• Netflix just bought one of the biggest movies in the world

    One of the biggest movies in the world right now has already surpassed half a billion dollars at the box office in China without even having completed its second week of release yet. That puts the movie, Wandering Earth, on par with some of the biggest big screen titles to emerge from the US in recent years, like Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War.The movie, a sci-fi epic that tells the story of people trying to save earth from being destroyed by the sun, is already the second-highest grossing film in China ever. Which should explain why Netflix just snatched it up, in a deal that will introduce the film to an even wider audience via the popular streaming giant.The streamer didn't share any other details about the arrangement, like how much it paid or when the film will start streaming. But it's still a big announcement, for multiple reasons.For one thing, this will help acclimate global audiences to Chinese-produced fare. It's also a win-win for Netflix -- which, while it doesn't sell subscriptions inside China, is nevertheless making a push to appeal to global Chinese audiences. In addition to this film, Netflix is also developing its first Chinese-language original TV series.As far as Wandering Earth goes, it's definitely an understatement to say a ton of work went into this blockbuster. According to Netflix, the film was given a production scale rarely seen in Chinese films and included post-production and special effects work that took two years. That included more than 10,000 specifically-built props and the employment of some 2,000 special effects shots, in addition to a "substantial amount of computer graphics shots.""Audiences from over 190 countries will soon meet The Wandering Earth on Netflix," the film's director Frant Gwo said in a statement about the news, also raving about Netflix's plan to translate it into 28 languages. "I am glad that our movie can reach to people from different parts of the world. This is a Chinese movie created for the world, and it has been positively received since its premiere. We are very excited about it."According to a plot summary from Netflix, the movie is set in the distant future and involves the sun expanding into a red giant that threatens to destroy earth. A team of heroes builds "ten thousand stellar engines" to propel earth out of the solar system in the hope of finding a new home in space, kick-starting a 2,500-year-long journey in which humanity fights for the survival of their "wandering earth."

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez refuses to back Bernie Sanders for 2020 election run against Trump

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has refused to endorse Bernie Sanders for the 2020 Democratic nomination, despite working on the senator’s first presidential campaign. A spokesperson for Ms Ocasio-Cortez, like Mr Sanders a self-described democratic socialist, refused to comment directly on the 77-year-old’s Tuesday announcement he is running for a second time. “We’re excited to see so many progressives in the race,” spokesperson Corbin Trent said.

  • Kamala Harris Ignores Questions on Smollett Hoax after Dining with Sharpton

    Senator Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) on Thursday refused to comment on the hate-crime hoax apparently perpetrated by Empire actor Jussie Smollett, when asked about the case while leaving a Harlem, N.Y. restaurant with Al Sharpton, who famously publicized the fraudulent hate-crime claim made by Tawana Brawley in the late 1980s.Harris, who previously called the allegedly faked hate crime a “modern day lynching,” has refused to retract her initial claim despite the Chicago Police Department's Thursday morning assertion that Smollett paid two associates to stage the attack. WATCH: Sen. Kamala Harris asked about Jussie Smollett case after dining with Rev. Al Sharpton in NYC https://t.co/KTebfRW6GJ pic.twitter.com/P1qw0pKwjD -- The Hill (@thehill) February 21, 2019Asked earlier this week about the tweet in which she said Smollett was effectively lynched, Harris seemed unfamiliar with the message and said she could not comment on the case until all the details came to light. Watch Kamala Harris look like a deer in headlights as she’s asked about her tweet saying what happened to Jussie Smollett is a “modern-day lynching.” pic.twitter.com/7CzGkEq4Gw -- Caleb Hull (@CalebJHull) February 19, 2019Sharpton is a prominent civil-rights activist who has been embraced by many Democratic politicians over the past thirty years, and now expounds on political news as an MSNBC contributor. Among the many controversies he's courted in his decades in the public spotlight, he famously advised Brawley, a black teenager who in 1987 claimed that she was gang raped by a group of white men in Dutchess County, N.Y. and then left in the woods covered in feces with racial slurs written on her body.As an adviser to Brawley alongside her attorneys, Sharpton captured the attention of the national media for months, demanding justice for his client and all similarly abused African Americans until a special grand jury determined that Brawley had fabricated the entire incident. Steven Pagones, one of the accused perpetrators, then won a defamation suit against Brawley and Sharpton, who personally attacked him throughout the trial. Sharpton's supporters paid the resulting $65,000 in damages.Sharpton has since refused to apologize for his role in stirring racial resentment by publicizing the hoax.“What do I have to apologize for? I believed her,” Sharpton told NPR in 2012.

  • Trump's climate expert is wrong: The world's plants don't need more CO2

    Plants on Earth have flourished for hundreds of millions of years, yet President Donald Trump's pick to lead his new climate team insists that they need more carbon dioxide to thrive. Princeton physicist and carbon dioxide-advocate William Happer has been selected to head the brand new Presidential Committee on Climate Security, reports The Washington Post. The atomic scientist - who achieved recognition for his work on atomic collisions and telescope optics, not climate science - maintains that the planet's atmosphere needs significantly more CO2, the potent greenhouse gas that U.S. government scientists - and a bevy of independent scientists - have repeatedly underscored is stoking accelerating climate change. Because plants use carbon dioxide to live, Happer has said "more CO2 is actually a benefit to the Earth," asserted that Earth is experiencing a "CO2 famine," and concluded that "If plants could vote, they would vote for coal." Earth and plant scientists, however, find Happer's insistence that the plant kingdom would benefit from increased carbon dioxide wrong-headed and lacking evidence, at best. For reference, Earth's CO2 concentrations have skyrocketed in the last century, and are now at their highest levels in at least 800,000 years - though other measurements show CO2 levels are higher than they've been in 15 million years.  "The idea that increased CO2 is universally beneficial [to plants] is very misguided," Jill Anderson, an evolutionary ecologist specializing in plant populations at the University of Georgia, said in an interview.  Animation showing the evolution of global mean temperature vs. carbon dioxide concentration since 1850, now updated to include 2018.Though 2018 is a bit cooler than recent years, it still is one of the warmest years ever and lies close to the trend line of #GlobalWarming. pic.twitter.com/eK7zvUqWyT - Robert Rohde (@RARohde) February 10, 2019 "It's a silly argument," added Britton Stephens, a senior scientist in the Earth Observing Laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in an interview.  Both independent academic institutions and government agencies around disparate parts of the globe have concluded more carbon dioxide will "bring many negative impacts" to plant environments, Stephens emphasized. "If someone is going to claim it's good, it's incumbent upon them to show evidence." Reached by email, Happer said he would like to chat about the benefits of carbon dioxide in the future, but such requests must now be sent through (and vetted) by the National Security Council (NSC). The NSC responded by saying that "At the moment, a discussion on this topic is not possible. If someone, like Happer, were to ignore uncomfortable realities like drought-ravaged crops, some of the deadliest wildfires on record, and the evaporating Colorado River, they could argue that some plants - but not all plants - could see growth benefits from amassing carbon dioxide concentrations.   SEE ALSO: The Green New Deal: Historians weigh in on the immense scale required to pull it off "If we were to hold other environmental factors completely constant, some plants would do well, some plants would do worse, and some would outcompete other plants," said Anderson.  But this is a reality that doesn't exist.  "We know that CO2 isn’t increasing in isolation," said Anderson. Eighteen of the last 19 years have been the warmest on record. Both wild plants and crops are experiencing increased flooding, heat waves, and pestilence. "CO2 does “fertilize” plants and by itself causes plants to grow faster, but unchecked CO2 release into the atmosphere will lead to reduced yields and the consequences could be catastrophic," Thomas Sharkey, a plant biochemist at Michigan State University, said over email.  Baseball spring training starts this week.Predicting today whether CO2 in 2100 will be ~1000 ppm, or only half that, is like guessing who will play in the World Series in October.Nonetheless, the consequences of our CO2 emissions over the next few decades are profound. pic.twitter.com/pUf5VVlBAk - Kris Karnauskas (@OceansClimateCU) February 19, 2019 Sharkey noted that pollen production - which is necessary for making seeds - is sensitive to even small increases in the average temperature.   "The negatives far outweigh the positives," added Stephens.  As might be evident to anyone alive on the planet, plants flourish today and have flourished for hundreds of millions of years, so Happer's suggestion that the planet's vegetation is in need of more carbon dioxide is bizarre.  "Obviously plants were doing just fine historically," said Anderson. "There’s no indication plants are increasing their performance and doing better now than historically." A NASA graph showing skyrocketing CO2 levels. Image: nasa A recent NASA study found that Earth's overall greening over the last two decades - which is to say the increase in area covered by green leaves - is largely due to major tree planting programs and agricultural expansion in China and India. And some new regions of the planet are greening as the planet warms, like vast swaths of the northern tundra. But globally, the jury's still out on whether increased carbon dioxide is having a measurable influence on plant growth.  "This is not a huge signal that everyone can see," said Stephens.  There are extremely conspicuous climate signals, however, that everyone can see. One of the most widely-predicted consequences of a warming climate, stoked by historically-high carbon dioxide emissions, is increased fire weather. The California town of Paradise fell victim to profoundly dried-out vegetation and hot temperatures this past November. The forests had been turned to tinder, waiting to burn. Is more CO2 really good for plants? "Tell that to the trees in Paradise, California," said Stephens.  WATCH: Ever wonder how the universe might end?