White House

Barack Obama Just Ate The Best Sushi In The World

President Obama begins his week-long Asia trip by dining with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the world's only three Michelin star sushi restaurant

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed President Barack Obama to Tokyo Wednesday by taking him to the greatest sushi restaurant in the world, the three Michelin star Sukiyabashi Jiro.

The unassuming restaurant is located in the basement of an office building off a subway station and seats just 10 people at a time at a long bar. It is owned and operated by Jiro Ono, who turns 90 next year, who has been learning and perfecting the art of sushi since the age of nine, with Jiro’s eldest son, Yoshikazu Ono, pitching in. Their restaurant was popularized by Anthony Bourdain’s television show No Reservations, and gained mythical status after the 2011 release David Gelb’s documentary film Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

What makes this sushi so good? First off, the ingredients. Each morning Yoshikazu bikes to the Tsukiji fish market to select fish and seafood to his and his father’s exacting standards. In the film, the restaurant’s tuna dealer (they have a prefered vendor for each seafood variety) scoffs at an array of beautiful tuna, “People say there is good quality here today—there is nothing good here today.” Jiro has his own special rice vinegar for the sushi rice. “It has good body and is both mild and sharp,” the restaurant website explains. “Although its degree of vinegar is high, it does not have that pungent smell of vinegar. This is the perfect rice vinegar for sushi.”

Next, there’s the technique. Jiro’s apprentices train for at least ten years, and don’t slice anything until they first learn how to hold the fish. In the film, Jiro explains how he came to prepare the perfect octopus, saying his apprentices used to massage it for 30 minutes before cooking it. Now, it’s massaged for 45 minutes. The seaweed is hand-toasted over charcoals. Jiro or Yoshikazu hand-form each individual dish, applying just the right amount of soy sauce or salt to bring the seafood closer to perfection.

Jiro has spent decades mastering the proper temperature to serve sushi. The rice is maintained at body temperature, while the toppings are kept different ideal temperatures for the specific preparation. The seafood itself could be marinated or aged for days depending on the specific fish to meet Jiro’s standards.

Finally, the experience. While Obama and Abe were in the restaurant for 90 minutes, the average Jiro meal last little more than 20 minutes. Immediately after each bite-sized dish is consumed, the next is placed on the wiped-down plate. The sushi is eaten with your hands, and there’s no additional soy sauce or wasabi to apply. It’s perfection, as determined by Jiro.

There is only one menu at Jiro’s restaurant, his. The 30,000-yen Chef’s Recommended Special Course. And the drink list is spare: beer, or Japanese sake (though tea is also served.) Moreover, getting a seat at the restaurant is notoriously difficult. Reservations are taken one month in advance beginning at the first of the previous month and are usually gone in a matter of hours. At current exchange rates, the quick meal puts a large dent in the wallet, costing nearly $300, though this is down from more than $400 when the dollar was weaker against the Yen.

Joining Obama and Abe were US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and national security adviser Susan Rice. On his way out, Obama told reporters, “That’s some good sushi right there.”

Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: April 23

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

In the News: Obama visits mudslide town, kicks-off Asia trip; Tuesday was a busy day for the Supreme Court; New York Times poll on Southern Senate races; and Rick Perry wants to debate Andrew Cuomo

  • Obama visits Washington town devastated by mudslide [TIME]
  • From CNN: “”I just wanted to let you know that the country is thinking about all of you, and have throughout this tragedy,” the President said. “We’re not going anywhere. We’ll be here as long as it takes.”
  • The President landed in Japan this morning, kicking off his tour of the region. From Reuters: “Obama, who is making the first full state visit to Japan by a U.S. President since 1996, must assuage worries by Tokyo and other allies that his commitment to their defense in the face of an increasingly assertive China is weak, without hurting vital U.S. ties with Asia’s biggest economy.”
  • On your mark, get set, lie: the Supreme Court weighs in about truth in politics [TIME]
  • U.S. Supreme Court upholds Michigan ban on affirmative action [WSJ]
  • From Bloomberg: “The ruling has both symbolic and substantive significance. A decade ago, the University of Michigan won a Supreme Court decision that let institutions across the country continue to use race as an admissions factor. The survival of the voter-approved initiative means that ruling is nullified for the university that secured it.”
  • Another bad day for affirmative action…another good day for the conservative backlash [The New Yorker]
  • How Lindsey Graham outmaneuvered the tea party [Politico]
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry wants to debate New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo [Dallas Morning News]
  • In case you forgot….. [Youtube]
  • From Washington Post: “Perry famously stumbled badly in a debate among Republican presidential candidates in 2011 when he failed to remember the final of the three federak agencies he said he would cut if elected. ‘If anybody’s looking for the slickest politician or the smoothest debater, I readily admit I’m not that person,’ Perry said on ‘Fox & Friends’ after that debate.”
  • “Four Senate races in the South that will most likely determine control of Congress appear very close, with Republicans benefiting from more partisan intensity but a Democratic incumbent, once seen as highly vulnerable, holding a surprising edge, according to a New York Times Upshot/Kaiser Family Foundation poll.” [NYT]
  • GOP Newtown bill hits impasse [The Hill]
  • American reporter held by Ukraine separatists [NYT]
  • Reuters reports: “General Motors Co filed a motion in a U.S. bankruptcy court to enforce a bar on lawsuitsrelated to ignition defects in carssold before its 2009 bankruptcy as it fights a class action lawsuit that seeks to set aside the restriction. The plaintiffs also filed a class action lawsuit on Monday, seeking an order declaring that GM cannot use the bankruptcy protection to absolve itself from liabilities.”
  • Another from TIME’s interactive master : Obama thinks he can rank colleges. Can you do better?

 

 

 

 

 

Asia

Obama Lands in Tokyo On First Stop in Asia Tour

President Obama walks off Air Force One as he arrives at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, on April 23, 2014.
President Obama walks off Air Force One as he arrives at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, on April 23, 2014. Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images

He begins a week-long tour of Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and the Philippines to reassure allies and position the U.S. as a regional leader

President Barack Obama arrived in Tokyo Wednesday evening on the first stop in a four-country tour intended to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to its Pacific allies.

Obama will be visiting South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines in addition to Japan, CNN reports, as the United States tries to position itself as a counterbalance to China’s growing economic strength in the region.

The President will seek to further progress on a trade deal with Japan, and will dine with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Wednesday at the famous Sukiyabashi Jiro, where food service lasts 20 minutes and costs around $292 per head. He will visit an innovation center in Kuala Lumpur and negotiate a new agreement that could boost the United States’ military presence in the region in the Philippines.

Obama’s long-touted “pivot to Asia” ran into obstacles last year when the president canceled a trip to visit Pacific allies amidst the debt ceiling debacle. Since then, distractions including the Iran nuclear talks, the civil war in Syria and unrest in Ukraine have hampered Obama’s aim to exert U.S. influence in the region.

With the current transportation disasters in Asia—the sinking of the South Korean ferry, and the disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines flight—Obama is entering a region engrossed with its own domestic problems. “The South Korea visit could really be overshadowed by the ferry,” an unnamed senior administration official told the New York Times.

[CNN]

Education

Obama Thinks He Can Rate Colleges. Can You Do Better? (Interactive)

See how colleges stack up based on what you think is most important in a school

Last year, the Obama Administration announced a plan to assess schools on how well they serve their students, based on metrics like graduation rate, tuition, and the percentage of students who receive Pell Grants, the federally funded scholarships for low-income families. For a system that has yet to be put in place, the White House’s college ratings have created a great deal of panic.

To see how those ratings might play out, TIME gathered data for 2,500 college and universities and ranked them according to the proposed metrics. But we’ve left it to you to adjust how important each of those metrics should be. Adjust the sliders, and watch the the schools reshuffle.

As Haley Sweetland Edwards notes in the most recent issue of TIME, many college presidents are convinced that the ratings proposed by the Obama administration would fail to capture the value of their schools. The White House insists that far too many sub-par schools are cashing in on federal student loans and leaving their students in the lurch.

The White House is proposing to take a bunch a date of data about schools and determine a rank for each. This would produce an algorithm that functions in many ways like Google’s ranking of Web pages. In the case of search engines, the exact nature of this algorithm is a secret. The White House’s algorithm will presumably not be secret, meaning it will be quite easy for schools to game the system.

That sounds like a bad thing, but it doesn’t have to be. When algorithms work well, they reward good behavior. In the same way that the Google algorithm rewards sites that offer clear descriptions of the content and coherent navigation, a good college ranking algorithm could inspire schools to offer better grants to those who can’t afford the tuition and provide help for those at risk of dropping out. A poorly designed algorithm, meanwhile, could incentivize them to shut out students who have lower statistical odds of graduating.

The interactive at the top of this article presents a simplified rating system based on three qualities the White House has mentioned: Graduation rate, accessibility and affordability. For accessibility, the interactive uses the percentage of students who receive Pell Grants. For affordability, we’ve used the net cost paid by families who makes less than $110,000 a year and receive some form of aid.

By rewarding both accessibility and graduation rate, this system corners one of the trickiest problems facing schools looking to climb the rankings: Students from low-income backgrounds are statistically less likely to graduate. The most expedient way for a school to boost its graduate rate would be not to admit students in this cohort. Doing so, however, would theoretically hurt the school in the accessibility category more than it boosted the school in the graduation category, resulting in a drop in the ratings. At least, this is how a good White House algorithm would work. Fine-tuning the formula to work as advertised would require a sophisticated statistical analysis of the data. In the meantime, you can drag the sliders around to see which schools would rise to the top given existing numbers.

Methodology

All data comes from the Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Each school is evaluated according to its six-year graduation rate, the percentage of full-time, first-time undergraduates receiving Pell grants and the net cost for students receiving any form of aid whose families make less than $110,000 a year. That figure is calculated by TIME as the weighted average net cost for students in each of the Department of Education’s reported income brackets. Where that data is not available, overall net cost (tuition and fees minus grants and scholarships) is used.

These three data points are standardized, so that each school’s score is the number of standard deviations above or below the mean. The app then adjusts these values according to the position of the sliders, sums the square roots of those values, and takes the square of the sum. (A detailed discussion of that method is available here.)

The classifications of schools come from the Carnegie classification system. Schools without a Carnegie class are not included.

Courts

On Your Mark, Get Set, Lie: Supreme Court Weighs Truth in Politics

The Supreme Court in Washington, DC, seen in 2013.
The Supreme Court in Washington, DC, seen in 2013. Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images

The justices appear ready ahead of the midterm elections later this year to knock down laws in 16 states that aim to prevent lying in political races, likely claiming they violate the First Amendment's guarantees of free speech

With the 2014 midterm elections fast approaching, the Supreme Court faced an urgent task on Tuesday: making it safe for America’s politicians to lie.

Ohio and 15 other states have laws trying to prevent lies during political campaigns, and by all appearances the Supreme Court can’t wait to knock them down for violating the First Amendment’s guarantees of free speech. But to their evident frustration, the Justices haven’t yet had the chance. Of the 500 or so anti-lie proceedings initiated between 2001 and 2010 under Ohio’s law, only three charges ultimately have been brought, all of them settled out of court.

So the argument at the Supreme Court on Tuesday was mostly about whether the Ohio election commission had squelched political speech in the upcoming midterm elections by finding four years ago that there was probable cause to believe the antiabortion group Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List was preparing to lie in political ads during the 2010 elections.

At this point, nobody much wants to contest whether SBA List actually was lying when it said in a proposed billboard ad that then Democratic Congressman Steven Driehaus had supported taxpayer-funded abortions by voting for Obamacare. More important is the fact that the billboard company refused to run the ad after Driehaus threatened to sue under the Ohio law.

SBA List’s lawyer, the redoubtable Michael Carvin, argued on Tuesday that the group has a right to bring a First Amendment case challenging the Ohio law now even though Driehaus dropped his threat to sue after he lost the 2010 election. Carvin said the Ohio commission’s determination of probable cause was a “credible threat” that SBA List would face punishment if they used the same campaign language against other pro-Obamacare candidates in the coming election season.

The Justices seemed inclined to agree. Antonin Scalia intoned ominously about the chilling presence of a “Ministry of Truth.” Anthony Kennedy was suspicious of the Ohio commission’s power to quiz political groups about their members and operations. Democratic appointees Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg all peppered the resilient young lawyer for the state of Ohio, Eric Murphy, with questions about how the Ohio law potentially suppressed speech.

Politics has always been essentially inseparable from lies — everyone from Plato and Machiavelli to Leo Strauss and Hannah Arendt have defended the value of lying in politics — so it’s not surprising the Ohio law faces an uncertain future. If a democracy is weak enough that state officials have to take the place of voters and the press in determining whether politicians are lying, the experiment in self-government is probably in trouble.

At least that appeared to be the undertone of the arguments at the Supreme Court on Tuesday. And given the Justices’ repeated sympathies for SBA List’s arguments about the urgency presented by the coming midterm elections, a ruling in favor of the group seems likely before the court adjourns in June.

Military

As the Wars End, Changes Come in Training Troops to Notify Families of Military Deaths

Army photo

Battlefield deaths decline, but military still has to bring grim news

The wars are nearly over. So it is time for the U.S. military to reboot for one of its most somber tasks: Telling next-of-kin their loved one has died in the service of his or her country.

Over the past 13 years, casualty-notification officers have had to take that long walk up to a family’s front door, and make that dreaded knock that changes everything, 6,803 times.

But with battlefield deaths down to a trickle, the Marines are seeking a new video to help train its Casualty Assistance Calls Officers (each service has its own title for the job) for a future where more will die in peacetime accidents than combat. “The current scenario is 100% war-related,” the corps says in a notice posted Tuesday. “A more current version is required to meet today’s situations.”

The Marines say they want their new training video to include cases involving:

  • Marine’s death due to a training incident
  • Dual active-duty spouse with complicated marital issues
  • Divorced Parents
  • Dealing with children
  • Updated grief/trauma awareness
  • Self-care for CACOs

That last one is critical. This is a tough mission, where raw human emotions run the gamut.

“I’ve picked family members off the floor,” Army chaplain Captain Gregory Broderick said in an Army News Service story last month. “I’ve sat and held them as they’ve rocked and cried… I did one recently where they kicked us out of the house. They were so mad, not at us but at their son,” he confided. “I’ve been spit on as well.”

“You’ve caught them at their worst day,” added Army Major Mark East, the top chaplain at the service’s Human Resources Command.

With the war in Iraq over for more than two years, and with the shrinking number of U.S. combat troops still in Afghanistan slated to leave by year’s end (a total of 33,000 remain), the number of those killed in battle, thankfully, is way down (17 so far this year). March marked the first month without war casualties in 11 years (unfortunately, April won’t be the second).

When casualties spiked in Iraq in 2006, some families criticized the way the military informed them of their relatives’ deaths. That led Congress to demand additional training for those making the notifications, and detailed Pentagon regulations on how it is to be done.

Army Major Brent Fogleman did casualty notifications around that time, after a stint in Afghanistan. The notification job was “by far, yes” his toughest assignment. “There were some guys that couldn’t do it… if they couldn’t do it we didn’t want them to do it,” he said. “That’s not something you cannot do well.”

Families used to learn of their loved one’s fate in terse “regret to inform you” telegrams. That changed in Vietnam, when the Army began dispatching casualty-notification officers and chaplains to deliver the sad news personally.

The service now gives its casualty-notification teams four hours to get to that front door after the Army’s personnel shop has received word of a death. These days, they’re in a race to that door with Facebook and Twitter. They usually, but not always, win.

Environment

Spending Earth Day at Ground Zero for Climate Change In America

We’ve all seen the iconic Blue Marble photo of the earth from space, the image that launched a thousand nature essays, but Bill Nelson and Piers Sellers are among the few people who have enjoyed that perspective on the planet in the flesh. Nelson is now a U.S. Senator from Florida, Sellers is a top NASA science official, and this morning, at an Earth Day hearing in my Miami Beach neighborhood, I got to hear the two former astronauts reminisce about the view from 10 million feet.

Senator Nelson recalled the color contrasts in the Amazon that illuminated the growth of deforestation. “The earth looked so beautiful, so alive—and yet so fragile,” he said. “It made me want to be a better steward of what the good Lord gave us—and yet we continue to mess it up.” Dr. Sellers remembered catching a glimpse of the Florida peninsula between his boots during a spacewalk. When you go around the world in ninety minutes, he said, you realize it’s a very small world.

“My take-home impression was that we inhabit a very beautiful but delicate planet,” said Sellers, a meteorologist who is NASA’s deputy director for science and exploration. “And the dynamic engine of planet Earth is the climate system that allows all life here to prosper and grow, including us humans.”

Now that climate is changing, and as Nelson said at the start of the South Florida hearing: “This is Ground Zero.” Scientists have documented that the seas along the Florida coastline have risen five to eight inches over the last fifty years, and Biscayne Bay now floods the streets of my neighborhood just about every month at high tide. “It’s real. It’s happening here,” Nelson said. “Yet some of my colleagues in the Senate continue to deny it.”

It is real, and it’s already a problem in my low-lying part of the world. Saltwater intrusion is increasing in the freshwater Everglades, which is causing problems for farmers in southern Miami-Dade County, and will make the government’s $15 billion Everglades restoration project even more expensive. The Army Corps of Engineers has estimated that over the next fifty years, Miami-Dade’s beaches will need about 23 million cubic yards of new sand to deal with erosion. Mayor Philip Levine says Miami Beach alone plans to spend $400 million to upgrade drainage infrastructure to prepare for a warmer world. The Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change’s “likely scenario” for 2010 includes seas rising as much as three feet; our county has $38 billion worth of property at three feet elevation or less. And while it’s too early to tie any particular storm to climate change, all the models predict more intense hurricanes coming through the Sunshine State. “The risk posed by coastal flooding is indisputably growing,” testified Megan Linkin, a natural hazards specialist at the reinsurance giant Swiss Re.

That’s incorrect. The risks posed by climate change, while real, are not at all indisputable. Lots of people, including most Republican politicians in Washington, still dispute them. As Senator Nelson said after the hearing, even Republican politicians in coastal areas—he cited Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina—rarely acknowledge the danger their constituents face from rising seas. “That would not be a popular topic in a Republican primary,” Nelson said.

But as Dr. Sellers pointed out, the IPCC believes the main cause of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels. And as Senator Nelson pointed out, it will take government action—he mentioned the possibility of a carbon tax—to reduce the burning of fossil fuels. “Otherwise, the planet will continue to heat up,” Nelson said.

Unfortunately, there is no chance of Congress passing a carbon tax anytime in the foreseeable future. President Obama couldn’t even get a cap-and-trade program through Congress when Democrats controlled both houses. Global warming has no juice as a political issue; people don’t think it really affects their lives.

That’s why Nelson held a hearing here at global warming’s Ground Zero, to try to show that global warming is already affecting lives. It was worth a shot, I guess. South Florida isn’t as threatened as those vanishing Pacific islands, but it’s basically America’s canary in the coal mine. Maybe my neighborhood’s outrage over the monthly lake in our Whole Foods parking lot will help spark a broader movement for change.

I doubt it, though. I get the political instinct to boil issues down to How It Can Affect You, but climate change is so urgent and invisible that if Congress has to wait for it to affect most Americans in tangible ways before taking action, Congress will be too late. Burning rivers and disappearing eagles helped build support for laws like the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act; rising temperatures—all of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since 1998—and extreme events like Superstorm Sandy don’t seem to be having much of a political impact. President Obama has helped launch a clean energy revolution, and he will soon propose new regulations on carbon emissions, but the public has shown little interest in the issue.

Ultimately, the local argument against climate change—it might flood your neighborhood—seems a lot less compelling than the global argument, the Blue Marble argument. This is a nice earth. It’s our home. It’s the only planet with ice cream and the Everglades and the NBA playoffs. We should try not to mess it up.

“Spaceflight allows one to stand back, or float, and literally take in the big picture,” Dr. Sellers said in his testimony. It’s a perspective we sometimes overlook back here on Earth. Otherwise, we might decide to stop broiling it.

 

Law

California Bill Banning ‘Affluenza’ Defense Is Nixed

Ethan Couch
In this image taken from a video by KDFW-FOX 4, Ethan Couch is seen during his court hearing in December 2013 AP

California legislators shot down a bill that would have created the country's first ban on using the "affluenza" (rich kids don't know better) defense. It was introduced after a wealthy Texas teen got probation for killing four people and injuring others in a drunk-driving accident

California lawmakers on Tuesday killed legislation that would ban the use of the “affluenza” defense, stopping what would have been the first such ban in the nation.

State assemblyman Mike Gatto introduced the bill after a wealthy Texas teenager was given only probation last year for killing four people and injuring others in a drunk-driving accident. His lawyers successfully argued that he had been so coddled by his affluent parents that he couldn’t be expected to appreciate the rules of law or the consequences of his actions. The sentence sparked outrage, seen by many as an obscene example of privilege begetting privilege and inequity in the justice system.

“In our justice system, people who have means already have advantages,” Gatto said in introducing the bill before a legislative committee. “They have access to the better lawyers, they have access to better relationships and they know how the system works. And the idea of a defendant saying that a life of privilege and an upbringing of means somehow makes that defendant absolve him or herself of personal responsibility for a heinous act really is insulting to the intelligence of just about everybody who interacts with the justice system, and those of us who care about making sure that the justice system is blind.”

Gatto’s bill originally defined the notion of affluenza as the argument that a “defendant may not have understood the consequences of his or her actions because he or she was raised in an affluent or overly permissive household.” One issue raised by other lawmakers on the committee was the use of the phrase overly permissive, which some worried could apply to poor children with absentee parents as much as a rich kid who got to do whatever he wanted.

Opponents of the bill, though sympathetic to its intent, argued that it’s generally not a good idea to put limitations on legal defenses, that the bill presumed a jury couldn’t determine on its own the worth of a defense, and that such restrictions may prevent certain facts from coming forward during a trial.

Gatto also refused to accept an amendment supported by the chair of the committee, assemblyman Tom Ammiano, who wanted to build exceptions and affirmations of constitutional protections into the bill. “We are trying to prohibit the affluenza defense,” Gatto said, adding that he had “real heartburn” about writing “into the statute all the times where the defense could be used.”

Before voting against the bill, Ammiano, a Democrat, said he would have preferred Gatto accept the amendments offered by the committee. The two Republicans on the committee voted to support the bill, and the rest of the members, all Democrats, abstained. Those abstentions essentially counting as nay votes, the measure failed. The ban would have prohibited the use of affluenza as a defense or a mitigating factor in sentencing. Gatto, a Los Angeles–area Democrat, has said that while the high-profile case happened in Texas, he was attempting to be “proactive” in California.

In June 2013, Texas teenager Ethan Couch stole beer from a Walmart, drank enough for his blood-alcohol content to be three times the legal limit, got in his pickup truck, lost control and sped it into a group of people who were helping a woman with a stalled car on the side of the road near Fort Worth. Four people died. Others, including many crammed into his vehicle, were injured. Thanks in part to a psychologist who argued that Couch’s wealth was so extreme he couldn’t separate right from wrong, the then 16-year-old was given 10 years’ probation and ordered to attend rehab for the intoxication manslaughter and assault charges. In February, Judge Jean Boyd reaffirmed that sentence in a private hearing, denying prosecutors’ second request for 20 years in prison.

At the end of the committee hearing on Tuesday, the possibility of “reconsideration” was raised, meaning Gatto might bring his bill before the committee again at another time. But that would likely require a compromise that lawmakers did not appear ready to make on Tuesday.

Courts

Supreme Court Cloudy on Aereo Streaming TV Case

Chet Kanojia, founder and CEO of Aereo, Inc., stands next to a server array of antennas in New York, Dec. 20, 2012.
Chet Kanojia, founder and CEO of Aereo, Inc., stands next to a server array of antennas in New York, Dec. 20, 2012. Bebeto Matthews—AP

The justices considered arguments around a tech startup that is capturing free over-the-air broadcast signals and selling them to consumers on the cheap, without paying networks the hefty retransmission fees they get from cable companies

There was a lot of talk Tuesday at the Supreme Court about the future of television—how we will watch it, how we will pay for it, and whether, crucially, the old broadcast model will be blown up for good. While such rhetoric is usually overwrought, in this particular case—American Broadcasting Companies vs. Aereo—it’s actually justified. If the court decides in favor of Aereo, a small, Brooklyn-based TV-streaming tech startup, it could have the effect of destroying traditional broadcasters’ business model, and fundamentally reshaping the way the TV industry operates.

Aereo captures free, over-the-air TV signals with thousands of small antennas that are rented to individual users, and it transmits that content to customers online for a small monthly fee—without paying broadcasters the so-called retransmission fees cable companies pay them to provide their channels to cable customers. While Aereo founder Chet Kanojia has publicly tussled with the big broadcasters over whether such a disruption is good for consumers—Kanojia says it will free viewers from pricey cable bills but the big broadcasters disagree—the Supreme Court on Tuesday homed in on another question entirely. Namely, this one: If it’s legal for someone to put bunny ear antennae on his roof and watch TV for free, and it’s legal for him to record that free TV onto a DVR (or an old school Sony Betamax VCR, for that matter) so he can watch it again later with friends, then does it matter, from a legal perspective, whether he actually owns that antennae, or that he is in possession of a physical DVR?

The antennae farm across town and a “DVR” based in the cloud, Aereo argues, are legally no different from the old antenna and VCR.

ABC, backed by CBS, NBC, FOX, and the U.S. Justice Department, says: not so fast. They argue that by capturing copyrighted television programming and then transmitting it back to thousands, or tens of thousands, of users, Aereo is acting exactly like a cable company and should pay retransmission fees.

The justices didn’t offer much in the way of clues as to how they might rule during hour-long oral arguments Tuesday. A ruling is expected in the summer.

Aereo’s lawyer David C. Frederick insisted repeatedly Tuesday that the company does not “perform” anything; it is nothing more than an “equipment provider.” ABC’s lawyer, Paul D. Clement, scoffed at the idea. Of course Aereo is “performing,” he said; to suggest otherwise “is just crazy.” Clement argued that Aereo—by essentially plucking copyrighted material out of the sky, selling access to that copyrighted material back to subscribers, and refusing to pay copyright royalties—is attempting to “get something for nothing. … It’s like magic.”

The justices’ questioning returned repeatedly to the implications that any decision on this case will have for cloud computing as a whole. If an individual downloads a video onto the cloud using a popular application, like Dropbox or iCloud, and then accesses it later and watches it on his computer, then does that also amount to, as Justice Elena Kagan asked, “public performance?” Both Aereo and ABC appeared to agree that an individual user of the cloud should not be required to pay royalties when he watches, say, an episode of The Sopranos that he has already purchased.

Clement urged the justices not to try not to “solve the problem of the cloud once and for all” in this one case. He instead attempted to steer the discussion toward what he characterized as a common sense interpretation of copyright law.

Frederick, by contrast, relished the cloud debate, warning the justices that if they decide in favor of the big broadcasters, they run the risk of fundamentally undermining the business model of the cloud. “If you turn every playback into a ‘public performance,’” he said, that will have “huge implications” for cloud-based businesses.

“The court’s decision today will have significant consequences for cloud computing,” Frederick said in a statement following oral arguments. “We’re confident, cautiously optimistic, based on the way the hearing went today that the Court understood that a person watching over-the-air broadcast television in his or her home is engaging in a private performance and not a public performance that would implicate the Copyright Act.”

Military

Gen. Stanley McChrystal Pens Blog On How He Survived Being Fired

“The uniform I’d first donned as a 17-year old plebe at West Point, the uniform of my father, grandfather, and brothers, was no longer mine to wear,” he wrote.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has admitted having a crisis of identity after getting fired from the U.S. Army by Barack Obama in 2010, saying he bounced back by thinking creatively about the skills he learned in 38-plus years as a soldier.

“There is only one Army in which you serve,” McChrystal wrote in a blog posted on LinkedIn Tuesday. “When that identity is gone, it is gone forever. For me, it was gone in an instant, and on terms that I could never have imagined.”

McChrystal was the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan when, in June 2010, Rolling Stone ran an article depicting McChrystal and aides poking fun at top civilian leadership in the United States, including Vice President Joe Biden. In the article, by the late Michael Hastings, McChrystal says Obama looked “uncomfortable and intimidated” when in the presence of military brass.

“I boarded a flight immediately, returning from Afghanistan to Washington, D.C. to address the issue with our Nation’s leadership. Less than 24 hours later I walked out of the Oval Office and in an instant, a profession that had been my life’s passion and focus came to an end,” McChrystal wrote Tuesday.

At the time of the incident, McChrystal apologized publicly for the incident, saying “I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened.” But in his LinkedIn post Tuesday, the general describes his portrayal in Hastings’ piece as being as “unfamiliar as it was unfair,” suggesting he now disputes the article.

McChrystal says he recovered from the shock of the incident by re-thinking the skills he had amassed in his decades as a soldier. “Like leaders in many walks of life, my business has been to serve with, and for, others,” he said. “By focusing on this simple truth, and allowing it to guide my decisions through a difficult time, this curveball ultimately opened as many doors as it closed.” Since leaving the Army McChrystal has started a company, hit the speaking circuit and taught at Yale.

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