News Alerts

True Stories Dominate Oscar Nominees

As we enter the final weekend before the 86th Academy Awards on Monday night, I am struck by the fact most of the Best Picture nominees, screenplay nominees, directing nominees, acting nominees, and film editing nominees are based on real-life events and people. It’s a year dominated by true stories, most of which performed well at the box office, and most of which were adaptations.

Seven of this year’s nine Best Picture nominees —American HustleCaptain PhillipsDallas Buyers ClubNebraskaPhilomena12 Years a Slave, andThe Wolf of Wall Street are based on true stories. In addition, six of the screenplay nominees, four of the five directing nominees, all of the lead actor and supporting actor nominees, five of the lead and supporting actress nominees, and four of the five film editing nominees are all from movies based on or inspired by real events. Only two nominees —Gravity and Her — are original fictional stories (and notice, both are science fiction of some sort, which is a cool win for that genre).

Additionally, four of the nine Best Picture nominees — Captain Phillips,Philomena12 Years a Slave, and The Wolf of Wall Street — are adapted from books. And ten of the twenty acting nominees are from films adapted from books or plays, with another (Blue Jasmine) seeming strongly inspired by a play (A Streetcar Named Desire).

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Storm lashes California, but not a drought buster

LOS ANGELES — California was lashed Friday by heavy rains that the parched state so desperately needs, though with the soaking came familiar problems: traffic snarls, power outages and the threat of mudslides.

Even with rainfall totals exceeding 6 inches in some places by midday, the powerful Pacific storm did not put a major dent in a drought that is among the worst in recent California history.

The first waves of the storm drenched foothill communities east of Los Angeles that just weeks ago were menaced by a wildfire — and now faced potential mudslides. Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for about 1,200 homes in the area. Small debris flows covered one street in Glendora, but no property damage occurred, police said.

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Dead Mississippi man begins breathing in embalming room, coroner says

(CNN) – Even in the Bible Belt, coroners don’t use the word “miracle” lightly.

But Holmes County, Mississippi, Coroner Dexter Howard has no qualms using the word for the resurrection, as it were, of Walter Williams, who was declared dead Wednesday night.

Howard received the call from Williams’ hospice nurse, who told Howard that the 87-year-old had passed away. A family member called as well, saying the same, Howard said.

Howard and Byron Porter from Porter & Sons Funeral Home in Lexington, Mississippi, drove to Williams’ home to collect the body for funeral preparations. Howard checked Williams’ pulse about 9 p.m. and pronounced him dead.

“There was no pulse. He was lifeless,” Howard said.

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Netflix Pausing When You Sleep, Other Awesome Ideas Developed at Netflix’s Hacking Contest

Netflix recently hosted an internal 24-hour Hack Day, in which company developers experimented with crazy or unique ideas that wouldn’t normally get researched or tried by a team.

There were some great creations, which I’ll talk about below, the best of which is a hack that uses fitness app FitBit to determine whether you’ve fallen asleep while watching a movie on Netflix, and pauses the streaming video where it is so you don’t miss out and lose your spot.

How it works, shown in the video below, is by collecting data from a running Fitbit app on the user’s person, likely monitoring motion (I’m not sure how it differentiates from someone who just isn’t move a muscle, hopefully it’s good at it!) and communicates with Netflix to pause the video. The stream will fade out video and audio and leave a prompt.

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Three-parent babies in the pipeline

BABIES with three biological parents could be conceived in Britain by the end of the year, under proposed changes to the law permitting an IVF technique to be used in clinics for the first time. The therapy, which could help to eliminate certain incurable genetic diseases, involves swapping a fraction of a mother’s DNA with that from an anonymous female donor.

Draft regulations, published by the Health Department yesterday, could come into force by the end of the year.

Doug Turnbull, who has pioneered research on the technique at the University of Newcastle in England, said the final efforts to ensure its safety were taking place: “You’re always going to keep looking for things to be safer and more efficient, but we would hope to be ready to go by the end of the year.”

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Yanukovych: ‘I am the legitimate president of Ukraine’

A defiant Viktor Yanukovych, in his first public remarks since he fled Ukraine, declared Friday that he is still the legitimate president of Ukraine, but said he would not ask Russia for military intervention to back his claim.

He said power in Ukraine had been seized by “nationalists, pro-fascist people, and gangsters who are the minority of the people of Ukraine.”

Seated in front of four Ukrainian flags but speaking in Russian, Yanukovych said he was not removed from power, but fled Kiev out of fear for his life from “terrorists.”

“I am the legitimate president of Ukraine, elected by the people of Ukraine, and was elected in a free and democratic vote,” he declared.

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Archaeologists Find Cheese Clinging to 3,600-Year-Old Chinese Mummies

Researchers have identified clumps of well-aged cheese tucked around the necks and chests of Chinese mummies that are up to 3,600 years old. So is this the world’s oldest cheese? That depends on what your definition of “cheese” is.

Archaeologists in China collected samples of yellowish material from 10 tombs and mummies at Small River Cemetery No. 5 in northwestern China’s Taklamakan Desert. The dry desert conditions contributed to the preservation of the mummies — as well as the textiles and gunky stuff that was packed around them.

Chemists in Germany analyzed the proteins in the clumps and determined that the yellowish material was a type of kefir cheese. The stuff was probably left with the mummies either as a tribute or as food for the afterlife.

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Storms fail to loosen drought’s grip on the state

OAKLAND, Calif. —

Another day of rain in the Bay Area and snow in the Sierra has failed to loosen the grip of the worst drought in California’s history, a state water official said Thursday.

Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin sent crews into the Sierra to take a snow level survey after the latest storm.

“We welcome the late storms but they are not enough to end the drought,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin. “We can’t control the weather but we can control the amount of water we use. “

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Nutrition labels getting a makeover

(CNN) – Choosing healthier foods at the grocery store may soon be a little easier.

The Food and Drug Administration is proposing several changes to the nutrition labels you see on packaged foods and beverages. If approved, the new labels would place a bigger emphasis on total calories, added sugars and certain nutrients, such as Vitamin D and potassium.

The FDA is also proposing changes to serving size requirements in an effort to more accurately reflect what people usually eat or drink. For example, if you buy a 20-ounce soda, you’re probably not going to stop drinking at the 8-ounce mark. The new rules would require that entire soda bottle to be one serving size — making calorie counting simpler.

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Was vetoed Arizona bill misrepresented? Constitutional scholars weigh in.

Before Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed SB 1062 Wednesday evening, 11 constitutional scholars wrote her to say the legislation had been ‘egregiously misrepresented by many of its critics.’

The Arizona governor’s decision Wednesday to veto a bill widely seen as pitting religious protections against gay rights puts an end to two controversial amendments proposed by lawmakers.

But it leaves standing the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which continues to empower individuals to sue when they believe state or local laws – including antidiscrimination laws – are violating their religious rights.

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