New top story from Time: Former NBA Player Jim Farmer to Plead Not Guilty to Human Trafficking Charge

(MURFREESBORO, Tenn.) — A grand jury has brought charges in a sex trafficking case against former NBA player and one-time University of Alabama basketball standout Jim Farmer, who was caught up in an undercover law enforcement sting last October.

Farmer, 55, of Franklin, Tennessee, was arrested again after being indicted by the Rutherford County grand jury with attempted trafficking for sexual servitude, attempted solicitation of a minor and attempted patronizing of a prostitute, news outlets reported. He was released the same day, Jan. 10, on $100,000 bond.

Farmer will plead not guilty to the new charges at his next court appearance, his attorneys Worrick Robinson and Will Fraley said in a joint statement, The Daily News Journal reported. His lawyers questioned why his case was presented to the grand jury after a judge dropped his initial charges for lack of probable cause.

According to an affidavit from the first arrest, Farmer responded to an adult escort advertisement for meeting a juvenile for sex, communicating with an undercover officer who identified herself as a 16-year-old girl. Farmer allegedly agreed to pay $170 to have sex with the girl, and was arrested after arriving at the agreed location on Oct. 25.

Farmer was a leading scorer at Alabama before being picked in the first round of the NBA draft in 1987. He spent six seasons in the league, then went on to work as a country singer and model.

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New top story from Time: The 8 Video Games We Can’t Wait to Play in 2020

This year marks the start of a new decade, and the end of a generation of video games. Sony and Microsoft are set to launch new systems during the holidays, marking the beginning of a new phase in gaming. But that’s good news: Traditionally, the games launched at the end of a generation are among that generation’s best.

Here are the video games we’re most looking forward to playing in 2020:

Cyberpunk 2077

Computers, synt-wave, betrayal, and Keanu Reeves — Cyberpunk 2077 is the most hyped game of the year. Fresh from the success of The Witcher 3, developer CD Projekt Red has gone from medieval fantasy to the dark and gritty world Night City in the year 2077.

This is an open-world action RPG in which players create their character and play their own way. Sneak through a base, hiding in the shadows and controlling the security system, or smash through the walls guns blazing. It’s up to you. Also, Keanu Reeves plays the ghost or a revolutionary rockstar that’s stuck in you head.

Cyberpunk 2020 hits PC, Xbox One, and PS4 on September 17, 2020.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Final Fantasy VII defined role-playing games for a generation of gamers when it arrived in 1997. Cloud, Aerith, and Sephiroth are gaming icons. More than 20 years later, developer Square Enix has remade the game from the ground up. The old turn-based combat system has been overhauled, the graphics look incredible, and the music is orchestrated to tug on our heartstrings.

Let Final Fantasy VII break your heart all over again on the PlayStation 4 starting April 10, 2020.

DOOM Eternal

DOOM’s 2016 release brought the first-person shooter franchise back to its roots. DOOM Eternal is more of the same, but perfected. Rip and tear your way through hundreds of demons as you wage war against heaven and hell to save Earth from the apocalypse.

Raise hell in Doom Eternal on the PC, PS4, and Xbox One starting March 3, 2020.

The Last of Us Part II

The Last of Us set a high bar for storytelling in big-budget video games. Like The Walking Dead, its zombies are a background for a drama about a family in upheaval. Joel is a man with a terrible tragedy in his past, Ellie is a girl who can save the world. Part II picks up the story years after the end of the previous game. Joel and Ellie are older, but the world is no better.

Play The Last of Us Part II on PlayStation 4 on May 29, 2020.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

You know how it is. You purchase a vacation package from that rascally racoon Tom Nook, and the next thing you know you’re stranded on a deserted island. You try to spruce up the place as best you can, all while making regular payments to Nook. The Animal Crossing franchise is Nintendo’s version of The Sims, but more adorable and full of strange mysteries. There are talking animals, adventures, and one industrious raccoon who expects his debts to be repaid.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons will hit the Nintendo Switch on March 20, 2020.

Half-Life: Alyx

Half-Life 2: Episode Two ended on a cliffhanger more than a decade ago. Since then, fans have watched as their hope for a Half-Life 3 went from hope to horror. The idea that developer Valve, the company behind the digital distribution platform Steam, would ever release a follow-up to the genre defining Half-Life franchise has become a joke.

But Valve recently announced that a new Half-Life is coming out this year. The twist is that it’s a prequel. The second twist is that it’s exclusive to virtual reality headsets. With Valve’s track record of success, Half-Life: Alyx might be VR’s first killer app.

Half Life: Alyx comes to PC Virtual Reality headsets in March 2020.

Halo Infinite

Master Chief is eternal. Master Chief is infinite. We don’t know much about Halo Infinite — only that’s it’ll be a first-person shooter like its predecessors, and launch alongside Microsoft’s new Xbox Series X over the holiday. And honestly, that’s enough.

Halo Infinite is set to launch alongside the Xbox Series X this holiday season.

The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X

The year will end with the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. We know precious little about both consoles — only that they’ll be hardware powerhouses able to run games in 4K at high frame rates with minimal loading times. At the moment, that’s all marketing. We know some of the games coming to the Xbox Series X, and very little about what’s coming to the PlayStation 5. But there’s a whole year ahead of us to hype the machines and learn what delights are planned.

Both new consoles are set to arrive over the holidays.

New top story from Time: 11 U.S. Service Members Were Treated for Concussion Symptoms After Iranian Missile Attack

Eleven U.S. soldiers were treated for concussion symptoms following the Iranian missile attack on Iraqi military bases housing American troops, the U.S. military said.

“While no U.S. service members were killed in the Jan. 8 Iranian attack on Al Asad Air base, several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed,” U.S. Central Command spokesperson Capt. Bill Urban said in a statement. “As a standard procedure, all personnel in the vicinity of a blast are screened for traumatic brain injury, and if deemed appropriate are transported to a higher level of care.”

Eight service members were transported from the Al Asad Air Base to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and three were taken to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait for screenings “out of an abundance of caution,” Urban said. The soldiers are expected to return to Iraq after being screened.

The missile attack on Jan. 8 was retaliation for an American drone strike near Baghdad that killed top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani. The U.S. military and President Donald Trump’s administration officials initially said there were “no casualties” from the attack.

U.S. troops were warned about the missile strike hours before Iran launched them at the base, the military said on Monday.

New top story from Time: Every Dog Has Its Day and Today Is That Day for This Lime Green ‘Hulk’ Puppy

A puppy has been born with a coat the color of lime green of all things.

Last Friday, a white German shepherd named Gypsy gave birth to eight happy little puppies in Canton, N.C. But one of the lot them stood out from the squad.

He was cuddly. He was friendly. He was the bright color of key lime pie. “I started freaking out because it was green,” Shana Stamey, the owner told WLOS.

Turns out, there was a perfectly reasonable explanation. The puppy’s coat was stained from his mother’s stomach probably stained his fur in utero, Suzanne Cianciulli, the manager of Junaluska Animal Hospital in Waynesville told USA Today. Another possible explanation? Meconium, a dark greenish substance found in the puppy’s stool.

Whatever the case, he is totally safe. And appropriately, he shall be called Hulk.

Its coat will fade to white eventually thanks to baths and self-licking. So it’s time to work in all the photos of him living his lime green life while he’s still this hue.

He’s far from the first lime green doggie. There have been others with neon green fur spots.

But if you haven’t had the pleasure of encountering a pup the color of a lime green highlighter, allow Hulk to introduce himself below.

New top story from Time: China’s Birthrate Sank to Lowest Level on Record Last Year

China’s birthrate dropped to the lowest level since at least 1949 last year and the labor force continued to shrink, in the latest sign of slowing growth prospects for the world’s second-largest economy.

The number of births per 1,000 people declined to 10.48, the lowest level on record according to National Bureau of Statistics data going back to when the Communist Party took power. China’s working-age population — those aged 16 to 59 — declined by 890,000, the figures released Friday showed. The number of newborns in 2019 fell to 14.65 million, a decrease of 580,000 from the year before.

China has struggled to arrest the country’s declining birthrate for years, easing its stringent one-child policy in 2013 and allowing each family to have two children in 2016. Still, top leaders have resisted calls to fully lift restrictions on the number of babies each family can have even as the birthrate in 2018 has dropped to lows unseen since the turmoil of Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward.

“The historically low number of births in part reflects declining birth numbers since the 1990s, but also reveals something much more profound about the social transformations that are still unfolding in China, and can be worrisome,” said Wang Feng, a sociology professor at the University of California at Irvine.

Domestic migration on a massive scale, rapid urbanization, a cutthroat work culture, the high cost of housing and education and rampant gender discrimination all contribute to the low birthrate and may continue to do so for decades to come, Wang said.

Local authorities have addressed the demographic issues at annual legislative sessions currently taking place across China. Zhejiang, a wealthy eastern province, pledged to prioritize increasing child-care service for children under 3.

In central Henan province, a member of the provincial political consultancy body called for the immediate abolishment of so-called family planning regulation to encourage births in an interview with local media on Sunday. Hu Peng, a researcher with state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, suggested integrating policies that would boost birthrates into projects.

Even if the government lifted all restrictions on childbirth, “that would only have a small impact on reversing the fertility trend, as the willingness to have three or more children is very low,“ said He Yafu, a Guangdong-based demographer.

The 2019 figure marks the third consecutive annual birth rate decline since the Chinese government enacted its looser “two-child” policy in 2016, and is three million fewer births than were recorded in its inaugural year.

Though China once expected that birth policy reform it could see up to 20 million births in a peak year, that tally hasn’t become a reality, and such a wide margin of miscalculation has drawn criticism at home, fueling the public’s skepticism towards the birth policy.

“With the reduction of the population of fertile women and the weakening effect of the two-child policy, the births will continue to drop,” said He, the demographer.

Meanwhile, the share of people older than 65 grew to 12.6% last year, compared with 11.9% in the prior year.

China’s population is aging more quickly than most of the world’s developed economies, a hangover from decades of family planning policies. In 2001, those aged 65 and older accounted for more than 7% of the country and the proportion has grown at a quicker pace each year ever since.

China’s elderly population is expected to grow by a total of 224 million between 2010 and 2040, with an average annual growth rate of 3.62% and net increase of 7.46 million, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences estimates. Researchers also forecast China’s total population to begin to decline around 2028.

Chinese authorities have deliberated over raising the country’s retirement age, currently 60 for men and 55 for women, to cope with the shortage in the labor force and shortfall in the national pension fund, though no action has been taken yet.

New top story from Time: Trump Readies Two More Nominations to the Federal Reserve Board

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump said Thursday that he intends to nominate two people to serve on the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, an institution he has repeatedly attacked for not cutting rates deeply enough.

Both were first named by Trump on Twitter in July but their nominations hadn’t been formally announced. Trump said he has picked Judy Shelton, an economic adviser to his campaign who recently served as the U.S. executive director for the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, and Christopher Waller, the director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Shelton’s long history of unorthodox economic commentary could make her nomination more controversial. Waller, who regularly attends the Fed’s rate-setting meetings in Washington, is a more conventional selection. Both will require confirmation by the Senate, a process that can take months.

Shelton and Waller would fill two vacancies on the Fed’s seven-member board. Board members vote on the Fed’s interest rate policies and also weigh in on financial regulation.

Trump has picked four of the five current members of the board, including his elevation of Jerome Powell to the position of Chair. That hasn’t stopped the president from harshly criticizing the Fed, calling its policymakers “boneheads” for not cutting rates quickly enough last year. The Fed reduced its benchmark short-term interest rate three times in 2019 to a range of 1.5% to 1.75%, a very low level historically.

Trump argues that the Fed should set rates even lower, at zero or even in negative territory, as central banks in Europe and Japan have done. Economists generally regard rates that low as evidence of an economy in trouble.

Shelton has a history of attacking the Fed’s policies and has urged that the United States return to the gold standard, under which the value of currencies like the dollar are fixed to a specific amount of gold. Most mainstream economists who study monetary policy reject the gold standard as antiquated.

Shelton criticized the Fed during Barack Obama’s presidency for keeping its benchmark rate pinned at zero for seven years, which she argued risked higher inflation and a sharp devaluation of the dollar, neither of which occurred. But like some of Trump’s previous Fed nominees,she now echoes Trump’s calls for lower interest rates.

Waller is also likely to support keeping interest rates low. He works for the president of the St. Louis Fed, James Bullard, who was one of the strongest supporters of rate cuts last year.

Waller “has been instrumental in helping shape Bullard’s view about the U.S. shifting into a low growth, low inflation and interest rate regime,” Kathy Bostjancic, an economist at Oxford Economics, said when Trump first floated Waller’s name in July.

New top story from Time: NBC’s Peacock Streaming Service to Take a Different Approach From Its Rivals: Free Content

(Bloomberg) — Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal said its upcoming streaming service will be free to everyone — with extra programming for its pay-TV subscribers — in a bet that it can generate substantial revenue from advertising while supporting the cable business.

Along with AT&T Inc.’s HBO Max, NBC’s new service, Peacock, is poised to be a relatively late entrant in the burgeoning market for streaming-video services. But Peacock also marks a very different approach from rivals. Unlike paid-subscription platforms such as Netflix Inc., Walt Disney Co.’s Disney+ and Apple Inc.’s Apple TV+, Peacock will largely rely on advertising. The company expects to reach 30 million to 35 million active accounts by 2024.

Comcast executives have said they plan to spend $2 billion over the next two years on the streaming service and expect it to break even by its fifth year. The approach mimics the deep spending of rivals such as Disney and AT&T, which are pouring billions into their platforms as well — and don’t expect to be profitable until later in the decade.

The Peacock service, named for the longstanding NBC logo, will launch April 15 to Comcast customers and then roll out nationwide July 15. That’s just before the start of the Summer Olympics, which NBCUniversal’s networks will air. The premium version of Peacock, which ordinarily will cost $4.99 a month, will be available at no cost initially to subscribers of Comcast and Cox Communications Inc.

Those two cable companies have over 24 million subscribers. Their subscribers will have access to twice as many hours of content as those using the free version. That will include sports offerings like soccer’s English Premier League and early access to late-night talk shows.

Ad Options

Anyone can get the free version of Peacock, but customers will have to pay $4.99 for the premium version with advertising. They can also pay $9.99 for an advertising-free version.

By making a version of the product free, NBC is hoping that Peacock will have a leg up on its streaming competitors and reach a large subscriber base quickly. It also reflects the fact that Peacock is owned by Comcast, the largest U.S. cable-TV provider, which can use a free streaming service to make its other offerings more attractive.

State Farm Life Insurance Co., Target Corp. and Unilever will be the first set of advertisers on Peacock.

The service will have programming from the Summer Olympics, which begin in late July in Tokyo, including live coverage of the opening and closing ceremonies and daily Olympic shows.

Peacock will have more than 600 movies and 400 series, including reruns of NBC shows such as “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” as well as a slate of original programs. It will also stream the “Law & Order” and “Chicago” shows created by Dick Wolf and have exclusive streaming rights for Universal films, including “Fast & Furious 9” and “Jurassic World 3.”

The arrival of Peacock comes during a period of transition for NBCUniversal. Steve Burke stepped down as the chief executive officer on Jan. 1, handing the reins to lieutenant Jeff Shell. Burke, who is now chairman of NBCUniversal, will retire in August.

New top story from Time: HBO’s Avenue 5 Transports Veep Creator Armando Iannucci’s Dark, Profane Humor to Outer Space

In science fiction, the future generally comes in one of two varieties: idealized or dystopian. But what if the world to come turns out to be very much like the present, a mixed bag full to bursting with joy, sorrow, innovation, hubris, funny jokes, toxic marriages, yoga, family obligations, ugly resort wear, the majesty of nature, rampant inequality, much-needed distractions, accidental death? What if the defining attribute of humankind isn’t goodness or evil but incompetence?

It’s an argument Armando Iannucci has been making for his entire career—not just in brilliant political satires like Veep, The Thick of It, In the Loop and 2017’s big-screen historical spoof The Death of Stalin, but also through three decades’ worth of collaboration with Steve Coogan on the chronicles of bumbling, parochial, not-entirely-translatable British media personality Alan Partridge. And it’s the presumption that connects everything the British writer and producer has done in the past to his surprising new HBO show Avenue 5, a sci-fi comedy set on a luxury “space cruise” to Saturn in the year 2060.

Premiering Jan. 19, Avenue 5 joins the titular ship midway through its eight-week journey, as couples clad in loud tropical patterns feast, fight, engage in organized leisure activities and gaze into the starry abyss through the vessel’s disconcertingly large windows. At the helm—but more often entertaining passengers over drinks—is Ryan Clark, a dashing captain played by a smartly cast Hugh Laurie. Also onboard is the craft’s owner, Herman Judd (Josh Gad, marrying tech-bro petulance with vulgar, Guy-Fieri-like bravado), who issues whiny demands from a Trumpian gilded office suite under the supervision of his exacting deputy Iris Kimura (Suzy Nakamura). If this were The Love Boat, Matt Spencer (Zach Woods, fresh off a hilarious run as the weirdly earnest Jared on Silicon Valley) would be its cruise director. (One of the show’s best recurring gags is a series of videos in which he promotes various events and amenities. “Do you love to drink?” he inquires in one, tray of beers in hand. “I know my dad did.”) He’s also a self-proclaimed nihilist who offers no comfort to his charges when things start to go bad.

And go bad they do. Without giving too much away, Avenue 5 opens with a technical mishap that just keeps snowballing, thrusting heaps of additional responsibility onto anxious engineer Billie McEvoy (Lenora Crichlow, a charming British actor who hasn’t had a role this rich since her stint as a ghost on Being Human ended in 2012) and threatening to extend the voyage by upwards of three years. It soon becomes clear that not everything on the ship is as top-shelf as it looks—Ryan included. Panic takes hold of passengers and crew alike, as Rav Mulcair (Luther alum Nikki Amuka-Bird) and her mission-control team struggle to manage both logistics and optics from Earth. Somehow, the most competent person onboard appears to be an officious middle-aged passenger named Karen (the wonderful Rebecca Front, from The Thick of It) who may or may not be a stowaway.

Though the plot moves a bit slowly in the beginning, that pace allows Iannucci to roll out plenty of other amusing characters, from a randy retired astronaut to the snobs at NASA to a remarkably pretty flight crew. Avenue 5 gets sharper with each of the four episodes sent to critics, which bodes well for what lies ahead, when the bulk of the world-building is done. It isn’t Veep, sure, but there are traces of Selina Meyer in Ryan; both are smug, two-faced charlatans entrusted with far more power than they deserve. The show also benefits from Iannucci’s dark, profane, literary sensibility. A maid folds an irritating couple’s (Jessica St. Clair and Kyle Bornheimer) towel into the shape of an anus. (“The puckering’s beautiful,” Matt marvels.) A botched space burial results in the coffin endlessly orbiting the ship; later, a comedian pauses his stand-up set in an awkward gesture of respect as it floats past the window. While Iris talks in corporate truisms (“A problem is just a solution without a solution”), Matt can’t contain his excitement at hurtling toward the void: “This is fate, and it’s freestyling with us. This is like… jazz fate.”

Veep became the perfect satire for a particularly incompetent moment in American politics. Yet in many ways, Avenue 5 presents a bigger challenge for Iannucci and his writers. Their cast of characters is huge, every room on the vast spaceship they’ve dreamed up has its own function and vibe, they can’t rely on current pop-culture references for jokes and they have to imagine what Earth is like two generations on—a task that yields silly hairstyles and a few small, clever surprises. Iannucci may still be finding his space legs, but I, for one, would follow his sense of humor to the ends of the known universe.

New top story from Time: Penn Badgley Has Reviewed Your Memes of You and He Has His Favorites

Warning: This post contains spoilers for You.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Penn Badgley’s romance-obsessed stalker-turned-serial killer, Joe, in Netflix’s You is the object of the Internet’s affection. With his nerdy penchant for books and lovelorn obsession with chivalry — to the point of murder — Joe’s significant quirks both twee and sinister have fascinated fans online.

After season 1 of You dropped on Netflix, the Internet was quick to declare their love for Joe with so much aplomb that Badgley called out his fans for applauding a serial killer who nurtured toxic dynamics. That couldn’t stymie the onslaught of memes that emerged from Joe’s antics on the show, however, an Internet phenomenon that Badgley finds hilarious.

In an interview with InStyle, Badgley revealed that he’s seen many of the memes, thanks to people texting them to him or happening upon them on the Internet. There are a couple that he noted as being some of his favorites.”

“I think the one that made me laugh out loud was the one where I’ve been given nails and hoop earrings,” he said.

“And there was a tweet with that meme that has been used so many times, for so many different purposes to varying effect, and the picture finally had no text on it. The simplicity of that one was very funny to me.”

The tweet in question in utilized the oft-used “distracted boyfriend” meme, which is pretty much peak Internet; Penn Badgley enjoying a You joke made with the Internet’s favorite meme? Now, that’s love.

 

New top story from Time: Intense Thunderstorms Bring Relief And Problems To Fire-Ravaged Australia

Intense thunderstorms have brought hail and strong rains to some regions of Australia, where bushfires have been burning at an unprecedented scale.

Farmers and firefighters alike celebrated the rain, which has helped disperse smoke in Melbourne and could dampen bushfires. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology, however, has been weary to celebrate, calling the thunderstorms a “double edge sword.” The storms have ushered in a host of new problems like flooding while exacerbating old ones; lightning strikes have sparked at least two new fires in the Great Otway National Park.

“Unfortunately with lightning strikes, it’s not always the next day they pop up,” Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “They can smolder around in trees and in root systems for a couple of days and pop up under drier, hotter conditions.”

The bushfires in Australia have burned an estimated 15.6 million acres since July 1, which the government has struggled to contain despite international support. At least 24 people have died, millions of animals have perished and people across the country have been forced to flee their homes, thousands of which have been set ablaze.

While the New South Wales(NSW) Rural Fire Service spoke hopefully about the rain, tweeting “relief is here for a number of firefighters working across NSW,” they noted that the storms alone could not put out current fires. The rains have yet to extinguish fires or hit the regions that need it most.

The thunderstorms also bring further problems. On Thursday, three inches of rainfall caused flooding and damage to parts of Melbourne with the city receiving a month’s worth of rain in the span of a few hours. In NSW, 10,000 households and businesses lost power due to thunderstorms.

Authorities have also warned that in drought-ridden regions where bushfires have burnt water-absorbing vegetation, massive amounts of rain could lead to dangerous flash floods and landslides.

Bushfires can create their own weather, according to The Bureau of Meteorology, including thunderstorms. When hot air generated from smoke meets cool air, it creates pyrocumulus clouds (also known as “fire clouds”) that generates strong winds and thunderstorms. Satellite imaging captured the formation of these clouds over Victoria on December 30.

Climate scientists say that climate change intensified the current bushfires due to prolonged droughts and record high temperatures. As Australia continues to grapple with its climate emergencies, questions remain about the safety of some areas.

“They’ve got to drastically change their relationship with the surrounding environment; they’ve got to drastically change the surrounding environment in order to be able to survive and reduce their vulnerability,” said Ross Bradstock, the director of the Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires at the University of Wollongong in an interview with the Atlantic. “Another option is the retreat from flammable places.”