Empire State Building Pays Tribute To Endangered Animals, Remembers Cecil The Lion

Cecil the lion, a majestic black-maned beast who once roamed the woodlands of Zimbabwe’s Hwange, was found dead last month on the outskirts of the national park. He had been killed by an American dentist for tens of thousands of dollars, then skinned and beheaded for a hunting trophy.

Cecil’s death has sparked outrage worldwide, as people everywhere lament the damage that humans continue to inflict on the populations of not just lions, but the planet’s many endangered creatures. On Saturday night, the Empire State Building served as a timely, sky-high reminder of this devastating impact, as images and video of threatened animals were projected onto the façade of the iconic New York City skyscraper.

Cecil was one of the animals featured.

For three hours, “insects, sea creatures, mammals, and birds crawled, swam, and flew over” the Empire State Building “as spectators ‘oohed’ and ‘awed,’” said The Verge. Snow leopards, tigers, lemurs, and manta rays were among the creatures on display.

The spectacle, achieved with the help of 40 projectors, was organized by the Oceanic Preservation Society and the filmmakers of “Racing Extinction,” an upcoming documentary about humans’ impact on threatened species.

“I’m hoping with this film and this event, we can raise awareness and start a movement,” the film’s director Louie Psihoyos (of “The Cove” fame) told The Verge.

NBC New York says the projections were a first for the Empire State Building, which is typically lit up with colors or, on occasion, light shows.

In total, 160 species were featured on the skyscraper. The New York Times says the production cost $1 million.

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‘Friday Night Lights’ Coach Is Back With A Helpful Pep Talk

Coach Taylor is back! And he has an important message for moviegoers: don’t text during the film.


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A Fair Way to Choose Candidates for Republican Debate: Learning From the Oscars

The Republican Party is holding its first presidential debate on August 6, to be televised on Fox News. Fox has decided against inviting all 17 declared presidential candidates to the main debate, and will limit inclusion to the 10 candidates with the highest average poll rating among five recent credible (if still undefined) national polls of Republican voters. The controversy over its decisions points to a better way: lessons from how the Oscars came to be nominated with the fair representation (or “proportional representation”) form of ranked choice voting.

With seven candidates to be relegated to a pre-debate forum in the afternoon — albeit an inclusive one for which Fox recently dropped its requirement of one percent standing in the polls — there is much controversy over criteria for inclusion. Some critics like Larry Sabato call for an expanded number of participants in at least this first debate, perhaps by randomly dividing the field into two debates to be held one after the other. Others suggest new standards to establish an even smaller field of the most credible candidates.

Cutting candidates certainly is not an easy call. Of the 17 Republicans, 14 are either a current or former governors or U.S. Senators, with two of the remaining three (Donald Trump and Ben Carson) sure to make Fox’s top 10. That leaves on the sidelines six prominent Republicans who have won statewide, along with the field’s only woman (businesswoman Carly Fiorina).

I’ll set aside the question of being as inclusive as possible and focus on a fairer way for Fox to pick its ten candidates. But first, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the living room. Even though the major parties go out of their way to be inclusive in debates during their nominating process, they have colluded to block any presidential candidates other than their own from general election debates.

With a board co-chaired by two prominent major party activists, the self-appointed Commission on Presidential Debates has established an indefensible debate inclusion rule for the general election that has kept all independents and minor parties out of the debates since Ross Perot’s first presidential run in 1992. It requires candidates to have an average of 15 percent in national polls despite the Catch-22 of such candidates being likely to be relegated to second-class media status in large part to the assumption they won’t be in the debates.

Applied to this year’s Republican field, the Commission’s 15-percent threshold would leave Fox’s stage with exactly one candidate: Donald Trump. The absurdity of that outcome underscores the case for broader debate inclusion, at least in the first Commission-sponsored debates. As a start, the call by Change the Rule for a process to guarantee a third voice in the debates, deserves strong support.

Anyone who thinks the Republican debate could be effective even when including just three of the current candidates as opposed to two of them should support Change the Rule’s call for changes for general election debates.

Let’s return to Fox’s Republican debate. As a start, consider a party’s goals for debates, such as:

• See how potential nominees articulate their policy proposals and hold up under pressure.

• Allow a full airing of the diversity of perspectives within the party.

• Attract as many potential voters to watch so that the party’s eventual nominee is stronger in the general election.

• Help identify the candidate best able to represent the party and win the general election.

Applying these criteria, it’s important not to have an overly majoritarian perspective in the early debates. While the ultimate nominee should reflect true majority support among party backers, these debates are a time to hear more voices within the party, not just echoes. Allowing the party’s diversity of views to have time on the stage means that those backing those views have more reason to watch — and ultimately care about and be invested in the eventual nominee.

So that means striking some ideas based on finding which 10 candidates comes closest to reflecting majority views within the party. For example, a poll could ask each respondent to select 10 candidates, and the top 10 would go to the debate. But this “winner-take-all” approach could block out important views within the party with passionate followers — for instance, a Rand Paul or Ben Carson.

For implications for rules for debate inclusion, let’s turn to people who know something about how to attract and hold an audience: the Academy of Motion Pictures, which organizes the Oscars every year to celebrate achievement in movies. Notably, eight decades ago the Academy adopted the practice for selecting all multiple nominees in all major categories with ranked choice voting (or, in wonk talk, “the single transferable vote”). Their goal was to have a system that maximized the number of Academy voters who felt they had a stake in the outcome on Oscar night – that is, the number who helped some person or movie get nominated.

Here’s how their ranked choice voting system works when selecting more than one winner:

• Academy voters rank potential nominees in a given category in order of preference. Every voter has one vote, but ranks backups to help ensure their vote counts. For voters’, it’s literally as easy as 1-2-3.

• The share of the vote necessary to earn a nomination is determined. That threshold is the lowest share of the vote that only the winning number of candidates can achieve. When the Oscars have five nominees for Best Actor, that means it takes about 17% of the vote to be sure of winning a nomination – that’s because once five actors have 17%, there’s only 15% left for the next highest vote-getter. With 10 candidates getting to the debates, that means that 9.1% would do it.

• Right now, of course, few candidates have at least 9.1% support in the polls. The tallying process essentially simulates what happens in presidential caucuses. First, imagine if every voter were standing behind their favorite candidate. If your favorite has more than 9.1% support, then that candidate has earned in the debate, and some of you can go to your second choice. (More precisely, an equal portion of each ballot goes to the first choice for a total of 9.1%, and the remaining value of each ballot is added to the totals of the second choice.) Once all the votes have been counted for next choices, we’re now left with some winners and mostly candidates still short of the threshold. At that point, the last-place candidate is eliminated, and all that candidate’s votes are counted for the next choice on each ballot at full value. This process of distributing votes continues until 10 have been selected.

• For the Oscars, ranked choice voting means that some 83% of Oscar voters typically help elect a “candidate” in their category — best actor, best director and so on. (For Best Picture, they modified this counting process a few years ago when allowing an undefined number of movies to be nominated – still using a ranked ballot and still generally trying to make sure that as many Academy voters have a hand in nominating a process, but changing the specific counting rule.) For picking 10 candidates to debate, you’d have more than nine in ten Republicans feeling directly represented on stage, with most of the rest happy with one or more of the candidates.

For Fox, this process would mean not relying on the mathematically-questionable task of averaging five polls that will leave some candidates out due to a tiny difference that will be far less than the polls’ margin of error. Instead, they would do a single poll in which they ask respondent to rank the candidates in order of preference – asking people to rank 10 should be fine, and something most Republican voters would be ready to do at this point. We already see plenty of use of “second choice polling,” as I wrote about last week with Molly Rocket. This poll would be a time to push poll respondents to think more about the candidates in a survey that was focused only on the task of identifying candidates for the debate.

This same ranked choice process could be used as debates proceed. If they decide to narrow who’s on stage after Iowa and New Hampshire, for example, they could have Republicans living in states holding the next contests to use ranked choice voting to five debates, for example, and later on reduce the field to three or even two.

Going forward, Republicans would also be wise to use a ranked choice voting ballot in each primary and caucus to determine that contest’s real winner. Guides to parliamentary procedure like Robert’s Rules of Order recommend ranked choice voting when people can’t vote repeatedly in person, and hundreds of significant organizations do so –including nearly every political party in Canada and the United Kingdom, such as the Labor Party’s leadership contest right now. That is, when you establish your number of winners as one, it takes getting a majority of the vote in the final “instant runoff” round of counting to win. If maintaining his frontrunner status in polls, for example, Donald Trump would need to show he wins one-on-one against his toughest opponent.

That’s what the Oscars have been doing for Best Picture ever since they allowed up to 10 nominations. Instructively, they still allow a “plurality vote” when there are only five nominees in categories because it can make for good television- e.g., the “upsets” that keep people watching are almost always by a person or movie that is benefiting from a split in the majority. For Best Picture, however, the Academy decided it was more important to get the outcome right. That same calculus should govern how we vote for president, starting with large field nomination contests.

There’s probably not time for Fox to change its rules for August 6, but let’s hope organizers of upcoming debates find a better way to determine who’s on stage. Ranked choice voting would be a good place to start.

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Candace Cameron Bure Shares Adorable Snap Of Kimmy, DJ And Stephanie On Set Of ‘Fuller House’

The Tanner sisters (and Kimmy Gibbler) are back together again!

Candace Cameron Bure shared a photo on Instagram on Sunday showing her with “Fuller House” co-stars Andrea Barber (Gibbler) and Jodie Sweetin (Stephanie Tanner). Cameron Bure, who plays DJ Tanner in the series, captioned the pic, “Love these girls.” We love them too. 

The trio is set to return for the “Full House” revival series, which focuses on DJ as a widowed mother with another baby on the way. In the series, the oldest Tanner daughter enlists the help of BFF Kimmy and sister Stephanie after the death of her husband. 

About a week ago, Cameron Bure posted another snap of Barber, in which she’s making silly faces (as Kimmy would likely do).

But Cameron Bure isn’t the only cast member who’s been teasing us with behind-the-scenes pics. Last week, John Stamos (Uncle Jesse) shared a slew of pics, including an adorable one of him running away from his TV wife, Lori Loughlin (Aunt Becky). 

Running from birthday woman!! @loriloughlin

A photo posted by John Stamos (@johnstamos) on

Can the cast just cut it out already? We’re getting way too antsy for this show! 

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Italian Police Seize $205,000 From Snoop Dogg At Airport In Calabria

Snoop Dogg just can’t seem to catch a break lately. 

The rapper, who was arrested on suspicion of illegal drug use in Sweden last week, found himself in the middle of another dilemma while leaving Italy on Saturday. 

A police source told CNN the rapper was found with $422,820 in U.S. cash during a normal check at Lamezia Terme, an airport in Calabria. However, passengers traveling through Italy are only legally allowed to carry 10,000 euros ($11,010) without declaring it. 

When they found the money, Italian Finance Police seized $205,933, according to the source who spoke to CNN. 

The cash was seized under Italian anti-money laundering codes, and should eventually be returned minus the cost of any fines, according to the Telegraph.

The 43-year-old, who was in Italy for a performance in Montepaone, told police the excess cash was to pay his band for concerts in Italy and elsewhere, CNN reported. 

“We clarified everything from a legal point of view,” Snoop’s lawyer, Andrea Parisi, said in a statement. “The money came from concerts he had performed around Europe. There was no crime; it was just an administrative infraction.”

The “So Many Pros” rapper is currently performing across the EU and is slated to stop in England next for the Kendal Calling festival.

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Miranda Lambert And Shania Twain Have A Girls’ Night Out

Oh, to be a fly on the wall for a girls’ night out with two of country’s biggest stars. 

Shania Twain and Miranda Lambert spent some quality time together after Lambert came to see Twain’s concert in Nashville on Friday night. It seems like the concert was a bit therapeutic for Lambert, who recently split from Blake Shelton, as she hashtagged an Instagram post from the show “#musicismedicine.” 

Shania Twain. Fringe Saddle. That's All. #nashville #girlsnight #rockthiscountry #badass #musicismedicine

A photo posted by Miranda Lambert (@mirandalambert) on

Twain also shared a photo of the two women looking super cute together as they embraced in a hug: 

Girls night, love seeing you! #RockThisCountry

A photo posted by Shania Twain (@shaniatwain) on

Here’s to hoping they found a karaoke bar somewhere and belted out “That Don’t Impress Me Much” together. Because that, my friends, is therapeutic. 

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Emily Ratajkowski Sizzles On Cover Of British GQ

Hot damn, Emily Ratajkowski!

The model appears on the September 2015 issue of British GQ and both covers (yes, there are two) are downright smokin’. The photos, which she shared on Instagram, were shot by Mario Testino and styled by Katie Grand.

In one shot, the “Blurred Lines” video girl is seen wearing a dangerously low-cut top and latex gloves while biting down on a silver chain. It’s very “Fifty Shades of Grey,” to say the least.

A photo posted by Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) on

In the other shot, the brunette beauty, who the magazine dubbed “Instagram’s It-girl,” is seen holding a tube of lipstick between her teeth like a cigar. 

A photo posted by Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) on

Inside the issue, the model-turned-actress opens up about the whole “Blurred Lines”-Marvin Gaye controversy, legalizing drugs and what it means (to her) to be a sexual person and feminist.

“Making sure you get what you want in sex. And feeling sexual without feeling like it’s for someone else … Being in love and acting sexually on it in a million different ways is empowering,” she said.  ”I love men’s butts. I shouldn’t have to feel embarrassed of that.” 

You can head over to British GQ’s website to read more or pick up a copy of the magazine when it hits newsstands on Aug. 6. 

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Caitlyn Jenner’s Conservative Views Create Tension In ‘I Am Cait’ Teaser

Caitlyn Jenner’s conservative views create some tension among a group of her friends in a released clip from an upcoming episode of “I Am Cait,” Jenner’s docuseries on E!.

While the group discusses homeless and unemployed transgender people, Jenner says, “Don’t, a lot of times, they can make more not working with social programs than they actually can with an entry-level job?”

“I’d say the great majority of people who are getting help are getting help because they need help,” a friend answers.

“But you don’t want people to get totally dependent on it. That’s when they get in trouble. ‘Why should I work? I got a few bucks, I got my room paid for,'” Jenner responds, while the rest of the group appears visibly uncomfortable. 

“Now I’m worried,” LGBT activist Jenny Boylan later tells the camera.  

“Caitlyn has every right to be just as conservative as she choses, but many transgender men and women need social programs to survive, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of,” Boylan says. “Living in the bubble is an impediment to understanding other people. Cait’s going to be a spokesperson for the community. This is something she’s going to have to understand.”

In Jenner’s revealing “20/20″ interview with Diane Sawyer in April, the former Olympian said she is a Republican. When Sawyer asked Jenner if she cheered on Obama after he recognized the transgender community during a State of the Union address, Jenner replied:

“He actually was the first one to say the actual word transgender, I will certainly give him credit for that. But not to get political, I’ve just never been a big fan — I’m kind of more on the conservative side,” she said.

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