Blog Posts by Holly Bailey, Yahoo News

  • Laughter and meows at Oakland’s Internet Cat Video Festival

    A cat video is projected on the Great Wall of Oakland (Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

    OAKLAND, Calif.—Teddy usually spends most weekends lounging around the house, drifting in and out of long luxurious naps.

    But on Saturday, he made a rare exception to his routine--taking a ride in what his owners called his “Kitty SUV,” a fancy caged pet stroller with duel front wheels said to be tough enough to climb a mountain.

    Inside, Teddy, a 2-year-old Persian-Munchkin mix with a fluffy caramel-colored coat, looked like a tiny little king—and as one of the feline attendees of the city’s first Internet Cat Video Festival held at the Great Wall of Oakland downtown, he was.

    As he was maneuvered through the crowd of several thousand people here, Teddy in his chariot was surrounded at every turn by cooing kitty groupies. Many wore cat-themed T-shirts, while some, including Teddy’s owner, Yachi Singh, were actually dressed up as felines, complete with fake ears and drawn-on whiskers.

    “What better excuse to bring this indoor cat out here, to let him socialize a little bit, than a cat video festival,” Singh said, as her husband, Ratti, stood nearby, wearing an amused smile. Inside his stroller, Teddy, whose tiny legs were no more than four inches tall, cautiously sniffed the air and yawned.

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  • Feline film festival makes stars out of cats

    A screenshot of Henri le Chat Noir (via YouTube)

    SAN FRANCISCO—Turns out even high-art museum goers appreciate a good cat video. So much so, a full night of such digital shorts, shown in a festival at Minneapolis' Walker Art Center last year, not only returns but is also going on the road.

    This Saturday, the Internet Cat Video Festival lands in Oakland, Calif., one of several planned stops that began at Austin's South by Southwest in March and includes a June screening in Vienna, Austria. While thousands of people are expected to show up this weekend in Oakland, Scott Stulen, a curator at the Walker, one of the nation’s best-known contemporary art museums, says last year they wouldn't have been surprised if the first night had been a bust.

    It all started, Stulen told Yahoo News, when he and his colleagues were exploring ways the museum could use its outdoor space over the summer.

    In the past, the Walker had organized talks with writers and poets, and held performances by local musicians and artists on its four-acre lawn. But this time, the museum was looking for something a little different. What if, the curators wondered, the Walker were to put up a giant movie screen on the lawn for one night and play popular cat videos from the Internet? Visitors would submit their favorite clips and a panel, including Stulen, other curators and outside artists, would pick the best ones based on artistic merit.

    “We thought maybe a couple of dozen people would show up,” Stulen recalled. “I mean, we are talking about cat videos.”

    But their estimates were way off. On a Thursday night just before Labor Day weekend, an estimated 10,000 people turned out to see a 70-minute reel of videos of cats acting cute, behaving badly or just simply doing nothing at all—clips that had been seen on YouTube many times before. At least 1,000 more people had been turned away because of lack of space. According to Stulen, so many turned out that exits from a nearby highway were clogged and local police had to divert traffic from the museum.

    “The response was something I can tell you in our wildest hopes and estimates was way beyond what we expected,” Stulen said with a laugh. “It was really unlike anything I had ever seen before. ... I knew people loved cats and cat videos, but I don’t think I realized how deep that love was until then.”

    This Saturday, it will screen on the Great Wall of Oakland, the side of a 10-story building where, since 2006, large-scale projections of video art and film have been shown. Already, organizers are predicting more than 5,000 people will turn out for the festival, where proceeds from the $10 admission cost will benefit a Bay Area animal shelter.

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  • Punk this: NYC’s Met Museum celebrates rebel-influenced fashion

    The punk exhibit at the Met (Jennifer Graylock/FilmMagic)

    When the legendary downtown music club CBGB closed its doors in New York City in 2006, its many obituaries were quick to pay homage to its infamous bathrooms—facilities so vile even rock stars, who presumably have seen everything, struggled to find the right adjectives to describe their disgust.

    “Legendarily nasty,” David Byrne of the Talking Heads once politely declared.

    The dungeon-like restrooms, with their missing doors and walls covered floor to ceiling in graffiti and other substances that would make a health inspector cringe, seemed to be a vivid metaphor for CBGB’s status as the place where the anarchic world of punk rock got its start in America in the 1970s.

    Still, it may be surprising to some to see a recreation of CBGB’s bathrooms, right down to the toilet grime, about 80 blocks north in the rarefied world of Manhattan’s pristine Upper East Side. It's the opening centerpiece of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s newest exhibition: “Punk: Chaos to Couture,” which examines the movement’s influence on high fashion.

    The show, which opens to the public on Thursday and runs through Aug. 14, combines punk-era artifacts like the CBGB re-creation with clothes from designers like Zandra Rhodes and Vivienne Westwood, who have been credited as the first designers to translate the punk aesthetic to fashion.

    The exhibit then transitions into more recent designs seemingly influenced by punk over the last four decades, including creations from Christian Dior, Chanel, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen and Burberry.

    About 100 different designs are on display, many of which showcase what the museum touts as punk’s “do it yourself” ethos, including dresses made out of trash bags and clothes constructed with other unusual materials like wire, metal chains and other hardware.

    “No other movement has had a more enduring influence on high fashion,” Andrew Bolton, the show’s curator, said during a preview of the exhibit on Monday. “Punk was all about celebrating individual creativity and not being afraid. It was about being brave and challenging the status quo, elements that have been embraced by the fashion world.”

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  • Chris Christie secretly underwent major weight loss surgery

    Christie at an April 30 town hall in New Jersey (Mel Evans/AP)

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie secretly underwent lap-band stomach surgery in February amid concern from his family and friends over his weight.

    “I’ve struggled with this issue for 20 years,” Christie told the New York Post, which broke the story.

    The move comes after years of concern and criticism over Christie’s girth, especially as he has been repeatedly mentioned as a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. But Christie insisted in an interview with the Post that his move was not motivated by politics—but rather a desire to be there for his wife and kids as he gets older.

    “For me, this is about turning 50 and looking at my children and wanting to be there for them,” Christie said. Asked specifically about his political future, Christie insisted the surgery was “so much more important than that.”

    According to the Post, Christie agreed to the surgery last fall after his 50th birthday. He had surgery on Feb. 16—checking into the facility under a false name

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  • Bill Clinton and Bloomberg unveil ‘climate risk’ project

    Clinton and Bloomberg at a 2009 CGI meeting (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)NEW YORK—Former President Bill Clinton and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a new climate initiative Monday to help cities measure their risk for severe weather and natural disasters. The hope is to help curb the impact of deadly storms like Superstorm Sandy, which devastated parts of New York City last October.

    The project will be run through C40, a coalition of major cities around the world that united to study the impact of climate change on their municipalities. The group, chaired by Bloomberg, merged two years ago with the Clinton Climate Initiative—an offshoot of Clinton’s philanthropic foundation.

    Known as the C40 Risk Assessment Framework, the "climate risk" project, as Bloomberg referred to it, would develop a consistent set of measures by which cities could assess their risk of a natural disaster, including hurricanes and floods.

    “Cities simply cannot afford to close their eyes and hope for the best,” Bloomberg said, as he and Clinton unveiled the project

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  • Authorities search woods near Boston Marathon bombing suspect’s college

    Fireworks found in a backpack allegedly owned by Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (via DOJ)

    Federal investigators are searching various sites around Dartmouth, Mass., near where Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev went to college as authorities continue to look for evidence related to the attack.

    Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston, confirmed the searches in an email amid local reports that law enforcement officials were spotted combing through a wooded area not far from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, where Tsarnaev was a student.

    “The searches at various locations in Dartmouth, Mass., today are part of the ongoing investigation into the marathon bombing,” she said. “Residents should be advised that there is no threat to public safety.”

    The Standard-Times newspaper in nearby New Bedford quoted a local man who spied dozens of local police and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms searching a nature area with police dogs. A spokeswoman for the FBI’s Boston office confirmed that FBI agents also were involved in the search.

    The search came as the New York Times and NBC News quoted unnamed federal officials who said Tsarnaev told authorities he and his brother Tamerlan, who was killed during a gunbattle with police on April 19, originally had planned to carry out their attack on July 4. But the bombings allegedly were moved up because the brothers completed building their explosives ahead of time.

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  • Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade in danger after Superstorm Sandy

    A participant at Coney Island's 2012 Mermaid Parade (Lee Celano/Getty Images)

    It’s been more than six months since Superstorm Sandy ravaged the coastal areas of New York and New Jersey, but the deadly storm is on the verge of claiming another high profile victim.

    Coney Island’s famed Mermaid Parade, an annual event dating back to 1983 in which thousands of people dress up like fantastical sea creatures and march through the streets to welcome the beginning of summer, is on the brink of cancellation because of damage from Sandy.

    While the parade route hasn’t been affected, the parade’s organizer, Coney Island USA, suffered nearly $500,000 in damage when Sandy sent more than five feet of water into its headquarters along Surf Avenue last October. Rebuilding the facility—which includes a museum dedicated to Coney Island as well as a performance space for the area’s legendary freak show, burlesque dancers and old-time strongmen—has left the nonprofit group cash-strapped and unable to front the estimated $190,000 cost of the parade.

    On Monday, the group will launch a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising the funds needed to hold the parade, which is tentatively scheduled for June 22. It attracted 750,000 people last year and has generated millions in revenues for businesses in Coney Island, which was hard hit by Sandy.

    “It is painful to say it, but if we can’t raise the money, there will be no Mermaid Parade. For real,” Dick Zigun, head of Coney Island USA and the founder of the parade, told Yahoo News. “It would be a blow to the neighborhood and to the city. But we just can’t afford it.”

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  • Chris Christie, Hillary Clinton to address Bill Clinton forum

    Chris Christie (John Moore/Getty Images)Cue the 2016 buzz: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Hillary Clinton will be among the featured speakers at next month’s meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative America conference.

    Sponsored by former President Bill Clinton, the gathering kicks off June 13 in Chicago and will focus on how to create jobs and improve the U.S. economy.

    According to a release from the Clinton Foundation, Christie is one of only two Republicans currently slated to address the conference. The other is Scott Smith, mayor of Mesa, Ariz. Other speakers tentatively set to appear include Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chelsea Clinton, actress Eva Longoria and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

    It will be Hillary Clinton’s first appearance before the group, which is an offshoot of her husband’s Clinton Foundation.

    “I’m thrilled that Hillary will be participating in CGI America for the first time,” the former president said in a statement announcing the

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  • HBO documentary focuses on women who searched for bin Laden

    A still from the film "Manhunt" (courtesy HBO)

    In Kathryn Bigelow’s movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” Jessica Chastain played Maya, a young CIA operative whose stubborn pursuit of Osama bin Laden played a major role in the al-Qaida leader’s death.

    The film garnered both awards (including a Golden Globe for Chastain) and controversy—largely because of graphic scenes depicting the CIA’s use of torture on suspected terrorists. But an undisputed—and to some, surprising—revelation in the film was its disclosure of the key role a female CIA agent played in the search for bin Laden.

    Now a new documentary goes further—making clear it wasn’t just one female CIA operative relentlessly searching for bin Laden, as Bigelow’s dramatization suggests, but rather a whole team of women who began sounding the alarm about the al-Qaida leader almost a decade before the 9/11 attacks made bin Laden a household name.

    “Manhunt,” which premieres Wednesday on HBO, tries to tell what director Greg Barker describes as “the real story” behind the 20-year hunt for bin Laden. It includes interviews with several members of the so-called Sisterhood, as the team of female analysts assigned to track bin Laden came to be known within the CIA.

    Many of those interviewed, including retired agents Nada Bakos, Cindy Storer and Barbara Sude, speak on camera for the first time about their role in the bin Laden pursuit. And all, in some ways, appear to have inspired the female heroine of “Zero Dark Thirty,” from their headstrong efforts to convince colleagues that bin Laden was a serious threat to their fight to be taken seriously by male colleagues amid job pressures that came to dominate their lives.

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  • Obama and predecessors mark opening of George W. Bush library

    DALLAS—President Barack Obama praised his predecessor George W. Bush as a “good man” who should be commended for his resolve in trying to keep the country safe after the 9/11 attacks, and for his foresight in leading the fight for immigration reform.

    Obama’s remarks came as he and the other four living presidents along with dozens of state, federal and foreign dignitaries gathered here to mark the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library on the campus of Southern Methodist University.

    Obama, who has been a fierce critic of Bush’s handling of the country, and his colleagues followed the tradition of past presidential library ceremonies by putting political differences aside. Obama praised what he called Bush’s “compassion,” “generosity” and “personality,” and said, “To know the man is to like the man.”

    Remarking on the rare gathering of all five presidents, Obama spoke of the “exclusive club” that he shares with Bush as well as Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter—who were also in attendance. But, he said, “it’s more like a support group.”

    He recalled finding a letter in his desk from George W. Bush upon arriving in the Oval Office in 2009 offering his successor advice.

    “He knew I would come to learn what he had learned,” Obama said. “Being president above all is a humbling job. There are moments when you make mistakes. There are times when you wish you could turn back the clock.”

    But, Obama noted, “We love this country and we do our best.”

    Obama’s remarks came after former Clinton and Carter offered similar praise of Bush. Among other things, they touted Bush’s efforts to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa.

    But Clinton’s remarks seemed more like a roast of his successor, as he spoke warmly of Bush and talked about how

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