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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

KENDRICK LAMAR Wins PULITZER PRIZE for Music; FIRST Rapper Awardee

kendrick
Almost two years ago, in late 2016, the music world may have been in the mood to drop their collective jaws when news came that singer-songwriter Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first songwriter to become a Nobel Laureate. Granted, he was credited as “poet” where his songs were concerned, but it was still an epic surprise. This year, it appears a repeat of sorts is happening with a recent announcement. True, the Pulitzer Prize may have a specific category for Music, but it was unexpected to learn that its 2018 recipient will be Kendrick Lamar.
The New York Times reports that rapper Kendrick Lamar was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music this Monday, April 16. His win, for his recent rap album “DAMN”, can be considered historical as being the first music Pulitzer awardee who was not a classical or jazz artist. Indeed, it can be considered a definitive moment for the hip hop scene. “DAMN” was described by the Pulitzer board in its citation as “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.” For rap, that is epic.
It should be noted that while Lamar’s “DAMN” won Best Rap Album earlier this January in the 60th Grammy Awards, many felt that it too should have won Album of the Year, making that the third straight time the commercially and critically acclaimed rapper managed to get nominated for that top category and not take it. In that regard, the Pulitzer Prize for Music is a humongous victory for Lamar’s album, and Pulitzer Prize administrator Dana Canedy agrees that it was the right timing for such a win, a big moment for both hip-hop and the Pulitzers in her viewpoint.
Aside from the Prize itself, Kendrick Lamar also received a $15,000 award from the Pulitzers for “DAMN”, a decision described by Canedy as unanimous on the part of the selection board. The artist did not get to comment on his achievement, though his Top Dawg Entertainment label’s record executive Terrence “Punch” Henderson, wrote on Twitter about Lamar’s Pulitzer that “nobody should speak with nothing less than respect [for him]” from that time on. Lamar now joins the ranks of other Music Pulitzer winners of the past like George Gershwin, Hank Williams, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, and even Bob Dylan himself.
Everything has been awesome for Lamar this year. In addition to “DAMN”, he also worked as curator at director Ryan Coogler’s invitation for the official soundtrack of music from and inspired by Marvel Studios’ superhero film “Black Panther”, to which one of his contributions was “All the Stars” featuring SZA.
Photo courtesy of ABC

SEGA Follows Nintendo MINI-CONSOLES with 30th Anniversary MEGA DRIVE MINI

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One has to applaud the brilliant yet childlike and playful creative minds at Nintendo for their lineup of interestingly popular videogame concepts. It was they who kick-started the direction-motion-sensing control scheme thing with its remote controller in 2006, and in 2017 they blurred the line between home console and portable with its hybrid Switch system. But aside from pushing the envelope of future gaming, Nintendo has had an appreciation for classics, as its Classic Mini Editions of the old NES and SNES consoles show. Their old rival Sega seems to have gotten a clue, judging from its latest gadget announcement.
IGN reports that Sega, which had long given up its own videogame hardware development years ago to focus on software, surprised some people (and cause others perhaps to think “it’s about time”) during their annual celebratory Sega FES event. At one point the emcee stood at the stage with a familiar, if smaller-sized, object in his hands. It was a black slab, with radiator grills to the side, a circular area with a cartridge slot, and the words “16-BIT” on top. Yes, Sega has gone and developed the Sega Mega Drive Mini, a scaled-down version of their most famous console.
Photos of the FES presentation, plus a close-up of the console itself, soon spread online after they were posted on Sega’s official Twitter page. And that was pretty much it, perhaps to the disappointment of readers who used to play on the venerable old console decades ago. Aside from the sneak peek, no detailed information was released on the Mega Drive Mini, and what exactly it can do aside from these facts. It will carry a selection of classic games and will be released in time to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the original Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis stateside).
Granted, Sega had in the past licensed third-party developers to create authorized clones of the old Mega Drive. One such result was the US-released Genesis Flashback by AtGames, which also made retro consoles for an even older videogame giant, Atari. This time around however, Sega is looking to emulate Nintendo’s runaway success with retro consoles by doing the same small-scale updated audio-visual connections done by the NES and SNES Classic Mini Editions. AtGames also intimated that their hardware is the driving force inside the upcoming Mega Drive Mini. Right now it seems only a matter of time before Sega announces a Mini Genesis version for the US market, but for the moment, the Mega Drive mini is for Japan only.
Photo courtesy of darkhorizons.com

Iconic “DRILL SARGE” Character Actor R. LEE ERMEY from “FULL METAL JACKET”, DEAD at 74

LEE ERMY
In 1987 Stanley Kubrick’s war film “Full Metal Jacket” premiered in cinemas to critical and audience acclaim. One of the highlights of the movie, set during the Vietnam War, is the character of Marine drill instructor, Gunnery Sgt. Hartmann, portrayed by retired Marine Sergeant R. Lee Ermey. His performance became the standard by which all subsequent “nasty drill sergeant” character archetypes are measured against. It also translated into an acting career for Ermey in film and TV, where he hosted shows on the History Channel. But all things come to an end; and so it was with Ermey, aged 74.
As The New York Times tells it, R. Lee Ermey passed away on Sunday, April 15, due to complications following a bout of pneumonia, at a hospital in Santa Monica, California. His death was reported to the public by his manager Bill Rogin. So ends the colorful career of the drill sergeant-turned celebrity actor, who joined the US Marine Corps and served from 1961 to 1972, serving as drill instructor and later on the ground in Vietnam towards the latter years of the war there. Following his medical discharge, Ermey went to college until being cast in “Apocalypse Now” (1979).
That was the beginning of his career in showbiz, where he either portrayed soldier characters on-camera, or served as technical expert behind the scenes. Originally brought into “Full Metal Jacket” by director Stanley Kubrick as a tech advisor, his “instructional video” of how a drill sergeant would talk to recruits led to Ermey being cast as the film character himself. His role in the movie earned him a Supporting Role nomination in the 1988 Golden Globes. Ermey engaged in an acting career spanning 60 films like “Se7en” and the “Toy Story” films (as the voice of the Army Men sergeant).
In light of his in-film military character roles being lauded as supportive of Americans in service and as befitting an unofficial public ambassador for the USMC, R. Lee Ermey became the first person in the corps to be promoted post-retirement, becoming an Honorary Gunnery Sergeant as ordered by the Marine Corps Commandant at the time. He thus became a “Gunny” in fiction and truth, leading up to his stint as host on “Mail Call” and “Lock N’ Load with R. Lee Ermey”, both for the History Channel. His larger-than-life tough image conceals a gentle and affectionate family man in private.
Ermey is survived by two brothers, his wife Nila, whom he affectionately called “Mrs. Gunny”, their four children, and their grandchildren as well as great-grandchildren.
Photo courtesy of uproxx.com

BEYONCÉ Rocks COACHELLA Festival 2018 with HISTORIC Headlining Saturday Night

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It started in 1999, and in all the years that followed (save 2000), the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has established itself as the biggest music festival in America, catering primarily to rock and dance-music performances. It also has the unintentional and somewhat inaccurate reputation of a “rich white kids” party event. That is not true from the proven diversity of the feature music artists alone. For the event last year, diva Beyoncé would have been the first black female headliner, were it not for her then-ongoing pregnancy. Better late than never because she made it in this year.
According to CNN, Beyoncé stepped onto the stage of history for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival last Saturday, April 14, at the Empire Polo Club in Indio. It was special enough considering she became the first African-American female to be the prime performer for the event, but it was also the culmination of a promise she made in 2017, when she was originally set to headline Coachella. After sidelining herself due to being pregnant, she promised that she would make it this year. She even wrote about it on Facebook shortly before her set started on Saturday night.
Needless to say, Beyoncé failed to disappoint. The 36-year-old star’s set, which lasted nearly two hours, was so jaw-dropping spectacular that her “Beyhive” fandom gleefully renamed Coachella, even for just that evening, into “Beychella”. It was undoubtedly a celebration of Beyoncé’s song catalog, all spruced up a several notches for the occasion. That explains her opening number of “Crazy in Love” with a New Orleans marching band, and the historical “Black National Anthem” of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”. She also had surprise appearances in her numbers: husband Jay-Z for “Déjà vu” and her sister Solange in “Get Me Bodied”.
But it was the epic reunion with her old chums Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland that sold the night. Once again whole, Destiny’s Child proceeded to go through their own selection of hits from their 90s heyday, moving from “Say My Name” to “Lose My Breath”. Before proceeding with “Who Run the World (Girls)”, Beyoncé told the euphoric crowd, “Coachella, thank you for allowing me to be the first black woman to headline.” Indeed, her set at the music festival was so huge that she received kudos from all quarters, including Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee for Houston, Beyoncé’s hometown.
Among the other featured performers for Coachella that Saturday night were rapper Eminem and R&B singer The Weeknd. A reported 125,000 people were present to celebrate Beychella that weekend, even as videos of the performance flooded YouTube to great praise.
Photo courtesy of Allure

PACQUIAO DENIES REPLACING ROACH as Coach for LUCAS MATTHYSSE FIGHT

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For a most significant portion of his professional boxing career, Philippine Sen. Manny Pacquiao has been accompanied and guided by the weathered veteran hand of celebrated coach Freddie Roach. He had been present at the corner of the “Pac-Man” for his greatest triumphs leading to his stellar 8-division world champion feat; he was also there for some of Pacquiao’s greatest upsets, most importantly his fourth match against Juan Manuel Marquez that saw Manny being KO’d. Now, as he prepares for his latest trip to the ring, Pacquiao is saying that despite Roach’s earlier contrary statement, they remain coach and boxer.
ABS-CBN News reports that Manny Pacquiao has come on record to publicly deny that he had parted ways with Freddie Roach, who had been his coach for 15 years of championship boxing. This flies in the face of a statement Roach made last week, insinuating that the partnership with Manny will not continue in the face of his upcoming July encounter with Lucas Matthysse of Argentina in Kuala Lumpur. The 58-year-old Roach expressed disappointment at what he felt was a snub against him, though he adds that he takes solace in the time they worked together for over a decade.
This Monday, April 16, Pacquiao posted on Instagram a photo of himself and Roach in the middle of a training bout on the ring, with a caption debunking earlier statements in social media implying that Roach had been let go as his head coach. All he could say is that he has not made any final decision as to who will be in charge of his training for fighting Matthysse three months from now. This matter is being discussed between Manny and his personal advisor Mike Koncz, though the fighting Senator hopes to decide by the end of the week.
Observers have noted some politicking happening lately with the coaching and management staff of Team Pacquiao. Mike Koncz has been noted as being in favor of replacing Freddy Roach as Manny’s head coach with Buboy Fernandez, starting with the bout against Lucas Matthysse. Pacquiao also remarked that it was Koncz who was in communication with Roach and his associates during this time, and it may be miscommunication that led to the veteran coach assuming he had been sacked. Pacquiao however promises to inform Roach first and foremost once he has made his decision. Only then will the media be advised.
Pacquiao last fought in Brisbane July 2017, against Australian fighter Jeff Horn. His loss by unanimous decision cost Pacquiao the WBO welterweight title, which was at stake. His next opponent Matthysse has a 39-4 W-L record, with all but three of his wins by knockout. They clash on July 14.
Photo courtesy of pinterest

2018 COMMONWEALTH GAMES in AUSTRALIA Face MISSING ATHLETES and REFUGEES

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The XXI Commonwealth Games, the international multi-sport competition for member countries in the Commonwealth of Nations (comprising the United Kingdom and its now-independent territories) currently being held at Gold Coast, Queensland in Australia, is only three days away from its closing ceremony. And it is now becoming quite clear that there is a problem skulking underneath the highlights of the event, particularly when it comes to some of its participating athletes. Shortly after settling down in the Gold Coast Athlete’s Village, a number of Commonwealth Games competitors have suddenly vanished from the public eye, mostly from several nations in Africa.
ABC News Australia has it that the Commonwealth Games Federation, the governing body for this athletic meet, confirmed the disappearance of athletes from at least three African countries: Uganda, Rwanda and Cameroon, the lattermost of which actually lost one-third of its complement of Commonwealth Games contestants. The number of missing athletes thus far is at 11 according to CGF CEO David Grevemberg. Regarding this chain of disappearances, the Refugee Council of Australia opines that the athletes in question may be hoping to get to the country as refugees in order to escape conditions violating human rights in their home countries.
This is not the only issue the 2018 Commonwealth Games is trying to get a handle on right now. While the 11 missing athletes may have jumped the gun towards seeking asylum, other people who have come to the Gold Coast for the games are taking official channels towards being allowed to stay on in Australia even after the end of competition. Over 40 individuals, ranging from more athletes, their support crews and even journalists covering the event have visited Australia’s Ready Migration agency, making inquiries towards visa applications for extended stays, their Commonwealth Games visas expiring on May 15.
With regards to the possibility of the missing athletes being able to claim asylum should they reappear in public, Refugee Council CEO Paul Power remarks that it would still be dependent on the personal circumstances of each individual would-be refugee. This would entail a fear of proven persecution in their home countries in terms of social, ethnicity, or politico-religious beliefs. Meanwhile, Ready Migration administrator Jim MacAnally noted the diversity of the athletes and other people who have inquired for visas at their agency, with many also from Africa. Cameroon’s team attaché feels certain that his teammates will not return home.
Australia has had the burden several times before, of athletes competing in multi-national events held on their home soil leaving their delegations to stay. It happened at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, and at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The current Commonwealth Games will have its closing ceremony April 15.
Photo courtesy of ABC News

GOOGLE Making Ready to Announce Major REDESIGN of GMAIL Soon

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Fourteen years ago, the web search engine giant Google launched their own email service, Gmail. It got a lot of attention thanks to its then-unimaginably massive mail storage of 1GB per user, plus many other nifty features that eventually led to it becoming the email service of choice for over half of America’s mid-size firms and nearly all startup companies. Remarkably, the Gmail platform has not changed significantly in terms of interface and visuals since it started 14 years ago, barring a 2011 “minimalist” redesign. Now however, Google is cooking up a significant design change, and they accidentally leaked it.
TechCrunch notes that Google may have tipped its hand a mite early with its secret revamp of their Gmail platform. That is the only way to explain the sudden email message to the customers of their cloud computing and app development brand G Suite, which contained previews of the new and improved Gmail interface. A close inspection of the photos that have floated up online following Google’s G Suite email indicates that the revamp is like a fusion of Gmail and another Google-developed email service, Inbox, with is “bundled” mail feature. Different color shades for highlighted menus are also evident.
According to online analysts of the new interface, the “new” Gmail left-hand menu list appears to be repurposed from Inbox, while the main screen portion with the list of mail – and message conversation threads – looks like the base Gmail one, but enlarged. Furthermore, the background color has shifted from off-white to a hint of blue. The folder list on the left, merely text links in Gmail, are now accompanied by Inbox-like icons in this revamp, plus category dividers to keep sections distinct. Due to updates in the interface, it has been theorized that some existing Gmail add-ons might be disabled.
The email from Google that blew this whole thing in the open stated that the new Gmail experience will be made accessible to an Early Adopter Program that will be finalized within the coming weeks. Said EAP will of course be an available option for those with personal Gmail accounts. Once it has been availed of, the revamped experience will be opened. No precise date was given for when all of this will come to pass however. It is plain that Google never expected the news to spread quickly after their G Suite email. No further details have been forthcoming.
Photo courtesy of Engadget

FEDERAL CON-COM Proposes Shared ONE-PARTY-VOTE for PRESIDENT/VP, Among Other Ideas

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Following the end of the EDSA Revolution of 1986, a new government would be organized, framed by a new Constitution, with the hope that new safeguards within its text could help avoid the resurgence of dictatorship and other assorted problems of governance. It was not perfect however; the fact that the President and the Vice-President of the Philippines were separately elected led to times when candidates from vehemently opposing parties were voted into office, only for conflicts of interest between them to flare up. With talks for a new Federal Constitution happening, that issue stands a chance of being rectified.
CNN Philippines reports that one subject recently brought up in the consultative committee (Con-Com) for transitioning the Philippines into a federal government concerns the “drama” of having a President and Vice-President that could not work together due to different party lines. On Thursday, April 12, retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Eduardo Nachura noted that the Con-Com added a provision in its federal constitution draft which stipulated that a Presidential candidate and his running mate must be voted in tandem, ensuring that the top two positions in the national government are occupied by officials from the same party, minimizing executive conflict.
To that end, voters in elections simply select a tandem of presidential/vice-presidential candidates from the ballot, according to Nachura who chairs the subcommittee on federal government structure for the Con-Com. This subcommittee also advocated that the Vice-President is mandated to be appointed to a cabinet position, at which the President has full discretion to choose for him. The cabinet appointment for the VP is then exempt from confirmation and cannot be challenged by the Commission of Appointments. The President must transfer the VP to another cabinet posting if he is ineffective, but only an impeachment can remove him from office.
Other proposed articles for the still-in progress federal constitution include the uniform term of four years for the President, VP, senators and representatives, in the same vein as the US government. This will allow these officials to stand for one re-election. The present 1986 Constitution has the President serving only one six-year term and no more, while the VP can run for re-election just once. Senators can have two consecutive terms while representatives can go for three if re-elected. Discussion is also underway regarding how many federal divisions or “states” will be organized in the country, following the constitution’s adoption.
Former AJ Nachura cited the power struggle between incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte (PDP-Laban) and Vice-President Leni Robredo (Liberal) since taking office in 2016. Following Duterte calling on her to stop attending Cabinet meetings due to policy friction, Robredo later resigned as Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council chairperson in protest.
Photo courtesy of UNTV

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Following CANNES Festival Rule Changes, NETFLIX SKIPS Competition This Year

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When it comes to the most prestigious film festivals around the world, the Cannes Film Festival is easily one of the biggest and best, a household word to international filmmakers and studios. It is also one of the longest operating; last year the Cannes Festival celebrated its 70th anniversary. Among the traditional-format movies being screened in the competition were two films from online streaming giant, Netflix. The response was quite positive from the attendants and jury; however this reception has been soured by new regulations for Cannes movie entries. To that end, Netflix has announced not returning for Cannes 2018.
Variety has had an exclusive interview with Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos where he discusses their company’s decision not to screen any of their films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, whether in competition or otherwise. This is in response to some new ruling by the Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux, stipulating that all movies wanting to screen in competition at the festival must have been distributed in cinemas all over France. Apparently, French cinema owners and unions protested the inclusion of Netflix original films “Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories”, which were never screened in their theaters at all.
Now, this might have been easily resolved because Netflix was okay with letting some of their original movies be distributed in French cinemas to qualify them for Cannes. But this runs afoul of an earlier film law, requiring movies to not be made available for home viewing – TV, cable or streaming – for a 36-month period from their cinematic premiere date in the country. As Netflix movies appear on streaming from the get-go, none of them qualify for Cannes competition anyway. With no options whatsoever, Sarandos has decided that Netflix showing up at Cannes 2018 was simply a waste of time.
Ted Sarandos remarks that he would have wanted any Netflix films that would be screened for competition in Cannes to be on equal footing with any other festival entries. “There’s a risk in us going in this way and having our films and filmmakers treated disrespectfully at the festival,” he said of the restrictive film festival regulations. “They’ve set the tone. I don’t think it would be good for us to be there.” Sarandos also criticized another restriction that Thierry Fremaux put in place for Cannes 2018 prohibiting “selfies” or the guests taking any self-photos while on the red carpet.
The Cannes Film Festival for this year will be taking place in May. While Netflix will not be screening any films due to the rules, some company executives will be at the festival, although Sarandos himself has decided to skip.
Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair

DUAL SUBSCRIPTION for $12.99 Monthly, Offered by HULU and SPOTIFY

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Ever since it filed for direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange in February, and started trading shares earlier this month, Sweden-based music streaming service Spotify has been enjoying some good growth, if their April 3 opening of $165.90 (25% up from reference price) is any indication. And the company is riding the momentum with a link-up to fellow streaming service Hulu, which caters to video on demand. Together they are going to help their respective subscribers save up on subscription fees for both their platforms, by offering a combined billing with a reduced total price for them both.
According to USA Today, Hulu and Spotify have decided to team up by means of offering a dual subscription to both their services, with a unified billing, to their users. The dual subscription is worth $12.99 monthly, and has the effect of giving access to limited-ads Hulu, and Spotify Premium which removes the shuffle-only listening limitation of a free account. By themselves, the respective subscriptions fees for the two services are $7.99 for Hulu and $9.99 for Spotify. Their dual subscription deal shaves off $4.99 every month. A Spotify ad released this Wednesday goes, “2 apps. 1 bill. Endless entertainment.”
Further details in the add reveal how this special subscription works. For now, the dual thing can only be accessed by Spotify users with a Premium subscription, and if they only have accounts for the music streamer then availing this deal gives them a 99-cent Hulu trial for three months, at the end of which they can decide to go for keeps. But even with dual subscription the services can only be used with their corresponding apps so subscribers need Spotify for music and Hulu for movies/shows on their devices. Another thing, this only works with the “limited-ads” Hulu plan.
The way this works is that when a Spotify user signs up for the dual subscription plan, they are taken to the Hulu website where, if they have an account there too they can link it to Spotify billing, and if not then they could sign up for one first. Anyway that should for now regarding the specifics of the two digital services’ team-up subscription. But hold your horses; the plan is not yet activated, though both Spotify and Hulu note that the dual deal is coming to their subscribers this summer, so it is only a matter of waiting.
Cooperation between Hulu and Spotify is natural with trending growth for streaming services like them. Hulu for its part has gotten plenty of attention thanks to its award-winning programs like “The Handmaid’s Tale”. In addition to their dual subscription, they also have a special rate for college students: $4.99 monthly.
Photo courtesy of dancingastronaut.com

SUMMIT MEDIA Announces END of PRINT MAGAZINES and Going FULL-DIGITAL

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It’s not every day that a local publisher in the Philippines gets a franchise to print a localized edition of an international publication. Summit Media would go from printing not just its own magazines to being a conglomerate that has the handle on many global magazines for publishing to the Filipino market. But they have also been keeping up with the times, in particular with the development of digital magazines; and with every title they have transitioned into this, its corresponding hardcopy version was closed. And this Wednesday, they announced the inevitable: the time of Summit Media glossies has ended.
CNN Philippines reports that Summit Media released a statement on April 11 that heralded the end of an era. With the recent completion of their “digital transformation” which set up online versions of their in-house and licensed magazine brands, the last remaining six print magazines they still put out will now cease publication. These titles include “Cosmopolitan Philippines”, “Preview”, “PEP”, “Topgear”, “FHM”, and “Town and Country”. All of these already have digital editions up and running concurrently with the glossy versions, and as they are described by Summit to be thriving, it was now time to close all printing operations.
In the announcement, Summit Media President Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng explained this format shift by means of the increasing number of their readers who have transitioned to digital media on their mobile devices. As we follow them from print to digital, we will continue our relentless pursuit and delivery of quality, up-to-the minute content and a dynamic and engaging editorial experience-this time, aided by data, which now pervades and informs many of our editorial decisions,” she said.
Summit Media emerged into the Philippine publishing scene with their first magazine, “Preview”, in 1995. Since then they have garnered one international publishing franchise after another to greatly expand their reading offerings. Some of the titles that have been part of their printing run included teen magazine “Seventeen” (stopped 2009), kids’ magazine “K-Zone” (stopped 2017) and the Disney Italy comic series “W.I.T.C.H.”, which ended in 2008 with the last story saga officially translated into English.
Cheng noted the birth of Summit Media with pulp-and-ink publications, and thanked the avid readers for their patronage, but the closing of the last of their glossy magazines to focus on digital publishing was simply the next chapter in their company’s history, and their readers’ preferences. “Moving forward and into the future, we are excited as we continue to reinvent ourselves to become an even more compelling destination in a digital era where opportunities abound,” she said in the statement.
Photo courtesy of Summit Media

New Cover Art for 20th ANNIVERSARY of “HARRY POTTER” Books

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If the Marvel Cinematic Universe of Marvel Studios is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, another, older franchise is making ready to celebrate twice that number. Before the film adaptation of its first book came out in 2001, the “Harry Potter” series has been popular reading in their original book form since first releasing in the mid-90s. It just so happens that 2018 is the 20th anniversary of the Potter books as published in the US by Scholastic, its most famous publishing brand. To commemorate the occasion, Scholastic is re-releasing the books once more, with some sweet new cover art.
According to Entertainment Weekly, new cover illustrations drawn by artist Brian Selznick will grace the 20th anniversary editions of the seven “Harry Potter” books by JK Rowling when they are released June 26. The art was previewed by Scholastic Press Tuesday, April 10, where they are revealed to be black-and-white charcoal-style drawings. In the same manner as the cover art of a past edition of the Potter books, these new cover illustrations, when put side to side in book order, would form one continuous panoramic mural of the characters and circumstances in the books from humble beginning to glorious climax.
Selznick gave a statement wherein he expressed how honored he was to be chosen to create new art for the “Harry Potter” book series to celebrate two decades in print by Scholastic, speaking also of how he was a Potter-fan, specifically a Hufflepuff. In his illustrations, he sought to have them reflect the relationships between the characters created by Rowling. This is illustrated with how the seven covers have the continuing motif of the long, snaking body of the basilisk from Book II. Character evolution is also evident, with the contrast between Harry’s face in the first and last books.
Scholastic’s cover art for the seven Potter books were all done by illustrator Mary GrandPre in their first printing, and is easily recalled by most readers around the world. Since then several other illustrators have had their hand in designing covers for the books with each new printing, not just with Scholastic but with other publishers worldwide like Bloomsbury in the UK. The 15th Anniversary Scholastic print run had art by Kazu Kibuishi, especially the spine detail which, when laid side by side, showed Hogwarts school like pieces of a puzzle. Sezlnick repeats the effect, but for the front covers.
Aside from a new reprint of the books, other events tie into 20 years of Harry Potter in its original format. The Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stage play will hit Broadway before April is out. And the Fantastic Beasts sequel Crimes of Grindelwald is premiering later in November.
Photo courtesy of pinterest

MARK ZUCKERBERG Faces US CONGRESS in Hearing Regarding FACEBOOK LEAKS


It has always been a nightmare possibility for anybody who takes to the internet: the loss of privacy for their personal data. One of the more prominent examples of privacy breaches online occurred in 2014, when British political consultation firm Cambridge Analytica put a survey on Facebook that unwittingly breached the personal info of no less than 87 million users of the iconic social network. Said information was reportedly used by several parties to influence election results. This week, FB founder Mark Zuckerberg was called to provide testimony on the leak to Congress. What happened then was rather interesting itself.
As The Verge tells us, on Tuesday April 10 Mark Zuckerberg appeared before a US Congressional hearing with the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. It was expected that he would offer insights on how the Cambridge Analytica leak on Facebook came about, though some of the legislators present might have been keen to put the FB CEO on a spit regarding the incident. No dice there; Zuckerberg made a dignified apology for the scandal wrought with Analytica and made assurances that the company is taking serious stock over the policy gaps that allowed this whole thing to happen.
“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility and that was a big mistake,” the 33-year-old Facebook head said in his statement during the hearing, even taking responsibility for the leaked user data and the alleged instances it has been misused since 2014. Over a five-hour Q&A with 44 Senators present, Zuckerberg answered questions (limited to 5 minutes per Senator) about how his social media network collects data, their position on internet company regulation, and more. When Sen. John Thune brought up trust issues with FB following the data leakage, Zuckerberg owned up to mistakes and promised reforms.
This makes for some interesting developments. Following the public reveal about the Cambridge Analytica leakage just last month, the turn of public perception against Facebook’s security of its users led to the company losing market value in tens of billions of dollars. Following the testimony of Mark Zuckerberg before Congress – the first day in two – FB stock seemed to make a rebound, with Tuesday’s stock finishing at a 4.5% rise. The effectiveness of his responses to various inquiries appears to stem from what was noticed as ignorance on the part of most Senators on how the Facebook platform actually works.
The general gist of the questioning was perhaps to make plain any involvement – or lack of – by the leaked FB user data to influence the outcome of not only the 2016 US elections, but that of several other countries around the world. Zuckerberg is expected to testify again on Wednesday.
Photo courtesy of cnbc.com

HUMANITARIAN GROUPS Demand “AMO” by BRILLANTE MENDOZA Removed from NETFLIX


There is just no way to downplay the fact that the issue of the Philippine government’s violent and deadly war on drugs has been a topic that has a tendency to sour international opinion of the country, though under the direction of President Rodrigo Duterte, the response to such raised eyebrows has been either to ignore them or return criticism in kind. Still, there are supporters of the drug campaign trying to give it a positive explanation. Filmmaker Brillante Mendoza paints a portrait of the Philippine drug war in “Amo”, a Filipino series on Netflix. Unfortunately, there has been opposition.
CNN Philippines reports that, following the launch of the series “Amo” by Brillante Mendoza on Netflix in Monday April 9, a number of protesters from local human rights advocacy groups have started demanding Tuesday that the show be removed from streaming. Their justification for not allowing “Amo” to be watched is that the series makes to glorify the actions of the police under President Duterte’s directive. A petition signed by 13 human rights groups states, “We call on Netflix to stop giving an audience to a show that aims to justify extrajudicial killings. We call on Netflix to cancel Amo.”
“Amo”, directed by Cannes Film Festival winner Mendoza, follows high school student and small-time drug pusher Joseph. While his peddling narcotics is simply to make ends meet and nothing more, he finds himself caught in the crossfire between big-time drug operators and the PNP during the bloody War on Drugs.
Spokespersons from groups such as the Akbayan Youth, Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), and DAKILA, all accused Mendoza of presenting a biased picture favoring the extreme measures mandated by President Duterte against drugs, and that Netflix is making a mistake of providing an audience to a show twisting grim reality.
This comes in the wake of an interview with Mendoza before the release of “Amo” on Netflix, claiming that the brutal prosecution against the narcotics trade is necessary, and that other countries with drug problems can benefit from the Philippines’ example. To this, protesters decry the director as ignorant of the human rights abuses and trauma felt by the families of slain victims, which their statistic records purport to be over 13,000 compared to the government’s official tally of 4,075 casualties. They warn Netflix that they will hold it complicit with Duterte’s agenda if it does not take down “Amo”.
Mendoza however is staying the course of his series. On his Twitter page he posted, “At the end of the day, it is not about being controversial, but simply being truthful about the issues that surround us. We have to acknowledge that there are problems going on and face reality.”
Photo courtesy of TheWebMagazine

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

PAYPAL Introducing DEBIT CARDS, CHECK DEPOSITS among New “BANK-LIKE” Services

paypal
Originally established in 1998 as a security software developer for handheld devices, Confinity merged with an online banking service founded by visionary business magnate Elon Musk. The result became PayPal, a pioneer and one of the leading global online payment and money transfer services today. Briefly made a subsidiary of online marketplace eBay, it later became independent again by the year 2015. In its almost two decades of operations, PayPal has been a byword in processing payments online, an alternative to traditional banking. Now they seem to be on the verge of taking on the functions of a full bank.
The Verge reports that PayPal is expanding its array of services by taking on more and more duties of what a traditional bank might do. This comes in the form of introducing ATM debit cards to its customers and offering FDIC Insurance as well as the direct depositing of paychecks. The company is doing all these functions – despite not having a US banking license for operations – by entering into silent partnerships with local banks that provide their new services. To wit, several Utah banks offer loans, a Georgia bank handles check deposits, and a Delaware bank issues PayPal debit cards.
But if these new services seem to infringe on the territory of regular banks, PayPal COO Bill Ready wants to assure them that their outfit is not planning on establishing itself as a competitive alternative. Rather, he envisions PayPal’s bank partnerships to offer bank-like services as being tailored for customers of the online payment platform who has never quite been able to make use of regular banking options. Ready notes that the new services are actually redundant for PayPal users who have connected their bank accounts to the platform, and is instead for the users without bank accounts at all.
As if to both test the functionality of their partnerships, and to not ruffle the feathers of American banks, PayPal has been offering their bank-like services only to a select few of their own customers. Still, the perks of the new features for PayPal are very enticing, with no minimum deposits or monthly fees. The only payments made to the new services are whenever they use the PayPal-patnered debit cards on any non-networked ATM machine, or when any paycheck deposited with them will have one percent deducted as a fee. Where this development will go further, only time will tell.