Review Category : Top Stories

Putin Opposition Leader Facing 10-Year Prison Term

Sean Gallup/Getty Images(MOSCOW) — The day after President Vladimir Putin insisted Russia was not repressing his political opponents, Putin’s biggest critic is facing a lengthy prison term. Russian prosecutors announced Friday they are seeking a 10-year prison term for opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Navalny and his brother are on trial for what he says are trumped up corruption charges aimed at silencing Putin’s opponents.

On Thursday, Putin denied there is any campaign in Russia to repress political opposition.

Navalny was the ringleader of the massive protests against Putin back in the winter of 2011. After Putin returned to the Kremlin that spring, he started to crack down on his opponents, and Navalny soon found himself in court for another charge. Navally was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison, but the sentence was quickly commuted.

Navalny ran for mayor of Moscow where he won a surprising 27 percent of the vote. For the past year, however, he’s been under house arrest for this case.

In court on Friday, Navalny was defiant, saying lies are the essence of today’s Russian government.

Sentencing for Navalny is scheduled for Jan. 15.

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Verizon Lets Users Text Message the Gift of Coffee

Verizon(NEW YORK) — There’s nothing worse than being crunched for time while holiday shopping or realizing you forgot someone on your list.

Verizon is aiming to solve its subscribers’ gift-giving nightmares by allowing them to give anyone a Starbucks gift card by sending a quick text message. The gift will be added to the subscriber’s Verizon bill.

Here’s how it works:

Download the Verizon messages app and compose a text message. Next, click the + sign and choose the gift icon. From there, users are prompted to choose whether they’d like to send $5, $10 or $25. Choose a background image, enter a festive message and press send.

The recipient will immediately get a text message letting them know they’ve received a Starbucks credit, along with a bar code that can be used to pay at the store.

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Report: Padres Acquire Outfielder Justin Upton from the Braves

Patrick McDermott/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The San Diego Padres have struck again this offseason by acquiring another big-time bat. According to reports, the team has acquired outfielder Justin Upton from the Atlanta Braves.

According to reports, the Padres will send Braves pitcher Max Fried, third baseman Dustin Peterson and outfielder Mallex Smith.

Still just 27 years old, Upton hit .270 with 29 home runs and 102 RBIs in his eighth season in the big leagues. He will be a free agent following the 2015 season.

The Padres now have a completely revamped offense/outfield. Not only have they acquired Upton, they’ve also made trades for former All-Star outfielder Matt Kemp and former American League Rookie of the Year outfielder Wil Myers.

The Padres also recently acquired All-Star catcher Derek Norris from the Oakland Athletics, and reportedly they’ve acquired third baseman Will Middlebrooks from the Boston Red Sox for Ryan Hanigan.

In 2014, the Padres ranked 30th in Major League Baseball in runs scored, batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage.

San Diego hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006.

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NASA Can See Christmas Lights from Space

NASA’s Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen(NEW YORK) — Those twinkling holiday lights illuminating suburban streets can even be seen from space.

Using data from a satellite run by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, researchers determined that patterns of light intensity changed during the major holidays.

In the United States, that means the lights shine brightest between Black Friday and New Year’s, while in the Middle East they’re most visible during Ramadan.

The data was crunched after filtering out moonlight, clouds and airborne particles, NASA scientists said.

Researchers found that light intensity increased by as much as 50 percent in suburban areas during the Christmas season, while urban areas were more illuminated by 20 to 30 percent, according to the findings, which were released on NASA’s website.

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Sony Suspends Studio Tours

AFP/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) — Thanks to the Sony hack attack, tours of the studio have been suspended.

In the wake of the hack, Sony says tours are suspended indefinitely, meaning tourists in Southern California this holiday season are out of luck.

Sony won’t officially say the hack is the reason for the decision, but last year at this time you could check out the lot. After the holidays, the studio will re-evaluate when to start up the tours again.

The hack attack resulted in the leak of Sony films, personal emails and other information.

Sony on Wednesday cancelled the Christmas Day release date of its Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy The Interview — which depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — in light of threats made by hackers against theaters planning to show the film. A number of theater chains pulled the film from its holiday schedule before Sony made its announcement.

Oddly, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s YouTube page on Thursday posted an Interview promotional clip that still touts a Christmas Day release. It’s titled, “In Franco & Rogen We Trust.” Still, the studio has removed billboards of the movie in various cities.

A White House spokesperson says there is an ongoing investigation into the hack, but he stopped short of pointing the finger at North Korea.

Spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday, “There is evidence to indicate that we have seen destructive activity with malicious intent that was initiated by a sophisticated actor.”

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Sony Suspends Studio Tours

AFP/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) — Thanks to the Sony hack attack, tours of the studio have been suspended.

In the wake of the hack, Sony says tours are suspended indefinitely, meaning tourists in Southern California this holiday season are out of luck.

Sony won’t officially say the hack is the reason for the decision, but last year at this time you could check out the lot. After the holidays, the studio will re-evaluate when to start up the tours again.

The hack attack resulted in the leak of Sony films, personal emails and other information.

Sony on Wednesday cancelled the Christmas Day release date of its Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy The Interview — which depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — in light of threats made by hackers against theaters planning to show the film. A number of theater chains pulled the film from its holiday schedule before Sony made its announcement.

Oddly, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s YouTube page on Thursday posted an Interview promotional clip that still touts a Christmas Day release. It’s titled, “In Franco & Rogen We Trust.” Still, the studio has removed billboards of the movie in various cities.

A White House spokesperson says there is an ongoing investigation into the hack, but he stopped short of pointing the finger at North Korea.

Spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday, “There is evidence to indicate that we have seen destructive activity with malicious intent that was initiated by a sophisticated actor.”

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Year In Review: Findlay Village Mall Dealt Setbacks

12/19/14 – 5:30 A.M.

Our look back at 2014 focuses on the continued erosion of stores at the Findlay Village Mall today. The shopping center took some big hits this year, including the loss of Sears in April. Courier business reporter Lou Wilin said that was a tough loss because it’s hard to replace anchor stores these days…

Audio: Lou Wilin

Smaller blows to the mall were dealt later in the year, with Jo Ann Fabrics announcing it would move out of the mall to a new location. Aeropostale announced it would close this month.

Still, mall management is optimistic for the future…

Audio: Lou Wilin

Wilin said the hope is these new spaces, like the Children’s Museum and Cedar Creek Church, will bring more foot traffic to the mall.

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A Look at the Best Apps of 2014

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — What makes an app great? Something that makes our lives easier or allows us to stay connected in innovative new ways.

The year 2014 was a great year for apps. Here are a few that stood out from the pack:

Hyperlapse

Instagram’s spin-off app allows users to take amazing time-lapse videos that look worthy of being on the big screen. What would have required expensive equipment can now be achieved with an app.

Swarm

Splitting the atom paid off for Foursquare, which spun off its social component into a separate app called Swarm, which allows users to share their location with friends and make plans.

Foursquare was transformed into a turbocharged app for discovering and exploring new places, whether by name, location, a friend’s recommendation or a user’s tastes.

Microsoft Goes Mobile

Productivity got even easier in 2014 when Microsoft released its suite of Office apps for free to users on iOS and Android, making it easier to create and edit documents and presentations while on the go.

Facebook Groups

It’s been a year full of spin-off apps for Facebook, but Groups is the one that stood out above the rest.

Groups is designed to be a complementary experience for the most frequent users of the service and people who want another avenue for engagement.

In a matter of just a few taps, users can create new groups, post to existing ones and discover new communities to join.

“The Tinder of”

Forget a match made in heaven. How about a match made with a mutual right swipe?

Following on the success of Tinder, swipe right/left apps are having quite a year. Among them are Strut, which is like Tinder for shopping, and Jobr, which matches job seekers and recruiters.

Google Inbox

Goodbye, clutter!

“Inbox,” a super-powered app for Gmail users that provides organization and context to existing emails, began rolling out in October on an invitation-only basis.

Inbox is so smart that it will even add real-time information from the Internet to your emails, such as letting you know if your flight is delayed.

Dumb Ways to Die 2

What started in 2012 public service announcement for Metro Trains in Melbourne, Australia, has turned into two wickedly successful games.

A follow-up to last year’s “Dumb Ways to Die” game was released this year — and users can’t get enough of the simple and addictive game that effortlessly fills the void left by Flappy Bird.

RIP Flappy Bird

Let’s take a moment of silence for “Flappy Bird.”

The enormously addictive game that has been downloaded millions of times was pulled from app stores in February after creator Dong Nguyen said the game’s stunning success had upended his “simple” life.

Nguyen returned in August with a follow-up, Swing Copters, that left many gamers still missing their Flappy Bird fix.

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The Possible Health Benefits of Mistletoe?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Leave it to medical researchers to find something about mistletoe that has nothing to do with kissing. The traditional plant that people hang in their homes at Christmastime may one day keep your liver healthy.

In a report published on the website Science Daily, researchers say a compound produced by a particular variety of the plant — Korean mistletoe -– may help fight obesity-related liver disease in mice.

That particular mistletoe contains a number of biologically active compounds, including steroids, flavonoids and viscothionin.

When the researchers treated obese mice with viscothionin, their body and liver weights dropped.

The researchers say more work is needed, but viscothionin may one day be useful in fighting fatty liver disease, which is linked to obesity and can progress to liver failure in some cases.

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Kim Jong-un Invited to Russia for Victory Day Celebration

KNS/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been invited to Moscow, the Kremlin confirmed to Russian media.

Kim has been invited to attend the Victory Day celebration in Red Square in May, which next year will honor the 70th anniversary of the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany, TASS reported.

If he accepts, it would be Kim’s first trip abroad since taking power after his father’s death in 2011. North Korea recently declared the end to a three-year mourning period for former leader Kim Jong Il’s death.

The invitation comes as Russia and North Korea have strengthened ties over the past year, and as Russia’s relationships with the United States and Europe have become strained.

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