Review Category : Top Stories

Obama Makes a Direct Appeal to the Iranian People

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — On the eve of their Persian New Year, President Obama Thursday delivered a video message directly to the Iranian people about the deal the U.S. and other world powers are trying to work out with Tehran to freeze their country’s nuclear program.

With an end of March deadline for reaching an agreement, the president spoke of the progress made so far but added, “gaps remain. And there are people, in both our countries and beyond, who oppose a diplomatic resolution,” a pointed reference to congressional Republicans and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Obama said that Iran’s leaders have two options, the right one leading to “the path of greater opportunities for the Iranian people,” which would include the lifting of sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

On the other hand, the president said if Tehran refuses to agree to freeze its nuclear program, it will just mean more isolation and hardships for the Iranian people.

Obama closed by saying, “Now it is early spring. We have a chance — a chance — to make progress that will benefit our countries, and the world, for many years to come.”

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Obama Makes a Direct Appeal to the Iranian People

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — On the eve of their Persian New Year, President Obama Thursday delivered a video message directly to the Iranian people about the deal the U.S. and other world powers are trying to work out with Tehran to freeze their country’s nuclear program.

With an end of March deadline for reaching an agreement, the president spoke of the progress made so far but added, “gaps remain. And there are people, in both our countries and beyond, who oppose a diplomatic resolution,” a pointed reference to congressional Republicans and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Obama said that Iran’s leaders have two options, the right one leading to “the path of greater opportunities for the Iranian people,” which would include the lifting of sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

On the other hand, the president said if Tehran refuses to agree to freeze its nuclear program, it will just mean more isolation and hardships for the Iranian people.

Obama closed by saying, “Now it is early spring. We have a chance — a chance — to make progress that will benefit our countries, and the world, for many years to come.”

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Movie Review: “The Gunman” (Rated R)

“The Gunman” – Open Road Films(NEW YORK) — This sniper flick should have been taken out long before it got to the screen.

I knew next to nothing about The Gunman going into it, aside from the fact I liked the idea of Sean Penn doing an action film. When you throw a two-time Oscar winner into a genre that’s become predictable and stale, the assumption is something special will happen on screen.

Well, you know what they say about people who assume things.

The action/thriller stars Penn as Jim Terrier, an ex-special forces government contractor who’s done some bad things, and is forced to go on the run following a job in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He leaves behind a girl, takes a shot at redemption, and in the end gets pulled back into a life of violence for one last mission in order to save himself and the woman he loves.

We’ve seen it before.

But The Gunman starts out differently, tricking us into thinking we’re getting a geopolitical thriller set amid the violence, poverty, and natural resource exploitation of central Africa. That movie, I wanted to see. But sadly, this movie devolves into just another action flick where people chase each other around a house with guns, and the bad guys couldn’t put a bullet in a cow from five feet away while our hero can shoot the wings off a fly.

It was about at the point of this big shootout, a little over halfway through the film, that I started caring less about the movie, and more about whether it would be over in time for me to grab a sandwich at this one place before it closed. Then I checked my email on my phone, twice, looking up in time to catch Sean Penn with his shirt off, again.

A quick sidebar on that: Sean Penn looks pretty damn good with his shirt off. That for some will be worth the price of admission. It’s pretty impressive, because at 54 he’s in far better shape than most 24-year-olds. So if you take a date, guys, just know that later in the evening she’ll be thinking about him, not you.

Or perhaps you’ll both be thinking about how ridiculous the final action sequence is, or the unnecessary brutality of one of the final kills, which is shot disturbingly close-up. It’s as if The Gunman couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a smart thriller or bloody action romp, so it decided to do both — poorly.

And even when the film gets stuff right, it gets it wrong. Right: casting Idris Elba as a smooth-talking Interpol agent opposite Sean Penn; the two of them together have dynamic chemistry. Wrong? They share the screen for what seems like fewer than five minutes.

Javier Bardem is fun, too, as Penn’s wacked-out adversary, but we’ve seen shades of this kind of thing from him before in films including Skyfall and The Counselor. Even so, he’s still enjoyable to watch.

It’s ironic that the movie’s most forgettable character is the woman Sean Penn’s character can’t forget, played by Jasmine Trinca. The problem isn’t Trinca, it’s the role — another one-dimensional female lead who has basically two jobs: look pretty and/or look scared while the men fight.

So while it’s fun to see Sean Penn get his action hero swagger on, I think we all expect more from him than the bland, highly predictable shoot-em-up that is The Gunman.

And not to leave you hanging — the sandwich shop, sadly, was closed.

Two out of five stars.

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Mandatory Breathalyzers on Car Ignitions Could Save Thousands of Lives

Feverpitched/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Researchers say placing breathalyzers on car ignitions could save thousands of lives.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, the implementation of mandatory alcohol ignition interlock devices would prevent up to 85,000 crash fatalities and over 84 percent of non-fatal injuries attributed to drunk driving.

To do so, researchers from the University of Michigan looked at the number of alcohol-related crashes that were preventable with such a device in vehicles less than one year old. They then repeated the analysis for subsequent years assuming a 15-year implementation.

The results, 85 percent prevention, are striking. They would also save an estimated $342 billion in injury-related costs, researchers claim.

The study does not, however, take into account the cost of the devices and how popular or unpopular the implementation of mandatory interlock devices would be.

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(2) Arizona Cruises Past (15) Texas Southern

Christian Petersen/Getty Images(PORTLAND, Ore.) — Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 23 points, and Stanley Johnson added 22 to lead second-seeded Arizona past 15th-seeded Texas Southern 93-72 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday.

Despite the 21 point victory, many Wildcats weren’t content with the team’s defense.

“I think the point is that we have to get back to being an excellent defensive team, which takes a lot of effort and concentration,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. “We certainly can do it. But whoever we play in the next round we know is going to be a formidable opponent. We want to make sure when that game ends we feel good about what we did, especially on defense.”

Point guard T.J. McConnell added that the game was the Wildcats’ worst defensive effort of the season.

Madarious Gibbs led Texas Southern (22-13) with 15 points.

Arizona (32-3) has now won 12 straight and will take on 10th-seeded Ohio State Saturday.

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SeaWorld Names New President and CEO

Photo by Matt Stroshane/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) — SeaWorld Entertainment named its new president and CEO on Thursday, selecting Joel Manby, formerly president and CEO of Herschend Enterprises, the largest family-owned theme park and entertainment company in the U.S.

Manby, 55, will assume the dual roles on April 7 and will also join the company’s Board of Directors. David D’Alessandro, who had served as interim CEO, will continue to serve as chairman.

SeaWorld has experienced attendance and revenue dropoffs since the release of Blackfish, a documentary portraying the company’s treatment of killer whales, in 2013.

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Scoreboard Roundup – 3/19/15

Hemera/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament –Second Round – East Region: (1) Villanova 93 (33-2) – (16) Lafayette 52 (20-13)

Midwest Region: (3) Notre Dame 69 (30-5) – (14) Northeastern 65 (23-12)

(8) Cincinnati 66 (23-10) – (9) Purdue 65 (21-13) OT

(6) Butler 56 (23-10) – (11) Texas 48 (20-14)

South Region: (5) Utah 57 (25-8) – (12) SF Austin 50 (29-5)

(11) UCLA 60 (21-13) – (6) SMU 59 (27-7)

(14) UAB 60 (20-15) – (3) Iowa State 59 (25-9)

West Region: (2) Arizona 93 (32-3) – (15) Texas Southern 72 (22-13)

(4) North Carolina 67 (25-11) – (13) Harvard 65 (22-8)

(6) Xavier 76 (22-13) – (11) Mississippi 57 (21-13)

(10) Ohio State 75 (24-10) – (7) VCU 72 (26-10)

(14) Georgia State 57 (25-9) – (3) Baylor 56 (24-10)

NBA: Houston Rockets 118 (46-22) – Denver Nuggets 108 (26-43)

Minnesota Timberwolves 95 (15-53) – New York Knicks 92 (14-54)

NHL: Ottawa Senators 6 (35-24-11; 81pts) – Boston Bruins 4 (36-24-11; 83pts)

San Jose Sharks 4 (35-28-8; 78pts) – Toronto Maple Leafs 1 (27-39-6; 60pts)

Montreal Canadiens 4 (45-20-7; 97pts) – Carolina Hurricanes 0 (26-35-9; 61pts)

Florida Panthers 3 (32-25-14; 78pts) – Detroit Red Wings 1 (38-20-11; 7pts)

Washington Capitals 3 (39-23-10; 88pts) – Minnesota Wild 2 (39-25-7; 85pts)

Winnipeg Jets 2 (36-23-12; 84pts) – St. Louis Blues 1 (45-20-6; 96pts)

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Target Reaches Settlement to Pay Customers Who Suffered Loss in 2013 Data Breach

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Target reached a settlement to pay up to $10,000 to any customer who can document a loss caused by the 2013 data breach at Target stores.

The settlement was approved at a Thursday-morning hearing at a federal court in St. Paul, Minnesota. On Wednesday night, a Target spokesperson told ABC News that the company was “pleased to see the process moving forward and look forward to its resolution.”

The Washington Post reports that individual shoppers will have to prove they endured losses from the breach. While up to 70 million had personal information such as addresses and phone numbers stolen, it was not immediately clear how many had suffered financial loss as a result.

Target also said it would implement a training program to ensure employees know the proper security practices and periodically review safeguards.

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Obama, Netanyahu Discuss Israeli PM’s Comments in Post-Election Phone Call

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) — President Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday and raising concerns about comments Netanyahu made the day before his election victory.

Prior to the election, Netanyahu said that he would not allow the establishment of a Palestinian state, comments he has tried to walk back since his victory. “I haven’t changed my policy,” he said directly on Thursday, citing his 2009 commitment to a two-state solution.

A White House official said that Obama “made the same points in private that the administration has been making in public” in his call with Netanyahu. Obama also told Netanyahu that the U.S. will re-assess its options.

The White House official also said that the pair discussed Netanyahu’s comments on Wednesday, urging his supporters to vote, citing the danger of high Arab voter turnout.

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Proposed Lawsuit Claims Some Wines Contain High Levels of Arsenic

travellinglight/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A proposed class-action lawsuit alleges that some popular and cheap wines contain “dangerously high levels of poisonous inorganic arsenic.”

Among the popular brands named in the suit are Franzia, Sutter Home, Charles Shaw and Beringer. They are largely inexpensive white or blush varietals including Moscato, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. “These wineries have long known about the serious health risks their products pose to customers,” said Brian Kabateck, managing partner of Los Angeles-based law firm Kabateck, Brown Kellner.

“Yet instead of reducing the exposure to acceptable levels, the defendants recklessly engage in a pattern and practice of selling arsenic-tainted wine to California consumers,” he said.

The Wine Institute released a statement acknowledging the lawsuit Thursday, saying that they “believe this allegation is false and misleading and that all wines being sold in the U.S. marketplace are safe.”

“Arsenic is prevalent in the natural environment in air, soil and water, and in food,” The Wine Institute said. “As an agricultural product, wines from throughout the world contain trace amounts of arsenic as do juices, vegetables, grains and other alcohol beverages. There is no research that shows that the amounts found in wine pose a health risk to consumers.”

The Wine Institute concluded by stating its worry that “the irresponsible publicity campaign…could scare the public into thinking that wine is not safe to consume which is patently untrue.”

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