Friday, June 6, 2014

Nun Wins Italy’s Version of The Voice


Nun Wins Italy’s Version of The Voice

Nun Wins Italy’s Version of The Voice

Posted: 06 Jun 2014 10:56 AM PDT

Italy’s version of singing competition The Voice has been won by a surprising candidate — when she isn’t singing on television, Sister Cristina Scuccia is a member of the Ursulan Sisters of The Holy Family in Milan.

The final of The Voice Of Italy was held last night and Sister Cristina’s version of “Livin’ On a Prayer” stole the show, winning her over 62% of the vote.

“My presence here is not up to me, it’s thanks to the man upstairs,” she said, presumably referring to God and not the show’s lighting and sound technicians.

After celebrating her win with a rendition of The Lord’s Prayer, Scuccia also credited her participation to Pope Francis. Francis has called for the clergy to become more involved outside of the church, although it’s not clear if this was what he had in mind.

Police: “Snapchat Drug” Sends People to the Hospital in Australia

Posted: 06 Jun 2014 10:15 AM PDT

A new drug, emblazoned with the Snapchat logo, hit the streets in Australia this week—and its aggressive effects don’t wear off in 10 seconds.

The Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services issued a statement Friday warning people about the “Snapchat drug,” identified by the ghost logo etched in the blue or pink pills, that sent at least four people to the hospital Thursday night. All admitted to the Royal Darwin Hospital were released the next day.

“These people appeared to become aggressive and disoriented after ingesting the drug and were taken to Royal Darwin Hospital," Superintendent Clint Sims said in the release.

Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services
Northern Territory Police,
Fire and Emergency ServicesNorthern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services

This isn’t the first techy-inspired party drug. The Daily Dot notes a Scottish man was hospitalized after he took ecstasy boasting the Bitcoin logo. Pill Reports, an online ecstasy database, notes that “Blue Twitter” pills with the bird logo were passed around in Dublin clubs in 2012. But the bird drug is more innocuous than the ghost. “Feeling nothing, other than the odd two minute pip buzz,” the review reads. “Waste of money.”

Pill Reports also has a record of a Facebook drug. The Snapchat pill has yet to be recorded in the database.

Snapchat did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Everything You Need to Know About the Netflix-Verizon Smackdown

Posted: 06 Jun 2014 10:11 AM PDT

Netflix is once again making headlines because of a very public spat with an Internet Service Provider. This week Netflix placed a message on the buffer screen of its app blaming Verizon and its FiOS Internet service for slow streaming speeds. Verizon took offense and issued a cease-and-desist letter demanding that Netflix remove the message. Now Netflix has just a few days to prove that it was appropriate to blame the ISP, or Verizon may take legal action. This recent bickering is just the latest step in a winding saga that also involves Comcast, Google and the future of the Internet. Here's a quick Q&A to get you up to speed on the story behind the Netflix-Verizon feud.

OK, so why exactly is Verizon mad at Netflix?

Netflix has been testing a new version of the buffering screen on its app that gives customers more specific information about why a video is loading slowly. On Tuesday a Vox Media employee spotted the new screen, which placed the blame for sluggish streaming squarely on Verizon. "The Verizon network is crowded right now," a message on the screen reads.



It is extremely unusual for an online video company to blame a specific ISP for service problems, but Netflix says the message is an effort to "keep [its] members informed." On Wednesday, Verizon dismissed the message as a "PR stunt.” But Thursday the telco giant issued a cease-and-desist letter to Netflix demanding it remove the accusatory language from its app. "There is no basis for Netflix to assert that issues with respect to playback of any particular video session are attributable solely to the Verizon network," the letter reads. "As Netflix knows, there are many different factors that can affect traffic on the Internet."

Different factors, huh? Like what?

As my colleague Sam Gustin has explained, the journey for a video from Netflix's servers to your living room is pretty complicated. Broadband companies like Verizon and Comcast are responsible for delivering online content across the so-called "last mile" into customers' homes. But before that happens, Internet data is typically exchanged between consumer-facing ISPs and bandwidth providers that serve as intermediaries between content companies and consumer ISPs. These deals, called peering agreements, have historically been free, but ISPs like Verizon are now demanding money to connect to their network because they are being forced to transfer lots of high-definition video from companies such as Netflix. Stalled negotiations between Verizon and bandwidth provider Cogent earlier this year caused Netflix speeds to fall significantly for Verizon customers.

But I thought Verizon and Netflix already made a deal to fix that?

They did. In April Netflix signed a paid peering agreement with Verizon to directly connect to its broadband network and bypass intermediaries such as Cogent. Netflix, it seems, is not happy with the improvements (if any) so far, so the company has decided to call Verizon out directly to consumers.

Doesn't Netflix already have beef with some other Internet Service Provider?

Yes, Netflix is quickly becoming the Tupac of online video companies, racking up enemies right and left. In February the company signed a paid peering agreement with Comcast, which first thrust the negotiations between ISPs and content companies into the public conversation. Netflix is very unhappy that it has to pay either Verizon or Comcast to connect to their networks. As Netflix sees it, the ISPs are getting paid twice, once from customers who are promised a certain quality of Internet service per month and then again from content providers who must pay to deliver their video to consumers.

Hey, yeah! That's not fair! Down with Verizon and Comcast!

Calm down. From the ISPs' point of view, Netflix is doing a lot of public grandstanding to try to rewrite the rules of interconnection deals that have been around for decades. Netflix was already paying intermediaries like Cogent to deliver its content before streaming speeds slowed earlier this year. Now, the ISPs say, Netflix is trying to get its content delivered for free and force all broadband subscribers pay for the cost of delivering massive amounts of high-definition video instead of just Netflix subscribers. But some ISPs, such as Google Fiber, agree with Netflix and don't charge companies to establish a connection to their network.

But isn't this a violation of net neutrality, or something like that?

Not really. Net neutrality rules concern the "last mile" delivery of content into residential customers' homes. Netflix's fight with Verizon and Comcast centers on how content is delivered to consumer-facing ISPs and who pays for it. Netflix believes the core issue—that ISPs have the ability to charge different companies different prices to connect to their networks—means these peering issues are in the spirit of the net neutrality debate. Since the net neutrality rules are currently being rewritten, it's possible that peering agreements could be incorporated into the new regulations. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said he will look into Netflix's paid peering complaints as the new net neutrality governance is drafted.

So are Netflix and Verizon going to court?

In its cease and desist letter, Verizon said Netflix must tell it the names of every customer who saw the accusatory message, along with proof that Verizon's network was to blame for slow speeds, within five days. Otherwise Verizon reserves the right to pursue "legal remedies." Netflix has so far not indicated that it plans to remove the messages blaming Verizon. A Netflix spokesman told TIME that the company is trying to provide transparency to consumers and Verizon is “trying to shut down that discussion.” But neither side actually wants a court battle, since the discovery process might dredge up communications during their negotiation process that they’d rather keep private (just ask Apple and Samsung). They’ll most likely come to a private agreement that satisfies both parties.

Screw these companies. When are my movies going to start streaming faster?

Both Netflix and Verizon have said that the streaming speeds would increase over the course of months, not days or weeks. "We are working quickly to implement the network architecture and expect improvements to be experienced across the FiOS footprint throughout 2014," Verizon spokesman Bob Elek said in an e-mail to TIME. We'll have a better idea of whether the paid peering deal has been effective when Netflix releases its monthly ranking of ISP streaming speeds later this month. But even if the service quality increases and the legal threats end, the rhetorical battle between Netflix and the major ISPs is likely to continue for quite a while.

Now go on and marinate on that while you watch the new season of Orange Is the Black. Hopefully, with very little buffering.

Ranked: Apple’s Best Keynote Speakers

Posted: 06 Jun 2014 10:10 AM PDT

The Economy Is Back—Barely

Posted: 06 Jun 2014 10:07 AM PDT

Let's get the good news out there first: Yes, the U.S. has finally, after four years of recovery, exceeded its pre-recession jobs peak of 138.4 million new jobs. There are now more jobs out there in the economy than ever before, though it’s worth saying there are also a lot more people in the labor market than there were back then, even given the historically low workforce participation rate of 62.8 percent (the lowest since 1979).

The big question is "who are those jobs for?" That's where the May jobs report, the fourth strong report in a row, gets more interesting. Unlike previous reports, the gains have been broad based—there were new jobs created in many sectors, including higher paying and important ones like manufacturing and construction. But 50% of all the jobs being created in this country are still in the low-wage category—retail clerk positions, home heath aids, waitresses and the like. And more importantly, pay isn't going up much—only a little more than 2% month on month, compared to an average of 3.5% to 4.5% before the recession. If you aren't jumping up and down about this report, that's probably why—a lot of us just don't feel the recovery in our pocketbooks.

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 1.13.13 PM

That's underscores the key difference in the pre-2008 economy versus now. Yes, the jobs debate has officially shifted from quantity, to quality. But, as the McKinsey Global Institute has been pointing out for some time now, that shift has taken longer than in any recovery of the past. From the period between World War II and the 1980s, "there was a fairly predictable pace for recoveries," says MGI director and economist Susan Lund. It took roughly six months 
for U.S. employment levels to recover after each post-war recession 
through the 1980s. Then, things changed. It took 15 months after the 1990–91 recession for employment to reach its pre-crisis levels, and
 39 months after the 2001 recession. This time around, it's taken 40 months, and $4 trillion of Federal Reserve stimulus to boot.

What's more, while we've created as many jobs as we had before, the nature of the work has changed—the labor market is bifurcated, with people at the top doing quite well and those in the middle and bottom, not so much. Another fascinating tidbit from MGI that reflects this shift: employment for people with a bachelor's degree or more has actually been growing since the crisis in 2008. It never stopped growing. But work for those with a high school degree or less has been shrinking, and only just began to rebound. "For those people, it still feels like a jobless recovery."

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 1.13.25 PM

Increasingly, though, the question is whether it will be a wage-less recovery. It usually takes several months of job growth for income to start to pick up, and once it does, it's possible that a broader range of companies will start adding more employees higher up the food chain. The National Association of Business Economists is bullish on the next six months. But I tend to think that even as jobs will grow, these key trends— the shrinking of the middle labor market, and flat wages—will continue. One of the main reasons could be that technology related job destruction is continuing in blue chip America, and it's going higher up the food chain. I recently sat in on a conference with a high level group of C-suite employers, and all were planning to spend on technology that would displace more white-collar workers. Research shows the only way to shift that trend is to increase levels of education in society faster than technology change—and given the speed at which the latter is advancing, that will be a tough assignment indeed.

Bethenny Frankel ‘Thrilled’ Custody Battle For Daughter Is Finished

Posted: 06 Jun 2014 10:06 AM PDT

Former Real Housewives of New York star Bethenny Frankel was locked in a bitter custody battle with her estranged husband Jason Hoppy last week, in which she claimed hoppy was out to “destroy” her.

Now the couple have settled out of court and both are happy with the outcome.

“She’s thrilled this is settled,” Frankel’s lawyer said. “Bethenny never wanted to take it this far, never wanted this to be dragged out in court.”

A lawyers for Hoppy were just as conciliatory, saying “My client is delighted . … The parties’ child will have the benefit of being raised by both parents.”

Virginia Sends Cease-and-Desist Letters to Uber and Lyft

Posted: 06 Jun 2014 09:54 AM PDT

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles issued cease and desist letters Friday to the taxi-alternative services Uber and Lyft, signaling an escalation of the showdown between regulators around the country and the two transportation startups.

"I am once again making clear that Uber must case and desist operating in Virignia until it obtains proper authority," DMV Commissioner Richard Holcomb said the letter sent to Uber. Holcomb added that Uber drivers themselves face civil penalties if they operate in Virginia.

Uber received its first warning from the Virginia DMV more than six months ago, when it was told it needed to "obtain authority before operating in Virginia," Holcomb’s letter.

Lyft, which received a nearly identical letter with a warning to its own drivers, told TIME it won’t stop operating in Virginia.

“We’ve reviewed state transportation codes and believe we are following the applicable rules," Lyft spokesperson Chelsea Wilson told TIME. "We’ll continue normal operations as we work to make policy progress."

Uber has not yet responded to questions from TIME.

The letters represent the latest volley in an ongoing faceoff between services like Lyft and Uber, which provide alternatives to traditional taxis. Regulatorssupported by groups that represent traditional taxi drivers—have been trying to impose restrictions on the services. The showdown is in turn part of a larger picture of cities grappling with how to regulate a peer-to-peer sharing economy—which includes companies like the hotel-alternative Airbnb—made possible by the ubiquitous mobile Internet.

Ghostbusters Returns to Theaters This Summer

Posted: 06 Jun 2014 09:48 AM PDT

Grab some Twinkies: In honor of its 30th anniversary, Ghostbusters will be re-released in theaters for one day only on August 29.

That’s right, it’s been 30 years since the hilarious and delightfully ridiculous cinematic adventure first unfolded, and now, 700 theaters have agreed to revive it, Entertainment Weekly reports. The anniversary celebration will also feature special events, collectible merchandise and a new Blu-ray release.

Who you gonna call … to share your excitement about this?

MORE: Harold Ramis, Writer of Ghostbusters, Dies at 69

MORE: Ivan Reitman Remembers Harold Ramis

NYC Teen Convicted in Crash That Killed 4 Friends

Posted: 06 Jun 2014 09:48 AM PDT

(MINEOLA, N.Y.) — A New York City teenager has been convicted of four counts of manslaughter in the deaths of his friends in a high-speed car crash on a Long Island highway.

A Nassau County jury returned a partial verdict Friday against Joseph Beer, who has admitted smoking marijuana before the crash.

The jury deadlocked on the most serious count of aggravated vehicular manslaughter.

Besides manslaughter, the jury convicted the Queens teenager of reckless driving and reckless endangerment. He faces 5 to 15 years in prison on the manslaughter conviction.

Beer could have faced up to 25 years had he been convicted of the vehicular homicide count.

Beer was the only survivor of the crash on the Southern State Parkway in October 2012. Police say he was traveling more than 100 mph.

Jonah Hill Talks Watching His Not-So-Mom-Friendly Movies With His Mom

Posted: 06 Jun 2014 09:41 AM PDT

Superbad and Knocked Up probably aren’t the first movies you would think to put on if you wanted to watch something with your mom. But that isn’t the case for their star, Jonah Hill.

Visiting Late Night With Seth Meyers Thursday, Hill said that even though his movies aren’t all that mom-friendly, he still sits down to watch them with his dear mother, although some are easier to get through than others.

“It’s all fun and games until you pull your d*ck out of your pants,” Hill said about watching The Wolf of Wall Street.

Clearly his mother feels the same about her “favorite child,” adding “I think I’ve seen enough of your body of work.”


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