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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Palestinian Unity Government To Be Formed Monday

Palestinian Unity Government To Be Formed Monday


Palestinian Unity Government To Be Formed Monday

Posted: 31 May 2014 10:24 AM PDT

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says the formation of a Palestinian unity government backed by the rival factions of Hamas and Fatah will be announced Monday.

Abbas told dozens of French pro-Palestinian activists on Saturday that Israel has informed him that it will shun such a government. The Islamic militant group Hamas is considered a terror organization by Israel and the West.

Abbas reiterated that the unity government is to consist of technocrats and follow his pragmatic political program. Abbas is the leader of Fatah, which has conducted intermittent peace talks with Israel for two decades.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Lone American Still Held in Afghanistan, Safely Returned

Posted: 31 May 2014 09:53 AM PDT

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the only American soldier still in captivity in Afghanistan, was released and returned to U.S. special operations forces Saturday. Berghdal had been held since 2009, when he was captured in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province.

Berghdal was released in exchange for five Afghan Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, who are being delivered into Qatari custody.

According to a senior Defense official, the handover occurred at approximately 10:30 am Eastern time Saturday along the eastern Afghanistan border with Pakistan, and took place quickly without incident, peacefully and without violence. Berghdal was in the custody of 18 Taliban fighters and was ushered onto a waiting helicopter by U.S. special operations forces. Once aboard Berghdal wrote on a paper plate “SF?,” asking over the loud aircraft engines whether he was being rescued by special forces operators. The official said the troops replied loudly “yes, we’ve been looking for you for a long time,” at which point Berghdal broke down crying.

Bergdahl is currently being held at a U.S. forward operating base under the care of American doctors until he is cleared for further travel, at which point he will be transferred to Bagram air base.

A 23-year-old private first class at the time of his capture, Bergdahl was promoted twice during his captivity to the rank of sergeant and is now 28 years old. American officials believe he spent much of his captivity in Pakistan and are not sure when he was moved to Afghanistan for the transfer. The last video showing proof that Berghdal was still alive was seen in January of this year.

President Barack Obama called Berghdal’s parents Saturday morning to inform them of their son’s release. "We were so joyful and relieved when President Obama called us today to give us the news that Bowe is finally coming home! We cannot wait to wrap our arms around our only son,” the Bergdahl family said in a statement. “Today, we are ecstatic!"

The transfer was not directly negotiated with the Taliban, but through the Amir of Qatar, officials said, whose help is being called “instrumental” to the agreement. Productive talks to bring about Berghdal’s release began only in the last several weeks.

The announcement comes days after President Obama announced that the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan will end this year, pending a complete withdrawal of American troops by the end of 2016.

“Today the American people are pleased that we will be able to welcome home Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, held captive for nearly five years,” Obama said in a statement Saturday. “Sergeant Bergdahl's recovery is a reminder of America's unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield.”

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Qatar is taking security precautions with the former Guantanamo prisoners to ensure U.S. safety is not compromised. “The United States government never forgot Sgt. Bergdahl, nor did we stop working to bring him back," Hagel said in a statement. The former detainees will be under a travel ban for a year.

Secretary of State John Kerry called Afghan President Hamid Karzai to brief him on the agreement Saturday, he said in a statement.

The White House is not providing further details on the deal. “While I cannot disclose all of the details of our discussions related to Sergeant Bergdahl, we appreciate the support of the government of Qatar, particularly the Amir, in helping to secure his release,” a senior administration official said Saturday.

 

Pharrell, Spike Lee Team Up For Live Concert

Posted: 31 May 2014 09:28 AM PDT

Pharrell Williams and Spike Lee are joining up for a live-streamed concert Saturday night in the latest American Express “Unstaged” hook-up.

Lee is directing Pharrell’s concert, which New Yorkers can catch at Harlem’s famous Apollo Theater.

Other Amex performance pairings have included Kings of Leon and Fred Armisen; Vampire Weekend and Steve Buscemi; and The Killers and Werner Herzog.

The “Happy” singer and the Do The Right Thing director got together for a pre-show conversation that you can catch above. The ego stroking is sufficiently heartwarming.

“I’m sitting here with Spike Lee,” Pharrell says in the clip. “Nah, nah, nah,” says Lee. “I’m sitting here with Pharrell. It’s the other way around!”

Turkish Activists Mark 1st Anniversary of Protests

Posted: 31 May 2014 09:21 AM PDT

ISTANBUL (AP) — Hundreds of activists mobilized Saturday for demonstrations in Istanbul and other cities, defying a heavy police presence on the anniversary of nationwide anti-government protests that erupted last year.

Police blocked access to Istanbul’s main square, Taksim, and news reports said some 25,000 police officers and up to 50 anti-riot water cannon vehicles would be deployed around the city. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned activists to keep away from the square, saying authorities were under strict orders to prevent protests.

“I am calling on my people: don’t fall for this trap. This is not an innocent environmental action,” Erdogan said.

In late May and June last year, hundreds of thousands of Turks took to the streets denouncing Erdogan’s increasingly autocratic leadership and demanding more democratic freedoms. The protests were sparked by opposition to government plans to uproot trees at Taksim Square’s Gezi Park and build a shopping center.

Fanned by outrage over the often brutal reaction by police, the demonstrations soon spread to other cities and developed into Turkey’s biggest protests in decades. Thousands were wounded and at least 12 people have died in anti-government protests in the past year.

A group of architects, environmentalists and city planners who oppose Gezi Park’s development said its members would march to Taksim despite the ban.

“If you go there, our security forces are under strict orders, they will do whatever is necessary from A to Z,” Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul. “You won’t be able to go to Gezi like the last time. You have to obey the laws. If you don’t, the state will do whatever is necessary.”

Protests were also expected in Ankara, Izmir and other cities.

Ahead of the protests, CNN correspondent Ian Watson was detained briefly during a live a broadcast. He said that police had kneed him and that an officer later apologized.

A report this week by the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights said that more than 5,600 demonstrators were being prosecuted for involvement in the protests while no one responsible for the violence against protesters had been sentenced.

The Turkish authorities “are actively engaging in a witch hunt against those who participated in the protests or spoke out,” said the federation’s president, Karim Lahidji.

What Myths Do We Most Commonly Realize Are False in Our 20s?

Posted: 31 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Answer by Carolyn Cho, former recruiter, on Quora.

Since I recently turned 30, this is a particularly timely question for me!

Here are the myths I’ve let go of over the last 10 years:

1. Being in a happy relationship means that you will never again feel_______(insert depressed, lonely, scared, insecure, etc).
As an awkward girl who spent most of high school and college dateless, I often thought that being in a relationship would somehow “solve” all my problems. Thinking that being in a relationship will instantly solve your problems is a pipe dream. A happy, loving relationship is one life’s greatest joys, but it can’t solve the things you don’t like about yourself. You have to do that, with work.

2. Being good at school means you’ll be good at work. Achieving academically by no means guarantees workplace success. I’ve had to swallow a big humility pill as I watch former fellow students who struggled through classes I breezed through now massively outpace me in career achievement. Being a great student does not mean you’ll be great in the workplace. And that’s OK.

3. Physical fitness doesn’t matter, being thin matters. Being skinny does not matter. Being physically fit really, really matters. Eat lots of healthful food and get tons of exercise. Ignore the scale.

4. Everyone has to like you. Inevitably, someone will always dislike you. I wish I had figured this out a lot earlier and stopped trying so hard and worrying so much about it. I could have used all that time and put it to doing something far more fun and interesting, like learning a new language or playing the piano. Heck, watching Project Runway reruns would have been a better use of time.

5. Quit something when you fail. Just because you fail at something does not mean you should quit, especially if it gives you joy or stretches you mentally. Everyone fails. Keep trying.

6. Getting rejected is the worst thing that can happen. It really isn’t. In fact, it can be a really good thing. Whether it was getting dumped or getting fired from a job, looking back I can honestly say that rejection taught me far more and had long-lasting positive benefits beyond whatever successes I’ve had. Getting fired from my first office job made me realize that no one in the working world cared about my kickass 100 page honors thesis on Jonathan Franzen and that I better learn some real workplace skills, fast. Getting fired and waking up the next day as usual made me realize that failure isn’t the end of the world. Getting dumped taught me the difference between a good and a bad relationship, something I already knew inside but refused to accept until the bad relationship was over. Getting dumped made me a better person for the amazing man I get to be married to today. When rejection teaches you something new and positive, then that’s actually a pretty great thing.

7. Talking is more powerful than listening. I’m a lot quieter and more introverted these days and happier being so. Not all silence needs to be filled.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What myths do we most commonly realize are false in our 20s? More questions:

‘Gangnam Style’ Reaches Record 2 Billion YouTube Views

Posted: 31 May 2014 08:18 AM PDT

South Korea’s rougishly pudgy pop star Psy is ubiquitous online. If you’ve been alive over the past two years, then you’ve seen his viral music video “Gangnam Style” at least once. And if you’re like most people, probably two or three or many more times.

Between the skipping dance (something between the Cotton-Eyed Joe and a mime pretending to ride a horse) and the svelt, colorfully dressed dancers, there’s something irresistible about the video. And of course the song’s bubbly rhythms—”hey, sexy lady!”—are relentlessly catchy as well. And it’s undeniable: Psy has class.

Whatever makes the video work, it’s finally reached a record 2 billion total views on YouTube, less than two years after it was first uploaded. YouTube commemorated the milestone with little dancing Psys around the play count.

“2 billion views … they are very honorable and very burdensome numbers,” Psy said in a statement, Billboard reports. “With appreciation, I will come back soon with more joyful contents!!”

“Gangnam Style” was at the No. 1 on the Billboard K-Pop Hot 100 for five weeks. It already held the record for the most-viewed YouTube video.

REVIEW: Ed Sheeran Multiplies His Appeal on x

Posted: 31 May 2014 08:03 AM PDT

Though he doesn't look the part of an international pop star and sex symbol, it isn’t hard to understand shaggy British troubadour Ed Sheeran's easy appeal. His chosen genre, the one that anchors all of his slight digressions into other realms of popular music, is broadly popular, easily digestible, and resilient: when the world ends, it'll be left to cockroaches and male singer-songwriters on acoustic guitars. But like many of the young people that buy his singles and albums, he's a polyglot, raised on folk, R&B, hip-hop and rock in equal measure and comfortable incorporating each of those genres into his compositions.

Sheeran rose to prominence thanks in part to his rap skills — he occasionally breaks out a verse, when not employing his smooth, woolly tenor — and even when he's sticking to a more traditional pop vocal mode, rap's influence on his delivery is clear: he crams syllables into lines where they barely fit thanks to his dexterity, and plays with rhythm and pace like it's second nature. That versatility, and a bit of Sheeran's everyman charm, helped to make his 2011 debut full-length +, and singles like "The A Team" and "Lego House," a slow-burning hit on both sides of the Atlantic. His follow-up, the simply titled x (that's pronounced "multiply," by the way), out June 23 on Atlantic Records, finds him taking even more concerted steps into genres other than acoustic pop-rock, and working with a host of distinctive producers who help to bend and shape his sound.

The album's most prominent collaborator is reigning chart king Pharrell Williams, fresh off a relatively successful solo album of his own and still riding a hot streak that began last year with Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" and Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines." Pharrell co-produced x's lead single, "Sing," and one other track on the album ("Runaway"), both of which are obvious descendants of the lusty pop-R&B that launched Justin Timberlake to solo stardom over a decade ago; "Sing," in particular, is hard to imagine without recalling Timberlake's "Like I Love You," itself co-produced by Pharrell as part of the Neptunes. Sheeran does his best with these tracks, and his voice shines as it twists around his own guitar and Pharrell's beats, but ultimately his sale of the lyrical material at hand falls short. Newly free from the relative tyranny of NSYNC, the young Timberlake couldn't help but drip sex. Comparatively speaking, Sheeran is tame. The same problem plagues songs like the Rick Rubin and Benny Blanco-produced "Don't," a vicious takedown of a cheating lover, and the wine-addled "Bloodstream": these songs have an edge that Sheeran lacks, and the material falters for it.

Sheeran rounds into form when he uses his softness to his advantage, cocooning himself in layers of warm harmony and setting that slippery, surprisingly agile lyricism against slowly building arrangements. "Photograph," one of several songs on x written with Snow Patrol member Johnny McDaid, rises from a tender, emotive piano melody and becomes a slowly stomping, lighter-ready stadium ballad; Sheeran helps bring it to life with smart use of detail and powerful imagery, two moves familiar from the work of his friend and tour-mate Taylor Swift. (When he closes the song by mentioning a stolen kiss "under the lamppost, back on 6th Street," you can almost hear the hearts young and old, beating and melting in a darkened arena.) "I'm a Mess" is another highlight, with Sheeran reaching deep and shredding his voice while soaring over luminous guitar chords. It's a simple song, mostly reliant on Sheeran's vocal skills and charisma to get over, but it works: when isolated and not made to press against ostensibly mature lyrical material, he displays a deft touch.

But the album's greatest moment by a country mile is relegated to its penultimate slot. "Thinking Out Loud" shares a lyrical spirit with One Direction's "Little Things," which Sheeran wrote for the boy band's 2012 record Take Me Home, but with what sounds like a few years' worth of experience added: it's an ode to the tiny things that drive love, a celebration of its magic, a fantasy of having grown old with a partner. Musically speaking, it's pure blue-eyed soul, warm and woodsy in the vein of Van Morrison, unabashedly romantic and built around a vein of richly toned guitar. Sheeran is the core, the starry-eyed dreamer. He sings to within an inch of his life. When the lust, anger, drugs, and drink fade, you hope this kind of love remains. When Sheeran focuses on the latter, his success comes into focus, and it begins to seem wholly justified.

4 Surefire Ways Apple Can Blow the Doors Off 2014

Posted: 31 May 2014 07:52 AM PDT

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

With over 15 years of hit products under Apple’s belt, it’s a bold statement indeed when one of it executives promises “the best product pipeline” is still to come. But that’s exactly what Apple Senior Vice President Eddy Cue did on Wednesday at the Code Conference in Ranchos Palos Verdes, Calif. “We want to do a few really incredible things,” he said. “I believe certain products we’ve got coming are great.”

We’re not product maestros, but there are a few things Apple could do to make the rest of 2014 a stellar year.

Bring iBeacon into the home in a big way.

One of the biggest futuristic tech trends industry insiders salivate over is the so-called “Internet of Things,” in particular, home devices — TVs, thermostats, and even refrigerators — connected online to make them easier to manage. Last year, Apple introduced a technology called iBeacon that lets iPhones and iPads communicate with other devices via Bluetooth. The technology is still in its early stages. But it may be possible to use your iPhone to control all sorts of home electronics and appliances. One possible scenario? When approaching a TV, your iPhone automatically turns into a remote control that can turn the screen on and bring up show listings.

Release a huge Apple TV software update.

Many people are waiting impatiently for an Apple television set. But they’ll probably wait a while longer judging from comments by Cue that Apple is working on ways to fix the TV experience – but that the fix is “complicated.” Until that day comes, Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, suggests that Apple reinvent the way people use the current Apple TV, which requires users to open up different apps like Netflix or HBO and dive through their menus to find the shows they want. Instead, Rubin suggests a more unified experience that lets users search, view and play media from one set of menus.

More biometrics.

The iPhone 5s, with its Touch ID feature, remains the first and only Apple device that integrates fingerprint technology directly into the device. Expect Touch ID to find its way into the iPad, but imagine touch recognition applied across Apple’s entire hardware ecosystem including computers.

Thinner, faster, more efficient devices across the board.

Perhaps this is the e biggest no-brainer of them all. But if Apple is guilty of anything, it is in falling behind rivals in areas like screen size. Like it or not, smartphone screens are getting bigger – some easily push 5-inches – while the iPhone 5 and 5s remain at a comparably small 4-inches. Also, the well-received MacBook Air hasn’t been redesigned in years – and even the most sympathetic of gadget critics will admit the thin-and-light notebook line could use sharper screens. While such tweaks may not be what most people thought of when Cue made his bold statement, Rubin raises a fair point given ever-improving computer technology. “Over time, products are going to be better than they have been in the past. That could lead many companies to say that they have the strongest products in the pipeline than they’ve ever had.” Even, of course, if those companies aren’t truly innovating.

Here’s What You Can Actually Expect from Apple at WWDC

Posted: 31 May 2014 07:47 AM PDT

Apple’s annual developer conference, WWDC, starts on Monday in San Francisco. As usual, the company will open the week-long gathering with a keynote, likely to be packed with announcements and previews. WWDC is all about software, particularly the operating systems that power Macs, iPhones and iPads. But from time to time, the company also uses the event to showcase new hardware. There are tons of rumors about what will be unveiled this year; here’s what you can safely expect from the event:

Mac OS X 10.10
Apple’s mobile software got its first top-to-bottom overhaul last year. Out went the so-called skeuomorphic design championed by former software chief Scott Forstall. In came the sleeker, flat designs of Jonathan Ive. Now it may be the Mac’s turn to get a similar treatment.

iOS 8
Look for Apple to iterate on its major changes last year to the software that powers the iPhone and iPad. After a major overhaul, the company typically focuses on adding functionality and tweaks. Almost certainly up this time: changes to Apple Maps.

Beats
This will be the first time the company’s top executives will address fans since buying Beats Electronics and Beats Music for $3 billion. Chief Executive Tim Cook will likely address the purchase and may bring his two newest recruits—Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine—on stage.

VIDEO: CNN Reporter Detained in Turkey While Live on Air

Posted: 31 May 2014 07:19 AM PDT

A CNN reporter was detained in Turkey Saturday while filming a live news report on demonstrations marking the one-year anniversary of the Taksim Square protests.

Ivan Watson, the news channel’s correspondent in Istanbul, was in Taksim Square when he was approached by police officers and asked to show his passport. Watson displayed his press card to the police and the still-rolling camera before being pulled away by officers.

“Just a minute, just a minute, may I see your passport please,” a man asks Watson.

“We’re being detained right now,” Watson can be heard saying before the camera cuts out. “I’m being kicked.”

Watson said on Twitter that he had been released after less than an hour and that the police apologized for kneeing him.

Turkey is struggling with deep ideological divides and questions about free speech in the year since the Taksim Square protests. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was recently reelected, but many Turks remain deeply divided about his leadership after his response to a recent fatal mining incident in which hundreds were killed and his attempts to block Twitter after it was used to spread reports of corruption in his government.

Erdogan said Saturday that police would not permit demonstrations in Taksim Square on the one-year anniversary of the protests, reports Turkish news outlet Hurriyet. Nearly a dozen people across Turkey were killed last year during protests against what demonstrators said was the government’s increasingly authoritarian rule.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Suicide Bomber in Syria Was American Citizen

Suicide Bomber in Syria Was American Citizen


Suicide Bomber in Syria Was American Citizen

Posted: 30 May 2014 12:25 PM PDT

A man who detonated a suicide truck bomb in Syria on Sunday was an American citizen, the Obama Administration confirmed Friday.

“I can confirm that this individual was a U.S. citizen involved in a suicide bombing in Syria,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

Syrian rebels released a video earlier this week after an attack on a Syrian military checkpoint. In the video, they claimed one of the bombers involved was an American who fought under the nom-du-guerre Abu Huraya al-Amriki. (al-Amriki translates to "the American.")

Rebel groups said the attack was carried out in coordination with the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist group affiliated with al-Qaeda.

CNN, citing unnamed U.S. officials, reports the man grew up in Florida. U.S. officials have expressed concern about the stream of foreign fighters flowing into Syria’s war, worried they will return to the U.S. both radicalized and dangerous.

This Is the Reason Going Into Abercrombie & Fitch Gives You Anxiety

Posted: 30 May 2014 12:09 PM PDT

You can tell you’re within 10-yards of a club Abercrombie & Fitch by the smell. The overwhelming scent of cologne billows past tourists lined up on the street outside, giving passers-by a distinct sense of déjà vu hearkening back to days of middle school locker rooms.

If the thought of the Abercrombie smell is putting you on edge, there’s a reason. HuffPost’s Kim Bhasin reports that the unsubtle scent may directly cause anxiety in customers.

New research from Concordia University suggests that while some ambient scents in stores can calm shoppers, others cause anxiety—particularly if they are reminiscent of enclosed spaces. Bianca Grohmann, co-author of the “spatial density and ambient scent” study, says that A&F is known for its darkness, loud background music, crowded sales floors and intense smell.

“In terms of Abercrombie & Fitch's scent, it's one of their colognes called Fierce and it is a very masculine and strong scent,” she told TIME. “Although we did not particularly test this particular scent, this kind of scent is actually directionally more associated with enclosed spaces.” And thus increases anxiety, upping the likelihood of wanting to get out as soon as possible.

Abercrombie is known for spritzing the cologne in stores throughout the day. A TIME staffer who used to work in a Florida store says that store managers told employees they even sprayed it in the air conditioning system.

Last week, the struggling retailer announced that it would be turning down the music, turning up the lights, and cutting its fragrance spritzes by 25%. Although according to Grohmann, that might not be enough if the store continues to use the same cologne.

“If the scent is associated with enclosed spaces toning down the intensity might not make the enclosed space feeling go away,” she said.

Although that might not be a turnoff to all consumers. Grohmann’s study had 180 participants ranging from 18 to 42. While the adults with bigger bank accounts might go running, teens may be unfazed by the high-octane shopping experience. But the smell was notorious enough that people held a protest to combat the cologne-infused Abercrombie air in 2010.

Abercrombie did not respond to questions about whether the cologne choice would change and instead directed us to CEO Mike Jeffries’ quote in a recent Bloomberg article: “Its customer is changing, and we’re ready to change with her and him.”

[Huffington Post]

Here’s What’s Lurking In the Pool Water

Posted: 30 May 2014 12:00 PM PDT

Microbes, including bacteria that live on our skin and in our noses, get dropped into the pool whenever we take a dip. Not all of them make us sick, and chlorine can kill germs, but sometimes it takes days for that to happen. And if your pool smells like chemicals, that's not a sign that it's clean. In fact, the stronger the odor, the harder the chlorine is working to eliminate things like urine, sweat, dirt, poop and other things that swimmers trail in.

Here's a handy (and slightly scary) rundown of the bugs and other things that every swimmer brings into the pool, from the Centers for Disease Control. Their advice? Take a dip and enjoy your swim. But shower before you jump in. And don't drink the water.

 

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The Clippers Are Worth Nowhere Near What Ballmer Is Paying

Posted: 30 May 2014 11:59 AM PDT

A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you're talking about real money. But Steve Ballmer doesn't seem to treat $2 billion as real money.

Forbes Magazine estimates that last year the Los Angeles Clippers generated $128 million in revenue and earned $15 million in profits. At a 5% rate of return, the Clippers would be valued at $300 million. But NBA teams are scarce commodities and their value goes up over time. Moreover, owners garner handsome indirect and non-pecuniary returns, so sports teams commonly sell at a multiple of their previous year's revenues. The typical multiple in the NBA is 4. That would put the Clippers' value at $512 million.

But the Clippers will be signing a new TV contract in a few years, and the team is playing better and is more popular than ever. One can anticipate that their revenues will experience robust growth going forward. What if revenues grew by $52 million, to $180 million? Using the revenue multiple of 4, that would put the team value at $720 million.

The only way to get an economic value of $2 billion would be to have projected revenues rise to $500 million. How could that happen? Well, the Lakers got a long-term TV deal with Time Warner for $200 million a year, and the Dodgers have a new one at $340 million annually for 25 years. If the Clippers could get a Lakers- or Dodgers-type contract, then the team's revenue might begin to approach $500 million.

Perhaps this is what Mr. Ballmer and his financial advisers were thinking. They should think again. Time Warner is losing its shirt on the Dodger deal. They projected they would be able to sell the Dodgers' RSN (regional sports network) to all greater Los Angeles households for $5 per month. So far, only 30% of area households receive the Dodgers games — those are the households served by Time Warner cable. No other cable or satellite distributor is willing to pay the price that the Dodgers' RSN demands. In fact, the price has recently been lowered to $4 and there are still no takers.

It would be unreasonable in the extreme that Time Warner, or its competitor, Fox, would be willing to sign a Dodgers-type deal. Even if the Dodgers deal were working out, baseball has twice the number of games as basketball and historically has garnered much larger television contracts than basketball. And the Dodgers are the Dodgers – the second strongest brand in baseball after the Yankees.

Recall, too, that the Dodgers own their own facility. The Clippers are tenants.

Topping things off, Ballmer was sent a financial package by the Sterlings just a couple of days ago. In normal deals, that's just the first step. After that, there are questions, details, more contracts to view, people to interview (including companies like Time Warner) and so on. Sterling insisted on final bids within a couple of days – preventing proper due diligence on the franchise, perhaps knowing that the more time he gave the bidders, the more they would learn and the more issues they would find.

So what's going on? Ballmer is making a vanity purchase – he's buying a toy. His net worth is reportedly valued at close to $15 billion. He could still survive if his net worth were $13 billion. He's a basketball nut. He wants to have some fun. He wants to sit next to Jack Nicholson.

Andrew Zimbalist is Robert A. Woods Professor of Economics at Smith College. His latest book is The Sabermetric Revolution: Assessing the Growth of Analytics in Baseball.

2 Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Stars Are Fired

Posted: 30 May 2014 11:56 AM PDT

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is down two stars. According to a source, Joyce Giraud and Carlton Gebbia – who appeared on only one season of the show – just didn't make enough of an impact on audiences to warrant another go-round.

Gebbia was calm and collected when asked about being fired by E!. “I sort of look at it as a blessing in disguise,” she said.

There have also been reports that the show might be down another star — Lissa Vanderpump has expressed her disdain for the show, which is worrying producers who know that she is a big hit.

Here’s How Other Executives Have Fared as Team Owners

Posted: 30 May 2014 11:55 AM PDT

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer won a bidding war to buy the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, for a cool $2 billion dollars. It’s the most expensive team sale in NBA history. So how good an owner will Ballmer be? Here are the track records of some other executives-turned-sports team owners:

Howard Schultz

The chairman and CEO of Starbucks built a coffee empire, but he didn’t prove to be a good owner of the now-defunct Seattle Supersonics NBA team. He ran the franchise more like a business than a sports team, and feuded with the city of Seattle over funds for a new stadium. Eventually, he committed the ultimate sin, selling the team to an Oklahoma City ownership group. The team, now the Thunder, moved out of Seattle, and fans still haven’t forgiven him.

Arthur Blank

Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot, purchased the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons in 2002. Fans have considered him a good owner, though his biggest challenge has been building a new stadium for the team after controversy arouse surrounding public funding for the construction. After years of debate, the new stadium broke ground this month.

Wayne Huizenga

Though Huizenga wasn’t the founder and CEO of Blockbuster, many thought he was. As the face of the company, Huizenga built a movie empire—that is, until Netflix came along. His epic success and then fall with baseball’s Florida Marlins mirrored that of Blockbuster. Huizenga made it on TIME’s Most Hated Sports Team Owners list for dismantling the 1997 Championship Team (which won the World Series after just four years of existence) for financial reasons. Huizenga sold the team in 1998 after fans boycotted the games and attendance fell dramatically.

Jimmy Haslam

The CEO of the Pilot Flying J truck stop chain bought the NFL’s Cleveland Browns in 2012. In his business, Haslam has faced serious accusations of fraud. Earlier this year, Haslam was publicly asked at a news conference whether the three stooges were running the franchise. At the end of the season he cleaned out the front office—for better or worse.

Dan Gilbert

The chairman and founder of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans is probably best known for the spurned lover maifesto he wrote when NBA superstar LeBron James left his Cleveland Cavaliers franchise in 2010. Quicken Loans came under fire during the subprime mortgage mess, but he’s had a good streak of luck lately with the Cavs, winning the lottery for the third time in the past four years.

Ray Croc

The McDonald’s mogul owned baseball’s San Diego Padres from 1974 until his death in 1984. Kroc was reportedly a die-hard fan, though the team didn’t win the Western division title until the year that Croc passed away. His daughter, Joan Kroc, continued to help with the team. Padres player Goose Gossage notoriously once ranted about her that she was “poisoning the world with her cheeseburgers” and meanwhile the players couldn’t have beer in the clubhouse.

Paul Allen

Allen co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates and is the founder and chairman of Vulcan Inc., which manages various business and philanthropic efforts. Allen purchased the Seattle Seahawks in 1997 when then-owner Ken Behring threatened to relocate the NFL team to Southern California. Embraced as the team’s savior, Allen gave birth to a new stadium and a new era in Seattle football. This year the team won its first Super Bowl. Allen also own’s the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers, meaning Ballmer’s purchase of the Clippers will make for a Microsoft rivalry in basketball.

Mark Cuban

Cuban started and sold his own tech company for millions before diversifying his investments. He’s currently the owner of Landmark Theaters and Magnolia Pictures, among other companies. But most people would identify him as the outspoken, die-hard owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Most owners watch from skyboxes in suits. Cuban sits with the fans, wearing team gear—and screaming at the refs. Cuban has been fined over $1.6 million for making critical statements about the referees and the NBA since he purchased a majority share in the team in 2000. The team won the championship against the Miami Heat in 2011.

Board Rules That Medicare Can Cover Gender Reassignment Surgery

Posted: 30 May 2014 11:52 AM PDT

A federal board ruled Friday in favor of a 74-year-old veteran seeking to have Medicare cover the costs of her gender reassignment surgery, a landmark decision that recognizes it as a necessary medical procedure,

The decision by the Department of Health and Human Services overturns a longstanding rule preventing the government health insurance program from covering such procedures and opens the doors for other Medicare enrollees to make similar requests. It comes at a time when states are beginning to prohibit insurance companies from including specific exclusions for treatments related to gender transitions. So far, five states—California, Vermont, Oregon, Connecticut and Colorado, as well as Washington, D.C.—have prohibited such exclusions. Organizations like the Oakland, Calif.-based Transgender Law Center are fighting for more states to follow suit.

Though numbers are far from concrete, studies estimate that that 0.5% of the U.S. population is transgender, meaning that they identify with a gender other than the sex they were assigned at birth. Not all of the country’s estimated 1.5 million transgender citizens desire reassignment surgery, a serious procedure that alters a person’s sexual characteristics. That decision may depend on the desire to have children or physical preference, fear of surgery or having other health conditions that would make such surgery risky, as well as the cost of surgery.

(MORE: The Transgender Tipping Point)

The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, a 2011 report that is the most comprehensive source for data on transgender-related issues, found that the majority of its 6,500 respondents desired surgery of some kind. However, many couldn’t afford to undergo such procedures.

“The high costs of gender-related surgeries and their exclusion from most health insurance plans render these life-changing … and medically necessary procedures inaccessible to most transgender people,” the report concluded.

Transgender people who desire surgery will likely be diagnosed with severe gender dysphoria, a diagnosis recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. Jamison Green, president of the World Professional Association of Transgender Health, describes gender dysphoria as discomfort with the gender in which one is living or expected to live in.

“We’re very excited about it,” Green tells TIME of the ruling. “Now there is considerable evidence that shows that this is a valid condition, that the treatment is effective … it can be disabling if it’s not treated.”

America’s Best Hot Dogs

Posted: 30 May 2014 11:47 AM PDT

Belly Shack

Chicago

At Bill Kim's industrial Logan Square joint, the "belly dog" comes fully loaded with egg noodles, pickled green papaya, and spicy togarashi fries. Don't forget the curry mayo.

Garden District

Washington, D.C.

The "dachshund in the grass" slaw dog gets our vote at this casual beer garden—best with a side of hush puppies.

Bronwyn

Somerville, MA

Tim Wiechmann recently introduced the smoky "Brondog," covered with melted Emmentaler cheese and vinegary sauerbraten on a poppy-seed potato bun.

MORE: America’s Best Cities for Barbecue

Beer Bar

Salt Lake City

Viet Pham's "brat Reuben" is a hungry-man mash-up of beer-braised bratwurst, pastrami, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing on a basic white bun.

Hog & Hominy

Memphis, TN

Bocce meets boiled peanuts here in East Memphis, where a pretzel bun is stuffed with a beef-and-cheddar dog.

FOR THE FULL LIST, CLICK HERE

MORE: America’s Best Beer Bars

MORE: America’s Coolest Breweries

U.S. Airways Flight Makes Emergency Landing after Dog Poops in the Aisle

Posted: 30 May 2014 11:34 AM PDT

A Philadelphia-bound U.S. Airways flight from Los Angeles had to make an emergency landing in Kansas City, Missouri, earlier this week after a dog defecated in the middle of the aisle–twice.

A man named Steve McCall, who says he was a passenger on the plane, U.S. Airways Flight 598, told Inside Edition that the smell made people physically sick. NBC Philadelphia has rounded up tweets that appear to be from other passengers who are complaining about how the flight had already been delayed because of fuel issues before the incident onboard.

Chris Law, an NFL producer, live-tweeted the episode, including a photo of the clean-up after the emergency landing, and complimented the crew’s handling of the situation:

We’ve reached out to U.S. Airways for comment and will update if we hear back.

Canadian Boy Found Locked in Filthy Bedroom for Up to 2 Years

Posted: 30 May 2014 11:28 AM PDT

A 10-year-old Canadian boy was found imprisoned in a filthy bedroom where he had been kept for at least a year-and-a-half, police said Friday.

The boy was discovered by police in the city of London, Ontario, after authorities acted on a tip. Upon investigation, police said they believe the child was kept locked in the room for between a-year-and-a-half to two years.

"The master bedroom had an ensuite bathroom so the child had access to a toilet and shower however the room, and the entire house, was in squalid condition," a police statement said.

The 10-year-old was diagnosed as being underweight and malnourished, and turned over to the care of the Children's Aid Society.

The boy's guardians, his aunt and uncle, have been arrested. Their biological child has been taken into custody as well, though there is no indication, police said, that that child had been locked away in the house.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

House Republicans Pass a Hot Potato on Healthy Federally Subsidized Meals

House Republicans Pass a Hot Potato on Healthy Federally Subsidized Meals


House Republicans Pass a Hot Potato on Healthy Federally Subsidized Meals

Posted: 29 May 2014 11:32 AM PDT

House Appropriators awoke Thursday to an op-ed in the New York Times by Michelle Obama warning them not to pass legislation that she says weakens healthy standards for school lunches passed in 2010. "[S]ome members of the House of Representatives are now threatening to roll back these new standards and lower the quality of food our kids get in school," the First Lady wrote. "They want to make it optional, not mandatory, for schools to serve fruits and vegetables to our kids. They also want to allow more sodium and fewer whole grains than recommended into school lunches."

Unimpressed, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Agriculture Department's fiscal 2015 spending bill, including the controversial changes, by a vote of 31-18. Republicans considered the changes fairly moderate, certainly not as dramatic as what the School Nutrition Association had advocated, according to a GOP aide close to the process, who noted that the bill was passed out of subcommittee unanimously. The SNA has been lobbying to slow down implementation of changes to school lunch rules because of a variety of challenges, such as the cost, the availability in rural areas and the drop off of a million students in the past year—mostly older high school students in urban areas who are going out and buying fast food in the place of the new healthy lunches.

At stake in the House bill are two roll backs. The first is a waiver that would allow schools struggling to meet the new standards an extra year to implement the changes. While this sounds innocuous enough, school budgets are not often clearly defined and it could give schools "the ability to game the system," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters on Wednesday. "Plus it would be complicated to implement. Would the department audit the schools?" More than 30 million children get one or more meals every day as part of the program.

Vilsack noted that 90% of the schools are already in compliance, a high rate for a new program. So to open the door for delays, critics say, could be the first step in dismantling regulations that Republicans have derided as the government acting as a nanny state. Democrats tried to strip the waiver from the bill in Thursday's committee mark up, failing in a vote along party lines.

In contrast, the Senate Appropriations Committee last week rejected blanket waivers in favor of boosting training to help schools come into compliance, provided more flexibility on whole grain standards and, in a victory for the cheese lobby, waived the second and third sodium reduction requirements due to come into effect in 2017 and 2022. The cheese lobby had been concerned that cheese doesn't melt well with less sodium. Health advocates argue that children don't need to be eating pizza and grilled cheese, any way.

The second change in the House bill would allow white potatoes to be included in the Women, Infants and Children program, which helps subsidize fruits and vegetables for low-income families. Up until this point, the program focused on encouraging the purchase of leafy greens and fruits not often bought by low income families. Potatoes are the number one consumed vegetable in the U.S., mostly in fried form. The potato changes were included in the both the House and Senate bills and, in a bow to the potato lobby, would mark "the first time that Congress has interfered with the scientists’ recommendation for the WIC program," as Senator Tom Harkin noted in opposing the Senate version last week.

Potato supporters argue that the USDA says certain nutrients are still lacking in women and children's diets and potatoes carry many of those nutrients. The Senate version limits the potatoes to whole potatoes with no additives such as oil and sugar, essentially barring program participants from using their credits to buy potato products such as French fries and hash browns.

The bill will now head to the House floor for passage before being conferenced with the Senate version where differences over the hot cheesy potato mess will be ironed out. It will surely not be as fun or tasty as it sounds, especially with Michelle Obama checking to make sure everyone's eating their vegetables.

NSA Releases Snowden Email

Posted: 29 May 2014 11:29 AM PDT

The National Security Agency released an email Thursday from Edward Snowden to its Office of General Council.

Snowden has long maintained that he repeatedly alerted supervisors and NSA authorities about concerns with the domestic and international surveillance programs he had come across in his work as a contractor for the agency, an allegation denied by the NSA in the past. NBC News confirmed the existence of the one email on Wednesday.

“NSA has now explained that they have found one e-mail inquiry by Edward Snowden to the Office of General Counsel asking for an explanation of some material that was in a training course he had just completed,” a spokeswoman said Thursday. “The e-mail did not raise allegations or concerns about wrongdoing or abuse, but posed a legal question that the Office of General Counsel addressed. There was not additional follow-up noted. The e-mail will be released later today.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed the planned email release Thursday, saying that there were other avenues to raise concerns at Snowden’s disposal, beyond email, that he did not avail himself of. Following on Snowden’s interview with NBC News, Carney said the U.S. government’s position with respect to him has not changed. “Clemency is not on the table,” he said.

“There are numerous avenues that Mr. Snowden could have used to raise other concerns or whistleblower allegations,” the NSA spokeswoman continued. “We have searched for additional indications of outreach from him in those areas and to date have not discovered any engagements related to his claims.”

The full email:

The Most Surprising Photos of the Month

Posted: 29 May 2014 11:24 AM PDT

This New Mercedes Super Mario Bros. Ad Is Pretty Weird Alright

Posted: 29 May 2014 11:21 AM PDT

This couldn’t be more bizarre, or unexpectedly amusing, or kind of clever if you squint with your brain just so: Mercedes plus Nintendo plus Super Mario Bros. plus a sequence halfway in where that’s all reimagined as a live action thing, complete with realitic flagpole, castle, rocky wasteland and no-legged Goomba.

That Mario’s too tall though. Anyone can see that. And what’s with the lazy because-I’m-bad, Goomba toe-stubbing saunter from the car? What’s the message here, “Mercedes makes you steely-eyed, big-nosed and oblivious”?

From the school of “squirrel!” ad design, it’s hard to know what made Mercedes opt to do this now, with Nintendo’s game system (the Wii U) struggling, if not on the ropes. E3 2014 in a week-and-a-half? Maybe. They probably wanted to get people talking about it. And here we are talking about it.

Watch Mindy Kaling’s Hilarious Harvard Law Graduation Speech

Posted: 29 May 2014 11:17 AM PDT

Harvard welcomed two big names to campus Wednesday for the first part of its graduation ceremony, Class Day. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg addressed the undergraduates, while comedian Mindy Kaling offered wise words to the law school graduates.

Each individual school at Harvard schedules its own Class Day speaker. Another speaker — this year it’s former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — addresses the entire university during the official commencement ceremony, which takes place today.

Mindy Kaling

The creator and star of The Mindy Project offered an explanation for those who may have been confused as to why a comedian was asked to speak at a serious event: “I know a ton about the law because I sue everybody.”

She went on to predict a bright future for many of the Harvard Law grads:

“With this degree in hand, most of you will go on to the noblest pursuits, like helping a cable company acquire a telecom company. You will defend BP from birds. You will spend hours arguing that the well water was contaminated well before the fracking occurred. One of you will sort out the details of my prenup. A dozen of you will help me with my acrimonious divorce. And one of you will fall in love in the process. I’m talking to you, Noah Feldman.” (Feldman is a professor at Harvard Law.)

Sheryl Sandberg

The Facebook COO indirectly referenced her book Lean In during her speech, saying “women around the world connected with it. That book, of course, was called Fifty Shades of Grey.” More seriously, Sandberg talked about the importance of honesty:

“I want to put some pressure on you to acknowledge the hard truths, not shy away from them and when you see them to address them. The first time that I spoke out about what it was like to be a woman in the workforce was less than five years ago. That means for 18 years from where you sit to where I stand, my silence implied that everything was okay. You can do better than I did.”

But she didn’t hesitate to conclude with a zinger: “Tomorrow, you get something that Mark Zuckerberg does not have: a Harvard degree.” (Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard.)

 

 

You Say Potato, Mrs. Obama. I Say, Please Stop Micromanaging Our Diets and Our Schools.

Posted: 29 May 2014 11:03 AM PDT

If you've ever wondered just where the role of government ends and where the ability of adults to choose things for themselves and their children begins, don't bother. The answer, at least according to First Lady Michelle Obama, is nowhere.

Marching under the banner of Science with a capital S, Mrs. Obama believes the federal government should be able to tell you what to eat. Or, more precisely, not eat. At least if you're poor enough to be on relief or if you're remanded to the custody of a K-12 public school.

Writing in The New York Times, Mrs. Obama warns that "right now, the House of Representatives is considering a bill to override science by mandating that white potatoes be included on the list of foods that women can purchase using WIC dollars."

Don't get the wrong idea, though. Mrs. Obama agrees that "there is nothing wrong with potatoes." It's just that, according to the Institute of Medicine (a.k.a. "science,") the "low-income women and their babies and toddlers" served by the WIC program would be better off if they chowed down on "nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables."

When it comes to schoolkids, Mrs. Obama is just as emphatic that decisions are best made in Washington, rather than in the countless cafeterias of the nation's 100,000 public schools. Some House members, she writes, "want to make it optional, not mandatory, for schools to serve fruits and vegetables to our kids. They also want to allow more sodium and fewer whole grains than recommended into school lunches."

The First Lady believes that the various programs she's championed over the past few years (such as Let's Move!, which hectors kids to exercise) are producing "glimmers of progress" in the War on Fat People, especially among children ages two to five years old. The fact is, however, that there is no clear link between any of the programs she promotes and the trends she applauds.

According to a new Centers for Disease Control study, the obesity rate among kids that age is 8 percent, down from 14 percent in 2003. That's all well and good, but the authors caution that one year doesn't make a trend, especially since that group makes up "a tiny fraction" of the population. Indeed, the same report also notes that obesity rates among Americans 19 years and younger had already stopped climbing by 2003 and has been flat ever since, at around 17 percent. Other accounts suggest that youth obesity rates peaked even earlier, in 1999. Over the same general time frame, adult obesity rates have stayed steady around 30 percent. This all came after a tripling of rates between the 1970s and 1990s.

Mrs. Obama is welcome to take credit for a general flattening of trends that began years before her husband became president. However, when she starts urging the federal government to limit individual choices and centralize control in the federal government, attention should be paid. "As parents, we always put our children's interests first," she writes. "We wake up every morning and go to bed every night worrying about their well-being and their futures."

If she really believes that, then why not treat poor people with the same respect we treat middle- and upper-middle class folks? If we're going to supplement their incomes, why not give them a cash payment and let them figure out how to make the best use of it?

Similarly, if we can't trust our schools to figure out how best to fill their students' stomachs, why the hell are we forcing our children to attend such institutions in the first place? When is the last time you heard kids who attend schools of choice—whether private, religious, or public charters (which enroll disproportionately high numbers of low-income students)—even mention food?

During the debate over Obamacare's individual mandate, we had a fiery national conversation over whether the government could force you to buy broccoli. But even when the Supreme Court effectively said it could, nobody believed it could make you eat the stuff. That debate, it seems, took place in a simpler time.

Obama Says He Might Have Had Mild Concussion Playing Football as a Kid

Posted: 29 May 2014 11:00 AM PDT

President Barack Obama discussed his own injury history on Thursday at the first-ever White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit, speculating he suffered from “mild” concussions when he was younger.

Before the awareness was out there, when I was young and played football briefly, there were a couple of times where I'm sure that that ringing sensation in my head and the need to sit down for a while might have been a mild concussion, and at the time you didn't think anything of it. The awareness is improved today, but not by much.

Thursday’s summit is intended to find new ways to prevent and treat head injuries in youth athletes.

What Does the Pokémon World Eat? Pokémon. 

Posted: 29 May 2014 10:56 AM PDT

Anyone who grew up in the 1990s (or any time after that, basically) is familiar with the basic, addictive premise of the Pokémon video games: the world is full of fantastical creatures that "trainers" can collect and make fight each other—kind of like animals, but more easily tamed. But that world, designed for tweens and teenagers, might be far creepier than it appears.

Modern Farmer published an article that analyzes the mysterious food politics of the world of Pokémon and comes to a conclusion: "Simply put, it is a fact that people eat Pokémon." Collating creatures from the games and comments from the world's non-player characters who chat up the protagonist, it becomes clear that Pokémon produce the basis of the world's existence. Miltanks, a cow-like Pokémon, produce milk, while the tail of the Slowpoke, an exceedingly dumb Pokémon, is a delicacy. The poison of the serpentine Arbok makes a delicious cheese.

So how does this change our view of the games? In battle, Pokémon don't really die, they just faint and have to be brought back to life. But if Pokemon are actually raised like chickens, for food byproducts and meat, then presumably they are fully capable of death. It's a gruesome food-chain that sees trainers eating the very pals they depend on in battle.

Real animals have popped up in the Poké-universe in early art and comic books, but they gradually disappear in later games. When a character eats a hamburger, one has to assume it's more of a Poke-burger. Thankfully, no reference to eating Pikachu has yet been made—you don’t have to eat ‘em all.

Christians: It’s Time to Break Our Silence on Faith-Based Terrorism

Posted: 29 May 2014 10:52 AM PDT

"Christians in the Middle East and Africa are being slaughtered, tortured, raped, kidnapped, beheaded, and forced to flee the birthplace of Christianity. One would think this horror might be consuming the pulpits and pews of American churches. Not so. The silence has been nearly deafening," observed Kristen Powers in a Daily Beast article.

The Christian community in northern Nigeria has faced, with growing alarm, a spreading phenomenon: Christian girls under 18 are abducted and forced to convert to Islam by radical religious leaders, sometimes linked to the “Boko haram” group. This has only recently made headlines but the terrorist campaign there against Christians has been going on for years. Churches have been attacked and Christians killed. Last July, more than 40 people, mostly students, were killed in an attack against a college and in another attack, the dormitory of an institute was set on fire while the children were sleeping and those who tried to escape the fire were gunned down.

Yet far too few Christians have spoken out about any of this violence until a Nigeria-based social media campaign — #saveourgirls – recently started making headlines. I admit I have too often been among the silent. Last September, I sat with the world, in front of my television, horrified as Al-Shabaab terrorists slaughtered over 60 Saturday afternoon shoppers in Nairobi's Westgate Mall, while sparing Muslims through a kind of twisted religious quiz: Who was the prophet's mother, can you recite a verse from the Qu’ran, can you say the Shahada? Answer correctly, you were set free. If not, you were murdered.

Jews, Hindus, Christians, secular people — to these terrorists, we are "kuffar," a highly derogatory Arabic term referring to non-Muslims. In the mall that day, the "kuffar" fell victim to a warped “meticulous vetting process” that qualifies some, but not others, as human beings with human rights, including the right to life.

As Christians, we must break our silence, but wise and effective action can be planned and taken only by first asking why – why is the world, and especially the Christian world, so silent?

Let me offer six reasons, and thoughts on actions we can take, speaking as a Christian who cares and is seeking to effectively speak up:

1. Fear of Islamophobia

Many Christians fear that speaking up means adding their voices to the growing wave of Islamophobia in the Christian community. When fellow Christians gin up antagonism towards Muslims and Islam by emphasizing violent acts by extremists, thoughtful and peace-loving Christians – rightly and wisely – don't want to be part of that. But when we remain silent, we wrongly and unwisely aid and abet extremism in both the Christian and Muslim communities. Quoting Bonhoeffer, "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil."

Hateful extremists must be exposed — but never used to create guilt by association. American Christians would be rightly appalled if Muslims were to quote crazy Quran-burning pastors from Florida and Kansas to characterize all Christians as hate-mongers. Israeli Jews would be appalled to be defined by the infamous “kick out all Arabs or make them our slaves” quote from extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane. Muslims around the world are equally mortified when horrific statements about killing "first the Saturday people, then the Sunday people" are used to characterize all Muslims.

2. Unintended Consequences

Many of us understand that much anti-Christian violence is retaliation against hawkish American foreign policy which has brought suffering and death to large numbers of innocent Muslim children, women, and men. We know that invasion and occupation, torture, Guantanamo, drone strikes, and more have been identified with "the Christian West" and Christians around the world have suffered as a result.

American Christians must stop supporting foreign policies that purchase American security at the expense of the security of others, including fellow Christians. We must publicly admit to these deadly unintended consequences and instead demand of our leaders a coherent and constructive foreign policy, undergirded by a wiser, faith-inspired vision for the future.

3. Careless Disregard of Palestinian Human Rights

Careless bias against Palestinians has become a kind of pre-requisite in many circles for being considered "pro-Israel." As a result, many American Christians don't want to draw attention to the ongoing occupation of Palestine even though it stirs anti-West/anti-Christian fury that endangers Christians across the Middle East. Some may even conclude that this Christian suffering is the price that must be paid to give Israel the support she deserves and needs.

Israel/Palestine solutions will require us to stand strong for Israel's right to exist in peace and safety, while standing equally strong against the ongoing occupation. We must speak against all actions that dehumanize and oppress Palestinians and endanger Israelis, and seek solutions that are pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, pro-peace, and pro-justice.

4. Oil

American Christians – myself included – are part of a global oil-based economy. Like addicts, we depend on repressive regimes for our carbon fix, so we don't address their repression of religious freedom. We save on gas prices, but at great cost to the moral integrity of our souls.

Our continued addiction to dirty energy results in dirty foreign policy. We need to be more responsible for the real costs of our US energy policy, and become advocates of clean, sustainable energy; and clean, sustainable foreign policy.

5. Naiveté About the Links between Religious Identity and Violence

Many of us have avoided facing the unsettling understanding that religious identity can be turned to violent ends in any religion: Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist. To understand religious violence will require us to understand others' violence, and our own; then demand that our faith leaders set the example of building strong identities that are benevolent, not hostile, toward others.

Along with decrying violence in the name of religion, we can celebrate the heroic acts of kindness and solidarity of more "normative" people of faith like the Egyptian Christians who've protected mosques and the Egyptian Muslims who've protected churches on many occasions over the last few years.

6. Helplessness

We don't know what can be done, so we remain silent.

Each of us can be a pre-emptive peacemaker. We can build relationships — have-a-neighbor-over-to-dinner relationships — with people of other faiths. We, and our national and global religious leaders, must not just solve problems but build inspired friendships.

A colleague recently sent me two photographs. The first is of an official sign warning Israelis not to venture into Palestinian territory. The second sign, placed over the official sign, is homemade by Israeli women activists. "Refuse to be enemies," it says. These Jewish women have an important message for Christians, a message that loudly echoes the words of a Jewish man who himself lived in deeply conflicted, violent times in which extremists were all-too-ready to shed blood in the name of God or nation.

We Christians cannot remain silent about the horrific violence against Christians around the world. But to respond in ways that intensify fear, hatred and mistrust will never move us beyond global religious hostility. We must be vocal advocates for the rights of all religious minorities — from Texas to Tehran, from Nashville to Nigeria. We can refuse to be silent and we can refuse double standards.

We can refuse to be enemies.

Brian McLaren is an initiator with the Cana Initiative (wwwcanainiative.org) and a participant in FaithSource, a resource for journalists seeking diverse voices of faith on important issues, sponsored by Auburn Seminary. He has written over a dozen books, including Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road.

 

Watch the New Annie Trailer—With a New Lyric in ‘It’s the Hard-Knock Life’

Posted: 29 May 2014 10:44 AM PDT

There’s a new trailer out for the Quvenzhané Wallis-led Annie, due in theaters in December — and observant listeners who are fans of the original will notice something peculiar around minute marker 1:45.

It’s not the all-caps THERE’S ALWAYS TOMORROW or the helicopter views of Manhattan. It’s the song lyrics in the background, from the Annie classic “It’s the Hard-Knock Life”: “No one care for you a smidge / when you’re a foster kid.” If the meter sounds a little off, that’s because the original line had another syllable, for “when you’re in an orphanage.”

Extra syllable and less-than-perfect rhyme aside, it’s clear why the lyric would have been changed. This Annie takes place in today’s world, not during the Depression. As a spokesperson for the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, which is the state’s oversight agency for foster-care placement, tells TIME, “We in the state of New York do not use the term orphanage.”

Though orphanages were prevalent around the turn of the last century, they were already on the way out by the time the original Annie took place. According to the advocacy group Childrens’ Rights, early foster systems, known as “boarding out,” began to take their place, as it became clear that large, institutional orphanages could damage children. They haven’t totally disappeared but the word has faded from use. (Outside the U.S. it’s more common, and even domestically there do exist privately-run homes that might fall under a broad definition of “orphanage”; in 1994, Republicans in Congress suggested that going back to the orphanage system everywhere might be a good idea for the U.S.) Tracking the use of “orphanage” versus “foster care” makes clear that the former has gone out of fashion overall, especially since the late 1970s.

As for Annie, going from an orphanage to foster care isn’t the only change she’s seen: around 1:10, it’s clear that the words to “Smile” — a song chock full of ’30s references — have been altered too. No word yet on what they’ll do with “We’d Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover.”