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Backlash
March 24, 2014

Sharp criticism from media and civil rights groups over an explicitly racist plot has led ABC Family to drop its new teen drama, Alice in Arabia, before it has a chance to air.

Here's how the network billed the show:

Alice in Arabia is a high-stakes drama series about a rebellious American teenage girl who, after tragedy befalls her parents, is unknowingly kidnapped by her extended family, who are Saudi Arabian. Alice finds herself a stranger in a new world but is intrigued by its offerings and people, whom she finds surprisingly diverse in their views on the world and her situation. Now a virtual prisoner in her grandfather's royal compound, Alice must count on her independent spirit and wit to find a way to return home while surviving life behind the veil. [Deadline]

As Katie McDonough at Salon notes, this description alone promotes "tired racist tropes about Arab and Muslim cultures and its 'white savior'-driven plot." Rather than casting women of color in a primetime drama, ABC created a heroine in a white woman who struggles to "survive" life in another culture.

After the script for Alice in Arabia's pilot leaked online, the Council on American-Islamic Relations expressed disapproval with the series, and Twitter users employed the hashtag #AliceinArabia to further urge ABC to pull the show. ABC Family responded in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, confirming the network would "not move forward with this project."

Canceling Alice in Arabia was unquestionably a good movie for ABC's image. And really, how many Alice in Wonderland-inspired shows does ABC need? Meghan DeMaria

Nature's Wonders
1:45 p.m. ET

Turns out Donald Trump might not be the "best builder" after all — termites are. Archaeologists recently discovered an abandoned termite mound in central Africa that is more than 2,200 years old, suggesting that termites are capable of building mounds that can last for millennia. And termite mounds aren't just little hills — they're more like cities. The BBC reports that termites can make mounds that stand "more than 10 meters high and 15 meters wide at their base." Termite mounds can also regulate temperature and air condition.

Termites have since abandoned the 2,200 year-old mound, but it's believed they used it regularly 500 to 800 years ago.

Becca Stanek

Content creators
1:44 p.m. ET
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Hank Green is a what might be called a "vlogopreneur" — someone who's started a successful small business in online video. He's annoyed at Facebook's new video operation.

Why? Two reasons: first, Facebook has been clocking up eye-popping view counts with the use of autoplaying videos that are heavily favored in the site's feed algorithm. But because of that very method of presentation, Facebook's viewer retention falls off a cliff — after 30 seconds, almost 80 percent of people have stopped watching, far more than on YouTube. So Facebook counts as a view any play lasting more than three seconds. If those views were a currency, they wouldn't be worth very much.

Worse, a huge amount of that video is stolen. Green cites a study showing that of the top 1000 Facebook videos from the first quarter of 2015, representing some 17 billion views, nearly three-quarters were lifted from elsewhere. Unlike YouTube, Facebook has no "Content ID" system, which automatically detects infringing content and allows creators to claim a share of the revenue. The company will take the videos down if you pester them, but only after a couple days. That's after the video has gotten almost all the views — and provided space for all the paid advertising — it's likely to get.

All in all, not a promising start for such a huge internet company. Ryan Cooper

Meanwhile in sports...
1:39 p.m. ET
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

If you're new Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, you don't just visit the monuments on a trip to Washington, D.C. No: You head straight for the hallowed halls in which our nation's playmakers reside. You head for the Supreme Court.

Harbaugh sat down with The Wall Street Journal for an interview, describing an April trip to D.C., during which he managed to meet five of the justices. The former San Francisco 49ers coach was classically succinct with his impressions of most of the judges: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is a "very dynamic speaker," he said, and Chief Justice John Roberts invited Harbaugh into his office, where the judge showed off a Declaration of Independence written in stone ("Very memorable," Harbaugh enthused).

But Harbaugh waxed a bit more poetic in his description of Justice Clarence Thomas, a Nebraska fan who nevertheless won the Michigan coach's approval.

"I've been around some enthusiastic people," Harbaugh said. "(Thomas is) one of the most enthusiastic people I've ever met. It was a great thrill."

Thrill or not, the Supreme Court probably still has its work cut out toppling Harbaugh's favorite judge — Judge Judy — from her pedestal. Sarah Eberspacher

brrrrr
12:54 p.m. ET
Facebook.com/Mad Men

If you're a woman who is often cold at work, science now officially has your back. In a study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, the two male authors suggest most office thermostat temperatures are set in a gender-biased fashion.

In what The New York Times calls "the Great Arctic Office Conspiracy," most office thermostats use a formula developed in the 1960s — a time when women didn't make up half the work force — to regulate the temperature. The only problem is that the formula caters to the metabolic of a 40-year-old, 154-lb. man. Most women are smaller then men and have more body fat, which lends itself to a slower metabolic rate. The slower a body's metabolic rate, the harder it is to produce heat. What's also not factored into the standard formula is that women sometimes work in skirts and sandals, which widens the gap.

For the men who aren't sold on raising the temperature to give their coworkers a break, consider the effect on global warming. If buildings warm up just a little to appropriately count for their occupants' comfort, they'll waste less energy and emit less carbon dioxide, the researchers argue.

Ladies, please use this study as an excuse to ditch your blankets and fight the patriarchy. Julie Kliegman

trump nation
12:14 p.m. ET
Christopher Gregory/Getty Images

Donald Trump is back on top in the latest Monmouth University poll — and this time his lead is bigger than ever. A survey of Republican voters released Monday found that Trump "now holds a more than 2-to-1 advantage over his nearest rivals, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker." Trump comes in first with 26 percent, followed by Bush (12 percent) and Walker (11 percent).

Monmouth reports that Trump's support has increased by 13 percentage points in the span of just three weeks, when the last Monmouth University Poll was conducted, and is growing across "nearly all demographic groups."

"Republican support for Donald Trump just continues to grow with no clear sense of who his constituency really is," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "This makes it very difficult for his opponents to figure out how to take him in the upcoming debate."

The first Republican primary debate is scheduled for Thursday. Becca Stanek

they're cousins
11:34 a.m. ET
Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

During a joint news conference, comedian Amy Schumer joined forces with her cousin, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), to call for tougher restrictions on guns in light of recent mass shootings.

Amy Schumer was compelled to speak out after a screening of the film Trainwreck, which she wrote and starred in, was broken up by a fatal shooting of two women in July. The male shooter was reportedly anti-feminist. When the daughter of a Sandy Hook shooting survivor wrote an open letter to Schumer urging her to do more about gun violence and specifically the danger women face, the comedian replied on Twitter, "Don't worry I'm on it. You'll see."

Colin Daileda at Mashable reports Schumer & Schumer, as they referred to themselves Monday, proposed three main ideas during their conference: rewards and penalties enticing states to comply with submitting background-check records, full funding from Congress of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and a Department of Justice report comparing state standards on involuntary commitment to mental health facilities.

"I have a lot of press conferences, but I almost never get this much attention," the senator joked, thanking his celebrity cousin. Julie Kliegman

please leave a message after the beep
10:49 a.m. ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It's 2015 and most of us have long been tired of checking our voicemail — what kind of monster even leaves one instead of sending a text, anyway? Good thing Apple employees are apparently testing a major upgrade to Siri that would let her field your calls and transcribe your messages, unnamed sources told Business Insider on Monday.

The new iCloud Voicemail system could mean Apple does away with the cell phone carrier's traditional voicemail system. Apple's system reportedly may even be able to provide the caller with information about why you can't pick up the phone (you're too busy watching Netflix, obviously).

Apple Insider reports the company first filed a patent for such a voicemail system back in 2012, and Business Insider says the new feature could be unveiled as early as 2016, as part of iOS 10. Julie Kliegman

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