October 17, 2011

Gibson's new Firebird X ($5,570) is arguably "quite revolutionary." Essentially a traditional electric guitar with a built-in computer, it "can model over 2,000 different sounds and styles out of the box." It comes with Gibson’s trademarked RoboHead Tuners, which automatically tune the strings to any of multiple tunings. Purists don’t like the X, but it opens up infinite possibilities. Its Freescale processor "can run apps approved and sold through the Gibson website," and won’t go obsolete because it’s completely upgradable. Source: The Week Staff

5:36 a.m. ET

The 17-story Plasco building in central Tehran collapsed in flames on Thursday. Iran's state-run Press TV said 30 firefighters battling the blaze were killed and 75 others injured in the disaster. The fire broke out at about 8 a.m. local time, and everybody was evacuated before the building crumbled. Reports of deaths and injuries weren't uniform — a local TV station said 30 people were injured with the state-run INRA news agency put the number of those injured at 45. But the collapse was clearly sudden and swift, as captured live during an interview on state TV:

"It was like a horror movie," a grocery story owner told Reuters by phone. "The building collapsed in front of me."

The Plasco building, just south of Tehran's bazaar, was built in the early 1960s by an Iranian Jew, Habib Elghanian, who named it after his plastics business. It was the city's tallest building when it was completed. Elghanian was executed soon after the 1979 Islamic Revolution after been tried on charges including espionage, The Associated Press reports, prompting an exodus of Iran's Jewish community. Peter Weber

4:52 a.m. ET

At his final presidential press conference on Wednesday, President Obama "talked about the complexities of peace in the Middle East, universal health care, job creation — pretty boring stuff," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "And man, I'm gonna miss being bored." Obama "ended the press conference with a message of hope," he added, paraphrasing: "'Good luck! See ya — wouldn't want to be ya'!"

"Meanwhile, everyone is getting ready for Trump's inauguration," Colbert said, "including — and this really surprised me — Donald Trump." He showed the picture Trump tweeted out purporting to show him writing his inaugural address at Mar-a-Lago. Colbert said it looked more like Saddam Hussein's bathroom (rather than, say, the Mar-a-Lago receptionist's desk).

In an interview on Fox & Friends Wednesday morning, Trump again said he plans to start work on Monday — and Colbert again reminded him he's president as of noon on Friday, and presidents don't get the weekend off. Trump also told Fox's Ainsley Earhardt that he doesn't really like using Twitter but feels he has to because he gets "really dishonest press." "Yes, the media is so dishonest," Colbert agreed. "Very dishonest press — they lie all the time. For instance, just this morning on Fox, I saw some orange guy say that Trump doesn't like tweeting. That is fake news!"

Finally, Colbert threw his hands up at Trump already unveiling his 2020 re-election campaign theme. "So let me get this straight," Colbert said. "Your last slogan was 'Make America Great Again,' and your new slogan is 'Keep America Great'? Aren't you skipping over a pretty important middle step there? The one where you make America great?" In case things don't work out as planned, Trump has already trademarked some "backup slogans," too, Colbert said, and he read a few, ending with the sardonic-but-simple "Make America Again." Watch below. Peter Weber

4:01 a.m. ET

On Wednesday evening, an avalanche likely triggered by earthquakes buried the Hotel Rigopiano in the central Italian town of Farindola, in the Gran Sasso mountains in Abruzzo. There were at least 20 guests and seven staff members in the hotel, according to rescuers and local officials, and Antonio Crocetta, the head of a mountain rescue team, told Italian media "there are many deaths," though no deaths have yet been confirmed. Because of days of snow that blanketed Abruzzo, Lazio, and Le Marche, rescue crews on skis did not reach the hotel until about 4 a.m. Thursday. Helicopters arrived with more personnel after dawn.

Earthquakes in the same region or Italy last August killed 298 people. (This article has been updated throughout.) Peter Weber

3:29 a.m. ET

Before America elected Donald Trump, Samantha Bee interviewed Russian author and dissident Masha Gessen about a potential Trump presidency. She interviewed Gessen again for Wednesday's Full Frontal, and Gessen's thoughts on Trump's America were not reassuring. "What is the recipe for successfully resisting an autocracy?" Bee asked Gessen, in a subterranean bunker inside a SoulCycle gym. "I get asked that a lot," Gessen said. "You know, I had to flee my country. Most efforts to successfully resist I know of failed."

Things got darker when Bee asked for Gessen's biggest concerns about President Trump, based on her experience with Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Oh, my biggest worry is a nuclear holocaust," she said. "If miraculously we avoid that, then, you know, he's certain to do irreparable damage to the environment that will make survival of the human species impossible." Bee took out pen and paper and tried to get Gessen to map out how things will go down, and she plotted out a downward course from Trump lifting Russian sanctions to getting Americans to inform on each other — and that wasn't the low point. "So there's a Russian joke," Gessen said. "We thought we had hit rock bottom, and then someone knocked from below." Bee said maybe some part of the humor was lost in translation.

Like Putin, Trump "uses language to assert his power over reality," Gessen said. "What he's saying is: 'I claim the right to say whatever the hell I please, and what are you gonna do about it?'" Bee said she couldn't believe Trump had that level of "cunning," and Gessen made a plausible analogy between Trump's instinctual verbiage and a playground bully. Bee asked for advice. "The thing, I think, to do — and this is my recipe," Gessen said calmly, "is to actually continue panicking." Watch below — it is mildly NSFW in some place, and funnier than it sounds. Peter Weber

2:51 a.m. ET

One of Donald Trump's two platforms when he ran for president was #DrainTheSwamp, Samantha Bee noted on Wednesday's Full Frontal (the other being, cruelly, Chris Christie). Trump specifically railed against the influence of Wall Street and, in particular, Goldman Sachs. Everybody loved the swamp-draining idea, except some alligator-loving environmentalists (and Trump himself). "Well, good news, gator-huggers," Bee said. "Trump was lying!" Of the five Goldman Sachs alumni Trump has picked for his inner circle, Bee focused on Steven Mnuchin, the nominee for treasury secretary. His Senate confirmation hearing is Thursday, she noted, though he has already given himself the job on his Yale alumni directory profile.

After getting rich on Wall Street, Mnuchin went to Hollywood and bankrolled movies like Suicide Squad. But the most problematic title on his résumé is "foreclosure king." During the great recession of 2008, "Steve Mnuchin took a crash and turned it into a crash-ortunity," Bee said. The bank he bought and renamed OneWest subsequently foreclosed on 36,000 people, specializing in "widow foreclosures" on reverse mortgages. Bee showed a few of the sadder foreclosure tales from OneWest's rampage. The bank's future now lies in the hands of the Housing and Urban Development Department — and thus, probably, Dr. Ben Carson. Bee despaired.

She ended her look at the likely next treasury secretary by showing him talking about wanting to scrap the financial regulation put in place to prevent another big banking collapse. "Lets hope and pray that the next four years will be like Steve's film Suicide Squad, where the group of bad guys end up actually saving the day," Bee said. "But it will probably be like Steve's film Entourage — most people didn't want it, it disappointed those who did, and it only helped those who were directly involved in it." Watch below — and be warned, there is some NSFW language. Peter Weber

1:19 a.m. ET

President-elect Donald Trump wants you to know that he's been working really hard on his inaugural address, to be delivered on Friday. He posted a photo on Wednesday to prove it.

It is a nice desk, in front of a lovely and distinctive tile pattern. It also appears to be one usually occupied by the Mar-a-Lago club receptionist:

You can also spot the desk, in what appears to be a public hallway, in the Mar-a-Lago photo gallery, and the hallway in historic photographs of the estate Trump purchased in 1985. New York's Madison Malone Kircher suggests, politely and with more documentation, that maybe the photo isn't all that it seems to be. "We're not saying that Trump didn't write his speech, in Sharpie, on a legal pad, at this desk, with its magnificent and inspirational eagle statue," she wrote, dryly. "Obviously he did; why would the president-elect stage such a photograph? It seems clear the Secret Service cleared out Mar-a-Lago, to give Trump the privacy and quiet he needed, and he chose that particular hallway desk to begin writing his speech." We'll get to hear the fruit of his purported work on Friday. Peter Weber

1:05 a.m. ET

There are nearly 60 seniors at Cincinnati's DePaul Cristo Rey High School, and every single one has received at least one acceptance letter from a college.

"It makes me feel proud," principal Andy Farfsing told WLWT Cincinnati. "We work hard with these students. We welcome them in as freshmen with a promise that all students will graduate from high school and college and we will do it together." On Tuesday, the school held a celebration for the college-bound seniors, who have also earned $3.8 million in merit-based scholarship money. This is the third straight year that the high school has had 100 percent college acceptance, and the letters are still arriving. "We know that we did this together and all the students who are under us are looking up to us," senior Joseph Whittle said. "They're going to be in our seats one day." Catherine Garcia

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