HughPickens.com writes: EW reports that Paramount TV and Universal Cable Productions are teaming up to develop Robert A. Heinlein's classic 'Stranger in a Strange Land' into a TV series on Syfy. The 1961 sci-fi book, set in the aftermath of a third world war, centers on Valentine Michael Smith, a human born on Mars and raised by Martians, who, as a young adult, has returned to Earth. The true driving forces of the novel are religion and sex, which Heinlein’s publisher at the time wanted him to cut out. But as the author noted to his literary agent, if religion and sex were removed from the text, what remained would be the equivalent of a “nonalcoholic martini.” “From my point of view, Stranger in a Strange Land isn’t just a science fiction masterpiece it also happens to be one of my favorite books ever!” says NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Chairman Bonnie Hammer. “The story is timeless and resonates more than ever in today’s world. As a fan, I can’t wait to see it come to life as a world-class television event.” A previous attempt at adapting Heinlein’s novel came in 1995, when Batman Returns' Dan Waters penned a script designed for Tom Hanks and Sean Connery.
HughPickens.com writes: The WSJ reports that a small team of scientists working for De Beers is scrambling to stave off a looming threat that could tarnish the luster of natural-mined diamonds: high-quality man-made stones. For now, while synthetics make up just a fraction of the market, they have growing appeal to younger buyers — a headache for mine owners, who are under pressure to cut supply and lower prices, because traders, cutters and polishers are struggling to profit amid a credit squeeze and languishing jewelry sales. Synthetic producers can make 250,000 carats to 350,000 carats of rough diamonds annually, according to industry estimates, compared with about 135 million rough carats mined every year. But Martin Roscheisen, chief executive of Diamond Foundry Inc., a San Francisco synthetic-diamond producer with a capacity of 24,000 carats, says he believes nearly all diamonds consumers purchase will be man-made in a few decades. To counter the threat, last year De Beers helped launch a trade association with other producers to market the attraction of natural diamonds. At a plant about 30 miles west of London, De Beers scientists have been working to detect synthetic diamonds for years. The company has its own synthetic-diamond facility, called Element Six, which produces synthetic diamonds for industrial purposes, such as drilling, and helps De Beers keep up with technological developments. It also started marketing a new, cheap detector called PhosView, that uses ultraviolet light to detect lab-grown stones that quickly screens tiny synthetic diamonds. “We’re very focused on detection,” says Simon Lawson, head of Technologies U.K. at De Beers. “It underpins the integrity of natural diamonds and ensures that consumers cannot be duped into buying a synthetic diamond.” Despite the increased competition, De Beers has no intention of selling synthetics. “De Beers’ focus is on natural diamonds,” says Lawson. “We would not do anything that would cannibalize that industry.”
HughPickens.com writes: Hollywood Reporter reports that Columbia Pictures is rebooting Starship Troopers, the 1997 sci-fi film directed by Paul Verhoeven. The studio is not remaking the film but is said to be going back to the original Heinlein novel for an all-new take and no personnel from the 1997 film are involved. Verhoeven’s film, which starred Casper van Dien and Denise Richards, received critical acclaim for its surprising satire but was a disappointment at the box office, making just $121m worldwide from a $105m budget. The original movie, considered a mixed success at the time of its release went on to achieve a cult following and during the DVD boom of the 2000s, it became a mini-franchise for the studio, which produced three additional direct-to-DVD movies. The newly announced reboot is said to be more faithful to Robert A. Heinlein's original book, but is that a good idea? "Starship Troopers has been decried as promoting fascism and being racist in its creation of a society where democracy has been severely restricted and warfare against the alien "bugs" comes with its own coded terminology that hews too closely to real-world racism for many," says Graeme McMillan. "The question then becomes: in updating Starship Troopers to make it more acceptable to today's audience, can it still manage to remain faithful enough to Heinlein's original to please the existing fan base?"
HughPickens.com writes: Ever had a bike stolen? Bike thieves have had virtually free rein around San Francisco and the Bay area for years, stealing thousands every year, turning warehouses and underpasses into chop shops, victimizing residents and city officials alike. But BBC reports on a new weapon in the arsenal of devices developed to thwart would-be thieves — a bicycle lock that spews a pressurized, stinking gas if someone attempts to cut the lock. The company claims its "noxious chemical" is so disgusting it "induces vomit in the majority of cases." Even better, it claims, the gas causes "shortness of breathing" and impaired eyesight. The company says that the compressed gas is perfectly safe — and can only be released "by trying to cut through it with an angle grinder". If the chemical countermeasure is released, it is a one-time only use, and the lock — which costs over $100 — will have to be replaced. But the hope is that the unpleasant experience will cause them to abandon the attempted theft, leaving the bicycle behind. The inventors have not yet tested the device on an actual would-be thief, but have tested it on themselves and volunteers at distances of two feet, five feet, 10ft and 20ft. “At two feet it was pretty bad. It was absolutely vomit inducing in 99% of people. At five feet it’s very noticeable and the initial reaction is to move away from it. At 10ft it’s definitely detectable and very unpleasant.”
HughPickens.com writes: MedicalExpress reports that nurses and midwives promoting anti-vaccination messages in Australia could face punishment including being slapped with a caution and having their ability to practise medicine restricted. Serious cases could be referred to an industry tribunal, where practitioners could face harsher penalties such as having their registration suspended or cancelled. The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia released the vaccination standards in response to what it described as a small number of nurses and midwives promoting anti-vaccination via social media. The statement also urges members of the public to report nurses or midwives promoting anti-vaccination. Promoting false, misleading or deceptive information is an offence under national law and is prosecutable by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. “The board will consider whether the nurse or midwife has breached their professional obligations and will treat these matters seriously,” the statement said. However Dr. Hannah Dahlen, a professor of midwifery at the University of Western Sydney and the spokeswoman for the Australian College of Midwives, worries the crackdown may push people with anti-vaccination views further underground. “The worry is the confirmation bias that can occur, because people might say: ‘There you go, this is proof that you can’t even have an alternative opinion.’ It might in fact just give people more fuel for their belief systems.”
HughPickens.com writes: The NYT reports that more artists are discovering a technology called Yondr. Fans are required to place their cellphones into Yondr’s form-fitting lockable pouch when entering the show, and a disk mechanism unlocks it on the way out. Fans keep the pouch with them, but it is impossible to snap pictures, shoot videos or send text messages during the performance while the pouch is locked. “I know my show is protected, and it empowers me to be more honest and open with the audience,” says Dave Chappelle who insists on deploying Yondr at all of his shows. Other entertainers have since used Yondr, including Alicia Keys, Guns N’ Roses, and Maxwell, and the actor, musician and comedian Donald Glover, who goes by the stage name Childish Gambino. Chad Taylor, who manages Mr. Glover, among others, says, “It’s hard to meet people in the room when you’re busy texting friends who aren’t there. It’s hard to enjoy a concert experience when you’re looking at it through an iPhone camera and trying to get the best shot.”
But some fans object to not being able to disseminate and see live shows via videotape. “The ability to see it happening live” from the comfort of your living room “is incredible,” says Chris Kooluris of Manhattan, a hard-core music fan who has been to dozens of live shows and watched others online through Periscope, Twitter’s video feature. “In this day and age, my phone is how I keep my memory,” says Gerard Little. “Chris Brown. Jason Derulo. I have their footage on my phone. If you don’t want your music heard, then don’t perform it.” Andrea Ostolaza says she wants to share the concert with her friends who couldn’t get in. “If it doesn’t have a flash or light, I don’t feel like it’s disrupting."
HughPickens.com writes: The NYT reports that a Moroccan woman who took a piece of her dead husband’s intestine on a flight to their home in Austria was carrying the sample because she suspected that he had been poisoned and she wanted European doctors to examine it. The woman packed the four-inch piece in her checked baggage on a flight to the southern Austrian city of Graz, where she and her husband had been living for eight years. She acted on the advice of a doctor in Marrakesh who shared her suspicion that her husband had been poisoned at a meal the couple ate while visiting his relatives. The woman was travelling through Graz airport in the south of Austria but was reportedly stopped by officials after they observed her behaving suspiciously. Officers determined that the woman had violated no Austrian laws by bringing the sample into the country. A Moroccan doctor extracted the piece of intestine and apparently helped pack it in formaldehyde and in thick plastic containers. Gerald Höfler, who leads the pathology institute in Graz where the intestine is being examined, described the packaging as very professional. “I would imagine that it was done by a pathologist,” Höfler said. “It was absolutely secure, triple wrapped, according to European Union norms.”
HughPickens.com writes: Nami LaChance writes at The Intercept that a google-incubated program that targets potential ISIS members with deradicalizing content will soon be used to target violent right-wing extremists in North America. Using research and targeted advertising, the initiative by London-based startup Moonshot CVE and Google’s Jigsaw technology incubator targets potentially violent Jihadis and directs them to a YouTube channel with videos that refute ISIS propaganda. In the pilot program countering ISIS, the so-called Redirect Method collected the metadata of 320,000 individuals over the course of eight weeks, using 1,700 keywords, and served them advertisements that led them to the videos. “I think this is an extremely promising method,” says Richard Stengel, U.S. Undersecretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs. In the ISIS pilot program, the YouTube channel pulls preexisting videos that, according to Yasmin Green, the head of research and development for Jigsaw, “refute ISIS’s messaging.” One video is from a woman who secretly filmed her life in ISIS-controlled Raqqa. Another shows young people in Mosul, their faces obscured by keffiyehs for their protection, talking about life under the Islamic State. “The branding philosophy for the entire pilot project was not to appear judgmental or be moralistic, but really to pique interest of individuals who have questions, questions that are being raised and answered by the Islamic State,” Green said.
Ross Frenett, co-founder of Moonshot, says his company and Jigsaw are now working with funding from private groups to target other violent extremists, including the hard right in America. “Our efforts during phase two, when we’re going to focus on the violent far right in America, will be very much focused on the small element of those that are violent. The interesting thing about how they behave is they’re a little bit more brazen online these days than ISIS fan boys,” says Frenett.
HughPickens.com writes: CNN reports that URL, the porn-sniffing dog, is the newest crime-fighting tool at the Weber County Sheriff's office with a nose that could help put away some of the country's most predatory and dangerous criminals. URL (pronounced Earl) sniffs out electronic storage media. Still just a pup, the 18-month-old K-9 is one of fewer than two dozen such dogs in the United States that hunt the unique chemical compounds emitted from flash drives, memory cards, cell phones, iPads and other similar devices. While dogs like URL can't tell detectives if a device has electronic evidence on it, they are able to find devices that humans might otherwise miss. Detective Cameron Hartman points to the high-profile case of former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle, who was convicted on child pornography and other charges last year. A K-9 named Bear, who was trained by the same man who trained URL, led investigators to hidden thumb drives inside Fogle's home. The US Attorney's office for Southern Indiana confirmed those devices contained evidence against Fogle. URL has found evidence relating to pornography during the execution of search warrants for the task force in several investigations of child sex crimes and child trafficking. "He actually found a USB that was in this jar that was closed, and the jar was in a box, and the box had stuff in it. The jar itself had stuff in it."
HughPickens.com writes: The Joplin Globe reports that Missouri lawmakers have inducted science fiction writer Robert Heinlein to the Hall of Famous Missourians to a cheering crowd of fans who call themselves "Heinlein's children." State Rep. T.J. Berry says Heinlein encouraged others to "strive for the stars, for the moon" and "for what's next." Donors to the Heinlein Society and the Heinlein Prize Trust paid for a bronze bust of Heinlein, which will be displayed in the House Chamber at the Capitol where it will join 45 other Missourians honored with busts in the hall including Mark Twain, Dred Scott and Ginger Rogers, as well as more controversial Missourians such as Rush Limbaugh. In 2013 Missourians were asked to vote on who would go into the Hall. Heinlein received more than 10,000 votes. Heinlein was born in Butler, Missouri on July 7, 1907 and grew up in Kansas City. "Our devotion to this man must seem odd to those outside of the science fiction field, with spaceships and ray guns and bug-eyed monsters," Heinlein Society President Keith Kato said. "But to Heinlein's children, the writing was only the beginning of doing."
Proving the source of a cyberattack is difficult but all the forensic evidence points toward Russian intelligence agencies as the perpetrators of the theft of the national committee emails, given the close similarities between this attack and previous Russian cyberoperations. It is less clear who gave the emails to WikiLeaks, but the same agencies are the prime suspects. Whether the leaks were ordered by Mr. Putin, or just designed by apparatchiks who thought it might please him, is anyone’s guess. On Sunday morning, the issue erupted, as Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, argued on ABC’s “This Week” that the emails were leaked “by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump” citing “experts” but offering no other evidence. So why would Putin want to support Donald Trump for President? Mook suggests that the Russians might have good reason to support Trump because of Trump's views on NATO: The Republican nominee indicated in an interview with The New York Times that he might not back NATO nations if they came under attack from Russia — unless he was first convinced that the counties had made sufficient contributions to the Atlantic alliance.
HughPickens.com writes: The NYT reports that the release on Friday of some 20,000 stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers, many of them embarrassing to Democratic leaders, has intensified discussion of the role of Russian intelligence agencies in disrupting the 2016 campaign. The emails, released by WikiLeaks, exposed the degree to which the Democratic apparatus favored Hillary Clinton over her primary rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and triggered the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the party chairwoman, on the eve of the convention’s first day. Proving the source of a cyberattack is difficult. But all the forensic evidence points toward Russian intelligence agencies as the perpetrators of the theft of the national committee emails, given the close similarities between this attack and previous Russian cyberoperations. It is less clear who gave the emails to WikiLeaks, but the same agencies are the prime suspects. Whether the leaks were ordered by Mr. Putin, or just designed by apparatchiks who thought it might please him, is anyone’s guess. On Sunday morning, the issue erupted, as Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, argued on ABC’s “This Week” that the emails were leaked “by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump” citing “experts” but offering no other evidence. Mr. Mook also suggested that the Russians might have good reason to support Mr. Trump: The Republican nominee indicated in an interview with The New York Times last week that he might not back NATO nations if they came under attack from Russia — unless he was first convinced that the counties had made sufficient contributions to the Atlantic alliance. Link to Original Source
HughPickens.com writes: CNN reports that the head of the Democratic National Committee will not speak at the party's convention next week, a decision reached by party officials Saturday after emails surfaced that raised questions about the committee's impartiality during the Democratic primary. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose stewardship of the DNC has been under fire through most of the presidential primary process, will not have a major speaking role in an effort "to keep the peace" in the party, a Democrat familiar with the decision said. The revelation comes following the release of nearly 20,000 emails. One email appears to show DNC staffers asking how they can reference Bernie Sanders' faith to weaken him in the eyes of Southern voters. Another seems to depict an attorney advising the committee on how to defend Hillary Clinton against an accusation by the Sanders campaign of not living up to a joint fundraising agreement.
HughPickens.com writes: Josh Katz has an interesting statistical analysis of the presidential race at the NYT that concludes that Hillary Clinton has about a 76% chance of winning the presidency, about the same probability that an NBA player will hit a free throw. To forecast each party’s chance of winning the presidency, the model calculates win probabilities for each state using a state’s past election results and national polling. But the most interesting part of the analysis is an interactive tree diagram (at the bottom of the page) that shows the paths to victory for each candidate depending on the results from the most important swing states and what would be required to compensate for a states' loss. Clinton starts out with 186 electoral votes from solidly Democratic states while Trump starts out with 149. What's left are the toss-ups states- states whose electoral votes could potentially be in play.
As it turns out Florida is the big prize. If Clinton wins Florida, Trump's only path to victory involves winning Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Arizona, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire. Although Florida is a state that tilted just slightly to the right of the country in previous elections, Republicans might not be able to keep up with Florida’s demographic shift any longer. Here’s the unsurprising reason: Trump has alienated Hispanic voters, making the last decade of demographic shifts even more potent. According to estimates, Trump is losing among Hispanic voters in Florida by a 30-point margin, up from Romney’s 22-point deficit in similar estimates of 2012. Without Florida, the Republican path to the presidency gets very rocky.