Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Obama Takes Selfie With ‘Big Papi’ David Oritz

Obama Takes Selfie With ‘Big Papi’ David Oritz

Obama Takes Selfie With ‘Big Papi’ David Oritz

Posted: 01 Apr 2014 11:31 AM PDT

What do you do when the President asks you to pose for an official photo? Well, if you’re Red Sox player David Oritz, aka Big Papi, you ask him to take a selfie first.

“Do you mind if I take my own?” Oritz asked Obama before snapping this gem:

While the photo isn’t quite in Ellen Degeneres selfie territory, it had been retweeted almost 19,000 times in less than an hour.

“It’s the Big Papi selfie,” Obama said.

Top Gun 2 Will Be Tom Cruise vs. Drones, Supposedly

Posted: 01 Apr 2014 11:04 AM PDT

For everyone who has been waiting with baited breath for the long-rumored Top Gun sequel — there’s finally some news that makes it sound as though the film is inching closer to the big screen.

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer shared a few encouraging details about the follow-up to the 80s classic with The Huffington Post: “The concept is, basically, are the pilots obsolete because of drones. [Tom] Cruise is going to show them that they’re not obsolete. They’re here to stay.”

To review: Tom Cruise? Check. Pilots? Check? Drones? Sure, why not. The project still doesn’t have a cast or director (or script, as far as we’re aware), but progress is progress. Now if we can just figure out how to get Val Kilmer’s glorious Twitter account to be in charge of the drone program that Cruise is battling, we’ll be all set.

[Huffington Post]

The Australian Cast of The Lion King Performs Awesome, Impromptu Version of “The Circle Of Life” On a Plane

Posted: 01 Apr 2014 11:03 AM PDT

En route from Brisbane to Sydney, the Australian cast of The Lion King treated their fellow passengers to a spontaneous, spirited rendition of the show’s most iconic song, “The Circle Of Life.” You’d think they be tired from singing it on stage so many times, but nope!

Watch their awesome performance — and the delightfully confused reactions it prompted — above.

Stem Cell Scientist Guilty of Falsifying Data

Posted: 01 Apr 2014 11:01 AM PDT

Haruko Obokata, a stem cell scientist at the RIKEN Center for Development Biology in Kobe, Japan, has been found guilty of misconduct by a committee of investigators led by her own government-funded institute after other researchers questioned the findings.

In January, Obokata, with colleagues both in Japan and in the U.S., published two papers claiming to describe a surprising new way to generate stem cells from already developed cells. The process involved simply stressing the mouse cells, either with an acidic solution or with physical force, to turn back the clock on their development and revert back to an earlier, stem cell stage in which these cells could then be made into any of the body's hundreds of cell types.

After other researchers could not replicate the results, however, one of the senior scientists on the paper, Teruhiko Wakayama, called for the two papers, which appeared in the journal Nature, to be retracted. Wakayama said he was only able to repeat the experiment successfully with Obokata's help, but wasn't able to do so on his own.

More skepticism arose as scientists pointed out discrepancies and irregularities in the images of the stem cells published in the papers, and the RIKEN committee concluded that some of the images were enhanced or falsified to improve the results.

The committee did not determine whether the actual technique, known as stimulus-triggered activation of pluripotency (STAP), is valid or not. A scientist at Chinese University of Hong Kong reported on ResearchGate that he had partially repeated Obokata's experiment, but that claim hasn't been verified. Officials at Nature are also investigating the study.

This isn't the first time that falsified data has plagued the stem cell field. In 2006, Korean veterinary scientist Woo Suk Hwang claimed to have successfully used the cloning technique on human cells to generate patient-specific stem cells, but it later emerged that the stem cells came from already existing embryos.

In a statement in Japanese translated by the journal Science, Obokata said she will appeal the judgment. "I am filled with feelings of indignation and surprise," she wrote. "At this stage, considering the STAP cell discovery itself to be fabricated is a misunderstanding; I cannot possibly accept this." RIKEN scientists will attempt to replicate her research, along with outside experts in the stem cell field. The institute plans to set up a new committee to determine Obokata’s punishment.


Corruption Still Plagues Ukraine as West Pumps in Aid

Posted: 01 Apr 2014 11:00 AM PDT

Last week, Vladimir Belonog, a military supplies salesman in Kiev, Ukraine, put a new item up for sale, not on his usual website, where he deals in everything from camouflage jumpsuits to paintball guns and ninja stars, but on an Internet auction site he hadn’t used before. The new items were U.S. army rations – known as a meals ready to eat, or MREs – and right on the packaging, alongside the seal of the U.S. Department of Defense, each one said, "U.S. Government Property, commercial resale is unlawful." In the days before Belonog started selling them, the Pentagon had begun delivering about 300,000 MREs as military aid to help Ukraine defend itself against a Russian invasion. How Belonog got his hands on such items is unclear.

Reached by phone on Tuesday, he admitted that he was the seller, but denied that they were the same MREs that the U.S. government is providing to Ukraine. (A few minutes after Belonog spoke to TIME, he deleted the MREs from his sales page.) Asked about the label forbidding their resale, Belonog says, "What can I tell you? These things are easy to get, and they’re for sale all over the place." That seems to be the case.

As Ukrainian and Russian media have been quick to point out, several Ukrainian websites started hawking American MREs by the caseload – and on the cheap – just as the U.S. government began delivering them to Ukraine as part of a non-lethal military aid package. It has been impossible to confirm whether this aid was simply taken out the backdoor of Ukrainian army warehouses and sold. Alexei Mazepa, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, denies that this was going on. "The meals are safe and sound at our warehouses in Kiev," he says. "They have not even been distributed to the bases yet." But the coincidence of the online MRE bonanza has raised an urgent question for Ukraine’s new leaders: Can they guarantee that U.S. and European assistance will not simply be pilfered?

In the past few weeks, Western governments have pledged billions of dollars in loans and financial assistance to Ukraine after Russia invaded and annexed the region of Crimea last month. On March 27, the very day that Belonog put the American MREs up for sale, the U.S. Congress approved a $1 billion loan guarantee to Ukraine with a huge bipartisan majority. The same day, the International Monetary Fund, a global lender in which the U.S. is the single biggest contributor, pledged up to $18 billion in loans to prop up Ukraine’s nearly bankrupt economy. The European Union has meanwhile approved an aid package worth an additional $15 billion.

Pooled together, all of that assistance could be just enough to help Ukraine avoid defaulting on its national debt, but only if that money is properly spent and accounted for. Ukraine’s ability to do that will depend on its willingness to root out flagrant and widespread government corruption, which was the main reason the country’s former President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown in a revolution two months ago. "Nothing has really changed since then," says Stefan Meister, a Ukraine expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin. "We have no guarantees that this money will not go in other channels, as we’ve seen in the past. The system in Ukraine has not changed. We still have oligarchs in key positions."

Petro Poroshenko, the frontrunner in the presidential elections that are scheduled for May 25, is a billionaire confectionery magnate and a longtime government insider. He has served in ministerial positions and as head of the Central Bank under two presidential administrations going back nearly a decade. His main rival in these elections will by Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister who was released from prison only a month ago, where she was serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of office.

Her ties to shady Ukrainian businessmen are well documented. In the 1990s, the fortune she made in Ukraine’s natural gas trade earned her the nickname of "gas princess." Her close associate at the time, Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, wound up on trial in a U.S. federal court in San Francisco in 2004 for alleged money-laundering, wire fraud and extortion, and he was eventually sentenced to serve 9 years in a California prison.

Ukraine’s current Prime Minister and its interim President are both members of Tymoshenko’s political party and her close associates. "These are the same people we know for a long time," says Meister. "So to be honest, I’m pretty sure that we still have a corruption problem in Ukraine… Even worse, we have a very nontransparent situation at the moment. We don’t know who exactly is in charge of what, who decides what."

If she is elected President, Tymoshenko has pledged to fight corruption, as have most of the candidates who have put forward a platform for the vote. But even in accepting her party’s nomination on Saturday, she seemed aware of how difficult that would be in Ukraine. “I don’t believe that the authorities will ever start fighting their own corruption,” she told a crowd of her supporters in Kiev. Instead, she assured them, regular citizens would be given the means to take this fight to the courts themselves. But over the years, her electorate has long grown disillusioned with such promises. Yanukovych made them as well, most recently in November, just a few months before he was overthrown amid allegations of rampant corruption himself.

Even the leaders who emerged from that revolution have quickly fallen into the practice of self-enrichment. Dmitro Yarosh, the leader of a radical right-wing party who is also running for president, has admitted to riding around in the armored cars that were taken from the Yanukovych’s mansion right after he fled to Russia. Yarosh’s ultranationalist party, Pravy Sektor (Right Sector), later explained the confiscation of those cars in a statement: "Excuse us, but is Pravy Sektor supposed to pay for cars at a time of revolution? That’s the first thing. And the second, to drive Yarosh around in cars without armor would be criminal negligence."

On his social networking page, Belonog, the army supplies salesman, is a member of Pravy Sektor’s fan group, but he says that he is not one of the party’s activists. "Of course not," he says. "I’m just a fan." That’s a fine fan to have. The gear he sells on his website was just the kind favored by Ukraine’s revolutionaries this year, especially the paramilitary troops of Pravy Sektor. So the winter of rebellion must have been good for business, and if American MREs prove as popular as camouflage helmets, this political spring looks pretty promising for the people who sell them.

Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea to Write Memoir

Posted: 01 Apr 2014 10:55 AM PDT

Are you known for wearing nothing but a gym sock in public, whipping out wild bass licks, playing unplugged instruments at the Super Bowl and winning seven Grammy Awards? If you fit that bill, you should definitely write a memoir.

Currently, however, there’s only one man who fits that description: Michael Balzary, better known as Flea, the bassist and founding member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Grand Central Publishing just announced that they have acquired his memoir, which sounds good: there’s little doubt that he has a story or two to tell.

According to the press release Flea’s memoir, which he is apparently writing himself, will cover topics including:

His move from a "normal" upbringing in the suburbs of New York to Los Angeles to live a bohemian life with a jazz musician step-father; his young, rebellious life on the streets of LA where he befriends Anthony Kiedis and founds the Red Hot Chili Peppers with Kiedis and two other high school friends; details about his sometimes complex friendship and collaboration with Kiedis; his myriad experiences with hard drugs; and, of course, the tumultuous creative journey of the legendary Red Hot Chili Peppers through its various incarnations over the last 30 years, according to Flea.

A publication date has not yet been set for the as-yet untitled memoir. As Scar Tissue is already taken, perhaps My Life In Tube Socks would do?

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VIDEO: How I Met Your Mother‘s Surprise Ending

Posted: 01 Apr 2014 10:48 AM PDT

If there’s one lesson to be learned from the finale of How I Met Your Mother, it’s that the show was never really about the Mother at all.

Perhaps it doesn’t come as a complete shock, since it took a whopping eight seasons before Cristin Milioti’s character was revealed as the Mother, but the show ends with Ted rekindling his romance with Robin via a blue French horn.

While not everyone was pleased with the show’s ending (which included a few other surprises), it certainly got people talking — “Ted and Robin” was trending on Twitter Monday night, along with #HIMYMFinale and the show itself.

Watch the video above to see what happened.

Abbas: Palestinians To Seek Further U.N. Recognition

Posted: 01 Apr 2014 10:40 AM PDT

(RAMALLAH, West Bank) — President Mahmoud Abbas says the Palestinians are “immediately” resuming their bid to win further U.N. recognition and has signed applications for 15 U.N. agencies and conventions.

Abbas’ surprise move late Tuesday could derail U.S.-brokered peace talks with Israel. There was no immediate Israeli comment.

The talks resumed in late July, and Abbas said at the time he would suspend attempts to join U.N. agencies and treaties for nine months. Israel, in turn, said it would release 104 veteran Palestinian prisoners in four groups.

However, Israel has balked at releasing the last group.

Abbas said Tuesday “we will apply to 15 agencies and conventions immediately” because Israel failed to keep its word. He signed the applications in a televised ceremony.

Israel views the move as an attempt to avoid peace talks.

The Trend Miller and Budweiser May Want to Start Worrying About

Posted: 01 Apr 2014 10:32 AM PDT

Are you tempted to taste Hell? In the mood for a Hooker? Or perhaps it's time to try Zevia? The latter may sound like a mood-enhancing drug, but it's not. Neither are the others—not exactly, anyway. They're all unfamiliar beverage brands, a few of the many increasingly showing up on the menus of casinos, airlines, and pro baseball stadiums.

Craft beers and indie soft drink brands have been mainstays at local restaurants, bars, and markets for years. Heck, craft beer is so mainstream that even Costco and Walmart are now known to stock a few interesting selections. Lately, unfamiliar labels are more likely to be seen even in mass-market hubs and attractions that traditionally have been dominated by the world's biggest brands, often thanks to exclusive partnerships.

In February, Minnesota-based Sun Country Airlines announced it was getting Surly. Beers from Minnesota neighbor Surly Brewing Company with names like Hell, Furious, and Bender are now being sold in 16-ounce cans on Sun Country flights.

As NBC beer blogger Jim Galligan and, more recently, the Associated Press, have reported, Sun Country is one of several airlines to offer passengers beer options beyond the usual Miller and Budweiser products (which, it should be noted, Sun Country still sells). Shortly before Sun Country's craft beer infusion, Southwest Airlines introduced a partnership with New Belgium Brewing, the Colorado-based brewer known for Fat Tire Amber Ale, among many other beers. Like all alcoholic beverages on Southwest, a can of Fat Tire—airlines almost always stick with cans, or plastic bottles, to avoid broken glass on the plane—will run an airline customer $5.

Samuel Adams, the largest of all craft brewers, has been available on JetBlue since last summer, Frontier Airlines launched a big craft beer initiative in 2012, and Virgin America brought beers from 21st Amendment Brewery on board in 2009, and welcomed Anchor Steam beer a few years later. Best of all, Horizon and Alaska Airlines recently expanded their craft beer options to include brands such as Alaska's own Silver Gulch, and, in almost unheard-of fashion nowadays, the carriers offer beer and other alcoholic beverages on a complimentary basis on longer flights.

Casinos and Cruise Ships
Realizing that an impressive and unusual selection of beer and wine is not only good for business but practically necessary for the fine dining crowd today, casinos and bars along the Vegas strip have been ushering in craft beer brands in a hurry. In Connecticut, the Mohegan Sun resort and casino just introduced the Hooker Brewing Test Kitchen, which is pretty much what it sounds like: a spot for Bloomfield-based Hooker Brewing to make and sell experimental small-batch brews.

Cruise companies are increasingly playing up their craft beer selections as amenities as well: Celebrity Cruises, for instance, notes "up to 50 international craft beers" offered one ship's club. There are also beer-themed cruises focused on small and unusual local brews from operators such as Crystal Cruises and Un-Cruise Adventures.

Baseball Stadiums
Craft brews are nothing new at pro and minor league ballparks. Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, boasts perhaps the best beer selection in baseball, with no fewer than 14 local craft brews sold during games. But there are a few caveats of note: These craft brews are seriously pricey (over $15 a pop in some cases), and sometimes these craft beers aren't truly craft brews. For instance, last year, there was some uproar in the craft beer community regarding Yankee Stadium's "Craft Beer Destination" concession stand. All of the brews sold there just so happened to be MillerCoors products, though they featured indie-sounding "crafty" names such as Blue Moon and Batch 19.

If fans find it strange to see less Miller and Bud sold at the ballpark, then it might be downright surreal for soft drink giants such as Pepsi and Coke to be replaced, even to a small degree. Yet this season at the Oakland Coliseum, the old official soft drink sponsor of the A's (Pepsi) is out and a new one is being ushered in: Zevia, a naturally-sweetened, zero-calorie soda sold in flavors like cola, ginger ale, and black cherry. Zevia will be sold in bottles at all concessions stands in the stadium, and while Pepsi drinks will still be available for purchase, they'll only be offered as fountain soda (not in bottles).

One branding consultant told USA Today that the ball club may have a hard time convincing fans that Zevia is the soft drink for them. "It sounds like a car made behind the Iron Curtain 50 years ago," he said.

Duck Dynasty‘s Lisa Robertson Reveals Childhood Abuse in New Book

Posted: 01 Apr 2014 10:31 AM PDT

Duck Dynasty is best known for its male stars — the Robertson men who make those famous duck calls — but the women of the show are speaking out in a new book: The Women of Duck Commander: Surprising Insights from the Women Behind the Beards About What Makes This Family Work, out April 1.

The book, written by Kay, Korie, Missy, Jessica and Lisa Robertson, is heavy on parenting and relationship tips aimed at the fans who often ask them how their big TV-friendly family came to be. They don’t shy away from the dark stuff — marital problems and alcohol abuse, namely — but the biggest and darkest reveal comes in a chapter written by Lisa, Alan’s wife, who joined the show in its fourth season. In it, she describes being sexually abused by a relative when she was a child:

As a little girl, I had an extended family member who had major drug and alcohol problems. Unfortunately, that person lived with my grandparents, so I had to see him often. Because I spent so much time at my grandparents’ house, I was easy prey for him. My earliest memory of being molested was at the age of seven when he started to do things to me, things that made me feel bad and dirty.

Robertson never told her parents, until much later when she had her own children. The abuse continued until she was a teenager, when she threatened that she would tell her father and he would kill her abuser. She writes that she believes the trauma of her abuse led her to think that her “purpose in life was to please men,” contributing to her straying from her marriage. Eventually, as religion played more of a role in her life, she says she was able to heal herself and her marriage.

So why reveal such a personal matter in a chapter in the middle of book that’s also about cooking and Sunday school, in a context where readers probably expect hijinks about hunting?

Robertson explains that she did it because she’s aware that “what happened to me happens to many, many people” and that she wanted to show those people that she was able to recover. Though her own personal method of recovery, through religion, may not work for everyone, she gets her message across:

…I want all abuse survivors to know they have hope. They can have hope for complete healing, hope for great relationships, and hope for a wonderful life, free from the lingering effects of the trauma they have suffered.



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