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CNET News

Can a Galaxy Note 7 frozen in ice survive a 100-foot drop? - CNET

Two state election databases hacked, FBI warns - CNET

Quantity over quality: China's booming EV industry might be ready to bust - Roadshow

Facebook's Zuckerberg is almost ready to show off his AI - CNET

Smashing a mirror with a hammer in slo-mo brings dazzling destruction - CNET

New Witcher 3 patch coming tomorrow, here's everything it adds, changes and fixes - CNET

Barb from 'Stranger Things' gets a very Barb-like toy tribute - CNET

The coolest, geekiest backpacks - CNET

Watch BioShock Remaster's first 14 Minutes - CNET

Microsoft says MacBook is as useful as a hat for your cat - CNET

First design-your-own Xbox One controllers ship, as Microsoft sees 'tremendous interest' - CNET

The BMW super-coupe rumor mill says to keep your eyes peeled in 2019 - Roadshow

Apple sued by iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners over touchscreen problems - CNET

New 'Westworld' trailer rides into town with a sense of dread - CNET

Final Fantasy 15 director talks about delay - CNET

Google unveils showcase games for indie developers conference - CNET

Laptop pioneer John Ellenby dies - CNET

Survey says: Infiniti, Mercedes owners most likely to embrace automation - Roadshow

Apple sends invites for September 7: iPhone 7, Apple Watch 2 most likely on tap - CNET

This might be the worst 'Bigfoot' sighting video of all time - CNET

Big updates, mid-size trucks: Canyon, Colorado twins receive new V-6 for 2017 - Roadshow

Try this, Thor! Spider-Man star flips through air like a real gymnast - CNET

Ben Affleck teases a new DC cinematic universe villain: Deathstroke - CNET

Clinton campaign said to switch to "Snowden-approved" Signal messaging app - CNET

T-Mobile adds One Plus plan for more tethering and HD video - CNET

WIRED

Apple’s iPhone Jamboree Is Coming September 7

London’s Subway Now Runs All Night, So Why Doesn’t Yours?

Cluster of Big Earthquakes Rattles Iceland’s Katla Volcano

Hack Brief: As FBI Warns Election Sites Got Hacked, All Eyes Are on Russia

It’s Time for Shows to Start Saying No to Season Two

How to Use Physics to Paddle Board Like a Pro

What Gives With Insects Pretending to Be Sticks and Leaves?

Inside Fitbit’s Quest to Make Fitness Trackers Invisible

Dyslexic Designers Just Think Different—Maybe Even Better

Cantina Talk: What Does ‘Rogue One’ Mean? Now We Know

You Too Can Invest In Lawsuits. But Not Quite Like Peter Thiel

How One Man Dreamed Up Tetris, the Game That Shook the World

Magic Portals, the Sounds of Yellowstone, and 3 More Must-Hear Podcast Tales

The Famously Ugly Router Is Pretty Now Because It Has to Be

5 Movies You Should Watch on HBO Go Right Now

This Aquanaut Is Defining the Next Era of Spaceflight

Forget the Pool. This Guy Chased Tornadoes All Summer

Here’s What Thor Was Doing During Captain America: Civil War

One Scientist’s Crazy Bet to Save the Bees: Join Monsanto

Parents Didn’t Just Dislike Super Nintendo 25 Years Ago—They Thought It Was a Scam

A Chopper Just Projected Video Onto a Giant Screen Towed by Another Chopper

Meet the Swankiest People of America’s Swankiest Car Competition

Say Bye to Those Awesomely Clackety Train Station Displays

Canon’s 5D Mark IV Is Here, With 4K Capability and Improved Autofocus

Forget Self-Driving Cars. Let’s Make Self-Driving Living Rooms

NBC News Top Stories

Takata Truck Explodes, Kills Texas Woman

Will History Be Kind to Colin Kaepernick?

Bus Slams Into Crash Scene, Killing Two

10000th Syrian Refugee Will Arrive in the US Today - NBCNews.com

Wife of Slain Oregon Occupier to File Civil Rights Lawsuit

Huma Abedin Leaving Weiner Amid New Sexting Scandal

Brazil's Dilma Rousseff: 'I Haven't Committed Any Crimes'

Trump Ad Credits Tax Plan He Doesn't Support

Banned Russian Athletes Make (Unusual) Visit to Air Base

Why Phelps Thinks Lochte Can 'Grow' From Rio Scandal

Did Sanders Become a Liability in His Proxy War?

Vitiligo Inspires Advocate's Quest for Broader Acceptance

This Week in Politics, It's Primary-Palooza

Hero Cop Pulls Man From Tracks Moments Ahead of Train

U.S. Takes Turkey to Task Over Syria Clashes

Clinton Camp Dismisses Trump Challenge on Health Records

Mylan Launching Generic Version of EpiPen

KNOW IT ALL: Monday's Top Stories at NBC News

Storm Swirling Off Florida Threatens Heavy Rains, Floods

ISIS-Claimed Suicide Bombing Kills Dozens in Yemen

Flash Flooding Turns Suburban Street Into Raging River

Paris Attacks Inspire Huge Influx of Police Recruits

Manhunt Underway for Three 'Dangerous' Escaped Inmates

Off-Duty Officer Fatally Shoots Partygoer

UPDATE: 'Loud noises' cause 'active shooter' chaos at LAX...

Can a Galaxy Note 7 frozen in ice survive a 100-foot drop? - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 6:50:22 PM

We get it. Dropping brand new, expensive gadgets to see if they'll break under extreme conditions is fun.

Not only do plenty of YouTubers dedicate full video channels to dropping smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices to test their durability, we did the same thing here at CNET last week with Samsung's Galaxy Note 7.

Related stories

While our test was a bit more scientific, this viral video from YouTube channel GizmoSlip posted on Saturday takes it a step further by freezing a Galaxy Note 7 in a block of ice and then dropping it from 100 feet (30.5 meters) onto concrete. Of course, the video shows the drop in slow motion for added effect.

The Galaxy Note 7 survives the freezing process, which says a lot about its waterproof guarantee. The device even comes away from the drop onto concrete with its glass cover intact. But does it turn on at the end of the experiment? Watch the video above to find out.

Two state election databases hacked, FBI warns - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 6:41:47 PM

The FBI is urging state election officials to beef up their computer systems' security in light of two cyberattacks this summer.

The FBI has found evidence that two state election databases were infiltrated this summer by foreign hackers, according to a Yahoo News report Monday.

That's led the the agency to urge state election officials throughout the US to strengthen their computer systems' security, the report said.

The bureau's cyber division issued the warning on August 18 in a "flash" alert titled "Targeting Activity Against State Board of Election Systems" (PDF). The alert said "the bureau was investigating cyberintrusions against two state election websites this summer, including one that resulted in the 'exfiltration,' or theft, of voter registration data," according to Yahoo News, which obtained a copy of the alert.

The warning didn't name the states but sources told Yahoo voter registration databases in Arizona and Illinois were targeted. In Illinois, hackers stole the personal data of up to 200,000 of the state's voters. In Arizona's case, malicious software was found in the system but no data was taken, a state official told Yahoo News.

The bureau suggested the two attacks may be linked but did not name the country where they may have originated, the report said.

The FBI declined to comment on the specific alert. "The FBI routinely advises private industry of various cyber threat indicators observed during the course of our investigations. This data is provided in order to help systems administrators guard against the actions of persistent cyber criminals."

Earlier this month at a press event in Washington, D.C., Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the government is concerned cyberattackers could disrupt the November presidential election. He said the government should consider whether elections should be treated as "critical infrastructure."

"There's a vital national interest in our election process," he said.

Quantity over quality: China's booming EV industry might be ready to bust - Roadshow

CNET News — 8/29/2016 6:34:45 PM

The BYD E6, a domestic-market Chinese EV, is actually available in the US, as well, but only for fleet purchases.

If you want to see what rampant growth in the electric-vehicle industry looks like, gander no further than China. The Middle Kingdom has about 200 automakers all involved in manufacturing the next generation of electric vehicles, which might be a bit unsustainable. In fact, it might come collapsing down in the very near future.

The Chinese government may seek to limit the number of EV manufacturers to as few as 10 by adding stricter standards on new companies, Bloomberg reports. The standards have already been bumped up, but there's no limit on the number of companies right now.

Thus far, only two companies have received the new approval to build EVs, and three others say they plan to apply. This doesn't include traditional full-line automakers like BYD, only new companies seeking to build nothing but alternative-energy vehicles.

Officials are concerned that this glut of companies hoping to solve China's persistent pollution problem is creating a problem of its own -- pushing for quantity over quality. China wants its electric cars to compete on the world stage, alongside Tesla and others, and it thinks that the billions of dollars poured into this industry would be better off with a bit of focus.

It's not like there aren't buyers to meet this demand, though. According to government data, China 331,092 domestic alternative energy vehicles, which includes EVs, plug-ins and fuel cell vehicles. China actually outpaces the US in terms of market demand for these cars. The government wants those figures to expand tenfold by 2025, and it's subsidizing the vehicles to try and foster that sort of growth.

Facebook's Zuckerberg is almost ready to show off his AI - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 6:02:20 PM

Mark Zuckerberg wants to build an AI like Tony Stark's Jarvis.

While you're busy asking your Amazon Echo to tell you a joke or check out traffic conditions, Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg is refining an artificial intelligence assistant to help him at home and work.

During a Facebook town hall Q&A today from Rome, Italy, Zuckerberg gave an update on the system he hopes will be like Tony Stark's Jarvis. He first discussed the AI in January as part of his annual personal challenge.

"It's starting to be able to do some pretty fun things, and I'm looking forward to being able to show it to the world," he said in the Q&A. That preview could come just a few weeks from now in September.

The AI already has some useful capabilities. Zuckerberg said through voice control, it can manipulate the temperature, lights and gate to the house. It's even been making him toast, we found out back in June.

Facebook didn't immediately respond to our request for comment regarding what Zuckerberg will do with the project once it's successfully completed.

Also while in Rome, Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, a philanthropist and pediatrician, met with Pope Francis and presented the pontiff with a model of Aquila, the solar-powered, self-flying aircraft designed to bring Wi-Fi to parts of the world without internet.

Smashing a mirror with a hammer in slo-mo brings dazzling destruction - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 6:01:59 PM

Hammer time!

The Slow Mo Guys on YouTube decided to damn the "break a mirror, get seven years of bad luck" superstition and intentionally smash their way through a looking glass. But instead of finding Alice's Wonderland, they ended up in Neo's Matrix.

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At regular speed, the smash is just a smash, but when slowed down, the hammer's hit sends out a shock wave that reminded the guys of a certain scene from the world where Keanu chose the red pill.

"It's like that scene in 'The Matrix' where the helicopter hits the building," one of them notes in the video posted Monday. "So there's a shock wave that moves through the glass before the glass cracks, and the glass cracks into the shock wave."

Or if Thor got a little mad at himself while shaving, this might be the result.

New Witcher 3 patch coming tomorrow, here's everything it adds, changes and fixes - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 5:59:10 PM

A new patch for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will arrive tomorrow, August 30, alongside the launch of the RPG's Game of the Year/Complete Edition, CD Projekt Red has announced. People who buy the new version of the game won't need to install the update, as it comes pre-loaded.

This patch, 1.3, is not the biggest or most substantial for the game, but it does include some welcome-sounding updates and improvements. The full patch notes were published today [PDF] and can be seen below.

Starting off, there is one character update. Dwarf banker Vimme Vivaldi is now "sporting a fresh look," though there is no word on what this really means. I guess we'll find out tomorrow.

The Witcher 3's newest update also fixes a problem where two NPCs from the "Without a Trace" quest were impossible to defeat. Additionally, the Rabid Rock Trolls near the Dun Tynne crossroads are now "slightly less rabid" when playing on the "Just the Story" difficulty level. The update also fixes a problem where your horse Roach's tail could vanish.

The Witcher 3 is getting a few updates and bug fixes.

Additionally, there are GUI changes/fixes in this update, one of which is that PlayStation controller prompt icons have been added. Additionally, the update fixes problems related to the dismantling of mutagens in bulk from the alchemy lab.

The Witcher 3's Game of the Year/Complete Edition launches on August 30 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. This update will come out tomorrow for all platforms, though specific timing was not announced. As mentioned, the Game of the Year/Complete Edition comes with 1.3 out of the box.

The GOTY/Complete Edition, which will sell for $50, includes the base game and all DLC, including the Hearts of Iron and Blood and Wine expansions.

In other news about The Witcher, developer CD Projekt Red has announced its financial results for the first half of 2016. Sales are down significantly, no doubt due to the tough comparison to last year when The Witcher 3 launched.

Witcher 3 Update 1.3 Patch Notes:

As compiled by NeoGAF

Characters

  • Vimme Vivaldi is now sporting a fresh look.

Gameplay

  • Fixes issue whereby oil descriptions were not removed from swords.
  • Fixes issue whereby it was not possible to obtain certain dye recipes.
  • Fixes issue whereby it was possible to skip the entire second phase of the Eredin fight.
  • Fixes issue whereby a silver sword was needed to craft the Mastercrafted Legendary Griffin Steel Sword.
  • Fixes issue whereby two NPCs from the "Without a Trace" quest were impossible to defeat.
  • The Rabid Rock Trolls near the Dun Tynne crossroads are slightly less rabid on the "Just the Story" difficulty level.
  • Fixes issue that allowed users to switch bolts underwater, resulting in lower damage dealt during said submersion.
  • Corrects the value of the Adrenaline Rush buff during the fight against a group of bandits in the "Capture the Castle" quest.
  • Introduces tweaks to the loot randomization system.
  • Dealing a killing blow now generates the correct amount of Adrenaline.
  • Fixes issue whereby Roach's tail could vanish.
  • For those affected by this issue, swapping saddles, saving the game and then loading that save is recommended.
  • Adjusts the maximum level for items, quests and NPCs to address level requirement discrepancies if player started NG+ on a very high level. Item and quest maximum level is now 100. NPCs maximum level is 105.
  • Corrects the statistics of the Hen Gaidth and Tesham Mutna sets in New Game + mode.
  • Fixes issue whereby the Toussaint Knight's Steel Sword Diagram was not added to the crafting page after looting it.
  • Fixes issue whereby the Second Life mutation could, under certain circumstances, grant Geralt infinite health regeneration.
  • Fixes issue whereby the Wicked Witch in the "Beyond Hill and Dale..." quest could occasionally prove invincible.
  • Fixes issue whereby the Euphoria buff was not applied correctly following the imbibing of a decoction.

GUI

  • Fixes issue whereby it was possible to place a skill in a mutation slot of a different color.
  • Fixes Steam controller issues.
  • Adds PlayStation controller prompt icons.
  • Fixes issue whereby craftable items in New Game + mode could have incorrect level requirements.
  • Fixes issues affecting the dismantling of mutagens in bulk in the alchemy lab.

Quests

Barb from 'Stranger Things' gets a very Barb-like toy tribute - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 5:55:21 PM

Funko pays tribute to Barb, the doomed BFF in "Stranger Things."

Funko has a talent for transforming favorite pop culture characters into cute collectibles.

With the buzz about sci-fi/horror Netflix series "Stranger Things" at an all-time high, it was only a matter of time before the toy company put out feelers to gauge the response to potential Pop Vinyl figures of the show's most popular characters.

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Last week, the company tweeted an image of its idea for an Eleven figure. A couple of days later, it debuted its second concept for a "Stranger Things" toy, this one of doomed but beloved Barb.

"Our love affair with Stranger Things continues!" Funko tweeted. "Our artists keep working on their dream figures -- here's Barb!"

The figure shows the red-headed Barb wearing glasses, khaki pants, a pink ruffled blouse and brown boots. Best of all, she's clutching her trusted Trapper Keeper notebook holder.

While there's no word yet of any official collectibles being released, here's hoping the Duffer brothers, who created the series, will give the go-ahead so we can see Funko versions of these "Stranger Things" characters haunting our store shelves soon.

The coolest, geekiest backpacks - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 5:30:46 PM

The backpack that harnesses the power of the sun

Not keen on charging your backpack every night? No problem. With the Birksun Solar charging backpack, there are no plugs necessary. It uses power from the sun's rays to charge all of your devices while you soak up that vitamin D.

The backpack that goes both ways

It's the age-old dilemma: One strap or two? With the Manta backpack, you can have it both ways.

The backpack that multiplies

The Soot Electropack can be worn as one large bag or separated into a backpack and smaller messenger bag. Together or apart, each bag has the same charging capabilities thanks to aluminum alloy-enclosed Soot batteries. Divide and conquer.

The backpack that keeps you charged up

Plug this bag in at night and allow it to charge your devices all day. The AMPL Labs backpack charges up to three devices at once. It also comes with its own app to monitor charge levels, because, obviously. It's not for sale quite yet, but you can sign up for the latest on when these babies ship.

The backpack that's a work of art

There are fancy backpacks. And then there's this. They say form follows function. But this backpack from Solid Gray follows no one. It leads. Style icons, sign up here.

The backpack that fits on your keychain

No, it doesn't charge your devices. But it will get out of your way in a hurry. The durable, water resistant Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Daypack is perfect for anyone who doesn't like to go through life with a lot of baggage.

The backpack for when you need a little more

Roll up with this backpack and prove you know how to get the most out of life. The Bluelounge backpack has a roll top, which means yes, you CAN fit in a bit extra. This backpack even comes in two sizes to fit your preferred laptop (and then some).

The backpack that's light as a feather

If the last thing you need is a backpack that's going to weigh you down, check out the Hyperlite Mountain Gear backpack. Weighing 0.42 pound, it's so light you might forget you're wearing it. Sure, it's made for hiking adventurers, but cycling through a metropolitan city can be adventure enough.

The backpack that wrangles your wires with ease

Herschel -- a renowned bag brand, to say the least -- has a wealth of backpack options. Many of them come with what they've coined "Media Pockets." These handy sacks within sacks allow you to place your smartphone or music player in, and then weave your earbuds through the bag and right into your ears.

The upgraded classic backpack

Incase has a variety of backpacks that you can select based on what you need to tote. Too many options to choose from? A favorite of business and creative pros alike is the Action Cam Pro Pack pictures here on the left. Their rising star is the new Icon Pack, pictured on the right.

A backpack with Pelican-level protection

You know the Pelican brand, so you can rest assured this backpack can take pretty much anything you throw at it. These bags are crushproof and waterproof, keeping all of your tech safe inside.

The backpack that works and works out

The Duffel Pack by Aer is the ultimate work-to-gym backpack. It's centered zipper design allows you to get to everything inside with ease, while the separate, ventilated shoe pocket keeps your work stuff from getting smelly. Your smart devices can be stored in the side pocket for quick access, so you can work, jam and lift, bro.

Watch BioShock Remaster's first 14 Minutes - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 5:28:02 PM

2K Games has released a new "Let's Play" video for its upcoming BioShock: The Collection. This video shows off the first 14 minutes of the BioShock remaster featured in the package -- and it looks great.

As you can see, the 2007 game is looking better than ever, with the water effects looking especially nice in the opening sequence. We can also see in this video that there are now jellyfish. It's not clear what platform this footage was captured on, but whatever the case, 2K has said all games in The Collection run at 1080p and "up to" 60 FPS. The video is narrated by YouTuber GhostRobo.

This video follows another one from earlier this month that showed off the major graphical improvements that the remaster delivers compared to the original. You can also watch this GameSpot graphics comparison video to see how much better the game looks today than it did in 2007.

The Collection includes remastered versions of BioShock, BioShock 2 and BioShock Infinite, so it's possible other videos will focus on the latter two games. All single-player DLC is included for the three games, while The Collection also comes with a video series featuring commentary from director Ken Levine and lead artist Shawn Robertson.

As announced previously, BioShock and BioShock 2 are being remastered for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, while Infinite is only getting a remastered version for consoles. The Collection for PC does include Infinite, but this will be the regular, non-remastered version that is likely on par with the PC version that is already available.

PC players may also be able to get The Collection free. Read this post to find out if you're eligible.

The Collection launches on September 13 for all platforms. The compilation is being developed by Blind Squirrel Games, which collaborated with Irrational Games in the past for Infinite.

For more, check out GameSpot's video preview, "A Remaster Done Right."

Microsoft says MacBook is as useful as a hat for your cat - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 5:26:13 PM

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Microsoft thinks the Mac isn't all that. It's all hat on a cat.

In recent weeks, Microsoft has flexed a little brutality toward Apple.

After so many years of being mocked by Cupertino, you can imagine that Redmond's been girding itself for retaliation.

Now, it's decided to use Surface Pro 4 ads for the purpose.

First, there was a thorough mocking of Apple's suggestion that its iPad Pro is now a computer. Now comes outright derision of the MacBook.

A new Surface Pro 4 ad throws out pro forma niceties, in favor of cheery insults.

A MacBook, says the ad, is less useful than a Surface Pro 4. "Like a hat on a cat," it insists.

Worse, though, when compared to the Surface the MacBook is apparently "slower, heavy and a bit square."

Oh, the meanness of it all. There's even the suggestion that the Surface is "lighter than air." Is this a besmirchment of Apple's lightest MacBook? I believe it is.

More Technically Incorrect

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

I fear, though, that few Apple types will be enamored of the music that accompanies this ad. It's a little on the jaunty side and doesn't exactly exude a premium, well, air.

Still, Apple's MacBook line is beginning to feel a touch dowdy. Indeed, the company is being subjected to quite a few suggestions that its hardware generally seems a little dated. Even Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff appeared to suggest as much on Saturday via a retweet.

Microsoft will surely keep pummeling away in the hope that it can make some headway before Apple does finally release something new.

Perhaps, though, Apple will decide that the iPad Pro truly is a computer and not bother to make any new MacBooks at all.

Now that would put the behatted cat among the pigeons, wouldn't it?

First design-your-own Xbox One controllers ship, as Microsoft sees 'tremendous interest' - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 5:22:31 PM

The first custom Xbox One controllers made with the Xbox Design Lab are now shipping to the public, Microsoft has announced. Microsoft sent out the very first orders on Friday, August 26. They should arrive in early September, with more units to follow after that.

The company said in an Xbox Wire statement that it's seen a "tremendous amount of interest and excitement" in the personalized controllers since it opened the Xbox Design Lab store back in June.

You can choose the color of the controller's bumpers, triggers, D-pad, thumbsticks, ABXY buttons and view and menu buttons, among other things. According to Microsoft, there are 8 million color combinations. The personalized controllers sell for $80, and you can pay an extra $10 to have your gamertag or some other name or message engraved on the controller, up to 16 characters in length.

Controllers are handmade and should ship 14 business days after sending in an order. Right now, the service is only offered in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico, but Microsoft said it will make the Xbox Design Lab available to people in other markets in 2017.

These are the new Xbox One controllers, featuring Bluetooth and textured grips. They work with the Xbox One, Xbox One S, and PC.

You can go to the Xbox Design Lab website to make your own controller now. The non-personalized pads normally go for around $50.

Microsoft is the only platform-holder with an official design-your-own controller program.

The BMW super-coupe rumor mill says to keep your eyes peeled in 2019 - Roadshow

CNET News — 8/29/2016 5:16:26 PM

The 7 Series is quite the opposite of a bad car, but it's having trouble matching the success of its biggest competitor, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

Do you remember the BMW 8 Series? It was the largest coupe the automaker offered, existing as a sort of sporty analog to the 7 Series sedan. It died before the turn of the century, but now, there's a good chance it might come back, as BMW figures out how to better bring the battle back to Benz.

BMW is readying a spiritual successor to the 8 Series, likely positioned as a 7 Series coupe, which will reportedly debut as early as 2019, according to Bloomberg sources familiar with BMW's short-term roadmap. The source also told Bloomberg that the coupe is the "first of several new versions" as BMW builds up a luxury-leviathan portfolio to boost its lagging sales.

Currently, BMW's 7 Series sales are some 40 percent below the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, despite the former car being two years newer than the latter. In fact, sales are only barely ahead of Tesla's Model S electric sedan. Audi's due for a new A8 in 2017, which will make its current efforts even more difficult.

I think a 7 Series coupe could help BMW in one big way: variety. Mercedes-Benz makes a wealth of different S-Class configurations. You can have total luxury (Maybach) or crazy performance (Mercedes-AMG S63, S65), and the S-Class is also offered in both coupe and convertible variants, each with their own performance model. BMW's current 7 Series stable is limited to the standard V-8 sedan, with V-12 and plug-in hybrid models coming soon.

That's a big gap to cross, but the luxury market isn't shrinking, so adding a number of body styles to its flagship product could greatly expand its reach. At the least, BMW needs to jump on it before Audi beats it to the punch.

BMW 7 Series vs. Mercedes S-Class in... See full gallery

Apple sued by iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners over touchscreen problems - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 5:10:18 PM

The lawsuit says Apple has long been aware of the defect but has refused to fix it.

Apple is being sued by owners of Apple's iPhone 6 and 6 Plus phones, over unresponsive touchscreens, reported Reuters on Monday.

The issue, first widely reported by tech site iFixit, is said to affect last-generation iPhones and manifests itself as "a gray, flickering bar at the top of the display and an unresponsive touchscreen."

The iFixit report says: "Of course, there's no way to tell exactly how many phones are afflicted with what we're calling Touch Disease, but every repair tech we spoke to told us that the problem is incredibly common."

The plaintiffs in the case, filed as Davidson et al v. Apple Inc., accuse Apple of violating California consumer protection laws and are seeking unspecified damages, Reuters said. The class action suit was filed August 27.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

New 'Westworld' trailer rides into town with a sense of dread - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 5:08:52 PM

If you like cowboy hats with your robots, you're probably excited about HBO's new "Westworld" series. HBO released a fresh trailer on Sunday, so brush off your Stetson and get ready for some mechanical people with shotguns and spurs. HBO released a teaser in June, but the new trailer takes a longer, deeper dive into the upcoming series.

Michael Crichton, creator of "Jurassic Park," wrote and directed the original 1973 film version of "Westworld." The basic premise is all about what can go wrong in a Western-themed amusement park populated by robots. Since this is on HBO, we can expect a grittier, more "Game of Thrones"-like vision than we saw in the '70s movie.

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The trailer starts off like a classic Western, with a gorgeous river valley landscape view and people on horseback. It then quickly dives into sci-fi territory. Oscar-winning actor Anthony Hopkins (as Westworld's creator) brings some gravitas to the trailer, which has an almost apocalyptic feel in places. The scenes fly by, but we get glimpses of bodies strewn across the ground, a lone wolf padding through the town and a graveyard filled with crosses.

HBO has marked the trailer as the "mature version," but there's nothing too crazy or NSFW going on here. One of the most memorable images involves a cowboy drinking from a bottle of milk as the white liquid streams out of a hole in his gut. "Westworld" debuts on October 2.

Final Fantasy 15 director talks about delay - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 5:08:02 PM

Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata has spoken up again to talk about why it was decided that the long-awaited and much-anticipated game be delayed from September to November.

Speaking with Famitsu, as translated by and reported on by Kotaku, Tabata started off by stating that "the optimization isn't [yet] sufficient." There are "various bugs" throughout the game, while frame rate is not holding to its 30 FPS target as well as Square Enix would like.

Some of Final Fantasy XV's bugs won't keep players from advancing (a lot of games have bugs like this), but there are others that Tabata hopes can be fixed before release. "There are still of number of bugs like characters floating unnaturally in the air or appearing all strange [and glitchy]," he explained.

Tabata also talked about how one of his goals with the two months of extra development time is to "refine the game balance," though no further details were provided.

As had been discussed when the delay was announced earlier this month, one of the most substantial reasons for the delay, however, was so that Square Enix could avoid a major day-one patch. Not everyone's console is connected to the internet, Tabata said. He cited data that stated more than 20 percent of gamers in Japan have the internet and a console, but the two aren't necessarily connected.

Speaking generally about delaying Final Fantasy XV, Tabata previously apologized for pushing the game, saying it was the right move to help "achieve a level of perfection that our fans deserve."

"We kindly ask for your understanding," he said.

The Final Fantasy XV movie, "Kingsglaive," was not delayed. It debuted in select theaters earlier this month and is now playing in a handful of new markets.

For more on "Kingsglaive," a CG movie that features the voices of Sean Bean, Aaron Paul and Lena Headey, check out GameSpot's review. You can also read GameSpot's own interview with Tabata about the Final Fantasy XV delay and more.

It's been a long time coming for Final Fantasy XV. The game was originally announced years ago as Final Fantasy Versus XIII. It was later was renamed Final Fantasy XV and shifted from last-generation consoles to current platforms. The game's main concept, world, and story were kept intact during the transition, though there have been some changes.

Google unveils showcase games for indie developers conference - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 5:00:03 PM

Attendees at next month's Google Play Indie Games Festival will have a chance to play more than two dozen new games, some of which are not yet widely available.

Google on Monday unveiled the 30 Android games selected from more than 200 submissions vying for a chance to be exhibited at the conference. Fifteen of the games showcased are on a very limited beta, so this is the best opportunity many will have to play them.

Fans will have an opportunity to vote for their favorite games at the festival. A complete list of the games chosen for exhibition can be found here.

Google also announced that it has opened up registration of the event, which will be held in San Francisco on September 24. The event, which is free, will give developers a chance to showcase their games to the public, network, and win prizes such as Tango devices, tickets to Google I/O 2017 and even ad campaign support from Google.

Laptop pioneer John Ellenby dies - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 4:20:30 PM

The Grid Compass originally sold for $8,150.

I've been reviewing laptops for more than a decade, but the very first device that we'd consider a true laptop dates back much further. There were a small handful of technically portable computers before it, often called "luggables," but the first PC we'd recognize as having a readable display, a built-in keyboard and a clamshell-style hinge was the Grid Compass, introduced in 1982.

One of the key figures behind that groundbreaking laptop has died, reports The New York Times.

John Ellenby, 75, died on August 17 in San Francisco, said the Times. Ellenby was a British born computer engineer and the founder of Grid Systems, the company that created the Compass. That was later sold to the Tandy Corporation, itself an early computer pioneer.

The Grid Compass, co-created by influential industrial designer William Moggridge, featured an Intel 8086 processor, a 320x240-resolution display and ran its own Grid-OS operating system. It originally sold for $8,150.

Survey says: Infiniti, Mercedes owners most likely to embrace automation - Roadshow

CNET News — 8/29/2016 4:18:59 PM

Mercedes is attempting to position itself as a pioneer in semi-autonomous driving with its latest E-Class and its Drive Pilot suite of electronics.

Not everybody is ready for autonomous vehicles. Some folks, especially older ones, would prefer to keep a human set of hands and eyes in control. But it's not a unanimous sentiment by any means. In a recent survey of drivers, it appears that luxury buyers will be among the first to relinquish control.

MaritzCX surveyed more than 12,000 vehicle owners between May and August of this year and found that Infiniti and Mercedes owners are the most likely to purchase self-driving cars, Bloomberg reports. These two marques had around 27 percent of owners saying yes to autonomy, compared to about 21 percent of Toyota owners and 18 to 20 percent of Chevrolet, Honda and Ford owners.

The least interested owners, perhaps not surprisingly, adhere to brands with a long tradition of bootstrap-flavored ad campaigns and vehicles built largely for utility purposes. The two automakers with the lowest chance of purchasing an autonomous vehicle were Jeep and Ram, with fewer than 10 percent of owners willing to let the robot do the driving.

When the dividing lines of automakers were cast aside, some 94 percent of respondents acknowledged that autonomous cars would be coming soon, but more than half aren't chomping at the bit to buy one. When MaritzCX flipped the question and asked owners about a lack of interest in the technology, a majority of Porsche and BMW owners preferred to keep the driving to themselves, which aligns with the idea of "cars for drivers" that both brands push.

While it may take years for the cars to arrive, and even longer for them to earn the public's trust, the benefits of self-driving cars can't be ignored. They can increase mobility options for the elderly and disabled, and by removing the necessity of driving in large swaths of the country, the cars can provide great benefits to road safety, ideally cutting down on fatalities in a big way.

Apple sends invites for September 7: iPhone 7, Apple Watch 2 most likely on tap - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 4:17:45 PM

The next iPhone will probably be revealed to the world on September 7. And maybe a watch, too.

Apple made it official today, confirming the previously rumored date of the first Wednesday in September. The venue is once again at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, with the familiar start time of 10 a.m. PT.

Expect the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus -- or whatever they may be called -- to be unveiled by CEO Tim Cook and company. The current rumor mill points to nearly identical external designs to the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, improved cameras (with a dual-lens system on the larger iPhone), and -- most controversially -- no headphone jack.

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The event would also offer the opportunity for Apple to repromote iOS 10, the update to its mobile operating system first unveiled in June. The free upgrade is expected to be rolled out to hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads later in September.

The Apple Watch, a product that hasn't been updated since April 2015, is also due for an upgrade. In addition to the new operating system (coming to existing watches alongside iOS 10), new fitness features including rumored GPS tracking could help position a refreshed watch as a better activity tracker. A new Apple Watch would come hot on the heels of a fresh wave of smartwatches and fitness bands expected to be unveiled at the IFA trade show next week, including a rumored Samsung Gear S3.

Beyond new iPhones and wearables, Apple could also address the smart-home landscape: the launch of a dedicated Home app in iOS 10 means a bigger push for HomeKit-connected appliances and home accessories.

Apple's line of Mac computers is also rumored for an eventual refresh including MacBook laptops with an OLED touch bar, but that's said to be slated for later in the year.

Stay tuned to CNET for live coverage of next month's Apple news.

This might be the worst 'Bigfoot' sighting video of all time - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 4:01:00 PM

The footage is just a few seconds long. There's definitely something hairy, but that's about all you can see. There appears to be a pile of leaves and grass at the bottom and what looks like the arm of an animal. My guess? An ape or monkey, or possibly someone in a Chewbacca suit.

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Sasquatch Chronicles, a site dedicated to Bigfoot news, claims the footage shows a trail camera video of a large, hairy, human-like creature in California's Sequoia National Park. The site says the video, which it posted last week, came from a law enforcement officer and former game warden who received the footage from a colleague.

The description notes, "The video is not conclusive as it doesn't show the face." At least we can all agree on the non-conclusive part.

Dedicated Bigfoot believers will probably like the video just fine. It's perfectly rendered to insure nothing is clear, leaving plenty of room for imagination to take over. At least it's in good company. We saw a different delightfully bad video last week that purported to show a strange humanoid creature that could pass for a mythical goat-sucking Chupacabra monster. I think we should start a fundraiser to buy Bigfoot hunters better cameras.

(Via Boing Boing)

Big updates, mid-size trucks: Canyon, Colorado twins receive new V-6 for 2017 - Roadshow

CNET News — 8/29/2016 3:42:26 PM

Not all GMC Canyons will be as sparkly as the top-trim Canyon Denali seen here.

You don't typically see cars with new engines until it's time for a new generation or a serious mid-lifecycle refresh. General Motors is bucking that trend this week with its two midsize pickup trucks, the 2017 Chevrolet Colorado and 2017 GMC Canyon.

Despite being out for just two model years, both midsize pickups are on the receiving end of a big powertrain update. The pair's 3.6-liter V-6 engine is gone, and in its place is...a 3.6-liter V-6 engine. But, rest assured, it's a new one, offering improved variable valve timing and direct injection, and it will now shut off two cylinders under light load to improve fuel economy.

All those changes add a bit to output, as well. Power is up to 308 horsepower (formerly 305), and torque is up to 275 pound-feet (formerly 269). That's not enough to change its tow rating, and fuel economy is believed to be the same. But, in conjunction with a new eight-speed transmission, Chevrolet says the additional performance will be quite apparent, whether the bed is laden or unladen.

There's no word yet on what this will do to pricing. Currently, a bare-bones, crew cab Colorado V6 retails for about $27,000, and the GMC equivalent will set you back just a few hundred bucks more than that. The 2017 models hit dealerships this fall, so we'll know for sure in just a couple months' time.

Try this, Thor! Spider-Man star flips through air like a real gymnast - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 3:31:38 PM

With great power comes great ability to get air. Tom Holland, the 20-year-old British actor who'll star as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the 2017 Marvel movie "Spider-Man: Homecoming," showed he's no slouch at the kind of gymnastics twists and turns for which his character is famous.

In a video posted to Instagram Sunday, Holland is seen being coached through a stunt where he launches off a mini-trampoline and does a seriously Olympic-level flip, and he makes it look as easy as getting bitten by a radioactive spider.

He not only sticks the landing, but manages to pose in a full-on superhero crouch before spinning around for a final touch.

@chrishemsworth and @bobbydazzler84 beat that!

A video posted by ✌️ (@tomholland2013) on Aug 27, 2016 at 6:16pm PDT

Mary Jane (possible spoiler!) would be impressed.

Holland couldn't resist crowing a little bit about the accomplishment. He challenged "Thor" star Chris Hemsworth and superhero stuntman Bobby Holland Hanton to match him, a sly reference to the below video of the two from a few weeks back.

But as we now know, Thor's been a little busy.

Killing it at stunt training with @bobbydazzler84 today, taking it to new heights. #stuckthelanding #thisclose #olympics2016 #missjudgedtherunup 📹@azzagrist

A video posted by Chris Hemsworth (@chrishemsworth) on Aug 1, 2016 at 8:48pm PDT

Ben Affleck teases a new DC cinematic universe villain: Deathstroke - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 3:23:38 PM

Not sure you'd want to meet this character in a dark alley.

Big-screen Batman Ben Affleck surprised comic fans this morning with 27 seconds of tweeted video that appear to show a new DC cinematic universe character: Deathstroke.

The assassin for hire has been a cult favorite since he was introduced back in 1980 (and was originally called "The Terminator" before a certain James Cameron film became strongly identified with that name).

The footage, showing an orange-and-black-armored character walking in a steam-pipe-filled lair, looks like it was shot off a computer monitor. It's not known if Deathstroke -- if this is indeed that character -- will show up in the upcoming Justice League film (release date: November 17, 2017) or some other future DC-based project.

Clinton campaign said to switch to "Snowden-approved" Signal messaging app - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 2:23:31 PM

This isn't the first time "Hillary Clinton" and "email" have been in the same sentence.

Following suspected Russian hacks of the DNC and the subsequent release of email messages through WikiLeaks, the Hillary Clinton campaign is said to be taking security advice from an unusual source: Edward Snowden.

According to a new Vanity Fair article, campaign staffers were told: "If anyone was going to communicate about Donald Trump over e-mail or text message, especially if those missives were even remotely contentious or disparaging, it was imperative that they do so using an application called Signal...Signal, staffers in the meeting were told, was 'Snowden-approved.'"

Signal is a messaging app for iOS and Android that allows for encrypted communication.

Snowden tweeted about this unusual endorsement shortly after the article was published.

The Clinton campaign has not yet responded to a request for comment about what messaging apps staffers are using.

T-Mobile adds One Plus plan for more tethering and HD video - CNET

CNET News — 8/29/2016 1:49:40 PM

Under CEO John Legere, T-Mobile is nothing if not vivid.

In the never-ending arms race for mobile data plans, T-Mobile recently ditched the conventional approach altogether in favor of a simpler unlimited data, voice and text plan called One. But unlimited means different things to different people, and there was an immediate backlash against the new plan's limitations on device tethering and HD video playback.

Higher-speed tethering and HD video "day passes" are available for an extra a la carte cost, but T-Mobile is now adding a single One Plus plan add-on that covers unlimited 4G LTE mobile hotspot data, unlimited HD video streaming (still in the form of day passes) and speeds that are twice as fast when traveling abroad to more than 140 countries. If you opt not to add the One Plus level of service, tethering speeds under the standard One plan have been bumped up from 2G to 3G speeds.

The new plan add-on will cost an extra $25 per line per month and will launch on September 1, five days earlier than previously reported.

We'll have to see if T-Mobile's latest moves provoke more widespread changes across the carriers. Its move a couple years back to ditch phone contracts and subsidies, for instance, spurred similar changes at Verizon and AT&T. Meanwhile, T-Mobile says that within the next 12 months, it will match Verizon breadth of coverage.

And T-Mobile's done all right for itself with the aggressive changes and new services like Binge On video, which have brought it legions of new subscribers and pushed it up into the third spot among US carriers, ahead of Sprint.

Apple’s iPhone Jamboree Is Coming September 7

WIRED — 8/29/2016 4:57:25 PM

As had been previously rumored, Apple’s next iPhone announcement will be held September 7 at 1pm ET/10am PT. Get ready for… an iPhone! One that’s probably pretty familiar.

According to early reports, the next iPhone is expected to carry over basically the same design as the iPhone 6 and 6s, with the notable exception that Apple may be removing the headphone jack. But don’t worry! There are plenty of decent Bluetooth headphones out there, and Apple also just happens to own a very popular headphone company, which will almost certainly be able to provide you with Lightning earbuds and wireless options.

Otherwise, it’s not clear what else Apple might have on offer. On the hardware side, we’re due for a new Apple Watch and MacBook Pro, but neither is a lock (or even likely) to make the stage next week. We’ll probably hear more about iOS 10, but Apple covered that pretty thoroughly at WWDC a few months ago.

What’s most likely is that we’ll see an iterative iPhone with a deeper focus on individual components, like the camera and whatever other internals Apple’s cooking up. Given how successful—and genuinely great—the current iPhone already is, that sounds just fine.

London’s Subway Now Runs All Night, So Why Doesn’t Yours?

WIRED — 8/29/2016 4:54:51 PM

In London this week, a curious thing happened: A city gave its residents more public transit, not less. Welcome the Night Tube, London’s experiment in living a little. Two lines on the famed Underground are now running 24 hours a day, on Fridays and Saturdays. Two more lines will join the fun in the fall. The city’s transportation authority expects 100,000 extra riders each evening, and estimates the move will boost the local economy by $450 million.

Mobility! Rides home for sleepy workers after the bar closes, rides to work for the midnight shift! Cheesy songs! It’s enough to make any city jealous—not least Boston, which cut its weekend night service this spring, or Washington, DC, which is considering doing the same.

So why can Londoners get nighttime public transit service, and you can’t? Seven reasons.

1. $$$

No matter how sleepless your city is, ridership goes down at night. Fewer paying riders means spending more public money to subsidize each person’s trip. Boston officials said its now-cancelled night service cost $13.38 in subsidies per trip. Regular service? $1.43. Still, lots of important services cost the government serious money (keeping the roads smooth for cars, collecting garbage, healthcare…).

2. Maintenance

Paint chips, metal rusts, and many of America’s major transit systems are aging at a rapid clip. Cities say they need the time off for the maintenance that keeps everything running. (This is especially true on systems like the California Bay Area’s BART, which only has one set of tracks on each route.) Theoretically, the peace and quiet gives workers uninterrupted time to get their trains in order. In practice, though, a four-hour nightly shutdown can get eaten up by logistics, leaving workers with much less time for actual work. New York, which runs subways 24 hours periodically shuts down sections of track for intensive repairs. It’s like ripping off a band aid.

3. Bad Service Scares Off Riders

It’s one of those vicious cycles: Cities cut service, people have to wait longer on cold streets for the bus, people stop paying to ride the bus, cities cut service even more. “One of the things that affects people’s decisions to use transit is the amount of time they have to wait at a stop, even more than an in-vehicle time,” says Brian Taylor, director of UCLA’s Institute of Transportation Studies. It’s possible that if you ran a reduced but functional network, with relatively frequent trains, more riders would climb aboard.

Train Travails

4. The Social Problem

Taking on night service sometimes also means taking on a city’s broader failures: substance abuse, homelessness, or violence. (A recent New York count found nearly 2,000 homeless riders sleeping on the subway or in stations.)

That’s why London spent an extra $4.5 million on Night Tube security, and will deploy 100 officers during the weekend hours. But it’s a serious hindrance, not to mention liability, for agencies considering commitments to the evening.

5. The Gubment

If your transit agency isn’t what you want, make sure you’re yelling at the right culprit. “Late night service is such a strong statement about the kind of city you are,” says Steven Higashide, a senior program analyst at the research and advocacy organization TransitCenter. “But in the US, the city doesn’t necessarily have control.” The agency that runs London’s Underground also oversees the city’s roads, its rail system, its taxis, and its cycling infrastructure—and is funded by the city. By contrast, more than half of the Boston’s T moola comes from the state of Massachusetts, which might not be as interested in shelling out for city folks’ evening escapades.

6. The US Is Too Spatially Whacked

Most American cities are not like dense Manhattan, DC, or London—willfully so. That’s cool, but makes it challenging to set up viable off-peak service. Public transit has two big target audiences, says Taylor: Commuters who travel into the city in the morning and back out at night, and people whose age, income or disability make it hard to access private vehicles. Commuters in spread out cities don’t use late night service because their transit systems only travel between home and work. It usually doesn’t make sense to hop on commuter rail to buy groceries, or meet a buddy at a bar. And without them, there aren’t enough riders to support nighttime service—whether people need it or not.

7. Lack of Creativity

But wait! There just might be a way to give underserved communities all-day service without skimping on maintenance, or shelling out insane money in operating costs, or screaming to the state. A few agencies have experimented with using ride-sharing services to fill the gaps in public service. Boston startup Bridj has proposed the city use its on-demand buses to make up for its vanished night service. Centennial, a Denver suburb, just launched a six-month, $400,000 pilot that will let residents take rides from, say, their homes to the nearest transit station—for free. Someday, night riders might be able to take Lyft from their evening workplace straight home—for the price of a train ride. The Night Tube revolution lives.

Cluster of Big Earthquakes Rattles Iceland’s Katla Volcano

WIRED — 8/29/2016 4:46:09 PM

Last night, a brief earthquake swarm rattled the caldera at Katla in southern Iceland. The largest earthquakes were over M4, ranging from a few kilometers deep to near the surface (although the depth locating is likely problematic for many of the smaller earthquakes). These M4+ earthquakes (see below) are the largest temblors to occur to Katla since 1977 (note: those earthquakes did not lead to any eruption). However, although a few of the earthquakes were fairly large, the swarm seems to have petered out quickly as seismicity returned to background levels by Icelandic morning.

The Icelandic Meteorological Office is reporting no tremor recorded currently at Katla, which suggests that at least for the moment, no magma is making its way to the surface. Icelandic officials have not changed the alert status for Katla from normal at this point.

Two big hazards exist at Katla right now. One is obviously that the volcano might have its first eruption since 1918. That lack of harmonic tremor means that the likelihood of an imminent eruption is low. The other hazard might be a jökulhlaup, or glacial outburst flood. Melting from the summer within the Myrdalsjökull icecap and that meltwater can accumulate until it spills over as a flood of water, ice, and debris. These have occurred often and do not need to be associated with any volcanic activity.

Katla has experienced numerous earthquake swarms in the 98 years since its last eruption, most recently in 2011. So this new one, even with its larger earthquakes, is no reason for immediate alarm. Katla does have a history of large, explosive eruptions, which means it makes people nervous. Keeping an eye on any restlessness at the behemoth is vital for both the people of Iceland and for air travel across the North Atlantic.

Hack Brief: As FBI Warns Election Sites Got Hacked, All Eyes Are on Russia

WIRED — 8/29/2016 3:49:29 PM

In any other year, hackers breaking into a couple of state government websites through common web vulnerabilities would hardly raise a blip on the cybersecurity community’s radar. But in this strange and digitally fraught election season, the breach of two state board of election websites not only merits an FBI warning—it might just rise to the level of an international incident.

On Monday, an FBI alert surfaced warning state boards of election to take precautions against hackers after two election board websites were breached in recent months. According to Yahoo News, those breaches likely targeted Arizona and Illinois board of election sites, both of which admitted earlier this summer that they’d been hacked. Cybersecurity researchers are already speculating that the attacks link to Russia, pointing to the string of recent, likely Russian attacks that have hit the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.

“Someone is trying to hack these databases, and they succeeded in exfiltrating data, which is significant in itself,” says Thomas Rid, a cybersecurity-focused professor in the War Studies department at King’s College of London and author of Rise of the Machines. “In the context of all the other attempts to interfere with this election, it’s a big deal.”

The Hack

In its warning sent to state-level election boards, the FBI described an attack on at least one of those two election websites as using a technique called SQL injection. It’s a common trick, which works by entering code into an entry field on a website that’s only meant to receive data inputs, triggering commands on the site’s backend and sometimes giving the attacker unintended access to the site’s server. In this case, it seems to have allowed the hackers to steal 200,000 voter records from the Illinois board of elections, and to cause the Illinois board to close registration for ten days.

You can’t patch this psychological vulnerability. Cybersecurity expert Thomas Rid

The use of that common SQL injection vulnerability hardly signals the involvement of sophisticated state-sponsored hackers, much less specifically Russian ones. But the security firm ThreatConnect, which has been investigating IP addresses that the FBI said were associated with the attacks, has found a few still-murky clues that point in Russia’s direction. ThreatConnect found that one of the IP addresses named by the FBI mapped in 2015 to Rubro.biz, a Russian-language website it describes as a cybercriminal black market. (However, WIRED found that the IP address now points to a website appearing to be associated with the Turkish AKP political party. This, too, could be a red-herring, as neither WIRED nor ThreatConnect has yet confirmed the legitimacy of that apparently Turkish website.) And the VPN used by the attackers appears to have been King Servers, the firm says, a service with a Russian language website.

“There are elements to suggest there are Russian fingerprints on this,” says Rich Barger, ThreatConnect’s director of threat intelligence. But he cautions that the firm’s research is “very nascent. We’re still working on it.”

Who’s Affected?

Neither the Illinois nor Arizona board of elections immediately responded to WIRED’s request for comment. But if foreign hackers are indeed involved in the attack—still a major “if”—the 200,000 voter records reportedly breached in the attacks may represent the least of the American electoral system’s worries. After all, US voter registration records have been practically public for years, often sold to data brokers who resell it to political campaigns and marketers. More serious is the notion, first raised by the public revelation of the Democratic National Committee hack in July, that a foreign power like Russia might be trying to influence or disrupt American politics.

How Serious is This?

We knew this could happen. Security researchers have warned for years that American voting systems are disturbingly vulnerable to digital attacks. The breaches of state board of election sites represent yet another reminder that elements of U.S. elections aren’t ready to face determined hackers. But attacking voter registration systems, or even paralyzing registration for weeks as in Illinois’ case, may not represent a practical threat to American elections so much as a psychological one, says King’s College’s Thomas Rid. After all, even deleted voter records can be accounted for with provisional ballots, as in recent primary messes in California and New York. But a foreign government using digital attacks to inject doubt in the election’s results could help destabilize American politics well after November.

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“The thing that I’m worried about is not the technical disruption of the election itself. That’s still extremely unlikely,” says Rid. “The pattern we see is to call things into question, to sow doubt, to create uncertainty. This could be another way to create uncertainty in the minds of a lot of people…You can’t patch this psychological vulnerability.”

And in an election year when the Republican candidate has repeatedly called the race rigged, that kind of psychological damage is more serious than any one hack.

It’s Time for Shows to Start Saying No to Season Two

WIRED — 8/29/2016 3:09:47 PM

When you really love something you want to hold on to it forever. Relationships; the car you had in high school; your stash of fun-size Twix. But the truth is, nothing good lasts—and if it does, the appeal fades long before the attachment does. You can’t tickle the same pleasure center in your brain over and over again without diminishing returns. The same holds true for our expectations of TV shows, though, and fans have to let go of that thinking.

Look, I’m not talking about giving up a long-term, healthy relationship with Grey’s Anatomy or Two Broke Girls if it’s still giving you what you want. (Though if it is, you might want to look at some of your life choices.) Nor am I talking about leaving a show after it finally breaks your heart in some disastrous shark-jump. What I’m saying is that it’s fine for shows to just end after a single season. That way, you can enjoy a torrid, all-consuming affair—and then break up before things get messy. It’s better for everyone that way.

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Nothing exemplifies this more than last night’s fantastic finale of HBO’s The Night Of. Tense, bleak, and heart-breaking right up to the end, the climax delivered on all the promises of prestige television. It also, I feel compelled to mention, ended the series. That’s what made the show so gripping: It told a story without taking eight seasons to do it (the last three of which doubtless would have slid from inconsistent to mediocre to execrable). Just thank The Night Of for all those great summer nights and let it go.

But fans won’t do that. TV viewership now requires that people all want too much of a good thing—and that networks, looking for advertisers or subscribers, will want to provide it. In fact, viewers feel entitled to it, as if television episodes were ketchup packets at McDonald’s—available in abundance, ready to drown out all flavor. There are already murmurs of a second season of The Night Of, and while the idea is that it would (rightfully) be an anthology format, revolving around a story that has nothing to do with the tale of Nasir Khan, this still may not be the best idea. Not because creators Richard Price and Steven Zaillian aren’t talented, but because the longer people force them to hang on to their old show idea the longer they’ll have to wait for their new one—or any new one, for that matter.

This same “more, more, more!” vibe is in the air for Stranger Things. A second season hasn’t yet been confirmed, but creators the Duffer Brothers have indicated one will likely happen. Stranger Things is another show that could easily be serialized American Horror Story-style and given a whole new set of characters and new story, but in an interview with IGN, the Duffers indicated things would pick up where Season 1 left off. Instead, guys, how about telling us a strange new story? The last one was fine where you left it. (Insert obligatory “RIP, Barb” here.)

For a reminder of what could go wrong, let’s revisit the winter of 2014, when #TrueDetectiveSeason2 was all the rage. For the most part, the trending Twitter hashtag was a joke, a way for snark alecks to posit really dumb duos to be the next pair of investigators on Nic Pizzolatto’s uber-hyped show. The sad reality, of course, is that the real Season 2, while cast well, stunk like a garbage fire made of Ray Velcoro’s dirty laundry.

These things happen. Creators, be they Pizzolatto or Duffer, spend a lot of time coming up with the big ideas for their shows, but then after Season 1 everything is on a much faster timeline. Having exhausted much of the Big Idea early on, subsequent seasons fizzle. ShondaLand-style primetime soaps get more mileage because they can kill off characters, add new interns, or create a new scandal, but shows built around a single central conceit—a question that needs to be answered—have a much harder time maintaining momentum.

Mr. Robot seems to be suffering from a similar issue. After a humdinger of a first season, the current chapter of USA Network’s hacker psych-drama has been routinely falling flat. Season 1 slowly and energetically laid out the creation of fsociety, the near-collapse of the financial world, and the shattering of its main character Elliot’s psyche. It was a brilliant build up with a great payoff. Now that those things have happened, creator Sam Esmail—who seems to be a doing most of the lifting on the show—is struggling to keep up with the pace he set.

This doesn’t happen all the time, though. Halt and Catch Fire, now back for its third season, actually got better in Season 2. That, however, says more about the rocky start the show had in its initial run than it does about the second season besting its predecessor. Sometimes stories take a while to find their true heroes (or, in the case of Halt, heroines), and with AMC’s computer-programmer drama that’s certainly been true.

All of which leads to a more existential question: Why do people need TV shows to keep going? It’s human nature to want to keep watching something you like, but is that devotion worth it if it’s never as good as it once was? If time is indeed a flat circle, would it be better if audiences came back each fall to find love in new shows and have nothing but happy memories of the old ones? One of the drawbacks of the era of prestige television is that it seems to mandate that everything has to be the TV equivalent of The Odyssey. Fans, many scarred by seeing beloved series like Firefly or Freaks and Geeks cancelled too soon, have rallied behind beloved shows with more fervor than ever. And networks seem to think, now that everything lives on in perpetuity on streaming services, that they have to fill their coffers with sprawling, elaborate deep cuts—even if they don’t go anywhere.

This doesn’t have to be true. When The Knick shut its doors after just two seasons, fans were surprised. Its period setting and serious actor cast indicated the kind of show that would go on for at least five seasons, if not more. But after the initial shock, it was nice to have one truly brilliant series that never got the chance to disappoint its fans. Same goes for Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. Creator John Logan went into that show with three seasons planned out, made them, and got the hell out before he ran out of gothic romances to adapt. Fans may miss Eva (I certainly do), but if the show had started looking to Charles Dickens for source material, it would’ve been a disaster.

And so now we return to The Night Of and its potential future installments on HBO. Yes, some things went unanswered following the conclusion of the murder trial of Nasir Khan. Like Naz trying to piece together the events of the night in question even as he was on the witness stand, viewers have been left to fill in some blanks. But they are the perfect blanks, intentional redactions between facts that allow us to make the show our own. They do not need to be filled with another season. Drop it. The Night Of had a nearly perfect finale. It should be treated as such. “Finale” means “last,” so this is the end. The more fans look for another thread to pull, the more the simple brilliance of Night will fall away—and no one wants to see that unravel.

How to Use Physics to Paddle Board Like a Pro

WIRED — 8/29/2016 2:00:00 PM

Question: How do you make a stand up paddle board go straight if you only paddle on one side? Of course, I’m not an expert paddler so my usual propulsion method means I paddle on one side then switch the paddle to the other side. Alternating left-right sides of the paddle board would mean I would mostly go straight. But it looks uncool to continually switch hands on the paddle. If there’s one thing I want to do on a stand up paddle board is to look cool—why else would I do it?

Torque

Every time I have to explain torque, I have trouble starting. Honestly, the concept isn’t so simple. But let’s try, OK? Think about forces and torque. You can exert a force on an object just by pushing it with your finger. But what does a force actually do? If you take all of the forces on an object and add them together (as vectors) then this net force changes the velocity of that object.

Now, what about torque? Let me start with an example. Take a small object and place it on a table surface. If you push towards the center of this block it will increase in speed and start to move. But now push on the block such that you are not pushing towards the center, like this:

If you push off-center, the block will both increase in speed and increase in rotation. This is a torque—or as I like to call it, a “rotational force.” The torque still depends on the force, but it also depends on the location of the force. One simple way to calculate torque (this just gives the magnitude of the torque) would be:

In this expression, these variables represent:

  • τ—this is the torque. Physicists use a Greek letter because it looks cooler.
  • F—the applied force.
  • r—the distance from some point of rotation to the location where the force is applied. Normally we can pick the center of mass for the point of rotation but it doesn’t absolutely have to be this location.
  • θ—this is the angle between the applied force and the vector from the rotation point to the force (r).

That’s torque. If you want a paddle board to go straight, you need to have zero torque.

Actual Paddle Boards

Like I said, I only think I’m an expert paddler. With that in mind, here is my first paddling demonstration. What happens if you just paddle on one side of the board?

Yes, you should be able to notice that the paddle board isn’t going straight. Why does it turn? Here is a diagram showing the board and paddle and three different locations during a typical stroke. Notice that I am showing the force on the board and not the force the paddle pushes on the water.

In all three of these positions there is both a force pushing the board forward and also a torque that will turn the boat to the left (as seen from above). You would have to eventually paddle on the other side of the board to get it to go straight. OK—yes, the board does have a rudder (fin) on the bottom at the back. This rudder can then exert a counter torque on the board once it’s moving through the water. However, if your rudder is too effective the board will never turn (sometimes turning is a good thing).

OK, and now for a different paddle stroke to make the board go straight (or at least straighter). Notice that I have a small PVC pipe on the paddle handle. This means that you can easily tell the direction that the blade is pushing on the water.

Rhett Allain

Really, the only difference in this stroke vs. the straight one is at the beginning. If you look carefully, you will see that the paddle blade is angled towards the left side of the board at the first part of the motion. Here is a diagram showing the forces at the same three locations as before.

In paddle position 1 the force is angled in such a way that it would causes a right turning torque on the board. But in the next two strokes the torque would be left turning. If you practice enough you can get the net torque effect to keep the board paddling straight—which is probably what you want. Oh, but you can still turn if you need to (such as in the case of a large alligator or Niagara Falls).

But of course this really isn’t a new thing. If you know what you are doing, you can paddle on just one side in a canoe. Perhaps the most common canoe stroke is the J-stroke (there is even a Wikipedia page on canoe strokes). The J-stroke is very similar to the above paddling on the board, but the counter torque is applied at the end of the paddle stroke. In a canoe, you can usually sit near the rear of the boat such that the J-stroke is more feasible compared to a stand up paddle board when you are standing in the middle.

What Gives With Insects Pretending to Be Sticks and Leaves?

WIRED — 8/29/2016 1:00:41 PM

Imagine that you had one outfit and one outfit only: a jumpsuit that made you look like a leaf. You’d blend in nicely in a forest or the plant store, sure, but not so much in a desert. Such is the existence of a surprising number of insects, which look so much like leaves and sticks that it doesn’t seem possible. Oh, but it is, thanks to the wonders of natural selection. Check out this week’s episode of Absurd Creatures to learn more!

Find every episode of Absurd Creatures here. And I’m happy to hear from you with suggestions on what to cover next. If it’s weird and we can find footage of it, it’s fair game. You can get me at matthew_simon@wired.com or on Twitter at @mrMattSimon.

Inside Fitbit’s Quest to Make Fitness Trackers Invisible

WIRED — 8/29/2016 1:00:02 PM

Three wooden boxes are just sitting here, unopened, on a large conference room table inside Fitbit’s San Francisco offices. Initially, I had assumed the boxes contained the company’s two new trackers, the Flex 2 and Charge 2. But Michael Polin, one of Fitbit’s product marketing managers, is already holding the new gadgets in his hand. The Flex 2 is a tiny, smooth spike no larger than a pen cap. The Charge 2 is larger: big display on top, blinking heart-rate monitors jutting out from the bottom. Both are in elastomer bands, and look like the Fitbits I’ve seen on a thousand wrists before.

The world is changing: people have gotten used to the idea of tech in their pockets, and even on their body. So what’s in the wooden boxes? As I turn the devices over in my hands, Polin begins his reveal. He spins the box around and flips open the top. Inside are a dozen or so different-colored bands for the new Flex 2, all neatly spaced like a jewelry display. With another flourish, Polin opens the next box: three bangles, in silver, gold, and rose gold, with round cages on top that cradle the tiny Flex pebble. In the third box, a pendant accessory, so you can wear your tracker around your neck.

OK, so it’s not the most exciting product unveiling ever. Accessories, you guys! But to Fitbit, these accessories are just as important as the company’s new trackers. The world is changing: people have gotten used to the idea of tech in their pockets, and even on their body. Everything is connected, battery-powered, “smart.” Which means technology that looks like technology isn’t good enough anymore—it has to slot neatly into our own personal styles. So Fitbit, which has spent the last nine years becoming synonymous with step tracking and sleep counting, is looking beyond the insomniacs, triathletes, and quantified-self nuts. It’s trying to work out how to get everyone on the planet to wear one of its trackers. These new devices, particularly the Flex 2, are the beginning of a new breed of Fitbit: Fitbits that don’t look like Fitbits at all.

Close Your Eyes and Count to 10,000

Fitbit began as a stylish alternative to ugly pedometers. The product has slowly grown into something more powerful and feature-rich, but it’s still but still fundamentally the same thing: A gadget that goes on your body and tracks your activity.

Fitbit’s track-everything mission hasn’t changed, but the devices themselves certainly have. On the new devices, tracking your activity continues unabated. There are sensors for tracking your heart rate and exercise type, plus new sensors that use your oxygen consumption to measure your fitness level. The Charge 2 has an app that uses your heart-rate variability to guide you through relaxing breathing exercises. Fitbit’s goal, says Shelton Yuan, the company’s director of R&D, says it’s all part of the journey that started in 2007. “It’s always been about getting sensors and data to people,” he says.

Of the two new devices, the $150 Charge 2 is more like what you’d expect from a Fitbit. The company says the Charge HR is the best-selling wearable in history, and so all the new model does is expand upon a few existing ideas. The device’s screen is much larger, so you can do more on your wrist without fishing out your phone. The $100 Flex 2, on the other hand, was designed with one goal in mind: get smaller. So it doesn’t track how many floors you climb, because altimeters are too big to fit inside the tiny shell. But it’ll still track the basics, and because it’s so small Fitbit managed to make it waterproof enough that you can swim with it. Both last five days on a charge, and do basic call and text notifications.

The market for wearables continues to go gangbusters: 19.7 million wearable devices shipped in the first quarter of 2016, up more than 67 percent from last year. Fitbit’s still in a commanding lead—its recent Alta and Blaze trackers were both huge successes. Still, the market is crowding fast, says IDC analyst Ramon Llamas. He points to Garmin, Jawbone, Polar, and even Xiaomi, which went from nowhere to second place on the back of outrageously cheap devices like the $15 Mi Band 2. And that’s not including the Apple Watch and other smartwatches. “This is a market,” Llamas says, “that’s still in its initial stages. Which ones of these vendors, or individual models, are going to be good enough?”

As the market has grown, it’s also matured. Most people at least know in theory what fitness trackers are and do. Fitbit ran a survey that found two-thirds of people think health and fitness is important. (To the other third: I have a few follow-up questions.) “But if you look at our penetration rates,” Fitbit CEO James Park says, “they’re still single digits to low teens.” Fitbit serves athletes well. It knows what they like. Now the company faces a new challenge: how do you sell a Fitbit to someone who’s never bought one before?

The answer to that question, it turns out, is simple: Make it really, really, ridiculously good-looking.

Now You See Me

Raymond Loewy, the late French designer whose legacy includes everything from Air Force One to Lucky Strike cigarettes to the NASA Skylab, used to talk about what he called the MAYA Principle. MAYA is an acronym, meaning Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable. “The adult public’s taste,” he believed, “is not necessarily ready to accept the logical solutions to their requirements if the solution implies too vast a departure from what they have been conditioned into accepting as the norm.” His process came down to this: design the future, but not faster than people are ready for.

For Jonah Becker, Fitbit’s head of design and the guy tapped in early 2015 to build the company’s first internal design team, MAYA is sort of a mantra. “Sometimes,” he says, “the technology is ready before people are ready to embrace it physically, with their body.” He rattles off examples: Bluetooth headsets, all things VR, Google Glass. For Becker, one non-negotiable feature of a Fitbit is that you immediately understand what it is and how it works.

The Flex 2 comes from a belief that the world is finally comfortable enough with tracking devices that it’s ready to stop thinking about them altogether. “I think when technology is young,” Becker says, “there’s a lot of screaming. Look, I’m the new technology!” It happened with smartphones, cars, everything, he says. But eventually, the novelty of its existence wears off. “It doesn’t have to tell me how powerful and smart it is anymore,” Becker says. “Then there’s more freedom, from a design standpoint, to explore.”

Fitbit’s explorations started in 2014, when it worked with Tory Burch to design a series of fashionable accessories. The resulting devices caused some eye-rolling among the gadget community—“they’re certainly not to my taste,” The Verge wrote—but sold out almost immediately. Fitbit’s working with Tory Burch again for Flex 2, and design house Public School and Vera Wang are getting into making accessories for all of Fitbit’s devices. An internal team is working on a set of accessories that feature a lot more gold than elastomer. Park says he wants to keep the accessories ecosystem “moderated a bit,” but that accessories are going to be crucial to the appeal of the new devices. The Flex 2 itself is just that small, stocky stick; everything else is fungible. “We can really have a lot more freedom because of how small it is,” Becker says. “It’s not necessarily a technology-first play anymore when you get that small.”

When technology is inside everything, it can’t look like technology anymore. Building a wide set of accessories is a way to attract a variety of users, but it’s just as important to Fitbit that once you buy a Fitbit, you wear it all the time. Like so many other wearable makers, Fitbit’s worst nightmare is to end up dead in your sock drawer. Fitbit wants you to buy a device, but mostly it wants your data—as much and as often as possible. It can use that data to make better products, to upsell you to new things, and to provide better and more accurate information to its healthcare partners. That means your Fitbit needs to work at the gym, but also be fancy enough to go with your suit and sufficiently comfy to stay with you when it’s sweatpants o’clock on Saturday. “It’s a key driver in long-term retention,” Park says. “The more people love their device, and it fits with their lifestyle, the longer they’re likely to continue to wear the device.”

With a certain athleisure-y group, Fitbit’s already achieved acceptability through sheer brand recognition. The hunk of plastic on your wrist is recognizable as a Fitbit, so it’s OK that it’s not terribly classy. But that’s not good enough for most people, who still care a lot about looks. Lots of companies, whether they make fitness trackers or laptops or light bulbs, are going through this same transition. The only way forward is to make products that “stop looking like gadgets you have on your wrist,” Park says. “It’s just a piece of jewelry you wear that happens to have all these health benefits.”

A few moments later, Park has to leave. As he stands up, I compliment him on his Blaze, which he’s wearing with a blindingly white band I’ve never seen before. He laughs. “Thanks. It’s coming out…eventually.” For now, the only model is Parks. Such are the perks of being CEO of a company obsessed with making exactly the device its users want to wear.

Dyslexic Designers Just Think Different—Maybe Even Better

WIRED — 8/29/2016 12:00:06 PM

A lopsided wine decanter, a gorilla-shaped parka, a chandelier that looks a bit like an atom. These seemingly unrelated items have one thing in common: each was designed by someone with dyslexia. And they are all among the curious array of objects that will be featured in an upcoming exhibit at the London gallery designjunction.

Called Dyslexic Design, it’s an exhibit of, in case you haven’t guessed, work from dyslexic designers. London-based industrial designer Jim Rokos curated it in the hopes of getting other people to see what he already can: that people with dyslexia aren’t suffering from a so-called learning disability. Rather, they’re highly creative problem solvers who think in ways that make for killer designs.

It all began on a drive from London to Yorkshire. Rokos, himself a dyslexic, tuned into a talk radio program that had invited listeners to call in and share personal stories about dyslexia. “I was just waiting for someone to phone in and say how good it was,” he says. “But it was just people complaining about their children.” He says one caller even shared an anecdote about a sperm bank refusing a donation from someone with dyslexia.

Dyslexia forces you to interpret the world differently. It’s typically recognized as a disorder characterized by difficulty reading, writing, and spelling due to variations in the way the brain processes language. But as Rokos sees it, people with dyslexia can identify solutions to problems that others might overlook. And he’s using the exhibit as evidence.

Take Sebastian Bergne’s tilted, oblong wine decanter. It looks like it might fall over. “Other designers wouldn’t dare to do this because they wouldn’t imagine it would work,” Rokos says. Similarly, consider Vitamin studio’s Knot Lamp. The pendant hangs from a knotted cord, rather than metal brackets or screws. “By thinking about it in a different way, they’ve done away with some of the engineering that would be used otherwise,” Rokos says.

A few factors cloud Rokos’ theory. The first and most obvious is that a designer doesn’t need dyslexia to do good, unique work. The second is that approximately one in five people have dyslexia, but it often goes unidentified—especially in schools. That makes it harder to draw a straight line between dyslexia and creativity.

That said, a link exists. It’s just not that linear. “People who are dyslexic seem to have an abundance of creative thought,” says Sally Shaywitz, co-director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity and author of Overcoming Dyslexia. “But when you try to pin it down you have to remember that creativity is a very big area.” Artists, writers, and musicians tend to get tagged as “creative,” when creativity really just means seeing things differently. Shaywitz often invokes Charles Schwab, a billionaire businessman and dyslexic, as an example. “I remember him saying, ‘I can see the end zone, while others are thinking very serially, step by step.’ ”

Put that way, dyslexic thinking sounds like big-picture thinking—a frame of mind that certainly benefits designers. And approaching dyslexia from that angle could have two positive outcomes. One, it could help schools create more inclusive curriculae. Two, the world could become more user-friendly for everyone. Rokos remembers how, during a design festival in Paris, it took a fellow designer two hours to make it three stops home on the Métro. “He’s got this incredible 3-D mind,” Rokos says. “But a non-dyslexic wouldn’t have this kind of problem.”

Opening on September 22, Dyslexic Design will explore these challenges in a series of talks. The exhibit itself, Rokos says, will celebrate dyslexia—showcasing it not as a disability, but simply another frame of mind.

Cantina Talk: What Does ‘Rogue One’ Mean? Now We Know

WIRED — 8/29/2016 11:00:59 AM

It had to happen eventually. Every other week we bring you a big ol’ roundup of every possible bit of Star Wars news we can find, and nearly every week it’s a struggle to get that rather large collection of news whittled down into a concise post. This week, not so much. Things are actually fairly quiet on the galactic front. And really, it makes sense that things might slow down right around now. Lucasfilm is presumably busy finishing up Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and getting Star Wars: Episode VIII into post-production, so there’s just not a lot going on. (Though, Lucasfilm, if you want to give VIII an actual title, you can go ahead and announce that anytime.) As a result, welcome to what might be the most understated Cantina Talk of all. In weeks to come, we’ll look back on this as a beautiful end-of-summer lull, just you wait.

Star Wars: Episode VIII

Gets Cut

Source: Director Rian Johnson himself.

Probability of Accuracy: Surely 100 percent.

The Real Deal: After teasing fans with images posted across different social media accounts during the filming of Star Wars: Episode VIII, Rian Johnson continued his love of visual updates a week ago with this post on Instagram:

Day one!

A photo posted by Rian Johnson (@riancjohnson) on Aug 15, 2016 at 7:15pm PDT

Yup, looks like the movie has started an assembly cut at the very least, if not the first working edit of the movie proper. Of course, considering the amount of post-production a movie like this requires, we have no idea if this means that it’s ahead of schedule, behind schedule, or what the hell is even going on. Which is to say, well played, Mr. Johnson. Now remember to take periodic breaks and get some sun every now and then.

Which One Is the

Rogue One

, Anyway?

Source: Rogue One director Gareth Edwards

Probability of Accuracy: How accurate can an objective reading of an abstract concept really be, anyway?

The Real Deal: Sure, maybe some people are a little confused about what Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is actually about, but more than that people would like to know what the phrase “Rogue One” actually means. Thankfully, Empire thought to ask director Gareth Edwards. It is, he said, a military call-sign—you guys remember “Rogue Squadron” from The Empire Strikes Back, right?—but that’s not all. Rogue One “is the first film that’s gone off-piste and is not part of the saga—or the Anakin story—so it’s the ‘rogue’ one,” Edwards said, adding that it’s also a reference to Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso, too. “It’s kind of describing her as well in a similar way. It has [all] these split, multiple meanings that made it feel like the right choice [for a title],” he said. Well, it’s certainly better than the second choice, No, It’s Not the Bothans, That’s the Other Death Star.

This Is What a Feminist Rebellion Looks Like

Source: Felicity Jones on the publicity trail

Probability of Accuracy: See our earlier comment about opinions and accuracy, dear readers.

The Real Deal: While we’re on the subject of Jyn Erso, Felicity Jones has been talking about what it was like getting that role in the first place, as well as who Erso is and, perhaps most interestingly, her view on gender in the Rebellion as a whole. To wit: “I would say there’s a huge amount of respect for women in the Rebellion. Mon Mothma is ultimately, for Jyn, someone she looks up to… So even as the film opens [Jyn] has a very strong female role model in front of her, and someone she respects.” The Rebellion, a matriarchy? Pretty impressive for a series that conveniently forgot to have more than one female character for its first two installments.

Welcome Back, You Slimy, Double-Crossing, No-Good Swindler

Source: Internet rumor-mongering

Probability of Accuracy: About 50/50, as is the way with all Internet rumor-mongering.

The Real Deal: An interesting story broke the other week, as The Wrap reported that the Han Solo movie in pre-production will be adding Lando Calrissian as a character, with a later report adding that Donald Glover is the filmmakers’ first choice for the role. As with all such rumors, it’s difficult to guess how much reality is behind either one of these reports, but two things are worth pointing out. Firstly, it really would be wonderful to see Lando in the standalone movie, wouldn’t it? Just think how utterly awesome it could be to see a young charmer channeling Billy Dee Williams but with an extra edge thanks to the irresponsibility of youth. And secondly, Lawrence Kasdan, who co-wrote the Han Solo movie, refused to rule out a Lando return in an interview last year. Maybe he knew something the rest of us didn’t.

What If Rey Isn’t Who Fans Think She Is?

Source: Fan speculation

Probability of Accuracy: There’s every single possibility that this theory will prove to be very, very wrong indeed. And yet!

The Real Deal: Instead of wondering about who Rey’s parents are, perhaps there’s another unknown about her that we should be thinking about. HitFix created a video to ask this question: Is Rey able to use the Force so easily in Star Wars: The Force Awakens because she’s tapping into the Dark Side? It offers up reasonable evidence to suggest that this isn’t just an utterly random thought, but something supported by The Force Awakens itself. But does that mean Rey is destined to be the next Anakin Skywalker? That’s a question that’ll likely remain unanswered until Episode VIII, at the very earliest. Hey, Rian Johnson! Hurry up in that editing room, will you?

You Too Can Invest In Lawsuits. But Not Quite Like Peter Thiel

WIRED — 8/29/2016 11:00:55 AM

If Legalist had arrived on another day in another year, it might’ve slipped under the radar. But it didn’t. It arrived just as Gawker went belly up.

Unveiled last week at a startup launch day in Silicon Valley, Legalist is an online service that lets people invest in lawsuits they otherwise have no connection to. Provided you meet certain requirements, you too can help fund a suit and get a cut of the winnings—if there are winnings to be had. That seems straightforward enough, but the tech press went a bit berserk over the arrival of this new service. And that’s because of Gawker.

The news and gossip site quit publishing stories last week, after losing a high-profile invasion-of-privacy suit bankrolled by billionaire Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel. If Thiel could take down Gawker as a personal vendetta, the voices said, couldn’t Legalist do much the same?

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. With Peter Thiel, the point is that he’s so rich and so powerful, he doesn’t need Legalist. And, well, the idea behind Legalist isn’t new. Other companies—including LexShares, Trial Funder, and Mighty—have been offering similar services since 2014.

These services don’t exactly exist to help mega-millionaires exert their power on lawsuits of their choosing. Rather, they allow investors with much smaller bank accounts to participate in the lesser known industry of litigation finance. And in turn, they provide plaintiffs with broader and more competitive ways of funding a lawsuit. They create a new middle market for litigation finance. They feed cases worth around $200,000 or so—bigger than a simple personal injury claim, but too small to receive funding from a big litigation-finance firm. Until recently, says Maya Steinitz, a professor of law at the University of Iowa who studies litigation finance, this market didn’t exist.

Steinitz likes the idea. But she does point out that, like any utility, these services can be abused. And because they’re new, it’s only natural they would make people uncomfortable, including tech journalists. “It’s not home mortgages. It’s not real estate. It’s not cars or car loans. It’s the justice system,” Steinitz says. For all these reasons, she adds, they certainly deserve scrutiny.

Enter the Internet

Deep-pocketed investors, including investments banks, insurance companies, and hedge funds, have long invested in big lawsuits. But in bringing this idea to the Internet, startups are very much changing the dynamic. In 2014, Mighty launched an online marketplace designed to pair funders with personal-injury claimants. LexShares targets commercial cases that seek about $100,000 to $1 million in funding. Trial Funder deals with cases even smaller in scale, providing several thousand dollars in funding to lawyers or directly to plaintiffs. Now, Legalist is expanding this trend, taking on business-tort cases that require between $50,000 and $500,000 in funding.

Typically, these services use proprietary algorithms to evaluate the merits of lawsuits and judge their potential as an investment opportunity. If a case meets their requirements, they put the details online and invite investments, listing things like plaintiffs and defendants, judges and lawyers, jurisdictions, and damages sought. Anyone can invest as a long as they meet the investor accreditation requirements laid down by the US Securities and Exchange Commission: if they’ve made more than $200,000 annually for the past two years or have a net worth of $1 million.

This is a familiar yarn in the tech world: take a niche activity, put it online, and let anyone play. In this case, the opportunity is pretty big. In 2013, according to entrenched litigation financer Gerchen Keller Capital, the US litigation market spanned more than $200 billion. But online litigation financing is by no means a slam dunk. Mighty has already pivoted, transforming itself into a company that provides software to litigation financers.

The Social Question

OK, but in choosing lawsuits for their services, do these companies make decisions based on the social merits of a case? Are they making judgements of justice? Not really, their founders say. They insist they just judge cases on their financial merits. “We’re not specifically looking for cases with a social impact,” says Trial Funder CEO Anoush Hakimi. “But it can be a side benefit.”

Certainly, social change is often part of litigation finance. In the 1960s, this happened all the time. So many organizations backed legal battles for minorities and women and others who lacked political and financial clout, with funds coming primarily from donations. But these Internet services aren’t really set up for stuff like this.

Expanding this niche industry to more players, Steinitz says, does mean more potential for abuse. But there are safeguards in the system to prevent this. The Gawker case was something different. It was an outlier in the world of litigation finance, says Bradley Wendel, a law professor at Cornell University. It doesn’t make financial sense for a company like Legalist to go after a Gawker just for the sake of going after a Gawker. Legalist, LexShares, and Trial Funder have a fiduciary obligation to shareholders. They can’t waste money on personal vendettas, unlike Peter Thiel.

How One Man Dreamed Up Tetris, the Game That Shook the World

WIRED — 8/29/2016 11:00:37 AM

In the new book The Tetris Effect, available September 6, veteran tech journalist Dan Ackerman presents the definitive telling of one of the most fascinating stories in videogame history: How the world’s most popular, enduring, perfect videogame escaped the Iron Curtain. While many fierce rivals fought tooth and nail to secure the rights, it ended up as the killer app for Nintendo’s Game Boy. In this exclusive excerpt, we learn how the game’s creator, Russian computer scientist Alexey Pajitnov, first conceived of the computer game that would change the world by playing with children’s toys.

Consumed by the idea of re-creating game experiences on his Electronica 60 and the other machines he worked on at the academy, Alexey found inspiration in the sprawling aisles of Children’s World, the most famous toy store in Moscow.

When he searched the store shelves, something familiar caught his eye. It was a simple plastic set of pentomino puzzle pieces, and before he knew it, the set had made its way into his hands and soon sat on his desk at the Russian Academy of Sciences. He spent hours fitting the pieces together, trying to bridge the connection between these simple geometric designs and the programmatic, predictable computer platforms he worked on. He knew there must be a way to translate these ideas from the squares on his desk to the computer screen, even without access to the high-end (for the time) graphics powerhouses used to power Pac-Man and other arcade-style games.

The first results were primitive, but the basic idea for what would become Tetris started taking shape. The problem, Alexey knew, was that his hardware was close to a decade out of date compared with what even amateur game programmers in the rest of the world had access to. Re-creating the effect of a pentomino puzzle required some visual sizzle, and the Electronica 60 had no ability to draw even primitive computer graphics.

His initial imperfect solution was to create a stand-in for shapes using the only paintbrush available, the alphanumeric keys on his computer keyboard. Each shape could be approximated using punctuation keys, mostly bracket shapes, in different combinations, carefully coded across multiple display lines. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.

In this early version, crafted in six days and ambitiously named “Genetic Engineering,” the five-segment pentomino shapes were cut down to a more manageable four segments, which could be formed into seven basic shapes he called tetrominoes. His first version was a faithful re-creation of pentominoes—the player simply moved the tetrominoes around on the screen until they all fit. As an initial attempt at a spatial manipulation puzzle game, it was a breakthrough, but even Alexey could tell after a few playthroughs that it was deathly dull. It needed something else.

Computer puzzles were different. Paper, plastic, and wood puzzles could be played over an unlimited amount of time, left to sit while the player thought over new moves and new strategies. But a computer screen and its cathode-ray tube create a more manipulative relationship with the player, beaming light at the viewer’s eyes and demanding reciprocal action. A puzzle played on a computer had to be more of a game, and a game required the elements of timing, danger, and a constant push toward action.

For a professional programmer like Alexey, the actual mechanics of creating the game were easy, but the idea of simply dropping these shapes into a square box lacked the addictive quality a good game needed. This early build simply measured how many shapes you could fit into a box and it took only a few minutes to work out the best solution. Once you did, there was little motivation to play again.

Alexey continued to work on his programming assignments, taking time here and there over the next several weeks to pare his new game to its most basic elements. A strictly enforced design minimalism led to a breakthrough idea. What if you didn’t need the entire computer screen? Just because the monitor was square didn’t mean everything displayed on it needed to be.

This small innovation changed the feel of the game. Just as he originally trimmed the shapes from five segments to four, Alexey narrowed the playing area from nearly the entire screen to a narrow channel that started at the top and ran to the bottom in order to focus on making fast, accurate choices. But there was still a problem with the game. Once all the spaces along a horizontal row in the new narrow playing field were filled, any area underneath that was permanently out of reach.

Again, the game ended too quickly, leaving little reason to play it again. Alexey stared at the display, hating to see dead, wasted space on his newly improved gameplay field. His brilliant solution would become the one single element of Tetris that has remained constant throughout hundreds of sequels, variations, and knockoffs in the more than thirty years since.

When a horizontal is filled with tetromino segments, leaving no gaps from left to right, that row simply vanishes in a puff of virtual smoke, opening the downward path for the next set of pieces to fill. The goal becomes not only fitting shapes together and packing them onto the screen but also causing as many lines to disappear as possible.

Whereas Alexey had once spent countless late hours at the RAS computer center working on academic projects or testing new computer hardware, often risking missing the last train in the early hours of the morning, he now spent similar hours working on, tweaking, and playing his new game. Even during the day, he occasionally pretended to be working on a software debugging project while playing round after round of his own game, unable to keep his fingers off the keyboard.

This new invention called the tetromino was at the game’s heart, and the constant back-and- forth battle between the falling blocks and the player reminded Alexey of tennis, so he called the game Tetris. In Russian, Tetris is Тетрис, and tennis is теннис, making this a conjunction that works across multiple languages (it helps that the name lacks a true Russian origin—the prefix tetra is Greek in origin, and tennis arguably comes from thirteenth-century Old French).

At the Dorodnitsyn Computing Centre, Alexey’s side project had not gone unnoticed. Other students and researchers would gather around the screen to watch or try their hands at the game, patiently waiting for a turn, even while their actual computer center work went undone. It was an experience virtually unknown in Russia, where few homegrown games had gone beyond their creators, and most were probably as compelling as Alexey’s early aimless prototype.

Aside from a handful of Pac-Man fanatics, access to American or Japanese game machines was rare, so there was little to compare Tetris with. That was probably for the best, because this version of the game, the first one complete enough to truly be called Tetris, lacked much of what we think of as Tetris today, beyond the shapes and basic rules.

On his green-and- black computer monitor, Alexey’s primordial Tetris game lacked music, or in fact any sound at all, with its shapes falling silently, as if in a vacuum. At first there was no score, although the idea that clearing a row of segments by forming a complete horizontal line stood out as an obvious way to count points. There were no separate levels, much less a way to graduate from one level to another. In later years, the “level ninety-nine” problem, where the popular NES version game could go no further, would be one Tetris experts would struggle with, giving rise to a small but dedicated community of professional Tetris players trading new records for highest score and highest level reached.

Nor was the game, in this early stage, decorated with the simple block illustrations of Russian architectural icons that players of any of the classic 1980s versions will remember (along with its plinky Russian folk tune soundtrack). Those window dressings, along with the reversed Cyrillic R in the title, all came much later and were exclusively for the consumption of Western audiences looking for a taste of exotic computer technology from behind the Iron Curtain. For Alexey and his colleagues, this was already a Russian game, crafted by a Russian programmer on Russian computer hardware and played, so far exclusively, in a Russian computer research institute. They certainly didn’t need a picture of the Kremlin to remind them of that.

Even with the approval of his peers, Tetris looked as if it would be like any number of reasonably interesting computer projects created by and for a small audience of experts: amusing for a few days or weeks, and then forgotten as the collective moved on to something new. After all, there were no commercially available online networks on which to share the game, and few people in Russia, even in Moscow, had access to personal computers.

Even if you were lucky enough to be one of a handful of Muscovites with access to a personal computer at work or at home, and you had somehow managed to get a hand on a copy of Alexey Pajitnov’s code for Tetris, it would likely have done you no good. The Electronica 60 was a rare machine, even at the RAS, and the original 27-kilobyte file was written to work on that specific computer. It wasn’t compatible with the IBM PC machines that were starting to become the de facto standard for computing, both in Russia and in the West. Those systems were built on MS-DOS, an operating system at the start of a tangled evolutionary path to the Windows PCs of today. In the beginning, Alexey’s code for Tetris simply wouldn’t run on the computers most Russian programmers and technology enthusiasts had access to.

Despite this, word about the game spread within the Dorodnitsyn Computing Centre like a virus, intriguing researchers and annoying managers for weeks. But for all its incipient popularity within the halls of the RAS, Tetris seemed doomed to burn out once the handful of people with access to an Electronica 60 computer had tired of it. To make the leap from this closed ecosystem to the general population, Tetris needed the same thing any virus needed: a carrier.

Magic Portals, the Sounds of Yellowstone, and 3 More Must-Hear Podcast Tales

WIRED — 8/29/2016 11:00:37 AM

Good morning! Ready to spend 20 minutes (or more) on a sweaty, crowded, possibly cricket-and-worm-infested subway car? Looking forward to getting stuck in traffic as you inch your way to the office? We didn’t think so. Why not spend those precious moments somewhere else? This week’s podcast roundup is here to take you to many exotic locations, from Yellowstone to Miami to the imaginary Land of Foon—which is, obviously, only accessible through a Burger King in Chicago.

Reply All

, "Making Friends"

Shea hears voices. Specifically, the voices of four imaginary friends: Jas, Doc, Varena, and Aeraya. Except to Shea, they aren’t imaginary, just imagined: She has tulpas, or “intelligent companions imagined into existence.” To psychologists, this seems like dissociative personality disorder; to her fellow sci-fi and fantasy loving tulpamancers, they’re healthy, lifelong companions. If someone is happy with the voices in their head, can it be a disorder? What’s the difference between an active imagination and mental illness? Reply All investigates.

Shea hears voices. Specifically, the voices of four imaginary friends: Jas, Doc, Varena, and Aeraya. Except to Shea, they aren’t imaginary, just imagined: She has tulpas, or “intelligent companions imagined into existence.” To psychologists, this seems like dissociative personality disorder; to her fellow sci-fi and fantasy loving tulpamancers, they’re healthy, lifelong companions. If someone is happy with the voices in their head, can it be a disorder? What’s the difference between an active imagination and mental illness? Reply All investigates.

Hello from the Magic Tavern

, "Make-Up Artist"

On March 5, 2015, Arnie Niekamp fell through a dimensional portal behind a Burger King into the Land of Foon. Luckily, he still gets a weak Wi-Fi signal from the earthly Burger King, which he uses to bring listeners a weekly update from the Vermilion Minotaur Tavern. This week, Niekamp and his two co-hosts—shape-shifting badger Chunt and wizard Usidore—interview Germ Crust, a textural makeup artist specializing in feather beards, hailing from a wasteland populated by crumbs. If you’re a fan of Chicago comedy (which supplies the producers and actors behind the show) or Cards Against Humanity (which sponsors it), the deadpan, absurdist, raunchy tone of Hello from the Magic Tavern makes it a welcome addition to the improv-podcast ecosystem.

On March 5, 2015, Arnie Niekamp fell through a dimensional portal behind a Burger King into the Land of Foon. Luckily, he still gets a weak Wi-Fi signal from the earthly Burger King, which he uses to bring listeners a weekly update from the Vermilion Minotaur Tavern. This week, Niekamp and his two co-hosts—shape-shifting badger Chunt and wizard Usidore—interview Germ Crust, a textural makeup artist specializing in feather beards, hailing from a wasteland populated by crumbs. If you’re a fan of Chicago comedy (which supplies the producers and actors behind the show) or Cards Against Humanity (which sponsors it), the deadpan, absurdist, raunchy tone of Hello from the Magic Tavern makes it a welcome addition to the improv-podcast ecosystem.

Here & Now

, "How One Audio Archivist Works to Preserve Yellowstone's Iconic Sounds"

Didn’t make it out to the national parks for the centennial? No worries, Here & Now can bring Yellowstone to you. Just meet Jennifer Jerrett out by Old Faithful, where the Yellowstone archivist will invite you to listen to the sounds of the park: the singing of meadowlarks, the clacking of elk antlers, the burbling of mudpots, and the groaning of bison. (That last one is sure to startle you right out of your morning grogginess, by the way.) Listen here.

Credit: Getty Images

Didn’t make it out to the national parks for the centennial? No worries, Here & Now can bring Yellowstone to you. Just meet Jennifer Jerrett out by Old Faithful, where the Yellowstone archivist will invite you to listen to the sounds of the park: the singing of meadowlarks, the clacking of elk antlers, the burbling of mudpots, and the groaning of bison. (That last one is sure to startle you right out of your morning grogginess, by the way.) Listen here.

Snap Judgment

, "Fortress of Solitude"

Jay J. Armes is a detective who saved Marlon Brando’s son and inspired Charles Bronson’s character in Breakout. He also once owned a menagerie of leopards and a bullet-proof limousine. He’s known to wield a gun instead of his right hand and a hook instead of his left. Or maybe not. Snap Judgment examines the man behind the myth (and action figure)—and whether, for the people in the community he loved, all his fabrications really matter.

Jay J. Armes is a detective who saved Marlon Brando’s son and inspired Charles Bronson’s character in Breakout. He also once owned a menagerie of leopards and a bullet-proof limousine. He's known to wield a gun instead of his right hand and a hook instead of his left. Or maybe not. Snap Judgment examines the man behind the myth (and action figure)—and whether, for the people in the community he loved, all his fabrications really matter.

Pin/Kings

, "Episode One: Off the Mat, Off the Grid"

This series from ESPN Audio follows the lives of the former 1976 co-captains of the Palmetto High School wrestling team: Alex DeCubas, who went on to become the kingpin of a Miami cocaine smuggling operation, and Kevin Pedersen, who became the DEA agent pursuing him. Each episode of this 16-episode series covers a different aspect of the story, from the world of high school wrestling to south Florida’s historical role in drug smuggling to the logistics of a DEA-sponsored money-laundering operation. Settle into your seat and get ready to binge on the whole season. Listen here.

Credit: ESPN

This series from ESPN Audio follows the lives of the former 1976 co-captains of the Palmetto High School wrestling team: Alex DeCubas, who went on to become the kingpin of a Miami cocaine smuggling operation, and Kevin Pedersen, who became the DEA agent pursuing him. Each episode of this 16-episode series covers a different aspect of the story, from the world of high school wrestling to south Florida’s historical role in drug smuggling to the logistics of a DEA-sponsored money-laundering operation. Settle into your seat and get ready to binge on the whole season. Listen here.

The Famously Ugly Router Is Pretty Now Because It Has to Be

WIRED — 8/29/2016 11:00:35 AM

Routers! They’re the blobfish of gadgets; aggressively unattractive, and hidden well out of the way. That’s changing, though, thanks to a new generation of devices that don’t just make your Wi-Fi more reliable. They look good doing it.

Eero. Luma. Starry. Orbi. These aren’t household names, but they are household upgrades. Most surprising of all, they’re routers that feel more at home in Architectural Digest than they do deep under a desk. And they didn’t get that way simply because networking engineers had a fashion epiphany. The reason these routers look so good is a byproduct of a fundamental shift in how routers work.

The Dead Bug Approach

To understand why routers suddenly look better, you need to start with why they’re also performing better.

Think of the router you probably own. It’s probably a chunky black box of some sort, maybe with an antenna or five sprouting from its black plastic carcass. This is the design language routers have settled on for multiple decades.

“We call that the ‘dead bug’ approach,” says Joshua Terrell, product design engineer at Luma. “A lot of the design of traditional routers has been pushing more towards function over form. Placement was an afterthought.”

Compounding a routers’ design challenges is the fact that a whole lot of technology still needs to fit in these devices. That’s not for laziness, but for how routers have typically been deployed. You hook one up to your modem, and pray to the connectivity gods that its signal can reach the farthest corners of your home. That those modems tended to be stuck in offices or behind entertainment centers meant that routers generally weren’t placed for optimal performance, but for the most part, they still got the job done. And since they were out of sight, they were free to look like a Sweded Blade Runner prop.

A fundamental shift in how we consume the Internet at home, though, has made that model inadequate for many. We use more than ever, but more importantly, we use it in more places than ever. A study this month from network-equipment provider Sandvine found that the average American household had over seven devices connected to the Internet on a given day. More than 25 percent of households had 10 or more connected devices under their roofs.

This is a lot of devices! And they’re not all just refreshing Twitter.

“The types of streams are changing pretty quickly,” says Netgear senior product manager Brandon McEntire, who helped oversee Orbi’s development. “Recently it’s been streaming Netflix, but it’s changing even from that.” Younger kids are streaming more YouTube than Netflix, says McEntire, adding to the network strain. Meanwhile, a new generation of cloud-leaning security cameras challenges the traditional router model on two fronts: They upload live video, meaning large chunks of traffic aren’t exclusively heading downstream anymore, and they’re placed on the periphery of a house, extending the range of where a house needs strong Wi-Fi.

Those are just two examples; you can probably think of a handful yourself. Maybe it’s the Echo you put in the guest room, or the connected toaster you immediately and rightly regretted buying. A single, tucked away router often can’t keep up anymore. But you know what can? Two routers. Or three. Or more.

Mesh Heads

You could just keep making that one router more and more powerful, but at a certain point that’s wasted energy. You can also use Wi-Fi range extenders, which are often frustrating and bad. The far more efficient way to resurrect Wi-Fi dead spots is to use a mesh network.

That’s what Eero, Orbi, and Luma are. (Starry works differently; each household device receives a signal from a network of rooftop “Beams,” which means it needs to be placed near a window). In a mesh network, multiple routers conspire together to deliver the strongest signal wherever it’s needed, rather than all of your Wi-Fi originating from a single hub. It’s a deceptively simple solution to a variety of nuisances.

“These new mesh network routers are seeking to address several key areas of concern for home networking infrastructure; namely performance, coverage, aesthetics, and security,” says Brad Russell, and analyst with Parks Associates.

But here’s the catch. (Well, other than the cost; these systems generally cost well into the hundreds of dollars). For a mesh network to be effective, at least one of the routers needs to sit out in the open in your home. And that’s just not going to happen if it looks like a giant plasticine cockroach.

“The home environment is really personal. You might be OK with a fairly ugly box at multiple points in your office, but you wouldn’t be OK with that in the home,” says Sean Harris, head of marketing at Eero. “It’s got to be something that blends in elegantly with the background.”

But not too much. And not in the same way everyone else’s does. A router that’s destined for your living room or kitchen can’t just look good; it has to fit in. Everywhere.

A Common Denominator

This new vanguard of attractive routers are maybe most appealing in how reserved they are. These are soft lines, clean colors, and unobtrusive builds. That’s also, well, by design.

Take Netgear’s Orbi. It looks like it could be a baby humidifier, a flattened vase, or the result of a very boring but proficient afternoon at the kiln. It’s nice, but not too nice. This is, after all, still a router.

“For the majority of the time you don’t want people to notice it too much. But you do want it be interesting enough that people will pick it up and buy it, or a friend will notice it,” says Netgear’s McEntire. “It’s a pretty fine balance.”

Luma and Eero wrestled with those same contradictions.

“If you want a really strong accent piece in a room in your house, you probably buy a piece of art, or have a really cool vase or something,” says Harris. Luma’s Terrell, meanwhile, stresses the importance of being “visually minimal but at the same time still appealing.”

Compounding the design challenges is the fact that a whole lot of technology still needs to fit in these devices. All those antennas you remember from your dead bug didn’t go away; they’re just hiding under a sleek plastic sheath.

“We’re bumping up against the limits of physics when you talk about the size of this thing,” says Netgear’s McEntire. “Antennas have to be spaced a certain distance apart for them to work well, and we’re at the minimum limits of that.”

Another problem facing these routers is heat. Namely, routers throw off a lot of it, meaning they need ample venting to help keep from frying components. Orbi opts to hide its vents, but Luma eventually opted to make them a focal point, by invoking (why not!) a legendary muscle car.

“We went through 20-plus different styles and designs of venting until finally settling on horizontal slats, which drew spiritual inspiration from the rear detailing of the iconic Ferrari Testarossa,” says Terrell.

Eero, meanwhile, had to overcome a related problem. Its units sit flat, making them awfully tempting to use as a coaster or to stack books atop. Those are both excellent ways to ruin your Wi-Fi signal. Rather than assume customers know that, though, Eero turned to design.

“We purposefully curved the top,” says Harris. “That gave us more space inside for the antenna architecture, and prevents people from putting anything on top of the device, so the signal’s not obstructed.”

Not everyone needs a mesh network. They’re expensive, and mostly pay off in homes that require coverage over many thousands of square feet. But even if you have no need for their Wi-Fi signal strength, at least be grateful that they’ve given our ugliest technology a serious makeover.

5 Movies You Should Watch on HBO Go Right Now

WIRED — 8/29/2016 11:00:26 AM

HBO Go (or HBO Now, if you’re living the cord-free life) has one of the strangest movie selections imaginable. It’s full of early-’00s rom-coms, mid-’80s Tom Hanks adventures, and late-night Oscar-bait with titles like Bikini Model Mayhem. But there are plenty of overlooked and/or under-appreciated new-classics to be found there as well, if you dig around long enough. Here are five to get you started.

Cloak & Dagger

(1984)

If Stranger Things has you nostalgic for the latchkey-livin’, walkie-talkie-wielding kid-heroes of the ’80s, then you’ll go gooney for this Reagan-era spy thriller, in which E.T. star Henry Thomas plays an over-imaginative suburban kid who gets caught up in a conspiracy after witnessing a murder. Along the way, there’s a mysterious videogame cartridge, a creepy old couple, and a very scary showdown with a rifle-toting bad guy. A weird mix of kiddie hijinks and grown-up menace, Cloak & Dagger is the kind of hard-PG movie that would never get made today—and not just because one of its major plot points revolves around an Atari 5200.

If Stranger Things has you nostalgic for the latchkey-livin', walkie-talkie-wielding kid-heroes of the '80s, then you'll go gooney for this Reagan-era spy thriller, in which E.T. star Henry Thomas plays an over-imaginative suburban kid who gets caught up in a conspiracy after witnessing a murder. Along the way, there's a mysterious videogame cartridge, a creepy old couple, and a very scary showdown with a rifle-toting bad guy. A weird mix of kiddie hijinks and grown-up menace, Cloak & Dagger is the kind of hard-PG movie that would never get made today—and not just because one of its major plot points revolves around an Atari 5200.

Face/Off

(1997)

SOME RANDO DODO: “Oh, yeah—Face/Off. That movie’s kind of terrible. John Travolta plays a shouty cop, and Nicolas Cage plays a wild-eyed terrorist who at one point dresses up as a head-banging priest. Then they switch faces and start imitating one another’s over-acting. That all leads to a way-too-long boat chase, a prison riot, and a shoot-out set to ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’ Plus, John Woo directed it, so there are lots of doves and slow-motion and people saying ‘face-off’ in really melodramatic ways. It is violent and ridiculous and sometimes really crass.”

YOU: “Let me know when you get to the terrible parts.”

SOME RANDO DODO: “Oh, yeah—Face/Off. That movie’s kind of terrible. John Travolta plays a shouty cop, and Nicolas Cage plays a wild-eyed terrorist who at one point dresses up as a head-banging priest. Then they switch faces and start imitating one another's over-acting. That all leads to a way-too-long boat chase, a prison riot, and a shoot-out set to 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow.' Plus, John Woo directed it, so there are lots of doves and slow-motion and people saying 'face-off' in really melodramatic ways. It is violent and ridiculous and sometimes really crass."

YOU: "Let me know when you get to the terrible parts."

Frailty

(2001)

Bill Paxton’s directorial debut is a slow-building, flashback-filled gothic thriller about a crazed widower (Paxton) who’s gripped with the belief that he’s been instructed by angels to kill “sinful” strangers—and who recruits his two young sons to help him with his murder spree. Matthew McConaughey plays one of the kids as a grown-up, and as he finally makes a confession, Fraility starts getting darker and twistier. It’s a great little thriller that turns left just when you expect it to turn alright, alright, alright.

Bill Paxton's directorial debut is a slow-building, flashback-filled gothic thriller about a crazed widower (Paxton) who's gripped with the belief that he's been instructed by angels to kill "sinful" strangers—and who recruits his two young sons to help him with his murder spree. Matthew McConaughey plays one of the kids as a grown-up, and as he finally makes a confession, Fraility starts getting darker and twistier. It's a great little thriller that turns left just when you expect it to turn alright, alright, alright.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

(2015)

Everything that made this Armie Hammer-Henry Cavill spy-romp seem like so skippable when it was in theaters last summer—the ridiculous accents, the balsa-dry banter, the excessive explosions—somehow help make it a perfect cable movie. There’s not a single non-fun minute in this sleek, cheeky caper, which is full of playful one-liners and several crisp, deftly handled action sequences. Plus, everyone in the cast (which also includes Alicia Vikander) wears foxy clothes, gives foxy glances, and just luxuriates in the movie’s general foxiness. It’s way more F.U.N. than you might think.

Everything that made this Armie Hammer-Henry Cavill spy-romp seem like so skippable when it was in theaters last summer—the ridiculous accents, the balsa-dry banter, the excessive explosions—somehow help make it a perfect cable movie. There's not a single non-fun minute in this sleek, cheeky caper, which is full of playful one-liners and several crisp, deftly handled action sequences. Plus, everyone in the cast (which also includes Alicia Vikander) wears foxy clothes, gives foxy glances, and just luxuriates in the movie's general foxiness. It's way more F.U.N. than you might think.

Appropriate Behavior

(2014)

Desiree Akhavan wrote, directed, and starred in this sharply funny romantic comedy, playing a young Iranian-American whose break-up with her girlfriend sends her on a wanderlust around Brooklyn, seeking out romance, a job, or even just an idea of what the hell to do with her life. Appropriate has a lot of spot-on observations about young love and lust, but they’re all wrapped up in the warm, relaxed vibe of a late-summer 718 roof-top party.

Desiree Akhavan wrote, directed, and starred in this sharply funny romantic comedy, playing a young Iranian-American whose break-up with her girlfriend sends her on a wanderlust around Brooklyn, seeking out romance, a job, or even just an idea of what the hell to do with her life. Appropriate has a lot of spot-on observations about young love and lust, but they're all wrapped up in the warm, relaxed vibe of a late-summer 718 roof-top party.

This Aquanaut Is Defining the Next Era of Spaceflight

WIRED — 8/29/2016 11:00:08 AM

Megan McArthur has spent her life messing with microgravity. She was on the team that got the first commercial cargo mission to the International Space Station. She’s watched her friends launch in a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan. And as a NASA aerospace engineer, she was the flight engineer on the space shuttle’s last mission to repair the Hubble Telescope.

For Earthlings stuck here in 1G, getting to operate a robotic arm that wrangles Hubble into an airlock might seem like enough excitement for a lifetime. But earlier this month, McArthur also became the 50th person to orbit Earth—and live under the sea. The aquanaut-astronaut plunged into antigravity for the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations’ twenty-first mission. Along with eight other crew members, she spent 16 days aboard the underwater Aquarius Reef Base, conducting research in an environment that simulates space exploration.

NEEMO is the latest in a series of NASA-operated missions designed to inform spaceflight. (Another, the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, finishes a year-long program this week.) “We have great simulators at NASA, and they’re really good at teaching procedures,” says Bill Todd, who has been a spaceflight trainer for NASA since 1986 and founded NEEMO in 2000. “But the reality is, when it’s over, you go home and back to your family. You’re not learning how to live for extended periods of time in an isolated extreme environment.”

McArthur was primed for extremes from a young age. Her father was a naval aviator, and she grew up on air bases all over the world—where watching air shows got her interested in space flight. Eventually, she got a degree in aerospace engineering from UCLA.

Soon after graduation, a friend of McArthur’s heard about the Biennial International Human-Powered Submarine Races, a competition to construct underwater vehicles. She was in. “When we built it, I was the only one that would fit in the pilot spot,” says McArthur. And because it’s much more complicated to build a pressurized sub, the cockpit was open to the water. “I had to be on scuba in order to drive it, so I got certified.”

Previously obsessed with the wide open spaces above Earth, McArthur got sucked into the depths below. She found the Applied Ocean Science doctorate program at the University of California, San Diego, and spent her time there studying acoustic oceanography.

Between pursuing a pilot’s license on the side and deploying scientific instruments on the seafloor, her talents did not go unnoticed. “Conducting operations from a ship or underwater has some similarities to operating in space,” says McArthur. In the final year of her PhD, McArthur entered NASA’s astronaut class of 2000. For sixteen years, McArthur offered operational support for spaceflight missions, until she finally got chance to participate in NEEMO.

As Above, So Below

Over the course of the two-week NEEMO mission, McArthur and crew spacewalked into the sea, collecting data on coral reefs. They spent time researching a hypothesis that telomeres, nucleotide sequences that play a role in aging, might shorten during spaceflight. And they did all this while simulating similar time delays that astronauts experience while flying to Mars—about fifteen minutes on either end. “It’s about the crew being a little bit more autonomous,” says McArthur. “You have to provide concise, clear information that describes the problem you’re having, and the ground team needs to plan differently for how they’re going to provide the answer.”

The parallels to space don’t end there. One of McArthur’s favorite projects on this NEEMO mission was using Minion, the first DNA sequencer to go under the sea. “I sequence DNA in the laboratory, but it was cool to be able to take that underwater and be part of the team that was the first to do that,” says Dawn Karnagis, one of McArthur’s crew members (McArthur calls her “Dawn of the Deep”). One of the pocket-sized Minions went up to the ISS earlier this summer, too—and with it now in orbit, McArthur and Karnagis are excited to compare space and sea sequencing.

The NEEMO team swabbed samples around the Aquarius habitat and processed the collection with Minion, as well as sent it back to the surface for NASA to study with a standard sequencer. That’s different than the approach on the ISS—for now, sequencing is limited to preset samples launched up to the station. “The idea was that we could take environmental samples all the way through sequencing, so in the future that is something you could do in a space environment,” says McArthur. She may never make it back to space—but her work certainly will.

Forget the Pool. This Guy Chased Tornadoes All Summer

WIRED — 8/29/2016 11:00:04 AM

Here’s What Thor Was Doing During Captain America: Civil War

WIRED — 8/29/2016 7:40:24 AM

See what Thor was up to during #CaptainAmericaCivilWar! Get this & other bonus on Dig HD 9/2 https://t.co/tWbG2IIs9h pic.twitter.com/M97y6CM1Mg

— Marvel Studios (@MarvelStudios) August 28, 2016

Given the plethora of superhero cameos in Captain America: Civil War, it’s hard to believe anyone was left out. But of everyone who didn’t get to join in for the airport-tarmac-brawl fun, none was more sad to be missing out than Thor. And frankly, we were sad to be missing him. Now, thanks to the bonus features on the Civil War digital release, we can know what he was up to while his fellow Avengers were battling it out. In this mockumentary, which premiered during Marvel’s Hall H presentation at Comic-Con International, we find out that Thor went to Australia, got a roommate, and tried to mediate the fight between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers via email. He also started a yarn chart to figure out what’s up with the Infinity Stones. Created by Taika Waititi, who is currently directing Thor: Ragnarok, the clip has all the heart and deadpan humor of the director’s vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows and it’s pretty much perfect.

One Scientist’s Crazy Bet to Save the Bees: Join Monsanto

WIRED — 8/28/2016 9:00:44 PM

A Swarm of Controversy

In Their Struggle for Survival

Against Killer Mites, Bees Get

an Unlikely Ally: Monsanto

In Their Struggle for Survival Against Killer Mites, Bees Get an Unlikely Ally: Monsanto

by Hannah Nordhaus 08.28.16

Photographs by Dan Winters

M

“Make a fist,” says Jerry Hayes, waving his own in the air.

“Now put it someplace on you.” About 150 people, the audience at a honeybee panel at the 2014 South by Southwest Eco conference, place their fists on their shoulders or collarbones. “Proportionally, this is how large a varroa mite is compared to a honeybee’s body,” Hayes says. The reddish-brown parasite, just a dot to the naked eye, drains the life out of bees and delivers a deadly cargo of viruses. “It would be like having a parasitic rat on you, sucking your blood.”

Under a microscope, a varroa mite is a monster: armored and hairy, with eight legs and one piercing, sucking mouthpart, primordial in its horror. Since the parasite arrived in the United States from Asia in 1987, the practice of tending bees has grown immeasurably harder. Beekeepers must use harsh chemicals in their hives to kill the mites or risk losing most of their bees within two to three years. About a third of the nation’s honeybees have died each winter over the past decade, and Hayes, an apiary scientist, believes the varroa mite is a major factor in this catastrophe.

“It’s money! You’re gonna make money! And until then you’re gonna kill as many bees as you can!”

Hayes’ audience, however, believes something else. SXSW Eco is a conference for environmentalists, and these attendees are not inclined to blame the honeybee’s problems on an obscure arthropod. They’d rather blame Hayes. That’s because Hayes works for Monsanto, the St. Louis-based agricultural behemoth that environmentalists love to hate (and, I should add, the sponsor of this panel, which I am moderating).

When the Q&A session begins, a petite woman who looks to be in her twenties approaches the microphone. “The room feels kind of tense,” she says. She explains that she’d like to hear more about pesticides, specifically a class called neonicotinoids, which many people blame for honeybee deaths. “Because,” she says, “we definitely covered mites.”

On it goes, one pesticide question after the next. Last in line is a burly fellow with blondish dreadlocks. His name is Walter, and he wears a yellow “Central Texas Bee Rescue” T-shirt. “OK now,” Walter says to Hayes, “you said there were things that we could do to help the honeybee. But in none of those things did you ever suggest that we stop spraying poison.”

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Hayes begins a measured retelling of surveys, and data, and peer-reviewed studies. Varroa mites, he says, are a major threat to honeybees. Inadequate forage and nutrition are another, as is exposure to all kinds of agricultural and garden pesticides, some aimed at insects, others at mites, weeds, and fungi, all of which can work synergistically in the hive to—

Walter interrupts: “That’s shit you all made up.”

As the other panelists try to intercede, Walter shouts over them, “It’s money! You’re gonna make money!” You can see the spit flying. “And until then you’re gonna kill as many bees as you possibly can!”

Hayes is 62, lined and sinewy, his hair still dark. A gray-dappled beard frames his chin in such a way that his head seems to form a perfect rectangle. He doesn’t seek attention. He doesn’t talk about his feelings. As Walter continues, Hayes sits on the dais with his hands folded in front of him, silent, uncannily still.

B

Before he was a villain, Jerry Hayes was a hero. He considered himself one of the good guys. Many people did. They sought his advice. They smiled at him. “I like,” Hayes says, “to have people smile at me.”

Since the early 1980s Hayes has written “The Classroom,” an advice column for the American Bee Journal, America’s oldest bee magazine. He is Dear Abby for beekeepers, counseling readers on everything from capturing swarms to making shoe polish from beeswax. (To Tommy, a North Carolina beekeeper asking why his bees swarmed too late to survive the winter: “Sometimes the stupid gene expresses itself, Tommy. Genes are always testing themselves to see if they bring reproductive value.”)

For eight years before he joined Monsanto, Hayes ran Florida’s Apiary Inspection Section, which regulates the state’s bees and their keepers. More than 300 of Florida’s 4,000 registered beekeepers move their hives into the state for the winter—“like people from New Jersey,” Hayes says—and then, as spring approaches, pack them on trucks, 480 hives per semi, and head west and north to pollinate almonds, cherries, apples, blueberries, cranberries, vine fruits, pit fruits, onions, legumes—over $15 billion of US crops a year.

“We didn’t know what this was,” Hayes says, “but we had to give it a name.” They called it colony collapse disorder.

At summer’s end, those trucks return to Florida, carrying not only bees and honey but also viruses, bacteria, mites, beetles, ants, and fungi the bees picked up along the way. Hayes’ inspectors were tasked with intercepting those pests and pathogens before they spread to the rest of Florida’s—and the nation’s—bees. Add this to the list of weird stuff that happens in Florida: It’s where major honeybee plagues tend to begin.

Hayes was good at the job. Florida beekeepers came to see him and his 14 inspectors as allies rather than adversaries. “I didn’t want us to be the bee police,” he says. In 2006, Hayes was elected president of the Apiary Inspectors of America.

That same year, a commercial beekeeper in Florida named David Hackenberg discovered that his apparently healthy bees had disappeared and reported it to Hayes. Other beekeepers had similar accounts. Late one night, as the losses mounted—the nation would lose a third of its bees that winter—Hayes got on the phone with a group of alarmed entomologists. “We didn’t know what this was,” Hayes says, “but we felt we had to give it a name.” They called it colony collapse disorder.

By early the next year, the Internet was abuzz with theories about CCD. It offered a litany of dystopian ecological conspiracies: cell phones interfering with bee navigation, or genetically modified corn syrup, or neonicotinoid pesticides. But no one really knew.

A

Around that time, Hayes went to a seminar about a gene modification technique called RNA interference. DNA is, of course, the spiraling, double-stranded molecule that encodes genetic information and determines everything about us: whether our eyes are blue or if we’re more likely to suffer a particular cancer. But the genome also relies on RNA—the single-stranded version of genetic code used in the protein factories of the cell.

RNA can also “silence” specific genes, preventing an organism from using them to make proteins. In 1998 scientists discovered that they could engineer stretches of double-stranded RNA to do the same thing. As a lab technique, RNA interference—or RNAi—turned out to be useful for learning about genes by turning them off. It also showed promise in fighting viruses, cancers, and even harmful pests and parasites. The researchers at the seminar were talking about using RNAi to prevent mosquitoes from spreading malaria, but that gave Hayes another idea. “I thought, could this be adapted to honeybee predator control?” In other words: to kill mites.

An Israeli company called Beeologics was thinking along similar lines. Beeologics’ president, Eyal Ben-Chanoch, didn’t actually know much about bees. But he knew people were worried about CCD, and he thought that a product aimed at fighting it would garner attention for his company. So he directed his researchers to look at using RNAi to control a bee disease that seemed related to CCD called Israeli acute paralysis virus. Ben-Chanoch heard that Hayes had been asking about the technology at bee conferences, got in touch, and set up a collaboration on field trials in Florida.

RNAi works like tweezers, plucking its victims with exquisite specificity by clicking into sequences of their unique genetic code.

Beeologics soon got the attention Ben-Chanoch had hoped for. News stories about the company’s forthcoming “affordable cure” for CCD attracted the eyes of executives at Monsanto. The company was already working on an RNAi-enhanced corn plant, engineered to disable the maize-eating Western corn rootworm, and researchers there saw even more potential. Traditional pesticides act like chemical backhoes, killing their targets (beetles, weeds, viruses) but harming good things along the way (beneficial insects, birds, fish, humans). RNAi, in theory, works instead like a set of tweezers, plucking its victims with exquisite specificity by clicking into sequences of genetic code unique to that organism. “If you could design an ideal pesticide, this is the stuff you’re looking for,” says Pamela Bachman, a toxicologist at Monsanto.

The problem was that synthesizing RNA was too expensive. But Beeologics found a way to do it at a relatively low cost and was testing it in Hayes’ Florida beehives. In 2011, Monsanto bought Beeologics and its RNAi tech and offered Hayes a job explaining it to beekeepers.

H

Hayes had serious reservations. He was happy in Florida. So was his family—his wife, Kathy, and their four children, two of whom were still in school. And he liked being an apiary inspector. The beekeeping industry was small, and he knew all the players. Monsanto had 22,000 employees, few of whom knew anything about honeybees. “Beekeepers look at Monsanto and other Big Ag companies as the enemy, spraying chemicals and killing bees’ forage,” Hayes says. He would be a lonely voice there: a man who loved insects in a place where insects are the enemy.

He had other concerns. There was the company’s nickname among eco-activists: Monsatan. And its lofty ranking on any list of the world’s most despised corporations. There were the muckraking documentaries (Seeds of Death, GMO OMG), the Twitter hashtag (#monsantoevil), the protest groups (Occupy Monsanto, Bee Against Monsanto). There were the rumors of farmers in India driven to suicide by GMO-incurred debt, the tales of sullied gene pools and browbeaten scientists and university stooges and journalist shills and Brobdingnagian government influence.

The rhetoric offended Hayes’ sense of fairness. He knew that environmentalists linked colony collapse to neonicotinoid insecticides and that they thought Monsanto was somehow to blame. But he also knew that Monsanto doesn’t make insecticides. The company’s most famous product, glyphosate—that’s Roundup—kills plants. Its second-most famous product—Roundup-ready seeds—allows plants to resist its most famous product.

There was a symbiosis there: Like flowers and bees, Monsanto and Hayes could exploit each other to their own ends.

Nor was Hayes convinced that neonicotinoids explained honeybee losses in the first place. When neonics came to market in the 1990s, farmers and environmentalists welcomed them as far less toxic to birds and mammals than earlier insecticides. Some studies raised concerns about sublethal effects on honeybees like impaired navigation, reproduction, and immune systems, but larger field studies didn’t.

Hayes came to realize that the same elements that cause people to loathe and fear Monsanto—its size, its resources, its influence on agricultural practices, its headlong embrace of futuristic technologies—presented an opportunity. “It has more money than any group that I’ve ever worked with,” he says.

As for Monsanto, “we wanted the process”—the RNAi technology—says Billy Brennan, the company’s international communications manager, “but we saw a tremendous opportunity to support honeybee health.” People were worried about dying bees; the company could show it was trying to help. There was a symbiosis there: Like flowers and bees, Monsanto and Hayes could exploit each other to their own ends.

Hayes and his wife had converted to Mormonism after their first child was born. And though he joined the church too late to travel the world preaching gospel, he nonetheless sees himself as a missionary. He wants to make a difference. “So,” he says, “I decided to stick my neck way outside of my shell.” He took the job.

RNAi versus the bee killer

A technique called RNA interference can alter how genes make proteins—and possibly fight pests like the varroa mite.

—Jennifer Chaussee

Parents Didn’t Just Dislike Super Nintendo 25 Years Ago—They Thought It Was a Scam

WIRED — 8/28/2016 11:00:41 AM

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System is 25 years old. That means it’s been 25 years since Americans first learned, sometimes painfully, that game consoles have an expiration date.

It’s not without good reason that the 16-bit followup to Nintendo’s incredibly popular 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System is considered one of the all-time great gaming consoles. Kicking off with the massive, superbly designed Super Mario World, the cutting-edge tech in the SNES produced colorful graphics, nifty technological tricks, and high-fidelity soundtracks that powered the most impressive games of the pixel era. Just two years later, SNES games would have the power to handle real 3-D graphics, foreshadowing the industry’s incipient shift from sprites to polygons.

When Nintendo launched the SNES, videogame products didn’t have official release dates. The console had already been available in Japan as the Super Famicom for about a year. Stateside, shipments started trickling out starting sometime in August of 1991, and it was a bit of a crapshoot as to when your local store would have it on the shelf. By early September, Nintendo confirmed that SNES was finally available everywhere.

And parents did not like it, not one bit.

Through poring over a year’s worth of breathless in-depth features in Nintendo’s in-house propaganda magazine Nintendo Power, kids already understood all of the advantages the SNES had over the old NES. I personally became a little 11-year-old expert, expounding on the subject of translucency to anyone who would listen. But America’s parents didn’t need to hear any mumbo-jumbo about Mode 7 scaling; they knew a scam when they saw one.

“Now we have to have another unit, just for one game? It doesn’t seem right,” said one parent on a local news broadcast. “Nintendo Risks Parental Wrath With New System,” read a headline quoted in the 1993 book Game Over.

Parents were upset that you needed a Super Nintendo to play the latest Mario game, and they were really upset at what they saw as a massive sunk cost: Their children had amassed libraries of 8-bit titles, purchased at $30-50 a pop over a half-decade of birthdays and Christmases, and the new Super Nintendo was incompatible with them. Nintendo would continue to provide new software for those who only had an 8-bit NES for the next few years, but the bottom dropped out of the 8-bit market very quickly, and developers would abandon it entirely by 1994. It was consumers, not Nintendo, who were about to drop 8-bit like a hot potato. But nobody knew, in the fall of 1991, just how fast that was going to happen, making the Super Nintendo seem, to some, like an unnecessary expense.

“I’m going to say no, and I’m going to explain to him how people market things to make you spend more money,” said one mom on another local news broadcast, one that opened with the anchor intoning that, this time, Nintendo might have gone too far.

But of course, Nintendo had no choice. The NES was cutting-edge gaming hardware—in 1983. By 1991, it was creaky and ancient, and even though it was incredibly popular (30 percent of American households owned one), it couldn’t last forever. Nintendo delayed the inevitable as long as it could, but even by 1989 competitors were nipping at its heels. The TurboGrafx-16 and Sega Genesis could run laps around the NES, and even had optional CD-ROM technology. Nintendo not only had to keep up, it actually had to leapfrog the competition since it was releasing two years late.

Nintendo could have just presented a souped-up NES, but instead it created a powerful piece of custom gaming hardware that literally added a new dimension to its gameplay. “Mode 7” was a built-in hardware function of the SNES that allowed a game designer to create a bitmapped background, then rotate and skew that image on the fly. Super Mario World used that power for some simple, cheesy graphical tricks, like causing a boss enemy to blow up in size, then shrink down to nothing. But the SNES’ other two launch titles, a racing game called F-Zero and a flight simulator called Pilotwings, used Mode 7 to create the illusion of 3-D graphics. Soon after, Nintendo would introduce the Super FX chip, which could be included on a game cartridge to let the SNES do real polygon-based 3-D processing. Nintendo could see the future, and SNES was built to bridge that dimensional gap.

I hardly think I need to convince a 2016 audience that Nintendo had to, eventually, upgrade its gaming hardware. Today we accept that computer power advances rapidly, and every few years you need to upgrade your phone, your tablet, your console. But at the time, it simply wasn’t taken for granted.

The Nintendo Entertainment System was not the first piece of gaming hardware. But during the Atari-centric era that preceded it, there had never been such an evolve-or-die moment. Atari did follow up its popular 2600 game platform with the more powerful 5200, but it never transitioned its game development efforts from one to the other. The 5200 was a more expensive option, but the majority of its games were also available on 2600. And the game industry crashed and burned, game consoles thrown in the trash, before Atari ever had to attempt to convince 2600 owners to upgrade or lose out.

So the NES-SNES transition that began 25 years ago was the first time anyone had to deal with that reality. It was also the last time there was ever such a stink made about it, as periodic upgrades quickly became the new normal. But that doesn’t mean it was easy. Nintendo soon found out that while its customers soon didn’t mind the idea of upgrading, there was nothing forcing them to upgrade to another Nintendo machine. They could just as easily trade in their Super NES for a Sony PlayStation five years later, and many of them did.

Today, console makers are looking to avoid that situation. At this year’s E3 Expo, Microsoft announced Project Scorpio, a new iteration of its Xbox One console that would be backward and forward compatible—that is, all games would be playable on both the existing Xbox One and the new Scorpio, with upgrades in the case of the latter. Its chief competitor Sony, too, is likely to show off a project codenamed PlayStation Neo next month, which is another upgrade that won’t leave owners of the previous system behind. By switching to a model of incremental, optional upgrades, both companies could avoid the chaos that comes with abrupt console transitions.

Nintendo, meanwhile, might be looking at another NES-to-SNES transition next year, since its upcoming NX console, to be released in March 2017, is not said to be backward compatible with its current Wii U. But as Super Mario World showed on the SNES, it really didn’t matter if consumers had to give up their current library of games, as long as the new library was sufficiently awesome. And as those local news reports showed, all the parental complaints in the world didn’t much matter: the Super Nintendo started flying off shelves from the very first day.

A Chopper Just Projected Video Onto a Giant Screen Towed by Another Chopper

WIRED — 8/28/2016 11:00:15 AM

If you watched the night skies over New York City on Wednesday, you might have seen a UFO. It zoomed over the Hudson River like a colossal ghost—a ghost that looked like Ariana Grande.

Here’s the weirdest part: You weren’t hallucinating. To promote the upcoming MTV Video Music Awards, a pair of helicopters cruised over the Hudson. One towed a 250-foot-wide banner, and a second flew alongside it, beaming video onto the banner.

Obviously, flying a Jumbotron is not possible, so we had to find a new way. Branding By Air director of technology Ryan Osbourne The result was an airborne video loop of Grande, Nicki Minaj, and the MTV Video Awards logo, all projected onto a screen twice the width of a drive-in movie screen, and almost as wide as the Statue of Liberty is tall. It was a feat conceived and performed by Branding By Air, an “aerial marketing” firm that’s launched everything from giant shoes to massive beer cans into the skies. This particular stunt was the first of its kind, earning Branding By Air and MTV a spot in the Guinness World Record books for the largest aerial projection screen.

“MTV is known for delivering firsts,” says Dario Spina, EVP of marketing at Viacom Velocity. “We like the innovation behind this. It takes an old-school piece of media and elevates it with new technology.”

Branding By Air director of technology Ryan Osbourne says his company has been testing the stunt for two years. The problem they wanted to solve was straightforward: It’s too dark to see the company’s other creative aerial banners at night.

“When the sun set, it disappeared,” Osbourne says. “Obviously, flying a Jumbotron is not possible, so we had to find a new way.”

Osbourne’s team conducted wind-tunnel testing in Australia, using scale models to optimize the aerodynamics of dragging a massive piece of fabric through the air. Seemingly simple things such as retaining a 16:9 aspect ratio on a massive flapping banner required a lot of engineering.

Branding By Air makes its own banners; its team stitches together rows of fabric to make a larger banner. That pieced-together approach helps the giant flag respond forgivingly to wind gusts and torque. Pockets at the top of the massive banner help lift it, while weight bags at the bottom of it help it fly square. All that gives the projector a flatter surface to project onto.

The stunt actually used three 4K projectors, stacked on top of one another in the Huey flying about 200 feet away from the screen. With all the equipment onboard, Osbourne says the military aircraft is the only type of helicopter muscular enough to carry all the cargo while flying steadily. The image from each projector overlaps on the screen, improving some aspects of image quality.

“You don’t so much gain lumens when you do that, you gain color saturation,” Osbourne explains. The setup has significantly more power than a movie-theater projector, although it doesn’t necessarily look as bright—it’s projecting onto a screen from much further away. “At peak performance, it’s 60,000 lumens,” he says, though this most recent stunt only required 40,000 lumens.

As crazy as it was to see this new form of in-flight entertainment over the Hudson, there are upcoming technological improvements that Osbourne hopes will make the experience even better. A few times during Wednesday’s flight, the video projection was off-target for a few seconds. And although the screen was big and visible, the projection wasn’t always tack-sharp; it could be difficult to make out what was being projected onto it.

But if everything went perfectly, it would have been boring. Osbourne is hoping new tech can improve the process.

“The first thing I’d wish for is that everything becomes a lot lighter,” Osbourne explains. “That way, I wouldn’t need a Huey. Those things are expensive to fly. Laser projectors are coming, and I can’t wait for that. Power sources, with the help of people like Elon Musk, would make things more accessible and safer.”

As for using drones instead of choppers, that won’t happen anytime soon.

“As far as towing a banner, they just don’t have the minerals,” Osbourne says. “They’re not quite strong enough. They’ll get there, but at the moment, we need drones that are flown by humans… aka helicopters.”

Meet the Swankiest People of America’s Swankiest Car Competition

WIRED — 8/28/2016 11:00:08 AM

For one week every August, the center of the car world shifts away from Detroit, from Germany, from Silicon Valley, and settles on California’s Monterey Peninsula. In the space of a few days, auction houses sell off hundreds of fantastic vehicles for absurd amounts of money. Historic cars race at the nearby Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca track, while the intentionally terrible cars of the Concours de LeMons go on display at a local park.

The wealthy elbow each other to grasp the free caviar and champagne at the more exclusive Quail: A Motorsports Gathering, where classic cars don’t race or compete—they just show off. Luxury automakers vie for the attention and wallets of potential customers with pop-up shops and exorbitant dinners.

The defining event of the week, the kernel around which this extravagance puffs, is the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It’s a fierce, if quiet, competition in which 200 cars line up on the 18th hole of the Pebble Beach golf course. There, they compete for the favor of judges who value historical accuracy and that more elusive quality—elegance—above all else. But it’s also a place to see and be seen, where all the dogs are fancy, all the hats are striking, and all the metal gleams. Here’s a look.

Say Bye to Those Awesomely Clackety Train Station Displays

WIRED — 8/28/2016 11:00:04 AM

You hear it before you see it—the whirring clack of plastic flaps as they turn over to display a new set of numbers and letters. For more than three decades, a mechanical flip board made by the Italian company Solari has guided passengers as they travel through Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, but things are about to sound (and look) a lot different. The station is the latest, and among the last in the country, to ditch its Solari board for a newer, quieter digital departures screen.

No big deal—a departures board is a departures board, right? Not if you ask Philly travelers:

This makes me flippin’ mad: https://t.co/5UvgvzVDlH

— David Boardman (@dlboardman) August 25, 2016

Irrational? Perhaps. But the Solari board @ 30th St is so cool. I’d hoped to show my nieces & nephews… oh well. 😞 https://t.co/9mCYwzZjgq

— Ebony Elizabeth (@Ebonyteach) August 26, 2016

Over the years, Solari boards have become beloved pieces of urban infrastructure. Much like the clock at Manhattan’s Grand Central or the marquee on an old movie theater, they serve as a charmingly analog landmarks that conjure some imagined idyllic past. The boards are an intricate construction of moving parts. Every character you see is part of a module that has 40 plastic flaps with the letters A through Z, numbers 0 through 9, and a few useful symbols. Those modules are controlled by software-run step motors that spin the flaps around like a Rolodex until they land on the character needed to help spell out the information. “It’s a very mechanical system,” says Joe DeCarlo, Solari’s general manager in New York City. Those mechanics are the reason the board makes its beloved clacking sound.

DeCarlo explains that a few decades ago, Solari boards could be found in the majority of Amtrak train stations. Today, Philadelphia is one of the last remaining US stations to use the flappety signs. It makes sense. Now we have phones to tell us where to go and when—the new digital screens in train stations and airports are just an extension of our personal devices. DeCarlo says he’s watched his company move away from the transit business and into personalized signs for bars and restaurants. “The nostalgic look isn’t what transit is looking for,” he says. “They’re looking for more function over form.”

There’s good reason for this. What a digital board lacks in charm, it makes up for in efficiency. “It’s not just the board—it’s the system,” says Mike Tolbert of Amtrak. Philadelphia’s current Solari board runs on … Windows 95. “The Philly board probably has printed circuits that were developed in the 1960s,” DeCarlo says. Charming, but not exactly reliable. A digital board is more dynamic and flexible. It’s able to display updates to gates and delays in real time. The station can stream safety videos or sporting events. “You couldn’t put that on a flap sign, that’s for sure,” DeCarlo says. The visuals, too, are clearer and designed with disabilities in mind. By all accounts, a digital screen is the better screen. And yet, people still yearn for the analog Solari boards.

The next incarnation of Philadelphia’s departures board is currently in the design stage, so it’s unclear exactly what will replace the Solari board. DeCarlo says some stations, like in Secaucas, New Jersey, are opting for video screens that look and sound like a vintage Solari boards—a video animation mimics the spinning plastic flaps while a speaker plays the familiar clacking sound. DeCarlo figures more stations might go this route, as a way to balance nostalgia with practicality. It’s not a perfect replication, he says, “but it does the trick.”

Canon’s 5D Mark IV Is Here, With 4K Capability and Improved Autofocus

WIRED — 8/27/2016 11:00:47 AM

Look in the hands of a pro photographer or videographer at a live event or a wedding, and you’ll frequently see them holding a Canon EOS 5D Mark III. The a full-frame mainstay is a top tool of choice for a number of reasons: top-grade performance, superb photo and video quality, deep controls, and a big sensor that excels in low light.

The only “problem” with the 5D Mark III is that it came out in early 2012. While cameras—especially pro models—generally retain their value longer than other forms of technology, many features have become the norm since then. Autofocus systems have improved drastically in recent years. 4K video is solidly mainstream. Built-in wireless features are common.

The new Canon EOS 5D Mark IV addresses many of those recent expectations, and given the high marks given to of past 5D models, the new version should become the new omnipresent pro DSLR. It’s the first model in the 5D series with Canon’s insanely fast “Dual Pixel AF” technology, which uses phase-detection photosites on each pixel of the sensor. Staying locked on a moving subject fluidly while capturing video or shooting continuously should be much easier.

Its 3.2-inch rear LCD display is now a touchscreen, which will help you lock in on subjects with a simple screen tap. And this new camera gets a brand-new feature from Canon, dubbed “Dual Pixel RAW,” which expands the powers of its unique sensor. Like a more-limited version of Lytro, you can tweak an image’s focal point ever so slightly after you take it.

Those new focus features are a huge bonus for videographers. It’s the first camera in the 5D series to shoot 4K video, capturing 4096×2160 footage at 24p or 30p. But it also shoots HDR video, albeit at a maximum resolution and frame rate of 1080p/30fps.

Other upgrades include higher-resolution images (30 megapixels versus the Mark III’s 22 megapixels); a slightly faster continuous-shooting speed (7fps versus 6fps); and Wi-Fi, NFC, and GPS capabilities built right in. The ISO range remains the same, spanning from 50 to 102,400, and the camera still has one Compact Flash and one SD/SDHC/SDXC slot.

Pro cameras aren’t cheap, especially ones with the 5D Mark IV’s skill set. Due in September, it’ll set you back $3,500 for the body only. Your old lenses should all transfer over without any problems, but there are also new lenses and kit packages to choose from.

Forget Self-Driving Cars. Let’s Make Self-Driving Living Rooms

WIRED — 8/27/2016 11:00:38 AM

The imminent arrival of the self-driving car will change how people move around city streets, but they could do so much more.

The Tridika is a conceptual driverless electric vehicle I created to change how we use cars in our ever-growing cities, where space is expensive and limited. Inspired by Thyssenkrupp’s Willy Wonka-esque Multi elevator, the Tridika works like a self-driving car you can literally park next to your apartment and use as an additional room.

Instead of wheels, it works like a maglev train: magnets lift and propel the vehicle. It pulls its electricity from the tracks, and takes you wherever you command. The boxy shape optimizes interior space: You could configure it to travel with up to six passengers or create a fair-sized office space to work while you commute. New apartment towers and condos could be designed and built to accommodate them.

Charles Bombardier

About

A mechanical engineer and a member of the family whose aerospace and transportation company, Bombardier’s actually at his best when he ignores pesky things like budgets, timelines, and contemporary physics. Since 2013, he’s run a blog cataloging more than 200 concepts, each a fantastic, farfetched new way for people to travel through land, air, water, and space. His ideas are most certainly out there, but it’s Bombardier’s sort of creative thinking that keeps us moving forward.

Tridika would connect to the outer wall of the building using a dedicated ramp, get picked up by a mechanical elevator system, and station itself in front of your apartment unit. A large sliding door on the side of the unit would open to let you enter your condo. A similar door inside your unit would open simultaneously by detecting the encrypted signature of your Tridika or smartphone.

Think how easy it would be to enter your home directly from the elevator with your arms full of groceries!

The Tridika could also be used with a townhouse or fitted inside existing garages. You could use it as a people mover, too, carry folks in certain residential areas where the infrastructure would already be in place. In this case, you would simply order the vehicle and pay your fare with your smartphone.

It may seem wild, but why shouldn’t people use their vehicles for purposes other than transport?

I developed the Tridika concept with Ashish Thulkar, a vehicle designer at the Indian Institute of Science. Thulkar also created the drone tower concept.

Takata Truck Explodes, Kills Texas Woman

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 6:19:00 PM

DETROIT — Air bag maker Takata Corp.'s troubles worsened Monday as the company confirmed that a truck carrying its inflators and a volatile chemical exploded last week in a Texas border town, killing a woman and injuring four others.

The truck, operated by a subcontractor, crashed, caught fire and exploded Aug. 22 in the small town of Quemado, about 140 miles from San Antonio, leveling the woman's house. The company says it sent people to the site and is helping authorities investigate the crash.

Takata has a warehouse in nearby Eagle Pass, Texas, and it has an air bag inflator factory across the border in Monclova, Mexico.

Related: Takata Warns of Annual Loss, Recall and Sales Woes Only Set to Mount

The News Gram of Eagle Pass identified the victim as Lucila Robles.

Takata says it has strict procedures covering transportation of its products that meet all government regulations. The explosion left debris up to two miles from where the truck crashed, The News Gram reported.

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Takata sent employees to the Quemado Public Library last week to advise residents to report any suspicious material on their property so it could be disposed of properly, the newspaper said. Authorities searched the area with metal detectors in an effort to find any inflator canisters.

Sheriff Tom Schmerber told the paper that to his knowledge, the county clean-up has finished.

Robles charred vehicle was one of the only items remaining at the scene of her home. It was later taken away.

Related: 7 Automakers Add 4.4M Vehicles to Takata Recall

Takata uses ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion that fills air bags in a crash. But the chemical can deteriorate when exposed to prolonged heat and humidity and burn too fast. That can blow apart a metal canister and hurl shrapnel into drivers and passengers. At least 11 people, and probably 14, have died worldwide due to Takata inflator explosions. The deaths have occurred in the United States and Malaysia, where three remain under investigation.

The Takata factory in Monclova made the faulty inflators that were blamed in several of the deaths.

The deaths and more than 100 injuries sparked a massive global recall of more than 100 million inflators, including 69 million in the U.S. in what has become the largest automotive recall in U.S. history.

Earlier this month Takata stuck to its forecast of a $129 million profit for the fiscal year through March. It reported a quarterly profit of $19.8 million from April through June. But analysts note that recall costs that are now being shouldered by automakers eventually will be billed to the Tokyo-based Takata, which has had two straight years of losses over the recalls.

Takata also faces multiple class-action lawsuits over its defective air bag inflators.

© 2016 NBCNews.com

Will History Be Kind to Colin Kaepernick?

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 5:46:23 PM

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is well-known for his scrambling on the football field, but he has not dodged the off-the-field controversy generated recently by his decision to stay on the bench while the national anthem was performed.

"Ultimately it's to bring awareness and make people realize what's really going on in this country," Kaepernick told the San Jose Mercury News on Sunday. "There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust, people aren't being held accountable for, that's something that needs to change ... this country stands for liberty, freedom, justice for all. And it's not happening for all right now."

And while Kaepernick has also said he has "great respect" for the men and women in the U.S. military, which he says includes family members and friends, he feels he can't "stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."

Kaepernick, who is biracial, has been increasingly outspoken on social media about recent police shootings of unarmed black men, the presidential election and other civil rights issues. His recent behavior is just the latest example of a long history of professional athletes taking what they consider to be principled stands against what they see as injustice in the world.

The late Muhammad Ali famously refused to serve in the Vietnam War. Olympians John Carlos and Tommie Smith threw up a black power salute during the 1968 games. More recently, several NBA and NFL players have made subtle and overt gestures to show their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and victims of alleged police brutality.

Related: Rams' 'hands up, don't shoot' protest part of a sports tradition

Kaepernick isn't even the first professional athlete to sit out a popular patriotic anthem in protest. Back in 2004, then-Toronto Blue Jays slugger Carlos Delgado drew the ire and respect of many fans for refusing to participate in the ceremonial singing of "God Bless America" during games, in part because of his opposition to the Iraq War.

The Puerto Rican-born player said at the time: "It's a very terrible thing that happened on September 11. It's [also] a terrible thing that happened in Afghanistan and Iraq … I just feel so sad for the families that lost relatives and loved ones in the war. But I think it's the stupidest war ever."

In 1996, the Denver Nuggets' Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was suspended for one game by the NBA after he refused to stand for the National Anthem, citing his personal and religious beliefs. He and the league eventually reached a compromise where he would bow his head and pray silently during the song.

And last year, some members of the Minnesota Twins raised eyebrows when they were no-shows during the performance of the anthem. However, their absence had nothing to do with politics, according to the team.

Still, Kaepernick's unique background and tenuous stature in the NFL have made the timing and the tenor of his refusal to rise for "The Star Spangled Banner" particularly striking.

In 2012, the 49ers plucked him out of relative obscurity to become the back-up quarterback to Alex Smith. When Smith was sidelined during a strong season, Kaepernick took the reins and, in a controversial decision, then-coach Jim Harbaugh kept him under center as the new QB. He then set a record for rushing yards in his position — leading his team all the way to the Super Bowl. After a miserable first half, Kaepernick brought the team within one play of winning the title. And even though they came up short, an unlikely star was born.

Related: OpEd: Colin Kaepernick's Boycott is His Right

Although Kaepernick's tattoos and style of play did not fit the traditional quarterback profile, he was heralded as perhaps the future face of the league, as a plethora of endorsements rolled in. Even as his fame grew, Kaepernick did not shy away from addressing issues related to race, which has often been a thorny subject for quarterbacks of color.

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The son of a black father and white mother, Kaepernick never knew his birth parents. He was adopted at 6 weeks old by a white couple from Wisconsin. "I knew I was different to my parents and my older brother and sister," he said last year. "I never felt that I was supposed to be white. Or black, either. My parents just wanted to let me be who I needed to be."

All Sports Everything founder and editor Shana Renee Stephenson believes that Kaepernick's upbringing may have made him even more cognizant of the prejudices that some white Americans harbor towards black Americans.

"His white parents raised a black man in America to know he was a black man in America, to be conscious of racial bias when it arises," she told NBC News. "As a result, Kaepernick's racial identity is firmly rooted in his personal experiences, observations, as well as the historical context of race in America — all from the vantage point of being a black man in America."

Kaepernick has been quoted as saying: "My racial heritage is something I want people to be well aware of. I do want to be a representative of the African community, and I want to hold myself and dress myself in a way that reflects that. I want black kids to see me and think: 'Okay, he's carrying himself as a black man, and that's how a black man should carry himself.'"

This statement is a far cry from the kinds of remarks on race made by fellow QBs of color like Cam Newton and Russell Wilson, who have seemed to take great pains to appear post-racial.

Unfortunately for Kaepernick, unlike those two superstars, he has struggled over the last two seasons, as he has chafed under new coaches, offensive schemes, and a sense that the 49ers franchise itself is in disarray.

To many football observers, this season was make or break for the 28-year-old, and his less-than-stellar pre-season performance has led some experts to predict he wouldn't even make the roster this season — and that was even before the national anthem flap.

Related: 'Bigger than football': Why NFL player Colin Kaepernick sat through the national anthem

Right now, Kaepernick reportedly has the support of his teammates and some prominent figures in the game, even if the organization and league have distanced themselves from his actions. If he is cut by this team, it's unclear whether another squad would take a chance on such a polarizing player, but there a certainly a number of franchises with needs at the quarterback position.

"The quarterback position is so bereft in the NFL, I'd be surprised if they cut him and I'd be shocked if another team didn't take a chance on a player with his skill set," Edge of Sports writer Dave Zirin told NBC News. "If that happens? We'll know that the right wing politics that dominate NFL owners boxes was more powerful than their desire to win."

Meanwhile, Kaepernick's opponents are making their anger known by tweeting memes mocking his personal wealth (he is owed $11.9 million by the 49ers) as a symbol of his supposed hypocrisy, pointing out that he was once fined for hurling a racial slur at another player. Some have even taken to setting his jersey on fire. And his actions have inspired a spirited debate online about what role athletes can and should play in terms of political debate, and whether not paying respect to "The Star Spangled Banner" is a bridge too far.

"We're out here playing a game... People are losing their life, and you don't have the common courtesy to do that." https://t.co/TvHvT2QFjn

Two months ago: "We all should admire Muhammad Ali's courageous stand for his beliefs."

Today: "Colin Kaepernick is ungrateful!"

Kaep is using his platform & brand to make a compelling & polarizing point, which is his right, even if it's met with ire!#idontagree

Considering how much flack American gymnast Gabby Douglas received simply for failing to put her hand over her heart during the performance of the anthem at the Rio Games, it stands to reason that Kaepernick's outspokenness (he has called GOP nominee Donald Trump "openly racist," for instance) could reverberate for the rest of what is left of his career.

"If this is how it all ends for Kaepernick, then kudos to him for not compromising his beliefs for the sake of a check. There are certain things you can't put a value on, and your convictions should be one of them," said Stephenson. "Shame on the NFL and its franchises for not supporting a player's right to exercise his First Amendment."

It is worth noting that while Smith, Carlos and Ali, are now honored for using their platforms to speak their mind — they were all vilified during their heyday, as excoriated for many of the same reasons as Kaepernick is today.

"The arc of history bends toward justice," said Zirin. "People will look back at this moment in history and wonder why more people didn't step up. The writers who are bashing will be remembered for all the wrong reasons."

© 2016 NBCNews.com

Bus Slams Into Crash Scene, Killing Two

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 5:44:33 PM

Two people, including a fire chief, are dead after a bus slammed into a fire truck already responding to a previous crash on Louisiana's Interstate 10 Sunday morning. WDSU's Jennifer Crockett reports.

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10000th Syrian Refugee Will Arrive in the US Today - NBCNews.com

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 5:34:24 PM

The 10,000th Syrian refugee will arrive in the U.S. on Monday — meeting a humanitarian goal the Obama administration set last year.

"On behalf of the President and his Administration, I extend the warmest of welcomes to each and every one of our Syrian arrivals, as well as the many other refugees resettled this year from all over the world," National Security Advisor Susan Rice said in a statement.

Rice did not announce the name of the refugee or where in the U.S. that person will be resettled. But she said the feds reached President Obama's goal to admit 10,000 Syrians this fiscal year — a month ahead of deadline.

"The President understood the important message this decision would send, not just to the Syrian people but to the broader international community," Rice said. "Millions have been displaced by the violence in the region, but this decision still represented a six-fold increase from the prior year, and was a meaningful step that we hope to build upon."

More than 4.8 million Syrians have fled since a civil war began tearing their homeland apart — but less than two percent of them have landed in the U.S., according to the State Department.

Almost half of the new Americans are 14 and under and 62 percent are under age 20, the feds said. The top two destinations in the U.S. for the Syrians are Michigan, which has long been a destination for Syrian immigrants, and California.

Where in the U.S. Have Syrian Refugees Settled?

"Thousands of families from Syria have found safety on our shores, and that is a wonderful thing," said Tarah Demant, senior director with Amnesty International USA. "But so many are still trapped in horrific conditions in refugee camps or war zones. The U.S. must do more to uphold its responsibility to do all it can to protect those fleeing human rights abuses."

Lina Sergie Attar of the Chicago-based Karam Foundation agreed.

"I hope that the United States will continue to welcome thousands more Syrian families who are fleeing the brutal war and are determined to rebuild their futures," she said. "Unfortunately, I'm not optimistic about the current political climate."

Obama's decision to admit any Syrian refugees has been opposed by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and many GOP lawmakers, who have stoked fears that there might be terrorists in their midst.

Alice Wells, the U.S. ambassador to Jordan, told the Associated Press on Sunday "the immediate goal of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees did not come at the cost of our comprehensive, robust security measures."

Back in April, it didn't appear that U.S. would reach it's goal of resettling 10,000 refugees. At that point, just 1,285 new refugees had made it here, according to data released by the State Department.

And that was after Secretary of State John Kerry pledged to the international community that the Obama Administration would step up its commitment to protect the families fleeing from Syria's six-year civil war. The brutal conflict has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

© ©2016 Google

Wife of Slain Oregon Occupier to File Civil Rights Lawsuit

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 5:01:50 PM

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The widow of an anti-government activist who helped take over an Oregon wildlife refuge and was later killed in a confrontation with law enforcement says the man's civil rights were violated and she intends to sue, her lawyer confirmed Monday.

Robert Lavoy Finicum's pursuers were "motivated by political reasons" when they fatally shot him on Jan. 26, attorney Brian Claypool said in a statement.

The FBI and Oregon State Police "escalated the otherwise peaceful demonstration by pursuing Finicum despite his repeated instruction to them that he was on his way" to meet with the local sheriff, Claypool said.

Two of the FBI agents involved in the fatal confrontation on a snowy stretch of Highway 395 north of remote Burns, Oregon are now under investigation for allegedly lying about firing shots at the truck Finicum was driving, Claypool added.

There was no immediate response from the FBI or the Oregon State Police to the threatened lawsuit.

Claypool said he will also be representing another occupier, 43-year-old Ryan Bundy, in a separate federal civil rights lawsuit. Bundy was in the truck with Finicum and was shot in the arm during the confrontation.

Finicum's widow, Jeanette, said after the shooting that her husband was "executed in cold blood."

"My husband was murdered," said the widow, who was not in the truck when her husband was fatally shot.

A 54-year-old Arizona rancher, Finicum was part of a militia group led by Ammon Bundy that occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2 and demanded that the feds relinquish control of all public lands and release two local ranchers who were jailed for setting fires.

As the standoff dragged on, Finicum became the group's unofficial spokesman and said he'd sooner die than go to federal prison.

"There are things more important than your life and freedom is one of them, Finicum, an Arizona rancher, told NBC News in January. "I'm prepared to defend freedom."

Oregon State Troopers fired the fatal rounds. Malheur County District Attorney Dan Norris said the shots were justified because Finicum did not heed the officers' commands and repeatedly reached for his weapon.

The U.S. Department of Justice, however, confirmed it is investigating the FBI agents involved in the deadly traffic stop for allegedly not disclosing that they too fired at Finicum, although their shots did not hit him.

The feds have also released aerial footage of the deadly encounter, which shows Finicum plowing the truck into a snowbank to avoid a police roadblock. It shows him getting out with his hands up at first — and then shows him appearing to reach toward his jacket pocket at least twice. It is at that point that the officers shoot him and he falls into the snow.

The FBI said it found a loaded handgun in Finicum's pocket.

More than two dozen people — including Ammon Bundy — have been charged with conspiracy to interfere with federal workers in connection with the standoff.

© 2016 NBCNews.com

Huma Abedin Leaving Weiner Amid New Sexting Scandal

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 3:42:00 PM

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Hillary Clinton's longtime aide Huma Abedin will separate from her husband, disgraced former New York congressman Anthony Weiner, following a report in the New York Post suggesting he had fallen back into his sexting habit.

"After long and painful consideration and work on my marriage, I have made the decision to separate from my husband," Abedin said in a statement. "Anthony and I remain devoted to doing what is best for our son, who is the light of our life. During this difficult time, I ask for respect for our privacy."

The report in The Post, which included conversations and photos that the paper said Weiner swapped with a 40-something Trump supporter while his wife Abedin was on the campaign trail, was published Sunday. And on Monday morning, Weiner's public Twitter profile was gone.

NBC News has not verified the reporting in The Post.

The Post report said that after Weiner sent the picture that included his son, wrapped up in a blanket next to him in bed, he briefly panicked that he had posted the picture publicly. "Ooooooh . . . I was scared. For half a second I thought I posted something," Weiner reportedly wrote to the woman.

The woman handed over the conversations and photos to The Post under the condition that she not be identified, according to the report. She told the paper that she started chatting with Weiner over the internet in January 2015.

Weiner told The Post that he and the woman "have been friends for some time."

"She has asked me not to comment except to say that our conversations were private, often included pictures of her nieces and nephews and my son and were always appropriate," Weiner told the paper.

EXCLUSIVE: Anthony Weiner sexted a busty brunette while his son was in bed with him https://t.co/f2C7tn1yoy pic.twitter.com/JNmerTREKD

But many of the pictures published by The Post showed the ex-pol shirtless or focused below his waist, and he often tried to steer the conversation toward sex, according to The Post.

When the woman once said she was headed to bed, Weiner reportedly replied, "Sleeping alone? Asking for a friend?"

Weiner resigned from Congress in 2011 after an initial sexting scandal, but after claiming he underwent therapy, ran for Mayor of New York City in 2013. New Yorkers seemed to be ready to give him the "second chance" he had asked for until it was revealed that he had continued sexting under the pseudonym "Carlos Danger." The fallout from both scandals was documented in the recently-released film "Weiner."

Weiner was handily beat in the mayoral primary, but the loss didn't seem to strip him of his confidence. In conversations with another woman he has been sexting lately, Weiner invites the woman to meet up, writing: "Lets get together. I'm a big wheel in this town," according to The Post.

Abedin is widely considered to be Clinton's closest aide, virtually always by the candidate's side on the trail. She is known as an influential voice on policy decisions and an intensely private person.

It didn't take GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump long to weigh in on the split. "Huma is making a very wise decision. I know Anthony Weiner well, and she will be far better off without him," Trump said in a statement.

He added: "I only worry for the country in that Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Weiner to have such close proximity to highly classified information. … It's just another example of Hillary Clinton's bad judgment. It is possible that our country and its security have been greatly compromised by this."

© 2016 NBCNews.com

Brazil's Dilma Rousseff: 'I Haven't Committed Any Crimes'

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 3:23:00 PM

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff made an emotional plea before Brazil's Senate Monday as her impeachment trial comes to an end.

"I'm here to look in your eyes and say with the serenity of someone who has nothing to hide that I haven't committed any crimes," Rousseff told her accusers. "Today Brazil, the world and history are watching us and waiting for the outcome of this impeachment process."

RELATED: Brazil Senate Committee Votes for Rousseff Impeachment Trial

Rousseff is accused of illegally manipulating the government budget. She has denied all wrongdoing and has described the impeachment proceedings as an attempted coup d'état, a description she again brought up in her speech.

"We are one step closer to a real coup," she said, noting that she was re-elected to power by 54 million voters in 2014.

Rousseff spoke for over 30 minutes before the floor opened up to questions. The impeachment vote will take place after the questions and closing arguments have concluded.

RELATED: Brazil Senate Indicts Dilma Rousseff, Opens Impeachment Trial

The support of two-thirds of the Senate is required to remove Rousseff from office, which would end a decade of leftist rule by her Workers Party.

If she is impeached, interim President Michel Temer would take to serve out the remainder of the presidential term through 2018.

"I know I will be judged, but my conscience is clear. I did not commit a crime," Rousseff said, adding that "I can't help but taste the bitterness of injustice."

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© 2016 NBCNews.com

Trump Ad Credits Tax Plan He Doesn't Support

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 2:50:00 PM

Donald Trump's new $10 million TV ad cites two contradictory tax plans -- one that Trump has explicitly ruled out and another that he has yet to endorse -- raising more questions about what policies the GOP presidential nominee supports.

Trump's new ad seems generic enough for a Republican politician. In it, he promises lower taxes, more jobs, and growth for small businesses.

Trump's new TV ad on the economy — $10 million ad buy over next week in 9 states: CO, FL, IA, NC, NV, NH, PA, OH, VA pic.twitter.com/YU2vqew6G0

But an examination of the fine print supporting the claims provides confusion, not clarity.

For the ad's claim that "working families get tax relief," it refers viewers not to an analysis of Trump's own tax proposals, but to a white paper by House GOP leaders about their own tax reform plan. Similarly, the next section promising "millions of new jobs" directs viewers to an analysis of the House GOP plan by the conservative Tax Foundation.

Trump has not endorsed the House GOP plan outright, but his new proposal, announced earlier this month, has some similarities. Most notably, they both advocate collapsing the tax code into three brackets with rates of 12%, 25%, and 33%.

But that's where things get weird. The ad's next two claims that Trump would make "wages go up" and "small businesses thrive" refer to his old tax plan from last year, which had drastically different rates, including a 0% bracket at the bottom and a top rate of 25%. The on-screen citation directs viewers to a Tax Foundation analysis of that now-defunct proposal from September 2015.

Trump erased his old plan from his website shortly before he announced his new one in a speech to the Detroit Economic Club earlier this month. It has far fewer details, though Trump has promised more are coming, and it has not been analyzed by the Tax Foundation.

So does Trump support the House Republican plan? Does he support his old plan? Does he support neither of them? A spokesman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

© 2016 NBCNews.com

Banned Russian Athletes Make (Unusual) Visit to Air Base

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 1:46:38 PM

Russia's Olympic competitors and world champions made a goodwill visit to a Russian air base inside Syria.

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Why Phelps Thinks Lochte Can 'Grow' From Rio Scandal

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 1:44:02 PM

Michael Phelps said he empathizes with the troubles Olympic teammate Ryan Lochte is going through but expressed faith the swimmer “will be able to grow” from his Rio-related scandal.

See Michael Phelps react as TODAY unveils his Wheaties box

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"It’s always hard to see a friend and competitor go through a hard time like this. I know what it feels like and I’ve been through it before," Phelps said Monday on TODAY. "Hopefully, he can come out of this a better person. I’ve reached out to him a couple of times. I think he understands a lot and he will be able to grow from this."

Lochte and three teammates landed in legal problems with Rio authorities after telling them they had been robbed at gunpoint following a night out. Lochte later admitted he embellished circumstances and details of what happened.

RELATED: Lochte takes 'full responsibility' for Rio scandal

The incident happened after Team USA concluded their swimming events, where Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, took home five additional medals. The swimmer has won 28 medals throughout his career, 23 of them gold.

The Rio Olympics served as a comeback of sorts for Phelps, who can partially empathize with Lochte because of the well-publicized set of troubles he experienced following the London Olympics, including a 2014 drunk driving arrest and a stint in rehab.

Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky re-create photo from 10 years ago

Earlier this month, Phelps, 31, confirmed his Olympic retirement in an interview on TODAY.

"Done, done, done — and this time I mean it," he told Matt Lauer while still in Rio.

RELATED: Michael Phelps announces retirement on TODAY

Since returning home, he has savored time with his fiancee Nicole Johnson and their 3-month-old son, Boomer. Phelps appeared with his family on "America's Got Talent," and on Sunday appeared on MTV’s VMA Awards.

His biggest change since the Olympics has been sleeping in — at at least until his 3-month-old son, Boomer, wakes him up. Phelps said he continues to work out vigorously, however, because he gained more than 30 pounds after finishing up at the 2012 London Olympics.

"So I’m going to try not to do that this time," he said.

RELATED: Michael Phelps' fiancée reveals wedding details

Phelps will eventually be helping to coach student athletes at Arizona State University but that will come after he's had time to settle back into family life with Johnson and their son.

Watch @mattlauernbc and @carsondaly I'm coming for ya!! @todayshow

A photo posted by boomer phelps (@boomerrphelps) on Aug 29, 2016 at 5:59am PDT

"It's been awesome to feel like I’m doing my daddy duty. I've got a diaper bag on my back. I’ve got a car seat in my hand. It's nice being back and really being able to be with him," he said.

© 2016 NBCNews.com

Did Sanders Become a Liability in His Proxy War?

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 1:43:13 PM

HOLLYWOOD, Florida—There are Bernie Sanders signs on the walls of Tim Canova's field office here, where former staffers and volunteers from the Vermont senator's presidential campaign now work the phones and prepare to knock doors in a heated congressional primary against former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

A whopping $3.8 million dollars worth of Berniecrat anger at Wasserman Schultz, who stepped down from her DNC post amid accusations she and top staffers had worked against Sanders in his primary challenge to Hillary Clinton, has flooded to Canova. That's given the little-known law professor a shot at toppling the six-term congresswoman in Tuesday's primary.

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Sanders looms large in the race, but always out of frame. The senator himself never made it here, infuriating some supporters and raising doubts in the minds of others about his new efforts to help allied candidates.

Reflecting on the race as it comes to a close, Canova seems to wonder if Sanders' help was more trouble than it's worth. "Bernie is not on the ballot, and I think coming here might have presented certain liabilities anyway, so it might be a blessing that he never came," Canova told NBC News.

Related: How Bernie Sanders Avoided Disclosing His Personal Finances

Given who his opponent is, Canova became a vessel for the Sanders movement, and the highest profile candidate on a list of down-ballot candidates it sought to support.

"He is blessed that this happened with Bernie. I mean who is he?" said Lourdes Ferrer, who voted for Clinton presidential primary, but for Canova in the congressional race because she wants change and thinks Wasserman Schultz's national role distracted her from representing the district.

Sanders endorsed Canova, who kicked off his campaign with a Q&A on a pro-Sanders Reddit channel, and sent several fundraising emails for the professor he once appointed to a Senate panel.

But Canova will need a lot more voters like Ferrer, since Clinton carried this district by 68-31 percent in the March 15 presidential primary. The race was always going an uphill battle, no matter who much Sanders helped.

Canova is a passionate advocate in his own right, whom supporters compare Elizabeth Warren, another professor-turned-pol.

"He been yelling at the top of his lungs for the better part of three decades about these issues," said Canova's older brother, Tom.

Related: Ousted From DNC, Wasserman Schultz Fighting to Stay in House

Still, everyone acknowledges the race has attracted outsize attention and money as a proxy fight between Sanders and Wasserman Schultz. "I don't know how much of it is an anti-vote and how much of it is a pro-vote," said Canova supporter Pat Graef of those who will vote for Canova. "Probably 50-50."

And as much the proxy war put Canova on the map, it also put him in a box. Constantly asked about and compared to Sanders, it's made it harder for Canova to distinguish himself.

"I think for a long time people just counted us out because they looked at what happened in March and said, well Bernie lost badly, 2-1, how could Canova ever win? Because Canova of course is just a mini-Bernie—It's a ridiculous caricature," he said.

"Bernie ran a lousy campaign in Florida," Canova said. "Bernie had his problems with certain constituencies that I don't have problems with."

At a candidate forum Sunday night featuring Canova and two Republican congressional candidates (Wasserman Schultz was invited but did not attend), the Republicans mentioned Sanders before Canova did.

A recent South Florida Sun Sentinel/Florida Atlantic University poll showed Wasserman Schultz with a 10 point lead over Canova and just barely hitting 50 percent—not an ideal cushion for an incumbent, but not a bad one either.

Canova and his allies predict an upset, saying the polls might be missing voters Canova supporters who don't typically turn out for an August primary.

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"Our ground game is so big that we've really expanded the field," Canova said. Indeed, flush with more than 200,000 donations averaging $22 a piece, Canova has built what allies tout as possibly the largest field program of any congressional race in the country—four field offices, 40 paid staffers, and hundreds of volunteers.

Wasserman Schultz, who has never faced a primary opponent, was undoubtedly damaged when she resigned under a cloud from her role as DNC chair after Wikileaks published emails that seemed to confirm the party favored Hillary Clinton over Sanders.

As DNC Chair, Wasserman Schultz spent much of her time at Democratic fundraisers outside her district, which has prompted criticism that she lost focus of local issues or become too beholden to big money. And after 12 years in office, some just want new blood.

"Just as the DNC has new leadership, we believe the district deserves new leadership, too," wrote the Miami Times, one of two African-American newspapers in the district to endorse Canova.

But many voters in the district, which has a large community of Northeast Jews who retired to the area, have deep personal ties to Wasserman Schultz and seem unconcerned by the DNC dustup.

"When you think about, how do guys like Eric Cantor lose? Sure there's all the ideological stuff that he's dealing with, but there was also a sense that he never went home," said Florida Democratic strategist Steve Schale, referring to the former House Majority Leader's 2014 primary loss. "I don't think you're going to find anyone in South Florida who's going to say Debbie lost touch with her district."

Wasserman Schultz kept her children in school in Florida and is known for having responsive constituent services. Canova, meanwhile, was largely unknown in political circles before jumping into the race.

Related: Inside the Bernie Sanders Proxy War in Florida

"She's always been that sweet kid. I admire her stamina. With three children and cancer and Congress, and then the DNC," said Sophie Bock, the president of the Democratic Club in Century Village, one of the largest and retirement complexes in the district, who has known Wasserman Schultz since the future politician was an aide to a former congressman in her 20s.

Wasserman Schultz has spoken publically about her battle with breast cancer, and Bock said residents are happy the congresswoman will have even more time for them now that she's no longer chairwoman of the party.

For every Bernie Sanders that did not make it to the district, Wasserman Schultz has many more national leaders that did: President Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine, Rep. John Lewis, and many more.

An outside group called Patriot Majority has also spent more than $600,000 backing Wasserman Schultz, much to the consternation of Canova, who often criticizes the group as a shadowy tool of special interests.

Canova's campaign alleges it was cyber-attacked late last week when someone tried to flood their email fundraising system with more than 100,000 bogus email addresses. Revolution Messaging, the digital firm that worked for Sanders and is now working with Canova, said it had no evidence about who might have perpetrated the alleged attack.

But Canova had ideas. "High up on my list of suspects would be the super PAC people. They have the resources, they have the motivation, they have enough distance from Wasserman Schultz that she can deny having any involvement," Canova said, before mentioning Patriot Majority by name.

Craig Varoga, the founder and president of Patriot Majority, brushed away the allegation. "Honestly, I don't know whether to laugh and mock that accusation, or just dismiss it for what it is, a complete lie. I guess some people just think and say weird things when they're under pressure," Varoga said.

Kingmaker is a new role for Sanders, and it's one that so far hasn't come naturally.

Unlike Warren, who regularly coordinates with progressive groups on strategy and lends a hand on fundraising, the independent Sanders has never been much of a team player—even with progressives in Vermont.

Sanders launched the group Our Revolution last week, which is designed to help elect progressive candidates. But it suffered a mass resignation just before launch and its legal status prevents it from coordinating with candidates like Canova.

Our Revolution supportes Canova, but he was not one of the five candidates Sanders spotlighted when he launched the group last week.

"We have left him hanging," former Our Revolution staffer Claire Sandber told Democracy Now of Canova. "We legally couldn't coordinate with Canova, couldn't return his calls, couldn't mobilize thousands of Bernie supporters locally in Miami or across the country to participate in his field operation, because we couldn't talk to him."

Related: Sanders Launches New Group Following Shakeup

Other progressives have been even more critical. Mike Figueredo, host of the progressive Humanist Report podcast, tore into the senator for "abandoning" Canova.

"I can't rationalize this. I can't defend you here, Bernie. This is indefensible," he said Saturday. "The fact that you're ditching him and obviously distancing yourself from him, for some reason, but yet are going to campaign for Hillary Clinton is absurd to me."

"Bernie Sanders, you are supposed to be the shining example. If you sell out, we're f*cked," he said.

Sanders has not said why he decided against campaigning for Canova, but some national progressives have raised questions about the way Canova ran his campaign, and objected strongly to his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, one of President Obama's top priorities.

Many here and in Washington suspect Sanders did not want to further antagonize Clinton, who gave Wasserman Schultz an honorary role on her campaign, and other Democratic leaders to support a candidate that was likely destine to lose anyway.

But though primaries are where Sanders' impact could matter most, supporters say, and he's so far avoided most of them this year as he tries to thread the needle between the establishment and opposition.

Back at Canova's field office in Hollywood, the lesson from the race was clear to Jeff Campbell, a longtime Democratic campaign volunteer. "We've got to do it here, on our own. We can't wait around for Bernie," he said.

© 2016 NBCNews.com

Vitiligo Inspires Advocate's Quest for Broader Acceptance

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 1:18:00 PM

"Cheetah," "Leper," Tanesha Brown has been called it all.

Brown is one of millions of people with the skin disease vitiligo — a condition characterized by white patches that appear on various areas of the body such as the hands, feet, arms and around the mouth and spread across the body over time.

There is not a known cure for it, but there are treatments to even skin tone.

The American Academy of Dermatology says the condition affects everyone of all ethnicities, but the light colored patches are easier to see on darker skin.

Brown was diagnosed with the condition when she was five. The white spots continued to spread throughout her childhood and when she was 12 her mother took her to see a dermatologist for treatment.

Her mom tried a treatment that used a combination of medication and a UV light similar to a tanning bed. The doctor told them it could cause blisters and permanent scarring so her mother stopped the treatment and said, "She's just going to be who she is."

In sixth grade, she started wearing make-up to cover her spots. It helped conceal the discoloration, but the taunts continued.

"Middle school was a wreck for me," Brown said. "Kids had never seen anyone like me, the only reference they had was Michael Jackson."

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The bullying continued in high school as the white patches spread across her body. Brown says she was mostly mistreated by other African Americans. A group of black girls said she shouldn't show her skin because of how she looked.

Brown turned to family and friends for strength. And she would joke about her illness to her family as a way to cope.

"I would make jokes about myself to my family so no one else would hurt me," Brown said. "I look like a cheetah I would tell myself."

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She lost the majority of her skin color during her early 20's after the birth of her two sons.

Today Brown, 32, is still mistreated, stared at, and some people have told her they like her "lighter" instead of darker.

Now that the majority of her skin is white, people question and confuse her race. People think she's "exotic" and she is every race except black. Brown says this is very offensive.

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"People say, you're really pretty, but what are you?" Brown said. "My response is,' I'm human. I'm a black woman, let me be that."

Brown said she found the strength to accept who she is from being a mother. She believes what she went through helped her not only regain confidence, but made her a stronger person.

"I had to have strength to be a mom," Brown said. "How can I teach my kids about love and self worth if I didn't feel that myself?"

Brown tries to empower others with vitiligo and other conditions through "Kiss My Ego", a non-profit organization that encourages people to love themselves regardless of their differences.

A photo posted by NBC News (@nbcnews)

"It's a confidence thing," Brown said. "We have a distorted view of what people are supposed to look like,"

Brown is a make-up artist in her own salon in West Hollywood, but she no longer uses make-up to cover up her imperfections. And as a volunteer with the American Cancer Society, she uses her art to make others feel beautiful by doing their make-up.

Brown hopes her openness about her condition will inspire others with vitiligo to feel beautiful and confident by embracing their own imperfections.

"Unplug from thinking you have to look like everyone else," Brown said. "It's okay to be different, show the world your differences and your uniqueness."

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© 2016 NBCNews.com

This Week in Politics, It's Primary-Palooza

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 12:54:45 PM

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

This week's primary-palooza

As it normally happens during a presidential race, downballot Senate and House contests don't get as much national attention as they normally would. But over the next 48 hours, the downballot will take center stage, especially with a prominent Republican (John McCain) and Democrat (Debbie Wasserman Schultz) receiving tough primary challenges Tuesday in Arizona and Florida, respectively. Both are expected to win, but the races are hardly easy for the two incumbents. A recent CNN poll had McCain leading GOP challenger Kelli Ward by a 55%-29% margin among likely voters, yet our understanding is that the contest is much closer than that. Ward raised the issue of McCain's age, saying on MSNBC's MTP Daily last week: "I want to wish him a happy birthday. He will be 80 years old on Monday." And in Florida, Wasserman Schultz -- who stepped down from her position as DNC chair after the WikiLeaks email dump right before the Democratic convention -- is getting a challenge from Bernie Sanders disciple Tim Canova. The one problem for Canova: South Florida is hardly Bernie Sanders country, given that Hillary Clinton defeated Sanders in Wasserman Schultz's South Florida district, 68%-31%. The other big primaries we'll be watching tomorrow also take place in Florida, with incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio (who changed his mind to run for re-election) getting a challenge from businessman Carlos Beruff, and Democrats Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson duking it out to be the Democratic nominee in that Senate race. A reminder: Four incumbents already have gone down to defeat this cycle: Renee Ellmers (R-NC), Randy Forbes (R-VA), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), and Tim Huelskamp (R-KS).

Trump camp goes up with its biggest TV ad buy yet -- and expands spending into five more states

Trump's campaign has announced its biggest ad buy to date, launching its newest TV spot in nine states at a price tag of about $10 million over the next week or so. The new TV ad highlights the GOP nominee's economic message, contrasting his vision with Clinton's. The campaign had previously aired ads in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida. The new buy also expands to New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, Virginia and Colorado. Here's a reminder of the previous ad-spending disparity between the Clinton and Trump camps -- as of last week. (We'll update the numbers tomorrow after we get the full confirmation of Trump's new buy.)

Ad spending to date:

  • Clinton campaign: $68.2 million
  • Pro-Clinton outside groups: $45.7 million
  • Total Team Clinton: $113.9 million

Trump campaign: $4.3 million

  • Pro-Trump outside groups: $14.4 million
  • Total Team Trump: $18.7 million
  • SOURCE: Advertising Analytics/NBC News

Team Trump's confusion and contradictions on immigration

It's a good thing that Trump has planned a big immigration-themed speech for Wednesday because, right now, we know less about Trump's position on immigration -- his signature issue -- than we did a week ago. Here's a sampling of the confusion and contradictions from yesterday's Sunday shows:

  • VP running mate Mike Pence
  • : "Nothing has changed about Donald Trump's position on dealing with illegal immigration," he said on CNN.
  • Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway:
  • "Now, the deportation force, I would like to address that. He hasn't mentioned that since last November," she said, appearing to back away from Trump's earlier method of how to remove the 11 million undocumented immigrants from the country.
  • RNC Chair Reince Priebus
  • on Trump's position is regarding the millions of undocumented immigrants: Well, I mean, you're going to find out from Donald Trump very shortly. He's going to be giving prepared remarks on this issue I think very soon," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

And then note the contradiction between Priebus and Pence on "birthright" citizenship, which Trump has called to end:

  • Pence:
  • "Well, I think the whole question of anchor babies, as it's known, the whole question of citizenship, of natural-born Americans is a subject for the future. I think the American people ought to ask it. We look at our whole immigration system and see whether that works and makes sense. But under the laws today in the United States of America -- I think what Donald Trump was referring to is, this is part of the issue that we need to deal with in this country," he said on CNN.
  • Priebus:
  • "I'm comfortable with [birthright citizenship]. I'm comfortable with it. I'm comfortable with it. I'm comfortable with the Supreme Court rulings on the issue."

Plouffe on Clinton Foundation: "I think there are legitimate questions"

Also on "Meet the Press" yesterday, former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said inquiries into the Clinton Foundation were legitimate. "I think there are legitimate questions, particularly what [Hillary Clinton] means if she's president. I think they've begun to answer that by saying Bill Clinton will step down from the board." But Plouffe also stressed the compare that question with Trump's taxes and business record. "I think there's legitimate questions about the Clinton Foundation, the press is clearly spending a lot of time on that. But I think if you look at both of these candidates in terms of who can you trust and some of these financial dealings, I don't think there's much of a comparison."

Team Clinton's debate prep

Finally, here is NBC's Kelly O'Donnell on Team Clinton's debate prep: "Ron Klain has served as Obama's Ebola response czar, chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore and top lawyer for the Gore recount effort in 2000. Now Klain is at the helm of Hillary Clinton's debate prep. Klain is working alongside prominent attorney Karen Dunn who served in the Obama White House counsel's office and as an aide to Clinton in the Senate. Longtime Clinton policy adviser Jake Sullivan is described as 'playing a big role' as well. During Clinton's debate prep sessions, a range of senior staff are welcome to attend and give feedback. Among the sideline coaches: John Podesta, Joel Benenson and Mandy Grunwald. In addition to carefully prepared briefing materials on policy, Clinton's team has worked to refine her responses to meet debate time limits and to ready herself for the unpredictable. Democratic sources say they are mindful that Trump 'systematically' went after his rivals by using the GOP primary debate stage as the main venue to 'target opponents.' Clinton allies say the campaign is trying to calibrate expectations and therefore push the view that Trump is a 'formidable adversary' and a 'highly successful TV personality.' Given the game films from the GOP primary season, expect the Clinton campaign to argue that Trump will swing for the fences as a way to shake-up the dynamics of the race."

On the trail

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump don't have public events today, while Mike Pence campaigns in Georgia… Later this week: Trump hits Washington state (on Tuesday), Arizona (on Wednesday for his immigration speech), and Cincinnati (on Thursday, where he addresses the American Legion convention)… And Hillary Clinton speaks to the American Legion the day before (on Wednesday).

Countdown to Election Day: 71 days

© 2016 NBCNews.com

Hero Cop Pulls Man From Tracks Moments Ahead of Train

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 12:51:00 PM

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U.S. Takes Turkey to Task Over Syria Clashes

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 12:31:13 PM

ISTANBUL — The United States on Monday criticized clashes between Turkish forces and some opposition groups in northern Syria as "unacceptable," calling on all armed actors in the fighting to stand down and focus on battling ISIS.

"We want to make clear that we find these clashes — in areas where [ISIS] is not located — unacceptable and a source of deep concern," Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the coalition to counter ISIS, said on his official Twitter account, citing a defense department statement.

DOD: The United States was not involved in these activities, they were not coordinated with U.S. forces, and we do not support them.

"We call on all armed actors to stand down... the U.S. is actively engaged to facilitate such deconfliction and unity of focus on [ISIS], which remains a lethal and common threat," he added.

At the start of Turkey's now almost week-long cross-border offensive, Turkish tanks, artillery and warplanes provided Syrian rebel allies the firepower to capture swiftly the Syrian frontier town of Jarablus from ISIS militants.

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Since then, Turkish forces have mainly pushed into areas controlled by forces aligned to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition that encompasses the Kurdish YPG militia and which has been backed by Washington to fight the jihadists.

NATO member Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast.

A group monitoring the tangled, five-year-old conflict in Syria said 41 people were killed by Turkish air strikes as Turkish forces pushed south on Sunday. Turkey denied there were any civilian deaths, saying 25 Kurdish militants were killed.

Turkish officials say their goal in Syria is to drive out ISIS but also to ensure Kurdish militia fighters do not expand the territory they already control along Turkey's border.

© 2016 NBCNews.com

Clinton Camp Dismisses Trump Challenge on Health Records

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 12:05:05 PM

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Donald Trump on Sunday challenged Hillary Clinton to release more detailed medical records, but a Clinton aide said the Republican nominee should provide a "legitimate" and "detailed" letter beyond the brief note he has previously released.

Trump Sunday afternoon Tweeted: "I think that both candidates, Crooked Hillary and myself, should release detailed medical records. I have no problem in doing so! Hillary?"

I think that both candidates, Crooked Hillary and myself, should release detailed medical records. I have no problem in doing so! Hillary?

A Clinton aide said the campaign will not be releasing any more records. Clinton, 68, released a two-page letter last month from her doctor that said the Democratic nominee is in "excellent physical condition and fit to serve as President of the United States."

The Clinton campaign points out that the letter Clinton released has much more detail and specifics, like cholesterol levels, medical history and medications, and they argue there is no comparison to the letter Trump released and that Trump has not disclosed any meaningful medical information.

Trump in December released a four-paragraph letter from Dr. Harold Bornstein that called Trump's health "astonishingly excellent" and claimed the 70-year-old would be "the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."

Bornstein — who says he has been Trump's physician since 1980 — told NBC News Friday that he wrote the letter in just 5 minutes while a limo waited outside his office, but the doctor said he had been thinking about the letter all day.

Related: Clinton's 'Right Wing Conspiracy' Comes Full Circle With Trump Shake Up

Neither candidate has released the same amount of medical information that other presidential candidates of both parties have in the past.

Trump's challenge Sunday mirrors the response from his campaign spokesman on Friday after the NBC interview with Bornstein aired.

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Medical records have been an unusual source of controversy in a presidential race that has had plenty of them.

Trump has claimed Clinton "lacks the mental and physical stamina" to be president.

Others have raised unsubstantiated or debunked claims about Clinton. Fox News' Sean Hannity raised questions about whether Clinton suffered a stroke in the past and the Drudge Report used old photos to suggest she has trouble walking. Both theories have been debunked by news outlets.

And fringe outlets have used a photo to question whether her body guard is secretly a doctor who carries a device to deliver anti-seizure injections. The Secret Service said the device in question is a standard flashlight.

Clinton aides have called the rumors and claims "deranged conspiracy theories."

© 2016 NBCNews.com

Mylan Launching Generic Version of EpiPen

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 11:57:24 AM

Mylan says it will make available a generic version of its EpiPen, as criticism mounts over the price of its injectable medicine.

The company said Monday that its U.S. subsidiary will put out a generic version of the EpiPen that will have a list price of $300 for a two-pack — about half the current price. It will be available in both 0.15 mg and 0.30 mg strengths.

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EpiPens are used in emergencies to treat severe allergies to insect bites and foods like nuts and eggs that can lead to anaphylactic shock.

Related: EpiPen Price Hike Has Parents of Kids With Allergies Scrambling Ahead of School Year

People usually keep a number of EpiPens handy at home, school or work. The syringes, prefilled with the hormone epinephrine, expire after a year.

Mylan N.V. said that it anticipates having the generic versions available in the next several weeks. It will continue to market and distribute a branded EpiPen.

The company charges $608 for a two-pack of the branded EpiPen. Mylan said it will keep in place the $300 savings card for the branded EpiPen and the revised patient assistance program announced last week.

Consumers and politicians have accused the company of price-gouging, considering that the product has been on the market since 1987 and the price didn't start rising significantly until Mylan acquired it in 2007.

There is also little competition, with the only rival product being Adrenaclick, which carries a list price of $461.

Related: Mylan CEO's EpiPen Price Arguments Fall Short

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch has defended the price hikes, saying the company only received $274 of the total price for a twin-package while insurers, pharmacies and other parties divvy up the rest.

People usually keep a number of EpiPens handy at home, school or work. The syringes, prefilled with the hormone epinephrine, expire after a year.

Numerous members of Congress and other politicians this week have called for congressional hearings on Mylan's pricing, an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission and action by the Food and Drug Administration to increase competition by speeding up approvals of any rival products.

At least two companies are trying to get U.S. approval to sell a rival brand or generic version of EpiPen. None is likely to hit the U.S. market until well into next year. Relief could come sooner from Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, a compounding pharmacy that prepares medicines to fill individual prescriptions. It said it might be able to sell a version in a few months and would likely charge around $100 for two injectors.

© 2016 NBCNews.com

KNOW IT ALL: Monday's Top Stories at NBC News

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 11:03:02 AM

Good morning. Here are some of the stories we're following today:

1. Paris Attacks Inspire Huge Influx of Police Recruits

With its long history of anti-establishmentarianism and a general lack of regard for authority figures, France has never really embraced police officers in the way that America often mythologizes the men and women of the thin blue line. But a shift in popular attitudes toward the police and armed forces peaked shortly after last November's attacks that killed 130 people and injured hundreds more. Waves of new recruits began applying to become police officers and soldiers. Read the SPECIAL REPORT.

2. Donald Trump Could Win Big Even If He Loses Election

If Donald Trump loses the election, many in the GOP establishment are hoping the brash and unpredictable real estate mogul turned reality TV star will just go away. But Trump is unlikely to do that. There's a growing chorus, propelled by a report in Vanity Fair, saying that Trump's endgame is not attaining the nation's highest office — but to launch a right-wing media outlet of his own. Read more in POLITICS.

3. False Reports of Gunfire Cause Chaos at LAX

False reports of gunfire at Los Angeles International Airport sent panicked passengers running from terminals and onto the tarmac on Sunday night. Police responded to 911 calls of shots fired at the airport but later said the reports were unfounded and there had been no gunfire or injuries. Read more in NEWS.

Safely off the LAX Tarmac. PD search of terminals yields no confirm of shots fired. I heard "run" as crowd ran toward us but no shots.

4. Tropical Depression Swirling Off Florida Threatens Heavy Rain

Florida was getting set for a soaking later this week as a tropical depression brewing off its southern coast looked likely to strengthen into tropical storm later Monday or early Tuesday. The National Hurricane Center's (NHC) forecast path showed Tropical Depression Nine moving up from the Florida Keys toward the southern tip of the state and over into the Gulf of Mexico. Read more in WEATHER.

5. NASA Scientists Return to Civilization After Mars Dome Experiment Ends

After a year living in isolation, six crew members on a mock mission to Mars emerged on Sunday. The crew members had been living in an isolated habitation the bare, rocky slopes of Mauna Loa on the island of Hawaii, as part of the HI-SEAS program (Hawaii Space Exploration Analogue and Simulation), based out of the University of Hawaii. Read more in SCIENCE.

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6. Inmates Escape Detention Center in Louisiana

A manhunt was underway in northwestern Louisiana early Monday for three "dangerous" inmates who scaled razor-wire fences to escape prison late on Sunday. The trio escaped from the Natchitoches Parish Detention Center on Saturday night, jumping over two rolls of razor-wire. Read more in NEWS.

7. Man Dies in Confrontation with Off-Duty N.J. Police Officer

An off-duty Trenton police officer's altercation with a man Saturday night ended with the man dead of a gunshot wound to the chest, New Jersey authorities said. Read more at NBC PHILADELPHIA.

8. MTV VMAs 2016: Highlights From the Show

The 2016 MTV Video Music Awards kicked off in high-gear with an energetic performance from Rihanna. But one of the night's most anticipated events was the return of Britney Spears to the VMAs stage after a nearly decade-long wait. And Beyonce, wearing a long white ruffled frock took to the stage to perform a riveting medley from her now-iconic video album "Lemonade." Read more at TODAY.COM.

Still trying to recover from Beyoncé's #VMAs performance, tbh. https://t.co/FYQL5RvXY1

© 2016 NBCNews.com

Storm Swirling Off Florida Threatens Heavy Rains, Floods

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 10:09:25 AM

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Florida was getting set for a soaking as a tropical depression brewing off its southern coast looked likely to strengthen into tropical storm later Monday or early Tuesday.

The National Hurricane Center's (NHC) forecast path showed Tropical Depression Nine moving up from the Florida Keys toward the southern tip of the state and over into the Gulf of Mexico. It was expected to strengthen into a tropical storm Monday or Tuesday, promising heavy rain and potential floods for both sides of the panhandle.

"The depression in the Gulf remains very poorly organized, which is good news for Florida," Weather Channel meteorologist Kevin Roth said. The weather system still had a "decent chance" of becoming a tropical storm Monday night or early Tuesday, he added.

If the storm made landfall it would hit in northern Florida between Apalachicola and Tampa on Thursday afternoon or evening with winds of around 50 mph, Roth said.

While those two cities are north of the Zika outbreak that has been plaguing the Miami area, heavy rains bring with them the potential for flooding and pools of standing water, according to Roth.

"You obviously don't want standing water because that will allow the mosquitos to breed," Roth explained.

Gov. Rick Scott previously has warned residents of South Florida to have an emergency plan ready in case flooding occurs.

Related: Tropical System Could Make Fight Against Zika Harder

Meanwhile, heavy rains sparked flash floods and school closures in southwestern Ohio over the weeked.

Cincinnati was placed under a flash flood emergency on Sunday evening after thunderstorms poured three inches of rain on the city in the course of a couple of hours, The Weather Channel reported. Up to eight inches fell on parts of the city.

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Residents also posted pictures and video of torrents of water rushing down streets. Traffic jams blocked Interstate 71 and some parts of the highway were even closed for the flooding, according to The Weather Channel.

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St. Bernard-Elmwood Place City School District — around 6 miles north of Cincinnati — announced all its schools would be closed Monday due to flooding. Cincinnati.com reported that Norwood City Schools and Roger Bacon High School, and the Hamilton County Learning Center at North Norwood would also be closed Monday due to flooding and storm damage.

No injuries were reported in Ohio or neighboring Kentucky overnight.

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ISIS-Claimed Suicide Bombing Kills Dozens in Yemen

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 9:42:08 AM

SANAA, Yemen — A suicide car bombing claimed by ISIS in Yemen's southern city of Aden on Monday killed at least 45 pro-government troops preparing to travel to Saudi Arabia to fight Houthi rebels, officials said.

The victims were at a staging area near two schools and a mosque where they were registering to join the expedition.

The Saudis hope to train up to 5,000 fighters and deploy them to the Saudi cities of Najran and Jizan near the border, Yemeni security officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to brief journalists.

Aid group Doctors Without Borders said on Twitter that their hospital in Aden had received 45 dead and at least some 60 wounded from the blast.

.@MSF Hospital in #Aden received 45 dead and at least 60 wounded from #Aug29 morning explosion #Yemen pic.twitter.com/yL63JxmaSv

The ISIS-affiliated Amaq news agency said the attack was carried out "by a fighter from the Islamic State who targeted a recruitment center."

Yemen is embroiled in a civil war pitting the internationally recognized government and a Saudi-led coalition against the Shiite Houthi rebels, who are allied with army units loyal to a former president. The fighting has allowed al Qaeda and an ISIS affiliate to expand their reach, particularly in the south.

Related: Airstrikes Hit Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Yemen

The U.N. and rights groups estimate at least 9,000 people have been killed since fighting escalated in March 2015 with the start of Saudi-led airstrikes targeting the Houthis and their allies. Some 3 million people have been displaced inside the country, the Arab world's poorest.

U.N.-mediated peace talks in Kuwait were suspended earlier this month with no signs of progress.

The Houthis and forces allied to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh seized Yemen's capital, Sanaa, in September 2014, forcing the internationally recognized government to flee the country. The Saudi-led campaign against the Houthis has pushed them out of southern Yemen, but has failed to dislodge them from Sanaa and the rest of the north.

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Flash Flooding Turns Suburban Street Into Raging River

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 9:36:05 AM

Torrential rains caused flash flooding in several areas around Cincinnati, including St. Bernard to the north.

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Paris Attacks Inspire Huge Influx of Police Recruits

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 8:59:20 AM

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PARIS — The police vehicles approached slowly, and the officers accompanying them were visibly tense.

The past three days had been a nightmare for French law enforcement. Two officers murdered on the street in cold blood. Nine staff from the provocative magazine Charlie Hebdo slaughtered in their offices, along with a visitor from out of town. Four people slain at a kosher supermarket.

Two sieges ending in a hail of bullets with brothers who had sworn allegiance to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and their ISIS-inspired accomplice being killed following a coordinated set of attacks.

A video taken by a passerby showed the street packed tight with civilians, and the officers began clearing a path for the approaching vehicles. A few small cheers rang out. But as the police got closer, the entire crowd erupted in applause and shouts of encouragement.

The officers were clearly taken aback, exchanging glances as if unsure how to respond.

But the crowd's encouragement and enthusiasm were contagious, and many of the officers, replete in full riot gear, began to smile and thank their supporters.

With its long history of anti-establishmentarianism and a general lack of regard for authority figures, France has never really embraced police officers in the way that America often mythologizes the men and women of the thin blue line.

Cops here are widely known as "les flics" — the plural of "flic," a popular slang term for police of uncertain origin.

But on Jan. 12, 2015, it was "les flics" who had responded to the call, and come to the rescue.

The citizens of France loved them for it.

'The French Intifada'

There had long been animosity between the police and immigrant communities, who had felt unjustly targeted by law enforcement. The police and their supporters pointed to high levels of crime in the "banlieue" — or suburbs — and a lack of "assimilation" by immigrant populations.

Experts interviewed by NBC News say there is very little focus on police relations with immigrant communities, which are the same communities which are ripe for ISIS propaganda. It is no accident that many of the young men and women who have been radicalized began their journeys in French suburbs, or have records of petty crimes.

"There is an enduring will to lay a veil of ignorance on policing practices, even when they are relatively good compared to other nations," said Professor Sebastian Roché, a researcher who focuses on policing and youth crime at France's National Center for Scientific Research. "President Hollande has reneged on his promises. He has forgotten about tackling ethnic bias during stop-and-searches. He has forgotten the banlieues."

According to INSEE, the French national institute of statistics, about one-in-five people in France is foreign-born, or is the direct descendant of at least one foreign-born parent. In the greater Paris region, this proportion climbs to two-in-five. Half of all immigrants or their descendants are North African, Middle Eastern or African in origin.

Deep and lasting fractures have triggered major riots in the past — including nearly a month of massive protests, looting and arson that prompted then-President Jacques Chirac to declare a state of emergency in 2005. The media dubbed the events "The French Intifada."

The shift in popular attitudes toward the police and armed forces peaked shortly after last November's attacks that killed 130 people and injured hundreds more. Waves of new recruits began applying to become police officers and soldiers.

Complete Coverage: Paris Terror Attacks

"People need heroes in a time of war: the police are good candidates," Roché added. "France has a national police service, and this strengthens even more the connection between a sense of nationhood, and positive attitudes towards the police."

The Police Nationale, France's largest law enforcement organization, has seen such a surge in interest in wake of last year's attacks that earning a slot at its police academy is now as competitive as gaining a place in the nation's top universities.

The police have been quick to capitalize on the shifting attitudes, in part because they must meet new staffing levels under national reforms aimed at preparing France for further terror attacks.

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Indeed, the police unveiled a new recruiting campaign that focuses heavily on the themes of patriotism and terror.

"I wanted to commit myself to be helpful to others," says a character dubbed "Pierre," in a slick Police Nationale recruiting video.

It begins with Pierre visiting a impromptu memorial to the Nov. 13 attacks dressed as a civilian, and ends with him hoisting the national flag in uniform before a formation of fellow recruits at the National Police College in Saint-Cyr-au-Mont-D'Or, all set to rousing music.

"After the attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis last November, the government decided to initiate a huge wave of recruitment for the [Police Nationale]," said Superintendent Camille Chaize, its deputy chief of communications. "We organized an exceptional exam last January. There were 36,000 candidates for the exam. It's almost 50 percent more than usual."

Meanwhile, the government is trying to translate this surge of interest into, eventually, more officers on the street.

"For this year, we will recruit 5,000 new police officers," Supt. Chaize said. "It's 10 times more than we usually have."

Still, once a prospective recruit has decided to commit to the path of becoming an officer, it takes perhaps a year or more to earn a place at the academy, complete the necessary training, and finally join the ranks of the police.

The attacks may have reinforced their sense of mission, but current recruits understand that fighting terrorism may actually be a small part of their day-to-day job.

"Actually, the terror attacks did not motivate me more, as I was already determined to become a police officer," said recruit Gregory Claire, 31, who is currently attending the police academy. "Most of my training at the academy is about daily criminality. It is about recognizing infractions of the law, and about how to be a good police officer."

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"Today we need police, but not only to prevent terror attacks," said Alexis, 20, an intern at police headquarters who is waiting for placement at the police academy, and who requested that his last name be withheld. "It's very important to defend this country, but we don't have to only focus on terrorism. We have to carry on with life."

Molotov Cocktails

The flag-waving patriots who emerged after the series of ISIS-linked terror attacks were quick to cheer the police in January, and again in November.

But by March, when President Francois Hollande tabled a set of contentious reforms to French labor laws that enraged unions and social activists, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in protest.

Most of these demonstrations took on the usual flavor of strike actions in France: loud, chaotic and regular.

The police returned to a familiar pattern as well, responding in force. Soon the protests turned violent, and demonstrators were filmed hurling Molotov cocktails and rocks at police, who turned to batons, tear gas and water cannons.

The sentiment of the protesters quickly turned against the police. Uniformed patrol officers who were not part of riot-control squads even began to be attacked.

In one particularly dramatic incident captured on video and replayed endlessly on French TV, protesters set alight a police car while two officers were still inside.

The vehicle was destroyed, but the duo managed to escape.

An American who had traveled to France, apparently to join the protests, was later arrested and now stands charged with attempted murder. The incident occurred at a rally held by police unions to protest violence against their officers.

The French honeymoon with the police appeared to have ended.

"We are back to 'normal,'" said Roché, the professor. "Clashes between police and students, tensions in the banlieue [suburbs], altercations during the policing of protests: this is the worst period for trying to reform the police."

© 2016 NBCNews.com

Manhunt Underway for Three 'Dangerous' Escaped Inmates

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 8:16:19 AM

A manhunt was underway in northwestern Louisiana early Monday for three "dangerous" inmates who scaled razor-wire fences to escape prison late on Sunday.

The trio escaped from the Natchitoches Parish Detention Center on Saturday night, jumping over two rolls of razor-wire.

The Natchitoches Parish Sheriff's Office identified the inmates as Michael Elliot, a 24-year-old convicted of theft; Walshea Mitchell, 35, in prison for armed robbery; and Willie Ethridge, 34, serving time for murder and armed robbery.

While the men were not armed at the time of their escape they should be considered dangerous and "extreme caution should be used if seen," the sheriff's office said in a statement.

"Two of the escapees were last seen wearing black sweat pants and black long sleeve sweatshirts, and the third was in gray sweat pants and a gray long sleeve shirt," according to the sheriff's office.

"Deputies ask that if you see any of these escapees, to not approach them" and instead call 911 or local law enforcement, it added.

© 2016 NBCNews.com

Off-Duty Officer Fatally Shoots Partygoer

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 7:42:01 AM

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UPDATE: 'Loud noises' cause 'active shooter' chaos at LAX...

NBC News Top Stories — 8/29/2016 7:32:06 AM

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False reports of gunfire at Los Angeles International Airport sent panicked passengers running from terminals and onto the tarmac on Sunday night.

Police responded to 911 calls of shots fired at the airport but later said the reports were unfounded and there had been no gunfire or injuries.

"Reports of a shooting incident at LAX have been proven to be loud noises only," the Los Angeles Police Department said about 45 minutes after the reports sparked chaos at the airport.

Multiple 911 calls came in from several locations at the airport about gunfire at around 8:45 p.m. local time (11:45 p.m. ET), several law-enforcement sources told NBC News. They said the calls came from terminals 4, 7, and 8.

People poured out of Terminal 4 onto the tarmac, and a security officer was overheard saying "shots fired." One person told NBC News she heard "pops" in Terminal 4, while others recounted hearing shouts of "run!"

Arriving at LAX off flight when people started pouring out of term 4 onto Tarmac. Security said "shots fired. Run!" Now in vehicle on taxiwy

Witness tells me she heard "pops" in lax term 4. Others say they just heard "run!" Those evacuated to Tarmac just allowed back in.

Video posted on Twitter showed people fleeing a terminal and a TSA agent helping up one person who fell.

"We were on the jetway and someone starts pushing behind us," Jon Landis, a sales representative from Boston who was boarding a flight home, told The Associated Press. "One man was frantic saying there was a shooter."

Los Angeles International Airport said the departures and arrival areas of the central terminal area were closed amid the chaos; around 23 flights were diverted during a 30-minute ground stop.

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Corey Rosenbusch was relaxing inside a terminal club on a layover when the lights went off and the staff told everyone to shelter in place.

"People immediately started looking at social media, where they saw reports that there was an active shooter," Rosenbusch told the AP.

Officers conducted two sweeps of the airport, including one with K-9s late Sunday, airport police spokeswoman Alicia Hernandez said. She said passengers had self-evacuated and were not ordered to do so by airport police, contradicting reports on social media.

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By 11:00 p.m., all terminals of the airport had been reopened and passengers were again proceeding through federal security, airport spokeswoman Nancy Suey Castles said.

Adding to the confusion, a man dressed in a Zorro costume was detained at the airport around the same time of the panic, law enforcement sources said. It was not clear whether the person in any way contributed to the chaos or 911 calls.

Traffic was backed up leading to the airport as police initially responded, and for hours after.

Before things got really crazy - a man in a Zorro costume with a plastic sword was arrested. pic.twitter.com/COdNEIb1pL

Earlier this month a false report about shots fired at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport sparked chaos, sending passengers running for cover. Officials later said the sounds of cheers from people watching the Olympic Games may have been confused for gunshots.

The Los Angeles airport was the scene of a real shooting, though, in 2013 when a gunman opened fire and killed a Transportation Security Administration officer. Alleged gunman Paul Anthony Ciancia wounded two other TSA agents and another person in the rampage. He was shot and wounded by police at the airport but survived.