TIME Britain

BBC Postpones Documentary After Royals Reportedly Intervene

Sandy Henney Mark Bolland
Sandy Henney, Press Secretary To The Prince Of Wales, And Mark Bolland, Deputy Private Secretary To The Prince Of Wales, In Sheffield On The Eve Of The Prince's 50th Birthday. Tim Graham—Tim Graham/Getty Images

Unlike most documentaries about the royal family, Reinventing The Royals was not sanctioned by the Palace

The BBC said Wednesday it was postponing a controversial documentary about the royal family that was produced without the cooperation of Buckingham Palace.

According to a report from the Radio Times, the BBC made the decision after lawyers representing the royal family intervened.

The BBC2 two-part documentary, Reinventing The Royals, examines the public relations tactics of “spin doctor” Mark Bolland, who helped boost Prince Charles’s public image in the wake of the death of Princess Diana in 1997. The film drew attention because, unlike most documentaries about the royal family, it was not sanctioned by the Palace.

In a statement Wednesday, the BBC said it was postponing the Jan. 4 airing of Reinventing the Royals “until later in the New Year while a number of issues including the use of archive footage are resolved.” A BBC spokesperson declined to respond to the report that lawyers representing the royal family were involved in the delay.

TIME Australia

Australia Hunts for Killer Great White With a Spear in Its Throat

The victim’s friend says he managed to fire a spear at the shark.

Authorities are searching for a shark that killed a 17-year-old on Monday off Cheynes Beach in Western Australia.

Jay Muscat, 17, died after he was bitten in the leg while spearfishing, the second deadly shark attack in Australia in two weeks, the Associated Press reports. A friend who was spearfishing with him says he managed to fire a spear at the shark.

“The shark turned and came for me, I pushed the speargun down its throat and fired the gun!,” he wrote on Facebook, according to the AFP. “This is something no one should ever have to see.”

A spokesman for the state fisheries department, Carlo Vittiglia, told the AP that the shark is believed to be a great white up to 16-feet long. In recent years, there have been an average of two deadly shark attacks a year in Australia.

[AP]

TIME Security

New Research Blames Insiders, Not North Korea, for Sony Hack

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. AP

Growing evidence suggests it was not North Korea.

A leading cyber security firm says it has evidence that contradicts the government’s allegation that North Korea was behind the debilitating cyber attacks against Sony Pictures.

Researchers from the firm Norse told Security Ledger, an independent security news website, that they believe that a group of six individuals orchestrated the hack, including at least one former employee who was laid off in company-wide restructuring in May.

The latest allegations add to growing skepticism over the FBI’s assertion — reiterated by President Barack Obama — that linked North Korea to the attack, which the country has denied. A recent linguistic analysis cited in the New York Times found that the hackers’ language in threats against Sony was written by a native Russian speaker and not a native Korean speaker.

“For every clue that seems to point to the involvement of the DPRK, there are others that point in other directions, as well,” the Security Ledger reports.

Read more at the Security Ledger.

TIME Presidents

George H.W. Bush’s Breathing Returns to ‘Normal’

Cincinnati Bengals v Houston Texans
Former President George H.W. Bush attends a game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on November 23, 2014 in Houston, Texas. Bob Levey—Getty Images

Bush Sr. spent Christmas in a Texas hospital.

Former President George H.W. Bush has had his breathing return to “normal,” though he remained in the hospital overnight awaiting a final okay from his doctors, his spokesperson said Monday.

“Both President and Mrs. Bush wish to thank everyone for their good wishes and prayers,” spokesman Jim McGrath said in a tweet.

Bush, the oldest living President, was hospitalized last Tuesday as a precautionary measure after experiencing shortness of breath. He spent Christmas at the Houston Methodist Hospital, where he was in “great spirits.”

The former President, who has a form of Parkinson’s disease and uses a wheelchair, recently celebrated his 90th birthday by skydiving under a red, white and blue parachute.

TIME Crime

Ezell Ford Had ‘Muzzle Imprint’ After Fatal Police Shooting

LAPD Releases Autopsy Report On Police Shooting Of Mentally-Ill Man
Activists look at a mural of Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old mentally ill black man at the site where he was shot and killed by two LAPD officers in August on Dec. 29, 2014 in Los Angeles. David McNew—Getty Images

Autopsy report on Los Angeles man's death released Monday

A mentally ill man who died in a summer police shooting in South Los Angeles was shot three times, including once at very close range, according to an autopsy report released Monday.

The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Ezell Ford on Aug. 11, two days after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., sparked nationwide police protests.

Authorities claim that Ford, 25, was involved in an altercation with two officers and was shot as he struggled with them and attempted to reach for one of their weapons. But, the Los Angeles Times reports, a family friend who saw part of the encounter alleges there was no struggle. Ford was shot once in the right side, once in the right arm and once in the back. The latter wound showed signs of a “muzzle imprint,” the report details, suggesting the gun was fired at a very close range.

Police had asked the coroner’s office to withhold the report, claiming it could influence statements by witnesses in the ongoing case, but Mayor Eric Garcetti called for it to be released earlier this month. Ford’s family has filed a wrongful-death suit against the police department.

TIME States

This Is How Many Americans Will Ring in the New Year

At the beginning of the new year, a baby will be born in the U.S. every 8 seconds

More than 320 million Americans will ring in the New Year, the United States Census Bureau said on Monday.

New projections released by the agency show the U.S. population is expected to hit 320,090,857 on Jan. 1, which is 2.33 million or .73%, more than New Year’s Day 2014.

“In January 2015, the U.S. is expected to experience a birth every eight seconds and one death every 12 seconds,” the bureau said in a statement. “Meanwhile, net international migration is expected to add one person to the U.S. population every 33 seconds.”

On a global level, an estimated 7,214,958,996 people will be alive to celebrate the New Year, up 77.3 million from last year.

See the real-time figures here:

TIME Companies

Lyft and Uber Team Up With MADD for Safer New Year’s Eve

Lyft Gives Up Pink Mustaches To Challenge Uber In New York City
The Lyft Inc. application (app) is displayed for an arranged photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on July 9, 2014. Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The leading ridesharing services are pledging thousands of dollars to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) announced Monday it is teaming up with ride-sharing services Lyft and Uber to promote safer roads this New Year’s Eve.

Lyft will donate $1 for every person who makes a “pledge” to travel safely this New Year’s (up to $10,000; 3,753 had pledged as of 2:45 p.m. ET). It started at 6 a.m. local time on Dec. 29 and will run through 6 a.m. on New Year’s Day. Uber will give $1 for every ride nationwide using the promo code “MADDNYE” made between 6 p.m. local time on New Year’s Eve to 6 a.m. the next morning.

New Year’s Day in 2013 was the year’s deadliest day on the roads for drunk driving, according to MADD, with 70 people killed. The organization has supported ride-sharing services in the past, arguing that they help reduce drunk driving by providing alternative options.

TIME

The Quirky Ways 7 Other Countries Celebrate Christmas

JAPAN-JAL-KFC
Japan Airlines President Yoshiharu Ueki (2nd L) and Masao Watanabe (2nd R), President of Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan pose with a statue of Colonel Sanders (C) wearing a Santa Claus costume during a photo session after a press conference to announce their new "AIR Kentucky Fried Chicken" in-flight fried chicken service, in Tokyo on November 28, 2012. KAZUHIRO NOGI—AFP/Getty Images

Italy's Epiphany witch, Iceland's "Yule cat" and why Japan eats KFC at Christmas

If you’ve ever considered it odd that U.S. Christmas traditions revolve around indoor trees (real and plastic) and a plump, bearded man sliding down chimneys… you’re not wrong.

In fact, our conception of Santa Claus can largely be attributed to a single 1828 poem, Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” which enshrined the nation’s image of Santa–with his “little round belly” and a beard “as white as the snow–and propagated the idea of him coming through chimneys to deliver gifts in stockings, now common knowledge to children across the country. It’s just one of the ways our Christmas traditions can be traced to quirks of history.

But odd and seemingly arbitrary Christmas traditions are not only the purview of the United States. Around the world, in countries that are majority Christian and countries that are majority not, unique practices emerge as the holiday approaches.

Here’s a look at some of the notable and sometimes bizarre Christmas time traditions around the world.

Japan

The vast majority of Japan is not Christian, but one Christmas tradition persists: a trip to KFC. Since a “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!) marketing campaign was launched in Japan in 1974, the American chain has become a popular Christmas Eve hotspot. The campaign worked so well that sales that night typically outpace those of the rest of the year. Some people even order their bucket of fried chicken ahead, to beat the Christmas crowds.

Sweden

In the Swedish town of Gävle, it is traditional to construct a 30-foot tall giant straw “Yule Goat” — a Christmas symbol in Sweden for centuries. And it’s tradition for some meddling kids (actually, unidentified criminal arsonists) to try to burn it down. According to the Gävle tourist board, the goat has been burned down 25 times since its construction became an annual tradition in 1966. So far this year, the Gävle goat is safely standing, as you can see on this webcam. You can also follow him on Twitter.

India

Christians comprise roughly 2 percent of the Indian population, or 24 million people. But Christmas trees in the warm climate are in short supply, so in lieu of the evergreen conifer many Indian families will adorn banana or mango trees with ornaments. In Christian communities, which are mostly in southern India, people put oil-lamps of clay on their flat roof-tops to celebrate the season.

Ukraine

Americans would recognize the Christmas trees decorated in Ukraine, as they’re similar to the traditional, Western fir tree, but Ukrainians will sometimes decorate them with an unlikely ornament: spider webs. The tradition stems from a Ukrainian folk tale, about a widow whose family was so poor they had no money to decorate their tree. Instead, a spider span a web around it on Christmas Eve — and when the first light of day hit it on Christmas morning, it turned into a beautiful web of gold and silver.

Iceland

Beware the Yule Cat! This traditional Christmas fiend is said to terrorize the Icelandic countryside, particularly targeting those who don’t receive new clothes for Christmas. But the frightening festive feline is just one of Iceland’s “Christmas fiends”, who include Grýla, a three-headed ogress with goat-horns. The creature’s sons, the “Yule Lads”, hand out Christmas gifts to children who have been good (and rotten vegetables to those who have been bad).

Italy

Only in Italy do the witches bring gifts to children. That’s La Befana, a broom-flying, kindly witch who effectively takes over from Santa–in Italy, “Babbo Natale”—about two weeks after Christmas on Epiphany to deliver gifts to the good, and ash to the bad. Though the witch has her roots in the pre-Christian pagan tradition, she features in some tellings of the Christmas story in Italy — as an old woman who refuses to give the Wise Men directions to Bethlehem because she is too busy cleaning, and is forced to ride a broomstick for eternity as a result. The town of Le Marche, in northwestern Italy, celebrates her coming every January.

Czech Republic

Save the ham. In the Czech Republic, carp is the mainstay of a Christmas dinner. The tradition of eating carp on Christian holidays dates back as far as the 11th century, when Bohemian monasteries would construct fishponds for the express use of farming the fish. Until recently, Czech families would buy a live carp in the weeks before Christmas and keep it in a bathtub, before slaughtering it on Christmas Eve ready for the following day’s meal. Many Czechs still take part in the festive superstition of saving a dried (and cleaned) scale from the Christmas fish in their wallets for luck over the coming year.

READ NEXT Here’s Where to Watch Your Favorite Christmas Movies

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TIME movies

Watch Kevin Hart Teach Will Ferrell How to Survive Prison in the New Get Hard Trailer

"Prison school is in session."

A business tycoon played by Will Ferrell assumes Kevin Hart’s character can teach him how survive behind bars after he is sentenced to 10 years in prison for fraud and embezzlement in Get Hard.

The film is slated for release in March.

TIME Media

Sony Chief Says ‘We Have Not Caved’ on The Interview

"We have not given up," Michael Lynton said after his studio cancelled the movie under pressure

Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton defended his company’s decision to cancel the release of The Interview on Friday, even as the company refused to rule out releasing the movie in other ways.

Lynton said Sony’s decision was prompted by movie theaters opting not to show the film after hackers, who U.S. officials believe are linked to North Korea and who have wreaked havoc on the studio by disclosing emails and other company information, threatened 9/11-style attacks. Moments earlier, President Barack Obama had called the move to cancel the Christmas Day release a “mistake.”

“The unfortunate part is in this instance the President, the press, and the public are mistaken as to what actually happened,” Lynton said on CNN. “When it came to the crucial moment… the movie theaters came to us one by one over the course of a very short period of time. We were completely surprised by it.”

Read more: You can’t see The Interview, but TIME’s film critic did

Sony said in a statement later Friday that its decision was only about the Christmas Day release.

“After that decision, we immediately began actively surveying alternatives to enable us to release the movie on a different platform,” the studio said. “It is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will get the opportunity to do so.”

Obama told reporters he wished Sony had reached out to him before canceling the film’s Christmas day release. It depicts a fictional assassination attempt against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“We cannot have a society where some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” he said. “Imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of someone who’s sensibilities probably need to be offended.”

Lynton denied the studio had given into the hackers’ threats.

“We have not caved. We have not given up,” he said. “We have always had every desire to have the American public see this movie.”

Read next: Obama Says Sony “Made a Mistake” Pulling ‘The Interview’

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