’Fast 7’ Recruits Paul Walker’s Brothers to Finish Late Actor’s Scenes
”Fast & Furious 7” has found a way to go on shooting without Paul Walker.
By using his brothers.
The ”Fast 7” filmmakers announced today on Facebook that Paul’s two younger siblings, Cody and Caleb, are on the film set to help finish some of the late actor’s action scenes. Production was halted when Walker died in a fiery car crash last Nov. — just weeks after he attended Caleb’s wedding as his best man.
Cody Walker, in his mid-twenties and the youngest of the three Walker brothers, is a trained paramedic and now works with is late brother’s Reach Out Worldwide charity. Caleb Walker is in his late thirties.
”Fast 7” filming resumed just a few weeks ago.
Here is the announcement in its entirety:
A Note to the Fans of FAST & FURIOUS
The FAST & FURIOUS saga is about family. The characters are connected by the bond of family, and it is how all of us who have worked together for more than thirteen years feel about each other. It certainly defines how we feel about our fans.
Our family experienced an unthinkable shock in November. We had to take time to grieve Paul, the brother we love and lost, and to figure out if we should move on with our film.
We came together and all felt the only choice was to continue. We believe our fans want that, and we believe Paul would want that too. Paul had already shot his dramatic scenes and most of his action for FAST & FURIOUS 7, and it’s among the strongest work of his career.
We have resumed shooting and now welcome Paul’s brothers, Caleb and Cody, into our FAST family. Caleb and Cody are helping us complete some remaining action for their brother and fill in small gaps left in production. Having them on set has made us all feel that Paul is with us too.
We are just under a year away from the release of FAST & FURIOUS 7, and this film is the most important we’ve ever done together. It will allow the character of Brian O’Conner to live on and let us celebrate Paul in his most defining role.
We wanted to take a moment to speak to our fans directly and thank you for the love and support you always show us as we resume our work.
Walker’s untimely death presented challenges for the film’s completion. Before production resumed, insiders told Yahoo there were several scenes with Walker that had not been shot and that two-thirds of the script needed to be rewritten to accomodate his loss. Indeed, in the days following his death, studio execs, producers, director James Wan, and Vin Diesel were in a scramble to revamp the film and consulted with Walker’s family to decide on an option that would be respectful to the late star.
Rather than have Walker killed off from the popular action franchise, The Hollywood Reporter had sources saying Walker’s character, Brian O’Conner, would instead be ”retired.”
The original ”Fast 7” release date of July 11, 2014 was also shifted to April 10, 2015 following Walker’s death. The film, currently shooting on location outside of the U.S., is on track for its release next year.
Diesel posted a video from the set just yesterday, honoring his fallen friend and co-star by acceptting their MTV Movie Award for Best On-Screen Duo, an honor voted upon by the franchise’s many fans.
Fans will also get a chance to see one of Walker’s final performances in ”Brick Mansions,” a high-concept, parkour-packed action-thriller that opens April 25.
By Meriah Doty
CBO Says Obamacare Will Cost Less Than Projected
The White House is kicking off the week with some more good news for Obamacare. The Congressional Budget Office said on Monday that the federal government will spend significantly less than expected on health insurance benefits under the new law.
The CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation said the law’s insurance coverage provisions will now cost about $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years — about $104 billion less than previously estimated. This year alone the government will spend $5 billion less than projected.
The CBO said lower spending on the health care law is helping shrink deficits overall. The report projected that federal government will run a deficit of $492 billion in 2014—nearly 33 percent less than last year. Even so, budget deficits are projected to rise again starting in 2016 and to top $1 trillion annually by 2023.
The agency credits the expected decrease in Obamacare spending to lower-than-anticipated premiums for plans offered on the exchanges. The CBO projects the price of annual premiums to rise slightly from an average of $3,800 this year for the second-lowest silver plan to $3,900 in 2015 and $4,400 in 2016. The agency expects premiums to keep rising, reaching $6,900 in 2024, for an average annual increase of 6 percent from 2016 to 2024.
The new projection for 2016 is 15 percent lower than CBO’s November 2009 estimate, which forecast that premiums for those benchmark plans would average $5,200.
Still, there is a downside to the lower costs, according to the report: “The plans being offered through exchanges in 2014 appear to have, in general, lower payment rates for providers, narrower networks of providers, and tighter management of their subscribers’ use of health care than employment-based plans do. Those features allow insurers that offer plans through the exchanges to charge lower premiums (although they also make plans somewhat less attractive to potential enrollees).”
CBO said it expects major provisions including the individual mandate —which requires people to have health insurance or pay a penalty — to offset total spending for Obamacare. Other major provisions like the employer mandate, which requires medium to large companies to cover their full-time workers, won’t take effect until next year, but will also play a large role in offsetting the costs of subsidies.
Aside from lower spending projections, the CBO said it expects more people to gain health coverage under the law. The report said in 2014 alone about 12 million people are expected to gain coverage through the federal and state exchanges as well as through the law’s Medicaid expansion.
It added that it projects 19 million people to have coverage under the law in 2015, and 25 million more by 2016. By 2024, the CBO says, about 89 percent of U.S. residents will have health coverage. That would leave some 31 million uninsured, which the CBO says is 26 million fewer than would lack coverage without Obamacare.
By Brianna Ehley
Apple May Charge $100 More for the Next iPhone
Call it the iPhone $ix.
According to a new report from Jefferies analyst Peter Misek, Apple is negotiating with carriers to charge $100 more for its next iPhone. The report was first unearthed by Business Insider. Here’s the money quote from Misek’s report, via BI:
“Our checks indicate Apple has started negotiating with carriers on a $100 iPhone 6 price increase. The initial response has been no, but there seems to be an admission that there is no other game-changing device this year.”
A new iPhone 5s with 16 GB of memory costs $199 with a new two-year contract on AT&T and Verizon, the two largest American mobile carriers. There is precedent for a $299 phone: Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 — the “phablet” smartphone with the huge screen — retailed for $299 with a two-year contract when it debuted last year.
(In the United States, the price of your smartphone is subsidized when you sign a new contract. The actual device costs hundreds of dollars more, which you pay for over the life of that contract. In most other countries, you pay the full price of the phone, and then pay for service as you go.)
So, would Apple really hike prices on its most popular product, after customers have gotten so used to the $199 iPhone? It might make economic sense. Certainly, there is sufficient demand for a new iPhone, as evidenced by the long lines and supply shortages that arise every time a new model is released. And, too, the iPhone has no real existential threats from other manufacturers, as Misek notes: Though Samsung’s phones are popular, they are nowhere near popular enough to dethrone the iPhone. New phones from Samsung, HTC, and Nokia this year are probably not radical enough to take momentum away from the record-crushing Apple.
A $100 price hike would likely do little to stop most iPhone shoppers from selecting a different phone. They want their iPhones, and they want nothing else, an extra Benjamin be darned.
On the other hand: This price hike is far from a done deal. We haven’t heard this rumor anywhere else. That’s especially troublesome since the analyst responsible for the rumor, Peter Misek, does not have a perfect track record when it comes to Apple rumors: In 2012, for example, he predicted five separate times that Apple would release its own television set by year’s end. That, uh, didn’t happen.
And, too, even Misek admits this might not come to fruition, noting in his report that Apple is receiving healthy pushback from the carriers. (Hooray, carriers!)
Finally, an internal document that surfaced as part of the ongoing Apple-Samsung trial shows that Apple knows its customers want cheaper, larger smartphones, which is what various Android models can offer. Fittingly, Apple’s next iPhone is expected by most analysts to feature a larger screen. So would it make sense for Apple to make that phone more expensive, not less?
For now, you probably don’t have to worry about an iPhone price hike. If more rumors, from additional sources, to that effect begin to appear, then you should start cutting back on the fancy dinners and expensive toilet paper to save some dough. Until then, let’s treat this as an unlikely scenario for this fall’s next iPhone.
By Jason O. Gilbert
Just Like Apple! Smartphone Shoppers Are Waiting in Line for Samsung’s Galaxy S5
On Friday Samsung released its Galaxy S5 smartphone, the Apple rival’s top competitor to the iPhone. And just like each new iPhone does, the Galaxy S5 attracted lines of eager shoppers hoping to be among the first to own the new phone.
Well, it attracted lines in some cities, anyway.
Here’s the scene in London, spotted by the (slightly-biased) folks at Android Central. “It’s no iPhone line, sure” Android Police officer/writer Richard Devine concluded, “but it’s still damn impressive.”
It wasn’t all lines and queues for Samsung, however. Whereas almost all Apple stores tend to attract huge crowds on release day, the Galaxy S series isn’t quite there yet in terms of broad, overwhelming appeal — a fact that some Apple fans gleefully pointed out on Twitter.
Even in Seoul, South Korea — where Samsung is based, and where almost everybody owns a Samsung phone — the scene was subdued. Jonathan Cheng, who covers Samsung in Seoul for the Wall Street Journal, described the mood as “really, really quiet” in a tweet:
You may remember that Samsung mocked Apple fanboys who waited in line for the iPhone in a series of ads for last year’s Galaxy S4. Those ads were apparently so successful that now Samsung has attracted line-waiters of its own.
By Jason O. Gilbert
Amazon offers workers $5,000 to quit, but it’s not crazy
On first hearing, it sounds almost insane – every year, Amazon (AMZN) offers workers in its distribution warehouses up to $5,000 to quit. Why would a company ask employees to quit and why in the world would it pay them to do so?
But like many of the unusual practices adopted under Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the pay-to-quit policy is grounded in data. The goal of the offer is to encourage unmotivated and disaffected employees to leave on their own, while making employees who reject the offer feel more dedicated to the job.
Delivered with the headline “Please Don’t Take This Offer,” the pay-to-quit offers start at $2,000 for an employee’s first year and rise by $1,000 a year up to a maximum of $5,000.
“The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want,” CEO Bezos explained in a letter to shareholders this week. “In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”
Creating a positive work culture
The original idea came from Zappos, a popular online shoe site Amazon acquired in 2009. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh developed the pay-to-quit offer among numerous other policies designed to create a positive work culture at Zappos, which is known for fantastic customer service. The Las Vegas-based company has continued to operate independently since Amazon took over.
Zappos call-center reps have great leeway to please customers, to the point of recommending competitors’ websites when Zappos is out of stock of a product the customer wants. And even the driver who picks up job applicants at the airport delivers feedback on the candidate’s attitude. Hsieh wrote a book detailing his strategy, called “Delivering Happiness.”
Amazon says few employees actually take the offer. The company employed over 117,000 people at the end of 2013, most working in one of its 96 distribution centers around the world. Hsieh has said only 2% to 3% of his employees opt for the cash instead of their job.
Keeping employees motivated is a key challenge in environments such as retailing, call centers and other high-volume, low-pay workplaces. Zappos’s efforts seem to have paid off, as higher employee morale generates better customer service leading to high customer loyalty.
”On the one hand, I love anything that encourages the people who are unhappy to leave and get out,” says Suzanne Lucas, a 10-year corporate HR veteran who writes the Evil HR lady blog. But Lucas also worries that some people may quit for the money and later regret the decision. ”When I did layoffs, there were always people who would volunteer for the package, get it and then call sobbing when the money ran out,” she says.
A pay-to-quit policy can also improve hiring decisions, making sure companies look for people who will fit in, says hiring and recruiting consultant Josh Bersin, principal at Bersin by Deloitte. “I’ve talked with Zappos and others about this and it is a great idea,” he says. Hiring managers have to be “much more rigorous about assessment for fit, culture and capabilities.”
Some human-resources experts also question whether the pay-to-quit policy fits with the rest of Amazon’s employment practices in its warehouses; Warehouse workers have reported sometimes harsh working conditions. Amazon has denied charges of unsafe working conditions and noted its healthy pay increases for warehouse workers.
“What I’ve read about Amazon doesn’t suggest they have a similarly strong and singular culture,” says Ann Bares, a compensation expert at Altura Consulting Group. “You can’t become Zappos by simply copying one of their practices in isolation, though many organizations have tried.”
By Aaron Pressman
Man cleared of NYC murder after 25 years in prison
From the day of his 1989 arrest in a deadly New York City shooting, Jonathan Fleming said he had been more than 1,000 miles away, on a vacation at Disney World. Despite having documents to back him up, he was convicted of murder.
Prosecutors now agree with him, and Fleming left a Brooklyn court as a free man Tuesday after spending nearly a quarter-century behind bars.
Fleming, now 51, tearfully hugged his lawyers as relatives cheered, ”Thank you, God!” after a judge dismissed the case. A key witness had recanted, newly found witnesses implicated someone else and prosecutors’ review of authorities’ files turned up documents supporting Fleming’s alibi.
”After 25 years, come hug your mother,” Patricia Fleming said, and her only child did.
”I feel wonderful,” he said afterward. ”I’ve always had faith. I knew that this day would come someday.”
The exoneration, first reported by the Daily News, comes amid scrutiny of Brooklyn prosecutors’ process for reviewing questionable convictions, scrutiny that comes partly from the new district attorney, Kenneth Thompson. He said in a statement that after a monthslong review, he decided to drop the case against Fleming because of ”key alibi facts that place Fleming in Florida at the time of the murder.”
From the start, Fleming told authorities he had been in Orlando when a friend, Darryl ”Black” Rush, was shot to death in Brooklyn early on Aug. 15, 1989. Authorities suggested the shooting was motivated by a dispute over money.
Fleming had plane tickets, videos and postcards from his trip, said his lawyers, Anthony Mayol and Taylor Koss. But prosecutors at the time suggested he could have made a quick round-trip plane jaunt to be in New York, and a woman testified that she had seen him shoot Rush. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison and was due to have his first parole hearing soon.
The witness recanted her testimony soon after Fleming’s 1990 conviction, saying she had lied so police would cut her loose for an unrelated arrest, but Fleming lost his appeals.
The defense asked the district attorney’s office to review the case last year.
Defense investigators found previously untapped witnesses who pointed to someone else as the gunman, the attorneys said, declining to give the witnesses’ or potential suspect’s names before prosecutors look into them. The district attorney’s office declined to comment on its investigative plans.
Prosecutors’ review produced a hotel receipt that Fleming paid in Florida about five hours before the shooting — a document that police evidently had found in Fleming’s pocket when they arrested him. Prosecutors also found an October 1989 Orlando police letter to New York detectives, saying some employees at an Orlando hotel had told investigators they remembered Fleming.
Neither the receipt nor the police letter had been provided to Fleming’s initial defense lawyer, despite rules that generally require investigators to turn over possibly exculpatory material.
Patricia Fleming, 71, was with her son in Orlando at the time of the crime and testified at his trial.
”I knew he didn’t do it, because I was there,” she said. ”When they gave my son 25 to life, I thought I would die in that courtroom.”
Still, she said, ”I never did give up, because I knew he was innocent.”
Thompson took office in January, after unseating longtime District Attorney Charles ”Joe” Hynes with a campaign that focused partly on questionable convictions on Hynes’ watch. Hynes had created a special conviction integrity unit to review false-conviction claims, but some saw the effort as slow-moving and defensive.
Thompson has agreed to dismiss the murder convictions of two men who spent more than 20 years in prison for a triple homicide. He also dropped his predecessor’s appeal challenging the 2013 release of another man who had served 22 years in prison on a questioned murder conviction.
On Tuesday, Jonathan Fleming left court with an arm around his mother’s shoulders and the process of rebuilding his life ahead of him.
Asked about his plans, he said: ”I’m going to go eat dinner with my mother and my family, and I’m going to live the rest of my life.”
Does this leaked image show iOS 8 on the iPhone 6?
An screenshot that supposedly shows iOS 8 running on an iPhone 6 has been posted on Weibo, seemingly revealing what Apple’s upcoming new iOS build will look like on a bigger display. While the image is yet to be confirmed, it suggests the home screen will have a five by seven icon arrangement, including the five-app dock row, compared to the four by six grid on current 4-inch iPhones. Furthermore, the image has a rather strange resolution of 1,600 x 966 pixels that doesn’t really resonate with other screen resolutions Apple uses on existing iPhone and iPad models.
When it comes to apps, the screen is similar to the iPhone 5s, at least for a partial app arrangement. From Messages to Stocks, the apps are placed in the exact same order as in iOS 7’s default home screen. Also, four of the five dock apps are identical to the four apps on iOS 7’s dock.
However, there are several other apps present including apps from the iWork and iLife suites and, most importantly, new apps including Healthbook, CarPlay and a Watch Utility that takes central placement in the dock.
Other apps that were shown in recent leaks, including Preview, TextEdit and Tips, aren’t anywhere to be seen.
Weibo user @Zmeric did not say where he or she obtained the image from, or whether it’s a genuine iOS 8 screenshot image or a manufactured render based on existing iOS 8 leaks.
By Chris Smith
Teen stabs 22 at Pittsburgh-area high school
Flailing away with two kitchen knives, a 16-year-old boy with a ”blank expression” stabbed and slashed 21 students and a security guard in the crowded halls of his suburban Pittsburgh high school Wednesday before an assistant principal tackled him.
At least five students were critically wounded, including a boy whose liver was pierced by a knife thrust that narrowly missed his heart and aorta, doctors said. Others also suffered deep abdominal puncture wounds.
The rampage — which came after decades in which U.S. schools geared much of their emergency planning toward mass shootings, not stabbings — set off a screaming stampede, left blood on the floor and walls, and brought teachers rushing to help the victims.
Police shed little light on the motive.
The suspect, Alex Hribal, was taken into custody and treated for a minor hand wound, then was brought into court in shackles and a hospital gown and charged with four counts of attempted homicide and 21 counts of aggravated assault. He was jailed without bail, and authorities said he would be prosecuted as an adult.
At the brief hearing, District Attorney John Peck said that after he was seized, Hribal made comments suggesting he wanted to die.
Defense attorney Patrick Thomassey described him as a good student who got along with others, and asked for a psychiatric examination.
The attack unfolded in the morning just minutes before the start of classes at 1,200-student Franklin Regional High School, in an upper-middle-class area 15 miles east of Pittsburgh.
It was over in about five minutes, during which the boy ran wildly down about 200 feet of hallway, slashing away with knives 8 to 10 inches long, police said.
Nate Moore, 15, said he saw the boy tackle and knife a freshman. He said he going to try to break it up when the boy got up and slashed Moore’s face, opening a wound that required 11 stitches.
”It was really fast. It felt like he hit me with a wet rag because I felt the blood splash on my face. It spurted up on my forehead,” Moore said.
The attacker ”had the same expression on his face that he has every day, which was the freakiest part,” he said. ”He wasn’t saying anything. He didn’t have any anger on his face. It was just a blank expression.”
Assistant Principal Sam King finally tackled the boy and disarmed him, and a Murrysville police officer who is regularly assigned to the school handcuffed him, police said.
King’s son told The Associated Press that his father was treated at a hospital, though authorities said he was not knifed.
”He says he’s OK. He’s a tough cookie and sometimes hides things, but I believe he’s OK,” Zack King said. He added: ”I’m proud of him.”
In addition to the 22 stabbed or slashed, two people suffered other injuries, authorities said. The security guard, who was wounded after intervening early in the melee, was not seriously hurt.
”There are a number of heroes in this day. Many of them are students,” Gov. Tom Corbett said during a visit to the stricken town. ”Students who stayed with their friends and didn’t leave their friends.”
As for what set off the attack, Murrysville Police Chief Thomas Seefeld said investigators were looking into reports of a threatening phone call between the suspect and another student the night before. Seefeld didn’t specify whether the suspect received or made the call.
The FBI went to the boy’s house, where authorities planned to confiscate and search his computer.
”They are a very, very nice family. A great family. We never saw anything out of the ordinary,” said John Kukalis, a next-door neighbor for about 13 years.
His wife, Sonya Kukalis, said: ”It should be an eye-opener for everybody. Everyone always thinks it’s the other neighborhood, the other town. We need to be kinder and show compassion to more people. Something must have been going on for him to do this.”
While several bloody stabbing rampages at schools in China have made headlines in the past few years, schools in the U.S. have concentrated their emergency preparations on mass shootings.
Nevertheless, there have been at least two major stabbing attacks at U.S. schools over the past year, one at a community college in Texas last April that wounded at least 14 people, and another, also in Texas, that killed a 17-year-old student and injured three others at a high school in September.
On Wednesday, Mia Meixner, 16, said the rampage touched off a ”stampede of kids” yelling, ”Run! Get out of here! Someone has a knife!”
The boy had a ”blank look,” she said. ”He was just kind of looking like he always does, not smiling, not scowling or frowning.”
Meixner and Moore called the attacker a shy boy who largely kept to himself, but they said he was not an outcast and they had no reason to think he might be violent.
”He was never mean to anyone, and I never saw people be mean to him,” Meixner said. ”I never saw him with a particular group of friends.”
Michael Float, 18, said he had just gotten to school when he saw ”blood all over the floor” and smeared on the wall near the main entrance. Then he saw a wounded student.
”He had his shirt pulled up and he was screaming, ’Help! Help!’” Float said. ”He had a stab wound right at the top right of his stomach, blood pouring down.”
Float said he saw a teacher applying pressure to another student’s wound.
About five minutes elapsed between the time the campus police officer summoned help over the radio at 7:13 a.m. and the boy was disarmed, the police chief said.
Someone, possibly a student, pulled a fire alarm during the attack, Seefeld said. Although that created chaos, the police chief said, it emptied out the school more quickly, and ”that was a good thing that that was done.”
Also, a girl with ”an amazing amount of composure” applied pressure to a schoolmate’s wounds and probably kept the victim from bleeding to death, said Dr. Mark Rubino at Forbes Regional Medical Center.
Public safety and school officials said an emergency plan worked as well as could be expected. The district conducted an emergency exercise three months ago and a full-scale drill about a year ago.
”We haven’t lost a life, and I think that’s what we have to keep in mind,” said county public safety spokesman Dan Stevens.
By KEVIN BEGOS and JOE MANDAK
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