Category: Culture

Director charged over crew death while producing Greg Allman biopic


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The director of a biopic about singer Gregg Allman, and two of the film’s producers, are facing involuntary manslaughter charges.

It follows a fatal train crash on the film’s set in south east Georgia in February, which led to the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones.

A grand jury charged Randall Miller, producer Jody Savin and executive producer Jay Sedrish…

Jones, 27, was hit by a train on the first day of filming Midnight Rider.

Seven other crew members were injured in the incident, which saw the camera assistant fatally struck after the crew placed a bed on the railway tracks in Doctortown while filming a dream sequence.

It is understood the crew were expecting two local trains to pass through, but a third had arrived unexpectedly. A warning whistle was blown, but they had less than a minute to remove the bed from the track.

Miller, Savin and Sedrish are each charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass, according to a statement from local district attorney Jackie Johnson…

It remains unclear whether the crew had permission to be on the tracks. Local police investigators say they did have permission to be on property nearby.

The manslaughter charges against the film team could bring a possible sentence of 10 years in prison under Georgia law…

Filming on Midnight Rider was suspended in the aftermath of the train tragedy, and actor William Hurt – who was due to play Allman – pulled out of the production.

I haven’t any personal insight into the case. Though I spent an important though small portion of my life with folks deeply committed to the craft of acting all I can say is there wasn’t any uniform opinion of producers or directors, film or stage. Most discussion resolved to questions of political courage or cowardice – for that was in the darkest days of the blacklist throughout this so-called land of freedom.

Thanks, Mike

Germany arrests suspected double agent spying for U.S.

An employee of Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency has been arrested on suspicion of spying for the United States…

The German Federal Prosecutor’s office said in a statement that a 31-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of being a foreign spy, but it gave no further details. Investigations were continuing, it said…

The man, who is German, has admitted passing to an American contact details about a special German parliamentary committee set up to investigate the spying revelations made by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the politicians said…

Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said: “We don’t take the matter of spying for foreign intelligence agencies lightly“…

The United States embassy in Berlin, the State Department in Washington and the White House all declined to comment.

Germany is particularly sensitive about surveillance because of abuses by the East German Stasi secret police and the Nazis. After the Snowden revelations, Berlin demanded that Washington agree to a “no-spy agreement” with its close ally, but the United States has been unwilling…

Bild newspaper said in an advance copy of an article to be published on Saturday that the man had worked for two years as a double agent and had stolen 218 confidential documents.

He sold the documents, three of which related to the work of the committee in the Bundestag, for 25,000 euros, Bild said, citing security sources.

The United States government – regardless of which of the two TweedleDee and TweedleDumb parties is in residence – can always be counted on to rely on duplicity and lies in our relationship with every other country on this poor old planet.

The same lies they feed us.

An alphabetical guide to things communities ban for no good reason

A is for Artichokes: In 1935, New York City mayor Fiorella LaGuardia banned the sale, possession and display” of artichokes. But only small ones. It was an offensive move against Ciro Terranova, “the artichoke king.” “In the past and until Thursday,” one article said, “produce men, it was said, either bought artichokes from him or they didn’t have artichokes for sale.” The ban lasted three days…

D is for Dying: The mayor of Le Lavandou, a town in France, banned dying in 2000 after the local cemetery filled up and he was denied permission to build a new one. He told the BBC the day after the announcement, “No one has died since then and I hope it stays that way…”

E is for Emergencies: When Colorado passed a law that prohibited towns from hiring part-time police officers, the town of Hotchkiss responded by banning crime, emergencies, accidents and death on Mondays and Tuesdays — the town marshal’s days off…

K is for Kissing: In 1969, the “tiny farming town” of Swedensboro, New Jersey banned kissing and hugging “in all public parks, lakes and places.” The penalty was a $200 fine…

N is for Noisy things: In the 1960s, the town of Eveaux-les-Bains in France was very anti-noise. They went so far as to partially ban the use of cars. Other measures included banning “the crowing of cocks, the barking of dogs and the braying of donkeys,” as well as “assemblies, noises and gatherings and any acts calculated to disturb public tranquility…”

U is for Unwrapped ukuleles: It was illegal to carry an unwrapped ukulele around the streets of Salt Lake City as of 1976…

There are lots more letters in the article. Even some more silliness for the letters already illustrated above.

You deserve a chuckle.

Science museum opens exhibit with singing toilets

A toilet exhibition featuring a giant slide and singing toilet seats opens at the Miraikan science museum in Tokyo.

The exhibit aims to make people more comfortable discussing their bowel movements, says staff. ‘Toilets and faeces are normally thought of as very unclean topics, but I would like for people to actively talk about them instead of just thinking that they’re dirty,’ says museum staff member Tami Sakamaki.

Um, OK.

Tim Howard — heroes do not necessarily triumph


Click to enlargeAP Photo

Tim Howard’s stunning performance against Belgium in Tuesday evening’s epic last-16 contest in Salvador was the talk of the US yesterday after his remarkable, bloody-minded refusal to let the ball past him in the 90 minutes of normal time captured the hearts of sports fans Stateside.

But its true significance may take years to gauge because the preformance, and the reaction, may prove the tipping point which confirm the US as a real football force, establishing the sport as a real rival to American football and baseball.

Howard may have eventually succumbed in extra-time but as the New York Times put it yesterday morning: “All around the country, from coast to coast and through the nation’s belly, sports fans of every kind were inspired by the performance of a soccer goalkeeper. In a loss.”

Howard’s performance was the best statistically by a goalkeeper at any World Cup since 1966. The Everton man made a record 16 saves according to Fifa, starting as early as the 40th second when he denied Divock Origi after the Belgian striker broke through. That was one of four stops in the first half but it was after the break, when Belgium turned up the heat, that Howard came into his own and the American captain transformed into a footballing Captain America. He made eight saves in a gripping second period to keep Belgium at bay – leaping high to paw away two Origi efforts, while using his feet and legs to block a series of low strikes.

It was only with substitute Romelu Lukaku running at a tired American defence in extra-time that his resistance was broken; Lukaku, his team-mate at Everton last season, set up Kevin de Bruyne before lifting one over Howard himself. If Lukaku’s first action at the end of the match was to embrace Howard, it is a feeling shared by millions of Americans.

The goalkeeper’s heroics went viral on the internet in the hours that followed, with the hashtag “ThingsTimHowardCouldSave” inspiring pictures of the 35 year-old rescuing Bambi and the swimmer from Jaws. US vice-president Joe Biden tweeted: “Proud that our guys, just like our country, never gave up. Tim Howard – most valuable player in the World Cup.”

RTFA for more details about the whole team. We’re getting there. Nice to see we can catch up with the rest of the world in an area with social value. Lifetime sports can be a passion for spectator as well as participants.

Thanks, Mike

Facebook experiments with lab rats user base.

legit lab rat

Unbeknownst to the world, Facebook data scientists, in collaboration with Cornell University and the University of California, ran an experiment in 2012 to test how emotions can be transmitted through social media. They did this by manipulating the newsfeed of 689,003 English-speaking Facebook users, so it would show low numbers of positive or negative posts, and observed how this influenced their posts.

The results of the study were published late last week and have since gone viral. They concluded that emotional states could be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness.

Reaction was negative and swift, with people predictably angry to find out Facebook had tweaked user feeds without permission. Critics questioned the ethics of the study; the researchers were criticised for not seeking consent; and the social networking giant was deemed creepy by angry users.

Adam Kramer, a Facebook employee and one of the authors of the study, apologised for the emotional contagion, saying, in hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all the anxiety caused…

Facebook may have been concerned about users’ exposure to negativity, but it is unlikely it thought about how users would feel after discovering they were lab rats for the social network.

Either way, the study once again highlights Facebook’s unclear boundaries with its membership.

That’s putting it pleasantly.

Poisonally – unlike Google which tried at first to maintain a facade of caring for consumers and customers as associates in a journey through the InterWebitubes – I feel Facebook has always seemed to be peering down its patrician nose at us common folk.

Now, they’re neck-and-neck spewing disingenuous bullshit about caring for anything more than their balance sheet.

Thanks, Mike

New Mexico the leader of the pack – turning coppers into militia

If you think local police look increasingly like soldiers armed for battle instead of civil servants responsible for protecting you, it’s not your imagination.

As noted in the Journal’s recent three-part series analyzing “mission creep” at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the federal government funnels millions of tax dollars to local police departments in the form of grants used to buy high-powered paramilitary style weapons and other gear.

Law enforcement agencies across the country are also tapping into a military surplus program to acquire Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Interestingly – some would say disturbingly – New Mexico police departments, representing one of the nation’s least populous states, have acquired more of these fearsome-looking armored vehicles than any other state, according to a New York Times analysis.

In an article published this month, the Times found that there are at least 42 MRAPs now stationed at New Mexico law enforcement agencies.

Texas – with 37 – had the second-largest number…

Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report titled “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing.” It’s a sobering analysis of the increasingly violent and invasive techniques police are using, especially in the war on drugs.

The ACLU report calls for the federal government to rein in the incentives for police to militarize. The civil liberties group also asks that local, state and federal governments track the use of SWAT raids, and the guns, tanks and other military equipment that end up in police hands…

The national trend of police militarization is clearly felt here in New Mexico,” said Peter Simonson, executive director of ACLU of New Mexico. “We have towns like Farmington operating armored vehicles and the Albuquerque Police Department shooting civilians at alarming rates.

“This military mindset, coupled with assault-style tactics and weapons, positions the public as the enemy, rather than human beings they have sworn to serve and protect.”

Who is going to protect us from our police?