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Moscow rejects Ukraine’s accusation it murdered journalist

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has rejected Ukraine’s allegation that Moscow was behind Tuesday’s murder of a Russian dissident journalist in Kiev, Russia’s state news agency TASS reported.

Arkady Babchenko, a critic of President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead in the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday where he lived in exile. He fled Russia after he received threats for saying he did not mourn the victims of a Russian defense ministry plane crash in 2016.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said in a social media posting late on Tuesday he was convinced that what he called “the Russian totalitarian machine” had not forgiven Babchenko for what Groysman called his honesty.

Lavrov, who called Babchenko’s killing a tragedy, said the allegation was nonsense and a continuation of what he called Kiev’s anti-Russian course.

“…The investigation has not even started and the prime minister of the Ukrainian government has already announced that the Russian intelligence services did it,” TASS cited Lavrov as saying.

Groysman’s accusations were a matter of regret, Lavrov was quoted as saying.

Babchenko’s murder was the fourth of a Kremlin critic in the Ukrainian capital in two years. None of the other murders, which Kiev has also blamed on Russia, have been solved.

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Prosecutor to announce details of deal reached with Missouri Governor Eric Greitens

St. Louis prosecutor is set to make public details of a deal she reached on a felony charge against Missouri Governor Eric Greitens on Wednesday, a day after he announced his resignation after his short tenure as governor became embroiled in scandal.

The 44-year-old first-term governor, who was seen as a rising star in the Republican Party, abruptly resigned on Tuesday amid accusations stemming from an extramarital affair and his political fundraising.

Greitens was charged a month ago with felony computer tampering. He is accused of illegally obtaining a donor list to aid his 2016 election campaign from a veterans’ charity he founded in 2007.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said in a statement to local media on Tuesday that she has been in contact with the governor’s defense team and that she has “reached a fair and just resolution of the pending charges.”

Greitens, a former Navy SEAL commando, faced the possibility of becoming the first Missouri governor to be impeached as the Republican-controlled Missouri General Assembly began a special session on May 18 to consider what disciplinary steps to take against him.

Lieutenant Governor Mike Parson, also a Republican, will become governor when Greitens officially leaves office on Friday.

Greitens was previously charged with felony invasion of privacy in connection with an admitted extramarital affair in 2015 with a hairdresser before he was elected. He has said he is innocent and called the relationship consensual.

St. Louis prosecutors dismissed the criminal invasion of privacy charge against Greitens on May 14 before his trial got under way. A special prosecutor assigned to the case said on Tuesday that her investigation will continue, according to local media.

Greitens had previously called the charges against him part of a political witch hunt and on Tuesday he complained of “legal harassment” with “no end in sight.”

Republican leaders in the state House of Representatives said Greitens’ exit was best for the state. State Senate Democratic leader Gina Walsh said Greitens still needed to answer for the scandals.

Editing by Richard Balmforth

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Tesla says Model 3 panel quality is now on par with German rivals

Tesla says Model 3 panel quality is now on par with German rivals

When the first everyday Tesla Model 3 buyers received their electric cars, the reports on build quality were… mixed, to put it mildly. A Munro & Associates analysis revealed panel gaps and other imperfections you would have expected from a budget car two decades ago. Tesla, however, wants to let you know that it turned a corner. In a response to a later Munro analysis at Motor Trend, the automaker said it had refined the deviation of panel gaps and offsets had improved by “nearly” 40 percent, to the point where they’re on par with “Audi, BMW and Mercedes.” The aim is to make them “even tighter,” Tesla said.

The company also defended the car against concerns about excess complexity and weight. There’s “always room for refinement,” according to Tesla, but the Model 3 has battery protection concerns that might not be present in other reference cars. It further pointed to government testing showing that the Model S and Model X had the lowest probabilities of injury out of “any cars it had ever tested,” indicating a strong safety pedigree.

The claimed improvements suggest that Tesla’s quality has come a long way since the earliest days of Model 3 production when it was struggling to produce significant volumes of acceptable cars. That’s no mean feat when its manufacturing is ramping up on a week-by-week basis. At the same time, this isn’t entirely reassuring if you’re one of the early adopters. While it’s hard to completely avoid first-year production quirks, the change in quality suggests you’ll be considerably happier with the fit and finish if you’re a patient buyer.

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‘Infinity War’ opens with record $250M, passing ‘Star Wars’

A whole lot of superheroes added up to a whole lot of ticket sales. The superhero smorgasbord “Avengers: Infinity Wars” opened with predictable shock-and-awe, earning $250 million in box office over the weekend and edging past “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” to set the highest opening weekend of all-time.

“Infinity War,” which brings together some two dozen superheroes in the 10-year culmination of Marvel Studio’s “cinematic universe,” also set a new global opening record with $630 million even though it’s yet to open in China, the world’s second-largest movie market. It opens there May 11.

According to the Walt Disney Co.’s estimates Sunday, “Infinity War” overwhelmed the previous global best (“The Fate of the Furious” with $541.9 million) but narrowly topped “The Force Awakens” in North America. The “Star Wars” reboot debuted with $248 million in 2015, which would translate to about $260 million accounting for inflation.

But both intergalactic behemoths belong to Disney, which now owns nine of the top 10 opening weekends ever — six belonging to Marvel releases. That includes “Black Panther,” which has grossed $1.3 billion since opening in February and still managed to rank fifth at this weekend’s box office, thanks partially to Marvel fans self-programming a double-feature.

The track record for Marvel, along with the hyper, extravagant effort put into the long-planned “Infinity War,” made the record-setting weekend something of a fait accompli. After ten years, 18 prior films and some $15 billion in box office, the weekend was an assured and long-awaited coronation for Kevin Feige’s Marvel, the most dominant force in a Hollywood with precious few sure things.

“To have now the biggest movie of domestic history as one of the Marvel cinematic universe films seems like a fitting tribute to the Marvel Studios team which has had just an astounding, unmatched run in the last decade,” said Dave Hollis, head of distribution for Disney.

By any measure, the 2-hour-and-40 minute-long “Infinity War” is one of the largest films ever assembled. With a production budget reportedly almost $300 million, Joe and Anthony Russo’s film brings together the stars of Marvel’s superhero stable, including Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, Chris Evans’ Captain America, Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, and many more.

It was shot over 18 months back-to-back with a sequel due out next summer. Marvel spent years laying the groundwork for the big showdown, teasing its villain (Josh Brolin’s Thanos) since 2014. The result earned positive reviews (84 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and an A CinemaScore from audiences. All but one of Marvel’s 19 cinematic universe releases has scored an A CinemaScore.

As if to further stamp its pronounced enormity, “Infinity War” was also the first film shot entirely with IMAX cameras. (Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” was mostly shot on IMAX.) IMAX screenings accounted for a record $41 million of the weekend’s global ticket sales. Greg Foster, head of entertainment for IMAX Corp, said the success of Marvel stands apart from Hollywood’s other mega franchises.

“This isn’t something that their parents saw. This isn’t an old franchise that their parents saw when they were 20,” said Foster. “This is theirs. The Marvel universe is the group of characters that this generation owns.”

No new wide releases dared to compete with “Infinity War,” which played at 4,474 theaters in North America. In a very distant second place was John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” with $10.7 million in its fourth week. With $148.2 million in total ticket sales, the Paramount Pictures thriller had topped the box office three of the last four weekends.

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore, credited Marvel with the potent lead-up to “Infinity Wars” with “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” ”Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” ”Thor: Ragnarok” and “Black Panther” — all successful and well-reviewed entries.

“This brought the world together this weekend,” said Dergarabedian. “That’s what these movies do: They remind us why we love going to the movie theater. A movie like this shows the singular and unique experience of going into a movie theater.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. “Avengers: Infinity War,” $250 million ($380 million international).

2. “A Quiet Place,” $10.7 million ($6.6 million international).

3. “I Feel Pretty,” $8.1 million ($1.4 million international).

4. “Rampage,” $7.1 million ($16.2 million international).

5. “Black Panther,” $4.4 million.

6. “Super Troopers 2,” $3.6 million.

7. “Truth or Dare,” $3.2 million ($2.8 million international).

8. “Blockers,” $2.9 million ($1.6 million international).

9. “Ready Player One,” $2.4 million ($8.6 million international).

10. “Traffik,” $1.6 million.

———

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore:

1. “Avengers: Infinity War,” $380 million.

2. “Us and Them,” $88.8 million.

3. “Rampage,” $16.2 million.

4. “A or B,” $15.2 million.

5. “Ready Player One,” $8.6 million.

6. “A Quiet Place,” $6.6 million.

7. “Peter Rabbit,” $5.3 million.

8. “Taxi 5,” $3.8 million.

9. “Genghis Khan,” $3.4 million.

10. “The Trough,” $2.9 million.

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Dark chocolate may give your brain a boost, studies suggest

Dark chocolate may give your brain a boost, studies suggest

Here’s a reason not to feel so guilty about indulging in your afternoon chocolate fix.

Dark chocolate may be giving your brain, immune system and eyes a real boost. This week, researchers brought out three new studies singing the praises of this delectable treat.

Scientists in one study allowed lucky volunteers to eat one dark chocolate bar, about 1.5 ounces, and then studied their brain waves with a machine called an E.E.G. Researchers found an increase in gamma waves 30 minutes after eating the chocolate.

“Gamma frequency is associated with neuron synchronization, in other words, neuroplasticity…. It is the highest level of cognitive processing,” Dr. Lee Burk, the principal investigator of this study, explained. Neuroplasticity describes the brain’s ability to efficiently connect thoughts and ideas.

Scientists believe that gamma waves are a sign that your nerve cells are firing on all cylinders. They are able to talk to each other in a manner that leads to optimum learning and memory formation.

Immunity booster

In another study, Burk looked at how dark chocolate affects the immune system. Again, participants ate a dark chocolate bar, and scientists studied their blood work for the following week. They found an increase in anti-inflammatory markers as well as an increase in T cells, infection-fighting cells. These findings are overall “great for immunity,” according to Burk.

It’s important to know that both of these studies were very small, with only 10 blessed participants. Not to mention, these results were presented at a scientific meeting, not published in a journal, which means they were not highly scrutinized, or “peer-reviewed,” before they were revealed.

A dark chocolate vision boost

But another study was published in JAMA Ophthalmology, a journal produced by the American Medical Association. In two different tests, they gave 30 participants two chocolate bars, both dark and milk chocolate, and conducted vision tests about two hours later. After eating dark chocolate, the participants had small improvements in their vision.

The most significant: improvement in contrast sensitivity, meaning your ability to tell the difference between objects in a low light or high-glare setting. In real life, contrast sensitivity comes into play when driving at night, for example.

It is unclear why dark chocolate affects vision; however, the authors think it has to do with the blood vessels in the eye. Cacao, the main ingredient in dark chocolate, has been shown to positively affect blood pressure and blood vessel function. This new research suggests that dark chocolate allows for more blood flow to back of the eye, therefore improving vision.

But make sure it’s really dark — 70 percent cacao

Before you gorge yourself on brownies and hot fudge sundaes in the name of science, all of these studies are very specific to dark chocolate.

Researchers used dark chocolate with 70 percent cacao, a recipe reserved for the darkest of dark chocolate. This usually means the chocolate tastes more bitter than sweet because only 30 percent of the candy bar is sugar and milk.

“It’s really not a candy,” Burk said of the chocolate used in his study. “It’s the sugar that’s a candy, not the cacao.”

If your favorite chocolate bar only has 11 percent cacao, that means that 89 percent is likely sugar and fat. So read the label before you claim to eat chocolate in the name of your health.

Burk believes that dark chocolate has serious potential from a health perspective. In his future research, he wants to see if cacao’s effects on the brain could help treat diseases like dementia and autism.

“Chocolate may be a medicinal product if appropriately studied,” he added.

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Alabama officer stops traffic to help dancer shoot audition video for Janet Jackson

Alabama officer stops traffic to help dancer shoot audition video for Janet Jackson

A dancer in Alabama was trying to make an audition video for Janet Jackson when the police arrived.

It all started on April 12 when Janet Jackson posted a video on Twitter looking for dancers for some upcoming projects.

One fan, Lala D’iore, decided she wanted to stand out. Earlier this month she shot an audition video in the middle of a street in Birmingham, Alabama.

Officer Philip Jones saw what was going on and told D’iore that she was taking too much of a risk by dancing in the middle of the street. Much to D’iore’s surprise, Jones decided to help her create an even better and safer video instead of arresting or ticketing her.

He stopped traffic, put his flashing lights on and set the spotlight on D’iore. Shocked, she took full advantage of the moment and danced her heart out.

In a statement to ABC News, the Birmingham Police Department said, “The actions of Officer Philip Jones was an excellent example of the City of Birmingham’s theme of ‘Putting People First.’ Officer Jones, after assessing the situation, decided to help create a safe environment for Lala D’iore by stopping traffic so that she would be able to film a dance audition video. The actions of Officer Philip helped to create a memory that will not be easily forgotten by both he and especially Lala. In viewing the video, I believe that Lala is one Birmingham’s rising stars and will soon fulfill her dreams and heart’s desires. We wish her well on all of her endeavors.”

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Bill Gates thinks a coming disease could kill 30 million people within 6 months – and says we should prepare for it like we do for war

If there’s one thing that we know from history, a deadly new disease will arise that will spread around the globe.

That could happen easily within the next decade. And as Bill Gates reminded listeners while speaking at a discussion about epidemics hosted by the Massachusetts Medical Society and the New England Journal of Medicine on Friday, we’re not ready.

As Gates said, he’s usually the optimist in the room, reminding people that we’re lifting children out of poverty around the globe and getting better at eliminating diseases like polio and malaria.

But “there’s one area though where the world isn’t making much progress,” said Gates. “And that’s pandemic preparedness.”
The likelihood that such a disease appears continues to rise. New pathogens emerge all the time as the world gets more populous and humanity encroaches on wild environments. It’s becoming easier and easier for individuals or small groups to create weaponized diseases that could spread like wildfire around the globe. According to Gates, a small non-state actor could rebuild an even deadlier form of smallpox in a lab. And in our interconnected world, people constantly hop on planes, crossing from megacities on one continent to megacities on another in a matter of hours.

According to one simulation by the Institute for Disease Modeling presented by Gates, a new flu like the one that killed 50 million in the 1918 pandemic would most likely kill 30 million within just six months now. And the disease that next takes us by surprise will most likely be one that we see for the first time when the outbreak starts, like happened recently with SARS and MERS viruses.

If you were to tell the world’s governments that weapons were under construction right now that could kill 30 million people, there’d be a sense of urgency about preparing for the threat, said Gates.

“In the case of biological threats, that sense of urgency is lacking,” he said. “The world needs to prepare for pandemics in the same serious way it prepares for war.”

Stopping the next pandemic
The one time the military tried a sort of simulated wargame against a smallpox pandemic, the final score was “smallpox one, humanity zero,” according to Gates.
But as he said, he’s an optimist, and he thinks we could better prepare for the next viral or bacterial threat.

In some ways, we’re clearly better prepared now than we were for previous pandemics. We have antiviral drugs that can at least do something to improve survival rates in many cases. We have antibiotics that can treat secondary infections, like pneumonia associated with the flu.

We’re getting closer to a universal flu vaccine. During his talk, Gates announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would be offering $12 million in grants to encourage the development of such a vaccine.

And we’re getting better at rapid diagnosis, too, something essential since the first step against a new disease is quarantine. Just yesterday, a new research paper in the journal Science announced the development of a way to use the gene-editing technology CRISPR to rapidly detect diseases and to identify them using the same sort of paper strip used in a home pregnancy test.

Yet we’re not good enough yet at rapidly identifying the threat from a disease and coordinating a response, as the recent global reaction to the last Ebola epidemic showed.

There needs to be better coordination and communication between military and government to help coordinate responses. And Gates thinks that government needs ways to quickly enlist the help of the private sector when it comes to developing technology and tools to fight against emerging deadly disease.

As Melinda Gates said recently, the threat from a global pandemic – whether one that emerges naturally or one that’s engineered – is perhaps the biggest risk humanity faces right now.

“Think of the number of people who leave New York City every day and go all over the world – we’re an interconnected world,” she said. Those connections make us all vulnerable.

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Google’s mysterious ‘Fuchsia’ operating system could run Android apps – and it’s a huge step to prevent a flop

Google is developing a mysterious multi-device operating system called “Fuchsia,” and it looks like the company recently added a feature to the software that could drastically improve its chances of catching on with consumers.

On Thursday, it was revealed by a member of the XDA Developers forum that Google seemingly added native support for Android apps on Fuchsia. In theory, that means Android apps should be able to run on the Fuchsia operating system without much intervention or tweaking from an app developer. And that’s a critical feature.

Letting Android apps run seamlessly on a new operating system will be crucial for Google if it were to replace the Android operating system with the so-called Fuchsia operating system, or even if it wanted to introduce Fuchsia as an alternative to Android.

App developers have shown they’re not so willing to create separate versions of their apps for less popular operating systems. Just look at Microsoft’s Windows Phones, which died out towards the end of 2017. Few were willing to use Windows Phones because comparatively few apps were being made for the Windows Phone operating system.

Without the same offering of apps as Android, the new Fuchsia operating system would likely be doomed to failure, just like Windows Phones. After all, why would anyone use an operating system that doesn’t have the apps they want? That’s what a lot of people thought about Windows Phone.

It’s also not exactly clear what Fuchsia’s purpose is at the moment. From the looks of a YouTube video supposedly showing the Fuschia operating system and posted earlier this year, Fuschia could be an operating system that works across smartphones, tablets, and computers.

It might be mysterious, but Google isn’t being too secretive about Fuschia. Google acknowledged the existence of Fuchsia in 2016, when Android VP of engineering Dave Burke called it an “early-stage experimental project.” Whether it’ll ever emerge from the experimental phase into a fully released operating system is not clear.

 

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The most absurd part of ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ is ignored in ‘Infinity War,’ and the movie is better because of it

Spoiler warning: Don’t read if you have not seen “Avengers: Infinity War.”

2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is ridiculous for many reasons, but the most absurd aspect is the unlikely romantic relationship between Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Fortunately, “Avengers: Infinity War” pretty much ignores it.

In “Age of Ultron,” it’s unclear just how much Romanoff likes Banner – she is, after all, a spy who is a master of deception – and the relationship is mainly used as a plot device whenever the Hulk needs to be calmed down.

“Infinity War” makes sure to ignore that subplot. The two have an awkward and very brief encounter where they say ‘hi’ to one another and that’s it. The move is satisfying. The relationship is acknowledged, but quickly left in the dust.

With so many characters and storylines already in the movie, it makes sense to leave that one on the cutting room floor – especially since it was so ludicrous in the first place.

Earlier this year, while talking to reporters on the set of “Infinity War,” Ruffalo said that Banner and Romanoff were “star-crossed lovers, so it’ll be something they’re dealing with for the rest of their lives. Whether it’s requited or unrequited, I don’t imagine that’s gonna go away any time soon in one iteration or another.”

If there’s anything still between them, we’re glad it at least went away for the duration of the movie.

“Age of Ultron” isn’t the best-reviewed movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has a 75% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, which isn’t bad, but it’s far from the score for “The Avengers,” which has 92%.

“Infinity War” is also doing well among critics and has 84% as of Friday.

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