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Friday, February 28, 2014

China has already invented the flying car of the future? (Video)

Under the People's Car Project (PCP), an initiative launched by the Volkswagen automobile in Beijing, China, in order to meet the ambitions of the largest automobile market in the world, came one of the first prototypes of the car of the future.

It's called Hover Car, a concept car emerged from over 120,000 proposals, which was added to the agenda of the German giant for its future development.

It has the shape of a sphere flattened on their sides, is made ​​based carbon fiber floats through the air and glides through electromagnetic rails. In addition, it handles only with a crowbar.

In addition, the Hover Car has a powerful automated system for collision avoidance, which constantly evaluates the transit of other vehicles and pedestrians to activate emergency brakes, slow down and take evasive maneuvers driver unattended.

Own science fiction, this prototype was presented at the last Beijing Motor Show and is emerging as the next car of the future.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Harold Ramis, Alchemist of Comedy, Dies at 69

Harold Ramis's Many Roles

The film critic A. O. Scott discusses the career of the actor and director Harold Ramis, who died Monday. He is best known for his impact on comedy.

Harold Ramis, a writer, director and actor whose boisterous but sly silliness helped catapult comedies like “Groundhog Day,” “Ghostbusters,” “Animal House” and “Caddyshack” to commercial and critical success, died on Monday in his Chicago-area home. He was 69.

The cause was complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a disease that involves swelling of blood vessels, said Chris Day, a spokesman for United Talent Agency, which represented Mr. Ramis.

Mr. Ramis was a master at creating hilarious plots and scenes peopled by indelible characters, among them a groundskeeper obsessed with a gopher, fraternity brothers at war with a college dean and a jaded weatherman condemned to living through Groundhog Day over and over.

“More than anyone else,” Paul Weingarten wrote in The Chicago Tribune Magazine in 1983, “Harold Ramis has shaped this generation’s ideas of what is funny.”

And to Mr. Ramis, the fact was that “comedy is inherently subversive.”

“We represent the underdog as comedy usually speaks for the lower classes,” Mr. Ramis once said. “We attack the winners.”

Mr. Ramis collaborated with the people who came to be considered the royalty of comedy in the 1970s and ’80s, notably from the first-generation cast of “Saturday Night Live,” including John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase and Gilda Radner. 

His breakthrough came in 1978 when he joined Douglas Kenney and Chris Miller to write “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” which starred Mr. Belushi and broke the box-office record for comedies at the time. With Mr. Aykroyd, he went on to write “Ghostbusters” (1984) and “Ghostbusters II” (1989), playing the super-intellectual Dr. Egon Spengler in tales of a squad of New York City contractors specializing in ghost-removal. 

He made his directorial debut with the country club comedy “Caddyshack” (1980) and his film acting debut the next year in “Stripes,” a comedy about military life that he wrote with Dan Goldberg and Len Blum. Mr. Ramis played Russell Ziskey, who, with his friend John (Bill Murray), joins the Army as a lark. 

The film is an example of his ability to be simultaneously silly and subversive. At one point Mr. Murray exhorts his fellow soldiers by yelling: “We’re not Watusi! We’re not Spartans — we’re Americans! That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog. We’re mutts. Here’s proof.”

He touches a soldier’s face. “His nose is cold.”

Harold Ramis was born in Chicago on Nov. 21, 1944, to parents who worked long hours at the family store, Ace Food and Liquor Mart. He loved television so much, he said, that he got up early on Saturday mornings and stared at the screen until the first program began.
In high school, he was editor in chief of the yearbook and a National Merit Scholar. He then attended Washington University in St. Louis on a full scholarship. Dropping pre-med studies, he went on to earn a degree in English in 1967. 

After graduation he got a job as an orderly in a psychiatric hospital in St. Louis and married Anne Plotkin. The two moved to Chicago, where Mr. Ramis worked as a substitute teacher in a rough neighborhood while writing freelance articles for The Chicago Daily News. 

In 1968 he was assigned to cover Chicago’s Second City improvisational troupe, which included Mr. Belushi and Mr. Murray. 

“I thought they were funny,” Mr. Ramis told The Chicago Tribune Magazine in 1983. “But at the same time I thought I could be doing this. I’m that funny.”

Soon he was hired as jokes editor at Playboy magazine, where he moved up to associate editor. He also began attending an acting workshop and, after two audition attempts, joined Second City’s touring company. 

In 1972, Mr. Belushi brought Mr. Ramis and other Second City collaborators to New York to work on the “National Lampoon Radio Hour.” He also participated in the “National Lampoon Comedy Revue,” a stage show that included Second City performers.

Mr. Ramis went on to write for “SCTV,” a Toronto sketch comedy show about a fictional network that became a quick success. After he had taken the job, “Saturday Night Live,” which was just getting started, approached him to be a writer, but he kept his commitment to SCTV.

It was while working with SCTV that Mr. Ramis joined colleagues to write a script on life in a zany college fraternity. After the resulting film, “Animal House,” struck box-office gold, he joined with Mr. Goldberg, Mr. Blum and Janis Allen to write “Meatballs,” a 1979 comedy that starred Mr. Murray as a counselor at a dysfunctional summer camp. It was a hit, although critics said it did not rise to the level of “Animal House.”

“Caddyshack” came next and won critical praise for the acting of Mr. Murray as a grungy greenskeeper, Chevy Chase as a suave playboy, Ted Knight as the club’s stodgy founder, and Rodney Dangerfield as a tactless millionaire.

Visual humor included a scene in which swimmers frantically flee a pool when someone spots a Baby Ruth candy bar floating on the surface. A clergyman is struck by lightning as he thanks God for the best golf game of his life.

Vincent Canby, writing in The New York Times, praised Mr. Ramis’s direction, saying the movie “tears the lid off the apparently placid life at a WASPy country club to expose bigotry, ignorance, lust and a common tendency to cheat on the golf course.” 

Mr. Ramis wrote “Groundhog Day” with Danny Rubin and also directed it. For many reviewers, the film, released in 1993, transcended madcap humor with a comic exploration of a man’s hapless search for meaning in a confusing world. Stephen Sondheim said he would not pursue a musical adaptation of the movie because it would be impossible to improve on perfection.

Another film that drew praise and audiences was “Analyze This” (1999), which Mr. Ramis directed and wrote with Peter Tolan and Kenneth Lonergan. It starred Robert De Niro as a gangster and Billy Crystal as his psychiatrist, and led to the sequel “Analyze That” (2002). 

Mr. Ramis’s first marriage ended in divorce.

At the time of his death he was married to the former Erica Mann, who survives him, along with his sons Julian and Daniel; his daughter, Violet; a brother, Steve, and two grandchildren.

Mr. Ramis was multitalented: he was a skilled fencer and a ritual drummer, he spoke Greek to the owners of his local coffee shop and taught himself to ski by watching skiers on television. He made his own hats from felted fleece.

He said he felt pride in having made two — maybe four — films that might earn a footnote in film history. He did not specify which ones.

“That gives you a tremendous sense of validation,” he told The Los Angeles Times in 1993, “but at the same time you suffer the possibility that the next thing you do will be awful, and you have to face getting older and I’m not really looking forward to being 77 and being out there directing ‘Caddyshack XII.’ ”


Friday, February 21, 2014

Protests Swell in Venezuela as Places to Rally Disappear

Banging pots in protest in Caracas as Leopoldo López, an opposition politician, passed by in a car after surrendering. Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

CARACAS, Venezuela — The only television station that regularly broadcast voices critical of the government was sold last year, and the new owners have softened its news coverage. Last week, President Nicolás Maduro banned a foreign cable news channel after it showed images of a young protester shot to death here.

Disturbing Video.. (WARNING)

Venezuela guards kill young man

Opposition legislators have been barred from debates and stripped of committee posts in the National Assembly. And when an opposition leader called for a protest this week, Mr. Maduro scheduled his own march to start at the same spot and dispatched the National Guard to try to block protesters from rallying elsewhere.

Venezuela is being convulsed by the biggest protests since the country’s longtime president, the charismatic Hugo Chávez, died nearly a year ago.

And while the demonstrators condemn a wide range of perennial problems, including rampant crime, high inflation and shortages of basic goods like sugar and toilet paper, the intensity of the protests has been fueled by something more subtle and perhaps stronger — a sense that the spaces to voice disagreement with the government are shrinking and disappearing.

Backers of Mr. López were hit by a police water cannon. Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

“You have a government that increasingly, since the time of Chávez but even more with Maduro, has practically closed the channels of communication,” said Margarita López Maya, a historian who studies protest movements. “If you have a society that has no institutional channels to raise its complaints, make demands, form policy, the tradition in Venezuela and in Latin America and I think throughout the world is to take to the streets.”

Of the opposition she said, “They feel choked, penned in.”

Since last week, four people have been shot to death in protests, dozens have been wounded and scores have been arrested. A local newspaper said some of the shots fired in one killing appeared to have come from a group that included uniformed security officers and men accompanying them in civilian clothes.

In the most recent death, a beauty queen, Génesis Carmona, 22, a student who was crowned Miss Tourism 2013 for the state of Carabobo, died Wednesday, a day after being shot in the head during a march in Valencia, the country’s third-largest city. Protesters said attackers on motorcycles had fired on the march.

But the government has been quick to blame protesters for the worst violence, and on Thursday the interior minister, Miguel Rodríguez Torres, said that one of her fellow demonstrators fired the shot that killed Ms. Carmona. “This girl died from a bullet that came from her own ranks,” he said.
Many protesters are calling for Mr. Maduro to resign, but beyond that, the rallies seem to be general expressions of outrage, often with few specific demands. Even some opposition activists admit to being bewildered about how to direct the anger into concrete political objectives.

So far, Mr. Maduro’s response has been to crack down, but that has only fanned the flames. This week, he expelled three American diplomats, accusing them of recruiting students to take part in violent demonstrations. Then he arrested an opposition politician, Leopoldo López, saying that he had trained gangs of youths to sow violence in the country as part of a coup to overthrow the government.

Génesis Carmona was taken away after being shot on Tuesday. She died the next day. Mauricio Centeno/Diario Notitarde, via Associated Press

Thousands of people turned out in Caracas on Tuesday to accompany Mr. López as he surrendered to the authorities. And on Wednesday night, as demonstrators in several cities clashed with the riot police, Mr. Maduro threatened to declare a form of martial law known as a “state of exception” in the western state of Táchira, on the border with Colombia, a traditional opposition stronghold where protests have been particularly intense.

“If I have to declare a state of exception in Táchira, I’m ready to declare it and send in the tanks, the troops, planes, all of the military force of the country,” the president said. He also threatened to jail other opposition politicians and protest leaders.

Parts of the capital, Caracas, and some other cities have become battlegrounds. National guard soldiers on motorcycles patrol Caracas at night, using tear gas and rubber bullets to drive off protesters who block streets with barricades of burning trash.

On one night, a group of soldiers fired rubber bullets at apartment buildings where people were banging pots to protest the crackdown. During a melee after a rally in downtown Caracas on Feb. 12, the police, enraged that some of their vehicles were set on fire, beat and kicked protesters, news photographers and cameramen.

Mr. Maduro belittles the protesters and has largely ignored their complaints, trying to focus attention on smaller groups involved in violent clashes. “These aren’t students. They’re fascist vandals,” he said on Thursday.

The United States has voiced concern. 

“In Venezuela, rather than trying to distract from its own failings by making up false accusations against diplomats from the United States, the government ought to focus on addressing the legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan people,” President Obama said on Wednesday during a meeting in Mexico. He called for Mr. Maduro’s government to release jailed protesters and engage in dialogue.

 A demonstrator blocking the highway outside La Carlota airport. Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press

The current round of protests began this month when students in Táchira and other cities demonstrated against violent crime. Several students were arrested and a march was called in Caracas to demand their release. After that march ended peacefully, a few hundred youths rioted, throwing rocks at the police and breaking windows in a government building. A protester and a government supporter were shot to death, and another protester was gunned down that night.
Venezuela became a bitterly divided country during the 14 years of Mr. Chávez’s presidency, which ended with his death in March. He fostered a cult of personality and dominated all aspects of political life, pushing the country, which has the world’s largest oil reserves, toward his vision of socialist revolution.

Mr. Chávez reviled and insulted the opposition, but since his death, there is a sense that there is even less room for criticism — despite Mr. Maduro’s promises that he is open to dialogue.

In a psychological blow to many in the opposition, a stridently antigovernment television station, Globovision, was sold last year to investors believed to be close to the government. Since then, the station has toned down its programming and ceased to be a counterweight to the relentlessly pro-government tone of several government-run television stations.

Last week Mr. Maduro ordered a Colombian news channel, NTN24, removed from cable because of its coverage of the demonstrations.

Now, there has been little live news coverage of the wave of protests, while government television has relentlessly vilified the demonstrators.

“There are very few outlets where the opposition can make itself heard,” said Cedomir Mimia, 27, a lawyer at a recent protest, who said his top concern was “the information blackout.” 

Many protesters say they are simply fed up with the country’s bitter divide. “I’m here because I’m tired of the crime, of the shortages, tired of having to stand on line to buy anything,” said María Luchón, 21, at a recent rally. “I’m tired of the politicians of both sides.”


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Same old Groundhog Day; Phil predicts more winter - VIDEO

Famed weather prognosticating groundhog Punxsutawney Phil has only one eye open as he prepares to make his annual prediction on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on the 127th Groundhog Day, February 2, 2014.

(Reuters) - Punxsutawney Phil, a famed U.S. groundhog with an even more famous shadow, emerged from his burrow on Sunday and predicted six more weeks of winter, much to the chagrin of those hoping for an early spring.

The rotund rodent exited his subterranean residence at Gobblers Knob in the western Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney around 7:30 a.m. on Groundhog Day.

The fuzzy forecaster made his appearance to the shouts of "groundhog," as eager spectators waited to see whether the groundhog - as the legend goes - would see his shadow and predict six more weeks of snow and freezing temperatures. If not, North Americans can expect an early spring.

This year, Phil predicted that winter will stretch on.

The annual Groundhog Day event, made more popular by the 1993 film comedy "Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray, draws thousands of faithful followers from as far away as Australia and Russia.

Phil's forecast of six more weeks of winter was bittersweet for some in attendance.

"I happen to be a positive person, so I do embrace the here and now and I will enjoy the next six weeks of winter with the best attitude and be happy to be alive and healthy with my good friends," said Lori Weber, 54, a real estate broker from Sewickley, Pennsylvania.
Others came out early, braving drizzle and low-light, just to experience the event.

Carrie Juvan, 37, of Cleveland, Ohio came with her father.

"We are here having a blast because dad put it on his bucket list. I like snow but I am ready for the spring. He asked me about it months ago and I instantly said yes," she said.


Phil's forecast even reached the White House, where President Barack Obama's official Twitter account reminded Americans to sign up for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

"#PunxsutawneyPhil says there's more winter ahead—make sure you get covered," the tweet said.

Phil's New York counterpart, Staten Island Chuck, also saw his shadow on Sunday, forecasting another six weeks of winter.

New York City's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, was on hand for the event but wasn't able to keep a firm grip on the groundhog, who squirmed free of the mayor's gloved hands - a protective measure used since Chuck bit former mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2009.

Chuck fell to the ground, eliciting a few gasps from the crowd, but he was quickly recovered by his handler.

Groundhogs have been offering weather predictions in the tiny Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney since 1887. After the movie was released, record crowds numbering as many as 30,000 have been drawn to the event, according to groundhog.org

With a shadow powerful enough to lift spirits - or dash them - Phil has met with Pennsylvania governors and appeared on national television talk shows and New York City's Times Square JumboTron. In 1986, he even traveled to Washington to meet with President Ronald Reagan, the website said.

Phil's busy schedule is packed into the months before groundhogs, also called woodchucks, go into hibernation - usually after the first frost, according to NationalGeographic.com.

Hibernation is less like a deep sleep and more like a coma, with the groundhog's heart rate plunging, blood scarcely flowing, body temperature dropping to a few degrees above freezing and breathing nearly stopped, said groundhog.org.