October 20, 2018

‘First Man’ Is No Match for ‘Venom’ and ‘A Star Is Born’

Not even Ryan Gosling’s Neil Armstrong could reach the heights of Tom Hardy and Lady Gaga.

Universal’s “First Man,” the director Damien Chazelle’s first movie since “La La Land,” took in a soft $16.5 million domestically during its opening weekend. Critics mostly loved this film, which features an ensemble of well-known actors and has been positioned as an Oscar contender, but the masses were less impressed. “First Man” had a modest audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, and ticket buyers gave it a B-plus grade in CinemaScore exit polls. The movie follows Armstrong in the years leading up to the 1969 moon landing, with Claire Foy as Armstrong’s first wife, Janet Shearon, and Corey Stoll as Buzz Aldrin.

Universal Pictures had hoped “First Man,” which cost about $60 million to make and tens of millions more to market, would mirror the performance of “Argo,” the 2013 Oscar winner for best picture. “Argo” arrived to $19.5 million in opening-weekend ticket sales ($21.4 million after adjusting for inflation), earned an A-plus CinemaScore and went on to generate an adjusted $254 million worldwide.

“First Man” didn’t come close to Sony’s “Venom,” which finished in first place at the box office with an estimated weekend gross of $35.7 million, bringing its estimated domestic total to $142.8 million. “Venom” also brought in a significant amount overseas, earning $69.7 million from international markets this weekend, according to the studio, which says that the film’s worldwide total is now $378.1 million. Tom Hardy’s take on the fanged Marvel antihero surpassed box-office analysts’ expectations when it opened last weekend.

[Read our “First Man” review: Giant leap for man, smaller step for movies]

“A Star is Born,” with Lady Gaga as a budding singer and Bradley Cooper as her mentor and lover (and the film’s director), has followed a similar path, beating expectations in week one and staying strong in week two. The Warner Bros. film grossed about $28 million domestically, according to comScore, which compiles box-office data, bringing it to an estimated North American total of $94.2 million.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/14/movies/first-man-box-office-results-venom.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Facebook Tackles Rising Threat: Americans Aping Russian Schemes to Deceive

That page typically published dozens of posts each day, some featuring outlandish claims, with most of the stories linking to the stand-alone website for Right Wing News or to the publication’s YouTube channels. One recent headline read, “Over A Dozen C.I.A. Agents May Have Died After Hillary Was Caught Red-Handed.”

Facebook said the Right Wing News page on the social network was redirecting traffic to the Right Wing News website to drive up its ad revenue, and that administrators for the page appeared to change regularly. Facebook said some of the administrators ran multiple Facebook accounts under the same names, which the social network does not allow.

Over the past few months, Right Wing News’ Facebook page has increased its activity, researchers said. During the time that then-Judge Kavanaugh testified in Congress, Right Wing News — and several Facebook pages that mirror it by posting the same content — pushed out numerous articles that questioned the veracity of a lie-detector test that Dr. Blasey had taken and why she had come forward with her accusations.

Right Wing News also used Facebook ads to spread its content through other Facebook pages. In June, the Daily Vine, an American-run Facebook page linked to Right Wing News, published a Facebook ad for a false story that claimed that 412 Muslim men in Michigan had been arrested in the “largest bust in U.S. history.” (The Department of Justice investigation on which the story was based revealed a network of 412 people involved in opioid-related crimes, but they were neither exclusively Muslim nor based in Michigan.)

Facebook said the ad was paid for by Right Wing News and was allowed according to its rules, which let American citizens and residents place political ads. Though Facebook has since taken down the Daily Vine page, and the ad is no longer running, it was viewed as many as 50,000 times between June 19 and June 20, according to Facebook’s metrics. The Daily Vine could not be reached for comment.

Ms. Martinez said Facebook’s actions against Right Wing News and other domestic disinformation networks would stem some of the flow of false content — but only for a little while.

“There is little to stop them from spawning off as a new page, or account, and just starting to build their network again,” she said. “They can just keep trying to get around Facebook’s rules.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/11/technology/fake-news-online-disinformation.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Journalist’s Expulsion From Hong Kong ‘Sends a Chilling Message’

“This decision is especially disturbing because it mirrors problems faced by international journalists in the mainland and appears inconsistent with the principles enshrined in the Basic Law,” he wrote in an email.

Locally, questions over the expulsion could distract from Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s annual policy address to Hong Kong lawmakers on Wednesday. Thus far she has not commented on the decision.

Some pro-Beijing politicians have endorsed the visa decision. Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s representative on the standing committee of China’s National People’s Congress, said Monday on a radio show that the expulsion would not affect media freedom in Hong Kong, and warned that those who raise the issue of Hong Kong independence do so “at their own risk,” the Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK reported.

The Communist Party-owned newspaper Global Times said that the expulsion, if it was related to the talk, was a sign that the event was a “political provocation that goes far beyond the scope of freedom of speech.”

“Without Mallet, Hong Kong won’t have any less freedom of speech,” the newspaper said in an editorial. “The city’s future doesn’t need to be the concern of Mallet, the U.K. government or Western media.”

China’s Foreign Ministry office in Hong Kong said Saturday that visa questions “fall within a country’s sovereignty” and that the central government firmly supports the Hong Kong government “in handling the related matters in accordance with law.”

“No country has the right to interfere,” the statement added.

Last month, after the United States ordered representatives for China’s state-run news media to register as foreign agents, China accused the United States of obstructing and politicizing the media.

“Countries should perceive media’s role in promoting international exchange and cooperation in an open and inclusive spirit,” said the Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang. “They need to facilitate, rather than obstruct, media’s normal work, still less politicalizing the relevant issue.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/08/world/asia/victor-mallet-hong-kong-financial-times.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Former Trump Aide Hope Hicks to Join Fox as Communications Chief

Ms. Hicks, who declined to comment for this article, advised Ivanka Trump on her fashion and real estate businesses before joining Mr. Trump’s campaign. At the White House, she was one of the few aides who could anticipate, and sometimes temper, Mr. Trump’s mercurial moods.

For the Fox empire, it is a moment of transition.

In a $71.3 billion deal expected to be completed next year, the Walt Disney Company is set to acquire the bulk of the Murdochs’ entertainment and media assets, substantially altering the Hollywood landscape. For Rupert Murdoch and his children, the deal represents a significant downsizing, and a shift in focus to news and sports.

In dealing with the press, the Murdochs have long relied on the guidance of Julie Henderson, the chief communications officer of 21st Century Fox. Ms. Henderson is expected to step down from her role with the Murdochs after the Disney sale is completed. Her counterpart in New York, Nathaniel Brown, is also opting not to continue with the new company.

Fox announced Ms. Hicks’s appointment alongside a new role for Danny O’Brien, a former senior aide to Joseph R. Biden Jr., the former vice president, and Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who will lead the company’s Washington-based government relations team.

“Together they will define and project Fox’s voice to our relevant communities,” Viet Dinh, Fox’s chief legal and policy officer, wrote in a statement.

A former model and college lacrosse star, Ms. Hicks cut her teeth in public relations at Hiltzik Strategies, the high-powered New York communications firm. She worked there with Joshua Raffel, who also ended up in the Trump administration and recently landed his own post-White House job, handling communications for the e-cigarette giant Juul.

Ms. Hicks’s White House tenure was not without controversy. Her role in a statement by Donald Trump Jr., about a 2016 meeting with Russian operatives at Trump Tower, attracted attention from federal investigators, and she testified for eight hours before the House Intelligence Committee shortly before leaving the West Wing.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/08/business/media/hope-hicks-fox-job.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Facebook’s New Gadget Is a Video-Chat Screen With a Camera That Follows You

The devices are Facebook’s first major foray into designing, building and selling consumer hardware from scratch. If the Portals are successful, the company could encourage more people to use its social network regularly to keep in touch with friends and family, as well as for apps like Spotify and Pandora.

Yet Facebook’s timing could not be worse. After two years of scandals, it will be marketing Portal and Portal Plus to a skeptical public. Last month, the company also announced a security breach that put the accounts of at least 50 million users at risk, while endangering the accounts of numerous third-party apps.

To address privacy concerns with Portal and Portal Plus, Facebook said the products include an electronic kill switch for the front-facing camera, as well as a cover for the lens. In addition, video calls are encrypted, and the camera’s A.I. technology runs on the device itself, not on Facebook’s servers, the company said.

The company said the utility of the devices, which work on a household Wi-Fi connection, would convince people of their importance in a home. The devices are built atop Facebook’s Messenger platform, and the communication software is hooked into a user’s web of Facebook connections. Once Portal is connected to a Messenger account, people can video chat with anyone in their network across devices, be it on Portal, a tablet, a smartphone or a desktop computer.

Facebook is entering a fiercely competitive market. Voice-controlled smart speakers, a category birthed by Amazon in 2015 with its Echo, is small but growing. Last quarter, manufacturers shipped 16.8 million smart speakers, up 187 percent from the same period last year, according to the research firm Canalys. Amazon and Google dominate the smart speaker market in the United States. In China, Alibaba and Xiaomi are quickly gaining traction with sales of their artificially intelligent speakers.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/08/technology/facebook-portal-video-calling.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Why Is This Happening: Content for Humans About the Content of Humans

This hunch — that maybe genes and genres share more than some etymological roots — resulted in a number of strange and illuminating projects, mostly for demonstration purposes, including one that created playlists of songs that are unusually popular in a given country relative to the rest of the world, called “The Sounds of Places.” There is no sign of this in the Spotify and Ancestry collaboration, either. (Although, to be fair, as part of the promotion, Ancestry does ask users to “Connect to Spotify to explore the diversity in your listening history and discover music from around the world.” This will give you a list of your five most-listened genres, drawn from the massive list generated by the Echo Nest, with entries as broad as “hip-hop” and as narrow as “compositional ambient” and “indie Quebecois.” Ancestry and Spotify call this your “Musical DNA.” It is not, however, connected in any way to the playlist allegedly created from your actual, material DNA.)

This is all to say, contrary to “What is the sound of you?” messaging, Spotify does not engage with your genetic material in any sort of comprehensive way, but instead depends solely on a top-five list of countries or regions gleaned from your results. Users’ playlists, it turns out, are simple combinations of a set of playlists created to represent each of the regions that can show up in an Ancestry DNA test. They do not draw from previous data projects like “The Sounds of Places.” They appear to have been made by hand. They do not factor in a given Spotify user’s profile. Nor do they build on a user’s listening history. They are mixtapes, shuffled to order.

Spotify and Ancestry, in other words, have not located the hidden headphone jacks in our bodies or brain. (The sci-fi consensus places them somewhere along the spine, in case you were wondering.) Understood as mix-and-match human-curated compilations of popular music and genres, then, “The Unique Sound of Your Ancestry” provides a free and easily accessible way to experience the limits of DNA testing in the pursuit of self-knowledge.

“They could have done something cool,” said Gigi Johnson, Mr. Taylor’s colleague, and the head of the UCLA Center for Music Innovation, and not just by leaning on research into music and genre. “Advertisers get extremely granular data about the people they’re advertising to,” she said. Ostensibly, Spotify could have mined a ton of data and created a unique collaboration based on Spotify-linked social accounts, including Facebook. After all, like any big internet platform, Spotify is part surveillance operation, and part whatever it says it is.

Instead, in their reduced form, the playlists tell a tidy if obvious story about just how globalized music has become, how quickly it evolves and borrows and moves, and how destructive this is to various forms of essentialism that might be applied to it. Tell the DNA machine that you have “French” genes, and it may return music by an artist from the 9th arrondissement, who sings about being in love and being young, and also about his Ivorian roots, in his native French. Not bad! If only half on purpose.

The darker, more cynical view is to see this as a classic American heritage tourism experience: going to a country for the first time and noticing how different the McDonald’s menus are, but also how it is mostly the same as those in the United States, and finding this all very interesting, but not thinking too much about why.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/05/style/spotify-ancestry-dna-playlists.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Hong Kong Plans to Expel a Financial Times Editor

“As Beijing constantly moves the redlines on what topics are ‘sensitive’ and out of bounds, the pressure for institutions and individuals to engage in self-censorship increases significantly,” Mr. Ng said.

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Victor Mallet, the Asia news editor of The Financial Times.CreditThe Financial Times

A spokeswoman for The New York Times, which has an office in Hong Kong, said that any politicization of the territory’s visa process “would be very worrying.”

“We’re troubled that the government in Hong Kong may be preparing to expel a respected colleague at The Financial Times whose application for a routine visa renewal has been rejected without explanation, and we are seeking clarification from the authorities,” said the spokeswoman, Eileen Murphy. “Hong Kong’s commitment to freedom of speech and rule of law has long attracted international businesses and news organizations to the city, including The New York Times.”

In August, the Foreign Correspondent’s Club hosted a talk by Andy Chan, the head of a political party that called for Hong Kong’s independence from China. The Hong Kong government had said beforehand that it planned to ban Mr. Chan’s tiny political party, the Hong Kong National Party, under a colonial-era law that allows the prohibition of groups for reasons of national security, public safety or public order.

Officials from Hong Kong and the Chinese central government criticized the event. Leung Chun-ying, who was the city’s top official from 2012 to 2017, went further. He likened the talk to hosting supporters of “racism, anti-Semitism or Nazism” and said the Hong Kong government should review the lease of the F.C.C.’s clubhouse in a historic, publicly owned building in central Hong Kong.

Mr. Mallet, a veteran Financial Times editor who was previously the newspaper’s bureau chief in New Delhi, said during Mr. Chan’s talk that the club considered it a “normal event” involving an important news story in Hong Kong.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/05/world/asia/hong-kong-victor-mallet-financial-times.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Dave Anderson, Award-Winning Times Sportswriter, Dies at 89

Mr. Anderson wrote for the newspaper at Xavier High School in Manhattan and became the sports editor of the paper at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass. He graduated from there in 1951 with a degree in English literature.

He was especially remembered for covering golf (he was an avid golfer), boxing, pro football and baseball.

In November 2002, Mr. Anderson and his fellow columnist Harvey Araton submitted columns in connection with a campaign urging Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, home of the Masters, to admit women, something The Times had covered heavily. Both columns were rejected by senior editors.

Mr. Anderson’s column argued that Tiger Woods had no obligation to get involved in the debate by boycotting the Masters tournament, and it took issue in passing with a Times editorial that suggested Mr. Woods do so. (Mr. Araton’s column, which concerned the future of women’s softball as an Olympic sport, questioned the importance of the Augusta debate as it related to women’s sports.)

When word got out that the columns had been rejected, there was a tide of “critical commentary in the news media and resentment in the Times newsroom,” as a news article in The Times reported.

Howell Raines, the newspaper’s executive editor at the time, said that the editors’ objections had been based not on the opinions expressed in the columns but on separate concerns having to do, in the case of the Anderson column, with “the appearance of unnecessary intramural squabbling with the newspaper’s editorial board,” the Times article said. (Mr. Araton’s column, it said, “presented problems of structure and tone.”)

The columns were published soon afterward, with revisions agreed to by Mr. Anderson and Mr. Araton.

In addition to his newspaper work, Mr. Anderson wrote books and hundreds of magazine articles. His books include “In the Corner: Great Boxing Trainers Talk About Their Art”; “Muhammad Ali,” a visual biography with Magnum Photographers; “Pennant Races: Baseball at Its Best”; and collaborations with Frank Robinson, John Madden and Sugar Ray Robinson on their memoirs.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/04/obituaries/dave-anderson-award-winning-times-sportswriter-dies-at-89.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Tech We’re Using: Setting Up Your Tech on the Assumption You’ll Be Hacked

What are the worst information security practices that you see many people doing?

Passwords! One day tech companies will invent something better than passwords for security, but for now they are still the weakest link in the average person’s setup. If I could get people to stop two practices, they would be: Don’t use an obvious password like your name, your kid’s name or your birthday, and don’t use the same password for everything.

Most tech companies do a terrible job of educating people about their security, because they tend to just flood the zone with information and make it seem that if you aren’t doing everything, you are a failure. Most people I talk to say they are intimidated by what they think they need to do to stay safe online — and end up doing nothing at all.

I wish there were a five-step program for online safety. It would start with basic things, like how to come up with a strong password and use a password manager, and build from there.

What tech product are you and your family currently obsessed with at home?

We aren’t a big tech family! We try really hard to keep tech out of sight of our 1-year-old daughter. Kids are funny, though — even though we don’t watch TV around her, she loves to carry the remote around the house. My iPhone is her favorite teething toy, and she has learned how to get my laptop out of my backpack and slide it across the floor until she can hide it under the sofa.

So I would say the one piece of tech that has been really useful is the tracking function — Find My iPhone or Find My Mac — on both devices. I’ve had to put the Tile location devices, which are wireless trackers that help us keep tabs on items, on everything else.

Over the last year, I’ve also been given a lot of internet-connected toys designed for kids and their parents. All of them were either returned or left in their boxes when I saw how bad the security was.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/03/technology/personaltech/hacking-protection-passwords.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Chinese Reporter Accused of Slapping Man at Political Event in Britain

But it did play well at home. On Chinese social media, many people said they supported the actions of Ms. Kong. One article that was widely circulated among CCTV journalists compared her to Hua Mulan, the legendary Chinese female warrior popularized in Disney films.

He Yanke, a CCTV reporter, reposted the network’s response on Weibo, the Chinese social media service, and added, “Very good! We are together with you!”

Still, others said that her acts were an embarrassment, and that a foreign reporter would not get away with such behavior in China.

“Imagine if an American female reporter yelled all of a sudden and beat police while a Communist Party congress was discussing American issues,” Hung Huang, a media entrepreneur and commentator, wrote on Weibo. “Is that O.K.?

Mr. Rogers, who is chair of Hong Kong Watch, said Ms. Kong was abusing her privileges as a journalist to try to intimidate people at the event.

“To then physically assault a party conference delegate in this way is unacceptable,” he said in a written statement. “Is this a sign of China’s increasing aggression and bullying, well beyond its borders?”

Two years ago CCTV rebranded its international networks as CGTN, part of an effort to build a stronger global presence. One recruiter’s email said it was seeking to hire more than 350 journalists in London, BuzzFeed News reported in June.

President Xi Jinping sent a letter of support during the rebranding, urging the network to “tell China’s story well, spread China’s voice well, let the world know a three-dimensional, colorful China, and showcase China’s role as a builder of world peace.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/02/world/asia/chinese-reporter-slap-britain.html?partner=rss&emc=rss