Category: Opinion

GMAIL 'smart responses' creep out users…

NEW YORK (AP) — Google is toeing the line between helping you save time and creeping you out as it turns to machines to suggest email replies on your behalf.

The customized auto-responses come in the latest version of Gmail on the web and expand on a feature already available on Android devices and iPhones. They’re just one more example of how artificial intelligence is seeping into everyday online life, whether it’s to tailor product recommendations or correct spelling.

So far the new feature has been drawing mixed responses from users.

The new feature, called Smart Reply, offers three short responses, like “It was great seeing you too,” or “I’ll look into it.” Unlike standard auto-replies when on vacation, for instance, these are customized to an individual email based on its context. If you select one, you can either send it immediately or edit it before sending.

The responses are automatically created using Google’s artificial intelligence systems. Humans aren’t reading people’s emails, but machines are scanning them. Although Google stopped scanning email to target advertising in 2017, it still scans them to filter out junk mail, identify phishing scams and, now, to create suggested replies. (Yahoo and AOL, both owned by Verizon, still scan email for advertising.)

Google’s suggestions draw on the text of your email. Google says it doesn’t analyze anything else, like attachments or photos, even though it scans them for security risks. The analysis can include past conversations. For example, if someone says “Thanks!” more often than “Thanks,” with no exclamation point, the suggested response would likely reflect that.

Brian Lam, a San Diego attorney who focuses on privacy and data security, said auto-replies represent “a tradeoff between privacy and new features that consumers may want.”

Google has been scanning Gmail since its debut in 2004, so scanning for auto-replies shouldn’t come as a surprise. Lam said he has no concerns as long as companies disclose they are doing this.

“There’s a market incentive to behave responsibly,” he said. There’s been consumer backlash when people get wind of companies that don’t respect privacy. People decide not to use those services.”

Not every email will get suggestions — only those that Google thinks will lend themselves to a short reply.

Graham Gardner, a freelance photographer and leather-goods maker in Minneapolis, said he has used smart replies in Gmail several times over the past few months. He said the speed of response can be helpful, particularly if he is on his phone and can reply with one tap.

“It can help with quick replies that don’t need too much elaboration, so you can have peace of mind quickly and sort out more specific information in a full reply later,” he said.

But Maya Castro, an assignment editor for a TV station in San Francisco, said she sticks to her own voice when emailing, even though she’s OK with auto-responses for text messages and Facebook chats.

“It boils down to tone and mood,” she said. “Smart- or auto-responses show a lack of thought.”

To disable the “Smart Reply” feature on a mobile device, simply go to “Settings” and uncheck the box next to “Smart Reply.” But for now, there’s no way to disable the feature on the web. However, users can return to the “classic” version of Gmail on the web by selecting that option under “Settings.”

Suggesting responses isn’t the only way Google uses artificial intelligence to help people manage their emails, as it has been rolling out a new version of Gmail since April. The new Gmail has “Nudges,” a feature that reminds users to reply to emails it deems important. Gmail also prods users who forget to include an attachment to an email that uses the word “attached” or something similar.

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Teen Suits Up As Varsity Football Team's First Female Player…

(CBSDFW.COM) – When Madi Martin warmed up for a scrimmage at Arlington High School Friday night, she didn’t want to think about breaking ground this year as the first girl on the Southlake Carroll varsity football team.

She just wanted to focus on the game.

“I’m pumped. I’m ready to go,” she said with a smile.

She admitted she feels added pressure to perform as the only girl on the team.

girl High School Teen Suits Up As Teams First Female Football Player

Madi Martin (CBS11)

If she’s nervous, though, head football coach Riley Dodge said it doesn’t show.

“We’re thrilled to have her,” he said, praising her skills and consistency.

Martin grew up curious about what it would be like to take the field.

‘Who Steals A Cheese Grater?’: Meth Use Blamed For Strange Crime Spree

“I’ve always loved football, always been a fan of it… and I was thinking about it, and I was like, well, why couldn’t I?” she said.

Her father, Bret Martin, said it never occurred to him to push his daughters toward a traditionally male game.

“I never saw this coming, never saw it coming,” he said. “It was ribbons and bows and ponytails.”

When Madi was in middle school, her parents were surprised to learn from the boys’ football coach that she’d asked about joining the team.

She started as a kicker. Two years later, she was playing cornerback and wide receiver.

Her father remembers watching her tackle an opponent during an eighth-grade game.

“She went and put her head right in his chest and took him down, and I thought to myself, ‘That’s my girl!’” he said.

After ninth grade, she quit football to focus on soccer, playing starting goalkeeper for the girls’ team for the last two years.

Now in her senior year, she decided to give the game another go.

“One of the third or fourth days I was on the job, when I was trying to figure out up from down, Madi came in,” said Dodge.

Despite some initial surprise over her interest in joining the varsity team, he said her talent was clear. “Regardless of if she’s a boy or girl, she’s a great player,” he said.

Madi sensed some resistance at first from her teammates.

“Some people were like, ‘Why is this happening? Why does she want to do this?’” she said. “Now they’re my bros, and we’re good now.”

The team has had to make some adjustments.

“Locker rooms, obviously,” said Madi. She gets dressed and ready on her own.

“For away games, I’ll just show up dressed,” she said.

Madi’s father also shared the story of when Coach Dodge first addressed the team as a whole.

“He said, ‘We’re going take care of our boys,’” Bret Martin said. “And, about half way through his speech, he goes ‘guys and girls’ and I could tell for one second he thought of Madi.

Martin insists he doesn’t care about ‘political correctness’ for the sake of his daughter.

“She can hold her own in any situation,” he said.

Madi plans to prove that with the football season beginning next week.

While she doesn’t want the extra attention to distract her, she does hope other girls who see her realize they can join the game, too.

“I think it’ll plant a seed,” she said.

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Fate of 22 grizzly bears up to judge's decision. Should trophy hunters be allowed to kill?

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1 in 20 use e-cigs…

(Reuters Health) – Roughly 10.8 million American adults are currently using e-cigarettes, and more than half of them are under 35 years old, a U.S. study suggests.

FILE PHOTO: A customer tries different e-cigarette flavors at the Henley Vaporium in New York, U.S. June 23, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

One in three e-cigarette users are vaping daily, researchers report in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“Electronic cigarette use is also closely associated with other high-risk behaviors,” said senior study author Dr. Michael Blaha, director of clinical research for the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease in Baltimore. “The most common pattern of use in the U.S. is dual use, i.e. current use of both traditional cigarettes and electronic cigarettes.”

Twenty-somethings, smokers of traditional cigarettes, unemployed adults, and people who identify as lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender (LGBT) are more likely than other individuals to use e-cigarettes, the study also found.

“It is becoming clear that specific vulnerable groups are at highest risk of adopting electronic cigarettes,” Blaha said by email.

Big tobacco companies, including Altria Group Inc, Lorillard Tobacco Co and Reynolds American Inc, are all developing e-cigarettes. The battery-powered devices feature a glowing tip and a heating element that turns liquid nicotine and other flavorings into a cloud of vapor that users inhale.

E-cigarettes containing nicotine can be addictive like traditional cigarettes. Even without nicotine, some research suggests that flavorings and other ingredients in e-liquids used for vaping could be linked to serious breathing problems.

Another open question is whether e-cigarettes might help some people cut back on smoking traditional cigarettes or quit altogether, and the study doesn’t offer a clear answer.

Overall, 1.4 percent of people in the study who never smoked traditional cigarettes used e-cigarettes, as did 7.6 percent of ex-smokers and 14.4 percent of current smokers.

Men vaped more often than women; 5.9 percent of men reported current e-cigarette use compared with 3.7 percent of women.

Vaping was even more common among sexual minorities. Seven percent of lesbian and gay people were current e-cigarette users, as were 9 percent of bisexual adults and 8.7 percent of transgender individuals.

People with chronic medical problems like heart disease, cancer, asthma and breathing disorders were also more likely to vape than individuals without these common health issues.

A limitation, however, is that all of the data was self-reported and not verified by medical records. Researchers also didn’t know the type of e-cigarette devices people used or the liquids they vaped, which might influence health outcomes associated with vaping.

One advantage of the study is that researchers had responses from nearly 467,000 adults, making it possible to examine trends for subgroups like LGBTQ individuals in a way that wouldn’t be possible with a smaller survey.

“We know that most e-cigarette users are smokers of conventional cigarettes and that LGBTQ adults are more likely to smoke conventional cigarettes, so I am not surprised that the prevalence of e-cigarette use is higher among LGBTQ individuals,” said Dr. Nancy Rigotti, director of the Tobacco Research and Treatment Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

“Current smokers and recent quitters are the groups in which e-cig use is highest,” Rigotti, author of an accompanying editorial, said by email.

“Why LGBTQ adults are more likely to smoke cigarettes is a complex question, but these individuals have a higher prevalence of other substance use disorders and mental health (diagnoses),” Rigotti added. “Tobacco use is high in adults with these conditions and this no doubt contributes to the higher level of tobacco use in LGBT individuals.”

SOURCE: Annals of Internal Medicine, online August 27, 2018.

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Monster squid washes up on popular beach…

A MONSTER 4.2 metre-long squid has washed up on the shores of New Zealand’s capital.

Three brothers were out for a morning dive in Wellington when they came across the impressive creature.

Daniel, Jack and Matthew Aplin were driving along on a track near Red Rocks on the city’s South Coast when they came across the beached cephalopods.

The brothers said they had come across sharks while on their diving trips but had never seen a squid of that size.

The trio contacted the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, who arranged to have the squid collected.

A Department of Conservation spokesman said it was almost certainly a giant squid, the bodies of which washed up relatively regularly.

Male giant squids can grow as large as 10 metres long, and have suckers and barbs running down the length of their arms.

The giant squid is the largest type of squid save for the colossal squid.

They are chiefly hunted by sperm whales, but juveniles are occasionally hunted by deep-sea sharks.

Rumours and sightings of giant squid as long as 20.1 metres are widespread, but no specimens approaching this size have been scientifically documented.

Studies show giant squid feed on deep-sea fish and other squid species.

They catch prey using two tentacles, gripping it with serrated sucker rings, then bring it toward the powerful beak, and shred it before ingesting it.

Giant squid inhabit all the world’s oceans and are believed to be solitary hunters, as only individuals have ever been caught in fishing nets.

An online commenter compared the brothers’ find to the colossal squid held at New Zealand’s national museum Te Papa in Wellington — which is over 5.2 metres long.

Last year a 15.2 metre squid washed up in Indonesia.

This story originally appeared on The Sun and has been republished here with permission.

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Summer Snow Blankets Montana, Idaho, Wyoming…

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Life Without Water: Sweaty, Smelly, and Furious in Caracas…

(Bloomberg) — Editors Note: There are few places as chaotic or dangerous as Venezuela. “Life in Caracas” is a series of short stories that seeks to capture the surreal quality of living in a land in total disarray.

When I’m lucky, a trickle flows though my apartment building’s rickety pipes. When I’m really lucky, they deliver as much as 30-straight minutes worth of H2O. That’s enough to fill up the 200-or-so-gallon tank in my kitchen and trigger a celebration.

I’ll do something crazy and run the water until it gets really hot before I jump into the shower.

The tank is hooked up to the building’s distribution system, so I don’t have to be present to collect the precious liquid. In past rentals, I had no net. I did the mad Caracas water dash when the pipes mysteriously started flowing while I was home. I’d fill buckets, pots, coffee mugs—anything.

True enough, in Caracas, we go without reliable access to an extensive list of basic life essentials, from toilet paper to toothpaste. But if you ask me, dry taps are by far the most unpleasant of the epic shortages.

Dishes are brushed off and reused, and clothing is not something regularly laundered, though, personally, I draw the line at multiple wearings of underwear or socks. You ask friends whether it’s okay to flush. You often do not. We’re sweaty and, yes, smelly, especially in the rainy season when the humidity can top 80 percent. We’re at risk, too, because water stagnating in the vessels that people stash around their homes attracts mosquitoes; malaria rates have soared.

The poorest, as usual, have it the worst, though no one is spared. Hospitals and schools, posh neighborhoods and slums, they all go without water—at times for weeks on end—making this man-made drought arguably the most equalizing disaster the socialist government has ever managed to engineer.

There’s solidarity in our sticky existence, which is born of crumbling infrastructure. We’re not ashamed to ask to use an acquaintance’s shower, and banging on doors in the wee hours to sound the alert that water has suddenly started flowing isn’t annoying but proof you’re a good neighbor. In a deeply divided nation, protesters of all political stripes have taken to the streets to block traffic and hoist signs saying “Water is a Right.”

For the super-wealthy, a somewhat effective solution has been found. They now dig their own wells. Those a rung or two below them pay to have water trucked in daily by companies that collect it from springs in the surrounding mountains. The needy flock to the springs themselves. They’ll pile children and bottles and tubs into rickety old cars each weekend to make the drive over. And once the containers are filled and the kids are bathed, they head back home.

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5TH UPDATE, Sunday AM Writethru following Saturday and Friday updates. For most recent Sunday update click hereWe’ve frequently written about the wane of raunchy comedies recently at the box office, often blaming streaming for encroaching on the genre’s theatrical territory and stealing away such talent as Adam Sandler.

STX Entertainment’s bawdy R-rated Melissa McCarthy-puppet comedy, The Happytime Murders, which was willed into existence over the last ten years, looked to be a game changer on paper as well as in that hysterical red band trailer. But the Brian Henson-directed title was dead and wrapped in plastic with a $10M opening, according to STX’s numbers this morning.  Some rivals see it much lower at $9.6M-$9.7M after an STX-reported Saturday that was down 15% from Friday’s $3.95M for $3.3M. All in, Happytime Murders reps McCarthy’s lowest wide opening ever for one of her solo films – not counting St. Vincent, which was a platform release. Happytime Murders’ opening is even lower than McCarthy’s May PG-13 title Life of the Party ($17.9M), which we thought was rock bottom.

The Happytime Murders


But rather than blame the raunchy comedy B.O. recession, or Warner Bros. one-two power August punch of Crazy Rich Asians and The Meg, which respectively made $25M and $13M this weekend, there appeared to be a missed opportunity here with The Happytime Murders by both STX and McCarthy. Out of all the comedies this year, this one looked fresh, and quite different for McCarthy. But the movie was never propped up as a summer comedy event by STX for reasons we’ll explain soon.

Personally, I thought Happytime was very funny. But with comedy being subjective, I’m sure for others the project stands as a fine line between brilliance and career shark-jumping. The development of Happytime Murders at the Jim Henson Co. was first announced in 2008, followed by Lionsgate fast-tracking the project in 2011. Cameron Diaz and Katherine Heigl once circled the project. Then Universal’s foul-mouthed teddy bear comedy Ted happened in 2012, earning $218.8M stateside, and over a half- billion worldwide. The success of Ted revived hope for Happytime, and when the project went into turnaround, STX scooped up the rights in July 2015. Jamie Foxx, at one point, was in talks to play opposite former puppet-cop-turned-P.I. Phil Philips (Bill Barretta) before McCarthy took over.

The pic, which STX says cost a reported $40M (we’ve heard $47M), was funded by financiers and foreign sales, with STX reducing their exposure. We heard repeatedly today from reliable sources that McCarthy received a very notable payday here, some say at least $10M, while others say as high $17.5M. Now, with a foreign sales-funded movie, it’s par for the course for a talent’s paycheck to rep the majority of the film’s budget. The front-end salary is also an advance against profit participation, so that the star has an incentive to promote the movie. McCarthy also provided some uncredited rewrites, too, on Happytime. Mark Wahlberg also incurred an eight-figure payday on Mile 22, which has a budget between $50M-$60M before P&A, as that was also a foreign-sales structured production. The action dud is seeing a second FSS of $6M, -56%. Since STX was selling foreign rights, they needed a star to get Happytime off the ground.

Studios will never throw good money after bad, and before we blame STX for falling short of propping this movie up as a summer event, know that McCarthy and co-star Elizabeth Banks were largely unavailable for the promotion of Happytime Murders. McCarthy has been busy finishing her New Line comedy Superintelligence, further compounded by the fact that the late night shows are on late summer hiatus. The video materials online of McCarthy and Banks are from an EPK kit, and there was no premiere, as neither star was in town.


Given the above, it comes as no surprise to hear that STX didn’t shell out that much on TV spots.  We heard there was a great test screening for the film, but CinemaScore audiences shot Happytime Murders to the ground with a C-., which is lower than the C+s that McCarthy earned for The Boss and for Tammy. On PostTrak, Happytime earned two stars and an awful 58% overall positive, so STX had to know on some level that Happytime wasn’t going to keep audiences smiling. While STX prides itself on being thrifty with their P&A, they had reason to cheap out on their TV spend, since the talent wasn’t around to prop the movie. iSpot estimates that STX shelled out $5.2M for TV ads, which is lower than what they’ve spent on their previous comedies, read Bad Moms ($15.8M), Bad Moms Christmas ($11.6M), and I Feel Pretty ($5.9M), and way lower than what Warner Bros. spent on Life of the Party ($16.3M), which McCarthy actually took time out to promote. Tracking showed slightly more females than males, but men over 25 at 39% were the biggest draw, followed by women 25+ at 25%, and then men under 25 at 21%.

STX tried to spread things around digitally, like a faux PSA about puppets being addicted to syrup (7.3M views), plus they cut a very raunchy, hysterical first trailer. But overall, social media monitor RelishMix reports that Happytime‘s social media universe of 61M across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube views, etc. is “half of the typical R-rated targeted comedy, which usually has a social media universe of 123M,” plus the viral rate for the pic’s videos was at 8:1, versus the average 12:1 for an R-rated comedy. Making matters worse, McCarthy’s Twitter and Instagram mention nothing about Happytime, nor does Banks’s Twitter.

Sausage Party received a sweet launch at San Diego Comic-Con two years ago, complete with an advance screening that had attendees falling out of their seats, coupled with Seth Rogen and a wide array of talent appearing for a fan Q&A afterwards. Happytime Murders skipped such obvious stunting at SDCC, and the reason why is because we heard that the pic was still being edited, which is also why its release date was pushed by a week. Based on the exit scores, it’s clear that Happytime was never quite ready. Also, as much as August can be a launchpad for groundbreaking cinematic work like Inglourious Basterds, Crazy Rich Asians, and Hell or High Water, it also doubles as a dumping ground that some studios have no confidence in it at all.


Other marketing for Happytime Murders was hodge-podge. There was a very unique pop-up puppet bar at the InkHole off of Hollywood Blvd. But, man, those billboards and outdoor posters looked like they were made from an amateur Photoshop graphic artist. In no way did STX employ a creative approach to accentuating and selling the uniqueness of Happytime like Sony and Annapurna, which made their Sausage Party truly sing.

Over the last two weeks, Warner Bros. has approached the marketing for The Meg and Crazy Rich Asians like they were planning for D-Day, going the distance to correlate local digital pushes with local box office grosses so as to target casual moviegoers who fall outside both movies’ hardcore demos. The results of their sweat are evident in ticket sales for both movies.

Many will easily blame the 24% Rotten Tomatoes score as another Happytime hurdleHorror can sometimes survive bad RT scores; R-rated comedies cannot.

However, STX here, with Happytime Murders sans talent availability, arguably had no reason to overspend in promoting the film; rather, just hoped to break even and cut their losses. I heard a $15M+ opening could have easily brought this movie into the black. Seventy percent of Happytime‘s estimated $47M budget was reportedly covered by foreign sales and financing, and after stateside P&A, leaves STX with an exposure in the upper $30Ms.

Criticizes one film packager about the situation, “Stars could have been available. Conflicts occur on every picture, and the stars here wanted to distance themselves from promoting Happytime Murders.

Agents and distributors remain hopeful that raunchy laughs will rise again at the box office. Just look at how Crazy Rich Asians rebooted the romantic comedy. Comedy is generational, built on stars, and some believe that the current funk for R-rated titles is attributed to the fact that we’re between generations now. Jim Carrey, Ben Stiller, and Adam Sandler have grown up, and the younger audience has yet to dial into a new fresh batch of talent. Next year, The Hangover turns 10. If there’s a ray of sunshine left this year, it’s in Tiffany Haddish and Kevin Hart, who have Night School opening on Sept. 28

Global Road on its knees has the Lakeshore co-production A.X.L.and the film is essentially on the marquee for contractual fulfillment, bottoming out at $2.9M per the distributor’s figures and two stars on PostTrak. Deadline’s Mike Fleming and Andreas Wiseman reported that the robot dog movie has an estimated exposure of $10M for the upside down film distributor. Those CinemaScore audiences who showed up to watch it didn’t entirely hate it, with a B+, but PostTrak shows another story of 59% overall positive and two-and-half stars.

Bleecker Street

On the specialty side, Sony’s Asian-American indie thriller Searching drew $123K on Friday, on its way to $360K at nine theaters for a solid screen average of $40K. Bleecker Street has their TIFF acquisition from last year, a remake of Papillon starring Rami Malek and Charlie Hunnam. At 544 locations, the pic is on its way to $1.1M.


We posted our Sunday box office update separately, but while you’re here, this is the studio-reported weekend B.O. as of Sunday morning:

thumb rank film dist scrs(chg) fri sat sun 3-day total week
1 Crazy Rich Asians WB 3,526 (+142) $7M $10.3M $7.7M $25M (-6%) $76.8M 2
2 The Meg WB 4,031 (-87) $3.3M $5.7M $4M $13M (-38%) $105.3M 3
3 Happytime Murders STX 3,256 $3.9M $3.3M $2.7M $10M $10M 1
4 M:I – Fallout Par/Sky 3,052 (-430) $2.3M $3.4M  $2.2M $8M (-26%) $193.9M 5
5 Christopher Robin Dis 3,394 (-208) $1.6M $2.8M $1.9M $6.3M (-28%) $77.6M 4
6 Mile 22 STX 3,520 $1.6M $2.6M  $1.7M $6M
$25.1M 2
7 alpha S8/Sony 2,179 $1.6M $2.3M  $1.6M $5.6M (-46%) $20.1M 2
8 BlacKkKlansman Focus 1,914 (+126) $1.4M $2.1M $1.7M $5.3M (-28%) $32M 3
9 A.X.L. GR/Lake 1,710 $821K $1.2M $907K $2.9M  $2.9M 1
10 Slender Man Sony 2,065 (-293) $780K $1.2M $750K  $2.7M (-42%) $25.4M 3


Industry estimates for the weekend of Aug. 24-26 as of Saturday AM:

thumb rank film dis. screens (chg) fri 3-day (-%) total wk
1 Crazy Rich Asians WB 3,526 (+142) $7M (-4%) $25M (-6%)  $76.8M 2
2 The Meg WB 4,031 (-87) $3.3M (-43%) $12.2M (-42%) $104.4M 3
3 The Happytime Murders STX 3,256 $3.9M $10.2M  $10.2M 1
4 M:I – Fallout Par/Sky 3,052 (-430) $2.2M (-27%) $8M (-25%) $193.9M 5
5 Mile 22 STX 3,520 $1.7M (-67%) $5.9M (-56%) $25M 2
6 Alpha S8/Sony 2,719 $1.6M (-52%) $5.8M (-44%) $20.4M 2
7 Christopher Robin Dis 3,394 (-208) $1.6M (-38%) $5.6M (-37%) $76.8M 4
8 BlacKkKlansman Foc 1,914 (+126) $1.4M (-29%) $5.1M (-31%) $31.8M 3
9 slender Man Sony 2,065 (-293) $787K (-44%) $2.6M (-46%)  $25.2M 3
10 A.X.L. GR 1,710 $815K $2.48M $2.48M 1

2ND UPDATE, FRIDAY MIDDAY: At this point in time, industry matinees show Warner Bros. Crazy Rich Asians prevailing over STX’s The Happytime Murders, with $21M-$23M, -18% for weekend 2 on its way to $74.8M on the high end. Crazy Rich Asians is bound for a $6M Friday.

Warner Bros.

The Happytime Murders is eyeing $11M-$13M after a $950K start last night. Friday is projected at $4.5M. Truth be told, gotta give this R-rated pic a shot to leg out until tonight as the stoners and young folk head to late showtimes. Warner Bros. The Meg is looking to take third behind Happytime, however, there’s a chance it could outstrip as it’s landing in the same weekend bandwidth. By Sunday, on the high end, Meg could reach $105M+

Paramount/Skydance’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout is heading for 4th with $7.3M in weekend 5, -32%, which would put the Tom Cruise pic at $193.2M by Sunday.

Disney’s Christopher Robin is No. 5 in weekend 4 with an estimated $6M, -32%, with $77.2M by Sunday.

Global Road’s robotic dog A.X.L. is going to the dogs with a forecasted $700K today, $2.1M opening.


1ST UPDATE, FRIDAY 7:10AM: STX Entertainment’s R-rated Melissa McCarthy puppet comedy The Happytime Murdersone of summer’s last wide releases, collected $950K previews at 2,500 locations.

That’s a better result than McCarthy’s PG-13 comedy Life of the Party back in May, which posted a $700K Thursday night from 2,900 locations on its way to a $4.9M Friday and $17.9M opening weekend. The pic, directed by McCarthy’s husband Ben Falcone, off a B CinemaScore wound up with a 2.9 multiple stateside with $52.8M. Happytime Murders’ Thursday night isn’t that far from McCarthy’s R-rated The Boss from April 2016, which drew $985K at 2,533 theaters and continued on to a $8M Friday, $23.5M weekend. Too soon to tell if Happytime even smiles that wide. Unlike Sausage Party which was propelled by young males, females on tracking have the edge here with Happytime given McCarthy’s fanbase. Other McCarthy preview nights include Ghostbusters (PG-13, $3.4M), Spy (R, $1.5M), and the Sandra Bullock cop comedy The Heat (R, $1M), Happytime Murders expands to 3,256 theaters today. The Brian Henson-directed comedy cost $40M before P&A with a consortium of financiers.

Despite the entry of Happytime Murders, which is expected to earn $13M-$15M, Warner Bros.’ multi-generational hit romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians is expected to remain golden in its second weekend with $16M-$18M, -36%, for a running total by Sunday of $69.8M. On Thursday, the Jon M. Chu film grossed $3.6M, -2% from Wednesday for a nine-day total of $51.8M.

Definitely by Sunday, possibly by Saturday, Warner Bros./China Gravity’s The Meg will cross $100M, becoming Jason Statham’s sixth starring role feature to do so. Yesterday, Meg earned $1.4M, -23% from Wednesday for a current running total of $92.3M.

Following bad news at Global Road that the banks have taken over their domestic theatrical production and distribution ops, they’re opening robot dog movie A.X.L. (what does that even mean?) at 1,695 theaters with an expected disastrous result of $2M-$3M.

STX’s Mile 22 ended its first week with $19.1M, after a $1M Thursday, -6% from Wednesday. Lower down the charts, Studio 8/Sony’s Alpha grossed $715K last night, -32% from Wednesday, for a $14.5M first week.

Sony has in limited release Searching in 9 venues; an unconventional thriller that Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisition snapped up at Sundance (when it was titled Search). The studio will go wider with the title on Aug. 31. Pic marks the feature directorial debut of 27-year-old Asian American helmer Aneesh Chaganty, and stars a largely Asian cast. In Searching, John Cho plays a desperate father whose 16-year-old daughter goes missing; he breaks into her laptop to search for clues.

Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding and director Chu are supporting Searching and promoting a #GoldOpen for the movie and buying out a theater so that audiences can see it.


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The Communist Who Launched Keith Ellison's Career…

Keith Ellison’s political career began with controversy over his links to the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan, connections that continues to dog him to the present day despite his repeated disavowals. But less commonly known is another radical association of Ellison’s: a decade-long relationship with Marxist University of Minnesota professor and 1974 Communist Party gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota, Erwin Marquit. Marquit helped launch Ellison’s national political career in 2006 using Marquit’s political connections, anti-war associations, personal donations, and hosting at least four fundraisers over the years for Ellison in the Marquit home near Cedar Lake in the Bryn Mawr section of Minneapolis.

Marquit, the “state’s best-known Communist” according to a Minneapolis Star-Tribune profile published shortly before Marquit’s death from cancer in 2015, openly supported Ellison from the start. In his Memoirs of a Lifelong Communist, Marquit wrote that he and his wife Doris actively solicited backing for Ellison as early as May 2006, sought signatures for a letter of support for Ellison that was circulated among anti-Iraq war activists, and hosted the first fundraiser for Ellison in their home in July 2006. Marquit also went door-to-door for Ellison, also described in his memoirs:

When someone appeared at the door, I would begin by introducing myself by name. I was not surprised when one of the first responses I got was, “Oh, you’re the Communist at the University of Minnesota.” Two or three others recognized me in a similar manner. The fact that I was campaigning for Ellison did not seem to bother any of them.

Neighbors of the Marquits, Dave Holets and his wife Nancy Arneson, signed on as co-hosts for the fundraisers. Holets told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that he himself was not that familiar with Ellison at the time, but agreed to co-host at Marquit’s request. He recalls helping Marquit post flyers on the doors of neighboring houses announcing the fundraisers and said about 40-50 people attended. Holets says Marquit told him that he attended marches for various social causes with Ellison during that time.

One of the attendees of a December 2013 Ellison fundraiser was an 18-year-old high school senior named Matthew Voges. Voges, now a law student in Boston, told TWS that although he became a conservative during his college years, he was himself then a member of the Communist party, an eager upcoming Marxist, and Erwin Marquit was his mentor. “Many Communist party members were in attendance [at the fundraiser,] although I don’t believe all of the attendees were Communists,” Voges said.

In contemporaneous notes Voges made of the 2013 fundraiser, which he shared with TWS, Voges wrote:

The private DFL [Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, a Democratic Party affiliate] fundraiser was held at a sprawling house in the wealthy part of Minneapolis proper … I had come to meet Keith Ellison, the U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 5th district and the first Muslim congressman. My invite came through the host, prolific Communist Party member and professor emeritus Erwin Marquit.

Voges wrote that after Ellison made his entrance, various members of Minneapolis’s “left-wing intelligentsia arrived,” though he could not recall names of the attendees. He said that Ellison frequently referred to him (Voges) during his talk about campaign issues “as the tie-in to my generation.” After the fundraiser, Voges volunteered for the Ellison campaign for several months, manning phones and attending several other campaign events, but still being in high school, he said his participation was limited.

Voges shared a copy of an email announcing the December 2013 house party to which Erwin Marquit invited Voges. A partial screenshot of the email is below:

The email continues:

Join me for a conversation on US foreign policy across the world and ways we can restore America’s standing abroad and foster more respectful relationships with the world’s nations.

There will be refreshments, and no charge at the door; all are welcome. (An opportunity will be offered to contribute to Ellison for Congress)

Click here to RSVP online. You can also RSVP by calling or emailing Dinah Dale, Finance Director, at or 612.522.4416.

Hope to see you on the 17th!


(The address shown in the email for the Marquit home matches the address in the Federal Election Commission records reporting Marquit’s Ellison donations.)

Ellison, of course, went on to win his party’s nomination as well as the general election in 2006. Marquit recorded that “Doris and I, again with Dave [Holets] and Nancy [Arneson], have since held three more fundraisers in our home for Ellison, in May 2009, September, 2011 and December 2013.” FEC records show that over the course of a decades, Marquit personally donated more than $6,500 to Ellison in addition to the donations Marquit solicited from others.

Although there is not a lot of evidence that Ellison and Marquit socialized together, Marquit noted that one way Ellison expressed his appreciation for Marquit’s support was a surprise drop-in at his August 2006 80th birthday party. “I was surprised when Keith Ellison, who had been tipped off about the party, dropped by to extend birthday wishes,” Marquit wrote. But despite the relationship, Ellison does not mention Marquit in his 2014 book My Country, ‘Tis of Thee: My Faith, My Family, Our Future.

Although Erwin Marquit died in 2015, Minnesota’s “best-known Communist” helped Keith Ellison, now the No. 2 official at the Democratic National Committee and current candidate for attorney general in Minnesota, in no fewer than five campaigns, including Ellison’s inaugural run that set in motion his rise to national prominence. During that time period, Marquit still occasionally wrote for the website of the Communist Party USA, and Marquit was a delegate to the National Convention of the Communist Party USA right up through 2014, the year before his death.

Though Ellison has tried to distance himself repeatedly from Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, the congressman has never distanced himself from Marquit or from the support and donations provided by one of better-known Communists in the country. Along with Ellison’s penchant for defending cop-killers, namely Sharif Willis, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and Assata Shakur, Ellison’s relationships with Farrakhan and Marquit cement his reputation as a radical’s radical.

Ellison’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment on his relationship with the late Communist party member Erwin Marquit.

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WEEKEND: Dems fight over superdelegates…

WEEKEND: Dems fight over superdelegates...

(Second column, 11th story, link)

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