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22 January 2021

Poirot at 100: The Refugee Detective Who Stole Britain's Heart

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Poirot at 100: The Refugee Detective Who Stole Britain's Heart
David Suchet as Hercule Poirot.(ITV)
A hundred years ago, Agatha Christie introduced British readers to a small man with an impeccably maintained moustache who, with the help of his “little grey cells”, was very good at solving crimes. That man, of course, was Hercule Poirot, who made his debut in Christie’s first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1921.

Though potentially the second most famous detective in British culture (after Sherlock Holmes), Poirot is not British at all but a refugee. Coming to England as part of a group of Belgians displaced by the first world war, his origins lie in Brussels. Writing about this retired Belgian police officer solving cases around the UK and across the globe, Christie was able to explore (and at times poke fun at) the complexities of Englishness and its relationship to continental Europe.

European flair

On the surface, Christie’s novels resemble a nostalgic retreat to the pastoral and to the English stately home. They can be read as a possible turning-inwards thanks to an emphasis on closed rooms and detailed floor plans of grand buildings. But such appearances are deceptive.

The opening of borders, both literal and intellectual, shapes Christie’s England. It was her understanding of the work of European thinkers that gives her detective an edge. Where an English detective, like Sherlock Holmes, looks for external pieces of evidence that can be analysed, Poirot solves the case by realising the hidden implications of people’s behaviour – including his own. Poirot’s Freudian focus on the psychology of suspects enables him to see that simple mistakes and slips of the tongue can hide deeper meanings. In The Mysterious Affair at Styles, a crucial clue is revealed when Poirot realises the importance of his own almost unconscious instinct to tidy.

In Christie’s world, the typically English common sense of policemen is not enough to solve the mystery. Instead, a dash of continental theory sheds light on what lies beneath the surface.

Another of Poirot’s trademarks is his occasional struggle to find the correct English word or idiom. In The Mysterious Affair at Styles, he even misquotes Hamlet. Yet it would be a mistake to read these moments as simple errors. Instead, Poirot knowingly plays into the trope of the “funny foreigner”, using difficulties with language to disarm suspects and allay fears of suspicion (how could such a comic figure be so great a detective?). In the famous scenes where Poirot explains the truth, his English becomes markedly more fluent. In this, Poirot represents the outsider perfectly placed to see through English deceptions.

Little England

The success of the “funny foreigner” schtick with unsuspecting English plays into Christie’s larger exploration of Englishness in her books.

Poirot is an enthusiastic devotee of England. In The Murder of Roger Ackroyd he comments that England is “very beautiful, is it not?” But this enthusiasm is not always returned. A running joke of the Poirot novels and adaptations is that he is often mistaken as French. In Ackroyd, he is described as looking “just like a comic Frenchman in a revue”. But in a genre that demands close attention to detail, the joke here is at the expense of a particularly inward-looking type of Englishness, those who cannot tell the difference between the French and the Belgian.

Likewise, as literary scholar Alison Light notes, Poirot’s popularity coincides with the expansion in travel, as the English increasingly saw themselves as tourists abroad. Several of Poirot’s most famous cases occur on modes of transport and in exotic locations, like Death on the Nile. However, while the English in these stories might be abroad, class relations from home still manage to play out wherever they might be. England follows them, and that inward-looking Englishness runs deep.

While Christie might have poked fun at England and Englishness, she managed to capture the hearts of British readers with her small, smart Belgian. Poirot was so loved by readers that Christie wrote 33 novels, two plays, and more than 50 short stories about him between 1921 and 1975. ITV’s adaptation of many of these stories, Agatha Christie’s Poirot starring David Suchet, ran for 25 years (1989-2013) and is also now considered a classic of British TV. Few fictional detectives have had their complete adventures adapted for the screen. In this regard, Poirot makes a strong claim to being Britain’s most loved detective.

Poirot at 100: The Refugee Detective Who Stole Britain's Heart
David Suchet as Hercule Poirot.(screengrab)

About Today's Contributor:

Christopher Pittard, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, University of Portsmouth

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

One-Third Of Drivers Don't Know Their Drink-Drive Limit [Infographic]

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One-Third Of Drivers Don't Know Their Drink-Drive Limit [Infographic]
One-Third Of Drivers Don't Know Their Drink-Drive Limit (Please, scroll down to see full infographic)
There are few issues as serious and wide-spread in their risk to both drivers and pedestrians than the enduring problem of drink-driving. A recently announced infographic from Hilton Garage has taken a deeper look into some of the stats behind the reality of drink-driving, today, as well as the fundamental actions that we can all take to help.
In order to prevent the ongoing increase of drink-drive accidents on the road, Hilton Garage is encouraging people to be more aware of the steps that they can take to prevent such incidents from ever occurring. This includes being mindful of the risk, serving non-alcohol alternatives for people who are driving, keeping an eye on friends who may be at risk of drink-driving, and acting as a designated driver.
  • Furthermore, the infographic highlights just how many people don’t understand the laws revolving around drink-driving. Many currently don’t understand the drink-drive limits in terms of how much alcohol needs to be in their blood or breath to get them in danger, meaning that they not only risk the safety of themselves and others on or by the roads, they also run the risk of getting in trouble with the law.
Drink-driving continues to be a consistent and persistent issue across drivers of all ages. Driving under the influence is the number one causing factor of road accidents and injuries throughout the UK and, as a result, not only do drivers have a responsibility to avoid drinking and driving. We all have a responsibility to do what we can to prevent it.

The Infographic:

One-Third Of Drivers Don't Know Their Drink-Drive Limit [Infographic]
Infographic Design By Drink driving facts

21 January 2021

Kamala Harris Original Art Illustration Magazine Cover Design Pays Homage to 21st Century Diversity

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Kamala Harris Original Art Illustration Magazine Cover Design Pays Homage to 21st Century Diversity
Vice President Kamala Harris Original Art Culturs Magazine Illustration
As the United States made history welcoming Vice President Kamala Harris, Culturs — the global multicultural magazine, focused on how Harris represents an increasing wave of politicians displaying hidden diversity.
Along with Barack Obama and John McCain, the issue's cover story highlights how Third Culture Kids (TCKs) like these three examples are changing the face of U.S. politics. Third Culture Kids are those who grow up with geographic and cultural mobility during their formative years when identity is formed. In 1984, Sociologist Ted Ward called TCKs "The prototype citizens of the future."
"The classic profile of a TCK is someone with a global perspective who is socially adaptable and intellectually flexible," says Ruth Van Reken, co-author of a celebrated book on Third Culture Kids. In the article, she shares that "The U.S. 'melting pot' indeed has birthed notable TCKs in its political ranks.
  • The issue boasts an original art illustration of Harris amongst Lotus flowers, which is one translation for her name's meaning.
"We've had a lot of celebratory comments about this cover, and gratitude from people sharing that it is a proper observance for such a monumental occasion," Doni Aldine, Culturs Editor-in-Chief, shares.
  • The issue covers a number of cross-cultural political up-and-comers, along with articles on digital democracy in online algorithms, views on immigration and cross-cultural lifestyle content like the Ojibwe Native American Jingle Dress dance, a review of the book "Caste," and more.
This historic Colorado-based print publication celebrates cross-cultural identity and amplifies voices of hidden diversity for TCKs, immigrants, refugees, multiracial and multiethnic people. On sale for $9.99 starting Feb. 1 at Army and Air Force Exchange Service Stores (AFFES), select Kroger grocery stores, Books-a-Million and independent bookstores. 

About Culturs:

Culturs is a global multicultural philanthropic brand that brings lifestyle content to culturally fluid populations whose lives are punctuated by "straddling" different cultures during their formative years. The missing "e" in Culturs represents the population's hidden diversity. Proceeds support cross-cultural education around the globe. 

SOURCE: Culturs


20 January 2021

Eric St. John Stars with Chris Brown and Young Thug in New Mini Movie / Music Video [Video Included]

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Eric St. John Stars with Chris Brown and Young Thug in New Mini Movie / Music Video
Eric St. John Stars with Chris Brown and Young Thug in New Mini Movie / Music Video (screengrab)
Eric St. John has continued to shake the entertainment industry as he is currently working with award-winning artist Chris Brown and talented rapper, Young Thug, on a new mini -movie / music video. 

  • Eric St. John has already shown the world his incredible acting skills, and he is set to star in "De Gringo a la Tumba," an amazing movie by international writer and director Jacob N. Stuart.
City Girls set in 1940's Hollywood in an exclusive cabaret-style club, is narrated by "A Bronx Tale" star Lillo Brancato Jr. Throughout the video Chris Brown sings, along with Young Thug, and the cabaret girls put on a show, until the scene explodes into a cinematic shootout.

City Girls - The Video:

"I am truly impressed with Executive Producer Matt Goldstein and I am grateful that he hired me for this acting role on his incredible production!" said Eric St. John.
Eric St. John is fast-becoming a sought-after brand in the entertainment industry as the American actor and producer has caught the attention of major stakeholders in the industry. Not too many people will be surprised that Eric is working with Chris Brown on a new music video, considering the fantastic acting skills he has displayed in recent times.

City Girls (Behind The Scenes) - Video:

  • City Girls  was directed by talented Jake Miosge, in his directorial debut. Eric is grateful to work with Miosge stating " It is an honor to work with Jake on his directorial debut!"
Eric has expressed his delight in working with Chris Brown and Young Thug. "Chris Brown is one of the premier musical talents of our generation, and I am grateful that he brought me on board for his awesome project! Young Thug is the epitome of cool!" said Eric St. John.
Eric St. John Stars with Chris Brown and Young Thug in New Mini Movie
Eric St. John

About Eric St. John:

Eric St. John is a talented American actor and world-class martial artist, trained in multiple disciplines with some of the best in the world. The multifaceted entertainer looks set to take the industry by storm as he continues to deliver captivating performances on movie sets.

SOURCE: Eric St. John

Favale Media's "Donald Trump Farewell Video" Features Four Long Years Of Lowlights In Just Four Minutes [Video Included]

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REM predicted the end of the world as we know it would start with an earthquake but for many it started with a descending escalator carrying Donald and Melania in Trump Tower on June 16th, 2015…and it's been all downhill since then.

Now with Trump's presidency officially ended, Favale Media has captured the last four years of lowlights in a commemorative video featuring Radiohead's "Creep".
"Regardless of political affiliation, every presidency in modern history has been fodder for comedy," said Vinnie Favale.
Comedians had a field day in 1952 with Vice President Nixon's "checkers" speech. In 1963, Vaughn Meader had the number one album ("The First Family") spoofing JFK. Nixon's Watergate and Clinton's Monicagate were a goldmine for Johnny Carson's monologue writers and Reagan, Bush 41, Bush 43 and Obama made their own fair share of gaffes to keep the late-night talk show writers busy.

  • But Trump's presidency presented a whole different challenge for the comedy industry.
Favale says "Unfortunately old the expression 'it's all fun and games till somebody gets hurt...then it's hilarious" never applied to Trump. Claims that he could shoot someone on 5th avenue and get away with it and exaggerating the size of his inauguration crowds were relatively harmless…contesting the election results and instigating the riot at the Capitol not so much."
Prior to the attack on the Capitol, Favale was going to take a lighthearted approach. "There were so many moments to choose from, I thought I might just highlight the silly stuff and use the Village People as the soundtrack. But then Trump's comments at his "Save America March" rally and the ensuing attack on the Capitol by his loyalists forced Favale to change the tone of the video.
"The thing about the Trump is that for every silly video clip there are like ten horrific ones and the footage from the January 6th riot was just too difficult to ignore."
  • Using the aptly titled "Creep" from Radiohead, the video came together pretty quickly.
"It's sad that it all had to end this way and I think we all are looking forward to the inevitable Biden grandpa memes."
Favale Media's "Donald Trump Farewell Video" Features Four Long Years Of Lowlights In Just Four Minutes
Favale Media's "Donald Trump Farewell Video" Features Four Long Years Of Lowlights In Just Four Minutes (screengrab)
Favale Media specializes in Live Events, Films, Musical Theater, Scripted & Unscripted TV Programs. Vinnie Favale is a veteran of CBS, David Letterman, The Howard Stern Show and a founder of Comedy Central.
SOURCE: Favale Media

19 January 2021

Online Money Making Tricks That Can Work For Anyone

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Online Money Making Tricks That Can Work For Anyone
Online Money Making Tricks That Can Work For Anyone (Photo by Karolina Grabowska)
If there’s one thing that’s abundantly clear these days, it’s that making money online is something that just about anybody can do with patience, persistence, and belief. If you can’t be bothered to put the time or the work in, then you are unlikely to make much money and will probably give up. However, you can use the techniques below to make money if you have the drive! Take a look and see how you could be making money online:

1: Create Content

Could you become a content creator? The good news is that you don’t need to be a super serious content creator to make money. You can make videos, edit them loosely, and still get views and make money. That being said, the more you improve and take this seriously, the more earning potential you have. You can make money from Instagram posts, YouTube videos, blogs, and other types of content. Some people follow content creators purely because they find them interesting. Some people prefer to have a niche. It’s up to you - the most important thing is that you’re consistent and that you attempt to make your content engaging and valuable in some way.

2: Offer Your Skills As a Tutor

Do you have knowledge on a specific subject? Can you speak a language very well, play an instrument, or are you just great at maths? You could offer your skills as an online tutor to kids, adults, or even both. Have a little faith in yourself and you could make money for simply sharing what you know.

Online Money Making Tricks That Can Work For Anyone
Online Money Making Tricks That Can Work For Anyone (Photo by Karolina Grabowska)

3: Sell Your Old Items

You don’t even need to do much to make money online - go through your things and see if you can sell your old items. Maybe you have clothes, CDs, or gadgets laying around. You could even sell larger items, such as a car or motorcycle online. It can be a little harder, but once you know the best way of moving a motorcycle you can set up the transaction pretty easily. Don’t hang on to things if you’re not using them!

4: Sell Your Photos and Videos

If you like to take photos and videos, you could potentially sell these to sites and get paid everytime somebody uses one. The pictures do need to be of a certain quality, but you don’t need to be a pro. You can even use your phone! Give it a go and see if it could work for you.

5: Write Ebooks

Writing ebooks could be fun if you love to write. It can take a while to build up your profile as a writer and get enough books to make money, but again, consistency is key.

6: Sell A Skill

Do you have a skill? Perhaps you could offer voice overs or logo design. There are all kinds of services people will pay for on sites like People Per Hour and Fiverr. You could even build your own website!

How Anti-Vax Memes Replicate Through Satire And Irony

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How Anti-Vax Memes Replicate Through Satire And Irony
How Anti-Vax Memes Replicate Through Satire And Irony (image via Don/KnowYourMeme)

For most of us, memes are the harmless fodder of an “extremely online” internet culture, floating benignly between different social media platforms — and, on the whole, making us laugh. But in the shadier corners of the internet, like on the forum 4chan, memes can quickly mutate from jokes into more ambiguous, shocking and potentially harmful viral content.

That’s especially true of memes that call into question the efficacy and safety of vaccines — often termed “anti-vax” content. Anti-vaccination sentiment is not a new phenomenon, but is increasingly fuelled by online misinformation. Unfounded claims proliferate online, linking vaccines to disease development, or presenting COVID-19 as a hoax.

When they go viral, such conspiracy theories present a major obstacle to the success of any immunisation campaign, as they may contribute to vaccine hesitancy. In the UK, more than a quarter of the population signals reluctance or suspicion about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Globally, willingness to be vaccinated varies widely.

To combat the spread of anti-vaccination rumours, platforms are currently using a dual strategy of censorship and fact checking. Both practices have their pitfalls. Censorship may actually stimulate curiosity, while people who distrust mainstream media are not likely to trust fact checkers.

And much online content — like viral memes — is not primarily meant to inform, and is therefore hard to evaluate in terms of whether it’s information, misinformation, or simply a joke.

Imageboard dissidence

Internet memes are a defining feature of online communication. The term can refer to any widely shared and replicated piece of online content in a variety of styles and formats. While mostly humorous or relatable, some memes have come to be associated with hateful beliefs through their occurrence on influential websites such as the imageboard 4chan.

4chan boasts over 20 million unique visitors a month, and is highly influential in meme culture. On 4chan’s “Politically Incorrect” board (/pol/), people anonymously discuss world news and political events from perspectives that run counter to the public consensus. Views expressed on /pol/ can be shocking and unpleasant.

Conspiracy theories such as QAnon flourished on /pol/, and the forum has been linked to the recent Capitol riots.

How Anti-Vax Memes Replicate Through Satire And Irony
4chan is an imageboard from which many famous memes have originated (II.studio/Shutterstock)

Presumed malicious intent behind vaccination programmes is a commonly voiced concern on the board. In a recent study, I showed that anti-vaccination posts encountered on /pol/ (and found across social media) display a number of recurring elements, such as revulsion to vaccine ingredients and selective appeals to authority. With vaccine hesitancy becoming an increasingly pressing concern, the role of such memetic patterns in the spread of misinformation deserves careful attention.

Renegade quotes

Anti-vaccination posts regularly contain a visual component. For instance, a reference to authority can be expressed through a vaccine-critical quote next to the face of the person who supposedly uttered it. Surprisingly often, quotes included in anti-vaccination discussions are attributed incorrectly.

Online, incorrect attribution does not just happen by accident. Fake quotes are a very popular meme format, often intended to satirise and amuse. Today’s internet users are likely to encounter the face of historic figures such as Lincoln, Einstein or Gandhi, paired with an absurdly out-of-place statement.

Such memes creatively critique the popular practice of sharing inspirational messages. They also ridicule received sources of wisdom and authority. But as a result, it is often unclear whether anti-vaccination statements voiced through the face-and-quote format are shared and received in earnest, or through an ironic lens.

This image of Bill Gates with a vaccine has been repurposed hundreds of times online. (Jean-Marc Ferr├ę/UN Photo, CC BY-NC-ND)

Accustomed to online irony, a proportion of internet users on 4chan and beyond may not intend their multi-layered jokes to contribute to vaccine hesitancy. The influence of ironic meme culture may also mitigate the impact of misinformation by priming the browsing crowd for absurdity rather than accuracy. However, diverse audiences make for diverse reactions. While quotes supposedly exposing the evil intentions of figures such as Bill Gates – a common target of conspiratorial beliefs – can easily be read in jest, they can also influence internet users to distrust vaccines.

Vaccine revolt

A second common feature of anti-vaccination discourse is revulsion to vaccine ingredients. This sentiment tends to be communicated by means of lists combining chemical and bestial elements. When taken out of context, a compilation of vaccine components — mentioning mercury, formaldehyde, and cow’s blood — can indeed inspire fear and disgust. When presented to shock, the ingredients of any complex product may come to look like an alchemist’s concoction or a sinister witch’s brew.

Feelings of aversion may be exacerbated by the image of a syringe, which in anti-vax posts is often presented together with ingredients deemed harmful. Most children fear needles, and a large proportion of adults do, too. In many contexts, sharp objects are associated with harm, not health.

It is surprising, then, that ironic replications of the syringe-plus-ingredients template circulate online, mocking the anti-vaxxer’s fears and supposed scientific illiteracy. Such memetic efforts may aim to comically combat misinformation, but nonetheless spread visual prompts that reinforce suspicion. From this perspective, you may even wonder whether popular newspapers contribute to vaccine hesitancy by repeatedly using pictures of a needle breaching the skin.

Attitudes to vaccination are communicated not just through what is written, but also through particular representational patterns. Meme formats and visual outlines can spread misinformation, even when created and shared with humorous intent.

After all, “Poe’s Law” dictates that there’s a wafer-thin line between satirical and fanatical content. In the context of COVID-19, that line is all too easily crossed.

About Today's Contributor:

Jan Buts, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Translation Studies, Trinity College Dublin

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

18 January 2021

Shackleton presents Antarctica NOW: Why does Antarctica Matter to All of Us?

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A seven-day online festival that takes participants on a virtual journey to discover: ‘Why does Antarctica Matter to All of Us?’
British Expedition Apparel brand Shackleton presents Antarctica NOW, a seven-day online festival celebrating the extraordinary continent that for centuries has captured restless imaginations and transformed understanding of the rest of the world. 
Normally January would be a time when thousands of people head to the Antarctic, whether for work or exploration, but COVID-19 has inevitably impacted on that. As borders close and lockdowns intensify, we invite people instead to come with us on a virtual journey. Through dynamic presentations and discussions, provocative writing and pioneering photography, this is a chance to explore the unique wonder and vital significance of Antarctica today.
Over a century ago, when the brand's namesake Ernest Shackleton led three expeditions to Antarctica, exploration was about discovering new lands and breaking records. Today's explorations in the seventh continent are more focused on fields of science, climate and conservation, all of which are playing a pivotal role in our understanding of the planet.

We are realising what we learn from the frozen continent today will be paramount in fighting climate change in the future. This is why Shackleton has decided to host Antarctica NOW, in order to spread awareness of what's happening in the coldest place on earth right now - and why it's crucially important to every single one of us.

Shackleton presents Antarctica NOW: Why does Antarctica Matter to All of Us?
Shackleton presents Antarctica NOW: Why does Antarctica Matter to All of Us? (screengrab)

Discussion topics at the 7-day festival will include:

  • What's the polar power struggle playing out in Antarctica right now?
  • How do events in Antarctica impact on everyone?
  • What's left for Antarctic explorers? Who gets to decide who goes?
  • How fast are the ice shelves melting?
  • What's the link between Antarctica and space research?
  • What can the ice tell us about the past - and the future?
  • Are we winning the wildlife conservation battle?
  • How can we make the world sit up and notice?
Antarctica NOW opens on Monday January 25th and runs until the 31st January with a lead speaker broadcast live on Zoom and Facebook at 6pm each evening, as well as a host of other interviews, briefings, writing, photographic essays and a discussion forum available via Shackleton's website and social media channels.

Curated by writer and editor Rachel Halliburton (Avaunt Magazine), the festival brings together some of the most exciting and significant voices in the Antarctic community, including explorers, geopoliticians, scientists from the European Space Agency, cartographers and prize-winning photographers, to investigate and raise awareness of the most urgent and critical issues threatening the frozen continent..
"Antarctica is our spiritual home - it's where Sir Ernest Shackleton made his name as a polar explorer over a century ago and where our expedition-grade apparel is tested and used today. 'Like me, anyone who's seen Antarctica first-hand feels compelled to protect it" says Shackleton co-founder Martin Brooks. 'The aim of the festival is to raise awareness of the critical issues surrounding Antarctica, and how these impact all of us across the globe. As Shackleton said himself, 'It's in our nature to explore, to reach out into the unknown. The only true failure would be not to explore at all,' We invite everyone to explore what makes Antarctica both critical and wonderfully compelling.'
Shackleton presents Antarctica NOW: Why does Antarctica Matter to All of Us?
Shackleton presents Antarctica NOW: Why does Antarctica Matter to All of Us? (screengrab)

The Event Schedule:

  • Monday 25th
6:00 PM - Klaus Dodds, Professor of Geopolitics at Royal Holloway University of London
A new Cold War? - why the Antarctic is on the brink of an international power struggle

  • Tuesday 26th
6:00 PM - Mark Drinkwater, Head, Earth and Mission Science Division at the European Space Agency
Checking Earth's Pulse at the Poles from Space: Are 2020 vital signs cause for concern?

  • Wednesday 27th
6:00 PM - Dr Mackenzie Grieman, Post Doctoral Research Associate at the Department of Earth Sciences, Cambridge University
Ice as a time machine – what stories can glaciers and ice sheets can tell us about our past?

  • Thursday 28th
6:00 PM - Sebastian Copeland, Photographer, filmmaker, explorer & philanthropist
Waking the giant – how can photography help bring about change?

  • Friday 29th
6:00 PM - Lizzie Daly, Biologist & wildlife broadcaster
From gentoo penguins to Antarctic blue whales – what needs to be done to win the wildlife conservation battle?

  • Saturday 30th
6:00 PM - Hugh Broughton, Architect and leading designer of research facilities in the Polar Regions
Polar architecture – what are the challenges of designing for the world's most extreme environment?

  • Sunday 31st
5:00 PM - Steve Jones, Expedition Manager at Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions
Earth's final frontier – what advice do today's explorers need and why did Scott and Shackleton's expeditions go wrong?

6:00 PM - Louis Rudd MBE, Record-breaking polar explorer & SAS Soldier
Tales of the Unexpected - the inside story on The Spirit of Endurance Expedition.

Related Video:


SOURCE: Shackleton

16 January 2021

US: MLK Jr. Oratory Competitions Go Virtual, Allowing Kids To Send Messages Of Hope To A Nation In Distress [Videos Included]

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US: MLK Jr. Oratory Competitions Go Virtual, Allowing Kids To Send Messages Of Hope To A Nation In Distress
Dominic Patermo, fifth grader at Harry C. Withers Elementary, shares how he thinks Dr. MLK Jr.'s teachings can help us today during the 29th Annual Foley & Lardner MLK Jr. Oratory Competition Jan. 15. Dominic won first place.
Elementary school students honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the final rounds of the Foley & Lardner MLK Jr. Oratory Competitions in Dallas, Houston, and Chicago on Jan. 15. The fourth and fifth-graders presented original speeches about "how MLK Jr.'s teachings can help us today."

Presented, hosted, and sponsored by Foley & Lardner LLP, the firm made significant changes to the production of the events in order to follow current health and safety guidelines. The events were conducted using a live-virtual hybrid approach to help ensure past event continuity and safety for everyone involved.

  • Winners of each of the competitions are Dominic Patermo, fifth-grader from Harry C. Withers Elementary in Dallas; Vivianna Serna, fourth-grader from Crespo Elementary in Houston; and Jesudemilade Adediji, fifth-grader from Avalon Park Elementary in Chicago.

Dallas student lists four lessons that would help the world unite

Dominic Patermo, the first-place winner in Dallas, discussed four key lessons from Dr. King that would help unite the world. He talked about living with intention and purpose and knowing your cause. He discussed that change is constant, and it's your reaction that matters. He declared to enlist your allies, even if they are not your best friends. And most importantly, persevere.
"We need to pursue the truth within ourselves! We need to continue to fight for what is right and have compassion and faith for one another," exclaimed Patermo. He ended the speech by proclaiming, "Our 'Americanness' is not enough. We must be united. Believe. Be real. Be you."
"It was a pleasure watching the students deliver such inspiring messages with the same passion and grace that MLK Jr. himself displayed," said Michael Newman, managing partner of Foley's Dallas office. "I'm incredibly proud of the students, the teams at the Dallas Independent School District, the staff at Foley, and everybody involved in helping make this event come together during these tumultuous times."
  • Zoe Frazier, a fourth-grade student from J.P. Starks Math, Science and Technology Vanguard, placed second in the Dallas competition, while fifth-grader Dinastee McKinney of Clara Oliver Elementary took home third place.

Houston fourth-grader reflects on current events and shares words of wisdom

Houston's first-place winner, Vivianna Serna, started her speech with a colorful and vivid memory of when she first experienced racism at six years old, being judged by the color of her brown skin. The student then expressed her concerns with the current social unrest and our worldwide health pandemic, reminding us that Dr. King would want us not to stumble but press on.

While reflecting on the world's current trials and tribulations, Vivianna stated, "We must meet forces of hate with the power of love. Dr. King always preached on the power of love." She ended with her strongest belief and a quote from Dr. King himself, "The time is always right to do what is right."

"This year's MLK Jr. oratory competition was a momentous occasion. It was the 25th anniversary of this event in Houston. We're operating in unprecedented times, and the world needs to hear these students' voices now more than ever," said Claude Treece, Foley's chief administrative partner and longtime event chair of the Houston competition. "I'm honored to have witnessed the intelligence and poise from these students. They always inspire me, and I hope they brought optimism to everybody who watched."
  • Pahy'tton Williams, a fourth-grade student from Foster Elementary, placed second in the Houston competition, while Jakiyah Bickham, a fourth-grade student from Pleasantville Elementary, took home third place.

Chicago fifth-grader urges to "keep fighting for Dr. King's dream to stay alive."

Chicago's first-place winner Jesudemilade Adediji addressed the audience by reciting Dr. King's famous "I have a dream" speech. His voice booming over the speakers like Dr. King's speech in 1963, Adediji said, "I have a dream today. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that people be created equal."

Throughout his speech, Adediji empowered people to continue the great work Dr. King started years ago, ending his speech by noting, "Let's continue to keep the King's dream alive. Let's continue to fight the fight for equality for all. Yes we can, yes we can, yes we can!"

"Despite the challenges of the school year, we're thrilled to have tripled the amount of participating schools in the Chicago competition," said Frank Pasquesi, managing partner of Foley's Chicago office. "The growth of the competition this year is a real testament to the significance of Dr. King's teachings and the enthusiasm and resiliency of these wonderful students who participated. We saw some future leaders, and I'm certain the world is in good hands with voices like theirs."
  • Zuri Young, a fifth-grade student from Caldwell Elementary, placed second in the Chicago competition, while fifth-grader Aniyah Hunt of Frank L. Gillespie Elementary took home third place.
US: MLK Jr. Oratory Competitions Go Virtual, Allowing Kids To Send Messages Of Hope To A Nation In Distress
Vivianna Serna, fourth-grader from Crespo Elementary School, shares how she thinks Dr. MLK Jr.'s teachings can help us today during the 25th Annual Foley & Lardner MLK Jr. Oratory Competition Jan. 15 in Houston. Vivianna won first place.
Each of the competitions began with in-school qualifying rounds, which were conducted via video submission, followed by semifinals in Dallas and Houston, and the final round of competition in each city on Jan. 15. At all levels of the competition, students were evaluated based on delivery, stage presence and decorum, content interpretation and memorization. During the finals, panels of locally renowned community and business leaders judged the students on their performances.

  • The oratory competition is held in conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr. Day to encourage people to remember and pay tribute to the late civil rights leader's legacy. Foley established the event to encourage students to learn more about Dr. King and to help cultivate the writing and speaking skills of elementary school students.
The competition was created in Dallas in 1993. The event's success led to the establishment of the Houston competition in 1997 and the Chicago competition in 2020.

US: MLK Jr. Oratory Competitions Go Virtual, Allowing Kids To Send Messages Of Hope To A Nation In Distress
Jesudemilade Adediji, fifth-grader from Avalon Park Elementary in Chicago, smiles as he learns he’s won the 2nd Annual Foley & Lardner MLK Jr. Oratory Competition.


15 January 2021

US: Fathom Events Celebrates #BlackHistoryMonth With First Film Series This February [Trailers Included]

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This February, Fathom Events will launch the company's first Black History Month film series, Fathom Events Celebrates Black History Month, in cinemas across the U.S. 
Movie-goers will have the opportunity to delve into the diverse lives, historic accomplishments and award-winning filmmaking of some of the most influential African American entertainers in modern history. The five-film series includes acclaimed feature films that highlight the lives, experiences and impact of American musical icons, a documentary that explores an entertainer's groundbreaking work with NASA, and a faith-based drama about the importance of family and lifelong faith.

The lineup for the 2021 Fathom Events Celebrates Black History Month film series is:

  • Woman in Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek and the Remaking of NASA
  • Ray
  • Get on Up
  • God's Compass
  • TCM Big Screen Classics: Boyz n the Hood 30th Anniversary
"Fathom specializes in curating and distributing a wide variety of content for all movie-goers. We are privileged to utilize our platform to honor Black History Month with films that bring important stories to the big screen," said Ray Nutt, Chief Executive Officer, Fathom Events. "We hope this film series will reach new audiences who will learn about the amazing contributions of these entertainers and experience some great movies."
US: Fathom Events Celebrates #BlackHistoryMonth With First Film Series This February
'Woman in Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek and the Remaking of NASA'

Woman in Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek and the Remaking of NASA (2020)

  • DATE: Tues., Feb 2
  • CAST: Nichelle Nichols, Ashley Eckstein, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Dorn, George Takei and Pharrel Williams.
  • DIRECTED BY: Todd Thompson

Woman in Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek and the Remaking of NASA - Trailer:

In 1977, with just four months left, NASA was struggling to recruit scientists, engineers and astronauts for their new Space Shuttle Program. That is when Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek's Lt. Uhura, challenged them by asking the question, "Where are my people?" With NASA's backing, she embarked on a national PR blitz, recruiting 8,000 of the nation's best and brightest, including the trailblazing astronauts who became the first African American, Asian and Latino men and women to fly in space. This is her—and their—story.
ADDED VALUE: Following the feature presentation, fans will be treated to an exclusive behind the scenes documentary about the making of Woman in Motion, which includes additional interviews with Nichols and other notable guests from the documentary, deleted scenes and additional footage from the making of the film.

US: Fathom Events Celebrates #BlackHistoryMonth With First Film Series This February
Ray

Ray (2004)

  • DATE: Tues., Feb 9 & Sat., Feb 13
  • CAST: Jamie Foxx, Regina King and Kerry Washington
  • DIRECTED BY: Taylor Hackford
  • SCREENPLAY: James L. White

Ray (2004) - Trailer:

Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx (Dreamgirls) stars as the one-of-a-kind innovator of soul who overcame impossible odds to become a music legend. Ray is the triumphant and remarkable story of one of America's true musical geniuses, Ray Charles. From his humble beginnings in the South through his meteoric rise to the top of American music charts, Ray's inspirational journey is a tale of hope, redemption and the power of the human spirit. "Ray is Electrifying" hails Peter Travers of Rolling Stone. Witness the incredible true story of a musician who fought harder and went further than anyone could imagine.
US: Fathom Events Celebrates #BlackHistoryMonth With First Film Series This February
Get on Up

Get on Up (2014)

  • DATE: Tues., Feb 23 & Sat., Feb 27
  • CAST: Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Dan Aykroyd, and Viola Davis
  • DIRECTED BY: Tate Taylor
  • SCREENPLAY: Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth

Get on Up (2014) - Trailer:

Based on the incredible life story of the Godfather of Soul, Get On Up gives a fearless look inside the music, moves, and moods of James Brown, taking audiences on the journey from his impoverished childhood to his evolution into one of the most influential figures of the 20th century. Chadwick Boseman (42) stars as Brown, and is joined by Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Nelsan Ellis, Jill Scott, Craig Robinson, and Dan Aykroyd in the Tate Taylor directed drama.
US: Fathom Events Celebrates #BlackHistoryMonth With First Film Series This February
God's Compass

God's Compass (2016)

  • DATE: Thurs., Feb 25 & Fri., Feb 26
  • CAST: Karen Abercrombie, T.C. Stallings, Jazelle Foster and Joey Ibanez.
  • DIRECTED BY: Stephan Schultze

God's Compass - Trailer:

On the night Suzanne Waters celebrates her retirement, she is faced with a series of decisions that change her life forever. Trusting God's direction, her truth becomes clear as she takes in a troubled teenager, Eli, and her family embarks on the journey of adoption, healing, and renewed faith.
  • 2016 "Best Screenplay" winner - International Christian Film Festival.
ADDED VALUE: An exclusive introduction from beloved lead actress, Karen Abercrombie, as she revisits God's Compass for its special return to the big screen.

US: Fathom Events Celebrates #BlackHistoryMonth With First Film Series This February
Boyz n the Hood

TCM Big Screen Classics: Boyz n the Hood 30th Anniversary

  • DATE: Sun., Feb 28 & Wed., Mar 3
  • CAST: Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Morris Chestnut, and Larry Fishburne
  • WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: John Singleton

Boyz n the Hood - Trailer:

Writer/director John Singleton's acclaimed debut is a graphic and powerful look at life in South-Central Los Angeles as a trio of young men attempt through different means to escape the violence-filled life of the streets.
  • Singleton was nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay at the 64th Academy Awards, making him the youngest person and the first African-American to be nominated for Best Director.
ADDED VALUE
: This special 30th anniversary event includes exclusive insights from Turner Classic Movies.
Tickets for Woman in Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek and the Remaking of NASARay and TCM Big Screen Classics: Boyz n the Hood 30th Anniversary are available now at FathomEvents.com/blackhistorymonth or at participating theater box offices. Visit the Fathom Events website to purchase tickets for all titles in the series which will become available closer to the event date. 
  • Please continue to check the Fathom Events website and sign up for alerts. (theaters and participants are subject to change)
SOURCE: Fathom Events

14 January 2021

Trump's Twitter Ban Obscures The Real Problem: State-Backed Manipulation Is Rampant On Social Media

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Trump's Twitter Ban Obscures The Real Problem: State-Backed Manipulation Is Rampant On Social Media
Trump's Twitter Ban Obscures The Real Problem: State-Backed Manipulation Is Rampant On Social Media (ozrimoz/Shutterstock)

Donald Trump’s controversial removal from social media platforms has reignited debate around the censorship of information published online. But the issue of disinformation and manipulation on social media goes far beyond one man’s Twitter account. And it is much more widespread than previously thought.

Since 2016, our team at the Oxford Internet Institute has monitored the rapid global proliferation of social media manipulation campaigns, which we define as the use of digital tools to influence online public behaviour. In the past four years, social media manipulation has evolved from a niche concern to a global threat to democracy and human rights.

Our latest report found that organised social media manipulation campaigns are now common across the world — identified in 81 countries in 2020, up from 70 countries in 2019. The map below shows the global distribution of these 81 countries, marked in dark blue.

Trump's Twitter Ban Obscures The Real Problem: State-Backed Manipulation Is Rampant On Social Media
The countries marked in dark blue experienced industrial disinformation campaigns in 2020. (OII, Author provided (No reuse))
In our report, we focus on the use of “cyber troops”, which are teams from the government, the military or political parties which are committed to manipulating public opinion on social media. Cyber troops regularly conduct what we call “computational propaganda” campaigns.

Computational propaganda involves the use of programmed bots or humans to spread purposefully misleading information across the internet, often on an industrial scale.

To do this, computational propagandists make use of an extensive toolkit of disinformation tools. Political bots amplify hate speech and create the impression of trending political messages on Twitter and Facebook. The illegal harvesting of data helps propagandists target messaging at specific, often vulnerable individuals and groups. Troll armies, meanwhile, are regularly deployed to suppresses political activism and the freedom of the press.

In 2020, we identified 62 countries in which state agencies themselves are using these tools to shape public opinion. In other countries included in our study, these tools are being used by private organisations, or foreign actors.

Disinformation for hire

Despite the Cambridge Analytica scandal exposing how private firms can meddle in democratic elections, our research also found an alarming increase in the use of “disinformation-for-hire” services across the world. Using government and political party funding, private-sector cyber troops are increasingly being hired to spread manipulated messages online, or to drown out other voices on social media.

Our research found state actors working with private computational propaganda companies in 48 countries in 2020, up from 21 identified between 2017 and 2018, and only nine such instances between 2016 and 2017. Since 2007, almost US$60 million (£49 million) has been spent globally on contracts with these firms.

Additionally, we’ve uncovered relationships between hired cyber troops and civil society groups who ideologically support a particular cause, such as youth groups and social media influencers. In the United States, for example, the pro-Trump youth group Turning Point Action was used to spread online disinformation and pro-Trump narratives about both COVID-19 and mail-in ballots.

To achieve their political ends, smear campaigns against a political opponent are the most common strategy employed by cyber troops, featuring in 94% of all the countries we investigated. In 90% of countries we observed the spreading of pro-party or pro-government propaganda. Suppressing participation through trolling or harassment was a feature in 73% of countries, while in 48% cyber troops’ messaging sought to polarise citizens.

Social media moderation

Clearly, debates around the censoring of Trump and his supporters on social media cover only one facet of the industry’s disinformation crisis. As more countries invest in campaigns that seek to actively mislead their citizens, social media firms are likely to face increased calls for moderation and regulation — and not just of Trump, his followers and related conspiracy theories like QAnon.

Trump's Twitter Ban Obscures The Real Problem: State-Backed Manipulation Is Rampant On Social Media
Donald Trump was banned from Twitter in the aftermath of the Capitol riots (pcruciatti/Shutterstock)

Already this year, the prevalence of computational propaganda campaigns throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and in the aftermath of the US election has prompted many social media firms to limit the misuse of their platforms by removing accounts which they believe are managed by cyber troops.

For instance, our research found that between January 2019 and December 2020, Facebook removed 10,893 accounts, 12,588 pages and 603 groups from its platform. In the same period, Twitter removed 294,096 accounts, and continues to remove accounts linked to the far right.

Despite these account removals, our research has exposed that between January 2019 and December 2020 almost US$10 million was spent by cyber troops on political advertisements. And a crucial part of the story is that social media companies continue to profit from the promotion of disinformation on their platforms. Calls for tighter regulation and firmer policing are likely to follow Facebook and Twitter until they truly get to grips with the tendency of their platforms to host, spread and multiply disinformation.

A strong, functional democracy relies upon the public’s access to high-quality information. This enables citizens to engage in informed deliberations and to seek consensus. It’s clear that social media platforms have become crucial in facilitating this information exchange.

These companies should therefore increase their efforts to flag and remove disinformation, along with all cyber troop accounts which are used to spread harmful content online. Otherwise, the continued escalation in computational propaganda campaigns that our research has revealed will only heighten political polarisation, diminish public trust in institutions, and further undermine democracy worldwide.

About Today's Contributor:

Hannah Bailey, PhD researcher in Social Data Science, University of Oxford

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

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