Tony Romo Calls Plays Before They Happen. How Often Is He Actually Right? – By Ben Cohen and Andrew Beaton Jan. 30, 2019

The voice of the Super Bowl has become known for his eerily accurate predictions. We watched nearly 50 hours of game tape to calculate Romo’s hit rate. ‘You’re kidding,’ he says.

ATLANTA—Tom Brady broke the huddle in overtime of the AFC Championship last weekend with a spot in the Super Bowl on the line. Sitting high above the field that day was a football psychic wearing a blazer, tie and headset, who peered into the future and told CBS’s television audience of 54 million what they were about to watch.

“New England tried play action earlier. I can’t see it here,” Tony Romo said. “This has to be a run.”

By that point Romo had correctly predicted three of New England’s crucial plays on the drive. What happened next was once again exactly as he described. Brady took the snap and handed the ball off for a game-winning touchdown to send the Patriots to yet another Super Bowl.

This is Romo’s seemingly supernatural talent: the ability to call plays before they happen.

Romo will be the voice of the biggest event on television as the lead analyst for the Super Bowl on Sunday, but the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback is already a broadcasting phenomenon. He has a rare gift that revealed itself as soon as he stepped in the booth last season, and his pre-snap predictions have since earned him more attention than almost everyone playing in the actual Super Bowl.

But every psychic’s claims deserve a healthy dose of skepticism. And so The Wall Street Journal sifted through 46 hours of footage to review every play in every game that Romo called this season. Yes, all 2,599 of them.

“You’re kidding me,” Romo said in an interview this week.

We’re not. It was the only way to answer one of the more intriguing Super Bowl questions: How often are Tony Romo’s predictions actually right?

He made a total of 72 predictions on air this season. But one thing he couldn’t predict: his own accuracy. Romo lowballed that he was right 21% of the time. He was wrong about that. His actual hit rate was 68%, according to the Journal’s calculations.

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Will Your 2019 Tax Refund Be Sweeter Than Usual? – By Richard Rubin Jan. 25, 2019


We use ice cream to break down how new tax laws could affect your refund, depending on your deductions

Now that the new tax law is in place, your deductions and refunds may not look the same as last year. WSJ’s Richard Rubin gives us the scoop on what’s changed, and how your return could be sweeter (or less sweet) than years past.

Will Your 2019 Tax Refund Be Sweeter Than Usual? – By Richard Rubin Jan. 25, 2019 2:30 am

Now that the new tax law is in place, your deductions and refunds may not look the same as last year. WSJ’s Richard Rubin gives us the scoop on what’s changed, and how your return could be sweeter (or less sweet) than years past.

Apple cracks down on Facebook after it paid teens for access to their data – Julia Carrie Wong First published on Wed 30 Jan 2019 07.17 EST

Program that enrolled users as young as 13 prompts Apple to ban Facebook from publishing some apps

Facebook paid users as young as 13 to install an app that gave the company access to everything their phone sent or received over the internet. In response, Apple has revoked Facebook’s ability to publish certain apps, in a move that could have far-reaching implications for both companies.

Facebook has been accused of exploiting a loophole in Apple’s privacy regulations to publish the iPhone app, which provided it with data it used to keep ahead of youth trends.

As well as sparking renewed privacy concerns, the discovery revived the cold war between the two businesses, which have previously attacked each other in the press over issues of privacy and security.

Facebook was found to be using a voluntarily installed virtual private network (VPN) to route all data from participants’ devices through its own servers – despite the fact that Apple had removed a previous Facebook app that did the same thing, Onavo, from the iOS App Store over privacy violations.

Facebook now says it will shut down the app, called Facebook Research, on iOS and maintains it did nothing wrong, and that the service was not a replacement for the Onavo VPN.

According to TechCrunch, which first reported the existence of Facebook Research, the company paid users aged 13 to 35 a monthly fee, of up to $20, to install the app on iOS and Android. When they did, all of their internet data, however they connected and whatever apps they were using, was funnelled through the company’s servers, allowing it to keep track of their activities on other services.

Onavo Protect was used by the company for the same purpose but was removed from the iOS App Store in June 2018 when Apple implemented new rules that banned the collection of “information about which other apps are installed on a user’s device for the purposes of analytics or advertising/marketing”.

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Why Trump’s superfans dig Ocasio-Cortez – BEN SCHRECKINGER 01/30/2019 05:02 AM EST

‘I aspire to be the conservative AOC,’ said one GOP congressman.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Coverage of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Fox News has become so frequent that she poked fun at the network in a tweet, quoting Spanish-language lyrics from the New York City band Aventura to suggest Fox has an “obsession” with her. | Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

They detest what she stands for. They think her policies would destroy the country. And they wish she would just go away.

All the same, many of President Donald Trump’s most media-conscious supporters can’t help but admit it: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has got serious political game.

“I aspire to be the conservative AOC,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told POLITICO. Gaetz, an outspoken 36-year-old in his second term who has achieved a measure of prominence as a highly visible Trump defender, said there’s just one problem with that aspiration: “I can’t dance for shit.”

“AOC has what I call ‘gameness’ or competitive heart — the combination of grit, determination, fighting spirit that you can’t coach,” Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, told POLITICO. “You either have it or you don’t, and she has it big league.”

Such admiration, in spite of vast ideological and demographic differences, is a testament to just how quickly the 29-year-old former activist and waitress has achieved political stardom. It’s also a sign that many parts of Trump’s playbook — a populist image, an authentic social media presence, a willingness to lash out at mainstream media gatekeepers and fact-checkers, and a lack of deference to party leaders — are becoming enduring features of American politics, rather than some aberration made possible only by Trump’s unique persona or the state of the Republican Party circa 2015.

The president’s most media-savvy supporters recognize Ocasio-Cortez’s approach because it is so similar to Trump’s, a comparison they often make.

“Laughing at Trump, as the libs did, sure stopped him from being POTUS,” the far-right activist Mike Cernovich tweeted in November, adding, “Laughing at AOC, as the cons are doing now, sure is hurting her.”

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AT&T Wants to Be Big in Entertainment. First, It Has a $49 Billion Problem to Fix. – By Drew FitzGerald Jan. 29, 2019 10:56 a.m. ET

A DirecTV technician removes a satellite TV dish at a building in Lynwood, Calif. PATRICK T. FALLON/BLOOMBERG NEWS

When AT&T Inc. T 0.10% took over DirecTV in 2015, a group of executives from the two companies gathered at Fleming’s steakhouse in El Segundo, Calif., to celebrate the deal. Toward the end of the dinner, DirecTV chief Mike White stood up, drew a lightsaber and handed it to an executive of AT&T, saying it might help in future negotiations with channel owners.

Today the telecom company, nicknamed the Death Star by detractors, isn’t scaring so many. Acquiring satellite-TV provider DirecTV, which cost $49 billion, was supposed to catalyze AT&T’s transformation into a media and entertainment giant. Instead, it has become one of the biggest casualties of the rise of Netflix Inc. and other streaming-video services.

DirecTV has lost 1.4 million satellite customers since its peak of 21 million-plus about two years ago. Analysts expect news of roughly 300,000 more defections when AT&T reports quarterly results on Wednesday. AT&T is bracing for cancellations this year that would cut into its 2019 operating profits by $1 billion.

The company has told investors it plans to make up for much of the money lost to defections by charging more to customers with discounts who stay. Meanwhile, some former call-center workers say AT&T has incentivized such employees to make it as difficult as possible for customers to cancel, a claim the company disputes.

AT&T is facing the perils of trying to move beyond its telecom roots into a media industry where the balance of power is dramatically shifting. DirecTV in the span of a few years has evolved from a springboard for its parent company’s show-business ambitions into a drag on its business and public image. The shift has weakened AT&T’s hold on once-reliable channel-surfers as it seeks to capitalize on an even bigger purchase of an entertainment heavyweight, its $81 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc.

See Change

Skinny online channel bundles are growing, but traditional TV service is losing customers at a faster rate. Satellite services Dish and DirecTV have suffered most from the slump.

*As of 4Q 2018, includes estimates †Excludes Netflix, which added about 13 million subscribers

Source: UBS AG

Vox Sentences: When freezing means global warming – By Nicole Jan 29, 2019, 8:00pm EST

How a polar vortex links to climate change; the US steps up pressure to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

The planet is warming up, so it’s getting cold

National Weather Service
  • The Midwest is about to get really, really cold. A polar vortex is expected to hit Tuesday through Thursday, with cities including Chicago likely to be as cold as minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit. [Vox / Brian Resnick]
  • About 90 million people will be exposed to temperatures below or at zero degrees in the coldest recorded forecast in generations. At least four national records for lowest temperature could be broken in states like Illinois and Iowa. [Washington Post / Angela Fritz]
  • What’s a polar vortex? Basically, the jet stream pushes a portion of the Arctic air that hangs above the North Pole down to North America. This may be due to a larger amount of warmer air at the pole displacing the colder air. [USA Today / Doyle Rice]
  • Climate change might explain why the North Pole is warmer than ever and this vortex is happening. If the polar climate continues to warm for a long time, colder air will keep streaming outside the Arctic. [NYT / Kendra Pierre-Louis]
  • Note to President Trump, who tweeted “what the hell is going on with global warming”: The phrase “global warming” doesn’t mean it can’t get cold anymore. 2018 was still the hottest year ever recorded — and a changing climate means changing weather. [Vox / Brian Resnick]
  • If you live in the Midwest, just stay inside if you can. Winds this cold actually displace the warm air the body naturally produces as armor against the cold, potentially causing frostbite within minutes. [Washington Post / Angela Fritz]


Spy Boss Coats Warns That Russia, Others Plot New Interference Techniques For 2020 – Tim Mak January 29, 201910:42 AM ET

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned Congress on Tuesday that he expects foreign nations to try new techniques of interference in the 2020 elections.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Updated at 4:03 p.m. ET

Russia and other foreign actors will try new techniques to interfere in the 2020 elections, building off the tactics they used in the 2016 and 2018 campaigns, America’s top intelligence official warned Tuesday.

“We assess that foreign actors will view the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate intelligence committee. “We expect them to refine their capabilities and add new tactics as they learn from each other’s experiences and efforts.”

Intelligence officials have warned consistently throughout the last several years that Russia has sought to disrupt American elections and divide the electorate against itself.

That will continue, Coats said.

But he also named other nations he felt were growing threats in this area, arguing that China could use cyberattacks against the United States to censor or suppress viewpoints it sees as “politically sensitive.”

Iran, he added, has already used social media campaigns to target U.S. audiences and will continue to do so.

Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the committee, said that the intelligence community has adapted to these perils since the 2016 campaign, although the threat continues.

“While we did see Russia continue to try to divide Americans on social media and we saw cyberactivity by unknown actors targeting our election infrastructure in 2018, the good news is that the [intelligence community] did not see successful efforts to disrupt the vote or the kind of ‘hack and leak’ operations we saw in 2016 against the DNC and [Hillary] Clinton campaign,” Warner said.

But Warner also said that the core problem started within the United States itself — something the intelligence community can’t address.

“Let us remember that while Russia can amplify our divisions, it cannot invent them,” he said at Tuesday’s hearing. “When a divisive issue like the ‘take a knee’ NFL controversy or a migrant caravan dominates the national dialogue, these are issues that can be — and are — taken advantage of by Russian trolls. Let’s not make their work easier.”

Coats also addressed a range of other worldwide threats: China seeks to overtake the United States, he warned. Iran seeks to continue to develop its ballistic missile capabilities. Terrorism remains a danger.

And although North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has signaled an openness to negotiating with President Trump about the regime’s nuclear weapons program, Coats says the intelligence community does not believe that Kim ultimately would give up his strategic weapons.

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Majority of Clemson’s black players declined Trump’s fast food reception, report says – Guardian Sport Tue 29 Jan 2019 15.50 EST

  • Members of Clemson’s football team dine on fast food at the White House earlier this month. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

  • Majority of Clemson’s black players skipped White House trip
  • The Root quotes three members who cite Trump as reason why

Three African American members of Clemson University’s national championship football team have attributed the “racism” and “divisive politics” of Donald Trump to why nearly three-quarters of the team’s black players declined to attend the traditional congratulatory reception at the White House earlier this month, according to a report published on Tuesday.

The players, who spoke to news site the Root on the condition of anonymity, separately confirmed the US president as the reason why approximately one-third of the entire team passed on the visit to the executive mansion, which made national headlines for Trump’s decision to serve a lavish spread of “McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King’s with some pizza” with the White House chefs furloughed due to a partial government shutdown.

“It wasn’t like we had a team meeting or anything,” one of the team’s offensive stars said in the report. “Players were talking amongst each other but everybody was like: ‘I’m not going to that.’”

A university spokesperson said in a statement that a total of 76 players, about two-thirds of the team’s 119-player roster for 2018, attended the White House reception on 14 January.

But the players quoted said that only 15 of the team’s 57 black players made the trip – and 11 of those 15 were freshmen or sophomores who had very little playing time during the season and feared reprisals over their status with the team moving forward. Only six were even listed on the depth chart for the Tigers’ victory over the University of Alabama in the national title game on 7 January.

As one of the team members explained: “Not saying anything against the players who went, but if you look at who went – freshmen and people fighting for playing time – you’ll see what I’m talking about.”

Donald Trump serves fast food to White House guests – video

All three student-athletes confirmed that Clemson’s coaches, staff and administration neither pressured them to attend nor asked them to be quiet about their reasons for declining to join.

The report comes less than one week after the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors opted to visit former president Barack Obamaduring their lone trip to the nation’s capital this season, avoiding the traditional post-championship White House visit for the second time in as many years.

Which Countries Are the Stars of World History? – Sander van der Linden, Seth Rosenthal January 29, 2019

Scientists start to tackle “collective narcissism”

Which Countries Are the Stars of World History?
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia. Credit: Getty Images

Derived from the Greek myth of Narcissus, the caricature of a classic “narcissist” is someone who is manipulative, entitled, lacking in empathy, obsessed with grandiose fantasies about power and admiration, and abuses relationships for personal gain. Not surprisingly, then, narcissism is a purported attribute of many powerful leaders, including both destructive leaders, like Saddam Hussein and Dick Fuld of Lehman Brothers infamy, but also victors against tyranny like Winston Churchill and visionaries like Steve Jobs. One school of thought even suggests that individuals may select narcissistic leaders in order to protect their own narcissistic sense of superiority.

But narcissism is not necessarily confined to individuals. In fact, recent research has moved toward documenting the notion of collective narcissism, that is, unrealistic exaggerations about the greatness of an entire group of people. And if narcissism is a trait that can be applied to both individuals and groups, can the same logic extend to entire societies?

New research provides preliminary evidence that it can be, via a concept that the researchers call “national narcissism.” In particular, the researchers were first motivated by the use of common appeals from leaders in the United States to “American exceptionalism”—the idea that the U.S. is unique among the nations of the world. But do people in the U.S. truly believe this to be the case? And do people in other countries feel similarly about their country? And perhaps most important, can such feelings of uniqueness be attributed to an inflated and exaggerated (that is to say, narcissistic) sense of one’s country? In a large international survey, that is indeed what the authors found—students around the world collectively and consistently provided exaggerated estimates about the importance of their own country.

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