Monday, May 12, 2014

Satellite Company Launches Tracking Service For Wayward Flights

Satellite Company Launches Tracking Service For Wayward Flights

Satellite Company Launches Tracking Service For Wayward Flights

Posted: 12 May 2014 11:30 AM PDT

A satellite company which has been instrumental in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 announced Monday that it would offer a free tracking service for 11,000 passenger jets, encompassing almost every commercial flight in the world.

Share prices for Inmarsat, a satellite company based in the U.K., jumped on the news that it would track any passenger plane equipped with the company’s satellite connection, a feature that comes standard in the vast majority of the world’s long-haul jetliners.

CEO Rupert Pearce confirmed the news at a conference hosted by the International Civil Aviation Organization. “In the wake of the loss of [Flight 370], we believe this is simply the right thing to do,” he said.

It remains unclear just how soon this information will be available to the general public and in what form.

Inmarsat said it would stream information from a plane’s black box recorder to a flight tracking organization as soon as a “trigger event,” such as a plane suddenly veering off course, raises alarms.

You Can Now Buy Hanson’s MmmHops Beer Online

Posted: 12 May 2014 11:24 AM PDT

Attention ’90s nostalgics and craft beer enthusiasts: Hanson’s MmmHops beer is now available online for your next retro kegger.

The boy band of brothers who caused an entire generation to have the phrase “MmmBop” stuck in their head for an entire decade have branched out into beer with the establishment of the Hanson Brothers Beer Company and the release of their debut brew.

MmmHops is a smooth-bodied Pale Ale crafted with rich malt and a signature blend of hops, with 7.5% alcohol, according to a press release. (The average beer is closer to 5% alcohol, so don’t think the Hanson Brothers don’t know how to go hard.) While the brew has been available at select fine retailers since 2013, it’s only now available for online sale to nostalgia-fueled beer drinkers around the country.

As for possible brand extensions, Taylor Hanson told TIME that, “We take our music very seriously, but we don't take ourselves too seriously. So we joked about a pilsner and we have a song called ‘Penny and Me’ so ‘Pilsner and Me.’ Or ‘Where's the Lager?’” He added, “If the beer is great, then we feel like that ultimately will win out.”

We can all raise a frosty cold glass to that, while wondering if there will ever be a “Get The Girl Back” bock.

MORE: 14 Music Festivals to Check Out In 2014

MORE: Q&A: Taylor Hanson Talks New Album, Old Songs and Tie-In Products

Twitter Gives You a Way to Shut Up Your Talkative Friends

Posted: 12 May 2014 11:21 AM PDT

Twitter rolled out new feature Monday to let users better manage the deluge of tweets they receive.

Users can now "mute" people they follow, removing those people's tweets and retweets from their own timelines. The muted person won't know that he or she has been silenced. It’s a stealthy way to read less content from certain users without having to unfollow them. A person can easily be muted or unmuted at any time, Twitter said in a blog post.

“Mute gives you even more control over the content you see on Twitter by letting you remove a user's content from key parts of your Twitter experience,” the company said.

Though Twitter had been experimenting with the feature in recent weeks, it announced Monday that muting will be available to all users of the company's iOS and Android apps, as well as the website. Some other Twitter applications, like TweetDeck, already allowed muting.

The feature is part of Twitter's overall strategy to make its service more accessible to a wider range of people. Following a successful initial public offering, Twitter's stock has tumbled in recent months as investors worry about the social network's ability to attract new users. CEO Dick Costolo vowed that Twitter would make changes to its interface this year to make it easier to understand and manage. The company overhauled user profile pages in April as part of this effort.

Rubio Wrong on Climate Change—Period

Posted: 12 May 2014 11:08 AM PDT

Good news for Marco Rubio fans! The junior Senator from Florida is ready to be President, according to, um, the junior Senator from Florida himself. Rubio may or may not be ready to hold the most powerful job in the world, but one thing is clear: He’s certainly prepared to run for it, at least in the modern Republican Party. If there was any doubt on that score, it was settled during an interview on ABC News on Sunday, when he checked one of the most important boxes on any GOP hopeful’s job application: declaring that he did not, could not, would not, believe that climate change is real.

“I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it,” Rubio said. “I think severe weather has been a fact of life on Earth since man started recording history.”

Those two sentences alone are a clinic in the art of the counter-factual, non-scientific dodge that can never be proven wrong because it says nothing at all. It opens with the obligatory hedge of belief—as when the heads of the major tobacco companies testified before Congress in 1994 that they did not believe nicotine was addictive, though it has been scientifically proven to be, because belief need not have anything to do with fact and, in the case of the tobacco boys, had the additional advantage of not leaving them open to perjury charges. Rubio adds the obligatory soupçon of contempt for the scientists—or “these scientists” he calls them, one of those rhetorical eyerolls that dismisses an entire community of professionals as little more than a faction of hacks. Finally, there is the faintly scientific sounding statement that is utterly irrelevant to the issue he is ostensibly addressing. Extreme weather has always been a fact of life on Earth, Rubio points out. Stipulated, as the lawyers would say. Now how about addressing how we’re exacerbating it?

But Rubio goes too far, as all climate deniers eventually do, inventing things scientists never, ever say, and then confidently refuting them. Take his assertion that climate investigators have “take[n] a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that’s directly and almost solely attributable to human activities.”

OK, let’s put aside for a moment that “a few decades” of research is huge, a massive body of work with the most sophisticated tools and computer models ever available, which have exponentially increased our knowledge of how climate works. Still, even with that, climate scientists treat words like “directly and almost solely attributable” as nothing short of radioactive because that overstates what the research can show so far. Science is a cautious and highly incremental process, and scientists themselves treat it that way.

The same disingenuousness is true of Rubio’s statement to CNN that, “I think that it’s an enormous stretch to say that every weather incident that we read about or a majority of them are attributable to human activity.” Again, it would indeed be a terrible stretch if scientists were saying such a thing—which is why they’re not. Indeed, it’s why they stress again and again that weather isn’t climate, that today’s heat wave in Arizona or flood in Colorado is nothing more than bad news for the people who live there, but that over time—say, over “a few decades of research”—trends emerge, patterns reveal themselves, and scientific theory becomes inescapable if still incomplete fact.

Rubio may realize all that already or he may not—only he knows. Either way, by saying the things he’s said he has indeed made a strong case that he’s ready to run for president—and an even stronger case that he’s not ready to hold the job.

This Iowa Distillery Is Raising Whiskey-Flavored Pigs

Posted: 12 May 2014 11:02 AM PDT

The only thing that makes the distinct flavors of whiskey and pork better is combining them. That’s why we have bacon-infused bourbon, Jack Daniel’s-glazed pork chops, and so on.

But the good people at Iowa’s Templeton Rye Distillery decided to take this very, very literally by attempting to breed pigs that already taste like whiskey. Yes. Really. Whiskey-flavored pigs.

They bought 25 purebred Duroc pigs, known for their high-quality meat, with the sole intention of giving them Templeton’s signature flavor. No, this does not mean they’ve been feeding the pigs whiskey. Instead, the pigs on are on a special diet that incorporates the dry distillery grain from the whiskey-making process into the feed, Iowa’s WQAD reports. (The distillery has a detailed breakdown of the pigs’ diet and feeding schedule here.)

The whiskey-pigs will be ready for slaughter in June, available to restaurants or to boozy-bacon loving individuals. We can only assume Ron Swanson is somehow involved in all this.

One of Life’s Annoying Regular Expenses Is Getting Cheaper

Posted: 12 May 2014 11:01 AM PDT

Prices are on the rise for everything from meat to limes, from rent to Netflix. But one of life’s commonplace expenses is surprisingly on the decline.

According to AAA, the average cost of owning and operating a sedan in the U.S. is now $8,876 per year, which is lower than it was in 2013 ($9,122) and 2012 ($8,946). The figures are all based on an owner driving 15,000 miles per year in an average sedan. Naturally, annual costs are much higher if you’re the owner of an SUV (average of $11,039 this year, versus $11,599 a year ago) or a minivan ($9,753 vs. $9,795).

Costs aren’t coming down because of decreases in purchase prices. The average price of a new car last summer hit a record high of $31,252, a figure that’s been topped lately with average prices over $32,000 in recent months.

(MORE: Could It Be? Gas Prices Have Probably Already Peaked for 2014)

Even so, the overall cost of ownership is down, and the largest factor bringing on the decrease is the fall in the price of fueling one’s vehicle. AAA estimates that the average price of regular gasoline is down nearly 6% this year compared to 2013. (In past years, it’s been fairly standard for gas prices to shift in only one direction: up.) Combine that with the fact that the average fuel economy for vehicles has been climbing (over 25 mpg lately), and the costs of gassing up one’s car are down over 10% this year. (In a somewhat ironic twist, the widespread improvement in fuel economy in today’s traditional internal combustion-run cars is one reason that consumers aren’t turning to even more efficient (but expensive) electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in larger numbers.)

Costs related to tires, insurance, and depreciation are all also down slightly this year, though in most cases the effect on one’s overall costs is marginal: The average insurance premium, for instance, fell from $1,029 last year to $1,023 now. So a savings of a whopping $6.

How Seth Rogen Became the Stoner King of Comedy

Posted: 12 May 2014 11:00 AM PDT

Sporting a crew cut and a scowl, Seth Rogen assumes the voice of a farmer who dreams of planting “the finest reefer the Midwest has ever grown.” He adds: “That’s why when some idiot teacher tells me I’m not livin’ up to my potential, I just smile, ’cause I know I am.”

He was 16 or 17 when he auditioned for the cast of executive producer Judd Apaptow’s 1999 TV comedy Freaks and Geeks, but this one-minute tape already captures two of the three aspects of the Seth Rogen audiences have come to embrace: the pothead who’s an underachiever and proud of it. The third part of his appeal is the booming basso laugh, which makes him sound like the weirdest, most genial Jewish Santa Claus. (Rogen launched his career, in his hometown of Vancouver, B.C., as a teen standup comic making jokes about his bar mitzvah.)

(FIND: Freaks and Geeks on James Poniewozik’s list of the all-TIME 100 TV Shows)

This year, Rogen’s Christmas or Hanukkah came in May. Neighbors, which he starred in and produced, topped the weekend box office with $51.1 million — the strongest opening for a live-action comedy since Ted two summers ago, and an amazing start for a movie with a piddling $18-million budget. Evicting The Amazing Spider Man 2 from its one-week throne, Neighbors earned about as much money as The Great Gatsby did exactly a year ago.

Does this make Rogen the slob DiCaprio, the louche Leo? Maybe not: his affect doesn’t announce him as an obvious star. A pudgy fellow with glasses and, often, a scruffy beard, he’s the kind of actor who in earlier decades would have played supporting parts: the handsome hero’s wise-cracking pal. But movie comedy is a democracy whose most prominent players need not look as if they had stepped out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue. Jonah Hill, another thoroughbred from the Apatow stable, is also roundish and Jewish, but with a prickly edge. Rogen’s special gift to audiences is that he projects a sweet, unthreatening geniality — and, though he might cringe to hear it, an essential niceness. That’s what makes him, at 32, the stoner king of comedy.

(READ: Corliss’s review of Neighbors)

In the Freaks and Geeks class that also included James Franco and Jason Segel, Rogen’s comedy professor was Judd Apatow, the show’s executive producer. Apatow would go on to cast Rogen in a prominent supporting role in The 40 Year Old Virgin, give him the prime male role as the one-night stand confronted with fatherhood in Knocked Up and produce Superbad, the high-school comedy that Rogen and his writing partner (and fellow bar mitzvah student) Evan Goldberg had begun scripting when they were 13. Each movie had earned more than $100 million at the domestic box office by the end of 2007, when Rogen was all of 25.

The hits kept on coming for the actor-writer-producer, with the weed-driven, low-budget comedies Pineapple Express and This Is the End, which co-starred Franco and Hill, and took in another easy $100 million last summer. Add the distinctive voice work Rogen has contributed to such animated features as Shrek the Third, Horton Hears a Who!, Monsters vs. Aliens and Kung Fu Panda, and the total North American gross for his movies is more than $1.7 billion — a nice haul for the tyke tycoon of toke.

(READ: Mary Pols on Seth Rogen’s This Is the End)

Rogen’s Ken Miller in Freaks and Geeks was surly and acerbic — Segel asks him, “Can you ever not be sarcastic?” and Rogen replies, sarcastically, “I’m sarcastic?” — but with a furtive sensitivity. In one episode Ken stands outside the band room, watching with mournful devotion as his beloved “Tuba Girl” practices. That may have been the last time a Rogen character did any pining. He gives every evidence of being at ease with his girth (or he wouldn’t be photographed nude in the Knocked Up and Neighbors sex scenes) and the prematurely middle-age persona he has carried his entire public life.

Even in his early twenties, Rogen possessed the antiauthoritarian authority of an indulgent uncle who tells the kids to do whatever stupidly enjoyable thing they want. He’s a master of making a boast on matters other men might be ashamed of, as when he strode on stage at the 2012 Golden Globes in the company of sexy Kate Beckinsale and announced, “Hello, I'm Seth Rogen, and I am currently trying to conceal a massive erection." But he also uses his celebrity in mature ways. He’s a spokesman for an Alzheimer’s awareness foundation — and, of course, a member of NORML, which agitates for the legalization of marijuana.

The best joke in Neighbors is that Rogen plays the voice of middle-age propriety — a husband and the father of an infant girl — to the rowdy young frat boys, led by the preening Teddy (Zac Efron), who have moved in next door. This battle of the generations has a couple of nuances: Rogen is just five-and-a-half years older than Efron, the erstwhile High School Musical heartthrob; and Rogen’s Mac, for all his annoyance that the loud music keeps him, his wife Kelly (Rose Byrne) and baby Sheila up at four in the morning, wants in on the frat guys’ hard partying. In his early thirties, he’s afraid that “All the things I used to do, I can’t do any more.” What is presented as a war between Teddy and Mac is really an internal struggle: Mac the protective father vs. Mac the fun-loving dopester. It’s a midlife crisis for a perennial teenager.

(READ: Lily Rothman’s 11 Questions for the Baby from Neighbors)

How will Rogen build on Neighbors’ break-out-hit status? It won’t take long to find out. Among his films near completion are the animated feature, Sausage Party — we’re guessing that, like most of Rogen’s movies, this will be rated R — and The Interview, in which he and Franco are a talk-show producer and his host who blunder into a U.S. government assignment to assassinate North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

His most beguiling project is an adaptation of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, directed by Franco and featuring a diverse cast: Franco, his brother Dave (Efron’s second-in-command in the Neighbors frat house), Pineapple Express costar Danny McBride and Jon Hamm of Mad Men. We don’t know what role Rogen plays in this convoluted tale of Southern aristocracy gone to seed, but it should serve as a refutation to the reporter in This Is the End who told Rogen, “You play the same guy in every movie. When are you going to do something else?"

(READ: Mary Corliss’s review of James Franco’s first Faulkner film, As I Lay Dying)

The Sound and the Fury could give a fascinating twist to the character that has made Seth Rogen one of America’s top stars: the friendly dopester almost anyone would want as a neighbor.

Uruguay President Tells Obama U.S. Needs to Stop Smoking and Learn Spanish

Posted: 12 May 2014 10:58 AM PDT

President Barack Obama hosted Uruguayan President José Mujica in the Oval Office Monday to highlight the United States’ “close partnership” with South American country, but Obama may have gotten more than he bargained for.

In brief remarks before their meeting, a tie-less Mujica, a one-time guerrilla fighter, lectured Obama about the dangers of smoking and the need for the United States to become bilingual.

“You will have to become a bilingual country…” he told Obama. “Because the strength of Latin women is admirable and they will fill this country with people who speak Spanish and Portuguese, too.”

Addressing Obama, a one-time smoker, Mujica highlighted his country’s ongoing litigation with tobacco company Philip Morris over Uruguay’s stringent anti-smoking laws.

“Mr. President, who is speaking is an old smoker,” Mujica said. “But in the world, per year, eight million people are dying from smoking. And that is more than World War I, World War II. It's murder. We are in an arduous fight—very arduous—and we must fight against very strong interests. Governments must not be involved in private litigation, but here we’re fighting for life.”

Why I’m Breaking Up With Hand Sanitizer

Posted: 12 May 2014 10:52 AM PDT

“I'll give up my hand sanitizer when they pry it from my cold, dead—and probably diseased—fingers.” That used to be my mantra, and who can blame me? I came to this germanoia honestly. Years ago I had to undergo chemotherapy, the consequences of which leaves your immune system punch drunk, because infection-fighting white blood cells get clobbered in the process. "Don't get sick," my oncologist advised. "That would be a bad thing." It was good advice from a really terrific doctor, but for the minor issue that I was, in fact, already pretty sick. Nevertheless, if I had been sanitation conscious before, I had now become crazy about it.

In the country of the lemonade cleanse and the low-carb diet, trend surfing is our standard approach to better health, whether we’re sick or not. But not in the case of hand sanitizers, antimicrobials and the million other bacteria-zapping products that have now come into general use. Having identified bacteria as Dirt Vader, we have as a nation come to believe that the only good microbe is a dead microbe, and the trend shows no sign of slowing.

But that zeal is hurting us. According a recent World Health Organization report, our obsession with germ killing has resulted in antibiotic-resistant bacteria in every corner of the globe, thanks in part to our willy-nilly use of wide-spectrum antibiotics and, yes, our love of hand sanitizer. But we're not even the main problem. In the U.S. the overuse of antibiotics in farming to prevent animals from getting sick and to fatten them up is also widely fingered as the No. 1 source of drug-resistant bacteria. And every year, 2 million Americans get infections not treatable with antibiotics—and 23,000 of them die. The animals get slaughtered but we get sick.

Last December, the FDA put the antimicrobial army on notice, informing the makers of these products that they will have to prove that their products work better than soap and water. Consumers have been urged to resist overusing sanitizers. More ominously, FDA also warned that triclosan, a synthetic compound found in antibacterial soaps, deodorants, even toothpaste, may have health issues of its own. “Some data suggest that long-term exposure to certain active ingredients used in antibacterial products — for example, triclosan (liquid soaps) and triclocarban (bar soaps) — could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects” the FDA stated.

But, it's icky out there. Do you really expect me to drop my first line of defense against incipient ickyness? In my office building in Manhattan, hand-sanitizing stations stand guard on every floor. On the buses and in the subway system across New York City you see clip-on bottles of hand sanitizers attached to backpacks. The subways may be crawling with rats and other vermin, but it’s germs that really freak people out. Eight million people. Eight bazillion microbes with my name on them. You expect me to attack that with soap and water?

And you tell me now that by using sanitizers I'm becoming a conspirator in the Bacterial Resistance League? America has long been a sanitation nation, a quality sometimes attributed to immigrants who left behind the squalor in their homelands (and sometimes rediscovered it here) and imbued their children with the sense that cleanliness is next to godliness, or at least American-ness. Over the last couple of decades, consumer products companies have found a target rich market in exploiting this history of germ aversion. They have launched wave after wave of microbe-seeking toilet bowl cleaners, dish detergents, mouthwashes and, no doubt, floor polishes.

And yet the news from FDA and WHO is sobering. The germs are winning—and that’s actually why I should throw down my weapon.

This is not going to be easy for someone who is afraid to sit in a movie theater, who wipes the tops of soda cans with the inside of his T-shirt, who would have no trouble saying no to the bowl of delicious jellybeans on the conference room table. But despite a world that is filthy with microbes, I will disarm like the health officials suggest, at the same time keeping in mind what Ronald Reagan said: trust but verify.

One sniffle, though, and I'm reloading.


An Open Letter to Bill Maher From a Muslim American

Posted: 12 May 2014 10:30 AM PDT

Hey there, Bill. You hate religion. You particularly hate Islam. We get it. Your liberal bigotry against Muslims and Islam is no secret. For a while now I've just avoided watching your show, which kind of stinks because for many years I was a great fan and really loved it. I wasn't even bothered when you called out Muslims doing stupid, criminal or horrific things. You do that with a lot of groups, and it's important to do. But I stopped watching when it became clear that you loathed a faith I was devoted to.

On your show you recently discussed the kidnapping of hundreds of girls by Boko Haram, followed by the new sharia laws in Brunei, and rounded out the segment with a nod to your buddy Ayaan Hirsi Ali—quite the trifecta of examples to support your conclusion that Islam itself is, as you said, "the problem." Your reasoning is essentially that Muslims are doing many horrible things around the world, and they all believe in Islam, so naturally Islam is the nonnegotiable culprit.

Let's ignore for now the numerous logical fallacies in your premise and instead follow your exact line of reasoning. If we are to accept your rationale, we have to also accept that, if many Muslims are doing good things around the world, and they all believe in Islam, then Islam is responsible for the good that they do. We also accept, given that Ali's criticism of Islam is based on her personal experience, that the positive personal experience of other Muslims, including converts, are just as valid reflections on the faith.

For the sake of argument, and being as generous as possible, let's say Islam has been a force of destruction for 50% of Muslims and a source of empowerment, peace and comfort for the other 50%. Where exactly does that leave us? Whose experience of Islam is legitimate? If Boko Haram is, in your estimation, an authentic expression of Islam, what do you make of the hundreds of Nigerian Muslim families who were sending their daughters to school? Why isn't their dedication, like Malala Yousafzai's dedication, to girls' education an authentic expression of Islam? What do you deduct from the fact most Muslim women in the world are not circumcised? Are they just doing Islam wrong? Are all the good, peaceful Muslims doing Islam wrong?

You noted that women are treated at best like second-class citizens, but most often like property in Islam. The first Muslim woman, Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, a successful businesswoman, boss-lady and wife to the Prophet Muhammad, and the other Muslim women of his time would have snickered at you. Women of the region were chattel before Islam, treated and traded as such, until the Quran freed them through revelations such as "O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will."

I could tell you that Islam was the first system to establish women's property rights, inheritance rights, the right to education, to marry and divorce of their free will, to be religious scholars, business owners, soldiers. I could tell you that while Christianity was debating the status of women's souls and declaring them a source of sin, Islam had already established authoritatively the spiritual equality of men and women and absolved Eve, and womankind at large, of sin. I could tell you that the world and history is full of highly educated, successful Muslim women who are empowered by their faith, not debilitated by it. I could tell you terrorism is categorically forbidden in Islam, and that between 1970 and 2012, 97.5% of terror attacks in the U.S. were carried out by non-Muslims. I could tell you that female genital mutilation is never mentioned in the Quran; the only reference to it is found in a weak narration, and scholars find it objectionable to the point of being classified as impermissible.

Nothing I tell you would matter, though. The facts are irrelevant. That's how bigotry operates. It's both telling and troubling that you referred to these issues as "the Muslim question." The reference didn't escape me and it's hard to believe it was anything but deliberate. I would be curious if your proposed solutions mirror those offered for the "Jewish question" in Europe. Bigotry sometimes does that, too.

So while I support you in continuing to expose Muslims and others who shock the conscience of decent people, who destroy lives, and who wreak havoc, I caution you on the anti-Islam rhetoric. You have a massive following and are successfully leading a movement to demonize Islam in the liberal left, a place many American Muslims call home. You are leading people into rocks and hard places when you posit that Islam is the problem. You are putting Muslims up against a wall and pushing those who fear us further into spaces where little choice is left. As the mother of two American-born daughters, and a Muslim who calls the U.S. her home, I worry deeply about the solutions your followers may propose to your "Muslim question." You should too.

Rabia Chaudry is an attorney and the founder and president of the Safe Nation Collaborative.


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