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Future

How ‘Annie Live!’ Landed At NBC And The Future Of Musicals For TV


NBC announced today that it would air Annie Live! during the coming holiday season.

Oscar and Emmy winner, Neil Meron, producer of every musical that has aired on NBC since The Sound of Music Live! premiered in 2013, will executive produce the event with Robert Greenblatt. Lear DeBessonet will direct the show and Alex Rudzinski will act as “live technical director” and executive producer. Chloe Productions will produce the special.

It’s notable that Greenblatt is involved with Annie Live!

Greenblatt is a modern legend in the entertainment industry, having begun his career as one of the key architects of the FOX Network in the 1990s. He went on to run Showtime, NBC and WarnerMedia, with stops along the way, producing (with David Janollari) Six Feet Under, an instant HBO classic, as well as many other beloved film, TV and Broadway titles.

When Greenblatt was recruited to run NBC’s programming as its chairman in 2011, the network was in bad shape. It trailed all three of the other major networks and was due for a major overhaul.

To everyone’s surprise, one of Greenblatt’s early initiatives was to bring back the live musical to broadcast television.

Live theater and musicals had been a staple during the infancy of television, reaching their zenith of popularity in the 1950s and petering out in the 1960s as live, scripted content gave way to other forms of live entertainment: sports, awards shows and the dawn of reality competitions.

From the 1970s onward, if you were a fan of musicals you’d have to wait for them to be adapted into feature films, which happened very rarely and with mixed box-office success.

Otherwise, your only option would be to travel to New York to catch a Broadway show, or wait until the local community theater produced chestnuts like My Fair Lady, Oklahoma! or other classics from Broadway’s Golden Age.

Greenblatt bet that the right musical production could still work on TV, and he chose The Sound of Music Live! as his experiment.

Everyone was skeptical about a live musical connecting in the modern era, but Greenblatt’s instincts paid off. The special sang to an astounding 18 million-plus viewers on December 5th, 2013 and delivered the highest ratings for NBC on a Thursday night since 2004.

After that success, Greenblatt continued to green-light musicals nearly annually throughout his many years running the network, and as he left NBC, he not only returned the “Peacock” to its number one status, but he had introduced other musically-oriented content as well, chief among them, the mega-hit music competition show, The Voice.

Annie Live! will be Greenblatt’s first production since leaving WarnerMedia’s executive suites last year. Our lightly condensed interview follows:

Why Annie?

“From my years at various networks, I know how hard it is to find big, family musicals. There aren’t that many. The show is set in 1932, not long into the Roosevelt administration. The country was rebuilding. People compare the time of the musical to the challenges we’re facing today. It’s a show about optimism and hope and the power of this little girl to change the world. It’s a perfect show for our time.

What’s your relationship with this musical?

I was lucky enough to see Annie not long after it debuted on Broadway in 1978, on my very first trip to NYC. I was 18, coming in from Rockford, Illinois and we bought tickets to see several shows: Annie, Sweeney Todd, Dream Girls, They’re Playing Our Song, Dracula… It was the trip of a lifetime.

How long have you and Neil Meron known each other?

Neil and Craig (Craig Zadan, who passed away in 2018) were very successful, very talented film producers (among many titles, Zadan and Meron produced the Oscar-winning film, Chicago) I was at the FOX network. We’d always been looking for something to do together. We developed the original musical Smash when I was running Showtime, which I ultimately bought and produced at NBC. Smash was a drama series about the making of a Broadway musical, inspired by the life of Marilyn Monroe…which ironically, we’re now developing as a Broadway musical!

How often do things go straight to Broadway, versus getting a run somewhere else?

Nearly every show goes out of town first because you want to bring the best version to Broadway. That said, during the pandemic, we’ve been trying new and innovative ways to hone productions so that we may not necessarily have to spend the time and money working and reworking shows in various cities, before taking them to New York. I predict once things return to full tilt on Broadway later this year, we’ll look at every way we do business there differently.

The casts of your musicals got more and more star-filled as years went by at NBC. Any cast announcements you’d like to make?

Not yet. We have some big, very exciting ideas to share but it’s too premature to discuss them at the moment. One thing I can say with absolute certainty: we will have a very diverse cast.

The 1982 adaptation was directed by John Huston (of all people) – – how did you pick Lear DeBessonet to direct?

Lear is a tremendous force on the theater scene. She’s been doing amazing work at The Public Theater. It was her original idea to do Annie Live! I was at Warner’s when she originally pitched it. There was no appropriate platform for me to do it with her there, so it sat on Lear’s shelf. After I left Warner’s, Lear contacted me and we decided to take it out to the broadcasters. All four networks wanted to do it, which kind of surprised me, quite frankly.

Why were you surprised?

Even though I know shows like these don’t come along often, they can be very expensive and there is some risk involved…not to mention: they’re three hours long! That’s an entire night of TV. That said, as we were taking it around, one thing was abundantly clear: all of the networks simply love Annie.

Do you have plans to take more musicals to the market soon?

None at the moment. But one never knows…!

What do you think the future is for live musicals on TV?

There’s a big appetite for these things, if you can find the right title. Lear only reconnected with me with the project a few months ago. We secured the rights, set the meetings and took it out. It all came together in a matter of months. I just love that the form is still alive, and that people are still so excited about it.”



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Gadgets

Brain implant turns thoughts into text as fast as typing on a smartphone


The system uses two implanted electrode arrays that record the brain activity produced by thinking about writing letters. This information is then collected and processed in real time by a computer, which converts that data into words on a screen.


Shenoy lab/Erika Woodrum

Humans have long been fascinated with the notion of someone or something that can read our minds — be it a telepath, a computer or Santa Claus. Now researchers say they’ve developed a system that combines machine learning and a brain-computer interface, or BCI, to read handwriting that takes place in the brain rather than on paper.

A team of scientists worked with a volunteer, a 65-year-old man paralyzed from the neck down, using sensors implanted in his brain to detect neural activity linked to writing by hand. As the participant imagined writing letters, that activity was fed to an algorithm that translated it, in real time, to text displayed on a screen.

The details of the experiment are laid out in a report in the current issue of the journal Nature. Study co-author Krishna Shenoy, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Stanford University, says this method appears to be more potentially powerful than similar studies that have attempted to translate speech rather than handwriting.

“Right now, other investigators can achieve about a 50-word dictionary using machine learning methods when decoding speech,” Shenoy said in a statement. “By using handwriting to record from hundreds of individual neurons, we can write any letter and thus any word which provides a truly ‘open vocabulary’ that can be used in most any life situation.”

The hope is such a system could allow people who are paralyzed to type and communicate efficiently without using their hands. Elon Musk-backed startup Neuralink is famously working on similar brain implant technology.

“Just think about how much of your day is spent on a computer or communicating with another person,” Shenoy said. “Restoring the ability of people who have lost their independence to interact with computers and others is extremely important, and that is what is bringing projects like this one front and center.”

The system has been demonstrated as a proof of concept in just a single patient so far. It builds off previous work done by Shenoy’s team in which participants implanted with neural sensors attempted arm movements to move a cursor on a screen to point and click on letters and spell out words and sentences. This method allowed people to “type” around 40 characters per minute, whereas the new handwriting method saw rates of about 90 characters per minute, believed to be a new record for typing via BCI.

The researchers note that rate is about the same as someone of a similar age as the 65-year-old participant typing on a smartphone.

The system captured letters from the brain of a participant with paralysis as he imagined writing them.


F. Willett et al./Nature 2021/Howard Hughes Medical Institute

“Communication is central to how we function in society,” said Debara Tucci, director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, one of the funders for the study. “In today’s world of internet-based communication, people with severe speech and physical impairments can face significant communication barriers and, potentially, isolation. We hope these findings will encourage commercial development of this latest BCI technology.”

Shenoy would like to see handwriting integrated into a more complex BCI-based system that also allows for decoding speech and point and click navigation like that of current smartphone interfaces.

“Having those two or three modes and switching between them is something we naturally do,” he said.

Next the team aims to work with a participant who is unable to speak or suffers from a degenerative neurological disorder like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis that can rob sufferers of their speech.



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Hardware

Hardware-in-the-Loop Simulator Market Incredible Possibilities, Growth Analysis and Forecast To 2027 – Test & Measurement


Overview Of Hardware-in-the-Loop Simulator Industry 2021-2027:

This has brought along several changes in This report also covers the impact of COVID-19 on the global market.

The Hardware-in-the-Loop Simulator Market analysis summary by Reports Insights is a thorough study of the current trends leading to this vertical trend in various regions. In addition, this study emphasizes thorough competition analysis on market prospects, especially growth strategies that market experts claim.

Hardware-in-the-Loop Simulator Market competition by top manufacturers as follow: LHP Engineering Solutions, dSpace GmbH, Siemens, National Instruments, Opal-RT Technologies, Vector Informatik, Typhoon HIL, MicroNova AG, Robert Bosch Engineering, Ipg Automotive GmbH, Aegis Technologies, Speedgoat GmbH, Modeling Tech, Eontronix, Wineman Technology

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The global Hardware-in-the-Loop Simulator market has been segmented on the basis of technology, product type, application, distribution channel, end-user, and industry vertical, along with the geography, delivering valuable insights.

The Type Coverage in the Market are:
Open Loop HIL
Closed Loop HIL

Market Segment by Applications, covers:

Automotive
Aerospace
Power Electronics
Research and Educatio
Defense
Oil and Gas
Industrial Equipment
Others

Market segment by Regions/Countries, this report covers
North America
Europe
China
Rest of Asia Pacific
Central & South America
Middle East & Africa

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  • Primary worldwide Global Hardware-in-the-Loop Simulator Market manufacturing companies, to specify, clarify and analyse the product sales amount, value and market share, market rivalry landscape, SWOT analysis and development plans for future.
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Our report offers:

– Market share assessments for the regional and country level segments.
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Reviews

Subnautica: Below Zero Review | PC Gamer


Need to know

What is it: Underwater survival sequel with a new arctic theme
Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Publisher: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Reviewed On: AMD Ryzen 5 3600, Nvidia GeForce 2080 Super, 32 GB RAM
Multiplayer: None
Link: Official site

2018’s Subnautica is not only the best survival game in existence, but one of the best games ever made regardless of genre. Its wondrous mix of exploration, storytelling, crafting, base building, and occasional trouser-shredding terror, all taking place in one of the most imaginative virtual worlds ever conceived, is up there with games like the Witcher 3 and Dishonored in terms of mastery of the craft.

Subnautica: Below Zero is almost as good. I say that rather than “not as good”, as I don’t want to sound like I’m writing from a position of disappointment. In almost every way, Below Zero shares the wild imagination, adventurous spirit, and richly tactile systems of Subnautica, while there are several areas where it undoubtedly improves upon that first game. Nonetheless, Below Zero is a less consistently brilliant adventure. There are some areas where the game frustrates, and others where Unknown World’s admirable efforts are less effective than they were five years ago.

(Image credit: Unknown Worlds Entertainment)

Below Zero returns players to the marine planet 4546B, this time donning the flippers of a new protagonist named Robin Ayou. Whereas Riley Robinson’s visit to 4546B was accidental, Robin is deliberately searching for her sister Sam. According to Sam’s employer, the trans-government Alterra, she was killed through her own negligence while on a research expedition to the planet’s arctic region. But Sam’s previously recorded messages to Robin tell a different story. Arriving alone with minimal supplies on an unsanctioned search and recovery mission, Robin must follow her sister’s trail while surviving the harsh climate of 4546B’s arctic.

This environment is Below Zero’s biggest new feature, and the main area where the sequel improves over Subnautica. 4546B’s icecap introduces a number of new biomes for players to explore, both above and below the water. Beyond a familiar introductory area of shallow coral and fluttering kelp, Below Zero’s aquatic topography includes giant lilypad forests, shimmering crystal caves, and bubbling purple vents that explode if you approach too closely. My favourite area is the enjoyably named Twisty Bridges, a meandering underwater trench spanned at random intervals by tangled strands of coral. It’s a prime example of Unknown’s Worlds’ knack for designing truly alien environments, a major factor in what makes Subnautica a cut above other survival games.

(Image credit: Unknown Worlds Entertainment)

Although Below Zero still mainly focuses on life beneath the waves, there’s a greater emphasis on terrestrial exploration. Below Zero introduces several new land biomes, all of which carry the game’s arctic theme. From glacial bays through towering icebergs to artic tundra dominated by vast spikes of rock, these freezing landscapes are every bit as strangely beautiful as Below Zero’s aquatic scenery. 

Also, dangerous. Below Zero’s polar terrain enables Unknown Worlds to bring Subnautica’s survival play onto land. When you breach the surface of Below Zero’s ocean, your O2 metre swaps out for a temperature gauge that slowly depletes. Spend too long exposed to the elements and you’ll succumb to hypothermia, so you must regularly find shelter in caves or literal hotspots such as geothermal springs or the ring-hob glow of Thermal Lilies. Below Zero brings other Subnautica systems onto terra-firma too. There are several new land-based fauna, some of which are large and aggressive, and even a land-specific vehicle that’ll help you navigate the more expansive terrestrial biomes.

(Image credit: Unknown Worlds Entertainment)

It’s a big improvement over Subnautica’s limited land exploration. That said, Below Zero remains better where it’s wetter. As with its biomes, Below Zero’s plant and animal life is almost entirely new, but it’s also more nuanced in terms of how you can interact with them. Between the edible small-fry and the terrifying Leviathan-class beasts are more eclectic creatures like the Titan Hole-fish, which traps potentially life-saving air-bubbles in its doughnut-shaped body. These can be inhaled provided you avoid the wrasse-like brinefish, who follow Hole-fish around and can freeze you with a blast of ice-cold saltwater. But the guaranteed fan-favourite is the Sea Monkey, a cheeky anthropomorphic critter whose behaviour ranges from mild nuisance to actively helping you out in small ways.

Greater interactive nuance is a theme that runs throughout Below Zero. General systems like crafting and base-building are broadly similar to Subnautica, but there are more objects to build and make. New base components like the Control Room help you customise your base in more detail, and even let you divert power to different parts of your base. As for crafting, new tools like the Mineral Detector help you locate specific resource more precisely, while many returning objects have rejigged crafting recipes that force you to think anew about your approach to the game.

(Image credit: Unknown Worlds Entertainment)

The poster-child for Below Zero’s added interactivity is the Seatruck, the sequel’s primary new vehicle. By default, the Seatruck is a small and nippy submersible reminiscent of Subnautica’s Seamoth. But it’s capable of towing different modules that serve various functions, such as fabrication, storage, and an aquarium that sucks up smaller fish as you travel. With all modules attached, it functions more like Subnautica’s Cyclops, a mobile base that you can tow around and detach from at any point.



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Future

Futures Weaken Before Inflation Data, Bonds Rise: Markets Wrap


TipRanks

Buy These 2 New Stocks Before They Jump Over 80%, Says JPMorgan

In the past week, investors have had to cope with multiple conflicting signals from the markets. The April jobs report, which was expected to show almost 1 million new positions for the month, showed only 266,000. The official unemployment number ticked upward slightly to 6.1%, and hourly wages also gained – by 0.7%. That last would seem to be a positive – except that, combined with the massive government stimulus injecting cash into the economy – higher wages are seen as a portent of inflation. At first glance, it seems like an environment that would have investors cautious. Except – the Fed has signaled that it will not be winding down its easy money policies. Low interest rates have helped to fire up the bull market engine in recent years, for two reasons. First, it keeps the cost of credit low, making it easy to leverage all sorts of purchases – cars, homes… even stocks. And second, with rates low, bond yields have been unable to make any significant rise. For investors seeking a return, this makes stocks the place to go. It also creates an environment that’s conducive to IPO events. Markets have been on a steady, long-term upward trend for months; the S&P 500 has gained 44% over the last 12 months. With a return potential like that, it’s no wonder that companies are turning to the public trading markets to raise capital. When it comes to equities, a rising tide truly will lift all boats. This brings us to JPMorgan. The banking firm’s stock analysts have been looking for the equities primed to gain in current conditions. And they’ve tapped two stocks new to the public markets as likely to jump 80% or more in coming months – a solid return that investors should note. After running both tickers through TipRanks’ database, we found out that the rest of the Street is also standing squarely in the bull camp as each boasts a “Strong Buy” analyst consensus. LAVA Therapeutics (LVTX) We’ll start with a Netherlands-based biotech firm. LAVA Therapeutics has a focus on cancer treatments, and is working to develop what it calls gamma-delta bispecific T cell engagers. These compounds are intended to activate the innate and adaptive immune systems, using the body’s own response to fight tumors. LAVA’s pipeline includes four proprietary compounds, and a fifth that is being investigated in combination with Janssen. All five drug candidates are in preclinical trials. The leading candidate, LAVA-051, is scheduled to begin a Phase 1/2a clinical trial in the first half of this year, while a second candidate, LAVA-1207, will begin a Phase 1/2a trial during 2H21. These drug candidates are being developed as treatments for multiple myeloma and prostate cancer, respectively. LVTX shares entered the public markets on March 25, in an IPO that raised $100.5 million. The shares started trading at $15, and saw 6.7 million shares hit the market. Among the bulls is JPM analyst Jessica Fye, who likes the fundamental of this newly public stock. Fye rates LVTX an Overweight (i.e. Buy), and her $22 price target implies a robust upside potential of ~86% for the year ahead. (To watch Fye’s track record, click here) “Our Overweight rating is based on our positive view of the company’s proprietary platform, gamma-delta bsTCE, which redirects a specific group of T cells called gamma-delta T cells towards tumor cells. We see LAVA’s off-the-shelf bsTCEs, which can conditionally activate gamma-delta T cells in a tumor/antigen directed manner, as differentiated, potentially leading to a safer therapy and more durable benefit. To the extent that initial data for lead asset LAVA-051 begins to derisk the platform, we see upside for shares as soon as early 2022,” Fye noted. In its short time on the public market, LAVA’s unique approach to cancer treatment has attracted notice from three Wall Street biotech analysts – and all three agree that this is a stock to buy, making the Strong Buy consensus rating unanimous. The shares are trading for $11.80, and their $23.67 average price target is even more bullish Fye allows, suggesting an upside of ~100% in the next 12 months. (See LVTX stock analysis on TipRanks) Zhihu (ZH) From biotech, let’s shift gears to online content. The net has given content creators a nearly unlimited field to work in, and Zhihu operates in the Chinese online content market. The company’s website is a question-and-answer forum, on the model of Quora, allowing users to pose questions to the community or offer replies. A look at some of the company’s numbers shows its size. By the end of December last year, Zhihu had a total of 43.1 million content creators, who has posted over 315 million questions and answers. The monthly average users (MAU), a key metric for any website, increased from 43.1 million in 4Q19 to 75.7 million in 4Q20. Zhihu held a US IPO on March 26, to raise capital for further operations and expansion. The company put 55 million shares on the American public markets, at $9.50 each. The IPO raised $522.5 million in gross proceeds, and Zhihu now shows a market cap of $4.58 billion. In their early trading, ZH shares faced pressure after a Securities and Exchange Commission ruling on accounting regulations. US law requires that accounting firms permit US regulators to review the financial audits of overseas companies, under threat of potential delisting from the US equity markets. The SEC ruling promises stricter enforcement of this provision. Even under this pressure, however, the Zhihu IPO was the third-largest by a Chinese company in the US markets so far this year. In an initiation of coverage report on Zhihu, JPM analyst Binbin Ding notes several factors that bode well for the stock, with two in particular standing out: “(1) Differentiated positioning. Unlike online content communities that are mostly entertainment-oriented, Zhihu is known for its depth of content and is recognized as the most trustworthy online content community in China (CIC survey). This positioning makes it the go-to platform for users seeking quality answers. (2) Diversified monetization models, including ads, membership, content-commerce solution, ecommerce and education. In particular, we believe Zhihu’s content-commerce solutions is an innovative model with significant potential growth upside…” Ding summed up, “We expect Zhihu to see a 112% top-line CAGR over 2020 to ’22E, driven by a 35% traffic CAGR and a 57% monetization CAGR. Such growth rates make Zhihu the fastest-growing digital content operator in our coverage universe.” To this end, Ding gives ZH shares an Overweight (i.e. Buy) rating, along with a $16 price target that suggests room for an impressive 96% growth potential this year. (To watch Ding’s track record, click here) Ding’s bullish stance on ZH is in line with Wall Street’s view. The stock has a Strong Buy consensus rating, based on 3 Buy ratings set in recent weeks. The shares are trading for $8.15, and their $15.23 average price target suggests ~87% upside for the year ahead. (See ZH stock analysis on TipRanks) To find good ideas for stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.



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Reviews

Arizona Voting Review Faces More Questions


Directly outside the Veterans Memorial Coliseum near downtown Phoenix, the Crazy Times Carnival wraps up an 11-day run on Sunday, a spectacle of thrill rides, games and food stands that headlines the Arizona State Fair this year.

Inside the coliseum, a Republican-ordered exhumation and review of 2.1 million votes in the state’s November election is heading into its third week, an exercise that has risen to become the lodestar of rigged-vote theorists — and shows no sign of ending soon.

Arizona’s Secretary of State Katie Hobbs noted the carnival’s presence outside the coliseum when she challenged the competence and objectivity of the review last week, expressing concern about the security of the ballots inside in an apparent dig at what has become a spectacle of a very different sort.

There is no evidence that former President Donald J. Trump’s narrow loss in Arizona’s presidential election in the fall was fraudulent. Nonetheless, 16 Republicans in the State Senate voted to subpoena ballots in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and two-thirds of the state’s vote in November, for an audit to show Trump die-hards that their fraud concerns were taken seriously.

As recently as a week ago, officials said the review would be completed by May 14. But with that deadline a week away, only about 250,000 of the county’s 2.1 million ballots have been processed in the hand recount that is a central part of the review, Ken Bennett, a liaison between those conducting the review and the senators, said on Saturday.

At that rate, the hand recount would not be finished until August.

The delay is but the latest snag in an exercise that many critics claim is wrecking voters’ confidence in elections, not restoring it. Since the State Senate first ordered it in December, the review has been dogged by controversy. Republicans dominate the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which supervised the election in the county. They said it was fair and accurate and opposed the review.

After a week marked by mounting accusations of partisan skulduggery, mismanagement and even potential illegality, at least one Republican supporter of the new count said it could not end soon enough.

“It makes us look like idiots,” State Senator Paul Boyer, a Republican from suburban Phoenix who supported the audit, said on Friday. “Looking back, I didn’t think it would be this ridiculous. It’s embarrassing to be a state senator at this point.”

Civil-rights advocates say political fallout is the least of the concerns. They say the Arizona review is emblematic of a broader effort by pro-Trump Republicans to undermine faith in American democracy and shift control of elections to partisans who share their agenda.

“This subpoena and this audit is not dissimilar to what’s happening with a number of bills being pushed nationally that basically take fair, objective processes and move them into partisan political bodies,” said Alex Gulotta, the state’s director of All Voting Is Local, a national voting-rights advocacy group. “This is not an aberration. This is a window into the future of where some people would like our elections to go.”

Mr. Bennett, a former Republican secretary of state and onetime candidate for governor, said companies hired to conduct the review plan to hire more temporary workers to step up the pace of the count. But its conclusion is still weeks away.

Later this month, workers will have to suspend work and move their entire operation — work stations, imaging equipment, stacks of uncounted ballots that cover much of the coliseum floor — into storage elsewhere in the building to make way for a spate of high-school graduation ceremonies long scheduled to take place the week of May 17.

In an interview, Mr. Bennett said that no storage site had been selected, but that he was optimistic that the hand count would be wrapped up quickly.

“When we come back, we’ll have the last week of May and all of June, but I don’t think it’s going to take that long,” he said. “The hand count should be done by the middle of June.”

Senators have cast the review as a way to reassure those who have supported Mr. Trump’s baseless claim that his 10,457-vote loss in November is the result of a rigged election. While it will not change the outcome of the election, they said, it may put to rest any doubts about its results.

But doubts about the true purpose blossomed when Karen Fann, the Republican president of the State Senate, hired a Florida firm, Cyber Ninjas, to conduct the review. Its chief executive had promoted on Twitter a conspiracy theory that Mr. Trump’s loss in Arizona was the result of rigged voting machines.

Journalists, election experts and representatives of the secretary of state, whose office is responsible for elections in Arizona, have struggled with getting permission to observe the review, while the far-right One America News cable outlet has raised money to finance it and has been given broad access to the proceedings.

Claims of partisanship ballooned after it was revealed that one man who was hired to recount ballots, former State Representative Anthony Kern of Arizona, was a leader of the local “stop the steal” movement and had been photographed on the steps of the U.S. Capitol during the riot on Jan. 6 in Washington. Mr. Kern had been on the Maricopa ballot, both as a Republican candidate for state representative and as a pro-Trump presidential elector.

The review came under heavy fire last week from both the Arizona secretary of state and the federal Justice Department, which separately cited widespread reports that slipshod handling of ballots and other election items threatened to permanently spoil the official record of the vote. The Justice Department noted that federal law requires record to be kept intact under penalty of a fine or imprisonment. Some of the most serious questions involve the management of the review.

On Wednesday, Katie Hobbs, the Arizona secretary of state, charged that the review was being conducted with uncertified equipment and that ballot counting rules were “a significant departure from standard best practices.”

She wrote: “Though conspiracy theorists are undoubtedly cheering on these types of inspections — and perhaps providing financial support because of their use — they do little other than further marginalize the professionalism and intent of this ‘audit.’”

After her claims drew a number of death threats from Trump supporters, Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona ordered state police protection this past week for Ms. Hobbs, a Democrat.

The Justice Department raised issues about the protection of the ballots, and it also questioned whether another aspect of the process — a plan to go to voters’ homes to verify that they had actually cast ballots, as election records showed — could violate federal laws against intimidating voters.

In her reply to the department, Ms. Fann defended the review, saying it is being conducted under “comprehensive and rigorous security protocols that will fully preserve all physical and electronic ballots, tabulation systems and other election materials.”

But she appeared to back away from the plan to personally interview voters, stating that the State Senate “determined several weeks ago that it would indefinitely defer that component of the audit.”

Ms. Fann said in a letter on Friday that the Justice Department’s concerns were “misplaced” and that strict rules safeguarding documents and equipment were in place. On Saturday, Mr. Bennett said the concerns about the integrity of the process were “completely unfounded, and I believe they come from people who have always decided that they don’t want the audit at all.”

Ms. Fann, who had largely remained silent about criticism of the review, chose last week to mount a public defense of it. Appearing in an interview on the Phoenix PBS news outlet, she applauded the role of One America News in supporting the review and said the Senate had no role in choosing Mr. Kern or others who counted votes.

“I don’t know why he’s there or how he got there, but that’s one of the people that was selected, and that is what it is,” she said. “I don’t know that it’s a great thing, to be honest.”

And she said that the news media had blown concerns about the objectivity and management of the review out of proportion.

“They talk about conspiracy theories,” she said, referring to reports that the review is examining ballots for evidence of bamboo fibers and watermarks baselessly said to be signs of fraud. “But I tell you what, there’s almost a reverse conspiracy theory to demean this audit.”

She suggested that her support of the review would be proved right in the end.

“I think we’ll find irregularities that is going to say, you know what, there’s this many dead people voted, or this many who may have voted that don’t live here any more — we’re going to find those,” she said. “We know they exist, but everybody keeps saying, ‘You have no proof.’ Well, maybe we’ll get the proof out of this so we can fix those holes that are there.”

More common is the notion that the review has become an alarming exercise in undermining faith in America’s elections.

One expert on election law, David J. Becker, founder of the Center for Election Administration and Research in Washington, said Ms. Fann’s assurances about the integrity of ballots and other records appeared unlikely to satisfy the Justice Department.

“There’s no question that contamination of ballots and records is an ongoing issue that raises serious concerns about federal law,” said Mr. Becker, a former lawyer in the Justice Department’s voting rights section. “We’ve never seen anything like this before, where some haphazard effort allows some unknown out-of-state contractor to start riffling through ballots. I think it’s pretty clear that the response does not resolve concerns about ballot integrity.”



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Hardware

Owner, 89, reopens longtime Clarion hardware store | Front Page


CLARION – George Shirey leaned on his cash register at the True Value Hardware store and waved at a man passing by his Clarion business. The man smiled and waved back.

After being closed for a year, the Main Street store he has operated for 50 years has reopened – although with limited hours.

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News

Amazon is suing to stop SMS raffle scams


Ever get a text message informing you that you’ve won a prize — from Amazon itself? I certainly have, and I’ve even known a person or two who fell for those scams. Now, Amazon is attempting to hunt those scammers down, with a new lawsuit aimed at unmasking 50 unknown defendants in federal court.

Here’s the text message I received the other day from one such scammer:

And here’s where it took me when I clicked:

Screenshot: Sean Hollister / The Verge

According to Amazon’s legal complaint, which you can read in full below, the scam uses Amazon’s logos, web design, and meaningless “surveys” to trick people into buying products (ones that aren’t actually from Amazon), seemingly for cheap. The scammers aren’t necessarily the ones selling those products, either — but because they’re acting as referrers, they get a finder’s fee in the form of affiliate marketing commissions. The Better Business Bureau says it received 771 reports of scams impersonating Amazon in 2020, second only to those annoying calls claiming to be the Social Security Administration.

The tricky part is finding the scammers, because Amazon doesn’t actually know who they are, just which domain names they used to host the scam. But by filing a lawsuit against these 50 John Doe plaintiffs, Amazon may be able to get a doe subpoena to unmask their identities. The company tells us that’s worked in the past; in 2018, the company filed a John Doe lawsuit against a very similar scam and was able to track down at least four defendants. Each case ended with a permanent injunction, according to court records, and Amazon says it’s won at least $1.5 million in settlements so far.

The lawsuit also gives Amazon time to find them (against the statute of limitations) and puts the scammers on notice, just in case they might like to stop before they get hauled into court.



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Gadgets

States ending participation in federal unemployment programs




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How to

How to get a government-paid discount on your broadband


The past year, a lot of people were laid off or otherwise unable to pay for basic necessities. So the stimulus package passed by Congress in December included a provision to pay for broadband and other basic tech for those who, because of job loss or other financial difficulties, can’t afford to pay for it on their own. And starting this week, if you qualify, you can take advantage of it.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program is being administered by the FCC and offers a temporary discount on monthly broadband bills — up to $50 a month (or $75 if your household is on qualifying Tribal lands). If your income qualifies, you can also get a one-time discount of up to $100 for a computer or a tablet.

It’s not a lot, considering how much tech costs these days, but every little bit helps. And applications for that discount will be available starting tomorrow, May 12th.

There are a variety of ways you can qualify for the program. Qualifications can include your income level (at or below 135 percent of the Federal Poverty level), participation in a program such as SNAP or Medicaid, job loss due to the pandemic, or other criteria. You can get more information by either visiting the FCC website or by going to getemergencybroadband.org

If you think you qualify, you can either apply online, contact your current broadband provider to see if they are participating in the program (or check this list for a provider near you), or print out and complete an application and send it to:

Emergency Broadband Support Center
P.O. Box 7081
London, KY 40742.

One warning: if you think you may qualify, don’t put off sending in the application. This is a temporary program, and you lose your benefit when the fund runs out of money, or “six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID-19 health emergency” — whichever is sooner.



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