Archive for March 26, 2013

Directed by – Marc Forster    Release date: June 21, 2013

DO YOU BELIEVE IN ZOMBIES?  NOW YOU HAVE TO….

World War Z The biggest zombie movie ever

World War Z The biggest zombie movie ever


World War Z is an upcoming apocalyptic horror film directed by Marc Forster and written by Matthew Michael Carnahan. It is based on the novel of the same name by Max BrooksBrad Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a worker at the United Nations, as he searches the globe for information that can stop the zombie outbreak that is bringing down nations.[2]

Plan B Entertainment secured the film rights in 2007 and Forster was approached to direct. In 2009, Carnahan was hired to rewrite the script to the film. Filming began in July 2011 in Malta on an estimated $125 million budget, before moving to Glasgow in August 2011 and Budapest in October 2011. Originally set for a December 2012 release, the production suffered some setbacks. In June 2012, the film’s release date was pushed back and the crew returned to Budapest for seven weeks of additional shooting. Damon Lindelof was hired to rewrite the third act, but did not have the time to finish the script and Drew Goddard was hired to rewrite it. The reshoots were due to take place between September and October 2012.

World War Z is due to be released on June 21, 2013 in 2D and RealD 3D selected theaters.
Trailor(HD):

Cast

Music

In December 2011, it was reported that Marco Beltrami has signed on to score World War Z.

Release

World War Z was initially slated for release by Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions on December 21, 2012, but in March 2012 it was pushed back to June 21, 2013, with Paramount electing to release Jack Reacher on the December 2012 date.

Sequels

In January 2012, director Marc Forster and Paramount Pictures told the Los Angeles Times that they “each view World War Z as a trilogy that would have the grounded, gun-metal realism of Matt Damon‘s Jason Bourne series tethered to the unsettling end-times vibe of AMC‘s The Walking Dead“.

Yahoo’s Big Hire Is 17, and Anthony Lewis Dies at 85

Posted: March 26, 2013 by Rizwan Riyad in Finance, Tech
Tags: , ,
Nick D’Aloisio

yahoo-buys-summly-website-from-17-year-old-tech-whiz-for-30-million

Nick D’Aloisio is living the technology entrepreneur’s dream: he sold his news-reading app, Summly, to Yahoo on Monday for tens of millions of dollars and became the resurgent Web giant’s newest employee, Brian Stelter writes. The only problem is that Mr. D’Aloisio still has to finish high school; the British programmer is only 17. Mr. D’Aloisio received venture capital from high-profile investors like Yoko Ono, Wendi Murdock and Li Ka-Shing, the Hong Kong billionaire, when he was just 15. Yahoo plans to incorporate Summly, which summarizes long-form stories for smart phones, into Yahoo’s suite of mobile apps.

Anthony Lewis, a New York Times reporter and columnist who won two Pulitzer Prizes and revolutionized the way the Supreme Court is covered, died on Monday, Adam Liptak writes. He brought passionate engagement to his two great themes, the role of the press in democracy and justice, and his column appeared on the Op-Ed page of The Times for more than 30 years, until 2001.

It may seem implausible to the millions of fans of the “Dork Diaries,” but the author of the popular books about the socially aspiring, fashion-impaired Westchester Country Day School student Nikki Maxwell is Rachel Renée Russell, a 53-year-old divorced former bankruptcy lawyer, Leslie Kaufman writes. Ms. Russell’s books have drawn comparisons to the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, but Ms. Russell said the stories came from her own awkward childhood and experiences raising her two daughters, who work with her on the books.

Many video game journalists were concerned that the delays leading up to the release on Tuesday of Irrational Games’ BioShock Infinite might bode ill for the highly anticipated first-person shooter. They should not have worried,Chris Suellentrop reports. The latest BioShock is a model for what video games can achieve — the world is dense, fascinating and inventive and combat is exhilarating.

Gillette has started a new ad campaign for its Fusion ProGlide Styler, a trimmer-razor hybrid introduced in 2012 for facial hair, designed to emphasize the styler’s efficacy on other regions of the body, Andrew Adam Newman writes. The ads feature attractive women like Kate Upton and Hannah Simone explaining their preferences for body hair (or lack thereof), both in a television spot and a print ad featuring QR codes that provide specifics when scanned with a smart phone. The commercial plays on the public perception that the hirsute styles of the 1960s and ’70s have decidedly gone out of fashion.

The Concord Music Group, an independent music company that includes artists like Paul McCartney and Paul Simon, has been sold to Wood Creek Capital Management, a private equity firm that has been quietly building a collection of music assets, Ben Sisario reports. The label was put up for sale last year by the Village Roadshow Entertainment Group, the media conglomerate that has owned it since 2008, and the price was estimated at more than $120 million.

The International New York Times will be distributed alongside The Japan Times as part of a joint publication deal beginning in October, Gerry Doyle writes. The agreement creates a combined print edition in which each newspaper will comprise one section and should give The International New York Times, which will change its name from The International Herald Tribune this fall, a circulation increase. Digital content will also be shared.

The Hachette Book Group has decided to delay its publication of Jane Goodall’s latest book, “Seeds of Hope,” after revelations that it contained passages appropriated from Web sites, Leslie Kaufman reports. The book was set to be published on April 2, and no new date has been set.

news from – http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com

 

photo

Clair Sharpless seeks cover from snow with a rainbow umbrella as she waits to enter the U.S. Supreme Court, in Washington, on March, 25, 2013. (Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo)

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The meaning of marriage.

It’s an issue that does not get more basic, yet the complexity surrounding the legal, social, and political implications of expanding that right to gays and lesbians is now squarely before the Supreme Court.

The justices launch an epic public dialogue on Tuesday when they hear oral arguments in the first of two appeals to state and federal laws restricting same sex marriage. The second round will be on Wednesday.

However, the real challenge and drama will come when they go behind closed doors later this week and vote as a group — at least preliminarily — on questions presented in cases with landmark potential.

The political, social, and legal stakes of this long-simmering debate have once again put the high court at the center of national attention, a contentious encore to its summer ruling upholding the massive health care reform law championed by President Barack Obama.

The outcome in this one could have profound influence on how America defines family. The court is likely to take its time and not act before June.

The drama inside the ornate marble courtroom will be matched by heated rhetoric outside.

Hundreds of activists on both sides will hold competing rallies in front of the court. Dozens of others have waited in line in frigid temperatures and snow — some since Thursday– for a coveted seat.

Prop 8: California’s law

On Tuesday, the justices were set to hear arguments concerning the appeal of a federal judge’s decision that struck down down California’s Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The overriding legal question is whether the 14th Amendment guarantee of “equal protection” prevents states from defining marriage as California has.

California voters approved it as a ballot initiate by 52-48% in November 2008, less than six months after the state Supreme Court ruled marriage was a fundamental right that must be extended to same-sex couples.

Two of the key plaintiffs are Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo from Burbank.They want to marry, and say the state is discriminating against them for their sexuality.

“Stigma is stigma. And discrimination is discrimination,” Katami told CNN. “I think that any time there’s discrimination in the country it needs to be addressed and it needs to be taken care of. And that’s why we feel that anytime in our history when there’s been racial discrimination or sexual discrimination of orientation or in particular marriage at this point that we always bend toward the arch of equality.”

There are an estimated 120,000 legally married same-sex couples in the United States. It is legal in nine states: Washington, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maryland, and New York, along with the District of Columbia.

Another nine states have civil union or strong domestic partnership laws, that stop short of marriage.

The Obama administration has formally expressed support for same-sex marriage in California, weighing in on the case in a brief last month. Obama, whose views on the issue have evolved over his political career to full support, said that he would vote to strike down the state’s law if he sat on the court.

In what some have labeled the “nine-state strategy,” the Justice Department argument is expected to center around the idea that civil union and domestic partnership laws may themselves be unconstitutional and that those states should go all the way and grant same-sex couples full marriage rights.

A politically charged issue

Other prominent politicians have expressed timely opinions in recent weeks, indicating the importance of the matter in the social context of 21st century American politics.

Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and possible 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, recorded a video for a gay rights group indicating her support.

Republicans have described cracks appearing in their party’s long-held opposition to same-sex marriage.

“There is no putting this genie back in the bottle. It is undeniable. The shift is here and we’re not going back.” Republican strategist and CNN contributor Ana Navarro said on Sunday.

One prominent Republican, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, endorsed it this month after his son revealed to him that he was gay.

A new national poll indicates increasing public awareness around the issue and stronger overall support for same-sex marriage specifically.

According to the CNN/ORC International survey, 57% say they have a family member or close friend who is gay or lesbian, up 12 points from 2007. Also, the number of Americans who support same-sex marriage has risen by almost the same amount over the same period – from 40% in 2007 to 53%.

In its separate argument on Wednesday, the justices will tackle the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law defining marriage for federal purposes as between a man and a woman.

That means legally married gay and lesbian couples are denied federal benefits and privileges — things like tax breaks and survivor benefits.

Backers of DOMA and Proposition 8 say it should be up to the public to decide, not the courts.

“Our most fundamental right in this country is the right to vote and the right to participate in the political process, ” said Austin Nimocks of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian advocacy group.

“We don’t need the Supreme Court to take that right away from Americans of good faith on both sides of this issue and impose its judicial solution,” Nimocks said. “We need to leave this debate to the democratic process, which is working.”

But California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is arguing against Proposition 8, said voter-approved marriage bans “are simply unconstitutional.” The Supreme Court has ruled more than a dozen times that marriage is a fundamental right, “and as it relates to a fundamental right, the court will hold that under the highest level of scrutiny.”

By patiently letting legislatures and the voters decide the social and practical implications of same-sex marriage over the past decade, the high court is now poised to perhaps offer the final word on the tricky constitutional questions.

The split 5-4 conservative-liberal bench has the option of ruling broadly or narrowly– perhaps taking a series of incremental cases over a period years, building political momentum and public confidence in the process.

The case heard Tuesday is Hollingsworth v. Perry (12-144), dealing with Proposition 8; and U.S. v. Windsor (12-307) on comes up on Wednesday over the DOMA issue.

“Dancing With the Stars” originally kicked off with a simple premise: Take a group of non-dancing celebrities (or former celebrities … or almost celebrities) and train them to move and groove from scratch.Dancing with the Star

Sure, over the years a few ringers have joined the ballroom bash, and it’s always fun to see their near-perfect performances. But nothing is quite like watching someone go from left-footed fumbler to passable hoofer — even if the judges don’t always recognize the progress.

Case in point? On Monday night, just two weeks into the competition, comedians Andy Dick and D.L. Hughley showed just how serious they are about turning their reps around, and it was a treat to behold the ballroom comebacks.

Actually, Andy’s week-one performance wasn’t really a problem for a first effort; he outshined several competitors. But one thing was obvious — he was scared. The rehabbed celeb shared his fear of the ballroom and of the bottle, and the fright showed on the dance floor.

For his second performance, it was like a new man hit the stage. Dressed as the Mad Hatter and claw-dancing through Lady GaGa’s “Poker Face,” Andy’s jazz routine entertained and raised his personal bar. Of course, he still has room for lots of improvement, but his newfound confidence and his daring approach put him way ahead of some (such as Ingo Rademacher and Sean Lowe, both of whom matched Andy’s score of 20 points for less impressive routines).

As for D.L., although the judges were unduly cruel in how they delivered their reviews last time, the truth is he was just awful in week one. In fact, had he simply come out and not delivered the worst dance of the night on Monday, it would have been considered a big improvement.

But he did more than that. After a tough round of rehearsals — featuring plenty of expletives and more than one remark about his “humiliating” treatment from head judge Len Goodman and the gang — D.L. put his all into a quickstep that wouldn’t have seemed possible just last week.

“It doesn’t matter where you start,” Len said, remarking that it’s all about improvement.

Then again, Len’s comments might have made more sense if he and the other judges didn’t follow them up with a score of just 16 points. Those odd marks put D.L. two points behind three lesser dancers — Wynonna Judd, who slowly moved her way through a quickstep; Lisa Vanderpump, whose jive lacked big kicks and solid footwork; and Victor Ortiz, who proved he really needs to find his own comeback after giving the jive a try.

Of course, some contestants didn’t need a comeback at all. Last week’s leaderboard topper, Zendaya, continued to wow with a fast, precise jive that earned her 26 points and praise from the panel.

“A star is born — big time,” Bruno Tonioli told her.

But someone else is hot on that star’s heels.

Kellie Pickler, who showed promise with her cha-cha-cha last week, completely won over the judges with a modern jazz routine that showed off her near-perfect form. Carrie Ann Inaba called it “freakin’ amazing,” and the others must have agreed — after all, she earned 26 for the dance.

Relying less on form and more on fun, Super Bowl champ Jacoby Joneswowed the crowd with one heck of jazz number. The slightly goofy dance — which got him 23 points — played to his personality and showed that he can get the audience out of their seats. (And it was certainly more entertaining than the fine but forgetful 24-point quickstep Aly Raisman delivered.)

Firmly in the back of the pack was for figure-skating great Dorothy Hamill. The gold-medalist was feeling pain in rehearsal thanks to a cyst and accompanying nerve pain, and when it counted, it showed in her jive. Missed marks and sloppy steps dominated the 15-point dance and left the judges little choice but to kindly mention all of the problems.

To Dorothy’s credit, when Len heard boos for his criticism, she defended him.

“It’s true,” she told the crowd of her shortcomings.

That was it for Monday’s ballroom action. As for what’s to come Tuesday night, someone’s got to go. Will it be D.L., whose combined score for both weeks landed him in last place despite his turnaround? Or will Dorothy go for a more flubbed routine? Frankly, there are plenty of far from perfect hoofer hopefuls who won’t be able to rest easy while they wait to find out the results.

news source = http://www.thecliker.com

Associated Press

NEW YORK — Residents of a New York City apartment building are suing the MTA over the proposed placement of the Second Avenue subway entrance.mta sue

The tenants association and owners of the Yorkshire Towers at East 86th Street say the proposal will make the building’s midblock entrance one of the most dangerous places in the city.

According to the Daily News (http://nydn.us/Yu0Bwv0 ), the lawsuit claims the agency flouted its own guidelines and environmental review by proceeding with the plan.

The lawsuit seeks to force the MTA to conduct an analysis of the proposed single-entrance plan to the 86th Street stop.

A federal judge dismissed a similar suit brought by the same group in 2011 because the statute of limitations had passed.

The MTA declined to comment.

___

Information from: Daily News,  www.nydailynews.com

AMD Radeon HD 7790 1GB Full Review

Posted: March 26, 2013 by Rizwan Riyad in PC, Tech
Tags: , , , ,

With the Radeon HD 7790, AMD has one target in its sights: the Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti. Landing smack-dab in between the AMD Radeon HD 7770 and AMD Radeon HD 7850 in terms of performance, the HD 7790 is the first video card to feature the ‘Bonaire’ GPU, the latest progeny from AMD’s Graphics Core Next architecture.amd

AMD Radeon HD 7790: The Specs

The Radeon HD 7790 uses AMD’s Bonaire GPU, which, like the rest of the 7000 series, is based on Graphics Core Next. It houses 896 stream processors and 56 texture units. That puts Bonaire just about halfway between the HD 7770’s Cape Verde chip (640/40) and the HD 7850’s Pitcairn (1024/64, 860 MHz). Like the HD 7770, the HD 7790 has a 1 GHz clock speed and no Turbo mode.

HD 7790 GPU

The VRAM is 1 GB of GDDR5 clocked at 1.5 GHz on a 128-bit memory bus. That’s quite a leap forward that allows for a 96 GB/s bandwidth, which is 33% more than the HD 7770‘s 72 GB/s.

Basically, the AMD Radeon HD 7790’s GPU gives higher raw performance than the HD 7850‘s—thanks to high clock rate—but less memory bandwidth (96 GB/s compared to the 7850’s 153.6 GB/s).

Size, Noise, Heat

The card AMD sent us is a Sapphire model with an alternative PCB and cooling system, so we can’t make any conclusive statements about the noise on the AMD version.

As for the size, the reference card uses a fairly short PCB that’s almost identical in length to the Radeon HD 7750 (17 cm). The cooling system consists of a heat sink with fins arranged in an arc of a circle with a fan on top. However, AMD told us that none of its partners will be making cards that use this reference design. They’ll have alternative heat sinks instead, and most will be overclocked.

Power Use5/5

The Radeon HD 7790 uses just about the same amount of power as the HD 7770. We detected 121 W to 135 W for the whole computer while gaming, with equally low figures when the computer was at rest (48 W with the monitor turned on and 41 W with the monitor off). The 7000 series uses ZeroCore Power, which shuts the video card down almost entirely and brings the fan to a complete stop when the screen is asleep.

AMD Radeon HD 7790 PowerTune AMD Radeon HD 7790 PowerTune

On the Radeon HD 7790, AMD revised the method used to vary the card’s clock rates. Before, AMD’s systems used four voltage (DPM) states; now there are eight. Each state corresponds to a different clock/voltage pairing, allowing them to adjust more precisely to fit the workload. AMD says this improves the card’s overall power efficiency.

True or not, what is certain is that the HD 7790 is indeed slightly more power efficient than the Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti, which consumes around 45 W at rest and varies from 135 W to 141 W while gaming.

Performance in Games3/5

AMD’s primary goal with the HD 7790 was to spar with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti, which is just about halfway between the Radeon HD 7770 and the HD 7850 in terms of performance. And it’s mission accomplished, because the 7790 averages 6% faster than the GTX 650 Ti. It’s 14% to 30% faster than the Radeon HD 7770 and 17% slower than the Radeon HD 7850.

AMD Radeon HD 7790
Overall average performance
Click to see more measurements and compare with other models

So, what’s the verdict?

First of all, AMD has indeed reached its goal of making a product that competes with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti. Both cards are just about equal in terms of processing performance and power consumption, although AMD does hold a slight advantage.

The pricing strategy, however, is difficult to understand. Costing £115 at launch, the Radeon HD 7790 is at the same price level as its faster, bigger brother, the 1GB Radeon HD 7850. In other words, you get less power for your money. AMD appears to be aware of this and cites, rightly so, that the Radeon HD 7850 1 GB is nearing the end of its life. But in order for the HD 7790 to be a success on the market, the price will have to drop—and quickly—because the 2GB Radeon HD 7850 costs pretty much the same amount. And for more than a simple product line “refresh”, we’ll have to wait until late 2013 at the earliest before we see a new generation of cards head our way.

Pros

  • Compact reference design
  • Power consumption
  • ZeroCore Power

Cons

  • Launch price (not included in our rating)

Conclusion

The AMD Radeon HD 7790 meets its primary goal, which is simply to rival the competition. But the price will have to drop quickly. If it doesn’t, the point of this card’s existence will be debatable.

NASCAR wins with fighting, wrecking

Posted: March 26, 2013 by Rizwan Riyad in sports
Tags: , ,

Nascar

FONTANA, Calif. – Five races into the season, and NASCAR drivers are feuding, fighting and wrecking.

 

That’s exactly what NASCAR has been looking for, and all it does is add to the buildup for the next race – at Martinsville Speedway – in two weeks.

 

“If NASCAR wants us to let the guys have at it, it shouldn’t be any different than hockey,” Tony Stewart said Sunday after throwing a punch at Joey Logano on pit road. “Let the guys have at it, and then when one guy goes to the ground, it’s over.”

 

HAMLIN: Driver has injured back

 

STEWART: On Logano: ‘It’s time he learns a lesson’

 

PENSKE: Team owner backs Logano ‘150%’

 

It’s unclear whether NASCAR will see it that way. The sanctioning body could decide Tuesday — the weekday these decisions usually are revealed — whether to fine Stewart or put him on probation for his role in the fight. However, this is what officials have been asking the drivers to do in recent years.

 

Certainly, NASCAR doesn’t want drivers to get inju red. Denny Hamlin was hospitalized with a compression fracture in his lower back — an injury that occurs when a vertebrae collapses. He was airlifted to a hospital after a hard crash into an interior wall — the result of a dustup with rival Logano while racing for the lead on the last lap.

 

But the verbal barbs, on-track bumping and a few punches are all things NASCAR hopes can help inject some excitement into the sport again.

 

If there’s a question as to whether the soap opera elements are cause for hand-wringing in the NASCAR offices, there shouldn’t be.

 

Last year, NASCAR hired agency Ogilvy & Mather to relaunch its branding. The result was a series of commercials which show violent crashes (cars airborne and flipping), fights and other dramatic incidents – including the aftermath of Juan Pablo Montoya’s collision with a jet dryer in last year’s Daytona 500.

 

That’s a distinct departure from NASCAR’s marketing in the mid-2000s, in which crashes were never used as promotional material.

 

It all goes back to a familiar dilemma in motorsports: How much drama should be used to promote the racing?

 

“Drama always attracts fans and viewers,” two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk tweeted Monday. But at the same time, he added, “@dennyhamlin is lucky to survive that crash and @joeylogano is lucky to survive @tonystewart.”

nascar

For now, the era of “Boys, have at it” continues. NASCAR remains ultra-sensitive to criticism about its decisions and its new Gen 6 cars – it fined Hamlin $25,000 for comments along those lines — but drivers are encouraged to spar with each other.

 

NASCAR has seen a decline in attendance and TV ratings in recent years, a combination of the economy and changing fan tastes. Big-name drivers such as three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr., voted NASCAR’s most popular 10 years running, are among those still looking for sponsorship for some races this season.

 

Fans seem to have responded to the recent incidents. The fans in the grandstands at Auto Club Speedway roared when the screens showed Stewart’s altercation with Logano, and NASCAR’s overnight TV ratings one week after Logano feuded with Hamlin were up 32 percent, according to Fox.

 

And the drivers seem happy to embrace all the drama – provided they’re not involved.

 

Clint Bowyer, for example, quickly grew weary of discussing his role in a fight with Jeff Gordon’s team last fall at Phoenix International Raceway after Gordon intentionally crashed him, severely hurting Bowyer’s chance at a championship. But asked about the Hamlin/Logano rivalry two days before Fontana, Bowyer said he was “so proud” of the drivers for causing fireworks.

 

“It’s just good to see that,” Bowyer said. “… It’s entertainment. It’s fun to see people get pissed off.”

 

When Hamlin and Logano lobbed Twitter barbs at one another after Bristol – which included Hamlin’s “hush little child” – even non-tweeter Earnhardt Jr. made sure to get updates.

 

“I think everybody in this room enjoyed all that stuff Sunday night,” he said. “It was pretty funny watching them go back and forth.”

 

And if there’s payback coming for anyone – Logano, Gordon or any number of drivers who have unresolved ill will toward another competitor — Martinsville should serve as the perfect place to exact revenge with less worrisome outcomes.

 

The smallest track on the circuit at 0.526 miles, drivers travel at dramatically slower speeds than a place like Fontana. There’s not as much risk of physical injury, but drivers can certainly prevent a rival from winning the race – and perhaps fight about it afterward.

 

At Fontana, a 2-mile oval where cars can top 200 mph on the straightaways, the potential for injury is greater than at Martinsville, where the pole speed for last fall’s race was just over 97 mph.

 

Brad Keselowski, Logano’s teammate and the defending Sprint Cup champion, said he hesitated to refer to the rivalries as “feuds,” but rather “emotions shown with authenticity.” A fight, he said, is the kind of “water cooler conversation” fans love.

 

“Whether it is joy or anger, that is what the fans crave,” he said. “They want to see us be human, and humans are emotional.”

 

news source http://www.usatoday.com

 

 

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Think back about this video game console generation and its greatest moments, and near the very top is 2007’s BioShock. It’s a game that sticks in players’ heads for countless reasons: the underwater setting of Rapture, the Big Daddy, Andrew Ryan, those crazy vending machines dispersing ammo, weapons and superpowers. BioShock was also a shining example of video game storytelling. Players weren’t interrupted by canned cut scenes, but learned about Rapture through hidden tape recordings, signs or messages scrawled on walls or other clues. Studio Irrational Games hopes to capture similar magic with “spiritual successor”BioShock Infinite, a spectacular journey that should remind video game players why this franchise is among the best at telling stories and staging explosive combat filled with diversity. BioShock moves from the depths of the sea to above the clouds, as players explore the steampunk-inspired sky city of Columbia in 1912. The floating metropolis teems with American pride, led by the mysterious prophet Zachary Comstock. Players follow lead character Booker DeWitt, an agent hunting down a young woman named Elizabeth, who is protected by the powerful Songbird. The story unravels as players weave through the lively streets of Columbia, with hot dog vendors selling food or kids playing by a fire hydrant. They spot signs urging Columbia citizens to protect the seed of the prophet and watch for a false shepherd that might lead them astray. Through Voxophones and Kinetoscopes scattered throughout the world, players learn more about Booker, Elizabeth and how Columbia was born. As with the first BioShockInfinite always seems to dangle that narrative carrot in front of you to keep moving, such as a fresh discovery that unearths more questions about Booker’s mission. It also touches on mature themes players might not encounter in a video game, including faith, religion, government and racism, to name a few. Columbia also hosts an ongoing struggle between the city’s Founders and the rebellious Vox Populi. The results are a story that’s both fascinating and — as it nears its conclusion — shocking. The setting is very different from the original BioShock, yet Infinite retains a lot of the franchise’s DNA through its combat system and mechanics. Plasmids are replaced by Vigors, elixirs that bestow players with special powers. Possession allows players to briefly control human or robotic foes, while Bucking Bronco suspends enemies in the air for easy shooting with a broad arsenal of weapons. Instead of EVE from the firstBioShock, players manage Salts to use Vigors. Even the zany vending machines return, this time with 1912 flair. Players scrounge for food, ammo and salts in barrels, crates, desks and other objects. Most of Booker’s movement is by foot and through the air via Skyhook, a contraption he wears to zip across the city’s various skylines. Along with navigation, skylines come in handy when surprising enemies with vicious aerial strikes.

The Booker-Elizabeth relationship is integral to Infinite’s experience. She seems constantly engaged, whether dancing along a beach boardwalk or choosing between brooches at a shop. Elizabeth also creates inter-dimensional tears that open portals to other worlds. During combat, Elizabeth can pull items into Booker’s universe to assist in battle, such as health packs, turrets, or more powerful weapons. She also tosses Booker health packs, salts or ammo whenever he’s in a bind. If she spots money, she’ll pick it up and toss it to Booker. Elizabeth is able to play a key role throughout the game without players ever feeling like they must manage her presence. When combining Elizabeth’s abilities with Booker’s stable of Vigors and firearms, players end up with highly diverse combat that never feels dull. For example, players can use Murder of Crows followed by Devil’s Kiss to unleash a flurry of flaming birds at enemies, or launch foes in the air with Bucking Bronco and use a grenade launcher style Volley Gun to wipe them out. Players are never low on options during battle. Infinite might not have an opposing character as memorable as the Big Daddy, but the roster of beefier foes can be just as challenging. The Handyman is a beast that leaps across environments slamming foes, while the Motorized Patriot is an animatronic recreation of George Washington hunting down Booker with a chain gun. If there’s any knock to BioShock Infinite, it’s that replayability is limited once the 15-hour campaign wraps up. There’s a much tougher 1999 Mode where enemies are stronger, navigation is shut off, and food items do less to replenish health. Players can also revisit the campaign to uncover more Voxophones or Kinetoscopes, as well as other hidden secrets, but not much else beyond that. However, there are so many things BioShock Infinite does right that it’s really difficult to ignore. Between the story, characters and action, Infinite is easily one of this year’s best interactive endeavors.

Publisher: 2K Games

Developer: Irrational Games

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Price: $59.99

Release Date: March 26

Score: 4 stars (out of 4)
Trailer:
http://youtu.be/zvIU1e7k7Oc

 

THE US was poised to hand full control of Bagram prison to Afghan authorities yesterday, removing a major obstacle to a security agreement that will enable US troops to remain in Afghanistan after the NATO mission ends next year.

US forces last September transferred into Afghan custody more than 3000 prisoners held in Bagram, but they retained dozens of high-value prisoners and have continued to arrest new suspects over the past six months, infuriating Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Although a handover date for the remaining Afghan prisoners was set for early this month during a visit by US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, the US pulled out at the 11th hour after Mr Karzai told parliament he would release innocent prisoners.

Officials said a deal allowing the final transfer of Bagram to Afghan control was struck at the weekend after Afghan authorities agreed to commission a review board to evaluate whether certain detainees were too dangerous to be released.

Mr Hagel spoke to Mr Karzai about the jail over the weekend. “The (Defence) Secretary welcomed President Karzai’s commitment that the transfer will be carried out in a way that assures the safety of the Afghan people and coalition forces by keeping dangerous individuals detained in a secure and humane manner in accordance with Afghan law,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

The agreement comes as the presidential palace revealed Mr Karzai would fly “within weeks” to the United Arab Emirates state of Qatar to negotiate terms for the opening of a Taliban political office there. Until this year Mr Karzai had opposed the idea of a Qatar office for fear his government would be frozen out of any deal between the US and the militants. The Taliban has refused to negotiate directly with the Afghan government, which it denounces as a US puppet.

The final handover of Bagram, and Mr Karzai’s compromise over the Taliban political office, suggest the President is working hard in his last year in office to ensure that does not prove to be his legacy.

He gave an insight into his concerns during a recent meeting in Kabul with historian William Dalrymple. Dalrymple said Mr Karzai had spoken of the fate of Shah Shuja, the puppet leader whom British colonialists put on the throne in Kabul in 1839 and who was later assassinated.

“His view was that the US were doing to him what the British had done to Shah Shuja, which was to treat him as a puppet and to use him for their own interests,” Dalrymple told AFP. “Karzai thinks Shah Shuja didn’t stress his independence enough, and . . . I do think he is concerned with his legacy.”