Daily American Buzz: wow















They have long enjoyed the view from up on their high horses but a new study has revealed that vegetarians and vegans may be at higher risk of stroke than regular carnivores.

The research published in the medical journal the BMJ this week is the first study to look at the risk of stroke in vegetarians, lead researcher Tammy Tong, a nutritional epidemiologist at the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford, said.

The research found that vegetarians and vegans had a 20 per cent higher risk of stroke than meat-eaters, particularly hemorrhagic stroke - caused when blood from an artery begins to bleed into the brain.

This translates to three more cases of stroke per 1,000 people over 10 years.

The exact reasons for this higher risk found in vegetarians are not clear, said Tong.

It is possible that this is due to "very low cholesterol levels or very low levels of some nutrients," she said.
"There is some evidence which suggests that very low cholesterol levels might be associated with a slightly higher risk of hemorrhagic stroke," she said.
Similarly, other research points to deficiencies of some nutrients, like vitamin B12, may be linked to a higher risk of stroke, said Tong.

But there is some good news - those saying no to meat have a lower chance of coronary heart disease, according to the research.

Still, some researchers were sceptical of the stroke finding.

Still healthier
The research shows that people who cut out meat from their diet are significantly healthier than meat-eaters, Dr. Malcolm Finlay, consultant cardiologist at Barts Heart Centre, Queen Mary University of London, told the Science Media Center.

But he said the study put "too much weight on a complex statistical method to try and correct for the fact that the vegetarians were very much healthier than meat-eaters."

"While this method can say the risk of stroke isn't as low as one might expect it to be in vegetarians considering how much healthier they are in general compared to meat-eaters, their overall risk of a major life-changing cardiovascular event happening still appears much lower," said Finlay, who was not involved in the study.

Tong's research team followed more than 48,000 people in the UK with an average age of 45, who were grouped into meat-eaters (24,428), sea-food eating pescetarians (7,506), and vegetarians, including vegans (16,254). Participants were tracked on average for 18 years and during the study period there were were 2,820 cases of coronary heart disease and 1,072 cases of stroke.

The study calculations took into account influential factors, such as smoking or physical activity.

Fishy business rules
People following a pescetarian diet did not have a significantly higher rate of stroke, the study found. This could be because fish-eaters' cholesterol levels are not as low as the vegetarians', explained Tong.

They are also unlikely to be vitamin B12 deficient, "because you can get some B12 from fish and other animal products that they do eat," she said.

Whereas "vegetarians and vegans have very low consumption of animal products, the only way they can get B12 is from either supplements or fortified foods," she added.

Vegetarians (including vegans) were found to have a 22 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease than meat-eaters by the research team.

This equates to 10 fewer cases of coronary heart disease among vegetarians than in meat-eaters per 1,000 people over 10 years.

Pescetarians had a 13 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease than meat-eaters, shows the study.

The researchers suggest that this finding could be due to vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians having a lower BMI and lower rates of high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes.

Total change needed
Heart disease is more common than hemorrhagic stroke, meaning vegetarians had better overall cardiovascular health outcomes despite a higher stroke risk, Stephen Burgess, group leader at the MRC Biostatistics Unit at the University of Cambridge, told the Science Media Center.

"While the differences observed were small in magnitude, this study suggests that taking up a vegetarian diet may not be universally beneficial for all health outcomes," said Burgess, who was not involved in the study.

"When considering cardiovascular health, switching to a vegetarian diet should not be seen as an end in itself, but should be considered alongside additional dietary and lifestyle changes."

In an editorial that also published in BMJ, professors Mark Lawrence and Sarah McNaughton from Melbourne's Deakin University wrote that the results may not apply to all vegetarians globally.

"Participants were all from the United Kingdom where dietary patterns and other lifestyle behaviours are likely to differ from those prevalent in low and middle-income countries, where most of the world's vegetarians live," wrote Lawrence and McNaughton, who were not involved in the study.

Tracy Parker, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said the study provided further evidence that plant-based foods can lower risk the of heart disease.

"However, it also found that vegetarians, including vegans, are at a higher risk of stroke than meat-eaters - potentially due to lack of certain nutrients," she said in an email.

She also was not involved in the research.

"Whilst this is an interesting finding, this study is observational and doesn't provide us with enough evidence, so more research in this area would be needed."

The study authors also noted that further research was needed and said that the findings were based on a largely white European population.

"Additional studies in other large scale cohorts with a high proportion of non-meat eaters are needed to confirm the generalizability of these results and assess their relevance for clinical practice and public health," Tong said.


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Wednesday cited driver errors and Tesla Inc’s Autopilot design as the probable cause of a January 2018 crash of a Model S into a parked fire truck on a highway in California.

The safety board, which previously criticized Tesla’s driver assistance system Autopilot after a 2016 fatal crash in Florida, said that the system’s design “permitted the driver to disengage from the driving task” in the Culver City, California, crash. The NTSB said on Tuesday that Autopilot allowed the driver to keep his hands off the wheel for the vast majority of the nearly 14 minutes of the trip.

The fire truck was unoccupied and the driver was not injured in the incident. The NTSB cited the driver’s “inattention and overreliance” on the advanced driver assistance system.

Tesla’s Autopilot was engaged during at least three fatal U.S. crashes, including one involving a 2018 Model 3 in Delray Beach, Florida, and a crash in Mountain View, California, of a Model X. Both incidents, which occurred in March 2018, remain under investigation by the NTSB and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NTSB makes safety recommendations, while the NHTSA can order a recall if it deems a defect poses an unreasonable risk to safety.

The Center for Auto Safety, a consumer watchdog group, said on Wednesday the NTSB report should prompt NHTSA to “do its job and recall these vehicles ... A vehicle that enables a driver to not pay attention, or fall asleep, while accelerating into a parked fire truck is defective and dangerous.”

NHTSA did not immediately comment.

Tesla said in an emailed statement that since the 2018 crash “we have made updates to our system including adjusting the time intervals between hands-on warnings and the conditions under which they’re activated.”

The company added that Tesla owners have driven billions of miles with Autopilot engaged and says its data “indicates that drivers using Autopilot remain safer than those operating without assistance.”

The crashes raised questions about the driver-assistance system’s ability to detect hazards and sparked safety concerns about systems that can perform driving tasks for extended stretches of time with little or no human intervention, but which cannot completely replace human drivers.

After the fatal 2016 Florida crash, NTSB asked six automakers with advanced driver assistance systems - Tesla, Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE), BMW AG, Nissan Motor Co, Daimler AG and Volvo Car - to “develop applications to more effectively sense the driver’s level of engagement and alert the driver when engagement is lacking while automated vehicle control systems are in use.”

“All manufacturers except Tesla have responded to the NTSB explaining their current systems and their efforts to reduce misuse and keep drivers engaged,” the NTSB said.

While Tesla drivers say they are able to avoid holding the steering wheel for extended periods while using Autopilot, Tesla advises drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and pay attention while using the system.

The 2014 Model S Autopilot system was engaged continuously for the final 13 minutes 48 seconds of the January 2018 trip and the driver kept his hands off the wheel for all but 51 seconds of the final drive segment and received numerous alerts to place his hands back on the wheel, the NTSB said. Had he been paying close attention “he could have taken evasive action to avoid or mitigate the collision.”















A 38-year-old woman told police officers that she was actually her 21-year-old daughter when they attempted to arrest her for driving without a license and having drug paraphernalia in her vehicle.

Heather Garcia was pulled over in Davis County, Utah last week. KUTV reported that “an officer noticed her Silver BMW did not have a license.” When officers searched the vehicle, they discovered “drug paraphernalia and a white powdery substance.”

When officers arrested Garcia, she claimed her name was Mercedes and that she was born in 1998. This was actually the personal information for Garcia’s daughter. When police identified the woman as Heather, they found out she also had some outstanding warrants. She was arrested and charged with “drug possession, driving with a revoked license, and offering false personal info to a police officer,” according to KUTV’s review of court documents. Fox News expanded on the drug possession charge after reviewing inmate records, which the outlet said Garcia was charged with “possession or use of a controlled substance, marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.”

In addition, she was also charged driving without insurance.

Impersonations rarely work. In May, an Arkansas woman was sentenced to 15 years in prison after she impersonated a Sheriff’s Deputy in an attempt to help her boyfriend escape from jail. People reported that Maxine Feldstein and her boyfriend Nicholas Lowe had been arrested in July 2018. Feldstein was arrested for possession with intent to deliver, according to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, but was released the following day. Lowe was kept in jail due to a hold from Ventura County.

While Lowe remained in jail, he asked Feldstein to contact the prison pretending to be a police officer and claim that overcrowding had become an issue, so “all low-priority extraditions have been suspended,” police wrote in an affidavit reported by KTHV.

Feldstein did as she was told and contacted the jail, pretending to be “Deputy Kershaw with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office,” according to KTHV. She provided a fake document that led to Lowe’s release.

Two days later, an actual officer from Ventura County called to ask when they could transfer Lowe. The police figured out their mistake and re-arrested the couple one month later. Lowe plead guilty to third-degree escape and was sentenced to a year in prison, while Feldstein received 15 years — ten for the forged document and five for helping in the escape.

“It was very well-planned and very well-executed,” Fourth Judicial District Chief deputy prosecuting attorney Mieka Hatcher told People. “Planning and executing an escape is a serious crime.”

In June, a 54-year-old man impersonated a police officer and tried to conduct a traffic stop. Timothy Trivett had blue and white flashing lights on his Chevy Impala, which he used to pull over a fellow motorist. An actual police officer pulled up behind Trivett and noticed he was dressed like a police officer, with body armor and equipment as well. Trivett was arrested and charged with “impersonating a police officer and for possessing multiple handguns,” according to WUSA9.

















On Monday morning on the streets of Times Square in New York City, 300 dancers joined together for a ballet class. The flash dance mob came together in response to last Thursday's segment of Good Morning America when host Lara Spencer laughed out loud at the news that

Prince George was taking ballet classes. Her reaction and sarcastic comments both shocked and outraged the entire dance community, with dancers and major companies from all over the world heading to their Instagram accounts to share their anger and disappointment at what was seen as both outright bullying and a reinforcement of toxic gender stereotyping (ballet, like all sports, is nongendered).



View this post on Instagram

See this cute face, the future King of England? This adorable boy is being shamed by a grown woman on National Television in America for taking ballet! @lara.spencer you should be ashamed of yourself as well as @gstephanopoulos for laughing along & @goodmorningamerica for letting public shaming of young boys happen! Growing up as a dancer I was bullied horribly which is exactly what this is. She is teaching the word that it is ok to laugh at boys for dancing and that is so sad. Just think about the young boys who may have seen this and could quit their passion at her expense. It infuriates me and I would appreciate everyone sharing this and forcing a public apology to Prince George, The Royal Family, all male dancers and all dancers in general for being so insensitive. #LaraSpencer #GeorgeStephanopoulos #GoodMorningAmerica #BoysDance #BoysDanceToo #DontShameMaleDancers
A post shared by Brian Friedman (@brianfriedman) on

"I was horrified thinking about little boys hearing the laughter," Emmy-winning choreographer Travis Wall of So You Think You Can Dance told The New York Times.

But this is a story with a happy ending. While her initial attempt at an apology on Instagram went unaccepted by many, Spencer spent the next few days speaking to male dancers about how to make things right. The result: in addition to the class in the streets, Spencer conducted an honest, on-air interview with Wall and professional dancers Robbie Fairchild (who plays Munkustrap in the film adaptation of Cats) and Fabrice Calmels of the Joffrey Ballet about the judgment directed toward men who choose a career in ballet.

"We all just wanted to have a conversation about the problem in this country that we've never really talked about until now, which is how brave it is for a male dancer at a young age to make the decision . . . And the scrutiny and bullying that comes with it," Wall said in the same interview with The New York Times.

After the event and prerecorded interview aired, Fairchild took to his Instagram to share his thoughts. "Couldn't be filled with more love from our class this morning in Times Square," he wrote. "I was fortunate enough to get to speak with @lara.spencer along with @traviswall and @fabricecalmels on camera for @goodmorningamerica yesterday ... I believe we steered this painful moment into a great conversation celebrating dance and defending boys who are bullied for doing it. Lara was heartfelt, teary and incredibly remorseful. She owned up and apologized for her remarks and I forgive her and thank her for doing all she could to right her wrong."

It takes a lot of strength, humility, and self-reflection to admit you made a mistake, especially when that mistake happened so publicly, and there are many people and brands who could learn from the way Spencer and Good Morning America approached this situation.

"I screwed up, I did," Spencer said in the lead-up to the interview. "The comment I made about dance was insensitive, it was stupid, and I am deeply sorry. I've spoken with several members of the dance community over the past few days. I have listened. I have learned about the bravery that it takes for a young boys to pursue a career in dance."

And it also takes the same strength and self-reflection to forgive, which Fairchild is calling upon the rest of the dance world to do. "We are a community of love, and in order for us to move forward, we have to move forward together," he said on air, echoing those sentiments on Instagram as well: "I hope in time we can all find forgiveness in our hearts once the pain we have felt disappates [sic] a bit," he wrote. "After all, we are all human and make mistakes. We, the dance community, are a community of love and compassion. And my hope is that we move forward together in order to lead in unity and love, especially in our current social climate where there is so much division. Dance heals. Dance unites. Dance leads."


A cat in Australia cannot find a home because of its unusual - and rude - facial markings.

Daisy, a nine-year-old ragdoll cat, is described as an easy going moggy, fully microchipped and vaccinated.

But an animal rescue group in Sydney, The Mini Kitty Commune, said that despite the cat being “perfect on paper”, something is stopping someone from taking her into their home.

Her “unique” markings make it look, some claim, as if she has a rude part of the male anatomy on her face.


Does it look rude to you? (The Mini Kitty Commune)

Daisy is “very easy going and doesn’t want for much, she loves company of humans but has also been around other cats so will do well after correct introductions,” wrote the Commune on Facebook.

But it added: “Some say she has unfortunate facial markings but we call it totally unique”.

Her plight was picked up by a local television station, which asked: “Someone Please Adopt Daisy, The Beautiful Rescue Cat With A Dick On Her Face.”

But Daisy should not in any way feel embarrassed.

Some on the Facebook said they could not see the resemblance, while others claimed she was still beautiful despite the markings.



“I am so slow..I didn’t realise what you meant..when you said unfortunate markings..I’ve read the comments now, but it never entered my mind,” wrote one, er member, on Facebook.

Another simply wrote: “I think Daisy is just gorgeous!”

The Mini Kitty Commune claims it is Australia’s leading cat adoption agency, and is a charity which claims to “save hundreds of animals and touch thousands of people’s lives”.
Janelle Monáe has been a darling of the Black community for quite some time, but even she’s not immune to social media outrage, which she found out earlier this week.

On Sunday “The Electric Lady” commented on the recent craze surrounding Popeyes’ new fried chicken sandwich, and how people were standing in extremely long lines to get one.


Janelle Monáe received a good deal of backlash after she said voting booths should be brought to Black folks who are waiting in line for Popeyes’ new chicken sandwiches. (Photo: Timothy Hiatt / WireImage via Getty Images)

Photos of lines snaking around corners also made its way to social media, and Popeyes even got into a much talked about back-and-forth with Chick-fil-A over their chicken sandwich.

Some on Black Twitter said Black folks need to show the same enthusiasm for voting as they do standing in line for a sandwich. And people offline seemed to think the same thing.

Because according to NBC News, a 17-year-old named David Ledbetter went to his local Popeyes in Charlotte, North Carolina, and established a voter registration booth for Black folks standing on line.

At some point, Monáe joined in on the chicken, voting talk and offered a suggestion.

“Perhaps we put voting booths at every Popeyes location? While we wait on that sammich you can register and vote @popeyes holla,” she tweeted on Sunday.
While Monáe’s message seemed to be tongue in cheek, many criticized her and said she made a dangerous assumption that Black people are indifferent about voting and politics.

Some also mentioned that Monáe failed to bring up the topic of voter suppression, which people on the right have been accused of doing for a long while.

“Janelle Monáe basically said that you chicken eating coons dont care about voting,” someone wrote Sunday on Instagram.

“Blk ppl already show up in droves to vote in local elections in long lines and malfunctioning equipment. Maybe use your platforms to be less sophomoric and talk about voter roll purging and ID laws,” wrote another.

The eclectic singer eventually caught wind of the backlash and apologized.

“You know, when other people say things on here that are wrong or misguided, I wonder, “why don’t they just admit they’re wrong and learn from it.” So I’m going to do that now,” tweeted Monáe on Sunday.

“I think the tweets that I posted about registering and voting were insensitive and wrong — specifically they ignored the very real issues of voter suppression that have impacted my community for years and me directly,” she added.

The 33-year-old then thanked those who corrected her.

“Thanks to all of you for calling me out (or in) and helping me remember and refocus on the bigger issues,” tweeted Monáe. “I love y’all. Keep teaching one another. Never be afraid to be wrong. Never be afraid to listen and learn.”

“People that know me, know that I am very passionate about voting and making sure that people around me and in my community have safe and EASY ACCESS to voting,” she continued. If you care about the same things sign up here to help: http://www.fairfight2020.org.”

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Tuesday that he will accept the offer of international aid to help fight the fires raging across the Amazon rainforest, but that French President Emmanuel Macron must first apologize to him.



Bolsonaro appeared offended by Macron's comments related to his handling of the unfolding crisis in the Amazon, and wanted them retracted.

"And then we can speak," he said, according to The Associated Press.

The Brazilian leader's demand for an apology follows Macron lashing out after a Bolsonaro supporter mocked Macron's wife, Brigitte, in a Facebook post, comparing her to Bolsonaro's wife, Michelle, and suggesting Macron was jealous.

Bolsonaro commented on the post in Portuguese, "don't humiliate the guy ... haha," leading Macron to respond during the Group of Seven summit on Monday that the comment was "very disrespectful."

"He said very disrespectful things about my wife. I have great respect for the Brazilian people and can only hope they soon have a president who is up to the job," Macron said.

Macron did not immediately respond to Bolsonaro's conditions for accepting the money, worth roughly $20 million and pledged Monday during the G-7 summit in France. In addition, Britain said it would donate $12 million and Canada another $11 million as part of the effort.

G7 pledges millions in the battle against fires raging in Amazon
Earlier, Brazilian officials balked at the offer, with Bolsonaro's chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, telling the nation's news outlet G1 that "we appreciate it, but maybe these resources would be put to better use reforesting Europe."

Lorenzoni also took a swipe at Macron, who has sought to bring attention to the fires in the Amazon and tweeted last week that "it is an international crisis."

Macron "can't even prevent a foreseeable fire in a church that is a world heritage site," Lorenzoni said Monday, referring to the massive blaze that damaged the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in April.

Brazil's ambassador to France, Luís Fernando Serra, echoed the sentiment Tuesday on French national television, saying in an interview that "we refuse the aid because we see interference" and it was "help we did not ask for."

The Bolsonaro government's earlier refusal came as no surprise after the populist president and Macron exchanged critical tweets last week. Bolsonaro has accused Macron of striking a "sensationalist tone" and condoning a "colonialist mentality."

Brazil is a former Portuguese colony. Bolsonaro also suggested that Western nations appear motivated by the resources that the Amazon provides.

"Look, does anyone help anyone ... without something in return? What have they wanted there for so long?" Bolsonaro said.

His statement came as Brazil's environment minister, Ricardo Salles, earlier said that any aid was welcome.

Macron on Monday assured Bolsonaro that the international offer comes with only good intentions.

"We respect your sovereignty. It's your country," he said, according to the AP. But "the Amazon forest is a subject for the whole planet. We can help you reforest. We can find the means for your economic development that respects the natural balance. But we cannot allow you to destroy everything."

The Amazon rainforest, which sprawls across nine countries and is the largest rainforest in the world, has been burning at a record rate, according to Brazil's National Institute for Space Research. More than 74,000 fires have been observed in Brazil alone this year, almost double the total for 2018.

Bolsonaro, who took office in January, has faced a backlash for rolling back environmental protections that have paved the way for the illegal clearing of forests in favor of cattle farming and agriculture. Last week, he posted a video to Facebook blaming nongovernmental organizations for setting the blazes as a tactic to malign him, although he provided no evidence for the claim.

Environmentalists say preserving the Amazon is essential because deforestation only exacerbates the effects of climate change, leads to the loss of biodiversity and could threaten rainfall patterns across the globe.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended Bolsonaro's efforts and tweeted that he has the backing of the United States. Bolsonaro "is working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil - Not easy," Trump wrote Tuesday.

source: nbcnews

Bernie Sanders / Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said that China has done more to alleviate poverty than any country in history during a Tuesday appearance on HILL TV’s Rising.

Granting that it is unfortunate that China is "moving" toward authoritarianism instead of democratic governance, the presidential candidate argued its record on poverty is the best in the world.

"China is a country that is moving, unfortunately, in a more authoritarian way in a number of directions," Sanders said. "But what we have to say about China in fairness to China and its leadership is, if I’m not mistaken, they have made more progress in addressing extreme poverty than any country in the history of civilization. So they’ve done a lot of things for their people."

Sanders had just finished denouncing "far-right authoritarian leaders" such as President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, both elected leaders of liberal democratic nations, when he was asked about China at the 10:27 mark of the episode. HILL TV host Krystal Ball asked Sanders about his prior statement that normalizing trade relations with China would be devastating for America.



"Their economy now is struggling but I think it is absolutely possible for us to have a positive working relationship with China," Sanders said. He argued the problem with Chinese trade is that it benefits the wealthy too much, since companies can outsource labor to China where wages are lower.

He did not address how China’s communist government has oppressed religious people and minorities, putting at least one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps while instituting one of the most comprehensive surveillance states in history. In China, the Communist Party requires all religions to pledge ultimate loyalty to President Xi Jinping, who is atop a one-party system that does not allow political opposition.

While Sanders did say trade with China is potentially bad for workers because of labor competition, he did not address China's violations of trade rules, such as intellectual property theft. As a socialist, Sanders has been a vocal opponent of free trade for decades.

But Sanders said he would "take a stand" against the Communist Party’s designs for Hong Kong, a former province of the British Empire that is now part of China but has special status.

"You gotta make a very strong statement that we in the United States—this is certainly not the case with Donald Trump—but historically at least, and under a Bernie Sanders presidency, we stand for democracy and we stand for human rights and we will do everything that we can to prevent oppressive governments from forcefully denying people their democratic rights."

Hongkongers have freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, but the police have brutally suppressed recent protests, and many are concerned China will use the military to put down political dissent in the city.

Living standards in China are inferior to those of its democratic neighbors Japan and South Korea, but their economy has grown in recent years as it has instituted more capitalist structures in its economy. Contrary to what Sanders said, it has not been "moving" toward authoritarian government, but rather has long had it. Its founding leader Mao Zedong was responsible for an estimated 35-45 million deaths in the 20th century, and even after he died, political dissent was suppressed repeatedly, most notably at Tiananmen Square.

In China, information is rigidly controlled regarding topics such as Tiananmen and Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

source: freebeacon


Magical Grandparents Built 350sqft Harry Potter Themed Playhouse for Grandchildren. The massive project was created by Tyson Leavitt, who brought the wizarding world of Harry Potter to the backyard of Dave and Ruby Dunlop. Also known as the greatest grandparents ever by Harry Potter fans around the world.

The Dunlop’s reside in Spencerville, Ontario and had the massive 350sqft structure created for their granddaughter and huge Harry Potter fan, Logan, her two younger siblings, and their friends, so the can enjoy an escape to the wizarding world whenever they want.



“My daughter and her [friend] are huge Harry Potter fans – but none of us really know how to design a building, let alone a playhouse!”, says Dave regarding the impressive structure, “We felt it would be so neat if Logan had a special place for her to come and play with at Pa’s and Gram’s. So we gave Tyson full creative freedom.”



“My son and his wife got a playhouse built for them by Tyson too, and it was delivered the same time as ours – so we’re somewhat loyal customers! It got exactly the reaction we’d hoped for.”



“You should see her face when she’s using the playhouse. We’re so thrilled with it. All our friends and neighbours are impressed with it too,” Dave beamed,  “It’s a popular addition to our community, with many stopping to look and take pictures.”

One of my personal favorite touched is the bridge to the owlery in the Hogwarts Castle portion of the playhouse.



Tyson Leavitt, runs a small family business called: Charmed Playhouses. Leavitt builds luxury playhouses for clients in North America, as well as the UK, China, and Mexico. We have a feeling his services will be requested all around the world from here on out!

Tyson described the playhouses he makes for children of all ages as “custom homes, but smaller scale and with way more fantasy”.



“When our granddaughter came out the second time to play, she asked if she could go to ‘her house’. Even a month since it was set up, every time she comes outside, she spends time in it. Gram and her absolutely love to have tea in the little kitchen and lose track of the time.”



The Harry Potter inspired playhouse has many nods to the books and films and incorporates the Hogwarts Castle, Ollivander’s wand shop, Platform 9¾, and part of the Dursleys’ Privet Drive home. Some notable details are the inclusion of brooms, full set of Harry Potter books, Logan’s framed Hogwarts acceptance letter, and portraits of Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger.



The playhouse is riddled with similarly themed furnishings and decorations to the films and books. There is a bed for Logan when she spends the night at her grandparents and an electric fireplace on the bottom floor for the winter so they can still utilize the playhouse in the winter



If all that wasn’t enough, Dave shared their plans to add an addition to the playhouse. “We hope to have a zip line attached in five to six years, which will go from the balcony of the Hogwarts tower down to the ground.”



Tyson said, “The Dunlops are elated to have the playhouse in their backyard as it will become the pinnacle of family memories for years to come.”



It appears Logan, her family, and her friends are already enjoying the playhouse and can’t wait to create more memories in the future while playing together in one of the most magical playhouses in the muggle world!

source: chipandco


Autonomous vehicles "have every incentive to create havoc," transportation planner says

If you think traffic in city centers is bad now, just wait until self-driving cars emerge on the scene, cruising around to avoid paying hefty downtown parking fees.


  With no need to park, self-driving cars will clog city streets and slow traffic to a crawl. However, a policy fix could address these problems before autonomous vehicles become commonplace, says Adam Millard-Ball.

Even worse, because cruising is less costly at lower speeds, self-driving cars will slow to a crawl as they "kill time," says transportation planner Adam Millard-Ball, an associate professor of environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

"Parking prices are what get people out of their cars and on to public transit, but autonomous vehicles have no need to park at all. They can get around paying for parking by cruising," he said. "They will have every incentive to create havoc."

Millard-Ball analyzes "The Autonomous Vehicle Parking Problem" in the current issue of Transport Policy.

That scenario of robot-fueled gridlock is right around the corner, according to Millard-Ball, who says autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles are likely to become commonplace in the next five to 20 years. Millard-Ball is the first researcher to analyze the combined impact of parking costs and self-driving cars on city centers, where the cost and availability of parking is the only tool that effectively restricts car travel.

Under the best-case scenario, the presence of as few as 2,000 self-driving cars in downtown San Francisco will slow traffic to less than 2 miles per hour, according to Millard-Ball, who uses game theory and a traffic micro-simulation model to generate his predictions.

"It just takes a minority to gum things up," he said, recalling the congestion caused at airports by motorists cruising the "arrivals" area to avoid paying for parking: "Drivers would go as slowly as possibly so they wouldn't have to drive around again." Free cell-phone parking areas, coupled with strict enforcement in loading areas, relieved the airport snarls, but cities will be hard-pressed to provide remote parking areas for self-driving cars at rates lower than the cost of cruising—which Millard-Ball estimates at 50 cents per hour.

"Even when you factor in electricity, depreciation, wear and tear, and maintenance, cruising costs about 50 cents an hour—that's cheaper than parking even in a small town," says Millard-Ball. "Unless it's free or cheaper than cruising, why would anyone use a remote lot?"

Regulation also falls short because, as Millard-Ball puts it, "It's difficult to regulate intent. You can pass a law saying it's illegal to drive more than 10 minutes without a passenger, but what if the car is picking up a parcel?"

The solution: congestion pricing, which can take different forms but essentially amounts to a user fee. In London, motorists pay a flat fee of £11.50 (about $15) to enter the city center. Singapore and Stockholm employ similar models. More sophisticated models could charge by miles driven, or assign different fees to particular streets.

Economists and environmentalists agree that congestion pricing effectively reduces congestion and pollution, but it's a politically fraught strategy because it raises the ire of commuters. Which is where Millard-Ball sees opportunity.

"As a policy, congestion pricing is difficult to implement. The public never wants to pay for something they've historically gotten for free," he said. "But no one owns an autonomous vehicle now, so there's no constituency organized to oppose charging for the use of public streets. This is the time to establish the principle and use it to avoid the nightmarish scenario of total gridlock."

Moreover, he noted, self-driving cars could be outfitted with devices that would give policymakers options for levying fees based on location, speed, time of day—even which lane the vehicle occupies.

"The fees could raise money for cities to improve transportation," he said. "The idea is to do it now before autonomous vehicles become widespread."

  • Prominent Samsung ads that criticized Apple iPhones are no longer on Samsung’s U.S. YouTube channel.
  • The ads poked fun at Apple’s decisions to remove the headphone jack and use display notches, among other things that the Galaxy Note 10 now does.
  • Luckily, the ads are still available to watch via third-party uploaders.
Yesterday, Samsung made the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus official. The release of the two new flagships is bittersweet for many Note fans, though, because neither device comes with a headphone jack. It appears Samsung wants to gloss over this fact by not only declining to mention it at all during yesterday’s launch event but by also attempting to hide its past advertisements.

The company’s decision to remove the much-beloved smartphone port isn’t too surprising considering multiple other OEMs — including Huawei, OnePlus, Google, and obviously Apple — have already done so. However, Samsung was the longest holdout and also the most vocal critic of those other OEMs and their choice to ditch the port, especially when it comes to Apple.

Over the past few years, there have been multiple high-profile Samsung ads that heavily criticized Apple’s iPhone design limitations, specifically towards the removal of the headphone jack and the notched display on the iPhone X and XS. These ads are no longer on Samsung’s official United States YouTube channel and appear to be erased from other official sources as well.

One of the more prominent series of ads — known as “Ingenius” — center on an actor portraying an Apple employee as he tries to convince skeptical smartphone buyers to buy an iPhone. The customers all seem confused as they want certain things from the phone that it simply can’t do, including headphone jacks, microSD card slots, and notch-less displays.

Obviously, these ads would seem uncouth now considering that the Galaxy Note 10 is missing those two ports and has a notch (albeit a different notch as compared to iPhones). That’s probably why these ads are no longer on Samsung’s official channels.

Luckily, you can still see all the “Ingenius” ads below. Be forewarned, though, that they are even more cringe-worthy than they used to be considering most of the iPhone limitations criticized in the ads are now part of the Galaxy Note 10 line:



Another prominent Samsung ad was called “Growing Up.” The ad shows a young man going through various iterations of the iPhone over the years, getting increasingly frustrated with the limitations of each one. A memorable scene in the ad shows him using his iPhone with a giant dongle attached to it so he can use his wired headphones and charge the device at the same time.

This ad also no longer appears on Samsung’s official U.S. channel. Luckily, you can still watch it below:


What do you think of Samsung removing these ads from its official U.S. pages? Will you be buying the Galaxy Note 10 even though it doesn’t have a headphone jack?


Some employees of Snap have access to internal tools that allow them to access Snapchat user data and have in the past abused those tools to spy on Snapchat users, reports Motherboard.

According to two former employees, a current employee, and internal company emails, Snap employees have access to internal tools that let them access location information, saved snaps, phone numbers, and email addresses from users.

One of the tools, SnapLion, was designed to gather information on users in response to valid law enforcement requests. Snap's Spam and Abuse team has access to Snap Lion, as does a Customer Ops team and security staff. One former employee told Motherboard that SnapLion offers "the keys to the kingdom."

The SnapLion tool has legitimate purposes and is used for such within the company, but the two former Snap employees confirmed that it's also been used for illegitimate reasons, though information about specific incidents was not made available.
One of the former employees said that data access abuse occurred "a few times" at Snap. That source and another former employee specified the abuse was carried out by multiple individuals. A Snapchat email obtained by Motherboard also shows employees broadly discussing the issue of insider threats and access to data, and how they need to be combatted. 
Motherboard was unable to verify exactly how the data abuse occurred, or what specific system or process the employees leveraged to access Snapchat user data.
A Snap spokesperson said that privacy is "paramount" at Snap, and that little user data is kept. What data is stored is protected by "robust policies" to limit the number of employees who have access. "Unauthorized access of any kind is a clear violation of the company's standards of business conduct and, if detected, results in immediate termination," the spokesperson told Motherboard.

Snap monitors who accesses user data, but the former employees say that the logging procedures aren't perfect, and that years ago, SnapLion did not have robust data protection tools to track what employees were doing. It's not clear if employees are still abusing internal tools, but Motherboard's investigation suggests it did happen in the past.
Snap said it limits internal access to tools to only those who require it, but SnapLion is no longer a tool purely intended to help law enforcement. It is now used more generally across the company. A former employee who worked with SnapLion said the tool is used for resetting passwords of hacked accounts and "other user administration."
Much of what's shared on Snapchat is ephemeral, with content disappearing after a short period of time. Users should be aware, however, that certain data is collected and stored by Snapchat, such as phone number, location data, message metadata (who a person spoke to and when), and some Snap content, such as Memories.

A full accounting of Motherboard's Snap investigation can be read over on Vice.

A LARGE WIND FARM IN MECKLENBURG-WESTERN POMERANIA, GERMANY, MAY 14, 2019. CREDIT: BERND WÜSTNECK/PICTURE ALLIANCE VIA GETTY IMAGES.

The myth that a very high level of renewables can’t be integrated into the electric grid is being demolished by the clean tech and battery storage revolution.

“By 2040, renewables make up 90% of the electricity mix in Europe, with wind and solar accounting for 80%,” predict the experts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) in their annual energy outlook released this week.

“Cheap renewable energy and batteries fundamentally reshape the electricity system,” explains BNEF. Since 2010, wind power globally has dropped 49% in cost. Both solar and battery prices have plummeted 85%.


PRICE DROPS IN SOLAR, WIND, BATTERIES SINCE 2010. CREDIT: BNEF.

In fact, many countries are already at very high levels of renewable power: Iceland (100%), Paraguay (100%), Costa Rica (98%), Norway (97%), Uruguay (96.5%), Kenya (91%), New Zealand (84%), Austria (80%), Brazil (80%), Austria (74%), Canada (65%) and Denmark (61%). The main renewables in these countries are hydropower, wind, geothermal, and solar.

In addition, many large population regions are at 100% (or higher). As a September 2018 international study documented, these include Germany’s Mecklenburg-Vorpommern region in the Northeast and the Schleswig-Hostein region north of Hamburg, New Zealand’s South Island, and Denmark’s Samsø island. In Canada, both Quebec and British Columbia are at nearly 100% renewable power.

This trend is spreading as rapidly as the prices for solar, wind, and batteries are dropping. In fact, prices are dropping so fast that BNEF projects that the power from batteries combined with renewables becomes “cost-competitive with new coal and gas for dispatchable generation” — which is power that can be used when it is needed by the grid operators, even if the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining.

BNEF identifies another crucial, inexpensive measure for flexibly filling the electricity gap created by a lull in winds or clouds blocking the sun — so-called dynamic demand, or “demand response,” which involves paying commercial, industrial, and even residential customers to reduce electricity demand with a certain amount of advance warning.

In fact, Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s 2017 electric grid study explained that, already, half of Texas’ short-term reserves, known as spinning reserves, come from its demand response program. The study notes that “consumer end uses — including building energy management systems, as well as water and space heating and cooling — can also serve as [demand response] resources,” using technology to balance demand with generation from wind and solar.

BNEF analysts explain that combining batteries, demand response, and fast-ramping natural gas plants for peak power generation helps “wind and solar reach more than 80% penetration in some markets.” When you add in the other forms of renewable power — such as hydropower and geothermal — total renewable generation becomes 90% or more.

Overall, Europe transitions the fastest, with Germany in the lead. BNEF projects that over the next decade, Germany will phase out coal and nuclear — and renewables will provide more than 82% of the country’s power. “By 2050, renewables provide 96% of generation,” reducing Germany’s emissions by 97% compared to today.

Australia’s leading scientific research organization (CSIRO) as well as business leaders like National Australia Bank chair Ken Henry, also say a transition to nearly 100% renewables in Australia is likely by 2050.

In the “Australian National Outlook 2019” released by CSIRO this week, this transition occurs in every scenario that was modeled simply because it’s the cost-effective thing to do in the face of declining clean tech prices.

Meanwhile, according to BNEF’s projections the United States will be a laggard, with only 43% renewables penetration in 2050. Much deeper penetration is clearly possible, but that will take a very different kind of political leadership than we currently have.


If a hands-off theater demo of a new video game can over-deliver E3, then Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga sure did. The amount of changes I was shown to the 20-year-old Lego video game formula was startling.

I checked out the game as E3 was winding down on Thursday, taking a front row seat for a look at a game that I expected to come off as a rehash of some of the four previous Lego Star Wars games. After all, three of them have collectively covered seven of the main Star Wars movies, and nine movies are depicted in this new game.



From the start, there were big surprises:

The standout change is the camera angle. We were only shown the open-world portion of the game, but even there the change is pronounced. The camera is closer in and behind-the back, with the character pushed in much closer than usual, similar to how you’d view you the action and the character you’re controlling in a Gears of War game. The camera is controlled freely with the analog stick. This angle will also be used in the game’s levels. “We changed it because kids have changed,” the game’s director, James McLoughlin, later told me in an interview. “They are much more accomplished gamers than they were at the start.” He noted how deftly kids work with free cameras in Minecraft and Fortnite, among others.

Combat now involves light attacks, heavy attacks and force moves, allowing for more complex fighting and button combos, a depth attempted in few Lego games other than the recent Lego NInjago Movie adaptation.

Then there’s the sheer amount of Lego objects in the world. Skywalker Saga’s galaxy isn’t all-virtual-Lego the way that the Lego Videogame Movie games were, but it otherwise looks more like it is composed of Lego bricks than any other game I’ve seen in the franchise. Early in the demo, as we were shown the Millennium Falcon flying through space toward Tatooine, a Star Destroyer suddenly appeared from hyperspace. It looks to be entirely made of Lego—some 18,000,000 bricks, the person running the demo remarked, if it was built in real life. McLoughlin later explained to me that all spaceship interiors in the game are rendered as if fully made of Lego, including action set in the Death Star. Down on Tatooine, the all-Lego Sarlacc Pit was particularly impressive.

The game is set across a swath of Star Wars space. In the demo it was broken up into nine regions, each consisting of two or three planets that are featured in the movies. Players start the game by picking one of the nine main Star Wars films. They can then can start flying to planets that will contain a mix of movie-centric material and more generalized Star Wars activities. Picking a movie unlocks some planets that include levels from those films, though players can always go back and start a new movie before finishing the one they started. Any planets unlocked for one movie will be available to freely visit even once another movie has been selected. So you can be trying to tackle missions in Return of the Jedi but still be able to hop over to planets featured in, say, The Force Awakens, if you’d started playing through that movie already.



The movies are depicted through a mix of activities in the open world and discrete levels. McLoughlin said there will be five levels for each film and that the developers are trying to focus as much as possible on sections of the movies that weren’t turned into levels in previous Lego games. The first mission for the Phantom Menace, for example, will be the underwater chase through the core of the planet Naboo. “We just didn’t have the tech to do that kind of stuff back in the day,” he said. Sections of the movie prior to that, such as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn’s movie-starting arrival on a trade federation ship, are sequences the player tackles in the game’s open world and aren’t a level proper.

The demo focused on a slice of the game’s open world, specifically the Anchorhead region of Tatooine, which is just one section players can explore on just one of the game’s many planets. It was huge and full of characters, including R2D2, Jawas and Banthas on which the character could ride. We were shown a basic side quest—one of apparently 500 set up for the game—involving translating for and then helping a Gonk droid. It was fine, but as I noted to McLoughlin, the Lego series’ open worlds have largely been filled with dull sidequests or empty expanses. He acknowledged the criticism—”We realized the open worlds needed a bit more oomph”—and cited The Legends Of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as an influence. “One of the things we’ve been doing, kind of, I suppose like Zelda, where at every corner you turn, there’s always something to do, like if it’s rescuing the little dudes stuck under rocks, etcetera, etcetera.” He said they’re filling more of their world with more puzzles. McLoughlin also teased some more interesting types of activities in the open world: bounty hunter missions in which you go to a planet to seek a character hidden on another planet and “smuggler’s runs” where you pick up cargo and have to fly it from system to system without being caught by the Empire.

Here’s another good detail for those frustrated by earlier Lego games’ open worlds: You can stop doing one sidequest before finishing it, start another and the game will remember your progress in the other quests.

The game’s spread across nine movies means it’ll adapt the forthcoming Episode IX: The Rise Of Skywalker. Apparently it hasn’t been put in the game yet, because they haven’t been told the plot. “We know nothing, and that’s not just a line because you’re recording me,” he said. The demo’s movie-select interface depicted a scene from Episode IX’s trailer.

Like the previous Lego games, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga will support co-op. Because of the new camera controls, the view will be split even during levels. Given all this rethinking of the formula, might they finally add on-line co-op? “We have new technology,” McLoughlin said, stopping right there as if he’d rehearsed for that question. He would not say more. 


The already extensive Keanu Reeves filmography continues to stack up exciting prospects, including the Cudi-featuring return of the Bill & Ted franchise and presumably 348 more John Wick movies. Reeves, however, has yet to be bitten by the Marvel bug. In a recent interview with ComicBook.com, Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige confirmed he and his team have been in consistent contact with the 54-year-old actor and are still hopeful that a link-up will come to pass.

"We talk to him for almost every film we make," Feige, who compared Reeves to the recently Marvel'd Jake Gyllenhaal, said at a recent Spider-Man: Far From Home presser in London. He went on to say, "I don't know when, if, or ever he'll join the MCU, but we very much want to figure out the right way to do it."

Reeves, of course, was previously reported as having turned down a Captain Marvel role and is the subject of fan petitions calling for him to become the new Wolverine.

Asked about other possible future MCU inductees like Millie Bobby Brown and Donnie Yen, Feige expressed praise but stopped short of the active recruitment tactics mentioned regarding Reeves.


By the time our great-grandchildren have children of their own, we humans will likely have broken a climate record that has stood unchallenged for 56 million years.

New research has found that humans are pumping nearly 10 times more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than what was emitted during Earth's last major warming event, called the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM).

If carbon emissions continue to rise in the future, mathematical models predict that within the next few hundred years, we could be facing another PETM-like event.

In other words, in the near future, Earth could resemble its distant past: a time when the Arctic was free of ice, inhabited by crocodiles and dotted by palm trees.

"You and I won't be here in 2159, but that's only about four generations away," warns palaeoclimate researcher Philip Gingerich from the University of Michigan.

"When you start to think about your children and your grandchildren, and your great-grandchildren, you're about there."

The PETM is often used as a benchmark for current global warming. During this time, rapid climate changes saw landscapes transformed, oceans acidified, and widespread extinctions triggered.

It took more than 150,000 years for the world to recover, but what happened then has nothing on what is happening now.

Global temperatures during the PETM peaked at about 7 degrees Celsius (13 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than today's average, and we are quickly catching up to those heights.

The new study suggests that if nothing changes, within 140 years, humans could pump out the same amount of greenhouse gases released during the entire PETM.

"The fact that we could reach warming equivalent to the PETM very quickly, within the next few hundred years, is terrifying," says Larisa DeSantis, a palaeontologist at Vanderbilt University, who was not connected to the new study.

The reason it's terrifying is because we are headed off the road map. Today, climate scientists use the PETM as a case study for what global warming might do to our planet and when those changes might be expected.

But as useful as this has been, today, we live in a different world. While the PETM is thought to have occurred from a comet or a volcano, our current climate catastrophe is being fuelled primarily by humans, at a rate unseen in Earth's climate record.

It's also happening in the middle of what should be a cooling trend, in a time when the world is full of different ecosystems and species.

With all of these variable factors, the new research suggests that using the PETM as a gauge for current warming may not be quite so useful in the future.

"Given a business-as-usual assumption for the future, the rates of carbon release that are happening today are really unprecedented, even in the context of an event like the PETM," says Gabriel Bowen, a geophysicist at the University of Utah, who was not connected to the new study.

"We don't have much in the way of geologic examples to draw from in understanding how the world responds to that kind of perturbation."

It looks like our descendants are on their own.

This study has been published in Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology.


Normally a headline like "The hipster effect: Why anti-conformists always end up looking the same" would elicit much rolling of eyes here at Vulture Towers.

However, it becomes more intriguing when one learns that the hypothesis described in the article was tested by a series of hilarious post-publication events that then further bolstered the paper's findings.

At the end of February, MIT Technology Review emitted a pithy rundown of a 34-page research paper from maths-modelling boffins at Brandeis University in the US; the paper essentially posited that in a bid to make that all-important "countercultural statement", hipsters can end up looking alike. For groovy models of how random acts by hipsters "undergo a phase transition into a synchronized state" – along with some knotty network equations – see here [PDF].

Accompanying the article was an edited stock image of a generic millennial chap in plaid shirt and standard-issue beanie, or "trendy winter attire", as Getty put it.

The MIT journal's editor-in-chief, Gideon Lichfield, took to Twitter to tell a "cautionary tale" about what followed the article going live:

"We promptly got a furious email from a man who said he was the guy in the photo that ran with the story. He accused us of slandering him, presumably by implying he was a hipster, and of using the pic without his permission. (He wasn't too complimentary about the story, either.)"

Oh crap, is "generic millennial chap" libel? The Register can't afford that hitting the courts.

Lichfield continued:
He said the licence stipulated that if the image was used "in connection with a subject that would be unflattering or unduly controversial to a reasonable person (for example, sexually transmitted diseases)", it had to be made clear that the person was a model.

Lichfield pointed out that he didn't think calling someone a hipster was "unflattering or unduly controversial" but contacted Getty to be safe.

The stock photo giant checked the model release and lo! The guy in the image wasn't even the same dude who was complaining. "He'd misidentified himself," Lichfield said.

"All of which just proves the story we ran: hipsters look so much alike that they can’t even tell themselves apart from each other."


Audiences will lineup this weekend to check out the ‘90s nostalgia trip of Captain Marvel. Younger viewers will look at the Blockbuster Video Store featured in the film and have little understanding of what kind of business they’re looking at. That’s because, at the same time, the staff of the last Blockbuster in Australia will be winding down the business and shuttering the store—leaving just one final location of the venerable franchise left on Earth.

According to the Australian Associated Press, the Blockbuster located in the Perth suburb of Morley has finally succumbed to the tide of competition from video streaming services and notified customers that it will be closing its doors by the end of the month. You can’t just close overnight, customers need to return those overdue DVDs. And starting on March 8, the various Blockbuster-branded swag will go on sale for collectors and sentimentalists.

Once the Walmart of the video rental industry, Blockbuster had 9,000 locations at the height of its domination. But as its business disappeared, the remaining stores turned into something more like the locally owned community shops where you could shoot the shit about movies with the clerks. “We get customers all the time pleading for us not to close as they still enjoy the experience and service that we provide,” store owner Lyn Borszeky told the AAP. “Firstly, the number of customers that have been disappointed when stores have closed and secondly our industry was a great employer of university students, who loved their movies and showed their passion when talking to customers.”

The last remaining Blockbuster brick and mortar store on Earth is located in Bend, Oregon, and it’s turned its rarefied status into a benefit, attracting tourists and selling its own signature craft beer.

Personally, I don’t have a lot of nostalgia for Blockbuster specifically, but I deeply miss video stores. I remember in the final days before Netflix took over the world, Blockbuster was the only rental place left around. The company saw the writing on the wall and started offering unlimited rentals. I was in college, had a good bit of time on my hands, and would stop in once or twice a day to pick up another movie. The staff knew me and would chuckle when I came in as if to say, “How many movies can this guy watch?” Now, it’s considered to be a perfectly normal Saturday afternoon if someone spends eight hours binging a TV show, and we’re all desperately hungry for content.

Steven Spielberg has sparked a new debate over the future of movie theaters with his campaign to prohibit Netflix films from being eligible for Academy Awards consideration. Having seen the hollowing out of video stores, many film lovers want to be proactive in curtailing the loss of their beloved movie theaters. Netflix has jumped in to argue all of the benefits that streaming offers and insist it loves movies just as much as anyone else.

Film Critic Emily Yoshida responded to the fracas, tweeting, “I love movies. Movies are a big part of my life. Netflix can claim to feel love toward whatever it wants but I love Netflix the exact amount that I loved my VCR in 1995 and my DVD player in 2001.” It’s a good tweet that isn’t exactly throwing shade on Netflix, just acknowledging that it’s a tool rather than a beloved institution. I don’t recall the brand name of my teenage VCR, but I know still remember the owner’s name at my local mom and pop video store. The store was a community hub, sure, but it was also like an art gallery for movies. Blockbuster may have been a more corporate and sterile place but it still offered that opportunity to just kill some time browsing the shelves, admiring the box art, and weighing how many thumbs up a flick should have to be the one you take home for the night.

[Australian Associated Press via Business Insider]

  • A new study found 23% of respondents would likely drop their Netflix subscriptions if the service added advertising without lowering prices.
  • The study follows speculation from advertising and media executives that Netflix may eventually have to bring advertising onto its platform.
  • The company has so far resisted the move, raising subscription prices and offering billions in debt to fuel its cash burn.


Netflix CEO Reed Hastings

Netflix could face a substantial hit to its subscriber numbers if it brings advertising to its streaming service, a new report finds.

Twenty-three percent of respondents to a recent Hub Entertainment Research survey said they would definitely or probably drop their Netflix subscription if it began running ads at its current price point or a dollar cheaper, according to Streaming Media. That percentage would represent a loss of nearly 14 million subscribers from Netflix’s 60 million paid subscribers in the U.S.

Respondents were more forgiving of the ads if Netflix dropped prices. Only 14% of respondents said they would definitely or probably drop their subscription if it were $2 cheaper than they currently pay. That number fell to 12% at a $3 discount.

The study’s findings were based on a survey of 1,765 U.S. TV consumers between ages 16 and 74 who watch at least one hour of television a week and have broadband in the home.

The Hub study comes as advertising insiders speculate Netflix will make advertising a core part of its business someday. At a panel during IAB’s Digital Content NewFronts in April, Joshua Lowcock of media agency UM said he “can’t imagine a world where Netflix will be ad-free forever.”

Netflix does not run ads, but sometimes products appear within popular shows. The business relationship for those placements is complicated: The company recently told CNBC that it rarely accepts paid placement, but some brands pay a third-party to help facilitate product placements, often at the request of show creators.

Netflix announced its latest price increase in January, raising its most popular HD standard plan from $11 to $13. The company has so far opted for tinkering with subscription rates and offering billions of dollars in debt to fuel its cash burn. Netflix has previously resisted the use of advertising to offset its costs. In a 2015 interview, CEO Reed Hastings told Reuters, “Our focus and our expertise is really in commercial free.”

Netflix’s growing list of streaming rivals including Hulu and Comcast’s NBCUniversal are building ad-supported models with a hunch that Netflix will eventually support ads as well.

Netflix did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

via cnbc


The US generated more electricity from renewable sources than coal for the first time ever in April, new federal government data has shown.

Clean energy such as solar and wind provided 23% of US electricity generation during the month, compared with coal’s 20%, according to the Energy Information Administration.

This represents the first time coal has been surpassed by energy sources that do not release pollution such as planet-heating gases.

April was a favorable month for renewables, with low energy demand and an uptick in wind generation. This means that coal may once again pull ahead of renewables again during 2019, although the long-term trends appear to be set.

“The fate of coal has been sealed, the market has spoken,” said Michael Webber, an energy expert at the University of Texas. “The trend is irreversible now, the decline of coal is unstoppable despite Donald Trump’s rhetoric.”

Trump has repeatedly promised to revive the fortunes of the coal industry, to the delight of voters in mining regions in states such as West Virginia, by repealing various clean air and climate regulations.

However, at least 50 coal-fired power plants have shut since Trump entered the White House in 2017. The falling cost of renewables and gas has caused coal to be dislodged as a favored energy source for utilities.

“Trump has made a promise that will be broken, which is a tragedy for coalminers who were told they don’t need to get other jobs or get new skills,” said Webber. “They have been sent the wrong signal and now there are lay-offs.”

States such as New York and California have, in lieu of any national climate policy, pledged to completely phase out the use of fossil fuels. Many other states are shifting away from coal to gas, with at least 150 new gas plants, and thousands of miles of pipeline, planned in the coming years.

Gas emits less carbon dioxide, which warms the planet, than coal and it is not associated with the same health problems caused by air pollution. But it is still a fossil fuel and some environmentalists have raised concerns that a broad expansion will jeopardize the ability to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century, a goal scientists say is essential to avoid the worst ravages of the climate crisis.