Wednesday, November 22, 2017

News Briefs

Displaying 61 - 70 of 2726
  • Monday, Oct. 16, 2017
"Game of Thrones" cast gets no scripts, star says
This file image released by HBO shows Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister in an episode of "Game of Thrones." (Macall B. Polay/HBO via AP, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

The need-to-know policy for the "Game of Thrones" cast is going to extreme lengths during filming of the series' final season. When it comes to keeping scripts under wraps, producers are taking no chances, according to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime Lannister in the wildly popular HBO fantasy thriller.

Speaking on the Scandinavian chat show "Skavlan," Coster-Waldau revealed the unprecedented measures now being implemented to plug any leaks of top-secret story details.

He recalled that during the first couple of seasons, actors got the usual hard-copy scripts in advance. Then, to tighten security, scripts were distributed on digital files. In recent seasons, actors got their parts through verified email.

Then, a few months ago, HBO was hacked and various show files were stolen. The culprits demanded a ransom of several million dollars to prevent episodes from being leaked online.

According to Coster-Waldau, security for this final "Game of Thrones" season is the tightest yet. Actors in each scene are equipped with earpieces and are fed their dialogue to deliver, line by line.

"We're not even going to get the script," he said.

HBO has not yet announced the airdate for this eighth and final "Game of Thrones" season.

  • Friday, Oct. 13, 2017
Twitter turns over "handles" of 201 Russia-linked accounts
This April 26, 2017, file photo shows the Twitter app on a mobile phone in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
MENLO PARK, Calif. (AP) -- 

Twitter has handed over to Senate investigators the profile names, or "handles," of 201 accounts linked to Russian attempts at influencing the 2016 presidential election. The company has stepped up its efforts to cooperate with investigators after it was criticized for not taking congressional probes seriously enough.

The handover occurred this week, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly about it.

What remains unclear is whether posts associated with those accounts have been deleted from Twitter's servers. Politico reported on Friday that the company had deleted the tweets in line with its privacy policy. Twitter had no comment on that report.

The company's policy calls for removing tweets that a user deletes on their own. But that policy also states that some tweets can survive the process. For instance, retweets of deleted tweets will remain live if the retweeter added a comment. Twitter also can't remove tweets that have been temporarily stored, or "cached," by services such as Google or reposted on other sites.

Twitter might be able to recover some information about any deleted tweets, according to another person familiar with the situation who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation. That person added that the company is working with investigators to find information that's useful.

The account handles previously hadn't been submitted in part due to legal privacy issues, the person said.

Twitter is set to appear Nov. 1 before the Senate intelligence committee at a public hearing. Both Facebook and Google have been invited to testify at the same hearing.

Twitter previously uncovered the accounts linked to Russia's Internet Research Agency — a notorious "troll farm" known for pushing out pro-Russian positions via fake accounts — by using information provided by Facebook, which found 470 Russia-linked pages or accounts. After looking for patterns linking those accounts and pages to accounts on its service, Twitter said it had suspended 22 accounts that pushed divisive social or political issues during the 2016 campaign. It found another 179 related or linked accounts and took action against those that violated its spam rules.

The company enforces an anti-spam policy against bots and human users that exhibit unusual behavior. Such flags include having multiple accounts repeatedly retweet the same posts or having multiple accounts follow or block other users.

After Twitter's initial closed-door briefing with the Senate committee late last month, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner — the top Democrat on the committee — called the company's findings "frankly inadequate " and "derivative" of Facebook's work.

  • Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017
Shares of TV providers drop as AT&T warns of video losses
This Thursday, July 27, 2017, photo shows an AT&T logo at a store in Hialeah, Fla. AT&T said Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, that it lost 90,000 video subscribers in the U.S. in the third quarter, a steeper drop than the same period a year earlier. That includes a gain of 300,000 customers in DirecTV Now, an online cable-like service that is cheaper than traditional TV. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Signs that more people are dropping their traditional TV subscriptions weighed on TV providers' stocks Thursday.

AT&T said it lost 90,000 video subscribers in the U.S. in the third quarter. It's a steeper drop than the same period last year, even though gains from its newer, cheaper online cable-like service, DirecTV Now, are included. DirecTV Now wasn't available in the July-September quarter in 2016.

DirecTV Now added 300,000 subscribers in the quarter, so AT&T lost about 390,000 satellite TV and cable customers.

AT&T, which is also the No. 2 wireless carrier in the U.S., blames tough competition from both traditional TV providers like Comcast and newer digital-video services like YouTube TV. It also blames the impact from hurricanes and stricter credit standards for customers.

AT&T's prediction, issued after the market closed Wednesday, echoed Comcast's forecast in early September of third-quarter losses of 100,000 to 150,000 video customers due. That would be Comcast's largest quarterly loss since 2014. Comcast also blamed competition and weather.

Rising prices for traditional TV bundles and those growing digital options are increasingly driving customers online and away from traditional TV.

"It should be clear that DirecTV, like all of its cable peers, is suffering from the ravages of cord-cutting," MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett wrote in a Wednesday night note to investors.

AT&T stock fell 4.5 percent to $36.48 in afternoon trading. Shares of cable companies Comcast and Charter and rival satellite TV provider Dish also dropped.

  • Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017
Axis Studios launches London shop
A frame from BBC's "Doctor Who," which is among the projects worked on by Axis Studios.
GLASGOW, Scotland -- 

Animation and VFX collective Axis Studios has announced the official launch of its new Hoxton, London location, which will provide greater exposure for Axis Animation, Flaunt Productions and axisVFX across the U.K. capital.

Acting as a branch of the Axis Studios HQ in Glasgow, the London studio will house 10-15% of Axis Studios’ 200-strong workforce. It is located in a custom-built boutique space in Hoxton Square, neighboring London’s major tech and creative Old Street hub. 

The London studio will enable Axis Studios clients and creatives to collaborate from the U.K. capital, delivering complex productions of any volume with the backing, experience and depth of the Axis Studios team across its other Bristol and Glasgow locations.

Upcoming work at the London studio includes Netflix/E4’s Kiss Me First and SyFy’s Happy!

Paul Schleicher, executive producer at Axis Studios, commented, “The London studio is a natural evolution for Axis Studios, it gives us greater access to new and existing clients and of course some of the very best talent in the world.”

Recent engagements include the Emmy Award-winning Lost In Oz for Amazon Studios, the Royal Television Society Award-nominated visual effects for the BBC’s Doctor Who, and the Royal Television Society Award-winning Dawn of War III for Sega. 

  • Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017
Director Kosinski's film on deadly Arizona wildfire comes as California burns
In this July 2, 2013, file photo, firefighter Brendan McDonough embraces a mourner near the end of a candlelight vigil in Prescott, Ariz. McDonough, the only member of an Arizona firefighting crew to survive a deadly 2013 wildfire near Yarnell, Ariz., attended the premiere of "Only The Brave", the movie that chronicles the wildfire that killed 19 of his fellow firefighters. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- 

A movie that chronicles a 2013 wildfire that killed 19 Arizona firefighters debuts next week on the heels of another fire tragedy in California that has riveted the nation.

"Only the Brave" is based on the Granite Mountain Hotshots who died while fighting a wildfire near Yarnell, Arizona.

Actors from the movie appeared at a red carpet event in Arizona on Tuesday as relentless fires ravage wineries, rural towns and neighborhoods in Northern California — an event not lost on the cast and crew of the picture.

"When I turn the news on this morning, to see images that look like they were taken from our film, is surreal," director Joseph Kosinski said.

Fire officials say the wildfires in California have killed more than 20 people and destroyed at least 3,500 homes and businesses since they started Sunday.

Cast members Josh Brolin, Miles Teller and James Badge Dale attended the Arizona premiere with some of the firefighters' families and the lone member of the crew who survived.

On June 30, 2013, the 19 elite Arizona wildland firefighters were stationed in a relatively safe position on a ridgetop that already had burned. But for unknown reasons and without notifying anyone, they moved down the mountainside through an unburned area where they were trapped by a wall of flames when winds shifted the fire toward them.

Kosinski said he didn't want to make a sad movie and that he wanted it to celebrate the joy the men had for firefighting and the brotherhood they shared.

The lone survivor, Brendan McDonough, said seeing the movie was cathartic for him and he thought the movie "did our brothers justice."

"I think they really created an authentic film that really shows just what the job is about, what the lifestyle is, what the families go through," McDonough said.

McDonough served as the lookout for the crew when they descended into the brush-choked area. He notified the crew of the rapidly changing weather that sent winds swirling erratically and caused the fire to cut off their escape route.

Then, he swiftly left his post for safety. Fire managers have said he did exactly what he was supposed to.

Brolin plays Eric Marsh, who was the crew's superintendent and the oldest member of the group.

Brolin said he loves any project that has to do with firefighters and making people conscious that "these guys are putting themselves in peril constantly ... for the safety of their communities."

Jane Marsh, Marsh's mother, said she spent three hours with Brolin before they started filming the movie, which was shot in New Mexico.

"Even though I cried all through it when I first saw it in August, he portrayed Eric really well," Marsh said.

  • Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017
P&G, in early vote, fends off activist investor Nelson Peltz
Trian Partners hedge fund manager Nelson Peltz is interviewed by CNBC's Sara Eisen after Procter & Gamble's annual shareholders meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, in Cincinnati. (Kareem Elgazzar/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)
CINCINNATI (AP) -- 

Initial voting results show Procter & Gamble successfully fending off an attempt by activist investor Nelson Peltz to capture a seat on its board, though he did not immediately concede, saying it was too close.

Shares in the consumer products giant are down following the vote at Procter & Gamble's headquarters in Cincinnati on Tuesday.

"We are encouraged that shareholders recognize P&G is a profoundly different, much stronger, more profitable company than just a few years ago," the company said.

Peltz's Trian Fund Management, which owns about $3.5 billion in P&G shares, said moments after the vote that it would await certified results, which appeared to have been decided by a razor-thin margin.

"This was a big fight," Peltz told CNBC outside of P&G headquarters.

Almost 40 percent of P&G shareholders are small investors, and the final result appeared to pit them against institutional investors that backed Peltz.

Trian says that P&G has underperformed its peers for a decade.

But Procter & Gamble Co. says that since David Taylor was named CEO two years ago, the company has been moving in the right direction, and that giving Peltz a seat would disrupt the work that he is doing.

Taylor, also speaking on CNBC, expressed his confidence in the company's board members.

"I think they're doing exactly what we need," he said.

Shares of P&G have jumped 20 percent since Taylor took over. Trian, which invested in the company less than a year ago, said that the shares have been pumped up by its ownership and interest.

Peltz has been on a winning streak and his influence is being felt in a number of boardrooms in the U.S.

On Monday General Electric Co. announced that Trian co-founder Ed Garden would join its board. The investment fund has pushed for years for the company to become a leaner industrial player. Trian became one of GE's biggest investors two years ago with a $2.5 billion investment.

Trian believes P&G's corporate structure has become too convoluted and it had proposed shrinking the number of overall divisions from 10, to three.

  • Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017
Apple teams with Steven Spielberg on video expansion
Steven Spielberg attends the Warner Bros. "Ready Player One" panel on day three of Comic-Con International on Saturday, July 22, 2017, in San Diego. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- 

Apple is teaming up with award-winning director Steven Spielberg for its first major push into TV programming.

The iPhone maker is bringing back Spielberg's 30-year-old anthology series "Amazing Stories" in its attempt to build an online video subscription service to challenge the digital networks operated by Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and HBO.

"We love being at the forefront of Apple's investment in scripted programming, and can't think of a better property than Spielberg's beloved 'Amazing Stories' franchise," NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke said in a statement Tuesday. NBC Entertainment works with Spielberg's Amblin Television on the series.

Apple declined to comment on the deal. The Wall Street Journal first reported Apple had secured the "Amazing Stories" rights.

The series aired on NBC from 1985 to 1987 and won five Emmy awards for its mixture of science fiction and horror episodes, although the series was never a big hit in the ratings.

It marked a return to TV for Spielberg, who first made a name for himself directing the ABC film, "Duel" in 1971 before moving on to the movie theaters. His films include box-office blockbusters such as "Jaws," ''E.T.," ''Jurassic Park," the "Indiana Jones" franchise and critically acclaimed pictures such as "Saving Private Ryan," ''Lincoln" and "Schindler's List," for which he won an Academy Award for best director.

Apple is planning to spend about $1 billion on original programming during the next year in an effort to bring in more revenue to its rapidly growing services division. The Cupertino, California, company already offers two video series through its Apple Music streaming service, "Planet of the Apps" and "Carpool Karaoke," but neither has created much buzz.

Even though it appears to be more serious about TV programming, Apple still isn't sending anywhere near Netflix, which is pouring $6 billion into its line-up this year as it tries to expand its current worldwide audience of more than 100 million subscribers. And Netflix is increasing the prices for its two most popular plans by a $1 to $2 per month in an effort to raise more money to spend on future programming.

Apple is expected to spend more than $50 million on 10 episodes of "Amazing Stories." While the future plans for the series revival haven't been revealed, the original "Amazing Stories" run attracted guest appearances from a list of stars that included Kevin Costner, Harvey Keitel, Charlie Sheen, Mark Hamill and John Lithgow, while its list of episode directors and writers included Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Robert Zemeckis and Brad Bird.

  • Monday, Oct. 9, 2017
Report: Google uncovers ads by Russian operatives
This Wednesday, April 26, 2017, file photo shows the Google mobile phone icon, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads across Google products, including YouTube and Google search, according to reports.

The Washington Post is reporting that the technology behemoth uncovered the Russian-backed disinformation campaign as it considers whether to testify before Congress next month. Social media companies Facebook and Twitter have already agreed to testify.

The report said the company discovered the Russian presence by siphoning data from Twitter. The Washington Post report is based on anonymous sources familiar with the investigation.

In a statement, Google said it has a "set of strict ads policies including limits on political ad targeting and prohibitions on targeting based on race and religion."

"We are taking a deeper look to investigate attempts to abuse our systems, working with researchers and other companies, and will provide assistance to ongoing inquiries," the statement continued.

Facebook recently shared about 3,000 Russian-backed ads with Congress.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin directed a disinformation campaign aimed at helping Donald Trump win the presidential election.

  • Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017
Family and "Star Trek" co-stars pay tribute to Anton Yelchin
Director Drake Doremus speaks at a life celebration and statue unveiling for the late actor Anton Yelchin at Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in Los Angeles. Doremus directed Yelchin in his 2011 film "Like Crazy." Yelchin died in June 2016 at the age of 27. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

A statue of Anton Yelchin has been unveiled at a service honoring the late actor's life that was attended by Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence and several of his collaborators in the "Star Trek" franchise.

Zoe Saldana spoke of her "Star Trek" co-star during the service Sunday, which was also attended by "Star Trek" co-star Simon Pegg and director J.J. Abrams. Saldana and other speakers, including Yelchin's parents, addressed guests next to several pictures of the actor showing him as a baby, a young boy, and from his film career.

Other celebrity guests included  actors Emile Hirsch and Jon Voight, and directors Drake Doremus and Jeremy Saulnier.

The bronze statue of Yelchin was unveiled at the "Life Celebration" event and is now open for public viewing in the cemetery's Garden of Legends. It was created by sculptor Nick Marra and FX artist Greg Nicotero.

A mural of Yelchin created by fans at a "Star Trek" convention was also on display at the service at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Yelchin was killed in June 2016 at age 27 when he was pinned by his sport utility vehicle after it rolled down the driveway of his Los Angeles home.

  • Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017
Dove apologizes for Facebook soap ad that many call racist
This undated combo of images made from video shows a Dove body wash ad. Dove is facing heat for the ad and said Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, that it regrets the offense caused by the ad. The company said it "missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully." (Twitter via AP)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Dove is facing heat for a body wash ad showing a black woman taking off her shirt to reveal a white woman, with many social media users calling it racist.

Dove has removed the post from its Facebook page and posted comments on social media Saturday saying it "missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully." In an emailed statement Sunday, Dove said the ad, a three-second video clip, "did not represent the diversity of real beauty which is something Dove is passionate about and is core to our beliefs, and it should not have happened ... we apologize deeply and sincerely for the offense that it has caused."

The ad was a gif showing a black woman taking off her brown shirt to reveal a white woman, who then took off her lighter-colored shirt, revealing a woman of color in a slightly darker shirt.

While that post has been taken down, there are screenshots from the ad circulating broadly online. One is a group of four images from the ad that show only the black woman turning into the white woman.

Social media users said there were racist implications of a soap ad that showed a black woman transforming into a white woman. Many who criticized the imagery said it suggests black skin is dirty and white skin is clean, and noted there is a historical legacy of racism in soap ads.

"Dove's marketing team is fundamentally racist. A clean body is not a white body. Black bodies aren't systematically dirty," wrote Abigail Sewell, 34, a sociology professor at Emory University in Atlanta, on Facebook. "I've used their products forever, but it's time to move on."

It's not the first time Dove has been criticized for being racially insensitive in an ad. A 2011 ad that showed two women of color and a white woman standing in front of "before" and "after" signs was also criticized .

Dove, which is owned by British-Dutch company Unilever, has long had an ad campaign that highlights women's diversity.