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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Nora Ephron Dead: 'When Harry Met Sally' Screenwriter Dies At 71

Nora Ephron Dead

Nora Ephron is dead at 71.

Ephron died of complications from myelodysplasia, a blood disorder she was diagnosed with six years ago, The Washington Post reports.

The beloved screenwriter, who brought to life award-winning films including "Silkwood," "When Harry Met Sally...," "Sleepless in Seattle," "You've Got Mail" and, most recently "Julie & Julia," belonged to America's top tier of filmmakers, but her talents extended far beyond Hollywood. Ephron was also an accomplished essayist, novelist and reporter, not to mention the Editor-at-Large of The Huffington Post.

Raised in Beverly Hills, Ephron graduated from Wellesley College before beginning her career as a journalist at the New York Post. She then went on to write about the 1970s women's movement for Esquire.

"Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady," Ephron told Wellesley's Class of 1996 in a commencement speech. "I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women."

Ephron had the wit and the guts to follow her own advice.

"She was the funniest feminist, or pseudofeminist, depending on whom you ask," Ariel Levy observed in a 2009 profile of Ephron published by The New Yorker.

In her work and in her life, Ephron refused to settle for predictability. "Every 10 years or so there was a moment when I'd say, even subconsciously, 'Is that all there is?'" she told Ladies' Home Journal in 2009. "You've got to find ways to keep it fresh for yourself. To do the thing, as they say, that is a stretch."

In 1976, Ephron married Washington Post journalist Carl Bernstein (she was previously married to writer Dan Greenburg for nine years) on the heels of his induction into the journalism hall of fame. Bernstein and his fellow reporter Bob Woodward had chased down the Watergate scandal, which ended the presidency of President Richard Nixon.

"Carl and Nora were the Brad and Jen of the early eighties," Levy wrote.

Like many power couples, this one ended in divorce -- after four years.

Following her second divorce, Ephron wrote the Academy Award-winning screenplay for "Silkwood," starring Kurt Russell and Meryl Streep. Ephron and Streep would collaborate again on 1986's "Heartburn" and 2009's "Julie & Julia."

"Directing movies is the best job there is, that's all," Ephron told the UK's Independent in 1993. "I can hardly say a word after that. It's just a great job. I just want to go on making movies, and some of them will be completely meaningless, except, of course, to me."

Ephron is perhaps best known for her 1989 film, "When Harry Met Sally...," which has become a cultural mainstay.

"'When Harry Met Sally...' is kind of a dark movie," director Nicolas Stoller told The Huffington Post in 2012. "It's sweet and it ends beautifully and romantic, but those are two pretty messed up characters. They're pretty flawed. They do pretty nasty things to each other. It goes to a dark, pretty real place between them. That's why it's a classic. [Screenwriter] Nora Ephron does not pull her punches in that movie."

Tom Hanks, who starred in not one, but two now-classic Ephron rom-coms -- "Sleepless in Seattle" (1993) and "You've Got Mail" (1998) -- said, "Working on a movie with Nora is kind of like going to a dinner party of hers," Hanks said of Ephron. "There's a lot of great conversation. There's a certain amount of screwing around but, by and large, you wind up talking about what Nora dictates you're going to wind up talking about."

In recent years, Ephron had grown increasingly aware of her mortality. In her latest book, "I Remember Nothing: And other Reflections" (2010) she writes: "You do get to a certain point in life where you have to realistically, I think, understand that the days are getting shorter, and you can't put things off thinking you'll get to them someday. If you really want to do them, you better do them. There are simply too many people getting sick, and sooner or later you will. So I'm very much a believer in knowing what it is that you love doing so you can do a great deal of it."

Ephron is survived by her husband, screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi and her two sons, Jacob and Max Bernstein. A memorial has been planned for Thursday, June 28, in New York.

Via: HuffingTonPost

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Aware-2, New Gigapixel Camera, Takes Photos 30 Times Better Than Current SLRs

Time for a closeup. An ultra high-def closeup.

An advanced camera powerful enough to shoot one billion pixels of still or video image is currently being tested at Duke University. Details of this research were released in the scientific journal Nature earlier this week.

This "supercamera," as Science Mag has labeled it, is actually composed of 98 smaller cameras that shoot at 14 megapixels and rest in a football-sized sphere. "Pixels are individual 'dots' of data," explains a press release for Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. "The higher the number of pixels, the better resolution of the image."

Pictures from the multiple cameras are then stitched together by image processing software on a computer connected to the sphere, creating one highly detailed image. According to the Wall Street Journal, these billion pixel shots generate photos with five times as much detail as what a person with 20/20 vision can see, and produce images 30 times better than the best SLR camera available on the market.

The Department of Defense has funded the research of this device, known formally as the Aware-2, in hopes of using this technology in both aerial and land surveillance, per The Wall Street Journal. The zooming-in capabilities of this camera's images (via supplemental computer software) could provide detailed information once impossible to obtain.

"When you’re in the field, you don’t have to decide what you’re going to study — you can capture as much information as possible and look at it for five years”, says roboticist Illah Nourbakhsh to Nature. He developed Gigapan, which is the software that stitches all of smaller images together.

Nature reports that there have been other gigapixel cameras developed, like the one housed at the University of Hawaii; but none boast a field of view 120 degrees wide and 50 degrees tall like the Aware-2.

If this technology was eventually spread to the general public, a whole new photography world could be created. PC Mag reports that by simply turning on the camera users would be able to collect comprehensive still and video images of the world around them. Media companies might also be able to shoot movies, television shows and sports in defined gigapixels, bringing forth a drastically new viewer experience.

"In many instances, the camera can capture images of things that photographers cannot see themselves but can then detect when the image is viewed later," says developer David Brady from the Pratt School of Engineering.

But it will be some time before this type of technology is available as a handheld camera. Currently, the Aware-2 weighs around 100 pounds and shoots only in black-and-white. The Wall Street Journal reports some industrial gigapixel cameras may be released on a "limited basis in 2013."

For more information on the Aware-2, flip through the images of the camera in the slideshow below. Then let us know what you think in the comments section, or tweet us at @HuffPostTech.

Aware-2 Camera
This device weighs around 100 pounds and consists of 98 smaller cameras at 14 megapixels each. As shown in this picture, the football-sized sphere is also surrounded by wires and a cooling system. Though Duke researchers hope to develop similar technology on a smaller scale soon, this version of the Aware-2 isn't quite ready for the general public.

Picture Details
This is an example of Aware-2's gigapixel photographs, taken in Seattle, Washington. The zoom-in feature shows details like the words written on signs and vehicles.

The 98 Cameras
The Aware-2 boasts 98 cameras that take 98 separate images, which are later stitched together with Gigapan software to form one high-quality image. Here you can see what section of the picture each camera captured and how the smaller images slightly overlap.

Duke University's New Gigapixel Camera

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rodney King autopsy completed as death investigation continues; results to take weeks

RIALTO, Calif. — Results from toxicology tests could as long as six weeks to gather before coroner’s officials can determine how Rodney King died.

King was pulled from the deep end of his pool early Sunday by police who were called to his home by his fiancee. Investigators conducted an autopsy on his body on Monday.

King became famous after he was severely beaten by Los Angeles police in 1991. The beating was captured on videotape and broadcast worldwide, as were photos of King’s bloodied and bruised face. The more than 50 baton blows and kicks inflicted by officers left King with 11 skull fractures, a broken eye socket and facial nerve damage.

The trial of four officers charged with felony assault in the beating ended after a jury with no black members acquitted three of the officers on state charges; a mistrial was declared for a fourth.

The verdict sparked one of the most costly and deadly race riots in the nation’s history.

Rialto police are investigating the 47-year-old King’s death as an apparent drowning and said they have found no signs of foul play. King’s fiancee spoke with police for several hours Sunday and is considered a witness in the case, Rialto Police Officer David Shepherd said Monday.

An officer remained stationed outside King’s one-story home throughout Monday, with several news crews also remaining in the neighborhood. Cars slowed to look at the house, and some stopped for passengers to snap photos. But no memorial to King had been created at the residence.

Toxicology results will show whether King, who struggled with addiction throughout his life, had any alcohol or drugs in his system.

Police have said there were no signs of alcohol or drug paraphernalia near the pool. Officers were seen taking a marijuana plant out of the house Sunday, but Shepherd said he could not confirm what items were taken from the home.

Lawrence Spagnola, who helped King write his memoir “The Riot Within: From Rebellion to Redemption,” said King was proud of the book and hoped it signaled a new chapter in his life where he wouldn’t just be remembered as a beating victim.

“Rodney was tired of being the Rodney who was always asked about the beating and if he’d forgiven the cops,” Spagnola said. King was happiest when he was outdoors and the two men talked about meeting for a fishing trip, Spagnola said.

“There was a lot of good in him,” he said.

He said King seemed like a different person when he spoke about the darker aspects of his life. “When Rodney was talking about spousal abuse or DUIs or drinking, there was a look in his face almost as if he was talking about another person,” Spagnola said.

King had plenty to look forward to, including setting a wedding date and the upcoming birth of another grandchild, he said.

Spagnola said King didn’t expect he would be remembered, but hoped that his infamous words spoken as the riots still flared, “Can we all get along?” would long outlive him.

Even 20 years after the beating, King still endured migraines, joint pain and other ailments, Spagnola said. Alcohol provided some relief, he said.

“I honestly think he’s more at peace now than he ever was in his life,” Spagnola said.

Via: WashingtonPost

Friday, June 8, 2012

Megachurch Pastor Creflo Dollar Arrested

(ATLANTA) — Megachurch pastor and televangelist Creflo Dollar — who has drawn scrutiny for his flashy lifestyle and preaching that prosperity is good — was arrested early Friday after authorities say he slightly hurt his 15-year-old daughter in a fight at his metro Atlanta home.

Fayette County Sheriff's deputies responded to a call of domestic violence at the home in unincorporated Fayette County around 1 a.m., said investigator Brent Rowan. The pastor and his daughter were arguing over whether she could go to a party when Dollar "got physical" with her, leaving her with "superficial injuries," Rowan said.

The 15-year-old was the one who called authorities, and her 19-year-old sister corroborated the story, Rowan said.

Dollar faces misdemeanor charges of simple battery and cruelty to children. He bonded out of Fayette County jail Friday morning.

"As a father I love my children and I always have their best interest at heart at all times, and I would never use my hand to ever cause bodily harm to my children," Dollar said in a statement released by his lawyer Nikki Bonner. "The facts in this case will be handled privately to further protect my children. My family thanks you for your prayers and continued support."

Dollar will make no further comments since he's involved in the ongoing criminal matter, but he is expected to preach Sunday, Bonner said.

The 50-year-old leads the Creflo Dollar Ministries and is the pastor for World Changers Church International in the Atlanta suburb of College Park, which serves nearly 30,000 members, according to the church's website. World Changers Church-New York hosts over 6,000 worshippers each week, the website says. Four satellite churches are located in Georgia along with others in Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Washington, Cleveland, Dallas and Houston.

He and his wife Taffi, a co-pastor at the church, have five children, according to the website.
Dollar is a native of College Park and says he received a vision for World Changers Ministries Christian Center in 1986. He held the first service, in front of only eight people, in the cafeteria of Kathleen Mitchell Elementary School in College Park, the website says.

His ministry grew quickly, moved into a modest-sized chapel and was renamed World Changers Church International. The church moved into its present location, an 8,500-seat sanctuary called the World Dome, on Dec. 24, 1995.

Dollar said in a 2007 interview with The Associated Press that he renounced his salary from the church, and his income only comes from personal investments, including a real estate residential property business and horse breeding company called Dollar Ranch. He's published more than 30 books, focusing mostly on family and life issues, including debt management.

"I stopped taking a salary," he said. "But no one ask the question, 'Where are you getting your money from?' Well, I have boxes of invitations to speak. At first, I was glad to preach for anyone. What I didn't know was I received a love offering for preaching. Back then, it was for $25 bucks. But over the years, people began to appreciate what I was bringing to them."

He said in the interview that he sometimes got up to $100,000 for a single appearance on his packed schedule of speaking engagements.

"That tells you where my money comes from," he said.

Along with Bishop Eddie Long, Dollar is one of the most prominent African-American preachers based around Atlanta who have built successful ministries on the prosperity gospel, which teaches that God wants to bless the faithful with earthly riches. Ministers in this tradition often hold up their own wealth as evidence that the teaching works.

"When most people hear prosperity, they hear money," he said in the 2007 interview. "They're are not incorrect but are incomplete. When I define prosperity, I define it from a biblical point. If you go into the Hebrew version of the Bible, prosperity is define as peace, wholeness and continuing well being."
While Dollar may seem like a contrived name for a man who preaches the prosperity gospel, Dollar is named after his father, Creflo Dollar Sr.

"If I was on the other side and heard some preacher with the name Rev. Dollar, I would probably have some issues as well. It becomes a responsibility," he said in the 2007 interview. "God must've had a sense of humor giving it to me."

Dollar, who's known for his pinstriped suits and charismatic sermons, has written several books offering followers his advice on how to get out of debt and take lessons from the Bible in building wealth so they can better live as Christians.

"True prosperity is measured not by what you take out of the Book and how use what you've received to benefit mankind. It's having wealth, health, and the wisdom to do as God commands," he wrote in his 1999 book, "Total Life Prosperity: 14 Practical Steps to Receiving God's Full Blessing."

In another passage, he promises readers: "No longer do poverty, sickness, addiction, and fear have free course to rule and reign in your life. You no longer have to allow the circumstances of marital discord, rebellious children, or unemployment to dominate your household."

Long and Dollar were among six televangelists investigated by Iowa U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley from 2007 to 2010, following questions about personal use of church-owned airplanes, luxury homes and credit cards by megachurch pastors and their families. The report did not find any definitive wrongdoing, but it expressed concern about the lack of financial oversight at such large ministries.
That wasn't Dollar's only brush with controversy.

When former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield filed for divorce in 1999, Dollar refused to give a court-ordered statement in the case about how much money Holyfield had given to the church. Janice Holyfield's lawyer said he had determined that Holyfield gave $403,000 to the church in 1998, and donated $3.9 million in the 60 days before the ex-champ filed for divorce in March 1999.

Dollar's lawyer said he should not be required to testify because of the separation of church and state, pastor-parishioner privilege and several state and biblical laws. Dollar vowed in sermons at the time not to release the information because he didn't want to facilitate a divorce.

Dollar was found in contempt of court, but he was not punished because the Holyfields ended up reaching a settlement, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported at the time.

In December 1999, 100 Fulton County police officers were scolded by the county's ethics board for accepting $ 1,000 apiece from Dollar, who said he wanted to recognize their service, the newspaper reported at the time. But the gesture came a month after two traffic tickets Dollar had received were downgraded to warnings.

Via: Time

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Walker Survives Wisconsin Recall

Narayan Mahon for The New York Times
Supporters of Gov. Scott Walker watched election results trickle in on Tuesday night at the Waukesha Expo Center.

WAUKESHA, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker, whose decision to cut collective bargaining rights for most public workers set off a firestorm in a state usually known for its political civility, held on to his job on Tuesday, becoming the first governor in the country to survive a recall election and dealing a painful blow to Democrats and labor unions.

Mr. Walker defeated Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee, the Democrats’ nominee in the recall attempt, according to early returns and exit polling of voters. The victory by Mr. Walker, a Republican who was forced into an election to save his job less than two years into his first term, ensures that Republicans largely retain control of this state’s capital, and his fast-rising political profile is likely to soar still higher among conservatives.

Here in Waukesha, some Republican voters said the result ended the most volatile partisan fight in memory, one that boiled over 16 months ago in the collective bargaining battle and expanded into scuffles about spending, jobs, taxes, the role and size of government, and more. Democrats, some of whom are already pledging to mount strong challenges for state lawmakers’ seats in November, seemed less sure about the meaning of Mr. Walker’s victory.

The result raised broader questions about the strength of labor groups, who had called hundreds of thousands of voters and knocked on thousands of doors. The outcome also seemed likely to embolden leaders in other states who have considered limits to unions as a way to solve budget problems, but had watched the backlash against Mr. Walker with worry.

Some Republicans said they considered Mr. Walker’s victory one indication that Wisconsin, which President Obama won easily in 2008 and which Democrats have carried in every presidential election since 1988, may be worth battling for this time.

Mr. Walker, who raised millions of dollars from conservative donors outside the state, had a strong financial advantage, in part because a quirk in Wisconsin law allowed him months of unlimited fund-raising, from the time the recall challenge was mounted to when the election was officially called. As of late last month, about $45.6 million had been spent on behalf of Mr. Walker, compared with about $17.9 million for Mr. Barrett, according to data from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonpartisan group that tracks spending.

“What it shows is the peril of corporate dollars in an election and the dangers of Citizens United,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, a school workers’ union, referring to the 2010 Supreme Court decision that barred the federal government from restricting political expenditures from corporations, unions and other groups.

Voters went to the polls in droves, and some polling places needed extra ballots brought in. The final flurry of television advertising — with Mr. Walker outspending Mr. Barrett, seven to one — seemed to have little impact on the outcome. Nearly 9 in 10 people said they had made up their minds before May, according to exit poll interviews, with only a sliver of the electorate deciding in the final days of the campaign.

The recall race carried implications well beyond Wisconsin, particularly in the escalating fight between wealthy conservative donors and labor unions. Many Republican contributors from across the country who have invested millions in the presidential race also sent checks to Mr. Walker, hoping to inflict deep wounds on organized labor, a key constituency for Democrats.

The outcome was also being closely monitored in Boston by Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and in Chicago at Mr. Obama’s re-election headquarters for a signal of how the electorate is viewing the big issues in the race for the White House. The president kept his distance from Wisconsin, to the dismay of many Democrats in the state, in an effort to avoid alienating independent voters he hopes to win over in the fall.

Mr. Obama currently holds an edge over Mr. Romney in Wisconsin, according to the findings of early exit polls. Voters in the surveys also said they saw Mr. Obama as better-equipped to improve the economy and help the middle class.

A snapshot of the Wisconsin electorate, gleaned through surveys with voters as they left the polls, found that a majority of men had supported Mr. Walker, while most women had voted for Mr. Barrett. A fifth of the electorate was 65 or older, with only about one in 10 voters of college age. The recall race unfolded against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, with only 2 in 10 voters saying their family’s finances have improved in the two years since Mr. Walker was elected. About a third said their financial situation had grown worse, and more than 4 in 10 said their finances had stayed the same.

In Wisconsin, which was the first state to provide collective bargaining rights to public employees, sentiment for unionized workers remains split. A narrow majority of voters on Tuesday had a favorable view of public unions, according to exit polling, while more than 4 in 10 said they held an unfavorable view.

  One-third of voters were from union households, up from one-quarter in the 2010 governor’s election.

The political war in Wisconsin began in February 2011 when Governor Walker, only weeks into his first term, announced that he needed to cut benefits and collective bargaining rights for most public workers as a way to solve an expected state budget deficit of $3.6 billion.

Tens of thousands of union supporters and Democrats protested in Madison, the capital, and the State Senate’s Democrats — who were a minority in the chamber but had enough members to prevent a quorum — went into hiding in hotels and houses in Illinois to try, unsuccessfully, to prevent a vote on the measure.

By January, critics of Mr. Walker delivered more than 900,000 signatures on petitions to recall him, far more than the one-quarter of voters from the last election that state law requires.

The election, which cost local governments as much as $18 million to carry out, has raised another debate over the appropriateness of using a recall vote to remove officials. Is philosophical disagreement enough? Or should officials be accused of wrongdoing?

“Recall was never meant to be used just because you don’t like the way the other side is governing,” said Jenny Beth Martin, a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, a group that made tens of thousands of calls to voters in recent days in support of Mr. Walker.

Around the nation, numerous efforts have been made over the years to recall governors, but only three, including the push to remove Mr. Walker, met the requirements to place the matter on the ballot. In California, Gov. Gray Davis was removed in 2003, and in North Dakota, Gov. Lynn Frazier was recalled in 1921.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Madonna Mashes Up Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” With “Express Yourself” In Tel Aviv: Watch

Madonna Concert Tel Aviv MDNA Tour

Some pop fans are in the Lady Gaga Totally Ripped Off Madonna‘s “Express Yourself” With “Born This Way” camp, while others are in the What? No, That’s Absolute Crazy Talk camp. But regardless of what we all think, Madge took a further step toward proving the reductive nature of it all by mashing up the two songs (as we saw from her MDNA Tour rehearsals) live in Tel Aviv last night. The results are hilarious — not the least of which because Madonna actually mimics some of Gaga’s “Born This Way” choreography — and the point, as they say, has been taken.

Watch the Material Girl’s mash-up below. And if you’re in the mood for even more vintage Madge, we also threw in her performances of a slowed-down “Like A Virgin”, plus her chart-topping 1990 singles “Justify My Love” and “Vogue”.

Madonna — ”Express Yourself”/”Born This Way” live in Tel Aviv, Israel

Madonna — “Like A Virgin” live in Tel Aviv, Israel

Madonna — “Justify My Love” live in Tel Aviv, Israel

Madonna — “Vogue” live in Tel Aviv, Israel

[Via ONTD]