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There is no denying the best basketball talent in the world is American born. LeBron James, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kahwi Leonard, Anthony Davis, and the list goes on. The problem for Team USA in this year’s FIBA World Cup was that none of the aforementioned suited up in red, white and blue. Despite an all-star coaching staff, Team USA rolled out a C-level team in China. Coming into the tournament with a 58-game unbeaten streak, Team USA breezed through group play with a 5-0 record. They were led by the likes of Donovan Mitchell, Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Harrison Barnes, Jayson Tatum, among other second and third tier NBA “stars.” Is that a roster good enough to win an international competition? Maybe.  But if the big dogs were on the court, it never would have been in doubt. USA encountered France in the quarter finals and were beaten 89-78. On paper, the talent levels match up, but the chemistry these other big basketball countries (France, Spain, Serbia, Australia, Canada) have with their teams is much better than that of the US team. In the game against France, it showed. The loss would have been more shocking if team USA had their big ballers, but they didn’t.  Losing to Serbia a day later in the consolation bracket was also not very shocking given that players, at that point, were ready to go home. Can we fault this version of Team USA for not bringing home a title? Not really. Hopefully, it inspired the best of the best to put on the jersey and represent the best basketball nation in the world on the international stage next time.
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood this year are inspired by cult classics and horror films produced during the 1980s.  Executive producer of the event, John Murdy, reflected fondly on his own experience, “When I grew up in the ’80s, it was the ’50s that were cool. We looked to like ‘Happy Days,’ ‘American Graffiti’ and listened to The Stray Cats. So, it makes sense now, that in 2019, the ’80s are the hip thing.” The throwback event runs on every Thursday night, from September 19th to October 31st.  Guests are invited to dress in their favorite 1980s apparel – everything from neon leg warmers, to windbreakers and track suits. Fans will be able to immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of the decade – 1980s music will be on the escalators and MTV-era music videos will be on the screens of the subway where the “Ghostbusters,” “Creepshow” and “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” attractions are located. The Ghostbusters attraction was approved by Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and offers memorable moments from all three Ghostbuster films. Several mazes with designs based on horror films are featured.  Last year there was one based on the first season the Netflix thriller Stranger Things.  This year’s Stranger Things maze is based on the second and third seasons of the show and promises to meet high expectations.

Event Stats

  • Dates: Consecutive Thursdaynights, from September 19th to October 31st
  • Time: 7pm
  • Location: Universal Studios Hollywood, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA

Prices:

  • General Admission $64-$102
  • Universal Express Passes $159-$299
  • Multi-Evening Passes $109-$299
  • Various daytime/nighttime combo tickets $97-$147
  • All-inclusive R.I.P. Tours start at $279.
  • All passes are available at Hollywood.HalloweenHorrorNights.com

The dangers of relatively new products are rarely understood, which makes them difficult to regulate. Government watchdogs are put in a ‘wait-and-see’ position.   Meanwhile, early users of products like e-cigarettes begin using based on the industry hype – it’s like a cigarette, but it’s safe.  In a concern about their real cigarette habit, smokers jump to the ‘safe’ alternative while young people gravitate to the new, cool thing that makes them look, in their own minds, more mature.

Then the evidence starts to accumulate.  Vaping, as it’s referred to, is like smoking cigarettes, but it may be as unsafe, though in different ways.  This new guilty pleasure may be responsible for 450 reported lung disease cases and at least five deaths so far.

As a result, the watchdogs are lining up.  The American Medical Association (AMA) has called on Americans to stop using electronic cigarettes of all kinds until scientists get a better grip on the cause of these illnesses.  As one of the country’s most influential physician groups, the AMA urged its members to inform patients about the dangers of e-cigarettes including its toxins and carcinogens.  And they asked doctors to promptly report any suspected lung disease cases related to the use of e-cigarettes to their state or local health department.

That recommendation followed the advice of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that suggested people not use e-cigarette products while they are investigating the cause(s) of this flood of severe lung disease cases related to vaping.  The CDC reports that many, but not all, cases involved vaporized oils containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis. On another track, they said that some laboratories have identified vitamin E acetate in product samples as a possible cause of the illnesses.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been under growing pressure to curb the rise in teenage use of e-cigarettes. This trend coincided with the increasing popularity of Juul e-cigarettes. AMA President Dr. Patrice Harris argued, “We must not stand by while e-cigarettes continue to go unregulated. We urge the FDA to speed-up the regulation of e-cigarettes and remove all unregulated products from the market.”

The message does get through to some.  Megan Constantino, 36, from St. Petersburg, Florida, stopped vaping after receiving reports about vaping-related illnesses and deaths. Like many users of vaping pens, Constantino began using the device after quitting smoking three years ago. Constantino is worried that many people will ignore the warnings.

Public health experts have found no evidence of infectious diseases and believe that these lung disease cases are likely to be associated with chemical exposure. Gregory Conley, President of the American Vaping Association, who advocates that cigarette smokers switch to non-nicotine-based vaping devices, said the AMA should be “ashamed of themselves for playing politics with people’s health and protecting the profits of drug dealers.”  Many lobbyists make such remarks in defense the profits of their constituents. We’ve seen this before from the fossil fuel and tobacco industries. The question is how many people are willing to believe the emerging science over public relations campaigns?

Spotify is among the top three applications for streaming and sharing music, having grown significantly in recent years. That makes being associated with it appealing for other applications.  Instagram and Facebook already have options for users to broadcast the song(s) they’re currently jamming to.  Now Snapchat is joining the party.

Spotify is happy with the new relationship saying, “With Spotify, you can listen to your favorite music and podcasts anytime, anywhere. With Snapchat, you can share what you’re up to instantaneously. Soon you’ll be able to combine the two seamlessly and share what you’re listening to in a Snap story.” Here’s how it will work: Users will share their songs to Snapchat via Spotify. To begin with, there will not be a reverse share feature like Instagram has. Users will load a Spotify song into their Snap story and viewers will see the song thumbnail that links to the song on Spotify’s platform. There have been several third party hacks that let you share Spotify songs on Snapchat, but this one will be the real thing.

Mobile tech company, DeNA, just released a Nintend-based, free-to-play Pokemon game called Pokemon Masters for iOS and Android phones. The game involves players forming teams of trainers and fighters. The combat involves three teams of trainers and fighters in combat with each other on the artificial island of Pasio. This exciting new contribution to the Pokemon gaming series started with a popular first week debut. According to Sensor Tower estimates, Pokemon Masters had a great first week having earned about $26 million.  It may be free-to-play, but if you want to really compete you will need to increase your chances with expert coaching.  That costs money. The strong opening week – second in the series to Pokemon Go – means that players are willing to spend to enhance their chances. Sixty-two percent of the revenue came from Japan, Nintendo’s home market, which was followed by United States, Hong Kong, Taiwan and France to fill out the top five markets.  Seventy-two percent of the revenue came from iOS phones. Nintendo will also release Pokemon Sword and Shield on November 15th, as well as a special edition of the Nintendo Switch Lite.
Every football fan’s favorite Monday night of the year is week 1 of the NFL season where ESPN’s Monday Night Football has not one, but two feature games to open the season. Unfortunately, for ESPN, the start of the first game was not positive. Their new scoreboard graphic was roundly criticized. Throughout the first half of the New Orleans Saints – Houston Texan game, fans took to Twitter destroying the new scoreboard graphic which featured a yellow background where the down & distance is found. The color yellow, which usually signals there was a flag on the play, flashed after every play when the down and distance changed. People were confused and bothered enough to tweet. Despite the original mistake, give them credit, ESPN adjusted. Mid-game, the production team put a new background in place and launched it live for the second half.  Order was restored to down & distance and fans were no longer confused about whether or not there was a flag on the previous play.
Contemporary life is surrounded by technology. For most of us, we have gotten so used to computers, cell phones and electricity that we feel like we could never live without them. Despite how useful these machines are, the technologies that we use in our daily lives are not danger free. Here’s one quick story about a cell phone charger to highlight the point. A teenager from Colorado received an Anker PowerCore charger from Amazon, a gift from his grandmother.  How nice. The teen settled downstairs to do some homework when he heard a frightening noise.  He looked down to see that his backpack was on fire. Acting quickly, he grabbed the bag, ran upstairs and threw the bag outside while his mother grabbed the fire extinguisher. He later said he was alerted when “I heard a fuse for like a firecracker firework go off.” The only injury in this case was that the charger burned a hole in the backpack. For its part, Anker requested that the charger be returned and said it would reimburse the family. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has documented several complaints about these types of chargers.  We’ve also heard of similar spontaneous combustion fires started from lithium-ion batteries in cars and laptops.  Lesson: Be aware of your electronic products and act quickly if you see smoke or flame.
The NFL season is 17 weeks long, but teams, players and organizations always want to get off to a good start. Week 1 can set the tone for the entire season or put a team in an immediate state of panic. We dive into the biggest disappointments from the NFL’s opening weekend.

1. The Cleveland Browns

A consensus pick to go to the Super Bowl, the Browns reminded everyone that they are still the Browns until they aren’t. Adding major stars to your roster doesn’t just make you a good team. You have to do it in all three phases, with everyone playing as a cohesive unit, week in and week out. The Browns under new head coach Freddy Kitchens didn’t do it as they suffered an embarrassing defeat in their home opener against the Tennessee Titans.  They lost 43-13, a 30-point loss in their home opener when they’re supposed to be a Superbowl contender! The Browns’ postgame meal was a large slice of humble pie. Let’s see what kind of character they have after a complete dismantling in their own building. They go to New York to take on the Jets next Monday night in primetime.

2. The Miami Dolphins

OK, we knew they would be bad, but this bad?  The Dolphins allowed scoring records to be set left and right as they gave up nearly 60-points to the Baltimore Ravens. They looked inept. It’s one thing to not have talent and to tank, but at least play hard! The Dolphins host Tom Brady and the Patriots next weekend.  Good luck.

3. The New York Giants Pass Defense

After a strong preseason and a rebuilt culture, the Giants came into week 1 full of belief and confidence. All of which dissolved quickly on the realization they can’t cover receivers or tight ends and they can’t rush a quarterback. The Giants pass defense made Dak Prescott look like Joe Montana as he racked up over 400 yards and 4 touchdowns, while hardly breaking a sweat. The G-men managed a stout run defense and their offense looked fluid, but we don’t think they can stop anyone with an average, or better, passing game. The Giants will host the Buffalo Bills next Sunday in their home opener.

4. The Pittsburgh Steelers

All the talk about cleaning up the locker room and setting the tone for a new culture is great, until you lose by 30-points in primetime. The Steelers didn’t make the Patriots work for one minute of their Sunday Night Football clash and looked to be way behind on the execution side of things. If their culture is strong, they can rebound, but their performance level is in question. The Steelers host a strong Seattle Seahawks team next week in their home opener.

5. New York Jets Kicker, Kaare Vedvik

The Jets have enough talent to be a winning team this season and potentially make the playoffs. Their offense looked good and defense was solid as long as linebacker C.J. Mosley was on the field. Their kicker however, a question mark coming into the season, cost them the game Sunday. He missed an extra point and a field goal. The Jets lost by one point. Vedvik needs to turn it around quickly or he will be jobless before October.
Social media often functions, wittingly or unwittingly, as a major form of advertising.  When users post pictures of themselves drinking Pepsi, they are unwittingly promoting it. Given the incredible amounts of time that millions of people spend on social media, it makes sense that companies would be looking to social media for predicable, controlled advertising solutions. To that end the NFL recently announced a new collaboration with TikTok, a social media service owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. The NFL hopes that TikTok will help to get popularity points with its generation z users given that it was the third most downloaded application in the US during the first quarter of this year. The need comes after Morning Consult data showed that football is losing popularity among younger people – TikTok’s audience – because they’re watching less TV and they’re playing less football because of head injury concerns. The NFL is going where their future audience is to drive them back into the fold. Adapt or die.

An incredible list of musical hot shots are going on tour across North America this summer! Many of these artists haven’t been on tour for a long time. Many notable artists are forming fascinating collaborations with each other to create epic summer tours in huge venues across the continent. Summer 2019 is looking like a season of music-magic across several different genres!

1.The Jonas Brothers

The Jonas Brothers are back in action doing concerts after six years without performing together. This earth-shattering news is hitting home to millions of North American fans. The group’s North American tour begins August 7th in Miami and continues until mid-December.

2. Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande is continuing to stun the world through a North American tour which began in March 18th in Albany, New York. She will continue the tour until August 4th. Amazingly, she’s promoting two albums together in this incredible tour!

3. Shawn Mendes

Shawn Mendes is on tour! The stunning talent will begin the North American leg of his tour June 12th in Portland and continue across the US until early September.

4. Khalid

Khalid is hitting the road this summer in honor of his second album, Free Spirit. The North American leg of his tour begins June 20th in Glendale and continues until his last performance in Miami on August 17th.

5. The Backstreet Boys

The Backstreet Boys are celebrating an incredible 26 years together! Their North American tour begins July 12th in DC and continues until September 15th.

6. Michael Buble

Michael Buble begins his North American tour segment July 9th in Los Angeles, the tour continues until August 3rd.

7. Pentatonix

Pentatonix has been on an amphitheater tour through the US since last May which continues into early September.

8. Flo Rida, TLC, and Nelly

Flo Rida, TLC, and Nelly are teaming up for an amphitheater tour which already began! The tour will continue until September 1st.

9. John Bellion

John Bellion is the man behind the incredible vocals in Zedd’s “Beautiful Now.” John is currently on a North American tour which will end mid-August.

10. Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez is currently on a tour which started on June 7th in Inglewood which will continue until July 27th where she will end it in Miami.

11. Train and Goo Goo Dolls

Train and Goo Goo Dolls are currently on a tour which will continue until August 17th.

12. PRETTYMUCH

PRETTYMUCH has a summer tour in North America starting July 11th in Irving and ending August 16th in Vancouver.

13. Queen and Adam Lambert

Queen and Adam Lambert are going on tour together this summer. The tour begins July 4th in Vancouver and ends August 23rd in Charlotte.

14. Wiz Khalifa

Wiz Khalifa will start his tour July 9th in Atlanta and end it in mid-August. The tour will feature awe inspiring opening acts such as French Montana and Playboi Carti.

15. Zac Brown Band

Zac Brown Band has a summer tour this year which ends in late October. This is truly a great chance to enjoy country on a summer night!

16. Kiss

Kiss will be playing in the US this year from August 6th until September 20th.

17. Blink 182 and Lil Wayne

Blink 182 and Lil Wayne are collaborating for an incredible summer tour across North America. The tour starts June 27th in Columbus and ends September 20th in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn!