Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Las Vegas Police Track Down Escaped Large, Predatory Cat

Las Vegas Police Track Down Escaped Large, Predatory Cat

Las Vegas Police Track Down Escaped Large, Predatory Cat

Posted: 14 May 2014 11:26 AM PDT

Who let the cats out?

A large predatory cat escaped for its cage in Las Vegas on Wednesday morning, running loose in a residential neighborhood and sending local police on a cat hunt.

The cat, reported to be either an Ocelot or an Africa Serval, was tracked down and put back in its cage, according to the local ABC affiliate. But not before it reportedly jumped into a nearby woman’s yard and killed one of her chickens.

An African Serval can stand as tall as 3 feet and weigh 40 pounds, and an Ocelot is usually between 10 and 18 inches, weighing up to 40 pounds. No details were given about the cat’s owner, or why the feline wanted to bust loose so badly.


The UN And U.S. Pentagon Are Actively Working To Save Us From Killer Robots And Zombies

Posted: 14 May 2014 11:15 AM PDT

The world’s governing bodies have seen disaster movies, and they want you to know that they’re on it.

In Geneva Tuesday, the UN discussed banning killer robots before they become an international concern. While we would imagine the meetings involved a stream of Terminator clips, fist banging and old European men shouting “Not on my watch,” the Chronicle Herald describes a far more civilized scene. Diplomats discussed the necessity of limiting lethal autonomous weapons that “could go beyond human-directed drones already being used by some armies today”:

“All too often international law only responds to atrocities and suffering once it has happened," Michael Moeller, acting head of the UN's European headquarters in Geneva, told diplomats at the start of the four-day gathering. "You have the opportunity to take pre-emptive action and ensure that the ultimate decision to end life remains firmly under human control.”

He noted that the UN treaty they were meeting to discuss — the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons adopted by 117 nations including the world's major powers — was used before to prohibit the use of blinding laser weapons in the 1990s before they were ever deployed on the battlefield, and this “serves as an example to be followed again.”

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have already petitioned against a future of killer robots.

And now onto another summer blockbuster favorite: The zombie apocalypse.

Foreign Policy received a document called “CONOP 8888″ that outlines the U.S. Pentagon’s plan to survive an attack by the undead — ranging from vegetarian to “evil magic” zombies.

According to FP, the document’s summary read:

This plan fulfills fictional contingency planning guidance tasking for U.S. Strategic Command to develop a comprehensive [plan] to undertake military operations to preserve ‘non-zombie’ humans from the threats posed by a zombie horde. Because zombies pose a threat to all non-zombie human life, [Strategic Command] will be prepared to preserve the sanctity of human life and conduct operations in support of any human population — including traditional adversaries.”

While a spokesperson for Strategic Command assured FP that the (real!) document was a “fictional training scenario,” a disclaimer on CONOP 8888 reads, “this plan was not actually designed as a joke.”


Now let’s get on that Day After Tomorrow climate change disaster plan. Anybody?

Pistons Hire Stan Van Gundy as Coach, President

Posted: 14 May 2014 11:15 AM PDT

(AUBURN HILLS, Mich.) — The Detroit Pistons are counting on Stan Van Gundy to bring some much-needed stability to a struggling franchise.

They’re certainly giving him plenty of authority.

The Pistons officially announced Van Gundy’s hiring Wednesday as their new coach and president of basketball operations. The team will introduce Van Gundy at a news conference Thursday. Detroit went 29-53 last season, missing the playoffs for a fifth straight year. That was the end of Joe Dumars’ tenure as team president. Coach Maurice Cheeks was fired in February.

“Stan is a proven winner in our league,” Pistons owner Tom Gores said in a statement. “He instills his teams with passion, purpose and toughness. He is a great teacher who will help our players grow and develop.”

Van Gundy agreed to a $35 million, five-year contract — a commitment from the team that suggests he’ll have plenty of time to turn Detroit’s fortunes around. Dumars stepped down after 15 seasons in the front office, and toward the end of his tenure, the Pistons seemed increasingly adrift as they hired coach after coach with little success.

Cheeks lasted less than one year. Before him, Lawrence Frank and John Kuester were each at the helm for two seasons.

Van Gundy is 371-208 in seven-plus seasons as a coach with Miami and Orlando. He reached the NBA finals in 2009 with the Magic.

“It is an honor to be chosen to help Tom Gores build the Pistons into a team that competes for championships,” Van Gundy said. “Tom’s vision of building for the future, while seeking immediate improvement is a challenge that I embrace. We will work to put a team on the floor that reflects the franchise’s rich tradition and embodies the toughness and work ethic of fans in the Detroit area.”

The Pistons were active last offseason, signing free agent Josh Smith and trading for point guard Brandon Jennings. Amid heightened expectations, the new-look roster flopped. Cheeks was fired and replaced by interim coach John Loyer.

Van Gundy takes over now — and he’ll have a chance to reshape the lineup before he has to coach it. Greg Monroe is a restricted free agent, and both Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva are unrestricted. Villanueva barely played last season, but Monroe and Stuckey were major parts of Detroit’s rotation.

The Pistons have one of the game’s top young big men in Andre Drummond, but they’ll lose this year’s first-round draft pick if it’s not in the top eight — part of a previous trade with Charlotte.

Van Gundy gives the Pistons a big name — and the hope that he can produce won-loss records similar to his time in Miami and Orlando. It will be a fresh start for Van Gundy, who was fired by the Magic in 2012 after a season full of drama involving him and star center Dwight Howard.

In April of that year, Van Gundy claimed top-ranking team officials had told him that Howard had asked management to fire Van Gundy as a condition of the center signing a long-term contract. Howard denied it.

Van Gundy was fired the following month, and the Magic traded Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Before the tumultuous 2011-12 season, Orlando won at least 52 games in its first four seasons under Van Gundy.

“Stan is more than just a great coach, he’s a great leader,” Gores said. “What I’m most excited about is how Stan can help us shape the franchise and instill what it means to be the best. He’s also a great communicator. My time with Stan has me convinced that he will bring our players, team and community to a very proud place.”

Victims Who Get Rape Exam More Likely to Tell Police, Study Says

Posted: 14 May 2014 11:13 AM PDT

Victims of sexual assault are increasingly given access to free medical exams after the crime without facing pressure to report the matter to police, according to a new study. But barriers to access remain, especially for minority women, and the close correlation between medical exams and reporting to police raises the prospect that federal efforts to de-couple the two haven’t been fully realized.

The Urban Institute study, funded by the Department of Justice and released Wednesday, sought to assess whether a 2005 amendment to the 1994 Violence Against Women Act is succeeding in funding rape exams and ensuring victims aren’t pushed to report crimes as a condition. Researchers largely gave the six states and 19 jurisdictions studied high marks on this front. But the study also found that victims who do obtain the exams are more likely to report the crime. And researchers expressed doubt that the funding is succeeding in increasing the total number of victims seeking help.

"Most victims who access the exam, according to our respondents, report to police," said Janine Zweig, the lead author of the report. But Zweig said "the spirit of the law has not come to pass.”

“The ability to get the exam for free without reporting to police does not seem to have translated into a much larger number of victims getting the exam and participating in the criminal justice process,” she said.

Rape exams—which can include treatment of injuries, collection of blood and urine, testing for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, and referrals to counseling services—are an opportunity to collect evidence that can potentially lead law enforcement to identify perpetrators. But the uniqueness of the crime—the majority of sexual assault victims know their attackers and many victims don't recognize that an assault has occurred—has been shown lead some victims to completely shy away from help.

Before the 2005 amendment was passed, some law enforcement agencies were found to have required victims of sexual assault to report the crimes when receiving a rape exam. Congress clarified that victims are not obligated to report to police when they receive the exam. The idea was that victims could take their time when considering whether or not to report to police, while allowing for the collection of evidence that could be used during a later investigation. In the meantime, they would have access to a plethora of medical services to aid in their recovery.

But only three localities reported that more than a quarter of victims received exams without reporting to police, according to the report. The majority of localities estimated that only between 5 to 10% of victims didn't report their assault.

What's more, victims in some groups face additional barriers to accessing the exams altogether. More than half of providers surveyed said non-English speakers had increased difficulty receiving an exam, partly because of language barriers. In one location, victims who were undocumented immigrants reported forgoing help to avoid the risk of deportation or arrest. Those in rural areas and Native Indians face difficulties traveling to the limited number of providers in their state.

Some victims even reported not receiving exams because they did not want to report to police, showing there remains a gap in public knowledge around the requirements of these exams.

"When someone chooses to forgo the exam for whatever reason, everyone loses," Zweig said.

80% of Meat Labels Could Be Meaningless, Exclusive Report Says

Posted: 14 May 2014 11:09 AM PDT

A new report finds that the government was unable to provide proof that many meat and poultry producers are living up to many of their feel-good labeling claims.

The advocacy group Animal Welfare Institute spent three years requesting documentation from the USDA about companies that boast their animals are well cared for or raised in accordance with high environmental standards. The USDA failed to supply documentation supporting these sorts of claims—which range from “Humanely Raised and Handled” to “Sustainably Farmed”—for 20 of the 25 products AWI investigated.

The findings suggest that whether or not the animals in question are actually being raised humanely or in an eco-friendly manner, there are big gaps in verifying those claims and giving consumers access to that information. “We’re not suggesting that all these claims are misleading or that the claims we reviewed were misused,” says Dena Jones, manager of AWI’s Farm Animal Program. “But that’s the problem—we don’t know,” she notes. “That doesn’t give any assurance to the consumer.”

In the five cases in which AWI did receive relevant documents about labeling claims, the evidence, in Jones’s opinion, was inadequate, often consisting of a one- or two-sentence statement by the company that the animals were being raised appropriately—and no additional information about animal cage size, feed or water quality.

These claims are considered added value, Jones says, and people pay top dollar because of them. For example, the online grocery service FreshDirect sells its own brand of boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets—raised without antibiotics—for $6.99 per pound, whereas they sell a humanely raised and organic competitor’s cutlets for $11.99 per pound. And if the explosion of the organic market is any indication, these claims could be poised to bring in even more sales; in 2013, organic foods soared in size, to approximately $35 billion. “To most people, these claims mean you are getting something above the standard of conventional industry.” And with such prices at stake, companies should have to prove it, she says.

Indeed, these labels have become a major selling point with consumers. “The larger conventional meat companies, they see the success that our sector has had,” says Christopher Ely, co-founder and farmer liaison for Applegate, which makes meat and dairy products, many of which are certified organic. And they want a piece of the warm-and-fuzzy meat pie. “Everybody is jumping in.”

Many companies do pay an outside organization, such as Certified Humane or Global Animal Partnership, to supply guidelines and perform audits to make sure their practices are in line with the statements on their labels. (The third-party labels that AWI cites as trustworthy are Animal Welfare Approved, American Humane Certified, Certified Humane, Food Alliance, USDA Certified Organic and GAP, which verifies products sold at Whole Foods Markets.) But other companies may feel empowered to make exaggerated—or very vague—claims, Jones notes, and the various certification groups have distinct standards for what many of these terms require.

“There aren’t scientifically established and consumer-agreed-upon definitions for ‘humanely raised’ or ‘sustainably raised’,” says Lindy Miller, an agricultural extension educator at Perdue University. “So it becomes very hard to write or enforce regulations.” This leaves the marketplace in moderate chaos—as it was a couple decades ago for the term “organic” before the USDA took over a centralized labeling program. Simply arriving at a unified definition of organic took years and resulted in hundreds of pages of regulatory documents. Terms such as “humane” and “sustainable” are far murkier, and open to interpretation. “It’s not like ‘cage-free’ or ‘free-range,’” which have relatively specific, self-explanatory implications, says Jones.

Applegate was one of the 20 companies for which the USDA failed to supply any documentation supporting a “humanely raised” label. Jones points out that the company had previously verified that claim through Certified Humane but no longer does. Ely explains that Applegate now allows its individual producers to select their certification process but assures that each of its producers does get verified for humane handling. (He also asserts that they file thorough documentation with the USDA each time they apply for a new product label to be approved.)

Ensuring accountability for how an animal was raised becomes even more complicated because the company requesting USDA label approval is rarely the same one that has actually raised the animal. Most major distributors buy their animals from suppliers all over the country. Applegate, for example, might acquire animals from 1,500 different individual farms this year alone, Ely notes. And the USDA, which is tasked mainly with ensuring that food is safe and unadulterated, “does not have authority to regulate animal-raising facilities,” says Catherine Cochran, a USDA spokesperson, adding that they do “require processors to substantiate that they meet the claims presented on their product labels.”

And just because the USDA was not able to supply AWI with documentation does not mean that it does not exist. As Miller notes, when proprietary information—such as a company’s list of suppliers or their animal feed blend—does not generate a human safety concern, the USDA will respect the company’s trade secrets and not release the documents to the public. This policy, he notes, could be adding to the confusion and lack of transparency about how these claims are being verified.

Nevertheless, AWI plans to submit a petition Wednesday to request that the USDA require third-party certification for all labeling claims about sustainability and animal welfare.

“In the end,” says Ely, “it’s going to be about the trust of the label and the company.”

Scarlett Johansson Sues French Author Over Novel About Woman Who Looks Like Scarlett Johansson

Posted: 14 May 2014 11:07 AM PDT

The novel’s title — La première chose qu’on regard — translates roughly as “The first thing we look at.” In this case, that first thing is that the heroine looks like Scarlett Johansson. In fact, she looks so much like the actress that, when the story’s male lead (who looks like Ryan Gosling) first meets her, he thinks he’s looking at Johansson herself.

That bit of description is causing trouble for the popular French author Grégoire Delacourt, who wrote the book, as well as his publisher. The actress has sued them for €50,000 in damages, and to stop the sale of adaptation rights of the book. According to Le Figaro, a French paper that has been tracking the story since it began months ago, the hearing was scheduled to take place today, May 14, in Paris. Her lawyer, Vincent Toledano, told Le Figaro that the book constituted fraudulent exploitation of her name and image in order to further the commercial promotion of the book.

The drama began last June, at which point Delacourt told Le Figaro that he chose to include Johansson in his novel because she worked as a stand-in for today’s archetype of female beauty, and that using her name allowed him to make a statement about the way modern romantic fantasies are affected by the pervasiveness of celebrity culture. But, he stressed, his heroine was decidedly not meant to actually be Scarlett Johansson. (Delacourt also told the newspaper that he thought the actress had probably not read the book, which has not been translated into English.)

To American readers, the case may seem an unlikely one: in the U.S., protections for authors in such a case are fairly strong, according to Lloyd Jassin, a New York lawyer who works with intellectual property, publishing and entertainment law. There are two fairly distinct areas of law that are relevant to Johansson’s claim: the right of publicity (the right to control the use of your name or image) and libel. In order to have a libel claim, the material in question has to be false and damaging, a high standard to meet for a public figure. The right of publicity, which Jassin describes as valuable but limited, applies when the person’s name is used for commercial reasons. If the publisher of La première chose qu’on regard were implying in advertisements that Johansson endorsed the book, that would be one thing; to refer to her in a way that’s related to the plot is a different matter.

“In the U.S., [a novel] would not be considered a commercial use,” Jassin says. “Here, we have the First Amendment and the First Amendment doesn't look at most books as commercial uses or commercial propositions. If her name or likeness is relevant, literarily, if there's significance and literary merit to using her name between the covers, the First Amendment steps in.”

In France, however, things are different; presumably Johansson wouldn’t have brought the case if she didn’t think she had a chance of winning, and such an idea is not as far-fetched as it would be in the U.S. In Europe, Jassin says, personality rights are taken “much more seriously.” As Le Figaro has noted, French courts have typically been lenient with novelists who have been sued, but some recent cases have deviated from that pattern, finding that uses of real people as characters have constituted invasions of privacy. (This case is different, as Johansson is not a character in the book, but the area of law is related.) The right to privacy is protected by the French Civil Code, and past cases in France have upheld the rights of even celebrities to protest the unauthorized use of her image. However, a Parisian court also found in 2005 that the use of a celebrity’s image to illustrate what something was talking about rather than to imply an endorsement, even when that something made money for its creators, was fine.

As for Delacourt, no matter how the case turns out, it’s already clear that his novel hasn’t been received the way he expected: in explaining why he used her name in the first place, the author also joked to Le Figaro that he thought the actress’ reaction to the book would be to send him flowers.

Arrow Co-Creator Marc Guggenheim on Tonight’s Season 2 Finale

Posted: 14 May 2014 10:55 AM PDT

This month’s upfronts season has ushered in the rise of the superhero era on television. From Gotham to The Flash to Agent Carter, broadcast networks are nearly as keen to bring masked heroes to TV as studios have been to bring them to the big screen. For now, however, the king of the genre is CW’s Arrow, which wraps up its second season tonight with a two-hour finale. Once again, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) must save Starling City while facing a seemingly unconquerable foe, this time in the form of friend-turned-nemesis Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett).

TIME spoke with co-creator Marc Guggenheim about what to expect in tonight’s finale, whether we might see any more shocking resurrections and where Arrow goes from here:

TIME: Were there different sorts of things you wanted to accomplish with Season 2 compared with Season 1?

Marc Guggenheim: Yeah, great question. Well, our goal, you know, sort of on a meta-level was our goal is to top ourselves from season 1. I think that’s probably fairly obvious, or that’s an obvious call that I think any second season show should have. We went in, we knew we wanted to tell a very concrete story with respect to Oliver making a journey from vigilante to hero. And we knew we wanted to center the evolution around this idea of him giving up killing as a means of accomplishing his ends. So we knew we had that sort of core dynamic to play with. The other thing we sort of wanted to accomplish was we wanted to focus the storytelling a little bit. You know, in 1, we were still figuring out a lot of things with the show, and we sort of felt that there were times where certain characters would get siloed off in their own stories, and those stories wouldn’t feel connected to the main narrative. You know, we have a big ensemble. We have a large group of characters and to a certain extent you’re always going to have to have some of these sort of adjunct stories, just to move plot forward. But one of the things we decided to do in season 2, and I’m reasonably happy with the way it worked out, was even when you have those adjunct stories, they either spin off from or eventually connect to the main plot of the episode. So the adjunct stories don’t feel as siloed off as they did back in season 1. And that was very important to us going in.

TIME: At the end of last season, obviously the two big deaths — or so it appeared — were Tommy and Malcolm. Was it hard letting those characters go, and did you know at the time that you were going to be bringing Malcolm back?

Guggenheim: Well, it was easier to let John Barrowman go only insofar as we didn’t have him under contract, and he’s a busy guy. So our attitude with John has always been, you know, we love having him on the show for as much as we can have him on the show. It was very difficult with respect to Colin [Donnell] because Colin was a series regular on the show, you know, had sort of signed on for the long haul as it were, and is just an incredibly nice guy to boot. So it was a difficult and painful decision for us. We didn’t know at the outset that we were going to kill Tommy off. That was something that really we only came to realize around Episode 18 of Season 1, you know, very late in the season. As we started to sort of plot out our end game in greater detail for Season 1, we came to realize that if we were going to sort of honor these themes of sacrifice that we had set up with the pilot and then we had threaded throughout season on, someone needed to make a sacrifice, and we thought about which character’s death would actually impact the most number of the remaining characters. And when we sort of did the math on it, we realized that Tommy, his death really touches everybody. And that would not have been the case if we had picked a different character. So that was sort of an unfortunate realization on our part. It’s just a weird thing creatively to be a show-runner and decide to write a character out because you basically feel like you’re firing someone because there is an actor and they are getting paid to do this job and then they’re not going to be paid anymore. And you feel like you’re firing someone even though you’re not firing them for doing a bad job. You’re ending the position because you feel like it’s of the greatest creative benefit to the show.

TIME: Was that a similar sort of process for Susanna Thompson’s character or was that something you knew was going to happen early on?

Guggenheim: No, actually with Susanna’s character it was very, very similar to the point where we didn’t know originally where Moira’s story was going to take her. You know, that was sort of premised on, A, partially realizing the importance her death would have to Oliver’s season-long arc; and also the reluctance on our part to give Moira another secret. You know, we sort of felt like we had — Moira functions best or functioned best when the audience loves and hates her. And part of her appeal is when she’s got a secret to keep. And in Season 1, she was part of this grand, overarcing conspiracy, and that was cool and mysterious. And then in Season 2, we had given her the secret of knowing Thea’s true parentage. And we didn’t want to come into Season 3 and be like, “Oh, now she’s got this secret!” It just starts to strain credulity a little bit, and we felt we owed Moira better than that.

TIME: Obviously Tommy’s death had a big impact on Oliver heading into this season. Can we expect Moira’s death to have an impact of similar magnitude?

Guggenheim: No, I think one of the things that I think the show does well is it honors the dead very well. You know, in Season 1 when everyone thought Sara was dead, you know, we kept Sara alive. She was present in a lot of scenes, even though the character was someone everyone thought was dead. You know, certainly Tommy resonated throughout Season 2. I fully expect Moira to resonate throughout Season 3. You know, she’ll resonate in a different way than Tommy or Sara did. That’s very much the point. But the idea is that these characters are gone, but they’re never forgotten.

TIME: Right. And is there any sense or is there any chance that we could see Tommy or Moira return in the way that Sara and Malcolm have? Or have you pretty much closed the book on the two of them?

Guggenheim: I would say — you know, you learn never to say never. But I think if they were to return in the way Sara and Malcolm have, it would — they’re very different kinds of characters. You know, Malcolm and Sara sort of traffic in a more heightened world than Tommy and Moira did, and I think their spontaneous resurrection would feel wrong. I think in part also because of the way in which — the other distinction is Malcolm, but certainly Sara, died in a way that left open the possibility of her not being dead, whereas, you know, not by design, but both Tommy and Moira died with sharp objects through their torsos. It’s very hard to sort of buy that back.

TIME: Was bringing Sara back something that you always knew you were going to do ?

Guggenheim: That was part of the design of the series from day one. It’s actually in the original series document that we had sent to the studio network right after we finished the pilot. And it was something that we always thought if we get to Season 2, this is a story we’ll tell. And we were very fortunate to get to Season 2.

Cate Cameron—The CW

TIME: At this point, basically all of the major characters except for Detective Lance and Thea know Oliver’s secret identity. Do you ever worry that too many people know, and how do you go about maintaining that balance of those who do and don’t know?

Guggenheim: Right. Sometimes it seems like all of Starling City knows. And it’s funny. We’re aware of the internet, and we’re aware of Twitter and we’re aware of people having an opinion that, “Oh, too many people know” and even sort of wrote a nod to that in Episode 2.12, you know, where Roy asks “How many people know your secret?” and Oliver just says, “Too many.” You know, that said, that was sort of me not quite speaking my mind because the truth of the matter is that we tend — we always gravitate towards what gives us more story, not less, and what is more interesting, not less. And at the end of the day, a character finding out Oliver’s secret and going forward knowing his secret tends to be more interesting than them not knowing. And if you actually look at like the Chris Nolan Batman movies, a whole host of people knew that Bruce Wayne was Batman: Alfred did, Lucius Fox did, Rachel did. You know, it is sort of part and parcel of the world. But that will be something that will remain fluid of the duration of the series as people come in and out of Oliver’s life and discover or don’t discover his alter ego.

TIME: Is there anyone that you feel like it’s crucial that they not know his identity?

Guggenheim: You know, that’s a great question. It’s funny. Even when I think that there is like a sacred cow topic, that opinion gets changed. One of the things that I think we’ve learned as we go through writing and producing the show is that the show can go in a lot of — the show is constantly surprising us in terms of the directions it can go in. And as a result it’s very hard to say, “Well, this will never happen” because we’re not the first audience, but we’re the first people who need to be surprised. And sometimes the unthinkable is the most interesting story.

TIME: Shifting gears a bit, there were a lot of reports out there that indicated that the Barry Allen character was going to get its own backdoor pilot in one of the later episodes this season, and obviously that’s not quite how things ended up working out. Was it problematic at all for you all to have to change gears on the fly?

Guggenheim: It’s a great question. The only, quote/unquote, problem that it caused for us was we didn’t have a director slotted for the episode because David Nutter who was directing The Flash pilot and who did direct The Flash pilot, he was supposed to be the director of Episode 20, the backdoor pilot. The great thing about that is, you know, what could have been a real disaster, because, you know, coming very — that decision came pretty late in the season, and we didn’t have a director for an episode. But as luck would have it, we ended up getting a guy named Doug Aaroniokoski to direct Episode 20. And he did a phenomenal job. I mean, he quickly became one of our favorite directors by just doing such terrific, terrific work on that episode. So sometimes even the unexpected can lead to something that really helps improve the overall series.

TIME: How far out do you have the show mapped at the moment? Is it mostly a season-by-season thing?

Guggenheim: We tend to do it season by season. We’re right now in the middle of sort of a four-week boot camp where we figure out the entire season in broad strokes. But we also can help ourselves. We have ideas that we go, “Okay, we can’t do this now because the pieces aren’t in place, but in Season 4 we can do X, Y or Z, and Season 5 we do X, Y or Z. For example, the ending of the Season 2 finale is something that we had in mind ever since the pilot. So I would say it’s kind of like looking down a long road. We have am great clarity of vision with respect to the season that’s right in front of us, but we can also glimpse ahead and sort of see what Seasons 4 and 5 and beyond look like.

TIME: Have you been given any sort of sense of what sort of role the Arrow might play in the larger sort of DC comic universe, whether films or other television shows. Is that something that people have spoken with you about?

Guggenheim: No. [Laughs] No. The one thing I can say with certainty is I will be among the last to know.

TIME: Obviously The Flash story sort of originated within your series. Is there any potential for crossover?

Guggenheim: I think there’s absolute potential for it. I’m a huge fan of The Six Million Dollar Man and I love the episodes where they would cross over with The Bionic Woman. So again, I would never say never. We’ve been so sort of deep into the planning process of Season 3 in terms of the story that we’re telling vis-a-vis Arrow that we haven’t yet gotten to the question of, “Okay are we going to cross over with Flash? How are we going to do it?” et cetera, et cetera. I imagine that time will come because it would be a lot of fun, but we haven’t done it yet.

TIME: There are rumors that another DC Series, Gotham,might only have 13 episodes a season. Is it tough to fill a full 23-episode order every year or is that an amount that you prefer?

Guggenheim: 23 is hard. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s brutal. And yes, every time I hear about a shortened order for a show I get very jealous. It’s funny. I will say, apart from jealousy, my thought process doesn’t extend beyond that because at the end of the day, the network orders the number of episodes they want. And truth be told, I would be very happy to at this point settle for 22 episodes versus 23. At least that way I could get a little bit of a vacation. But again, that decision also gets made way above my head. There are so many — I will say like day in, day out when you’re running a show like this, there are so many decisions that have to get made, you’re actually quite grateful for the decisions you’re not responsible for. So there are plenty of things that are out of my hands, and the number of episodes is certainly one of them.

TIME: And are there any other shows out there that you really enjoy or take some sort of inspiration from?

Guggenheim: Oh, yeah, definitely. Let’s see, we reference Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel quite a bit in the writers room, the way those seasons are constructed has been a strong point of inspiration for us. The X-Files. Andrew Kreisberg who runs the show with me is a huge Dr. Who fan and is constantly talking about that show in the room. Let’s see, what else? In terms of current shows, we talk a lot about like Breaking Bad and Walking Dead in the way they sort of construct their story arcs. I’m a huge fan of the TV show, Wiseguy and I’m very fond of the way that show portrayed its villains in a way that made you occasionally sympathetic to their cause, in addition to — you know, that was really in my mind the first show that actually had multi-episode arcs and bringing things to a satisfying conclusion, as well as a morally conflicted protagonist. But it’s like we always begin the day talking about what shows people have watched the night before. We’re huge fans of Game of Thrones for example, Orphan Black. And even though those shows don’t necessarily correlate directly with Arrow, I’m a very big believer that writers are the product of their inspirations. You do think a lot about what shows you’re gravitating towards. I would also probably be remiss If I didn’t list Lost just as a great example of a show with a nonlinear structure and mythology and great character moments. You know, that’s an influence on Arrow, as well.

Cate Cameron—The CW

TIME: Tonight’s finale looks like it will once again require Oliver to save Starling City, albeit from a very different kind of threat than the one he faced last year. Are there any particular differences that you focused on while constructing the episode?

Guggenheim: You know, it’s interesting because on the one hand, you think, okay, well in both finales Oliver’s punching a guy, and in both finales, the city is in flames. And yet at the same time I would say that the Season 1 finale and the Season 2 finales are so remarkably different on a lot of different levels. And you’re correct to point out that one of them is that Malcolm is a very different character than Slade, that for one thing with Slade it’s personal. These are two guys who have years of history together, and it completely changes the dramatic nature of those fights. One thing, just to quickly digress, one thing we discovered very early on in the show is it didn’t matter how amazing the stunt sequences were and how incredible the action was: If we didn’t care about what was going on it didn’t matter. And again, like in both finales, Oliver’s punching a guy. But the guy’s he’s punching or the guy who is punching him, those two men could not be more different. And it’s in that difference that the — you know, we’re telling two completely different stories. So part of it’s just the personal connection he has with Slade. But part of it also is that in Season 1 he was able to defeat Malcolm by essentially killing him, even though we subsequently learn that that death didn’t take, Oliver stabbed Malcolm with the intention of ending his life. And in Season 2, the big dilemma for Oliver is, you know, is he willing to break his vow against killing in order to stop Slade’s reign of terror. So there’s a moral dilemma at the center of the second season finale that wasn’t present in the first season finale.

TIME: On a slightly more micro scale, should we expect more of the Anatoli and Bratva backstory to come back into play in the future?

Guggenheim: Well, I will say this: We know that Oliver has to get the Bratva tattoo in some way because he has that on his chest. And David Nykl, who plays Anatoli, is such a phenomenal actor. We will definitely see him again. I can’t say whether or not that will be in the flashback or the present day, but we do have a tendency to write for the actors who we love. And David is really, really terrific as Anatoli. So you haven’t seen the last of him.

TIME: Do you have a personal favorite character to write for or personal favorite episode of the show?

Guggenheim: Hm. Oh, good question. You know, it’s hard to pick a personal favorite because they’re sort of like children and you tend to love the youngest. So right now I’m really enjoying the second season finale, but that just sounds really self-serving. I will say I’m particularly proud of Episode 20, which was when Moira was killed. And it’s funny. I would say that Felicity is probably the easiest to write because she’s fast-talking and witting and probably closest to my personal voice. At the same time, I’ve really — in a way I never expected to because both these men are so — both these characters are so taciturn and not talky. But I’ve really come to enjoy writing the Oliver-Diggle relationship. When we first started working on the show, Andrew, Greg and I, we all write these sort of very witty, verbose characters, like sort of all of our characters are like Felicity. And we had to change our writing style to write the pilot of Arrow, you know, particularly Oliver. We had to change sort of how we wrote as writers because Oliver Queen is not a quippy guy. And we always say like he’s not even a very self-aware guy. And it’s been an interesting journey as a writer for me to work on a show where literally the protagonist is — his voice exists outside of my wheelhouse as a writer and yet I really — I’ve come to enjoy writing him a great deal.

TIME: What sort of influence do Stephen [Amell] or David [Ramsey] or Paul [Blackthorne] have in the development of their characters or what their characters say?

Guggenheim: You know, I will say like with each individual episode, and the actors all have different ways of communicating with me and Andrew, the actors will sort of make their feelings known about, “I don’t think I’d say this,” or “Can I say that instead?” And, you know, sometimes it’s a phone call, sometimes email, sometimes a text, you know. Like I said, everyone’s got their own sort of process. And then with respect to sort of all the cast members, the way it’s evolved is we’ll — sometimes we’ll get on the phone because we shoot in Vancouver and the writers are in Los Angeles, but I would say that the stuff that I really cherish is when we’re up on the set and during lighting breaks we’re just talking with David, Stephen, all the cast, about their characters. And sometimes it’s us just telling them, “Oh, this is what’s coming up for you.” Other times they’re saying, “Oh, you know, it would be a lot of fun if we — if this, this, or this happened.” And I personally find that I get a lot of ideas just from having those discussions. So their input is just very organic. It’s not like, “Hey, I really want to do this.” I will say this: We have the most selfless cast in television. No one’s saying, “You know what I really want to do? I really want to —” Like Diggle, Dave Ramsey didn’t say, “You know what? I want to have a whole episode centered around me,” you know? And we did that twice this year. We did this in 2-06 and 2-16. And that’s an actor who sometimes he only has to say like “Think about this, Oliver.” And he always does it with a smile on his face. That’s the thing. We have such a big ensemble. Everyone is so selfless. They know that they are sometimes going to be at center stage and other times they’re going to be very deep in the background because that’s the only way you can tell a story with such a large ensemble. And everyone does it without a complaint. They do it happily. They do it with pride in the show. Like Colton Haynes — God bless him — he showed up to the table read for Episode 2-20 even though — and Roy’s obviously all over that episode. But he shows up for the table read even though he didn’t have a single line of dialogue. So everyone on the cast — and Stephen sets the tone — everyone on the cast is just incredibly selfless. They’re all team plays and they’re all — you know, no one’s going “Me, me, me.” They’re all going, you know, “What can I do to help the team win?”

The two-hour season finale of Arrow airs tonight at 8 p.m. EST on the CW.

Michael Sam: I Was Going to Wait to Come Out

Posted: 14 May 2014 10:54 AM PDT

In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE magazine, recent St. Louis Rams draft pick Michael Sam said he originally planned to come out as gay after the NFL draft.

"When I came out in February, it actually wasn't the time I wanted to come out," Sam said. "I was going to come out to my [pro] team—whoever drafted me.”

Sam, whose February announcement led to him becoming the first openly gay player to be drafted to the NFL, also shared that he felt blessed to have the support of his teammates at the University of Missouri. “Everyone in that program was so respectful of me, I wanted to give them all I got,” Sam said.

Read more at PEOPLE.

North Dakota Pushes ‘Heartbeat’ Abortion Ban to Higher Court

Posted: 14 May 2014 10:48 AM PDT

North Dakota’s Attorney General will appeal a court’s decision to strike down a state law banning the vast majority of abortions.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland overturned the ban last month, calling the law “invalid and unconstitutional.” It would make abortions illegal from the time the fetus develops a heartbeat, which can often be detected six weeks into a pregnancy. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem filed an appeal on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.

The motion was supported by more than 60 North Dakota lawmakers.


Hey, Smith Students: It’s Hard To Hear With Your Fingers in Your Ears

Posted: 14 May 2014 10:27 AM PDT

The weeks before graduation are usually packed with last-minute hookups and existential crises, but Smith College students somehow found time to alienate a world leader. Campus “activists” started a petition protesting Christine Lagarde’s selection as this year’s commencement speaker, calling her a “corrupt imperialist” for failing to end global poverty. Lagarde cancelled her speech, because she’s got better things to do than speak to a bunch of self-righteous millennials who don’t want her there. What are these students they thinking? Don’t they know that Christine Lagarde is the Beyonce of world economists?

The problem, of course, isn’t just at Smith. A few weeks ago, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cancelled her speech at Rutgers amid student protests over her work with the Bush Administration. Last month Brandeis University said it would not award scholar Ayaan Hirsi Ali with an honorary degree because of student protests that she called Islam a "a destructive, nihilistic cult of death." And just yesterday, former UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Bergenau withdrew from speaking at Haverford because students objected to the fact that campus police used batons to break up a 2011 Occupy protest while he was in charge.

What’s happening with these commencement speakers isn’t activism; it’s reactivism. It’s spoiled to think that any of us are entitled to a world where we never encounter someone with whom we disagree. Besides, what do students think they’ll achieve? It’s a foolish gesture that says more about how students think of their own activism than anything else.

Students have been protesting ever since Marius and his bros stormed the barricades in Les Miserables. Kids demonstrated all through the 20th century for important things like civil rights, an end to the Vietnam War, and fair pay for campus workers. More than 150 students walked out of Columbia’s 1985 Commencement to pressure the University to divest $32.5 million from South African investments because of apartheid.

But protesting Christine Lagarde’s speech is not the same as organizing to fight global poverty. Whining about Condoleezza Rice doesn’t change anything about the US’s policy on torture. And un-inviting Ayaan Hirsi Ali doesn’t help advance religious tolerance.

It’s a self-serving kind of political correctness that’s annoyingly “correct” yet totally apolitical in that it achieves no substantial change. Do they think they are “punishing” Christine Lagarde for IMF policy before she took the helm? Do they think she is lying on her therapist’s couch, saying “What can I do to make those Smith girls like me? Maybe I should rethink the IMF’s policy in the Global South? Is it Greece?”

This is faux activism — more about the activist than about the world they hope to change. Squabbling over a commencement speaker is an easy fight, and its only purpose is to makes students feel radical. They get puffed up by their own offendedness and mistake hypersensitivity for militancy. They think they’ve made a point, but all they’ve done is deny themselves the opportunity to learn from some of the smartest women in the world.

Besides, online petitions are even more toothless than hashtag activism. Critics say movements like #BringBackOurGirls offer trivial social media solutions to real world problems, but at least they spread the word and generate real dialogue. Online petitions like the ones protesting Lagarde’s speech, on the other hand, just stir up outrage within small, easily manipulated communities. They allow kids to feel important without the responsibility of changing anything. Clicking “sign” on an online petition does not make you a crusader for truth and justice.

And Smith’s protest is especially embarrassing because Lagarde herself would be such an amazing speaker. Students who are concerned about global poverty could learn a thing or two from the woman who holds the world’s purse strings. But this is typical of the hands-over-ears kind of tantrums that we’ve come to expect from women’s colleges, which seem to be the perfect incubator for ridiculous grievances.

If anything, these kinds of tantrums make students less effective at solving real-world problems, because they’re blinded by their own idealism. It’s hard to get anything done when you make the perfect the enemy of the good. No commencement speaker could ever be perfect. But Christine Lagarde would have been pretty damn good.


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