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Jun. 28 2010 — 3:46 pm | 8,258 views | 1 recommendations | 15 comments

Texas Rangers arrest Candi Cooper outside Austin home

Update (below): Candi Cooper is free.

The wife of Texas drug cop turned anti-prohibition crusader Barry Cooper has been arrested, according to a phone call I just received.

Cooper claimed that a woman knocked on their door and told his wife Candi that she’d ran into their vehicle and wanted to exchange insurance information. However, when she stepped outside officers were allegedly waiting in the wings with handcuffs.

“This is so fucked up dude, the Texas Rangers are outside my home right now trying to figure out what to do,” Barry claimed in a frantic phone call. “My lawyer is pissed. I’m not going outside. They have an arrest warrant for she and I, but they don’t have a search warrant so they’re not kicking in my door just yet.”

Authorities have yet to confirm the arrest. Children are present in the residence and could be heard in the background of the call. The Coopers vehicle was indeed damaged, according to one of the children overheard in the background audio.

(Update: the vehicle had some preexisting damage, so police were in no way responsible for that. They apparently used the claim as a ploy to draw the Coopers out of their home. The younger voice heard on the call was apparently Barry’s oldest daughter.)

Cooper claimed these latest dealings with law enforcement are related to his first ‘KopBusters’ operation in Odessa, Texas, where he set up a fake marijuana grow house fitted with cameras and Christmas trees. The sting was the first of a series for Cooper, who saw his now-abandoned reality show project as a way to make an example of dishonest officers.

While he was not arrested at that time, the Texas Rangers had been conducting a further investigation. In that case, officers were tipped off to the alleged grow operation by an anonymous letter left for a local pastor, who turned it over to police.

Making a false report to a police officer is a Class B misdemeanor.

Watch this space for further updates.

Update, 3:10 p.m.

Barry has released a video featuring a confrontational conversation he allegedly had with an unidentified Texas Ranger in March 2009. The video was published to YouTube over a year ago, but was just now released to the public.

The edits in the last 30 seconds of video were apparently made to emphasize the man telling Cooper he’d come to Austin and “whoop your ass.” It is below.

I’m with Cooper now. He’s sent his kids to stay with friends and plans to vanish for a couple days until his attorney can arrange for an amicable resolution to his arrest warrant. At this moment he’s pacing back and forth in his living room, cursing and smoking, calling as many people as possible to spread the word.

I can confirm that his wife is in Travis County jail.

Cooper showed me a video clip of the Texas Rangers standing outside his apartment in south Austin as he tried to communicate through a window. On the video, an officer wearing a wide-brimmed cowboy hat, a light blue shirt and pressed slacks informed Cooper that the arrest is indeed related to making a false report to a peace officer in Odessa, Texas.

Because of this, Odessa has up to 10 days to extradite Candi: a scary truth for Barry, who sounds on the verge of tears at the moment.

“Oh my God if they keep her for 10 days or more, I don’t know what I’ll do,” he said, tugging on a cigarette. “This is unbelievable. It’s possible that they could come back with a warrant for resisting arrest. I’ve never seen a cop kick in a door for that alone, but we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Update, 4:18 a.m.

After a long night of high-tension phone calls, loosely made plans and a madcap scramble to get a vehicle not associated with Barry into downtown Austin to pick up his wife, Candi Cooper is free as of roughly 3 a.m.

I was along for the whole strange trip.

The record should show that Candi’s arrest was attributed to the charge of making a false report to a peace officer during her husband’s political activism in Odessa, Texas nearly 19 months ago.

Also for the record: I’ve been told by multiple people involved in the Odessa sting that Candi was not the author of an anonymous letter left for a local pastor, who ultimately advised police of the alleged marijuana grow operation by way of turning over the missive.

It was a due to a Class B misdemeanor that the state’s most elite police force, the Texas Rangers, became involved in this weird, politically charged case.

Their presence at the Coopers’ yesterday convinced me beyond all reasonable doubt that Texas law enforcement really has it out for these people.

The Rangers are not some backwater cop shop. They could have called the Coopers’ attorney and demanded they turn themselves in. They could have pulled Barry over at any time. They could have been direct about the matter and achieved compliance, straightaway … Instead, officers chose to have a female knock on the family’s door and falsely claim their vehicle had been damaged, luring Candi outside whereupon an arrest was quickly made.

“That’s exactly how we used to do it when I was a cop,” Cooper told me. “I’ve actually done that to people myself.”

Could this be karmic justice served Texas-style? Or is Candi’s arrest the business end of a political vendetta against her husband?

Seeing what I’ve seen, both this week and in the 17 months since I began sporadically writing about Cooper … I’m going with both.

An arrest warrant for Barry is still outstanding, but he’s professed an intent to turn himself in. Stay tuned.



Jun. 26 2010 — 9:37 am | 1,144 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Gulf coast resident: BP looking to ‘cut costs’, put on show for politicians

Here’s video of a single testimony given at an emergency citizens summit in Louisiana on June 19.

This is by far the most stunning coverage of the Gulf oil crisis I’ve seen yet.

Her name is Kindra Arnesen, a fisherman’s wife from Venice, Louisiana. She was the source of a riveting CNN piece on June 3 and a May 13 blog by the National Resources Defense Council.

If you missed both of those, stop whatever you are doing — right now — and give this woman 15 minutes of your time.

As if all that is not bad enough … Guess what else is brewing in the Gulf.



Jun. 18 2010 — 8:11 pm | 2,589 views | 0 recommendations | 8 comments

E3 2010: The Best (and Worst) of Gaming’s Big Show

Having thoroughly hashed out these important matters with a number of colleagues over some adult beverages, here’s my list of highlights and let-downs from this year’s E3.

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Best Wii-Exclusive Game: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

This was the first game Nintendo touched on at their media briefing. In spite of a somewhat glitchy live demonstration (chalked up to wireless interference from the audience, naturally), the game was available to play on the show floor. Every concept presented by designer Shigeru Miyamoto came across smoothly in the actual game, which puts the player in direct, 1:1 control of Link’s sword.

Watch:

The graphics are very colorful and seem to have a hint of cell-shading to them, meaning many fans will see the art style as something of a cross between Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. There seemed to be some watercolor-like effects in the background distortion as well, leading me to wonder if the unique rendering has something to do with the nature of Link’s new world.

While many of the gameplay mechanics are familiar to fans of the Zelda franchise, it still feels fresh and original. Nintendo definitely had the best game lineup of the show, but this one stood just above the rest.

(Runners up: Sonic Colors, Kirby: Epic Yarn, Metroid: Other M.)

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Best PlayStation 3-Exclusive Game: Twisted Metal

Talk about some old-school jones: this game had me spinning my wheels back to the PSOne-era. It truly stood out at Sony’s booth and instantly brought back memories of countless hours spent on the other David Jaffe-created Twisted Metal games. Sony was smart to let him do his own thing once again, especially after the titanic success of the God of War series.

Plus, the multiplayer is a true sight to behold, which you may do so below.

(Runners up: Motorstorm Apocalypse, Gran Turismo 5, Little Big Planet 2.)

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Best Xbox 360-Exclusive Game: None of the above

Microsoft put WAY too much focus on family-friend Kinect games that look like poor Wii ripoffs, while leaving core gamers out in the cold. Sure, they had Halo Reach and Gears of War 3, but neither really wowed me. I’m certain both will be quality gaming experiences, but they’re franchise properties; a known quantity. I wanted something new, but even with a massive console add-on device Microsoft failed to bring home the goods.

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Best Multiplatform Games:  Marvel VS Capcom 3, Dead Rising 2, Rock Band 3

Child of Eden, the spiritual sequel to Rez, is easily my game of the show and headed to PS3 and 360 very soon – but there’s three other multiplatform games that deserve similarly high praise.

Marvel VS Capcom 3 (Capcom, coming to Xbox 360, PS3) looks to be a chaotic masterpiece of a fighter. After an hour waiting in line, a friend and I — both of us being quite proficient in MVC 2 — tore into each other for five solid minutes and came away very impressed. The graphics are gorgeous and it will have a cast of gaming and comic heroes unlike anything players have ever seen before. That’s cool.

Trailer:

Dead Rising 2 (Capcom, coming to Xbox 360, PS3, PC) takes players on a violent and deeply satirical ride through a zombie-infested shopping mall.  Thousands of the undead haunt seemingly each hallway and corridor, but wading through them isn’t made needlessly difficult. The game lets players use almost any item lying around to slaughter zombies and even allows for weapon combinations via a tool bench and roll of duct tape. Two chainsaws taped to the ends of a canoe paddle? Yes, please.

Trailer:

Rock Band 3 (Harmonix, coming to Xbox 360, PS3, Wii) will feature all new instruments that actually replicate the experience of playing the real thing … By which, it will literally teach gamers how to play the guitar, bass, drums and keyboard. The game will also feature 83 new tracks, though Rock Band already features thousands of amazing artists via downloadable content. Even people who hate this sort of game would be tempted to invest if they’re interested in learning to play an instrument. Bravo, Harmonix.

Trailer:

(Runners up: Vanquish, Mortal Kombat, Sonic the Hedgehog 4.)

Best New Hardware: Nintendo 3DS

On the show’s final day, the Nintendo 3DS had a line estimated to be some five hours long, stretching out into the convention center parking lot. In my years of covering and reading about E3, I’ve never heard of such a thing.

The 3D effect one gets from the new DS screen is brilliant. Looked at straight on, it’s as if the device contains a separate little world that hovers in front of you. Seen from an angle the effect is lost and the image becomes fuzzy, but when it’s right, it’s really right.

8 and 16-bit games are likely to be ported over, as the booth featured some of the older Nintendo classics in pseudo-3D. Nintendo 64 games will also benefit dramatically from the new platform and Nintendo was showing off demos for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Star Fox 64, both in eye-popping 3D.

But it’s not just the old school that got gamers abuzz: some of the tech demos featured graphic fidelity near the level of Xbox 360 games, and Nintendo is reviving Kid Icarus to showcase the 3DS.

The system has a slider on the side that lets players adjust the 3D effect — and, at their press conference, Nintendo said the console would sport a “wealth” of 3D content at launch. These two facts could very well mean that many existing DS games will work with the new system, but that remains to be seen. Still, allowing a 3D effect toggle might give players the power to simply flick it on and see what happens, unless the system’s firmware simply locks that function when playing older games. With shutter glasses on a properly-equipped 3D gaming PC, similar toggles allow for a range of compatibility with older games not specifically designed for the effect. This could also be the case on 3DS, but Nintendo was clearly hedging their bets on making any announcement.

Toss in a 3D camera and content partnerships for 3D Hollywood movies and you’ve got the most compelling handheld gaming gadget ever. Nintendo is going to own pockets all over the world very soon.

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Worst New Hardware: PlayStation Move

This was a real toss-up between Move and Kinect. Believe it or not, I actually think Move has a better shot at success if Sony can hit a mass-market price with a bundle package. Still, getting two players fully compatible with most Move games is a high point of entry, with consumers looking at a very hefty investment by way of buying every piece separately. For instance, to play The Fight, a full $200 plus tax must be sunk into the controllers alone. Then there’s the Web cam … And the game …

Still, this promo video from Sony is neat to look at:

It’s basically a new console that sits on top of an old console. Unless Sony gets this thing bundled and cheaper, with games that are not blatant Wii ripoffs, I’m calling it another Sega CD or 64 Disk Drive. Consumers do not have a difficult choice when asking themselves who offers a better, cheaper, more enjoyable motion gaming experience. Sony’s Move fails to inspire me and until it does, I’m not buying it.

(A final, immature barb at Move: a female colleague quipped that it looks like a freaky vibrator with a glowing ball on the end. Now every time I look at it, that comment pops into mind. *shudder*)

Runner Up: Xbox 360 Kinect

The new Xbox device has cool tech behind it and should be able to produce some interesting gaming experiences on down the road … But it also makes people who play with it look like complete idiots. Microsoft’s booth was full of people jumping and waiving spasmodically, with video of their actions projected above the crowd. Whoever made this decision wasn’t very smart. They may as well have launched their own EyeToy, ’cause it’s basically just a Web cam that makes people look stupid.

Last year’s E3, “Project Natal” ignited the imaginations of gamers everywhere with the Milo demo by Lionhead. This year, after presenting the thing with a bizarre arena show full of glowing space bibs and acrobats running on the ceiling, Microsoft offered a not-so-subtle apology to the press with thousands of ethics-free, gratis consoles.

Then, a nasty rumor surfaced: that Kinect doesn’t work very well for gamers who are sitting down. Microsoft says that’s not the case, but did thump on the whole “optimized for standing” bit a lot during the show. Added, every Kinect game I saw required players to be on their feet. Many looked like quite a workout, and the stench of sweaty geek body odor was certainly detectable in the Xbox booth.

If sitting glitches this thing out — and I already hear the voice controls can be manipulated by multiple people during one session — that may just be one fatal flaw too many.

But at least their first TV spot is kind of neat, even though it gives viewers absolutely no reason to buy the product:

Still, if Microsoft’s strongest appeal to core gamers is, ‘Hey, get up and jump around for some Wii ripoffs,’ or, ‘pretend your finger is a gun’ (something Sony outright mocked) … I don’t see it faring well until a truly killer app hits.

I believe that game will be Child of Eden, which is the only reason I did not pick Kinect for worst hardware. Still, it remains to be seen.

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Best Major Franchise Reboot: Mortal Kombat

The new Mortal Kombat features four player action and all the violence players have come to expect from the series. This time, it’s a true sequel to Mortal Kombat II, the game most ‘Kobmatants’ like best. From checking out the trailers and watching it demonstrated, this looks to be a bloody good time. This could soon be one of the most popular party games in America. (Midway, coming to Xbox 360, PS3.)

Trailer:

(Runners up: Twisted Metal, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Goldeneye.)

Worst Major Franchise Reboot: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

I wanted this game to be so much more than a God of War ripoff. From my 10 minutes of demo time, it doesn’t appear to clear that bar. I hope their surprisingly lame demo is a fluke because the Castlevania reboot has tremendous potential … But the folks at Konami need to do something a little different than their friends at Sony, or I may not be plunking down full retail price. (Konami, coming to Xbox 360, PS3.)

Trailer:

(Runners up: Xbox, PlayStation for their emphasis on how they’ve become more expensive copies of the Wii.)

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Game of the Show: Child of Eden

Just … Watch:

That’s the spiritual sequel to Rez, revered by many gamers as being at the pinnacle of the interactive arts. I maintain, Child of Eden — which supports Kinect and is slated for Xbox 360 and PS3 — cannot come out soon enough.

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That’s all for this list. Check back in the coming days for a more unconventional take on my E3 experience, complete with photos, video and a lot of weirdness. Cheers.



Jun. 17 2010 — 7:32 pm | 8,771 views | 0 recommendations | 13 comments

E3 2010: ‘Child of Eden’ producer says ‘Microsoft f–ked up big time’

(Update: After this article’s publication, the source insisted his comments were made strictly off the record and that I had quoted him out of context. Though I verbally identified myself as a journalist, displayed an ESA-issued “Media” badge and informed Mr. Mielke of a prior article I’d written based on his online comments, at the time of our brief conversation I did not ask permission to publish his quotes. Though he did not explicitly state the nature of his remarks, I remain in error for not explicitly clarifying my intent. I sincerely apologize for any difficulties this may have caused Mr. Mielke or his colleagues, many of whom are counted among the most esteemed game developers in the world.)

During the final day of E3 2010, my request to demo Child of Eden was shot down by an UbiSoft PR rep. Thankfully, I ran into one of the game’s producers, James Mielke, as I was leaving the convention center.

Click to visit UbiSoft's Child of Eden site.

A friend and I related our disappointment with the Kinect software lineup and asked why Microsoft didn’t place more emphasis on Eden. His response was unusually direct.

“Yeah, Microsoft fucked up big time,” he said, sporting a knowing grin. “They had a chance to feature it for Kinect but decided to focus on family-friendly games like what’s on Wii. They weren’t expecting everyone to react so negatively. After we showed off our game at UbiSoft, the Microsoft people came to our booth like, ‘Oh, oh wow.’”

He mimed curiosity by pursing his lips and drumming fingers across his chin, then rolled his eyes.

I complained to him that all of Kinect’s other software is uninspiring, but noted that Eden alone would make it worth my money.

Mielke nodded. “Lots of people were saying that — except, you don’t even need Kinect to play it.”

As an aside, he also said that Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto usually spends just a moment or two looking at each game and rarely shares his thoughts. After demoing Eden, Miyamoto and Q?’s founder, former Sega veteran Tetsuya Mizuguchi, spoke with each other for a few moments. According to Mielke, the legendary creator of Zelda and Mario called Eden “game of the show.”

The former journalist and part-time DJ added: “[Eden] will be out before next year’s E3, probably like Spring 2011. It sounds like a long time but, for me, looking at it from the inside, that’s not long at all.”

While it may not be a long time in development terms, Eden is one game that simply cannot come out soon enough. In spite of Mielke’s rather frank criticism, Microsoft would be wise to begin coddling the geniuses at Q? from now until this game ships.

Xbox 360’s proprietors would be fools to continue ignoring the sales potential behind Eden. A high-dollar Kinect/Eden marketing campaign and any amount of bribery necessary to secure a game/hardware retail bundle seems to be the most logical solution.

Update amended from a prior version.



Jun. 17 2010 — 1:32 am | 2,017 views | 0 recommendations | 9 comments

E3 2010: Miyamoto Reportedly Gives ‘Game of the Show’ to ‘Child of Eden’

(Update: a producer on Child of Eden, whose post to Facebook was the source of this story, has since taken his page down and called the comment a “joke” that was not intended for publication. In my opinion, Child of Eden really is “game of the show” and has the power to sell many a Kinect for Microsoft. Did Miyamoto actually agree? The game’s producer said he did, but that fact remains decidedly unconfirmed.)

I was perhaps a bit too quick to pronounce The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword my “Game of the Show” for E3 2010. A little title called “Child of Eden” offered in playable form today behind closed doors at UbiSoft has set the world of gaming aflutter.

Here’s why:

In the midst of E3’s mad rush, this game’s existence somehow escaped me until hours ago, when I read a blog by one of the game’s producers, former EGM and 1UP journalist James Mielke, describing why he’d quit writing to join developer Q? in fleshing out a mystery project.

According to Mielke’s Facebook page, legendary Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto — creator of Zelda, Mario and, arguably, the modern gaming industry as a whole — sat down for a Kinect-infused Eden demo and came away calling it “game of the show.”

Eden is a first-person experience, to put it lightly. It uses the Xbox 360’s camera-based controller to transform the player’s palms into targeting cursors. While I have not yet played Eden, I’ve seen it on demo.

This was enough to convince me: it will blow people’s minds.

In my book, this game is the ONLY good thing so far about the Kinect, which otherwise appears to be a huge embarrassment for Microsoft thanks to a lineup of shoddy Wii ripoffs promoted by some seriously bizarre PR stunts.

Eden’s palm-based gameplay, on the other hand, can only be done with a Kinect … And Hot Damn, does it look cool.

Here’s a live demonstration:

This game is the spiritual sequel to Rez, an otherwise obscure, artsy game made for the Sega Dreamcast and ported to PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360. Its creator, Tetsuya Mizuguchi, was the driving force behind eclectic music and puzzle titles like Space Channel 5, Meteos and Lumines. His interactive portfolio is unique among acclaimed designers, making Mizuguchi games increasingly valuable beyond their initial printings.

(Disclosure: Rez is my favorite game, like, ever; I’m pretty biased towards its sequel.)

Eden looks to be Mizucuchi’s masterpiece. He said the game’s story would be simply that of a girl becoming human.

It is a product that will hold much water with gamers. I would buy a Kinect just for Eden, even though it is playable with a traditional controller and headed for PlayStation 3.

If I can get a hands-on demo, I’ll have much more to say. Still, simply for what it is and the people behind it, this game has already eclipsed every other title I’ve seen at E3 2010.

Merely looking at Q?’s next phenomenon left me completely slack-jawed and feeling like a teenager. Now I’m just praying they’ll let me play it.

If that happens, I’ll have to restrain myself from the keyboard for a few hours while the sensory input digests, lest I engage in what objective observers might call “gushing.”


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