreadful pun, “Holy Delete-o!”) Also Read: Amazon, Annapurna Team Up for Ben Stiller Comedy 'Brad's Status' The unanswered questions are legion: Why do the emojis fear the phone reboot, when they’ll presumably return in its new iteration? Are they different from their counterparts in millions of other phones? Why does Gene have parents when most Americans are constantly switching to new and upgraded devices? And are we really to believe that teen boy Alex never uses his eggplant emoji? Emotionally, we’re supposed to care about Gene and Jailbreak getting together, even though they’re so muddily conceived that we know he’s pursuing something dumb and her desires are merely vague. On top of that, we’re also supposed to be rooting for Alex to win the affections of classmate Addie (Tati Gabrielle, “The 100”), but of course his courtship all boils down to picking the right emoji to text her. Sorry Cyrano de Bergerac and Abelard and Heloise and Cole Porter and anyone else who’s ever used dumb old words to declare love; you’re nothing without a poop symbol. The one non-dispiriting aspect of the “Emoji Movie” experience was getting to see “Puppy!”, a new animated short set in the world of “Hotel Transylvania.” When Adam Sandler outclasses your high-concept, high-tech functions, it’s time to switch to a flip phone. ||||| The Emoji Movie Looking back, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there was a small, flickering reason to believe that The Emoji Movie wouldn’t be a complete travesty. After all, the adorably ubiquitous pictograms that have become a second language for at least two generations are a public-domain entity; their relative recent rise makes us forget that, licensing-wise, this is no bigger a grab than Leaves: The Movie would be. It was pretty much free to do whatever it wanted within the ridiculous, cynical parameters it had set. The Emoji Movie had nothing to sell aside from itself. But this was naïve of me, because The Emoji Movie is selling something. In the mock tradition of countless superior Pixar films before it, it’s attempting to sell a sense of childlike wonder and fascination with an ordinary, everyday object: your smartphone. And in doing so, it is one of the darkest, most dismaying films I have ever seen, much less one ostensibly made for children. Let me get briefly more philosophical than this film deserves: Emoji remain a ripe source for humor in our everyday digital parlance, specifically because they are devoid of narrative, or even, ironically, emotion. There is a kind of poetry that has emerged from their use; an emoji is worth maybe not a thousand, but certainly a hundred words, and using one in place of words requires you to momentarily, subconsciously imagine that you are living in a language-free totalitarian state where a cry-laugh symbol is our linguistic Soylent. There’s a similar pathetic humor to the constricted movement and expression of Lego figurines, which The Lego Movie exploited to far greater effect. The Emoji Movie’s first aesthetic mistake is redesigning their titular figures to be the same kind of rubber-faced caricatures you can find in any other shrieking CGI kid-distracter on the market. Not once does this film rise above the level of humor of literally any real-world use of a simple upside-down-face emoji (whose meaning I tend to translate as “Wheeee, life is a horrible hall of mirrors and I am powerless to do anything but smile about it.”) If only my review of this film could be an upside-down-face emoji. The laboriously literal plot concerns the “Meh” emoji (T.J. Miller, who certainly doesn’t sound like a man who’s banking his career on this film as his game changer), who is “defective” due to his ability to express a kaleidoscope of emotions beyond his regimented role. I think this is the basic principle behind the Divergent films; it could just as easily be about a commercial actor in an existential rut. To fix his defect, he teams up with the lowly high-five emoji (James Corden), who has been replaced by the newer, hipper fist-bump emoji in the hall of favorites (racial subtext abounds). Together they escape the messaging app they call home on a dream-logic mission to find a “hacker” (Anna Faris) who can take them to the “cloud” and fix Meh’s defect. Along the way, they pass through a series of familiar apps while a battalion of anti-virus bots follows them in lukewarm pursuit. At one point, the film grinds to a halt for a game of Candy Crush. Yes, the actual IP of The Emoji Movie has nothing to do with the emoji themselves, and everything to do with the apps that have prime placement in the Google AdWords–grade narrative. Somewhat relevant to the plot is the fact that it all takes place on the phone of a 14-year-old boy, who is having text-based girl troubles somehow worsened by Meh’s poor performance as an emoji. Apparently this 14-year-old boy not only has the usual suspects on his phone (Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify all make appearances), but also, mystifyingly, the Crackle app, and extra-mystifyingly, a Just Dance mobile app that I wasn’t even aware existed before now and currently has a two-star rating on the Apple store. There is a mumbled, shorthand moral about staying true to yourself in all this, but it is drowned out by the wall-to-wall cynicism that is The Emoji Movie’s entire reason for existing in the first place. The film runs through its list of corporate and Zeitgeist awareness obligations in dead-eyed lockstep, making sure to get in uses of the words “slay” and “shade” and lifting an entire section of the lyrics to Rihanna’s “Diamonds” to telegraph a would-be important emotional beat (it’s not a joke, I don’t think). In the end, Meh’s embrace of his animated, multifaceted self just comes off as an ad for an Emoji Movie animated-sticker set that’s probably already out there. This is a film that seems beamed from a near future in which nothing goes right; “words,” as the kids in the film agree, “aren’t cool” anymore; and Patrick Stewart making jokes about soft shits is the new prestige TV. But what do I know? At my screening, which was for both press and a handful of unfortunate families, at the first sighting of her favorite rainbow-colored icon, a little girl behind me cried out, adoringly, “It’s Instagram!” A new age of heroes is born. ||||| Tony Leondis' kid-flick tries to turn text-message punctuation into a colorful adventure. Here's what you tell yourself when you accept an assignment to review a cartoon about emoji: "Remember what you thought when you heard about The Lego Movie? That it was the most shameless bit of advertising-as-entertainment you could imagine, the nadir of Hollywood's intellectual-property dependence, and couldn't possibly be worth seeing? Remember how incredibly wrong you were?" You were wrong then. Given the right combination of inspiration, intelligence and gifted artists, any dumb thing can be turned into an enjoyable film. But Tony Leondis' The Emoji Movie, a very, very dumb thing, comes nowhere near that magic combination. It is fast and colorful enough to attract young kids, but offers nearly nothing to their parents. If only this smartphone-centric dud, so happy to hawk real-world apps to its audience, could have done the same in its release strategy — coming out via Snapchat, where it would vanish shortly after arrival. But even that wouldn't be fast enough. The project's first hurdle is imagining how an emoji icon, which by definition represents only one emotional state (or object), can be a character capable of experiencing a story. Its solution is incoherent. We're told both that "the pressure's always on" for the face-emoji residents of Textopolis to keep their expressions convincing — smiley or smirking, angry or puzzled — and that they have no choice: That weeping guy keeps gushing tears even when he wins the lottery; he's just programmed that way. The exception is Gene (voiced by T.J. Miller), a youngster preparing to take over for his old man as the face of Meh. (Who could play the elder embodiment of Blah other than Steven Wright?) We learn that free-spirited Gene, thanks to some glitch, is capable of infinite facial expressions. He has a hard time being deadpan on cue. His first time on the job, in fact, he fails. In the film's weirdly unconvincing vision of how emojis make their way from a phone's inner universe to its screen when the user selects them, the whole process breaks down if one of the actors can't sit still for a face scan. Gene wrecks the app's game show-like stage, and eventually, the program's supervisor (Smiler, a ruthless but always-smiling woman voiced by Maya Rudolph) targets him for deletion, sending a team of mean-looking antivirus bots off to get him. With the help of a high-five icon (James Corden, taking his position as the story's fount of unrelenting enthusiasm very seriously), Gene sets out to find a hacker who can reprogram him and eliminate unwanted facial expressions. Jailbreak (Anna Faris) says they need to escape the phone entirely to do this, getting past a tricky firewall and out onto The Cloud. Getting there affords the filmmakers plenty of opportunities for product placement. The characters spend several minutes stuck in Candy Crush (gags about Hi-5's sweet tooth go on about five times longer than they should); they nearly die in a Dance Dance Revolution-style challenge game. At best, these episodes are limp set pieces; at worst, they sound like they were written by ad agencies. When our heroes need to ride streams of music from one place to another, one coos, "Whoa — this is Spotify?!"; when Jailbreak leads Gene into Dropbox, their pursuers can't follow them inside because "this app is secure." The dialogue is even lamer when the pic's three scribes depict the life of Alex, the high-school kid who owns the phone Gene inhabits. When Alex wonders what to text the girl he has a crush on, his pal scowls "words aren't cool" — in a Manhattan preview where critics were outnumbered by ordinary moviegoers, nearly all of the laughter was directed at this sort of line, where three grown men try and fail to convincingly imagine how kids talk. Hell, they can't even come up with fresh-smelling one-liners about the movie's resident poop icon. (Amusingly, the closing credits identify this slumming actor as "Sir Patrick Stewart.") Leondis and company don't get much mileage out of the vast variety of emojis they might use for sight gags, but they do well enough with the slapstick adventure of Gene's quest from home to the cloud. If not always imaginative or digestible, the look of the settings and characters should keep kids awake for 86 minutes; and if the trick that eventually saves the day makes very little sense to critical moviegoers, at least it's cutely frantic eye candy. Even so, few adults in the theater will have a hard time maintaining the flatline, unimpressed expression Gene has such difficulty with. Production company: Sony Pictures Animation Distributor: Columbia Cast: T.J. Miller, Anna Faris, James Corden, Patrick Stewart, Maya Rudolph, Steven Wright, Rob Riggle, Jennifer Coolidge, Jake T. Austin, Sofia Vergara, Christina Aguilera Director: Tony Leondis Screenwriters: Tony Leondis, Eric Siegel, Mike White Producer: Michelle Raimo Kouyate Executive producer: Ben Waisbren Production designer: Carlos Zaragoza Editor: William J. Caparella Composer: Patrick Doyle Casting director: Mary Hidalgo Rated PG, 86 minutes ||||| Children should not be allowed to watch The Emoji Movie. Their impressionable brains simply aren’t set up to sift through the thick haze of corporate subterfuge clouding every scene of this sponsored-content post masquerading as a feature film. Adults know enough to snort derisively when, say, an anthropomorphic high-five drops a reference to popular smartphone game Just Dance Now (available for purchase in the App Store, kids!), but young children especially are more innocent and more vulnerable. The Emoji Movie is a force of insidious evil, a film that feels as if it was dashed off by an uninspired advertising executive. The best commercials have a way of making you forget you’re being pitched at, but director Tony Leondis leaves all the notes received from his brand partners in full view. The core conceit apes Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, where a spirited misfit hops between self-contained worlds styled in a single recognisable way. Instead of holidays, however, our hero here jumps from app to app, and the ulterior motive of pumping up download numbers drains every last drop of joy from Leondis’s efforts to enchant. The director wants us to think of Textopolis, the bustling city inside our smartphones, as a world of pure imagination. When a meh-face emoji named Gene (TJ Miller) is banished from his home for daring to express an emotion other than unimpressed nonchalance, Leondis takes his odyssey of self-discovery as an opportunity to imagine fantastical scenery. As a smiley-face emoji (Maya Rudolph) ruling Textopolis with a cheery iron fist tirelessly hunts him down, Gene gapes in awe at such marvels as a supercharged rollercoaster ride through raw data and a pixelated humpback whale that majestically glides over him. But because these glossy images are so nakedly in service of plugs for Dropbox and Spotify, it’s all but impossible to appreciate any incidental beauty they might possess. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Alex, voiced by Jake T Austin, in The Emoji Movie. Photograph: Sony Pictures/AP The pervasive falseness extends to the film’s thematic underpinnings, which make a clumsy lunge at vague, be-yourself positivity. The paramount importance of being true to one’s own spirit is made literal in Gene’s silly quandary; he’s forced to hide who he is for the sake of compulsory homogeneity, and only through tapping into his full range of emotions can he achieve his potential. While Leondis, who is gay, has stated he intends this as an allegory for the tribulations faced by the non-heterosexual community, any social commentary is stymied by the execution. The film’s insistent feel-goodery and occasional nods to feminism (delivered by a spunky blue-haired hacker emoji, voiced by Anna Faris) ring false. Product-placement mashups Toy Story and The Lego Movie had the purity of playtime to seal in the sentimentality; somehow it’s not as endearing in a film built around the apps we use to kill time while sat on the toilet. The ruthless mercenary details take the Emoji Movie beyond simply embarrassing and incompetent into something more manipulative and contemptible. One perplexing scene finds the emoji pals all doing a synchronised dance called “the emoji bop”. In a film so desperate to sell itself, this is clearly a craven bid to go viral, the cinematic equivalent of clickbait. The script practically begs for the approval of the tweens that elevated the lowly emoji to phenomenon status, but has only the slightest notion how they talk or act. Alex (Jake T Austin), the human in possession of the phone housing Gene and the rest of the cast, speaks like an dusty oldster. Alex’s awkward courtship of the cute girl in his class revolves around the deployment of emojis, but demonstrates no workable understanding of how the icons fit into adolescent life. Watching this fogeyish hero angle for edgy relevance is as uncomfortable as reading a fast-food chain’s Twitter account. However, the most disturbing part of this toxic film is the way it infects audiences with its ugly cynicism. A viewer leaves The Emoji Movie a colder person, not only angry at the film for being unconscionably bad, but resentful of it for making them feel angry. A critic can accept the truth that art and commerce will spend eternity locked in opposition. Nevertheless it’s still startling to see art that cheers commerce on while being stamped in the face by its boots. ||||| This animated comedy takes place in Textopolis, a world inside a smartphone that's inhabited by various emojis. There, an emoji named Gene (voiced by T.J. Miller) is ashamed that he has multiple facial expressions while his colleagues only have one each, and he embarks on a quest to be like everyone else. James Corden, Anna Faris, Jennifer Coolidge, Patrick Stewart, and Maya Rudolph also lend their voices to this film from Sony Pictures Animation.
– With a 3% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, reviews of The Emoji Movie could have consisted of repeated strings of the vomiting emoji, thumbs-down emoji, and poop emoji. Fortunately for fans of brutal critical drubbings, film critics had to use words (despite the film's position that "words aren't cool"). Here are some of the best takedowns of the new animated film: "Children should not be allowed to watch The Emoji Movie," writes Charles Bramesco at the Guardian, calling it a "sponsored-content post masquerading as a feature film" and a "force of insidious evil." It somehow exists to get kids to buy apps without apparently understanding kids and how they actually use emojis. "A viewer leaves The Emoji Movie a colder person," the reviewer concludes. "Hear that? It's the end of the world," writes Johnny Oleksinsk at ithe New York Post after calling The Emoji Movie a "new exercise in soulless branding." At Vulture, Emily Yoshida calls it "one of the darkest, most dismaying films I have ever seen, much less one ostensibly made for children." The Emoji Movie is "a very, very dumb thing" full of moments that "sound like they were written by ad agencies," according to the Hollywood Reporter, which laments that the film wasn't released "via Snapchat, where it would vanish shortly after arrival. But even that wouldn't be fast enough." Finally, Alonso Duralde at the Wrap calls it a "soul-crushing disaster" and "completely shrill and stupid." This "complete waste of your time" is without "humor, wit, ideas, visual style, compelling performances, a point of view, or any other distinguishing characteristic."
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Published: January 31st, 2012 | Tags: Super Bowl XLVI, Mark Herzlich, Media Day, New York Giants INDIANAPOLIS — Mark Herzlich knows what it takes to defeat a powerful opponent. His Giants have yet to play the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, but the rookie linebacker won the biggest battle of his life when he overcame Ewing’s sarcoma, a type of bone cancer. That story of survival led Herzlich to tweet this message upon the Giants’ Monday night arrival at Indianapolis International Airport: “2 yrs ago I was told I might never walk again. Just WALKED off plane in Indy to play in The #SuperBowl. #TakeThat**** Cancer.” “I was very pleased and very happy that so many people got to see it because that’s part of what my goal is and what my mission is,” Herzlich said Tuesday at Media Day. “This week’s all about football and all about playing, but there are people that are out there going through cancer right now and saying, ‘He’s doing it. I can do it.’ … “It’s a real privilege and a blessing to play in it. I’ve come from a different, tough place in my life with being sick, and just two short years later, to be able to play in the Super Bowl, that’s great.” According to Herzlich, football was the second-biggest motivator, only behind his family, in his battle with cancer. He even made a highlight tape of himself from Boston College’s 2008 season to help him “through the bad days” of chemotherapy. Since he was a Boston College student at the time of his diagnosis, Herzlich received a lot of support in New England. Although most of those fans will pull for the Patriots on Sunday, a few likely will cheer for Herzlich, too. “It’s interesting to have Boston fans root for any sort of Giant, but I appreciate everything, and the support I got all through school was unbelievable,” Herzlich said. “Even today, I got tweets from people saying, ‘I am a Patriots fan. I hope you lose, but I wish you well in your life and career.’ ” — Matt Florjancic, Special to NFL.com Share this: Facebook Twitter Email Print Like this: Like Loading... ||||| Image Credit: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images New York Giants' rookie linebacker Mark Herzlich stepped off the plane in Indianapolis to play against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI and immediately took to Twitter to express his gratitude. He was thankful not just to be there, but to be alive. "2 yrs ago I was told I might never walk again. Just WALKED off plane in Indy to play in The #SuperBowl. #TakeThatSh*tCancer," he tweeted. In 2009, Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. The cancer was isolated to his left leg and the initial prognosis was not positive for the promising Boston College football star. "They felt the NFL was a long shot," Herzlich's father, Sandy, told ESPN last summer. "They were first happy if they could save his life and they were happy if they could save his leg." Herzlich was told there were three possible outcomes. "The worst-case scenario is obviously [that] it gets into other parts of your body and it completely kills you," he told ESPN. "Second worst-case scenario is if they saw a small fracture in the bone and it was seeping out. Then they would have to amputate my leg right away within hours of finding it out. … Then better than that would be to remove that portion of the leg, putting in a cadaver bone and being in a cast for six months from the waist down, not ever being able to run again." It turns out there was a fourth and even better option. Herzlich responded phenomenally to aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. He was given the choice to forgo surgery and continue treatment, saving his football career, but increasing the likelihood that the cancer could return, or have surgery, ending his football aspirations, but likely eliminating the cancer. Herzlich decided to keep his dream alive. After missing the 2009 college football season to undergo treatment, he took the field for Boston College in 2010. He started in all 13 games, but did not catch the eye of NFL scouts and went undrafted. Herzlich continued training and eventually signed as a free agent with the New York Giants. Now, one year into his NFL career he's walked off the plane in Indianapolis and is getting ready to run onto the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, two things, that just three years ago seemed nearly impossible. ESPN contributed to this report.
– Rookie Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich is happier than most to be playing in the Super Bowl: “2 yrs ago I was told I might never walk again. Just WALKED off plane in Indy to play in the Super Bowl. Take That Sh*t Cancer," Herzlich tweeted after arriving in Indianapolis yesterday. Herzlich was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in 2009. He had been expected to be a first-round draft pick from Boston College, but instead spent the year undergoing treatment, choosing chemotherapy and radiation over a leg amputation that would have ended his dream of playing in the NFL, ABC reports. Herzlich, who went undrafted and joined the Giants as a free agent this season, says he sees his arrival in Indianapolis to take on the New England Patriots as an opportunity to inspire. "This week’s all about football and all about playing," he tells NFL.com, "but there are people that are out there going through cancer right now and saying, ‘He’s doing it. I can do it.’"
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Man charged after Heights party-goer shot to death while wearing bulletproof vest Now Playing: A Rosenberg man has been charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of another man wearing a bulletproof vest at a party in the Heights, Houston police said. Jason Griffin, 39, has also been charged with felon in possession of a weapon and unlawful possession of body armor. Officers were dispatched early Sunday to a garage apartment in the 300 block of West 23rd, where a man had been shot in the chest. Paramedics pronounced the man him dead at the scene. Court records identified him as Daniel Barber. Jason Griffin Jason Griffin Police were dispatched to the garage apartment on 23rd Street early Sunday morning. It was not immediately clear if the bullet had gone through the vest or if the shooter had missed the vest. Police were dispatched to the garage apartment on 23rd Street early Sunday morning. It was not immediately clear if the bullet had gone through the vest or if the shooter had missed the vest. Photo: Metro Video LLC / For The Houston Chronicle Police were dispatched to the garage apartment on 23rd Street early Sunday morning. It was not immediately clear if the bullet had gone through the vest or if the shooter had missed the vest. Police were dispatched to the garage apartment on 23rd Street early Sunday morning. It was not immediately clear if the bullet had gone through the vest or if the shooter had missed the vest. Photo: Metro Video LLC / For The Houston Chronicle window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-4', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 4', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); Image 1 of / 4 Caption Close Man charged after Heights party-goer shot to death while wearing bulletproof vest 1 / 4 Back to Gallery Homicide investigators were working to determine whether the incident was the result of a dare. It was not immediately clear whether the bullet had gone through the vest, police said. Griffin and another witness fled the scene, officials said. Griffin was arrested Sunday while being treated at a local hospital for what police called "a medical issue." He is still in custody at the hospital. Griffin was charged in 2001 with the felony offense of aggravated robbery in a Fort Bound County court, according to Harris County District Clerk court records. ||||| EMBED More News Videos Man fatally shot after putting on bulletproof vest. Houston police have charged a man in connection with the deadly shooting in a Heights garage apartment early Sunday morning.Jason Griffin is charged with manslaughter, unlawful possession of a firearm and felon in possession of a gun for the deadly shooting.Investigators say Griffin was at a party in the 300 block of West 23rd Street.At some point during the party, the victim, now identified as Daniel Barber, put on a bulletproof vest.Police say Griffin took out his gun and shot Barber in the chest.He was killed.Griffin left the party before returning to talk with police.His girlfriend told ABC13 he didn't mean to kill his friend. She said Griffin didn't even know his gun was loaded."He goes 'shoot me.' Well, he didn't think there was nothing in it, and he did. And the dude went '@##$ that hurt' and then he dropped. And then Jason ripped the vest off of him and tried to help him,'" said Mary Warstler.Warstler said Griffin was suicidal after the shooting and had to be treated for seizures before he was arrested.
– A man was shot dead while wearing a bulletproof vest at a Houston party and police say they've been left to uncover whether the tragedy happened as part of some kind of prank gone terribly wrong. Jason Allen Griffin was arrested early Sunday morning following the death of a man named Daniel Barber. Per KTRK, cops say Griffin and Barber had been at a party together when Barber was shot in the chest while wearing the vest, allegedly by Griffin. He was arrested and has been charged with manslaughter, unlawful possession of a firearm, and felon in possession of a gun. According to the Houston Chronicle, police are trying to determine whether the men thought they were playing some kind of game. A woman who identified herself to KTRK as Griffin's girlfriend, Mary Warstler, said the suspect didn't even know his gun was loaded. What's more, Warstler claims that Barber told Griffin "shoot me" before Griffin allegedly pulled the trigger. After Barber was shot, Warstler said Griffin ripped off the vest in a bid to help the victim, but it was too late. Warstler said Griffin was so distraught following the shooting that he was suicidal and that he had to be checked into the hospital for seizures.
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New York Times reporter James Risen is fighting back against critics who have cast a skeptical eye on his Page One story yesterday about Afghanistan's mineral deposits. In an interview with Yahoo! News, Risen dismissed suspicions that the story was part of an orchestrated campaign to rescue the troubled American effort there and derided critical bloggers as pajama-clad layabouts with no reporting chops. Risen's story reported the findings of ongoing Pentagon research into the value Afghanistan's lithium, copper, iron, and other mineral deposits, and cited officials claiming that "the United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself." Risen's piece quickly drew fire from online reporters and writers (including this one), who pointed out that many of the story's purported revelations about Afghanistan's mineral reserves had been previously reported. They also questioned the timing of the story, coming as it did on the heels of a series of troubling reports about the stability of the Karzai government and one day before Gen. David Petraeus was scheduled to testify before Congress about the war. The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder wrote that the story "suggest[s] a broad and deliberate information operation designed to influence public opinion on the course of the war." Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall wrote that "the timing of the revelation is enough to raise some suspicions in my mind." And Foreign Policy's Blake Hounshell wrote that "there's less to this scoop than meets the eye." Risen didn't take kindly to the blogospheric criticism. "Bloggers should do their own reporting instead of sitting around in their pajamas," Risen said. "The thing that amazes me is that the blogosphere thinks they can deconstruct other people's stories," Risen told Yahoo! News during an increasingly hostile interview, which he called back to apologize for almost immediately after it ended. "Do you even know anything about me? Maybe you were still in school when I broke the NSA story, I don't know. It was back when you were in kindergarten, I think." (Risen and fellow Times reporter Eric Lichtblau shared a 2006 Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on the Bush administration's secret wiretapping program; this reporter was 33 years old at the time.) Risen defended the article against claims that Afghanistan's mineral wealth was largely a matter of public knowledge prior to his story. "If it wasn't news, then why didn't anybody write about it?" he asked. In fact, McClatchy Newspapers reported last year that "the region is thought to hold some of the world's last major untapped deposits of iron, copper, gold, uranium, precious gems and other raw materials." In February, Agence France Presse quoted Afghan president Hamid Karzai, citing a U.S. Geological Survey study, claiming that his country had $1 trillion in mineral assets. Just last month, Karzai repeated the claim at a U.S. Institute of Peace event, saying the value was between $1 trillion and $3 trillion. "But no one picked up on it," Risen said. He explained that he based his report on the work of a Pentagon team led by Paul Brinkley, a deputy undersecretary of defense charged with rebuilding the Afghan economy. Using geological data from the Soviet era and USGS surveys conducted in 2006, Brinkley dispatched teams to Afghanistan last year to search for minerals on the ground. The data they've come back with, combined with internal Pentagon assessments that value the deposits at more than $900 billion, constitute news, according to Risen. (Those surveys are still under way, according to a briefing Brinkley gave yesterday.) "The question is how extensive it was," Risen said of the survey work. "The value of what Brinkley's team did was to put together and connect the dots on a lot of information that had been put on the shelf. And they did new research and came up with a lot of new data and put everything together in a more comprehensive way." So was the story a Pentagon plant, designed to show the American public a shiny metallic light at the end of the long tunnel that is the Afghan war, as skeptics allege? Risen said he heard about the Pentagon's efforts from Milt Bearden, a retired CIA officer who was active in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The men co-authored a book, "The Main Enemy," in 2003, and Bearden is now a consultant working with Brinkley's survey team. "Several months ago, Milt started telling me about what they were finding," Risen said. "At the beginning of the year, I said I wanted to do a story on it." At first both Bearden and Brinkley resisted, Risen said, but he eventually wore them down. "Milt convinced Brinkley to talk to me," he said, "and Brinkley convinced other Pentagon officials to go on the record. I think Milt realized that things were going so badly in Afghanistan that people would be willing to talk about this." In other words, according to Risen, he wasn't handed the story in a calculated leak. Calls and emails to Brinkley and to Eric Clark, a Pentagon public relations contractor who works with him, were not immediately returned. Minutes after making his initial angry comments about bloggers, Risen called back to apologize. "I was taken aback by some of the criticism, and didn't sleep well last night, and was upset about it. I apologize." —John Cook is a senior national reporter/blogger for Yahoo! News ||||| ink-stained wretches Cranky Times Reporter Lashes Out at Critical Bloggers With many online news outlets wondering whether a New York Times story on Afghanistan's mineral deposits was less a fresh discovery than a PR ploy by the Army, the story's author, James Risen, let loose on the brash, ignorant youngsters who dare to question him. "Do you even know anything about me?" he asked Yahoo News blogger John Cook, late of Gawker. "Maybe you were still in school when I broke the NSA story, I don't know. It was back when you were in kindergarten, I think." Cook also tweeted that Risen, falling back on hurtful stereotypes, said that bloggers who criticized the story were just "jerking off in their pajamas." Ouch, man. Ouch. That just shows how little Risen actually understands bloggers. We would never jerk off in our only article of clothing. Shortly after hanging up, Risen regained his composure and called back. "I was taken aback by some of the criticism, and didn't sleep well last night, and was upset about it," he said. "I apologize." Sounds like someone needs a nappy-poo. NYT reporter defends Afghan minerals piece, lashes out at critics [Newsroom/Yahoo] ||||| While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war. Advertisement Continue reading the main story “There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Saturday. “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.” The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion. “This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy,” said Jalil Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines. American and Afghan officials agreed to discuss the mineral discoveries at a difficult moment in the war in Afghanistan. The American-led offensive in Marja in southern Afghanistan has achieved only limited gains. Meanwhile, charges of corruption and favoritism continue to plague the Karzai government, and Mr. Karzai seems increasingly embittered toward the White House. So the Obama administration is hungry for some positive news to come out of Afghanistan. Yet the American officials also recognize that the mineral discoveries will almost certainly have a double-edged impact. Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country. The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources. Just last year, Afghanistan’s minister of mines was accused by American officials of accepting a $30 million bribe to award China the rights to develop its copper mine. The minister has since been replaced. Endless fights could erupt between the central government in Kabul and provincial and tribal leaders in mineral-rich districts. Afghanistan has a national mining law, written with the help of advisers from the World Bank, but it has never faced a serious challenge. Advertisement Continue reading the main story “No one has tested that law; no one knows how it will stand up in a fight between the central government and the provinces,” observed Paul A. Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of defense for business and leader of the Pentagon team that discovered the deposits. At the same time, American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said. Another complication is that because Afghanistan has never had much heavy industry before, it has little or no history of environmental protection either. “The big question is, can this be developed in a responsible way, in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible?” Mr. Brinkley said. “No one knows how this will work.” With virtually no mining industry or infrastructure in place today, it will take decades for Afghanistan to exploit its mineral wealth fully. “This is a country that has no mining culture,” said Jack Medlin, a geologist in the United States Geological Survey’s international affairs program. “They’ve had some small artisanal mines, but now there could be some very, very large mines that will require more than just a gold pan.” Newsletter Sign Up Continue reading the main story Please verify you're not a robot by clicking the box. Invalid email address. Please re-enter. You must select a newsletter to subscribe to. Sign Up You agree to receive occasional updates and special offers for The New York Times's products and services. Thank you for subscribing. An error has occurred. Please try again later. View all New York Times newsletters. The mineral deposits are scattered throughout the country, including in the southern and eastern regions along the border with Pakistan that have had some of the most intense combat in the American-led war against the Taliban insurgency. The Pentagon task force has already started trying to help the Afghans set up a system to deal with mineral development. International accounting firms that have expertise in mining contracts have been hired to consult with the Afghan Ministry of Mines, and technical data is being prepared to turn over to multinational mining companies and other potential foreign investors. The Pentagon is helping Afghan officials arrange to start seeking bids on mineral rights by next fall, officials said. “The Ministry of Mines is not ready to handle this,” Mr. Brinkley said. “We are trying to help them get ready.” Like much of the recent history of the country, the story of the discovery of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth is one of missed opportunities and the distractions of war. In 2004, American geologists, sent to Afghanistan as part of a broader reconstruction effort, stumbled across an intriguing series of old charts and data at the library of the Afghan Geological Survey in Kabul that hinted at major mineral deposits in the country. They soon learned that the data had been collected by Soviet mining experts during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, but cast aside when the Soviets withdrew in 1989. Advertisement Continue reading the main story During the chaos of the 1990s, when Afghanistan was mired in civil war and later ruled by the Taliban, a small group of Afghan geologists protected the charts by taking them home, and returned them to the Geological Survey’s library only after the American invasion and the ouster of the Taliban in 2001. “There were maps, but the development did not take place, because you had 30 to 35 years of war,” said Ahmad Hujabre, an Afghan engineer who worked for the Ministry of Mines in the 1970s. Armed with the old Russian charts, the United States Geological Survey began a series of aerial surveys of Afghanistan’s mineral resources in 2006, using advanced gravity and magnetic measuring equipment attached to an old Navy Orion P-3 aircraft that flew over about 70 percent of the country. The data from those flights was so promising that in 2007, the geologists returned for an even more sophisticated study, using an old British bomber equipped with instruments that offered a three-dimensional profile of mineral deposits below the earth’s surface. It was the most comprehensive geologic survey of Afghanistan ever conducted. The handful of American geologists who pored over the new data said the results were astonishing. But the results gathered dust for two more years, ignored by officials in both the American and Afghan governments. In 2009, a Pentagon task force that had created business development programs in Iraq was transferred to Afghanistan, and came upon the geological data. Until then, no one besides the geologists had bothered to look at the information — and no one had sought to translate the technical data to measure the potential economic value of the mineral deposits. Soon, the Pentagon business development task force brought in teams of American mining experts to validate the survey’s findings, and then briefed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Mr. Karzai. So far, the biggest mineral deposits discovered are of iron and copper, and the quantities are large enough to make Afghanistan a major world producer of both, United States officials said. Other finds include large deposits of niobium, a soft metal used in producing superconducting steel, rare earth elements and large gold deposits in Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan. Just this month, American geologists working with the Pentagon team have been conducting ground surveys on dry salt lakes in western Afghanistan where they believe there are large deposits of lithium. Pentagon officials said that their initial analysis at one location in Ghazni Province showed the potential for lithium deposits as large of those of Bolivia, which now has the world’s largest known lithium reserves. For the geologists who are now scouring some of the most remote stretches of Afghanistan to complete the technical studies necessary before the international bidding process is begun, there is a growing sense that they are in the midst of one of the great discoveries of their careers. Advertisement Continue reading the main story “On the ground, it’s very, very, promising,” Mr. Medlin said. “Actually, it’s pretty amazing.”
– New York Times reporter James Risen is not a big fan of bloggers. Yahoo News blogger John Cook, formerly of Gawker, learned this when he called Risen to ask about criticism of his recent story on Afghan mineral deposits. (Original story here; sample of criticism here.) "Do you even know anything about me?" Risen asked. "Maybe you were still in school when I broke the NSA story, I don't know. It was back when you were in kindergarten, I think." (Risen shared a Pulitzer in 2006 for a story on secret wiretapping. Cook was age 33.) "The thing that amazes me is that the blogosphere thinks they can deconstruct other people's stories," Risen continued. And while a tamer version of this line appeared on Yahoo News, Cook tweeted that Risen accused bloggers of sitting around and "jerking off in their pajamas," reports New York magazine. Minutes after hanging up, Risen called back. "I was taken aback by some of the criticism, and didn't sleep well last night, and was upset about it. I apologize."
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Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images LOSERS Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum Emir of Dubai Oh, it's got to hurt to go begging for money from Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi! That's like Trump asking for money from his uncle who put his salary in Vanguard index funds. It's like U.A.E. SmackDown. Google Buzz Some kind of thing on your computer Remember when Gmail invited you — just you! — to join Google Buzz, where you could connect all your social networks with your e-mail? Or maybe it was something totally different. All I know is that I already had more things that did that crap than I wanted. Leonid Tyagachev Ex-head of the Russian Olympic Committee Eleventh in gold medals and none in hockey — despite having Alexander Ovechkin on your team? In the past, someone who performed like this would be banished to Siberia. But they have a pretty good hockey team there right now. So I don't know where they send you now that you quit. Tom Tom Car GPS device Six years ago, these were from the future. Now they come with your phone. I think they sell them in the discount bins they used to use for Yngwie Malmsteen cassettes. Space Shuttle Formerly cool vehicle You know how all these other countries built space shuttles after we did? Well, that's because they didn't. Everyone stuck with rocket ships because rocket ships are cool. Space shuttles are airplanes that don't even go to other countries. Have you ever seen a comic book or a sci-fi movie where the hero goes up in something that looks like a space shuttle? Finally, we're going back to rocket ships. Kurmanbek Bakiyev Ex-President of Kyrgyzstan Bakiyev was barely influential when he was President of Kyrgyzstan, because it's Kyrgyzstan. But when massive corruption got him tossed out, he couldn't even get his brother and son out of the country. He gave both the U.S. and Russia bases in his country, and even they didn't have his back. Mamadou Tandja Ex-President of Niger Even Bakiyev was able to get out of his country when he got coup d'étated. But Tandja was stuck and arrested in Niger. The best way of telling that you have no influence: you can't even get someone to post a better photo on your Wikipedia page. Not flattering. Rue McClanahan Actress Betty White has usurped all the power from the remaining Golden Girls. Lorelle Young President of the U.S. Metric Association She's about 99 kilometers from being influential. Or 99 metrometers. I have no idea how that works. Manuel Zelaya Ex-President of Honduras Another guy who got coup d'étated. He wound up in the Dominican Republic. And, as every baseball fan knows, you don't walk off the Dominican Republic. Palm Inc. Maker of the Pre phone Remember when it was cool to have a Treo? And then Palm came out with this well-reviewed, awesome new smart phone? Thing is, that was a few years after the iPhone came out. Gourmet magazine Ex-magazine The country is obsessed with food, and Gourmet folds after 68 years. Condé Nast would rather keep Bon Appétit, which is a magazine called Bon Appétit. Next Under the Influence
– The Time 100—Time magazine's annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world—has just hit the interwebs, and as usual, the names range from obvious to head scratching. The names you expect are there—Barack Obama, Oprah, Steve Jobs—as are some you might not, or that seem to be in an odd category. Glenn Beck, for example, makes the list as a “Leader.” The “Heroes” category, meanwhile, contains a bunch of sports stars and entertainers—Phil Mickelson, Ben Stiller, and Serena Williams—alongside the likes of Bill Clinton or Mir Hossein Mousavi, the winner of Time's reader poll. Ashton Kutcher makes the “Artists” list, presumably because he has a Twitter account, as does Conan O'Brien, presumably for being fired. You can see the whole list here, or, for extra fun, check out Joel Stein's Least Influential list.
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MURPHY, N.C. — A family is searching for the person responsible for writing a scathing obituary of a woman that said her “presence will not be missed by many.” Cornelia June Rogers Miller died in February, WTVC reports. Nearly four months later, an obituary posted by the Cherokee Scout in Murphy, North Carolina, is making its way around social media. Miller lived in Florida and had a summer home in Murphy. The obituary reads, in part, “Drugs were a major love in her life as June had no hobbies, made no contribution to society and rarely shared a kind word or deed in her life. Please let June Miller’s life be a cautionary tale. Addiction and hatred are no es bueno for the living. “We speak for the majority of her family when we say her presence will not be missed by many, very few tears will be shed, and there will be no lamenting over her passing.” HAVE YOU SEEN THIS?! This obituary was posted in the @theScoutnews over the weekend. What do you think about it? pic.twitter.com/v2JGzWOCaE — Stephanie Santostasi (@Stephanie_NC9) July 3, 2017 Upset, Miller’s son Robert responded to the obituary, saying it’s untrue. Robert Miller blamed the writing on his sisters, although one sister said she didn’t write it, and called the obituary tragic and sad. After the obituary appeared, a viewer contacted WTVC to say it appeared some sections were plagiarized. Several sections are similar to the 2008 obituary for Dolores Aguilar ran in the Vallejo Times Herald in California. “Unbelievable. [She] doesn’t even have the integrity to write something for herself – just goes out and steals something,” Miller told WTVC. ||||| Cornelia June Rogers Miller passed away in February of 2017, but her recent obituary has gone viral, stirring up controversy in her family and online. (Image: Robert Miller) FOLLOW-UP: On Thursday, we reported that this obituary had been partly plagiarized from a 2008 obit notice that appeared in a San Francisco newspaper. Watch the update here. PREVIOUSLY: Obituaries are published in newspapers every day, but you've probably never read one like the one you're about to read. Friday, the Cherokee Scout in Murphy, North Carolina posted an obituary for Cornelia June Rogers Miller. She lived in Florida, but had a summer home in Murphy - a small town where the views are breathtaking. June and her husband visited often. "Once my father retired, they would go up to Murphy pretty much whenever they liked to. They would go for a weekend in the winter," said Robert Miller, June's oldest son. Miller says it wasn't until last year that his father had to sell the summer home in Murphy. It was becoming too much for the couple to make the drive from Florida. Eventually, they both ended up in an assisted living facility. "He was actually her roommate at the facility," Miller told NewsChannel 9. According to the obituary in the Cherokee Scout, June died in February. "She was 82 years old, I believe, so she had a variety of complications," Miller explained when we asked how she passed. It wasn't until last week though, nearly four months after her death, that the obituary showed up in the paper. Part of it reads: "There will be no service, no prayers, and no closure for the family she spent a lifetime tearing apart." We sent it to June's son. "The whole thing is just sad," Miller said. It most obituaries, you find a message honoring a person's life. That's not the case here. Another part read: "Drugs were a major love in her life as June had no hobbies, made no contribution to society and rarely shared a kind word or deed in her life." It goes on to say: "We speak for the majority of the family when we say her presence will not be missed by many." As we showed the obit to people in Murphy, they couldn't believe it. "Yeah, it's disturbing," said one man. So, who wrote the obituary about June? We still don't know. But, June's son Robert has an idea. "It's unbelievable that my sisters would write this," he said. We tracked down one of his sisters, but she says she didn't write it either. She called the obituary very tragic and very sad. "It's really sad that they don't have anything better to do," Miller added. Robert just hopes the memories his father and mother shared in Murphy won't ever be forgotten, and wants his mother to be remembered as a loving, generous woman. Miller tells us he sent a new obit to the paper that will run next week. We wanted to know if the Cherokee Scout considered rejecting the obituary. When we asked, publisher David Brown said, "the family's will overrode the editor." Brown told us the paper does look through each obituary and they feel they should only edit something if there is a very compelling reason to do so. Brown wouldn't say who sent the original obituary in.
– In the Deep South, a predilection for proper manners often means the temptation to tell someone off is replaced with a "Bless your heart." But an obituary that appeared last month in a North Carolina newspaper flouted politeness, and at least one family member isn't happy, KDVR reports. The death notice for Cornelia June Rogers Miller, who died in February, ran in Murphy's Cherokee Scout newspaper, and it wasn't a flattering depiction of the great-grandmother, who "died alone after a long battle with drug addiction and depression." "Drugs were a major love in her life as June had no hobbies, made no contribution to society, and rarely shared a kind word or deed in her life," the obituary says. "We speak for the majority of her family when we say her presence will not be missed by many, very few tears will be shed, and there will be no lamenting over her passing." All of which has her son, Robert Miller, fuming—and he thinks he knows who placed the obituary. "It's unbelievable that my sisters would write this," he tells WTVC, noting his mom was a "loving, generous woman." WTVC managed to track down one of his two sisters, and she tells the station she didn't write the obituary, calling it "tragic." To make matters worse, it appears parts of the obituary may have been plagiarized from one written for someone in California in 2008. "[She] doesn't even have the integrity to write something for herself," Miller says, apparently referring to the sister he thinks trashed their mom. The Cherokee Scout publisher says the paper scans all submitted obituaries but notes they won't change anything unless there's a solid reason. "The family's will overrode the editor," he says. Miller says he sent in a new obituary to replace the printed one. (It's not the first scathing obituary.)
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Some might think it's up there with the flying pig and the killer rabbit, in the list of improbable animals – the screaming tadpole. But it's real. Scientists in South America have discovered that the larvae of the Argentine horned frog, a species remarkable for its tendency to try eating anything that passes, emit a "brief, clear and very audible metallic-like sound" when they feel threatened. Horned frog tadpoles are naturally aggressive and carnivorous, often eating the tadpoles of other frogs, and it is possible that the scream is mainly emitted when another horned frog tadpole moves to attack it as a measure to avoid cannibalism. The discovery, reported in the Swedish journal Acta Zoological, is the first evidence for the production of sound by the larvae of anurans (frogs and toads). It was made by Dr Guillermo Natale of the National University of La Plata in Buenos Aires, and his colleagues, when they were studying the mating calls and croakings of adult frogs. Many adult amphibians use loud sounds such as croaks to advertise their presence, and often to attract sexual partners but until now researchers did not realise amphibian larvae might also produce sounds underwater. That changed when Dr Natale caught a horned frog tadpole in a pond using a hand-held net. "We heard a brief, clear and very audible metallic-like sound," he said. To investigate further, the researchers caught a wild pair of breeding adults, and began a programme to rear them in captivity. The researchers found that when horned frog tadpoles come into contact with, or are prodded by, an external object such as a metal spatula, they let out a brief, metallic sound consisting of a short series of higher frequency pulses. The tadpoles produce the sound by pushing air out of their lungs, which develop very early; tadpoles that are just three days old are capable of emitting loud distress signals. The discovery raises the possibility that other tadpoles may produce sound. ||||| By Matt Walker Editor, Earth News Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play. Advertisement Tadpoles of one frog species let out an audible "scream" when they come under attack, scientists have discovered. They only make the noise, described as a brief, clear metallic sound made up of a series of notes, when in distress. It is the first time any vertebrate larva has been found to use sound to communicate underwater. The discovery that frog tadpoles can make sounds also raises the possibility that a host of aquatic larvae communicate in a similar way. The distress calls are made by tadpoles of the horned frog Ceratophrys ornata which lives in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, researchers report in the journal Acta Zoologica. That tadpoles communicate somehow is simply amazing Dr Guillermo Natale National University of La Plata, Buenos Aires Scientist Dr Guillermo Natale of the National University of La Plata in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and his colleagues, were studying the mating calls of adult frogs. Many adult amphibians use loud sounds such as croaks to advertise their presence, and often to attract sexual partners. Until now though, researchers did not realise that amphibian larva might also produce sounds underwater. That changed when Dr Natale caught a horned frog tadpole in a pond using a hand-held net. Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play. "We heard a brief, clear and very audible metallic-like sound," he told the BBC. C. ornata tadpoles are difficult to find in the wild, so the researchers caught a wild pair of breeding adults, and began a programme to rear the young amphibians in captivity. This enabled the scientists to better study the noise they had heard in the field. The team discovered that C. ornata tadpoles are naturally aggressive and carnivorous, often eating the tadpoles of other frog species that they encounter. However, "much to our astonishment, they do not eat each other," says Dr Natale, who is also an assistant researcher Argentinean Research Council (Conicet). That may be because of the "screams" emitted by the tadpoles. The researchers found that when C. ornata tadpoles come into contact with, or are prodded by, an external object such as a metal spatula, they let out a brief, metallic sound consisting of a short series of higher frequency pulses. FROG FACTS Watch an 'alien scene' of feasting tadpoles The first truly monogamous amphibian was discovered this year Toads, close relatives of frogs, may be able to predict when an impending earthquake will strike Watch more videos of bizarre frog and toad behaviour here Each "scream" lasts for just 0.05 seconds. Producing distress calls is likely to help prevent the tadpoles cannibalising each other. Underwater call The tadpole produce the sound by pushing air out of their lungs. The lungs develop very early in this species; tadpoles that are just three days old are capable of emitting loud distress signals. They continue to emit distress calls underwater both as tadpoles and after they have begun metamorphosis (when they become froglets). The tadpoles also produce the sounds when they are removed from the water. In fact, when out of the water, they make the distress call more frequently. This could be because the tadpoles can more easily access air, which they then expel. An oscillogram show the pulsated structure of the tadpole's distress call with pulsated structure "That tadpoles communicate somehow is simply amazing," says Dr Natale. "They possess the structures to do so within 3 days of life." He and his colleagues now want to study how and why the ability develops so rapidly, and how the sound is perceived by other tadpoles. "[We want to know] what information specifically is communicated," he says. Few larvae of any animal species are known to produce sounds. Those that do tend to be insect larvae, which live on land, making their sounds into the air rather than underwater. For example, juveniles of one species of common silkmoth caterpillar (Antheraea polyphemus) make "clicking" sounds with their mandibles to warn off predators such as ants. A female adult horned frog But as far as the researchers can tell, horned frog tadpoles are the first underwater larvae, and first larvae of any vertebrate, to make sounds. The discovery could have far-reaching implications for our understanding of the behaviour and ecology of amphibians, many of which are threatened by disease, habitat destruction and illegal trade. "We have definitely underestimated their abilities," says Dr Natale. "In more than 200 years of [amphibian research] this has never been reported." Bookmark with: Delicious Digg reddit Facebook StumbleUpon What are these? E-mail this to a friend Printable version
– Scientists studying the calls of adult Argentine horned frogs were amazed to discover that the species' larvae also make sounds—screams even, reports the Independent. The tadpole's scream is a "brief, clear and very audible metallic-like sound," say researchers. They believe the distress calls save the tadpoles from being cannibalized by adults of their species, which is known for its willingness to eat anything it can, including other kinds of frogs. This is the first time underwater larvae or any vertebrate larvae have been known to make sounds, the BBC notes. The researchers believe the discovery has wide-reaching implications for the understanding of amphibian behavior. "We have definitely underestimated their abilities," says the lead researcher, who now plans to study how other tadpoles respond to the sound.
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Breaking News Emails Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings. / Updated By Tom Winter, Andrew Blankstein, Elisha Fieldstadt and The Associated Press Bill Cosby’s wife underwent questioning that was at times contentious during a deposition in February involving a defamation case involving her husband. But Camille Cosby gave few answers in the six-hour-long deposition, often invoking spousal privilege and at times refusing to answer questions altogether, according to a transcript released Friday. "I’m done,” Camille Cosby said at one point in reply to a question. At another time, she left the room where the Feb. 22 deposition was taking place. The deposition was conducted as part of a defamation suit filed against Bill Cosby by seven women who say they were portrayed as liars after accusing the comedian of sexual assault. Camille Cosby is not named in the suit. Bill Cosby has counter-sued the seven women who filed suit, also alleging defamation. Camille Cosby was read sections of her husband's 2005 deposition where he said he "had sex and we had dinners and sex and rendezvous" with Beth Farrier in the 1970s. However, when asked repeatedly if she thought her husband was being deceitful, or whether or not she had an opinion on whether Bill Cosby deceived her, Camille Cosby invoked marital privilege or said she had no opinion. When asked about honesty and what it means, Camille Cosby answered: "I'm not going to expound on this." When she was told she had to, she answered: "I do not have to. I'm done." Camille Cosby also refused to answer in the deposition whether or not it is a dishonest act or whether or not it is deceitful to give Quaaludes to someone for the purposes of sex. Related: Bill Cosby Said He Gave Quaaludes to Woman Before Sex, Court Documents Show Dr. Bill Cosby and Dr. Camille Cosby, right, are photographed at the 50th Anniversary Gala of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art on Friday, Nov. 7, in Washington. AP About 50 women have publicly accused Bill Cosby of sexual misconduct going back decades. Cosby and his representatives have repeatedly denied the allegations. Bill Cosby faces a criminal case in Pennsylvania for allegedly drugging and molesting a former Temple University employee in 2004. Bill Cosby has not yet entered a plea in that case, but his attorneys have said he is innocent of the charges. The woman in that case is not part of the defamation suit. Camille Cosby invoked spousal privilege in the February deposition when asked whether or not her husband has been truthful with her. She did say she never obtained Quaaludes for her own use or someone else's use. She was asked by an opposing attorney, "now, can we agree that throughout your marriage, Mr. Cosby acted with a lack of integrity?" Camille's attorney, Monique Pressley, interjected immediately and instructed Camille Cosby that she did not have to answer that question or any others related to conversations with her husband. Camille Cosby replied: "And I won't." Related: Women Suing Bill Cosby for Defamation Win Key Ruling When asked if she had an opinion on whether Bill Cosby acted with a lack of integrity, Camille Cosby said she wouldn’t answer. Camille said she rarely watched television or read newspapers and when asked if "all of the information that you have regarding the sexual allegations against your husband came from conversation — whether conversations with your husband or conversations with counsel,” Camille said, "That is correct. That's my answer." Camille also said that she has no understanding and is unaware of what her husband said in the 2005 deposition where Bill Cosby said he obtained Quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with. The lawyer for the seven women suing Cosby for defamation, Joseph Cammarata, asked her about Shawn Thompson, a woman who said Bill Cosby fathered her daughter, Autumn Jackson, in the 1970s. Jackson was convicted in 1997 of attempting to extort money from Bill Cosby to prevent her from telling a tabloid she's his daughter. He acknowledged he had an affair with her mother and had given her money. Camille Cosby said that Autumn Jackson is not Bill Cosby's daughter and that she is confident about that "because there was a test, a DNA test." Related: Bill Cosby Wants Another Chance to Throw Out Sexual-Assault Case Camille said, "I do not have an opinion." However, later she said, "it was a big deal then, yes" when it was revealed that in the 1970s Bill Cosby had extramarital affairs. Camille Cosby was also questioned on April 19, but that transcript has not been released. Her lawyers argued unsuccessfully to stop the deposition, which a judge ruled she would have to givebut said she could refuse to answer questions about private communications between her and her husband. An attorney handling a separate lawsuit against Bill Cosby revealed Friday that Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner provided sworn testimony Wednesday. In the sexual battery lawsuit filed in Los Angeles, Judy Huth says Cosby forced her to perform a sex act on him at the Playboy Mansion around 1974, when she was 15. Bill Cosby's former lawyers have accused Huth of attempting to extort him before filing the case and have tried unsuccessfully to have it dismissed. Huth's attorney, Gloria Allred, said Hefner's testimony will remain under seal for now. Hefner also was named as a defendant in a case filed Monday by former model Chloe Goins, who accuses Bill Cosby of drugging and sexually abusing her at the Playboy Mansion in 2008. ||||| Camille Cosby’s February deposition in a defamation case brought by several women who have previously accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault was combative. A transcript of the deposition, made public today, shows that, from the start, Camille Cosby refused to answer a number of questions she deemed personal and off-limits. In total, the deposition lasted about eight hours, but included frequent breaks and interruptions. Joseph Cammarata, a lawyer for the women, previously said that her testimony lasted two-and-a-half hours. “That’s communication between my husband and me and that is it," she told lawyers at one point. Prior to Camille Cosby's deposition, a judge ruled that she did not have to answer questions protected by the marital disqualification rule. According to Cammarata, Camille Cosby evoked the marital disqualification rule more than a dozen times. The transcript reveals that the questions she faced were intense. At one point she was asked “Now, can we agree that throughout your marriage that your husband betrayed the sanctity of your marital home?” A moment later, she faced this question: “Would you agree that throughout your marriage Mr. Cosby used his position, power to manipulate young women?” In that instance, Camille Cosby was instructed by her lawyer not to answer. Two months after that first deposition, Camille Cosby was deposed a second time, according to attorneys for her and her husband. In a statement obtained by ABC News at the time, lawyers Dan Small and Monique Pressley, who represent Camille and Bill Cosby respectively, said that the comedian's wife had "no relevant non-privileged information to offer in this case." "Mrs. Cosby was able to persevere and cooperate in today's proceedings to the best of her abilities," they continued. "We are thankful for this distraction to now be over." Bill Cosby's legal team has repeatedly denied the allegations. ||||| Bill Cosby in February 2016 in Norristown, Pa. (Photo: Clem Murray, AP) A few days before a second pre-trial hearing in Bill Cosby's sexual-assault case, he was reminded of his many accusers pursuing him in civil court thanks to developments Friday. In Massachusetts, a newly released transcript shows that Cosby's wife Camille refused to answer dozens of questions during a combative February deposition in connection with a defamation lawsuit filed by seven of her husband's accusers in federal court in Springfield, near where the Cosbys have a home. In Los Angeles, Gloria Allred, who represents an accuser suing Cosby for sexual battery, said Friday she took a deposition from Hugh Hefner on Wednesday at the Playboy Mansion, but the contents of the testimony were sealed. Hefner gave the deposition in a case filed by Judy Huth, who alleges Cosby forced her to perform a sex act on him around 1974 at Hefner's mansion. And on Monday in Los Angeles, yet another accuser, who also claims she was sexually assaulted by Cosby at the Playboy Mansion in 2008, sued Cosby and Hefner, asserting that Hefner was an enabler who knew what his friend Cosby was doing to women at the mansion or should have known it. Hugh Hefner in October 2011. (Photo: Matt Sayles, AP) In Massachusetts, Camille Cosby testified that she had no knowledge that her husband allegedly gave women drugs and had sex with them, according to a transcript of her deposition released Friday. Camille Cosby strongly resisted being deposed and her husband's legal team tried to stop it. But she was compelled by a federal judge anyway, although he confirmed her right to not answer any questions that violated her marital privilege. The deposition took place over two days in Boston; the transcript released Friday covers only the first day. It was clear in February that Camille Cosby's deposition had been strained, in part because the lawyers acknowledged it after the first day ended and a second day had to be scheduled. She refused to answer many times and the judge had to be called to rule on whether she had to. The transcript shows the back-and-forth between her and her lawyers and the accusers' lawyer, Joe Cammarata. Joseph Cammarata, right, in Springfield, Mass., after a deposition of Camille Cosby. (Photo: Elise Amendola, AP) She was subjected to intense questioning by Cammarata, who represents seven women who claim the comedian, through his lawyers, branded them as liars after they came forward in late 2014 with accusations that he drugged and/or raped them in episodes dating back decades. Among other questions, Cammarata asked her whether her husband "acted with a lack of integrity" during their 52-year marriage. She also was asked if her husband used his position and power "to manipulate young women." She refused to answer those questions after her lawyer cited marital privilege, the legal rule that communications between spouses are private. Camille and Bill Cosby in October 2009. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin, AP) Although discovery and depositions are continuing in the various civil suits against him, none of it involves Cosby himself yet. Legal motions involving him have been put on temporary hold until the resolution of the sole criminal case against him, in Montgomery County, Pa., outside Philadelphia, where the Cosbys also have a home. On Tuesday, Cosby is scheduled to appear for a second pre-trial hearing on felony sexual assault charges stemming from an encounter at his home with ex-Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2004. Constand said Cosby drugged and raped her; Cosby said the encounter was consensual. Cosby's legal team is trying to get the criminal charges thrown out on the grounds that he was promised immunity in the case from a former district attorney. So far, his lawyers have failed to persuade the Pennsylvania judge. Nearly 60 women have accused Cosby of forcing unwanted sexual contact on them in encounters dating back to the mid-1960s. Cosby has denied the allegations. Contributing: The Associated Press Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/1Tsuxlo
– Camille Cosby refused to answer dozens of questions about her famous husband during two days of deposition back in February, USA Today reports. According to ABC News, a transcript of the deposition released Friday shows Camille cited "spousal privilege" in her refusal to answer questions more than a dozen times alone. Other times she refused without giving a reason or just left the room, NBC News reports. The deposition was part of a defamation suit against Bill Cosby brought by seven women who accused him of sexual assault and say they were branded liars in response. Bill has countersued them for defamation, as well. The Cosbys' legal team had tried to get Camille out of the deposition, but a federal judge insisted. Among the questions Camille refused to answer: what honesty means, if Bill "acted with a lack of integrity," if it is "dishonest" or "deceitful" to give Quaaludes to someone in order to have sex with them, if Bill used his status to "manipulate young women, and if Bill "betrayed the sanctity of [her] marital home." She did say she had no idea Bill allegedly gave drugs to women and had sex with them throughout their 52 years of marriage. ABC describes the eights hours total of deposition—during which Camille was read parts of a 2005 deposition in which Bill talked about having sex with one of his accusers in the 1970s—as "combative."
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LORAIN, Ohio (AP) — Police say a 3-year-old Ohio girl is in critical condition after being shot in the head by her 4-year-old brother, who found a gun in a dresser. The shooting occurred around 10 a.m. Sunday in Lorain, about 30 miles west of Cleveland. Police say the two children were playing alone in a bedroom when the boy found a loaded .40-caliber handgun. A police report says the father of the 3-year-old girl was holding her in his arms when officers arrived. The report says the 4-year-old boy was crying and that he repeatedly told an officer he was sorry. Lorain police Capt. Roger Watkins says the investigation will be turned over to the Lorain County prosecutor's office to determine if criminal charges will be filed. ||||| LORAIN, Ohio –A 3-year-old girl remains in critical condition after she was shot in the head Sunday morning by her 4-year-old brother, police said. Police said the shooting was accidental. The girl was flown to Rainbow Babies Children's Hospital and was listed in critical condition as of Monday morning, the Lorain Police Department said. Officers were called about 10 a.m. to a home on the 1300 block of West 28th Street and found a man holding his daughter, who was shot in the head. Responding police officers learned that the boy and girl were playing by in a room by themselves when the boy got his hands on the gun. The boy accidentally pulled the trigger and shot his sister, police said. Investigators interviewed three other people who were in the house during the shooting and police recovered the gun at the scene, a report said. The Lorain County Prosecutor is reviewing the incident to determine if charges will be filed.
– What started out as fun playtime between a 4-year-old Ohio boy and his 3-year-old sister ended horrifically after the boy accidentally shot his sister with a gun, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. The children were playing in a room by themselves in a Lorain home yesterday morning when the boy found the .40-caliber handgun in a dresser and accidentally pulled the trigger, shooting his sister in the head, according to cops. When police arrived at the house, they found the father of the kids cradling his daughter; the 4-year-old was crying and told police multiple times that he was sorry, the AP reports. Three other people in the home at the time of the shooting were interviewed by police and the gun was recovered. The injured girl is reported to be in critical condition at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital. (A 5-year-old Kentucky boy accidentally killed his 2-year-old sister with his "My First Rifle" last year.)
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Photo Advertisement Continue reading the main story WASHINGTON — A restriction on abortion coverage, added late Saturday to the health care bill passed by the House, has energized abortion opponents with their biggest victory in years — emboldening them for a pitched battle in the Senate. The provision would block the use of federal subsidies for insurance that covers elective abortions. Advocates on both sides are calling Saturday’s vote the biggest turning point in the battle over the procedure since the ban on so-called partial birth abortions six years ago. Both sides credited a forceful lobbying effort by Roman Catholic bishops with the success of the provision, inserted in the bill under pressure from conservative Democrats. The provision would apply only to insurance policies purchased with the federal subsidies that the health legislation would create to help low- and middle-income people, and to policies sold by a government-run insurance plan that would be created by the legislation. Abortion rights advocates charged Sunday that the provision threatened to deprive women of abortion coverage because insurers would drop the procedure from their plans in order to sell them in the newly expanded market of people receiving subsidies. The subsidized market would be large because anyone earning less than $88,000 for a family of four — four times the poverty level — would be eligible for a subsidy under the House bill. Women who received subsidies or public insurance could still pay out of pocket for the procedure. Or they could buy separate insurance riders to cover abortion, though some evidence suggests few would, in part because unwanted pregnancies are by their nature unexpected. Not many women who undergo abortions file private insurance claims, perhaps to avoid leaving a record. A 2003 study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute found that 13 percent of abortions were billed directly to insurance companies. Only about half of those who receive insurance coverage from their employers have coverage of abortion in any event, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Abortion rights advocates, however, are grappling with a series of incremental defeats in the courts and in Congress, and are now bracing for another struggle as the health care legislation goes to the Senate. “This is going to make it that much more challenging on the Senate side,” said Nancy Keenan, president of Naral Pro-Choice America. The president and Democratic leaders alike have long promised that their proposed health care overhaul would not direct taxpayer money to pay for elective abortions. But the president has never spelled out his answer to the contentious question of how to apply that standard to the novel program of offering insurance subsidies or a government-run plan to millions of poor and middle-class Americans. House Democratic leaders had sought to resolve the issue by requiring insurers to segregate their federal subsidies into separate accounts. Insurance plans would have been permitted to use only consumer premiums or co-payments to pay for abortions, even if individuals who received federal subsidies used them to buy health plans that covered abortion. But the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, was unable to hold on to enough moderate and conservative Democratic votes to pass the health bill using that approach, forcing her to allow a vote Saturday night on the amendment containing the broader ban. Advertisement Continue reading the main story Advertisement Continue reading the main story Five states go further than the amendment to the health care overhaul. The five — Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota and Oklahoma — already bar private insurance plans from covering elective abortions. The federal employees’ health insurance plan and most state Medicaid programs also ban coverage of abortion, complying with a three-decade old ban on federal abortion financing. Seventeen state Medicaid programs, however, do cover the procedure, by using only state money. The bishops objected to the segregated funds proposal previously embraced by the House and Senate Democratic leaders in part because they argued that it amounted to nothing more than an accounting gimmick. Advocates on both sides of the question weighed in, but the bishops’ role was especially pivotal in part because many Democrats had expected them to be an ally. They had pushed for decades for universal health insurance. “We think that providing health care is itself a pro-life thing, and we think that, by and large, providing better health coverage to women could reduce abortions,” said Richard M. Doerflinger, a spokesman for the anti-abortion division of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “But we don’t make these decisions statistically, and to get to that good we cannot do something seriously evil.” Beginning in late July, the bishops began issuing a series of increasingly stern letters to lawmakers making clear that they saw the abortion-financing issue as pre-eminent, a deal-breaker. At the funeral of Senator Edward M. Kennedy in August, Cardinal Seán O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, stole a private moment with Mr. Obama to deliver the same warning: The bishops very much wanted to support his health care overhaul but not if it provided for abortions. The president “listened intently,” the cardinal reported on his blog. Bishops implored their priests and parishioners to call lawmakers. Conservative Democrats negotiating over the issue with party leaders often expressed their desire to meet the bishops’ criteria, according to many people involved in the talks. On Oct. 8 three members of the bishops conference wrote on its behalf to lawmakers, “If the final legislation does not meet our principles, we will have no choice but to oppose the bill.” On Sunday, some abortion rights advocates lashed out at the bishops. “It was an unconscionable power play,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, accusing the bishops of “interceding to put their own ideology in the national health care plan.” Now some Senate Democrats, including Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, are pushing to incorporate the same restrictions in their own bill. Senior Senate Democratic aides said the outcome was too close to call. ||||| President Obama and Senate Democrats sought on Sunday to generate momentum from the House's passage of health-care legislation, even as a new hurdle emerged: profound dismay among abortion-rights supporters over antiabortion provisions inserted into the House bill. The House passed its version of health-care legislation Saturday night by a vote of 220 to 215 after the approval of an amendment that would sharply restrict the availability of coverage for abortions, which many insurance plans now offer. The amendment goes beyond long-standing prohibitions against public funding for abortions, limiting abortion coverage even for women paying for it without government subsidies. The abortion issue had been rumbling within the House Democratic caucus for weeks, but Saturday's votes revealed the depths of the fault lines. The amendment passed with the support of 64 Democrats, roughly a quarter of the party caucus. But abortion-rights supporters are vowing to strip the amendment out, as the focus turns to the Senate and the conference committee that would resolve differences between the two bills. Although House liberals voted for the bill with the amendment to keep the process moving forward, Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.) said she has collected more than 40 signatures from House Democrats vowing to oppose any final bill that includes the amendment -- enough to block passage. "There's going to be a firestorm here," DeGette said. "Women are going to realize that a Democratic-controlled House has passed legislation that would prohibit women paying for abortions with their own funds. . . . We're not going to let this into law." Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is waiting for cost estimates of provisions of the bill he is cobbling together, and he hopes to bring it to the Senate floor before Thanksgiving. The battle over abortion has been more muted in the Senate, but Jim Manley, Reid's spokesman, predicted that would change. "The debate in the House highlighted some of these issues that we're going to have to face here in the Senate, and on this issue in particular, it's something [Reid] is going to have to talk with his caucus about," Manley said. Obama left the abortion issue unmentioned Sunday when he appeared in the White House Rose Garden to give brief remarks congratulating the House on its "courageous" passage of the bill. "Now it falls on the United States Senate to take the baton and bring this effort to the finish line on behalf of the American people," he said. "And I'm absolutely confident that they will." Other issues remain unresolved. The House bill's primary new revenue source to pay for the bill is an income tax surcharge on families earning more than $1 million; the Senate bill will probably rely on a proposed new excise tax on costly insurance plans. The House and Senate also differ on a government-run insurance plan to be offered on the new marketplace where small businesses and people without employer-provided coverage -- about 30 million in all -- would buy coverage. The Senate version would limit this "public option" by allowing states to opt out of it, but even in that form, the bill's prospects are unclear. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), whose vote Democrats will probably need to break a filibuster, warned again Sunday on Fox News that he will withhold his support if the bill includes a public option. The bills also differ in their requirements for employers to provide coverage -- the House's language is tougher -- and in the subsidies for those who cannot afford coverage, which are larger in the House version. Both bills deny subsidies to illegal immigrants, but the Senate version goes further by also barring them from buying coverage on the new marketplace with their own money.
– The abortion funding ban included in the health-care bill passed by the House Saturday could doom it down the road, as abortion supporters in the Senate threaten revolt, and those who voted for it in the House vow they won't back the final bill if it's still included, the Washington Post reports. The 11th-hour provision, which was pushed through with the help of the Roman Catholic bishops, "is going to make it that much more challenging on the Senate side," the president of NARAL-Pro Choice America tells the New York Times. And even if the bill somehow manages to squeak by in the Senate, a group of House liberals who voted for the amendment just to keep the bill moving has vowed to block its final passage. "We're not going to let this into law," said Rep. Diana DeGette. For those on both sides of the abortion debate, the stakes are high. "This would be the greatest restriction on a woman's right to get an abortion with her own money in our lifetime," the pro-choice activist said.
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Dataset Card for AutoTrain Evaluator

This repository contains model predictions generated by AutoTrain for the following task and dataset:

  • Task: Summarization
  • Model: datien228/distilbart-cnn-12-6-ftn-multi_news
  • Dataset: multi_news
  • Config: default
  • Split: test

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