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NEWS: Coke In Pyongyang, Hantavirus In Yosemite, Mitt In Action


Towleroad-roadicon Isaac's aftermath.

Towleroad-roadicon Mitt ... helps? ... a woman who's lost her house to the storm.

S-RREED-largeTowleroad-roadicon The revenant Ralph Reed.

Towleroad-roadicon Augmented cell phones will soon be able to screen for HIV:

The gadget, called Smartscope, is a small 1-millimeter (0.04-inch) microscope and light which clips over a smartphone's camera.

A standard chip with a blood sample then slides into the gadget in front of the microscope. Next, a special phone programme photographs the sample and analyses the cells.

The team hopes that trials in clinics may start next year ...

The new technology is destined for AIDS treatment in remote communities in South Africa and Swaziland, where clinics often don't have the technology to do these tests effectively.

Towleroad-roadicon A lonely Greek gay boy's imaginary friend comes to life, looking rather like Maria Callas circa 1972.

Towleroad-roadicon Two dead, thousands at risk from hantavirus after a stay in Yosemite:

Yosemite officials earlier this week shut down all 91 of the insulated tent cabins after finding deer mice, which carry the disease and can burrow through holes the size of pencil erasers, nesting between the [cabins'] double walls.

Park authorities said on Friday that they had contacted approximately 3,000 parties of visitors who stayed in the tent cabins since mid-June, advising them to seek immediate medical attention if they have symptoms of hantavirus.

Towleroad-roadicon Coca-Cola reaches Pyongyang. Freedom can't be far behind.

Towleroad-roadicon California's John Perez, the first openly-gay speaker of a state legislature, to speak at the Democratic National Convention.

Towleroad-roadicon Frank Bruni on the RNC:

... you certainly didn’t see anyone openly gay on the stage in Tampa. More to the point, you didn’t hear mention of gays and lesbians. Scratch that: Mike Huckabee, who has completed a ratings-minded transformation from genial pol to dyspeptic pundit, made a derisive reference to President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage. We were thus allowed a fleeting moment inside the tent, only to be flogged and sent back out into the cold.

ZimmermanIt was striking not because a convention or political party should make a list of minority groups and dutifully put a check mark beside each ... It was striking because the Republicans went so emphatically far, in terms of stagecraft and storytelling, to profess inclusivenes ...

Towleroad-roadicon Republicans to descend on DNC for counter-convention, because ... they're unhappy with the one they just had?

... as many as 50 “communicators” ... will be stationed right outside the gates of the Time Warner Cable Arena. And there will be plenty of gimmicks and props, including “You Build It” Legos, “You Build It” Monopoly and plenty of Kleenex “because breaking up is hard to do.”

Towleroad-roadicon You've heard folkie Roy Zimmerman's not-quite-hit "Defenders of Marriage"? Or his "Romney Mitt: The Demon Barber Of Wall Street"? Well -- do, if you haven't. And AFTER THE JUMP, find out what he learned at the RNC ...


Posted Sep. 1,2012 at 7:26 PM EST by in 2012 Election, Africa, AIDS/HIV, California, Frank Bruni, Mitt Romney, Music, Music Video, North Korea, Republican National Convention | Permalink | Comments (14)

Movies: "Lawless" Needs More Moonshine

Oh, Shia... Man up! You've disappointed Tom Hardy again.



Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) doesn't believe the tall tales about the outlaw Bondurant Boys he keeps hearing in LAWLESS, especially the ones about Forrest (Tom Hardy). Local Virginia legend has it that Forrest can't be killed, that he's immortal.  "Have you ever seen what a tommy gun does to 'immortal'?" Rakes sneers in a (successful) effort to terrorize the town's Forrest fearing men into submission. Rakes then beats the youngest Bondurant brother Jack (Shia Labeouf) into a blubbering pulp. But, as it turns out, the Bondurant brothers are resilient enough to inspire tall tales. Forrest and his brothers make their living as moonshiners in this Depression-era Western and with Prohibition empowering organized crime, everyone is looking to be the top boss. The brothers value their autonomy but the guns are out and if an actual crime lord (Gary Oldman's "Floyd Banner") don't get them, then the even more crooked law enforcement (Pearce's Deputy) just might.

Such is the bloody conflict of John Hillcoat's Lawless, based on the historical novel "The Wettest County in the World" which was written by a grandson of the Bondurants (all childless during the movie) suggesting straightaway that at least one of them is going to make it out of the movie alive. Not that the film is shy about spoilers given its heavy handed foreshadowing and the past-tense narration. (You gotta Live to Tell).


Guy Pearce in "Lawless"

When a movie opens with a scene of a little boy failing his tough brothers by being too sensitive to shoot a farm animal in the head...

When a movie's toughest guy describes a future killing blow to his worst enemy...

When a movie has a scene in which a big brother balks at his younger brother's pleas for rescue and suggests he needs to fight his own battles... 

Well, it's hard not to see where that movie's plot lines will converge.

Unless, of course, you're taking all of the movie's (many) violent threats equally seriously in which case you'll be giving soft Jack some competition in the sobbing and quivering department. This is one brutal movie. Most Hollywood pictures worship tough guys and "Man up!" character arc narratives are common enough (Jack is going to have to quit with the sensitivity and make peace with the gun) but few of them go this far.

[SPOILER] Let's just say that in the summer of Magic Mike I didn't expect that the only balls we'd see onscreen would be severed and bloody and ready for their own closeup. In moments like this and elsewhere Lawless plays like a grotesque parody of tough guy posturing and masculine angst. It's balls are actually out while Labeouf tries to find his. Meanwhile Tom Hardy Brando-mumbles his way through scenes with his polar opposite Guy Pearce all preening and precise. Numerous characters, not just Forrest the Immortal, survive killing blows to demonstrate their manliness. Even the quickly dispatched henchman (like brilliant character actor Noah Taylor) are ressurected without a fuss. [/SPOILERS]


Lawless is far too generic a title for the movie's specificity for better and worse. The acting is always...uh... enthusiastic (Why is Mia Wasikowska cocking her head and flirting with such modernity when playing a preacher's daughter in the 30s who uses words like "courtin'"? Why is Guy Pearce adding another tic, however vivid, to the twenty-five he's already assembled for his character?). The movie's fetishistic relationship to feet is also of interest. There's a dramatically blunt shot of an expensive shoe blocking a door, another shoe as an amusing totem of humiliation, and a good sort of funny scene where the washing of feet in a church churns up several emotions... as well as the contents of Jack's stomachs. The best scene even hits as forcefully as tommy guns. A dreamy romantic walk through weeping willows late in the movie suddenly upends its own mood (twice!) with dramatic POV switches; same scene, entirely different feelings, all of them perfectly pitched.

But as the movie veers drunkenly from mediocre to great, and as it awkwardly stumbles between the fun of its over the top acting and the serious beats of its familiar crime drama plot, you get the sense that it was a nightmare in the editing room. Missing scenes are, for instance, the likely culprit when it comes to ex-dancer Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). She's introduced forcefully but the potency of her walk on feels curiously unearned given her always sketchy appearances thereafter. She's merely decorative but the movie insists she's functional.

Lawless was originally titled The Wettest County which is far more specific than Lawless though admittedly less flashy and equally ill suited to the movie. "Wettest" refers to the moonshine but Hillcoat is a very serious director and his preferred poison in every scene is blood. It's too bad, really. The actors are eager to get shitfaced but the movie is a teetotaler.


Nathaniel Rogers would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.

Posted Sep. 1,2012 at 5:31 PM EST by in Film, Nathaniel Rogers, Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy | Permalink | Comments (18)

(UPDATED) Disabled Pakistani Girl Imprisoned For Blasphemy: VIDEO

[UPDATE: Turns out that the girl in the following story was very likely framed by a local cleric. Read more here.]

Here is a link to a very disturbing CNN story. It starts bad --

A Pakistani court postponed a hearing Saturday on whether to grant bail to a Christian girl accused of burning pages containing Quran verses in a case that has heightened religious tensions.

Muslim lawyers demanded she remain in jail during a tense hearing that included a shouting match with the judge. They provided a list of reasons she should be detained, including questioning whether the girl gave her lawyer the power of attorney.

A judge ordered investigators to get more details on her power of attorney, and postponed the hearing to Monday. Before Saturday, a decision was supposed to come Thursday, but was deferred so authorities could answer questions about her medical history.

"All these are the delaying tactics by the lawyers of the complainant to keep the girl in jail," said her lawyer, Tahir Naveed Choudhry.

Quran-- and gets worse.

The girl, it turns out, is desperately poor -- from such a backwards neighborhood that authorities can't tell if she's eleven years old, sixteen years old, or some age in between. Nobody else seems to know, either. (I get the impression the author of the CNN article thinks she's fourteen.)

Also: The girl's not being accused of burning the Qur'an pages out of some kind of anti-Islamism. She was trying to start a cooking fire, as many in her corner of the world must, with scrap paper.

Also: The only evidence that she did actually burn pages from the Qur'an come from eyewitnesses. As of yet, no physical evidence has been presented.

Also: Even if the girl actually did burn pages from the Qur'an, she wouldn't know it. She's illiterate.

Also: The girl is mentally disabled, and may have Down's Syndrome.

From CNN:

The court faces a difficult decision amid concerns that if she is released on bail, she could be at risk from Muslims angered by the allegations against her.

Choudhry, a leading member of the Christian community, said the girl is too young to stay in prison and would be safer joining her relatives, who are in hiding.

"She was crying in the jail and missing her parents," he said.

Choudhry suspects the girl's trial could take up to two years. If convicted of blasphemy, the disabled, illiterate young girl could face life in prison.

For obvious reasons, CNN hasn't named the suspected blasphemer. AFTER THE JUMP, see CNN's Reza Sayah discussing the story from Islamabad.


Posted Sep. 1,2012 at 4:16 PM EST by in Books, CNN, Crime, Pakistan, Religion | Permalink | Comments (29)

Stevie Wonder Apologizes For Comments On Frank Ocean

StevieStevie Wonder has apologized for the rather disappointing quote he gave The Guardian about the coming-out of singer Frank Ocean. When asked earlier this week about Frank Ocean, Wonder said:

I think honestly, some people who think they're gay, they're confused. People can misconstrue closeness for love. People can feel connected, they bond. I'm not saying all [gay people are confused]. Some people have a desire to be with the same sex. But that's them.

Sure -- some people do get confused about sexualty. (I did. My first love was a girl.) But for an honest-to-goodness American national treasure to respond in such a way to the first-time-in-history coming out of a hip-hop/R&B star was dispiriting, and suggested that maybe Mr. Wonder wasn't entirely comfortable with Frank Ocean's gayness.

Mr. Wonder has tried to clear things up with a statement to The Advocate:

I’m sorry that my words about anyone feeling confused about their love were misunderstood. No one has been a greater advocate for the power of love in this world than I; both in my life and in my music. Clearly, love is love, between a man and a woman, a woman and a man, a woman and a woman and a man and a man. What I’m not confused about is the world needing much more love, no hate, no prejudice, no bigotry and more unity, peace and understanding. Period.

Does that settle it?

Posted Sep. 1,2012 at 2:00 PM EST by in Frank Ocean, Music | Permalink | Comments (90)

Creation Museum 'Science Guys' Rebut Bill Nye: VIDEO


On Thursday, Andrew posted an excellent "Big Think" video from Bill Nye, in which the scientist and educator riffed expertly on evolution via natural selection, and suggested that warping kids' worldviews with creationism amounts to a kind of child abuse.

The vid's gone viral, and now Ken Ham and the folks at the Creation Museum have issued a rebuttal. The two people talking in the video are supposed to be scientists, but they give up the game at the 2:10 mark. See how AFTER THE JUMP ... 



Posted Sep. 1,2012 at 11:59 AM EST by in Education, Evangelical Christians, Evangelicals, Religion, Science | Permalink | Comments (68)

Famed Priest And Franciscan Friar Blames Kids For Catholic Abuse Scandals, Then Changes His Mind

Famous Catholic author and talk show host Father Benedict Groeschel put his Franciscan foot in it earlier this week, in an interview with the National Catholic Register during which he offered some insight into his religion's ugly history of child abuse. From Raw Story:

1Fr.+Benedict+Groeschel“People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — a psychopath. But that’s not the case,” Groeschel explained. “Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer.”

“Well, it’s not so hard to see — a kid looking for a father and didn’t have his own — and they won’t be planning to get into heavy-duty sex, but almost romantic, embracing, kissing, perhaps sleeping but not having intercourse or anything like that,” he continued.

Groeschel called the abuse “an understandable thing,” and pointed to Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, who he called a “poor guy.”

Fr. Groeschel also pointed out that, until the past decade, what secret things passed between priests and the youngest members of their flocks were seldom viewed as criminal. Scandalous, yes; inappropriate, yes; but criminal, no. Fr. Groeschel seemed to lament this state of affairs. Whereas society was once willing to look the other way, according to Fr. Groeschel, nowadays if "any responsible person in society would become involved in a single sexual act — not necessarily intercourse — they’re done."

First offenders, Fr. Groschel opined, should not be sent to jail.

Once the editors of the National Catholic Register realized what they'd published, they promptly removed the story from their webpage. It has now been replaced with three apologies -- one from the editors; one from the Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, which Fr. Groeschel helped found; and one from Fr. Groeschel himself. The Friars' apology contains these poignant words:

Fr. Benedict has dedicated his life to helping others and these comments were completely out of character. He never intended to excuse abuse or implicate the victims. We hope that these unfortunate statements will not overshadow the great good Fr. Benedict has done in housing countless homeless people, feeding innumerable poor families, and bringing healing, peace and encouragement to so many.

Fr. Benedict helped found our community 25 years ago with the hope of bringing the healing peace of Jesus Christ to our wounded world. Our desire has always been to lift-up humanity and never to hurt. About seven years ago Fr. Benedict was struck by a car and was in a coma for over a month. In recent months his health, memory and cognitive ability have been failing. He has been in and out of the hospital. Due to his declining health and inability to care for himself, Fr. Benedict had moved to a location where he could rest and be relieved of his responsibilities. Although these factors do not excuse his comments, they help us understand how such a compassionate man could have said something so wrong, so insensitive, and so out of character.

Yes -- out of character. In fact, Fr. Groeschel has spent his career helping young people. In 1967, he founded the St. Francis House, in Brooklyn -- a shelter for homeless boys in their teens and early twenties, which Fr. Groeschel still serves as Executive Director.

Posted Sep. 1,2012 at 10:30 AM EST by in Catholic Church, Crime, New York, Religion | Permalink | Comments (74)


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