letter to shareholders.

“I’ll venture a rare prediction,” he wrote in February. “BNSF will be a key asset for Berkshire and our country a century from now.”

Peter S. Goodman and Clifford Krauss contributed reporting.

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‘Biosphere’ Review: A Hilariously Thought-Provoking Sci-Fi Comedy

By Daniel Feingold
September 16, 2022

This uproariously funny and clever buddy comedy uses humor to talk about pressing societal issues.

Two dudes are in a biosphere after the world has ended. We don’t know exactly why, or how long ago. But childhood friends Ray (Sterling K. Brown) and Billy (Mark Duplass), who also co-wrote the screenplay with director Mel Eslyn, in a stellar debut) are now presumably spending the rest of their days in a dome protecting them from whatever made Earth uninhabitable. Climate change feels implied but is never directly referenced. Ray is a charismatic, quietly confident scientist who built the biosphere, while Billy is a well-meaning putz who somehow served as the last president of the United States when end times happened. Humanity had to have already been on its last legs for Billy to be an elected official at any level of government.  

The biosphere is designed not just to sustain life, but to also maintain some semblance of normalcy. The guys play video games, exercise, read, cook and have the necessities for comfortable living, relatively speaking. But they both seem to recognize this can only last for so long, and it’s a ceremonious seafood dinner, of all things, that sparks a doomsday scenario for their safety inside the dome, challenging their friendship, the way they see each other and the way they see themselves.  

And that’s really all I feel I should say. The less you know about this movie going in, the better. No trailer, no detailed plot summary, not even too much discussion about the themes “Biosphere” is tackling. Because, rest assured, while it approaches some deep, important topics in the span of 106 minutes, even knowing what those are would tip you off to possible directions the story is headed. That doesn’t seem fair. “Biosphere” made its world premiere with a surprise screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, which is appropriate for a movie you should embrace as a complete surprise.  

What I will tell you is “Biosphere” is creative, daring and hysterical. Eslyn and Duplass show no hesitation in pushing these two characters to unexpected, bold places. And they do so with comedy that often plays as both outrageous and tender. It’s their conduit for the social commentary that reverberates throughout the biosphere and in the feelings and interactions of the last men on Earth who inhabit it.  

 Eslyn also makes a remarkably assured feature-length directorial debut, helming an ostensible sci-fi comedy that’s so much more. A lot could go wrong with how this story is told and the messages it offers, and the seemingly unique but actually relevant questions it presents. She fearlessly handles this with sincere thoughtfulness and empathy.  

And when you have a cast of two, that dynamic had better work. Brown and Duplass are a delight to watch, both together and individually. Their chemistry as lifelong friends is believable from the moment we meet them on their morning jog around the dome, discussing the dynamics of video-game brothers Mario and Luigi. It’s a galaxy-brain conversation you have only with someone you feel comfortable around. Their banter never feels forced, and it seems likely the screenplay was light on dialogue in some places to allow space for the two actors to just riff organically.  

A surprise entry at TIFF, and one of the most pleasant surprises of the year for me, “Biosphere” goes far deeper than what it means to live in a post-apocalyptic world, continually pushing the audience to consider the human experience in ways most ordinarily wouldn’t. In the case of Ray and Billy, that consideration comes while stuck in a doomsday dome. Fortunately for us, all it could take is watching a movie.

Source: newsy.com

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How The Power Of Music Is Helping Patients With Alzheimer’s

An adult care center for people with dementia uses music as therapy for families, patients, and caregivers.

It’s been said that music is healing, and for Peter Midgely and his daughter Debbie Caramella, music is family.  

“He made us all play instruments — all six kids,” said Caramella.  

The father and daughter make their way to practice with the Sentimental Journey Singers weekly, a chorus of people with memory loss and their loved ones.  

A second sister joined us via zoom.  

DEBBIE CARAMELLA: Dad wasn’t your first job delivering papers? And what did you do with your money?” Didn’t you pay for your own.. 

PETER MIDGELY: Pay for piano lessons.  

CARAMELLA: That’s right.  

For the trio, rehearsals are about more than family time. 

Mary Ann East, is the director of Arts for Life, Encore Creativity for Older Adults.

“There’s even parts of the brain that are strictly for music and they tend to be untouched by cognitive change, or at least not touched right away,” said East. 

It’s something that’s been observed with musician Tony Bennett, who has Alzheimer’s disease.  

The group of singers rehearse at Insight Memory Care, an adult center in Virginia dedicated to memory loss patients.   

“When you get a diagnosis, families go, what the heck do I do now? We’re trying to meet them at that space,” said Anita Irvin, the executive director at Insight Memory Care Center.

For people with dementia, it isn’t just about music, but finding that thing that makes each person spark.  

“This is actually participant artwork here. So this is stuff that is done by our participants that we like to kind of highlight what they’ve been successful at doing through art,” said Irvin. 

It’s also about exercise and just plain camaraderie.  

“I find that physical movement, you would say they’re minor, but for seniors, they’re major,” said James Brophy, a client at Insight Memory Care Center. 

As with any diagnosis, the impact goes beyond the patient, to family members and caregivers.  

Melissa Long, is the director of education and support at Insight Memory Care Center. 

“The guilt that they’re not doing enough. The frustration that they get that this isn’t the person they’ve been with their whole life,” said Long. 

“One of the most devastating times that can happen to a caregiver is the day that that person doesn’t know who they are,” said Beth Kallmyer, the VP of care and support at the Alzheimer’s Association. 

According to the Alzheimer’s Association caregivers of patients with dementia are more likely to suffer from higher levels of stress and anxiety than non-caregivers.  

“It’s helpful to remember that it’s a disease. The person has no control over it, but still it’s very devastating to family members,” said Kallmyer. 

While there’s no cure for diseases like Alzheimer’s, experts encourage caregivers to focus on the little victories. And while there’s no clear-cut evidence that isolation speeds disease progression. 

“There is there’s some evidence showing that social engagement, using your brain to do different things, having a purpose is remains really important,” said Kallmyer. 

CARAMELLA: It’s beneficial to have physical activity, mental activity and social activity every day. What do you think dad? Does this cover those things?  

MIDGELY: It does.  

CARAMELLA: It does. All of it.  

Newsy’s mental health initiative “America’s Breakdown: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis” brings you deeply personal and thoughtfully told stories on the state of mental health care in the U.S. Click here to learn more.

Source: newsy.com

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How a Spreader of Voter Fraud Conspiracy Theories Became a Star

In 2011, Catherine Engelbrecht appeared at a Tea Party Patriots convention in Phoenix to deliver a dire warning.

While volunteering at her local polls in the Houston area two years earlier, she claimed, she witnessed voter fraud so rampant that it made her heart stop. People cast ballots without proof of registration or eligibility, she said. Corrupt election judges marked votes for their preferred candidates on the ballots of unwitting citizens, she added.

Local authorities found no evidence of the election tampering she described, but Ms. Engelbrecht was undeterred. “Once you see something like that, you can’t forget it,” the suburban Texas mom turned election-fraud warrior told the audience of 2,000. “You certainly can’t abide by it.”

planting seeds of doubt over the electoral process, becoming one of the earliest and most enthusiastic spreaders of ballot conspiracy theories.

fueled by Mr. Trump, has seized the moment. She has become a sought-after speaker at Republican organizations, regularly appears on right-wing media and was the star of the recent film “2,000 Mules,” which claimed mass voter fraud in the 2020 election and has been debunked.

She has also been active in the far-right’s battle for November’s midterm elections, rallying election officials, law enforcement and lawmakers to tighten voter restrictions and investigate the 2020 results.

said in an interview last month with a conservative show, GraceTimeTV, which was posted on the video-sharing site Rumble. “There have been no substantive improvements to change anything that happened in 2020 to prevent it from happening in 2022.”

set up stakeouts to prevent illegal stuffing of ballot boxes. Officials overseeing elections are ramping up security at polling places.

Voting rights groups said they were increasingly concerned by Ms. Engelbrecht.

She has “taken the power of rhetoric to a new place,” said Sean Morales-Doyle, the acting director of voting rights at the Brennan Center, a nonpartisan think tank. “It’s having a real impact on the way lawmakers and states are governing elections and on the concerns we have on what may happen in the upcoming elections.”

Some of Ms. Engelbrecht’s former allies have cut ties with her. Rick Wilson, a Republican operative and Trump critic, ran public relations for Ms. Engelbrecht in 2014 but quit after a few months. He said she had declined to turn over data to back her voting fraud claims.

“She never had the juice in terms of evidence,” Mr. Wilson said. “But now that doesn’t matter. She’s having her uplift moment.”

a video of the donor meeting obtained by The New York Times. They did not elaborate on why.

announce a partnership to scrutinize voting during the midterms.

“The most important right the American people have is to choose our own public officials,” said Mr. Mack, a former sheriff of Graham County, Ariz. “Anybody trying to steal that right needs to be prosecuted and arrested.”

Steve Bannon, then chief executive of the right-wing media outlet Breitbart News, and Andrew Breitbart, the publication’s founder, spoke at her conferences.

True the Vote’s volunteers scrutinized registration rolls, watched polling stations and wrote highly speculative reports. In 2010, a volunteer in San Diego reported seeing a bus offloading people at a polling station “who did not appear to be from this country.”

Civil rights groups described the activities as voter suppression. In 2010, Ms. Engelbrecht told supporters that Houston Votes, a nonprofit that registered voters in diverse communities of Harris County, Texas, was connected to the “New Black Panthers.” She showed a video of an unrelated New Black Panther member in Philadelphia who called for the extermination of white people. Houston Votes was subsequently investigated by state officials, and law enforcement raided its office.

“It was a lie and racist to the core,” said Fred Lewis, head of Houston Votes, who sued True the Vote for defamation. He said he had dropped the suit after reaching “an understanding” that True the Vote would stop making accusations. Ms. Engelbrecht said she didn’t recall such an agreement.

in April 2021, did not respond to requests for comment. Ms. Engelbrecht has denied his claims.

In mid-2021, “2,000 Mules” was hatched after Ms. Engelbrecht and Mr. Phillips met with Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative provocateur and filmmaker. They told him that they could detect cases of ballot box stuffing based on two terabytes of cellphone geolocation data that they had bought and matched with video surveillance footage of ballot drop boxes.

Salem Media Group, the conservative media conglomerate, and Mr. D’Souza agreed to create and fund a film. The “2,000 Mules” title was meant to evoke the image of cartels that pay people to carry illegal drugs into the United States.

said after seeing the film that it raised “significant questions” about the 2020 election results; 17 state legislators in Michigan also called for an investigation into election results there based on the film’s accusations.

In Arizona, the attorney general’s office asked True the Vote between April and June for data about some of the claims in “2,000 Mules.” The contentions related to Maricopa and Yuma Counties, where Ms. Engelbrecht said people had illegally submitted ballots and had used “stash houses” to store fraudulent ballots.

According to emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, a True the Vote official said Mr. Phillips had turned over a hard drive with the data. The attorney general’s office said early this month that it hadn’t received it.

Last month, Ms. Engelbrecht and Mr. Phillips hosted an invitation-only gathering of about 150 supporters in Queen Creek, Ariz., which was streamed online. For weeks beforehand, they promised to reveal the addresses of ballot “stash houses” and footage of voter fraud.

Ms. Engelbrecht did not divulge the data at the event. Instead, she implored the audience to look to the midterm elections, which she warned were the next great threat to voter integrity.

“The past is prologue,” she said.

Alexandra Berzon contributed reporting.

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Live Updates: Ukraine Steps Up Information War, Seeking to Exploit Russian Setbacks

WASHINGTON — The strategy behind Ukraine’s rapid military gains in recent days began to take shape months ago during a series of intense conversations between Ukrainian and U.S. officials about the way forward in the war against Russia, according to American officials.

The counteroffensive — revised this summer from its original form after urgent discussions between senior U.S. and Ukrainian officials — has succeeded beyond most predictions. Ukrainian forces have devastated Russian command and control, and appear poised to capitalize on their advances in the northeast of the country and in another campaign in the south.

The work began soon after President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine told his generals he wanted to make a dramatic move to demonstrate that his country could push back on the Russian invasion. Under his orders, the Ukrainian military devised a plan to launch a broad assault across the south to reclaim Kherson and cut off Mariupol from the Russian force in the east.

The Ukrainian generals and American officials believed that such a large-scale attack would incur immense casualties and fail to quickly retake large amounts of territory. The Ukrainians were already suffering hundreds of casualties a day in what had become a grinding conflict. The Russian forces were experiencing similar losses but were still inching forward, laying waste to Ukrainian towns in the eastern region of Donbas.

Long reluctant to share details of their plans, the Ukrainian commanders started opening up more to American and British intelligence officials and seeking advice.

Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, and Andriy Yermak, a top adviser to Mr. Zelensky, spoke multiple times about the planning for the counteroffensive, according to a senior administration official. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and senior Ukrainian military leaders regularly discussed intelligence and military support.

And in Kyiv, Ukrainian and British military officials continued working together while the new American defense attaché, Brig. Gen. Garrick Harmon, began having daily sessions with Ukraine’s top officers.

Time was of the essence, U.S. and Ukrainian officials believed. To mount an effective counterattack, the Ukrainians needed to move before the first snow, when President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia would be able to use his control of gas supplies to pressure Europe.

This account of the lead-up to the counteroffensive is based on interviews with multiple senior American officials and others briefed on the classified discussions between Washington and Kyiv that helped Ukrainian commanders shape the battle. Many spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the secret nature of the talks.

American officials were hesitant to judge the full impact of the counteroffensive, anxious to see how it continues to play out. For now, Kyiv has the advantage.

One critical moment this summer came during a war game with U.S. and Ukrainian officials aimed at testing the success of a broad offensive across the south. The exercise, reported earlier by CNN, suggested such an offensive would fail. Armed with the American skepticism, Ukrainian military officials went back to Mr. Zelensky.

“We did do some modeling and some tabletop exercises,” Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s policy chief, said in a telephone interview. “That set of exercises suggested that certain avenues for a counteroffensive were likely to be more successful than others. We provided that advice, and then the Ukrainians internalized that and made their own decision.”

The stakes were huge. Ukraine needed to demonstrate that this was not going to become just another frozen conflict, and that it could retake territory, for the morale of its people and to shore up support of the West.

Throughout August, at the behest of Ukrainians, U.S. officials stepped up feeds of intelligence about the position of Russian forces, highlighting weaknesses in the Russian lines. The intelligence also indicated that Moscow would struggle to quickly reinforce its troops in northeast Ukraine or move troops from the south, even if it detected Ukrainian preparations for the counteroffensive.

“We saw the fact that the Russians actually relocated a lot of their best forces down to the south in preparation for the other counteroffensive that the Ukrainians kicked off,” Mr. Kahl said. “So we had reason to believe that because of the persistent morale challenges, and the pressure of the Ukrainians, that there might be pockets of the Russian military that are a little more brittle than they appear on paper.”

Instead of one large offensive, the Ukrainian military proposed two. One, in Kherson, would most likely take days or weeks before any dramatic results because of the concentration of Russian troops. The other was planned for near Kharkiv.

Together Britain, the United States and Ukraine conducted an assessment of the new plan, trying to war game it once more. This time officials from the three countries agreed it would work — and give Mr. Zelensky what he wanted: a big, clear victory.

But the plan, according to an officer on the general staff in Kyiv, depended entirely on the size and pace of additional military aid from the United States.

Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that had used older Soviet weapons, exhausted most of its own ammunition. Learning how to use new weapons systems in the middle of the war is difficult. But so far the risky move has proved successful. More than 800,000 rounds of 155-millimeter artillery shells, for instance, have been sent to Kyiv, helping fuel its current offensives. The United States alone has committed more than $14.5 billion in military aid since the war started in February.

Before the counteroffensive, Ukraine’s armed forces sent the United States a detailed list of weapons they needed to make the plan successful, according to the Ukrainian officer.

Specific weapons, like the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, are having an outsize effect on the battlefield. The satellite-guided rockets fired by these launch vehicles, called GMLRS, each contain a warhead with 200 pounds of explosives and have been used in recent weeks by Ukrainian forces to destroy more than 400 Russian arms depots, command posts and other targets, American officials said.

More recently, Ukrainian forces have put American-supplied HARM air-launched missiles on Soviet-designed MiG-29 fighter jets, which no air force had ever done. The missiles have been particularly effective in destroying Russian radars.

“We are seeing real and measurable gains from Ukraine in the use of these systems,” General Milley said last week in Germany at a meeting of 50 countries that are helping Ukraine with military and humanitarian aid. “They’re having great difficulty resupplying their forces and replacing their combat losses.”

Ukrainian and American officials said the now weekly or biweekly Pentagon announcements of new shipments of weapons and munitions from American stockpiles have given Kyiv’s senior commanders the confidence to plan complex simultaneous offensives.

“The importance of Western military support is not just in specific weapons systems, but in the assurance and confidence that the Ukrainians can use in their future planning,” said Jack Watling, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, who recently returned from Ukraine.

As Ukrainian soldiers moved into areas in the northeast over the weekend, Russian forces crumbled. In some places around Kharkiv, Russian troops just walked away from the battle, leaving behind equipment and ammunition, according to U.S. defense officials.

The Kherson attack was never a feint or a diversion, according to people briefed on the plan. And it has succeeded in forcing Moscow to delay sham votes on whether parts of the Kherson region want to join Russia. But, as expected, the counteroffensive is moving more slowly given the much higher number of Russian forces there compared with Kharkiv.

Eventually, Ukrainian officials believe their long-term success requires progress on the original goals in the discarded strategy, including recapturing the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia, cutting off Russian forces in Mariupol and pushing Russian forces in Kherson back across the Dnipro River, American officials said.

Russia has been weakened. By failing to detect Ukraine’s buildup around Kharkiv, the Russian military has demonstrated incompetence and shown that it lacks solid intelligence. Its command and control have been decimated and it is having trouble supplying its troops, giving Ukraine an opening in the coming weeks, U.S. officials said.

While Ukraine may have an opportunity to recapture more territory in the east, U.S. and Ukrainian officials say the south is the most important theater of the war.

“Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are likely potential objectives,” said Michael Kofman, the director of Russia studies at CNA, a defense research institute. “We might see further Ukrainian Army operations to achieve breakthroughs there in the future.”

The plan that emerged from the midsummer discussions relied heavily on U.S. intelligence and high-tech weaponry. But American officials insist that credit for the offensive lies fully with Mr. Zelensky and the Ukrainian military, which led a relatively small force in Kharkiv to an outsize victory.

“No one is spiking the football yet,” Mr. Kahl said. But, he added: “I think it really demonstrates to the world that the Ukrainians are capable of conducting complex, offensive operations.”

Andrew E. Kramer contributed reporting from Kharkiv, Ukraine, and Michael Schwirtz from New York.

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