Sunday, August 10, 2014

America Still Loves Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

America Still Loves Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

America Still Loves Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Posted: 10 Aug 2014 09:53 AM PDT

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot took the box office by storm this weekend with a $65 million North American debut, prompting the studio to immediately announce a sequel scheduled for June 2016.

Turtles easily took the top domestic spot over the weekend, besting another surprise August hit, Guardians of the Galaxy, the Hollywood Reporter reports. The Jonathan Liebesman-directed hit stars Megan Fox, Will Arnett, and William Fichtner, and sees the four heroes in a half-shell emerging from the New York City sewers to save the metropolis from Shredder and his evil Foot Clan.

Nearly half of the audience was under 25 on Friday, and 61 percent of the attendees were male.

"To know moviegoers are embracing the Turtles with such enthusiasm is everything that we and all our filmmakers have been hoping for,” Paramount chief Brad Grey said in a statement.

Overall, however, revenue is down at the box office 17 percent this summer, even with Guardians and Turtles shoring up sales.

[Hollywood Reporter]

Amazon Takes Fight to Captain America and the Mighty Mouse

Posted: 10 Aug 2014 09:39 AM PDT

Amazon has stopped preorders for some DVDs and Blu-ray discs released by Walt Disney, as part of an apparent contract dispute.

The Seattle-based online retailer is making it more difficult for customers to preorder physical copies of the films, a strategy Amazon has employed in the past in dealing with recalcitrant suppliers, including Time Warner’s Warner Bros. as well as in an ongoing dispute with the publisher Hachette.

Maleficent, Muppets Most Wanted and the latest Captain America movie were unavailable for preorder, the Wall Street Journal reported, though customers could still buy digital versions in advance.

Amazon has been engaged in an increasingly acrimonious dispute with Hachette over e-book pricing, with Amazon restricting the sale of Hachette books until the two parties arrive at terms. Over 900 authors, including Malcolm Gladwell and Stephen King, have signed an open letter criticizing Amazon’s policies.

Amazon hasn’t yet publicly commented on the apparent dispute with Disney.


Public Outcry After Police Shooting of Black St. Louis Teenager

Posted: 10 Aug 2014 09:02 AM PDT

Updated 1:30 p.m.

The fatal shooting of an unarmed black St. Louis teen Saturday has caused an outcry of anger towards the city’s police, with locals rallying in the streets and widening uproar on social media.

Eighteen-year-old Michael Brown was being placed in a police squad car, eyewitness Piaget Crenshaw told the St. Louis Dispatch, when he put his hands in the air and attempted to flee. Several shots hit him as he ran away.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said Sunday that Brown struggled for the officer’s gun in the patrol car and that one shot was fired from the officer’s gun during the tussle. The officer fired multiple shots at Brown as he fled, Belmar said.

Anger flared the rest of the day after Brown’s death, as protestors screamed obscenities mixed with threats to "kill the police,” and more than 60 area police officers responded to the scene. More shots were reported, though no one was injured.

Brown's stepfather, Louis Head, held a sign during protests that said: "Ferguson police just executed my unarmed son!!!" Later in the evening, about 100 protestors gathered outside Ferguson police headquarters and chanted, "No Justice! No Peace!"

Ferguson police said they turned over the matter to county police, and chief of police Thomas Jackson said he was “hoping for calm and for people to give us a chance to conduct a thorough investigation.”

Brown’s mother,Lesley McSpadden said the shooting occurred as her son was walking to his grandmother's home. McSpadden said Brown "doesn't kill, steal or rob. He doesn't do any of that."

Brown was a 2014 Normandy High School graduate who was scheduled to begin classes at Vatterott College on Monday.

John Gaskin, a member of the St. Louis NAACP, said the FBI should get involved “to protect the integrity of the investigation.”

“With the recent events of a young man killed by the police in New York City and with Trayvon Martin and with all the other African-American young men that have been killed by police officers … this is a dire concern to the NAACP, especially our local organization,” Gaskin said.

The teenager’s name began trending on Twitter and Facebook as news of his killing spread. Protestors have planned a rally outside the Ferguson police station Monday morning.

[St. Louis Dispatch]

Doctors Inside Emory’s Ebola Unit Speak Out

Posted: 10 Aug 2014 08:31 AM PDT

Emory University Hospital faced its share of doubters when it built its serious communicable disease unit more than a decade ago. At a time when the threat of infectious diseases in the U.S. seemed to have receded—replaced by worries over conditions like obesity and type-2 diabetes—the center appeared unnecessary. But last week, when Emory got word that two Americans were infected with Ebola and would need to be evacuated from West Africa, health experts were all too glad the unit existed.

"I have to admit, a lot of people saw this as Noah's Ark," says Dr. Bruce Ribner, the infectious disease specialist at Emory University Hospital leading the care of the American patients with Ebola virus. "They thought, 'You are not going to have any activity there, you're just wasting your time with all that.'"

Now, Dr. Ribner is fielding an average of 100 emails a day from hospitals here and abroad seeking consultations, and there's a caravan of news vans seemingly permanently parked along the sidewalk in front of the hospital, with news crews braving the thick Georgia heat in pitched tents on the grass.

"When [news of the patients] finally came, we said, ‘This is what we've been preparing for for 12 years,’" says Ribner. Indeed, the infectious disease team caring for the patients with Ebola have been practicing the process of receiving and treating patients with serious diseases—like Ebola, SARS or anthrax—about two times a year every year since 2002, when it created its program and isolation unit with the help of the CDC.

Dr. Alexander Isakov, who helped get the patients from their landed flight to the isolation room, remembers first hearing the news and thinking: Here's a chance to finally activate all that they had been preparing for, to help people get better. “It's gratifying," he says.

Treating the Patients

Though Emory's isolation unit was created with this precise type of health emergency in mind, experts stress that nearly all American hospitals are equipped and prepared to receive a patient suspected to have contracted Ebola. When both patients were moved from the ambulance into the hospital, choppers ahead captured footage of the full-body protective suits with air purifying respirators that were worn by the team. Emory says it’s trying to re-message the idea that physicians need to dress in what some are calling “moon suits” to care for a patient.

“Of course the message goes out that you have to dress like some sort of space person,” says Dr. Ribner. “Which is an unfortunate message.” The CDC recommends that anyone entering a patient with Ebola’s room wear at least gloves, a gown, eye protection and a face mask, with the acknowledgement that depending on the amount of fluids being excreted, more may be needed. The hospital agrees with this advice, and Ribner says his nurses felt more comfortable wearing the full-body suits. One of the features of Ebola virus infection is diarrhea. “One [reason from our nurses] was just pragmatic: I don't want my shoes full of feces. The other was, ‘You know what? These are kind of comfortable,” says Ribner.

(The patients at Emory have requested privacy, but one released a statement Saturday saying he was getting “stronger every day.”)

Now that more cases of Ebola are spreading in Lagos, a highly trafficked city in Nigeria, the possibility for more patients in the U.S. is not out of the realm of possibility. “If we had to accept other Ebola patients—and we’ve been in contact about possibly doing that—we could do it,” said Dr. G. Marshall Lyon, one of the Emory physicians treating the patients with Ebola. Lyon says the unit also has a contract with the CDC to handle their employees, should any of them be exposed to serious communicable diseases.

A New Age of Infectious Diseases

While Ebola is new in the U.S., it's not a novel virus and health experts remain confident that the outbreak will eventually subside. Still, the current Ebola outbreak, the deadliest in history, begs the question: Is the U.S. prepared for other infectious, and even unknown, emerging diseases?

"We live in a world where we are all connected by the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and by airplanes that can bring disease from anywhere to anywhere in a day," says CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. "That's why it's so important to strengthen global health security and work with countries all around the world so they can do a better job finding threats." (In recent months, the CDC experienced two lapses in lab safety that raised skepticism about protection oversight, to which Frieden assures, "We blew the whistle on ourselves and began a comprehensive and aggressive program to address lab-safety here.”)

In his opinion, the U.S. is facing three threats when it comes to emerging disease: new infections and organisms spreading in different places; drug-resistant bacteria; and intentionally created organisms. "Those risks require us to put in place robust systems," he says.

Lyon says he remembers reading an article about 20 years ago stating the age of infectious disease was over. It couldn't have been more wrong. "The bugs have evolved and kept us on our toes," he says. "We have to deal with things like tuberculosis and measles having a resurgence."

In 2009, H1N1 emerged as an influenza virus with little known about its transmission or how virulent it was. Ribner says, "We were really lucky" it wasn't more lethal. "Do I foresee down the road that we could have a more virulent influenza strain? We've had them in the past, so yeah, we could," he says. "Would we handle it? We would handle it as best we could.”

Learning on the Job

Having two patients with Ebola under treatment in the U.S. not only gives them a better shot at life, but it grants doctors the opportunity to learn something. "We have the unique opportunity to look at a disease that we don't usually see here," Dr. Aneesh Mehta, the Emory physician who had what he calls the "honor" to be the first doctor to receive an Ebola patient into the isolation room. "For these two patients, if they agree to participate in research down the road, we will be able to really look in-depth at the pathogenesis and the immunological response to Ebola in ways that can't be done in Africa."

Mehta says the drills at Emory—as well as the attention being paid to the effectiveness of governmental responses to this pathogen—will help experts better understand how to take care of patients in the larger context of our health care system. "We can teach other health care systems and physicians not only here in the United States, but throughout the world because our processes seem to be working quite well."

Dr. Jay Varkey, a physician who joined the Ebola care team this weekend, agrees. “My hope is that by providing excellent care here, that learn processes that can be translated and expanded. In my opinion, in a fair and just world, if these processes are really key to improving survival in a disease like Ebola, that countries that are developing can institute them.”

The Emory team is working 24/7 to neutralize the disease in the two infected Americans, and while it’s uncomfortable to be faced with the dark consequences of our interconnectedness, it’s comforting to know that for over a decade, despite questioning, highly trained specialists have been watching our backs.

Hillary Clinton Criticizes Obama on Syria Policy

Posted: 10 Aug 2014 08:16 AM PDT

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton drew a foreign policy line between herself and President Obama in an interview this week, saying the President should have assisted Syrian rebels early in the bloody three-year conflict there, and issuing a dig at his administration’s minimalist doctrine.

The Obama administration’s wariness about assisting rebels out of fear aid would fall into the hands of extremists was misguided and ineffectual, Clinton said in an interview with The Atlantic, and allowed for the rise of Islamic extremists who are now threatening to take over wide swathes of Iraq.

"The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled," Clinton said.

President Obama resisted calls to arm moderate Syrian rebels, and did not initially send non-lethal aid to opposition forces. Clinton said that vetting, training and equipping the moderate Free Syrian Army, who in the early days of the revolution were at the core of the uprising against President Bashar Assad, would have provided better insight into the war in Syria and would have helped bolster a “credible political opposition.”

Clinton also criticized Obama’s foreign policy mantra on careful American foreign involvement, using a less foul-mouthed version of a doctrinal phrase that began emerging from the White House earlier this year. "Great nations need organizing principles, and 'Don't do stupid stuff' is not an organizing principle,” Clinton said.

Even while she created an ideological distance between Obama and herself, Clinton had admiring words for the President, calling him “incredibly intelligent” and “thoughtful.”

[The Atlantic]

Turks Vote in 1st Direct Presidential Election

Posted: 10 Aug 2014 07:45 AM PDT

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turks voted Sunday in their first direct presidential election, a watershed event in the country’s 91-year history that could cement Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s position as Turkey’s all-powerful leader.

Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for more than a decade, is the strong front-runner to replace incumbent Abdullah Gul for a five-year term.

“The people are making an important decision … for Turkish democracy, for the future of our country,” Erdogan said after casting his ballot on the Asian side of Istanbul, the country’s largest city.

Now in his third term as prime minister at the head of the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party, or AKP, Erdogan has been a polarizing figure. He is fervently supported by many as a man of the people who has led Turkey through a period of economic prosperity. Yet critics view him as an increasingly autocratic leader bent on concentrating power and imposing his religious and conservative views on a country founded on strong secular traditions.

Some 53 million people are eligible to vote; an absolute majority is needed to win. Otherwise, the top two candidates go to a runoff on Aug. 24. Erdogan, whose party won local elections in March with about 43 percent of the vote, is widely expected to be elected, although it is unclear if he can avoid a runoff.

Party rules barred Erdogan from serving another term as prime minister. Turkish presidents used to be elected by parliament but Erdogan’s government pushed through a constitutional amendment in 2007, changing the procedure to a popular vote.

Previously a largely ceremonial role, Erdogan has vowed to transform the presidency into a powerful position — something his detractors say proves he is bent on a power grab. He has said he will activate the post’s rarely used dormant powers — a legacy of a 1980 coup — including the ability to call parliament and summon and preside over Cabinet meetings.

Erdogan’s main challenger is Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, a 70-year-old academic and former head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation who is backed by several opposition parties including the two main ones: a pro-secular party and a nationalist one.

Ihsanoglu, who has focused on a message of unity, said some voting irregularities had been reported Sunday. He said some voters had photographed their stamped ballots with their mobile phones, possibly to use those photos to receive favors from certain political parties.

An official complaint would be filed, Ihsanoglu said.

“The eyes of the whole world are upon us,” he said after voting in Istanbul. “(Turkey) has been striving to become a first-class democracy … and hopefully Turkey will achieve this today.”

The third presidential candidate is Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas, 41, a rising star on the minority Kurdish political scene.

Asa Lindestam, head of a group of election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said voting at the few polling stations she had monitored had proceeded “smoothly.”

The private Dogan news agency said a man was detained in southeastern Sanliurfa province after being allegedly caught stamping several ballots in favor of Erdogan, and a fight later broke out between ruling and opposition party officials at the police station.

The past year-and-a-half has been a turbulent one for Erdogan, who faced widespread anti-government protests in 2013 triggered by a violent police crackdown on demonstrators objecting to a construction plan in central Istanbul.

More anti-government protests erupted in May after 301 miners died in a coal mine fire blamed on shoddy safety practices. Erdogan and his son have also been implicated in a corruption scandal that he has dismissed as a coup plot by a moderate Islamic preacher and former ally living in the United States, Fethullah Gulen.

Dozens of judicial and police officials involved in the probe against him have been dismissed or re-assigned, and dozens of police have been arrested and jailed.

“The key criteria, or litmus test, will be what percentage of the votes does Prime Minister Erdogan secure in the first round,” said Fadi Hakura, an associate fellow at the Chatham House think tank in London.

A percentage below what his party won in local elections could indicate his popularity is waning, Hakura said.

Erdogan’s critics say he unfairly dominated the vastly one-sided election campaign, using the resources of his office to monopolize media coverage and crisscross the country. He has denied any inappropriate use of state assets.

Tony Stewart Hits and Kills Driver in Sprint Car Race

Posted: 10 Aug 2014 06:46 AM PDT

NASCAR star Tony Stewart struck and killed 20-year-old race car driver Kevin Ward Jr. during a sprint car race Saturday night.

Stewart spun Ward out during the Canandaigua Motorsports Park sprint car race in upstate New York on Saturday and Ward angrily got out of his car and stepped into the track. Stewart’s vehicle struck Ward and sent him sliding down the cement, witnesses to the race told USA Today.

Ward was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead on arrival.

Local police said that the 43-year-old Stewart was “fully cooperative,” and that the incident was not being investigated as a criminal matter. Police are gathering interviews and video evidence of the incident, and are awaiting the results of an autopsy.

A video uploaded on YouTube purports to show the incident. (Warning: it’s disturbing.)

Early eyewitness accounts corroborate the video. When Stewart’s car struck him, Ward had exited his car and was pointing at Stewart’s car as he approached on the ensuing caution lap, witnesses said.

“Tony came around … the back end slid out, and he definitely caught him – I couldn’t tell if it was with the front or the back of the car,” said witness Adam Dulski. “The body made contact with the car and went sliding across the track. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”

Stewart had intended to compete in a NASCAR race on Sunday but pulled out early in the day, the Associated Press reports.

[USA Today]

Iranian Plane Crashes After Takeoff, Killing 39

Posted: 10 Aug 2014 06:21 AM PDT

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A regional passenger plane assembled in Iran crashed Sunday while taking off from the capital, killing 39 and injuring another nine onboard, according to a senior transportation official and state media.

The IrAn-140 operated by domestic carrier Sepahan Air crashed in a residential area near Tehran’s Mehrabad airport. State TV said the plane’s tail struck the cables of an electricity tower before it hit the ground and burst into flames. The official IRNA news agency said the plane suffered an engine failure before it went down.

Deputy Minister of Transportation Ahmad Majidi provided the casualty figures in an appearance on state TV. The channel earlier had reported that all 48 people onboard had died.

The crash happened shortly after the plane took off at 9:20 a.m. local time (0450 GMT), bound for the town of Tabas in eastern Iran.

Eyewitness Hassan Molla said he heard a roaring sound as the plane came in low overhead, one wing tilting.

“There was no smoke or anything. It was absolutely sound and in good condition” before the crash and what appeared to be multiple explosions, he said.

Members of the Revolutionary Guard worked to secure the crash site and security and rescue personnel combed the wreckage as onlookers gathered shortly after the plane went down. The plane’s mangled but largely intact tail section was torn from the fuselage and came to rest on a nearby road.

State TV said the bodies of some of the victims were so badly burned that they could not be identified. They will be handed over to relatives after DNA tests are carried out to determine their identities, it said.

The IrAn-140 is a twin-engine turboprop plane based on Ukrainian technology that is assembled under license in Iran. It is a version of the Antonov An-140 regional plane and can carry up to 52 passengers.

A similar plane crashed during a training flight in the city of Isfahan in February 2009, killing five onboard, according to a report by state-run Press TV at the time.

Lawmaker Mehrdad Lahouti suggested Sunday that the earlier accident should have been a wake-up call.

“Lawmakers visited the production site of the plane and expressed concern about its (safety),” IRNA quoted him as saying. “This company should have not been allowed to operate the plane to avoid such a bitter incident.”

An official for Sepahan Air told The Associated Press from the central city of Isfahan that the carrier is affiliated with the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company, also known as HESA. The airline was set up in 2010 and has not had any previous crashes, said the official, who refused to provide his name.

HESA has ties to Iran’s Ministry of Defense and is the company that assembles the IrAn-140.

Mehrabad, located in western Tehran, is the busier of two main airports serving the capital, and primarily handles domestic flights. Most international flights use the newer Imam Khomeini International Airport.

Iran has suffered a series of airplane crashes, blamed on its aging aircraft and poor maintenance. Many of the Boeing aircraft in state-run Iran Air’s fleet were bought before the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, which disrupted ties with the U.S. and Europe.

Iranian airlines, including those run by the state, are chronically strapped for cash, and maintenance has suffered, experts say. U.S. sanctions prevent Iran from updating its American aircraft and make it difficult to get European spare parts or planes. The country has come to rely on Russian aircraft, many of them Soviet-era planes that are harder to get parts for since the Soviet Union’s fall.

In March of this year, a small plane belonging to the State Aviation Organization crashed while on a test flight near the tourist resort of Kish Island, killing all four crew members.

The last major airliner crash in Iran happened in January 2011, when an Iran Air Boeing 727 broke to pieces on impact while trying an emergency landing in a snowstorm in northwestern Iran, killing at least 77 people.

In July 2009, a Russian-made jetliner crashed in northwest Iran shortly after taking off from the capital, killing all 168 on board. A Russian-made Ilyushin 76 carrying members of the Revolutionary Guard crashed in the mountains of southeastern Iran in February 2003, killing 302 people aboard.

Hawaii Governor Ousted In Surprise Primary Loss

Posted: 10 Aug 2014 06:19 AM PDT

The Hawaii Democrat Party is making Republicans in the state look unified and organized. In a primary season dominated by GOP strife, Hawaii now has its own brand of drama. On Saturday, voters went to the polls and decisively voted out incumbent Gov. Neil Abercrombie. State Sen. David Ige got 66% of the vote to Abercrombie's 30.9%. Abercrombie is the first sitting governor to lose a primary since 2010.

Abercrombie probably wasn't helped by a pair of storms that have ravaged the islands just before voting. Abercrombie's reputation for mismanagement and poor preparation were highlighted as Tropical Storn Iselle and Hurricane Julio passed through the islands, leaving the final week of campaigning and voting Saturday in chaos. He could've postponed the primary but chose not to. Ige isn't a shoo-in, though. He now faces Republican Duke Aiona, a former lieutenant governor, and Independent Mufi Hannemann, a former Democratic mayor of Honolulu.

Speaking of ongoing tough races, the election to pick the Democratic nominee for the Senate will take weeks to sort out. Abercrombie appointed Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz to the post after longtime Sen. Daniel Inouye passed in late 2012. But on his death bed, Inouye said he wanted Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to succeed him. Hanabusa, who also has the endorsement of Inouye's widow, and Schatz, who has the endorsement of President Obama, are squaring off in the primary.

As of early Sunday, Schatz holds a narrow lead of 1,788, or 48.6% of the vote to Hanabusa's 47.8%.

Remember that bad Kevin Costner movie, Swing Vote, where he discovers he's the only person in America who can decide a presidential race? Yes, the one where every expert said that's not possible because when polls close, they close. Well, apparently, Hawaii is about to experience firsthand a version of that movie. A tiny pocket of 8,000 eligible voters who were in the areas most severely impacted by the storms were given the ability to vote by mail in the coming weeks. The fate of the seat now rests in their hands — and on how much Hanabusa and Schatz can charm them.

Israel Accepts Gaza Cease-Fire

Posted: 10 Aug 2014 06:07 AM PDT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel has accepted an Egyptian proposal for a new 72-hour cease-fire with Gaza militants.

The move clears the way for the resumption of indirect talks on a long-term cease-fire arrangement in Hamas-ruled Gaza after a month of heavy fighting.

Egypt brokered a similar truce last week. But after the three-day window, militants resumed rocket fire on Israel and new fighting erupted.

The Israeli officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media, said they accepted Egypt’s latest offer Sunday. But they said they were wary after last week’s breakdown.


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