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Taylor Swift Adds Seven Stadium Dates to ‘Reputation’ Tour

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 06:33 AM PST

As if in response to a New York Post article claiming that Taylor Swift‘s “Reputation” tour is “heading for disaster,” the singer announced seven new stadium dates to that same tour, adding shows inSanta Clara, Washington DC, Philadelphia, East Rutherford, Foxboro, Minneapolis and Dallas. The announcement comes a month after the second round of dates were added. Tickets for the added shows will go on-sale to the general-public on January 31st at 10am local. Fans will have the opportunity to purchase tickets in advance of the public on-sale for the added U.S. dates via the Taylor Swift Presale powered by Ticketmaster Verified Fan. Registration opens at 10am EST this Friday, January 5th and continues until 10am EST January 18th. Fans who register and have been previously verified via Taylor Swift Tix will receive priority access ahead of any new registrants.

The tour is produced and promoted by the Messina Touring Group (MTG) and AEG Presents in North America, and Live Nation overseas. The tour launches in Arizona on May 8.

The singer had by far the top-selling album of 2017, with “Reputation” — her first album in three years — moving some 1,899,772 copies in pure sales (not including streams) since its Nov. 10 release date, according to BuzzAngle. Her decision to hold back the album from streaming services for three weeks doubtless played a major role in that tally, since more than 1.5 million of those sales occurred in the three weeks after release; Ed Sheeran’s “Divide,” the only other album to sell more than a million copies, was a distant second with 1,042,255.

While the round of holiday radio concerts Swift played in the U.S. in December were her first live dates since a one-off show during Super Bowl week earlier this year, they were not full “Reputation” tour dates — instead, they were a handful of new and recent songs performed by Swift and dancers, similar to her “Saturday Night Live” performance of “… Ready for It.”



May 8 Glendale, AZ University of Phoenix Stadium
May 11 Santa Clara, CA Levi’s Stadium*
May 12 Santa Clara, CA Levi’s Stadium
May 18 Pasadena, CA Rose Bowl
May 19 Pasadena, CA Rose Bowl
May 22 Seattle, WA CenturyLink Field
May 25 Denver, CO Sports Authority Field At Mile High
June 1 Chicago, IL Soldier Field
June 2 Chicago, IL Soldier Field
June 8 Manchester, UK Etihad Stadium
June 9 Manchester, UK Etihad Stadium
June 15 Dublin, IE Croke Park
June 16 Dublin, IE Croke Park
June 22 London, UK Wembley Stadium
June 23 London, UK Wembley Stadium
June 30 Louisville, KY Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium
July 7 Columbus, OH Ohio Stadium
July 10 Washington, DC FedExField
July 11 Washington, DC FedExField*
July 13 Philadelphia, PA Lincoln Financial Field*
July 14 Philadelphia, PA Lincoln Financial Field
July 17 Cleveland, OH FirstEnergy Stadium
July 20 East Rutherford, NJ MetLife Stadium
July 21 East Rutherford, NJ MetLife Stadium
July 22 East Rutherford, NJ MetLife Stadium*
July 26 Foxborough, MA Gillette Stadium*
July 27 Foxborough, MA Gillette Stadium
July 28 Foxborough, MA Gillette Stadium
August 3 Toronto, ON Rogers Centre
August 4 Toronto, ON Rogers Centre
August 7 Pittsburgh, PA Heinz Field
August 10 Atlanta, GA Mercedes-Benz Stadium
August 11 Atlanta, GA Mercedes-Benz Stadium
August 14 Tampa, FL Raymond James Stadium
August 18 Miami, FL Hard Rock Stadium
August 25 Nashville, TN Nissan Stadium
August 28 Detroit, MI Ford Field
August 31 Minneapolis, MN U.S. Bank Stadium*
September 1 Minneapolis, MN U.S. Bank Stadium
September 8 Kansas City, MO Arrowhead Stadium
September 15 Indianapolis, IN Lucas Oil Stadium
September 18 St. Louis, MO The Dome at America’s Center
September 22 New Orleans, LA Mercedes-Benz Superdome
September 29 Houston, TX NRG Stadium
October 5 Arlington, TX AT&T Stadium*
October 6 Arlington, TX AT&T Stadium
October 19 Perth, AU Optus Stadium
October 26 Melbourne, AU Etihad Stadium
November 2 Sydney, AU ANZ Stadium
November 6 Brisbane, AU The Gabba
November 9 Auckland, NZ Mt Smart Stadium


Iran Protests: What’s China’s Stance?

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 06:20 AM PST

On December 28, 2017, a mass protest against inflation and corruption broke out in Mashhad in east Iran. Within days, public anger has spread to the whole country while the protest themes have also expanded to criticizing the government and religious leaders.

The country’s current unrest has already drawn worldwide attention.

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted about Iran both on January 1 and January 2, saying that “The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also wished “the Iranian people success in their noble quest for freedom” and predicted that the Iranian regime will fall one day.

In contrast, Beijing has taken a reserved pro-government stance.

At the regular press conference on January 2, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang simply gave a one-sentence response when asked about Iran’s situation. He said,“China hopes that Iran can maintain stability and achieve development.”

Interestingly, while non-interference in other countries’ domestic affairs is China’s long-standing foreign policy, Geng’s current response toward the Iran protests was slightly but notably different from China’s rhetoric during the Zimbabwean coup. When the Zimbabwean military took control of the country and pulled down then-President Robert Mugabe from his post in November, 2017, Geng’s colleague Lu Kang said that “China believes that the Zimbabwe’s people are capable of maintaining the political stability and national development.”

Since Chinese President Xi Jinping took office in 2012, ties between China and Iran have grown. In January, 2016, Xi visited Tehran, marking the first visit to Iran by a Chinese president in 14 years. While there, Xi met with Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Actively engaging Iran into his signature foreign policy, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) during his trip, Xi signed 17 multi-billion-dollar agreements with Rouhani in areas including energy, finance, investment, communications, culture, science and technology, and politics. Both countries also mapped out a broad cooperation plan for next 10 years.

In May 2017, when Rouhani won reelection, Xi also sent a congratulatory message to the Iranian president, saying that Beijing attaches “great importance to China-Iran relations and [is] willing to work with Iran to push forward the comprehensive strategic partnership,” according to China’s state media.

In June 2017, Xi sent his special envoy to Iran. According to Iran’s foreign ministry, Rouhani told the Chinese special envoy during the meeting that “Iran can be a trustable source of energy for China. The Islamic Republic of Iran has estimated more than $200 billion for projects in oil, gas and petrochemicals in its 5-year development plan and China can invest in these fields.”

On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September, 2017, Rouhani reiterated his interest in joining China’s BRI. He said [all sic]:

About the Silk Road and the new plans that China has in this regard, we have talked about this issue several times with president Xi Jinping and Iran is willing to have its share and cooperation in this plan. The new Silk Road can be beneficial for economic interests of all countries that’s were a part of this road. We welcome this plan and we have discussed with Chinese authorities in this regard and we have plans about it.

Against the backdrop, a stable Iran under Rouhani’s administration apparently serves China’s interests best, even though it’s still uncertain what Iran’s turmoil will develop into in the near future.

Why the Taliban Isn’t Winning in Afghanistan

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 06:18 AM PST

We must face facts,” remarked Senator John McCain in August 2017, “we are losing in Afghanistan and time is of the essence if we intend to turn the tide.” He is not the only one who has argued that the Taliban are on the march. “The Taliban are getting stronger, the government is on the retreat, they are losing ground to the Taliban day by day,” Abdul Jabbar Qahraman, a retired Afghan general who was the Afghan government’s military envoy to Helmand Province until 2016, told the New York Times over the summer. Media outlets have likewise proclaimed that “The Taliban do look a lot like they are winning” and that this is “The war America can’t win.”

Although the Taliban has demonstrated a surprising ability to survive and conduct high-profile attacks in cities like Kabul, it is weaker today than most recognize. It is hamstrung by an ideology that is too extreme for most Afghans, a leadership structure that is too closely linked to the Pashtun ethnic group, an over-reliance on brutal tactics that have killed tens of thousands of innocent Afghan civilians and alienated many more, a widespread involvement in corruption, and a dependence on unpopular foreign allies such as Pakistan. Most senior Taliban leaders still hope that they will one day be able to re-take Kabul, overthrow the Afghan government, and establish an extreme Islamic emirate in the country. But given the group’s weaknesses and the United States’ decision to keep troops in Afghanistan, that is unlikely.

In fact, the weaknesses of both the Taliban and the current Afghan government suggest that a stalemate is the most likely outcome for the foreseeable future. Territory may change hands, although probably not enough to tip the balance in favor of either side. As such, the Taliban’s best option now is to pursue a negotiated settlement, since it is unlikely to defeat the Afghan government and its international backers on the battlefield. For their parts, Kabul and Washington should likewise support a settlement because they will not likely be able to secure an outright military victory, either.


The Taliban is a different organization today than it was in the 1990s, when it ruled Afghanistan. It is run by Haibatullah Akhunzada, a former chief justice and head of the Taliban Ulema Council, the group’s highest religious authority. Akhunzada and other Taliban leaders have attempted to win Afghan hearts and minds by funding some development projects and promising to reform the education system. Today’s Taliban leaders are also more technically savvy than those of the 1990s; they proudly advertise their websites, Twitter feeds, and glossy magazines-although they often crack down on civilians using some of the same technology.

The Taliban has resiliently held on to rural terrain and has managed to conduct repeated high-profile attacks in Kabul and other cities. Its leaders have created an organizational structure in which the top echelons provide strategic guidance and oversight while military and political officials in the field make operational and tactical decisions. The Taliban has also managed to retain some organizational cohesion, despite the loss of two leaders in the past few years-a significant blow for any organization.

Yet the Taliban has faced serious setbacks. After temporarily seizing the northern city of Kunduz in September 2015, the group lost control of it within days as U.S. and Afghan forces rallied to take it back. In 2016 the Taliban put pressure on several provincial capitals, at times simultaneously, but could not overrun any of them. In 2017 it failed to mount a sustained threat against any provincial capital.


The Taliban’s failures point to several deficiencies.

First, its ideology is still too extreme for many Afghans-including urban Afghans-who adhere to a much less conservative form of Islam that permits most modern technology, music, political participation, and some rights for women. For example, nearly all Afghans say they approve of women voting, while girls, barred from education under the Taliban, now account for 39 percent of public school students in Afghanistan. The Afghan Parliament has set aside 69 of the 249 seats in its lower house for women, while the upper house includes 27 female members of parliament out of its 102 members.

It is not entirely surprising, then, that a nationwide poll in 2015 found that 92 percent of Afghans supported the Kabul government and only four percent favored the Taliban, a conclusion that has been consistent over roughly a decade of polling. In the same poll, most Afghans also rejected the notion that the Taliban had become more moderate.

The second deficiency is that the Taliban is largely a Pashtun movement, which limits its support in Hazara, Tajik, and Uzbek areas. The Taliban’s top layers are dominated by Pashtuns, although there is a bit more ethnic diversity at its lower levels. Haibatullah Akhunzada is a Pashtun from the Noorzai tribe in southern Afghanistan. His deputies, Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mohammad Yaqub, are both Pashtuns. Other senior leaders-such as Abdul Qayyum Zakir, Ahmadullah Nanai, Abdul Latif Mansur, and Noor Mohammad Saqib-are Pashtuns. Overall, approximately 80 percent of the Taliban’s top 50 leaders are Pashtuns from Kandahar Province. Based on Afghanistan’s recent history of grievances between the Pashtun Taliban and the Hazara, Tajik, and Uzbek communities, the Taliban’s over-reliance on Pashtun leaders is a serious weakness.

Third, the Taliban has favored brutal tactics to exert control, which has undermined its support in Afghanistan. Like many insurgent groups, Taliban fighters have aggressively targeted civilians and government personnel with everything from assassinations and roadside bombs to ambushes and raids. Taliban strikes in the first half of 2017 killed more civilians than in any other six-month period since the United Nations began documenting civilian casualties. Suicide attacks have been especially devastating, killing thousands of Afghan civilians over the past decade and maiming tens of thousands of others.

According to an Asia Foundation poll, roughly 93 percent of Afghans say they are fearful of encountering the Taliban because of its extremist views and brutality. But in addition to public distaste, brutality has also led to the displacement of families, civilian property damage, limited freedom of movement, and has reduced access to humanitarian aid, education, and healthcare-all of which have likely lessened the group’s appeal.

Fourth, although many observers point to corruption in the Afghan government, fewer understand that the Taliban is implicated too, especially in the drug trade. Drug revenue accounts for over half of the Taliban’s total financing and is the single most important source of revenue for local commanders. Local Taliban commanders fund their networks by taxing the trade, including farmers. The Taliban once exported drugs from Afghanistan in the form of opium syrup, but the group is increasingly building labs in the country that process opium into morphine or heroin. These actions have helped ensure that Afghanistan remains the world’s largest opium producer and exporter, producing an estimated 80 percent of the world’s opium. Taliban drug money is used to pay everyone from foot soldiers to Afghan government officials, and the Taliban’s involvement in virtually all aspects of the opium trade suggests that it is akin to a drug cartel.

The fifth deficiency is that the Taliban relies heavily on support from neighboring countries-particularly Pakistan-that are unpopular among many Afghans. Pakistan and its Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the country’s premier spy agency, provide several types of assistance to the Taliban and allied groups such as the Haqqani Network. One is sanctuary for leaders and their families. Pakistani officials have also provided the Taliban with money, training, intelligence, lethal material, and non-lethal material such as communications equipment. Yet only 3.7 percent of Afghans gave a favorable rating to Pakistan, according to a 2016 opinion poll conducted by Gallup and the Broadcasting Board of Governors. At 5.8 percent, more Afghans gave a favorable rating to the Islamic State (ISIS), and many more had a positive view of India, at nearly 62 percent.


Although Western policymakers and academics have harped on the Afghan government’s weaknesses and warned of imminent Taliban victory, the Taliban’s future does not look promising. The group has the ability to continue waging an insurgency for the foreseeable future. But its odds of overthrowing the Afghan government-or even holding urban terrain-are long.

Faced with such limited prospects, Taliban leaders should begin serious peace negotiations with the Afghan government, something they have been reluctant to do, perhaps because they believed they had the upper hand on the battlefield. Pushing the Taliban to begin serious settlement talks-in particular, sitting down with Afghan government representatives-will likely require sustained efforts by the United States and regional partners, especially Pakistan.

Since the Taliban controls some rural terrain, its leaders could likely negotiate a number of concessions from the Afghan government and its allies. Examples include a bigger role for Islam-and Islamic law-in Afghan institutions, the integration of some Taliban officials in government posts, a crackdown on government corruption, and even the eventual withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign combat forces. It is also worth pointing out to the group’s leaders that postponing negotiations is unlikely to improve their negotiating position. The Trump administration’s announcement that it would jettison the Obama administration’s deadlines for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan leaves the Taliban facing a reinvigorated foe.

In Colombia, the FARC finally agreed to serious peace negotiations after over 200,000 people had died, millions had been displaced, and thousands of civilians had been maimed by land mines. As FARC leader Timoleon Jimenez, known as “Timochenko,” acknowledged in 2012: “The continuation of the conflict will involve more death and destruction, more grief and tears, more poverty and misery for some and greater wealth for others. Imagine the lives that could have been saved these last ten years. So we seek dialogue, a solution without shedding blood, through political understanding.”

Timochenko had also realized that the FARC couldn’t win. It is high time for Taliban leaders to arrive at a similar conclusion. The Afghan population, which has suffered from nearly 40 years of conflict, deserves an end to the war.

This article was originally published on ForeignAffairs.com.

Trump and #metoo, pop tax and the moon — an ode to 2017, a year not gone too soon

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 06:04 AM PST

Well, that was a year, that two-oh-seventeen

A year that was crazy, chaotic and mean

The days made us dizzy, they made us shout, “Whoa!

“I wanna get off this reality show.”

The year started out with inaugural fun

The new POTUS boasted, “I beat her! I won!”

“The biggest crowd ever!” his press agent cried

He pooh-poohed the people who said that he lied.

Then pink-hatted women marched into the streets

They said, “We will not be defeated by tweets!

“No grabbing these pussies, we’re girded for fights

“We’re warning you, dude, get your paws off our rights.”

The year hurtled on like an off-the-track train

A white-knuckle ride that seemed downright insane

The new POTUS ordered a tough travel ban

When courts said he couldn’t, he said, “Yes, I can!”

Our melting pot steamed with confusion and strife

As immigrants feared for their jobs and their life

The POTUS kept saying he’d build a huge wall

But so far, amigos, it is very small.

In Houston, the people were battered by flood

In Vegas, a gunman turned music to blood

The West was ignited, the land was ablaze

The flames consumed houses and hillsides for days.

In Texas, a shooter killed folks while they prayed

In Charlottesville, Nazis came out to parade

In poor Puerto Rico, a storm led to grief

Disaster was rampant, we begged for relief.

The new POTUS sniffed, “We don’t need regulation

“On climate or guns — but I need a vacation!

“And let me be clear, I’ve got no time for kooks!

“Kim Whozit can’t scare me — I’ve got bigger nukes.”

Each day felt like crisis, both here and afar

But none of it daunted the new White House star

Instead, he cried, “Look! See the stock market soar!”

The rich got a tax cut, the poor were still poor.

The headlines kept barking: “COLLUSION!” “COMPLICIT!”

The new POTUS said, “I’ve done nothing illicit.

“I’m sick of my critics, their whinin’ and hootin’.

“Nyet! I am not the dumb puppet of Putin.”

In football, the players got down on a knee

To speak out for justice, oh say, can’t you see?

While back at the White House, the staff was a mess

And still the new POTUS kept blasting the press.

He tweeted, he badgered, he pouted, he bragged

“They’re liars,” he said when his poll numbers sagged

“The media’s failing! Don’t buy their fake news!”

By “fake” he meant facts that disturbed his own views.

The net was still “neutral,” yet teeming with hate

The hackers kept hacking, the trolls laid their bait

Both Facebook and Google had gotten so large

Forget the new POTUS — are those guys in charge?

And here in Chicago, the guns ran amok

Too often it felt like the city was stuck

Rebellion fomented because of a tax:

“We want our cheap soda! Give Toni the ax!”

And downstate the lawmakers dithered and fumed

Our budget woes deepened, the state it was doomed!

Thank God we were led by a man smart and dapper

And, yes, a bit cocky — I mean Chance the Rapper.

No, not all the news was absurd or obscene

Not even the saga of Harvey Weinstein

That creep in his bathrobe exposed a great sin —

Harassment of women by too many men.

The stories poured forth in a flood of “Me toos”

The silence was broken — now there’s some good news

Some icons were toppled, like Louis and Lauer

As women said, “Stop. We are not perks of power.”

And now this strange year it has lurched to a close

What next year will bring us, well, nobody knows

But first we say thanks to the folks who passed on

We’re glad that we had them and sad that they’re gone:

Goodbye to Chuck Berry and Mary T. Moore

Goodbye to Tom Petty — you helped our hearts soar.

Goodbye Della Reese, Jerry Lewis, Jim Nabors

Our smiles were the fruit of your talent and labors.

And let’s take some hope from a wonder we saw

A moment of mystery, of beauty and awe:

One day in midsummer, we looked at the sky

And there in the heavens, above us so high

The moon crossed the sun and the day turned to night

We gasped and we trembled to witness the sight

No matter our politics, income or race

We shared the same rapture down in our shared place.

We’ll carry on fighting and feuding, we know

But let’s all remember that glorious show

Eclipses remind us how fleeting we are

Just small human creatures beneath the same star.

(Mary Schmich is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Contact her at mschmich@tribune.com. You can follow her on twitter.com/maryschmich or contact her on facebook.com/maryschmich)

Working out just one day per week offers health benefits

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 06:03 AM PST

Q: I am trying to get more exercise this year, but I find it almost impossible to work out during the week. If I did longer bouts of exercise on Saturday and Sunday, would this be just as good?

A: Exercising even just once or twice a week appears to help your heart, according to research results reported earlier this year. Clearly it’s better than not exercising at all. But whether the health benefits are equal to spreading out your exercise over the week is questionable.

The findings, which were based on the self-reported exercise habits of more than 63,500 people, were published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Among people who exercised enough to meet federal physical activity recommendations, those who did all their exercise on one or two days a week — so-called weekend warriors — had 40 percent lower risk of death from heart disease than people who were inactive.

The reason to do shorter periods of exercise spread out through the week is to decrease the chance of pain and injury, especially if you tend to overdo it on weekends. Also, a consistent, daily exercise pattern may lower stress and is more likely to help with weight loss, both of which can improve your quality of life.

This study reinforced what previous research suggests: In terms of longevity, you get the biggest bang for your buck when you move from being inactive to getting some activity.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans advises adults to do at least 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, or at least 75 minutes (one hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.

Even if you don’t meet the recommended physical activity guidelines, you’re much better off doing something rather than nothing. And if you only have time to exercise once or twice a week, the message from the study is reassuring.

It’s important to warm up before any exercise, but especially if you don’t exercise every day. Experts recommend five to 10 minutes of low-intensity activity and dynamic stretching, which involves moving a joint through its range of motion repeatedly. Examples include lifting your knees, swinging your legs, and circling your arms.

(Howard LeWine, M.D., is an internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. For additional consumer health information, please visit www.health.harvard.edu.)

Roku Expands Into Home Audio With Smart Speakers, Sound Bars Licensing Program

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 06:00 AM PST

Streaming device maker Roku is officially getting ready to take on Amazon’s Echo: The company unveiled its new home audio licensing program Wednesday, outlining plans to team up with consumer electronics manufacturers for Roku-powered smart speakers and sound bars. Longtime Roku partner TCL will show a first Roku-powered device at CES in Las Vegas next week, which is expected to ship later in 2018.

“Speakers are one of the most popular things to add to a TV,” Roku’s VP of product Mark Ely told Variety during a recent interview. That’s why one main area of focus of Roku and its hardware partners are going to be smart sound bars, which double as internet-connected speakers when the TV screen is turned off. “These smart sound bars will work with any TV, but they work really great with Roku TVs,” Ely said.

In addition, Roku is also working with consumer electronics companies to make Roku-powered smart speakers. These can be placed around the home, and inter-connect with each other as well as Roku-powered sound bars to play multi-room audio, giving consumers the ability to play the same song synchronized across their home. “We envision a broad Roku ecosystem” of multiple speaker sizes and form factors, Ely said.

Roku-powered speakers and sound bars will both come with integrated microphones for far-field voice control, and offer access to a personal assistant the company has been developing in-house and also plans to add to existing Roku video streaming devices this fall. Think of it as a kind of Alexa, but with a focus on audio and video streaming, which will allow consumers to issue commands like “Hey Roku, play easy listening,” or “Hey Roku, turn off the TV in 30 minutes.”

“Consumers will use voice to connect with all the entertainment in their home,” said Ely. People may still query Siri, Alexa or Google’s assistant for other services, but call on Roku’s assistant when they want to watch or listen to something, he argued. “We can see it co-existing in the home with other AI.”

Roku has been quietly working on its home audio initiative for over a year. The company hired a number of staffers with expertise in voice control and smart assistants, including the co-founder of a startup that built an Amazon Echo-like smart speaker, as Variety was first to report in September. And in November, Variety broke the story that Roku recently spent $3.5 million on the acquisition of Dynastrom, a Danish multi-room audio startup that was key to building out its new audio initiative.


In addition to striking hardware licensing agreements with companies like TCL, Roku is also reaching out to the wider home audio ecosystem with a program called Roku Connect. This will allow third-party manufacturers to add the ability to control Roku TVs and streaming devices with their smart speakers without changing much else about their products. “Our goal is to work with companies like Sonos and others,” Ely said. Roku Connect will be free to implement for consumer electronics manufacturers.

Whether other speaker makers would want to work with Roku remains to be seen. The home audio space is notoriously competitive, and has only gotten more so since Amazon introduced the Echo in late 2014. Roku will also be competing with Google, which has been selling its own smart speakers since 2016. Ely said that Roku wants to compete by making the TV the centerpiece of its home audio experience, and its consumer electronics partners may also once again try to undercut the prices of the competition. Said Ely: “The price will be affordable.”

‘Blade Runner 2049,’ ‘Baby Driver,’ ‘Big Little Lies’ Pick Up ACE Editing Nominations

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 06:00 AM PST

Films such as “Blade Runner 2049,” “Dunkirk” and “Baby Driver” joined television series like “Black-ish,” “Better Call Saul” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” as nominees for American Cinema Editors’ 68th annual ACE Eddie Awards Wednesday.

“Blade Runner” and “Dunkirk” were nominated in the dramatic film category along with “Molly’s Game,” “The Post” and “The Shape of Water.” “Baby Driver” was recognized alongside “Get Out,” “I, Tonya,” “Lady Bird” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” in the comedy field.

The “Three Billboards” nomination is noteworthy as the film competes in the drama category at the Golden Globes this year, yet it has been situated as a comedy with ACE.

Other TV series nominated include “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Portlandia,” “Will & Grace,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Fargo” and “Game of Thrones,” while miniseries/TV movies in the mix include “Feud,” “Genius” and “The Wizard of Lies.” HBO’s “Big Little Lies” was chalked up in the drama series category.

On the film critics circuit so far this year, “Baby Driver” and “Dunkirk” have reaped the most kudos.

Full list of ACE nominees below. Winners will be revealed at the 68th annual ACE Eddie Awards on Friday, Jan. 26.

Best Edited Feature Film (Dramatic)
“Blade Runner 2049” (Joe Walker, ACE)
“Dunkirk” (Lee Smith, ACE)
“Molly’s Game” (Alan Baumgarten, ACE, Josh Schaeffer & Elliot Graham, ACE)
“The Post” (Michael Kahn, ACE & Sarah Broshar)
“The Shape of Water” (Sidney Wolinsky, ACE)

Best Edited Feature Film (Comedic)
“Baby Driver” (Jonathan Amos, ACE & Paul Machliss, ACE)
“Get Out” (Gregory Plotkin)
“I, Tonya” (Tatiana S. Riegel, ACE)
“Lady Bird” (Nick Houy)
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Jon Gregory, ACE)

Best Edited Animated Feature Film
“Coco” (Steve Bloom)
“Despicable Me 3” (Clair Dodgson)
“The Lego Batman Movie” (David Burrows, ACE, Matt Villa & John Venzon, ACE)

Best Edited Documentary (Feature)
“Cries From Syria” (Aaron I. Butler)
“Jane” (Joe Beshenkovsky, ACE, Will Znidaric, Brett Morgen)
“Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold” (Ann Collins)
“LA 92” (TJ Martin, Scott Stevenson, Dan Lindsay)

Best Edited Documentary (Small Screen)
“The Defiant Ones” — “Part 1” (Lasse Järvi, Doug Pray)
“Five Came Back” — “The Price of Victory” (Will Znidaric)
“The Nineties” — “Can We All Get Along?” (Inbal Lessner, ACE)
“Rolling Stone: Stories from the Edge” — “01” (Ben Sozanski, ACE, Geeta Gandbhir; Andy Grieve, ACE)

Best Edited Comedy Series for Commercial Television
“Black-ish” — “Lemons” (John Peter Bernardo, Jamie Pedroza)
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” — “Josh’s Ex-Girlfriend Wants Revenge” (Kabir Akhtar, ACE & Kyla Plewes)
“Portlandia” — “Amore” (Heather Capps, Ali Greer, Jordan Kim)
“Will & Grace” — Grandpa Jack” (Peter Beyt)

Best Edited Comedy Series for Non-Commercial Television
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” — “Fatwa!” (Steven Rasch, ACE)
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” — “The Shucker” (Jonathan Corn, ACE)
“Glow” — “Pilot” (William Turro, ACE)
“Veep” — “Chicklet” (Roger Nygard, ACE & Gennady Fridman)

Best Edited Drama Series for Commercial Television
“Better Call Saul” — “Chicanery” (Skip Macdonald, ACE)
“Better Call Saul” — “Witness” (Kelley Dixon, ACE & Skip Macdonald, ACE)
“Fargo” — “Aporia” (Henk Van Eeghen, ACE)
“Fargo” — “Who Rules the Land of Denial” (Andrew Seklir, ACE)

Best Edited Drama Series for Non-Commercial Television
“Big Little Lies” — “You Get What You Need” (David Berman)
“Game of Thrones” — “Beyond the Wall” (Tim Porter, ACE)
“The Handmaid’s Tale” — “Offred” (Julian Clarke, ACE & Wendy Hallam Martin)
“Stranger Things” — “The Gate” (Kevin D. Ross, ACE)

Best Edited Miniseries or Motion Picture for Television
“Feud” — “Pilot” (Adam Penn, ACE & Ken Ramos)
“Genius: Einstein” — “Chapter One” (James D. Wilcox)
“The Wizard of Lies” (Ron Patane)

Best Edited Non-Scripted Series
“Deadliest Catch” — “Lost at Sea” (Rob Butler, ACE & Ben Bulatao, ACE)
“Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” — “The Perfect Scientology Family” (Reggie Spangler, Ben Simoff, Kevin Hibbard & Vince Oresman)
“VICE News Tonight” — “Charlottesville: Race & Terror” (Tim Clancy, Cameron Dennis, John Chimples & Denny Thomas)

Amazon and ITV Greenlight ‘The Widow,’ Starring Kate Beckinsale

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 06:00 AM PST

Amazon and ITV have greenlit “The Widow,” an eight-episode original series from Harry and Jack Williams, and starring Kate Beckinsale.

The Widow” follows Georgia Wells (Beckinsale), a woman who has cut herself off from her previous life but is pulled back to the face that world after seeing her supposedly deceased husband on the news. The thriller will take her “into the depths of the African Congo, where danger and revelation will greet her at every turn,” as she stops at nothing to get to the truth about her past.

“We are thrilled to continue our existing relationship with Kate Beckinsale on the heels of her incredible performances in Amazon Studios’ critically acclaimed films,” said Brad Beale, vice president, worldwide TV content acquisition at Amazon Prime Video, in a statement. (Beckinsale recently starred in Marc Webb’s “The Only Living Boy in New York,” which was released on Amazon in August 2017, as well as Amazon’s “Love & Friendship,” based on Jane Austen’s novel “Lady Susan.”)

“Harry and Jack Williams have created a powerful story, which will be brought to life by one of the world’s most talented actresses, and we are excited to bring this thrilling series to Prime members around the world,” Beale continued.

ITV’s head of drama Polly Hill added that they are delighted by Beckinsale’s casting as well because she is “perfect for the role of Georgia in what is, as always, brilliant, compelling and surprising storytelling from Harry and Jack Williams. We’re very pleased to have secured the series which is an ITV original commission and co-production with Amazon.”

The Williams’, who most recently produced “Fleabag” for Amazon, are calling “The Widow” their “most ambitious and cinematic piece to date,” noting that they “can’t wait to bring the dark heart of the Congolese jungle to the screen.”

“The Widow” will be executive produced by Williams’ Two Brothers Pictures, with Eliza Mellor also on-board to produce. Sam Donovan and Olly Blackburn will direct. The series will be distributed globally by All3Media Intl, premiering on ITV in the UK and Amazon in the US and more than 200 countries and territories.

Pickup Trucks: Best Pickup Truck of 2018: And the Nominees Are…

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 05:57 AM PST

Each year we review which pickup trucks are all new or significantly revised and collect them in our nominees list for our annual Best Pickup Truck of the Year Award. Our judges consist of both Cars.com and PickupTrucks.com editors who hash out which of the competitors are the most deserving in terms of power, capability and value. This year, there were two heavy-duty pickups with new powertrains that qualified, a new full-size trim level, a refreshed model lineup and one all-new vehicle, albeit modeled after an existing model.

We’ll announce the winner of our Best Pickup Truck of 2018 the evening of Jan. 16 in Detroit. No doubt you’ll have your own opinions about these nominees, so let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Our eligible nominees for the Best Pickup Truck of 2018 are …

2018 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2


  • 2-inch-taller lifted suspension
  • Front and rear lockers
  • High-tech multispool valve shocks
  • Improved approach and departure angles

2018 Chevrolet Silverado 3500


  • Upgraded Duramax diesel engine and heavy-duty transmission
  • Larger, smarter turbochargers
  • Much cleaner emissions from the Duramax
  • New diesel hood with multiple inlets

2018 Ford F-150


  • Upgraded naturally aspirated V-6 and V-8 engines
  • New front grille designs
  • Improved and upgraded safety technology
  • 10-speed transmissions with stop-start function across the lineup

2018 Ram 3500


  • Software upgrades for the Cummins engine boosts torque output
  • Higher ratings for fifth-wheel trailering
  • Several new luxury and value trim levels
  • Still the only HD to offer a manual transmission option

2018 Toyota Tundra TRD Sport


  • Unique front sport hood and grille
  • Improved on- and off-road manners
  • High-performance Bilstein shocks
  • Improved and upgraded safety technology

Cars.com photos by Matt Avery, Mark Williams, Aaron Bragman, Evan Sears; manufacturer image.

CNN’s Brooke Baldwin to Launch Digital Series ‘American Woman’

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 05:30 AM PST

Brooke Baldwin kicked off 2018 by anchoring CNN‘s raucous late-night New Year’s Eve coverage with colleague Don Lemon. Now she’s getting set, she hopes, to make even more of a mark in the year to come.

Baldwin on Wednesday will launch “American Woman,” a digital-video series that is the latest of the Time Warner-owned cable-news outlet’s efforts to draw its TV viewers to offerings available via desktop or mobile. The eight-part series profiles women who have shattered ceilings in different industries. Through interviews, Baldwin explores their lives, careers, personal setbacks and all the hurdles these women overcame to accomplish their dreams.

The anchor, whose weekday coverage between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. has drawn the notice of CNN viewers and “Saturday Night Live,” says she has been working on the project for months. During coverage of the 2016 election, “I had never seen and heard so many female voices come together,” she says. “So now what? What happens to all of those voices? Where are they going to go? I wanted to make sure somebody was listening.” After covering President Trump’s inauguration, Baldwin says she pitched her bosses at CNN on a project that would tell women’s stories. “This needs to be the Year of the Woman for me,” she says she told executives.

Over the course of the series, which will be promoted during her weekday anchor slot, Baldwin will interview everyone from musician Pat Benatar to actress Issa Rae. Other profiles will look at Diane von Furstenberg, Ava Duvarney, Sheryl Crow, Betty White, Tracy Reese and Ashley Graham.

Baldwin says she often had to find and book the guests herself, using her own contacts or by nagging publicists. She met Benatar at an event and was able to get her phone number. Crow had appeared on her show in the past. Much of the work was done, Baldwin says, in her spare time.

CNN has in recent months hired a bevy of digital journalists to boost its online presence, launching daily newsletters and podcasts. Through digital journalism, CNN has expanded its coverage of politics, the media and technology, among other topics. In June of last year, Dana Bash, the network’s chief political correspondent, launched a digital-video series focused on female politicians who broke barriers on the way to Washington, D.C.

This isn’t the first time Baldwin has used CNN’s digital might to breathe life into some of her extracurricular interests. In 2015, she sent a dispatch about a climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro for CNN’s digital outlets, and added a few selfies taken with the aid of a GoPro.

She sounds eager to tackle other topics, as time allows. “I needed to fill my soul,” says Baldwin. “And this project ended up being exactly that for me this year.”