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Laughing all the way to the bank
July 8, 2014

Film critics almost universally dislike director Michael Bay, but as his very lucrative (and somewhat formulaic) Transformers franchise proves, audiences love him — Transformers 4: Age of Extinction is pulling in cash hand-over-fist. Jimmy Kimmel noted this discrepancy between critical loathing and audience approval on Monday night's Jimmy Kimmel Live, then took it one step further, asking critics who've panned Bay films (a wide pool) to say something nice about the super-wealthy director.

It's actually kind of a sweet idea. And the prominent movie critics come in at different points on the "nice" scale — "Well, he seems to have great hair, and I hear he's above average in the height department," says the Chicago Sun Times' Richard Roeper in one of the more cutting compliments (but not the worst). A little passive-aggressive? Sure, but at least their hearts are almost certainly in the wrong place — and who is Bay to object to something with high entertainment value? --Peter Weber

Science!
1:55 p.m. ET
Dani Pozo/AFP/Getty Images

Evolution usually allows animals to get better at avoiding death. However, new evidence reported by Vanderbilt University seems to find that the rise of early animals hundreds of millions of years ago was the cause of the first massive die-off of complex life — not a super volcano or a meteorite.

Scientists believe that for more than 3 billion years, microbes were the only life on Earth. At some point, a few of the microbes evolved to be able to photosynthesize, or convert sunlight into energy. The byproduct was toxic to most of the other microbes, who were used to an oxygen-free environment. But for the microorganisms photosynthesizing, the development allowed them to become complex, multicellular forms called Ediacarans, which took over the planet around 600 million years ago. Ediacarans were basically like plants: immobile marine life shaped like discs, tubes, fronds, or quilts.

Paleontologists call the ensuing period the "Garden of Ediacara," emphasizing the so-called peace of the era — that is, Ediacarans politely didn't eat each other. At least not until 60 million years ago, when they evolved even further into what we now call animals (vertebrates, mollusks, anthropoids, annelids, sponges, jellyfish).

It was these independently moving, hungry critters that caused the first extinction, by eating all the Ediacarans, the scientists say.

"This study provides the first quantitative palaeoecological evidence to suggest that evolutionary innovation, ecosystem engineering, and biological interactions may have ultimately caused the first mass extinction of complex life," Simon Darroch, the assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Vanderbilt University, told Science Daily.

Perhaps that's just a fancy way of suggesting that it's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and may the hungriest mollusk win. Jeva Lange

This is not a joke
1:15 p.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Some Americans are so desperate to make a point about America's political system that they're willing to vote for Donald Trump to prove it, Politico reports. That's right: Even though Trump haters might find the real estate mogul's immigration policy "absolutely revolting," his persona to be "a joke," and his comments to be "racist" and "sexist," come time for the Republican primary they're still casting their ballot for The Donald.

"This is the candidate America deserves," Jeff DeFlavio, a small-business owner and registered independent, said of Trump to Politico. "His immigration policy is disgusting to me. It's absolutely revolting... I really don't want him to become president ever. Ever. He would destroy the world, which is what's so wonderful about him."

Another Trump hater, Rasheen Carbin, a Republican, explained that he's voting for Trump to push the Republican Party to the point of finally acknowledging its failings. "I'm going to vote for him because I want the Republican Party to finally acknowledge that it's broken, and if Trump is the nominee, I don't know how it could be more obvious. Sometimes things need to be broken so they can be remade stronger."

For others, the entertainment value Trump provides in a presidential field with which they're otherwise disenchanted is an attraction, Politico says. One such person explained: "Everything Trump says I don't agree with, like building a wall around the country, but I don't think it's going to happen... I don't think anything anybody else says is going to happen, and I'd rather have the guy who brings entertainment value." Another commented, "I think politics is kind of a joke in this country. I don't think it matters who will get elected president."

So far, pollsters don't know how strong the Trump hate vote is, or how likely it is that all these haters will actually follow through on their smack talk. A "real-life political mockumentary" might seem entertaining until it becomes, well, real. Becca Stanek

All in a day's work
12:58 p.m. ET
iStock

A membership to the climbing gym Brooklyn Boulders will run you $115 a month, which isn't so terrible when it's also doubling as your office space (this is a big thing in the tech world, apparently). But be warned before you sign up: There's a "hidden fee" of sorts that might make some introverts — or gym-averse workers — squirm:

The co-working areas — open to members, as well as to visitors who pay $28 for a day pass — come with their own fitness rules. "We want to incentivize people to not be sitting," [BKB co-founder Lance] Pinn says. So the gym levees a physical rent for using the space: five sit-ups or five pull-ups every half hour, or one conversation with a stranger in the spirit of enhanced serendipitous innovation. BKB's Somerville location has pull-up bars directly over desks. A few feet away, members do deadlifts and massacre punching bags while wearing bluetooth headsets. "Physicality stimulates innovation and creativity," effuses one sign in the office space. [Bloomberg Business]

BKB currently has office-gyms in New York (Brooklyn and Long Island City), Massachusetts (Somerville), and Illinois (Chicago). Far enough away from these locations that you're feeling safe from the threat of "physical rent" and forced conversations with random strangers? Don't breathe easy just yet — live-work offices are spreading across the country, so if doing squats between meetings sounds horrible, don't share this with your boss. Jeva Lange

gender politics
12:29 p.m. ET
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Carly Fiorina mostly keeps the fact that she's the lone Republican woman running for president out of the conversation, telling Laura Ingraham Wednesday that she "never made gender an issue" in her campaign. But that didn't keep the GOP candidate from flaring up at the suggestion she's not in the race for the long haul.

"The people who say that I am in this for vice president — that's sexist," Fiorina said on Ingraham's show. "I'm in this to win this job. No one talks about the men being veep. I think I'm qualified to do the job."

Earlier Tuesday, CNN adjusted the criteria for its upcoming Republican presidential debate to make room for Fiorina, who held her own — and then some — at Fox News' debate for lower-polling candidates in August. Jeva Lange

Bush vs. Trump
12:12 p.m. ET
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Donald Trump really, really doesn't like Jeb Bush. He resents Bush's WASPy, old money roots. He says his first name with a mocking drawl. He constantly calls Bush "low energy," a sharp dig at Bush's inability to play the role of alpha dog. Trump may, in fact, be running for president solely to spite Bush, who Trump believes had a role in Univision canceling its contract to broadcast the Miss USA pageant. "If I'm going down, then Bush is going down with me," Trump reportedly told a confidant. "He's not going to be president of the United States."

All of this has made life miserable for Bush, whose poll numbers are swooning in the sweltering heat of the Summer of Trump. Bush has come under pressure to show donors and voters that he can throw punches as well as he can absorb them, which has only underscored his discomfort with Trump's brawling style of politics. As Jonathan Martin at The New York Times reports, the whole ordeal has turned Bush into a rather unhappy warrior:

[Bush], after a campaign event in Miami, seemed irked when reporters asked him about Mr. Trump.

"He attacks me every day with nonsense, with things that aren't true," Mr. Bush said in Spanish, before saying much the same in English: "He tries to personalize everything. If you are not totally in agreement with him, you're an idiot, or stupid, or you have no energy, or blah, blah, blah. That's what he does."

When a reporter proposed asking "a non-Trump question, if you don't mind," Mr. Bush replied, "I'd love it." [The New York Times]

Unfortunately for Bush, the Trump reality show continues apace, which means Bush will have to continue his reluctant role as The Donald's foil for the foreseeable future. Ryu Spaeth

Streaming wars
11:58 a.m. ET
Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Hulu finally launched its long-awaited alternative subscription plan on Wednesday, which will offer customers a way to stream the service's programs without commercial interruptions, making it more competitive with streaming rivals Netflix and Amazon. Until now, even Hulu's paid subscribers had to endure multiple commercial breaks, which could not be skipped, while they used the service.

But before you rush over to upgrade your subscription to the ad-free version — priced at $12 a month, up from $8 — you should know the plan has one little caveat: It will still contain ads. Yes, the commercial-free package will still run ads on some programs, Variety reports, including popular titles like Scandal, New Girl, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and a handful of others.

Hulu's CEO Mike Hopkins explained that the exceptions are a result of studio rights held on certain series. "They have other commitments that they couldn’t free them up for a complete commercial-free offering," he said.

The good news is that remaining advertisements will be confined to pre- and post-roll slots, so you can at least sob through old Grey's Anatomy episodes without any pesky interruptions. Stephanie Talmadge

1000 words
10:58 a.m. ET

Europe is in the middle of a colossal migration crisis, as over 350,000 refugees from the Middle East and Africa make the difficult journey across the Mediterranean in search of a better life. While parts of Eastern Europe have fought to close their borders and train stations, many migrants remain in limbo, waiting for their tickets to Germany or Austria, where they've been greeted by thousands of welcoming volunteers and human rights supporters. Even the police have stood by as new trains roll daily into stations in Munich and Vienna — not even checking passengers' papers.

But for those who haven't yet reached the end of the line, Europe's train stations have become just another stepping stone in the path toward an uncertain future. Below, a selection of sobering photos of the crisis. Jeva Lange

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