James Corden channels ‘Les Misérables’ for ‘One Day More’ of Trump’s presidency

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The fact that Donald Trump won’t be the focus of their monologues for too much longer hasn’t escaped the notice of America’s late night hosts. And while Stephen Colbert used his inauguration eve monologue to rattle through the president’s many lowlights, James Corden decided to channel Les Misérables.

Drafting in the help of Joshua Grosso, Jillian Butler, Emily Bautista, Kyle Scatliffe, Shuler Hensley, Patti LuPone, and Matt Lucas, Corden walked through the CBS offices singing a parody of the song “One Day More” while trying to purge the building of the president’s presence.

“It’s been four years of endless crimes / But now he’s finally out of time,” sings Corden. “One day more.”

Trevor Noah calls BS on Fox News and social media companies in Capitol riot recap

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Trevor Noah has been away over the Christmas break, but on Tuesday he returned to our screens — and his comeback monologue packed a pretty serious punch.

Over the course of seven minutes the Daily Show host recapped the pro-Trump Capitol riot which left five dead (including a police officer) and many more under FBI investigation, before unpacking the fallout and calling “bullshit” on Fox News, Republicans, and social media companies alike.

“Ah, I get it now,” says Noah in the clip above, after playing a montage of Fox hosts excusing the behaviour of the violent mob that stormed the Capitol. “These people weren’t ‘creepy bloggers,’ they were ‘solid’ law-abiding Americans. And nobody is allowed to kill cops except for the people who respect cops. They can do whatever they want.

“Look man, the point is, you guys clearly don’t care about cops. You only care about the idea of using cops to keep Black people in their place. So please, miss me with that bullshit.”

Later in the monologue, after joining in with the other late show hosts to criticise pro-Trump Republicans like Lindsey Graham, Noah turns his attention to the social media companies that finally decided to ban the President earlier this month.

“For years people have been warning you about the violence and conspiracy theories you’ve been amplifying and allowing to spread on your platforms,” Noah says. “And for years you’ve said you can’t do anything about it. But now that the Capitol has been ransacked, now all of a sudden it turns out you can.”

Noah says tech companies have spent years claiming they don’t have a magic button to stop hate, and it was only when Trump lost the presidential election that they finally found it.

“So what, now these companies want a cookie for doing the right thing too late? Miss me with that bullshit.”

Trump pardons Anthony Levandowski, who stole trade secrets from Google

Donald Trump is on his way out of the White House, but that didn’t stop him from pardoning 73 people and commuting the sentences of another 70 people on the last day of his presidency. 

One name on that list is Anthony Levandowski, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing trade secrets from the Google-owned, self-driving car company Waymo. 

Levandowski was a co-founder of Google’s self-driving car division before leaving the tech giant in 2016 to start a self-driving truck company called Otto. That company was subsequently acquired by Uber, and Waymo filed a lawsuit alleging that their confidential information ended up in the hands of Uber. Levandowski was looking at a 10-year sentence, but he eventually pleaded guilty to trade secret theft, thus reducing his prison sentence. The start of his sentence was ultimately delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Levandowski has also agreed to pay $756,000 to Google, plus a fine of $95,000, but that’s small change compared to the $179 million fine he was ordered to pay Google for poaching its employees (though Levandowski is trying to get Uber to pay that particular fine). 

In a press release, the White House named several notable entrepreneurs, including PayPal and Palantir co-founder Peter Thiel and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, as being supportive of the pardon. 

“Mr. Levandowski is an American entrepreneur who led Google’s efforts to create self-driving technology,” the press release says. “Mr. Levandowski pled guilty to a single criminal count arising from civil litigation. Notably, his sentencing judge called him a ‘brilliant, groundbreaking engineer that our country needs.’ Mr. Levandowski has paid a significant price for his actions and plans to devote his talents to advance the public good.”

Other pardoned individuals on the list include rapper Lil Wayne, who was serving a prison sentence over firearm possession charges, and Steve Bannon, former executive chairman of right-wing media outlet Breitbart News, who served as Trump’s chief strategist during the first seven months of his term. Bannon was in prison for mail fraud and money laundering.

Bunny Devours Snowman’s Carrot Nose In The Cutest Christmas Faceoff

This Frosty lost face, thanks to a famished furry critter.

A bunny was filmed chomping into the carrot nose of a snowman built by a family in the Cambrian Heights suburb of Calgary, the CBC reported.

“Just giving the snowman a kiss,” the family joked in viral footage shared by Sheila Bryant last week as they watched the schnoz heist, “Today” noted in the segment above.

Apparently the bunny has a nose for tasty noses. It finished off the veggie proboscis.

Somebody once wrote a poem about such a moment.

It goes: “There was a little snowman Who had a carrot nose. Along came a rabbit, And what do you suppose? That hungry little rabbit, Looking for his lunch, Ate the little snowman’s nose ― Nibble, nibble, crunch!”

Netflix’s ‘Space Sweepers’ trailer looks like a fun robot-filled romp through the stars

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If you’re looking for a hectic space romp to fill the Guardians Against the Galaxy void, Sung-hee Jo’s upcoming movie Space Sweepers could well be worth a look.

Following a crew of space junk collectors in the year 2092, the story revolves around the discovery of a little girl who may in fact be a deadly weapon in disguise.

From the looks of the trailer — which Netflix dropped Tuesday — expect high budget special effects, action aplenty, and a lighthearted script that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Space Sweepers is available to stream on Netflix from Feb. 5.

YouTuber challenges scientist to create an AI version of him for $100

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We already know deepfakes are all over the place these days, and the technology associated with them is advancing rapidly. But how easy is it to create a digital replica of somebody? And could it be done on a budget?

That’s the question YouTuber Tom Scott set out to find the answer to in his latest video, for which he challenged AI in neuroscience researcher Jordan Harrod to create a fake version of him for $100.

“This isn’t a face replacement or a body double,” Scott explains at the start of the video. “That’s mainstream now. Hollywood’s doing it, anyone can do it. This is trying to create a cheaper, complete replacement for me — an automatic digital puppet on a budget of just $100.”

As you can probably guess, Harrod manages this easily enough — creating a version of Scott that, while a little rough around the edges, still manages to help her narrate the rest of the video while doing a passable impression of Scott’s voice and facial expressions.

But rather than being an instructional video (which, given the concerns around deepfake technology, wouldn’t be a great idea), Harrod uses the time to explore the tech’s advancement, the associated dangers, and the tools we can use to identify synthetic media going forwards.

It’s a fascinating insight into something which, while perhaps not a widespread source of misinformation just yet, isn’t going away anytime soon.

Netflix’s ‘Fate: The Winx Saga’ trailer features plenty of fairy magic, not one pair of wings

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Fairy magic is linked to emotion, people, as you’ll learn in the official trailer for Netflix’s Fate: The Winx Saga series. And folks, “The stronger the emotion, the stronger the magic.”

Following a teaser dropped in December, the streaming giant has released the trailer for its new six-part fantasy teen series about five fairies attending Alfea, a magical boarding school.

Created by The Vampire Diaries‘ Brian Young as a reimagining of Iginio Straffi’s Italian cartoon series Winx Club, the series follows Bloom (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina star Abigail Cowen) and her friends, who learn about themselves, their powers, and the truth behind the history of the school, which sits behind a magical Barrier — protection from the so-called Burned Ones.

But as Bloom says, “I’m just kind of bummed I didn’t see a single pair of wings.”

Fate: The Winx Saga lands on Netflix Jan 22.

WhatsApp delays controversial update after user backlash

WhatsApp has caused quite a bit of commotion with a planned update to its privacy policy, which spooked users as it added more detail on how Facebook and third party businesses can use and interact with user data on the platform. 

Now, amid user backlash, the company has announced the new policy will go into effect on May 15 instead of Feb. 8, as originally planned. 

“We’ve heard from so many people how much confusion there is around our recent update. There’s been a lot of misinformation causing concern and we want to help everyone understand our principles and the facts,” the company said in a blog post dated Jan. 15. 

“We’ll then go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15,” the post says. 

In the post, WhatsApp once again reiterates what it said last week — neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see your private messages, and the company is still committed to using end-to-end encryption for conversations. The updates are all about communication between users and businesses, and they do not affect people’s private conversations. (WhatsApp does share some metadata with Facebook, but that’s largely been in place since 2016). 

Still, the company acknowledges that it’s “going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp.” 

I can provide a very palpable example of WhatsApp means by this. The company recently provided some information on a page precisely to address confusion around its new Privacy Policy. But the latest version of that page, as I see it at writing time, is missing a paragraph that was there just five days ago.

The paragraph in question, as seen on an earlier version of the page (via Wayback Machine), is as follows:

“New commerce features: People increasingly want to be able to shop from businesses online. With Facebook branded commerce features like Shops, some businesses will display their goods right within WhatsApp so people can see what’s available to buy. If you choose to interact with Shops, your shopping activity can be used to personalize your Shops experience and the ads you see on Facebook and Instagram. Features like this are optional and when you use them we will tell you in the app how your data is being shared with Facebook.”

I don’t know why WhatsApp removed this paragraph from the page (I’ve asked, and will update this article when I hear back), but it certainly only adds to confusion around this matter. 

You can read WhatsApp’s updated Terms of Service here

It’s hard to say how many users WhatsApp has lost due to the new policy, but its competitors, such as Telegram and Signal, are seeing a massive influx of new users in the last week or so. 

Notably, the company also launched front-page ads in India to mitigate the user outflows. 

This clever bot turns Reddit arguments into video game scenes

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There’s plenty of drama on Reddit, but it’s not often that drama gets to play out on the screen.

Until now, at least.

On Sunday, 24-year-old software engineer Micah Price from Cape Town, South Africa, unveiled what can only be described as a niche-but-genius creation: a bot that takes everyday arguments on Reddit and has them play out in the style of scenes from Ace Attorney, Capcom’s animated courtroom-based video game series.

The end result is a gloriously dramatic affair that shines a whole new spotlight on Reddit’s comment section. Price’s video was shared on Reddit’s r/Videos sub shortly after it went live on YouTube, and at the time of writing it’s racked up over 21,000 upvotes.

Price told Mashable he’s always been a fan of Ace Attorney, which sees players taking on the role of defense attorneys who must carry out investigations to protect their clients (the game’s episodes culminate in a courtroom trial where you have to cross-examine witnesses and present evidence to a judge). Price got the idea for the bot from other meme-based videos of the game on YouTube.

“The dramatic music is great,” he said, “especially for the melodramatic debates on Reddit.”

Even better, everybody can join in the fun — all you need to do to trigger the bot is add “!objectionbot” or “!objection-bot” to a Reddit comment on certain supported subreddits (you can view the full list of those here). The bot then scans the thread, finds the top commenters, and turns their discussion into a YouTube video that’s then automatically linked to in the thread (the “objection!” graphic happens when a comment has a negative score, or if the bot’s neural network detects the tone of the comment to be negative).

Price said the whole thing took him about three days to put together. “I wasn’t sure if it would be popular so didn’t want to spent much longer on it,” he said. “I used Python and a bunch of computer vision and machine learning libraries. It’s uber buggy at the moment, though.”

And as for the bot’s future?

“I’ll see how it goes,” said Price. “Only costs me $10 a month to run so no harm leaving it for a couple months. If it’s anything like my other side projects I’ll just end up abandoning it though. Although maybe someone else will pick it up, it’s open source.”

No matter what lies ahead for objection-bot, it’s ripples are already being felt throughout the Reddit-sphere. Godspeed.

How to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day from home

The third Monday in January has returned to remind us of the legacy of one of our nation’s greatest civil rights leaders at a time when we need it most. 

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only federally recognized day of service, traditionally observed with nationwide service projects and volunteer opportunities. As AmeriCorps, the organization that oversees the national day of service, says, it’s “a day on, not a day off.”

But this year is different. Not only is the country dealing with an ongoing health crisis keeping the majority of Americans at home, but we also enter the new year on the heels of an intense cry for racial justice and healing seen in last summer’s movement for Black lives. You might not be able to get out to attend a service project this year, but you can still find ways to honor the work of activists present and past. 

Joy Bivins, associate director of collections and research services at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, described this year’s commemoration and the current political moment as the right time to really understand King’s message and find creative ways to uplift Black communities in his honor. 

“It’s a perfect time to revisit his philosophy and take advantage of the programs that are happening out there, that are interrogating who Dr. King was…within the context of what’s happening in our nation today,” Bivins said.

Here are a few ways to honor the legacy of King, his colleagues, and the activists building on his work, during a year when you can’t go out and march yourself.

Attend a virtual event or talk

Traditional service opportunities might not be possible this year, but many institutions are still hosting virtual commemorations.  

Aaron Bryant, curator for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, says the museum’s programming is built on the framework of social justice and the fight for equality in line with King’s message. The museum has moved its annual celebration, A People’s Holiday, online. You can sign up to attend the event, featuring Grammy award-winner Christian McBride, here

The King Center, a memorial and nonprofit established by Coretta Scott King, will host its annual Beloved Community Commemorative Service on the holiday (starting at 10.30 a.m. ET). You can register on eventbrite.

For the rest of the year, check out other programming by Black-led cultural organizations. The Schomburg Center, for example, hosts virtual events about Black culture and history every month. “That’s our bread and butter,” Bivins explained. The organization just hosted its annual Black Comic festival, and will continue cultural programming ahead of Black History Month. Check out the schedule here

Donate to legal defense funds

Bivins explained that while many consider King only through his legacy of “peaceful protest,” he also had a “very robust interaction with the criminal justice system” — a history that continues in the unequal treatment of Black versus white protesters. 

She recommends donating to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, a leading nonprofit fighting for racial justice through litigation and advocacy, or supporting the Southern Poverty Law Center, which builds on the legal victories of the early civil rights movement. 

Support HBCUs

Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) arose prior to 1964 in response to systemic education inequality. With enrollment expected to increase this year, they represent safe spaces for Black students and award a significant portion of bachelor’s degrees held by Black students.   

Bivins said that advocating for HBCUs honors spaces where “our activists and heroes are trained.” Call on your representative to support continued federal funding for these institutions. 

Connect with community organizers and institutions

The fight for racial justice is ongoing and starts on the ground. Bivins recommends seeking out your local Black Lives Matter chapter and finding ways to support their work.

You can also donate to Black cultural institutions or support digital collection initiatives. The National Museum of African American History & Culture, for example, created a digital repository of stories from last year’s protest movement and invites others to share their stories to the online collection. It’s called Voices of Hope and Resistance and is still accepting submissions.

The museum’s curator Bryant understands King’s work as a fight for community, equity, and human dignity. He says it’s also the perfect moment to share small acts of community service that don’t require grand gesture or money — things like sharing food with community food banks, volunteering your time to assist a neighbor, or uplifting social justice conversations online. 

Learn more about Dr. King’s activism

Take this day (week, month, or whole year, while you’re at it) to read up on King’s life. The holiday, proposed the year he was assassinated in 1968, was contentiously debated and wasn’t formally adopted by every state until 2000, Bivins explained. 

Bivins says this history allows us to critique the glorification of King’s “peaceful movement” and the myth that he was widely beloved, something we’ve had to reconcile with this past year. “He was assassinated because he believed certain things. That idea — it makes us a bit uneasy,” Bivins said. “I think that uneasiness in wrestling with our nation’s history can be a challenge to some, but it is a worthwhile moment to reflect on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we like to see ourselves go.” 

Both Bivins and Bryant recommend reading King’s last book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community. “That’s the question we’ve been asking, this year and this week in particular,” Bryant said. “How do we become a national community?”