Acclaimed director Ridley Scott has directed many films including the cult classic Blade Runner along with such blockbusters as Black Hawk Down and Gladiator.
In 2021 he is here, again with House of Gucci and its all star cast. The just released trailer is must viewing.
Vanity Fair 7.29.2021
Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, an unrecognizable Jared Leto and Al Pacino headline Ridley Scott’s true crime fashion saga.
Murder has never looked this stylish. The first trailer for Ridley Scott‘s House of Gucci has just dropped, with a haunting echo of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” underscoring this true-life tale of fashion, power, sex, and murder.
Lady Gaga stars as Patricia Reggiani, who married into the eponymous style empire only to turn against her husband Maurizio Gucci (played by Adam Driver), the scion of a family whose very name denotes class and influence. Their relationship ended badly, to say the least, but not until after decades of volatility and a long-running legal feud with his uncle Aldo (played by Al Pacino.)
The trailer for the film includes other curiosities as well, particularly Jared Leto as Paolo Gucci, Aldo’s son, a longtime designer with the company who is seemingly mocked in the teaser for his bad taste. With the added weight, bald head, and walrus mustache, it hardly resembles the Dallas Buyer’s Club Oscar-winner at all. (On Twitter, Jeffrey Tambor began to trend after people began saying Leto’s character resembled him.)
A socially conservative, economic radical has taken over as Peru’s president following a bitter election campaign. Pedro Castillo, a farmer and former school teacher, defeated Keiko Fujimori, daughter of jailed former president Alberto Fujimori.
There is no doubt the new Peruvian president is causing anguish amongst the wealthy, particularly the country’s large copper mining interests — Peru is the world’s second-largest producer of the metal — are fearful of plans to increase taxes to pay for welfare reforms.
On the other hand, Castillo is a staunch social conservative and in favor of the death penalty. Positions bound to agitate some of his more fervent radical supporters.
The new president will have to deal with a fragmented Congress where he will likely have a difficult time passing some of his more radical reforms, including plans to rewrite the constitution. He will also have to deal with the far-left wing of his Free Peru party, led by Marxist neurosurgeon Vladimir Cerron.
“Castillo needs to unite the hard core of his party, but he has to do it without destroying the image the people have of him, which is that he is against radicalism,” Jeffrey Radzinsky, a Lima-based governance expert, told Reuters.
He is socially conservative, opposing gay marriage, abortion and euthanasia. He has also proposed withdrawing from the American Convention on Human Rights so that Peru can reintroduce the death penalty.
The 51-year-old son of peasant farmers was sworn in inside the Peruvian Congress.
“I swear by God, by my family, by the peasants, by the Indigenous peoples, by the ronderos [peasant patrols], fishers, professionals, children, adolescents, that I will exercise the office of President of the Republic,” Castillo said.
“I swear by the people of Peru for a country without corruption and for a new constitution.”
Castillo won the June 6 election with a slim majority of just 44,000 votes.
The election of Castillo has shaken up the Peruvian political establishment. The Andean country’s large copper mining interests — Peru is the world’s second-largest producer of the metal — are fearful of plans to increase taxes to pay for welfare reforms.
The inauguration coincides with Peru’s 200-year anniversary of independence from Spain. King Felipe VI of Spain, along with the presidents of Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador, were in Lima to mark the occasion.
Castillo’s electoral win was only finally confirmed last week. His rival in the final round of voting was right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori, daughter of jailed former president Alberto Fujimori.
Keiko is also facing corruption charges that could land her in jail. She contested the results of the election, claiming fraud on Castillo’s part.
Top photo: Peruvian President Pedro Castillo at his swearing in ceremony
The wheels of justice turn in harsh ways when someone, even an attorney, bucks the system. Steve Donziger, the lawyer who took on the oil giant Chevron and won a nearly $10 billion verdict has found himself disbared and under house arrest for nearly two years. Forced to wear what he calls the “Black Claw.”
The Guardian 7.27.2021
Steven Donziger, the lawyer who has spearheaded a lengthy fight against Chevron over pollution in the Amazon rainforest, has been found guilty of criminal contempt by a US federal judge in the latest twist in his decades-long legal battle with the oil company.
The sprawling legal saga stems from a 2011 judgment in Ecuador where Chevron was ordered to pay $9.5bn in damages to people, represented by Donziger, blighted by decades of polluted air and water allegedly caused by the company’s oil drilling operations. Chevron has never paid this, claiming “shocking levels of misconduct” by Donziger and the Ecuadorian judiciary.
On Monday, US district judge Loretta Preska ruled that Donziger was guilty of six contempt charges brought against him for refusing to hand over evidence in a complex legal wrangle that has pitted the lawyer directly against Chevron.
Donziger has already spent nearly two years confined to his New York City apartment by court order, a monitoring bracelet that he calls “the black claw” fitted to his ankle at all times, and his detention has gained him the support of environmental activists and celebrities such as Alec Baldwin and the Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters, who insist he has been persecuted.
Since August 2019, Donziger has been restricted to his elegant Manhattan apartment, a clunky court-mandated monitoring bracelet he calls “the black claw” continuously strapped to his left ankle. He cannot even venture into the hallway, or to pick up his mail. Exempted excursions for medical appointments or major school events for his 14-year-old son require permission days in advance. An indoor bike sits by the front door in lieu of alternative exercise options.
“There’s no comparison to quarantine because I can’t even go outside for a walk. If my kid is sick I can’t go to the drug store to get a prescription,” Donziger said. “I never truly understood freedom until I was put in this situation.”
“I expected this and I think we’ve got a very strong chance on appeal. I expect to be vindicated,” Donziger told the Guardian after the verdict. “The whole thing was rigged, it was a sham. I’m frankly embarrassed for my country that this has happened.”
Chevron has accused Donziger of bribing the judge in Ecuador and ghostwriting the final verdict, an accusation he strenuously denies. However, in 2016 a US judge, Lewis Kaplan, found that Donziger was involved in racketeering activity and granted Chevron seizure of the lawyer’s laptop and phone. When Donziger appealed against this, he was hit with the contempt charges and placed under house arrest.
In an unusual move, a private law firm that has previously done work for Chevron was hired to prosecute Donziger after federal government prosecutors declined to take up the case.
“I wasn’t prosecuted in a fair process, I didn’t have a jury and I think Chevron is behind all of this,” Donziger said.
Preska’s judgment explicitly denies the lawyer has been the victim of a conspiracy, however. “Contrary to Mr Donziger’s assertion that his conviction was ‘pre-ordained’, the court finds him guilty on each count for one reason and one reason only: Mr Donziger did that with which he is charged. Period,” she wrote.
The Biden administration is taking the realistic tough love approach to combat The Pandemic, particularly with the jump in the number of infections. The result of the virulent Delta variant.
It’s fortunate there is now an Administration in Washington which pays attention to science and is doing all it can to mitigate the Pandemic’s impact.
Excerpted from The Guardian 7.26.2021
Restrictions that bar much of the world’s population from the US since 2020 will not be lifted in the short term, White House says.
The announcement almost certainly dooms any bid by US airlines and the US tourism industry to salvage summer travel by Europeans and others covered by the restrictions. Airlines have heavily lobbied the White House for months to lift the restrictions and some say the industry may now have to wait until September or later for a possible revision.
The United States will not lift any existing travel restrictions “at this point” due to concerns over the highly transmissible Covid-19 Delta variant and the rising number of US coronavirus cases, the White House confirmed on Monday.
The United States currently bars most non-US citizens who within the last 14 days have been in the United Kingdom, the 26 Schengen nations in Europe without internal border controls, or in Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.
The extraordinary US travel restrictions were first imposed on China in January 2020 to address the spread of Covid-19. Other countries have since been added, most recently India in early May.
The decision comes after a senior level White House meeting late on Friday. It means that the long-running travel restrictions that have barred much of the world’s population from the United States since 2020 will not be lifted in the short term.
“Given where we are today … with the Delta variant, we will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Monday, citing the spread of the Delta variant in the United States and abroad. “Driven by the Delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated and appear likely continue to increase in the weeks ahead.”
Last week, the US Homeland Security Department said US land borders with Canada and Mexico will remain closed to nonessential travel until at least 21 August – even as Canada said it would begin allowing in fully vaccinated American tourists starting 9 August.
Asked on 15 July at a joint appearance with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about when the United States would lift European travel restrictions, President Joe Biden said he would “be able to answer that question to you within the next several days – what is likely to happen”.
Merkel said any decision to lift restrictions “has to be a sustainable decision. It is certainly not sensible to have to take it back after only a few days.”
Since that news conference, US cases have jumped.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Rochelle Walensky said on Thursday the seven-day average of new cases in the United States was up 53% over the previous week. The Delta variant, which was first found in India, now comprises more than 80% of new cases nationwide and has been detected in more than 90 countries.
Here is another example of abhorrent racist behavior in California.
A Black Lives Mural in Santa Cruz was defaced with tire tread marks. (photo above)
The mentally challenged young men who committed this act of racist vandalism might as well have been wearing Ku Klux Klan uniforms when they performed this despicable act.
San Francisco Chronicle 7.25.2021
Police have arrested two people on suspicion of defacing a Black Lives Matter mural painted on a street in downtown Santa Cruz, investigators said Sunday.
At a community meeting Sunday morning at Police Department headquarters that was attended by several dozen people and also broadcast on Facebook, tensions ran high, with many questioning why the two men were not charged with a hate crime.
“This was a terrorist act against the Black community,” said one attendee. “This is actually an act of violence, it’s psychological damage.”
The mural at 800 Center St. was defaced with vehicle tread marks late Friday, according to authorities, who said they received reports early Saturday.
The relentless and non-stop assault by Chinese authorities on speech in Hong Kong is truly the worst kind of totalitarian State behavior.
Chinese authorities continue to stamp out any vestige of dissent having jailed protesters, newspaper publishers and journalists. The latest indignation is the arrest of people for publishing picture books.
The Chinese government’s continuing assault on basic human freedom is a genuine outrage which shows no signs of abating.
Wall Street Journal 7.22.2021
Hong Kong’s national-security police arrested five people for allegedly conspiring to commit sedition through a series of picture books that portray sheep being targeted by wolves—an allusion to China’s crackdown on pro-democracy supporters in the city.
Hours after police detained five members of a speech therapists’ union, police displayed three illustrated books that they say incited hatred against the government among children as young as four. The cartoons simplified “political issues that kids wouldn’t comprehend and beautifies criminal activities,” Superintendent Steve Li Kwai-wah told a news conference. “They’re meant to poison the minds of children,” he said.
The five people arrested—two men and three women, aged between 25 and 28 years old—are board members of the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists. They were detained under a colonial-era antisedition law rather than the security law imposed by China
Described as teaching aids, the books were distributed through pro-democracy businesses, local political offices and online by the speech therapists’ union, which was founded in November 2019—a time when some activists formed workers’ groups as a way to organize protest actions against the government.
The books include one titled “The Guardians of Sheep Village,” which is set against the backdrop of antigovernment protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2019. It depicts a malicious plot by the wolves to take over the sheep’s village and devour them all.
Another, “12 Warriors of Sheep Village,” refers to a dozen activists who were caught by the Chinese coast guard during an ill-fated boat escape from Hong Kong last year. The third book in the series, titled “Street Cleaners of Sheep Village,” alludes to a medical workers’ strike last year when Hong Kong faced its first coronavirus infections imported from China, using cartoons of littering wolves to portray outsiders.
Thursday’s arrests are part of an intensifying crackdown on dissent in the former British colony and were made on the same day that four former executives and journalists of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily appeared in court charged with violating the national-security law by conspiring to collude with external forces. Apple Daily, founded by jailed media mogul Jimmy Lai, was forced to cease publication last month after authorities seized its assets.
Publishers have been among the targets of authorities since the national-security law was imposed last year. Media groups and opposition groups have raised concerns that free speech is being eliminated and so-called red lines about what amounts to a crime are being expanded to eliminate criticism of authorities.
“Even children’s picture books cross the red line,” Herbert Chow, a local businessman who supports the protest movement, wrote in a Facebook post referring to the arrests.
In its online mission statement, the union says it has chosen to align itself with the politically marginalized. “We are a group of speech therapists, we should walk with the unheard,” it said on its website. “Those who are lucky won’t understand that being able to speak is a luxury. But we resonate with this.”
Police said they seized around 550 related publications during their search of the suspects’ homes and offices, along with many pro-democracy fliers and protest-related figurines.
Earlier this year, Christine Choi Yuk-lin, deputy head of Hong Kong’s education bureau, criticized one of the children’s books published by the speech therapists’ union for being inappropriate to use in classrooms, warning parents it was “political propaganda.”
Mr. Li, the police superintendent, said the group had ignored Ms. Choi’s warning and went on to publish more books.
The wildfires sweeping the Western United States are destroying the land, polluting the environment and increasing the risk of Covid cases and death.
At a time when people think the Pandemic is waning and trying to resume a normal life, the wildfires scorching the West are laying waste to those plans.
Excerpted from Montana Free Press 7.22.2021
MISSOULA — Missoula’s new downtown library was teeming with people who might typically spend a Saturday afternoon hiking, biking or otherwise making the most of Montana’s abundant outdoor recreation. One look at the soupy haze blanketing the city and it was clear why.
“We’re definitely trying to stay out of the smoke,” Charlie Booher said as his kids picked out books from the stacks.
Smoke from the wildfires burning through bone-dry forests and grasslands in the West has damaged air quality this week from California to the Eastern Seaboard. The polluting smoke has been thickest in the Northwest, including Montana, where over the past week Missoula, Helena, Great Falls and other cities ranked among the 10 places with the worst air quality, according to AirNow.
Back in Missoula, county Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield said the best thing people can do is get vaccinated, especially if they plan to seek out public spaces to escape heat and smoke. They can also create a clean-air space at home.
The smoke and unrelenting heat pummeling the state have driven people to seek refuge at libraries, movie theaters, museums and other indoor venues. In areas with low COVID-19 vaccination rates where people have largely abandoned masks and physical distancing, health officials are concerned the result will be COVID outbreaks.
Adding to that worry is the rise of the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus, and research suggests that COVID cases and deaths increase during periods of intense wildfire smoke.
Missoula County has the highest vaccination rate in Montana, at 60%, but Whitney Kors was still mindful of the risks as she took her family to the library to get out of the smoke.
“My daughter and I are still masked because she’s not vaccinated,” Kors said.
She said that until her daughter, who’s under 12 years old, becomes eligible for her shot, her family will continue to distance from others when they’re out. However, health officials worry that not everyone seeking out smoke-free activities indoors this summer will take the same precautions if they are unvaccinated.
To the north in Flathead County, Joe Russell, the county health officer, said he’s tracking a roughly 50% increase in COVID cases over the past two weeks, mostly from unvaccinated people catching the virus at events.
“These are activities that are happening specific to events or settings, and they are indoors,” he explained.
Russell said his team is more closely investigating new clusters to see if people went inside to escape heat and smoke. About 6 of 10 county residents who are eligible for COVID vaccines have not gotten them, and Russell is worried these large clusters could get worse if more people gather indoors.
The dangers of the pandemic appear to have waned in people’s minds as they gather in indoor public spaces, many of which dropped masking and physical distancing requirements earlier this year.
In Yellowstone County and Billings, Montana’s largest city, the pandemic is still being felt in hospitals that have been treating younger, sicker patients than they saw earlier in the pandemic. COVID deaths also spiked there in early July.
Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton hoped the summer would provide time to boost the county’s 50% vaccination rate before cold weather sends people indoors and increases the risk of unvaccinated people transmitting COVID.
“But this year has been so hot, so dry and with so much smoke, we are concerned we’re going to have increases happening a little earlier,” he said.
Across Montana, about 48% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated, but Magdalena Scott with the state Department of Public Health and Human Services said county rates range from about 23% to 60%. She said that means case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths are likely to vary more widely than they did last summer, when vaccines weren’t yet available. “We are concerned that it’s going to be a long smoke season for sure,” Scott said.
Daniel Kiser is a researcher at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada. He worked on a recently published paper about an increase in COVID cases in Reno during the wildfire season.
“What we found was that there was about an 18% increase in the rate of positive tests during the period that was most affected by wildfire smoke,” Kiser said.
University of Montana researcher Erin Landguth is also expanding her past study showing intense wildfire seasons in Montana have been followed by bad flu seasons months later in the fall and winter.
“Comparing bad fire seasons to non-bad fire seasons, one would expect to see three to five times worse flu seasons,” Landguth said.
Those who still refuse to be vaccinated to put it bluntly, are stupid, selfish and are putting their fellow citizens at risk.
The Pandemic is far from over despite what people want to believe.
People are foolishly resuming their old habits and not showing the discipline and patience necessary to fight off the Covid-19. Now with the increasing virulence of the Delta variant the public is increasingly at risk.
Even those who have been fully vaccinated are not immune.
Excerpted from San Francisco Chronicle 7.22.2021
With coronavirus cases sharply rising in the Bay Area, more restaurants and bars are requiring or planning to require proof of vaccination to enter.
Previously an action \taken only by a few of the most cautious owners, the concept of allowing only vaccinated individuals inside businesses is gaining steam amid concerns about the rapidly spreading and more infectious delta variant.
It sure isn’t 2019 World Cup all over again, yet, for the reigning American champs. At least for one game.
Two years later in an empty stadium in Tokyo to start the Olympics, the American women were soundly taken down in the first game in Group play. The good news is Team USA has a chance to regroup when they play New Zealand on Saturday.
Excerpted from The Guardian 7.21.2021
Megan Rapinoe said “it is what it is, we got bopped” after two goals from the striker Stina Blackstenius helped Sweden to a stunning 3-0 defeat of the United States at the Tokyo Stadium in their opening game of the Olympics.
“We got our asses kicked, didn’t we? I thought we were a little tight, a little nervous, just doing dumb stuff. There’s no time to dwell and think about if Sweden is living in our heads or not. We’ve got another game in three days.”
The US team arrived in Japan as overwhelming favourites to win gold but they were brutally exposed by Sweden. “They found a lot of space on us,” said Rapinoe. “I don’t remember the last time we gave up a goal. So to give up three is not great …
“I wouldn’t say they’ve got in our heads,” said the forward of the team that knocked them out of the Rio Olympics at the quarter-final stage and more recently earned a 1-1 draw against the world champions that ended their 16-game winning streak.
“They’re one of the best teams in the world,” Rapinoe added. “If we play a France [or] an England four times a year, we’re going to have those kinds of results.
With that said, we always expect to win every game that we play. So do we expect this result tonight? No, and it’s frustrating, and of course frustrating that it’s Sweden.”
Blackstenius’s 26th-minute header gave Sweden the lead. In the second half the USA manager, Vlatko Andonovski, who had not lost since taking charge after Jill Ellis stepped down, shuffled the pack, bringing on Carli Lloyd for Alex Morgan and Julie Ertz for Sam Mewis but his team could not break through a resilient defence that was without the key centre-back Magda Eriksson, who reached the Champions League final with Chelsea last season. Instead, Blackstenius scored a second in the 54th minute before substitute Lina Hurtig added a third.
America is full of deranged extremists. The American combination of toxic anti-Semitic thinking, the number of far right extremist groups and the easy availability of guns is both the fuel and the match for this incendiary hatred.
Wall Street Journal 7.20.2021
A 22-year-old California man pleaded guilty Tuesday to murder and other charges in connection with a deadly attack at a synagogue in the San Diego suburb of Poway in 2019.
Just before the shooting, John Earnest posted a manifesto online in which he invoked anti-Semitic tropes to justify attacking Jews and admitted to trying to burn down the mosque.
Killer’s victim Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60
Earnest admitted that he carried out the shooting that left one dead and three wounded on the last day of Passover because of his bias and hatred of Jews, according to the San Diego County district attorney’s office .
As part of a plea agreement, Earnest avoided the death penalty and agreed to serve the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole, the office said. He also pleaded guilty to arson at a nearby mosque.
John O’Connell, a public defender representing Earnest, declined to comment
Earnest opened fire with an AR-15 style rifle in April of 2019 at the Chabad of Poway. He killed Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, and wounded three others, including an 8-year-old girl and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein who lost his finger in the attack.
After the shooting, Earnest fled and called 911 to admit what he had done, saying, “I just shot up a synagogue. I’m trying to defend my nation against the Jewish people” authorities have said.
The district attorney’s offices said it consulted with the family of Ms. Gilbert-Kaye as well as the survivors of the shooting before accepting the plea deal.
“While we reserved the option of trying this as a death penalty case, life in prison without the possibility of parole for the defendant is an appropriate resolution to this violent hate crime and we hope it brings a measure of justice and closure to the victims, their families, friends and the wider community,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement.