December 22, 2014

Social Media Apps Killing Cruising Bars in NZ


SHUT DOWN: Paul Heard has closed his bar, Urge, calling it a "tough" move.

SHUT DOWN: Paul Heard has closed his bar, Urge, calling it a “tough” move.  

Social media apps are killing the gay bar scene, claiming as their latest victim New Zealand's longest-running gay venue.
Urge in Auckland is the ninth gay bar to shut down in New Zealand over the past two years because of dwindling patronage, echoing the closures of international gay hotspots in New York, San Francisco and Sydney.
Sociologist Michael Stevens blames the internet, as apps such as Grindr, and social change, render such venues redundant.
"In the past you had to go to a venue to meet other LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] people, today you don't."
Now people can just grab a phone, swipe left or right according to preference - at work, in bed or in a meeting.
Social change, particularly the legalising of gay marriage, has also played a role.
"Gay bars were a safe place to see a friendly face and not be judged," said Shane Way, event manager and performer for Hamilton's gay bar Shine, which shut down in March.
"These day it's become more accepted in society so gay people don't just go to gay bars."
But this doesn't translate to equality, said Stevens: "It's still not true to say that a gay couple can walk into any venue, hold hands, kiss and dance together in the same way straight couples can."
Urge co-owner Paul Heard announced the bar’s closure this month after 17 years, describing it as the "toughest day I've had". 
He bought the bar with former romantic partner and current business partner, Alan Granville, nearly 10 years ago.
"We actually met at Urge and bought it when the owner was in bad health so we could save it."
Stevens said many LGBT venues, like Urge, were set up in cheap fringe areas of the city 10 or 20 years ago but that real estate is now more desirable. In 10 years, rent and rates have skyrocketed from $66,000 a year to nearly $200,000.
And cheaper alcohol at supermarkets encourages punters to "pre-load" before hitting town.
"They are businesses and need to turn a profit but they have also operated as community centres and meeting points."
Heard has watched the impact of the internet on the gay community. "People's ability to communicate on a one-to-one basis has changed. I get guys in the bar sitting on their phone chatting to somebody on the other side - the app says they're zero metres away.
"Winter is our worst time for customers. Years ago it didn't seem to bother them but now they can stay at home and find someone who will come to their door, literally."
He's worried about the loss of a community, saying men still don't come through the front door because of the fear of stigma.
"There's a reason Urge is so hard to find - we don't have rainbow flags flying out the window. Anybody can feel safe here, especially younger guys who are coming to terms with the whole thing. People might go more underground again."
We're yet to see the full impact of hook-up apps, said social media researcher Richard Pamatatau.
"With internet dating, people looked at that as a thing for people who were desperate losers but now there's no shame in doing it.
"There will always be that moment where someone spies the beautiful girl across the bar and that chemistry happens, there's just more choices now - you can say if you like beards or sporty people."
So will Tinder (the "straight" hook-up app) do to straight bars what Grindr has done in the gay community? "The challenge is for hospitality to find ways to challenge this new technology, I don't know how, though."
 - Stuff

In Beijing A Court Ruled for A Gay Man Vs. Electric Shock for Conversion to Straight


BEIJING — In a victory for gay rights advocates in China, a Beijing court ruled on Friday that a Chinese clinic must pay compensation to a gay man who sued it for giving him electric shocks intended to change his sexual orientation.

Stating that homosexuality is not a mental illness, the Haidian District People’s Court ordered the Xinyupiaoxiang Counseling Center in the southwestern city of Chongqing to pay 3,400 renminbi, or $560, for costs incurred by the plaintiff, Yang Teng. It also ordered Baidu, China’s leading search engine, which was also named in the lawsuit, to remove the advertisement that Mr. Yang said led him to the clinic.

Reached by telephone after the verdict was announced, Mr. Yang said he thought the verdict “has inspired a lot of gay people.” He added, “It shows them that we don’t need to be cured, and when things like this happen and we look to protect our rights from being violated, we can get a fair result.”

Mr. Yang filed the lawsuit against the clinic in March with the assistance of the Beijing L.G.B.T. Center, a nonprofit organization representing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. He visited the clinic in February, after his parents found out about his sexuality and pressured him to become straight.

Though China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and stopped classifying it as a mental illness in 2001, discrimination remains common. An industry of clinics has sprung up promising to “cure” gay people through hypnosis and electric shocks.

Such treatments have been dismissed as cruel and harmful by mainstream medical practitioners in the West, with bans on so-called gay conversion therapy signed into law in California and New Jersey.

Mr. Yang’s lawsuit, which alleged that the clinic had claimed that electric shock treatment was safe and effective, asked for compensation of more than 14,000 renminbi, or $2,300, to cover his costs for the therapy, travel and lost earnings, in addition to damages for psychological and physical harm. The court did not award damages or find fault with Baidu, which has removed ads promoting such therapy, said Kaiser Kuo, a company spokesman.

Mr. Kuo said Baidu supported the verdict. “We’ll be very vigilant in the future about advertisements for false treatments for ‘gay therapy,’ ” he said. “We sincerely hope Yang Teng finds some solace in the court’s decision.”

Wei Xiaogang, executive director of the Beijing Gender Health Education Institute, hailed the verdict as critically important for gays and lesbians in China.

“The court said homosexuality is not a disease,” he said. “This is the first case really talking about homosexuality, so it’s really going to give people the legal support they need to fight back against these clinics.”

Chen Jiehao contributed research.

An Unjust Killing in Brooklyn- 2 cops die for no reason


  New York Mayor Bill de Blasio faced the biggest crisis of his time in office on Sunday following the fatal shooting of two police officers, in an attack intended as retribution for recent U.S. police killings of unarmed black men.
Police said the daylight Saturday shooting was the work of a 28-year-old black man who traveled from Baltimore that day after shooting and wounding his girlfriend, having warned on social media that he planned to be "putting wings on pigs," using an anti-police slur.
The gunman's posts on Instagram indicated he had been motivated by the deaths of 18-year-old Michael Brown and Eric Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, at the hands of police officers.
Grand juries reviewed both cases but found that the officers involved broke no laws, decisions that sparked weeks of sometimes violent protests across the United States, particularly in New York, the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, and Berkeley, California.
The decisions and subsequent protests prompted Barack Obama, the first black U.S. president, to set up a task force last week charged with rebuilding trust between police and minority communities.
Neither of the officers killed on Saturday, Rafael Ramos, 40, and Wenjian Liu, 32, were white. Ramos was Hispanic and Liu Asian-American.
The city's Roman Catholic cardinal, Timothy Dolan, warned of rising tensions during a service on Sunday attended by de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton.
"We mourn the brutal and irrational execution of two young, promising, devoted police officers," Dolan said at St. Patrick's Cathedral. "We worry about a city tempted to tension and division."
De Blasio and Bratton, who described the attack as an assassination, left without speaking to reporters.
"There is an anger across this city that the people who are in charge are not talking," said political analyst Basil Smikle. "The conversation between Mayor de Blasio and the police seems to be shut off altogether."
The city's largest police union lashed out at de Blasio.
"There's blood on many hands," said Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. "That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor."
The PBA had previously started a campaign in which officers could fill out a form asking the mayor and other officials not to attend their funerals if they were to die in the line of duty.
It was not clear on Sunday how many officers had filled out the forms and information was not yet available on funeral plans for the victims of the first fatal shootings of on-duty members of the largest U.S. police department since 2011.
Outside St. Patrick's, churchgoers reacted with exasperation and sadness.
"All of this senseless stuff has to stop," said Bernadette O'Connor, a 43-year-old school teacher from New York's suburbs after the service. "It has to come to an end."
Ramos' 13-year old son bid his father good-bye in a Facebook post late Saturday. "It's horrible that someone gets shot dead just for being a police officer."
LONG CRIMINAL RECORD                         
A clearer picture emerged on Sunday of the gunman, Ismaaiyl Abdula Brinsley, who Bratton said attacked the unsuspecting officers while they were sitting in their patrol car outside a Brooklyn housing project before running into a subway station where he shot and killed himself.
Court and jail records in Georgia, showed that Brinsley had a criminal record in that state dating back at least a decade.
Brinsley was booked into jail in Fulton County, Georgia, nine times between 2004 and 2010 on charges including simple battery, shoplifting, obstructing a law enforcement officer and terroristic threats, online records show.
During the day on Saturday, Brinsley cited the deaths of Garner and Brown in threatening posts on the Instagram social media service, in which he said "they take 1 of ours ... let's take 2 of theirs."
Baltimore police said they notified their New York counterparts of the threat after seeing digital evidence that the Brinsley had traveled to Brooklyn. Their alert came less than an hour before his attack.
Police on Sunday identified Brinsley's girlfriend, who he shot and wounded in Baltimore before heading to New York. She is Shaneka Nicole Thompson, 29, and was listed in critical but stable condition at an area hospital, police said.
Meanwhile, 30 miles northwest of Tampa, Florida, a police officer on duty was shot and killed early Sunday, local authorities reported. They had not yet released a motive for the attack.
Leaders of recent anti-police protests condemned the New York shooting.
"Any violence is an enemy to the pursuit of justice for Eric Garner and Michael Brown," Sharpton said at a Sunday press conference, flanked by Garner's mother, Gwenn Carr.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, whose state saw weeks of sometimes violent protests after Brown's killing, expressed his sympathies.
"Violence against police officers simply cannot be tolerated -- ever," Nixon said in a statement. “I stand with all Americans in condemning this unspeakable and cold-blooded act."
Publisher: I hope those clowns of officers posing for cameras with t-shirts saying “I breathe” will stop. Disrespecting the mayor who is elected by the city is disrespecting all New Yorkers.The police union has not served these officers well like it usually doesn’t. Whenever there is an action by the NYPD the Union comes out batting away before any evidence is,  saying that the cops are innocent and if they are guilty it was not their fault. A police Dept that functions well with the citizens it serves needs to have those bad apples exposed and disciplined and or kicked out. There are bad apples in any profession so you cannot defend any action as if there was never anything that could have been done better and sometimes without killing somebody.
By Laila Kearney and Edward McAllister
(Additional reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington, Anna Yukhananov in Baltimore and Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Writing by Scott Malone, editing by David Evans and Diane Craft)

Why This Young Rapist Should Not be allow to Play but a club wants him


Convicted rapist Ched Evans was this morning released from prison after serving half of his five year sentence.
The 25-year-old former Sheffield United striker is expected to make a “personal and profound” statement on his website next week and he has maintained his innocence throughout.
Until then, Women’s Aid has urged his former club not to allow him to return. The boss of Sheffield United, Nigel Clough, has reportedly held talks with officials about the possibility of him being allowed to play football with them again. 
This is what Polly Neate, the chief executive of Women’s Aid had to say on the matter: 
Sheffield United have to take responsibility for their response to the Ched Evans case, as a football club which is both an employer and a high profile brand. They have a significant leadership role in their community and there is no excuse for ignorance where violence against women and girls is concerned. Many employers would not wish to re-employ a convicted rapist in a high-profile position, because of the potential reputational risk and the message it sends out to others. While we would always support the principle of rehabilitating offenders, and encouraging those who have served their time to reintegrate back into society, an important element of rehabilitation is remorse and taking responsibility, which has not happened in this situation.
We know that football clubs play an important role in our communities for shaping the future, and we can help them to respond appropriately to the sexist attitudes that underpin the abuse of women and girls and that are used to excuse crimes such as the rape committed by Ched Evans.
But what the heck somebody wants him: 

Hartlepool United manager Ronnie Moore has said he wants to sign footballer and convicted rapist Ched Evans.
After the club’s 1-1 draw with Oxford on Saturday, Moore, who took over as manager of the club this week, said that “if it could happen, I would want it to happen”.
He is a proven scorer - he’s served his time and the boy wants to play football.
If there is a chance he might come here, I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t.
He has made a mistake and maybe he hasn’t apologised in the right way - and I know he has an appeal case pending - but if he gets on the park, he would go a long way to getting us out of trouble.
  • Ronnie Moore

Evans was told by his former club Sheffield United, who he had been training with following his release from prison, that they did not want him to sign or even to train with them any more last month after they received criticism from fans and the media.
Jessica Ennis-Hill asked for her name to be taken down from one of the club’s stands if they wanted to sign Evans and club patron Charlie Webster resigned because they allowed him to train with them.

Where is Fidel?


The stunning announcement made simultaneously in Washington and Havana of renewed diplomatic ties between both nations after nearly 56 years has raised many questions. 
Among the most prevalent: Where is Fidel Castro? And did he consent to the historic change? Or is the former Cuban leader in such deteriorated health that it no longer matters?
“Dictators need an enemy, the bigger the better,” said former Cuban political prisoner Sebastian Arcos, who now serves as assistant director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University. “I would be very surprised if Fidel Castro is conscious and approved this agreement.” 
Frank Mora, director of the Latin America and Caribbean Center at FIU, also doubts Castro green-lighted the new accord.

“Fidel Castro always took advantage of an adversarial relationship with the United States,” he said.
The 88-year-old Castro ceded power to his younger brother Raúl in 2008 after falling ill in 2006. But he continues to have a looming presence even though he is rarely publicly seen or heard. 
Essays signed by him continue to be published in state-run newspapers, most recently on Oct. 14 in response to a New York Times editorial. And photos of meetings with foreign heads of state were published in July. 
But Fidel Castro’s last public appearance was on Jan. 8, when he attended the inauguration of an art gallery in Havana featuring the work of Cuban artist Alexis Leyva, aka Kcho. Looking fragile, he was hunched over and used a cane to walk, surrounded by an entourage of security. Even then, many speculated his years on earth were numbered.
 Castro 88 yrs Old
Many Cuba watchers are now waiting to see if Fidel Castro makes a statement about the agreement with the United States. Previous attempts by Washington at reconciliation under Fidel Castro’s reign were ultimately torpedoed. But since stepping in as leader, Raúl has introduced some economic reforms and — it is now clear — held quiet negotiations with President Barack Obama’s administration.
In making the new U.S.-Cuba ties announcement Wednesday, the two addressed their respective nations at the same time and each spoke for about 10 minutes.
“The normalization of relations, especially trade relations has always been a priority for Raúl Castro, not because he is a Democrat but rather for his legitimacy as ruler,” Arcos said. “He did not do it before because Fidel would not allow it.”
Longtime anti-embargo advocate Max Lesnik disagrees.
“If Fidel Castro wasn’t in agreement, it would not have happened,” said Lesnik, of the Miami-based Alianza Martiana and founder of Replica magazine, who has long been known as a personal friend of Fidel Castro. 
Before January’s appearance at the art gallery, Fidel Castro attended the National Assembly meeting in February 2013 but did not speak. Lesnik said he has not seen the former leader but is sure he remains in good health.
“If he has suffered a setback in his health, that would be very difficult to keep secret,” Lesnik said. “Besides Raúl would not do anything so dramatic to affect his brother’s well-being if Fidel were opposed. 
“It is important for this agreement to have taken place while Fidel Castro remains alive and lucid because had it been done with Fidel not physically present, there would always be doubt as to whether or not he agreed or would have done something different,” Lesnik said. “This was done with his blessing. Otherwise, it would be viewed as a betrayal to the revolution.”
Much remains to be seen about how the agreement between Washington and Havana will unfold. Also in question is whether there with be changes to the current government structure on the island.
Raúl Castro, 83, appeared alone in military uniform during his noon television address on Wednesday. Watching from a couch inside government offices, according to published photos in Cuba, was Vice President Ramiro Valdés, a high-profile revolutionary who represents the old guard and now oversees the island’s telecommunications.
"That's very interesting and suggests that Ramiro can be a contender in an internal struggle,” Arcos said. “The back story is that Raúl and Ramiro do not get along. ... Raúl has not given Ramiro a high profile under his administration. If Fidel is in his final phase, the dispute between Raúl and Ramiro gets interesting “

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December 20, 2014

Angelina Strikes a raw Nerve in Hollywood Lover’s Japan


Angelina Jolie’s new movie “Unbroken” has not been released in Japan yet, but it has already struck a nerve in a country still fighting over its wartime past.
And the buzz on social networks and in online chatter is decidedly negative over the film that depicts a U.S. Olympic runner who endures torture at a World War II prisoner-of-war camp.
Some people are calling for a boycott of the movie, although there is no release date in Japan yet. It hits theaters in the U.S. on Dec 25.
Others want that ban extended to Jolie, the director — unusual in a nation enamored with Hollywood, especially Jolie and her partner Brad Pitt, who both have reputations as Japan-lovers.
The movie follows the real-life story of Louis Zamperini as told in a 2010 book by Laura Hillenbrand. The book has not been translated into Japanese, but online trailers have provoked outrage.
Especially provocative is a passage in the book that refers to cannibalism among the troops. It is not clear how much of that will be in the movie, but that is too much for some.
“But there was absolutely no cannibalism,” said Mutsuhiro Takeuchi, a nationalist-leaning educator and a priest in the traditional Shinto religion. “That is not our custom.”
Takeuchi acknowledged Jolie is free to make whatever movie she wants, stressing that Shinto believes in forgive-and-forget.
But he urged Jolie to study history, saying executed war criminals were charged with political crimes, not torture.
“Even Japanese don’t know their own history, so misunderstandings arise,” said Takeuchi, who heads his research organization, the Japan Culture Intelligence Association.
Hollywood films that touch on sensitive topics for the Japanese have had a troubled history here.
Theaters canceled screenings of the Oscar-winning 2009 “The Cove” about the bloody dolphin hunts in the town of Taiji after the distributor was deluged with threats from people who said the movie denigrated the “culture” of eating dolphins although most Japanese have never eaten dolphin or whale meat.
Roland Kelts, a journalist and expert on Japanese culture, called the outburst over “Unbroken,” like the frenzy over “The Cove,” ‘‘banal and predictable.”
“None of them have even seen the film, and while it is based on one man’s story, it’s a feature, not a documentary. There are plenty of movies that depict the brutality and inhumanity of war,” he said.
“Unbroken” portrays the story of war hero Zamperini, played by Jack O’Connell, who with two other crewmen, survived in a raft for 47 days after a plane crash, only to be caught by the Japanese and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.
Jolie said recently on a promotion tour in Australia that she wanted to depict a human story, one that gives hope, noting that war “brings out the extremes,” both the good and the bad, in people.
Japan has not always been averse to Hollywood portrayals of World War II.
Clint Eastwood’s 2006 “Letters From Iwo Jima,” which focused sympathetically on a gentle commander, played by Ken Watanabe, was favorably received here.
Japanese directors have made their share of movies critical of war. Akira Kurosawa made “No Regrets for Our Youth,” as well as “Ran” and “Seven Samurai.” Kihachi Okamoto’s “The Human Bullet” and Kon Ichikawa’s “The Burmese Harp” relay powerful anti-war messages.
But the release of “Unbroken” comes at a time some in Japan are downplaying the country’s colonization of its Asian neighbors and the aggressive act carried out by the Imperialist Army during World War II.
For example, some politicians dispute the role of Japanese soldiers in the Rape of Nanjing, which began in 1937, in which 300,000 Chinese were killed. They say that is a vast overcount.
Similarly, they reject historical studies that show women from several Asian countries, especially Korea, were forced into prostitution by the Japanese military. 

How Do You Make Someone Gay? Africa Bans Gay Film


NAIROBI – “How do you make someone gay?”

Kenyan filmmaker Jim Chuchu kept an incredulous smile on his face when that rhetorical question came up recently in a discussion of “Stories of our lives” the first film that openly addresses the issue of homophobia in Kenya.

Chuchu and his team were well aware before shooting began that a movie discussing homosexuals’ problems in Kenya and Africa would be regarded as crossing a red line.

As was expected, the movie was banned from public screening under the pretext that it promotes homosexuality.

The moviemaker was not surprised. “It is a work that has never been presented before, so many people said that it was going to be banned, and making the movie was the only way to find out.”

The international lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, LGBT, has protested for years against laws in 38 sub- Saharan countries that criminalize non-heterosexual relationships with punishments that could include the death sentence.

In light of this, Chuchu said “there are few movies made by African directors that tackle this issue and we wanted to be a part of this.”

While U.S. documentaries depicts the lives of LGBT in Ugandan society, Nigeria’s prolific Nollywood cinema, which churns out around 1000 movies annually, has not tackled homosexuality in all but three movies, two of which deal with pedophilia and devil worship.

“Stories of our Lives” is the first film to deal with the life of a group of homosexuals who face punishments in Kenya up to 14 years in prison for their sexual orientation.

The film was screened for the first time last September at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it was received with considerable praise.
But that was not enough for the Kenya Film Classification Board to change its mind and allow it to be shown to the public, insisting that it “promotes homosexuality, which is contrary to our national norms and values”.

Actors, whose identities remain concealed portray real life stories about the hostility faced by the LGBT community on daily basis in Kenya and proving, according to Chuchu, that the Board “is detached from reality.”

Chuchu ridiculed the decision by saying, “for a person to be homosexual is not like joining the Army or following a fashion trend. You do not go out on the streets and suddenly you become gay!”

The director said that he would like to know the rules that are seem to be violated by his film, warning that “the way society deals with its minorities speaks for itself”

Anti gay Pastor Gaylord Williams Arrested After Grabbing a Man’s Crotch

Gaylard Williams
A pastor belonging to the anti-gay Praise Cathedral Church of God in Indiana has been arrested for sexually harassing a man at a lake, reports Pink News.
According to the victim, Pastor Gaylard Williams approached him while he sat in his car, squeezed his genitals and asked him for oral sex. He said he only managed to make Williams leave by pretending to reach for a gun.
According to the report, when police caught up with Williams they found gay pornography in his car. Williams claimed he was holding the pornography for a friend, and was at the lake to look for a friend who fished there.
Church of God beliefs state that homosexuality is a sin, marriage is between a man and a woman, and “We will engage in those activities which glorify God in our body and which avoid the fulfillment of the lust of the flesh.”

Why are Americans such Cowards?


America has a problem that afflicts both her foreign policy and domestic affairs: cowardice.
A nation of wusses. That’s us.
That’s not how we see ourselves, of course. Whatever our flaws — impetuousness, naiveté, our sense of exceptionalism — few Americans count pusillanimity among them. For conservatives bravery as a national trait is a given; if anything, progressives wish we’d walk it back a bit, toning down the testosterone in favor of a little humility.
From the outside, however, we look like a nation happy to inflict all manner of mayhem on people all over the world, yet unwilling to put our own precious skins in the game.
Drones are the ultimate manifestation of America’s newfound risk aversion. After more than 12 years of remote-controlled aerial killer robot warfare, the statistics are undeniable: Unmanned aerial vehicles are an ridiculously sloppy assassination method that kills anywhere from 28 to 49 times more innocent civilians than targeted alleged terrorists. With the myth of accuracy thoroughly debunked, drones remain popular with the public for one reason: They don’t expose American soldiers to return fire.
What we see as an advantage, however, sparks contempt among foreigners that our adversaries in this war for hearts and minds exploit in their recruitment and fundraising efforts. You see it in the faces of the Afghans and Pakistanis I have interviewed: If the United States military had any honor, they say, it would come and face our warriors man to man, on the battlefield, rather than pushing a button thousands of miles away. Every “terrorist” we blow up makes us look worse.
Moreover, cowardice is unproductive on a psychological level.
During the early years of the American occupation of Iraq, British forces (who patrolled the region around Basra) suffered lower casualty rates in the zones under their control than their American counterparts.
One reason, according to military psychologists, is that British troops presented themselves as more willing to expose themselves to the Iraqi public and less afraid of being hurt or killed. Whereas U.S. forces wore wrap-around sunglasses and set up checkpoints behind sandbags and blast walls, sometimes identifying themselves only by shooting at approaching cars — which caused confused Iraqis to floor the gas, prompting U.S. forces to kill them — the Brits acted more relaxed, like traffic agents standing right out on the road.
Americans covered themselves with Kevlar and automatic rifles; the British wore formfitting uniforms, eschewed helmets and satisfied themselves with sidearms. Sunglasses were banned. The American approach seemed safer, but the opposite was true. It’s easier to shoot at something — the Americans looked like fascist robots — than someone.
For a country that used to pride itself on a certain stoicism, the United States has become a land of whiny little boys and girls.
Oh, how we cried after 9/11. Three thousand dead! Those “Wounded Warrior” TV ads asking for donations to support Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans — excuse me, but why am I spending 54 percent of my federal tax dollars on defense if I also have to donate to a sketchy charity? — use the same melancholy tone and weepy delivery as Sally Struthers’ classic “save the children” messages. Obviously it sucks to lose your arms and legs, but let’s grow a pair. Fewer than 7,000 Americans got killed invading two countries where they had no business being in the first place.
Let’s put those numbers into proper perspective, shall we? The Soviet Union lost 20 million people fighting the Nazis (who invaded them, by the way). France lost 11 percent of its population during World War I — the equivalent for us would be 34 million Americans. But the Russians or French don’t bitch and moan as much as us.
Speaking of which, Americans have a lot of balls calling Frenchman “surrender monkeys” considering that nearly twice as many French soldiers were killed in the 1940 Battle of France over six weeks as the United States lost in Vietnam over the course of a decade. Meanwhile, we’re still whining about the 58,000 we lost in — no, invading — Vietnam.
Here at home, we’re infested with wimp cops.
In recent weeks, we have been treated to grand jury testimony in the shootings of two black men, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York.
Both killer cops are bruisers — big, muscular guys. Most of all, they are cops. Cops have partners. They have the backing of the state. They carry tasers. They have nightsticks. They go to the police academy, where they train long hours in the art of subduing human beings. And as we well know, they have access to military-style hardware and defensive gear.
As these two sniveling wimps tell the tales, however, they were in desperate fear of their lives. From two guys, both now dead, who were morbidly obese.
Not to mention unarmed.
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson (193 cm, 95 kg) claimed that Brown (193 cm, 132 kg) terrorized him. “I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan,” he testified. Brown “had the most intense aggressive face,” he said. “The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.”
The NYPD’s Daniel Pantaleo told a grand jury that, after he got his arm around Garner, he was terrified that the two of them would crash through the thick glass window of a storefront they were leaning against.
Both grand juries declined to indict the cops.
Sure, these were the testimonies of two heavily lawyered defendants following a script that has gotten countless white policeman off the hook for killing unarmed black men in the past. But you still have to ask: aren’t those big “brave” policemen ashamed of themselves? I’m not sure which is worse, pretending to be afraid of an unarmed civilian — in the New York case, the guy wasn’t even resisting arrest — or the possibility that they actually were scared.
There’s nothing wrong with being scared in the face of danger. Bravery, after all, is the act of keeping cool in the face of danger.
In the U.S. in recent years, however, bravery has been in short supply — even in the face of very little danger at all.
Editorial written  
Published in Japan by  Japanese Times

Finally The CIA Has a Target That is Not An American and “Benevolent Leader” in the Movies


“I wanna see how it plays now that everyone thinks North Korea hacked Sony,” Seth Rogen cracks as he walks into the fluorescent-lit lobby of a multiplex in Manhattan’s East Village in early December. On deck is a preview screening of The Interview, Rogen and his pal James Franco’s latest comedy. They star as the producer and host, respectively, of a lowest-common-denominator talk show, Skylark Tonight, who land an unlikely interview with Kim Jong-un — and are promptly tapped by the CIA to assassinate Dear Leader. Rogen’s about to sit through it one more time, along with a hundred or so of his drunkest fans.
Well, barring any unfortunate last-minute developments, that is. This summer, a North Korean UN ambassador decried the insolence of these buffoonish American filmmakers as a “most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war.” That was followed by a peculiarly timed missile test. But that was just an amuse-bouche. Earlier this day, a massive, embarrassing batch of internal Sony documents were leaked, with reputable outlets reporting that the hack may have been perpetrated by vengeful North Korean cyberspies.1
It was lighthearted at first, with most of the fun coming at the expense of coddled movie execs. But in the last few days, as the hackers threatened terrorist violence against movie theaters showing The Interview, the conversation transformed. First, small theaters canceled plans to show the movie, and then the major chains followed suit. Finally, on Wednesday, Sony decided to cancel the release altogether. It’s an unbelievable, unprecedented development with dangerous implications.
And in New York, on an agreeably pleasant December night, it is almost impossible to imagine. “Thanks for coming,” Rogen says, introducing the movie at the front of the theater, for what may well be one of the last times it will be seen in that type of venue. “Now I’m not the only one on North Korea’s shit list. Change your emails! Erase your dick pics! I know I have.” He pauses for a beat. “Not all of them.”
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One hour earlier, Rogen sits at a small wooden table topped with ramen, pork buns, shumai, Asahi, and cold sake in a noodle shop down the street. “It was our intention to educate people exactly as much as the movie educates you,” he says of The Interview, already rolling into his throaty laugh. “Which is a little bit.”
In the movie, Franco plays Dave Skylark, a preening TV host overjoyed by Matthew McConaughey bestiality rumors; Rogen is his liege, who pines for more substantial subject matter. When he presses Skylark to move away from fare like “Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing with puppies,” that’s when they end up with Kim.
“The conversation we’re having in the movie, that’s the conversation that led to the movie,” Rogen explains. “Should we try to inject some content into our fluff? Yeah. A little bit.”
Rogen’s “fluff” has stretched for 15 years now, from his tender work on Freaks and Geeks up through the deranged apocalypse of last year’s surprise box office smash This Is the End. There was a time when he and his crew could do no wrong. “You want to make a movie about fightin’ robots?” Rogen once recalled telling his pal Jonah Hill, as Hill was debating an offer for Transformers. “Make your own movie about fightin’ robots. You can do that. That’s on the table now.” But inevitably, the fall from grace came.
There was the Rogen-costarring Funny People, which garnered Judd Apatow’s first lukewarm reviews since the latter man took command of comedy Hollywood. There was the relative flop of The Green Hornet, an aspiring superhero blockbuster that cost $120 million to make and had Rogen as an ill-conceived, crime-fighting heir ne’er-do-well. By then, there was a general sense that perhaps Rogen, King of the Bros With Heart, had overstayed his welcome.
Rogen’s response was simple: He just kept working and pursuing interesting parts. Long before the box office tallies came in for Hornet, he’d moved on to the commendably uncloying cancer comedy 50/50; it was also the first movie that Rogen and his writing and directing partner and childhood best friend, Evan Goldberg, produced themselves. He played a lovable schlub in Sarah Polley’s quietly crushing Take This Waltz. In Jody Hill’s Observe and Report, one of the most misunderstood movies of the last 10 years, he went to dark places.
“We made that movie before I had ever been in a movie that didn’t do really, really well,” Rogen says. “A lot of the reason it got made is because people weren’t sure if I was on some unstoppable Jim Carrey streak.” He shifts into the yap of an excitable exec: “‘We can put him in anything!’ And — yeah. That proved not to be the case. At all. I was just another guy.”
There must have been relief in that?
“It was actually nice!” he says, tiny white sake mug in hand. “Yes. Very much so.”
Rogen’s trajectory begins with Freaks and its spiritual sequel, Undeclared, another one-season cult object in which “everyone was hooking up with everyone and getting fucked-up every free moment they had.” Then we move to the white heat of the Apatow takeover, which came with the requisite moneyed overindulgence. “We’ve done all that stuff over the years,” he says. “Thank god, for some reason we were never of interest to tabloids. If I was, I would have been very entertaining to watch.” These days, Rogen is happily married to writer and actor Lauren Miller, with whom he shares custody of a Cavalier King Charles spaniel. And he now is fully engaged in the third phase of his career: a nice, steady little groove.
For This Is the End, he reassembled the old crew to play neutered versions of themselves — and then he killed them all off, himself included. There was a clear implication there, a cleansing. It helped that that strange movie — in which the devil is real, and has a giant dick — did so well. According to (ahem) leaked information, it was Sony’s most profitable film of 2013, netting $50 million in “ultimates.” A happy ending, especially considering that it was rejected, Rogen says, by “every studio in Hollywood” before Sony said yes.
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Neighbors fits snugly into Rogen’s meta narrative, too. No longer the addled man-child, his character is a father living next door to his former self, heartbroken by envy as he watches man-children from a fraternity party. There’s a marked maturity, as well, in Rose Byrne’s character. As Rogen’s wife, she’s an equal if not greater force for destruction and chaos, manipulative and totally nuts. Once, Katherine Heigl dismissed female characters like her role in Knocked Up as “shrews, as humorless and uptight,” and was subsequently excommunicated. But Rogen, it’s clear, waslistening. And that played, too: Neighbors earned $268 million worldwide.
For all its broad strokes, The Interview is also a step forward. The explosions and nukes and violence — the bat-shit, screeching, finger-chomping violence — are new for him. And for the first time in his working relationship with Rogen, Franco is let entirely off the leash. Seeing him net praise for his bonkers work in Spring Breakers — which was “like, all the shit we tell him not to do” — Rogen had a realization: “People have a much higher tolerance for it than I would have ever imagined!”
And then there are the aforementioned geopolitical ramifications. Thanks to the leak, we learned that The Interview was cause for Sony’s chief executive, Kazuo Hirai, to meddle in the work of the tacitly independent Sony Pictures for the first time in at least 25 years. Tokyo is only 800 miles from Pyongyang; Japan can’t quite see North Korea as a faraway joke.
In question was the possibility of toning down the nature of the inevitable death of Kim Jong-un. In a flurry of emails exchanged by Sony execs about the process, all manner of unusual phrasings were thrown around: “there is no face melting, less fire in the hair”; “the head explosion has been considerably obscured by fire”; “I would still like to see them eliminate the tendril of flesh of the left side of his forehead that comes just before the fireball.”
“I don’t feel like falling on my sword for this one,” the hack-maligned Sony chief, Amy Pascal, writes at one point. “No other studio would even touch this movie and we all know it.” It’s certainly a bold swing: Depicting the killing of a sitting world leader — even when it’s a nuclear-armed bogeyman like Kim Jong-un — will make many incredibly uncomfortable.
There is a precedent here, ranging from the recent — Team America: World Police’s handling of Kim’s father, then alive and well — to the more distant. During World War II, a burgeoning breed of cartoonists would delight in depicting their superheroic new creations knocking around the fascist kings of Europe and Japan. The latter tradition is memorialized in Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.
Early on, the titular duo’s creation, the Escapist, is seen on a comic-book cover with his “big right fist arcing across the page to deliver an immortal haymaker,” leaving none other than Adolf Hitler “flying at you backward, right-crossed clean out of the painting, head thrown back, forelock a-splash, arms flailing, jaw trailing a long red streamer of teeth.”
“The violence of the image was startling, beautiful, strange,” Chabon writes. “It stirred mysterious feelings in the viewer, of hatred gratified, of cringing fear transmuted into smashing retribution.”
“This shit has been done,” Rogen says. “We’re walking in the shadows of a lot of smart people that have done it a lot more effectively.” He seems genuinely surprised by the blowback. He insists on generally benevolent intentions. “This wasn’t to piss [North Korea] off or incite them. It didn’t even occur to us until halfway through filming that they might even be aware of the movie in any capacity.”
So, is he worried about the ramifications? Does he worry about his physical safety? On the day of the screening, it does feel a bit ridiculous to ask. But since the actual release of the movie has been canceled, everything is on the table.
In early December, Rogen can still laugh about it and wave a hand around the restaurant: “Yeah, all these people are my security. No, I mean [North Korea] has never harmed anyone on U.S. soil. Ever. Not that we had the conversation a lot, but in the moments that we did, that’s what we fell back on.” He stops and thinks, rolling again into his laugh. “It would be amazing if we were the first ones … ”
With dinner wrapped, Rogen walks down the street to the Village Pourhouse, where a fan meet-and-greet has been arranged by popular bro-culture website the Chive. Outside the bar, the recognition starts. An NYU kid lugging a flat-screen stops, stares, and inquires, “Are you Seth Rogen?!”
“Yup,” he answers, and without stopping or missing a beat, “Are you stealing that TV?”
Inside the bar’s packed backroom, the pace escalates. Rogen is offered drugs within roughly four seconds. “Hey,” a young man whispers, before being politely rebuffed, “I got a pocketful of weed right now.”
As a girl fawns over Rogen, her boyfriend jokes that he might be single by the end of the night. “I’ve never been beaten up by a fan before,” Rogen banters back. “That’d ruin my press tour!”
A few beers later, Rogen is across the street in the theater. After his introduction, he settles into a back-row seat to watch. This is when it becomes clear how seriously Rogen takes his comedy.
Rogen and Goldberg are lucky that their tastes naturally align with the desires of the mass market. They’re good at making sure young people are still paying attention. But they also rely on an aggressively pragmatic process. They like to test-screen their movies, over and over. Sometimes they set up a test screening just to hear how one joke plays. They won’t always ask for written audience feedback; often, they just want to sit, listen, and gauge the laughter.
“What we try to avoid the most is a swing and a miss,” Rogen explains. “That destroys the trust. All of a sudden, [the audience] doesn’t feel like they’re in good hands.” They strip away the duds, working to make sure that the plot and characters are strong enough to carry the crowd to the next big joke. “We can never be the guys that no one can tell us, ‘It sucks,’” Rogen says. “We don’t need to listen when people tell us, ‘It sucks.’ But we should always have a system in place where a lot of people can, at any given moment, tell us, ‘It sucks.’”
But there is always a little panic. “Your instinct is to keep pushing things in a realm where it’s unsure if it’ll work,” he says. “That’s what makes it exciting, but also makes it really fucking scary. What I always worry about as I’m getting drunk with Evan at the TGI Fridays across [from] the theater before our first test screening is, there’s a conceptual element of the movie that people could reject. Like, ‘Fuck that. I’m done.’ And 30 seconds into the movie, we’re dead. Like, do people know who the fuck Kim Jong-un is at all?”
Thirty seconds into this showing of The Interview — which he’s seen countless times before — Rogen watches intently. An adorable little girl is onscreen. We’re in North Korea, and a government ceremony of some sort is taking place. She begins to sing, beautifully. And the subtitles fill us in: “May America die in a fiery hell!” The first laughs rumble in. For now, some relief.
Removing his winter cap for the first time, Rogen sits and monitors the crowd. Just one row up, a couple of boozed kids talk loudly and sloppily, and Rogen strains to understand what they’re saying. “He’s explaining, ‘That guy’s the producer,’” Rogen reports back. “I didn’t think it was complicated!” A Lord of the Rings reference falls flat, and Rogen shrugs: “That’s an example of a joke only we find funny.”
In between chortling at every bizarre Franco facial expression, Rogen keeps up a steady DVD commentary the rest of the way.
These mountains are CG.
That song’s by the guy who plays Kato in The Green Hornet.
Franco’s dressed like the Joker in this one scene.
This is our psychedelic military porn montage.
That’s a real fucking tiger!
Just before a drug sequence: “This scene shows you how much people like Ecstasy. Just cheering for Ecstasy.”
Has Rogen done Ecstasy?
“Oh yeah,” he responds, over the sounds of the correctly predicted outburst. “Tons.”
The drunken cross chatter is strong, but at this point in the movie, the laughter is loud enough to drown it out. The audience is hooked, and is learning that The Interview — for all of its accidental warmongering and bold-faced absurdity — is a tale that Rogen has told many times, and told well.
Certainly, the dramatic real-life events have drowned out the actual content of the movie. Whatever happens, The Interview will forever be a talking point in the argument about the liberties permissible to art. At some point soon, we may know conclusively if this was an act of aggression by a rogue nation — the New York Times is reporting that North Korea was in fact “centrally involved” in the hack. But for now, we’ll argue: Are there some things too horrible to be wrangled into comedy? Or is there always value in trying? And should anyone ever be able to scare us into censoring ourselves?
For just a few moments, let’s return to the actual content on the screen and this movie with an uncertain future. Near the movie’s end, through the gunsight of a Soviet tank, Dave Skylark and Kim Jong-un come to understand each other as two kids starved for the love and approval of their fathers. The stakes certainly are higher, and the satire bigger. But once again, we’re talking about a couple of Bros With Heart.
And at this crucial juncture, a character poops his pants. Which seems completely gratuitous until you remember it’s a direct callback to an earlier scene, tying up the whole endeavor neatly. “It’s rare when you get to have someone organically shit themselves,” Rogen says, beaming. “It serves the story!”



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