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25 May 2018

'Pride And Prejudice 2018': Pushing Forward The Global Agenda For LGBT Rights Through Advocacy

Pride and Prejudice 2018
Pride and Prejudice 2018 (Image via The Economist)
On May 24th, 2018, The Economist Events hosted the third edition of Pride and Prejudice, a 24-hour event hosted by The Economist Events across three cities – Hong KongLondon and New York. This year's summit focused on evaluating how governments, companies and individuals can turn the global conversation around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) diversity and inclusion into meaningful action through advocacy.

The panel of speakers in New York comprised of chief executives, politicians and activists, who spoke to several important issues including:
  • Where the intersection lies between corporate and moral responsibility and how a meaningful shift in company culture must begin in the boardroom
  • What it means to be an advocate and how the roles of individuals and businesses have evolved as external conditions continue to change
  • The implications for executive teams that fail to recognize the importance of their own actions in influencing change within their companies
  • How policymakers and business leaders can hold back a tide of regressive politics around the world
  • The role of social media as a vehicle for progress
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit's new research into the future of advocacy
  • Where and how to act and invest to ensure continued progress in the recognition of LGBT rights across the world
"Human rights should come first, everything else should come after that. Corporations have a responsibility to take a stand and be a force for good," said Salesforce Chief Equality Officer Tony Prophet during Pride and Prejudice. "There's something powerful about making a public declaration, being someone's ally and using that as a higher purpose to direct your behaviors. You have to challenge people's moral compass. Are we standing on the right side of history or not?"
Also speaking at the event, actor and activist Nico Tortorella shared his perspective as a leading man in Hollywood. Tortorella stated that "because of the way I look, the color of my skin and the [straight] character I play on television, I have the ability to have this conversation [about LGBT issues] in a way that's more digestible for people because of how people see me. That is my privilege. So it's a no-brainer for me—I have a responsibility that comes with that privilege to not only share my story, but to also share my platform with as many people as I possibly can."

⏩ During the event, The Economist Intelligence Unit also unveiled findings from a global survey of over 1,000 executives across 87 countries to assess different aspects of LGBT inclusion. The research focused on the evolving landscape for public LGBT advocacy, how the environment for it may change in the future and the obstacles that still stand in the way of progress. 
Key findings include:
  • Nearly half of executives believe that businesses in their country will take on a bigger role as agents of progress for LGBT rights over the next three years
  • Almost 60% say current global political climate could undo progress made in LGBT inclusion, although few cite inaction by government in driving corporate advocacy
  • Business advocacy on LGBT issues is heavily concentrated in North AmericaAsia, the Middle East and Africa lag behind
"We've come a long way, but we have a lot further to go as well. There are a lot of people who need to a little nudge to get the conversation going to realize how many allies they actually have. Unless they speak, you don't know that they're there. Don't be afraid to let your voice be heard. Otherwise, you are colluding in the abuse," urged Olympic athlete and LGBT activist Greg Louganis during the event. "Be a voice, be an advocate, and don't back away from standing up for what's right."

To access the full research report, please visit Pride and prejudice: the future of advocacy.

About The Economist Events:
The Economist Events brings the rigour of informed analysis and intelligent debate that The Economist is known for to life on stage in international forums. They host over 80 events annually in over 30 countries on topics that convene world-class thought leaders on a range of strategic business issues.

Follow @EconomistEvents on Twitter and check #EconPride for event updates

SOURCE: The Economist Events
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24 May 2018

Versions Of Han Solo's Blaster Exist – And They're Way More Powerful Than Real Lightsabers Would Be


Harrison Ford as Han Solo with his blaster in the old Star Wars triology.
Harrison Ford as Han Solo with his blaster in the old Star Wars triology.(BagoGamesFlickr, CC BY-SA)
People who think physics is boring couldn’t be more wrong. It can explain everything from spooky interactions on the tiny scale of atoms and particles to how the entire universe behaves. As if that wasn’t enough, it can also be used to assess how realistic futuristic technology in science fiction is. My area of expertise – plasma physics – can explain many aspects of both lightsabers and the Death Star within Star Wars lore, for example.

I’ve now worked out how feasible the blaster weapons used by, among others, the Star Wars character Han Solo are – and how they compare with lightsabers. In fact, real life versions of these weapons have already been developed. So with the prequel film Solo: A Star Wars Story being released, it seemed fitting to share this “research”.

The key to understanding Star Wars technology is plasmas – a so-called “fourth state of matter” (in addition to solids, liquids and gases). This comprises freely flowing electrically charged particles which naturally interact with electric and magnetic fields. Plasmas are common in space but they rarely exist naturally on Earth. However, it is possible to produce them in laboratories.

Powerful plasmoids
A common misconception about blasters is that they are laser weapons. But within the Star Wars canon, people realised that this wouldn’t make sense. Instead writers stated that a blaster wasany type of ranged weapon that fired bolts of intense plasma energy, often mistaken as lasers” and that it “converted energy rich gas to a glowing particle beam that could melt through targets”. This means that blaster bolts (glowing projectiles) are simply blobs of plasma – similar to a lightsaber flying through the air.

Han Solo’s BlasTech DL-44 heavy blaster pistol on display at Star Wars Launch Bay at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Han Solo’s BlasTech DL-44 heavy blaster pistol on display at Star Wars Launch Bay at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (Quarax/wikipedia, CC BY-SA)

Coherent masses of plasma and their associated magnetic fields are known as plasmoids. Within the Earth’s protective shield in space – the magnetosphere – plasmoids are commonly generated by a poorly understood process called magnetic reconnection. This is an explosive reconfiguration of magnetic field lines that can take place wherever there is plasma present, in particular when plasmas are forced together. When this happens in our magnetosphere, charged particles are accelerated into the top of the atmosphere – causing the aurora, or northern lights. A huge amount of material is also ejected away from the Earth as plasmoids.

However, it isn’t easy to create plasmoids on Earth. Many of the demonstrations that we can do (unlike the ones in space) produce structures which quickly expand and dissipate in the air. The solution to this problem is to use magnets – their fields can contain the hot plasma.

However, blaster bolts are projectiles so it’s not possible to have an externally powered magnet present at all times during their rapid journey. Thankfully, though, there is a solution. As plasmas are highly conductive, it is possible to set up electrical currents within the plasmoid itself. These currents, like all currents, generate magnetic fields that can confine the plasma. Such arrangements are known as spheromaks and they have received renewed interest in plasma physics experiments over the last 20 years.

Real versions
One way to create a spheromak is to use a “plasma railgun”, a device which uses an external magnet to induce currents in the plasma as well accelerate it up to high speeds. In fact, speeds of 200 km/s have been achieved with these spheromaks lasting some hundreds of microseconds. This is very impressive and certainly within the realms of use as a weapon.

Indeed, from the 1970s onward, the SHIVA Star programme (named after the multi-limbed Hindu god) at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico, conducted various “arms” of research into this kind of plasma physics. One of these, known as MARAUDER (magnetically accelerated ring to achieve ultrahigh directed energy and radiation), was one of several US government efforts to develop projectiles based on plasmas.

The weapon was able to produce doughnut-shaped rings of plasma and balls of lightning that exploded with devastating thermal and mechanical effects when hitting their target and produced a pulse of electromagnetic radiation that could scramble electronics. However, its status as of 1993 remains classified.

The temperatures achieved in such devices so far are up to a thousand times hotter than the surface of the sun. With enough plasma in each bolt these would cause huge amounts of damage, so the blaster as presented in the Star Wars films looks to be quite feasible indeed.

But how would these real life blaster weapons fare against the other iconic Star Wars weapon, the lightsaber? A blaster bolt is essentially equivalent to a lightsaber blade, just without the hilt. But as I’ve mentioned before, magnetic reconnection is unavoidable when two magnetically confined plasmas meet. This is the case when two lightsabers collide, causing explosive destruction of both the weapons and the people holding them. However, with a blaster you are far away from that explosion – leaving you totally unscathed.

So it turns out that Han Solo was right when he said “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side.”

About Today's Contributor:
Martin Archer, Space Plasma Physicist, Queen Mary University of London

This article was originally published on The Conversation

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23 May 2018

46 Years After Notorious Skyjacking, D.B. Cooper's Identity Revealed At Last?

1960 photograph of Walter Reca outfitted for a jump. Reca was a highly skilled skydiver and former U.S. Army Airborne paratrooper who served in the Korean War.
1960 photograph of Walter Reca outfitted for a jump. Reca was a highly skilled skydiver and former U.S. Army Airborne paratrooper who served in the Korean War. (Photo courtesy of Principia Media.)
Principia Media, a Grand Rapids, Michigan-based publisher, announced the believed identity of D.B. Cooper during a press conference held at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan on May 17
D.B. Cooper is the infamous skyjacker who boarded a Boeing 727 in Portland, Oregon on Thanksgiving Eve, 1971, and escaped with a $200,000 ransom after jumping from 10,000 feet.
The infamous skyjacker was identified by Carl Laurin, one of Cooper's best friends. Evidence supports the announcement D.B. Cooper is a Michigan man and former military paratrooper named Walter R. Reca
3+ hours of audio tape detailing the events of the skyjacking, an eyewitness, a pair of long underwear worn during the jump, and the testimony of a relative all were shared during the press conference. 
⏩ Laurin is a military veteran, commercial airline pilot, skydiver, and entrepreneur, and wrote the memoir D.B. Cooper & Me: A Criminal, A Spy, My Best Friendwhich was also released.
'D.B. Cooper & Me: A Criminal, A Spy, My Best Friend' - Front cover
'D.B. Cooper & Me: A Criminal, A Spy, My Best Friend' - Front cover
An overview of the evidence, which was gathered by Laurin over a 20-year period and vetted by both Principia Media and Joe Koenig, a Certified Fraud Examiner and forensic linguist with more than 45-years of investigative experience, is below:
3+ hours of audio tape:
Laurin and Reca began speaking in 2000 and recorded their conversations concerning the skyjacking in 2008. The tapes describe many details, some of which were not known to the public prior to the FBI's release of information in 2015. Details include:  
  • Reca covered his fingertips with glue to obscure his fingerprints
  • Reca dictated instructions to the stewardess, who wrote down demands to give to the captain
  • Reca generously offered a "handful" of money to the stewardess before he jumped (an action which mimicked his behavior from a restaurant robbery committed earlier in his life)
  • Reca received help with the rear door from the stewardess
  • Reca ordered the window shades be pulled shut where he was sitting to protect against snipers
  • Reca insisted the stewardess bring both the money and the parachutes to him
  • Reca said the stewardess initially did not believe the plane was being hijacked
  • Reca told the stewardess she was "polite and kind" and addressed her as "young lady"
  • Reca told the stewardess to go into the cockpit before he jumped
  • Reca told the stewardess to tell the passengers "Happy Thanksgiving" and ordered meals for the flight crew for the flight
An eyewitness:
The night that Reca committed the skyjacking, he landed near Cle Elum, Washington, and walked to a nearby restaurant called the Teanaway Junction Cafe. Jeff Osiadacz, a former law enforcement official, interacted with Reca that evening within an hour of the jump. 
Osiadacz said he remembers seeing Reca because even though it was a cold, wet night, Reca was walking along the road with his raincoat bundled under his arm. The two men later interacted at the cafe, where Osiadacz gave Reca's friend directions over the phone to pick Reca up from the cafe. Reca thanked Osiadacz by paying for his coffee, and then left.
Koenig, a Certified Fraud Examiner, said this about Osiadacz's account: "I found it particularly significant that Jeff Osiadacz, aka Cowboy, his statement of events on the night of November 24, 1971, was identical to Walt's statement that he gave Carl five years earlier."
A pair of long underwear:
Laurin is in possession of Reca's insulated long underwear bottoms which Reca wore during the skyjacking to protect from the cold air as he jumped and observed by at least one eye witness.
A relative's testimony:
Lisa Story is Reca's niece. She exchanged many letters with Reca when she was a teenager and he was working in the Middle East. She then began seeing him regularly in 1999 after her grandmother passed away. Reca did not admit to being D.B. Cooper at first, though he did send her news articles about D.B. Cooper suspects and confessions with notes debunking their claims.
Then, in August 2013, Reca admitted for the second time that he was D.B. Cooper and asked Story to take him to a notary to sign his confession. Story would not, terrified her uncle would spend his last days in jail. 
What Joe Koenig said about the evidence:
"The audio tapes and transcripts and Walt's last testament, provided me with great evidence. My analysis told me Walt was not forced or coerced to make his statements to Carl, that he made the statements freely and voluntarily. The statements and last testament contain Walt's admissions to all the elements of robbery and hijacking constituting a very good confession that could be used in a criminal proceeding. Based on his confession and all the corroborating evidence, Walt, if still alive, would be prosecuted for the hijacking of Northwest 305. I believe that Walter Reca is D.B. Cooper."
Why now? 
Laurin asked for Reca's permission to share his story in 2010. Reca agreed and signed a notarized letter to that effect, although the story was not to be told until after his death. Reca passed away on February 17, 2014. 
Full audio and video of the press conference is now available in the Principia Media online press kit at

About Principia Media:
Principia Media is an independent publishing and documentary film company based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. With a focus on storytelling, they balance professional production and marketing skills with intimate client relationships. Their capabilities include publishing fiction and nonfiction and investigative storytelling through feature-length documentaries. 

SOURCE: Principia Media

22 May 2018

US: The National Press Club Unveils Plan For Media Summit After Reporter Roughed Up At EPA Meeting

EPA chief Scott Pruitt
EPA chief Scott Pruitt (Image via The Guardian)
The National Press Club and its Journalism Institute are renewing a call for dialogue between newsmakers and the news media following another incident in which officials of President Donald Trump's administration manhandled a reporter in a public building.
Hours after one of its reporters was blocked from covering a summit on water contamination, along with representatives of several other news organizations, the Associated Press reported receiving an apology Tuesday from the Environmental Protection Agency. According to the AP's account, guards had barred the wire service's reporter from passing through a security checkpoint, and when the reporter asked to speak with EPA public affairs personnel, shoved her out of the building.
EPA officials insisted in public statements, including emails to the Press Club, that they were merely trying to manage an overcrowded room. But the Press Club expressed concern about the decision to limit coverage at an event featuring EPA chief Scott Pruitt to 10 invited reporters and questioned the way that limit was enforced.
"Pushing reporters around is what happens in dictatorships, not in a democracy where the press's right to represent the public is enshrined in the Constitution," said Andrea Snyder Edney, president of the National Press Club. "And why were reporters being kept out of a meeting of major news significance at which a senior official was speaking on the public record? This is unacceptable."
⏩ This is not the first time since the Trump administration came to office that reporters have been manhandled by security guards while trying to do their jobs. Last May, the Press Club protested when one of its members, CQ Roll Call reporter John Donnelly, was forcibly prevented from questioning members of the Federal Communications Commission and then kicked out of FCC headquarters.
"It should go without saying that the press must be able to cover public events convened by a taxpayer-funded government agency--but apparently it needs to be said these days," said Barbara Cochran, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, the club's not-for-profit arm. "It is bad enough to bar the press in this way, but to use force to enforce such a misguided dictate just compounds the mistake."
In response to earlier outbreaks of hostility towards the press, including the international headlines that erupted when a reporter was attacked by a congressional candidate, the Press Club's Journalism Institute last summer hosted "Can We Talk," a conversation between members of the press and leaders of the institutions they cover about how to lower the temperature.
Funding has since been secured for an expanded version of this event that will feature more in-depth, intimate conversations among invited participants. Plans will be underway this summer for a fall summit.
"The National Press Club has traditionally been a place where news reporters and newsmakers meet," said Cochran. "We can think of no better place to convene and work on ground rules that will enable all of us to do a better job for the public we all serve."

NATIONAL PRESS CLUB LOGO. ( (PRNewsfoto/National Press Club)
About the National Press Club:
Founded in 1908, the National Press Club is the world's leading professional organization for journalists. The Club has more than 3,100 members worldwide representing nearly every major news organization and fights for press freedom worldwide.

Through its Press Freedom Committee and the National Press Club Journalism Institute, the Club speaks out in defense of press freedom and transparency worldwide.

21 May 2018

Blumhouse's Truth Or Dare: Unrated Director's Cut Available Soon On Digital, Blu-Ray And DVD

From Universal Pictures Home Entertainment: Blumhouse's Truth or Dare: Unrated Directors Cut
From Universal Pictures Home Entertainment: Blumhouse's Truth or Dare: Unrated Directors Cut
Blumhouse returns with another edge-of-your-seat horror movie with BLUMHOUSE'S TRUTH OR DARE.

Now with even more gore and intensity BLUMHOUSE'S TRUTH OR DARE: UNRATED DIRECTOR'S CUT arrives on Digital and the all-new digital movie app MOVIES ANYWHERE on July 3, 2018 and on Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand on July 17, 2018, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

When a group of friends set out to enjoy their final spring break together, a harmless game of "Truth or Dare" turns deadly when someone—or something—begins to punish those who tell a lie—or refuse the dare. 

The children's game will never be the same after fans dare to watch the never before seen Unrated Director's Cut.
Lucy Hale ("Pretty Little Liars") and Tyler Posey ("Teen Wolf") lead the cast of friends who work together to try and end the terrifying game that follows them home in BLUMHOUSE'S TRUTH OR DARE
Produced by Jason Blum (Get Out, Split) and directed and executive produced by Jeff Wadlow (Kick-Ass 2) the horror-thriller follows co-stars Violett Beane ("The Flash"), Nolan Gerard Funk (Counterpart), Hayden Szeto (The Edge of Seventeen) and Sophia Taylor Ali (Famous in Love) as they all have their turn in choosing – Truth or Dare?
"Sorry, we can't come to the phone right now, we're literally tied up..." (Still from 'Truth or Dare')
"Sorry, we can't come to the phone right now, we're literally tied up..." (Still from 'Truth or Dare')
  • Game On: The Making of Truth or Dare – Go behind the scenes with the cast and crew.
  • Directing the Deaths – An inside look at the most memorable death scenes.
  • Feature Commentary with Director Jeff Wadlow and Actress Lucy Hale
Blumhouse's Truth or Dare will be available on Blu-ray combo pack which includes Blu-ray, DVD and Digital, and Movies Anywhere.
Cast: Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Hayden Szeto, Landon Liboiron
Casting By: Terri Taylor, C.S.A, Sarah Domeier, C.S.A
Music By: Matthew Margeson
Costume Designer: Lisa Norcia
Edited By: Sean Albertson A.C.E
Production Designer: Melanie Paizis-Jones
Director of Photography: Jaques Jouffret
Executive Producers: Jeff Wadlow, Chris Roach, Jeanette Volturno, Couper Samuelson
Produced By: Jason Blum
Story By: Michael Reisz
Screenplay By: Michael Reisz, Jillian Jacobs, Chris Roach, Jeff Wadlow
Directed By: Jeff Wadlow

Street Date: July 17, 2017
Copyright: 2018 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Selection Number: 61195902 (US) / 61195904 (CDN)
Layers: BD-50
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 16:9 2.35.1
Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence and disturbing content, alcohol abuse, some sexuality, language and thematic material
Languages/Subtitles: English SDH, French Canadian and Latin American Spanish Subtitles
Sound: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/ Dolby Digital 2.0, Spanish and French DTS Digital Surround 5.1
Run Time: 1 Hour, 39 minutes

Street Date: July 17, 2017
Copyright: 2018 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Selection Number: 61195905 (US) / 61195901 (CDN)
Layers: DVD 9
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen 16:9 2.35:1
Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence and disturbing content, alcohol abuse, some sexuality, language and thematic material
Languages/Subtitles: English SDH, French Canadian and Latin American Spanish Subtitles
Sound: English Dolby Digital 5.1/ Dolby Digital 2.0, Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1
Run Time: 1 Hour, 39 Minutes


Reimagine Products to Ease Plastic Pollution, Says Sagentia

Plastic waste
Plastic waste (Image via 'Breaking up with plastic')
Rethinking the way some consumer products are presented could significantly reduce plastic waste, according to Sagentia, a Science Group company.
The science and technology specialist also emphasises the need for a cohesive, cross-industry approach that openly acknowledges both the complexity of the issue and the important multifunctional role plastic often plays. Without a deeply-rooted and integrated approach, Sagentia cautions that gaps in the ability to replace, reduce or reengineer plastic packaging will remain unclosed. Consequently, plastic reduction initiatives will fail to properly address the issue.
In a move to help consumer industries tackle these problems, scientists and engineers at Sagentia have produced a white paper 'Breaking up with plastic'. Available for download free of charge, it outlines a three-phase technical framework to facilitate the reduction of plastic packaging.
Simon Norman, one of the paper's authors and applied science consultant at Sagentia, says that in some cases it will be necessary to change the way products are presented, prepared or consumed.
"Much of the time product development is considered separately to packaging development," he explains. "But with such a siloed approach there is less opportunity to get to the crux of issues that result in the need for plastic packaging. Whether it's pod coffee machine refills, shampoo bottles or disposable razors, different organisations and specialists need to work together to reduce single-use plastic.

Addressing this issue requires consumer insight and understanding of the manufacturing and distribution stream, combined with scientific knowledge of the products themselves and properties of various packaging materials. And crucially, the industry needs to find ways to cut plastic waste without compromising important factors such as food safety and consumer enjoyment."
Rethinking the way some consumer products are presented could significantly reduce plastic waste (Image via 'Breaking up with plastic')
⏩ Breaking up with plastic, Technical steps to rethink, replace and reduce plastic packaging is available here
SOURCE: Sagentia

18 May 2018

The Australian Zombie Horror 'Cargo' Is Burdened By Its Own Gravitas


In Cargo, Martin Freeman plays Andy, a man who has to kill his wife after she turns into a zombie and travels across country with baby daughter Rosie on his back.
In Cargo, Martin Freeman plays Andy, a man who has to kill his wife after she turns into a zombie and travels across country with baby daughter Rosie on his back. (Addictive Pictures, Causeway Films, Head Gear Films)

Since the 1970s, some of the best horror films have been made in Australia. Something about the vastness of the continent, and its geographical remoteness from the northern and western hemispheres, lends itself to the kind of existential explorations of alienation that underpin the best examples of this genre.

Peter Weir’s The Cars That Ate Paris (1974) remains one of the great horror comedies, viciously lampooning small-town Australian life. Russell Mulcahy’s Razorback (1984) fully embraces the surreal-gothic potential of the Australian landscape, and the intense terror of Wolf Creek (2005) must have caused at least a few backpackers to reconsider their trips here.

But only one zombie film of note springs to mind, the Spierig Brothers’ brilliantly inventive Undead (2003). Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke’s recent Cargo, released in Australian cinemas and to Netflix today, is another one. Whereas the Spierig Brothers approached the genre with energy and mirth, Cargo is a much more sombre affair, favouring dramatic realism and an understated visual approach over the garishness more typical of the films of the genre.

The result is mixed. The first half hour is brilliant, slowly building up tension and suspense, but once the narrative kicks into full gear, the film becomes far less satisfying. It’s not that it’s a bad film, it is moderately enjoyable, but given the renowned cast – it stars Martin Freeman, Susie Porter (excellent in a limited role) and legend of the Australian screen, David Gulpilil – and the potential of the genre in an Australian context, it could have been a lot better.

The narrative follows Andy (Freeman), a man who has to kill his wife Kay (Porter) after she turns into a zombie in the opening part of the film, as he travels across country with baby daughter Rosie on his back (his “cargo”) and befriends a teenage girl, Thoomi (Simone Landers). His wife bites him before he dies, so he knows he has only 48 hours remaining as a human, after which he will become one of the intestine eaters (there is an appropriately gross amount of blood and guts in this).

His mission, in his remaining time as a human, is to get Rosie to the group of Aboriginal people to whom Thoomi is also returning. This group have returned to a “traditional” way of living off the land, and are best equipped to repel the zombies. They are presided over by cleverman Daku (Gulpilil), who appears from time to time looking ghostly and saying little. There’s a touch of the noble savage myth about this whole subplot, and the images of blackfella magic are frequently accompanied by mystical-sounding music.

The most interesting encounters in the film are between Andy and Toomi and the several brain-eaters that populate the Australia of the future, but, unfortunately, these are few and far between. Instead, the action is driven by their encounters with several stock Australian film characters.

There’s the ethereal-woman in the outback, Lorraine, who seems too delicate to live in such an environment (played by Caren Pistorius in a wooden performance). There’s tough-as-nails Etta (Kris McQuade), an outback school teacher with a heart of gold. And there’s delusional tyrant Vic (played by Anthony Hayes, in a one-note and stilted performance) who is preparing to control Australia’s natural resources once order is restored. He gets his kicks doing really bad things like kidnapping Indigenous people and keeping them locked in cages in order to attract zombies who he then massacres for sport.

Caren Pistorius as the ethereal-woman in the outback, Lorraine.
Caren Pistorius as the ethereal-woman in the outback, Lorraine. (Addictive Pictures, Causeway Films, Head Gear Films)

These are cliches, indeed, but this shouldn’t matter for this kind of genre film. And yet, with Cargo it does. Because it seems to be straining so hard for a sense of gravitas (built through its dramatic verisimilitude and realist style), these cliches become terribly visible and disrupt the viewer’s pleasure. It’s like the filmmakers have deliberately not embraced the ludicrous potential of the subject matter and there is thus an uncomfortable tension between its sombre tone, the absurdity of its premise, and the flatness of its cliched narrative.

The American zombie film, emerging in its contemporary form with the George Romero films beginning with Night of the Living Dead (1968) is generally considered a critique of consumerism in the post-Vietnam era, and the most interesting element of Cargo is its attempt to reimagine the genre in an Australian context that reflects anxieties about the land and its destruction.

The film features scenes, for example, of abandoned fracking sites, and the fact that the whole thing becomes a kind of battle between a power-hungry mining type and Indigenous people could have provided grounds for incisive social and political commentary. But the treatment is unnecessarily sentimental, and it doesn’t feel like there’s any genuine emotional potency by the end. Even the sweeping panoramic shots of the Australian landscape feel contrived and unimpressive, almost like stock drone footage taken from an online tourist commercial.

Alas, Cargo seems like a made-for-Netflix movie – it makes sense, in this context, that it is premiering on Netflix – watchable but also forgettable, after its dazzling opening third. It was developed, furthermore, from a short film that went viral, and like a lot of films made from shorts (or from Saturday Night Live sketches), it feels like it lacks the legs to sustain the length of a feature.

Cargo is worth watching, particularly for fans of horror cinema, but its aesthetic will be best served, I suspect, by the small screen.

About Today's Contributor:
Ari Mattes, Lecturer in Media Studies, University of Notre Dame Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation

Ice Cream Truck Vs. the Trump USDA: Latest DCX Activist Prank in the News

Parody ice cream truck and DCX Team member visit the White House to confront Trump administration
Parody ice cream truck and DCX Team member visit the White House to confront Trump administration (photo credit DCX)
Earlier this week, President Trump grabbed headlines for calling the Mueller investigation "the greatest witch hunt in American history," as well as for reimbursing Michael Cohen for a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels.  Meanwhile his administration quietly let expire a popular organic food policy.  
⏩ The Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) rule, which was over ten years in the making, aimed to tighten USDA organic standards and close loopholes that organic activists claim can easily be exploited by industrial producers.  
⏩ The OLPP enjoyed the support of organic farmers and advocates alike (of the 72,000 comments submitted during an open commentary period, 56,000 supported it. Only 50 comments were against these further regulations).
Citing a pattern whereby the president's controversial tweets and personal scandals draw attention away from unpopular policy enactments, a Brooklyn-based group DCX Growth Accelerator launched an ice cream truck, designed to shine the spotlight back upon the Trump administration's meddling with USDA organic food rules.  

DCX painted the name Presidential Creamery on the side of the truck, along with a jovial mascot: a cow udder with a Trump-style toupee waving an ice cream cone. The group drove it to Washington, DC where it drew long lines of consumers, and in recent days have been driving it through the streets of Manhattan, speaking with television news networks. 
The ice cream truck's menu boards are similar in style to those of a quaint organic creamery, but instead of organic products, they list "cage-raised vanilla" milkshakes, "3 chicken per square foot" egg creams, and a sandwich named "the Sonny Perdue Beakless Chicken Po-boy."  The product names refer to the animal welfare protections in the OLPP that were rolled back this week by new Trump-appointed USDA head, Sonny Perdue.  
⏩ The menus describe these foods as "organic-ish" and give them the satirical stamp of a new "certified USDA Organic-ish" logo. 
DCX is known for using creativity to give momentum to social issues. In the past the group has sent students to school wearing bulletproof vests to push for sensible gun control regulation, and has held an Artisanal Landlord Price Hike Sale on behalf of a deli facing an exorbitant rent increase, in order to out gentrification in the national media spotlight.

SOURCE: DCX Growth Accelerator

17 May 2018

'Avengers: Infinity War' Reflects Transformation Of Chinese Movie Market [Video Included]

'Avengers: Infinity War' - Chinese poster
'Avengers: Infinity War' - Chinese poster (via
The following is a news report by on the Chinese movie market (scroll down to watch the video):
"The new Disney and Marvel's superhero movie "Avengers: Infinity War" hit the Chinese mainland on May 11. Previously, it raked in US$100 million worldwide in a record 11 days. Despite such success, the movie's popularity in China and the public frenzy for a debut ticket still staggered me.

Sun Wanlu, a reporter, bought her ticket one week in advance, but even then she was only able to get one for the midnight showtime.

Statistics show that the Chinese movie market has been the world's second largest since 2012. In 2017, its total gross reached 55.91 billion yuan, roughly equivalent to US$8.8 billion, or 77.63 percent of the North American market.

China's movie market has undergone enormous transformations in the past years. Decades ago, people had to bring stools from home to watch movies projected onto a screen in the open air. In remote villages, the only opportunity to watch a movie was during an important festival.

After the start of reform and opening up in 1978, especially in the 1980s, Chinese people began going to the cinema more frequently. However, cinemas at that time were minimally available and poorly equipped.

Profound changes have taken place in China's movie industry thereafter. Particularly since its entry into the WTO, China has continually increased its openness, and thus imported more top-billing foreign movies. From "Pearl Harbor" to "The Lord of the Rings" and "Finding Nemo," a large number of European and U.S. blockbusters have brought aesthetic pleasure to Chinese audiences.

Meanwhile, China has also stepped up the reform of its cultural industry, allowing non-government capital to enter the sectors of movie production, release and screening. Nowadays, many modern cinemas have been built in busy business districts full of restaurants and shopping malls. The number of movie screens in China has approached 50,000, and you can find digital cinemas even in rural areas. Also, the yield and quality of domestic movies have improved rapidly. From the Oscar-nominated "Hero" to "Wolf Warrior 2," which achieved total ticket sales of 5.6 billion yuan (US$884.2 million), domestically-produced movies have shared the spotlight on the global stage.

With fast economic growth and the increase of personal income, the Chinese people have developed higher consumption demands. Watching movies has become a popular form of entertainment. Forty years have passed since the introduction of the reform and opening up policy, and the booming development of Chinese movie industry is just one of the achievements China has made in four decades."
A News Report By On The Chinese Movie Market - The Video:
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