Browsing articles from "September, 2014"

First U.S. Case Of Ebola Confirmed In Dallas

Sep 30, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on First U.S. Case Of Ebola Confirmed In Dallas

A view of the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, on Tuesday. A patient in the hospital with a CDC-confirmed case of Ebola is being kept in strict isolation, hospital officials said Monday.i
i

A view of the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, on Tuesday. A patient in the hospital with a CDC-confirmed case of Ebola is being kept in strict isolation, hospital officials said Monday.

LM Otero/AP


hide caption

itoggle caption

LM Otero/AP

A view of the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, on Tuesday. A patient in the hospital with a CDC-confirmed case of Ebola is being kept in strict isolation, hospital officials said Monday.

A view of the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, on Tuesday. A patient in the hospital with a CDC-confirmed case of Ebola is being kept in strict isolation, hospital officials said Monday.

LM Otero/AP

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Tuesday that the first case of Ebola has appeared in the U.S.

A man in Dallas, who is not a health care worker, has tested positive for the virus, the agency says. The man flew to the U.S. from Liberia, arriving on Sept. 20, NPR has learned, and wasn’t sick on the flight, and had no symptoms when he arrived.

He first developed symptoms on Wednesday, Sept. 24, according to the CDC, and first sought care on Sept. 26. On Sunday, Sept. 28, he was placed in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Health officials have already started searching for people who may have come into close contact with the man; Ebola is only spread via direct contact with body fluids, and isn’t contagious until symptoms appear.

This isn’t the first time somebody has been treated for Ebola in the U.S. Several American aid workers in recent weeks caught the virus while working in West Africa and were flown back to the U.S. for treatment.

But it’s the first time the disease has been detected in a person in the U.S. The CDC is sending a team to Dallas to work with state and local health officials.

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa continues to grow rapidly. As of Thursday, there have been more 6,500 cases across Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. More 3,000 people have died of the disease, the World Health Organization says.

Infectious diseases experts have predicted for weeks that a few Ebola cases would likely get imported into the U.S. And hospitals around the country have been preparing to detect and treat such a case.

Because Ebola only spreads through body fluids, officials have said that any case like this will likely be quickly identified and contained, and not lead to a widespread outbreak like the one happening now in West Africa.

Albuquerque Police Department Faces Federal And Public Scrutiny

Sep 30, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Albuquerque Police Department Faces Federal And Public Scrutiny

Protesters gather outside the Albuquerque police department following the shooting deaths of James Boyd and others on March 25. The Justice Department accused the police of engaging in a pattern of excessive force.i
i

Protesters gather outside the Albuquerque police department following the shooting deaths of James Boyd and others on March 25. The Justice Department accused the police of engaging in a pattern of excessive force.

Rita Daniels /NPR


hide caption

itoggle caption

Rita Daniels /NPR

Protesters gather outside the Albuquerque police department following the shooting deaths of James Boyd and others on March 25. The Justice Department accused the police of engaging in a pattern of excessive force.

Protesters gather outside the Albuquerque police department following the shooting deaths of James Boyd and others on March 25. The Justice Department accused the police of engaging in a pattern of excessive force.

Rita Daniels /NPR

To understand the tension between the cops and some people in Albuquerque, you have to go back to a Tuesday in April.

It was after the Justice Department accused the Albuquerque police of engaging in a pattern of excessive force. In March, a homeless camper named James Boyd was shot and killed. Then a 19-year-old girl was killed.

“And I picked up the phone and I was like, ‘Hey what’s going on?’ and she was like, ‘Caro, Facebook is blowing up, do you know what’s happening, and I’m like, ‘No, what’s up,’ and she’s like ‘Mary! They killed Mary!’ And I was like, ‘Who? Who killed Mary?’ ‘The police killed Mary,” says Caro Acuna Olvera, a music teacher who was eating dinner when a friend called her.

The victim was Mary Hawkes, a former student of Olvera’s. She was a girl whose parents were drug addicts, who grew up in foster homes, who wrote poetry, lived on the street, loved animals, sold drugs and did drugs, too.

The night Hawkes was killed, police say an officer spotted a girl driving a stolen truck. They later found the truck with a phone Hawkes used. They looked at her Facebook profile, matched her picture with a police database, then found her near an old address.

When they found her, she ran and an officer chased her. Police say when she waved a gun, the officer shot her three times — in the head, upper arm, and shoulder.

On a video released by police, officers told rescue units that Hawkes was “heavily bleeding and not breathing.”

The shooting outraged some people in Albuquerque. Olvera helped arrange vigils and protests.

The Justice Department scrutinizes the police for excessive force, protesters said, and then cops go and kill a 19-year-old girl?

Kenneth Ellis II and family members of people shot by Albuquerque police officers hold a news conference on May 8.

The officer who shot Hawkes has not spoken publicly. The case is still under investigation.

Many other cops say the reason some people in the community are mad about the Hawkes shooting, and all the other shootings, is that they just don’t get it.

Before the Justice Department released its findings, local criminal investigators found all previous Albuquerque police shootings to be justified, says Shaun Willoughby, vice president of Albuquerque’s police union.

“There’s a lot of shootings that people are really upset about that we would call good shoots,” he says.

Shoots, he says, will never go away. No matter what the feds say.

“If you threaten a police officer, you point a gun at a police officer, they are going and have the right to protect themselves and are trained to do so,” Willoughby says. “And nothing the Department of Justice or any entity says is going to change that.”

People need to understand that in these situations, it’s black and white. There is no gray.

If someone has a weapon and points it at police, police are going to shoot. And they don’t shoot to wound, the cops say, they shoot to kill.

But the Justice Department says it is gray sometimes. In its report, the Justice Department said Albuquerque police sometimes use force when there is not an imminent threat to officers or others, and that they themselves sometimes escalate the situation until there is a reason to use force.

Of course there is a gray area, says Sam Costales, a former Albuquerque cop for more than 20 years.

Back in 2001, Costales was chasing an armed robbery suspect who grabbed a piece of pipe from the back of his truck and came at him. So, Costales took out his gun.

“I could’ve shot him,” he says. “I had every right to shoot him. But I didn’t want to shoot him.”

Instead, he put his gun back in the holster, maced the guy, and arrested him.

Back at the station, Costales put the suspect in an interview room and went to get him something to drink. A couple of detectives walked by.

“And they go what are you doing? I said, ‘I’m getting the guy a Coke.’ ‘You’re getting the guy a Coke, this guy that just came at you with a pipe. A guy that’s gonna kill you, you’re gonna buy him a Coke now?’ I said, ‘He didn’t kill me, and he’s thirsty,’ and I left it at that,” Costales says.

Costales says he tried to treat suspects with respect. But other cops yelled at people, beat people up, used their weapons against people and then covered it up, he says.

Riot police faced off with protesters Sunday, during a demonstration against recent police shootings in Albuquerque, N.M. The march lasted at least nine hours.

A lot of this bad behavior is the work of a good-old boys network, where it’s all about who you’re related to,” says Cassandra Morrison, another former Albuquerque cop of 20 years.

Doug Brinson sits on a stoop next to a makeshift memorial for Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y. Garner died after he was put in a chokehold by police officers while being arrested at the site last month for selling untaxed loose cigarettes. His death has been ruled a homicide.

It’s about “who you know, who you hang out with, who you smoke cigars with, who you go have a beer with,” she says.

If you’re in the club, she says, you don’t get punished when you act like a cowboy, break the rules, and use excessive force. It’s a system that won’t change until some of those cowboys get punished.

Morrison says she’s been told several Albuquerque police officers could be indicted in federal court for previous shootings.

“So I think once those indictments come down, it’s gonna be like uh-oh,” she says.

In other words, those who are part of the club aren’t so invincible.

“It’s kind of like taking down Teflon Don, the head of the mafia,” Morrison says. “You take down one of them, everybody else kinda sits back and goes, ‘Oh, we need to chill out for a while.’ Well you need to hit ’em so hard that they’re gonna chill out forever.”

The Albuquerque police chief recently told USA Today there are some police who shouldn’t be on the force. He says the rest of the police are working hard to regain the community’s trust, mainly through new training.

The Justice Department has confirmed that at least one Albuquerque police shooting is now being investigated by its criminal division.

Hands-Free, Mind-Free: What We Lose Through Automation

Sep 30, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Hands-Free, Mind-Free: What We Lose Through Automation

NPR's Robert Siegel and Michael Minielly, a Mercedes-Benz representative, drive a new S550 4Matic, which allows for semi-autonomous driving.i
i

NPR’s Robert Siegel and Michael Minielly, a Mercedes-Benz representative, drive a new S550 4Matic, which allows for semi-autonomous driving.

Rob Ballenger /NPR


hide caption

itoggle caption

Rob Ballenger /NPR

NPR's Robert Siegel and Michael Minielly, a Mercedes-Benz representative, drive a new S550 4Matic, which allows for semi-autonomous driving.

NPR’s Robert Siegel and Michael Minielly, a Mercedes-Benz representative, drive a new S550 4Matic, which allows for semi-autonomous driving.

Rob Ballenger /NPR

Nicholas Carr’s books are the nagging, tech-wary conscience of the digital age. In The Shallows, he warned that surfing the Internet is destroying our attention span.

Now in his new book, The Glass Cage, Carr warns us that computers are making more and more decisions for us, and we risk forgetting how to make those decisions ourselves.

He writes a lot about cars. Cars that do many things for us automatically, things we used to do and had to think about. And cars of the future that may take over the driving from us altogether.

NPR’s Robert Siegel picked him up in a state-of-the-art driving machine, a 2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 4Matic.

The car is Mercedes’ top of the line, highest-tech model you can drive. It parks itself. It controls the windshield wipers. And it automatically dims the high beams when oncoming cars approach.

It’s even equipped with a special camera and radar that allows for semi-autonomous driving, says Michael Minielly of Mercedes-Benz USA, who was also along for the ride.


The Glass Cage

As Siegel was driving in rush-hour traffic to Carr’s hotel in Washington, D.C., this system kept him in his lane — had he strayed, it would have taken over the steering — and it maintained his distance from a taxi that cut in front.

“The car ahead of me is moving, so the car is following it. I’m not accelerating right now,” Siegel says.

“That’s correct. And you’re not braking,” Minielly adds.

“I’m not braking. And now the car ahead of me is slowing down so this car is slowing down,” Siegel says.

No hands, no feet. The Mercedes was driving itself.

For Carr, features like automatic navigation demonstrate how technology gives to human beings, while also taking away.

“At least you used to have to figure out where you were,” Carr says. “And even with a paper map, you’d have to locate yourself somewhere and figure out what the landmarks around you are and kind of get a sense of place. And that’s no longer necessary when you have the voice come on and say, ‘In 500 yards turn left, 200 yards turn right.’ I do think there’s something lost there.”

And it’s not just behind the wheel of a vehicle that can drive itself where Carr sees a worrying loss of autonomy.

“Well, you see it in a lot of professions,” including doctors and pilots, he says.

When you go into your doctor’s office today, Carr says, the doctor spends a lot of time entering data into a computer — information he used to dictate or write down — and going through different templates to help give him hints on diagnosis.

“Can be good, can be not so good, but [it] changes the doctor-patient relationship in very interesting ways,” Carr says.

The same goes for flying. Flight has become much safer since the inception of autopilot and more automated systems, Carr says.

“The name of the book, The Glass Cage, refers to what pilots call the glass cockpit — that more and more they’re flying by looking at banks of computer monitors,” he says.

As a result of autopilot, though, pilots aren’t getting enough practice in manual flying. So when something bad happens, pilots are rusty and often make mistakes.

“I think the lesson isn’t that automation is bad, but we have to be very wise in knowing how to automate and when to say no; let’s not take more control away from the human being,” Carr says.

But a lot of automated driving features work to avoid accidents.

Virginia Tech and the Virginia Department of Transportation have placed short-range radio transmitters on selected roads and highways in the state, says Ray Resendes, executive director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s National Capital Region.

Resendes’ Cadillac receives their transmissions and displays them on the dashboard navigation screen. Recommended speeds are shown on exit ramps, and as the car passes a school, an alert warns that school children are nearby.

Carr says he worries about people being bombarded with such automatic alerts — in our future cars and everywhere else.

Google X is building a few hundred self-driving cars that have no steering wheel, accelerator pedal or brake pedal.

“This is something called ‘alert fatigue,’ ” he says. When you receive too many alerts, “… you actually become less alert yourself because you’re just dismissing the alerts.”

Carnegie Mellon's autonomous car, developed with General Motors, is by all appearances a normal Cadillac SRX crossover — except for the big red button in the middle of the dashboard. In an emergency, the button allows the car to be switched immediately back to standard driving mode.

And here’s another question that Carr writes about: If the car of the future will make decisions for us, how will it decide what to do when a collision is unavoidable and a computer is in charge of the steering?

Chris Urmson (right) and Anthony Levandowski, one of the leaders of Google's self-driving car project, get into the driverless car.

“You have to start programming difficult moral, ethical decisions into the car,” Carr says. “If you are gonna crash into something, what do you crash into? Do you go off the road and crash into a telephone pole rather than hitting a pedestrian?”

Resendes says addressing these issues will be a very difficult task. “A lot of times people will steer to avoid a rear end collision and then you can run into a head on collision, which is the worst crash, or you can hit a pedestrian,” he says. “Having to codify these issues into the algorithm on a vehicle is a very serious issue.”

Carr’s complaint against intrusive automation isn’t just about how well or how poorly computers might make moral decisions for us. It’s about the very erosion of human autonomy.

“Once we start taking our moral thinking and moral decision-making away from us and putting it into the hands not of a machine really, but of the programmers of that machine, then I think we’re starting to give up something essential to what it means to be a human being,” he says.

U.S. Charges Pakistani Man Of Conspiracy Over His Spyware App

Sep 30, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on U.S. Charges Pakistani Man Of Conspiracy Over His Spyware App

A customer inspects the new iPhone.i
i

A customer inspects the new iPhone.

Lintao Zhang/Getty Images


hide caption

itoggle caption

Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

A customer inspects the new iPhone.

A customer inspects the new iPhone.

Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

In what it is calling the first criminal case of its kind, the Justice Department said it had charged a Pakistani man of conspiracy over the sale and advertising of a smart phone app that could monitor calls, texts, videos, location and other communication of an unsuspecting user.

Hammad Akbar, 31, of Lahore, Pakistan, is the owner of the company that sells an app called StealthGenie.

“Selling spyware is not just reprehensible, it’s a crime,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in a statement. “Apps like StealthGenie are expressly designed for use by stalkers and domestic abusers who want to know every detail of a victim’s personal life — all without the victim’s knowledge. The Criminal Division is committed to cracking down on those who seek to profit from technology designed and used to commit brazen invasions of individual privacy.”

The Washington Post reports that activists against domestic violence have urged law enforcement officials to take action against apps like these. The Post adds that Akbar was arrested in Los Angeles on Saturday:

“A grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia in August indicted Akbar for several alleged crimes, including conspiracy, sale of a surreptitious interception device and advertising a surreptitious interception device. That indictment was unsealed Monday afternoon. Efforts to reach Akbar’s attorney, based in Los Angeles, were not successful.”

In its indictment, the government says that a person needs “physical control” of a phone in order to install the software. But once it is on there, a person could access pretty much anything remotely.

Arstechnica reports that the company marketed StealthGenie both as a way for parents to track their children and “those suspecting a spouse or romantic partner of infidelity.”

Spanish Court Blocks Catalonia’s Independence Vote

Sep 29, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Spanish Court Blocks Catalonia’s Independence Vote

Pro-independence Catalans protest in front of a Spanish government delegation in Barcelona Monday, after Spain's Constitutional Court suspended an independence referendum called by Catalonia.i
i

Pro-independence Catalans protest in front of a Spanish government delegation in Barcelona Monday, after Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended an independence referendum called by Catalonia.

Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images


hide caption

itoggle caption

Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images

Pro-independence Catalans protest in front of a Spanish government delegation in Barcelona Monday, after Spain's Constitutional Court suspended an independence referendum called by Catalonia.

Pro-independence Catalans protest in front of a Spanish government delegation in Barcelona Monday, after Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended an independence referendum called by Catalonia.

Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images

Two days after the region’s president announced a November vote on whether Catalonia should break away from Spain, the nation’s highest court has suspended that plan, making it illegal to continue organizing the referendum. It’s not clear whether the region’s leaders will abide by the ruling.

Spain’s central government in Madrid had appealed to the court to stop the vote, which was approved with strong support from Catalonia’s parliament and local governments. In accepting the appeal today, the court automatically suspended the referendum.

From Madrid, NPR’s Lauren Frayer reports:

“Catalonia’s parliament and president have already set a Nov. 9 vote on independence from Spain. They’ve outlined rules, and are setting up polling stations.
“But Spain’s central government says the vote is illegal. And the country’s Constitutional Court has now backed that claim, suspending Catalonia’s plans while it weighs their legality.
“‘It’s not illegal,’ Catalan President Artur Mas said in a televised statement. He suggested the vote would still be held.
“Meanwhile, pro-independence protesters have flocked to the streets of the Catalan capital, Barcelona.”

Earlier Monday, Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the poll isn’t allowed under the country’s constitution. which doesn’t allow regions to opt out. He said that he was defending the rights of all Spaniards, including Catalans.

“Nothing and nobody, whether power or institution, can break this principle of single and indivisible sovereignty on which our coexistence is based,” Rajoy said, according to Euronews. “In other words, no one person or group has the right to deprive all the Spanish people of the right to decide what their country is.”

Washington Post: White House Intruder Made It To Doorway Of Green Room

Sep 29, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Washington Post: White House Intruder Made It To Doorway Of Green Room

A perimeter fence has been placed in front of the White House fence on the North Lawn along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.i
i

A perimeter fence has been placed in front of the White House fence on the North Lawn along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP


hide caption

itoggle caption

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

A perimeter fence has been placed in front of the White House fence on the North Lawn along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.

A perimeter fence has been placed in front of the White House fence on the North Lawn along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

The man who jumped the White House fence carrying a knife made it past the front doors, overpowered a guard, and then ran across the East Room before being tackled at the doorway to the Green Room, The Washington Post is reporting.

Secret Service officials had originally said that Omar Gonzalez had been stopped shortly after he made into the White House. But this report has Gonzalez “running through much of the main floor.”

The Post cites “three people familiar with the incident” for its report. But the paper’s Carol D. Leonnig has been dominating this story. Over the weekend, she reported that back in 2011, seven bullets hit the White House and Secret Service agents dismissed it as the backfire “from a nearby construction vehicle.”

The Post reports:

“By the end of that Friday night, the agency had confirmed a shooting had occurred but wrongly insisted the gunfire was never aimed at the White House. Instead, Secret Service supervisors theorized, gang members in separate cars got in a gunfight near the White House’s front lawn — an unlikely scenario in a relatively quiet, touristy part of the nation’s capital.

“It took the Secret Service four days to realize that shots had hit the White House residence, a discovery that came about only because a housekeeper noticed broken glass and a chunk of cement on the floor.”

Of course, the Secret Service has been embarrassed by a string of incidents lately. Chief among them was when six of its agents resigned over a prostitution scandal in Colombia.

Back in March, the Service’s director, Mark Sullivan, retired after 30 years of service.

All Things Considered talked to the Post’s Leonnig this afternoon. Audio of that conversation is at the top of this post.

First Listen: Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, ‘Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn’

Sep 29, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on First Listen: Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, ‘Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn’

Bela Fleck  Abigail Washburn's new self-titled album comes out Oct. 7.i
i

Bela Fleck Abigail Washburn’s new self-titled album comes out Oct. 7.

Courtesy of the artist


hide caption

itoggle caption

Courtesy of the artist

Bela Fleck  Abigail Washburn's new self-titled album comes out Oct. 7.

Bela Fleck Abigail Washburn’s new self-titled album comes out Oct. 7.

Courtesy of the artist

This is not Dueling Banjos: The Married Couple Edition. You won’t find the careening energy of the mano-a-mano from the Deliverance soundtrack, or of the Flatt and Scruggs classic “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.” Outbreaks of dazzling, speed-demon technique are few.

Instead, the first duo recording from Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn — husband-and-wife banjo adventurers with divergent areas of specialty — is notable for its understated, welcoming calm. Across 11 short, carefully arranged slivers of Americana, Fleck and Washburn explore roots music using the tones and coloration options that arise when two banjos join in conversation. Sometimes the focus is on basic timekeeping, via the intricate arpeggios and latticework rhythm patterns associated with scores of banjo classics. Sometimes the two seek out moodier realms, among them the unique, entrancing drones common in rural blues.

And sometimes, as in the Flecktones-era original “New South Africa,” they trade ad-libbed lines like jazz veterans, sparring with enviable crispness. What’s striking about these instrumental passages is not the virtuosity — there’s plenty on display — but the way these two cultivate and sustain dialog. A challenge of the duo setting involves listening and knowing when to respond; as they trade variations on a theme, it’s possible to hear each treading lightly, curious to hear where the other might nudge the piece next. Both are inclined to let the conversation unfold naturally, and that requires constant shifting between foreground and background, solo and accompanist roles. They do this with such ease, at times it sounds like there are four or more banjos in the mix. (In fact, seven different instruments, including a baritone banjo, were used; Fleck also takes a rare turn as a background vocalist in spots.)

Alive and in constant motion, the banjo discourse provides a wondrously open backdrop for Washburn’s vocals. It takes some doing to revitalize a warhorse like “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad,” but Washburn does it. She emphasizes the work-song cadence while glancing gently at the blues, and at the same time somehow conjures a wide-eyed sense of wanderlust — a feeling ported directly from that long-gone age when the railroad inspired reverence. She’s so uncontrived and uncomplicated and entirely believable, she could be from that era. She’s believable when singing in a more modern folk idiom, too: In Fleck’s dystopian “What’cha Gonna Do,” her voice — which a wine snob might describe as bearing notes of honey and vinegar, bourbon and bluegrass — asks a hypothetical question about an end-times scenario in which the “land goes into the water.” Her intention changes line by line: One minute she could be castigating corporate polluters, the next minute she sounds dismayed about humanity’s chances, and the next she’s singing with fierce yet intimate urgency, as if trying to rouse someone who’s been sleeping for too long.

The material on this self-titled set, recorded shortly after the birth of the couple’s son Juno, covers an impressive range. There are wistful, singer-songwriterly originals (Washburn’s “Ride To You”) and old Appalachian classics (“Pretty Polly”), murder ballads and songs about the afterlife. What is it about the banjo that makes it such suitable accompaniment for tales of dire and untimely ends? The duo takes full advantage of that grim legacy in a delightful song called “Shotgun Blues.” Singing in a barely contained rage, like she’s got a shotgun in her hand, Washburn goes out to seek revenge against a no-good lover: “If I thought you felt bad for what you done to me,” she sings with a steely resolve, “I’d let you go, but you’re just too mean.” It’s a harsh and dramatic performance, and to highlight its extreme nature, the picking party carries on serenely behind her. Fleck scampers through a series of increasingly tricky lines as if running for his life through thick woods, trying to avoid capture. It’s not the Deliverance story, exactly, but it’s got the hunter-and-hunted dynamic down cold.

First Listen: A Winged Victory For The Sullen, ‘Atomos’

Sep 29, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on First Listen: A Winged Victory For The Sullen, ‘Atomos’

A Winged Victory For The Sullen's new album, Atomos, comes out Oct. 7.i
i

A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s new album, Atomos, comes out Oct. 7.

Courtesy of the artist


hide caption

itoggle caption

Courtesy of the artist

A Winged Victory For The Sullen's new album, Atomos, comes out Oct. 7.

A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s new album, Atomos, comes out Oct. 7.

Courtesy of the artist

As you might expect, A Winged Victory For The Sullen doesn’t play lighthearted surf-rock, nor is it a manic techno act or an oompah band. As its name suggests, it’s an ambient-minded neoclassical duo that likes its sounds intensely measured, contemplative and slow.

The gist is similar for Stars Of The Lid, the beloved ambient drone project of which Winged Victory’s Adam Wiltzie is a founding member. Now, in collaboration with pianist Dustin O’Halloran, his style is equally mesmerizing, with a touch more room for melody and slightly more air to breathe. The first track on Atomos, the second Winged Victory album after a swooning debut in 2011, opens with a heaving organ sound that makes its way patiently through a cycle of chords that take their time to coalesce. It’s both grainy and beatific, as if created to be played in a grotty old gothic church. Then, strings enter and begin to patiently, portentously saw their way into a state of rumination. By four minutes in, the swelling track has dialed down to mostly just the strings, and then, around 5:30, it all drops out to make space for piano. That none of the changes are apparent as they’re actually happening — they’re noticeable only in retrospect, when trying to make sense of where the sound has wandered — speaks to the entrancing quality of music conceived to make listeners feel eerily, gloriously lost.

All of the slow, barely moving tracks on Atomos were commissioned for choreography, which proves less surprising upon learning that the choreographer, Wayne McGregor, worked on Thom Yorke‘s weird, wiggly writhing in Radiohead‘s “Lotus Flower” video. Few moments on the album would seem to lend themselves especially easily to dance — maybe the pretty piano, jaunty by comparison, in “Atomos III,” or the stately strings and subtly strobing electronics in “Atomos VIII,” or the lithe cluster of seesawing notes in “Atomos VIII.” On the whole, however, the album is emotionally moving. It’s never quite clear whether it would be more fitting to smile or cry, but somewhere in the middle is a state worth visiting.

How A Journalist Ended Up On A Terror Watch List

Sep 28, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on How A Journalist Ended Up On A Terror Watch List

Conservative journalist Stephen F. Hayes recently discovered that he had been placed on a terror watch-list. Hayes tells NPR’s Arun Rath that he suspects this is the result of a trip to Turkey.

Movie Theaters Hope To Add Another Dimension To Their Profits

Sep 28, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Movie Theaters Hope To Add Another Dimension To Their Profits

Theaters that call themselves 4-D use lights, moving seats, fog and even sprays of water and air to give moviegoers a unique experience — one they hope audiences will consider worthy of higher ticket prices.i
i

Theaters that call themselves 4-D use lights, moving seats, fog and even sprays of water and air to give moviegoers a unique experience — one they hope audiences will consider worthy of higher ticket prices.

Ernesto López Ruiz/Courtesy of CJ EM America


hide caption

itoggle caption

Ernesto López Ruiz/Courtesy of CJ EM America

Theaters that call themselves 4-D use lights, moving seats, fog and even sprays of water and air to give moviegoers a unique experience — one they hope audiences will consider worthy of higher ticket prices.

Theaters that call themselves 4-D use lights, moving seats, fog and even sprays of water and air to give moviegoers a unique experience — one they hope audiences will consider worthy of higher ticket prices.

Ernesto López Ruiz/Courtesy of CJ EM America

Some experimental features have been popping up in movie theaters lately. One of them is a so-called 4-D experience. It’s hard to describe in words exactly what a 4-D movie experience feels like, but here’s one attempt: it is intense.

During a recent screening of Guardians of the Galaxy in 4-D at the Regal Cinemas LA Live theater, the seat moved up and down and side to side, like a simulator ride. There were strobe lights on the walls; fog seemed to come out of the walls and little jets of water sprayed over the seats.

During one scene, bubbles floated down from the ceiling. But what really stood out were the puffs of air, blowing by the ears of moviegoers out of vents built into the headrest, to simulate wind. All of this on top of a movie that features a gun-wielding raccoon and a talking, shape-shifting tree.

After the movie, Jennifer and Colin Mackenzie said they actually enjoyed being fogged and spritzed and wind-blown.

“It was a lot like a roller coaster,” said Colin.

His wife Jennifer agreed, but wanted even more. “Well, maybe not as intense as a roller coaster. I don’t think there was enough. I think there should have been more rain and more lights!” Jennifer even hoped that one day the 4-D technology could be merged with virtual reality.

Moviegoer Gary Epstein was pretty pleased as well. “The movie was good,” he said. “The ride was good too. I couldn’t fall asleep.”

New Theater Tech

There are a lot of new toys for movie theaters coming down the line these days: new immersive sound systems with over 50 speakers; new screens that get bigger and bigger; even a theater in the works by some students at CalArts that has a 360-degree, fully panoramic dome screen.

Amir Malin, an analyst with Qualia Capital, says a lot of this movie theater innovation is happening because the American box office has kind of topped out. The number of people actually going to see movies is still high, but Malin claims that number has peaked.

The Roxie Theater in San Francisco still has two 35 millimeter projectors, but the switch to digital is inevitable.

“I wouldn’t say box office is trending down,” Malin says. “Exhibition domestically, we’re staying at relative levels.”

But even with this stagnation, the amount of money movies take in domestically keeps creeping higher, pretty much every year.

“Any increase in revenue is largely due to increase in ticket pricing,” Malin says.

So it’s not about getting more people in seats. In fact, the blockbusters of today actually have fewer viewers than the biggest movies of a few decades ago. Statistics at Box Office Mojo find that of the top blockbusters of all time, ranked by attendance, only one in the top 10, Titanic, was released after 1990.

That means profit-making is all about getting the people still in the seats to pay more. Every new feature is an excuse to raise ticket prices. And Malin says theaters have to try even harder now because they’re up against a lot of new competition.

“There’s definitely concern whether they’re going through a dinosaur phase right now [and] headed toward extinction,” he says.

Malin says theaters are up against a few new challenges. The amount of time movies are exclusively in theaters is shorter. There are also more ways and places you can watch movies, like on phones or tablets.

On top of all that, television today offers high-quality shows that more directly compete with movies.

Some Just Want To Show Movies

Not everyone is on board with the changing face of theaters. Mike Hurley, an independent movie theater owner in Maine, says a lot of these new bells and whistles — like 4-D — are just too much.

“We didn’t get 3-D, so we’re not getting 4-D,” Hurley says. “All we wanna do is show movies.”

After Tuesday, projectionist Andy Holyoke will help retire the Little Art Theatre's vintage Italian reel-to-reel projectors.

In fact, Hurley had to raise funds just to get enough money together to help his theaters make the transition to digital recently. He says besides not needing all of the new features, he really can’t afford a lot of them.

“There is really only so much a movie theater can spend on toys that people come up with,” he says.

Stephen Lighthill, a professor of cinematography at the American Film Institute Conservatory and president of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), also feels some of these new features are unnecessary. He says theaters may be in an extra hurry to innovate right now, but new wacky features finding their ways into cineplexes has been happening for a while.

“There always have been the two trends where one person has says, ‘We gotta make better movies.’ And the other person says, ‘We gotta find better technology,'” Lighthill says.

Remember Smell-O-Vision?

Lighthill says, ultimately, no one theater gadget will save the industry — but a few things might. He thinks the answer for the whole industry is to have an eclectic array of films and events to watch at theaters.

The new addition to the AMC Mainstreet movie theater in Kansas City, Mo. — dinner-ready recliners, complete with tray table and condiments.

And it’s true that more and more theaters are hosting things other than movies in their space, like livecasts of opera performances and even video gaming competitions.

Movie industry analyst Amir Malin says two easy fixes are already increasing revenue at theaters across the country: restaurant-style food and alcohol, and “reseating,” or replacing old cloth theater seats with new, plush and more spacious leather seats.

This panoramic theater from Barco, Inc. is another way technology companies hope to enhance the experience for moviegoers.i
i

This panoramic theater from Barco, Inc. is another way technology companies hope to enhance the experience for moviegoers.

Courtesy of Barco, Inc.


hide caption

itoggle caption

Courtesy of Barco, Inc.

This panoramic theater from Barco, Inc. is another way technology companies hope to enhance the experience for moviegoers.

This panoramic theater from Barco, Inc. is another way technology companies hope to enhance the experience for moviegoers.

Courtesy of Barco, Inc.

In the meantime, there will continue to be new inventions to keep theaters one step ahead. A company named Barco recently screened the film The Maze Runner at a panoramic theater in Los Angeles that has three screens on three walls.

Ted Schilowitz, whose title at Barco is “CinemaVangelist,” admitted that not every film will be right for all of the new technology moving into theaters these days. And maybe it won’t be right for all moviegoers.

“If it was too intense, our recommendation was move a little further back in the theater,” he says. “If you want something more intense, come closer.”

Come closer. That’s pretty much what all these theaters, and all their new tricks, are asking us to do.

Pages:1234567...12»

Categories

Current Times

  • NPT: 2017-11-25 09:30 AM
  • EST: 2017-11-24 10:45 PM
  • PST: 2017-11-24 07:45 PM