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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Actor Dennis Farina dies at 69

Character actor and former cop starred in "Midnight Run," "Law & Order" and HBO's doomed "Luck."

Actor Dennis Farina, a real-life Chicago police officer who went on to play a detective on NBC's Law & Order, has died at 69.

According to his publicist, Lori De Waal, Farina died Monday morning in a Scottsdale, Ariz., hospital after suffering a blood clot in his lung.

"I was stunned and saddened to hear about Dennis' unexpected passing this morning," Law & Order creator Dick Wolf said in a statement on Monday. "The Law & Order family extends sympathy and condolences to his family. He was a great guy."

The mustachioed Farina was accustomed to playing characters on either side of the law, such Lt. Mike Torello on TV's Crime Story as well as mobsters like Jimmy Serrano in 1998's Midnight Run and Albert Lombard on Miami Vice. He had a fruitful partnership with that show's creator, Michael Mann, having also starred in his films Thief and Manhunter.

Though cops-and-robbers parts were his bread and butter, Farina did venture out of his comfort zone, taking on comedy work in 1997's That Old Feeling and a period drama in 1998's Saving Private Ryan.

The 1990s were a prolific period for Farina. In addition to Steven Spielberg, Farina also worked with directors Steven Soderbergh (1998's Out of Sight) and Barry Sonnenfeld (1995's Get Shorty).

By the time he was chosen to replace the late Jerry Orbach on Law & Order in 2004, Farina had transitioned from a "hey-it's-that-guy" character actor to being recognized in his own right. His character, Det. Joe Fontana, drew heavily from Farina's own life in Chicago, even sharing the same neighborhood and alma mater.

After leaving Law & Order in 2006, he went on to host NBC's resurgent Unsolved Mysteries, as well as starring opposite Alan Rickman in 2008's Bottle Shock.

He also had a major role in HBO's doomed horse-racing drama, Luck, which was canceled after animals died during the production.

Most recently, he had guest-starred on the Fox sitcom New Girl as the con-man father of Nick (Jake Johnson). He had two more films in the pipeline, as well — Authors Anonymous, currently in post-production, and Lucky Stiff, which was in the midst of filming.

Farina is survived by partner Marianne Cahill and three sons from his marriage to Patricia. They were married 10 years before they divorced in 1980.

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Royal baby arrives: Duchess Kate gives birth to a boy


LONDON. It's a boy for Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge.
The former Kate Middleton gave birth to the couple's first child, a son, on Monday afternoon at a London hospital.
The birth was announced via a formal press release issued by Kensington Palace, which stated that the duchess "was safely delivered of a son" at 4:24 p.m., local time, weighing 8 lbs., 6 oz.

"The Duke of Cambridge was present for the birth," the statement added. "The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry and members of both families have been informed and are delighted with the news."
Mother and son are both doing well, the palace said, and will remain in the hospital overnight.
"We could not be happier," Prince William said via a palace spokesperson. He will be spending the night at the hospital with his wife and new baby.
A palace source tells CBS News that William was with the duchess throughout her labor, and called the queen, Prince Charles, Prince Harry and the Middletons with the news.
In a statement, Charles said he and wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, are "overjoyed" by the baby's birth.

"Grandparenthood is a unique moment in anyone's life, as countless kind people have told me in recent months, so I am enormously proud and happy to be a grandfather for the first time and we are eagerly looking forward to seeing the baby in the near future," he said.
A bulletin containing details of the birth was taken by car to Buckingham Palace and placed on an easel at the palace gates for the public to see. Initially, officials had planned to place the bulletin on the easel before issuing the news electronically, but changed course shortly before the birth was announced.

Right across the country and indeed right across the Commonwealth people will be celebrating and wishing the royal couple well," Prime Minister David Cameron told waiting reporters in front of 10 Downing Street. "It is an important moment in the life of our nation but I suppose above all it's a wonderful moment for a warm and loving couple who got a brand new baby boy. It's been a remarkable few years for our royal family -- a royal wedding that captured people's hearts, that extraordinary and magnificent Jubilee and now this royal birth, all from a family that have given this nation so much incredible service, and they can know that a proud nation is celebrating with a very proud and happy couple tonight."

The royal couple's child will officially be known as His Royal Highness Prince [Name] of Cambridge.

 The title follows the dukedom bestowed on William by his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, on his wedding day in 2011. Earlier this year, the queen issued a royal decree allowing this royal baby -- and all of William and Kate's children -- to be titled prince or princess. The decree said "that all the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales should have and enjoy the style, title and attribute of royal highness with the titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their Christian names or with such other titles of honour."

The world may have to wait considerably longer to learn the baby's name -- the royal family will reveal it in an official statement in the coming hours or days. Harry's name was made public on the day he was born. It took about a week for the palace to reveal William's name, and nearly a month before their father's name was uttered outside of palace walls.
Prince William was with his wife when she was brought by car from Kensington Palace to St. Mary's Hospital in London before 6 a.m. local time in the early stages of labor.
Kate gave birth in the hospital's private Lindo Wing, where Princess Diana gave birth to William in 1982 and Harry in 1984.

The new baby -- the first for William and Kate, who married in 2011 after a long courtship -- will be third in line to the British throne, behind Prince Charles and William. William is second in line, right behind his father, Prince Charles. The baby moves ahead of Prince Harry, who's now fourth in line.
Plenty of excitement has surrounded the royal birth. In the days leading up to the big day, reporters and photographers from the four corners of the globe staked out St. Mary's Hospital. The Royal Mint has minted 2,013 silver coins bearing a shield of the Royal Arms, to be given to newborns who share their birthday with the third in line to the British throne. Souvenirs and commemorative memorabilia are expected to flood Britain's stores.

Buzz has been building ever since the royal couple revealed the baby news on Dec. 3, 2012, with the following statement: "Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are very pleased to announce that The Duchess of Cambridge is expecting a baby. The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry and members of both families are delighted with the news."

At that time, the Duchess of Cambridge was suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, a potentially dangerous type of morning sickness in which vomiting can be so severe that no food or liquid can be kept down. She was admitted to King Edward VII Hospital in London the same day the pregnancy was announced. Three days later, Kate was photographed leaving the hospital, alongside William, holding a bouquet of flowers.

From January into the spring, Kate made several public appearances as the world watched her baby bump grow. She attended a horse race, formally named a cruise ship and paid an official visit to Windsor Castle. In June, she withdrew from her public duties to get ready for the birth.
The former Kate Middleton and William became engaged in October 2010 during a trip to Kenya and were married in a lavish ceremony at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011.

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

British Open: Tiger Woods chases Lee Westwood

Tiger Woods began the final round of the 142nd British Open two shots behind leader Lee Westwood at Muirfield Golf Club.
Both were trying to end major droughts: Westwood was 0-for-61 in majors entering this championship, and Woods, a 14-time major champion, was 0 for his last 16.

Westwood (-3), plays with Hunter Mahan (-1), and Woods (-1) tees off with Masters champion Adam Scott (even). ESPN has the live TV broadcast.

No. 9, 554 yards, par 5: Woods is likely finished, but Scott is coming off back-to-back birdies and right in the mix here. Woods' second lands well short and runs over the green. Woods' chip for eagle is really, really bad ... never had a chance, and now birdie is not a sure thing. Scott has a good look at eagle, but it comes up short. He will have a tap-in for birdie to get to -1. Woods does make birdie to get back to +1.

Westwood: His tee shot at 8 rolls into the thick rough. Westwood needs to settle now ... 175 to get past the cross bunkers, and that's where he ends up. From the bunker 40 yards in front of the green is chopped out and now he will have about 30 feet from in front of the green to save par. Westwood misses the long par saver and has 4 feet for bogey ... he makes that one, but now he has gone bogey-bogey and is at -1, with Henrik Stenson and Scott.

Elsewhere: Henrik Stenson is in position for birdie again at No. 10. Stenson lips it out and will stay at -1.

No. 8, 441 yards, par 4: Woods finds the fairway off the tee and knocks his second to within about 8 feet for birdie. Has to make this birdie putt to have any chance, slim though it may be, to stay in this. Scott from about 35 feet for birdie, and he drains it to get back to even par. Here comes the Masters champ. It's all over but the crying for Woods, who misses the birdie putt. The putter has been lousy on Sunday. He will stay at +2.

Westwood: Finds a front bunker on the par-3 seventh, and the ball is buried. He has a chance to get out OK, but par will be a test. Ouch. Westwood doesn't get it out far enough, and it rolls right back in. The good news is it didn't end up in the footprint and the lie is better. Now he's hitting three. Beautiful out this time will give him a solid chance to save bogey. Westwood saves his bogey, losing only one shot, but at -2 his lead is only one.

Elsewhere: Henrik Stenson makes birdie at the par-5 ninth to get back to -1. Phil Mickelson makes bogey at 10 to drop back to +1.

No. 7, 184 yards, par 3: Woods' tee shot is on the green but short, 40 feet short. Scott has a solid birdie try. Woods makes a good putt for an easy par putt. Scott rams home his birdie putt to get back to +1.

Westwood: Hits the green but it was a long birdie putt ... He did knock it up close for a tap-in par. Still at -3. Mahan continues his downward slide.

Elsewhere: Ian Poulter bogeys 16 to drop back to +1.

No. 6, 461 yards, par 4: Time to make a move ... even if that move is a safe par. Woods' tee shot finds the fairway bunker, and he chips out leaving a long third to the green. Now he will have 25 feet to save par. Woods is going in the wrong direction. Scott slides his birdie putt past but will tap in for par to stay at +2. Another bogey for Woods, and he is now at +2, +3 for the round.

Westwood: The tee shot into the fairway bunker at No. 5 will not cost him ... a solid 3-iron into the wind from 207 will give him about 10 feet for birdie. Mahan also is in birdie range. Westwood knocks in his birdie putt to get back to -3. Mahan makes par.

Elsewhere: Henrik Stenson bogeys 8 to fall back to even par. Phil Mickelson birdies 9 to get to even par, -2 for the day ...

No. 5, 559 yards, par 5: Woods with driver off the tee, misses the fairway left into the rough. Woods chops out about 140 yards into the center of the fairway. Woods' struggles continue ... a poor third will leave him very little chance for birdie on the par-5. The camera and microphone picked up the frustration loud and clear. Major No. 15 is getting farther and farther away. From about 60 feet, Woods rolls it about 3 feet past. Not bad really ... as long as he makes the par putt. Scott put himself in solid position for birdie but couldn't get it down. Pars for both; Woods at +1, Scott at +2.

Westwood: The leader is now at the par-3 fourth ... 221 right into the wind. He hits a good one and is on the green safely. Mahan missed left into the rough. Par for Westwood, another bogey for Mahan. Off the fifth tee, however, Westwood finds a fairway bunker. Westwood chops out and is now in the fairway.

No. 4, 226 yards, par 3: The wind seems to be blowing harder than it has all week. Scott's tee shot is well left, and he will tap in for bogey. Woods makes another bogey ... more poor work from the putter ... and he is now +1. Scot drops to +2.

Westwood: From the deeper rough at 3, the leader chops it out low and left, way left. And he hits it int he gallery. Mahan's second from the fairway was on line but short. Westwood found his ball in the tramped down rough and then hits a solid third to about 8 feet for par. Can't get it down, however. Bogey for Westwood to drop to -2. Mahan makes par.

Elsewhere: Ian Poulter goes eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie to get to even par overall, through 12 holes.

No. 3, 377 yards, par 4: Woods' tee shot ends up in the right rough. Scott is in the fairway. It's getting late early out there for Woods ... the scoring holes are early, and it gets tougher later. There's plenty of green for Woods, but the pin is tucked front right ... no way to get to it from where he is. He chops out and misses the green just to the right. Can still get up and down. Scott from 101 yards finds the center of the green and will have a look at birdie. Woods got a drop because a sprinkler head was in his putting line (local rule) and now he will putt from 65 feet. His putt goes only about 60 feet. Scott from 18 feet for birdie bent too much and spins about 3 feet past. Woods saves par to stay at even. Scott makes his par putt to stay at +1.

Westwood: His second at No. 2 is solid. Mahan blasts out of the bunker, then hits his third to about 20 feet. Mahan makes a nice putt, but he will end up with bogey. So me misses a good birdie try at 1, then bogeys 2. Westwood misses his birdie putt but makes a comfortable par. Westwood at No. 3 tee is into the deep rough. Three holes, three missed fairways.

Elsewhere: Mickelson birdies No. 5 to get to +1. Ian Poulter goes eagle-birdie-birdie at 9, 10 and 11 to get to +1.

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

BIPS: Buy Bitcoins In Denmark With Your Mobile Phone

BIPS, a Bitcoin payment processor based in Canada and Denmark, has just announced a new service: Danske Bitcoin, allowing users with Danske Bank’s MobilePay service to instantly buy bitcoins from their phone. MobilePay an iPhone and Android application that allows anyone with a Danish bank account and credit card (and is over 15 years of age) to send money to other users instantly. MobilePay is currently making an introductory offer of no fees until January 1, 2014, at which point, DanskeBank’s Mobilepay page reports, DanskeBank may add a fee that “will be a competitive price that reflects the costs of running the solution”. Users need not be specifically in Denmark to buy bitcoins; as long as one’s Danish bank account and credit card is active, the service works from all over the world, and the money will be immediately credited to one’s BIPS account. As of July 14, the service is not released yet, but should come online soon.

The process to buy bitcoins with Danske Bitcoin is as follows:
  1. Install DanskeBank’s MobilePay app to your phone from the iPhone App Store or Google Play.
  2. Insert your bank account and credit card info on the BIPS website, as well as the number of the phone that you have installed MobilePay on
  3. Go into the application, go to “Send” and send any amount to BIPS’s phone number (36965694)
  4. You should receive the equivalent in BTC credited to your BIPS account very soon
BIPS has not seen nearly as much attention in the Bitcoin merchant processing space as its major competitors BitPay and Coinbase, but it has been seeing considerable growth particularly in Denmark, where the service’s co-funder Kris Henriksen is located. The service is used by a number of businesses in Denmark, notably the popular online dating site, and also recently announced its latest customer: Flattr. Flattr is a service based in Sweden founded by Peter Sunde (best known for his work in The Pirate Bay) and Linus Olsson that allows users to easily donate small amounts to content creators on the internet. Users set an amount that they want to donate every month, and then while browsing they can click a button to tip individual creators. The monthly donation is evenly split among everyone tipped at the end of the month.

Payment processing with BIPS is free if merchants wish to cash out directly in bitcoin, but charges a 2.5% fee in the form of a lower exchange rate for converting the bitcoins to a cash deposit in one’s bank account. Merchants can opt to pass the fee on to customers (default), or absorb the fee themselves. BIPS also offers a number of additional features for a small fee, including MtGox integration and secure cold storage. BIPS can also be used to buy and sell bitcoins, and with this integration of DanskeBank’s services using BIPS to buy bitcoins just got considerably easier for Danish users. Denmark remains one of the countries where Bitcoin is less widespread, with Google Trends showing a score of 49% compared to an average of 50%-70% across Europe, but thanks to the efforts of BIPS (and, to a lesser extent, Lasse Birk Olesen’s Bitcoin Nordic) the community is growing. Hopefully we will continue seeing more interest from Denmark in the months to come.

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Rapper Kanye West gets involved in scuffle with photographer at LAX airport

Police were investigating a scuffle Friday between rapper Kanye West and a cameraman at Los Angeles International Airport, where paparazzi are known to lurk in hopes of snapping shots of celebrities.

Numerous witnesses were interviewed about the afternoon incident to compile a report for detectives to investigate, LAX Police Sgt. Steve Savala said.

TMZ posted a video of the tussle, showing West being thronged by cameras while trying to get into a white Mercedes Benz waiting curbside.

As flashbulbs illuminate his face, West accuses the paparazzi of trying to provoke him "so I have to pay you, like, $250,000." He then lunges at a photographer's camera and tries to wrestle it away.

West has had similar run-ins with paparazzi at LAX before, trading barbs with photographers who follow his every move.

The rapper's critically beloved album "Yeezus" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts last month, but sales have dropped off in weeks since. West's other recent debut -- his daughter, North, with reality television star Kim Kardashian -- turned 1 month old this week.

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Music : Jennifer Lopez Makes a Splash (Literally) With Pitbull at 2013 Premios Juventud Awards

The singer did just that when she took the stage to kick off the 2013 Premios Juventud Awards at the Bank United Center in Miami on Thursday.

Of course, she did have a little help from Pitbull, who joined the gorgeous gal on a medley of tunes that included "On the Floor," "Dance Again" and "Live It Up."

 Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez

And let's just say the two made quite a splash—literally—at the end of their performance when they jumped into a pool, clothes and all.

Later in the show, Lopez was presented with the World Icon Award.

"When I see all these images and your beautiful face, I feel very fortunate to be here tonight," she told the crowd. "What I have always wanted to do with my life is to create, dance, act and entertain; and be a good person."

Jennifer Lopez

She added, "I love what I do. I'm an artist. And I know that being a role model to my community means to be responsible for my actions. I too am human, and I make mistakes. But I promise you that when I fall, I get up again. When I make a mistake, I learn the lesson and I am ready to confront the next challenge.
"I accept this award with a lot of humility and I am enormously grateful."

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The Conjuring: A Dull Lesson in the Horrors of 'Based on a True Story'

The film would rather remind viewers that it's 'real' than it would scare or entertain them. 

the conjuring berlatsky 650.jpg
 The pretense to realism can be enjoyable as part of horror. In 'The Conjuring,' it's an incessant theme that Director James Wan mistakenly seems to believe can carry the entire film.

The Conjuring is a fairly standard-issue Hollywood horror possession film. There's a dog that does the usual thing dogs do in horror films. There's a doll that does what dolls usually do in horror films. There's some eerie TV static, some doors banging, some ghost hunters with motion detectors and UV lights, and some creepy ghosts who appear on cue when you expect to least expect them, complete with ominous music and the spooky makeup that all ghosts wear so you can identify them. And there's an eerie whispered catch phrase, because the supernatural loves memes (in this case it's "look what you made me do.")

There's only one difference between this film and all those other films.
(Dramatic pause. Eerie whisper voice.)
This one... is real.
When I say "it's real," I mean several things. First, and most obviously, the film is based to some degree on real events. It tells the story of the Perron family, who moved into a supposedly haunted farmhouse in Rhode Island in 1971. The Perrons contacted well-known ghost hunters Ed and Lorrain Warren to help them rid their home of evil spirits (after which Ed began the long journey through the netherworld of development hell to bring the story to the big screen.)

But the "reality" of the story in the end has little to do with its no doubt extremely loose basis in fact, and a lot to with its thematic concerns. Which is to say, the movie is in a lot of ways less focused on the supernatural than it is on its own reality, and on demonstrating its own reality.

Some of these demonstrations are quite charming--like the period hairstyles, or the selection of the relatively-homely-by-Hollywood-standards Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston to play the Perron parents. Other assertions of truthiness, though, are less enjoyable. There are, of course, the newspaper clippings and actual photos that play over the end credits. And then, at the other end of the film, before we even get to our main haunted house, we have scenes of the Warrens (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) working other cases, and answering questions in lecture halls to underline their expertise and truthiness. We even see a case later on where they ostentatiously prove that the haunting is just some creaky floorboards and uneven heating, to show that they don't certify just any ghosts. Hauntings overwhelmingly have a "rational explanation," Lorraine assures the relieved family, before we trundle back off to the Perrons and their checklist of movie horrors.

In some sense, that checklist works against the reality. The situations and the spooks and the characters (noble ghost fighters, loving mother, confused but sturdy dad) are all so well-worn that it's hard to take the suggestion that we're seeing "truth" as anything but a deliberate joke. You half expect the next door to bang open to reveal a prostitute with a heart of gold, or a crusty but cunning police chief. Why don't they just throw in all the tropes and be done with it?

The thing is, the assertion "this is true" is every bit as much a familiar tent-pole of exorcism horror as the chair lifting off the floor or the catch phrases. Some recent films, like The Last Exorcism or the excellent The Devil Inside, use the found-footage genre to get that requisite feeling of verite. The Conjuring isn't that clever; its claim to truth boils down to repetition and assertion--and maybe the odd bodily assault on the skeptical police guy to show him the error of his ways.

The Conjuring, then, is not convincingly real. This isn't a bad thing in itself; hardly anybody goes to a horror film expecting to see documentary realism any more than you listen to campfire ghost stories to get factual information about guys with hooks for hands. It's the pretense to realism, not the realism per se, that's enjoyable.

Or at least, the pretense to realism can be enjoyable as part of a horror movie. In The Conjuring, though, the pretense is more than just a part--it's an insistent and constant drumbeat, an incessant theme that Director James Wan mistakenly seems to believe can carry the entire film. On the strength "based on a true story", he has forsworn interesting characters, an inventive plot, and memorable villains.

As a result, all we're left with at the conclusion is some sentimentality and a real quote from the real Ed Warren warning us that demonic powers are real and our moral choices matter. Which may or may not be the case. But if evil and moral choices were what the filmmakers cared about, I wish they'd made a movie about them. Instead, The Conjuring is dedicated to the completely pointless task of encouraging its viewers over and over, in various ways, to pretend that the derivative nonsense on screen actually happened. That isn't scary. It's not even startling. It's just banal.

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