National / International News
The president got approval for his plan to train and equip Syrian opposition fighters, but lawmakers didn't approve funds to pay for it or the broader air campaign.
Blackberries used to be a permanent fixture on the hip of many professionals, but in recent years, lots of those users have ditched the “crack berry” in favor of iPhone or Android devices. Vultures have circled over the company as a few of its new smart phones flopped.
But despite the ongoing death watch, Blackberry is still alive and will likely debut two new phones this week: The Classic and the Passport.
However, it’s not trying to reclaim its old status, says Charles Golvin, the founder and principle analyst of Abelian Research.
“It would be a mistake to think about Blackberry as a competitor to Apple and the iPhone or other Android-based device manufacturers,” says Golvin. “They’re not focused on consumers, they’re focused on businesses.”
Blackberry’s target is “the hard-core email user who’s in a regulated industry where the keyboard is really the value-added differentiator,” explains Bryan Prohm, an analyst who covers Blackberry for Cowen and Company.
These phones are meant to attract government, finance, and legal users, plus IT managers who will be tempted by Blackberry's security and device management software.
The devices are a way to get people to use Blackberry’s software – the company’s real focus these days.
So is this makeover enough to shoo away the vultures?
“The way I see it is, it’s a reinvention in progress,” says Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester Research. “There’s still lots of challenges before we know whether [Blackberry] will survive. So I haven’t written them off, but they really aren’t competitive anymore in the consumer handset market.”
The company, which declined to comment for this story, has stabilized its financials in recent quarters. But Apple is also chasing corporate clients. It announced a new partnership with IBM recently, with its eye on a similar business prize.
Fox's ratings are in free fall. Last season, the network averaged about half the viewers of CBS. Without big football games to shore up its ratings, the network is looking for a hit.
"I think it’s very important," says Horizon Media Research Director Brad Adgate. " Television is still a hit driven business and they need a hit."
One potential bright spot in the darkness is "Gotham", a dramatic Batman prequel. The Television Critics Association has named it the season's "most promising series." "It's exciting. It's a little scary," says TCA treasurer and TV critic Jacqueline Cutler. "I will be absolutely gobsmacked if this is not Fox's huge hit of the year."
But critics have been gobsmacked before, and Fox needs more than a critical darling. The network has struggled since the heyday of American Idol, which regularly helped FOX come from behind to lead with the coveted 18-to-49-year-old demographic. "They did that [for] eight straight seasons, which is unprecedented in the annals of television," Adgate says. "You know, they can’t rely on that anymore."
It's a particularly tall order at a time when network television as a whole, is losing ground to cable television. "Network TV at this point is less than a third of the national TV advertising market. Cable is two times bigger," says Brian Wieser, media analyst at Pivotal Research.
"In that context a decline in ratings at Fox shouldn't be that surprising."
So Fox is betting big on "Gotham", and entering the market for superheroes while the getting is good. The CW found enough success with another DC show, "Arrow", that it's doubling down this season with a lighter spin-off about the Flash. But the CW generally gets lower ratings than other broadcast networks, and a smash there — "Arrow" usually pulls in around 3 or 4 million viewers — just won't hold up on the big four.
The Marvel series "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." was a solid hit for ABC, but couldn't hold onto the nearly 12 million who tuned in for its massive debut. ABC brought the show back and added another, "Agent Carter". But in all, the field is going to be a lot more crowded. NBC also has a DC show, "Constantine" on Friday nights this fall, and juggernaut CBS just ordered a "Supergirl" series.
Gotham premieres tonight at 8 p.m. eastern, but with Hulu and DVR, analysts say we won’t know the real ratings for another week.
I love coffee. I love beer. But I'm not sure how big of a market there's going to be for a coffee drink that tastes like beer.
This weekend, Starbucks workers took to Reddit to talk about the Dark Barrel Latte, which is, I suppose, supposed to remind one of stout. Like coffee-flavored stouts, but the other way around?
It's also going to have caramel, chocolate and whipped cream. So really, it's not even coffee.
And yes, I am a purist.
Suddenly, everyone seems to be going to Mars.
NASA's MAVEN satellite has just begun orbiting the Red Planet and studying its atmosphere, and a craft launched by the Indian space agency is due to arrive in the Martian orbit this Wednesday. Meanwhile, various private sector organizations are planning something far more ambitious: the first manned landings on Mars. One of them – the Dutch-based Mars One project – says it’s on course for blast off with a four person crew within a decade.
You might think that Mars One’s biggest problem would be recruitment. The Mars visitors face a seven month long journey to a bitterly cold, dusty wasteland that has no oxygen and not much water. And then there’s the matter of the return journey: There isn’t one. The cost of bringing the crew back would be so prohibitive that this is to be a one-way trip. These are not so much Mars visitors as settlers or colonizers.
Nevertheless, an astonishing 200,000 people applied to join the mission. This figure has been winnowed down to a more modest 705 who are now being more closely assessed.
Twenty-one year-old Ryan McDonald – a physics student at Oxford University – is one of the (so-far) successful applicants . He can hardly wait for lift-off.
"I’m going there because I want to live on Mars, spend my life there – because that’s how I think I can achieve the most for humanity," he says.
"My main motivation is the example of the Apollo mission. It was the generation that was inspired by the moon landings that went on and gave us things like the internet, iPhones, advanced technology which immeasurably improves our lives and we’re so dependent on these days. A manned landing on Mars could have a similar effect. So I want to give a new generation their Apollo moment."
McDonald is unfazed by the prospect of never returning to Planet Earth. The same goes for 34-year-old school lab technician Alison Rigby – another Martian "candidate."
"It’s happened throughout human history,” Rigby says. “People have traveled across the planet with no hope of returning to where they came from. So I would belong to the next generation of these pioneers."Bryan Versteeg and Mars One/ www.mars-one.com
Rigby – who has a master’s degree in chemistry – finds the idea of spending the rest of her life in a bio-dome examining the chemistry of another planet "enticing."
The man behind the Mars One mission – Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp – claims his inspiration for the project comes from the Olympics. Lansdorp, who made his money from a wind energy firm, says what caught his eye about the London Games was the revenue from sponsorship and broadcasting rights: $4 billion for only three weeks of broadcasting.
"That was because the world was watching," says Lansdorp “The world would certainly want to watch the first Mars Landing. We will raise the $6 billion we need for the project by selling the media rights.”
A subsidiary of the Dutch company that created the Big Brother TV franchise has already snapped up the broadcasting rights to the Mars One final crew selection process.
But Dave Wade – an underwriter at the Lloyds insurance market in London who specializes in insuring commercial space projects – is skeptical about the viability of the Mars One project. First of all, he believes it would cost a lot more than $6 billion: “ More like $100 billion,” he says. And he can see a problem with the those broadcasting rights – a conflict between the demands of interplanetary travel and reality TV.
“The TV producers will want controversial people, difficult people. They want drama,” Wade says. “That’s not the kind of people you want on a space mission, particularly a one-way mission where the crew are going to be locked up in cramped capsule for months on end. It’s just fraught with difficulties. And they won’t be able to evict anyone from the bio-dome on Mars!”
What does it take to get chickens off antibiotics? According to Perdue Farms, an added dose of the "good bacteria" known as probiotics can help crowd out the harmful microbes that make a chicken sick.
Women, who make up 45 percent of the NFL's fan base, are critical the league's handling of domestic abuse scandals. But some still support their teams and express sympathy for the players.
Christina Quintanilla faced up to 50 years in prison after an anonymous hospital worker accused her of having an abortion.
Omar J. Gonzales, 42, jumped a fence and made it past the White House's North Portico doors before being apprehended by the Secret Service.
India's Mars Orbiter Mission is set to reach Mars on Wednesday, just days after a U.S. NASA probe began its orbit around the Red Planet. The difference? India did it on a much tighter budget.
On a busy road in Baltimore, Valerie Sirani walks up to a shabby beige house with three mailboxes and Christmas lights lining the windows. She knocks on the door. After a few minutes, a dozen or so young men in shorts and T-shirts gather on the front lawn, looking a bit wary.
They’re all students at Loyola University Maryland, living in a row of big houses off campus. Sirani hasn’t come alone. She’s brought with her representatives from the university and City Hall, as well as a uniformed police officer.
“My name is Val,” she tells the group. “I’m the community association president. Does everyone know what community you’re living in?”
They throw out a few guesses, but it’s clear they don’t.
“It’s Lake Walker,” Sirani tells them.
Lake Walker is a small, middle-class neighborhood in North Baltimore. With Towson University, Goucher College and Loyola all just a few miles away, Sirani has counted at least 20 houses rented by college students, out of about 700 homes. Today’s meeting is part welcome wagon, part warning.
“You’re part of our community and we want you to have fun,” Sirani says, “but we want you to be safe.”
So maybe don’t come home from a day of drinking and set out lawn chairs on your slanted roof to watch traffic, like Sirani recently saw some kids on this block doing. She stopped and took a picture.
“The kids obviously saw what I was doing and came down,” she says. “They were very polite, but extremely intoxicated.”
The minute school starts back up each year, so do the off-campus parties—and the complaints from neighbors about noise, fights, and people urinating in the bushes. Baltimore City police officer Doug Gibson shows the students a folder full of reports just from the past few weekends. If a house gets written up as a “neighborhood nuisance,” the landlord and tenants can be hit with hundreds of dollars in fines.
“Some of the reports already from this block are in that process right now,” he says. “There are going to be, most likely, some $500 citations issued already this year.”
Afterward, Loyola senior Bryan Pricoli admits the chat was a little intimidating. He also admits that having people over is one reason he wanted to live off campus.
“Obviously within normal human behavior,” he says. “This is just six good guys living together, and just having a good time our senior year.”
And they don’t have that much choice about where to live. Decades ago Loyola made an unusual agreement with several neighborhoods in its backyard that its students wouldn’t live there.
Studies have shown that the presence of a college, with its cultural activities and open spaces, raises property values. That doesn’t mean people want students living next door. Joan Flynn, senior vice president for administration at Loyola, warns the students that their behavior reflects on the college.
“You need to understand that you’re living here for one year; these folks are living here essentially for a lifetime,” she says. “The goal here is to be viewed as a contributing member of this community and not an element that diminishes the quality of life in this community.”
Efforts to smooth neighborhood relations are catching on at other colleges, says Beth Bagwell, president of the International Town-Gown Association. When students know their neighbors, it’s “harder to ignore the fact that Ms. Smith next door has a baby and she has to get up at 7 o’clock in the morning,” she says.
At the University of Colorado Boulder, some students living off campus are required to attend an orientation before they can collect their keys. They learn about the local nuisance law and hear about the community from a neighbor. Among the houses that have participated, Bagwell says citations for things like noise and property damage have dropped by half.
“So they were able to quantify the fact that this was a very successful program, and they’re still doing this,” she says.
Lake Walker’s Valerie Sirani isn’t sure. After a meet-and-greet with students from Towson University the week before, she was inundated with emails from neighbors complaining about a Saturday night party.