TIME obituary

Outrage After Top Female Author Called ‘Overweight’ and ‘Plain’ in Obituary

Peter Carrette Archive Collection
Australian author Colleen McCullough in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Aug. 31, 2000 in Sydney, Australia Peter Carrette Archive—Getty Images

Australian author Colleen McCullough, 77, did not receive the laurels she was due by one newspaper

Acclaimed Thorn Birds author Colleen McCullough, who died Wednesday at the age of 77, received a detailed obituary Thursday in the Australian newspaper, which chose to honor her passing by describing her as “plain of feature” and “certainly overweight.”

Despite penning the highest-selling novel in Australia’s history, McCullough’s obituary opened with disparaging remarks on her appearance. This prompted fans to vent fury via Twitter at the sexist characterization of the author’s life and grave oversight of her career accomplishments, including teaching at Yale Medical School and writing a novel selling over 30 million copies around the world.

TIME Transportation

Fake Twitter Bomb Threats to Airlines On the Rise

An American Airlines plane is seen at the Miami International Airport in Miami in 2013.
Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Tweeted threats have disrupted at least sixteen flights in the past five days

Airline bomb threats on Twitter have disrupted at least sixteen flights in the past five days, prompting new concerns about aviation security — and the way pranksters can cause serious trouble with social media.

Most recently, an American Airlines flight landed in Chicago safely Tuesday after a tweet claiming to be from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) claimed there was a bomb on board, USA Today reports.

That same day, another (now suspended) Twitter account called @RansomTheThug also claimed there was a bomb aboard a United Airlines flight that had already been canceled days earlier due to blizzard concerns. “In terms of the quantity of threats we’re seeing now, you just haven’t seen it,” Glen Winn, former head of security at United Airlines and Northwest Airlines, said.

But as was the case with the 14-year-old Dutch girl who threatened American Airlines as a joke last year, not every tweet is serious. “In the history of aviation sabotage, I don’t believe there’s ever been a threat called in where there’s actually been a bomb,” Douglas Laird, a former security director at Northwest Airlines, said.

Still, all threats are taken seriously and evaluated by airline security according to confidential criteria. Airlines are also required to report threats to Transportation Security Administration.

[USA Today]

TIME Environment

The Senate Discovers Climate Change!

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Never noticed that before: Welcome to the conversation, Senators Image Source RF/Ditto; Getty

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

A landslide vote brings Congress's upper chamber into the 21st century—a little

Correction appended, January 24

Surely by now you’ve heard the big news: On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate—The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body Except For the Fact That it Never Really Deliberates Anything—passed a landmark resolution declaring that “climate change is real and is not a hoax.” The proposal passed by a nail-bitingly close vote of 98-1. Only Mississippi’s Roger Wicker, who heads the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, voted no.

The landslide victory thrilled the green community, especially since it included such anti-science paleoliths as Oklahoma’s James Inhofe and Florida’s Marco (“I’m not a scientist, man”) Rubio. But let’s not get carried away. For one thing, voting to acknowledge a fact that virtually every other sentient human on the planet long ago accepted is a little like passing a bill that declares, “Gravity is real” or “Fire make man hurt.” Not exactly groundbreaking.

What’s more, there was only so far the newly enlightened GOP was willing to go. Votes on two other measures—one that declared “climate change is real and human activity contributes significantly to climate change,” and one that made essentially the same point but without the word “significantly”—were blocked by Republican maneuvering. What’s more, the weak tea version of the resolution that did pass—sponsored by Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse—made it through only because it was a rider to the Keystone XL pipeline legislation. At this point, Republicans would likely approve a Puppies For Lunch rider if it would get Keystone passed.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, among the greenest of the greenies, responded to the GOP’s grudging concession with something less than unalloyed enthusiasm. “From Know-Nothingism to Do-Nothingism in the U.S. Senate,” it declared in a news release. And indeed, the 98 brave men and women who stepped forward to go on record with a statement of the patently obvious have given absolutely no indication that they are actually prepared to do anything about that obvious thing.

The GOP’s big wins in November certainly don’t make them more inclined to yield on what has become a central pillar of party dogma. But if science—to say nothing of the health of the planet—can’t move them, they should at least consider the unsavory company their fringe position is increasingly causing them to keep. Writing in The New York Times, Paul Krugman addressed climate deniers, supply-siders and foes of the Affordable Care Act as one counterfactual whole—people who are fixed in their positions no matter what the objective evidence shows. That may or may not be too wide a net to cast, but Krugman is right on one score:

If you’ve gotten involved in any of these debates, you know that these people aren’t happy warriors; they’re red-faced angry, with special rage directed at know-it-alls who snootily point out that the facts don’t support their position.

Krugman offers any number of explanations for this, with which reasonable people can agree or disagree, but his larger point—of an ideological cohort animated by rage as much as anything else—certainly feels right. I see it regularly in that least scientific but most pointed place of all, my Twitter feed. I’ve crossed swords with the anti-vaccine crowd more than once, and while some of them have found a way to be savagely nasty in the 140 characters they’re allowed, most of the anger is civil. They’re fretful and, I believe, foolish to have been duped by anti-scientific rubbish, but they’re at least fit for inclusion in the public square.

Not so the climate-deniers, who hurl spluttery insults, fill their feeds with the usual swill about President Barack Obama’s suspicious birthplace and the conspiratorial doings across the border in Mexico, and link to risible idiocy about how the global warming “conspiracy” is a “ploy to make us poorer,” whose real purpose is “to redistribute wealth from the first world to the third, an explicit goal of UN climate policy.”

Yes. Of course. Because it’s harder to believe in science than it is to believe that there’s a four-decade plot afoot that virtually every country in the world has signed onto, dragging virtually every scientist in the world along with them—none of whom have ever had a crisis of conscience or spilled the beans in a bar or simply decided to sell the whole sordid story to the press—and that only a rump faction in the U.S. knows the truth. Makes perfect sense.

If the Senate, even reluctantly, has made the tiniest baby step toward rational thought, that’s undeniably a good thing. “It starts by admitting you have a problem, just like many other areas of human life,” Whitehouse told The Hill. Outside the Senate chamber, however, in the country that is second only to coal-soiled China in CO2 emissions, the ugly, vein-in-the-temple anger remains. The GOP can continue to make common cause with this nasty crowd or, if it chooses, can finally, clear-headedly rejoin the ranks of reason.

An earlier version of this story misstated the name of the Natural Resources Defense Council

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Social Networking

Twitter Buys Indian Mobile Marketing Startup

Zipdial allows people without internet connection to get advertisements and promotions on their cellphones

Twitter is buying an India-based mobile marketing startup for an undisclosed sum, as it seeks to attract users in the developing world.

The Bangalore-based ZipDial allows consumers interested in a company’s services to dial its number and hang up before connecting. The company then sends them free text messages, app notifications and voice calls containing advertisements. The so-called “missed call” marketing means users aren’t charged for the service, because their initial call never connects.

Twitter will use ZipDial to reach consumers who aren’t connected to the Internet. ZipDial’s campaigns have reached nearly 60 million users, the Wall Street Journal reports, and could be used to reach users in Indonesia and Brazil. The company has 56 employees.

Consumers in countries like India, Brazil and Indonesia with developing Internet infrastructures are key markets for Twitter, and 77% of the social network’s 284 million monthly active users are outside the United States.

“By coming together with ZipDial, we’ll help more people around the world enjoy great and relevant Twitter experiences on their mobile phones,” Twitter said in a statement.

TIME White House

How Twitter Changed the State of the Union

President Harry S. Truman delivering the State of the Union address in 1948.
President Harry S. Truman delivering the State of the Union address in 1948. Frank Scherschel—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

In the age of Facebook and Twitter, the strategy for the marquee address has shifted

The theatrics are tradition, so the speech may seem the same. On Tuesday night, Barack Obama will saunter down the center aisle of the House chamber, take the rostrum and deliver the annual State of the Union address. There will be robed justices in the front pews, a laundry list of policy proposals, a few tales about the heroic acts of ordinary Americans. On television, the ritual still summons all the pageantry the presidency can muster.

But what’s the true state of the State of the Union? Not quite as strong as the speech once was. The rise of social media, the proliferation of mobile devices and an audience whose attention is divided between multiple screens have sapped some of its power.

The State of the Union is still the singular example of the presidential bully pulpit. But the White House knows the clout of the speech has diminished. The 2014 State of the Union drew 33.3 million television viewers, nearly 20 million less than the audience that tuned into Obama’s first address in 2009. Many of them undoubtedly had one eye on Obama and the other on Facebook or Twitter, where live commentary can influence impressions of a performance. Still others watched it online later.

As a result, Obama’s team has tailored their State of the Union strategy to fit the shrinking power of a prime-time event in the age of social media. Last year the administration implored its supporters to watch the speech on a White House website. For this “enhanced experience,” Obama’s oratory was supplemented by a battery of charts, graphs and data points, which viewers could share with their social networks. For the White House, which has seized upon new methods to circumvent the press, it was a way to mute the blathering cable pundits and deliver an unfiltered message.

This year brings new wrinkles. A coveted post-speech interview in the Oval Office was given to three YouTube stars, who solicited questions from the president’s supporters. And in an acknowledgement that a single speech won’t carry the message, the White House has been dropping “spoilers” throughout January.

Instead of unveiling a raft of new policies on Tuesday, Obama traveled to Michigan to tout the manufacturing sector’s revival, talked the housing market’s rebound in Arizona and plugged his plan to make community college free in Tennessee. The White House built a microsite to showcase many of the policies the president will propose Tuesday, on topics as diverse as broadband Internet and thawing relations with Cuba.

“The awareness that the State of the Union doesn’t count for what it used to produces innovation,” says Jeff Shesol, a presidential speechwriter in the Clinton administration. “The White House is putting less weight on the speech as the centerpiece of their strategy.”

Obama’s top aides say they were forced to adapt by the din of the churning news cycle. “The environment is so cluttered that if you don’t spread out your initiatives and unveil them in channels where people already are, like Facebook or Upworthy, then they’re just going to get lost in the discussion,” Dan Pfeiffer, Obama’s senior adviser, told the Associated Press. “The nature of the experience is different.”

If the media strategy has changed, the process of crafting the speech remains as arduous as before. The task of drafting it begins as early as Thanksgiving, and the speech often goes through more than 20 drafts. Various wonks and advisers from across the government weigh in on structure, language and theme, while the writers struggle to alchemize a laundry list of priorities into lucid prose. Once the text is nearly settled, the president will practice the speech multiple times in the days leading up to the address. During these run-throughs, aides will mark the lines they want to blast out over social media during and after the address.

But if social media has reshaped the rollout strategies, the pillars of a sharp State of the Union speech are the same. You need a clear platform, a theme that carries the argument, and the ability to convert arcane policy into sparkling rhetoric. The principles of good writing, from memorable metaphors to economy of language, are timeless.

“Technology changes, but the power of words doesn’t,” says Peter Wehner, a presidential speechwriter under George W. Bush. “Look back to Lincoln. His best lines would fit on Twitter.”

TIME U.K.

Prince William, Kate and Prince Harry Now Have Their Own Twitter Account

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry are embracing social media

The royals have arrived — on Twitter that is.

The Twitter account @KensingtonRoyal was launched on Wednesday, describing itself in its Twitter bio as an account for “Updates, pictures and videos from Kensington Palace, about The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and their Royal Foundation.”

The account isn’t the first royal one out there. The account @BritishMonarchy has been around since 2009 and it sends out news and updates from Buckingham Palace on much of the royal family. The account @ClarenceHouse appeared in 2010 and sends out news on Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. Those accounts are verified — unlike the new one for Wills, Kate and Harry — and wasted no time in welcoming the young royal account to Twitter.

Unfortunately for rabid fans of the royals, the account won’t likely be run by either of the princes or Kate so don’t expect anything too revealing. Of course, there may be the rare occassion when one of the royals actually types out a tweet themselves.

TIME Football

An NFL Player Is Going to a High School Prom

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Emmanuel Acho during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz. on Oct. 26, 2014.
Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Emmanuel Acho during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz. on Oct. 26, 2014. Christian Petersen—Getty Images

After he challenged a fan to get 10,000 retweets

The Eagles’ Emmanuel Acho made an interesting decision on Thursday. Approached with a direct message on Instagram, a fan asked Acho if he would take her to prom if she got 2,000 retweets on Twitter.

Acho thought about it and offered a steeper challenge: 10,000 retweets, and he would do it.

The linebacker apparently thought this feat would be a lot more difficult than it turned out to be. He told the fan that he was going to Hong Kong for a week, and that she had a whole week to get the retweets.

Just a few hours later, the challenge had been met, leaving Acho, a man of his word, to tweet the following:

The fan has since protected her Twitter account, but you can see a screenshot of her original tweet here.

A lesson for all: Don’t open Instagram direct messages, or you’ll end up going to high school proms.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME technology

7 Tips for Upping Your Social Media Game in 2015

Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick are the co-authors of The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users.

How to increase influence and gain followers

Less carbohydrates? Check. More exercise? Check. Now for the really important stuff: upping your social-media game. Social media–whether Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram—is here to stay and will remain important to enhancing your personal and professional relationships. Here are 7 things you can do to improve your social-media-facing face:

  1. Fix your avatar. Your avatar is the first thing that people judge. It should be your face, in focus, lit from the front, and asymmetrical. Don’t crop your face from a large, crappy cell phone picture. The purpose of an avatar is to convince people that you are likable, trustworthy, and competent. Don’t try to tell your life story with it.
  2. Update your bio. The second thing people look at to determine if you’re worth taking seriously is your bio. Is yours up to date and complete? This is the place to tell your life story. The more information that you provide, the more ways there are for people to connect with you. Your bio on social-media sites is just as important as your LinkedIn profile—hopefully you realize how important your LinkedIn profile is too.
  3. Add a photo or video to every post. You can double the effectiveness of your posts by including a picture or video. In the valley of text, the post with graphics is king. This may add a few minutes of effort, but no single action can make your posts better than adding some eye candy to every post. Power tip: you can add up to four pictures to a tweet.
  4. Master your camera. This is a corollary to the previous resolution. The camera in your phone is better than most cameras used by professional photographers until a few years ago. Here are some simple principles to observe to taking better pictures: turn your camera sidewards so that your pictures are more wide than tall; ensure that the source of light is in front of your subject, not behind it; get closer to your subjects—pictures of people do not need to capture them from head to toe, chest-up is good enough; shoot asymmetrical pictures (“rule of thirds”) because they are most interesting than positioning everything/everyone smack dab in the middle.
  5. Use a scheduling service (for example, Buffer, Hootsuite, Sprout). Since we added effort by requiring photos and videos in posts, let us remove some now. These services enable you to write one post and share them on multiple services such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can also schedule your posts for ideal times based on where your audience lives and their social-media consumption habits. (Disclosure: Guy advises Buffer.)
  6. Share at least one post per day. Think of social media as flossing but with greater benefits: enhanced relationships, greater visibility, and, seriously, fun. These goals are imminently achievable, but they require consistent effort over the course of several months to see results. You’ll have to stand by the side of a river a long time before a roast duck or social-media goodness flies into your mouth. Very few people post too much good stuff.
  7. Take the high road. This is the toughest resolution of them all. It’s not only hard to “win” online arguments, it’s also hard to prove that they are worth winning. The most important people in arguments are not the ones you’re taking on. The most important people are the ones who are watching your reaction, so take the high road and stay positive. If you can’t stay positive, then simply ignore the bozos, haters, and psychopaths. When it comes to social media, ignoring is bliss.

If you can stick with these power tips and resolutions, you’ll awesome-ize your social-media presences, and we promise that good things will happen. And by mid-2015, you’ll be thinner, healthier, and more popular. Than ever.

Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick are the co-authors of The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Australia

A Guy Got Arrested by 10 Cops for Wearing an ‘I’m With Stupid’ T-shirt

He was charged with public nuisance

A man from Queensland, Australia, was arrested Thursday by a group of 10 police officers for wearing an “I’m With Stupid” T-shirt while he stood and waved next to campaigners from the state’s Liberal National Party (LNP).

Iain Fogerty, who runs a Twitter account parodying Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, was charged with public nuisance, the Courier Mail reports.

Campaign teams for the Australian Labor Party and the LNP had set up opposing rallies on either side of the road in a central part of the Queensland capital, Brisbane, when Fogerty began standing next to the LNP crowd in his T-shirt.

Labor Senator Claire Moore described the arrest as “just ridiculous.”

Meanwhile, Fogerty’s Twitter feed is going crazy with parody photos of people wearing “I’m With Stupid” T-shirts.

[Courier Mail]

TIME Social Media

For Twitter, Potential and Reality Are Increasingly at Odds

Twitter
The Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile device. Bethany Clarke—Getty Images

Here's why 2015 will be the most important year in Twitter's short history

Twitter has seen its stock rallying lately, but not for reasons the company would like. On Jan. 6, it shot up 7% on rumors activist Carl Icahn was buying a stake. Right before Christmas, it also rallied 4% on another rumor CEO Dick Costolo would step down.

Costolo has outlined a long-term vision for the company, but it’s the rumors of the plans others have for Twitter that moves its stock higher. That’s because there have been two Twitters for a while–the premier publishing platform the company could be and the one that always seems to be falling short of that potential.

There’s the influential company that breaks big stories, hosts large-scale debates and writes history in real time. And there’s the troubled company that can be found in Facebook’s shadow. There’s the stock that’s trading 40% above its offering price. And the stock that’s lost more than half its peak value.

There’s the startup that everyone doubted the first time they used it. And there’s the company that has become an addiction to many. There’s the social media site that has proven to be an indispensable platform for people in the media industry. And there is the social media site that draws naysaying predictions from people in the media industry.

There is the social network that some argued was unmonetizable, and the one that saw revenue double to $1.3 billion in 2014. There is the company that promises a decade of revenue growth, and the one that hasn’t shown an operating profit for years. There is the company that can boast 284 million monthly users and a half billion tweets a day. And the company with a measly 284 million monthly users, less than Instagram’s and a faction of Facebook’s.

But here’s the thing: As time goes on, the world has less room for two Twitters. It may well be that when 2015 comes to a close, there will only be one. The only question is which one will it be? Twitter the success story? Or Twitter the falling star?

There’s no question which Twitter Costolo wants to see survive. Over the past several months, Costolo has been working on a plan to boost user growth and engagement, convert logged-out readers into monetizable users, and insert more ads into Twitter feeds without driving away users.

The pressure to deliver on these goals is on. After the resignation rumors, critics emerged to call for his removal, including a Harvard professor who dismissed Costolo as “a consultant.” But Twitter has seen a lot of reshuffling in its executive ranks, and further instability in its leadership won’t help.

Besides, it’s not clear who would do a better job at growing Twitter right now than Costolo, who understands the devilish balance the company needs to maintain in order to keep growing without driving away its core users–a process that requires time. Facebook had nine years as a private company before facing the pressures to grow profits (and its first post-IPO year was a bummer). Twitter had only seven.

The tension that divides the two Twitters–grow users, but also grow revenue by showing them ads–is one familiar to social networks. Push too hard on one and the other vanishes. Facebook succeeded by building an inimitable place for friends to connect in non-public conversations. But Twitter isn’t Facebook. Like the “microblog” it started out as, it’s closer in spirit to Web 1.0 publishing–that is, a one-to-many format, only on a much richer, social venue.

The problem is, many people are reading tweets without setting up or logging into accounts. Twitter reckons this passive audience is 500 million large. Still more could be drawn in if a Twitter platform made tweets a part of other mobile apps. Costolo has plans to address these issues, by making it easier for passive users to build profiles and create instant timelines, and by rolling out Fabric, a Twitter platform that developers can easily drop into their apps.

Twitter is also vowing to boost the percent of ads in a Twitter feed from 1.3% of tweets to 5%, which itself could boost annual revenue to $5 billion. In my own feed, I’ve noticed ads are as high as 7%, or one in every 15 tweets, although none have shown up yet in apps like Tweetbot.

Twitter is quick to caution that such figures aren’t formal estimates but mere projections of a potential. And there’s that potential Twitter again, the one that never seems to show up in reality. Costolo has made a credible case for more time to let his plans push Twitter closer to that potential growth. Transitioning to a new leader, or merging Twitter with Yahoo or Google, would only delay a transition that is already short on time.

Moving too quickly to push ads onto Twitter could also drive away more active users. And that would cripple the best part of Twitter–the public forum where events like Ferguson protests unfold online, where debates flourish, where strangers discuss sporting or television events, and where celebrities, politicians and–yes–investors connect with the public. If Icahn does amass a large stake in Twitter, he will probably announce it on Twitter.

So 2015 is shaping up to be for Twitter what 2013 was for Facebook: a make-or-break year. Facebook managed to win over investors by delivering on its promise for growth. Twitter is reaching a similar crossroads this year, and how well Costolo delivers on his vision will likely determine which Twitter is with us come 2016.

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