Hyundai Ioniq 5 named Car and Driver's EV of the Year

CNN World News - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 06:04
Hyundai's Ioniq 5, an electric-only model with a sharp-edged design, was named Car and Driver's Electric Vehicle of the Year. It's only the second year the award has been given.
Categories: World News

Schedule breakdown: 10 moments in time that could define the Heat’s 2022-23 season

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 06:03

As last season’s NBA Eastern Conference playoff race showed, some games matter more than others, with the Miami Heat closing two games ahead of the rest of the field and the next three teams tying for second, requiring head-to-head tiebreakers to sort seedings.

Against that backdrop, and with the Heat’s 2022-23 schedule now out, a look at 10 spots on the calendar of particular significance for Erik Spoelstra’s team this season:

Oct. 19 vs. Chicago Bulls: Opening night for the Heat comes at FTX Arena for the third time in the last four seasons. It is the third time in the franchise’s 35 seasons the Heat open a season at home against the Bulls, going 1-1 in those games, including the 108-66 humiliation in 2006 after winning the 2006 NBA championship four months earlier. Among those on this season’s Bulls roster are former Heat players Goran Dragic and Derrick Jones Jr.

Oct. 21 vs. Boston Celtics: The first of four games against the Celtics brings the teams back to the venue where Boston eliminated the Heat in Game 7 of last season’s Eastern Conference finals on May 29. While the Celtics added Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari in the offseason, the casts largely remain similar. The teams won’t meet again in Miami until Jan 24.

Nov. 30, Dec. 2 at Celtics: There will only be one trip to Boston during the regular season, with the two road games against the Celtics coming on Wednesday and Friday of the same week. With the Heat idle before the first of the two games, there could be some playoff-like preparation for the set.

Dec. 17 vs. San Antonio Spurs in Mexico City: This could be a particularly grueling test, not only because it will come at altitude, but also because it comes at the end of a four-game, seven-day trip. No matter, the NBA will have plenty of promotional appearances scheduled for the international showcase. Fortunately, the Heat then play only once in the next five days, not on the road again until Dec. 30.

Jan. 8 vs. Brooklyn Nets: This is the first of three games against the Nets, who either could be in contending mode or a rebuilding stage by this point of the schedule. The other two games against the Nets come after the February NBA trading deadline, which could further alter the lineups that Brooklyn puts into play.

Jan. 12, Jan. 14 vs. Milwaukee Bucks: This set of consecutive home games opens the four-game series against the Bucks, with two games in Milwaukee to follow. The Heat went 2-2 against the Bucks last season, which also was the first time in three years the teams did not meet in the playoffs.

Feb. 27 at Philadelphia 76ers: This opens the three-game season series, an unusually long wait for the season’s first game against a conference opponent. It will be the first meeting since the Heat eliminated the 76ers in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals and the first meeting since power forward P.J. Tucker left the Heat for Philadelphia in free agency. The teams also meet two nights later in Miami.

March 4, March 6 vs. Atlanta Hawks: These consecutive games will be the first and only of the regular season at FTX Arena against the team the Heat eliminated in the first round of last season’s playoffs. The Heat play in Atlanta twice earlier in the season, including a matinee on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, on Jan. 16.

March 8, March 10 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers: Another set of consecutive home games against the same opponent, coming late enough in the season to allow the Cavaliers’ talented young base to coalesce. These well could be games against an opponent pushing to avoid the play-in round.

April 9 vs. Orlando Magic: The game on Easter Sunday concludes the Heat’s regular-season schedule and well could factor into playoff tiebreakers. It comes after a stretch of five of six on the road.


Categories: Local News

This Business Tycoon Tortured His Daughter’s Friend For Rejecting Him, Police Say

Motherboard (Vice) - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 06:00

A terrified young woman is ordered to stick out her tongue and lick the soles of a white Gucci sneaker. One of her eyebrows has been shaved off. She apologises to her captors and is forced to bow down before them. 

The viral video, which was posted to humiliate and blackmail the victim, was taken during her abduction and assault in a mansion in Pakistan’s industrial hub of Faisalabad. In another video two women brutally chop off her hair as she cries out for mercy.

The prime suspect accused of the attack is Sheikh Danish, a wealthy business tycoon and director of a textile company who told a local newspaper they exported Rs. 10 billion or $96 million worth of goods in 2016. Danish, who has even appeared in political posters with Pakistan’s leading politicians in the past, has been detained for sexually assaulting, kidnapping and torturing dental student Khadijah Ghafoor, his daughter’s close friend. 

“All the perpetrators involved believed themselves to be untouchable, especially the main accused,” police officer Mohammad Omer Mirza told VICE World News. “We have taken timely response and are conducting forensic analysis of the videos.” Police say they are tracking the whereabouts of Danish’s daughter Ana Ali who remains at large and has been placed on the country’s exit control list. 

According to the police report, Danish, Ana Ali, his alleged wife Maham and four bodyguards allegedly broke into Ghafoor’s home on Aug. 9 and kidnapped her after she had recently ended ties with the family. Prior to her kidnapping, Danish and Ana Ali had repeatedly pressured the survivor to accept Danish’s proposal of marriage, to the point of giving her death threats, according to Ghafoor’s police complaint.

Ghafoor’s kidnap and assault was brazenly captured on video by her captors. Danish then allegedly continued to sexually assault and film Ghafoor. Afterwards the perpetrators attempted to extort Ghafoor by threatening to upload the videos if she refused to pay them. 

Police arrested Danish, his alleged wife and his bodyguards on Aug. 17 and seized an assortment of weapons and illegal liquor from his residence. Danish was expected to be presented to court on Thursday for remand. He has denied the charges against him, claiming that he was being blackmailed by Ghafoor. 

The case has shocked the country’s business community, which held Danish in high esteem for his thriving yarn, cotton and textile businesses. Despite the country’s declining textile exports in recent years, Danish claimed that one of his companies, Best Exports, was flourishing with increased production capacities and 70 percent of its exports channelled to South African and European markets.

Danish is believed to be a close ally of controversial ruling party minister Rana Sanaullah, who was arrested by the country’s anti-narcotics force for the alleged possession of 15 kg of heroin in 2019, a charge that he denies. VICE World News did not receive a response from Rana Sanaullah when asked to comment on his relationship with Danish. 

According to feminist and Aurat March Islamabad organizer Huda Bhurgri, the case speaks volumes about the remorseless violence with which the country’s powerful men subject women who refuse to give in to their demands. 

“This case is a prime example of patriarchal anxiety that powerful and privileged men in our society experience when women defy them or when a woman does not give them what they want,” Bhurgri told VICE World News. 

However, Bhurgri also believes that the involvement of the women in the case is a reflection of patriarchal appeasement.  

“When we talk about patriarchy and misogyny, it's not limited to men only – women who are brought up in patriarchal societies exhibit patriarchy themselves,” said Bhurgri. “His daughter's act suggests that women can go to any extent to appease their patriarchal gods. They can use violence against other women to appease the men in their families.”

Follow Rimal Farrukh on Twitter.

Categories: Tech News

How the Chile Became Hot

N.Y. Times - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 06:00
Why did the consumption of hot peppers — after centuries of cultivation and global migration — come to confer status and sophistication?
Categories: Local News

Working from home has unexpected downside for recent CAV buyers: Roadshow

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 06:00

Q: I bought a new plug-in Prius in late 2019, primarily to take advantage of the carpool sticker benefits on my looong Pittsburg to South San Francisco commute. It had grown to be 2-2.5 hours each way and was destroying my life. COVID hit shortly after and I’ve been working from home since.

Any chance the governor is considering extending carpool sticker validity to help those of us who bought a new plug-in vehicle before the rug was pulled out by the COVID shutdown?

Jeff Hearns, Pittsburgh

A: It’s too early to tell if this program will be extended. Carpool stickers, officially known as Clean Air Vehicle (CAV) decals, are typically valid for a four-year period and are not renewable.

Any extension of the CAV program past the current expiration date of Sept. 30, 2025 will require legislative approval.

Q: I was driving on the flyover from Interstate 280 north to 880 in San Jose. At the top of the flyover, a large SUV was parked in the pullout area, and a well-dressed man was standing outside the car, trying to flag me and other drivers down. I thought that would be a dangerous move on my part, so continued on my way, and called 911 after I parked.

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The 911 operator told me that this is likely a scam, and she said she would try to send an officer to investigate. She didn’t specify the nature of the scam, but I am glad now that I didn’t stop.

Ben White, San Jose

A:  My CHP contacts had no idea what this scam might be, if it is one. However, you did the right thing by getting off the freeway and calling 911 from there.

Q: Amen to the advice of the reader who wrote to say she thought pedestrians should be more attentive to keeping themselves safe, along with drivers having the responsibility to do so. When pedestrians are hurt in traffic accidents, too many people simply assume the driver was speeding or driving recklessly. In reality, pedestrians could avoid many of these collisions.

Driving requires 100 percent attention. But pedestrians should realize that the second before they step off the sidewalk and into the roadway, they need to give traffic 100 percent attention, too. That means ignoring the phone and looking around in all  directions.

Mike Smith

A: Here are a few more tips for pedestrian safety. Carry a flashlight or use the light from your cellphone to improve the visibility of your path, when needed. Wear bright clothing so you’re easy for drivers to see. Don’t trust that all drivers see you, or will stop at crosswalks. Put your phone down while you’re walking, particularly when crossing the street.

Look for Gary Richards at or contact him at

Categories: Local News

Homelessness along South King County’s Green River grows, attracting new attention

Seattle Times - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 06:00

Some people living along the patch of road in unincorporated King County say they moved there from nearby cities due to anti-camping laws. Now, some officials want them moved, but where?
Categories: Local News

Internal emails show WA Republicans fell far short of legislative primary targets

Seattle Times - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 06:00

A disappointing primary showing for GOP candidates probably means a state House majority is out of reach, Republican House leader J.T. Wilcox conceded.
Categories: Local News

Ostrom Mushroom Farms faces civil rights lawsuit on gender, other discrimination

Seattle Times - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 06:00

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against long-time Washington mushroom company for discrimination against certain workers.
Categories: Local News

The Story Behind That Pole Dancer Gender Reveal Party

Motherboard (Vice) - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 06:00

A video of two women in pink and blue bikinis doing a synchronized pole routine at a gender reveal party went viral on TikTok and Twitter this week, and people had questions. 

In the video, the dancers duel it out on a pole situated next to a pool, occasionally embracing dramatically, and then pushing and fighting each other for dominance to climb to the top. The TikTok cuts before any reveal happens. 

This clip went even more viral on Twitter after writer Joan Summers tweeted it, saying, “i legitimately cannot stop talking about this and thinking about this and fixating on this.” 

Spoiler for this unborn child’s sex ahead: In another, longer and more heavily produced piece of cinema from the special day, one of the pole warriors pops a big balloon and blue confetti rains out. The dad is so overcome he leaps into the pool. 

Most people replied or quote-tweeted it to acknowledge that while gender reveals are cringe-inducing, at least this one didn’t start any massive wildfires or kill anyone. Some marveled at the potential of a new gender. Several lamented straight people’s tastes and whether they’re okay as a whole.

Maria Popa, a pole instructor in Moldova who posted the original TikTok, told me that this wasn’t just another example of parents-to-be being tacky, however, but an expression of love within the dance community. “This party was organized by my friend who is also a pole dance coach and the mom,” Popa said. “She wanted a celebration that represents and characterizes her, there was nothing out of the ordinary, everything was very nice and pleasant.” 

So, there you have it. Gender is a construct, but if you simply must have a reveal party for your kids’ genitals, maybe consider hiring a pole dancer or two. 

Categories: Tech News

A Private Space Company Is Launching a Probe to Look for Alien Life on Venus

Motherboard (Vice) - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 06:00

The space company Rocket Lab aims to launch the first private mission to another planet, which would hunt for life on Venus and blaze a new trail for commercial space entities in deep space exploration.

Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab, has discussed his vision of a Venus mission before, but a new study outlines the plan in more detail and confirms that the probe could blast off as early as May 2023 on the company’s lightweight Electron rocket.

After a five-month cruise to Venus, Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft will drop off a small instrument that will descend for several minutes through the planet’s turbulent skies, which some scientists have speculated could host life, before kaputing on its surface, which is a torture pit of searing temperatures and crushing pressures.

The mission is unique not only because it is a private venture, but because Rocket Lab specializes in vehicles that are much smaller and more affordable than those typically used in interplanetary missions. Researchers led by Richard French, the director of business development and strategy, space systems, at Rocket Lab, said the mini-mission would therefore “support expanding opportunities for scientists and to increase the rate of science return,” in a study published this month in the journal Aerospace.

“One of our strategic goals is to demonstrate a high-performance, low-cost, fast-turnaround deep space entry mission delivering Decadal-class science with small spacecraft and small launch vehicles,” French said in an email. “That wouldn’t be possible without the commercial space capabilities we are bringing to the market to serve both commercial and government customers today.”

“We hope that our Venus mission opens the door for more commercial opportunities, particularly working in partnership with NASA and other civil space agencies, to advance interplanetary science and exploration,” he added.

The idea is to pioneer a cheaper option for trips beyond Earth, shepherded by private companies, for anyone interested in traveling a little lighter through deep space. Whereas NASA and other space agencies usually pack a suite of instruments on their missions, Rocket Lab’s Venus spacecraft will carry just one three-pound instrument called an autofluorescing nephelometer, which will look for signs of life by sampling particles in the clouds.  Sara Seager, a leading planetary scientist at MIT who co-authored the new study, serves as the principal investigator for the instrument.

“The mission is the first opportunity to probe the Venus cloud particles directly in nearly four decades,” the team said in the study. “Even with the mass and data rate constraints and the limited time in the Venus atmosphere, breakthrough science is possible.”

Though the surface of Venus is nightmarish, conditions are more temperate in the clouds, where sunlight shines through and water droplets swirl. For this reason, some scientists have suggested that Venus might host habitable pockets of sky, where enterprising microbes could thrive tens of miles above the surface hellscape, though no clear evidence of life on the planet has ever been found.

Rocket Lab aims to solve that mystery, or at least shed some light on it. But even if the science mission is a bust, the mission could pave the way toward a new and more affordable mode of deep space exploration.

“What interests me most is learning that we can go to so many other places,” French said. “We have a spacecraft in cislunar space right now from the CAPSTONE mission. We have two in production for the ESCAPADE mission to orbit Mars. And we will enter a probe at Venus with this mission.”

“But the inner solar system is full of unexplored places: the moons of Mars, near Earth objects, asteroids, the plasma environment connecting the Earth to the Sun, and even interstellar objects,” he concluded. “Those places are all now within our reach—we just have to choose to go.”

Categories: Tech News

An Oral History of Tim Curry's Escape to the One Place Uncorrupted by Capitalism

Motherboard (Vice) - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 06:00

Is it the sweet transvestite from Transvestite, Transylvania in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, is it Wadsworth the butler who butles in Clue, is it Stephen King’s sewer clown in It? Or is this—seriously, this short, ridiculous cutscene from Red Alert 3—the defining performance of Tim Curry’s long career?

Curry, at 62, addresses the camera from a desk, costumed in Russian military uniform and what’s supposed to be a Russian accent. “I’m escaping,” he says, “to the one place that hasn’t been corrupted by capitalism.” There’s a pause, then, maybe a longer pause than you’d want for a clean take. Then the smile creeps out. Now he’s huffing, he’s puffing—a big bad wolf who finds blowing down houses to be unbearably funny. He’s coming undone. Is that what’s happening?

“SPACE!” he snarls: throat thrown back, eyes rolling up to face God. Then he looks down the camera—he looks at you—with delirious, high-wire glee. It’s almost gloating, that look: he did it, he finished the line, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Maybe it’s not Curry’s “best” performance, or the campiest, or the funniest, but it is surely the most enigmatic. Did he basically blow that take, or make an interesting, interesting choice? Either way, why did they use that take—and who are “they?” This clip was already from an obscure enough entry in Curry’s filmography. By now, it is absolutely best known out of context, a meme fully detached from its source material, locked in elliptical orbit around the internet. It is Curry’s very weird comet.

Here, for the first time, is the story of that scene, and its legacy.


CHRIS PERSON (creator, Highlight Reel): I remember seeing that clip forever ago on YouTube, it usually came up in the same rotation as Anything Can Happen On Halloween from The Worst Witch.

ALEX NAVARRO (writer, Nextlander, Giant Bomb): The little flutter toward the end where Curry pauses and looks like he’s recomposing himself before belching up “SPAAAAAACE” in his half-a-Russian accent is just magical. It’s like he didn’t know the line was coming and as soon as he realized what he was about to say he couldn’t handle it.

ANTHONY OLIVEIRA (author and critic): I think the pleasure of it is that Tim Curry is the master of camp and the master of menace and in the clip we finally witness something that is finally too ridiculous, finally too outre, finally too much even for him. Tim Curry has played the devil with 18 inch horns, but this at last is the bridge even he almost cannot cross. But then he brings it home! The accent, the costume, the arc of the “character” himself finally exhausted by whatever indignities he has suffered at the player’s hands. It is perfect storytelling.

ALEX NAVARRO: It doesn’t really matter if it was on purpose or not. If it was a deliberate acting choice, then it’s a brilliant one. If it came purely out of him trying to steer into the skid, then it’s still brilliant.

KATIE MACK (theoretical astrophysicist): What is it from, exactly? It’s a video game thing?

HARIS ORKIN (cinematics writer, Red Alert 3): I wrote the line.

JASEN TORRES (lead designer, Red Alert 3): I hadn’t heard about that clip being popular. At the time, it wasn’t in the top 10 of what we thought were over-the-top lines in the script, so that’s interesting.

GREG KASAVIN (producer, Red Alert 3): I remember thinking it was a fun, funny moment, though of course I couldn’t have expected it would end up still making the rounds all these years later.

MICAL PEDRIANA (story and cinematics producer, Red Alert 3): I didn’t even know it was a thing.

HARIS ORKIN: I just didn’t even know about it.

JOSHUA BASCHE (assistant cinematics editor, Red Alert 3): I didn’t know until recently myself. I saw somebody post it on Twitter and I saw a bunch of people reacting, too. I was like, holy shit. I messaged them, like, “Oh, I did that.”

MIKE VERDU (general manager, EA LA; 2007-9): I was amazed to see how popular it had gotten.

HARIS ORKIN: I got to figure out how I can exploit that. That’s 12 million views on YouTube, you know?

STUART ALLISON (cinematic editor, Red Alert 3): I am the worst at social media, so no, [I didn’t know.] But my wife, that’s her job, and I just turned to her and said, “Did you know?” And she said yes, and pulled up a hell of a lot of [the posts]. I was like, “Why didn’t you ever tell me?” And she shrugged.

MICAL PEDRIANA: The way the internet is, nothing surprises me anymore. For all I know, I’m a meme out there.

STUART ALLISON: Me not being aware of something online in the meme world is no strange thing. I don’t have TikTok. You know, these algorithms nowadays, they just throw the same stuff at you, and I guess they didn’t think I would want to see my stuff.


Red Alert 3 is, so far, the final entry in a series of spin-offs from the seminal real-time strategy franchise Command & Conquer. Both series were created by the Las Vegas-based Westwood Studios, which was acquired by Electronic Arts in 1998 and closed five years later; its remains swept into satellite studio Electronic Arts Los Angeles (EA LA)—right around the time that studio would become notorious for excessive overtime and crunch. Development began on Red Alert 3 a few years later—in, apparently, a more reasonable working environment—with a team almost entirely new to making Red Alert games. Mical Pedriana, a level and sound designer, was the one person in a production or design role to return from Red Alert 2 for its sequel.


MICAL PEDRIANA: My credit on the game is story producer. It was kind of a unique role. They don’t have that normally at EA, or maybe they do now. Back then they didn’t. Essentially, I was like the vision holder for how the movies were expressed. I co-wrote the script [and had a role in] the direction of, like, how these people should be dressed and what the environments should look like. I would have a lot of input on the general vibe of everything.

CHRIS CORRY (executive producer, Red Alert 3): We sat down thinking about where RA3’s spirit and soul was gonna be.

MICAL PEDRIANA: Everyone looked at Red Alert 2, and we all loved it.

HARIS ORKIN: Gameplay-wise, I liked the first one, but I loved the tone of the second one.

The first Red Alert game invites the player to command a military conflict in an alternate history created by Einstein traveling back in time to kill a young Adolf Hitler.

ED DEL CASTILLO (producer, Command & Conquer; Red Alert): What if all of those crazy projects that we hear about from World War 2 were real? What if the Montauk Project and Nikola Tesla's technology actually got to see the light of day and got production? There's all these conspiracy theories that we were playing with teleportation, we were playing with invisibility. We were looking through all of this conspiracy theory stuff and we said, what if all of this was true?

I came up with the idea that Einstein actually invented a time machine, and he decided the most important service he could perform for humanity would be to kill Hitler. We had this whole thing slated where Einstein with a sniper rifle—this take-apart, break-down sniper rifle—we're going to watch him assemble it, then right when Hitler is released from prison from his first jail term, just explodes his head. That was going to be the beginning of the game. Unfortunately, that never happened because Brett [Sperry, Westwood co-founder] didn't want to kill Hitler. To this day, I don't understand why. Maybe he wanted to keep him around for some other reason. So that movie of Einstein being a sniper and killing Hitler from afar became a movie about him walking up to him, shaking his hand and then doing this weird… like, he has the ability to make him teleport away or disappear by his touch. It didn't make any sense at all. Nonetheless, the idea was we were going to take some of these kinds of wild technologies and portray the near-science fiction future of our military technology. The product was originally serious, almost like retro science fiction. It was meant to be serious. It wasn’t meant to be a joke.

By the time Red Alert 2 came around, I was no longer there. When the people who created the original either no longer care or are no longer there, you start getting the opportunity for massive evolution of the story and I'll say that in a positive way, because you could also say devolution. It's been this kind of low migration away from the original intent.


Red Alert 2 is bombastic, loud, cheesy: a military misadventure that pits presidents against brains in jars and broadens players’ arsenals from VTOL jets and heavy tanks to dolphins, giant squid and psychic soldiers.


CHRIS CORRY: We wanted this to just be fun. A lighthearted action movie sort of aesthetic, that sort of popcorn movie sensibility. We looked at some of the goofiness on the RA2 side and said, What works there is that these are ridiculous and ludicrous situations that people are taking very seriously.

JASEN TORRES: I believe my design pillar was, “The Red Alert universe is a fun place to be.”

MICAL PEDRIANA: Because I’d been with these games for so long and had been on the RA2 team, I think that’s why they let me play the role that I did on Red Alert 3. Just because I was super intimate with it.

HARIS ORKIN: They were going for that same tone that was in the second one.

MICAL PEDRIANA: It was meant to match it.

JASEN TORRES: RA3 was not intended to be the most silly.

MICAL PEDRIANA: It’s really a serious story with silly people in it. Threading that balance between it being completely ridiculous and still interesting for a player to be part of was the challenge. A lot of different voices on the team were pulling it into crazyhood and other people were saying, “No, it’s gotta be more normal.” I was probably one of the people who was pulling it more normal. A little bit goes a long way when it comes to campiness. You don’t really need to go too far.

HARIS ORKIN: Kodiak bears that are, like, turned into troops for Russia.

MICAL PEDRIANA: It got way more silly than we intended it to be.

STUART ALLISON: I was pushing for sillier.


Cinematics—live-action videos that progress the plot and brief players on their missions—have been part of Command & Conquer from the beginning. In the first game, Westwood cast its own developers, and local talent, in key roles. EA LA pushed hard to cast celebrities.


HARIS ORKIN: I tend not to want to cast celebrities, because sometimes they feel like they’re slumming, and you get that sense in the performances.

MICAL PEDRIANA: That’s not something that I would have pushed for, personally. I’ve worked in voiceover casting and directing for a long time, and the bigger the celebrity, usually the more of a headache you’re gonna have.

CHRIS CORRY: For both C&C3 and RA3, we put a lot of effort into pulling in recognizable talent from the entertainment industry, from movie and film, that we thought would be recognizable, that would have some geek cred, and that we thought of as our own people.

MICAL PEDRIANA: I wrote this character [of an American president] pretty much with J.K. Simmons in mind. Like a Dick Cheney on crack. Down with the Commies, nothing’s gonna stop him until all the Commies are dead. But then they’re saying, Oh, we need to have David Hasselhoff play that character. David Hasselhoff was very popular in Germany, and Germany was a huge market for Command & Conquer games.

CHRIS CORRY: In C&C3, you have Michael Ironside and Billy Dee Williams. The same sort of thing on the RA3 side. If you’re an actor taking this gig, your agent has probably pitched this as, “Electronic Arts, one of the largest video game companies, they want you to come in and do cinematics.” You probably don’t even know what cinematics are. But they’re like, look, it’s a relatively small number of filming days. My impression is a lot of the actors really didn’t know what to expect when they showed up.

STUART ALLISON: Jamie Chung, poor girl wasn’t given a shirt under her leather jacket. Felt bad for her. Ask Mical if she was happy wearing that jacket.

MICAL PEDRIANA: I don’t remember. I remember Jamie being really upset because we were just giving poor direction. It’s funny, looking at those pictures, nowadays it’d be such a problem to have something like that.

STUART ALLISON: [Ivana Miličevic as Dasha], Mical never wanted her to do sexy takes. Like, overplay the double entendres. She was always, always pushing for them.

IVANA MILIČEVIĆ (“Dasha,” Red Alert 3): I mean, look at how I was dressed.

STUART ALLISON: I could tell it just gave her joy to tease Mical. But he wouldn’t let me use those. Which is a shame because she was funny.

IVANA MILIČEVIĆ: I felt like I could be pretty ridiculous. I kept wanting to make it seem like if the player does well, we can have a drink together.

MICAL PEDRIANA: I do remember drawing the line. It just feels lowbrow at a certain point. When you watch those movies, I think people would be surprised at how seriously we took it in terms of actually trying to not make it that goofy.

STUART ALLISON: Poor Gina Carano. If you remember, she was in it. She had lines and they cut them out. She was really nervous because she was trying to make the transition to acting. She hadn’t done Haywire with Soderbergh. I was told that I should cut around her dialogue.

MICAL PEDRIANA: Right before shooting, David Hasselhoff got sick. I forget what happened. It was actually in the news. And his agent happened to be the same agent as J.K. Simmons. So they pulled us a favor, not kidding, the day before, or maybe two days before. Then we got J.K. Simmons to play the guy.

STUART ALLISON: And then they had the lunatic we called Peter Stormare, who I’m not sure was actually in character or just being Peter Stormare.

CHRIS CORRY: I think Tim really got it.

MIKE VERDU (general manager, EA LA; 2007-9): I couldn’t believe we were lucky enough to land him.


Tim Curry, in the role of Premier Chedenko, served as one face of the game’s Soviet Union faction.


MICAL PEDRIANA: He got it. He understood what the job was.

STUART ALLISON: Curry knew the tone of the thing. He knew he was supposed to be blustering with glee at his lines.

JASEN TORRES: I’d guess Tim Curry loves a chance to ham it up when it is appropriate, and RA3 certainly provided ample, low-risk opportunity to do so.

MICAL PEDRIANA: The actors just had to be there for pretty much one day. Yeah, it was an easy gig.

HARIS ORKIN: Curry was probably mugging more than the rest of them were, but even so he just delivered it with conviction. He seemed to believe what he was saying, as stupid as it was.

CHRIS PERSON (creator, Highlight Reel): Nothing is funnier than a well-respected actor giving his all on the dumbest project possible. FMV cutscene for a video game? Hell yeah, what are my lines and where do I look?


“I’m escaping to the one place that hasn’t been corrupted by capitalism: space!” Until recently, most of Red Alert 3’s cinematics team didn’t even know that 10-second clip had become so popular—but all of them remembered the take.


CHRIS CORRY: We shot the mainline cinematics first. That was on the more elaborate sets. Everything was single camera. Those were the bigger pieces that required multiple setups, and where actors were interacting with other people. This particular clip comes from an inset cinematic that pops up in a little window while you’re in gameplay. Those were, if I’m not mistaken, were filmed after we had done all the main cinematic shoots.

JOSHUA BASCHE: Those came at the very, very end of the day. You’re talking about a 10- to 12-hour shoot day.

HARIS ORKIN: They shot those in a row pretty fast.

IVANA MILIČEVIĆ: To work 10 hours, 11 hours straight is not normally how an actor would work. When you’re filming it, you’re there by yourself–with a wonderful crew of people, but you’re just there for hours, sitting at a desk. You, after a while, are just trying to have fun with it.

JOSHUA BASCHE: It’d be these long takes of them just sitting there reading a teleprompter as lines came up. It was towards the end of the day, and you could kind of tell Curry was tired, he wanted to get out of there. But then that line comes up. And you saw the smile pop onto his face when he read it through first. The first take was that take.

IVANA MILIČEVIĆ: When I saw that, I was like, "I know you've been sitting there for hours.”

MICAL PEDRIANA: Everyone was busting up.

JOSHUA BASCHE: It’s so bombastic. It’s so fantastic.

STUART ALLISON: This is fucking brilliant. I love this. This is Frank N. Furter, for me.

IVANA MILIČEVIĆ: Was he making fun of it? Or was he having fun?

CHRIS CORRY: He was ready to bring the ham. I don’t think he was breaking at all.

JOSHUA BASCHE: I think he did exactly what he wanted to do.

HARIS ORKIN: You could see he knew how ridiculous this was. But he kind of played it that way, almost. A little different than everybody else.

STUART ALLISON: I think he was aware he was about to break but he finished the take because he knew it could be used. He knew he was doing it brilliantly.

MICAL PEDRIANA: He’s a professional. I don’t think he did a lot of stuff by accident.

JONATHAN LYNN (director, Clue): I’ve never seen the video game and know nothing about it. [But] Tim is a consummate professional. He knows exactly what he’s doing and he is in total control of it. He doesn’t make mistakes. He is a wonderful actor.

CHRIS CORRY:  I think Tim was awfully present and realized that he was going full-on Rocky Horror Picture Show with that one.

ALEX NAVARRO (writer, Nextlander, Giant Bomb): The line itself is completely stupid.

JOSHUA BASCHE: It’s a funny line. “I’m going to escape your capitalism by going into space.” And he probably has no context for what the full game is.

HARIS ORKIN: Of course now, that’s not true [that space is uncorrupted by capitalism,] with Elon Musk and Bezos building their rocket companies and going off into space.

MICHAEL PACHTER (video game market analyst, Wedbush Securities): I don’t accept the premise that capitalism is corrupt, but if you mean is outer space unburdened by capitalism, of course that is correct.

SCOTT KELLY (former NASA astronaut): People have been launching satellites into space for money since the beginning of space exploration. Capitalism has always been there.

TOM JONES (former NASA astronaut): Government-paid contractors, but nonetheless private companies, designed and built the spacecraft that launched our first satellites and took us into orbit and on to the Moon.

KATIE MACK (theoretical astrophysicist): Is space untouched by capitalism? No, but there was a time when it was pretty much just a place for scientific scientific research, and what I would call national posturing. The whole space race was a combination of science, exploration and different countries trying to prove that they’re better than other countries.

SCOTT KELLY: Capitalism has been pretty good in my opinion.

TOM JONES: Without capitalism in space, the knowledge and resources there will—as in the viral clip—indeed be dominated by totalitarian or communist regimes like China and Russia. That’s not an acceptable prospect.

KATIE MACK: There are big efforts to materially exploit space one way or another.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS (Economist, former Minister of Finance, Greece): For several years now, a busy market has been functioning in Luxembourg trading in property and drilling rights over… asteroids. Capitalism seems to have already gone where no human had gone before.

KATIE MACK: At the moment, you can put up as many tiny satellites as you want. They can be as shiny as you want. And they can massively interfere with astronomical observations, they can change the appearance of the night sky for everyone in the world, and no one can really do anything about it.

MICHAEL PACHTER: It is likely that space will be colonized by capitalists.

RON GARAN (former NASA astronaut): The idea that we can escape anything by going to space is a fallacy. We will bring with us to launchpad all the problems, challenges, inequities, and injustices that define the human condition.

KATIE MACK: There’s nothing special about space. Space is a hard place to be, and that’s going to put some constraints on what we can do there, but it’s not going to change who we are.

RON GARAN: This is why we need to work together to solve our challenges so that when we extend human presence further out into the universe we do so not as passengers escaping a sinking ship but as ambassadors of a thriving planet.

MICHAEL PACHTER: I know you’re having fun, but it’s a pretty silly question.


Tim Curry giving a wild line read is one thing. As Stuart Allison says, “If you’ve got Tim Curry, you should expect that kind of stuff.” What’s really incredible about that scene is that it’s in the game, not a blooper reel.


STUART ALLISON: Everyone loved that take, because it’s goddamn brilliant.

JOSHUA BASCHE: I don’t think anyone ever expected that to actually make it in the game. They were kind of like, “Okay, let’s do it a little more toned down and more regular and your character.”

IVANA MILIČEVIĆ: The fact that they chose it is more the question.

STUART ALLISON. I think Mical was the one that wanted a backup.

MICAL PEDRIANA: It was so over-the-top. I thought, I don’t know what it’s gonna look like later. It might just seem too goofy.

STUART ALLISON: But that’s the joy of it. I mean, he loved his own delivery.

MICAL PEDRIANA: Jasen and I were looking at everything from the perspective of the people who are actually playing these games. What are they going to feel like? The player’s opting into a fantasy, of playing a role in which they’re the commander of an army. If it gets too silly, then you don’t feel like the task at hand is really all that relevant.

STUART ALLISON: It sounds very selfish, but that is what I’d want to see if I was playing the game.

JOSHUA BASCHE: The original reaction from the producers and other people was, well, let’s find another take. But then we ended up having to do a reshoot. I think things got distracted. So it kept staying in the build and staying in the build and staying in the build. And then people liked it and then eventually came around.

CHRIS CORRY: You know, is it too much? With the benefit of hindsight, maybe, yeah. But, I mean, come on.

MICAL PEDRIANA: It was just in a little screen in the corner.

STUART ALLISON: When you’re editing things you stumble across something that is funny to you, and you’re just cracking up and you’re not aware if it’s gonna translate to other people, but it’s too good to not include. That was definitely that take.

MICAL PEDRIANA: If something like that was in one of the main storylines, where you’re actually trying to pay attention to figure out what’s happening, I think that would have been distracting. But like, just a guy up in the corner?

CHRIS CORRY: I’ve been making video games for 25 years. You can’t take this stuff too seriously.

MICAL PEDRIANA: In terms of the game, the player’s won, this is the last mission, the rest of the Soviets are on the run, and he’s now run out of all options and he’s just kind of lost it. Maybe it’s fine. Like, maybe it’s not, but how bad could it be, really?


Red Alert 3 was released in October 2008 to generally positive reviews.


CHRIS CORRY: It certainly didn't set the world on fire.

MICAL PEDRIANA: If we were able to do it again, I would have pulled back on a lot of things.

CHRIS CORRY: If you look at the hardcore community, a common criticism of the game is that we really over-indexed on the goofiness.

JASEN TORRES: I think there could have been a better effort to reign in parts of the game that weren't on the same tonal heartbeat. Of which I had a responsibility, for sure. I think things got a touch carried away. Too much silliness in (sometimes) the wrong parts, too much pushing on the pin-up girl aspect in other parts, too many aspirations to make things so unique. I remember jokes getting taken too far to the point where it would be hard to actualize in gameplay.

CHRIS CORRY: It sort of takes away from the fact that there's actually a pretty serious RTS gameplay experience there.

MICAL PEDRIANA: I would have done some things a little bit differently, but I think all the cool stuff that we did kind of eclipses those. My takeaway feeling isn't like the whole thing was a big regret.

STUART ALLISON: My favorite memories are from working on Red Alert 3. I love Mical Pedriana. We’d sit and argue back and forth. We were good checks and balances against each other.

JASEN TORRES: It is the largest team of truly collaborative, talented, and dedicated people with which I’ve ever worked.


MICAL PEDRIANA: My biggest disappointment was not being able to do another one. Everything would have been a lot stronger and dialed in. Right after Red Alert 3, another team within the building started working on Command & Conquer 4. I helped them out but it wasn’t exactly the same role. It was a completely different creative team. I remember their direction was, “We’re not going to make this thing campy, we’re gonna make this thing serious. We’re gonna make cinema.” And I was like, oh, no, don’t do it.

Right during that time was the big financial crisis, and traditional games started going by the wayside. It wasn’t about boxed product anymore. Free-to-play was starting to find its way and EA was just trying to figure out how to make these games profitable. Basically before C&C4 even shipped, they told us that they were gonna lay us all off. We had a choice of either sticking around or not. I give them credit for giving us that option. Usually, like, the day the game ships: “Okay, you guys can leave.” They said, “If you want to stick around, please do but you’ll get a nice severance if you don’t.” Ultimately, they basically sent everybody home. That’s why we didn’t make any more.


Pedriana, Torres and Corry might agree with disappointed fans that the game went too broad, too campy--but, ironically, it is Red Alert 3's single silliest moment that has proven its most beloved and one lasting contribution to culture.


CHRIS CORRY: I like that there are still people playing clips from RA3 15 years later. Otherwise, I figure it would be completely forgotten. I mean, it’s a game that a lot of people poured their heart and soul into, and I think had a lot to offer. But all video games have a fixed lifespan, and slowly recede into the background of time. If there’s anything that persists through that, I’m happy to celebrate that.

ED DEL CASTILLO (producer, Command & Conquer; Red Alert): The fact that people are meme-ing Red Alert 3, I think is great. I think that's awesome. I think that's what leisure is about. Leisure is the basis of culture. If people's leisure isn't influencing their culture, it's not very good leisure. When we create a piece of leisure like Red Alert, I think it's the ultimate success story to say that somebody's meme-ing a video from there.

STUART ALLISON: I typed “Tim Curry” and I see, oh, yeah, the top GIFs for him, Tim Curry space. Now I’m using them.

ED DEL CASTILLO: There are two kinds of people in this world, I think. There are artists and there are craftsmen. Artists want their intent to be maintained when they produce something and release it to the world. They get very upset when it isn't. And a craftsman tries to build something that will be used and reused by the people of the world. He understands that there is a collaborative effort there.


Red Alert 3 gave the world ten seconds of enduring brilliance. You can attribute its appeal, and its staying power, to the quality of the line itself, or the bold editorial choice to include it in the finished product, but really--I mean, we all know what the X factor was here.


MICHAEL PACHTER: I’m not sure why the clip is so popular, but maybe it’s because Tim Curry is a global treasure.

STUART ALLISON: Tim Curry is awesome.

JOSHUA BASCHE: When I found out Tim Curry was on this I was kind of a fanboy about it.

ANDREW DIVOFF (“General Krukov,” Red Alert 3): The Russian uniform I was to wear in the video arrived just a bit before I was due on set. I noticed immediately that the army boots intended for me were quite a bit larger than my size 11 foot required, practically to a clownish extent, but the only pair left in the wardrobe trailer. As Mr. Curry stepped off the set we were introduced by the director, and after acknowledging me, Tim said, “with boots like that your dance card must be full.” I laughed and explained the situation to which he replied “keep the boots.”

JOSHUA BASCHE: On set, we had our editorial system up and we’re doing some color correction, we’re doing some takes. For the most part, he would do his lines, and then he’d go off set. He definitely was on that serious side. I was sitting there and putting together some of his clips, and all of a sudden I just hear behind me, “I look very washed out.” That voice. I just hear it, and a shiver went up my spine and I knew who it was. I turned around, “Don’t worry, don’t worry, we haven’t color corrected yet. It’s all gonna look great.” He’s like, “Very good, then,” and then walked away. That was my one interaction with him on set.

ANDREW DIVOFF: Mr. Curry was, unsurprisingly, the consummate pro. He was also a very pensive person, often sitting off to himself while on set between scenes, yet always approachable.

STUART ALLISON: I’m a huge Rocky Horror Picture Show fan. I don’t know if people think it’s a good movie or a bad movie. You can’t remake it, because it’s unique. The people are just enjoying it so much that it elevates it to this place you can’t replicate. And I felt that’s what he gave that take.

HARIS ORKIN: You can’t ask Tim Curry, I guess, unfortunately.

STUART ALLISON: The poor guy’s not in good health.

MICAL PEDRIANA: Didn’t he have a stroke?


Curry experienced a stroke in 2012, and now requires the use of a wheelchair. In the last decade, he has primarily worked as a voice actor. He periodically—and as recently as this year—does video calls with fans, but hasn’t done an interview with the press in years.


MARCIA HURWITZ (manager, Tim Curry): Tim is not doing interviews at this time.

DUNCAN FYFE (writer, this article): Thanks, I understand. Can I ask you a question? I know you’ve worked with Tim for a long time; did you know that clip of him had become so popular? What do you think of it?

MARCIA HURWITZ: I have worked with him a long time and it is astonishing that everything he has done is iconic and internet-worthy. Thanks for understanding.

Categories: Tech News

Free Speech Bastion Substack Fires Editor for Editing a Blog Critical of Substack

Motherboard (Vice) - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 06:00

In late July, the journalist Sam Thielman, who’d been working on contract as an editor for Substack, the newsletter company, was fired. As he would explain in a newsletter published earlier this week that described the firing as an act of retaliation, and as Substack would quickly acknowledge—”We fucked up” is the way founder Hamish McKenzie put it—he not only hadn’t done anything wrong, he hadn’t really done anything at all.

The episode ended well enough for Thielman, with him being paid for the work he would have done if he hadn’t been fired and Substack apologizing, but raised—hardly for the first time—a number of questions the company hasn’t been able to convincingly answer. Most of them have to do with what Substack, which at times seems to operate as a mission-driven journalistic outlet and at others as a neutral tech platform, actually is. 

What happened here is straightforward enough. Thielman, prior to last month, was a 1099 contractor, paid directly by Substack to edit newsletters written by, among others, the well-known national security journalist Spencer Ackerman. An unknown number of other editors on this arrangement work for the company. Thielman told Motherboard that generally, his experience with Substack was good: The company paid well and quickly, provided legal support, and was hands-off to the point where he had no real idea what its structure was. Mainly, he dealt with Dan Stone, the head of writer partnerships.

(I’ll note here that I write a free newsletter about tinned seafood using Substack, though I have no other relationship with the company.)

In July, Ackerman moved his popular newsletter off Substack. The company, he explained on July 21, had, as part of a mildly controversial program, paid him an advance to start a newsletter on the platform. (The way this works is that Substack pays an advance in exchange for keeping the lion’s share of the revenue a given newsletter generates over a fixed period of time; it eats the loss if no one subscribes, but can make money if lots do. Either way, once the time period is up, the writer is on their own, with Substack taking a small percentage of their revenue if they keep the newsletter on the platform.) With his obligations under his deal done, he was moving the newsletter to another platform called Ghost, and Thielman, who had been editing it, would continue to do so, while presumably continuing his work for Substack and whoever else he chose to do business with.

In explaining all this, Ackerman made clear he’d taken the deal just for the money, mocked a post from McKenzie about writer Luke O’Neil’s departure from Substack as a “Drake album,” and referenced “the reputation Substack [has] cultivated as a pandemic-disinformation vector and preferred platform of hot-take artists who wage culture wars and reify everything already wrong with the mainstream journalism and society they think they're challenging.” 

By the standards of media bridge-burning, this was tame stuff, and reasonable enough. (Well-known as it is for sardine-related content, Substack is perhaps even better known for things like pediatricians facing death threats due to a newsletter headlined “Boston Children's Hospital supports castrating kids and I have evidence,”) It was also, crucially, something Ackerman, not Thielman, wrote. After it was posted, Thielman, he wrote, reached out to Stone to let him know the publication was leaving, and was scolded for his ingratitude. Two days after that he was locked out of Substack’s shared accounts, and two days after that, Stone told him in an email that he was fired, effective 30 days from then, as per the terms of the contract.

“I can only point back to that astonishing departure post,” Stone wrote after Thielman replied to acknowledge the email and point out that he hadn’t asked to be let out of his contract and didn’t think it was fair to punish him for associating with Ackerman. Thielman was left to text the writers he’d been editing to explain what had happened, and that he “hadn’t embezzled money or groped anyone.”

While Substack did not make Stone or McKenzie available for an interview, spokesperson Lulu Cheng Meservey did answer questions over email. In her answers, she was unreservedly clear that Substack was in the wrong. 

“We don't want to throw anyone under the bus so if you need to pin it on someone then it can be Hamish (or me),” she wrote in response to a request to explain the thought process behind the firing, “but basically we were under the impression that the piece reflected his views since he was a partner in the publication and had written for it in the past. Sam later told us that he only edited it.” 

(“Edited by Sam Thielman” appears over the piece in question, above any of the actual copy, which is written by and credited to Ackerman.)

On Monday, Thielman wrote up an account of how he had been retaliated against for something Ackerman had written. By the next morning, when he spoke to Motherboard, he hadn’t heard from Substack and asked us to let him know if we found anything out about his situation worth knowing. Later that day, after Motherboard had reached out to Substack and to prominent Substack users known for their focus on Big Tech censorship, corporate suppression of speech, and cancel culture for comment, McKenzie tweeted an apology to Thielman and said the company would pay him for the work he’d have done if he hadn’t been fired. Thielman tweeted that he appreciated this, that this was what he’d asked for, and that everyone could now return to not thinking about this. That’s good news for prominent Substack users who detect the death of the First Amendment every time a random undergrad says they don’t like a book yet somehow managed not to weigh in on all this, but the resolution still left a few things unanswered.

Meservey did answer some of those questions. “Writers can say and do what they want,” she wrote, for instance, in response to questions about expectations, implicit or explicit, for Substack writers and editors. “There are lots of posts on Substack and elsewhere, where writers criticize us. We do expect contractors and other people being paid by Substack to actually want to work with the company though, and we got the impression from the piece that was no longer the case. (I think most companies choose to give projects and contracts to people who support what they're doing.) But again, that doesn't excuse a misreading and overreach resulting in a screwup that Sam was understandably upset about.”

Meservey didn’t answer a question about how a company that pays and gives editorial and legal support to writers is not a journalistic outlet, or one about why it is that Substack is so closely identified with an intense focus on so-called cancel culture issues. I didn’t expect answers to my questions because they’ve been asked many times and Substack has always declined to really answer them.

Not answering is part of the dodge that Substack has been keeping up for a long time: Its says it’s merely a neutral platform, which is why it’s open to conspiracy theorists like Alex Berenson and Libs of TikTok, with whose views Substack doubtless doesn’t institutionally agree. That it advances large sums of money and offers infrastructure to specific writers ranging from Ackerman to a wide variety of TERFs and annoying “I didn’t leave the left, the left left me” types, rather than football touts and pornographers, whose work would also surely find a market and perhaps even a bigger one, doesn’t make it a newsroom or publication or publishing house, it insists, presumably the same way and for the same reasons that Uber isn’t a cab company. Functionally having policies about what freelance workers can and can’t do on their own time is apparently just one more way it’s not like a traditional media outlet.

There were two questions to which I would actually have liked answers. They had to do with a point my former colleague Tom Scocca, one of the Substack users (he recently completed a one-year deal like the one Ackerman was under) I spoke to for this story, raised.

“Substack's self-inflicted reputational damage had already made some people tell me they couldn't pay for a subscription to my newsletter on the platform,” he wrote in a direct message. “After the news of what they did to Thielman came out, I got a new cancellation with the note ‘Cannot support Substack, terrible platform.’ If I'm now losing money because of their behavior, they're pretty obviously failing at being a neutral platform.”

I wanted to know what Substack’s response would be to someone earning a living on Substack who was angry over incurring reputational and financial damage through decisions they had nothing to do with. I also wanted to know whether there were any guardrails being put in place to make sure that the company doesn't do things that are against its expressed values in ways that would incur this kind of reputational harm. I didn’t get an answer, at least not directly, though I did get one to an adjacent question.

How, I asked, would you square Substack’s values—my understanding of which I characterized as “promoting discourse, letting journalists be themselves, protecting writers from the kind of people who use money over and against them”—with having fired someone for associating with someone who’d written things the company didn’t like?

“We square it by recognizing it as a fuck up,” Meservey wrote. “Our values would dictate that we err on the side of promoting discourse, and when we reviewed what had happened it seemed we didn't do that here.”

Going forward, discourse, it seems certain, will be promoted.

Categories: Tech News

A Nuclear War Between the U.S. and Russia Would Starve 5 Billion People

Motherboard (Vice) - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 06:00

The worst part of nuclear war is surviving it. Millions would die in a nuclear exchange between superpowers like Russia and the U.S., but billions more would die in the aftermath of even a “limited” nuclear war. That’s the takeaway from a new study published in Nature Food that models the effects of nuclear war on the global food supply.

The prediction is dire. “We estimate more than 2 billion people could die from nuclear war between India and Pakistan, and more than 5 billion could die from a war between the United States and Russia—underlining the importance of global cooperation in preventing nuclear war,” the study said.

The paper’s title is “Global food insecurity and famine from reduced crop, marine fishery and livestock production due to climate disruption from nuclear war soot injection” and it’s the latest work in the long-studied phenomenon of nuclear winter. The gist is that the massive explosion from nuclear bombs injects huge amounts of soot and debris into the atmosphere. The more explosions, the more soot and the more devastating the implications for the environment.

The soot injection from a nuclear explosion is comparable to that from volcanic eruptions, a naturally-occurring phenomenon that has disrupted climate systems and led to famines in the past. Alan Robock of Rutgers University is one of the paper’s authors and has a background in studying climate and the effects of volcanic eruptions. 

In the 1980s, he learned about nuclear winter. “I calculated how climate would change using the same climate model I had been using for volcanic eruptions and I found, indeed, nuclear winter could last for a long time,” Robock told Motherboard. “I was amazed that Reagan and Gorbachev listened to scientists from the United States and from Russia, who both got the same results that nuclear winter would happen after a nuclear war between two countries. That helped motivate them to end the nuclear arms race.”

The new study started by looking at what experts call a “limited nuclear war,” meaning a small-scale exchange of nukes. A detonation of 100 weapons would immediately kill 27 million people and starve ten times that number—260 million—by the end of the war’s second year. A worst case scenario would be the detonation of 4,400 nuclear weapons, something that could happen if Russia and the U.S. engaged in a full scale nuclear war. In that case, 360 million would die immediately and more than 5 billion would starve after two years.

“It doesn’t really matter what country has a war,” Robock said. “The amount of smoke would determine the climate change and it doesn’t matter where because the smoke lasts for years. Once it gets into the stratosphere it would cover the world.” Robock explained that there’s no rain in the stratosphere, and thus no way to wash away the nuclear smoke once it's settled there.

The resulting nuclear winter would cool the planet, kill wildlife, and disrupt agriculture on a grand scale. Those who survived the famine would still be starving. The models predicted that even limited nuclear war between countries with small nuclear arsenals like Pakistan and India, would have devastating consequences. As an International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War analysis of the study said, “using less than 3% of the world’s nuclear weapons, a nuclear war between India and Pakistan could kill up to every 3rd person on earth.”

Despite the dire warnings and recent rise in nuclear anxiety, Robock is hopeful. He lived through the dark days of the Cold War and feels that tensions have eased and that cooler heads are currently prevailing. Yes, Putin has recently made nuclear threats and the U.S. is ratcheting up spending on nuclear weapons under the auspices of modernization, but Robock pointed to the current pushback from the international community and the revival of the Obama-era New START treaty—a treaty between Russia and the U.S. that limits deployed nuclear weapons and sets goals for reduction—as positive gains.

The UN recently ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, an international ban on nukes. The problem, of course, is that the nine countries with the weapons haven’t signed it,  and aren’t likely to. “It’s the will of the rest of the world to tell nuclear nations: ‘We don’t want nuclear weapons, we’re going to suffer if they’re ever used,’” Robock said. “There are no nuclear weapons in the Southern Hemisphere. So a lot of countries listen to what we do. But the nine countries that still have nuclear weapons have tried to ignore it. So the question is: How do you get them to listen?”

He also said he knows nukes aren’t high on some people’s list of priorities. “They’re worried about COVID or their job or education or healthcare and even global warming,” he said. “But nuclear war would be instant climate change. And it’s easy to solve the problem. Just get rid of the nuclear weapons and take them apart. We know how to do that.”

Categories: Tech News

Ryan Mountcastle’s improvements at first base helping fuel Orioles’ defensive turnaround: ‘He’s a huge asset’

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 05:59

For as much pregame defensive work as Ryan Mountcastle gets at first base, Orioles infield coach Tony Mansolino recognizes there’s one area of the game the young slugger receives no preparation for whatsoever.

Baltimore’s coaching staff lacks a left-handed hitter, so even as Mountcastle fields groundballs almost daily to improve at his relatively new position, the spin he sees off fungo bats is exclusively that which comes off a right-hander’s bat. Mansolino wants to find a way to change that.

“We joke about it, that I’m going to learn how to switch-hit next spring,” Mansolino said. “But I probably am.”

Mountcastle’s troubles with the occasional grounder from a left-hander represent the most apparent deficiency in a defensive game that Mansolino said has “significantly” improved from last year to now. That effect has trickled to the Orioles’ infield defense, which ranked as one of baseball’s worst in 2021 but is now in the middle of the league.

“In the major leagues, there’s a lot of days where guys don’t go out and take groundballs, a day game after a night game or a day that’s really hot,” Mansolino said. “He’s trying to take ground balls every single day. He wants to go out there. Credit goes to him for working so hard at it. I think he’s made himself an upper-tier defender at first base in both the American League and Major League Baseball.”

Mountcastle takes grounders nearly every day to “try to at least see something come at me before the game,” helping him learn how different infields around the league play, as well. Drafted as a shortstop out of a Florida high school in 2015, he has since made his way down the defensive spectrum. He played exclusively third base in Double-A in 2018, dabbling there at Triple-A in 2019 while primarily spending time at both first base and left field. He stayed at the Orioles’ alternate training site for the start of the 2020 season partially because the team felt he needed more work in left field, and although he held his own there after a call-up that season, he struggled immensely in the outfield at the start of the 2021 campaign.

Those troubles led to a midseason transition to being a full-time first baseman, and the results were unpleasant. By Statcast’s Outs Above Average, Mountcastle was tied for fourth-worst among qualified first basemen. With daily devotion to the position, not to mention a full offseason and spring training to prepare, Mountcastle entered Wednesday’s game tied for third among first basemen in OAA, a cumulative stat that reflects the impact he’s made even as he split the position with Trey Mancini early in the year.

“I’ve been putting in a bunch of work,” Mountcastle said earlier this season. “I feel pretty confident out there right now. I mean, it’s not the most rigorous position in the world, but it definitely isn’t easy.”

Mansolino said publicly available stats don’t necessarily speak to how impactful Mountcastle is at first base. The Orioles have internal metrics that measure how effective first basemen are at picking throws from their fellow infielders, and when Mansolino last checked, Mountcastle ranked among the top five, with a key play in Tuesday’s seventh inning among the latest examples. Mansolino wasn’t aware of a figure that tracked first basemen’s ability to catch other infielders’ throws relative to how far they are from the center of the first base bag, but he figures Mountcastle, listed at 6-foot-4, “would probably be elite in that area.”

“He has so much reach and length coming off the bag,” Mansolino said. “He catches balls that a lot of first basemen do not catch.”

His improvements have coincided with major steps forward for the Orioles’ infield defense. Collectively, the group was baseball’s third-worst infield with minus-27 outs above average in 2021. This season, it ranks 15th in the area.

“That’s very, very understated, how much a really good first baseman can impact the other three guys in the infield,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “When you can field a groundball and know that, ‘I just have to get it over there,’ and the guy’s gonna make a play for you, I think it gives you a lot of confidence.

“He works his butt off on his defense every single day, makes it important, works on his weaknesses.”

Mountcastle had to build his own confidence first. After moving in from the outfield, he and Mansolino began by working on the fundamentals of the position, focusing on proper footwork and best practices for catching and throwing before adding layers to that foundation. Among the final pieces of instruction was handling popups, especially those drifting in foul territory, a presumed simple play that both Mansolino and Mountcastle noted the difficulty of.

“It’s very nerve-wracking when you’re over there and you’re running down the foul line and you’ve got your back to the play and you have thousands of people screaming at you and it’s considered a play you’re supposed to make,” Mansolino said. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It’s a really difficult play. But he’s going after popups way more aggressively than at any point he did last year.

“How aggressive he is on something that he didn’t have a lot of confidence in is probably the thing that stands out to me the most.”

Areas to improve remain. Mansolino said Mountcastle has shown a knack for ranging to his right to field grounders and throwing to pitchers covering the bag, and he wants him to be comfortable making that play more frequently. There’s also the grounders that pop out of Mountcastle’s glove, particularly those hit by lefties. But perhaps the biggest step in that regard will come next spring, when Mansolino hopes to arrive to the Orioles’ Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota, Florida, capable of hitting from both sides.

For now, they’ll continue their daily work to make Mountcastle a better first baseman and improve Baltimore’s infield defense in the process.

“When I see him out there, I trust him,” Mansolino said. “I know when I see him out there that he’s a huge asset to the other three infielders.”


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Categories: Local News

How you can cut energy costs through the Inflation Reduction Act

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 05:55

The Inflation Reduction Act signed by President Biden this week aims to shift America toward a greener future by lowering the cost of electric vehicles, energy-efficient appliances and rooftop solar panels.

Many consumers will benefit. But it’s complicated — because limitations apply. You will get breaks, but most will come at tax time.

For instance, the Model Y is the only Tesla that will qualify for the next $7,500 tax credit. Why? Because the other models cost too much. Or the batteries that run the electric vehicles come from China. And there are income thresholds to qualify for the tax break.

The legislation is 730 pages of dense legalese. Many details are yet to be finalized.

We extracted the information that will be most helpful to people seeking to make climate-friendly purchases.

Electric vehicles

Buyers of new electric, plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles will get a tax credit worth up to $7,500, depending on the battery. A rebate of $3,750 will be paid if at least 50% of battery components are produced in the U.S. or Free Trade Agreement countries, and an additional $3,750 will be paid if at least 40% of battery minerals originate in the U.S. or FTA countries. Starting in 2024, consumers can take that tax credit as a point-of-sale rebate at the dealership.

But only vehicles that cost below a certain amount will qualify. According to Kelley Blue Book, the average sticker price for a new electric vehicle in June was about $67,000 — but the new tax credit is limited to sedans, hatchbacks, wagons and other vehicles that cost less than $55,000. That rules out pricier EVs such as the Tesla Model S, BMW i4, BMW i7 or BMW iX and Hummers. For SUVs, pickup trucks and vans, the price threshold is higher, at $80,000 to get the tax break.

A group of Tesla cars line up at charging stations at a dealership in Littleton, Colo., Aug. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)A group of Tesla cars line up at charging stations at a dealership in Littleton, Colo., Aug. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File) 

And there’s another wrinkle. Starting Aug. 16, the day the bill was signed, the old EV tax credit went away, and only vehicles assembled in North America are eligible for the new tax credit. That eliminates electric cars such as the BMW i4, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6 and Kia Niro Electric, Toyota bZ4x and Toyota Mirai and Subaru Solterra. How do you learn if an electric vehicle’s final assembly occurred in North America? Enter the 17-character Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) into the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s VIN Decoder tool:

Car buyers must meet certain income guidelines. Households with an adjusted gross income up to $300,000 will qualify for the credit. Heads of household must earn below $225,000. Individuals will qualify only with income below $150,000.

Used vehicles are also eligible for a tax credit of $4,000 or 30% of the sale price, whichever is less. The car must be at least 2 years old, cost less than $25,000 and be sold by a qualified dealer. There also are income requirements for people who seek this credit: less than $150,000 for married couples or $75,000 for single filers. As with new cars, the tax credit will be refundable at the point of sale starting in 2024.

Home heating

The Inflation Reduction Act is packed with provisions to encourage a homeowner to make energy-efficiency upgrades to their house. But the largest credits and rebates are available for purchase and installation of a specific tool: a heat pump, an efficient all-in-one heating and cooling unit that replaces a furnace and air conditioner.

As with cars, the rebates depend on your income. If your household income is less than 80% of California’s median household income — $78,672, according to the U.S. Census — you’re eligible for a nearly 100% rebate. This means, for example, that you could get $9,750 back on a $10,000 heat pump purchase. If your household income ranges from 80% to 150% of the median income, you are eligible for a 50% rebate. Households that earn more than 150% of the median income aren’t eligible.

An engineer checks the installation of a Daikin 7KW heat pump on a model house at a training facility on November 2, 2021 in Slough, England. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)An engineer checks the installation of a Daikin 7KW heat pump on a model house at a training facility on November 2, 2021 in Slough, England. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images) 

The rebates are state-administered. Once the federal government allocates funding, each state will set up a program. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency tracks tax incentives and credits related to energy efficiency in all 50 states.

But beyond the rebate, you may qualify for a federal tax credit. Anyone, regardless of income, is eligible.

This tax credit is good for 30% of the total cost of your heat pump, including the cost of labor, up to $2,000. It is available for any pumps purchased this year and is good through the end of 2032.

You can also claim up to $1,350 in tax credits on other energy-efficient expenses, such as $600 for air-sealing materials or systems, $600 for required upgrades to your electrical supply, and $150 for a home energy audit, in which contractors and utility companies come into your house and tell you what needs improving.


The Inflation Reduction Act could help save you money if you’re buying an electric range, cooktop or wall oven.

It provides only a rough framework for rebates; the exact terms will be decided by California regulators, based on how much you earn and where you live. (The rebates, which are meant to be delivered at the point of sale, are not immediately available. California must hammer out rules.)

You may be eligible for a rebate of up to $840 for an electric stove or electric heat-pump clothes dryer and up to $500 to help cover the costs of converting your supply from natural gas or propane to electric. If you need to upgrade your home’s electrical panel to support these appliances, you could get a tax credit of up to $4,000.

As with heat pumps, income requirements apply.

Home-efficiency projects

The bill offers a 30% tax credit toward the cost of installing efficient exterior windows, skylights, exterior doors and some other items.

This tax credit is worth up to $1,200 a year, though a larger $2,000 total annual credit applies to certain large projects. Some items have a cap — for example, there’s a $500 limit on new doors and $600 for windows and skylights. Installations must meet certain efficiency standards, like an Energy Star rating.

Solar panels

Homeowners could get a 30% tax credit toward the installation cost of solar panels or other tools to harness renewable energy such as wind, geothermal and biomass fuel.

That could help defray about $4,500 to $7,500 off the average $15,000 to $25,000 price tag of a residential solar electric system, according to the Center for Sustainable Energy.

It’s an improvement upon an existing 26% tax credit for home solar power installation that would have fallen to 22% next year and expired completely by 2024.

And unlike the current tax credit, it extends to battery storage technology — so homeowners that use solar power can install a battery system that stores excess renewable energy for later use.

Employees of Luminalt Solar Energy Solutions check on a recently installed solar panel on the roof of a building on Harrison Street in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)Employees of Luminalt Solar Energy Solutions check on a recently installed solar panel on the roof of a building on Harrison Street in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) 
Categories: Local News

Europe is seriously considering a major investment in space-based solar power

ARS Technica - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 05:54
Space-based solar power involves harvesting sunlight from Earth orbit and then beaming it down to the surface where it is needed.

Enlarge / Space-based solar power involves harvesting sunlight from Earth orbit and then beaming it down to the surface where it is needed. (credit: Andreas Treuer/ESA)

Europe is seriously considering developing space-based solar power to increase its energy independence and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the leader of the European Space Agency said this week.

"It will be up to Europe, ESA and its Member States to push the envelope of technology to solve one of the most pressing problems for people on Earth of this generation," said Josef Aschbacher, director general of the space agency, an intergovernmental organization of 22 member states.

Previously the space agency commissioned studies from consulting groups based in the United Kingdom and Germany to assess the costs and benefits of developing space-based solar power. ESA published those studies this week in order to provide technical and programmatic information to policymakers in Europe.

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Categories: Tech News

AI chip adds artificial neurons to resistive RAM for use in wearables, drones

The Register - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 05:45
'Even on a small coin battery, it could run for more than 10 years' claims researcher

A newly published research paper describes a compute-in-memory (CIM) chip that combines artificial neurons with resistive RAM (RRAM) so that the AI model weights can be stored and processed on the same chip.…

Categories: Tech News

ASK IRA: Are Heat concerningly thin at power forward?

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 05:38

Q: I’m a bit worried our “run it back” mentality will turn into the year after the Finals, when we got swept by the Bucks. We tried to patch the four spot with an undersized Moe Harkless, the same way it seems we’re going to try the same with Caleb Martin. Even if Caleb is our starter, we have no backup four, either. Wouldn’t Haywood Highsmith’s contract be better served as a two-way, so that it opens up a roster spot for say a Blake Griffin? – Sylvester, Philadelphia.

A: The Haywood Highsmith element is one I raised during summer league. The problem is the way that Haywood’s contract is structured, another team can claim him off waivers at the NBA-minimum scale while also not having to worry about guaranteeing his contract. So, basically, it would be unlikely he would clear waivers, which would be a required move if the Heat would want to (and Highsmith would acquiesce to) make the shift to a two-way. But there are other avenues to adding a veteran presence at power forward, be it a Blake Griffin or Markieff Morris or another player still unsigned. Foremost would be utilizing the roster spot otherwise to be taken by Udonis Haslem. Of course, the Heat also could simply play Haslem, who is a power forward. Beyond that, the Heat do retain the option of adding a 15th player now at power forward and then working later to get below the luxury tax at season’s end. Or it simply could be that the front office is comfortable with the pool of Martin and Highsmith, as well as other oversized or undersized lineups, in the power rotation. And remember, if the Heat send out more players in a trade than they bring in, a roster spot would then be opened for such an additional signing of a power forward.

Q: Ira, if Pat Riley can’t find another superstar at a bargain price, or make a trade for someone like Harrison Barnes or Gordon Hayward by the trading deadline, the best move might be to target a player like Kevin Love after a buyout. – Gabe, Miami.

A: First, the Cavaliers, who plan to be in the playoff race, might not necessarily be sellers. But, to the conundrum raised in the question above, an addition at the buyout deadline could also provide an answer. That, however, would be taking a decidedly long view, considering such moves typically don’t come until late February or March.

Q: Bring Hassan Whiteside back. He has matured. – Shane.

A: While that certainly has become a valid position, the Heat hardly are in position to sign another center, with Dewayne Dedmon re-signed and with the developmental possibilities of Omer Yurtseven. Oftentimes it comes down to teams wanting to try something new. At 33 (yes, he is that old), Hassan Whiteside might simply have aged out.


Categories: Local News

Covid in China: Fish tested amid Xiamen outbreak

BBC World News - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 05:36
Footage has gone viral showing live fish and crabs being tested in China for the coronavirus.
Categories: World News

COVID real estate: Bay Area self-storage units are hot tickets in big deal

San Jose Mercury - Thu, 08/18/2022 - 05:30

SAN JOSE — The official end of coronavirus-linked shutdowns has unleashed a surge in demand — including a Bay Area mega-deal — for a mundane-sounding commercial real estate product: self-storage facilities.

Public storage complexes might seem to be the most prosaic of real estate properties. Yet as personal habits shifted dramatically after the end of the business lockdowns triggered by the deadly bug, investors began to view public storage sites as increasingly attractive.

In a big portfolio transaction, 11 self-storage properties, including several in the Bay Area, were bought recently, according to JLL, a commercial real estate firm.

Seven of the self-storage properties in the recent deal are located in the Bay Area and were bought for a combined total of $165.4 million, according to official records on file in Santa Clara County, Alameda County and Contra Costa County.

Self-storage facility at 355 W. Taylor St. in central San Jose.(George Avalos/Bay Area News Group)Self-storage facility at 355 W. Taylor St. in central San Jose. (George Avalos/Bay Area News Group)

InSite Property Group, whose operating units include SecureSpace Self Storage, bought, besides the seven storage complexes in the Bay Area, three facilities in Texas and one in Oregon, the company said. InSite Property is based in the Los Angeles-area city of Torrance.

Pegasus Group sold the 11 properties in three states, according to JLL commercial real estate executives Brian Somoza, Steve Mellon, Matthew Wheeler, Adam Roossien and Jake Kinnear.

“This transaction represents the continuance of strong underlying fundamentals within the self-storage market,” said Somoza, a JLL managing director.

During the coronavirus-triggered lockdowns, self-storage units fell out of favor, even though they were allowed to continue to operate as an essential service, noted a report from Inside Self-Storage, which analyzes the self-storage industry. That’s because people began to shelter in place rather than venture outside their homes.

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But once the shutdowns ended, the self-storage industry’s fortunes swiftly brightened.

“When the most stringent lockdowns were lifted across the country in June 2020, the need for self-storage skyrocketed,” Cory Sylvester of Inside Self-Storage wrote in a July 2022 report on the industry.

Habits on the part of customers of self-storage units shifted in multiple ways, the report stated.

“Consumers were driven by the desire to create a home office or gym, or to relocate to a more pleasing location,” Inside Self-Storage said in its analysis.

Here’s what InSite Property Group paid for the seven self-storage sites in the Bay Area, according to deeds filed with county agencies:

— 900 Lonus St. in San Jose, $37.7 million

— 355 W. Taylor St. in San Jose, $29.7 million

— 6880 Santa Teresa Blvd. in San Jose, $26 million

— 2721 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley, $20.5 million

— 2100 A St. in Antioch, $20.2 million

— 324 S. Main St. in Milpitas, $16.5 million

— 13760 E 14th St. in San Leandro, $14.8 million

The transactions were all completed in late July or early August. The final deal of the seven, the West Taylor site in San Jose, was concluded on Aug. 9, property documents show.

Affiliates of InSite Property Group also obtained $183.4 million in financing in connection with the 11 property purchases in the three states, records on file in Santa Clara County show. PGIM Real Estate Finance provided the funding, according to the public documents.

It’s possible that inflation woes and ongoing supply-chain difficulties could crimp new development. That could limit the construction of facilities whose new units would compete with existing self-storage sites.

“Everything including the price of steel, cement and labor has increased significantly,” Inside Self-Storage stated in the recent analysis. “Municipalities are taking much longer to review and approve projects. The net result is development is more expensive and taking longer than ever.”

With demand rising for public storage units, customers might find it more expensive to store their items, the industry analyst warned.

“We should expect to see self-storage rental rates steadily increase,” Inside Self-Storage wrote in its report.




Categories: Local News