#AskTIME Subscriber Q and A: Michael Scherer

Welcome to TIME Subscriber Q&A, with TIME’s Washington bureau chief, Michael Scherer. He has a story in this week’s TIME about America’s New Anchor, Jorge Ramos of Noticiero Univision. His other stories can be found here.

To read the full post, you need to be a subscriber. It’s not too late to sign up.

sacredh asks, Do you think that Jim Webb throwing his hat into the ring could signal interest in the VP job if Hillary gets the nomination?

From my time with Webb, he doesn’t strike me as the sort of guy who is all that comfortable toeing someone else’s line, and I would guess the Clinton camp would be worried, with good reason, that he might not follow marching instructions. There is another reason I would guess this is unlikely, at least at this point. If you read his announcement letter, he is pretty clearly positioning himself, like Obama did in 2007, as someone who can turn the page on the Clinton v. GOP wars of the past. On the issues, he is likely to campaign to her right.

Outsider asks, Thanks for bringing the feature back this week, Mike.

In your piece about the end of the post-partisan dream, you wrote:

Now we come to the final hours of this miserable season. It’s likely, though not certain, that when you wake up Wednesday, Republicans will control the Senate for the first time since 2006, give or take a recount in the West or a runoff in the South. But don’t expect that result to tell you much about the direction of the country.

Other than TV ads, how can anyone get the voting population to actually get at the polls? This election had the lowest turn out in a very long time. And how do you think the media played into the lack of enthusiasm for voting?

Since most people get their information via reporting, how do you think, or do you think, the media could help raise the level of concern regarding voter participation?

I tend to be a glass half full guy when it comes to Democracies: Large groups of people, even if sometimes ill informed, tend to be completely rational. How do you get people to the polls? You give them an incentive. Either a candidate they can believe in, or the prospect of political or economic change that they desire. As a rule, candidates in 2014 offered neither. It was a grim time, highlighted by the fact that gridlock in Washington has reduced everyone’s power to actually accomplish much of anything, and the voting public, a rational body, sort of gets that. Also people are upset, about the economic stagnation of their own lives and the childlike spectacle of their elected leadership. It will change when the conditions change, and a Presidential election, which inevitably ask bigger questions and bring bigger characters to the stage, will help that along, though I would not be surprised if 2016 turnout is far lower than 2012 and 2008.

What is the media’s role? To say what is happening, and explain what it means. I think people are interested in both, but I don’t think they will look to my opinion to decide whether voting is worth their time. For the record, I think everyone should vote, with the possible exception of those living in false democracies, where not voting can send a stronger signal than voting.

outsider asks, Hey Michael, in your piece about the end of Post-Partisan dream, you wrote:

Message control, in other words, has replaced governing.

This is absolutely true: Why do you think that more politicians aren’t called on doing that very thing when they are questioned by members of the media?

I think they are called on it, but they just keep repeating the soundbites. At some point, especially at the end of expensive campaigns, the voice of the journalist tends to diminish. We can say so-and-so did not answer the question, or does not actually have a plan to govern. But that is just an article or news report in a sea of endless television spots and direct mail pieces peddling balderdash.

deconstructive asks, Michael, how do you explain the disconnect over Obamacare between its unpopularity (in polls, media coverage, etc.) and its success (in numbers of people covered, etc.)?

Yes, I think this is quite simple. About 20 million have gained coverage under Obamacare, but this country has 316 million people. It’s a tiny fraction. For the people who have got coverage, or the millions more who have a chronic condition that is now covered or get coverage they could not get before, Obamacare is seen for the most part as a good thing. But most of us still get our insurance through our employers, and it is still more than we want to pay, and increasing in cost (though slower), and insurance companies are still difficult, and our wages are flat. Liberals support Obamacare because they are ideologically predisposed to think it is a good think. Conservatives opposes because they assume it is bad. And most in the middle don’t really understand what it does, or how it has done for them. Some are convinced it has harmed them. Thus, you get a sort of general discontent.

deconstructive asks, Michael, after our midterm election, how you explain the disconnect between populist issues winning in red states – especially the minimum wage – and GOP politicians winning in those states who consistently fight those same issues? Low voter turnout, especially among D’s and minorities, explains a lot, but maybe not this – are populist issues popular with conservative working class voters too?

Progressives have identified a few issues that are popular with lots of voters, but for which Republican politicians oppose. Minimum wage and pot decriminalization are two, which did well this cycle. But neither issue is a top issue for many voters, meaning it is not the issue that voters decide on when they choose their elected leaders. Those choices are made for other reasons, including their general satisfaction with the direction of their lives, the state and the country. This cycle had a huge anti-incumbent undercurrent because of those issues. Also, there a group of Republican and independent voters who vote in low-turnout elections for Republicans, even if they don’t mind pot and want higher minimum wages.

yogi asks, MS, does the pentagon release statistics on the sorties that are being flown in Syria and Iraq? What is the percentage break down of sorties flown by the US compared to the other allied nations supposedly fighting ISIS? (Perhaps this would be a good post by MT if the data is available).

Mark Thompson replies, “The U.S. is flying 85% of the air strikes since Aug. 8, according to the latest Pentagon data. The U.S. has flown 843 of them—459 against targets in Iraq and 380 against targets in Syria. Sixteen allies have flown 163 air strikes, including 102 in Iraq and 61 in Syria. U.S. officials also say U.S. planes are conducting most of the intelligence, escort and refueling missions.”

yogi asks, #AskTIME, MS, do members of both branches of Congress really believe their kabuki vote on Keystone XL meant anything to the citizens they serve? Why waste time on a vote, that Obama has said he would veto and there is so little time until they have another recess? Especially when Congress has more important issues like a budget and actual debate and vote on whether to wage war against ISIS.

Republicans use Keystone as a cudgel, looking to paint Democrats as ideologues who don’t care about jobs and the middle class. Environmentalists see Keystone as both a substantive issue, given the emissions that might be prevented by delay of Canadian oil development, and as a symbolic stand that could shift the conversation about fossil fuel development. As an electoral issue, the evidence suggests that it has been a winner for Republicans, similar to the way equal pay has been a winner for Democrats. It arguably helped the GOP in a number of races in 2014, when Democratic candidates had to distance themselves from the party. That’s why you are almost certainly going to see more votes. When Republicans talk about Keystone they are usually winning, which is not always true on issues that deal with global warming.

Sue_N asks, Seriously, how far can we expect to see the rampant obstructionism of the GOP go? How long can this government tolerate being shackled and kept from functioning? And, hey, while I’ve got your ear (eye, whatever), can we expect to see this oh-hell-no continue beyond Obama’s presidency? Yes, a lot of it seems personal, but the ugly genie of the Party of No has been let out of the bottle. When another Democrat is elected to the White House in 2016, are the shackles going to stay on?

There was a moment in 2005, when President George W. Bush decided to push hard on Social Security reform. His bet was that he could get some form of personal investment accounts by Democrats in the Senate by offering to bargain on other issues, like the long term solvency of the program. Instead the Democrats countered with: You get nothing. It was probably the right political move for Democrats, who cleaned up in the 2006 elections. Republicans did something similar after Obama came into office, and most Democratic strategists will tell you that it was probably a good short term political strategy. They now control both chambers. That said, there is now far more pressure on Republicans to actually come up with a credible positive agenda, which has not been much in evidence over the last few years, in part because the party is so fractious.

Your question could be, how long will rampant political polarization that punishes compromise and rewards obstruction continue? I would argue that this is more important. I don’t know the answer, but I can tell you some factors that would alleviate the pressures: less partisan redistricting after 2020 that allows for more competitive seats, population changes that make more Senate seats competitive, an improvement in the labor market that begin increasing wages broadly across the country, the emergence of a candidate or set of candidates that convinces a large share of the American people that there is a third way, or a shift in the national mood away from finding comfort in ideological extremes.

Sorry for the delay in getting these up today. There will be no Subscriber Q&A again next week, but we’ll be back in the first week of December. In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving. And keep commenting.


TIME Bill Cosby

Morning Must Reads: November 21

The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Obama Unveils Immigration Plan

President Barack Obama announced on Thursday night he is granting temporary legal status and work permits to almost 5 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, the largest single immigration action in modern American history

Behind Bill Cosby’s Silence

The comedian and his wife Camille have largely been reticent about sexual-allegations directed at him. History tells us why this silence is oppressive

Forecasters Warn of Rain in N.Y.

After relentless snowfall blanketed much of western New York this week, officials warned on Thursday that a new danger is now threatening the area — rain

NSA Warns Cyber Attacks Could Cripple U.S. Infrastructure

NSA director Mike Rogers said U.S. adversaries are performing electronic “reconnaissance” on a regular basis so that they can be in a position to disrupt the industrial control systems that run everything from chemical facilities to water treatment plants

World Heads Toward Warmest Year Ever

October marked the fifth month to break worldwide heat records. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced on Thursday that the average global temperature for October was 58.43ºF (14.74ºC)

U.S. to Up Nonlethal Aid to Ukraine, Says Report

Washington is ready to increase its delivery of nonlethal aid to the Ukrainian government, but will refrain from furnishing Kiev with weapons to use in its fight against pro-Russian forces in the country’s southeast, according to a Reuters report citing unnamed U.S. officials

University of California Approves Steep Tuition Hike

Tuition at University of California schools could rise by as much as 28% by 2019 under a plan approved on Thursday. The vote by the system’s board pitted top state officials, including Governor Jerry Brown, against those who run the UC’s 10 campuses

Michael Brown Sr. Urges Calm Ahead of Grand Jury

The father of Michael Brown, the black teenager shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., this summer, has asked people not to “hurt others” or “destroy property” ahead of a grand jury decision into whether the officer will be indicted in the killing

Suicide Helpline Aims to Help Transgender People

On 2014′s annual day of remembrance for transgender victims of violence, Trans Lifeline, a crisis hotline staffed entirely by transgender people, aims to help transgender people struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts

How TIME Reviewed the Work of Mike Nichols

The Oscar-winning director, who died on Wednesday aged 83, first appeared in TIME in 1958 as he was becoming famous as a comedian. But after Hollywood came calling, his movies got rave reviews from our critics — with one or two notable exceptions

Zoolander Will Return, With Penelope Cruz Attached

The Spanish actress will bring her finest Blue Steel to Ben Stiller’s long anticipated sequel to his 2001 supermodel comedy. No word yet on whether Will Ferrell and Owen Wilson will return for the follow-up, which is reportedly set in Europe

Oakland Raiders Win First Game Since 2013

The Raiders used a 17-play touchdown drive and a late defensive stop to pull off the shocking upset, 24-20. It was their first victory since a 28-23 triumph at Houston on Nov. 17 of last season

We will hold an #AskTIME subscriber Q&A today, Friday, November 21, at 1 p.m., with TIME Washington bureau chief, Michael Scherer, who wrote this week’s story on America’s New Anchor, Jorge Ramos of Noticiero Univision. His other stories can be found here.

You can submit your questions beforehand on Twitter using the #AskTIME hashtag or in the comments of this post. We depend on smart, interesting questions from readers.

You will need to be a TIME subscriber to read the Q & A. ($30 a year or 8 cents a day for the magazine and all digital content.) Once you’re signed up, you can log in to the site with a username and password.

Get TIME’s The Brief e-mail every morning in your inbox

TIME Video Games

Call of Duty Exceeds $10 Billion in Sales

Boxes advertising the newest installment to blockbuster video game Call of Duty is displayed in a gamestop store in New York City on Nov. 3, 2014 Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images

More than the Transformers, The Hunger Games, Iron Man and The Avengers movie franchises combined

Battle-themed video game Call of Duty has crossed $10 billion in lifetime sales, significantly bolstered by demand for its latest installment Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare earlier this month.

Parent company Activision Publishing confirmed that the latest installment had the biggest launch of any entertainment product this year.

“Advanced Warfare is the biggest entertainment launch of 2014 in terms of revenue, surpassing all movie, music and book launches this year.” said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard.

Since it was first launched in 2003, the game’s total proceeds have far exceeded combined box office receipts for the hit movie franchises The Hunger Games, Transformers, Iron Man and The Avengers.

Activision has been widely praised for the feat. “It’s hard to find a more successful video game publisher than Activision,” Forbes wrote. IGN UK called the latest release “the most successful departure from what’s expected from a Call of Duty.

Stories in the franchise are typically inspired by historical events. The latest installment is set in 2054 and pits players as soldiers against a new villain played by Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey. This time around, Activision utilized advanced capabilities in new-generation PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles.

TIME celebrities

Kim Kardashian’s India Trip Called Off Amid ‘Visa Issues’

Kim Kardashian Promotes Her New Fragrance "Fleur Fatale" In Melbourne
Kim Kardashian smiles as she promotes her new fragrance "Fleur Fatale" at Chadstone Shopping Centre on Nov. 19, 2014, in Melbourne, Australia Scott Barbour—Getty Images

Mrs. Kayne West was due to appear on an Indian reality TV show

Kim Kardashian’s upcoming India trip has been canceled because of apparent visa troubles.

The 34-year-old reality TV sensation was due to make a guest appearance on the popular reality show Big Boss, the Indian version of Big Brother, which is hosted by Bollywood actor Salman Khan.

“Just touched down in Australia!!! My perfume world tour begins for my new fragrance Fleur Fatale! Next stop India then Dubai! All in 1 week!” she tweeted on Monday.

Big Boss, currently in its eighth season, has had falling ratings this year. Kardashian’s visit had been much hyped by the Indian media. She was reported to be paid more than $800,000 for the stint, in which she would don a traditional sari.

Organizers confirmed to the BBC that “visa issues” were to blame for the cancellation. Reuters reports that the undisclosed issues would take a while to solve, which would conflict with Kardashian’s busy schedule.

Most recently, Kardashian, who is married to U.S. rap star Kanye West, was in the news in an attempt to “break the internet” with an artistic nude spread in Paper magazine.

TIME Immigration

See the States Where Obama’s Immigration Actions Will Affect the Most People

As many as five million people could see their legal status change

Of the estimated 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, nearly half are expected now to be eligible to avoid deportation under President Obama’s forthcoming executive actions. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that 3.7 million undocumented parents of citizens or legal permanent residents fall under the protection of the actions. Obama is also expected to expend coverage of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, encompassing a total of 1.5 million others.

The following map shows where these 5 million people live, according to MPI’s estimates. Data was unavailable for a handful of states with low immigrant populations.


TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: November 20

The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Buffalo Braces for More Snow

National weather forecasters are predicting that yet another 1 to 3 ft. of snow will likely fall over western New York during the next 48 hours, after a mammoth winter storm earlier this week. Snow loads on buildings may be reaching “critical levels”

Timeline: The Cosby Allegations

Decade-old accusations that Bill Cosby drugged and raped or molested numerous women have resurfaced in recent weeks

Mike Nichols Dies at Age 83

The legendary director and husband of Diane Sawyer, who won the Oscar for Best Director for 1967′s ‘The Graduate,’ died suddenly Wednesday

Republicans Gird for an Immigration Fight With Obama

Republicans are weighing how to stop President Barack Obama from taking unilateral action on immigration policy, but are finding their legislative and legal options limited. “We’re struggling to figure out what our real options are,” one lawmaker said

3 Wounded in Florida State University Shooting

An unidentified gunman was shot and killed by police after opening fire at Florida State University’s Strozier Library just after midnight on Thursday. At least three individuals are being treated at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare hospital for gunshot wounds

National Book Awards Winners Announced

The National Book Foundation hosted the ceremony recognizing authors in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people’s literature. Science fiction and fantasy author Ursula K. Le Guin was presented with the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters

Records Reveal Divide on Ferguson Police Tactics

Emails to and from Missouri’s top public-safety officials show the captain placed in charge of security in Ferguson after Michael Brown’s death was vilified and praised for attempting to replace authorities’ militarized approach with a more sympathetic one

Sony Drops Steve Jobs Biopic

An upcoming Steve Jobs biopic starring Michael Fassbender as the Apple co-founder has reportedly been dropped by Sony Pictures for as yet unconfirmed reasons. The film will now be offered to other studios, with Universal expressing interest

Multiple Fractures for Bono in NYC Bicycle Accident

An injury to U2 singer Bono after what was described by the group as a “cycling spill” left him with multiple fractures that required him to undergo two surgeries. Bono was in a “high-energy bicycle accident” when he was trying to avoid another cyclist on Sunday

Facebook Shuttle Drivers Will Unionize

Facebook’s shuttle-bus drivers voted to unionize on Wednesday in an effort to secure higher wages and better shifts. They currently work two three-hour shifts in the morning and evening with a six-hour gap in between

NBA Suspends Hornets Forward Jeffery Taylor for 24 Games

Taylor was arrested Sept. 25 and charged with assault, misdemeanor domestic assault and misdemeanor malicious destruction of property, later pleading guilty to the latter two charges on Oct. 29. The assault charge was dropped as a part of his plea deal

I’m Not Autistic, Says Seinfeld

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has backtracked on recent comments he made stating that he was on the autism spectrum. Seinfeld said he does not fall on the spectrum, contrary to an interview with NBC a few weeks prior in which he said that he did

We will hold an #AskTIME subscriber Q&A this Friday, November 21, at 1 p.m., with TIME Washington bureau chief, Michael Scherer, who wrote this weeks’s story on America’s New Anchor, Jorge Ramos of Noticiero Univision. His other stories can be found here.

You can submit your questions beforehand on Twitter using the #AskTIME hashtag or in the comments of this post. We depend on smart, interesting questions from readers.

You will need to be a TIME subscriber to read the Q & A. ($30 a year or 8 cents a day for the magazine and all digital content.) Once you’re signed up, you can log in to the site with a username and password.

Get TIME’s The Brief e-mail every morning in your inbox

TIME Innovation

The 25 Best Inventions of 2014

Hoverboards, intelligent space craft, edible food wrappers, and much much more

—Welcome to TIME’s annual round-up of the best inventions making the world better, smarter and—in some cases—a little more fun.


  • The Real-Life Hoverboard

    justin fantl

    Hendo Hoverboard / $10,000
    Preorder at hendohover.com

    The hoverboard—a type of skateboard that levitates like a magic carpet—had been a pipe dream since its fictional debut in 1989′s Back to the Future Part II. Now California-based tech firm Hendo has built the real thing.
    Granted, there are caveats. Hendo’s hoverboard can float only an inch or so above the ground, and even then only over conductive material like copper or aluminum. Just 10 are being made to order (so far). And battery life is 15 minutes—barely enough time to zoom past your enemies à la Marty McFly.

    But the technology that powers it could be revolutionary. Using the $450,000-plus it raised on Kickstarter, Hendo founders Jill and Greg Henderson plan to develop magnetic “hovering” tech to stabilize buildings during earthquakes, protect valuable works of art and more. “The hoverboard is the first step to bringing this technology to the world,” says Greg.

  • The Supersmart Spacecraft

    Mangalyaan, India's Mars Orbiter Mission, is prepared for its Nov. 5, 2013 launch into space.

    Developed by the Indian Space Research Organization

    Nobody gets Mars right on the first try. The U.S. didn’t, Russia didn’t, the Europeans didn’t. But on Sept. 24, India did. That’s when the Mangalyaan (Mars craft in Hindi) went into orbit around the Red Planet, a technological feat no other Asian nation has yet achieved. Building the craft cost India just $74 million, less than the budget for the film Gravity. At that price, the Mangalyaan is equipped with just five onboard instruments that allow it to do simple tasks like measure Martian methane and surface composition. More important, however, it allows India to flex its interplanetary muscles, which portends great things for the country’s space program—and for science in general.

  • A Reactor that Could Realize Nuclear Fusion

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    High-beta fusion reactor
    Developed by Lockheed Martin

    Nuclear fusion—the production of energy from the fusion of hydrogen nuclei—has always been the holy grail of energy: it’s endlessly productive and largely clean—and so far, it’s remained elusive. But in October, Lockheed Martin said it had achieved a technological breakthrough that will enable it to make compact fusion reactors small enough to fit on the back of a truck within a decade. The design uses “magnetic mirror confinement” to control the reaction. Absent further details on how it works, some outside scientists are skeptical. But if Lockheed really can produce a workable fusion reactor, the world of energy may never be the same.

  • Wireless Electricity

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    In development for Toyota cars, Intel PCs and more

    We already have wireless Internet and wireless phones. Why, then, are everyday appliances still shackled to the wall? To be sure, there are a few power-mat chargers for small gadgets like phones. But WiTricity, based in Watertown, Mass., is thinking big. Its technology—involving a plug-in coil that creates a magnetic field, which in turn powers objects as far away as 8 ft. (2.4 m)—has been tested on Toyota electric cars (with charging mats), Intel PCs (with charging pads) and more. Within 10 years, says CEO Alex Gruzen, rooms could be wired so that all appliances—lamps, TVs, stereos—pull power from a central charging base.

  • 3-D-Printed Everything

    justin fantl

    A machine that can build any object. It sounds like a sci-fi fantasy, but thanks to the rise of 3-D printers—devices that can build objects from digital blueprints, usually by layering plastic or other materials—it is rapidly becoming reality.

    That’s a boon for consumers and corporations alike. In the past year alone, middle-school students have 3-D-printed stock cars for physics lessons, scientists have 3-D-printed tissues for human organs, and GE has used 3-D printing to improve the efficiency of its jet engines. “This is one of those technologies that literally touches everything we do,” says Avi Reichental, CEO of 3D Systems, whose 3-D printers produce candy (as shown above) and musical instruments, among other objects.

  • Watches that Redefine Smart

    Justin Fantl for TIME

    Apple Watch / $349+
    Available early 2015

    Most smart watches have proved to be anything but: they try to shrink down the experience of using a cell phone, with clunky results. Apple’s Watch, by contrast, wholly reimagines the computer for the wrist, using a novel interface that combines a touchscreen and physical buttons. Besides telling time, the Watch can send messages, give directions, track fitness and make wireless payments. It’s also an attractive piece of fashion, with high-end Edition models that feature 18-karat gold. “Apple poured its heart and soul into the design,” says Robert Brunner, founder of San Francisco design studio Ammunition and a former director of industrial design at Apple. “It’s brave because they’re venturing into unknown territory.”

  • The Smartphone that Puts Privacy First

    justin fantl

    Blackphone / $629
    Available at blackphone.ch

    Nearly half of Americans don’t feel safe sharing private information over a cell-phone call, according to Pew. So how can phone owners conceal their data? Enter the Blackphone, a smartphone designed to put privacy above all else. The device, developed by the company of the same name and accelerated after the Snowden leaks, runs a customized Android operating system stripped of features that might make data vulnerable, like calendar sync. It also comes with software that encrypts calls, texts and browsing history at levels far beyond normal smartphones (which could make the Blackphone a target of law-enforcement officials, who say encryption technology makes it harder for cops to catch criminals). But even with a Blackphone, users should be careful about what they type or upload. As Blackphone CEO Toby Weir-Jones explains, “It’s dangerous to assume anything is a magic invisibility cloak.”

  • The Cooler that Powers Your Party

    Tara Johnson for TIME

    Coolest Cooler / $399
    Preorder at coolest.com (to ship in early 2015)

    For more than 60 years, coolers have done a fine job putting party refreshments on ice. But that wasn’t good enough for Ryan Grepper. “We wanted the cooler to be a place where people gather—to have all the things that make a space somewhere you’d want to hang out,” says the former medical sales rep.

    The result is the world’s smartest all-purpose party starter. It stores food and drinks, sure. But it also touts a blender (“for vodkaritas,” Grepper offers), an LED lid light (“to see if you’re reaching for beer or Clamato juice”), a USB charger (“so nobody’s phone dies”), a Bluetooth speaker (for tunes) and big wheels designed to navigate many terrains (beach, parking lot). “I just want to make the coolest cooler out there,” says Grepper. Hence the name: Coolest Cooler.

    Since Grepper’s prototype first appeared on Kickstarter earlier this year, roughly 63,000 backers have contributed $13.3 million to make it a reality. It’s now the most funded creation in the site’s history, besting hits like the Pebble smart watch and Oculus Rift’s virtual-reality glasses.

  • The Chip that Stops Your Slouching

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    Lumo Lift / $100
    Available at lumobodytech.com

    You can probably guess why so many people have posture that causes back pain: “We simply forget” to stop slouching, says Monisha Perkash, whose company, Lumo BodyTech, created the ultimate reminder. Once users clip the Lumo Lift, a chiplike gadget about the size of a thumb, onto their shirt, it analyzes neck and spinal positions and vibrates when they’re less than ideal. Although the system isn’t perfect—it can buzz when you lean for necessary reasons, like taking a phone call—it has exceeded internal sales goals. Half of its users are women, which is impressive given that early adopters for gadgets often tilt male.

  • The Car that Makes Electric Enticing

    Fabian Kirchbauer

    BMW i3 / $41,350
    Available at BMW dealerships nationwide

    For the most part, electric cars have been slow, sexless and stolid to drive—or stunningly expensive. So when BMW, the self-described maker of “the ultimate driving machine,” announced it would start selling them, it had a high bar to clear. The I3 delivers. In addition to getting 70 to 110 miles (113 to 177 km) on a single three-hour charge, its novel design allows drivers to use a single ­pedal to both accelerate and brake (press down to go, ease up to stop), which results in more energy-efficient driving. And because so-called range anxiety—the fear of running out of juice on the road—remains a top reason people don’t buy electric, BMW is pioneering ways to ease customers’ doubts. Among them: an optional backup gas motor that can recharge its batteries in a pinch and a program that lends owners a gas-powered vehicle for longer trips.

  • The Tablet that Replaces Laptops

    Tara Johnson for TIME

    Microsoft Surface Pro 3 / $799
    Available at microsoft.com

    Microsoft’s latest “hybrid” bundles the power of a laptop into a svelte 12-in. tablet and can run desktop apps like Word, Excel and PowerPoint. That, as well as a slim, detachable keyboard cover and a built-in stand that makes the Surface usable on a desk, makes it more suitable than other tablets for professionals like doctors and businesspeople. No wonder organizations such as Coca-Cola and Seattle’s Children’s Hospital have adopted it in droves.

  • The Ring that Alerts You in Style

    The Ring that Alerts You in Style
    The Ring that Alerts You in Style Alice Keeney

    Ringly / $195+
    Available at ringly.com

    Like many professional women, Christina Mercando keeps her smartphone in her purse, which meant she was constantly digging it out to check for important notifications. But what if she could get that info from something she was already wearing, much as pants-wearing men can feel a phone buzz in their pocket? That’s the thinking behind Ringly, a line of rings that can be programmed to glow when wearers get an email from their boss, a text from their Uber driver or any number of other can’t-miss communications. Mercando, a former product and design manager at eBay, raised more than $1 million to realize her vision. So far, the concept is working: the first 1,000 Ringly rings, which debuted in June, sold out within 24 hours.

  • The Pillbox that Gets Personal

    Justin Fantl for TIME

    Pillpack / prices vary
    Available at pillpack.com

    “I grew up in a family that owned and operated a pharmacy,” says T.J. Parker, who knows firsthand how confusing it can be for people to track which meds to take when, especially if they fill multiple prescriptions. That’s why the e-pharmacy he runs now, PillPack, doesn’t traffic in bottles. Instead, every two weeks, patients are sent a dispenser, which has their medication—all of it—sorted into a ticker tape of tearable packets, organized by date and time. For now, service is limited to patients with multiple prescriptions. But Parker’s ultimate goal is to make the pharmacy experience simpler for everyone, even patients on short-term antibiotics.

  • Bananas that Prevent Blindness

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    Developed by the Queensland University of Technology

    In sub-Saharan Africa, up to 30% of kids under age 5 are at risk of going blind—among other conditions—for one simple reason: they don’t get enough eye-nurturing vitamin A. But what if the bananas that make up a lot of their diet could be re-engineered to deliver it? That’s the idea that struck Australian biogeneticist James Dale when he visited Uganda in the early 2000s. With backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dale and his team began developing a vitamin-A-enriched “superbanana”; human trials start soon in the U.S. In Africa, they will be introduced using what Dale calls a “reverse Ponzi scheme” to spark adoption. Village leaders will be given 10 free superbanana plants to grow, on the condition that they give at least 20 new shoots to other villagers, who will do the same. “These bananas could potentially solve” a major health problem, Dale says.

  • The Wheel that Gives Bikers a Boost

    Tara Johnson for TIME

    Copenhagen Wheel / $799
    Preorder at superpedestrian.com (to ship spring 2015)

    We know that biking is good for us and good for the environment. But getting around on a bicycle can seem daunting, especially in a large city with a hilly terrain. To lessen that burden, Cambridge, Mass.–based Superpedestrian has developed the Copenhagen Wheel, a standard-size wheel—it can be attached to the back of most bicycles—that boasts a rechargeable, battery-powered motor. Depending on rider preferences, entered through a smartphone app, the motor can kick in power throughout the ride or just on hills. Sensors also track road conditions, air temperature and potholes, so cyclists can share real-time information about best routes. “Cities are reaching a limit in terms of how many more cars they can accept,” says Assaf Biderman, founder and CEO of Superpedestrian; indeed, studies like those from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute suggest that the U.S. has reached “peak car.” The Copenhagen Wheel, which has raised more than $6 million (partially through crowdfunding), may help make cycling a more viable alternative.

  • The Seamless Sign-Language Translator

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    MotionSavvy uni / $198+
    Preorder at motionsavvy.com (to ship fall 2015)

    For the millions of deaf people who cannot speak, everyday communication often requires costly human translators and tedious note writing. Enter the Uni, a tablet and attachment that leverages motion-sensing cameras and voice recognition to translate American Sign Language into spoken words—and spoken words into text—in real time. “The need for this is so great,” writes Ryan Hait-Campbell, CEO of San Francisco–based MotionSavvy, who is deaf. Roughly 200 Indiegogo backers agree: the company has raised more than $20,000 to date.

  • The Filter that Fights Ebola

    IMG_0538_sand stick.JPG
    Tara Johnson for TIME

    Developed by Aethlon Medical

    What makes the Ebola virus so frightening is its speed. In a matter of days, it can pump out enough copies of itself to overtake the immune system. But the Hemopurifier, a specially designed cartridge that attaches to a dialysis machine, can tip the balance back in the body’s favor: its lectin filter attracts Ebola viruses and sucks them from the blood as it flows through. It’s been used only once, on a patient in Germany, but it did the trick—effectively curing his Ebola infection. In the future, doctors hope similar tech could be used on viruses like hepatitis.

  • The Selfie Stick (and Hairbrush)

    justin fantl

    If 2013 was the year in which selfie became a buzzword, then 2014 was the year selfies became a cultural phenomenon. Look no further than a recent Pew report, which found that at least a quarter of Americans have shared a selfie on a social-networking site (including Ellen Degeneres, Kim Kardashian and President Obama).

    Sensing a new market, several companies have launched devices designed to streamline the selfie-taking experience. Many of them, like a hairbrush that holds your smartphone, are more goofy than game changing. But the selfie stick (produced by multiple brands), which enables users to position their smartphone beyond arms’ reach to get better photo angles, “adds genuine value,” says Van Baker, a mobile tech analyst at the research firm Gartner. “I’ve seen a lot of people using it.”

  • The AC that Lowers Your Energy Bills

    Amy Lombard for TIME

    Quirky + GE aros / $279
    Available at quirky.com

    Americans spend more than $11 billion each year to blast their homes with air-conditioning, releasing 100 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air. Experts say a sizable portion of that is waste. IT consultant Garthen Leslie realized as much while driving to work last summer in Washington, past rows of empty-looking houses with humming window units that could not be turned on or off remotely. There had to be a better way. “So I sent an idea to Quirky,” he says, referring to the GE-backed site that turns people’s concepts into creations. Four months later, they had a prototype.

    The Aros air conditioner, which has sold nearly 50,000 units since its May 2014 release, is a provocative departure from the familiar window unit. For one thing, it’s elegant, with a sleek white exterior that’s almost Apple-esque. It’s smart too. Thanks to a companion mobile app, Aros can track owners’ movements via GPS and turn itself on and off depending on their proximity to home. It also tells people exactly how much money they’re spending to cool their residences. That’s how Quirky knows it’s working: so far, the company says, Aros owners who use the “smart away” feature that turns the unit on and off automatically have trimmed their energy use by nearly 10%.

  • The Prison Room that Helps Inmates Relax

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    “Blue Room”
    Developed by Snake River Correctional Institution in Oregon

    For 23 hours a day, the 200 inmates in solitary confinement at Oregon’s largest prison see nothing but a tiny, white-walled cell—an experience some research suggests can heighten mental illness and make prisoners prone to suicide attempts and violence. Last year, officials began letting some of them spend their free hour in a first-of-its-kind “blue room,” an exercise space where a projector plays video of open deserts, streaming waterfalls and other outdoor scenes. That imagery, says creator Nalini Nadkarni, who studies how nature affects behavior, is designed to calm prisoners, “much in the way we walk through a park” to relax. Inmates have responded so well that guards now use blue-room time as a way to pre-empt bad behavior.

  • The Tablet Toy that Gets Physical

    justin fantl

    Osmo / $79
    Available at playosmo.com

    Like many kids, Pramod Sharma’s daughter loves the iPad. But “when her face is glued to the screen, six inches away, all day long—I wasn’t too happy,” he says. (Studies have shown that too much screen time can lead to attention problems and obesity.) So the ex-Google engineer and his former colleague, Jérôme Scholler, devised a way to bring virtual play back into the real world. Osmo’s “reflective AI” attachment enables the iPad camera to interpret physical objects—allowing kids to mimic an onscreen pattern with colored tiles, for example, and get rewarded for doing it correctly (while also refining their motor skills). The toy, which debuted in October, has helped Osmo raise $14.5 million in capital and is now being sold in the Apple Store. “Many kids can play at once,” says Sharma, “so it becomes more interactive and imaginative.”

  • The Coaching Basketball

    Justin Fantl for TIME

    94fifty smart sensor / $200
    Available at 94fifty.com

    In sports training, as in business, there’s no more valuable asset than data. That’s why hoops pros use high-tech equipment to monitor everything from passing patterns to fatigue levels. This basketball aims to re-create those perks for casual players. It comes embedded with nine sensors and a Bluetooth chip that sends performance data to a mobile app—allowing players to measure, say, the arc of their jumpshot. If something’s off during game play, the voice of a coach (via the app) can even implore you to “go faster” or “snap your wrist.” “We get excited when we see someone improve,” says Michael Crowley, whose company, InfoMotion Sports Technologies Inc., makes the 94Fifty Smart Sensor. And apparently, that’s happening a lot: Crowley says InfoMotion has sold close to 100,000 balls.

  • Wrappers You Can Eat

    Tara Johnson for TIME

    Wikipearls / $4 for a pack of two
    Available at select Whole Foods

    “Edible wrapper” sounds like an oxymoron—unless you’re WikiFoods founder David Edwards, who has devised a way to encase yogurt, cheese, ice cream and more in shells strong enough to hold their shape (in water, heat and cold) until you take your first bite. The secret lies in science: Each shell is made of particles of dried fruit or other natural substances that are tiny enough to be electrically attracted to one another; they are combined with calcium and sugar to strengthen the form. Though the frozen-yogurt Pearls—the first WikiFoods product to reach mainstream stores, thanks to deals with Stonyfield and Whole Foods—are still packaged in biodegradable bags of two, Edwards’ ultimate goal is to sell them à la carte, like apples or peanuts, in an effort to reduce the world’s packaging waste.

  • Screens that Showcase Digital Art

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    Electric objects / $399 per frame
    Preorder at electricobjects.com

    “There are so many artists” making beautiful works on and for computers, says digital artist Jake Levine, referencing the burgeoning Tumblr community (among others). But putting that art on physical walls has been nearly impossible. Levine’s Electric Objects, which has raised almost $3 million in funding, aims to change that. The sleek, 22-by-13-in. flatscreens are wired specifically to display art. Their brightness dims in tandem with sunlight, and their matte finish blocks glare so they resemble actual paintings. And a companion smartphone app lets users switch what is displayed on a whim—eventually, Levine hopes, from a marketplace full of digital artwork.

  • Action Figures that Empower Girls

    justin fantl

    IAmelemental / $65 for a set of 7
    Available at iamelemental.com

    Studies have shown that girls’ career ambitions can be heavily influenced by their playthings. But when moms Dawn Nadeau and Julie Kerwin started searching for female action figures that were athletic and empowering—as opposed to dolls like Barbie, most of which cannot even bend their limbs—they were dismayed to find … none. (Well, aside from “hypersexualized figures for adult male collectors,” says Nadeau.) So using funds they raised on Kickstarter—$162,906 to be exact, more than quadruple their goal—they designed and commissioned a firm to build their IAmElemental series of action figures, meant to portray women as heroes with strong personalities. Each figure embodies a different “element” of heroism, like persistence or honesty. “The idea that girls could save the world—that’s a very powerful fantasy,” says Nadeau.

    Corrections appended Nov. 20, 2014, to clarify the title of WikiFoods founder David Edwards and funding figures for the Copenhagen Wheel and Electric Objects.

    Read next: 5 Unique Winter Warming Gadgets for Under $50

TIME Pakistan

Dad Sentenced to Death In Pakistan for ‘Honor Killing’ of Daughter

Farzana Parveen was beaten to death in broad daylight outside the High Court in the city of Lahore

Four Pakistani men were sentenced to death Wednesday for the murder of Farzana Parveen, a pregnant woman ostracized by her family for marrying without their approval.

The 25-year-old was slain by her father and three brothers in May for marrying Muhammad Iqbal, a widower from a nearby village, and shunning her cousin to whom she had been betrothed in January.

Infuriated by her act of defiance, Parveen’s father, brother and two cousins assembled and bludgeoned her to death. Hours after the killing, authorities arrested the victim’s father, who told police he killed Parveen to “preserve the family honor,” reports the New York Times.

On Wednesday, a Pakistani court found the four men guilty and sentenced them to death, prosecutor Abdul Samad told journalists. Another cousin will face 10 years in prison for aiding the crime.

While such “honor killings” are known to occur in Pakistan’s rural regions, Parveen’s murder has sparked outrage as it took place in broad daylight and right outside the High Court of Lahore, considered Pakistan’s cultural capital. Parveen had arrived in the city to testify in a lawsuit filed by her family, who insisted Iqbal had kidnapped and forced her into marriage.



TIME Person of the Year Reader’s Poll — Updating Results

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Face-Off: Who Should Be TIME’s Person of the Year?

TIME’s editors will choose the Person of the Year, but that doesn’t mean readers shouldn’t have their say. Cast your vote for the person you think most influenced the news this year for better or worse. Here you’ll find some of the year’s most provocative newsmakers paired head-to-head with similar movers and shakers. You can also vote in our yes/no poll. Read more about the voting methodology here.

Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 6, and the combined winner of our reader polls will be announced on Dec. 8. TIME’s Person of the Year will be announced Dec. 10.

Read next: Vote Now: Who Should Be TIME’s Person of the Year?

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