‘Lady Bird’ Named Best Picture by New York Film Critics

Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird has been named best picture by the New York Film Critics Circle, which also awarded Gerwig best director and its star, Saoirse Ronan, best actress.

The film critics’ group announced its awards Thursday on Twitter, throwing its fullest support behind Gerwig’s coming-of-age tale. Considered one of the year’s top Oscar contenders, Lady Bird also has the distinction of setting a record for perfection from Rotten Tomatoes as the most-widely reviewed movie to receive only positive reviews.

Call Me By Your Name breakthrough star Timothee Chalamet took best actor. Tiffany Haddish, the Girls Trip breakout, took supporting actress.

Other winners include Willem Dafoe for his supporting performance in The Florida Project and Paul Thomas Anderson for his screenplay to Phantom Thread.

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Jim Nabors, TV’s Gomer Pyle, Dies at 87

Actor Jim Nabors, best known for his U.S. television character Gomer Pyle, died Thursday at his home in Hawaii at age 87.

Nabors, born in Alabama, exaggerated his Southern accent for the Pyle character. The dull-witted but lovable Pyle became a beloved presence on television’s The Andy Griffith Show in 1962. The show about a sheriff and his family and friends in North Carolina is remembered today for its idyllic portrayal of small-town American life in the 1960s.

After two years, the popular Nabors character was given his own spinoff. In Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., the gentle, sweet-natured Pyle joined the U.S. Marine Corps and delighted audiences by clashing repeatedly with a no-nonsense drill sergeant, played by Frank Sutton. The show ran for five seasons.

Nabors gave his character a number of catchphrases still remembered by fans today. Among them were “Surprise, surprise, surprise!,” “Shazam!,” and an awestruck utterance of “Gollll-ly!” that stretched the word into four syllables.

For two seasons beginning in 1969, CBS presented The Jim Nabors Hour, on which he joshed with guest stars, did sketches with Sutton and fellow Gomer Pyle veteran Ronnie Schell, and sang country and opera.

‘Difficult to believe’

Offstage, Nabors retained some of the awed innocence of Gomer. At the height of his fame in 1969, he admitted, “For the first four years of the series, I didn’t trust my success. Every weekend and on every vacation, I would take off to play nightclubs and concerts, figuring the whole thing would blow over someday.

“You know somethin’? I still find it difficult to believe this kind of acceptance. I still don’t trust it.”

He was an accomplished singer, recording 28 albums of love songs, sacred music and holiday tunes in his rich baritone voice.

Among his regular gigs was singing Back Home Again in Indiana at the Indianapolis 500 auto race each year, which he first did in 1972. The first time, he wrote the lyrics on his hand so he wouldn’t forget.

“I’ve never thought of [the audience reaction] as relating to me,” Nabors said. “It’s always relating to the song and to the race. It is applauding for the tradition of the race and the excitement.”

Illness forced him to cancel his appearance in 2007, the first one he had missed in more than 20 years. He was back performing at Indy in 2008, saying, “It’s always the main part of my year. It just thrills you to your bones.”

In 2014, Nabors announced he would be singing for the last time at the race, because his health was limiting his ability to travel from his home in Hawaii.

Nabors lived in Hawaii with Stan Cadwallader, his partner of more than 40 years. He had told Hawaii News Now, years earlier, that he had first visited the farthest-flung U.S. state in the 1960s and knew he wanted to make it his home.

Friendliness of Hawaii

“I just walked off that plane and knew this is where I wanted to be,” he said. “It was the air and the friendship and the friendliness and the people, you know. I just knew — there’s something inside me that told me, ‘Hey, you’re gonna end up here.’ ”

Nabors ended up buying a flower-and-nut farm on the island of Maui.

Nabors, who underwent a liver transplant in 1994 after contracting hepatitis B, died peacefully at his home in Hawaii after his health had declined for the past year, said Cadwallader, who was by his side.

“Everybody knows he was a wonderful man. And that’s all we can say about him. He’s going to be dearly missed,” Cadwallader said.

The couple married in early 2013 in Washington state, where gay marriage had recently been made legal. Nabors’ friends had known for years that he was gay, but he had never said anything to the media.

“It’s pretty obvious that we had no rights as a couple, yet when you’ve been together 38 years, I think something’s got to happen there, you’ve got to solidify something,” Nabors told Hawaii News Now at the time. “And at my age, it’s probably the best thing to do.”

In 1991, Nabors got a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in ceremonies attended by pals Carol Burnett, Loni Anderson, Phyllis Diller and Florence Henderson. His reaction? “Gollll-ly!”

The late Associated Press Entertainment Writer Bob Thomas wrote biographical material for this story.

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Hollywood’s Long-Awaited Movie Museum to Open in 2019

The founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, including silent film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, said at its inception in 1927 that the organization needed a library and museum. The Academy, best known for giving Oscars at its annual awards ceremony, soon got its library, but has been waiting nearly a century for the museum. 

The long wait is nearly over, said film historian Kerry Brougher during a tour of the site of the $388 million Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which is under construction and scheduled to open in 2019 with Brougher as its director. The 27,000-square meter facility will be built around a historic department store that was built in 1939, and which, since 1994, has been used for exhibitions of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art next door. The expanded facility will include a glass-domed sphere with a view of the Hollywood Hills and a 1,000-seat theater.

​Brougher says the museum will open as Hollywood enters a new phase in creating entertainment, extending its reach beyond movie theaters. “Film is expanding,” he says. “It’s in the theaters still, but it’s also projected onto buildings, it’s also on your iPhone, it’s on your computer…It’s part of the art gallery world, with film installations.” And while films and multi-media projects are made worldwide, he says the heart of the industry is still in Hollywood.

​The museum will feature exhibits from the Academy’s collection of 12 million photographs and 80,000 screenplays, and which include props, costumes and set elements from such classic films as Casablanca, Psycho and The Ten Commandments.

Known as the Academy Museum, the venue will also feature Oscar statuettes donated by people who won them.

Brougher says visitors will have the feeling that they are in a movie in immersive exhibits. They will even get a chance to walk on a red carpet and accept their own Academy Award.

It will be “like a journey,” Brougher says. “You won’t necessarily know what’s coming next, what’s around the next corner. And you’ll be in environments sometimes that make you feel like you’ve gone back to the past, that you’re in the era that you’re actually exploring.”

​Visitors to Los Angeles have been able to tour movie studios and view the sidewalk plaques that honor movie stars or the footprints of them in the courtyard of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. They can visit the Dolby Theatre, where the Oscars are presented, but beyond that, they are often at a loss, says Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “I think they wander around wondering where they can experience this great golden ticket…to the movies,” he says. “Now they’ll have a place.” That will include the hundreds of thousands of people who work in the movie business and who will finally be able to visit a site that celebrates LA’s iconic industry, Garcetti notes.


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NBC Fires Morning Show Host Over Harassment Allegations

The U.S. television network NBC has fired its leading morning news anchor, Matt Lauer, just days after receiving a complaint against him describing sexual misconduct. Hours later, U.S. lawmakers discussed how to handle harassment on Capitol Hill. Esha Sarai reports.

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Photo Exhibit Recaptures Bhutanese-Nepali Lost History

As refugees resettle in a new country, their identities are often lost in the transition. A photo exhibit in the U.S. Midwestern city of Columbus, Ohio, offers a small window into one local refugee community. VOA’s June Soh explored the exhibit that sheds light on the refugees’ brave journeys from Bhutan through refugee camps in Nepal before finally settling in central Ohio.

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Marvel’s Biggest Cast Assemble for ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

The evil villain Thanos is preparing to take over the universe and Marvel has recruited all of its cinematic superheroes, from Iron Man and Thor to Doctor Strange and Spider-Man, to save the galaxy in Wednesday’s new trailer for “Avengers: Infinity War.”

The film, due in theaters in May 2018, will see the biggest gathering of Walt Disney Co.-owned Marvel’s fast-expanding cadre of cinematic superheroes, including Doctor Strange, Black Panther and the Guardians of the Galaxy.

“This is the culmination of 10 years of filmmaking and I think it’s unprecedented,” Joe Russo, who co-wrote and co-directed the film with his brother Anthony Russo, told Reuters in July, after early footage of the film was shown at Disney’s D23 fan exposition in Anaheim, California.

The trailer shows the Avengers coming together as they prepare to battle Thanos.

Tony Stark and Bruce Banner are seen with Dr. Stephen Strange and Wong, Peter Parker feels his Spider-Man senses tingling while on the school bus, Loki gets his hands on a powerful Infinity Stone and Black Panther teams up with Captain America, Black Widow and the Winter Soldier.

“When you combine them, you get something that you haven’t seen before,” Joe Russo said.

The Russo brothers said that “Infinity War” will close out a 10-year storyline that began with 2008’s “Iron Man,” and set the stage for a new iteration of Marvel’s on-screen superheroes.

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Sundance Works to Make Film Festival Safer Amid Hollywood Sex Scandal

Sundance Film Festival organizers say they are working with law enforcement to make the annual independent film showcase in January a safer place in the wake of sexual harassment accusations sweeping Hollywood.

“Sundance is really the first grand community gathering after all this has hit. So we’re looking for ways to form a community around it … and making it very safe — not only a safe place to do your work but a safe place to talk about these issues,” festival director John Cooper told Reuters.

“We’ve always worked closely with local law enforcement and also the security in hotels. We’re upping the game on code of conduct. We’ve always had a code of conduct for our staff and volunteers (and) we’re presenting that broadly to the whole community,” he added.

Movie producer Harvey Weinstein, formerly a major force in independent films and a staple at Sundance, has been accused by more than 50 women of sexual harassment or assault over the past three decades.

Some of the accusations against Weinstein involve incidents said to have taken place at the 10-day Sundance festival in Park City, Utah. 

Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.

Reuters has been unable to independently confirm any of the allegations.

Several Hollywood actors, filmmakers and agents have stepped down in the past two months following sexual misconduct allegations leveled against them.

Cooper said Weinstein, who was fired as chief executive of his award-winning Weinstein Company in October, has not applied for a credential to the Sundance festival this year.

Sundance Film Festival, organized by Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute, unveiled its 2018 line-up of movies and documentaries on Wednesday, many featuring female leads.

They include “Eighth Grade,” a coming-of-age story of a 13-year-old girl, “The Kindergarten Teacher” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal as a teacher helping a young prodigy, and “The Tale” in which Laura Dern plays a woman examining her sexual history.

“The performances and the women you see on screen are strong and complex and have deep psychology in these characters that you often don’t see,” said Trevor Groth, the festival’s director of programming.

Other films profile actress and activist Jane Fonda, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred, Japanese visual artist Yayoi Kusama and Yazidi ISIS survivor Nadia Murad.

“They’re all from different walks of life and backgrounds and fields, but all with the same passion and drive to make their mark on the world,” Cooper said.

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‘Coco’ Draws Latino Audiences With Celebration of Culture

Coco, one of the largest U.S. productions ever to feature an almost entirely Latino cast, is drawing large audiences among Latinos for its focus on cultural themes.

From Albuquerque, New Mexico, to San Jose, California, Latino families last week crowded theaters to support a film centered on the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

Families took cellphone photos next to film posters, then posted those images on social media.

The Pixar film opened to the fourth-best Thanksgiving weekend ever with an estimated $72.9 million over the five-day weekend.

Lina Maria Murillo said the movie connected with her Colombian-Mexican American family because of its theme about remembering loved ones.

Hispanics made up 23 percent of frequent moviegoers last year. Disney didn’t share ethnic demographics for Coco ticket buyers.

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Facebook Suspends Ability to Target Ads by Excluding Racial Groups

Facebook Inc. said on Wednesday it was temporarily disabling the ability of advertisers on its social network to exclude racial groups from the intended audience of ads while it studies how the feature could be used to discriminate.

Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, told African-American U.S. lawmakers in a letter that the company was determined to do better after a news report said Facebook had failed to block discriminatory ads.

The U.S.-based news organization ProPublica reported last week that, as part of an investigation, it had purchased discriminatory housing ads on Facebook and slipped them past the company’s review process, despite claims by Facebook months earlier that it was able to detect and block such ads.

“Until we can better ensure that our tools will not be used inappropriately, we are disabling the option that permits advertisers to exclude multicultural affinity segments from the audience for their ads,” Sandberg wrote in the letter to the Congressional Black Caucus, according to a copy posted online by ProPublica.

It is unlawful under U.S. law to publish certain types of ads if they indicate a preference based on race, religion, sex or certain classifications.

Facebook, the world’s largest social network with 2.1 billion users and $36 billion in annual revenue, has been on the defensive for its advertising practices.

In September, it disclosed the existence of Russia-linked ads that ran during the 2016 U.S. election campaign. The same month it turned off a tool, also reported by ProPublica, that had inadvertently let advertisers target based on people’s self-reported jobs, even if the job was “Jew hater.”

Sandberg said in the letter that advertisers who use Facebook’s targeting options to include certain races for ads about housing, employment or credit will have to certify to Facebook that they are complying with Facebook’s anti-discrimination policy and with applicable law.

Sandberg defended race- and culture-based marketing in general, saying it was a common and legitimate practice in the ad industry to try to reach specific communities.

U.S. Representative Robin Kelly of Illinois, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Facebook’s action was appropriate.

“When I first raised this issue with Facebook, I was disappointed,” Kelly, a Democrat, said in a statement. “When it became necessary to raise the issue again, I was irritated. Thankfully, we’ve been able to establish a constructive pipeline of communication that’s resulted in a positive step forward.”

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Director Says Reshoots ‘Already Done’ for ‘All the Money in the World’

Movie director Ridley Scott says he is confident of finishing reshoots on “All the Money in the World” in time for its planned December release after a scramble to replace actor Kevin Spacey because of sexual misconduct allegations.

Scott told Entertainment Weekly in an on-set interview that work on the Sony Pictures movie “All the Money in the World” was near completion after a nine day emergency reshoot in Rome and London.

“They’re going to see it. I may have to do a couple of technical things to make it land completely technically, but it’s really already done… I’ve done it,” Scott said in the interview published on Wednesday.

In an extraordinary move, Scott announced on Nov. 8 that he was removing Spacey entirely from the film and reshooting his scenes with Christopher Plummer in the role of late U.S. oil tycoon Jean Paul Getty. The movie is due to open in movie theaters as scheduled on Dec. 22.

Scott’s decision followed claims of sexual misconduct against Spacey by multiple men. Spacey issued an apology for the first reported incident, involving actor Anthony Rapp. Reuters could not independently confirm the allegations.

The British film director said he decided to reshoot Spacey’s scenes because he feared the publicity would damage the film, which was seen as a potential Hollywood awards season contender.

“We cannot let one person’s actions affect the good work of all these other people,” Scott told Entertainment Weekly.

Spacey is seeking unspecified treatment and a representative did not respond to a request on Wednesday for comment.

Hollywood trade paper Variety has reported that reshoot would cost about $10 million – one quarter of the already $40 million production budget for “All the Money in the World.” Sony Pictures has declined to comment on costs.

Asked for the movie studio’s reaction to his decision, Scott replied.

“They were like, ‘You’ll never do it. God be with you,'” he laughed.

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Snapchat Seeks to Attract More Users by Redesigning App

Snapchat is separating what friends share and what media organizations publish in an attempt to appeal to a broader range of users.

The photo messaging app has not been gaining enough users, especially beyond its core of younger people. Parent company Snap Inc.’s stock is down sharply since its initial public offering earlier this year.

Users will now see two separate feeds — one from friends and one from publishers and non-friend accounts they follow. Before, Snapchat was mixing those posts, much the way Twitter, Facebook and other rivals continue to do. Snap hinted at changes three weeks ago, but didn’t provide details then.

CEO Evan Spiegel took a jab at rivals, writing that social media “fueled ‘fake news’” because of this content mixing.


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US Supreme Court Considers Limits on Government in Key Privacy Case

The U.S. Supreme Court signaled Wednesday it may be open to new limits on the government’s ability to track someone’s movements by accessing data on that person’s cellphone.

A case before the high court could result in a landmark decision in the ongoing debate over civil liberties protections in an era of rapid technological change.

At issue is whether law enforcement will be able to access cellphone data that can reveal a person’s whereabouts without having to first obtain a court-issued search warrant.

The case stems from the conviction of Timothy Carpenter for a series of robberies back in 2010 and 2011. Prosecutors were able to obtain cellphone records that indicated his location over a period of months, information that proved crucial to his conviction.

Get a warrant

On Wednesday, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union argued that law enforcement should be required to obtain a court-ordered search warrant before obtaining such information.

They also argued that allowing law enforcement to access the cellphone data without a warrant would violate the prohibition on unreasonable search and seizures contained in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“It is impossible to go about our daily lives without leaving a trail of digital breadcrumbs that reveal where we have been over time, what we have done, who we spent time with,” said ACLU attorney Nathan Freed Wessler, who spoke to reporters outside the Supreme Court following oral arguments. “It is time for the court, we think, to update Fourth Amendment doctrine to provide reasonable protections today.”

Some of the justices also raised concerns about privacy in the digital age.

“Most Americans, I think, still want to avoid Big Brother,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who often sides with the liberal wing of the court, said.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who often sides with conservatives on the court, said the central question was whether the cellphone information should be accessible to the government “without a warrant.”

Privacy versus security

Justice Department lawyers defended the process of obtaining the data without a court warrant, arguing that even though the technology has changed, the need to rapidly obtain such information for law enforcement has not. The government also argued that privacy rights are not at issue because law enforcement agencies can obtain information from telecommunications companies that record transactions with their customers.

Justices Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy indicated they were open to the government’s position in the case.

Legal experts say whichever way the court eventually rules could have an enormous impact on privacy rights in the digital age.

“I don’t think that this is a world that anybody anticipated a couple of decades ago,” Stanford University law professor David Alan Sklansky said via Skype. “These new data capabilities are rapidly increasing the things that government can do for good and for evil. And figuring out how we allow the government to make full use of these new capabilities, without endangering political liberties and endangering the privacy that is necessary for us to have the kind of flourishing democratic social life we want, is a huge ongoing challenge.”

Sklansky added that the United States “has historically been a leader in thinking about privacy rights, particularly with regard to privacy from the government.”

And he predicted that other countries will be closely following the high court case as they wrestle with similar conflicts. “This is a global problem. Countries around the world are trying to figure out how to deal with it. I think that people in all democratic countries should care about how the United States winds up resolving this question,” he said.

Past rulings

Twice in recent years the Supreme Court has ruled in major cases related to privacy and technology and both times ruled against law enforcement.

The court ruled in 2012 that a warrant is required to place a GPS tracking device on a vehicle. And in 2014, the high court ruled that a warrant is required to search a cellphone seized during an arrest.

A decision in the current case, known as Carpenter v. U.S., is expected sometime before the end of June.

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Things You Might Not Know About Bubbly Bitcoin

Bitcoin blasted past $11,000 to hit a record high for the sixth day in a row on Wednesday after gaining more than $1,000 in just 12 hours, stoking concerns that a rapidly swelling bubble could be set to burst in spectacular


Here are some facts that you might not know about the largest and best-known cryptocurrency.


Bitcoin’s supply is limited to 21 million — a number that is expected to be reached around the year 2140. So far, around 16.7 million bitcoins have been released into the system, with 12.5 new ones released roughly every 10 minutes via a process called “mining,” in which a global network of computers competes to solve complex algorithms in reward for the new bitcoins.


These mining computers require a vast amount of energy to run. A recent estimate by tech news site Motherboard put the energy cost of a single bitcoin transaction at 215 kilowatt-hours, assuming that there are around 300,000 bitcoin transactions per day. That’s almost enough energy as the average American household consumes in a whole week.


Bitcoin’s smallest unit is a Satoshi, named after the elusive creator of the cryptocurrency, Satoshi Nakamoto. One Satoshi is one hundred-millionth of a bitcoin, making it worth around $0.0001 at current exchange rates.


Bitcoin has performed better than every central-bank-issued currency in every year since 2011 except for 2014, when it performed worse than any traditional currency. So far in 2017, it is up around 1000 percent. If you had bought $1,000 of bitcoin at the start of 2013 and had never sold any of it, you

would now be sitting on $80 million. Many people consider bitcoin to be more of a speculative instrument than a currency, because of its volatility, increasingly high transaction fees, and the fact that relatively few merchants accept it.


More than 980,000 bitcoins have been stolen from exchanges, either by hackers or insiders. That’s a total of more than $10 billion at current exchange rates. Few have been recovered.


Despite many attempts to find the creator of bitcoin, and a number of claims, we still do not know who Satoshi Nakamoto is, or was. Australian computer scientist and entrepreneur Craig Wright convinced some prominent members of the bitcoin community that he was Nakamoto in May 2016, but he then refused to provide the evidence that most of the community said was necessary. It is not clear whether Satoshi Nakamoto, assumed to be a pseudonym, was a name used by a group of developers or by one individual. Nor is it clear that Nakamoto is still alive — the late computer scientist Hal Finney’s name is sometimes put forward. Developer Nick Szabo has denied claims that he is Nakamoto, as has tech entrepreneur Elon Musk more recently.


Until earlier this year, it was thought that Chinese exchanges accounted for around 90 percent of trading volume. But it has become clear that some exchanges inflated their volumes through so-called wash trades, repeatedly trading nominal amounts of bitcoin back and forth between accounts. Since the Chinese authorities imposed transaction fees, Chinese trading volumes have fallen sharply, and now represent less than 20 percent, according to data from website Bitcoinity.


The total value of all bitcoins released into the system so far has now reached as high as $190 billion. That makes its total value — sometimes dubbed its “market cap” — greater than that of Disney, and bigger than the market cap of BlackRock and Goldman Sachs combined.


Bitcoin is far from the only cryptocurrency. There are now well over 1,000 rivals, according to trade website Coinmarketcap. 


It is already possible to short bitcoin on a number of retail platforms and exchanges, via contracts for difference (CFDs), leveraged-up margin trading or by borrowing bitcoin from exchanges without leverage. But a number of big financial institutions — including CME Group, CBOE and Nasdaq — have

recently announced that they will offer bitcoin futures, which will open up the possibility of shorting the cryptocurrency to the mainstream professional investment universe.

Reporting by Jemima Kelly.

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Facebook to Give Relief Groups Data on Users’ Needs

Facebook is giving disaster-relief organizations such as the Red Cross access to data on what users need and where they are as part of an expansion of tools available for relief and charitable giving.

While Facebook users can already see individual pleas and offers for help during a crisis, relief groups will get a broader set of data similar to what Facebook sees. That includes real-time maps showing where people need help.

Facebook is also expanding its fundraising tools beyond the U.S. and eliminating the fees it had been charging for people using its service to raise money for various causes.

The company announced the new features Wednesday during its Social Good Forum in New York, a gathering for nonprofits and others using the site.


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India Unveils New Recommendations to Reinforce Strict Net Neutrality

India has strongly backed a free and open Internet, with its telecom regulator recommending stringent regulations on net neutrality – the concept of ensuring equal access to the web — saying it is important the Internet is not “cannibalized.”


India’s push for net neutrality comes at a time when the United States has unveiled plans to roll back regulations on it.

 “The core principles of net neutrality, non-discriminatory treatment of all content, we’ve upheld them,” R.S. Sharma, Chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, TRAI, told reporters as he unveiled recommendations following a year-long debate.

These proposals seek to prohibit any service provider from blocking or offering preferential data speeds which essentially means that telecom providers cannot create “fast lanes” for higher paying customers or speed up or slow down websites and apps.

Equal access

Advocates of net neutrality, who have led an impassioned battle to ensure equal web access, welcomed the latest recommendations, saying that these would ensure that India is among countries with the strictest net neutrality rules in the world. Last year India put in place rules that prohibited telecoms from differential pricing.

India’s IT industry lobby, NASSCOM, in a statement, said the reaffirmation of net neutrality would be a “shot in the arm” for the country’s digital economy.

Nikhil Pahwa, one of the founders of Internet Freedom Foundation, which has campaigned for strict net neutrality, says open access to the Internet is critical for India.

“This is really, really essential. It is important for India because we are at the cusp of great Internet growth and innovation with lots of start-ups coming up and students and people developing things online,” he said.

India’s stand on net neutrality had last year effectively blocked efforts by Facebook to offer free but limited access to the web in the country’s fast growing Internet market.

The company said it wanted to expand access to the net in poor, rural areas but digital rights activists had slammed the plan as “poor Internet for poor people” and said it would create a “walled garden” in which Facebook would control the content it offered users. A Facebook spokesperson at the time said the company was disappointed by the outcome but would continue its efforts to “eliminate barriers.”

80 million users

Supporters of an open Internet point out that India’s experience demonstrates that net neutrality rules are not hampering access to the Internet in a country where many people are still not connected to the web.

“In the last year alone we have added about 80 million Internet users. There has been a substantial increase in Internet access in the country and it is increasing rapidly despite net neutrality. So this notion that net neutrality is adversarial to growth of Internet access or to sustainability of mobile operators is incorrect,” said Pahwa.

India’s position on ensuring an open Internet is in contrast to the U.S., where last week the U.S. Federal Communications Commission unveiled plans to repeal net neutrality rules, saying they discourage Internet service providers from making investments in their network to provide better and faster online access.

India’s strict net neutrality rules have disappointed private telecom providers, who had hoped for some leeway in the latest recommendations.

In an oblique reference to the U.S. position, a statement from the telecom industry’s main lobby group, the Cellular Operators Association of India, said that at a time when, globally, countries are adopting a more “market oriented, and market driven approach to net neutrality in order to not stifle development, innovation, proliferation and growth of the Internet, we believe TRAI should have adopted a light touch approach to net neutrality.”

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Solar Power Glass Bricks Generate Energy While Letting In Light

Buildings could soon be able to convert the sun’s energy into electricity without the need for solar panels, thanks to innovative new technology. VOA’s Faith Lapidus reports.

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Italian Carmaker Unveils New High-Tech Prototype

“Terzo Millennio”, or Third Millennium, is a new brand name in auto design from Italian carmaker Lamborghini. Company representatives introduced the design at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Evgeny Maslov reports from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Facebook Reports Progress in Removing Extremist Content

Facebook said on Wednesday that it was removing 99 percent of content related to militant groups Islamic State and al-Qaida before being told of it, as it prepared for a meeting with European authorities on tackling extremist content online.

Eighty-three percent of “terror content” is removed within one hour of being uploaded, Monika Bickert, head of global policy management, and Brian Fishman, head of counterterrorism policy at Facebook, wrote in a blog post.

The world’s largest social media network, with 2.1 billion users, has faced pressure both in the United States and Europe to tackle extremist content on its platform more effectively.

In June, Facebook said it had ramped up use of artificial intelligence, such as image matching and language understanding, to identify and remove content quickly.

“It is still early, but the results are promising, and we are hopeful that AI (artificial intelligence) will become a more important tool in the arsenal of protection and safety on the internet and on Facebook,” Bickert and Fishman wrote.

“Today, 99 percent of the ISIS and al Qaeda-related terror content we remove from Facebook is content we detect before anyone in our community has flagged it to us, and in some cases, before it goes live on the site.”

ISIS is an acronym for Islamic State.

The blog post comes a week before Facebook and other social media companies such as Alphabet’s Google and Twitter meet with European Union governments and the EU executive to discuss how to remove extremist content and hate speech online.

“Deploying AI for counterterrorism is not as simple as flipping a switch. … A system designed to find content from one terrorist group may not work for another because of language and stylistic differences in their propaganda,” Facebook said.

The European Commission in September told social media firms to find ways to remove the content faster, including through automatic detection technologies, or face possible legislation forcing them to do so.

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FCC’s Pai, Addressing Net Neutrality Rules, Calls Twitter Biased

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, accused social media company Twitter of being politically biased  Tuesday as he defended his plan to roll back rules intended to ensure a free and open internet.

Pai, a Republican named by President Donald Trump to head up the FCC, unveiled plans last week to scrap the 2015 landmark net neutrality rules, moving to give broadband service providers sweeping power over what content consumers can access.

“When it comes to an open internet, Twitter is part of the problem,” Pai said. “The company has a viewpoint and uses that viewpoint to discriminate.”

He pointed to Twitter’s refusal to let Representative Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, advertise a campaign video with an anti-abortion message.

“To say the least, the company appears to have a double standard when it comes to suspending or de-verifying conservative users’ accounts as opposed to those of liberal users,” Pai said.

A spokesperson for Twitter said that at no time was Blackburn’s video censored and that her followers would have been able to still see it.

“Because advertisements are served to users who do not necessarily follow an account, we therefore have higher standards for their content,” the Twitter spokesperson said.

Twitter in October declined a campaign video advertisement by Blackburn, who announced she was running for the U.S. Senate, saying that a remark by Blackburn about opposing abortion was inflammatory. Twitter later reversed its decision.

Internet-based firms’ letter

Pai’s criticism came a day after Twitter and a number of other internet-based companies — including AirBnb, Reddit, Shutterstock, Tumblr and Etsy — sent a letter urging the FCC to maintain the net neutrality rules.

Trump is a prolific user of Twitter, often posting his thoughts on the news of the day. He used Twitter throughout his presidential campaign to circumvent traditional media and talk directly to voters.

Pai has also been a frequent user of the website — acknowledging during the speech, “I love Twitter” — to push his case in favor of the rule changes. On Tuesday afternoon, he even posted a link to his remarks critical of Twitter on his own Twitter account.

Following Pai’s remarks on Tuesday, at an event organized by the libertarian-leaning R Street Institute, two other FCC commissioners said they would support his proposal when they vote on December 14.

Big internet service providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon Communications have favored a repeal of net neutrality. On the other side, websites such as Facebook and Alphabet’s Google have favored the rules.

The rules prohibit broadband providers from giving or selling access to speedy internet, essentially a “fast lane,” to certain internet services over others.

“So when you get past the wild accusations, fearmongering and hysteria, here’s the boring bottom line,” Pai said. “The plan to restore internet freedom would return us to the light touch, market-based approach under which the internet thrived.”

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Springsteen, Top Ticket on Broadway, Extends Run

Bruce Springsteen on Tuesday announced four more months of intimate concerts on Broadway after his initial run triggered massive interest — and wide disappointment among fans who couldn’t get tickets.

The rock legend, who for decades has sold out arenas with his adrenaline-fueled marathon performances, said he would extend his residency at the 960-seat Walter Kerr Theatre from February 28 to June 30.

Springsteen opened the shows on October 3 and already extended once, until February 3, with tickets selling out nearly instantly.

The 68-year-old balladeer of working-class America set prices at $75 to $800 — but tickets immediately reappeared on resale sites at much higher prices.

As of Tuesday, the cheapest ticket on resale site StubHub was $1,449, significantly higher than Broadway’s other coveted theater seats, including those for Hamilton and Bette Midler’s revival of Hello, Dolly!

Springsteen has tried to reduce scalping through a new verification system by Ticketmaster, which asks fans to sign up and uses algorithms to determine the likelihood that they will attend before providing a code to allow purchases.

In light of the number of fans who were unable to buy tickets initially, the ticketing company said it would not start a new verification round, instead sending codes to fans who already signed up.

Springsteen has said he was inspired to create a more intimate concert experience after he played a somber private show at the White House as a gift from departing President Barack Obama to staff.

Instead of Springsteen’s high-octane arena shows with his E Street Band — whose surprise song choices once marveled fans — the Broadway concerts feature the rocker alone on piano and guitar and a standard set list.

The shows, which follow the release of Springsteen’s autobiography, start with his early song Growin’ Up, about his teenage years, and culminate in Born to Run, his classic hit of escape and ambition.

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