Weather Wonders
May 19, 2014

No, this one isn't an internet Photoshop hoax: Basehunters, a storm-chasing team from Oklahoma, captured an immense, spectacular supercell thunderstorm forming over northeast Wyoming on Sunday that only looks like a viral fake-out.

Supercell thunderstorms — essentially rotating updrafts that produce a single, spinning thunderstorm — come in several variations, which are capable of spawning everything from tornadoes to large hail and torrential downpours. This storm was most likely a low precipitation supercell, which can produce amazing cloud formations, but rarely forms the type of massive tornadoes like the supercell that destroyed Moore, Oklahoma last May.

In the time-lapse video below, you can see the supercell's highly-organized structure form and spin as a nearly perfect cylinder of clouds above the storm chasers, eventually dissipating as quickly and stealthily as when the thunderstorm first formed. --Mike Barry

war on drugs
9:07 a.m. ET

The Economist isn't new to the push for drug decriminalization, but in the short film below it takes a broad, hard-nosed, and sometimes lighthearted look at legalization in action. The narrative starts in Portugal, which decriminalized all drugs 14 years ago, breaking a taboo and setting in motion a growing domino line of falling drug laws. Portugal shifted resources from punishment to treating addiction, and drug deaths and addiction rates fell sharply.

But Portugal is a small country, and the police were unable to do anything about the supply of drugs being smuggled into the country. So The Economist moved to a prime drug-producing country, Colombia, interviewing former President César Gaviria, who converted to the legalize-and-regulate side after seeing the futility of the War on Drugs. At the 8:55 mark, The Economist turns to the United State, suggesting that "the country that began the War on Drugs might just bring it to an end."

Today, Oregon legalized the production and possession of marijuana, but the U.S. legalization movement started in Colorado. So The Economist went to Denver and noted that teenage pot use has dropped and government coffers have gotten $76 million fatter (and rising). For a bit of levity, you can watch a Colorado business that teaches newbies to roll both a joint and a sushi roll, starting at the 11:15 mark. The magazine makes a pretty persuasive case, and if you are interested in the topic (pro or con), you could do worse than watch the 15-minute video below. Peter Weber

The future is now
9:04 a.m. ET
YouTube/World News

Myon comes with no strings attached. No one controls his (for it is apparently a he) actions. Although Myon is a robot, he isn't technically pre-programmed. When he gets onstage in the avant-garde production "My Square Lady" at the Komische Oper in Berlin, he instead acts on what he "learned" in rehearsals — just like any other human actor.

"We let it be itself," Manfre Hild, who designed, built, and programmed Myon, told The Washington Post. "We just followed our research track, which was figuring out how to control the body and how to give the robot episodic memory, and we came together and figured out what could be used in the piece."

In early rehearsals, Myon would just sit on a chair and stare at the actors because he hadn't learned yet how to act. But now, two years along, "he's acquired knowledge about human behaviors and is able to do stuff by himself," performer Bernhard Hansky told Vice's Motherboard. Certain prompts will remind Myon of what he's supposed to do during the show, although sometimes things can get chaotic, such as when Myon conducts faster or slower than the musicians would like.

“It's a big challenge for everyone on the show to react to him," Hansky said. "We were all freaking out a bit because we didn't know what was coming next.”

But "it's not a freak show when he comes out and lifts things," Hild said. "We are playing with senses, memories, and learning." Jeva Lange

Coming Soon
8:51 a.m. ET

Sylvester Stallone has become something of a punching bag for his eagerness to make sequels — particularly with his Oscar-winning Rocky franchise, which sits at six movies and counting. But the latest installment of the Rocky series finds a fresh approach by pivoting away from the Italian Stallion and putting the spotlight on a young boxer who just happens to be the son of Rocky's most storied opponent, Apollo Creed:

Creed follows Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), a young fighter who aspires to the same boxing heights attained by his father. In his search for greatness, he eventually enlists the help of Rocky Balboa (Stallone), who agrees to serve as his trainer. "See this guy here? That's the toughest opponent you're ever gonna have to face," says Rocky, gesturing to Adonis' own reflection in the mirror. "I believe that's true in the ring, and I believe that's true in life."

Creed hits theaters in November. Scott Meslow

gay rights
8:35 a.m. ET
Adrien Barbier AFP / Getty Images

Mozambique revised its penal code on Wednesday to decriminalize homosexuality, making it one of a few African countries where gay and lesbian relationships are not illegal. This new revision drops a clause dating back to the colonial era that prohibited "vices against nature," the BBC reports.

While Mozambique has not had many issues with violence against gay and lesbian couples, activists hope that the country's decriminalization will set an example for other African countries where homosexuality is a divisive and controversial subject. However, even in Mozambique where people have a relatively relaxed stance on homosexuality, the promotion of gay rights is still viewed as an affront to religion. Becca Stanek

rich people
8:30 a.m. ET
Stringer/Getty Images

Here's someone whose heart is in the right place: The nephew of Saudi Arabia's late King Abdulluh, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, has announced plans to spend the entirety of his $23 billion fortune on charitable projects in the coming years, Agence France-Presse reports. Alwaleed cited the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other U.S. philanthropic organizations as his model.

Alwaleed's billions "will help build bridges to foster cultural understanding, develop communities, empower women, enable youth, provide vital disaster relief, and create a more tolerant and accepting world," the prince said in a statement. And even if the cash outlasts him, Alwaleed says the money will continue toward humanitarian projects after his death. Jeva Lange

Marijuana legalization
8:10 a.m. ET
Miguel Schincariol AFP / Getty Images

As of Wednesday, it is now legal to possess and grow marijuana in Oregon. The state is the fourth in the country to adopt laws legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for people over the age of 21. However, there is one catch to the law: While Oregonians can smoke and grow marijuana, they cannot purchase it. Marijuana activists say that the law is still the first step in a path toward state-licensed pot stores. A bill allowing dispensaries to sell is making its way through the Oregon legislature and, if passed, could make the sale of marijuana legal by October 1. Becca Stanek

only human
7:44 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Unfortunately, real life never turns out to be as interesting as it appears on TV. Digging through Hillary Clinton's emails, for example, The New York Times turned up that she's — pretty normal? Boring, even? Only two dozen correspondences were flagged as confidential, with the rest of this month's batch relating mostly to logistics, scheduling, and calendar rearrangements. Who'd have thought that behind the scenes was so dull?

The emails did reveal, though, that Paul Begala — a CNN political commentator and former advisor to Bill Clinton — needed a couple talking points about Hillary before he went on air to rate her:

Mr. Begala [asked] for talking points before he went on CNN to rate Mrs. Clinton's early performance. Ms. Marshall referred him to several State Department aides. After his appearance, Mr. Begala emailed back: "I gave Sec. Clinton an A+ in our dopey CNN report card last night." Ms. Mills forwarded that to Mrs. Clinton with an "FYI." [The New York Times]

An A+! You go, Hill. Jeva Lange

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