Why Do So Many People Describe Aereo 'Complying' With Copyright Law As The Company 'Circumventing' Copyright Law?

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We mentioned this briefly in our writeup of the oral arguments at the Supreme Court in the Aereo case, but I wanted to focus in on one particularly annoying issue that has come up repeatedly throughout this company’s history: the idea that its compliance with the law is actually the company circumventing the law. A perfect example of this is an incredibly ill-informed opinion piece for New York Magazine’s Kevin Roose that declares, based on a near total misunderstanding of the case, that the Supreme Court should shut down Aereo because its 10,000 antennas are a cheap “copyright-avoidance gimmick.”

But that’s simply incorrect. It’s actually 100% the opposite. We’ll fully admit, as that article does, that the setup of Aereo is simply insane from a technology standpoint. There is no good reason at all to design the technology this way. But the reason they’re doing this is not to avoid copyright but to comply with it. If you think that this is insane (and you’re right) the answer is not to whine about what Aereo is doing, but to note that it’s copyright law that leads to this bizarre result. Don’t blame Aereo for following exactly what the law says, and then say it’s a “gimmick.” Blame the law for forcing Aereo down this path.

Of course, it’s one thing for an uninformed magazine columnist to make this argument… but quite another for Supreme Court justices to do so themselves. And tragically, in the oral arguments, a few of them appeared to be coming close to making that kind of argument (though not so ridiculously as the column above). The worst offender was Chief Justice Roberts, who asked:

All I’m trying to get at, and I’m not saying it’s outcome determinative or necessarily bad, I’m just saying your technological model is based solely on circumventing legal prohibitions that you don’t want to comply with, which is fine. I mean, that’s — you know, lawyers do that.

Note the twisting here. Complying with the law is now “circumventing legal prohibitions.” Justices Ginsburg and Scalia both also asked about whether or not the technology decisions had any technological purpose, or if they were solely about the law (though, at least both questioned if the choices were about “complying” with the law). But the implication that is being raised (and has been explicitly raised by others) is that in setting up this “a Rube Goldberg–like contrivance” (as 2nd Circuit judge Denny Chin called Aereo in his dissent to the company’s victory in that court) it means that they’re somehow violating the law by meticulously complying with it.

And that’s a very dangerous assumption, even by implication.

If that argument is allowed to fly, then it’s not a stretch to see how copyright holders might twist lots of versions of complying with the law, into infringing on the law simply by arguing that the form of compliance is somehow “too clever.” That would lead to all sorts of dangerous implications — in which those who are being careful to comply with the law may suddenly be deemed infringing because of their careful compliance. Under such a standard, the more carefully you aim to comply with the law, the greater chance you can be accused of “contorting” yourself in a manner that allows copyright holders to argue that your compliance is somehow “less than sincere” as appears to be the main suggestion here.

It’s troubling that at least a few of the Supreme Court Justices appear to even be considering such a possibility.

Yes, Aereo’s setup is technologically bizarre. But that’s because it’s doing everything to comply with copyright law. If you have a problem with it, it’s not because the company is breaking the law, it’s because the law itself is broken. It would be a cruel twist of fate for Aereo to lose its case because Supreme Court Justices believed that it had broken the law, because the inevitable results of the broken law itself create a situation where complying with the law looks so bizarre that it appears to be infringement!

Secret to Avoiding Extinction: Don't Be a Picky Eater

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What’s This?

CougarCougars live on the entire carcass of their prey and it saved them in the long run.

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Finicky eaters usually do not survive mass extinction events, suggests a new study on prehistoric big cats.

Cougars, which will eat meat, guts, bones — the proverbial whole enchilada, survived the mass extinction event 12,000 years ago, while their finicky cousins the saber tooth cat and American lion bit the dust. The study, published in the journal Biology Letters, determined that eating habits probably saved cougars, and possibly jaguars too.

“Before the Late Pleistocene extinction, six species of large cats roamed the plains and forests of North America,” co-author Larisa R.G. DeSantis, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Vanderbilt University, said in a press release. “Only two — the cougar and jaguar — survived. The goal of our study was to examine the possibility that dietary factors can explain the cougar’s survival.”

She and co-author Ryan Haupt of the University of Wyoming analyzed the teeth of ancient cougars, saber-tooth cats and American lions excavated from the famous La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles.

The researchers did this with a new technique called “dental microwear texture analysis.” It uses a high-powered microscope to produce three-dimensional images of tooth surfaces. These images reveal tooth wear patterns that suggest how, and what, the animals often ate.

Chowing down on red meat, for example, produces small parallel scratches, while chomping on bones adds larger, deeper pits.

DeSantis and others previously found that the dental wear patterns of the extinct American lions closely resembled those of modern cheetahs, which are extremely finicky eaters that mostly consume tender meat and rarely gnaw on bones.

Saber-tooth cats were instead similar to African lions that chewed on both flesh and bone.

Some variation existed among the La Brea cougars, but many showed wear patterns closer to those of modern hyenas, which consume almost the entire body of their prey, bones and all.

“This suggests that the Pleistocene cougars had a ‘more generalized’ dietary behavior,” DeSantis said. “Specifically, they likely killed and often fully consumed their prey, more so than the large cats that went extinct.”

To this day, modern cougars are opportunistic predators and scavengers of abandoned carrion. They fully consume carcasses of both small and medium-sized prey.

Finicky socialized house cats, of which there are many, generally don’t have to worry. As long as an owner is around to provide tasty vittles, they’ll probably live on.

This article originally published at Discovery News here

Topics: Climate, cougars, Extinction, Health & Fitness, Jaguar, survival, US & World, World

Discovery News is a Mashable Publishing Partner.

Russia says it will respond if Ukraine interests attacked

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KIEV Wed Apr 23, 2014 10:10pm IST

An armored personnel carrier is seen near a barricade around the state security service building in Slaviansk, April 23, 2014. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

An armored personnel carrier is seen near a barricade around the state security service building in Slaviansk, April 23, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Gleb Garanich

KIEV (Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the United States of being behind the political upheaval in Ukraine and said Moscow would respond if its interests came under attack.

Lavrov’s comments came a day after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in the Ukrainian capital with promises of support for the pro-Western government, and a warning to Russia not to interfere in Ukraine.

The crisis in Ukraine, now in its fourth month, has dragged Russia’s relations with the West to their lowest since the Cold War. In the east, pro-Russian armed separatists have seized about a dozen public buildings and are defying Kiev’s authority.

A further escalation could lead to damaging economic sanctions, and raises the risk of a disruption to the Russian gas supplies on which Europe depends.

NATO says Russia has built up a force of about 40,000 troop in its border with Ukraine. Moscow says some are stationed there permanently, while others have been deployed as a precaution to protect Russia from the instability in Ukraine.

In Moscow, Lavrov said Moscow would respond if its interests, or the interests of Russian citizens, were attacked.

“Russian citizens being attacked is an attack against the Russian Federation,” he said according to excerpts of an interview with the Russia Today news channel.

“There is no reason not to believe that the Americans are running the show,” RT quoted him as saying, referring to developments in Kiev.

Russia justified its intervention in Crimea earlier this year by saying it had to defend Russians living there. In eastern Ukraine some people hold Russian passports.

ARMED GROUPS

Lavrov’s ministry, in a separate statement, accused the United States and the interim government in Kiev of a “distorted interpretation” of an international accord, signed in Geneva last week, under which illegal armed groups in Ukraine are to disarm and give up buildings they have occupied.

Russia said that condition applies not only to the pro-Russian separatists in the east, but also to groups in the Ukrainian capital whose protests helped bring Ukraine’s new government to power.

“Instead of taking effective measures to implement the … agreements, Kiev, Washington and a series of European capitals continue to insist that it is only Ukrainian citizens defending their rights in the south-east of Ukraine who need to give up their weapons,” a ministry statement said.

Earlier, Ukraine’s government relaunched a security operation to crack down on the pro-Russian armed groups after an Easter pause and said it had the backing of the United States.

But it was unclear what steps Kiev could take to restore its authority in the mainly Russian-speaking east, without wrecking the Geneva deal.

“The security forces are working on the liquidation of illegal armed groups,” in the east of Ukraine, First Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Yarema told reporters.

“The corresponding activities will be carried out in the near future, and you will see the results.”

The Interior Ministry said it had flushed armed separatists out of a town which they had controlled in eastern Ukraine in an “anti-terrorism” operation.

It said the operation took place on the outskirts of the town of Sviatogorsk and that no one was injured. There had been no previous reports of gunmen in the town, which lies just outside the stronghold of pro-Russian militants in Slaviansk.

Kiev’s decision to resume its security operation in the east was prompted in part by the discovery of two bodies in a river in eastern Ukraine. One body was that of Volodymyr Rybak, a member of the same party as Ukraine’s acting president.

AID PACKAGE

The Ukrainian government, which took power after Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich fled the capital in a row over whether to strengthen ties with Europe, appeared emboldened by Biden’s visit on Tuesday.

He brought a package of aid and urged Russia to curb the separatist militias in the east.

“We have obtained the support of the United States, that they will not leave us alone with an aggressor. We hope that in the event of Russian aggression, this help will be more substantive,” Yarema said.

The United States and NATO have made clear they will not intervene militarily in Ukraine. But the Pentagon said it was sending about 600 soldiers to Poland and the three Baltic states for infantry exercises, to reassure NATO allies.

Russian gas giant Gazprom has said it will turn off supplies to Ukraine next month unless Kiev pays its outstanding debts. That would have a knock-on effect on deliveries to Europe, because much of the gas shipped westwards has to pass through Ukrainian territory.

The European Commission said it would meet Slovakian and Ukrainian ministers on Thursday to discuss the possibility of pumping gas back to Kiev. The discussions will take place before another meeting between the Commission, Ukraine and Russia due on Monday on Moscow.

UNDER PRESSURE

The crisis in Ukraine began when Yanukovich, under pressure from Moscow, pulled out of a planned cooperation agreement with the EU. Pro-Western protesters took to the streets and Yanukovich fled after bloody clashes.

As a caretaker leadership of pro-Western protest leaders took over the government in Kiev, the Kremlin sent its forces into Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, and shortly after annexed the region. Moscow said it acted to protect local people who were being persecuted by Kiev’s new rulers, while the West called it an illegal land grab.

Mediators from the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe, tasked with helping the sides implement the accord, were in eastern Ukraine trying to encourage illegal groups to disarm. There was no sign yet they were backing down.

In areas under the separatists’ control, there was growing evidence of arbitrary rule by self-appointed local officials, backed up by heavily-armed militias, and of violence being meted out against opponents.

A video released on a local news site, gorlovka.ua, purported to show Rybak, the councillor whose body was found in a river, being confronted by an angry crowd outside the town hall in Horlivka, where he was a councillor.

In the footage, Rybak can be seen being manhandled by several men, among them a masked man in camouflage, while other people hurl abuse.

After several minutes, Rybak appears able to walk away. The Interior Ministry said he was seen being bundled into a car by masked men in camouflage later that day. His body, and that of a second man, was found on Saturday in a river near Slaviansk.

“We call…in particular on Russia to use its leverage to ensure an immediate end to kidnappings and killings in eastern Ukraine,” a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.

In nearby Slaviansk, the armed pro-Russian militia who control the city are holding three journalists, including one U.S. citizen, Simon Ostrovsky, who works for the online news site Vice News.

The United States said the detentions amounted to kidnappings which violated the Geneva agreement.

(Additional reporting by Natalia Zinets and Richard Balmforth in Kiev and Nigel Stephenson and Ludmila Danilova in Moscow; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Anna Willard and Giles Elgood)

Google Commits $100M To Help Finance Residential Solar Installs With SunPower

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Fresh off its agreement to purchase up to 407 MW of wind power for its Iowa data center, Google today announced that it has committed $100 million to create a new fund to help finance the purchase of residential solar installations with SunPower Corporation.

The fund, which will also include $150 million from SunPower, is meant to enable a scheme that is similar to what other residential solar companies currently offer: The fund will purchase the solar panels homeowners will be able to lease these solar systems at a cost that is lower than their normal electricity bill.

SunPower’s current program has brought solar panels to about 20,000 U.S. households, and the company expects that this new fund will add “thousands” more. SunPower makes the panels itself and handles the installation for homeowners.

“We’re pleased to team with SunPower to make solar power accessible to more homeowners, and offer families a more effective way to reduce their carbon footprint,” said Kojo Ako-Asare, head of corporate finance at Google in a statement today.  “Google is committed to promoting the efficient use of resources and expanding the use of renewable energy. Our partnership with SunPower makes good business sense and supports our goals for a clean energy future.”

This marks Google’s 16th renewable energy investment and its third in residential rooftop solar. It previously committed $280 million to create a similar fund with SolarCity and also committed $75 million to a fund with Clean Power Finance to bring solar to about 3,000 homeowners.

HBO shows coming to Amazon Instant Video, in blow to Netflix

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Soon you’ll be able to get Tony Soprano with one click.

In a surprise move on Wednesday morning, Amazon announced that it had acquired the rights to stream HBO shows like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under as part of its Amazon Instant Video subscription service, a huge acquisition in its ongoing battle against Netflix.

The agreement will make HBO shows available to stream to non-HBO subscribers for the first time ever. 

Netflix has long coveted the rights to HBO shows, with CEO Reed Hastings proclaiming in 2011 that the one show he’d love to have on Netflix is The Wire. Since then, Hastings has all but declared open war on HBO, saying that his company’s goal is “to become HBO faster than HBO can become” Netflix. 

Amazon, and Jeff Bezos, are now making HBO a little more like Netflix: The Wire, Deadwood, Rome, Flight of the Conchords, and other shows will be available in their entirety on Amazon Instant Video, for your binge-watching pleasure. Newer shows, like True Detective and Girls, will be available three years after airing. If you want to keep current on those shows, you still have to pay for HBO on cable. 

You can view a full rundown of the deal here, in Amazon’s official announcement. According to Bloomberg’s Jon Erlichman, HBO shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Sex and the City, and Entourage are not part of the agreement due to syndication deals. Game of Thrones is also not included, as it is too valuable to the network, per Peter Kafka at tech site Re/code

Amazon Instant Video works exactly like Netflix: You pay a monthly fee for the right to stream unlimited movies from a video library that lives on Amazon.com. Subscribers to Amazon Prime, the popular delivery service, get Amazon Instant Video for free as part of their membership. Recently, Amazon has been ramping up its content selection, adding several big studios and commissioning original shows, just like Netflix has with House of Cards.

HBO shows will begin to appear on Amazon Instant Video on May 21. 

Why Affirmative Action No Longer Works

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Though it was a noble idea for compensation in the 1960s, today’s America is more divided by class and income difference than by race.

Joshua Roberts/Reuters

At their founding, affirmative-action programs were impelled by a powerful logic of restorative justice, eloquently articulated in a 1965 address at Howard University by President Lyndon Johnson:

You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.

You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, “you are free to compete with all the others,” and still justly believe that you have been completely fair .… [T]he task is to give 20 million Negroes the same chance as every other American to learn and grow, to work and share in society, to develop their abilities—physical, mental and spiritual, and to pursue their individual happiness.

Affirmative action as thus described was an act of compensation. It was compensation owed to the past and present victims of centuries of racial subordination. It was compensation owed by the people who had inflicted—or at least benefited from—that system.

Fast-forward half a century. The academic racial preferences at issue in the complex procedural case the Supreme Court decided yesterday in no way resemble the historically conscious ideal of justice urged by President Johnson.


Related Story

Should Courts Stay Out of the Race Business?


The person who voluntarily migrated from El Salvador to the United States—who may even have broken the law in order to do so—qualifies for preferential treatment once regularized. Ditto the son of a Nigerian general now settled in this country. Ditto the entire female gender. Affirmative action has severed its connection to the deepest wrong in American history and effloresced into a system whereby citizens are bestowed or denied preferences or benefits according to a complex hierarchy of race, ethnicity, national origin, and sex.

As intermarriage between ethnic groups accelerates—one in six Americans now marries a person outside his or her own race or ethnicity—the task of adjudicating these preferences becomes ever more baroque and absurd.

I once worked alongside a woman whose mother was a Cuban of partly African descent and whose father was Irish via Australia. Her first name was Latino, her last name was purest Hibernian. Preference? No preference? What about the children of an Anglo-Canadian multimillionaire and an African-American mother, to mention another prominent example? Preference? No preference?

Both Puerto Rico and the Philippines were conquered and colonized by the United States. Yet migrants from the one commonwealth and their descendants receive legal preferences; migrants from the other do not.

Lyndon Johnson’s America was a country slashed by a color line of racial domination and subordination. Even the most affluent black citizen of the United States could expect to face humiliating economic and social discrimination. Meanwhile, the white majority overwhelmingly regarded itself as “middle class,” standing on a more or less equal footing with other “middle-class” whites.

Today’s America is a country whose class distinctions are growing as extreme as those in Edwardian England. Johnson’s assumption that non-black Americans all enjoyed more or less equivalent opportunities “to learn and grow, to work and share in society, to develop their abilities” seems poignantly out of date. A white skin may still correlate less with poverty than does a darker skin. But that skin alone long ago ceased to convey much in the way of privilege to the less affluent half of white America. It’s true, even Oprah can encounter rude treatment in a Swiss boutique. Day in, day out, however, William Julius Wilson’s prediction has been vindicated and more than vindicated: In 21st-century America, class trumps race.

In 21st-century America, class trumps race.

In a grim irony, the mode of compensation that Lyndon Johnson urged in 1965 has itself become one of the prime instruments of class privilege in the United States.

If you are in a position in which affirmative action is relevant to your prospects, you have already risen above the worst that American society metes to its disadvantaged. Affirmative action is relevant to public-sector hiring and promotion, admission to selective educational institutions, and the upper reaches of corporate America. You don’t hear much about it for home-healthcare workers or prep cooks or security guards.

Lack of healthcare coverage, the huge overrepresentation of African Americans among the long-term unemployed, the stagnation of working-class wages, the collapse in household wealth in the housing crisis: These are the burdens that a contemporary Howard speech would properly address. They are not topics, however, that get much hearing in a country where the problems of the non-affluent command don’t get much attention or interest from the political system.

Here’s What To Look For In Apple’s Earnings

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Later today, Apple will report its fiscal Q2 2014 earnings. Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said in the previous earnings call that the company expected more or less a flat quarter in Q2. And analysts agree. Apple should report flat revenue, flat gross margin, flat net profit — flat everything. But there are a couple of interesting numbers to look at.

The two main factors in today’s earnings should be iPad sales and iPhone 5c sales. iPad sales should be down year-over-year. Last year, Apple sold 18.1 million iPads. It’s a strong sales number — the iPad mini was still a relatively new product. This year, iPad sales should be down, but the question is by how much.

In the last earnings call, the company said that it was selling its tablets as quickly as it could produce them. It could have delayed some purchases, but it won’t be enough to offset the overall trend. As iPads are unsubsidized gadgets, many iPad customers probably don’t upgrade their iPads as often as their phones. It could explain why iPad sales are down.

iPhone sales should be up year-over-year, which should offset iPad sales. But the performance of the iPhone lineup largely depends on the iPhone 5c. While Apple doesn’t usually break down iPhone sales, it is clear now that the iPhone 5c is not doing as well as Apple anticipated. You can now see ads for the iPhone 5c everywhere, but you won’t see a lot of them in the wild.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing as the current model breakdown drives the gross margin up. But Apple thought the iPhone 5c was a true growth driver for the iPhone. Instead, iPhone sales should be slightly up.

In other news, iPod sales will shrink again, iTunes and software sales should grow a bit. While most of Apple’s apps are now free, App Store and iTunes Store purchases are still growing a lot.

When it comes to the stock market, Apple shares have been very stable for the last two months, oscillating between $520 and $540. The share buyback program didn’t have any apparent impact on the share price. Today is no exception, shares are down 0.53 percent so far.

In other words, the most interesting aspect of Apple’s earnings should be the subtext. Analysts are getting impatient and wonder whether iPhone sales won’t peak in the next couple of years. Tim Cook usually hints at upcoming products during the earnings call, but without sharing much detail. Maybe this time we will get better hints.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 16.32.44

Travel Back 50 Years to 1964 New York World's Fair

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What’s This?

2014-04-23 15:45:20 UTC

In 1964, the New York World’s Fair opened with radical technologies and dazzling futuristic displays.

Fifty-one million visitors descended on Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, N.Y. over two six-month seasons in 1964 and ’65 to experience innovations like “picturephones,” lunar crawlers and Belgian waffles. The Ford Times called it “a lively and lavish concoction of spectacular entertainment.”

Though a conflict with the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE) stripped the fair of an official sanction, the event represented an exciting time in American scientific advancements. While we still aren’t jetting to the moon to visit grandma in her space colony retirement village, technologies like robotic animation continue in special effects productions today.

Hop in your space-age time capsule (your computer) and travel back 50 years through photographs and videos.

Do you have memories or photographs from the 1964 World’s Fair? Share them in the comments and we’ll add to the gallery below.

  1. New-york-world_s-fair-1964-1
  2. 1964-new-york-worlds-fair
  3. 1964-world-fair-nyc
  4. 1964-worlds-fair-new-york-5
  5. 1964-worlds-fair-new-york-city
  6. New-york-world-fair-1964-0
  7. New-york-worlds-fair-1964-2
  8. New-york-worlds-fair-1964-3
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BONUS: Reader Photos From World’s Fair

  1. Worlds-fair-1
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  4. Worlds-fair-4

Topics: future, Gadgets, new york, Photos, Pics, Tech, U.S., US & World

India to make May-July oil payments to Iran - sources

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NEW DELHI Wed Apr 23, 2014 8:59pm IST

A worker walks atop a tanker wagon to check the freight level at an oil terminal on the outskirts of Kolkata November 27, 2013. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files

A worker walks atop a tanker wagon to check the freight level at an oil terminal on the outskirts of Kolkata November 27, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India is set to pay Iran $1.65 billion over the next three months under an interim nuclear deal that eases sanctions on Tehran and gives it access to $4.2 billion in blocked funds, four sources with knowledge of the matter said.

As long as Tehran complies with the terms of its preliminary agreement with western powers, which took effect on Jan. 20, Iran receives some of its funds frozen abroad in eight payments from various buyers over six months.

Iran has cut its most sensitive nuclear stockpile by nearly 75 percent in implementing the pact, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in its latest report, as the OPEC member allays fears about its atomic aims.

This means Tehran will have access to the next two installments, each of $550 million, which are due on May 14 and June 17. The final $550 million installment, due on July 20, is contingent on confirmation that Iran has fulfilled all of its commitment.

The Indian government has asked refiners to make the first payment by mid-May, three of the sources said, adding that refiners will settle all three tranches if payment is allowed by the United States and European Union.

“The individual companies’ share is to be worked out,” one of the sources said.

Iran has so far received $2.55 billion in frozen oil funds, in five payments, four from Japan and one from South Korea.

OMANI RAIL

Three of the sources said Iran had asked India to make payments into the Central Bank of Iran’s account with Oman’s Bank Muscat BMAO.OM in Omani rails.

“All I can confirm is that some movement is happening on payments by India to Iran, but the modalities as to which bank will be used by India to remit funds is yet to be worked out,” said a western diplomat privy to the matter, who was not one of the four previously cited sources.

Indian refiners Essay Oil (ESRO.NS), Bangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL.NS), Hindustan Petroleum Corp (HPCL.NS) and HPCL-Mittal Energy Ltd together owe $3.6 billion to National Iranian Oil Co.

The tough sanctions slapped on Iran in 2012 closed banking channels for the transfer of oil payments to the OPEC member country, putting a stranglehold on its revenue, crippling its economy and ultimately bringing it to the negotiating table.

Indian buyers of Iranian oil have been settling 45 percent of payments in rupees, which Iran used for importing goods from India, while the refiners held the remainder.

Before the interim deal, countries that imported Iranian oil were required to steadily reduce their purchases to qualify every six months for a waiver from U.S. sanctions.

IMPORTS SLASHED

Iran’s crude oil exports fell for the first time in five months in March and are slated to drop further in April, moving closer to the levels stipulated by the November interim deal.

That agreement allows Iran to keep exporting at current reduced levels of about 1 million bpd and opens a door for lifting shipment volumes later.

Iran’s top four oil clients – China, India, Japan and South Korea – together cut oil imports from Iran by 15 percent to an average of 935,862 barrels per day (bpd) in 2013, government and industry data showed.

India’s intake of Iranian oil surged nearly 43 percent in the first quarter of 2014, bringing a warning from the United States that it needed to hold the shipments closer to end-2013 levels of 195,000 bpd.

(Reporting by Nidhi Verma; editing by Jane Baird)

Was Shakespeare a Good Actor?

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In his day, performers received little respect for grueling work. Yet the playwright strode the stage for more than 15 years—and then changed the acting profession forever.

Tom Hiddleston stars as Coriolanus at The Donmar warehouse in London in 2013.

Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, today, will bring an outpouring of written appreciations for his works. Many, though, will likely omit or only fleetingly mention one fact: Shakespeare’s first acts of creation were not poems or plays, but the characters he gave life to as a struggling actor.

This is no small omission. The stage is where Shakespeare taught others to lose sight of him, where he taught himself to lose sight of Shakespeare. The first lesson served him as a player, the second as a playwright. Omit the stage, and you omit the origin of William Shakespeare.

* * *

The widespread disregard of Shakespeare’s acting career stems, in part, from the low esteem in which actors were held long before, and long after, Shakespeare strode the stage. When he joined the profession sometime in the mid-1580s, actors were already marked as undesirables by England’s vagrancy laws, which mandated that traveling troupes had to find aristocratic patronage. Rogue players ran the risk of being flogged, branded, and finally hanged. The harsh law was rarely enforced in full, but it reflected published mores and polite opinion, both of which held actors as a hybrid of panhandler and whore. Even playwrights scorned them. “Yes, trust them not,” counseled one:

for there is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his “Tiger’s heart wrapt in a player’s hide” supposes he is as well able to bombast out blank verse as the best of you; and being an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country. 

The warning is from Robert Greene, a Cambridge-educated wit who attempted to take down one player-playwright, the “upstart crow” William “Shake-scene,” to underscore the common opinion of actors as unlearned, unrefined, and generally untrustworthy. That snobbishness is a cousin to the kind Shakespeare typically faced for not receiving an elite education—for having, as his friend Ben Jonson jibed, “small Latin and less Greek.” Even today such condescension helps fuel the “authorship controversy” that has variously reassigned the writing of Shakespeare’s plays to Sir Walter Raleigh, Francis Bacon, and several other aristocrats, including the current favorite, the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere, who shared with the others the trappings of good taste: the occasion for refinement, the income for a library, and the impression, if not always the imprimatur, of a university degree.

Aubrey’s account that Shakespeare “did act exceedingly well” is delightfully unreliable—did you know that Shakespeare’s father was a butcher? Neither did Shakespeare.

Elizabethans, though, knew better. As late as 1640, nearly a quarter century after his death, he was still remembered as “that famous Writer and Actor, Mr. William Shakespeare.” John Aubrey, the first of many to try his hand at writing a biography of the Bard, included the estimation of William Beeston that Shakespeare “did act exceedingly well.” While Aubrey’s account is delightfully unreliable—did you know that Shakespeare’s father was a butcher? neither did Shakespeare—Beeston’s verdict is actually strengthened by the fact that he couldn’t have possibly seen Shakespeare play. Born in 1606, or roughly five years after Shakespeare left the stage, he almost certainly inherited the opinion from his father, Christopher, who performed alongside Will in the 1590s. 

Like Shakespeare, the elder Beeston knew the gross intimacy of the Globe, where people packed the timbered amphitheater for year-round performances. The least among them paid a penny to squeeze into the pit, chewing hazelnuts and reeking of their trade, mooning up at the players on the squared stage that jutted into the open yard. The rest—university wags, merchants in felt hats, the occasional lord or lady—looked down from the galleries, sniffing pomander and smoking their pipes. 

From beginning to end of a Globe performance, playgoers of all classes criticized freely and loudly. They volunteered advice, often hissed, and occasionally hurled an orange or two. When Hamlet admonishes Polonius of the players, “After your death you were better / have a bad epitaph than an ill report while you live,” the same warning might have been applied to an actor of his audience.  A poor player did not last long and tended to make a loud exit.

That Shakespeare endured the judgment of such audiences for more than 15 years, the better half of his adult life, must attest to his skills as an actor. But his achievement is even more impressive if we consider the fact that performance, in the Elizabethan age, precluded anything resembling an official script. Plays were constantly evolving, not only in response to critical reception but merely to meet the demands of a given moment. If a featured player departed or a fresh face joined the company, if the troupe traveled to a smaller venue or some circumstance limited stage time, if a command performance by the Queen saw the Master of Revels strike obscene material, if costumes or props or even a player were for whatever reason unavailable—in all cases, the actors adapted, or they didn’t eat.

Performance, in the Elizabethan age, precluded anything resembling an official script.

For Shakespeare’s readers, the benefit of such shifting demands is a surfeit of dialogue that a single performance could never accommodate, in addition to delightful variants across the Quartos and Folios. For the actors, however, the experience must have been hellish, particularly given the fact that the Globe was not a Broadway playhouse but a repertory theater, and members of the ensemble typically performed six different shows a week. Supporting actors often played multiple roles in a single performance, while a leading man like Edward Alleyn could expect to deliver more than 4,000 lines of verse each and every week.

As a matter of reputation, Shakespeare the actor fell somewhere between these poles. While there is no indication that he was ever a box-office draw—that responsibility was left to the clownish antics of Will Kemp and the brooding heroics of Richard Burbage—he was always classed among the principal players of the company that eventually became The King’s Men, so named for their final patron. Apparently, the royal affinity suited Shakespeare, for he was said to favor “kingly parts,” with legend having Hamlet’s father as his farewell role.

* * *

If, as it seems, Shakespeare never stole the show, that’s its own compliment. To appear before a familiar crowd everyday and to succeed without that success constantly reminding everyone that you, the actor, are busy playing a role—indeed, to leave the audience with no other impression than that demanded by inhabiting a fiction—this is the subtle craft of the character actor, an art of remarkable modesty and extraordinary self-restraint. “[L]et your own discretion / be your tutor,” Hamlet warns the players:

Suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature.  For anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing

Contemporary actors have taken Hamlet’s note. The unifying innovation of the most famous schools of modern dramatic training, the Stanislavsky technique and its American cousins, the various strains of Method acting, is the idea that an actor fails whenever he appears to be acting. Indeed, whenever he is acting. The art that forgets itself is preferred. And while the classical elements of the craft remain—vocal training and body work, script analysis, line reading, the rudiments of dramaturgy—fundamentally, the line between good acting and bad is rather simple:  To be, or not to be. 

Modern dramatic training is built on the the idea that an actor fails whenever he appears to be acting. Shakespeare embodied this idea. 

Romantic authors and their immediate influences seemed to anticipate this innovation when they tried to explain Shakespeare’s powers as a playwright and, in particular, his uncanny gift for creating characters. To “assume the precise character and passion” of his creations, the critic Lord Kames said, the playwright must clear a space within, “annihilating himself” and thereby providing room for the “sentiments that belong to the assumed character.” Shakespeare, above all others, seemed to epitomize such selfless creativity. Another critic, Elizabeth Montagu, compared him to the whirling dervish of the Arabian Nights, “who would throw his soul into the body of another man, and be at once possessed of his sentiments,” while William Hazlitt dubbed him “the genius of humanity, changing places with all of us at pleasure, and playing with our purposes as his own.”

The terms in which these authors describe Shakespeare’s achievement seem to invite comparison to his time as an actor. But his theatrical experience is almost entirely neglected, to the point that it can occasionally seem like even his greatest admirers are straining to overlook it. When Hazlitt attempts to analogize the “art” by which a poet “throws his imagination out of himself, and makes every word appear to proceed from the mouth of the person in whose name it is given,” the word he finds is “ventriloquist.”

Yet if they failed to make the obvious connection between Shakespeare’s considerable experience as a player and his protean quality as a playwright, critics like Hazlitt had a keen sense of what was required for him to channel the soul of another being. “He was the least of an egotist that it was possible to be,” Hazlitt said, a statement that shouldn’t be confused for one celebrating Shakespeare’s altruistic spirit. Hazlitt was drawing our attention to Shakespeare’s capacity for empathy, a quality that the Bard embodied as player, as playwright, and finally as person.

No one better appreciated this quality than John Keats, who regarded Shakespeare as the quintessence of the “poetical Character.” As he would describe that “Character” in a letter to a friend,

it is not itself—it has no self—it is every thing and nothing—It has no character—it enjoys light and shade; it lives in gusto, be it foul or fair, high or low, right or poor, mean or elevated—It has as much delight in conceiving an Iago as an Imogen.  What shocks the virtuous philosp[h]er, delights the camelion Poet.

As Keats envisions it, in order for the dramatic poet to channel the full spectrum of human experience, there must be nothing in him—no habit, no inclination, no sensibility—that might reject an alien spirit. For Keats, such a capacity was purchased at a very high price. “A Poet is the most unpoetical of any thing in existence,” he said, “because he has no Identity—he is continually in for—and filling some other Body.” So, too, is the actor, and his success depends on the same ability to evoke the emotional life of another without the resistance that reminds us of who we are, that marks out our identity.


Related Story

Shakespeare’s Enduring Message to Convicts


Shakespeare, of course, famously left few clues about his own identity. Forget the revelations of a love letter or diary. His admirers are so starved for even the most trifling details that Anthony Burgess once remarked, “given the choice between two discoveries—that of an unknown play by Shakespeare and that of one of Will’s laundry lists—we would all plump for the dirty washing every time.”

And yet, however much we might long for minutia of a life actually lived, it seems appropriate that a man who left almost no trace of himself should have furnished the selves of so many others in so many imagined worlds. Perhaps the actor in him understood that his art was contingent on his own disappearance. For Shakespeare, the man, made no effort to proclaim to the world that he was there. Only that his characters were.

Quentin Tarantino Loses Big In Trying To Paint Gawker As A Copyright Infringer

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We didn’t write about this case when it came out because it just seemed so ridiculous, but filmmaker Quentin Tarantino sued Gawker Media earlier this year for linking to a script he had apparently been working on. There had been a bunch of media coverage over the fact that his script for The Hateful Eight leaked, and was being shared around Hollywood, though not online. Gawker then asked anyone if they’d seen a copy, leading to a followup post which included a link to the newly leaked script.

Tarantino argued that by soliciting from the public a copy of the script and then subsequently linking to it, Gawker was guilty of contributory infringement. Thankfully, a federal court that actually understands copyright law has quickly disabused Tarantino of that bizarre interpretation of copyright law, granting Gawker’s motion to dismiss. The big problem: at no point anywhere in the process above, did Tarantino’s lawyer show how Gawker’s actions resulted in anyone infringing on anyone’s copyright. That makes it quite hard to pin “contributory infringement” when there’s no direct infringement in the first place:

However, nowhere in these paragraphs or anywhere else in the Complaint does Plaintiff allege a single act of direct infringement committed by any member of the general public that would support Plaintiff’s claim for contributory infringement. Instead, Plaintiff merely speculates that some direct infringement must have taken place. For example, Plaintiff’s Complaint fails to allege the identity of a single third-party infringer, the date, the time, or the details of a single instance of third-party infringement, or, more importantly, how Defendant allegedly caused, induced, or materially contributed to the infringement by those third parties

In a footnote, the court further notes that even if Tarantino’s lawyers could dredge up some example of direct infringement based on someone reading the script, the lawsuit still wouldn’t make any sense:

Even if Plaintiff alleged that individuals accessed the links contained in Defendant’s article in order to read Plaintiff’s script, such an allegation would still not support Plaintiff’s contributory infringement claim against Defendant. Simply viewing a copy of allegedly infringing work on one’s own computer does not constitute the direct infringement necessary to support Plaintiff’s contributory infringement claim. See Perfect 10, Inc., 508 F.3d at 1169 (where alleged primary infringers merely view pages containing infringing images, but do not “store[] infringing images on their computers,” there is no infringement). In addition, based on the allegations of the Complaint, there can be little doubt that Plaintiff has a strong claim for direct infringement against Doe 1, a/k/a AnonFiles.com. However, Plaintiff has not alleged and it is highly unlikely that Plaintiff will be able to plead facts demonstrating that Defendant somehow induced, caused, or materially contributed to the infringing conduct by publishing a link to the screenplay after it was wrongfully posted on AnonFiles.com.

The court notes that Gawker spent a lot of effort explaining why this is fair use but notes that, “albeit persuasive and potentially dispositive,” it doesn’t even need to bother with that argument since there’s no infringement to defend against fair use here anyway.

Once again, it seems like people who grow up totally immersed in a world of copyright maximalism automatically leap to the conclusion that “something I don’t like” must be an infringement of copyright. Thankfully, the law (mostly) doesn’t work that way.

HBO shows coming to Amazon Instant Video, in blow to Netflix

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Soon you’ll be able to get Tony Soprano with one click.

In a surprise move on Wednesday morning, Amazon announced that it had acquired the rights to stream HBO shows like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under as part of its Amazon Instant Video subscription service, a huge acquisition in its ongoing battle against Netflix.

The agreement will make HBO shows available to stream to non-HBO subscribers for the first time ever. 

Netflix has long coveted the rights to HBO shows, with CEO Reed Hastings proclaiming in 2011 that the one show he’d love to have on Netflix is The Wire. Since then, Hastings has all but declared open war on HBO, saying that his company’s goal is “to become HBO faster than HBO can become” Netflix. 

Amazon, and Jeff Bezos, are now making HBO a little more like Netflix: The Wire, Deadwood, Rome, Flight of the Conchords, and other shows will be available in their entirety on Amazon Instant Video, for your binge-watching pleasure. Newer shows, like True Detective and Girls, will be available three years after airing. If you want to keep current on those shows, you still have to pay for HBO on cable. 

You can view a full rundown of the deal here, in Amazon’s official announcement. According to Bloomberg’s Jon Erlichman, HBO shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Sex and the City, and Entourage are not part of the agreement due to syndication deals. Game of Thrones is also not included, as it is too valuable to the network, per Peter Kafka at tech site Re/code

Amazon Instant Video works exactly like Netflix: You pay a monthly fee for the right to stream unlimited movies from a video library that lives on Amazon.com. Subscribers to Amazon Prime, the popular delivery service, get Amazon Instant Video for free as part of their membership. Recently, Amazon has been ramping up its content selection, adding several big studios and commissioning original shows, just like Netflix has with House of Cards.

HBO shows will begin to appear on Amazon Instant Video on May 21. 

HBO shows coming to Amazon Instant Video, in blow to Netflix

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Soon you’ll be able to get Tony Soprano with one click.

In a surprise move on Wednesday morning, Amazon announced that it had acquired the rights to stream HBO shows like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under as part of its Amazon Instant Video subscription service, a huge acquisition in its ongoing battle against Netflix.

The agreement will make HBO shows available to stream to non-HBO subscribers for the first time ever. 

Netflix has long coveted the rights to HBO shows, with CEO Reed Hastings proclaiming in 2011 that the one show he’d love to have on Netflix is The Wire. Since then, Hastings has all but declared open war on HBO, saying that his company’s goal is “to become HBO faster than HBO can become” Netflix. 

Amazon, and Jeff Bezos, are now making HBO a little more like Netflix: The Wire, Deadwood, Rome, Flight of the Conchords, and other shows will be available in their entirety on Amazon Instant Video, for your binge-watching pleasure. Newer shows, like True Detective and Girls, will be available three years after airing. If you want to keep current on those shows, you still have to pay for HBO on cable. 

You can view a full rundown of the deal here, in Amazon’s official announcement. According to Bloomberg’s Jon Erlichman, HBO shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Sex and the City, and Entourage are not part of the agreement due to syndication deals. Game of Thrones is also not included, as it is too valuable to the network, per Peter Kafka at tech site Re/code

Amazon Instant Video works exactly like Netflix: You pay a monthly fee for the right to stream unlimited movies from a video library that lives on Amazon.com. Subscribers to Amazon Prime, the popular delivery service, get Amazon Instant Video for free as part of their membership. Recently, Amazon has been ramping up its content selection, adding several big studios and commissioning original shows, just like Netflix has with House of Cards.

HBO shows will begin to appear on Amazon Instant Video on May 21. 

European Tech Blog Tech.eu Raises €150K, Backers Include Dave McClure’s 500 Startups And Adeo Ressi

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Last November, Robin Wauters, ex-TechCrunch writer and former European editor for The Next Web, launched new tech blog, Tech.eu, with a stated mission to fill the “gap” left for in-depth coverage of Europe’s technology industry (thanks for that Robin!). But, as anyone in online media knows, content isn’t cheap and for that mission to be little more than hyperbole the new European tech blog on the block was always likely to require investment.

Today that’s happened in the form of a tiny seed round — which we understand is still closing — seeing Tech.eu raise approximately €150,000 from around 11 investors, including Silicon Valley-based Dave McClure’s 500 Startups, Founder Institute founder Adeo Ressi, and a number of prominent European angel investors.

(I’ve included a partial list below, as Tech.eu appear to have been caught on the hop after Belgium newspaper De Tijd published a story this morning. With the round still ongoing, not all investors have been cleared for disclosure. We’ll update this post when we know more.)

In a Skype chat with Wauters (who was a direct colleague of mine while at TC and since competitor) I started off by asking him why Tech.eu had decided to take investment?

“We’ve raised a small seed round of funding from angel investors from across Europe and Silicon Valley so we could afford to dedicate some resources to building the best European technology publication we think is possible,” he said.

Specifically, Tech.eu’s raison d’être is data-based analysis, insights, research and “news with context” relating to the wider European technology industry.

“That’s not the easiest path we could have chosen in a world where the conversation about digital publishing these days mostly revolves around page views and revenue-per-click,” adds Wauters. “Rather than chasing fast news and ‘cheap traffic’, we think we can build something of value, but that takes time. Hence why we raised funding – we didn’t want to have to think about getting as much traffic and advertising money as possible from day one, and build a sustainable business that doesn’t necessarily rely on that.”

Of course when a media company takes funding from individuals (or VCs) who invest in the same startups and wider ecosystem that the publication covers, it creates a potential — or perceived — conflict of interest, although it’s not uncommon for tech blogs to raise external funding.

Just this week, Webrazzi, Turkey’s main tech blog, sold a minority stake to Aslanoba Capital, and other local European tech blogs such as VentureVillage and Deutsche Startups are backed by startup investors. (Disclosure: TechCrunch is owned by Aol.)

Meanwhile, the amount of funding Tech.eu has taken is dwarfed by Silicon Valley tech blogs, and Wauters says he purposely kept the round small and went for individual investors, who are mostly investing in a personal capacity, rather than VC.

“The reason we’re not raising millions of dollars like several US media startups is because we think we can do more with less, and it also keeps the wall between our investors and anything to do with editorial impenetrably thick,” he said. “We’re building a business, so evidently we’re convinced we can provide our investors with a good return. Beyond that, though, our investors agree that there’s room for serious, data-based tech journalism in Europe, and that we’ve assembled possibly the best team to pull that off.”

That team includes Tech.eu’s other co-founders, who are also entrenched in the industry they cover, such as Microsoft’s Roxanne Varza (who used to edit TechCrunch France) and Techstars London’s Jon Bradford. So in a sense the issue of disclosure is nothing new.

In the end, you have to judge these things on the actual content and, certainly, examples such as Tech.eu’s recent European tech exits report are a welcome addition to the tech coverage in the region.

Here’s a partial list of Tech.eu’s investors, with more to be added as they’re disclosed:

- Dave McClure’s 500 Startups
- Adeo Ressi
- Tim O’Shea
- Doug Scott
- Toon Vanagt
- Cedric Kutlu
- T-REGS
- Simon McDermott
- Oriol Juncosa
- Daniel Waterhouse

1 Dead in Rio de Janeiro After Long Night of Violent Protests

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Rio-brazil-protestsA Brazilian Police Special Force member takes position during a violent protest in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro on April 22, 2014.

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One person is dead after protesters clashed with police in a violent riot on Tuesday night near Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Tensions in the Pavao-Pavaozinho favela have been escalating since last weekend when Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira, a popular male dancer, died during a fight with the Army. Authorities reportedly mistook him for a drug dealer. Though Rio de Janeiro’s State Security Secretariat said Pereira, 25, died from a fall, neighborhood residents blame police for the his death, which is still officially under investigation.

But the unrest hit a breaking point on Tuesday when residents took to the streets to battle police. The scene quickly unraveled into a long night of violence that included gunfire exchange, a shower of homemade explosives and glass bottles. Protesters also blocked streets and set fires in Rio de Janeiro’s main tourist zone.

No information has been disclosed about the one person who died in the protests on Tuesday night.

The Brazilian government has ramped up security throughout Rio de Janeiro ahead of the World Cup, which begins June 12. Earlier this month, more than 2,000 soldiers and marines from the Brazilian Army moved into the shantytown in the industrial north zone of the city, where they will remain through the end of July.

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Topics: Brazil, rio de Janeiro, US & World, World