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(Reuters) - Held without access to sunlight or his relatives, Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is under more restrictive captivity than any other U.S. prisoner and it is difficult to mount a defense, his court appointed lawyers said on Thursday.

Blades of Glory

‘Blades of Glory’ hit theaters 10 years ago today. I was 12 years old at the time, and there was nothing that could get me in a theater faster than a new Will Ferrell movie. To this day, I have never laughed harder in a movie theater than I did on March 30, 2007. I left the theater fully confident that I had seen a comedy classic.

But despite generally favorable reviews and nearly 150 million at the box office, ‘Blades of Glory’ has been all but cast aside in favor of 2007’s shiny new toys: `Superbad` and `Knocked Up.` And while the aforementioned films are both truly hilarious and worthy of the praise they’ve received, they’ve had their time in the sun.

I’ve probably seen ‘Blades of Glory’ 10 or 15 times since it came out. It is truly a delightful movie from beginning to end, and it pains me to know that there are millions — if not billions — of people around the world who haven’t experienced this piece of classic American cinema.

Allow me to walk you through a few clips and make the case for why ‘Blades of Glory’ deserves your time, attention, and most importantly, your respect.

`Blades of Glory` is unabashedly ridiculous.

Let’s start with the premise. ‘Blades of Glory’ stars Will Ferrell and Jon Heder as Chazz Michael Michaels and Jimmy MacElroy, two of the best professional male figure skaters in the world. When the rivals get banned from men’s singles forever after fighting on the gold medal stand, the only way to get back on the ice is to team up and skate as the world`s first all-male pair.

From the get-go, this movie is completely committed to its ridiculous premise. Jimmy MacElroy was plucked out of an orphanage and trained Rocky IV-style to be the best skater in the world. Chazz, meanwhile, is an “ice-devouring sex tornado” who learned the craft by skating in Detroit’s frozen underground sewers as a young boy.

Their acts reflect their upbringing, and when the two take the medal-stand at the beginning of the movie, all hell breaks loose.

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The supporting cast is stacked, and they leave it all out on the ice.

Let me drop some names: 

 Will Arnett. Amy Poehler. Rob Cordry. Jenna Fischer. Nick Swardson. Craig T. Nelson.

If you`re reading those names and thinking Huh, if only all those people would get together and make a movie, it would probably be one of the funniest things I`ve ever seen in my entire life, then you`d be right. Because — surprise! — that`s the cast of `Blades of Glory.`

Arnett and Poehler, in particular, shine as Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg, the brother and sister duo who were the best in pairs skating until Jimmy and Chazz team up. Their dynamic with their little sister Katie, played by Jenna Fischer, is gold in each and every scene. 

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But the real draw here is Will Ferrell. And I`d make the argument that Chazz Michael Michaels is the funniest role Ferrell has ever had.

"But what about `Anchorman`?!" I imagine you`re shouting at your computer screen right now. "Or `Old School`??! Or `Talladega Nights`?!"

Those are all great movies, yes, and the roles are quintessential Ferrell. But note the distinction that I am making: this is Ferrell`s funniest role, not necessarily his best

Plain and simple, no other character allowed him to let loose the way that Chazz Michael Michaels did. Let`s take a look at a pair of Chazz scenes.

 



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Saying Uber’s had a rough 2017 is like saying the Atlanta Falcons had a rough Super Bowl: It doesn’t quite capture the disaster.

After a social media campaign — affectionately called #deleteUber — led to more than 200,000 deletions of its app in January, the last month or so has brought a torrent of controversies for the ride-hailing company. There have been multiple allegations of sexual harassment from former employees, a lawsuit from Google, major executive departures, embarrassing leaked videos of CEO Travis Kalanick, unflattering reports of Kalanick’s alleged behavior, and self-driving car crashes, to name a few.

To try and rehab its image and internal culture, the company this week released its first-ever diversity report. And, as is sadly predictable, the results weren’t great: Uber admitted it’s lacking in black and Hispanic employees, particularly in leadership positions, and its internal figures show that the company is very much male-dominated.

But as this chart from Statista shows, that divide is as emblematic of the wider gender gap in tech as it is Uber’s own practices. Compared to giants like Apple, Google, Facebook, or Microsoft, Uber’s lack of women is entirely normal. To Uber’s credit, it has pledged to spend 3 million over the next three years to support more diversity in tech, and it is publically shaming itself, more or less, by releasing the figures at all. But like the rest of tech, it still has plenty of work to do to become less of a boys club.

COTD_3.30 women in tech

SEE ALSO: The Galaxy S8 arrives as Samsung`s hold on the smartphone market is slipping

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NOW WATCH: Here`s why Steve Jobs never let his kids use an iPad

CARACAS (Reuters) - Opposition leaders branded Venezuela`s socialist President Nicolas Maduro a "dictator" on Thursday after the Supreme Court took over the functions of Congress and pushed a lengthy political standoff to new heights.
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - A federal court sentenced Brazil`s former speaker of the lower house, Eduardo Cunha, to more than 15 years in prison on Thursday for corruption, making him the highest-profile political conviction yet in the "Operation Car Wash" scandal.

Skoda vision E

On Wednesday, Škoda announced plans to unveiled an all-new electric crossover SUV concept called the Vision E at the 2017 Shanghai Motor Show.

Unfortunately for US car buyers, Škoda, a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group, is not available on this side of the Atlantic.

Which is a real shame because the Vision E looks like a winner.

Škoda expects the electric crossover to offer as much as 311 miles of electric range.

The Vision E will be driven by a pair of high-output electric motors — one mounted on each axle. Together, the duo create a virtual all-wheel-drive system while producing roughly 300 total horsepower.

Škoda did not offer an expected 0-60mph time, but did say that the concept should be able to reach a top speed of 112mph.

In addition, the concept is also slated to conform with level 3 requirements for autonomous driving.

"It can operate independently in traffic jams, go into autopilot on motorways, stay in lane and swerve, carry out overtaking maneuvers, independently search for free parking spaces and park and leave parking spaces alone," Škoda wrote in a statement.

Skoda VISION E backThe sleek four door crossover will be built on VW Group`s MEB electric car platform.

According to the Czech automaker, the Vision E offers a glimpse into the company`s future electric mobility strategy.

"Škoda is intensively pursuing the electrification of its model range, and will be offering five purely electric models in various segments by 2025," the company wrote. The first of the those models to appear will be a plug-in hybrid version of the Skoda Superb sedan in 2019.

The 2017 Shanghai Motor Show will run from April 21 — 28 at the National Exhibition and Convention Center next to Hongqiao International Airport.

SEE ALSO: These 40 cars prove Geneva is the best auto show in the world

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NOW WATCH: Your neighbor`s WiFi is ruining yours — here`s how to fix it

Oculus founder Palmer Luckey

Oculus cofounder Palmer Luckey is leaving Facebook, which acquired his virtual reality startup for 2 billion in 2014.

Luckey`s role at Oculus has been in flux since it was revealed in September that he secretly funded a Conservative group that created viral, anti-Hillary Clinton memes.

The revelation created turmoil within the Oculus group at Facebook and led to multiple female employees resigning, people familiar with the matter told Business Insider.

“Palmer will be dearly missed," an Oculus spokesperson told BI on Thursday. "Palmer’s legacy extends far beyond Oculus. His inventive spirit helped kickstart the modern VR revolution and helped build an industry. We’re thankful for everything he did for Oculus and VR, and we wish him all the best.”

The spokesperson confirmed that this is Luckey`s last week at Oculus but declined to confirm if he was fired or left voluntarily.

 

This story is developing.

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NOW WATCH: Congress just voted to allow your internet provider to sell your online history and data — here`s how to protect your privacy

KABUL (Reuters) - In a custom-built arena in Kabul, crowds cheered as young Afghan men punched, kicked, and wrestled in the country`s first professional mixed martial arts league, a welcome distraction to the violence besetting the country.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States is no longer making removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power a focus of its policy in the war-torn country, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said on Thursday, in a departure from the Obama administration`s initial stance on Assad`s fate.
WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will hold their first face-to-face talks next week, a highly anticipated meeting between leaders at odds over trade, China`s strategic ambitions, and how to deal with North Korea`s weapons programs.
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel`s security cabinet approved on Thursday the building of the first new settlement in the occupied West Bank in two decades, even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu negotiates with Washington on possible curbs on settlement activity.

Fate of the Furious Universal

Hollywood`s attention has largely turned to Las Vegas, where this week at CinemaCon studios are show off their most impressive upcoming work.

On Wednesday, Universal had the floor and surprised everyone in attendance with a screening of "The Fate of the Furious." The latest chapter in the hugely popular "Fast and the Furious" franchise has Vin Diesel and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson joining newcomers Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren.

There`s clearly a lot of excitement for this movie, which comes out in theaters on April 14. Based on the reactions of those who were in the room, the hype is real.

Excited reactions ranged from "perfection" to "crazy, fun, and yet very different ending." See for yourself:

The Fate of the Furious is another winning entry in the franchise. Crazy, fun, and yet very different feeling. I laughed, I cried, I cheered

— Germain Lussier (@GermainLussier) March 29, 2017

#fateofthefurious is exactly what you buy your ticket for. A few fun “so bad they’re good moments” and Statham has a movie-stealing scene

— Aaron Couch (@AaronCouch) March 29, 2017

Yessss #fateofthefurious is perfection. So much fun. #cinemacon

— Rebecca Ford (@Beccamford) March 29, 2017

Loved @TheRock and Jason Statham in FATE OF THE FURIOUS. Their characters really popped; great dialogue & fight scenes #F8

— ErikDavis (@ErikDavis) March 29, 2017

I adored every ridiculous, silly, charming, absurd, fun second of The Fate of the Furious.

— Eric Vespe (@EricVespe) March 29, 2017

For the rest of us, we`ll just have to settle for watching the trailer daily until the movie hits theaters.

 

SEE ALSO: 33 documentaries on Netflix right now that will make you smarter

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NOW WATCH: The first full `Justice League` trailer is here and it looks incredible

personal fundraisers hero2

The next time you want to raise money, you`ll be able to do it on Facebook.

On Thursday, the social network introduced a new personal fundraiser feature à la GoFundMe. Facebook users will be able to create donation pages to raise money for things like tuition money, medical procedures, and other emergencies.

The feature was previously restricted to registered nonprofits, but now Facebook is making it available to everyone over the age of 18 in the US.

Each fundraiser will be reviewed by Facebook employees before it`s approved, and people will be able to send money directly on Facebook using its payments service. Facebook already takes a 5% processing and verification fee for donations to charities.

SEE ALSO: Facebook hopes to stop suicides from being live streamed with new tools

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NOW WATCH: Matt Damon is trying to solve the water crisis by getting people to drink more beer

(Reuters) - Held without access to sunlight or his relatives, Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is under more restrictive captivity than any other U.S. prisoner and it is difficult to mount a defense, his court appointed lawyers said on Thursday.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House has granted the U.S. military broader authority to carry out strikes in Somalia against al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

Game developers Bungie and Activision just announced the release of "Destiny 2" on September 8th. Here`s your first-preview at what the game will look like. 

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Thesis Couture high heels

Anyone who`s ever taken so much as a step in high heels knows the familiar feeling: the pressure on the ball of your foot, the pain in your toe bones, and the vibration up your foot with every step you take. 

Even people that say they love wearing heels can`t claim they`re actually comfortable.

That`s what inspired Dolly Singh, a former Oculus and SpaceX executive, to reinvent the high heel. 

"To me, when you’re surrounded by some of the smartest people on the planet, building some of the biggest and most badass machines on this world, the idea that my shoes are such crap became really obnoxiously unbearable," Singh told Business Insider in 2015.

Singh founded Thesis Couture in 2013 and started working with astronauts, orthopedic surgeons, MIT alumni, and Italian shoemakers to design a more comfortable stiletto. 

The first result of those efforts is the Olympus One, a 900 gladiator-style sandal that`s, hands-down, the most comfortable high heel I`ve ever worn. 

Thesis Couture high heels

Goodbye, metal. Hello, plastic.

I should say off the bat that I don`t often wear any sort of high heels. 

Sure, I wear them to fancy events or nice dinners, but those occasions are few and far between. Even though I`m relatively short, I can rarely convince myself that it`s worth it to suffer through a night of wearing heels — especially in a city full of subway grates, cracked sidewalks, and lots and lots of walking. 

But all of those complaints made me even more excited to test out the Olympus One shoes. They`re billed as having an entirely new internal technology that helps balance your weight across the entire foot, not just on your toes, and they`re intended to minimize the impact shock that occurs every time your foot strikes the ground. 

To do this, Thesis had to start with the internal technology of the shoe. The company says it uses ballistic-grade polymers on the inside — so, plastic. For reference, the inside of typical high heels has a long metal rod called a shank. Thesis replaced that with a plastic version that interlocks with the high heel and the place where your toes sit, called the toe box.

The company says that in most heels, 80% of your weight sits on your toe bones — the design of the Thesis shoes is meant to help redistribute the weight more evenly. 

Thesis Couture high heels

Comfortable heels — for a price

I noticed the design change as soon as I put them on my feet. The Olympus One shoes have much more arch support than typical high heels, and I immediately felt like my weight was being supported by my heel and midfoot rather than the ball of my foot. 

Walking in them felt much like typical high heels, although they stayed on my foot much better. That could be attributed more to the design of the exterior than anything else, though — the shoes lace up your foot much like a sneaker and then tie around your ankle. 

Unfortunately, I never got the chance to wear them dancing or even for several hours at a time. Most of my tests consisted of walking short distances and I never wore them for an entire day. But in my short time with them, I was very impressed. Usually when I put on heels, they hurt the ball of my left foot instantaneously, thanks to some scar tissue there from when I was younger. The Olympus One shoes put so little pressure on that part of my foot, I felt comfortable in heels for maybe the first time ever. 

Plus, the shoes are stylish. I tried the black and gunmetal pair, but they also come in nude and copper, and both pairs are made out of Italian leather. When I showed them to a colleague, her immediate response was, "They are REALLY cute." 

But they`ll cost you: 900, to be exact. 

Thesis Couture is launching the Olympus One shoes to the public on April 4. You can learn more about them and sign up to pre-order them on the company`s website

SEE ALSO: I tested out the newest version of Kim Kardashian`s favorite iPhone case — here`s how it went

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NOW WATCH: I switched from Mac to Windows and I`m never going back — here`s why

SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean court on Friday approved a warrant to arrest ousted president Park Geun-hye, the country`s first democratically elected leader to be thrown out of office, on accusations of bribery and abuse of power.
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan opposition leaders accused President Nicolas Maduro of being a "dictator" and perpetrating a "coup" on Thursday after the pro-government Supreme Court took over the functions of Congress.

Germany recently completed its enormous Synlight project. Towering three stories high, the project is the world`s largest collection of film project spotlights in a single room, and the company behind the project — the German Aerospace Center (DLR) — just switched it on.

When on, the lights create a combined intensity that`s 10,000x stronger than sun`s light on Earth`s surface and temperatures of around 5,400 degrees Fahrenheit. It`s basically the world`s largest artificial sun.

Synlight would easily fry a human, which is why no humans are allowed inside the test chambers during experiments. Watch this project melt metal and learn why Germany spent the US equivalent of around 3.7 million to build Synlight.

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Points of Satisfaction Smart Home

This story was delivered to BI Intelligence IoT Briefing subscribers. To learn more and subscribe, please click here.

At Samsung’s Unpacked 2017 event Wednesday, Samsung announced two new smart home products and services. They are:

  • A new connected home router, according to Mashable. Known as the Samsung Connect Home, the device can create a separate Wi-Fi network that connects all compatible devices within a user`s home. Users can also purchase more than one router and create a mesh network — making it very similar to Google Wi-Fi. It can also serve as the hub for devices running on more specialized IoT networks like ZigBee, Z-Wave, or Bluetooth Low Energy. Right now, the Samsung Connect Home is compatible with all of the products in the popular SmartThings line as well as Philips Hue light bulbs. The price and release date of the Connect Home have not yet been announced.
  • A new mobile application. Called Samsung Connect, the app is very similar to the Home app Apple introduced last year, as both applications can control all compatible devices. This tackles the technological fragmentation that has plagued the space since its inception, enabling users to easily control all of their devices. The app sends commands from the user`s mobile phone to the hub; the hub then sends those commands to the devices. The app can only control devices connected through the hub.

Further, the new Bixby voice assistant could soon power a Samsung smart speaker. BI Intelligence predicted last December that the company would release a smart home speaker to compete directly with Amazon’s popular Echo products. If it eventually does so, it’s likely the assistant will power the device.

But the voice assistant will not just be confined to phones and smart home speakers:

  • The company will work to integrate Bixby into its own smart home devices. Samsung is one of the largest device makers in the smart home space — it makes everything from smart lights to smart refrigerators. All of these products could eventually have Bixby built into them, or Samsung could introduce an entirely new line of Bixby-embedded products.
  • Samsung will allow third-party hardware manufacturers to make devices compatible with Bixby. The company noted that it eventually plans to release a Bixby SDK, which will allow third-party hardware manufacturers to build devices that are compatible with, and can be controlled by, Bixby.

The company is entering the space later than Apple, Google, and Amazon. Though it lacks an early-mover advantage, its centralized mobile application offering could help spur adoption of its smart home products.

Not that long ago, many home-appliance and consumer-electronics makers were gearing up for what they thought would soon be a rapidly growing market for smart home devices.

The instant popularity of the Nest thermostat, introduced in 2011, seemed to confirm their hopes. But those expectations were dashed in the coming years as the market for connected home devices later stagnated. 

Even with these challenges, many of the biggest consumer technology companies are now moving into the smart home market. For example, Apple, which recently released its self-installed smart home ecosystem, called the Apple Home, traditionally doesn`t move into a market until it`s very mature and only when it can release a perfected product. Further, Google this fall launched the Google Home and its companion ecosystem, hoping to jump into the voice-activated smart home speaker market, which Amazon currently dominates with its Echo product line. 

Nicholas Shields, research associate for BI Intelligence, Business Insider`s premium research service, has compiled a detailed report on the self-installed smart home that examines the demographics of the average smart home device owner and discuss why current smart home device owners are appealing to tech companies. The report also examines the plans of various tech giants in the smart home market and discuss their monetization strategies, and makes suggestions for how these companies can position themselves to make their products and devices more appealing to the mass market.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • Tech companies primarily enter the market to enhance a core revenue stream or service, while device makers desire to collect data to improve their products and prevent costly recalls.
  • We forecast there will be 4.8 trillion in aggregate IoT investment between 2016 and 2021.
  • These companies are also seeking to create an early-mover advantage for themselves, where they gain an advantage by this head start on adoption.
  • Major barriers to mass market adoption that still must overcome include technological fragmentation and persistently high device prices.

In full, the report:

  • Details the market strategy of prominent tech companies and device makers, and analyzes why which ones are best poised to succeed once adoption ticks up.
  • Offers insight into current ownership through an exclusive survey from BI Intelligence and analyzes what demographics will drive adoption moving forward.
  • Explains in detail which companies are poised to succeed in the market in the coming years as adoption increases and mass market consumers begin to purchase smart home devices.

To get your copy of this invaluable guide to the IoT, choose one of these options:

  1. Subscribe to an ALL-ACCESS Membership with BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report AND over 100 other expertly researched deep-dive reports, subscriptions to all of our daily newsletters, and much more. >> START A MEMBERSHIP
  2. Purchase the report and download it immediately from our research store. >> BUY THE REPORT

The choice is yours. But however you decide to acquire this report, you’ve given yourself a powerful advantage in your understanding of smart homes.

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galaxy s8 silver

Samsung pulled off an amazing feat with the Galaxy S8, the smaller model of the two Galaxy S smartphones that Samsung announced on March 29.

It has a larger 5.8-inch screen than the iPhone 7 Plus` 5.5-inch screen, all while donning a smaller and more comfortable design.

As you might expect, the bigger screen on the Galaxy S8 is better for using apps. Check it out:

SEE ALSO: Hands-on with Samsung`s latest flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+

The Galaxy S8`s screen is different than most smartphones.

Most smartphones have a 16:9 aspect ratio, but the Galaxy S8 has an 18.5:9 aspect ratio. That means its screen is taller than most smartphone screens, including the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, but not wider.



By having a taller screen and keeping a narrow width, the Galaxy S8`s body remains manageable and comfortable to use.



Apart from keeping comfort while sporting a huge screen, the Galaxy S8`s tall screen is also better for using apps than conventional screens.

If you think about it, most apps are designed to be used vertically with swipes up and down to see the content rather than horizontally with left and right swipes.

 



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

War Machine 2 Netflix final

Netflix debuted the full-length trailer for its original movie "War Machine" starring Brad Pitt on Thursday.

"War Machine" is written and directed by David Michôd, who wrote and directed 2010`s "Animal Kingdom."

From the producers of the Oscar-nominated  "The Big Short," the film is based on the book "The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan" by the late Michael Hastings. The film is fiction, but Pitt`s character is based on General Stanley McChrystal, who was fired after Hastings published an exposé about him in Rolling Stone, and it has a decidedly satirical bent. The film follows Pitt`s character, who is brought in to command NATO forces in Afghanistan.

In the trailer, Pitt`s character tells the president of Afghanistan, played by Sir Ben Kingsley, "My team and I are about to embark on a new direction."

When asked what that direction is, Pitt says, "We build Afghanistan into a free and prosperous nation."

"Sounds a lot like the old direction," Kingsley says.

The film also stars Tilda Swinton, Topher Grace, and Anthony Michael Hall. It makes its debut on Netflix on May 26. 

You can watch the trailer below: 

 

 

SEE ALSO: Here are all 44 movie sequels and reboots coming out in 2017

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NOW WATCH: This is what `Jeopardy!` host Alex Trebek is really like

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russians are among the biggest drinkers of alcohol in the world, yet are developing a new taste for alcohol-free beer, which could help save a brewing industry that has stalled under government initiatives to discourage drinking.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States is no longer making removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a focus of its policy in the war-torn country, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said on Thursday.

Interactive walls in the lobby of Digital Center 2, a new 194,000 sq. ft  building on the ESPN campus in Bristol, Connecticut May 22, 2014   REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin

ESPN wants to make itself a bit more like Netflix, according to the company’s digital boss John Kosner.

In a Bloomberg cover story about how ESPN is adapting to the digital future, Kosner said he had plans to debut a Netflix-like interface in the ESPN app, that will be limited to cable subscribers.

“It will be customized to user tastes and will put live games side by side with episodes of Van Pelt’s show and ESPN’s documentaries, such as the Academy Award-winning O.J.: Made in America,” Bloomberg reported.

“The beauty of Netflix to me is that they’ve said, ‘We’re going to make our best stuff available to you anytime you want it,’ ” Kosner told Bloomberg. “They do it brilliantly, but it’s not rocket science.”

Netflix might argue it a bit differently, given that Netflix thinks its recommendation system is worth 1 billion per year. But the idea still stands: many old-school media companies make it more difficult than they have to for people to find and watch content they love. ESPN doesn’t want to be one of those companies.

Another bright spot in digital ESPN pointed to was the new internet TV packages like DirecTV Now, Sony’s Vue, Dish’s Sling, and YouTube TV. These services compete with cable and satellite by offering convenient packages that undercut on price, usually around 35 to 60 dollars. But they give about the same per-subscriber fee to ESPN as the traditional providers do, so they don’t hurt ESPN’s margins (if ESPN is included in the package).

More than a million subscribers have signed up for ESPN on these services, according to Bloomberg. Whether these subscribers will stay is another question. Streaming reliability on these services has been spotty at best, and part of the draw is the ability to easily cancel. (For a great comparison of the packages available now, see my colleague Jeff Dunn`s piece.)

And for a deep dive into the future of ESPN, head over to Bloomberg for the cover story.

SEE ALSO: Why Netflix thinks its personalized recommendation engine is worth 1 billion per year

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NOW WATCH: Villagers in India let a King Cobra drink from a bottle of water in drought-hit region

Man Rolling a Marijuana joint

In a sun-filled room overlooking a smattering of palm trees, power lines, and cement-and-terracotta bungalows, a 73-year-old recovering alcoholic rolls a joint.

Frank, whose name has been changed for this story, doesn`t particularly like the feeling he gets from smoking cannabis, but he doesn`t hate it either. And he admits it helps him sleep.

High Sobriety, the southern California rehab center where Frank is staying, incorporates cannabis into its treatment regimen for people with drug and alcohol addiction. Frank hasn`t touched scotch, his former drink of choice — or any other alcoholic beverage, for that matter — in 30 days.

A month ago, he was living alone and drinking around the clock, despite repeated warnings from his physicians about negative interactions between alcohol and the medications he takes for high blood pressure and other age-related health issues. During a bender over the holidays, Frank knocked over the carriage holding his daughter`s 10-month old baby. Concerned, his family took him to Alcoholics Anonymous. Nothing stuck, and Frank`s health continued to decline.

So one day last year, his daughter called up Joe Schrank, High Sobriety`s founder, and asked if he could help.

High Sobriety common areaThe idea behind High Sobriety is simple: Help addicts stop abusing the substances that are causing them the most harm, and use cannabis as a tool to do so.

"Our retention rates are so much better with being able to give them something," Schrank, a trained social worker who has spent the last 15 years working with addicts, tells Business Insider. "The truth is a lot of these people are deep deep deep into the weeds with drug and alcohol use and to think there`s a light switch and they can just turn it off...I mean you`re dealing with a different person when you talk about cessation of drug use."

Schrank`s unconventional approach has put him at odds with many people in the recovery community. But his strategy is part of a new and growing movement that aims to treat addiction like any other mental illness — with science. The approaches coming out of this movement share a common thread: the belief that we should stop treating addiction as a moral issue and start treating it as a medical one.

Reducing harm

Schrank disapproves of the way AA and other similar programs portray drinking and using drugs as moral problems. That approach is out of touch with science, he says.

"I never think of drug use as any kind of moral thing. Actually, I like drug use, although it didn`t really work out for me," Schrank says.

Maia Szalavitz, a neuroscience journalist and the author of "Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction," agrees.

"This stuff that emphasizes this morality, we don`t have anything else like that in medicine," Szalavitz, a former heroin addict and AA member, says. "And the 12-step thing talking about `defects of character`, that`s not exactly helpful for someone who already has a lot of self-hatred."

High Sobriety room 8401

Like Schrank, Szalavitz believes that for many addicts, giving up their drug of choice is necessary for recovery, but giving up all drugs may not be.

"This whole idea that total abstinence is the only route to recovery has been incredibly damaging to the addiction field," she says.

Instead, a better approach might be to identify addicts` problem drug — which Szalavitz describes as "that one partner that you long for but if you get them you`ll go crazy" — and remove that substance.

This idea falls in line with decades of research in a field called harm reduction, which accepts that drug use is a part of daily life. Instead of trying to get people to give drugs up altogether, it aims to improve people`s safety by reducing the negative consequences that can be linked with using drugs. This, Szalavitz believes, could save the lives of the many people who have struggled with AA`s hardline approach.

"Addiction is compulsive behavior despite negative consequences. If you`re using a substance responsibly and not having negative consequences, why should anyone care?," she says.

Research seems to suggest that partial abstinence may help some people who`ve struggled with substances like alcohol. Keith Humphreys, the section director for mental health policy at Stanford`s department of psychiatry, published a paper in a 2003 that reviewed an approach called "Moderation Management." He concluded that making the method an option for people with drinking problems "seems on balance a benefit to public health."

`To say there`s only one option is wrong`

Six years ago, Schrank`s friend Gregory Giraldo was found unconscious in a New Jersey hotel room after overdosing on cocaine and Valium. He passed away shortly after.

Schrank, who`s now 48, says that if he could see Greg today and offer him cannabis instead of the drugs he died taking, there`d be no question about it. "I`d say, `Smoke up there, Gregory, go ahead.`"

Giraldo, a comedian, had been to rehab and tried the abstinence-only route several times. But the 12 steps didn`t save him. Schrank thinks his new program might have.

High Sobriety Joe Schrank"He was a brilliant dude," Schrank says. "Maybe he wouldn`t have been as functional as an abstinent-only person, I don`t know. But when I hear people tell others that [abstinence-only] is 100% of the pie — they`re wrong."

Schrank has also gone through AA. He got sober that way 20 years ago and hasn`t touched a drink or a drug — even cannabis — since. (Ironically, he doesn`t like the smell of pot.) While he says AA helped him "immensely in a lot of ways," Schrank takes issue with the idea that addicts are only given two choices: complete abstinence or nothing.

"To say there`s only one option and to present people with only one option is wrong," Schrank says. "It`s like saying I have a moral objection to insulin so I`m just not going to take it. It`s malpractice if you ask me."

Schrank and other critics of AA`s methodology cite its dismal success rates as one of many reasons that new approaches are necessary.

"About one of every 15 people who enter these programs is able to become and stay sober," Dr. Lance Dodes, a retired professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School wrote in his well-known 2014 book, "The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry." A large 2006 review of 8 trials involving more than 3,400 people also concluded that "no experimental studies unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of AA ... for reducing alcohol dependence or problems."

Abstinence-only approaches are simply untenable for people like Frank, Schrank says. "The truth is he`s 73 years old, he`s alone, and the idea that we`re gonna make him go to AA and stop drinking, it`s fantasy — that`s not compassion."

Still, there is some evidence that AA can help some people. A study of more than 400 people found that "some of the association between treatment and long-term alcohol-related outcomes appears to be due to participation in AA." A 29-year old recovering alcoholic who`s been sober for eight years put it to me this way, "If it wasn`t for the rooms [of AA] I`d be lying in a gutter somewhere. That`s my reality."

Does cannabis help curb addiction?

There simply aren`t many studies on whether cannabis works for those struggling with addictions.

The research that exists suggests that cannabis may be a helpful tool in reducing opioid use in people who use them for longterm pain relief. It also could help reduce the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal. And it might help some addicts stop using other substances like nicotine, although as a large report published in January by the National Academy of Sciences noted that "only one randomized trial assessing the role of cannabis in reducing the use of addictive substances" exists.

marijuana weed pot 2In addition to being few and far between, each of these studies suffered from at least one research error. In some cases, the sample was too small to extrapolate; in other cases the data was based only on surveys, which can`t provide scientific answers. In other cases, people in the study knew which drug they were taking, which might have contaminated the findings.

Clearly, more research is needed.

"I think ideally you`d study it before you just go and do it," Szalavitz says, adding, "I think it`s an intriguing idea that we need more research on."

And of course, many researchers simply say the idea of using cannabis to treat addiction is absurd.

"Marijuana has exactly no role in the treatment of any mental illness, especially substance-use disorders," Thomas McLellan, who founded the nonprofit Treatment Research Institute and served briefly as deputy drug czar under the Obama administration, told The Guardian.

All of these issues put Schrank in a tough spot.

"It`s not the easiest place. AA people hate me, rehab people hate me," he says. "I`m ok with that."

SEE ALSO: The answer to treating drug and alcohol addiction may be far simpler than you think

DON`T MISS: Why psychedelics like magic mushrooms kill the ego and fundamentally transform the brain

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: This is how long drugs actually stay in your system

GENEVA (Reuters) - Nineteen U.S. states have introduced bills that would curb freedom of expression and the right to protest since Donald Trump`s election as president, an "alarming and undemocratic" trend, U.N. human rights investigators said on Thursday.
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela`s Supreme Court has announced it is taking over the functions of congress due to "contempt" by opposition lawmakers, sparking accusations that socialist President Nicolas Maduro has become a dictator.

I think I`ve just about had it with "Mass Effect Andromeda." About five hours into the game, I`m ready to call it quits.

mass effect andromeda

There are just too many frustrations that discourage me from wanting to play more:

  • The dialogue is boring
  • Character models and animations look terrible
  • I don`t care about any of the characters, or their motivations
  • The gameplay is repetitive and feels too much like errand-running
  • You can`t pause or skip the many long cutscenes in the game
  • Menus are needlessly confusing and frustrating to use
  • You have to watch an animation every time you want to visit a new planet, or just look at it

I could go on. Of course, purists will note that the original "Mass Effect" games from a decade ago weren`t perfect either, but more than anything, playing this new game just makes me want to go back and revisit those old titles.

Like thousands of other people, I loved, loved the original "Mass Effect" series. Yes, it also started off a bit slow, but I didn`t have nearly as many gripes about the characters, their interactions, the story, or the way the game plays. Critics clearly felt the same way: The original "Mass Effect" game received near-universal praise from critics, while "Andromeda" has received mixed but mostly critical reviews.

Bioware, which made the first three "Mass Effect" games as well as the new "Andromeda" title, recently said it is listening to feedback and plans to provide "ongoing support" to the game through software updates. I`m looking forward to seeing how Bioware plans on improving "Mass Effect Andromeda," since there is clear potential despite its many, many flaws — but if there`s one thing I actually want from Bioware, it`s the ability to revisit those old games. Here`s hoping Bioware is planning remastered versions of the original trilogy for newer consoles, because whether you`re new to the franchise or you`ve already experienced Commander Shepard`s journey, those games are worlds better than "Andromeda."

SEE ALSO: 5 things I really don`t like about the new `Mass Effect` game

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: A hacker reveals the most secure thing you can do to your passwords

samsung president dj koh with samsung galaxy s8

Microsoft`s dream of Windows conquering the smartphone market has all but fizzled out.

There wasn`t a single Microsoft-made flagship Windows phone released in all of 2016, with a strong possibility that 2017 will go the same way. All in all, Microsoft`s Windows phone operating systems are at less than 1% global market share.

So it`s noteworthy that, as ZDNet reports, Microsoft has partnered up with Samsung for customized versions of its just-unveiled Galaxy S8 — exactly the same price, hardware and Android operating system as the stock Galaxy S8 (750) and the larger S8+ (850), but with a few Microsoft-powered tricks up its sleeve.

A spokesperson tells Business Insider that, starting on April 21st, you`ll be able to buy this special Galaxy S8 from Microsoft`s retail stores in the US. When you turn it on and connect it to WiFi, it downloads and installs a whole mess of Microsoft`s existing Android apps for you, including Office, LinkedIn, OneDrive, the Cortana virtual assistant, and the Wunderlist to-do app.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 is already looking like the best Android phone out there. And with this special edition, it`ll probably be the best Microsoft phone out there, too...at least, until and unless Microsoft releases its long-rumored Surface Phone.

samsung dex galaxy s8

Plus, the Samsung Galaxy S8 actually lets you dock it to a monitor and use it like a full-on PC — something that`s actually a signature feature of certain Windows 10 Mobile smartphones, in a mode that Microsoft calls "Continuum." And as The Verge`s Tom Warren points out, the Galaxy S8`s PC mode actually beats Microsoft`s Continuum in several key ways, including the ability to split-screen two apps.

This isn`t as crazy as it seems. As the PC industry continues to shrink, Microsoft is shifting its business instead to focus on cross-platform subscription services like Office 365. Using an Android phone as a funnel towards Office 365 feels weird after decades of Microsoft`s laser-focus on Windows, but it suits this new goal nicely.

Plus, Samsung and Microsoft are apparently best friends now, after settling a patent suit between them in 2015. Still, it`s a little weird that you`ll only be able to get this from Microsoft Stores, potentially limiting their availability to any but the absolute most devoted Microsoft fan.

SEE ALSO: Samsung`s Galaxy S8 resurrects a fantasy tech companies have had for years

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: I switched from Mac to Windows and I`m never going back — here`s why

CAIRO (Reuters) - Islamic State claimed responsibility on Thursday for two suicide attacks that killed at least 31 people in Damascus on March 15.
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is wary of Prime Minister Theresa May`s call for swift negotiations on a post-Brexit free trade deal while Britain is still settling its withdrawal terms, but the bloc is not ruling out early talks.

Apple`s biggest launch in 2017 isn`t a new iPhone, or a new iPad.

It`s its new campus in Cupertino, California, which looks like a spaceship and reportedly cost over 5 billion to build. The project was one of the last the late CEO Steve Jobs was involved with.

Apple Park

Apple named the campus "Apple Park" in February and said it will open in April for employees. There will also be an Apple store on the premises and a visitor`s center for non-Apple employees, although the opening date for the public hasn`t been announced yet.

"The main building, parking structure, theatre and fitness center [are] under construction," a progress report delivered to the Cupertino City Council on March 7 read. "Occupancy for main building will begin in April and phased to end of 2017. Phase 2 and ancillary building expected to be completed by 2018." 

Our latest look at Apple`s "spaceship" headquarters comes from Matthew Roberts, a drone pilot and photographer who has been making Apple Park videos for years. 

Take a look: 

Apple Park is right on the 280, but a military-grade fence shields it from the noise and intruders.



The building is nearly complete but there`s still some landscaping work to be done.



The roof is covered in solar panels.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Qatar Airways laptop loan

Qatar Airways is taking on the US government`s ban on large electronics with a rather ingenious solution — loaner laptops.

On Thursday, the Doha-based airline announced that business class passengers on board its flights to the US will have access to loaner laptops beginning next week. 

"By providing this laptop loan service we can ensure that our passengers on flights to the US can continue to work whilst on-board,"Qatar Airways Group CEO, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker said in a statement.

"This unique ability to offer ‘business as usual’, above and beyond the competition, is yet another example of Qatar Airways justification for being the ‘World’s Best Business Class’."

In addition, business class passengers will have access to complimentary WiFi.

Qatar Airways has not announced which type of laptops will be available.

Unfortunately, the loaner program will not be available to economy class passengers. At the same time, Qatar Airways has moved towards a two cabin class configuration which means the airline`s flights to the US operate without a first class cabin.

The laptop loan program is the latest reaction from the nine airlines in the Middle East and North Africa that are affected by the ban which went into effect on March 25.

Qatar Airways Boeing 777While all of the affected carriers have made it clear they will continue to comply with the ban, they have also come with with a series of ways to work around the US government`s new policy.

On Wednesday, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways announced that it will offer first and business class passengers free WiFi and loaner iPads on US bound flights beginning April 1.

Earlier this week, Turkish Airlines announced on Twitter that passengers who turn in their laptops and tablets at boarding will receive free WiFi on board. Last week, Emirates implemented a laptop handling program that allows passengers getting on US-bound flights to have access to their laptop until boarding. The Dubai-based carrier has also hinted that it may offer loaner laptops.

According to Emirates president Sir Tim Clark, the US government`s laptop has created logistical challenges for the airline and the airports that handle its flights. Thus far, the short term effects have not been a as dire as anticipated while its long term effects won`t be clear for some time, Clark told Business Insider. However, not having access to laptops is still an inconvenience to the carrier`s passengers.

SEE ALSO: EMIRATES PRESIDENT: We don`t know if the US laptop ban will hurt business — but here`s how things went this weekend

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: These are the states you should live in to pay the least taxes

Man Rolling a Marijuana joint

In a sun-filled room overlooking a smattering of palm trees, power lines, and cement-and-terracotta bungalows, a 73-year-old recovering alcoholic rolls a joint.

Frank, whose name has been changed for this story, doesn`t particularly like the feeling he gets from smoking cannabis, but he doesn`t hate it either. And he admits it helps him sleep.

High Sobriety, the southern California rehab center where Frank is staying, incorporates cannabis into its treatment regimen for people with drug and alcohol addiction. Frank hasn`t touched scotch, his former drink of choice — or any other alcoholic beverage, for that matter — in 30 days.

A month ago, he was living alone and drinking around the clock, despite repeated warnings from his physicians about negative interactions between alcohol and the medications he takes for high blood pressure and other age-related health issues. During a bender over the holidays, Frank knocked over the carriage holding his daughter`s 10-month old baby. Concerned, his family took him to Alcoholics Anonymous. Nothing stuck, and Frank`s health continued to decline.

So one day last year, his daughter called up Joe Schrank, High Sobriety`s founder, and asked if he could help.

High Sobriety common areaThe idea behind High Sobriety is simple: Help addicts stop abusing the substances that are causing them the most harm, and use cannabis as a tool to do so.

"Our retention rates are so much better with being able to give them something," Schrank, a trained social worker who has spent the last 15 years working with addicts, tells Business Insider. "The truth is a lot of these people are deep deep deep into the weeds with drug and alcohol use and to think there`s a light switch and they can just turn it off...I mean you`re dealing with a different person when you talk about cessation of drug use."

Schrank`s unconventional approach has put him at odds with many people in the recovery community. But his strategy is part of a new and growing movement that aims to treat addiction like any other mental illness — with science. The approaches coming out of this movement share a common thread: the belief that we should stop treating addiction as a moral issue and start treating it as a medical one.

Reducing harm

Schrank disapproves of the way AA and other similar programs portray drinking and using drugs as moral problems. That approach is out of touch with science, he says.

"I never think of drug use as any kind of moral thing. Actually, I like drug use, although it didn`t really work out for me," Schrank says.

Maia Szalavitz, a neuroscience journalist and the author of "Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction," agrees.

"This stuff that emphasizes this morality, we don`t have anything else like that in medicine," Szalavitz, a former heroin addict and AA member, says. "And the 12-step thing talking about `defects of character`, that`s not exactly helpful for someone who already has a lot of self-hatred."

High Sobriety room 8401

Like Schrank, Szalavitz believes that for many addicts, giving up their drug of choice is necessary for recovery, but giving up all drugs may not be.

"This whole idea that total abstinence is the only route to recovery has been incredibly damaging to the addiction field," she says.

Instead, a better approach might be to identify addicts` problem drug — which Szalavitz describes as "that one partner that you long for but if you get them you`ll go crazy" — and remove that substance.

This idea falls in line with decades of research in a field called harm reduction, which accepts that drug use is a part of daily life. Instead of trying to get people to give drugs up altogether, it aims to improve people`s safety by reducing the negative consequences that can be linked with using drugs. This, Szalavitz believes, could save the lives of the many people who have struggled with AA`s hardline approach.

"Addiction is compulsive behavior despite negative consequences. If you`re using a substance responsibly and not having negative consequences, why should anyone care?," she says.

Research seems to suggest that partial abstinence may help some people who`ve struggled with substances like alcohol. Keith Humphreys, the section director for mental health policy at Stanford`s department of psychiatry, published a paper in a 2003 that reviewed an approach called "Moderation Management." He concluded that making the method an option for people with drinking problems "seems on balance a benefit to public health."

`To say there`s only one option is wrong`

Six years ago, Schrank`s friend Gregory Giraldo was found unconscious in a New Jersey hotel room after overdosing on cocaine and Valium. He passed away shortly after.

Schrank, who`s now 48, says that if he could see Greg today and offer him cannabis instead of the drugs he died taking, there`d be no question about it. "I`d say, `Smoke up there, Gregory, go ahead.`"

Giraldo, a comedian, had been to rehab and tried the abstinence-only route several times. But the 12 steps didn`t save him. Schrank thinks his new program might have.

High Sobriety Joe Schrank"He was a brilliant dude," Schrank says. "Maybe he wouldn`t have been as functional as an abstinent-only person, I don`t know. But when I hear people tell others that [abstinence-only] is 100% of the pie — they`re wrong."

Schrank has also gone through AA. He got sober that way 20 years ago and hasn`t touched a drink or a drug — even cannabis — since. (Ironically, he doesn`t like the smell of pot.) While he says AA helped him "immensely in a lot of ways," Schrank takes issue with the idea that addicts are only given two choices: complete abstinence or nothing.

"To say there`s only one option and to present people with only one option is wrong," Schrank says. "It`s like saying I have a moral objection to insulin so I`m just not going to take it. It`s malpractice if you ask me."

Schrank and other critics of AA`s methodology cite its dismal success rates as one of many reasons that new approaches are necessary.

"About one of every 15 people who enter these programs is able to become and stay sober," Dr. Lance Dodes, a retired professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School wrote in his well-known 2014 book, "The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry." A large 2006 review of 8 trials involving more than 3,400 people also concluded that "no experimental studies unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of AA ... for reducing alcohol dependence or problems."

Abstinence-only approaches are simply untenable for people like Frank, Schrank says. "The truth is he`s 73 years old, he`s alone, and the idea that we`re gonna make him go to AA and stop drinking, it`s fantasy — that`s not compassion."

Still, there is some evidence that AA can help some people. A study of more than 400 people found that "some of the association between treatment and long-term alcohol-related outcomes appears to be due to participation in AA." A 29-year old recovering alcoholic who`s been sober for eight years put it to me this way, "If it wasn`t for the rooms [of AA] I`d be lying in a gutter somewhere. That`s my reality."

Does cannabis help curb addiction?

There simply aren`t many studies on whether cannabis works for those struggling with addictions.

The research that exists suggests that cannabis may be a helpful tool in reducing opioid use in people who use them for longterm pain relief. It also could help reduce the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal. And it might help some addicts stop using other substances like nicotine, although as a large report published in January by the National Academy of Sciences noted that "only one randomized trial assessing the role of cannabis in reducing the use of addictive substances" exists.

marijuana weed pot 2In addition to being few and far between, each of these studies suffered from at least one research error. In some cases, the sample was too small to extrapolate; in other cases the data was based only on surveys, which can`t provide scientific answers. In other cases, people in the study knew which drug they were taking, which might have contaminated the findings.

Clearly, more research is needed.

"I think ideally you`d study it before you just go and do it," Szalavitz says, adding, "I think it`s an intriguing idea that we need more research on."

And of course, many researchers simply say the idea of using cannabis to treat addiction is absurd.

"Marijuana has exactly no role in the treatment of any mental illness, especially substance-use disorders," Thomas McLellan, who founded the nonprofit Treatment Research Institute and served briefly as deputy drug czar under the Obama administration, told The Guardian.

All of these issues put Schrank in a tough spot.

"It`s not the easiest place. AA people hate me, rehab people hate me," he says. "I`m ok with that."

SEE ALSO: The answer to treating drug and alcohol addiction may be far simpler than you think

DON`T MISS: Why psychedelics like magic mushrooms kill the ego and fundamentally transform the brain

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: This is how long drugs actually stay in your system

On March 27, NOAA detected a coronal hole that wrapped nearly all the way around the sun. It lead to the ejection of solar particles traveling over 1.5 million mph that can create electromagnetic storms.

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Car Wash

Winter`s tale is ended — and so it`s time to take stock of the damage done to your car by months of snow, ice, sleet, road salt, cold, and all the many travesties of the season departed.

Modern cars are engineered to take some serious abuse, so unless your vehicle remained buried under a snowbank, you shouldn`t have to do too much. 

But you will have to do a few things. Here are ten that are worth it: 

SEE ALSO: The Acura NSX is Business Insider`s 2016 Car of the Year

1. WASH your car!

You should have done this a few times during the winter months anyway, but now it`s imperative, to remove road salt, grit, and grime — all stuff that will damage your car`s finish over the long haul.

I often recommend paying a little extra — 100 — this time to year to have you vehicle detailed. That means getting it deep cleaned, inside and out. It`s great — you`ll feel like you have a new car.

At the least, however, you should get it washed and waxed, or do it yourself, taking additional time to make sure the lower section of the vehicle is especially clean,



2. CHANGE your wiper blades!

Winter kills wiper blades. But they still have to work when spring rains arrive.

A new set will cost you about 40. They`re easy to install yourself, but you can always stop into most full-service gas-stations and have new wipers put on.



3. CHECK you wiper fluid level.

Everybody uses more wiper fluid in winter than in spring and summer.

You can actually fill the reservoir with plain old water, but the blue stuff that you buy at the auto parts store will do a better job of keeping your windshield clean.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Ghost in the shell

Paramount already had an uphill battle on its hands with its live-action adaptation of "Ghost in the Shell." Trying to make a global blockbuster out of a legendary Japanese manga is no easy feat (Steven Spielberg`s DreamWorks has had the US rights since 2008), not to mention the 1995 animated movie that`s considered a classic.

But then casting Scarlett Johansson as the main character, Major Kusanagi, led to a PR nightmare. The movie is now labeled as just the latest example of Hollywood whitewashing.

It`s an issue that can`t be dismissed. But facing all the spin from the filmmakers — that`s it`s an "international" story and Johansson` comments that she "would never presume to play another race of a person" — I went into the movie willing to accept that this could work.

More on that later. Let`s get to what I did like about the movie.

For fans of the manga or the anime movie, you will be happy to hear that this "Ghost in the Shell," directed by Rupert Sanders ("Snow White and the Huntsman"), very much pays homage to both with dazzling visuals and special effects. You will certainly see a lot of similarities to "The Matrix" franchise, as the Wachowskis pretty much used "Ghost in the Shell" as their guide to make their own heralded sci-fi franchise (all the way down to people having network portals in the backs of their heads). And the cityscapes have a distinct "Blade Runner" vibe.

The story follows Major (Johansson) from her creation — the Hanka Robotics company seemingly saved her brain from a body about to perish and placed it into a robot — to joining the counter-cyber terrorism task force known as Section 9.

Ghost in the ShellThe iconic shot of Major free-falling off a skyscraper is here, as well as her taking on all comers guns blazing. Johansson plays the part as very robotic, though not as stiff as her last enhanced-human role, in 2014`s "Lucy."

Section 9 is led by Chief Daisuke Aramaki, played by legendary Japanese actor Takeshi Kitano, while Danish actor Pilou Asbæk plays Major`s second-in-command Batou.

The team learns of a new criminal who is determined to take down Hanka and begins to investigate. It turns out Kuze (Michael Pitt) has built his own network and uses it to jump in and out of bodies to follow through on his task to kill the Hanka scientists who created him. Major realizes through Kuze that even though she was told she was the first of her kind, she`s certainly not.

There are many philosophical moments, particularly about the meaning of a person`s "ghost" or soul. In an imagined age when machines have not only taken over everything around us but now enhance us, the movie examines the only thing we have ownership of anymore: our own being.

That abstract thinking will be welcome for fans of "Ghost in the Shell," as will shoutouts to various tropes from the Japanese comics and anime movies (like director Mamoru Oshii`s love of basset hounds).

But let`s get to the part that didn`t sit well for me and probably won`t for many others.

(Warning: Spoiler coming.)

Major suffers "glitches" in her ghost that turn out to be related to her past life. We come to learn that before she was encased in her robot body, she was a runaway and Hanka took her and other outcasts from a house and used their brains to create cyborgs. Major was once a Japanese woman named Motoko Kusanagi.

For those who were already upset that Major is not played by an Asian actress, this will likely only infuriate them. Not only did the makers of the movie and Paramount clearly whitewash, but they doubled down by showing in the movie that Major has the brain of a human who was once Japanese, and now sports the synthetic features of a pretty white woman.

Ghost in the Shell Paramount copyThere`s an obvious economic motivation behind Johansson`s casting. She`s a proven box-office draw, both in the US and abroad. Paramount is looking at dollars over common sense. But when the entire industry is rightfully being hammered about its lack of diversity, the blindness of all involved in "Ghost in the Shell" is remarkable.

And it also points out a big, gaping hole in Hollywood`s diversity problem. Though there`s an obvious effort to hire more directors who are female and of color, the lack of diversity at the studio-executive level has the potential for its own unique damage.

It`s likely that numerous directors passed on making the new "Ghost in the Shell" because they predicted a public backlash, but if an executive wants to make a movie a certain way, sooner or later, they`re going to find a director who will take the job.

We applaud when we see a diverse cast and crew, but we need to focus on the people filling the boardrooms.

"Ghost in the Shell" opens in theaters on Friday.

 

SEE ALSO: The 15 worst Netflix original shows, ranked

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: This is what `Jeopardy!` host Alex Trebek is really like

ANKARA/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Less than three weeks before Turkey votes on sweeping new powers sought by President Tayyip Erdogan, opinion polls suggest a tight race in a referendum that could bring the biggest change to the system of governance in the country`s modern history.
QUITO (Reuters) - An ally of leftist President Rafael Correa and a right-wing former bank boss are battling to become Ecuador`s next president in Sunday`s election after a tense and tight campaign in the historically volatile Andean nation.
ATHENS (Reuters) - Europe`s top human rights court accused Greece on Thursday of failing to protect migrant workers who had been subject to "forced labor" and shot at by security guards when they protested over unpaid wages.
LONDON/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former violent criminal who converted to Islam and kept out of trouble for more than a decade, the killer who struck Britain`s parliament last week was probably a "lone wolf", self-radicalized by material on the internet, investigators say.

On Wednesday morning, my fiancée urged me to download this free iPhone game called "Ballz."

By Wednesday night, I was hooked.

"Ballz" — from Ketchapp Games, the controversial company behind "2048" and countless other mobile games — has a lot going for it. It`s simple, easy to master, and gets better as you play. Oh, and it`s also totally free. You can play it on either iPhone or iPad.

Take a look:

SEE ALSO: 4 tech products everyone should own in 2017

DON`T MISS: The 300 Nintendo Switch has been great for my relationship

"Ballz" is similar to "Breakout," where you use a ball to break through layers of tiles or "bricks," but with a few twists: Each block has a number, and you must hit the block that number of times in order for it to break.



Also, once the ball floats back down to the ground, all the tiles move down a step. If any tile reaches the bottom of the screen, the game is over.



You start the game with just one ball, but you collect and accumulate more balls throughout the game, which helps break blocks with high numbers.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Screen Shot 2017 03 29 at 7.59.38 PM

Amazon`s stock price has rocketed by 50% in the past year, delighting shareholders and making founder Jeff Bezos the second richest man in the world

The company could be worth 910 billion in 10 years time, according to Barclays analyst Ross Sandler, and eventually become a 1 trillion dollar company.

Sandler and his Barclays team set out 10 key points behind their prediction on Amazon`s valuation over the next decade. They are as follows: 

1) Amazon Web Services will explode into a massive global enterprise with tens of millions of paying customers and 76 billion in annual revenue.

2) Amazon Prime will have 450 million members. Currently there are about 100 million.

3) Amazon`s retail operations will penetrate deep into South East Asian and South American markets, and deliver revenues of around 520 billion. 

4) Amazon will offer a plethora of new product categories as the store comes closer and closer to really being "The Everything Store."

5) There will be more Prime services.

6) Amazon will build out its global logistics and infrastructure framework to include self-driving trucks, cars and drones as well as warehouse units and floating warehouses.

Screen Shot 2017 03 29 at 7.57.12 PM7) It will offer TV subscriptions through Prime Video. More and more people are "cutting the cord," and Amazon wants to be there to fill the void.

8) It will take on Google and Facebook in online advertising, using advertising on and off Amazon to keep consumers on Amazon or to get them back.

9) There will be new Echo hardware powered by Alexa to better adapt to the expansion of Alexa.

10) Alexa will expand into your home, your car, and your work place.

Click here for a real-time Amazon chart.

SEE ALSO: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is now the second richest man in the world

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NOW WATCH: A Navy SEAL explains why you should end a shower with cold water

Samsung`s new flagship phone — the Galaxy S8 — has finally been revealed. We got some hands-on time with the new phone, and one feature really stood out to our tech reporter, Antonio Villas-Boas. Here`s what it was.

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amanda guidanceThe anticipation was palpable inside Verizon in the weeks leading up to the big launch.     

The forthcoming video service, to be called go90, was a quarter-billion-dollar bet that Verizon could evolve from a staid telecommunications company into a hip, Netflix-like digital native — and everybody wanted a piece of the shiny new toy.

The top brass from Verizon’s old guard jockeyed a bit with the executives at Verizon’s new AOL internet business for control of go90, but eventually it fell under Verizon veteran Brian Angiolet.

And while some insiders were skeptical that a millennial-focused app trying to bridge the gap between YouTube and Netflix would be commercially viable, many on the team also saw the magnitude of the opportunity.

“What attracted me was the potential reach, turning on the firehose” of Verizon, a former go90 staffer told Business Insider.

But in the first few months after go90’s October 2015 debut it became clear that the video service was not getting the expected traction, and the sentiment shifted inside Verizon from who could get the glory, to who would get the blame.

go90 3.0A year and a half after go90’s launch, Verizon is still trying to figure out the right chemistry to snag a massive audience for go90, after a series of missteps. The video service is still a big priority for Verizon, however, which sees it as the foundation for a variety of new video business models that will boost its topline.

But building an internet startup within the giant telecom company is no easy task, and Verizon’s struggles are a case study in what can go wrong at the start. Go90’s launch was hampered by a lack of focus at a company eager to spend cash, but without a clear understanding of its audience, according to more than a dozen current and former members of the go90 team interviewed by Business Insider.

Verizon has taken steps in the last year to try and rectify the situation, including hiring key executives with experience in online video as well as completely overhauling the guts of Go90’s technology, the new version of which debuted Wednesday and is intended to fix some of the tech flaws that constrained the app.

That tech reboot came at a price: the firing of over 150 staffers in January, most of whom were the remnants of Verizon’s ~200 million acquisition of OnCue in 2014. These OnCue staffers never saw their internet TV product go to market, but were the force behind the original go90 tech and product.

Verizon is trying to close that chapter.

This, as go90 GM Chip Canter puts it, is “go90 3.0,” and it’s probably the app’s last real shot to make it.

Just make it work

To understand why Verizon stumbled out of the gate with go90, a good touchpoint is a small team of around a dozen members, hired shortly after launch in New York to watch videos and input metadata.

When Verizon debuted go90, it had tens of thousands of videos ready for users to watch. Except, they weren’t exactly ready.

Verizon ran into its first big go90 tech problem immediately. It was nearly impossible for people to sift through videos on the app, since they weren’t tagged with enough data to make them easy to find. If the video wasn’t being featured on the front page, it was lost in the swamp. The triage was to hire contractors, most in their early to mid twenties, to solve it with mainly brute force data entry.

That project was supposed to last for only three months, but stretched on over a year before finally being completed in December 2016.

Beyond the length, there was a haphazard and confusing nature to the whole operation, according to multiple members of the team. Partway through the metadata project, all the team`s contracts were supposed to end, but it was clear the job wasn’t complete. Management asked part of the team to stay on, but pretend like everyone was getting the axe.

“We all had to act like we were all leaving,” one former contractor said. “They asked us not to say anything.” Another former contractor confirmed that the half-dozen people on the metadata team who were staying on were told to lie, and act like the whole team was being let go.

From lying to coworkers to being unsure how long the project would last, it was an often baffling and disjointed experience for these contractors, and reflected an organization that was not prepared for the task at hand.

Guns blazing

Money was never the worry for the go90 team as it scrambled to create an advertising-supported video app designed to appeal broadly to “millennials.”

The idea was to serve up a mix of original shows and content licensed from other web and TV outlets. With a big checkbook and little oversight, Verizon spent more than 200 million on programming for the service, according to a former employee with knowledge of the matter.

Multi-million dollar content deals were made quickly, sometimes for big packages of shows that would run multiple years, another source explained. “They overpaid a lot,” the source said.

According to one former go90 staffer the large, rushed deals were a product of Verizon’s corporate culture. There was a sense that if the budget was not used, that money might be lost.

“They went in guns blazing [and] spent all the money,” a former employee said. The thesis was that if Verizon shelled out real money for quality shows, it would attract people to the platform. But the problem was that Verizon didn’t have a thorough understanding of the marketplace at the start, a former staffer explained.

Many go90 employees also felt a lack of focus in the target audience, which a former staffer said was once represented by a blue balloon and a pink balloon during a meeting.

And the initial studios producing shows for go90 were varied in how they viewed the platform. Some cared about viewership and the long-term prospects of the app, while others saw it as an opportunity to churn out one-off shows and grab the cash.

The initial content push was not an immediate success in attracting a lot of viewers, but did produce a few hits, former employees said. Originals “Guidance” and “[email protected],” a pair of high-school thrillers by Verizon investment AwesomenessTV that appealed mainly to teen women, were touted as examples of what worked. Live sports, especially soccer, also proved popular.

But still, the general consensus on the team was, “Why would anyone come here?”

tagged go90

A different point of view

As the months wore on, however, go90’s management seemed to get a better handle on how to approach the market, insiders said. This was fueled by key hires of execs like Chip Canter, Ivana Kirkbride to run content acquisition in Los Angeles, and Steve Woolf, who all had deep experience with online video in places like NBCU, YouTube, and AwesomenessTV.

Canter agreed that, to some extent, the original go90 mandate was also too broad. Based on what has worked, go90 is now doing more specific targeting in areas that have shown promise: live sports (and original shows around sports), sci-fi and gaming, music, and dramas (primarily focused on young women).

It took some experimentation to understand that. "Some of the current-season TV that we thought would do really well" ended up flopping, Canter said, for example.

Go90 is also doing fewer “output deals,” which are for an entire slate of shows, and instead looking at individual shows or franchises, according to Canter. This more granular view works in tandem with a desire by go90 execs to program the service more like an entertainment company, where one show leads to another.

A few isolated hits isn’t going to cut it.

Another change in Verizon’s thinking was to not be so maniacally focused on the smartphone.

“I don’t think the position we will take over time is mobile-only,” Canter said.

Young people are watching a ton of video on their phones, but the freedom to watch on any screen is valuable as well. In this change in sentiment, it helps go90 that Verizon is eyeing a 5G future, where things like watching actual TV on wireless data could be more common.

go90 qb1

3.0

But apart from the content, one aspect that has plagued go90 since launch is “discovery,” or how people actually navigate the app to find shows.

“The search functionality was very poor early on,” one former employee said. “A lot wasn’t searchable,” another agreed. Go90 had tens of thousands of videos, but people were ignoring 90% of them, partially because of the tech.

Now Verizon has a new weapon it hopes will knock out a bunch of its go90 tech woes in one swoop: Vessel.

In 2014, Verizon bought OnCue from Intel for about 200 million, but never actually went on to launch OnCue’s internet TV service. That San Jose team served as the backbone for go90. But in January, it was cut loose by Verizon, when the company laid off 155 people.

The reason: Verizon is betting that the tech team of another ill-fated video service, Vessel, will provide the needed spark for go90. It’s a pivot to the “small, amazing [Vessel] team that we brought on,” Canter explained.

Vessel, which was cofounded by former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar and launched in early 2015, was widely praised for its recommendation and discovery engine. The problem was it simply failed to find a big enough audience for its 2.99-a-month subscription model built around YouTube stars.

In October, Verizon bought Vessel, which had raised over 130 million from venture capitalists, for an undisclosed amount. Verizon then shut Vessel down.

In the few months since then, the Vessel team has “rebuilt the entire [go90] service,” Canter said, and the tech side is now run out of San Francisco instead of San Jose.

On Wednesday, go90 debuted the new tech, which Canter said will serve not just go90, but help fuel an entire suite of video apps Verizon will launch in the future. And while it does look different on the surface, many of changes aren’t things users will see, but are rather features on the backend.

It’s a “platform we can build upon,” Canter said.

vessel

Time to get going

With “3.0,” Go90 is at a crucial point in its existence. It has to distinguish itself — soon — as something that has long-term viability, as opposed to just something Verizon tried for a few years that didn’t work out.

One former go90 staffer described the cynicism of some veteran Verizon content people on the go90 team, who felt they had been burned before. These people thought that, after its initial stumbles, go90 would “slog around for two to three years, and then die” when the money ran out.

“If you try to do everything, you don`t really do anything,” one former go90 team member explained. There’s no point in spending hundreds of millions of dollars if people can’t watch it, or don’t develop a specific love for your brand.

Now Verizon is hoping to shift that vibe back to optimism, with a clarity about what audience niches it’s serving, and an ability for those audiences to easily find shows they’ll like. The tech and the content are finally coming together, with specificity and personalization, Canter said.

At least that’s the hope.

Go90 had over 2.1 million monthly active users in the US, on iPhone and Android, in February 2017, and grew 2.2x year-over-year, according to app analytics firm App Annie. (Verizon does not disclose user numbers.) But it will have to get a lot more than that to be considered a success.

This “3.0” reboot could be go90’s last chance to get that right.

If you have any more information about what it`s like to work on or with go90, tip the author at [email protected]

SEE ALSO: How to make a new kind of hit TV show for the YouTube generation — from someone who did it

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NOW WATCH: Cristiano Ronaldo`s statue in Madeira is being mercilessly mocked on Twitter

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia put the body of the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on a plane to Pyongyang on Thursday, in a deal that secured the release of its citizens there and ended a drawnout diplomatic spat.
MUNICH (Reuters) - Two Syrian migrants who came to Germany as part of an influx of refugees in the summer of 2015 went on trial in Munich on Thursday accused of fighting in Syria as part of a militant group.

stephen colbert

Stephen Colbert got forthright in his takedown of the US Congress` recent vote allowing internet providers to sell consumers` browsing history, gutting Obama-era FCC privacy rules.

"Anybody here use the internet?" Colbert asked his audience to cheers on Wednesday`s "Late Show," before adding, "Might want to knock that off."

After telling people that now "might be a good time to clear your browser history," and joking, "I burned my computer this morning," Colbert denounced the congressional decision led by Republicans, which President Donald Trump has signaled he will sign. The host argues it`s exactly the type of proposed legislation no one wants.

"This is what`s wrong with Washington, DC," he said. "I guarantee you there is not one person, not one voter of any political stripe anywhere in America, who asked for this. No one in America stood up at a town hall and said, `Sir, I demand you let somebody else make money off my shameful desires. Maybe blackmail me someday.`"

A growing number of Americans are expressing fears about their privacy under Trump, and Colbert warned the move on internet privacy would not be greeted warmly.

"I can`t believe they`re publicly taking the side of big internet cable companies," Colbert said. "Taking the side of a cable company? The only thing less popular would be if they passed a bill allowing traffic jams to call you during dinner, to give you gonorrhea."

Colbert was more than a little skeptical of the reasoning from Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn, who argued on the House floor that the gutting of the privacy rules will actually lead to "enhanced" consumer privacy.

"I know what`s in her search history: `How to spout bulls---,`" Colbert said.

He also slammed the part of the resolution that would no longer require internet providers to protect "customer information against hackers and thieves," likening it to a hotel that tells its guests, "We don`t lock the doors."

And Colbert had a little fun imagining what the guy who`s assigned to look through America`s search history is going through. It`s not optimistic.

Watch Colbert on the congressional vote "we can all hate together" below:

 

 

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NOW WATCH: Marvel just dropped the latest trailer for `Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2` and it looks incredible

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