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28 April 2017

"Flying Pigs" Video Marks Arrival Of The All-New 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid [Video Included]

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“Flying Pigs” video marks arrival of the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
The Chrysler brand is celebrating the arrival of the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid with a new 60-second video "Flying Pigs," which will begin running across digital media channels beginning Friday, April 28. "Flying Pigs" can be viewed on the Chrysler brand's official YouTube page, in addition to the brand's social channels Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan is arriving in dealerships now. 

"If I had told you even two years ago that the Chrysler brand would transform the minivan segment with the industry's first hybrid minivan, and that it would achieve 84 MPGe, with class-leading features and innovations, including hybrid-exclusive technology features, including a smartphone app, deliver relevant vehicle information, such as charge status and scheduling, charging station locations and an 'efficiency coach' for more efficient driving, many consumers would have said they'll believe it 'when pigs fly'," said Tim Kuniskis, Head of Passenger Car Brands – Dodge, SRT, Chrysler and FIAT, FCA – North America. "With the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid arriving into dealerships, consumers will no longer have to say they'll believe it when they see it, and can now experience it firsthand for themselves."
"To celebrate this next critical chapter in our Minivan Firsts – our story requires a very specific message – one that speaks to two very distinct audiences (parents and children)," said Olivier Francois, Chief Marketing Officer – FCA Global. "Through the spot's unique story-telling device, flying pigs and blue moons are seen as the device to highlight segment-first features that are almost unbelievable and will appeal to adults and kids alike."

The 60-second "Flying Pigs" video opens in an animated picture-book view, from the perspective of a young boy and his sister sitting in the passenger seats of the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid as their parents take the minivan for a test drive. As mom and dad learn about the class-leading safety and technology features, the children see the unexpected as they gaze into the sky through the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid's tri-pane panoramic sunroof. With sweeping CGI aerial shots that include flying pigs, "down under" freezing over and a blue moon, the moral of the story is that the all-new Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid defies all conventional thinking.

As the original creator of the minivan more than 30 years ago, FCA US LLC has transformed the segment with firsts, notching 78 innovations through the first five minivan generations.
"Flying Pigs" was created in partnership with Goodby Silverstein & Partners.

The Video:
 
SOURCE: FCA US LLC

27 April 2017

Donald Trump's 100 Days Of U-Turns, Bombs And Cake

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EPA/Molly Riley/Polaris Pool

By Todd Landman, University of Nottingham


The hundredth day of an American president’s term traditionally marks the end of the honeymoon period – a time to take stock of early achievements, launch new legislation, and set a new direction. But the score card for Donald Trump’s first 100 days doesn’t read well, and the direction for the next four years is looking so new as to radically contradict the premise of his campaign.

Trump hasn’t commenced the wall along the US-Mexican border, his signature campaign pledge. He has failed (and spectacularly) to repeal and replace the healthcare reforms collectively known as Obamacare, and the courts have thwarted his orders to ban foreign nationals from several mainly Muslim countries from the US. And on a moral front, his compassion for Syrian children killed in a horrific chemical attack was offset by his decision to turn away 10,000 Syrian refugees.


The administration is under intense pressure from investigations into the Trump team’s Russian connections and purported Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The resignation of General Mike Flynn and the hapless antics of the investigating committees in Congress have only made the saga more damaging.


All the while, American opinion remains divided as ever: Trump currently enjoys the approval of roughly 40% of his people.

Trump’s image problem extends well beyond the US’s borders. In the past month, I spent a week in China while President Xi Jinping was visiting Trump’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago. I then visited the US, travelling from North Carolina through Virginia and on to Washington, DC. The Chinese are mostly bemused by the new president, who comes in for plenty of criticism in the Chinese media.

In the US, meanwhile, the president is at the centre of a perpetual media frenzy, lurching from one decision to the next while providing byplay via his own tweets. And undoubtedly his most dramatic lurch has been away from isolationism and towards outright military adventurism.


Volte-face
Throughout the 2016 campaign, Trump criticised “crooked Hillary” and Barack Obama for allowing the situation in Syria to deteriorate, but he also declared that he would not get involved. The “America First” philosophy he articulated in his inaugural address combined economic nationalism with international isolationism, and more recently, he reminded an audience of union members that he is “not the president of the world”.

But as the makeup of his National Security Council changed, Trump broke out of his isolationist box. He now appears to favour regime change in Syria, and possibly even a direct confrontation with North Korea.

Between my visits to China and the US, Trump retaliated to the deadly April 4 chemical attack on the Syrian rebel-held city of Khan Sheikhoun by authorising a direct missile strike on Syrian government airfields – this apparently while enjoying a “beautiful chocolate cake” with President Xi.


The attack sharpened the main lines of contention in global politics between Russia and China, who continue to back Bashar al-Assad, and the G7 nations, who oppose him, but who have yet to come up with a coherent suggestion for removing him from power.

Trump also said he’d ordered a US Navy carrier strike group on routine exercises to head from Australia to the waters off North Korea, while Pyongyang held a national day of celebration at which it showed off significant military hardware, some of it not seen before.

In the days between the announced rerouting of the aircraft carrier group (the truth of which is now unclear) and North Korea’s celebrations, the US dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used on a network of tunnels in Afghanistan used by the so-called Islamic State (IS). The blast itself is estimated to have killed more than 90 IS militants, while at the same time sending a clear signal to IS, North Korea and others that Trump is ready to use devastating force.

China’s Xi has since tried to calm tensions between the US and North Korea, but to little effect; the sabre-rattling continues, and a sixth North Korean nuclear test may not be far away.

Empty at the core
Throughout these last 100 days, I have been searching for some sort of signal in all the noise – some core commitment to a programme of change, with a clear set of organising principles and an underlying philosophy. I have struggled to argue that there must be something at the heart of all of this that makes coherent sense and that will genuinely benefit even Trump’s core supporters.

Some of those supporters presumably see their president as a decisive leader using the full power of the presidency to tackle enormous domestic and foreign issues. To them, he’s doing precisely what he promised, and given time and space to act, he will deliver real change to America. Business leaders are waiting for his tax cuts to invigorate markets, while the core voters wait for their promised new jobs and cheaper healthcare.

But if Trump is right that running America really is like running a business, he should be able to produce an income-expenditure model that indicates more is being achieved with less, with a surplus to show as a result. No such model is forthcoming. Yes, the proposed investments in infrastructure and the border wall are meant to be balanced by cuts to public programmes in science, health, welfare, and even the coast guard. But combined with promised tax cuts and increased defence spending, the books simply will not be balanced – especially with expensive new overseas military adventures now on the cards.

In search of a metaphor with which to capture these first 100 days of the Trump presidency, I’ve landed on the Tasmanian devil. The real animal is described as having a “cantankerous disposition”; it will “fly into a maniacal rage when threatened by a predator, fighting for a mate, or defending a meal”. As rendered in cartoon form for Looney Tunes, it’s a swirling vortex of frenzied activity with an empty core.


The thrust and parry of politics is inevitable, as interests and power intersect in complex and contested ways – but actual change is achieved through consensus and compromise. Obamacare was only passed in 2010 after a year of face-to-face encounters, discussions, and compromises forged in committee rooms and caucus meetings. The bill that emerged wasn’t what everyone wanted, but it contained enough of what most of them wanted.

If Trump’s first 100 days prove anything, it’s that politics is not business. CEOs and presidents need very different skills, and commanders-in-chief need to think about more than the bottom line. The self-proclaimed master of the Art of the Deal has much to learn if he is to thrive in his first term.

About Today's Contributor:
Todd Landman, Professor of Political Science, Pro Vice Chancellor of the Social Sciences, University of Nottingham

This article was originally published on The Conversation


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Women's Most Desired Super Powers Revealed in thinkThin National Survey

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(PRNewsfoto/thinkThin)

Today thinkThin announced it is celebrating its partnership with the feature film "Wonder Woman," by revealing unexpected comic book hero statistics and surprising a fan with her super power wish. This is the first of four surprises that will be granted to consumers who enter the thinkThin Super Powers contest by May 5th.

Inspired by the heroic feats of Wonder Woman and in anticipation of the upcoming June 2nd film release, thinkThin commissioned a national survey to uncover women's "must haves" when it comes to super powers.

The survey, which captured insight from women across all ages, revealed some startling results, specifically: 


  • Two is better than one. While women desire invisibility, flight and telepathy, more than two thirds would use their super powers to be in two places at once. 
  • Not a caped crusader. The majority of women, 56 percent, would prefer wielding a shield to a wearing a cape while saving the world. 
  • Millennial mask mindset. Overall, 80 percent of millennial women openly wish for a super power, with 54 percent of them saying they wouldn't wear a mask when fighting crime. 
  • Party of one. When asked to pick Wonder Woman's soul mate, there was universal agreement across all age groups that Wonder Woman does not need anyone to complete her…though maybe they haven't met Steve Trevor! 
  • Truth be told. The majority of women polled wanted Wonder Woman's Golden Lasso of Hestia, over other items, including her bracelets and tiara. 
  • Wonder Woman is wondrous. Wonder Woman is the top hero pick for women, beating out other well-known female heroes old and new. 

To celebrate the highly anticipated release of the Wonder Woman film, thinkThin surprised its social media fan AnnaRose Etra of Santa Cruz, California, who posted on the thinkThin Facebook page that breathing underwater would be the ultimate ability. To bring this super power to life, thinkThin will provide scuba diving certification lessons, enabling her to explore the ocean as if she had that ability.

"We wanted to celebrate a hero film featuring a woman in the leading role," said Michele Kessler, the president of thinkThin. "We love that Wonder Woman has super strength and we're proud to offer delicious products that give women the everyday strength they need to power through their day."
thinkThin will award three additional fans across the country a surprise prize leading up to the movie's release, and four fans have a chance to win a swag bag of thinkThin products and movie gift certificates. To enter between now and May 5, 2017, comment on the thinkThin Super Powers Contest posts on Facebook or Instagram and tell us which super power you wish you had.

Fans also have a chance to win by participating in the thinkThin "Wonder Woman" sweepstakes! Post a comment or photo on Twitter, Instagram or the official thinkThin Facebook page about thinkThin or "Wonder Woman" using the hashtags #thinkWonderWoman and #Sweepstakes.

Enter by May 11th for a chance to win a "Wonder Woman" VIP Experience, including a trip for two to the movie's U.S. premier, and enter by June 8th to win other great prizes, including a replica of Wonder Woman's golden lasso and tiara, gift baskets of "Wonder Woman" memorabilia and thinkThin Products, or movie tickets.

Fans of both "Wonder Woman" and thinkThin can follow all the updates and contest opportunities on thinkThin's Facebook and Instagram pages. 

For more information visit www.thinkproducts.com.

About "Wonder Woman"
Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on a sheltered island paradise, when an American pilot crashes on their shores and tells of a massive conflict raging in the outside world, Diana leaves her home, convinced she can stop the threat. Fighting alongside man in a war to end all wars, Diana will discover her full powers…and her true destiny.

Patty Jenkins directs "Wonder Woman" from a screenplay by Allan Heinberg, story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs, based on characters from DC. Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston.

The film stars Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen and Elena Anaya. It is produced by Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder and Richard Suckle, with Stephen Jones, Geoff Johns, Jon Berg, Wesley Coller and Rebecca Steel Roven serving as executive producers.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, an Atlas Entertainment/Cruel and Unusual production, "Wonder Woman." The film is scheduled for release on June 2, 2017, and will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. www.wonderwomanfilm.com.

Wonder Woman and all related characters and elements © & ™ DC Comics and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

About the thinkThin Super Powers Contest
No Purchase Necessary to Enter. Must be U.S. resident 21 or over. Promotion begins 4/4/17 at 12:00:00 a.m. PT and ends 5/5/17 at 11:59:59 p.m. PT. Void where prohibited and outside U.S. Total ARV of all prizes is $2400. Winners selected based on feasibility, thoughtfulness and creativity. Subject to Official Rules (including full entry and prize restrictions) at thinkproducts.com/superpowers.

Sponsor: Glanbia Performance Nutrition, Inc. Not sponsored by Facebook or Twitter.

About the thinkThin-Wonder Woman Sweepstakes
No Purchase Necessary to Enter. Must be U.S. resident 21 or over. Promotion begins 4/21/17 at 12:00:00 a.m. PT and ends 6/8/17 at 11:59:59 p.m. PT. Deadline for Grand Prize drawing is 5/11/17 at 11:59:59 p.m. PT. If entering via mobile device, message & data rates may apply. Winners selected by random drawing. Total ARV of all prizes: $4,000. Grand Prize trip must be taken to attend Wonder Woman premiere screening on 5/25/17. Void where prohibited and outside U.S. Subject to Official Rules (including full entry and prize restrictions as well as odds) at thinkWonderWomanMovieSweeps.com.

Sponsor: National CineMedia, LLC, Centennial, CO 80112. Not sponsored by Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.


SOURCE: thinkThin

25 April 2017

Documentary Exposes Threat to Humans' "Innocently Violent" Ways

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Innocently Violent Movie Poster

Korey Rowe
, Producer of "Loose Change 9/11" and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan engagements has released a new documentary, "Innocently Violent", concerning the future of our food supply as affected by climate change. Korey Rowe, an upstate New York native, travels from the glaciers of Iceland, to the labs of UCLA and the kitchens of Vancouver to understand what will happen in the years to come if the drastic changes we are witnessing can't be reversed. "A problem properly stated is half-solved," says Jordan Perry, farmer and conservationist in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada who is featured in the film. Jordan and his family are taking active measures in their own lives to educate themselves and others in sustainable living practices.

Individuals can make a difference, and this documentary focuses on the trajectory of that change. Filmed over the course of three years by one man with one camera, this story of humans is one that will make you think while forcing you to ask the question: "Is this the best society we can create?"

Currently, the movie is free to Amazon Prime members and will be on other platforms such as Hulu, iTunes, YouTube and more soon. "Innocently Violent" is produced by Prism Pictures, a Los Angeles, California, production company and distributed by Indie Rights Movies, who is handling global distribution for the film.
For more information about the movie and the director, Korey Rowe, go to www.innocentlyviolent.com.

The Trailer:



24 April 2017

Superhero Musical 'Tara Tremendous' Gets Docuseries Leading to Launch of Cast Album

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Image via wonkybot.com
Wonkybot Studios has released the trailer, key art and confirmed a May 3rd launch date for its new original documentary web series Tara Tremendous: Making Of A Musical.
The series, which will air in short segments exclusively on Wonkybot.com, follows company founders Stewart St John, Todd Fisher and Michael Plahuta — who are also the creative forces behind the Tara Tremendous brand — as they take their #1 iTunes kids and family podcast to New York and prepare to launch it as a musical concert premiering at world-famous Feinstein's/54 Below.
Says St John, "Getting this show up and in front of a real audience is the first step toward our goal of bringing Tara to Broadway. We were blessed with some amazing talent along the way, from Micky Dolenz, MiMi Ryder and Kecia Lewis to Annie Golden, Brian Charles Rooney, Ramsey Whitney, Mary Stout… so many wonderful, talented souls came on board to make this happen and we are eternally grateful."
Tara Tremendous is the story of an 11-year-old girl who goes from ordinary to extraordinary overnight after she accidentally inherits all the powers of every superhero in the world. St John created the concept in 2015 and the company launched it as a musical podcast series in 2016, where it quickly became a #1 kids and family series.

Tara Tremendous: Making Of A Musical chronicles the funny and frantic weeks leading up to the New York City stage debut, offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the blood, sweat and tunes that goes into launching something like a new musical.

"We were newbies at the whole musical thing," says Fisher, "And it was challenging because we were primarily working out of our LA office. There was a lot of frustration trying to wrangle this project from across the country."
They were aided along the way by key folks in New York, among them Van Dean, CEO of Broadway Records and a producer of Anastasia The Musical, and Mia Moravis, also part of the Anastasia team and a cast member of Tara Tremendous. "They were incredibly generous in helping us navigate the New York theater scene and offered a solid net whenever we started to become a little anxious," adds St John.

St John, who created, wrote and directed the podcast series, adapted the project for the stage. He wrote the book, lyrics and co-composed twenty songs with musical partner Michael Plahuta.

"We literally finished the last song two hours before our plane left from LA to New York," says Plahuta. "It 's been an exhilarating ride to say the least, maybe the best time of my life. And it's far from over. Actually, it feels like the journey has just begun."
Tara Tremendous: Making Of A Musical will air on Wednesdays beginning in May, building toward the release of the Official Tara Tremendous Cast Album, which was also recorded in New York and will be released in July.
"We see this docuseries as an excellent way to showcase our new musical," adds Fisher. "The series will be filled with exclusive sneak peeks at all the wonderful new songs and music from the show. At this point, we're just trying to get as much exposure as we can because it's all about raising awareness and getting investors on board who believe in the project enough to help get it funded and on stage."


SOURCE: Wonkybot Studios

23 April 2017

Macron And Le Pen To Face Off For French Presidency – But She Won't Be Pleased With First Round Result

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EPA
By Paul Smith, University of Nottingham

In the end, the polls were right. Emmanuel Macron will go into the second round of the French presidential election against Marine Le Pen. For a while it seemed as though a dead heat were on the cards but, in the end, Macron took first place, with nearly 24%, ahead of Le Pen at just under 22%.

Republican candidate François Fillon and far-left contender Jean-Luc Mélenchon followed close behind, with Socialist Benoît Hamon trailing badly.

Despite coming second, for Le Pen and her supporters, the score is a disappointment. For so long, she was touted for first place and predicted a score as high as 27%. Even on the eve of the vote, some pundits were predicting the possibility of a score of 30%. Her score is well behind the 28% the Front National scored in the regional elections in December 2015. Above all, it reflects Le Pen’s failure to make the key aspects of her programme count in the campaign. She was strangely muted in the TV debates and now it shows.


Putting on a brave face. EPA/Ian Langsdon

The disappointment was clear on Le Pen’s face when she made her first TV appearance at a little after nine on the night of the vote. At her campaign HQ, by 10 o’clock they’d turned off the TV screens and half her supporters had gone home while others were enjoying the disco.

All the polls that have run a Le Pen/Macron scenario for the second round have suggested a 60/40 split in favour of Macron. Le Pen will hope for better, of course, but while she has to believe she can win on May 7, it’s a very long shot.

The final result will have an impact on Le Pen and the future direction of the Front National. She is not in danger of being replaced if she loses; there is no alternative leader for the time being. But the strategy and the programme, largely devised by her acolyte Florian Philippot, will be put under the spotlight.

Her voters are loyal, and Le Pen will hope to secure a proportion of Fillon’s voters as well as those Mélenchon followers who cannot countenance supporting Macron. But with so many other candidates urging their followers to now back Macron, she has a lot of ground to cover in a very short space of time.


Fillon gracious in defeat
Despite Mélenchon’s late rally, it seems that Fillon is the third man in this race. At 8.45pm, he appeared at his campaign headquarters to deliver a remarkably dignified speech in which he accepted his defeat and called, without hesitation, for his supporters to vote for Macron in the second round.

Not all of them will. Le Pen will hope that the right wing Catholic vote will swing to her rather than Macron, for example. Nevertheless, with Fillon’s defeat, most of the Republican heavyweights came out in favour of Macron. It may even be that, in due course, once the allegations against him are out of the way and show him to be innocent, Fillon might even foresee a situation where he and other figures from the right might have a role to play between now and 2022.


Macron celebrates his victory. EPA

While Fillon demonstrated both restraint and dignity, throughout the evening Mélenchon and his camp showed the opposite. They refused to accept the projections based on exit polls, even as they appeared to confirm the gap between Macron and Le Pen, and again Fillon and Mélenchon. This is the downside of Mélenchonite. After the fever reaches its high point, it inevitably leads to disappointment, not to say depression. In 2012, having thought he might come third, Mélenchon slipped to fourth, and by a distance. In the last fortnight of this campaign, Mélenchon and his supporters convinced themselves that they would be in the second round. Fly high, fall far.

But Mélenchon succeeded in one of his missions: to reduce Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon to fifth place and a crushing 6.5%. Hamon was out of the blocks first, by 8.15pm, to call for his supporters to vote Macron. By nine, his HQ was empty, with only a handful of journalists hanging around.

Now, with the second round approaching on May 7, Le Pen will be hoping that Macron blunders. But until this point, he has avoided the obstacles thrown across his path, while Le Pen has failed to make her key points count. Perhaps, just perhaps, now that Fillon and Mélenchon are out of the way, Le Pen will find a second wind, and more easily be able to define her programme. She may take back the initiative that has eluded her so far in this campaign. If she is going to win, she is going to have to do that in spades.


About Today's Contributor:
Paul Smith, Associate Professor in French and Francophone Studies, University of Nottingham

This article was originally published on The Conversation.


Related Articles

Rescued Eaglet Returned To National Arboretum Nest In Washington, DC

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In Washington DC, the leg of 23-day-old Bald Eaglet "DC4" became lodged in the stick-rails of its nest, resulting in a human-coordinated rescue.

During the evening of April 20th, the right leg of 23-day-old Bald Eaglet "DC4" became precariously lodged inside a hole within the outer rails of its large stick-nest. The eaglet was unable to free itself after many attempts to do so over a considerable period of time.
DC4 resides in a wild nest located at the top of a Tulip Poplar tree at the Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) U.S. National Arboretum (USNA) in Washington DC along with its sibling DC5 and Bald Eagle parents Mr. President & The First Lady.
Via the live-streaming cameras on dceaglecam.org, it became apparent to worldwide viewers that DC4 was in trouble and distressed, and that a human-coordinated rescue could significantly decrease the chance of serious injury to the eaglet's leg. The non-profit American Eagle Foundation (AEF) and the U.S. National Arboretum immediately cooperated with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Ex-Cel Tree Experts to plan the removal of the eaglet from the nest.
"Typically when something goes awry in a wild eagle nest, we don't even know about it and nature simply takes its course," says AEF President Al Cecere. "In this case, however, we could all clearly see how much the eaglet was struggling and how human intervention might make the difference between life and death. We had the power in our hands to help, so that's what we did."
After being retrieved and lowered from the tree by professional arborists Matt Morrison & Marty Levine, the eaglet was initially assessed on the ground by US Fish & Wildlife Service biologist Craig Koppie (also an experienced tree climber). It then received further examination by veterinarian Samantha Sander at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, who truly gave the eaglet the "presidential treatment!" A physical check-up and radiograph revealed no permanent damage to DC4's leg, with the only visible signs being a slight abrasion and swelling. Overall, the eaglet received an acceptable health report and was approved by the veterinarian to be placed back into its nest.
DC4 was successfully returned to its nest at the Arboretum on April 21st at around 5pm EDT. Mr. President, The First Lady, and DC5 welcomed DC4 back home, safe and sound!
The entire process of freeing the eaglet's lodged/stuck leg, getting it checked out/radiographed, and then returning it to the nest took less than 24 hours.
Sue Greeley with USNA helped facilitate the entire process at the Arboretum, while AEF President Al Cecere guided and monitored the effort virtually by phone and internet from Tennessee.
"We are extremely grateful for all USFWS, AEF, USNA, Ex-Cel, & Maryland Zoo staff and volunteers who readily responded to this emergency situation and helped make this a quick, safe and successful rescue effort," says Cecere.

The Video

20 April 2017

What If Marine Le Pen Won The French Election? These Graphic Novels Decode A Possible Far-Right Future

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File 20170420 20068 puzgy4
La Presidénte volume 3, The Wave. Les Arènes
By Beatrice Mabilon-Bonfils, Université de Cergy-Pontoise


The 2017 presidential campaign in France has been full of surprises, from François Hollande’s decision not to run for a second term to former prime minister Manuel Valls getting defeated in the Socialist Party primary; from the rise of insider-outsider Emmanuel Macron to the standout debate performance by far-left candidate Philippe Poutou; from François Fillon’s rise, fall, and rise to Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s last-minute surge.

The Conversation
All the twists and turns have increased the uncertainty of an election that was up in the air from the start.

One thing that’s nearly certain is the presence of extreme-right populist Marine Le Pen among the top vote-getters. Her party, the Front National (FN), has gone from a pariah in the 1980s to a major political force. While she and her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, have fallen short up to now, what would happen if she won in 2017?

The answer can perhaps be found in – of all places – a graphic-novel series. Created by writer François Durpaire and artist Farid Boudjellal, the first volume, La Présidente, was the hit of the 2015 rentrée (the beginning of the literary season). It was followed by the second volume, Totalitaire in 2016, and together they have sold more than 500,000 copies.
Now comes the third volume, titled La Vague (“The Wave”), with Durpaire and Boudjellal joined by Laurent Muller. Together the three books provide an enlightening view on the collective anxiety of French citizens as they face a 2017 presidential election whose outcome has never been less certain, and whose consequences for the country and Europe could be profound.

Durpaire, Muller and Boudjellal are well-versed in the mechanisms of power within the FN and have a superb knowledge of the media and political machinations in France. The originality of the series – a sort of retelling of the near future – is to apply a historical methodology and then to put the imagination into action.

An unprecedented explosion
In the first volume, the authors imagine that on May 7, 2017, Marine Le Pen is elected president of the French Republic. Boudjellal’s sharply realistic graphic treatment and Durpaire’s insightful text allow the potential consequences of this election to unfold step by step. What seemed politically unimaginable in the second round of the 2002 presidential election – when Jean-Marie Le Pen was soundly beaten by Jacques Chirac – is today only too possible. Every voter has to think about it and to do so, it’s essential to better understand what would happen if she were to win.

‘La Présidente’, volume 1. Les Arènes

The narrative is not a caricature: it applies to the letter the proposed programme of the FN, with direct extracts from official communications. “La Présidente” describes the first hundred days of Marine Le Pen at the Elysée palace, mobilising the political machinery and methods that the FN has employed through its history. The fiction was nourished by the advice of a team of political and economic experts, who make it possible to realistically explore the possible consequences of the FN’s taking power.

The graphic novel also extrapolates security propositions and technical advances already in place. In November 2015, former president Nicolas Sarkozy proposed electronic bracelets and house arrest for “S file” suspects, suspected of radicalisation, and in April 2016, Francois Hollande authorised the use of facial-recognition software. France itself is still under an extended state of emergency after the November 2015 terrorist attacks – one that will last at least through the upcoming elections.

And so we see it all unfold in the graphic novels: France’s exit from the euro, mass deportations, legal preference for French citizens and widespread surveillance through new electronic and digital tools.

And if the Front National wins again?

‘La Présidente’, volume 2, ‘Totalitaire’. Les Arènes

In volume 2, “Totalitaire,” we’re at the end of Marine Le Pen’s first term in office, in 2022. When the new campaign opens, a surprise candidate emerges from civil society around whom resistance begins to organise. The new candidate is polling higher than the current president, but is a fair election even a possibility? And what of Marion Maréchal–Le Pen, niece of Marine Le Pen and a political power in her own right?

By this point, technology offers an unprecedented capacity for monitoring and control – integrated chips in connected objects, robots, geolocation, and automated surveillance of all communications. We are far beyond Orwell’s “1984”, and the idea of France as a totalitarian country isn’t so far-fetched.

In a televised debate with former prime minister Manuel Valls in 2022, portrayed in the graphic novel, Marine Le Pen says: “You speak to me of responsibility, you who were in favour of passing laws. Me, I apply them.” The events then accelerate on a global scale, with a new US president and dizzying range of geopolitical consequences. In Paris, Berlin and Madrid, new alignments emerge, even as the French president oversees the education of “a new citizen”.

And when the time comes for the election, darkness wins again: the surprise candidate is imprisoned and Marion Maréchal–Le Pen is elected president after a single term by Marine Le Pen.

Dark thriller

‘La Présidente’, volume 3, ‘La Vague’. Les Arènes

The third volume, “La Vague”, released at the end of March, unleashes a scenario worthy of the darkest thrillers. At this point, France will have struggled through two five-year terms under the FN. There is resistance, but also unquestioning support. With an alliance between Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Le Pen, is there any chance that democracy can make a comeback?

One way to read this science-fiction graphic novel is as an explicit criticism of the totalitarianism that could result were the FN to take power in May 2017 and the rise of nationalist politicians around the world. It also announces the end of a generation of leaders that has governed in a short-sighted way, as well as – and this is the reading I choose – the failure of a system where insiders reserve all the power and benefits for themselves, while leaving no place for the civility and mutual respect that are the very foundation of politics.



“La Vague”, “La Présidente” and “Totalitaire” are published by Les Arènes, Paris, France.

About Today's Contributor:
Beatrice Mabilon-Bonfils, Sociologue professeure d'université, Université de Cergy-Pontoise


 This article was originally published on The Conversation. 

Dutch Philosopher Koert van Mensvoort, Founder of the Next Nature Network, Writes a #LetterToHumanity

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Dutch philosopher Koert van Mensvoort has written a ‘Letter to Humanity’ in support of International Earth Day. 
(PRNewsfoto/Next Nature Network)
Dutch philosopher Koert van Mensvoort - founder of the Next Nature Network and Fellow of 'Next Nature' at the University of Technology in Eindhoven - has written a 'Letter to Humanity' in support ofInternational Earth Day. In this letter, he calls on humanity to avoid becoming a slave and victim to its own technology, but to employ technology to enhance our human race.
His letter is addressed to all 7 billion people on Earth. It has been translated into 25 languages right around the world and is endorsed by international ambassadors such as astronaut André Kuipers, philosopher Bas Haring, designer Daan Roosegaarde, National Geographic presenter Jason Silva and experimental architecture Professor Rachel Armstrong

In his letter, Van Mensvoort describes how Man has entered a new evolutionary phase and that, apart from creating the biosphere, has now also created a so-called technosphere. According to him, its impact is similar to the evolution of animals 500 million years ago. "Your presence is transforming the face of the earth so profoundly, that it will still be evident millions of years from now", he writes.
According to him, Man is standing at a crossroads and can develop his relationship with technology either into a dream or into a nightmare. In the nightmare scenario, technology has a parasitic effect on human beings and we become the first species to cause its own demise. In the dream, human technology is based on human needs as a starting point and it is actually used to create a more natural world. The latter path is not only rewarding for mankind, but for the entire planet.
Koert van Mensvoort is a philosopher, artist and Fellow 'Next Nature' at the TU in Eindhoven. He is the founder of the Next Nature Network, a foundation that explores and visualises the extent to which we are surrounded by a technology that is becoming our 'next nature'. This international network now has members in twenty countries.

The Teaser
    
Examples of other projects by the Next Nature Network are the ECOcoin that rewards positive sustainable activity, a fictional sneaker company that raises a discussion on biotechnology and research into the impact of cultured meat.

SOURCE: Next Nature Network

19 April 2017

Texas Instruments And NASA Launch Virtual Scavenger Hunt With Out-Of-This-World Prizes

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Texas Instruments and NASA have partnered to launch “The Search for STEMnauts,” a virtual scavenger hunt that challenges students to unravel space-related riddles for a chance to win stellar prizes.
Texas Instruments (TI) and NASA today launched "The Search for STEMnauts," a virtual scavenger hunt designed to ignite students' interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Each week, for the next six weeks, students in sixth through 12th grade are challenged to solve space-related puzzles for a chance to unlock virtual reward points. The student team with the most points at the end of the challenge wins an out-of-this-world prize pack, including TI's new limited-edition Galaxy Gray graphing calculator, a $500 Amazon gift card, a stellar NASA swag bag and a live video chat with an astronaut.
The weekly challenges range in difficulty from beginner to advanced and introduce students to the coding and problem-solving skills NASA employees, including astronauts, use in their jobs every day. From cracking a code using TI's basic programming language to calculating the travel time between Earth and Mars, students will put their STEM skills to the test.
"The future of space exploration lies in the hands of students in today's classrooms," said Peggy Whitson, a NASA astronaut who has been to outer space three times and is currently living and working on the International Space Station. "By creating opportunities to encourage teamwork, creativity and problem-solving, we can make learning fun and set students on a course to become the next generation of explorers."
Students who accept the mission will automatically be entered to win TI's new Galaxy Gray TI-84 Plus CE, one of the coolest STEM tools on planet Earth. Students are also invited along on weekly virtual field trips, offering exclusive, behind-the-scenes access to NASA's headquarters. Student teams can check out where they stand, in relation to their classmates and other competing teams from around the country, by following real-time updates to the "Search for STEMnauts" leaderboard on the contest website: STEMnauts.com.
"We've added a high-tech, interactive twist to the traditional scavenger hunt that will appeal to all students," said Peter Balyta, Ph.D, President of Texas Instruments Education Technology. "By making a game out of learning important skills, like coding and problem-solving, we hope to foster a life-long love of STEM and open students up to a variety of exciting career opportunities."
The Video:
International Space Station (ISS) Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson and Commander Shane Kimbrough invite students to enter “The Search for STEMnauts” contest. Watch this short video from the ISS to learn more about this virtual scavenger ...


To view the official contest rules and to accept the mission, visit: www.STEMnauts.com.


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