Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Jacqueline Kennedy’s Letters Removed from Irish Auction

Jacqueline Kennedy’s Letters Removed from Irish Auction

Jacqueline Kennedy’s Letters Removed from Irish Auction

Posted: 21 May 2014 11:43 AM PDT

A collection of letters between former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and an Irish priest was removed from an auction in Ireland on Wednesday. In the letters, the former first lady questions her faith in the wake of the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy.

The Vincentian Fathers and All Hallows College, where the letters between Jackie Kennedy and Father Joseph Leonard were being held, said Wednesday the letters “are being withdrawn from auction at the direction of All Hallows College and the Vincentian Fathers,” according to a statement to the BBC.

Representatives of the college and the Vincentian Fathers are now "exploring with members of Mrs. Kennedy's family how best to preserve and curate this archive for the future."

Sheppard's Irish Auction House, which was scheduled to host the sale of the personal letters, said in a statement on its website that Sheppard's is in the process of returning the archive and related items to the vendor. TIME’s requests for further comment were not immediately returned. In an earlier statement, the auction house referred to the letters as a "unpublished autobiography of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy."

Critics of the sale, however, said the correspondence was never meant for public consumption. Controversy over the sale had been brewing since the sale of the 33 letters was announced in April, given their deeply personal nature.

Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice Has Officially Begun Filming

Posted: 21 May 2014 11:39 AM PDT

Comic and action hero fans rejoice: the long-awaited Batman and Superman feature has begun filming, and it has a name: “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

The film stars Henry Cavill, who is reprising his role as Clark Kent/Superman from last year’s Man of Steel, with Ben Affleck taking the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman for the first time, according to a Warner Bros. Pictures announcement Wednesday.

Written by Chris Terrio from a screenplay by David S. Goyer, the film showcases director Zack Snyder and stars Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane. The film is set to hit theaters May 6, 2016 and production will take place in Detroit as well as areas around Illinois, Africa and the South Pacific.

Democrats to Participate in House GOP Probe of Benghazi Attack

Posted: 21 May 2014 11:31 AM PDT

House Democrats will participate a new Republican investigation into the 2012 attack on a consulate in Libya that left four Americans dead, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday.

Pelosi appointed five Democrats to the select committee investigating the attack, which she and her party have decried as a political witch hunt: Reps. Elijah Cummings, Adam Smith, Adam Schiff, Linda Sanchez and Tammy Duckworth.

The so-called select committee, announced about two weeks ago by House Speaker John Boehener, is the latest of numerous GOP probes into the Sept. 11, 2012 attack in Benghazi, in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed. Boehner formed the committee after the release of a previously undisclosed email offered new details about the Obama Administration’s role in shaping talking points to describe the attack in its aftermath.

Democrats have argued there is nothing more to gain from another investigation into an attack that has been reviewed numerous times while becoming a lightning rod for criticism from conservatives. But they ultimately decided they were better off getting involved than staying on the sidelines.

“I believe we need someone in the room to simply defend the truth,” said Cummings, who will be the ranking Democrat on the panel.

30-Second Tech Trick: Answer Your iPhone in Speaker Mode Automatically

Posted: 21 May 2014 11:30 AM PDT

Bill Hader to Create and Star in His Own HBO Show

Posted: 21 May 2014 11:28 AM PDT

Bill Hader has signed on with HBO to create and star in a new comedy series, Deadline reports.

The Saturday Night Live alum is best known for characters like the club expert Stefon on the sketch comedy show, but he has also written for the Emmy-winning South Park and played supporting roles in comedy films like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Superbad.

Hader’s series will join a robust lineup of comedies currently offered by the premium cable channel including Girls, Veep and Silicon Valley.

The actor/comedian left SNL in 2013 after eight seasons on the show when he and his wife decided to move to Los Angeles so that she could direct The To Do List (in which Hader also starred). Since he left, he has starred in the Sundance Film Festival breakout drama The Skeleton Twins opposite another SNL alum, Kristin Wiig. He’s also in production for the Judd Apatow and Amy Schumer movie Trainwreck.


The New Way to Predict When Pregnant Women Will Deliver

Posted: 21 May 2014 11:27 AM PDT

There's growing interest in examining things we can't even see in order to better understand our health. Millions of bacteria make our bodies their home and most of them are not of the disease-causing kind. Instead, they’re helpful—so-called “good bacteria”—and researchers are finding ever new and strange ways that our bacterial makeup may predict our health.

Researchers led by Dr. Kjersti Aagaard at the Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital found that the placenta contains clues about when a pregnancy will end. Aagaard is not ready to say that the bacteria living there actually decide when moms-to-be will give birth, but the association is strong enough to make it worth studying further.

MORE: The Good Bugs: How the Germs in Your Body Keep You Healthy

She and her team collected 320 placentas from women who delivered pre-term (at 34-37 weeks), or at term, within an hour of delivery. They analyzed the tissues for the microbes inhabiting them, and compared what they found there to samples the women provided from other regions as well, including the mouth, nose, vagina, gut and skin.

They found that the makeup of the placenta microbial community was different between the pre-term and term groups. "We're not suggesting that the differences in the placental microbiome necessarily cause pre-term birth; we don't know," says Aagaard. "All we know is that they are different." At this point, they can only guess that the varying communities of bacteria have different functions, and these affect both the placenta's ability to nurture the fetus and the development of the fetus itself.

MORE: The Latest Thing in Pills? Ones Made From Poop

Looking ahead, Aagaard says that even if a specific bacterial composition in the placenta appears to cause early delivery, it's not practical nor safe to sample the placenta throughout pregnancy to find out. More benign would be sampling the bacterial makeup in the mouth, which are similar to those in the placenta, suggesting that down the line, a mouth swab may provide the same information.

"By focusing on oral health, we may actually be optimizing the health of the pregnancy and limiting the risk of pre-term birth," says Aagaard. After paying so much attention to the more obvious ways to make a pregnancy healthy, it may be time to consider the less obvious – and less visible ones.

From Fat Trains to Collapsing Bridges: 8 Famous Engineering Mistakes

Posted: 21 May 2014 11:24 AM PDT

Stop fat-shaming the American version of Godzilla because it turns out the French are dealing with a more serious size problem.

The Associated Press reports that 341 new trains intended to be rolled out over the next two years are too wide for the platforms in nearly 1,300 stations because railway network engineers “forgot to go and measure the actual distance between lines and platforms.”

It will cost $68 million to correct the error. The whole debacle brings to mind other notable engineering mistakes throughout history, such as:

The Bridge That Made People Seasick: When the Millennium Bridge over London’s Thames River first opened in 2000, it swayed so much that pedestrians would get dizzy and fall down. It reopened in 2002 after undergoing an $8-million repair, and some experts blame the synchronization of people’s footsteps to the movement of the bridge for the wobbliness.

The Bridge That Collapsed Because of Wind: In Tacoma, Washington, a moderate windstorm caused the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to collapse in 1940. The disaster, which many call “the most dramatic failure in bridge engineering,” prompted civil engineers to focus more on safeguarding suspension bridges against the aerodynamic effects of wind. It was rebuilt in 195o.

The Design Flaw in a Famous Skyscraper: Stilts make up the first nine stories of the Citicorp Center in Midtown Manhattan, which opened in 1977. One year later, an undergraduate architecture student studying the skyscraper wrote its chief structural engineer William LeMessurier to say the design is vulnerable to winds that strike at building corners. LeMessurier secretly worked with New York City emergency personnel to plot a wind evacuation plan for the building.

The Overweight Sub That Cost Billions: After Spain invested $2.7 billion in a program for diesel-electric submarines, it was discovered last year that the first one — weighing 2,200-tons — was 70 tons overweight and would probably sink if it went out to sea. The error occurred because a decimal point was put in the wrong place.

Square Airplane Windows: Two of the first passenger jet airliners broke apart mid-air in 1954 because of “metal fatigue” — cracks in the edges of square windows that caused the planes to explode. Aircrafts had to be redesigned with rounded windows.

The Sinking Airport: The Kansai International Airport on an artificial island off the bay of Osaka, Japan, has been known to have a sinking problem because it sits atop a seabed of soft sand.

The Airport with Computerized Baggage-Handling: In 2005, United Airlines announced it would end its one-of-a-kind computerized system for transporting baggage at Denver International Airport. Maintenance cost $1 million annually, and after a decade, it still couldn’t handle sharp corners and had been known for delivering bags to the wrong places, chewing them up and flinging them into the air.

(h/t to the AP for pointing out some of these famous errors)

European Voters Likely to Show Fading Affection for E.U.

Posted: 21 May 2014 11:18 AM PDT

The European Union has had a very rough few years. Soon after the start of the financial crisis in 2009 several member states found themselves on the verge of bankruptcy. Then there were the bailouts, the stubbornly high unemployment, the austerity measures in many countries and the massive protests against those cuts in government services. The years of crisis have made Europeans ask fundamental questions about the role of their union. How far should its influence spread? What values does it represent? And how much should it pay to uphold those values? This week, Europeans will have their first chance since 2009 to react to these questions at the ballot box. They will not only choose a new European Parliament. They will signal how willing they are to carry on with the European experiment itself.

Judging by the opinion polls, public confidence in that experiment, or at least the institutions it created, is faltering. A survey by the Pew Research Center found that a firm majority of Europeans see the E.U. as intrusive, inefficient and unresponsive to the needs of citizens. Although economic confidence has been broadly rebounding in the past year, in line with economic growth, less than 40% of Europeans believe that integration with their neighbors has improved their country's economy. Barely half take a favorable view of the E.U. as a whole.

In the past few years, these sentiments have proven fertile ground for the rise of so-called Eurosceptic parties, which are expected to nearly double their seats in the European Parliament in these elections. That means at least a quarter of the chamber's seats could be filled with lawmakers who claim that the chamber is itself unnecessary or outright harmful. Coming both from the far right and far left, these parties want to see power taken away from the E.U. and handed back to national governments and parliaments.

What's driving their popularity is not merely disillusion with the dream of European prosperity through integration, but the blandness of the mainstream European parties themselves. For years, most of the E.U. parliament’s seats have gone to two centrist blocs within the chamber – the social democrats to the left and the conservatives to the right of center. But their broad agreement on most of the key issues facing Europe has eroded the sense of competition within the chamber. "You can't put a piece of paper between them," says Simon Hix, an expert on European politics at the London School of Economics.

That much was clear in the European debates that were held for the first time ahead of these elections, in part to highlight the differences between the four major groups of parties inside the European Parliament – the social democrats, the conservatives, the liberals and the Greens. But through the hours of discussion, expressions of mutual agreement proved far more common than the jabs and barbs that one expects from a political cage match. It all looked a bit too civilized considering the severity of the problems that Europe's economy continues to face. So it is not surprising that voters fed up with the state of affairs on the continent have turned to parties far from the mainstream.

These range from the far-right parties like the National Front in France to the far-left groups like Syriza in Greece. Pressed on key issues like social spending, their views are as disparate as can be, but they are united in these elections by a common sense of frustration with the flow of power from national capitals to the seat of the E.U. in Brussels, a sense of frustration that voters increasingly share. By calling for the E.U. bureaucracy to be dismantled, these groups have helped turn the continent into a tapestry of doubt.

No one has watched that development with quite as much pleasure as Russia. Even before the Russian invasion of the Ukrainian region of Crimea in March, President Vladimir Putin tried to sow these divisions in Europe, favoring economic deals with individual nations, most notably Italy and Germany, rather than dealing with the bloc as a whole. By making individual members more dependent on Russia than others, such deals have weakened the E.U.'s ability to take any united stand against Russia's meddling in Eastern Europe. Even passing sanctions to punish Putin's elites for their country’s incursion into Ukraine have proved a struggle for the E.U., and these elections will only underscore the divisions that make such decisions so difficult.

"I'm certain that the rise of the Eurosceptics will force a change in the architecture of the European Union," says Sergei Baburin, a nationalist politician in Russia involved in talks with Europe's right-wing parties. "The European people are feeling a desire to defend their homes, their families, their towns and their nations from this supranational idea of Europe that has been forced upon them by the Americans."

That desire has found champions among Europe's fringe politicians. In March, several of them even went to Crimea to add legitimacy to the referendum that allowed Russia to annex that region of Ukraine, and their parties will become part of a strong bloc of Russian apologists within the European Parliament after these elections. One of them, the Ataka party in Bulgaria, even launched its campaign for the European Parliament in Moscow.

A vote cast for that party, or any of the other Eurosceptics, will not necessarily mean a vote for Putinism. But it will be a vote of no-confidence in the European project of integration and unity. After the last few years of hardship, this sentiment is not surprising. Europeans have indeed grown more concerned about the economic health of their countries and towns than the lofty ideals on which the E.U. was founded. Most of all, their sense of indifference to what happens in Brussels will come through in the voter turnout, which already dropped to 43% during the last elections to the European Parliament in 2009. If it falls even further this time, it will not be a win for the sceptics or the mainstream parties. It will be a sign that Europeans are turning inward and tuning out.

Molly Ringwald to Star in Jem and the Holograms

Posted: 21 May 2014 11:18 AM PDT

The gods of pop culture have been listening. According to Hollywood Reporter, Molly Ringwald has been cast in the film adaptation of the cartoon classic Jem and the Holograms—meaning that all of your 80′s dreams have been realized.

Deadline reports that Julette Lewis also got signed on in a “mystery role.”

While Ringwald certainly could have secured her spot as lead during her Brat Pack heyday, the role of Jem is going to Nashville’s Aubrey Peeples, who wasn’t even alive in the 80′s.

The movie is already shooting in Los Angeles and will be directed by Jon M. Chu, director of Step Up 2 and Step Up 3D.


Steam In-Home Streaming Now Available, Lets You Play PC Games on Virtually Any Computer

Posted: 21 May 2014 11:18 AM PDT

Valve put its Steam In-Home Streaming program — a way to play Steam games between two computers on your home network — out for public beta just a few weeks ago, after running a private beta test for months.

Testing presumably went smoothly, because Valve’s announcing today that the feature is now available to anyone with a Steam account:

Players who have multiple computers at home can immediately take advantage of the new feature. When you login to Steam on two computers on the same network, they automatically connect, allowing you to remotely install, launch, and play games as though you were sitting at the remote PC.

The upsides of In-Home Streaming are really twofold: You can either stream content to something like your living room’s mongo-sized TV without dragging your PC around (or building a Steam Machine), or simply use a lower-end laptop running any number of operating systems, from Windows to OS X to SteamOS to Linux.

It’s also not a new concept: My colleague Jared Newman’s been streaming Steam games from his PC via Nvidia’s Shield for a while now. But Valve’s approach is more manifold, letting you mix and match existing or older devices without trading down to something the size of a handheld — a problem for PC games that don’t scale well on five-inch screens.

Valve’s put up an info page on the fledgling service here, with a handy info-graphic and step-by-step. Not that you really need the step-by-step. According to Valve, there’s just three: Log into Steam via Windows, log into another computer on the same network, then hit your library, select a game and fire away.


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