TIME Television

When Peter Met Homer: A First Look at the Family GuySimpsons Crossover

Electronic Entertainment Expo—YouTube Stewie Griffin watches Bart Simpson make a prank phone call in a preview of the upcoming crossover episode between Family Guy and The Simpsons

The two shows have had a cordial rivalry for years, and the upcoming episode is highly anticipated — but some critics feel it's an unnecessary commercial gimmick

A five-minute preview of the eagerly awaited crossover episode between The Simpsons and Family Guy aired at Comic-Con 2014 in San Diego on Sunday.

The below clip of the episode, which will air as the premiere of Family Guy’s 13th season in late September, isn’t really enough to gauge how the hour-long special will turn out. The Griffins will somehow end up in Springfield; Peter Griffin and Homer Simpson will get along — they bond over donuts and beer — and then predictably won’t; Stewie will fawn over Bart’s antics.

But there’s room for optimism. Say what you will about their crassness and so on, but it is difficult to deny that both shows are blessed with some bright writers. We see this in the divergent evolution of the two series over time. Both began as routine caricatures of your Middle American family (a slovenly patriarch, a housewife who act and talks like just another frustrated shrew, et al) and over the years have matured into distinct pillars of popular culture.

For all the complexity The Simpsons’ humor has acquired — and the show is indeed better for it — it remains at its core a story about family. “The chief asset of The Simpsons,” Dennis Perkins wrote for AV Club after the premiere of its 25th season last September, “is the Simpsons themselves.” Its medium is cartoon, giving it license to be, well, cartoonish, imbuing it with a humor never found by laugh-track-dependent family sitcoms like Everybody Loves Raymond and All in the Family.

Family Guy, meanwhile, has become a delightfully bizarre and sometimes self-indulgent irreverent pantomime that can border on nihilism. As South Park famously mocked in a 2006 episode, the plot doesn’t matter as long as anyone and everyone is lampooned along the way, and the jokes are solid. And they are, most of the time.

And so the crossover will likely rely on the consciously self-referential comedy that has helped both series avoid staleness in relatively old age. (The Simpsons aired in 1989 and Family Guy a decade later; the former is the longest-running sitcom and animated series in American history.) Jokes come from the fact that the characters, after years on the air, are apparently now aware that they exist on animated television programs. Case in point: Peter’s attempt to buy a farm in season 11; the farm will later become a family-run meth lab.

“Somebody from Fox was supposed to call ahead,” he says. “They usually take care of it and I just go ahead and do stuff.”

The metacomic method, which has also helped sustain the more or less civil rivalry between the two shows over the years, can work well as a self-defense mechanism. Fox first announced the crossover episode last summer; many critics have since called it just another commercial gimmick. Brian, the Griffins’ dog (who is also an alcoholic and a repeatedly failed writer, if you want an example of how soon the show can go dark on you) appears to have read their concerns.

“This Springfield place seems nice. We should visit here again,” Lois Griffin says in the preview clip for the episode. “I don’t know, Lois,” Brian responds. “It kind of feels like a one-shot deal.”

 

TIME

BuzzFeed Fires Editor Over Plagiarism

US-MEDIA-IT-INTERNET
Nicholas Kamm—AFP/Getty Images The logo of news website BuzzFeed is seen on a computer screen in Washington on March 25, 2014.

Updated 11:20 a.m. ET

The popular social news site BuzzFeed announced the firing of an editor late Friday night after allegations of plagiarism surfaced online this week.

Benny Johnson was the site’s first “viral politics editor.” In a note to readers, the site’s editor said that a review of more than 500 posts authored by Johnson revealed 41 instances of plagiarism.

“Benny is a friend, colleague and, at his best, a creative force, but we had no choice other than letting him go,” wrote editor-in-chief Ben Smith.

Johnson apologized in a message sent on Twitter Saturday morning.

In one case, Johnson borrowed portions of text from a U.S. News & World Report story by journalist Rick Newman on the depravity of life in North Korea. In another, he used the exact phrasing of a five-year-old response on Yahoo! Answers on the German bombing of London during World War II.

Johnson, 28, came to BuzzFeed’s Washington bureau in December 2012 from Glenn Beck’s online publication, The Blaze.

TIME Companies

Walmart’s Head of U.S. Operations Will Step Down After Slump in Sales

A sign lists the current Walmart stock price at a Walmart Supercenter in Bentonville
Rick Wilking — Reuters A sign lists the current Walmart stock price at the Walmart Supercenter in Bentonville, Ark., on June 5, 2014

His replacement has quickly ascended the ranks of the company's operations in Asia in recent years

Walmart announced on Thursday that Bill Simon, the president of its operations in the U.S., will leave the company next month after four years of leadership marked most recently by a decline in sales. Greg Foran, the New Zealand–born executive who just last month assumed his role as head of Walmart Asia, will take over from Simon from Aug. 9.

“Being asked to lead the Walmart U.S. business is a privilege that I don’t take lightly,” Foran said in a company statement. “I am excited to get started. The needs of our customers are changing dramatically, and we have an enormous opportunity to serve them in new and different ways.”

Foran will assume office at a time of uncertainty for the corporation, with five quarters of falling sales in the rearview mirror despite a recent surge in U.S. consumer confidence. A market analyst told Reuters that Walmart CEO Doug McMillon “wanted new blood” in the company to facilitate its efforts in online retail and general rebranding. Foran has been a rising star in Walmart: he left his position as Woolworths’ head of supermarkets in 2011 to take the reins of Walmart’s fledgling China project and was promoted to oversee the company’s expansion in Asia.

TIME justice

Execution Gone Awry Prompts Concern Over Dubious Lethal-Injection Drugs

Arizona Execution Drugs
Associated Press With the state prison in the background, about a dozen death-penalty opponents pray as they await the execution of Joseph Wood in Florence, Ariz., on July 23, 2014

Many states won't disclose how they obtain the chemicals used in lethal injections, bringing into question the constitutionality of recent executions

There are just over 3,000 prisoners on death row in the U.S., and 32 states where their execution remains a legal course of action. The decision to implement capital punishment in these states is generally accepted as constitutional, so long as its procedure is in line with the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel-and-unusual punishment.

The execution of Arizona inmate Joseph R. Wood III on Wednesday took nearly two hours to complete, over much of which Wood “gasped and struggled to breathe,” according to a statement released by his defense team. Of the 26 state-sponsored executions committed in the U.S. so far this year, Wood’s was the third to seemingly go awry due to the use of largely experimental lethal chemicals, prompting outrage from those who cite these incidents as evidence that capital punishment is not constitutionally viable given the apparent suffering of its recipients.

“His two-hour struggle to death goes beyond cruel and unusual. It’s torment. It’s something you’d see in third-world and uncivilized societies,” Arizona state senator Ed Ableser told TIME on Wednesday night. “It’s embarrassing to see that our state once again is in the news for everything that is wrong that happens in our government.”

The execution should have lasted no more than 15 minutes; when it became clear to witnesses that Wood’s death would be prolonged, his attorneys unsuccessfully filed an emergency appeal to end the proceedings, the final of several attempts to save his life. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court had approved the execution after a lower court ruled that Arizona, in refusing to declare how it had obtained the lethal chemicals to be used in the injection, may have violated Wood’s First Amendment rights.

In Woods’ execution, the state used a combination of the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone — the same cocktail used by the state of Ohio in the execution of Dennis McGuire in January, in which the inmate floundered and wheezed on a gurney for nearly half an hour before the state pronounced him dead.

In a statement released after Wood’s death, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said she was “concerned by the length of time” it took for the injection to kill him, and that she has instructed the state’s Department of Corrections to investigate the matter thoroughly.

It’s still not certain whether Woods indeed suffered pain — state officials have insisted that he was comatose throughout the process — but in any case, his prolonged death draws further attention to the efficacy of the lethal chemicals used for capital punishment in the U.S., one of the world’s last developed nations to still punish its worst criminals with death.

States have been struggling to devise new lethal chemicals to be used in capital punishment since 2011, when U.S. and European pharmaceutical companies ceased to manufacture and sell sodium thiopental, an anesthetic compound that has traditionally been essential to America’s execution cocktails. It has been a process of trial and error, of learning from mistakes. The mistakes are those execution attempts that do not transpire according to plan — typically marked by a death that comes more slowly and viscerally than anticipated.

In recent months, the hesitation of certain states to disclose information about the new chemicals has fueled a public skepticism over the exact physiological effects of these drugs on those to whom they’re administered.

“It’s time for Arizona and the other states still using lethal injection to admit that this experiment with unreliable drugs is a failure,” Cassandra Stubbs, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Capital Punishment Project, said in a statement released after Wood’s death. “Instead of hiding lethal injection under layers of foolish secrecy, these states need to show us where the drugs are coming from. Until they can give assurances that the drugs will work as intended, they must stop future executions.”

Nearly a third of all executions involving the sedative used to kill Wood “have had extremely troubling problems,” according to a report released last month by the Death Penalty Information Center.

“Arizona appears to have joined several other states who have been responsible for an entirely preventable horror — a bungled execution,” defense attorney Dale Baich told the press. “The public should hold its officials responsible and demand to make this process more transparent.”

TIME Civil Rights

Cop in ‘Chokehold’ Death Had Civil Suits Filed Against Him

Vigil Held For Staten Island Man Who Died After Illegal Police Chokehold
Spencer Platt—Getty Images Richard Watkins (5) attends a vigil for Eric Garner near where he died after he was taken into police custody in Staten Island last Thursday on July 22, 2014 in New York City.

The City of New York has already doled out a $30,000 settlement on Officer Daniel Pantaleo's behalf

New York Police Department officer Daniel Pantaleo, who allegedly used what has been termed a chokehold on the now deceased 43-year-old Eric Garner in Staten Island last week, previously had civil rights lawsuits brought against him over two separate incidents, the Staten Island Advance reports.

In the first suit, two men, Darren Collins and Tommy Rice — both in their forties and African-American — claim to have been publicly strip-searched by Pantaleo and a cadre of other officers two years ago, after Pantaleo said he saw crack cocaine and heroin on the backseat of their car. In the second, Rylawn Walker charged Pantaleo and another cop with falsely arresting him, then incarcerating him for a period of 24 hours.

The City of New York doled out a $30,000 settlement to the two plaintiffs in the first lawsuit. Walker’s remains open.

With video of Officer Pantaleo grappling with Garner going viral over the last week, the NYPD’s decision to strip the officer of his gun and assign him to desk duty for the time being has failed to quell public concern. While it remains unclear what role the hold may have played in Garner’s death, many New Yorkers, including activist-pastor Rev. Al Sharpton, are calling for greater accountability.

TIME Israel

Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg Flies to Israel, Dismissing Safety Fears

Israeli rescue and military personnel at the wreckage of a home in the town of Yehud, outside Tel Aviv, and near the Ben Gurion Airport, that was hit by a missile fired by Palestinian militants from inside the Gaza Strip, July 22, 2014.
Gideon Markowicz—EPA Israeli rescue and military personnel at the wreckage of a home in the town of Yehud, outside Tel Aviv, and near the Ben Gurion Airport, that was hit by a missile fired by Palestinian militants from inside the Gaza Strip, July 22, 2014.

Hamas rockets may be falling from the skies, but Israel, Bloomberg says, is "safe" and "a great place to visit”

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has flown to the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, CBS reports, thumbing his nose at the safety concerns that grounded most Israel-bound flights from the U.S. earlier in the day.

Bloomberg said he was not trying “to prove anything,” but wanted to show that Israel was “safe, and a great place to visit.” The trip is also a gesture of support for the Jewish state during its current offensive against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. Speaking before boarding a flight at New York City’s JFK airport, Bloomberg said, “Israel has a right to defend its people, and they’re doing exactly what they should be doing.”

Earlier Tuesday, a Palestinian rocket landed just a mile from Ben Gurion Airport, situated 20 km (12 miles) from Tel Aviv’s city center, prompting the Federal Aviation Administration to place a 24-hour moratorium on flights by U.S. carriers to and from Israel. By that point, however, it was a mere formality: Delta Airlines United Airlines, and U.S. Airways, which collectively operate four flights from JFK and Newark Liberty International Airport each day, had already suspended their trips for the foreseeable future. Shortly before it was to touch down in Tel Aviv, a Delta flight from JFK carrying nearly 400 Israel-bound immigrants diverted to Paris, where it landed Tuesday evening.

The avowedly pro-Israel Bloomberg will fly El Al, the country’s flagship carrier, which also operates four routes to and from the U.S. and has no plans to cancel these trips. The carrier has not commented on either the supposed safety risks or the U.S. response to them, but considering its close relationship with the Israeli government — it was state-owned until 2003, and owes much of its success to some subtle protectionism — one assumes it would echo the sentiments emphatically stressed on Tuesday by the administration of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: flying to Israel is safe; not flying to Israel is to concede victory to the enemy.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Netanyahu on Tuesday evening regarding the intensifying turmoil in Gaza; Netanyahu, the U.S. State Department said, raised the issue of the flight ban, which the FAA will re-evaluate on Wednesday afternoon.

“The FAA’s notice was issued to protect American citizens and American carriers,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said. “The only consideration in issuing the notice was the safety and security of our citizens.”

In a statement released by his office earlier in the day, Bloomberg called upon the FAA to lift its ban, describing Ben Gurion Airport as “the best protected … in the world” — a sentiment he’s not the first to share. Still, for many, the proven efficacy of Israel’s intricate missile protection system may not be enough to mitigate the still-raw memories of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, whose nearly 300 passengers and crew members died after a surface-to-air rocket, likely fired by pro-Moscow separatists in the Ukraine, struck the aircraft last week.

TIME NBA

Donald Sterling and Steve Ballmer Meet for the First Time, Unproductively

A supporter holds a photo cutout of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling while standing in line for the NBA Playoff game 5 between Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center in Los Angeles
Mario Anzuoni— Reuters A supporter holds a photo cutout of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling while standing in line for the NBA Playoff game 5 between Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center in Los Angeles on April 29, 2014.

No progress was made on Ballmer's bid to buy the L.A. Clippers, but ESPN reports it was otherwise a "friendly conversation."

It was a private meeting between two men very recently and very publicly ushered from power: one the erstwhile leader of a once iconic tech company whose stock prices swiftly rebounded upon news of his resignation, the other the former owner of a basketball team whose departure from it only parenthetically had anything to do with basketball (in that his apparently racist vitriol was targeted at, well, people the color of some of his basketball players).

The latter, Donald Sterling, was banned from the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the remainder of his life after TMZ leaked a recording of some comments he made to his girlfriend V. Stiviano, concerning her friendship with black people. He’s consequently in the throes of selling the Los Angeles Clippers to the former, ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who stepped down from the company last year after thirteen tumultuous years at the helm, marked by the surge of the Apple Empire and the ultimate marking of his once-eminent firm as a brand that just wasn’t cool anymore. When all else fails, one supposes, buy a basketball team; Ballmer successfully made a bid of $2 billion to buy the Clippers within a month of the Sterling controversy.

The two men met at Sterling’s Beverly Hills home to negotiate the sale of the Clippers franchise together with Sterling’s wife Shelly. And while the crew reached no definitive settlement, ESPN reports that it was otherwise a perfectly pleasant conversation, considering Sterling’s notorious obstinacy on the matter.

It’s a trickier deal than just writing a check. Two years after Sterling bought the team in 1979, he granted co-ownership rights to Shelly, from whom he has been estranged since December 2012. Donald is banned from the NBA; Shelly is not. The NBA briefly considered snatching all license of ownership from the entire Sterling clan — their son-in-law, Eric Miller, has served as the Clippers’ “director of basketball administration” — but not before Shelly arranged the sale to Ballmer in late May. Donald condemned her actions, and a day later sued the NBA for $1 billion.

He’d drop the suit all of three days later, though he has since called his wife of 59 years a “pig.”

The warring couple met on Sunday to finally discuss business, two days before Shelly was to testify in the civil case between them over whether or not she was justified in her negotiations with Ballmer (she’ll be in court on Tuesday in Los Angeles). After a three hour conversation concerning all the tumult of the last few months — oh, to be a fly on that wall — the two invited Ballmer to come over the next day to further address the matter of the Clippers’ sale, which was supposed to have been finalized a week ago. It’s the first time the two men met in person to talk about the deal.

The NBA, meanwhile, twiddles its thumbs and waits. It’s widely assumed Ballmer will ultimately take the reins from the Sterlings, but if nothing’s certain by September 15, the league has the option to take matters into its own hands and sell the team itself, since the 2014-15 season will begin just six weeks later.

TIME movies

Over a Tepid Weekend at the Box Office, Room for Mediocrity to Thrive

Twentieth Century Fox Dawn of the Planet of the Apes led the box office for the second consecutive weekend.

Of the four highest-grossing films this weekend, two were about societal collapse, three were sequels, and only one earned respectable reviews

“Art,” Roger Ebert said in a speech on human empathy on a Colorado Public Television feature in 1994, “is the closest we can come to understanding how a stranger really feels.”

If that’s the case, then maybe it’s grimly logical that with Gaza on fire, and hundreds of families in Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur mourning a wreck that still smoulders, the most popular films in American theaters this past weekend are stories of apocalyptic or near-apocalyptic crisis. Also, sequels.

The first is Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the story of humankind felled by a manufactured virus and an army of chimps rendered sentient by the same virus seeking to fill the power void. For the second consecutive weekend, Dawn has seized the top position at the U.S. box office, having grossed nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in international ticket sales since opening ten days ago. It’s a follow-up to the 2011 20th Century Fox film that revived the decades-old franchise; both movies have enjoyed a surprisingly warm embrace from critics.

Not drastically far behind in the numbers was The Purge: Anarchy, whose title is perhaps more fitting, or at least to the point, than that of the first film in the franchise. The plots of both deal with a utilitarian sort of lawlessness sometime in the nearish future, in which anyone can pretty much do anything — murder is popular — over a twelve hour period once a year in order to keep crime rates otherwise low. Tepid reviews of the sequel apparently notwithstanding, the film made just under $30 million in ticket sales after opening in U.S. theaters on Friday.

After that, things are more incongruous with the Ebert-empathy thesis: a Pixar movie — another sequel — and a tongue-in-cheek romantic comedy about a leaked sex tape came in at third and fourth, respectively. Both have received mixed-to-plainly-negative feedback (Planes: Fire and Rescue holds a 44% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes; Sex Tape’s is twenty points lower).

It was, on the whole, a shoddy weekend for Hollywood, the New York Times reports, though of course the summer blockbuster season is still relatively young. We’ll get the fifth — fifth — installment in the predictably stalwart Step Up franchise in a few weeks. There’s a redux of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles coming out; given that (a) it’s a Michael Bay number and (b) Megan Fox is in it, we can rely on every adolescent male in the U.S. to help it at least break even.

TIME China

In China, McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut Probe Expired-Meat Supply

Controversies over food safety are a fact of life in China

Health officials have temporarily closed a Shanghai-based meat supplier after it was learned that the firm, which supplies products to major American fast-food restaurants throughout China, may have been selling expired chicken and beef.

Both McDonald’s and Yum! Brands — owner of KFC and Pizza Hut, with over 6,200 Chinese stores collectively — asked their restaurants on Sunday to abstain from selling meat provided by Shanghai Husi Food Co. after Dragon Television, a local news outfit, reported that the meat company’s employees were repackaging meat and extending its shelf life by a year. McDonald’s and Yum! have launched their own investigations.

Yum!’s sales have rebounded in recent months after a fit of bad publicity early last year, when a state television agency alleged that KFC — the largest restaurant chain in China — was selling chicken containing excessive amounts of antibiotics. Yum! insisted on the safety of its food and said it was working to improve its supply chain.

TIME Malaysia

Malaysia Airlines Flight Did Not Ignore Safety Warnings, Minister Says

Reaction In Kuala Lumpur As Air Malaysia Plane Crashes In Eastern Ukraine
Rahman Roslan—Getty Images Malaysia Airlines crew closed the counter at Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminal 1 on July 18, 2014 in Putrajaya, Malaysia.

The route over conflict zones in eastern Europe was "approved" and "safe," says Malaysia's Transport Minister

At a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Friday afternoon local time, Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai denied that Malaysia Airlines had shirked security warnings and approved Flight 17’s taking of a shorter route from Amsterdam over conflict zones in Eastern Europe in order to save time and fuel.

“This was an approved route, and approved routes are safe routes,” he said, adding that 15 of 16 international air carriers from the Asia-Pacific region rely on the flight path over Ukraine, where the Kuala Lumpur–bound Boeing 777 was purportedly shot down by pro-Russian insurgents on Thursday evening.

In the aftermath of the disaster, however, Malaysia Airlines has rerouted its Europe-to-Malaysia flights over the Middle East and India, according to maps provided by FlightAware.com. A flight that departed for Kuala Lumpur from Paris’ Charles De Gaulle Airport shortly before news of the crash broke appears to have been quickly diverted southward while crossing Poland.

The pilots of the doomed airliner, however, had no foresight of the risks, Liow said. He insisted that “no last-minute instructions” had been given to Flight 17’s crew, and dispelled rumors that ground controllers had received a mayday call from the cockpit of Flight 17 prior to its crashing in a rural area of eastern Ukraine.

He also provided an updated passenger manifest; at press time, the identities of only 20 of the 298 passengers had yet to be accounted for. It was learned earlier in the day that the step-grandmother of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak may be among the deceased, and that a number of those onboard — maybe as many as a hundred, according to some reports — were AIDS researchers, health workers and activists en route to the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

Over the course of a hectic press day, Malaysian officials skirted around the issue of culpability, choosing instead to address to emotional magnitude of the tragedy and exonerate state agencies and Malaysia Airlines from any potential wrongdoing. The governments of both the Ukraine and the U.S., however, insist that a Russian-made antiaircraft missile fired by pro-Russia separatists had felled the aircraft from the sky, though it remains unclear whether it was an errant mistake or a deliberate act of terrorism, as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has insisted.

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