Mexico’s Hotel California Owners Reject the Eagles’ Trademark Claims

The owners of a Mexican hotel using the name Hotel California on Wednesday said a trademark infringement lawsuit by the Eagles, whose song “Hotel California” is arguably the band’s most famous, should be dismissed.

Hotel California Baja LLC, which runs the Todos Santos hotel in Baja California Sur, said the band long ago waived its trademark rights, having waited four decades to assert them since releasing the song “Hotel California” on a 1976 album with the same name.

The owner said it “flatly denies” the Eagles’ “baseless contention” that the 11-room hotel seeks to mislead travelers into thinking the property is associated with the band.

“Any alleged use of plaintiff’s trademarks is not likely to cause confusion, deception or mistake as to association, connection, sponsorship, endorsement, or approval of plaintiff,” the owner said in a filing in Los Angeles federal court.

Lawyers for the Eagles were not immediately available for comment.

In their May 1 lawsuit, the Eagles said the defendant encourages guests to believe their hotel is associated with the band, including piping its music through a sound system, to sell T-shirts and other merchandise.

The hotel is located about 1,000 miles (1,609 km) south of San Diego and 48 miles (77 km) north of Cabo San Lucas.

It was named Hotel California at its 1950 opening, underwent some name changes, and later revived the original name after a Canadian couple, John and Debbie Stewart, bought it in 2001.

U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner scheduled a conference in the case for Aug. 21.

The album “Hotel California,” won the 1977 Grammy Award for record of the year.

The case is Eagles Ltd v Hotel California Baja LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, No. 17-03276.

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Spelling Aces Advance Toward $40K Prize

Some contestants traced letters on their palms, while other word whizzes in the Scripps National Spelling Bee searched the ceiling for inspiration on Wednesday as they edged closer to the $40,000 top prize.

The youngest-ever competitor, Edith Fuller, who turned 6 on April 22, was among the 259 youths still spelling at midday from a starting field of 291.

“It feels really exciting,” Fuller, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, told reporters who asked what it was like to be the youngest speller at the 90th national bee.

Wearing a navy blue dress with a black bow in her wavy blond hair, Fuller said she planned to compete again next year “if I don’t win this time.”

Her mother said she quizzed her daughter on words up to five times a day but limited each session to 20 minutes.

“She does all the work in her mind,” said Annie Fuller, who home-schools her daughter. “The spelling did come as a surprise because we never explicitly tried to teach our children spelling.”

Before the lunch break on Wednesday, Edith Fuller successfully spelled the word nyctinasty, which describes the movement of plants, causing the crowd at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center to burst into applause.

Others who also moved on to the next round at the Washington-area resort correctly spelled words such as gneiss, brachiopods and dactylology, while some struck out on the words quokka and toile.

The competition for the spelling specialists, ages 6 to 15, concludes with finals Thursday.

More than 11 million youths competed in earlier spelling bees in all 50 U.S. states, U.S. territories from Puerto Rico to Guam, and several nations, from Jamaica to Japan, contest officials said.

New rules this year are aimed at preventing tie endings like last year’s, when joint winners both got $40,000 cash prizes.

Bee officials will administer a Tiebreaker Test to all spellers in the competition at 6 p.m. (2200 GMT) Thursday. It will consist of 12 spelling words, which contestants will handwrite, and 12 multiple-choice vocabulary questions.

If it is mathematically impossible for one champion to emerge through 25 rounds, officials will declare the speller with the highest tiebreaker score the winner. If there is a tie on the test, judges will declare co-champions.

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Aerosmith’s Nearing 50 Years But Plans to ‘Keep Going’

Aerosmith may be approaching its 50th anniversary, but its members say the band’s not going anywhere.

 

Frontman Steven Tyler and Joe Perry both say the band will keep playing. That’s despite the title of their tour, ‘Aero-Vederci Baby!’ — which seems to play on “arrivederci,” Italian for “goodbye till we meet again.”

 

That appeared to hint it could be a farewell tour for the band after their run of dates in Europe.

 

“From my point of view, I think that we are going to keep going,” Perry said, adding he wanted to see Aerosmith remaining “pretty active over the next few years.”

 

Tyler joked that they simply couldn’t think of another name for the tour and added that “as long as the band is playing the way it is right now, it is going to be for a long time.”

 

Tyler also has joked that he’s taken up smoking.

 

“I started smoking on this tour because the band sounds so good I have to do something wrong,” he said in an interview last week ahead of the band’s Munich date.

 

For now, Perry is looking forward to playing Download Festival in Donington in the U.K. on June 11.

“It is kind of like playing Madison Square Garden in New York City,” he said, adding that “you’ve got to bring your A-game.”

 

Next stop for the tour is Friday in Krakow, Poland.

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European Commission Chief Upbraids Trump on Climate Stance

The European Commission president on Wednesday said that it was the “duty of Europe” to stand up to the U.S. if President Donald Trump decided to pull his country out of the Paris climate change accord.

Jean-Claude Juncker said that “the Americans can’t just get out of the agreement,” adding that “it takes three to four years” to pull out.

Juncker went on to say that the Group of Seven leaders “tried to explain this in clear, simple sentences to Mr. Trump” at a recent summit in Italy. He said that even though “it looks like that attempt failed” … the “law is the law.”

In a gibe at the U.S. administration, Juncker told the audience at an event of the Confederation of German Employers in Berlin that “not everything that is written in international agreements is fake news.”

Juncker said: “If the U.S. president pulls out of the Paris agreement, and he will in the next days or hours, then it is Europe’s duty to say that that is not how it works.”

A White House official said earlier in the day that Trump was planning to pull out of the Paris deal, although a final decision hadn’t been made.

Trump on Wednesday declared that abandoning the Paris climate agreement would be a victory for the American economy.

The European Union and China, meanwhile, will reaffirm their commitment to the climate accord this week regardless of whether the U.S. pulls out of the pact, a senior EU official said.

Talks on Friday

The official told reporters that the EU and China will also “spell out” how they plan to meet their commitments to the landmark international accord to fight global warming at talks in Brussels on Friday.

The official is involved in preparing the meeting between EU Council President Donald Tusk, Juncker and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, but can’t speak on the record because their meeting statement wasn’t finalized. Li and a major Chinese delegation are due to arrive in Brussels late Thursday following talks in Berlin.

“The EU and China are joining forces to forge ahead on the implementation of the Paris Agreement and accelerate the global transition to clean energy,” EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said about the upcoming EU-China summit, stressing they remain committed to Paris.

A White House official said Wednesday that there could be “caveats in the language” announcing a withdrawal, leaving open the possibility that Trump’s decision isn’t final.

That possibility was met with derisive howls from EU lawmakers when a session of the European Parliament was informed about it.

“Climate change is not a fairy tale. It is a tough reality which affects people’s daily lives,” European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said in a statement. “People die or are obliged to leave their homes because of desertification, lack of water, exposure to disease, extreme weather conditions. If we don’t act swiftly and boldly, the huge human and economic cost will continue to increase.”

Tajani suggested that Washington’s withdrawal should be a signal for Europe to step up its efforts — and reap the benefits.

“Our climate action strategy represents an opportunity to attract investment, innovation and develop new green technologies,” he said. “We have got the talent and the will to make this possible in all sectors.”

Offsetting action

Tajani said earlier he would confer with Tusk and Juncker about “joint initiatives to be adopted together as a European Union” to offset the decision.

The EU official involved in organizing the EU-China meeting said it would  “send important signals for the multinational system,” as Trump moves to alter or abandon some of the international trade agreements the U.S. has signed.

Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists advocacy group, said, “I don’t think any other countries will follow the U.S. out of Paris, so if he does leave, Trump will be in splendid isolation with the leaders of Syria and Nicaragua.”

In Madrid, the leaders of India and Spain expressed their commitment to fighting climate change and reiterated their support for implanting the Kyoto and Paris accords.

In a joint statement issued following talks in the Spanish capital between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy, the two countries said taking action on climate change was a priority for both nations.

On Tuesday, Modi said in Berlin that it would be a “crime” to spoil the environment for future generations as the world awaits a decision on U.S. climate policy.

Rajoy and Modi agreed to boost bilateral cooperation in combating climate change.

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Tiger Wood’s Image Takes Hit But Sponsors Stay Put

The marketability of Tiger Woods will suffer following his arrest for driving under the influence, but the former world number one golfer’s current sponsors will likely stay by his side, according to experts.

Woods, who had surgery in April to relieve back pain, blamed the incident on prescription drugs, but that was not enough to keep his droopy-eyed mug shot from being etched in the minds of many who were once captivated by his dominance on the course.

Still, despite his struggles on and off the course, Woods is the greatest golfer of his generation and sponsors like Nike, Bridgestone Golf, Monster Energy and TaylorMade are not likely to rush and cut ties with him, marketing experts told Reuters.

“They have to be very measured in terms of their response to their relation with him,” said David Carter, professor of sports business at the University of Southern California’s Marshal School of Business.

“He may not be delivering value but you could also be doing harm to your own brand if you cut and run on a guy with such global notoriety.”

Has barely played in recent years

Woods is second on the all-time list with 14 major titles but a player whose famous fist pump and beaming smile were once a regular site on the PGA Tour has lost his form and barely played in recent years.

Most of his sponsors, when asked by Reuters if they would review their agreements with Woods in light of Monday’s DUI arrest, either did not respond to requests for comment or said it was inappropriate to do so at this time.

Bridgestone Golf, however, said they “will continue to monitor this situation and gather information from the appropriate sources investigating the matter.”

But details of the arrest report which stated, among other things, that Woods was asleep at the wheel of a parked car with the engine running and was disoriented when woken up by a police officer, cannot be sitting well with sponsors.

Sidelined with back injury

And with Woods expected to miss the rest of the 2016-17 PGA Tour season after back surgery, his level of appeal to companies may be at an all-time low.

“You can overcome a DUI if you are a big enough star and you keep winning,” said Bob Dorfman, creative director of Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco.

“But you can’t overcome not being on the course for months, not winning championships and being pretty much a non entity in the golf world. And that’s what Tiger has become and the prospects don’t look very promising for him.”

This is not the first time Woods has made headlines away from the course. In 2009, a sex scandal turned his previously unblemished life and career upside down.

It also cost Woods a number of endorsement deals, while other sponsors shifted away from using him in marketing but did not end their contracts with him.

‘He has less chips to play with’

Woods could see a similar reaction this time around.

“He’s not playing, he’s not winning and so he has less chips to play with, if you will, in the endorsement game so that clearly makes it even more difficult for him,” said George Belch, marketing professor at San Diego State University.

“But you are still talking about an extremely high profile athlete here who transcended sports in many ways even if his baggage has clearly gotten bigger through the years.”

While the arrest report showed Woods had no alcohol in his system, results of a urine test that have not been released will go a long way in determining Woods’ marketability.

Tell the truth

Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College in Massachusetts, said sponsors will likely cut ties with Woods should the results show he was lying.

“The main issue is whether Tiger’s story is accurate. If indeed he is taking multiple medicines and they interacted with each other and knocked him out and he didn’t anticipate it then I think he fully recovers,” said Zimbalist.

“Another part of his ability to rebound and what happens to his legacy is going to be determined by how he comes back as a golfer and nobody knows the answer to that, probably not even Tiger himself.”

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US EPA Halts Methane Rule for Oil and Gas Industry

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday halted methane emission standards for oil and gas companies in its latest move to unwind Obama administration climate change rules, amid reports that the United States will withdraw from a global climate change agreement.

The agency issued a 90-day stay of the 2016 New Source Performance Standards for the oil and gas industry, which require companies to capture fugitive emissions, obtain engineer certifications and install leak detention devices while it reconsiders the rule.

The rule, completed last year under former President Barack Obama, was due to go into effect on June 3.

The EPA said it expects to prepare a proposed rule and launch a public comment period after the stay.

Environmental groups vowed on Wednesday to block the EPA move in court.

“The Trump administration is giving its friends in the oil and gas industry a free pass to continue polluting our air,” said David Doniger, director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We will fight Trump’s latest polluter giveaway in court.”

The Environmental Defense Fund also said it would sue the EPA to block a rollback of the rule.

Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide. Methane lasts in the atmosphere for 20 years, and is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to trapping heat.

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Nest Security Camera Knows Who’s Home with Google Face Tech

Nest Labs is adding Google’s facial recognition technology to a high-resolution home-security camera, offering a glimpse of a future in which increasingly intelligent, internet-connected computers can see and understand what’s going on in people’s homes.

The Nest Cam IQ, unveiled Wednesday, will be Nest’s first device to draw upon the same human-like skills that Google has been programming into its computers — for instance, to identify people in images via its widely used photo app. Facebook deploys similar technology to automatically recognize and recommend tags of people in photos posted on its social network.

Nest can tap into Google’s expertise in artificial intelligence because both companies are owned by the same parent company, Alphabet Inc.

With the new feature, you could program the camera to recognize a child, friend or neighbor, after which it will send you notifications about that person being in the home.

Nest isn’t saying much about other potential uses down the road, though one can imagine the camera recognizing when grandparents are visiting and notifying Nest’s internet-connected thermostat to adjust the temperature to what they prefer. Or it might be trained to keep a close eye on the kids when they are home after school to monitor their activities and send alerts when they’re doing something besides a list of approved activities.

The cost of facial recognition

The new camera will begin shipping in late June for almost $300. You’ll also have to pay $10 a month for a plan that includes facial recognition technology. The same plan will also include other features, such as alerts generated by particular sounds — barking dogs, say — that occur out of the camera’s visual range.

The camera will only identify people you select through Nest’s app for iPhones and Android devices. It won’t try to recognize anyone that an owner hasn’t tagged. Even if a Nest Cam IQ video spies a burglar in a home, law enforcement officials will have to identify the suspect through their own investigation and analysis, according to Nest.

Privacy concerns

Facial recognition is becoming more common on home-security cameras. Netatmo, for instance, introduced a security camera touting a similar facial recognition system in 2015. That camera sells for about $200, or $100 less than the Nest Cam IQ.

The way that the Nest and Netatmo cameras are being used doesn’t raise serious privacy concerns because they are only verifying familiar faces, not those of complete strangers, said Jennifer Lynch, who specializes in biometrics as a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital advocacy group.

But Lynch believes privacy issues are bound to crop up as the resolution and zoom capabilities of home security cameras improve, and as engineers develop more sophisticated ways of identifying people even when an image is moving or only a part of a face is visible. Storing home-security videos in remote data centers also raises security concerns about the imagery being stolen by computer hackers. “It definitely could become a slippery slope,” Lynch said.

The privacy issues already are thorny enough that Nest decided against offering the facial recognition technology in Illinois, where state law forbids the collection and retention of an individual’s biometric information without prior notification and written permission.

Further details

Nest’s $10-a-month subscription includes video storage for 10 days. Video can be stored up to 30 days with an upgrade to a subscription plan costing $30 per month.

The high-end camera supplements lower-resolution indoor and outdoor cameras that Nest will continue to sell for almost $200. Neither of the lower-end cameras is equipped for facial recognition.

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Tech Show Displays Ways VR, AI Edging into People’s Lives

Inside the sprawling Acer stall at Computex Taipei, Asia’s largest tech show, staff displayed a laptop computer that’s ready for virtual reality play yet thinner than most PCs for gaming.  At the same exhibition, the Taiwanese tech hardware maker showed how its internet cloud uses artificial intelligence to predict what customers will do when shopping and allow the shop to make decisions accordingly.

VR and AI usher in a new world of technology

Acer was riding two major new themes at the annual show: virtual reality, often abbreviated to VR, and artificial intelligence, or AI.

Demand from gamers, a lucrative market of people willing to pay more than $10,000 for a personal computer (PC), is driving the VR side, compelling Acer and its peers to install new lines of processors that support immersive, 3D play with headgear and hand controls.

“You can see that the company is moving into more gaming centric, VR, new experience innovation,” said Vincent Lin, senior director of Acer’s global product marketing. “Not all gaming notebooks or not all notebooks are VR ready. There are certain requirements needed to be VR ready. VR, certainly it’s a growth area. It’s supposed to like grow five times or something over next 3 years.”

Revenue is forecast to rise quickly

Silicon Valley investment advisory firm Digi-Capital forecasts a surge in global revenue from $20 billion this year to $108 billion in 2021 in virtual reality technology and a similar technology known as augmented reality. 

The anticipation of growth inspired 60 Computex exhibitors to show games, gear or PCs that support virtual reality. The technology that first popped into public view in the 1980s is normally aimed now at computer gamers, though scientific researchers have used VR as well as the related augmented reality to model processes they can’t duplicate in real life. 

Near Acer’s stall, Computex visitors donned thick, black head-mounted goggles to race cars or fire at things, yelling in excitement through the dimly lit booths as they tested new products. 

PCs will be thinner, quieter and quicker to support VR

Developers were excited about Nvidia’s newly announced graphics processors that are designed to make PCs thinner and quieter. They also noticed the seventh update of Intel’s Core i5 processor, which stands to make PCs faster.

At one stall, Hong Kong developer Zotac showed off backpacks that can hold a gamer’s VR hardware system to prevent any tripping over wires – which might happen to someone immersed in a 3D scenario and unable to see the real floor.

“Right now the way the virtual reality equipment is made, you’re tethered to a system. That means you have to worry about tripping over cables, wrapping them around yourself as well,” Zotac product marketer Buu Ly said. “With our VR backpack, that removes those barriers so you are more free to experience VR the way it was supposed to be experienced.”

AI attracting much interest this year

Artificial intelligence also made its way into the show, where about 1,600 exhibitors occupied 5,010 booths, this year as companies test a relatively new technology that teaches computers to make decisions based on patterns they detect through analysis of user commands. 

Voice-activated assistants on mobile phones use artificial intelligence by searching the phone for requested information, even sending commands across apps to get answers.

Computex organizers have not tallied the number of exhibitors showing AI technology, but analysts in Taipei say a number are pursuing servers that can speed up development of AI functions allowed by the likes of Nvidia’s Jetson TX computer processing module.

With a compound annual growth rate of 63 percent from 2016 to 2022, the artificial intelligence market should be worth $16.06 billion by 2022, according to forecasts by the research firm Markets and Markets.

“AI has caught much of the spotlight in various exhibitions around the world and has become one of major deployment highlights for many companies in recent years,” said Ray Han, industry analyst with the Marketing Intelligence & Consulting Institute in Taipei. “The next battlefield will lie on platforms or chips.”

Internet of things

One contender is Socionext, a Japanese developer that has developed a processor partly for AI and the Internet of things, or IoT, which means using phones or PCs to control other electronic objects. Five customers are evaluating whether to install the chip, said Fumitaka Shiraishi, a Socionext business project management group member. 

“Our chip is a processor chip, so not too specific for AI but also suitable for AI because of the low power,” Shiraishi said. 

Artificial intelligence can help the Internet of things by picking the most relevant points from vast fields of data collected.

“In the future five years, I think IoT devices also need to judge some information — not just sensing,” Shiraishi said. 

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New Graphene Water Filter Makes Salt Water Drinkable

The United Nations predicts that by 2025 nearly two billion people will be living in places where there’s not enough water to go around. And since on average water makes up about 60% of the human body, not having it has a host of devastating effects that go way beyond just being thirsty. That’s why some new technology to turn saltwater into drinkable water holds so much promise, VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.

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Forget Butterfly Nets; Today’s Naturalists Capture Specimens on Phones

Your smartphone can help scientists keep tabs on changes happening in the natural world. More than one hundred thousand citizen scientists around the globe are snapping pictures of all kinds of plants and animals using the iNaturalist app. It is giving researchers an unprecedented amount of information about what lives where, and how that is changing with humanity’s expanding footprint. Steve Baragona has details.

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Solar Power Lights Up Syrian Refugee Camp in Jordan

Solar power is lighting up the night sky in Jordan and making life easier for the 20,000 Syrian refugees at a camp that once had no reliable source of electricity. Faith Lapidus reports.

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Vietnam to Sign Deals for Up to $17B in US Goods, Services

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said Tuesday that he would sign deals for U.S. goods and services worth $15 billion to $17 billion during his visit to Washington, mainly for high-technology products and for services.

“Vietnam will increase the import of high technologies and services from the United States, and on the occasion of this visit, many important deals will be made,” Phuc told a U.S. Chamber of Commerce dinner.

Phuc, who is due to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday at the end of a three-day visit to the United States, did not provide further details of the transactions.

GE Power Chief Executive Officer Steve Bolze told the dinner that General Electric Co. would sign deals worth about $6 billion with Vietnam, but also offered no details.

Phuc’s comments came after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer expressed concern about the rapid growth of the U.S. trade deficit with Vietnam, saying this was a new challenge for the two countries and that he was looking to Phuc to help address it.

“Over the last decade, our bilateral trade deficit has risen from about $7 billion to nearly $32 billion,” Lighthizer said. “This concerning growth in our trade deficit presents new challenges and shows us that there is considerable potential to improve further our important trade relationship.”

Reducing deficits

Lighthizer and other Trump administration trade officials have pledged to work to reduce U.S. bilateral deficits with major trading partners. The $32 billion deficit with Vietnam last year — the sixth-largest U.S. trade deficit — reflects growing imports of Vietnamese semiconductors and other electronics products in addition to more traditional sectors such as footwear, apparel and furniture.

The trade issue has become a potential irritant in a relationship where Washington and Hanoi have stepped up security cooperation in recent years, given shared concerns about China’s increasingly assertive behavior in East Asia.

Phuc’s meeting with Trump makes him the first Southeast Asian leader to visit the White House under the new administration.

It reflected calls, letters, diplomatic contacts and lower-level visits that started long before Trump took office in Washington, where Vietnam retains a lobbyist at $30,000 a month.

Vietnam was disappointed when Trump ditched the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, in which Hanoi was expected to be one of the main beneficiaries, and focused U.S. trade policy on reducing deficits.

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How ‘Wonder Woman’ Built a World of Women, Onscreen and Off

In a world of only women, there are no phallic structures.

At least that’s how Patty Jenkins imagined the island home of the Amazons and their heroic princess Diana, who grows up to become Wonder Woman.

“Like columns? They didn’t make that much sense to me,” Jenkins said in a recent interview. “They felt like an imposition on landscape, which didn’t feel like something that women are jonesing to do.”

As the director of “Wonder Woman,” Jenkins is creating new worlds for women both onscreen and off. Not only did she help dream up the look of the Amazon island and hire scores of actresses to serve as its resident warriors, she’s the first woman to direct a major superhero movie, and her success could pave the way for others.

 

As a child, she was inspired by Wonder Woman, describing Lynda Carter’s portrayal on TV as “the embodiment of everything that I wanted to be as a woman.”

“When I was playing Wonder Woman, I was able to do incredible things and save the world,” the 45-year-old filmmaker said.

 

That’s the feeling she hopes to evoke with viewers of “Wonder Woman,” in theaters Friday. Gal Gadot plays the title character, who discovers her superpowers and fights for justice alongside humans after following a charming spy (Chris Pine) to London during World War I.

‘An important movie’

The Israeli-born Gadot didn’t grow up with Wonder Woman, but she was always on the lookout for powerful characters to play.

“Usually the women are the damsel in distress or the heartbroken woman or the sidekick, but in real life it’s not the case. In real life, we bring life. We have babies. We have careers. We are so many other things,” said Gadot, a 32-year-old married mother of two.

“Wonder Woman symbolizes the magnificence of a woman and how amazing women are. And I think that it’s an important movie not only for women and girls, but it’s also great for boys and men, Gadot said. “You can’t empower women if you don’t educate the men and you don’t teach the boys, so as much as it’s important for girls to be exposed and see this movie, it’s important for boys to have a strong female figure that they can look up to.”

A first for Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman was created in 1941, yet this is her first solo feature film. Jenkins wanted to bring her to the big screen for more than a decade, but studios doubted the appeal of the lasso-wielding super heroine.

“I don’t understand why somebody who has had zero big blockbuster representation for 75 years still has 15 little girls a minute coming to my door dressed as her every Halloween, like how does that not equal dollar signs?” Jenkins said.

 

Connie Nielsen, who plays Diana’s mother, Amazon queen Hippolyta, also didn’t grow up with Wonder Woman, but had myriad other models of powerful women as a child in Denmark.

“The Denmark I grew up in was a Denmark in which women were, in fact, fully liberated and the whole world had been opened up to us,” she said. “In the magazines in the early ‘80s, it was men who were photographed doing the vacuum cleaning in the ads for vacuum cleaners and women were no longer posing on the Ford Mustang.”

So Nielsen felt entitled to question why, on an island populated by only women, her character would wear high heels. She and Gadot, both statuesque, wear wedges in the film.

“I actually had that conversation several times, and Patty was adamant,” Nielsen said. “She really felt like you stand a different way (in heels), and you do.”

Amazons were best part

The costumes, including the wedges, had to be considered during the physical training, which included horseback riding, archery and swords(wo)manship. For Robin Wright, who was raised on the “Wonder Woman” TV show, training and shooting with the Amazons was the best part.

“I think it was a little daunting for the men because it was very unusual. I think there were like 120 Amazons,” said Wright, who plays the warrior Antiope, Diana’s aunt and teacher. “That’s a different energy on the set, and great for us. We just felt like a team of women that had each other’s backs.”

She called Jenkins “the biggest cheerleader of them all.”

With the film’s arrival this week, Jenkins is thinking about what “Wonder Woman” might mean for a new generation of aspiring superheroes — and filmmakers.

“I am a filmmaker who wants to make successful films, of course. I want my film to be celebrated,” she said. “But there’s a whole other person in me who’s sitting and watching what’s happening right now who so hopes, not for me, that this movie defies expectation. Because I want to see the signal that that will send to the world.”

 

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Mexico to Review Rules of Origin to Help NAFTA Renegotiation

Mexico’s foreign minister says the country is “inevitably” set to review rules of origin when renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, giving a boost to President Donald Trump’s manufacturing push.

Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray said Tuesday at an event in Miami that NAFTA has allowed Mexican industry to enter the U.S. market with lax rules of origin. The rules dictate how much U.S. content a product assembled in Mexico must have in order to escape tariffs when being imported into the United States. Currently set at 62.5 percent for the auto industry, that number could increase.

“One part that must inevitably be reviewed is the chapter on rules of origin,” Videgaray said at the University of Miami. “Over time, the free trade agreement has sometimes been used — not always, of course, but sometimes — as a way to access the U.S. market perhaps with laxity in some ways of rules of origin.”

The Trump administration told Congress this month there would be 90 days of consultations on the renegotiation of the 23-year-old pact before beginning talks with Canada and Mexico. Annual trade of goods between Mexico and the U.S. was worth $525 billion in 2016, with the U.S. running a trade deficit of more than $63 billion.

The foreign minister said Mexico won’t entertain any talks on building a wall along the border. Videgaray maintained it is seen as an unfriendly sign and questioned its efficiency. Trump’s budget seeks $2.6 billion for border security technology, including money to design and build a wall along the southern border. Trump repeatedly promised voters during the campaign that Mexico would pay for a wall.

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Man Probing Ivanka Trump Brands in China Arrested; Two Others Missing

A man investigating working conditions at a Chinese company that produces Ivanka Trump-brand shoes has been arrested and two others are missing, the arrested man’s wife and an advocacy group said Tuesday.

Hua Haifeng was accused of illegal surveillance, according to his wife, Deng Guilian, who said the police called her Tuesday afternoon. Deng said the caller told her she didn’t need to know the details, only that she would not be able to see, speak with or receive money from her husband, the family’s breadwinner.

China Labor Watch Executive Director Li Qiang said he lost contact with Hua Haifeng and the other two men, Li Zhao and Su Heng, over the weekend. By Tuesday, after dozens of unanswered calls, he had concluded: “They must be held either by the factory or the police to be unreachable.”

China Labor Watch, a New York-based nonprofit, was planning to publish a report next month alleging low pay, excessive overtime and the possible misuse of student interns. It is unclear whether the undercover investigative methods used by the advocacy group are legal in China.

For 17 years, China Labor Watch has investigated working conditions at suppliers to some of the world’s best-known companies, but Li said his work has never before attracted this level of scrutiny from China’s state security apparatus.

“Our plan was to investigate the factory to improve the labor situation,” Li said. “But now it has become more political.”

Disney decision

Walt Disney Co. stopped working with a toy maker in Shenzhen last year after the group exposed labor violations. China Labor Watch has also published reports on child labor at Samsung suppliers and spent years investigating Apple Inc.’s China factories. In the past, the worst thing Li feared was having investigators kicked out of a factory or face a short police detention.

That has changed.

The arrest and disappearances came amid a crackdown on perceived threats to the stability of China’s ruling Communist Party, particularly from sources with foreign ties such as China Labor Watch. Faced with rising labor unrest and a slowing economy, Beijing has also taken a stern approach to activism in southern China’s manufacturing belt and to human rights advocates generally, sparking a wave of critical reports about disappearances, public confessions, forced repatriation and torture in custody.

Another difference is the target of China Labor Watch’s investigation: a brand owned by the daughter of the president of the United States.

White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks referred questions to Ivanka Trump’s brand. The Ivanka Trump brand declined to comment for this story.

Abigail Klem, who took over day-to-day management when the first daughter took on a White House role as presidential adviser, has said that the brand requires licensees and their manufacturers to “comply with all applicable laws and to maintain acceptable working conditions.”

No reply from police

Li said China Labor Watch asked police about the three missing investigators on Monday but received no reply. Li added that a friend had tried to file a missing-person report on Li Zhao in Jiangxi, where the factory is located, but was told he had to do so in the man’s hometown.

AP was unable to reach the other investigators’ families. China’s Ministry of Public Security and police in Ganzhou city and Jiangxi province could not be reached for comment Tuesday, which was a national holiday in China.

All three men were investigating Ganzhou Huajian International Shoe City Co.’s factory in Jiangxi province, just north of Guangdong province. Su Heng had been working undercover at the factory since April, Li said. The parent company is known as Huajian Group.

In January, Liu Shiyuan, then spokesman for the Huajian Group, told AP the company makes 10,000 to 20,000 pairs of shoes a year for Ivanka Trump’s brand — a small fraction of the 20 million pairs the company produces a year. A current spokeswoman for the company, Long Shan, did not reply to questions Tuesday. “I told you I could not check until tomorrow,” she said. “If your official letter contains a stamp and signature, we can confirm whether the media is real or not.”

Li said investigators had seen Ivanka Trump-brand shoes in the factory, as well as production orders for Ivanka Trump, Marc Fisher, Nine West and Easy Spirit merchandise.

“We were unaware of the allegations and will look into them immediately,” a spokeswoman for Marc Fisher, which manufactures Ivanka Trump, Easy Spirit and its own branded shoes, said in an email. Nine West did not respond to requests for comment.

Li Zhao and Hua Haifeng were blocked from leaving mainland China for Hong Kong in April and May — something that had never happened to his colleagues before, Li said. Hua Haifeng was stopped at the border Thursday and later questioned by police, Li said. During their final phone conversation on Saturday, Hua told Li that police had asked him to stop investigating the Huajian factory — another turn of events that Li said was unprecedented.

Excessive overtime, low wages

Li said the men had documented excessive overtime, with working days sometimes stretching longer than 18 hours, and a base salary below minimum wage. They were working to confirm evidence suggesting that student interns, some of whom allegedly quit in protest, were putting in excessive hours on work unrelated to their field of study, in violation of Chinese law, Li said.

The use of student workers in China is legal, but meant to be strictly regulated. Rights groups and journalists have documented widespread abuse of the system over the years.

“It is the role of the police to prevent that kind of independent investigation,” said Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia director for Amnesty International. “The threshold is much lower today than it was one year ago, two years ago, and if this is something that has a foreign diplomacy dimension, that would make national security personnel even more willing to stop it.”

Hua’s wife, Deng, meanwhile, has yet to tell the couple’s children, ages 3 and 7, about their father’s plight. But they seem to know anyway, she said.

“My son suddenly burst into tears. He said he missed Papa,” Deng said by phone from her home in central China’s Hubei province. “I said Papa would come home soon and buy you toys.”

She said the child looked at her and answered: “Papa was taken away by a monster.”

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Defeat Was a Motivator for Past Spelling Bee Champs

Three past winners of the Scripps National Spelling Bee say losing was the secret to their success.

Early defeats spurred an inner competitive streak that they used to eventually seize the title, said champions from 1985, 1999 and 2010. The 2017 national spelling bee winner will be crowned on Thursday.

“Those were tough losses but they also made me dig deeper and work harder,” said Balu Natarajan, 45, who flamed out on the national stage in 1983 and 1984. He won the next year at age 13 and is now a sports medicine doctor in Chicago.

Nupur Lala, 32, still remembers the word that tripped her up in 1998: commination, which ironically means the act of threatening divine vengeance. She took the title in 1999 at 14.

“It was one of the really healthy moments in my life. Any hubris that I had was eliminated at that point,” said Lala, headed for a 2018 medical school degree with a focus in neurology after conducting research at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Lesson about challenges

For 2010 winner Anamika Veeramani, losing in front of a worldwide audience on live television in 2009 was a seminal lesson in handling life’s challenges.

“In the spelling bee, you really learn how to deal with failure. And dealing with those things gracefully is really important to living a good life,” said Veeramani, 21.

She graduated last week with a biology degree after just three years at Yale University and is applying to medical school. She envisions treating patients as well as launching a broadcast career covering medical stories.

Defeat has fanned the competitive fires within, all three past winners said in separate interviews.

“The competition is not with other spellers but with yourself,” Lala told Reuters. “I don’t think that besting other people is quite as motivating for me.”

Natarajan, who is chief medical officer at Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care, the nation’s largest privately owned hospice provider, agreed he has been his own fiercest rival.

“Some people love to win. Some people want to keep pushing to be their best. I am the latter,” he said.

Natarajan won the title for correctly spelling milieu, Lala for logorrhea and Veeramani for stromuhr, after their opponents had stumbled.

Others’ errors

And how do the world’s best spellers handle errors in emails, classroom lessons or even romantic love letters? Do they point out corrections or suffer in silence?

“I don’t hesitate,” Natarajan said. “It drives me crazy.”

But Lala and Veeramani hold their tongues.

“I don’t want to be obnoxious. Nobody wants to be that kid,” Veeramani said.

This week, 291 whizzes ages 6 to 15 will descend on a resort in the Washington area to compete in the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee.

They have made the cut from more than 11 million contenders who faced off in spelling bees in all 50 U.S. states, U.S. territories from Puerto Rico to Guam, and several nations from Jamaica to Japan.

The victor on Thursday takes home a $40,000 cash prize. But second place also has its rewards: a $30,000 prize.

Natarajan, a married father of boys 8 and 11, said his elder child just missed competing in the national bee this year, coming in second in a countywide spelling competition. If losing really is the key to winning, that may be great news.

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