RT Entertainment /pop-culture/ RT Entertainment en Wed, 19 Jun 2024 19:26:47 +0000 RT /static/img/logo-rss.png RT Entertainment 125 40 ‘Blood on your dress’: Instagram users trash Adele over Russian couture /pop-culture/599474-adele-russian-dress-hate-speech/ Netizens have slammed singer Adele for wearing a dress designed by a Russian fashion house at her latest concert
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The pop star wore an outfit from the Valentin Yudashkin fashion house for a performance in Las Vegas

Social media users have hit out at pop star Adele after she wore a dress designed by Russian fashion house Valentin Yudashkin at a concert in Las Vegas.

The dress, which featured a full skirt and form-fitting bodice, overlaid with black chiffon and hand-embroidered with flowers, was created under the guidance of Galina Yudashkina, daughter of the revered late Russian designer Valentin Yudashkin.

The singer posted several pictures from the concert on her Instagram page within hours of the concert, earning compliments from many fans who described her as looking “gorgeous.”

However, the tone of the reaction changed after the Russian origin of the outfit was revealed. The comments section was flooded with hate-speech and threats as Adele was accused of supporting Russia in its “bloody, illegal and genocidal war on Ukraine.”

Several users claimed the dress was “covered in blood of Ukrainian children,” attacking the singer for her “poor” choice when she could have chosen “any designer in the world.”

“So next time up are you going to wear a Russian military uniform?” one user asked, referring to the late Yudashkin’s participation in designing uniforms for the Russian armed forces. Some Instagram users compared Adele’s choice of brand to wearing outfits by German designer Hugo Boss during World War 2.

The post had received roughly 7,000 comments at the time of writing – around two-thirds of which were derisory. A similar thing happened on the singer’s Twitter account, where she also posted footage from the concert. Adele has so far not commented on the reaction.

]]> READ MORE: Russian ballerina performance canceled in Seoul

]]> The Valentin Yudashkin fashion house praised the singer in a Telegram post, describing her collaboration as “a special day” for the company.

Fashion icon Valentin Yudashkin died of cancer at the age of 59 in May last year. He was a prominent figure in Russia, having dressed numerous leading public figures and pop icons.

Yudashkin also designed outfits for Russian Olympic athletes as well as the national football team. He had a hand in the development of uniforms for the Russian army, but later complained that the actual outfits worn by soldiers had undergone too many changes from his original vision.

The late designer’s fashion house owns a network of boutiques, and has taken part in numerous haute couture shows worldwide. Last month, Chinese actress Elaine Zhong donned a Valentin Yudashkin dress at the Cannes Film Festival.

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Tue, 18 Jun 2024 10:13:02 +0000 RT
Latvia’s national theater bans Russian language /pop-culture/599452-latvian-theater-language-ban/ Latvia’s main theater has imposed a “moratorium” on performances in Russian
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A “moratorium” has ben imposed until the Ukraine conflict ends

The Latvian National Theater has canceled a scheduled Russian-language play called ‘Diary of Madmen’ and instituted a blanket “moratorium” on any performances in Russian at the venue.

The move was announced on Monday by director Maris Vitols, who said the theater had scrapped a contract with Entracte International to host the play, which was scheduled for September. 

“The stage of the National Theater is not a suitable place for Russian-language touring performances at a time when Russia continues the war in Ukraine,” Vitols stated, adding that a moratorium on staging plays in Russian would be in place until the conflict ends.

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UK pop star Rod Stewart performs earlier this month at a concert in Stockholm.
UK pop star booed over Ukraine support
]]> Vitols insisted the move was not actually aimed at artists who had left Russia over the hostilities. The theater “respects” their decision to leave the country and “condemns” the Russian leadership over the military operation in Ukraine, he added.

However, the decision to cancel ‘Diary of Madmen’ is inevitably bound to affect artists who left Russia over the Ukraine conflict. The play was directed by Dmitry Krymov, who openly condemned the military operation and refused to return to Russia over it. Another play directed by Krymov and staged at the National Theater, ‘Peter Pan. Syndrome’, is running in Latvian and was apparently left unaffected by the move. 

The now-canceled play featured Chulpan Khamatova and Maksim Sukhanov. Khamatova left Russia shortly after the conflict broke out in February 2022, condemning the campaign and remaining abroad ever since. Sukhanov, who has long been critical of the Russian authorities, has provided no opinion on the conflict publicly. The actor, however, has largely vanished from the country’s mediascape amid the hostilities and apparently resides abroad as well.

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Mon, 17 Jun 2024 21:05:20 +0000 RT
Brain chips to replace cell phones in future – Musk /pop-culture/599420-musk-brain-chips-to-replace-phones/ Billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk has predicted that chips implanted in the human brain will replace cell phones in the future
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The billionaire’s Neuralink company implanted the first chip in a human brain last January, and is now gearing up for a second trial

Cell phones will become obsolete in the future, being replaced by chips that are implanted directly in the human brain, billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk has predicted.

His Neuralink biotech company implanted a brain chip for the first time in 30-year-old quadriplegic Noland Arbaugh back in January. The surgical procedure involved placing the computer chip – which is about the size of a coin – in the region of the brain which controls the intention to move. The chip is then used to “record and transmit brain signals wirelessly to an app that decodes movement intention.”

Musk shared his latest prediction in response to a post published on X (formerly Twitter) by a parody account named Not Elon Musk on Sunday. The original message read: “Would you install a Neuralink interface on your brain to allow you to control your new X phone by thinking?”

Musk replied by claiming that “in the future, there will be no phones, just Neuralinks.”

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Co-founder of Tesla and SpaceX Elon Musk.
Musk threatens to ban iPhones
]]> In its press release last year, Neuralink said its Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface (PRIME) program aims at developing a “fully implantable, wireless brain-computer interface” that would at first grant people the ability to control a computer cursor or keyboard using their thoughts. It would later pave the way for revolutionary treatments for people suffering from various physical disabilities such as paralysis and blindness, as well as illnesses like obesity, autism, depression, and schizophrenia.
In an interview with Joe Rogan in 2018, Musk suggested that Neuralink could also one day allow humans to communicate without using words, and possibly also achieve a state of “symbiosis” with artificial intelligence.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted approval for the first chip implantation trial last May.
Several weeks after the procedure in late January, Musk reported that the man had made a “full recovery with no ill effects that we are aware of,” and was capable of moving a computer mouse around the screen “by just thinking.”

However, in May, Neuralink acknowledged that it had encountered certain issues after tiny wires implanted in the brain were dislodged out of position.
Nevertheless, the FDA gave the green light for a second human trial, the Wall Street Journal reported last month. The next experiment, which is reportedly slated for June, will feature a modified procedure, whereby a chip will be implanted deeper into the brain to prevent it from retracting.

According to the media outlet, another eight people are expected to take part in further trials by the end of the year.

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Mon, 17 Jun 2024 11:22:24 +0000 RT
UK pop star booed over Ukraine support /news/599388-german-fans-boo-rod-stewart-over-ukraine-tribute/ Veteran British pop icon Rod Stewart has been booed at a concert in Germany after paying tribute to Ukraine in its conflict with Russia
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Elderly musician Rod Stewart encountered pushback from fans after touting his backing for Kiev at a concert in Germany

Elderly UK pop icon Rod Stewart has apparently met with fan backlash at a concert in Germany for making a public display of his support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia.

The 79-year-old Stewart, renowned for such hits as ‘Maggie May’ and ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy’, has been proclaiming his backing for Kiev since the crisis in Eastern Europe began in February 2022. However, the theme didn’t go over well at a sold-out performance on Friday in Leipzig, where concert-goers booed when a giant image of Vladimir Zelensky was shown behind Stewart as he sang “Rhythm of My Heart” as a tribute to Kiev.

A clip posted on social media showed fans jeering and whistling as the picture of Zelensky came on the screen. Germany’s Tag 24 news outlet reported that Stewart dedicated the song to the Ukrainian people and military, then shouted a profane insult against Russian President Vladimir Putin before beginning to sing. He donned the Ukrainian colors, including a yellow shirt and a jacket with blue sequins. The massive slideshow behind him also included images of the Ukrainian flag and the country’s troops.

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Actor Sean Penn is shown speaking at a press event earlier this week in Poland.
Sean Penn gives ultimatum on Zelensky speech at Oscars
]]> Stewart’s outward promotion of the Ukrainian cause was reportedly well received at previous concerts, such as performances in Copenhagen and Amsterdam. He has included dedications to Kiev in his concerts since 2022, and he has spoken out in interviews on such issues as sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

“I’ve been supporting them for years, the Ukrainians,” Stewart said in a March 2023 interview with Sky News. He added, “If the Ukrainians lose, it’s the end of civilization as we know it. It’s all over.”

Germany has been a leading sponsor of Ukraine, providing around €34 billion ($36.4 billion) in bilateral aid to Kiev since the conflict started. Public support for that policy has declined. A poll released in April by state broadcaster ZDF showed that just 42% of Germans believe their government should boost its aid to Ukraine. Around 82% of respondents said Kiev cannot defeat Russia, up from 70% when the same question was asked last August.

]]> READ MORE: Majority of Germans do not believe Ukraine can win – poll

]]> German lawmaker Michael Roth, a foreign policy expert for Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), scolded concert-goers who booed Stewart’s Ukraine tribute. “My hero of the day: Rod Stewart,” he said in a post on X (formerly Twitter). “Thank you for your solidarity with the Ukrainian people. And his empathy-less fans who live in mental Putin servitude should be ashamed, if they still can!”

]]> READ MORE: Musician and his son plead guilty to battery

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Sun, 16 Jun 2024 20:14:27 +0000 RT
Russia EXPO hosts strongman festival (PHOTO) /pop-culture/599335-russia-expo-strength-sports-festival/ Extreme strength athletes flocked to Moscow to take part in an annual strength sports festival
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Athletes showcased their abilities in five disciplines, including an extreme sports favorite – a car deadlift

Strongmen from a dozen Russian regions flocked to the All-Russian Exhibition Center (VDNKh) in Moscow on Friday to take part in this year’s Eurasian Games strength sports festival. The one-day event took place at the international exhibition and forum Russia EXPO, at the Sports Russia site.

Athletes competed in five disciplines: lifting Apollo’s Axle – a special powerlifting contraption made from a set of railway car wheels connected by a thick bar; a relay race with bags and tires weighing more than 100kg; carrying a 380kg balance-beam, as well as stone-lifting and a car deadlift. Numerous photos taken at the venue showed the strongmen, many of whom are acclaimed power-lifting champions, successfully tackling the challenges.

? Sputnik / Stanislav Zhdanov

Dmitry Skosyrsky from Omsk, who won the title of Russia’s strongest man by becoming a three-time champion of the Siberian Power Show in 2023, confirmed his status and took first place at the games. Second place was taken by famous Russian strongman from Belgorod, David Shamey, and third place went to Alexander Klokov from Lipetsk.

This is the first time the festival has been held in the Russian capital. Previously the games took place in the city of Sevastopol. The festival was organized by the pan-Russian group ‘The Strongest Nation in the World’. According to its president, Mikhail Paller, the choice to move the festival to Moscow was intentional.

We brought this wonderful power show to Russia EXPO because this is the country’s central exhibition platform. Athletes participating in the competition came from all over the country. These are the strongest people in Russia and the world, many of them have international titles,” he stated.

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Sat, 15 Jun 2024 11:23:57 +0000 RT
Plus-size model crowned Miss Alabama (PHOTOS) /pop-culture/598951-plus-size-miss-alabama/ Awarding the ‘Miss Alabama’ title to an overweight contestant damages the reputation of the southern state, some commenters argued
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Sara Milliken has been accused of “glorifying obesity,” but told her critics that she only wants to “spread positivity”

Oversize model Sara Milliken has won the title of Miss Alabama, sparking a torrent of criticism and support online. Critics have claimed that Milliken’s victory bolsters negative stereotypes about Alabama.

Milliken took the crown at National American Miss Alabama final on Memorial Day, earning her a spot in the organization’s national final in Florida this November. The self-described “plus-size” participant first entered a National American Miss competition in her teens, and had failed to place at the state-level show twice before.

Unlike some other beauty pageants, National American Miss scores contestants on a wide range of skills and attributes, including “personality, confidence, and communication,” according to the organization’s website.

Points are awarded for volunteer work and academic achievements, the site states, adding that “braces, glasses, skin problems, varying heights, weights and appearances, are all a part of creating the special and unique individual that you are and that we want to celebrate.”

Regardless, Milliken’s win was met with negativity when it was reported by local news outlet WKRG. “Calling her beautiful is fine and good that’s all in the eye of the beholder,” one Alabama man responded to the story on WKRG’s Facebook page. “But let’s be honest with ourselves… she’s extremely unhealthy and this is a slap in the face to the young girls who have worked hard and maintained a diet to actually be a beauty queen. This is an embarrassment to the state of Alabama.”

]]> Read more
Artificial intelligence generated image of Aitana Lopez model displayed in a screen at the headquarters of The Clueless company
World’s first beauty contest for AI models announced (IMAGES)
]]> “Is that actually considered attractive in Alabama?” another commenter chimed in.

Some 37.9% of adults in Alabama are obese, making the southern state the US’ seventh-fattest, according to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention. West Virginia is the most obese state in the nation, with an obesity rate of 41.3%. The CDC defines obesity in adults as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered a “healthy weight” by the CDC.

Amid the abuse, some commenters offered Milliken their support. Since her story went viral, she told WKRG that she has received offers of a dress, earrings, and thousands of dollars worth of products to boost her presentation at the National American Miss final.

“Their words can hurt,” Milliken said of her trolls. “Even if it is online… something that you type over a screen can have a lasting impression on people.” 

“I’ve always wanted to spread positivity, and this kind of put me in a position to do exactly that,” she told WKRG.

A week after Milliken’s victory, a man who identifies as a woman won Miss USA’s state-level competition in Maryland. The pageant leads up to the Miss Universe competition, which has allowed transgender participants for more than a decade.

 

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Fri, 07 Jun 2024 13:22:45 +0000 RT
Russian MP wants to regulate concert clothing /pop-culture/598737-pop-stars-dress-code-russia/ State Duma member has called for regulations on what pop stars wear when performing with children in the audience
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Children should not be exposed to “half-naked” artists, according to a member of the State Duma

A Russian lawmaker has called for tighter regulations on clothing worn by public performers, following an outcry over a revealing outfit worn by a pop star at a concert attended by children earlier this month.

A costume donned by singer Olga Buzova at a show in the city of Ufa triggered complaints, the local branch of Russia’s Investigative Committee said on Monday. A municipal MP also raised the issue in a post on social media. The concert took place on June 1, the International Day for Protection of Children, and many criticized the singer’s performance as inappropriate.

Following the outcry, Communist party MP Irina Filatova sent a letter to the Minister of Culture Olga Lyubimova, suggesting that requirements be introduced outlining what artists can and cannot wear during performances approved for children.

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FILE PHOTO: Singer Filipp Kirkorov receives a music award in Moscow in April 2023.
Russian pop stars apologize over ‘naked party’ (VIDEO)
]]> “Since not all Russian artists are aware of the influence that their behavior and performances have on the general public, I ask you to consider introducing mandatory dress requirements for public performances that have no age restrictions,” the MP said in the letter, as quoted by TASS.

Artists should display an image that is relevant to the event and the audience, the deputy argued. “Half-naked” performances have long become the norm in Russia, she claimed.

In December, a number of Russian pop stars were forced to apologize after taking part in a “naked party” that caused nationwide uproar. Images from the event were leaked to the media and widely shared. Many critics found the theme distasteful and inappropriate given that the country is currently engaged in a military conflict.

One of the artists present at the party was sentenced to 15 days in jail for public disturbance and LGBTQ propaganda.

Russia has been striving to promote traditional family values, as opposed to what the leadership describes as “Western values,” referring to the LGBTQ movement. On June 1, President Vladimir Putin stated that children and family are of utmost importance for society and the government.

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Tue, 04 Jun 2024 14:09:12 +0000 RT
Moscow hosts BRICS drama school festival /pop-culture/598630-moscow-brics-theater-school-festival/ Aspiring actors from the BRICS group are flocking to Moscow for an international drama school festival
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Theater students from around the world will converge on the All-Russian Exhibition Center for eight days

Dozens of aspiring actors from all over the world are gathering in the Russian capital, Moscow for the seventh annual BRICS International Festival of Theatre Schools. The event, which officially started on Saturday and will last for eight days, takes place at the All-Russian Exhibition Center (VDNKh) as part of the ongoing Russia EXPO.

Organizers say they plan to turn VDNKh into a massive stage for students from different countries to show off their acting skills, while professional actors can share their experience. The centerpiece of the festival is Alexander Pushkin’s ‘The tale of the fisherman and the fish.’

According to Dmitry Tomilin, the head of the festival, Pushkin’s story of an unfortunate fisherman and his three wishes was chosen for the universal message it carries.

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Special concerts as part of the presentation of the Moscow Jazz Festival at the "Russia" International exhibition-forum
Moscow Jazz Festival holds special event for Russia EXPO
]]> “The topic was not chosen by chance... Pushkin has been translated everywhere, everyone knows his works... Moreover, it is in sync with many epic literary works of other countries,” he said at a press briefing on Saturday.

The festival program includes a variety of workshops in acting skills, stage movement, and choreography, as well as performances by renowned Russian actors and singers.

The event will culminate in a major final performance on June 8 in what the organizers dubbed a ‘let’s play together’ format, whereby actors from different countries will perform en masse and interact with each other in their own languages.

Organizing and hosting the BRICS drama school festival since 2017 has been the Institute of Theatre Arts. The festival has been envisaged as an innovative platform for public diplomacy based on intercultural exchange.

This year, the event is expected to host delegations from China, Russia, Iran, India, South Africa, the UAE, Bahrain, and Belarus.

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Sun, 02 Jun 2024 08:17:37 +0000 RT
Top footballer suspended over anti-gay stance /pop-culture/598595-footballer-suspended-lgbtq-campaign/ AS Monaco’s Mohamed Camara has been banned for four matches for refusing to “raise awareness of the fight against homophobia”
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AS Monaco’s Mohamed Camara has been banned for four matches for refusing to “raise awareness of the fight against homophobia”

Professional footballer Mohamed Camara, who plays for AS Monaco in France, has been benched for the next four matches for refusing to take part in an anti-homophobia campaign, the French League (LFP) announced on Thursday.

During a Ligue 1 match against Nantes on May 19, the jerseys of Monaco’s players featured a logo to mark the World Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

However, 24-year-old Camara, a Mali national, chose not to support the LFP campaign and used white tape to cover the logo on his uniform and refused to join his team for a photograph.

]]> Read more
Transgender activists march in last July's Peru Pride Parade in Lima.
South American country labels transgenderism a mental illness
]]> The match, which was the final game of the season, ended 4-0 in favor of Monaco, with Camara scoring from the penalty spot. After the match, the footballer was referred to the LFP for disciplinary action.

“After hearing the player Mohamed Camara, and noting his refusal during the meeting to carry out one or more actions to raise awareness of the fight against homophobia, the commission decided to impose a four-match suspension,” the LFP said.

Following the match, Monaco’s general manager, Thiago Scuro, explained that Camara did not participate in the campaign “for religious reasons” and stressed that while the club respects all religions, it was “very sad about this episode and we want to make it clear that we do not support this.”

Scuro also told AFP that the club respects the LFP’s decision to suspend Camara and will not appeal the decision.

French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera condemned Camara’s actions, stating after the game that “Such behavior must be met with the toughest sanctions both for the player but also for his club which allowed him to do it.”

In Mali, however, Camara has been applauded for respecting his personal and religious convictions. The Malian Football Federation commended the athlete for exercising his freedom of expression. “Players are citizens like any other whose fundamental rights must be protected in all circumstances,” the organization said.

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Fri, 31 May 2024 17:28:19 +0000 RT
Magazine deletes Palestine pin from Hollywood star’s photo /pop-culture/598366-guy-pearce-palestinian-pin/ Vanity Fair France has apologized for removing a Palestinian flag pin from a photo of actor Guy Pearce
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Vanity Fair France has apologized for publishing a doctored image of Guy Pearce

Vanity Fair France has apologised after it was found to have photoshopped an image of actor Guy Pearce, removing a pin of the Palestinian flag that he wore at the Cannes Film Festival.  

The ‘Time Machine’ and ‘Prometheus’ star posed for a photo shoot wearing a badge displaying the Palestinian flag on his jacket. The item was reportedly visible in the French magazine edition of Vanity Fair, but absent from images shared by the publication's website and Instagram account. 

The edit was first reported by journalist Ahmed Hathout over the weekend. “So Guy Pearce showed solidarity with Palestine at Cannes by wearing a pin and Vanity Fair decided to photoshop it out,” he wrote on X (formerly Twitter), noting that the Australian actor also wore a bracelet in the colors of the Palestinians flag. 

The magazine was lambasted online, with commenters accusing it of censorship. Many pointed out that Pearce is a vocal supporter of the Palestinians and has labeled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu “a vengeful tyrant” for the IDF’s conduct in Gaza.

“Palestinians are being murdered as we speak. Displaced, traumatized, ruined,” the actor wrote on social media on Tuesday. “This MUST stop. SHAME on you Netanyahu.”

Vanity Fair France responded to the backlash on Monday. “We have mistakenly published a modified version of this photo on the website. The original version was published on Instagram the same day,” the publication wrote on X. “We have rectified our mistake and we apologize.”

Hathout retweeted the magazine’s statement, adding: “it’s unclear why there was a modified version in the first place.”

Pearce was not the only celebrity expressing solidarity with Palestine in Cannes. Palestinian-American fashion model Bella Hadid wore a dress inspired by the keffiyeh scarf, while Australian actress Cate Blanchett appeared on the red carpet in a dress that incorporated the colors of the Palestinian flag.

Fearing pro-Palestinian demonstrations, local authorities had banned protests along the iconic Croisette boulevard and its surroundings for the duration of the festival, held on May 14-25. 

]]> READ MORE: Celebrities back South Africa’s claims of Israeli genocide (VIDEO)

]]> Israel declared war on Hamas after the militants carried out a surprise raid into southern Israeli settlements on October 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostage. At least 36,000 Palestinian have been killed since the fighting erupted.

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Wed, 29 May 2024 03:12:25 +0000 RT
Is Assassin’s Creed’s black samurai a historical triumph or woke overreach? /pop-culture/598308-assassins-creed-black-samurai/ What is lurking in the new Assassin’s Creed “Shadows” – diversity and inclusion or good storytelling and historical accuracy?
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
What is lurking in the newest game in the franchise – diversity and inclusion or good storytelling and historical accuracy?

In November 2024, a new installment in a popular videogame franchise will be released – Assassin’s Creed Shadows. Set in Feudal Japan, the game will tell the story of two protagonists – Naoe, a Japanese female ninja, and Yasuke, an African samurai. 

Finally, a game about stealth, cinematic assassinations and a centuries-long conflict between global shadow societies takes place in Japan – a land of unbreakable honor, invisible ninjas, and sharp katanas. The first leaks about this setting began surfacing in 2021, just as Ghost of Tsushima, another game about being a warrior in Japan, was released to high critical acclaim.

This is not the first time when an Assassin’s Creed game has used two protagonists. In Syndicate, set in Victorian London, you played as the Frye twins - Jacob and Evie. The two characters embodied two different playstyles - Jacob specialized in open hand-to-hand combat, while Evie relied on stealth and ranged weapons. Another game, Origins, that told the story of the creation of the Assassins’ Brotherhood in Ancient Egypt, had several missions that let you control Aya, the wife of the main protagonist Bayek. So, if this is not the first time this has happened, what made the initial reaction to Shadows so different?

At first, people were surprised by the inclusion of an African man as one of the playable characters. Sure, Yasuke was a real person, who lived in Japan during Oda Nabunaga’s reign in the 16th century. But even today, historians can not agree whether he was really a mercenary samurai, or just a slave in Nabunaga’s court.

]]> Read more
Special concerts as part of the presentation of the Moscow Jazz Festival at the "Russia" International exhibition-forum
Moscow Jazz Festival holds special event for Russia EXPO
]]> Assassin’s Creed games have always included prominent historical figures as characters – Leonardo Da Vinci, Napoleon, Cleopatra, Socrates, Benjamin Franklin, all to immerse the player in the time period and to make them feel the importance of their contribution to mankind’s history.

Out of all the people that lived during that period and could be used as a protagonist – why choose Yasuke? He did not impact the history of Japan that much and is not symbolic of any events that happened. So why was a big black man chosen for a game seemingly about Japanese people, stealth and ninjas? Maybe the developers wanted to add the same “choose your playstyle” feature they already had in Syndicate. Or maybe they saw the opportunity to put another “underrepresented” person in a setting they probably have no place in, just to show the world how progressive they are. This move is sure to place them on a few liberal game awards organizations’ radars, but for now it has only made a lot of gamers upset. At this time, Shadows’ reveal trailer on Youtube is the most disliked in the series’ history, with people all over the world, including in Japan, sharing their disappointment with Ubisoft. Some are even calling out the hypocrisy by saying that adding a black character is seen as progressive (and you can be called racist for objecting), but if a white samurai was the main character, the uproar would be unimaginable.

The decision to make one of the protagonists non-Japanese is a brave one. Since the reveal, the community has split into two parts – the more vocal one expresses their displeasure with another example of meaningless diversity and inclusion, while the other one is seemingly happy with finally getting their Japanese Assassin’s Creed. Both groups have their reasons. Adding a diverse character for the sake of diversity and progressive optics is now commonplace, and people are tired of seeing it. The intentions could be genuine, but it’s hard for gamers to trust corporate boardrooms. The silent majority, meanwhile, is excited for the game, if sales are any indication. Shadows is the #1 best seller on Amazon Japan. But then again, if a gaming industry titan like Ubisoft, as part of an insanely popular franchise like Assassins Creed, were to make a game about India, Russia or Türkiye, there are good chances that the game would be an instant best seller in that country, African protagonists or not.

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FILE PHOTO: Scarlett Johansson.
Open AI takes down Scarlett Johansson-like voice
]]> There is an opinion online that adding a black samurai is not a betrayal of Japanese culture or history. That the stories that can be told about Japan are not limited to stories about Japanese samurai; that it’s a harmful cliche. While it can be a stereotype, stories that are based on a stereotype resonate the most with people - a cowboy movie, a samurai game, a World War II series. It’s a hook that grabs the entire human population interested in that genre, and then it’s up to the story to prove itself and show that it is much more than just a stereotype. Red Dead Redemption 2 for example, is “just another cowboy game,” but its story and its characters attracted many people, even some that had no previous interest in gaming.

But the main problem of Shadows might not be its questionable choice of characters. Ghost of Tsushima, a 2020 Sony game about the first Mongol invasion of Japan, whose success was probably the reason Shadows was made, is being compared to the upcoming Assassin’s Creed, six months before its release.

Journalists worry that we've come full circle – Ghost of Tsushima was created as an ‘Assassin’s Creed in Japan’, improving on its mechanics and storytelling. If Ubisoft learns nothing from their shortcomings in game design, it looks like Shadows will be their typical open-world game, and will pale in comparison to a Japanese game about Japan.

Come November, the dust will settle and the game will be released. As usual, fans will be hyped, and the game will be full of bugs and lacking in features. After a while, the bugs will be patched, downloadable content will inevitably be released, and the in-game store will bombard gamers with ads. In the end, some will remember the game fondly for years, some will leave it halfway through, but its success will be measured only by Ubisoft’s earnings report for that year. That is the only way that corporations see the right and wrong in their decisions – their bottom line.

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Tue, 28 May 2024 19:55:38 +0000 RT
Biden looking for ‘meme manager’? /pop-culture/598133-biden-meme-lord-hire/ Joe Biden’s campaign is looking to hire a meme specialist to bring political content to voters on the internet
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Candidates should have “exceptional creativity” in delivering political content to voters, according to the job description

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign is aiming to hire a person to promote his image by harnessing the power of memes, according to a job listing. Both the Biden campaign and that of his archrival, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, have relied on memes to boost their electoral chances ahead of the November vote.  

The job ad was first posted on LinkedIn earlier this month and duplicated on the Biden campaign’s website, but only came into the media spotlight this week. The job, officially titled ‘Partner Manager, Content and Meme Pages’, is a full-time position with a salary range of $65,000 to $85,000 a year, and is based in Wilmington, Delaware.  

Meme lord hopefuls will have to “initiate and manage day-to-day operations in engaging the Internet’s top content,” the job description says, adding that the ideal candidate must be “passionate about bringing political content to voters where they already are on the Internet.”  

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Former US President Donald Trump with attorney Todd Blanche speaks to the media during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 21, 2024 in New York City.
Trump claims Biden authorized FBI to use deadly force in Mar-a-Lago raid
]]> Candidates must have two to four years of experience in the video, media, or entertainment industry, deep expertise of the digital media landscape, the ability to identify internet trends, and possess “exceptional creativity.”’  

The Biden campaign has already made avid use of memes, with one example being the figure of the so-called “Dark Brandon” character – a slick and sinister alter ego of the 81-year-old president who shoots laser beams out of his eyes. The meme originated with the right-wing political slogan “Let’s Go Brandon” – a euphemism for “F**k Joe Biden.” The latter went viral after an NBC reporter misrepresented an offensive chant by an anti-Biden crowd at a motorsports event in 2021.  

The Biden team has also set up a TikTok page featuring ‘Dark Brandon’ in its profile, even though the president signed a bill that could effectively ban the network in the US unless its owner, the Chinese company ByteDance, sells it to someone else.  

The Trump campaign has also tapped into the potential of memes ahead of the November election, selling mugs and other merchandise with his mugshot. The historic image, in which Trump viciously stares into the camera, was taken after the ex-president voluntarily surrendered to authorities following his indictment on election racketeering charges in August 2023.

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Thu, 23 May 2024 16:33:39 +0000 RT
Moscow Jazz Festival holds special event for Russia EXPO /pop-culture/598135-moscow-jazz-festival-russia-expo/ Three jazz trios performed at the capital’s All-Russian Exhibition Center (VDNKh) as part of the international forum
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Three jazz trios performed at the capital’s All-Russian Exhibition Center as part of the international forum

Several participants of the Moscow Jazz Festival, the largest event of its kind in Russia and one of the largest jazz festivals in the world, performed in the capital on Wednesday as part of a special concert for the ongoing Russia EXPO.  

Three jazz trios performed on the main stage of Moscow’s All-Russian Exhibition Center (VDNKh): the Phonograph-Jazz trio, the ILUGDIN TRIO, which combines jazz with classical music, and a trio led by Maria Aksyonova, the winner of the All-Russian youth jazz competition. 

Wednesday’s performance was the latest organized by the Moscow Jazz Festival in conjunction with the Russia EXPO this year. The forum was officially launched in 2023 following a decree from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who ordered the organization of an international exhibition-forum to demonstrate Russia’s achievements in various areas such as the economy, energy, agriculture, transportation, science, and culture. 

The Moscow Jazz Festival will be held for the third time this summer. It was first held in 2022 and has since featured over 2,000 artists and drawn over half a million spectators. This year, the festival will be held over June 10-16, and is expected to feature over 1,000 artists from Russia and other countries. 

]]> READ MORE: Moscow hosts first pan-Russian wedding festival (VIDEO)

]]> Among the headliners of this year’s festival are some of the biggest names in jazz, such as Russia’s Igor Butman and the Moscow Jazz Orchestra, Richard Bona from the US, Avishai Cohen from Israel, Roberto Fonseca from Cuba, and many others. 

The concerts will be held at different venues throughout the Russian capital, such as the Hermitage garden, the Muzeon and Sokolniki parks, on the square in front of the Central Department store, and elsewhere.

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Thu, 23 May 2024 15:02:12 +0000 RT
Diddy hit with new sexual assault lawsuit /pop-culture/598072-model-sues-diddy-assault/ Model Crystal McKinney has accused rap mogul Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs of drugging and sexually assaulting her in 2003
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
A model has accused the rap mogul of taking advantage of her in 2003

Rap mogul Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs has been accused by model Crystal McKinney of drugging and raping her in 2003. The allegations mark the seventh in a string of lawsuits against the Bad Boy Records founder in recent months.

McKinney’s lawsuit was filed in a federal court in New York City on Tuesday, just days after a video emerged of Combs beating his then-girlfriend Cassie Ventura in 2016. Ventura’s lawsuit was settled within a day of her filing, for an undisclosed amount.

According to the complaint, McKinney, then a 22-year-old model, met Combs at a Manhattan fashion event. He said she was “going to make it big one day,” promised to help her career, and invited her to his studio, where one of his associates offered her marijuana.

“Plaintiff later came to understand that Combs had laced the joint with a narcotic or other intoxicating substance,” the complaint says.

Once McKinney was “very intoxicated” by marijuana and alcohol, Combs allegedly took her to a bathroom and forced her to perform a sex act. McKinney said she passed out in Combs’ studio and woke up in a taxi. 

]]> Read more
FILE PHOTO: Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs.
Diddy knows too much – former rival
]]> Instead of breaking into modeling, McKinney’s opportunities dried up as Combs “blackballed” her, the lawsuit claims. She became “severely depressed” and blamed herself for sabotaging her career, while fearing retaliation from the rap mogul.

McKinney has named Combs, Bad Boy Records, Bad Boy Entertainment, Sean John Clothing, and Universal Music Group as the defendants, seeking damages for “pain and suffering” as well as punitive damages, without specifying an amount.

Combs is currently under federal investigation for sex trafficking and has been accused of physical abuse, gang rape and “serious illegal activity.” He has not been arrested and denies any wrongdoing.

After the Ventura assault video was made public, Combs apologized and said he has since changed his ways. Several New York City council members, however, remained unconvinced and called on Mayor Eric Adams to revoke his honorary key to the city.

“As an abuser, Diddy lost his right to have such an honor and should be held accountable for his actions,” Sandy Nurse told TMZ. Shaun Abreu urged Adams to “snatch back Diddy’s key and slam the door behind him,” while Joe Borelli argued that “taking away an honor from a woman beater seems like par for the course.”

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Wed, 22 May 2024 20:10:41 +0000 RT
Open AI takes down Scarlett Johansson-like voice /pop-culture/597999-johansson-open-ai-voice/ Open AI has suspended one of its ChatGPT voices, which sounded like that of Scarlett Johansson, after backlash from the actress
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The Hollywood actress said she was “shocked” by the uncanny resemblance and sought legal counsel to protect her rights

High-tech company Open AI has suspended the use of one of its voices in ChatGPT bot after Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson complained it sounded “eerily similar” to the way she talks.

In a statement on X (formerly Twitter) on Monday, Open AI said it had “heard questions” about the criteria for choosing the voices in ChatGPT, especially female Sky voice. “We are working to pause the use of Sky while we address them,” it said.

The company also attempted to dispel the notion that voice that Sky uses is an imitation of Scarlett Johansson’s, stressing that “AI voices should not deliberately mimic” high-profile figures. It added that Sky had been recorded not by Johansson, but by a different professional actress.

]]> Read more
FILE PHOTO: OpenAI CEO Sam Altmanspeaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 18, 2024
Musk sues ChatGPT maker over AI threat
]]> At the same time, Open AI CEO Sam Altman seemed to recognize the uncanny resemblance between the voice of Sky and that of Johansson, posting on X last week a single word – “her.” The message was an apparent reference to the 2013 sci-fi film of the same name, in which Johansson plays an AI assistant who becomes romantically involved with a human.

The actress, who has won numerous honors during her incredibly successful and lucrative Hollywood career, including a British Academy Film Award and a Tony Award, lashed out at the resemblance of Sky’s voice to her own.

In a statement cited by several media outlets, Johansson said she was “shocked, angered and in disbelief” after she heard the demo of the voice, which she said tricked even her closest friends. The movie star recalled that Altman had previously contacted her about voicing an AI, a proposal she said she turned down.

According to Johansson, Altman had contacted her agent asking her to reconsider but, before any discussion could be renewed, Open AI had already rolled out the new voice.

The actress added that after she sought legal help to take down Sky, OpenAI “reluctantly” agreed to do so. She noted that “in a time when we are all grappling with deepfakes and the protection of our own likeness… I believe these are questions that deserve absolute clarity.” Johansson also stressed the need for “appropriate legislation to help ensure that individual rights are protected.”

Released in late 2022, Chat GPT is an AI bot that can create a human-like conversational dialogue, answering various complex questions and composing written content.

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Tue, 21 May 2024 15:34:54 +0000 RT
South Korea bans viral TikTok song praising Kim Jong-un /pop-culture/597995-south-korea-bans-kim-jung-un-tiktok/ Seoul has complained that a song featured in video clips idolizes the North Korean leader, describing him as a “friendly father”
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The video is seen as glorifying the North Korean leader, describing him as a “friendly father,” Seoul complained

South Korea’s Communications Standards Commission has said it will ban TikTok videos that feature a viral song appearing to idolize North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, describing the clips as “psychological warfare” and a violation of national laws.

The track, called Friendly Father and described by Seoul as North Korean propaganda, went viral on the Chinese-owned platform back in April. The lyrics of the uptempo tune have been translated as: “Let’s sing about Kim Jong-un, our great leader; Let’s boast about Kim Jong-un, Our friendly father; We all trust and follow him with all our hearts, Our friendly father.” 

@that.concert.fella Kim Jong Un releases new song praising himself as North Korea's 'friendly father' #kimjongun #northkorea #kpop #hitsong #friendlyfather #taylorswift #entertainment #fyp #蹿测辫シ #蹿测辫シ?viral ? original sound - that.concert.fella

In a press release on Monday, the South Korean regulator said that it will block 29 versions of the Friendly Father video after a request from the country’s National Intelligence Service. It is not explained how the ban will be enforced.

The commission stressed that the videos violate the National Security Act which prohibits access to North Korean government websites and media, and penalizes behavior and speech in favor of the Pyongyang leadership.

]]> Read more
RT
Putin gives Kim Jong-un luxury automobile
]]> The regulator explained in its statement that the ‘Friendly Father’ video is “typical content” linked to Pyongyang’s “psychological warfare against South Korea,” as it was posted on a channel “focused on connecting North Korea with the outside world through unilaterally idolizing and glorifying Kim.”

South Korean TikTok users, however, have asked the authorities not to block the viral video, suggesting that no one is actually taking the song’s lyrics seriously and that it should be left available so that “more people can enjoy the joke.”

Many users have also admitted that they find the tune catchy and reminiscent of older European pop music.

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Tue, 21 May 2024 14:53:36 +0000 RT
Boxing sensation Usyk still on Ukrainian state-linked ‘kill list’ /pop-culture/597862-ukrainian-boxer-usyk-mirotvorets-kill-list/ Ukrainian boxer Aleksandr Usyk, who became the undisputed world heavyweight champion this weekend, is on his homeland’s ‘kill list’
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The Crimea-born fighter became the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world after defeating the UK’s Tyson Fury early on Sunday

Ukrainian boxer Aleksandr Usyk, who became the world’s first undisputed heavyweight boxing champion in 24 years on Sunday, is listed on a notorious online database of people accused of “committing crimes against the Ukrainian state.” 

Usyk clawed his way to victory in a twelve-round bout against the UK’s Tyson Fury in the early hours of Sunday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

While Fury dominated in the first half of the encounter, Usyk managed to turn the tide in the eighth round, winning by split decision. The Crimean-born fighter became the first boxer to hold all four major heavyweight belts simultaneously, as well as the first undisputed champ since 2000.

However, at home, the 37-year-old has repeatedly been criticized for supposedly not being patriotic enough, and has found himself on the notorious Mirotvorets (Peacekeeper) website. 

Before hostilities erupted, Usyk had on multiple occasions provoked the ire of Ukrainian nationalists by stating that he didn’t see the difference between Russians and Ukrainians.

When asked whether he considered Crimea to be Ukrainian or Russian, the fighter would merely say that the peninsula belongs to God, or simply that “Crimea is Crimea.”

The controversial website was launched by Ukrainian government-linked activists in 2014 – months after the Maidan coup and Crimea’s accession to Russia, and at the height of Kiev’s armed conflict with Donbass secessionists.

The site publishes the personal details, such as home addresses and phone numbers, of people accused of posing a threat to Ukraine’s security. Over the years, the website has been criticized by a number of human rights organizations and was dubbed a ‘kill list’ after several people listed on the website were assassinated.

]]> Read more
Eden Golan of Israel performs on stage during the Eurovision Song Contest 2024 Grand Final at Malmo Arena on May 11, 2024 in Sweden
Israeli Eurovision singer added to Ukrainian ‘kill list’
]]> Usyk’s name appeared in the database back in 2020, with the website’s administrators accusing him of “repeating the Kremlin’s narratives… rejecting Russian aggression and denying the independence of Ukrainian Orthodoxy from Russian control.” Mirotvorets cites the boxer’s appearance in a religious film linked to the Russian Orthodox Church, titled ‘Hello, Brother! Christ is Risen!’

According to the website, some of the comments Usyk made in the video regarding relations between Russians and Ukrainians are controversial.

Soon after the outbreak of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia in February 2022, the boxer returned from abroad and joined a Territorial Defense Battalion. However, the athlete moved to Poland in March of the same year to train for an upcoming fight, explaining that he could better serve the country in the ring than on the battlefield.

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Sun, 19 May 2024 18:12:34 +0000 RT
David Copperfield accused of sexual misconduct – Guardian /pop-culture/597739-copperfield-sexual-misconduct-allegations/ A total of 16 women have filed complaints of sexual misconduct against David Copperfield, whose lawyers have rejected the allegations
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
A total of 16 women have filed complaints against the magician, whose lawyers have rejected the allegations

American magician David Copperfield is facing allegations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior filed by 16 women, The Guardian newspaper reported on Wednesday.

According to the outlet, which cited an investigation by its US branch, the accusations span several decades from the late 1980s up to 2014. More than half of the alleged victims were teenagers at the time, with some as young as 15.

The 67-year-old magician is also accused of having drugged three women before having sexual relations with them. The victims say they felt unable to consent in such circumstances.

A number of the women who have filed complaints against the illusionist said they felt inspired speak about their alleged experiences only after the #MeToo movement garnered public attention.

Copperfield himself has vehemently denied the accusations, while his lawyers have insisted that the complaints are “not only completely false but also entirely implausible.” 

In a written response to The Guardian, Copperfield’s legal team noted that this isn’t the first time such “false claims” have been made against the magician, adding that their client had “never acted inappropriately with anyone, let alone anyone underage.”

]]> Read more
Vince McMahon is seen during a ceremony announcing Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has joined the Board of Directors for TKO at New York Stock Exchange on January 23, 2024 in New York City
WWE rocked by sexual assault allegations against boss
]]> The lawyers pointed out that Copperfield has always been a champion of the #MeToo movement and insisted that a “truthful” depiction of the artist would describe his “kindness, shyness and treatment of men and women with respect.”

In a statement to the BBC, Copperfield’s lawyers also said the allegations described in The Guardian were “the exact opposite of who David is,” and noted that many of these accusations had been made before and are “as false now as they were then.”

“David requested the ‘evidence’ upon which these false allegations claim to rely, and this has not been provided,” the magician’s legal team said, adding that US law enforcement had also been unable to verify any of the accusations against him.

The last time allegations of inappropriate behavior were filed against Copperfield in 2018, he denied blame and wrote on social media that “I’ve lived with years of news reports about me being accused of fabricated, heinous acts, with few telling the story of the accuser getting arrested, and my innocence.”

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Thu, 16 May 2024 13:41:11 +0000 RT
Moscow hosts first pan-Russian wedding festival (VIDEO) /pop-culture/597710-national-wedding-festival-russia/ Hundreds of couples from all over Russia have flocked to Moscow for the first nationwide wedding festival
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Over 400 couples are expected to tie the knot at the event, which includes various entertainment for brides and grooms-to-be

Hundreds of couples from all over Russia have flocked to the capital for the first nationwide wedding festival being held at RUSSIA EXPO, an international event taking place at the All-Russian Exhibition Center (VDNKh) in Moscow.

According to organizers of the event, which kicked off on May 12, some 440 brides and grooms-to-be are expected to tie the knot during the week-long festivities. The couples hail from all over the country and will be presenting wedding traditions from their native regions at the venue, including various pre-wedding customs such as bachelor and hen parties.

The first day of the festival saw a mass wedding ceremony which united in matrimony 151 couples, with each subsequent day culminating in more nuptials. On Wednesday, the festival also hosted a wedding ball, as well as a fashion show at which Moscow designers displayed various wedding outfits.

]]> READ MORE: Father Frosts, Nutcracker on Ice, and Actors’ House Party: RUSSIA EXPO’s Impressive Festivities

]]> Throughout the week, festival guests will also be treated to open-air newlywed processions, theatrical and musical performances, and various wedding-themed exhibitions. Chefs from several Russian regions will be hosting workshops on preparing traditional wedding dishes.

Newlyweds taking vows at the festival will receive part of the flame symbolizing the All-Russia Family Hearth, which has been lit at the exhibition to honor the start of the Year of the Family in the country.

The festival will run through May 19.

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Thu, 16 May 2024 09:00:42 +0000 RT
Russian education minister slams ‘terrible’ Eurovision /pop-culture/597634-eurovision-terrible-russian-minister/ The song contest is an example of the destruction of traditional values and the foundations of humanity, Sergey Kravtsov has said
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The song contest is an example of the destruction of traditional values and the foundations of humanity, Sergey Kravtsov has said

Russia will never abandon the traditional upbringing of children, Education Minister Sergey Kravtsov said on Tuesday while commenting on this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, which featured non-binary performers.

The 68th edition of the contest, which took place in Malmo, Sweden, included artists from 37 countries. First place was awarded to Swiss contestant Nemo – a flamboyant non-binary musician who performed his song ‘The Code’. Second place was given to Croatia, with Ukraine in third. Russia did not participate.

Speaking at a plenary session of the State Duma, Kravtsov said that while he did not watch the entire show, he was sent some clips from the event, which he described as “terrible.”

“Today they are destroying the system of education, upbringing, human foundations. A striking example is the Eurovision final,” Kravtsov stated, adding, “what happened there is terrible.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also slammed the contest, saying, “Eurovision 2024 has surpassed any orgy, coven or ritual sacrilege.”

The diplomat shared a clip featuring several performances from the event, including Ireland’s non-binary Bambie Thug, Finland’s Windows95man, who wore little more than a T-shirt with the Windows logo, and others.

“The funeral of Western Europe is going according to plan. No surprises,” Zakharova wrote.

]]> Read more
Eden Golan of Israel performs on stage during the Eurovision Song Contest 2024 Grand Final at Malmo Arena on May 11, 2024 in Sweden
Israeli Eurovision singer added to Ukrainian ‘kill list’
]]> Kravtsov insisted that Russia will never abandon the traditional education system and vowed to work towards improving it by resolving the issue of staff shortages, raising teachers’ salaries and increasing the prestige of the profession, and reducing the costs of state textbooks.

He noted that pedagogical education has become the second-most sought-after area of studies among Russian university applicants over the past few years. Nevertheless, he added that “we must continue to actively work” in this direction.

Kravtsov said the Education Ministry has a clear plan to address these issues in accordance with the decrees of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He added that the ministry has also begun drawing up a comprehensive strategy for further developing the education system by 2036.

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Wed, 15 May 2024 13:11:19 +0000 RT
Israeli Eurovision singer added to Ukrainian ‘kill list’ /pop-culture/597421-israeli-eden-golan-eurovision-mirotvorets/ Eden Golan was placed on Ukraine’s notorious Mirotvorets database earlier this year over her performance in Crimea as a child
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Eden Golan has been accused of engaging in “anti-Ukraine” propaganda

Israel's contestant at the Eurovision Song Contest 2024 has been placed on Ukraine’s notorious Mirotvorets website for participating in a children’s competition in Crimea when she was just 12 years old.

Ukraine’s infamous Mirotvorets (Peacekeeper) database has been dubbed Kiev’s ‘kill list’ and criticized by human rights organizations. The website, reportedly run by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, lists enemies of the state and marks them as “liquidated” in the event of their death. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) is widely believed to be behind the deaths of multiple individuals on the database, including Russian journalist Darya Dugina and military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky.

Eden Golan, 20, who holds dual Israeli-Russian citizenship, was added to the database earlier this year, shortly after she won both the jury and public vote to become the Israeli representative at Eurovision. However, it went largely unnoticed until she made it to the finals this week.

According to the Ukrainian website, the singer is accused of “conscious violation of the state border of Ukraine,” conducting “illegal commercial activity in the territories of Ukraine”, attempting to “legalize the occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea” as well as participating “in anti-Ukrainian propaganda activities of Russia.”

Golan was born in Israel with both her parents originating from the USSR. Her mother is Ukrainian-Jewish and father is of Latvian-Jewish descent. The singer's family moved back to Russia when she was six, and lived in Moscow for over a decade, before returning to Israel in 2022.

Back in 2016, when Golan was 12 years old, she took part in the Novaya Volna (New Wave) competition in Artek – an international children’s resort in Crimea – where she performed a duet with Russian singer- songwriter Nyusha. That performance was her single “crime” listed on the database.

]]> READ MORE: Ukrainian state-backed ‘kill list’ celebrates Berlusconi’s death

]]> Golan became the focus of pro-Palestinian protests after she was selected to represent Israel in the song contest, held in Sweden this year.

Thousands of demonstrators descended on the host city of Malmo this week, demanding that Israel be kicked out of Eurovision due to the war in Gaza. Despite her performance being booed by the crowd, Golan reached the finals, with her song Hurricane taking fifth place.

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Sun, 12 May 2024 01:01:26 +0000 RT
MMA star Khabib has accounts blocked over $3 million tax debt – media /pop-culture/597399-ufc-champ-nurmagomedov-tax-trouble-report/ Former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has failed to pay taxes to the tune of $3 million, Mash media outlet is reporting
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Some of the former Russian UFC lightweight champion’s firms are reportedly closed over irregularities uncovered by Russian authorities

Former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov of Russia has run into a $3 million debt with the country’s tax authorities, outlet Mash media is claiming. The Dagestan-born MMA star has reportedly had bank accounts belonging to his Eagle FC promotion, as well as his charity fund, blocked.

Before he retired from sports in 2020, Nurmagomedov went 29-0 in an unbeaten professional career, defeating the likes of Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, and Justin Gaethje. In 2022, the Russian athlete was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.

In a post on its Telegram channel on Saturday, Mash alleged that Nurmagomedov has failed to pay taxes to the tune of more than 300 million rubles. After the athlete bid adieu to the octagon, he embarked on a number of business ventures, including dietary supplements, a restaurant chain, and hotels, to name just some.

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Khabib Nurmagomedov of Russia attempts to submit Conor McGregor of Ireland in their UFC lightweight championship bout during the UFC 229 event inside T-Mobile Arena on October 6, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada
UFC boss reveals ‘Putin’s gifts’ to Russian star Khabib
]]> According to Mash, Nurmagomedov came into the Russian tax authorities’ crosshairs after he relinquished the ownership of several firms, with his relatives and close associates allegedly remaining at the helm in certain instances.

Russia’s Federal Tax Service eventually launched an investigation into the former UFC champion and uncovered irregularities in documents, leading to the closure of a few firms, the media outlet claims.

His mixed martial arts promotion company, Eagle Fighting Championship, is allegedly awaiting the same fate in the near future.

According to the report, Russian authorities suspect that Nurmagomedov may have used the money he allegedly didn’t pay into the coffers of the Russian state to purchase hotels and start-ups in Türkiye and the UAE.

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Sat, 11 May 2024 14:25:51 +0000 RT
Kanye West wanted $5 million for Moscow concert – agent /pop-culture/597247-kanye-west-russia-performance/ A performance by the American rapper was set to take place in the Russian capital on his birthday, but no deal was reached
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
A performance by the American rapper was set to take place in the Russian capital on his birthday, but no deal was reached

Grammy Award-winning American rapper Kanye West, known as Ye, reportedly planned to celebrate his 47th birthday with a concert in Moscow next month but failed to reach an agreement with event organizers, the Russian Telegram channel Mash reported on Wednesday.

Citing the potential host, Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, the outlet claimed that the performance had been intended for June 8 and that Ye had planned to visit the country with his wife, model Bianca Censori.

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RT
Kanye West appoints Russian head designer
]]> However, shortly after Mash’s post, TCI concert agency fonuder Eduard Ratnikov told Izvestia that rumors of the summer concert were “fake.” He confirmed, however, that negotiations with the American artist indeed took place one month ago but fell through after Ye asked for a whopping $5 million for the performance.

Producer Yana Rudkovskaya, who claims to have personally participated in negotiations with Ye, also confirmed in a Telegram post that event organizers and the musician were unable to agree on the fee. However, she suggested that a Ye performance in Moscow was still not completely off the table and could take place sometime later, possibly as early as fall 2024.

Neither Ye nor his representatives have yet commented on the potential Russian concert. 

The Moscow venue is set to host a rap event titled “Atlanta Summer Festival” on June 8, the tentative date allegedly discussed with Ye.  Aside from featuring several popular Russian rappers, promotional material for the event promises two “secret guests.”

 

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Wed, 08 May 2024 17:47:39 +0000 RT
From ‘isolated’ Russia with love: Moscow festival unites filmmakers from the Global South and the West /pop-culture/596992-46th-moscow-international-film-festival/ At one of the world’s oldest film festivals, 240 pictures from 50 countries were shown in Russia
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
At one of the world’s oldest film festivals, 240 pictures from 50 countries were shown in Russia

Last week the 46th Moscow International Film Festival (MIFF) concluded in Moscow. MIFF was first held in 1935 and is one of the oldest film festivals in the world. Over the years, its winners have included some of the world’s greatest filmmakers, such as Federico Fellini, Akira Kurosawa, Stanley Kramer, Norman Jewison, and Damiano Damiani. Of course, renowned Soviet and Russian movie directors – such as Sergey Bondarchuk, Sergey Gerasimov, Grigory Chukhray, Elem Klimov, and Alexey Uchitel – also received top prizes at the festival in various years. 

MIFF in the USSR and Russia 

In the USSR, MIFF played a particularly important cultural role in the 1960s and 70s, when access to foreign cinema was limited and modern film distribution platforms didn’t exist. Many of the films shown at MIFF were either released in select movie theaters or not shown in Russian cinemas at all, and some of those movies appeared on television only years later. 

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War and Peace on the Silver Screen: How Russia and the US conducted propaganda against each other in cinema
]]> Moreover, some of the films shown at MIFF were censored by the USSR authorities, so for Soviet movie lovers the festival was the only opportunity to see films by Western directors like Stanley Kubrick or Lindsay Anderson. MIFF also offered an unprecedented chance to see the stars of world cinema face to face – including Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren, Yves Montand, Toshiro Mifune, Richard Burton, Jean Marais, and many others.

It is difficult to appreciate just how important MIFF was back in those days, since today all movies are eventually released on online streaming platforms and people are able to watch just about anything (including all the movies screened at the film festival) without leaving their home. 

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, MIFF became one of the world’s leading film festivals. But even before that, as soon as relations between the USSR and the US thawed, many Western filmmakers expressed great interest in attending MIFF. For example, Robert De Niro joined the jury in 1987, and Andrzej Wajda, Zhang Yimou, Emir Kusturica, and Jos Stelling did so in 1989. Quentin Tarantino, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, Sean Penn, Tim Burton, and many other stars of world cinema all attended MIFF in various years.

However, in the past two years the festival has encountered a major obstacle. After February 2022 (the start of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine), the International Federation of Film Producers Associations paused accreditation of MIFF for an indefinite period of time due to sanctions on Russia. Formally, MIFF was no longer included in the list of prestigious international film festivals, and the organizers had to “restructure” the event. The festival acquired a new status, and many problems had to be solved – especially when it came to logistics, visa processing, and the accreditation of foreign press. In 2022, the festival was held in September instead of April, but despite various challenges, it was not canceled. 

MIFF 2024 winners 

Despite Western sanctions that have affected Russia’s cultural life, the Moscow International Film Festival is still held annually. Even without international accreditation (which used to be considered an important bureaucratic condition) it remains one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world. It is noteworthy that out of the 11 films that participated in the event's Main Competition, there was only one Russian film – Ivan Sosnin’s ‘The Alien’. Seven other Russian pictures were presented in the Russian Premiere competition.

'Пришелец' (The alien) (2024) Directed by Ivan Sosnin ?  Red Pepper Film

This year, Icelandic director, screenwriter, and producer Fridrik Thor Fridriksson was selected as the chairman of the MIFF jury. The jury also included Russian actress Elena Lyadova, Serbian film director Radoš Baji?, Turkish filmmaker Hüseyin Karabey, Kazakhstani producer and director Gulnara Sarsenova, and Russian film director Igor Voloshin.

The festival’s top prize, the Golden St. George, was awarded to Mexican director Miguel Salgado for the film ‘Shame’. It tells the story of friends Pedro and Lucio, who were kidnapped and had to engage in a deadly battle with each other in order to survive. Juan Ramon Lopez, who played the role of Pedro, also won the Best Actor award. 

'Vergüenza' (Shame) (2024) Directed by Miguel Salgado

Mareike Beykirch won the Best Actress prize for her role in the German drama ‘Schlamassel’. Iranian filmmaker Nahid Azizi Sedig received the Silver St.George award for the ‘Breath of Cold’, and a special jury prize was awarded to the Bangladeshi movie ‘Nirvana’. Notably, ‘Breath of Cold’ also won the Audience Prize, while ‘Shame’ was rated third best by the audience. ‘Breath of Cold’ is a complex family drama about a son who must decide whether he can forgive his father for committing murder. The complicated family relationships and desire for revenge which, however, cannot heal the son’s wounded heart, appealed to Russian viewers.

The Iranian movie ‘Facing the Rook’ won the award for Best Documentary. It's about Iranian painter Ali Akbar Sadeghi, and the attempt to transfer his paintings into the realm of computer graphics. The Spanish picture ‘Partners’ won in the Best Short Film category, and a special prize for Contribution to Cinema was awarded to  filmmaker Sergei Ursulyak, known for the TV series ‘Liquidation’ and ‘And Quiet Flows the Don’ and for the films ‘Russian Ragtime’ and ‘The Righteous’.

'Facing the Rook' (2023) Directed by Sam Kalantari

In line with tradition, the Russian Premiere competition attracted wide attention. This category presents new Russian films and in a way, exemplifies the state of Russian cinema. This year’s winner – ‘Liar’, starring young actress Elizaveta Ishchenko – gave rise to much discussion.  It received mixed reviews and the jury’s decision caused a lot of debate. 

‘Liar’ explores the theme of sexual harassment of women, but presents the issue from the other side. The film’s main character, Eva, is only 17 years old but is already bored with life – nothing interests her and she feels invisible. In an attempt to make life more thrilling, she accuses a singer who used to be popular of harassment and becomes a media star overnight. 

'Лгунья' (The Liar) (2024) Directed by Julia Trofimova

The movie gave rise to heated discussions in the press. Its creators were accused of victim blaming and the MIFF jury was reprimanded for awarding the prize to such a controversial work. However, it is noteworthy that the movie was shot by an almost all-female film crew. It was directed by Yulia Trofimova; the script was written by Trofimova, Maria Shulgina and Ayelet Gundar-Goshen; Katerina Mikhailova, Tatyana Moiseeva, and Natalia Murashkina were the producers, and only the film’s post producer, Timur Beliy, was male. 

Out-of-competition screenings

A total of about 240 films and TV series were shown at MIFF this year, and many of them were screened out of competition. Such films and series were organized into 14 thematic programs. Out-of-competition screenings included a new historical film by the renowned Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou; ‘Seconds’ – a sports biography from South Africa; ‘In the mist of the triads’ – a Spanish movie about kung fu in Barcelona, and animated films from Japan, France, Russia, and other countries.

'Societat negra' (‘In the mist of the triads’) (2023) Directed by Ramon Thurmens

TV series from all over the world were also shown at the festival. Of particular interest were ‘Prometheus’ – a Russian series about a missing passenger plane, starring Filipp Yankovsky; ‘Visitors’ – an Icelandic TV series about a man and a woman who suddenly switched bodies; and the Canadian series ‘Non-Kosher’ about the country’s Jewish community. 

One of the most popular programs was ‘Wild Nights’, which showcased unusual and experimental films. Of particular interest were ‘Midnight with the Devil’ – an Australian retro horror starring David Dastmalchian; ‘The Damned’ – a short Spanish mystical thriller; ‘All You Need is Blood’ – a US zombie comedy; and a grotesque Japanese film about stalking titled ‘The Door’.

'Late Night with the Devil' (2023) Directed by Cameron Kearns, Colin Kearns

Festival results

Films from 50 countries were shown at the Moscow International Film Festival. In addition to pictures from ‘friendly countries’, movies and series from the US, Spain, Japan, France, and other nations that have imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia were also screened at MIFF. This once again proves that culture and art are outside of politics. Of course, many films and TV series touch upon political themes and reflect the personal views of their creators, but politics should not interfere with film distribution. People with different views, values, and opinions have an equal right to be heard all over the world, and politics should have nothing to do with it. Viewers must have the chance to watch movies and TV series produced in any country, and should personally decide what they want to watch. 

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Sun, 05 May 2024 10:36:34 +0000 RT
Swiss city cancels Russian opera star’s concert /pop-culture/596895-switzerland-cancels-russian-opera-singer/ Swiss city cancels concert by Russian opera star Anna Netrebko over her alleged ties to Putin, also cites threat to public order
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Anna Netrebko was set to perform in Lucerne before local authorities scrapped the show over her alleged ties to Putin

A concert in Switzerland featuring Russian opera singer Anna Netrebko, which was set to take place on June 1, has been canceled after requests from local authorities, representatives of the concert hall in the city of Lucerne have told the media.

In a statement to the Luzerner Zeitung newspaper, the management of KKL (Kultur und Kongresszentrum Luzern) explained that “the public perception of the soloist remains controversial,” referring to accusations that Netrebko remains close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, having refused to renounce him over the Ukraine conflict.

The KKL venue also claimed that the concert’s proximity to the date and site of the upcoming Ukraine Peace Conference, scheduled for June 15 at the Burgenstock in the city of Nidwalde, would have caused “a threat to public order,” with one Lucerne politician claiming there would have been “at least a thousand” protesters at Netrebko’s performance.

Lucerne city council member Armin Hartmann has also told the media that the mayor’s office had explicitly asked the KKL to cancel Netrebko’s performance, stating that the “we do not consider it appropriate for a Russian artist supposedly loyal to the regime to perform in Lucerne.”

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Anna Netrebko performs at the Austria For Life 2023 Charity Show at Schloss Sch?nbrunn on April 29, 2023 in Vienna, Austria
Ukraine blasts Berlin opera over Russian singer
]]> Mayor Beat Zusli has also claimed that “an artist who distanced themselves from the war but never renounced the Russian regime, should not appear in the city,” so as not to cause “reputational damage” to the region.

In response, Netrebko’s management has released a statement condemning the unilateral cancellation of her performance “contrary to the contractual obligations” of the organizers, noting that the Ukraine Peace conference would be taking place two weeks after the planned concert. The singer’s representatives stressed that “none of Anna Netrebko’s almost 100 performances since March 2022 have led to a disturbance of the public order.”

The singer’s management has also pointed out that following the outbreak of the Ukraine conflict in 2022, Netrebko has publicly spoken out against the fighting and has called for peace in Ukraine. She has also not returned to Russia since then, as she has been living in Austria since 2006.

Previously, Netrebko’s concerts have been canceled in Taiwan, the Czech Republic, Estonia and the US. The opera star ended up suing the New York Metropolitan Opera company last year to the tune of $360,000 for breach of contract, defamation and other offenses.

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Thu, 02 May 2024 15:13:22 +0000 RT
Gerard Depardieu detained on sexual assault claims /pop-culture/596751-depardieu-detained-sexual-assault/ French actor Gerard Depardieu has been summoned for police questioning due to new allegations of sexual harassment, local media reports
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Two more women have alleged that the French movie star groped them on film sets

Iconic French actor Gerard Depardieu has been arrested in Paris over new allegations of sexual harassment brought against him by two former film set colleagues, BFMTV news outlet reported on Monday.

According to the report, the 75-year-old movie star was called to a Paris police station for questioning early on Monday and then taken into custody. In addition to previous claims, the actor faces accusations of sexual assault in two more instances – one in 2014, and the other in 2021.

The first accuser, a 53-year-old film-set decorator, alleged that Depardieu touched her inappropriately during her work on the set of “The Green Shutters” by Jean Becker. After she complained to colleagues, she alleges that Depardieu repeatedly insulted her. The woman said she has been having anxiety attacks and suffering post-traumatic stress ever since.

The second woman, who was an on-set assistant during the filming of “The Magician and the Siamese” by Jean-Pierre Mocky in 2014, and aged 24 at the time of the alleged assault, claimed that Depardieu repeatedly approached her with explicit sexual proposals and “sexually” touched her.

Depardieu has reportedly denied all allegations against him.

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French actor Gerard Depardieu at an awards ceremony in El Gouna, Egypt, October 23, 2020.
Prosecutors dismiss Depardieu sexual assault claim
]]> The actor has faced more than a dozen other accusations in recent years from women who said he either harassed, groped, or sexually assaulted them.

The first complaint came from actress Charlotte Arnould, who claimed in 2018 that she had twice been raped at the actor’s mansion in Paris. Following her allegations, Depardieu was handed preliminary rape and sexual assault charges in 2020, and placed under judicial supervision, avoiding jail.

Another accusation came from actress Helene Darras, but was dismissed by prosecutors in Paris in January, who said it had passed the statute of limitations.

Depardieu has repeatedly denied any improper behavior. In an open letter in Le Figaro published in October last year, the actor said he has “never, ever abused a woman,” as “hurting a woman would be like kicking my own mother in the stomach.”

Amid the flood of allegations against Depardieu, over 50 French actors, writers, producers, and musicians in December last year signed an open letter calling for an end to the actor’s “public lynching” and saying that public condemnation violated the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’.

The signatories included actors Pierre Richard, Vincent Perez, Carole Bouquet, and singer Carla Bruni. French President Emmanuel Macron at the time also lent his support to Depardieu, stating he would not back the “manhunt” against him.

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Mon, 29 Apr 2024 12:58:19 +0000 RT
Spielberg helping to direct Biden’s campaign – NBC /pop-culture/596740-spielberg-helping-biden-campaign/ Steven Spielberg reportedly believes that the upcoming election is the “most important” in the nation’s history
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The famed film director is reportedly assisting the US president to convey his reelection message

Steven Spielberg, one of Hollywood’s best-known film directors, has been enlisted to assist US President Joe Biden with his reelection campaign, NBC reported on Friday.

Spielberg, a long-time supporter of Biden, is reportedly providing strategy for the Democratic National Convention, scheduled to take place August 19-22 in Chicago. He has been meeting event organizers, who expect more than 5,000 delegates from 50 states to offically select the Democratic Party’s presidential and vice presidential nominees, according to the outlet.

The filmmaker is offering his insights on how best to “convey the president’s successes and his vision for the country” to delegates and viewers as Biden, who is expected to be rubber-stamped as the Democrat candidate, prepares to face former President Donald Trump in a November rematch.

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Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, April 18, 2024
Biden asks Americans to choose between freedom and democracy
]]> “Steven wants to be as helpful as possible to the president,” a well-placed source told Deadline. “He believes this is one of the most important elections in the nation’s history.”

Spielberg has proven to be a dedicated donor to the Biden-Harris ticket. He appeared at a mega-fundraiser in December last year, which was hosted by his friend and former DreamWorks business partner Jeffrey Katzenberg, who is also a co-chair of Biden’s campaign.

The famed director, however, has no plans to produce a movie of the August event as he did for John Kerry’s and Barack Obama’s nominations, the NBC source said.

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Former US President Donald Trump gestures to supporters earlier this month in New York City.
US voters warming up to Trump – CNN poll
]]> The publication added that Biden’s campaign is in separate negotiations with former President Obama about appearing at a Los Angeles fundraiser in mid-June, which would reportedly feature George Clooney and Katzenberg as hosts. A previous star-studded event in New York City last month, which was attended by Obama and former President Bill Clinton, raised more than $25 million in one night.

Biden currently trails his Republican rival, according to a national poll released by CNN on Sunday. Trump’s support stands at 49%, while Biden is at 43%, a two-point drop since January.

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Mon, 29 Apr 2024 03:25:48 +0000 RT
War and Peace on the Silver Screen: How Russia and the US conducted propaganda against each other in cinema /pop-culture/596657-spy-games-in-cinema/ The new Cold War revives the big-screen showdown between the Russians and Americans
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The new Cold War revives the big-screen showdown between the Russians and Americans

At the end of February, the New York Times published an article entitled ‘The Spy War: How the CIA Secretly Helps Ukraine Fight Putin’. The article goes into detail describing relations between the Ukrainian special services and the CIA, which has been training elite Ukrainian special forces since 2016, and helped create secret bases and underground bunkers that are still functioning. The main idea of the article is that American aid has allowed Ukraine to hold on and continue resisting.

One might say this is no secret to anyone, but the very fact that a systemic pro-government publication openly published information that could previously be called a ‘conspiracy theory’ is important. Today, with the Russia-Ukraine conflict, we see a new round of confrontation between the special services of Moscow and Washington. And although many people will perceive this as a showdown between the powerful that is unrelated to their everyday lives, foreign policy has influenced and will influence the lives of any country’s citizens. And it affects their cultural life as well.

The ideological confrontation between the US and the USSR began to be reflected in cinema in the first half of the 20th century. Later, with the beginning of the Cold War, the role of cinema on the propaganda front became decisive. Let’s look at how relations between Russia and the US affected the cinematography of both countries, and how cinema aided and abetted in this confrontation.

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RT
Moscow streaming: How Western sanctions helped Russia regain cultural sovereignty
]]> How the Cold War in cinema began

Back in the pre-war years, Soviet cinema produced spy films in which certain sabotage or espionage groups tried to disrupt the USSR’s plans to build communism. But since the young state was opposed to capitalism in general, the nationality of the spies was not important. Anyone could act as villains. For example, in the 1924 film ‘Four and Five’, a Soviet pilot battles against five spies who want to steal a militarily significant invention. The film does not go into specifics or say where the spies came from, but it was clear to any viewer that these were agents of Western capitalism.

Though the spy genre was also actively developing in the US, movies produced in this vein were purely for entertainment and did not carry any serious political overtones. Alfred Hitchcock, who shot the fascinating picture ‘The 39 Steps’ – full of chases, plots, and special agents – also loved this genre.

However, everything changed after the Second World War, when the world was divided into two camps. The US began to fight the USSR for spheres of influence, and Hollywood – having received a specific image of the enemy – very quickly retooled and began to produce films with Cold War themes.

The first film that directly addressed the Cold War was ‘The Iron Curtain’, which appeared in 1948. It is based on the memoirs of Soviet GRU agent Igor Guzenko, who worked as a cryptographer at the USSR Embassy in Ottawa, Canada. Three days after the end of World War II, on September 5, 1945, Guzenko stole documents containing information from Soviet agents and handed them over to the Canadian side in exchange for asylum.

'The Iron Curtain' (1948) Directed by William A. Wellman ?  20th Century-Fox

It is curious that ‘The Iron Curtain’ was criticized in the US at the time. A New York Times critic called the movie provocative, and expressed concern that Hollywood had decided to get involved in the Cold War. Unsurprisingly, the reaction of the Soviet side was the same, but it was expressed more openly. Moreover, the picture caused a scandal in the music world. The film used works by Dmitry Shostakovich, Sergei Prokofiev, and Aram Khachaturian. Shostakovich even filed a lawsuit in a New York court for copyright protection, but the court rejected it, since according to Soviet law, the composer’s music was a national treasure.

Despite the criticism in the press, ‘The Iron Curtain’ raked in money at the box office and turned out to be the film that broke the dam. Hollywood stopped being shy and began to produce movies about the Cold War and Soviet spies with enviable regularity. A year later, ‘The Red Danube’ was released to the big screen – a story of Soviet citizens who found themselves in the occupation zone of Western countries and were returned to their homeland after the war. Naturally, the picture showed a lot of people who did not want to return to the USSR. Some even hid from the special services and feared the NKVD and repression.

'The Red Danube' (1949) Directed by George Sidney ?  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

In 1950, the science fiction film ‘The Flying Saucer’ was released. Despite its name, it wasn’t about aliens, but a struggle between Soviet and American special services to obtain a flying saucer that had been designed and built by a brilliant American scientist.

The Soviet response

Curiously, the Soviet response was not symmetrical. Filmmakers did not set out to expose the CIA and other American agencies directly. Also, we must not forget that the country had just weathered the Great Patriotic War, so the lion’s share of spy genre films was about the fight against fascists. Soviet cinema produced several outstanding spy movies: ‘Seventeen Moments of Spring’, ‘Shield and Sword’, ‘Variant Omega’, ‘Secret Agent’, and others.

However, there was also a place for the modern agenda. So, in 1950, ‘Conspiracy of the Doomed’ appeared on Soviet screens – about a plot by Western special services to eliminate the prime minister of an Eastern European republic, and how the USSR came to the aid of the young communists.

‘Secret Mission’, released the same year, deserves more attention. This is a rare case when Soviet intelligence directly takes on its American counterpart, and not some collective image of Western spies. ‘Secret Mission’ takes place in the last days of the war. Soviet intelligence receives information that the CIA is going to hold secret negotiations with the Third Reich on a Western-Front surrender – which, of course, makes the leadership nervous. The USSR gives two agents the task of finding out what the US is demanding from Germany, and how this will affect the situation for the Soviet Union.

'The Secret Mission' (1950) Directed by Mikhail Romm ?  Mosfilm

Nevertheless, there were very few such cases in the history of Soviet cinema. As a rule, some collective ‘Western intelligence’ acted as antagonists, whose plans were thwarted by the protagonists, mainly due to the superiority of the ideas of internationalism, collectivism, and socialism.

Hollywood acted in a more targeted manner, and even in 1963, part of the Bond film ‘From Russia with Love’ was completely dedicated to the confrontation with the KGB.

However, there was no unanimous opinion among American filmmakers, and therefore satirical movies condemning the Cold War were also released in the US.

'From Russia with Love' (1963) Directed by Terence Young ?  United Artists

Propaganda peace and war

Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 masterpiece ‘Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’, remains one of the clearest examples of anti-war cinema. This was Kubrick’s response to the Cuban Missile Crisis, which had rocked the whole world a year earlier, when the planet was on the verge of an armed nuclear conflict. It is necessary to give credit to Kubrick, who took the book ‘Red Alert’ by American writer Peter George as his film’s basis. The novel was written in a serious tone and left no doubt as to who the good guys and bad guys were, clearly dividing the characters into US protagonists and Soviet antagonists. Kubrick turned a propaganda book into an anti-war manifesto, exposing the powerful in any country as manic psychopaths who take pleasure in nuclear weapons.

Also deserving of attention is the comedy ‘The Russians are Coming the Russians are Coming’ by Norman Jewison, which came out in 1966. The film openly ridicules the mood of panic that ordinary people in small American towns easily succumb to. The picture begins with a Soviet submarine running aground off the coast of Massachusetts. Russian sailors disembark to find equipment to free the submarine from the shoal. On recognizing the sailors as Soviet, the Americans fall into an unimaginable panic, conjuring up horrific images of an imminent attack by the USSR. Jewison shot a witty comedy of the absurd, and received recognition from his American peers – the film was nominated for four Academy Awards.

'The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming' (1966) Directed by Norman Jewison ?  The Mirisch Corporation

It is not a coincidence that two such important anti-war films were released after the outbreak of US hostilities in Vietnam. The Vietnam War greatly changed the mood in American society, and depictions of spies, where brilliant CIA agents save the world from evil KGB agents, gradually began to go out of fashion. People were naturally concerned about events that affected them personally.

At the time, the US government was making attempts to sway public opinion in favor of the war, but was unsuccessful. In 1968, ‘Green Berets’ was released, in which a journalist arrives at a base in South Vietnam and gradually rethinks the role of the US in the conflict and understands the need for American troops to participate. The legendary Western hero John Wayne even starred in the film, but that didn’t help. The picture was mercilessly panned not only around the world, but also at home, with critics ridiculing the obvious pro-Vietnam War propaganda.

'The Green Berets' (1968) Directed by John Wayne, Ray Kellogg ?  Batjac Productions

The end of the Cold War

A temporary truce on the Cold War front persisted until about the mid-80s, when a crisis of power occurred in the USSR after the death of Secretary-General Leonid Brezhnev. The change of three secretary-generals in three years could not but affect the economic and political stability of the Soviet Union, and this fact was used by Hollywood filmmakers. And when Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan struck a political course towards rapprochement, it became fashionable in Hollywood to make films advocating friendship between the superpowers and depicting ‘good Russians’. ‘Rocky 4’, ‘Red Heat’, and ‘Red Scorpion’ carry a universally peaceful message and speak out for ending the Cold War.

But, as always, the devil is in the details. It was at that time that the expression ‘cranberries’ became popular in the USSR, and later in Russia. This referred to the methods American filmmakers used to portray Soviet people. The Americans’ near-colonial attitude towards Russians was evident in every film like this. Russian people appeared on the screen as simple, narrow-minded fools. Thus, the idea was planted in the viewer’s mind that an American victory in the Cold War would benefit not only the US, but also the poor, intimidated, impoverished Soviet people.

The 1984 film ‘Red Dawn’ directed by John Milius stands apart. Milius is primarily known for writing the screenplays of the outstanding classics ‘Jaws’ and ‘Apocalypse Now’. But in 1984, he sat down in the director’s chair and shot a candid ‘cranberry’ about a Soviet attack on the US. In the film, Soviet troops invade America and build re-education camps for US citizens. Meanwhile, high school students assemble a guerrilla group to confront the invaders. Today, ‘Red Dawn’ is viewed like Tommy Wiseau’s comedy ‘The Room’ – a film is so bad it’s good. Even at the time of its release, it was impossible to watch without a smile. It is also noteworthy that the film starred a young Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, and the future ‘Back to the Future’ star Leah Thompson.

'Red Dawn' (1984) Directed by John Milius ?  MGM / UA Entertainment Company

Meanwhile, in the USSR, the mood in the cinema was changing slowly. In 1986, ‘The End of Operation Resident’ was released to screen – the last instalment in an espionage tetralogy about a battle between Soviet and Western special services, which began back in 1968. The film was received coolly by critics. Many compared it unfavorably with the first three, but viewers were generally happy, as they finally got to see how the fate of the characters they loved turned out.

In 1987, the movie ‘Zagon’ appeared, which pitted Soviet agents against CIA operatives in a struggle to gain possession of a deposit of a strategically important mineral. Perhaps it was ‘Zagon’ that put an end to Soviet Cold War films. After its release, cinematographers no longer touched on this topic until the collapse of the USSR.

'Zagon' (1987) Directed by Igor Gostev, Rimon Boutros ?  Mosfilm

A new round

The 1990s and early 2000s turned out to be the calmest in the cinematic confrontation between Russia and the US. The stable relationship between the countries did not give rise to a sharp or topical plots. Even NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia failed to kick off a new round, although relations would never be the same after 1999.

Everything changed dramatically after 2014, with Crimea’s decision to rejoin Russia. Russian filmmakers did not wait for the appearance of American spy films about faceoffs with the CIA and other special services, but immediately began to produce films and TV series in this genre. Already in 2014, the film ‘The Soul of a Spy’ was released, which is an adaptation of a novel by Soviet intelligence officer Mikhail Lyubimov. In the story, a Russian intelligence officer tries to track down a mole in England who is working for the American special services.

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RT
Russia’s Hollywood: The legendary film studio Mosfilm celebrates its 100th anniversary
]]> In 2017, director Yuri Bykov shot the spy series ‘Sleepers’, which exposes a large-scale plan by Western special services, involving events that, at first glance, seem unrelated. In 2019, the series ‘Spy No. 1’ came out – about how the CIA and the FBI tried to uncover a Russian superintelligence agent in the early 90s, while the Russian side conducts an operation to secure him.

The cloak-and-dagger theme was revived this year with the release of ‘GDR’. The series, shot in a retro genre, depicts the events of the autumn of 1989 – the most important period in the history of modern Germany (on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell). According to the plot, Soviet and American special services fight to obtain the secret archives of the GDR during the collapse of the socialist regime.

Hollywood has not lagged far behind its Russian counterparts. In 2014, the movie ‘Child 44’ starring Tom Hardy was released, which was originally a crime thriller about the capture of a maniac in the USSR in 1953. The film did not receive rental certificate in Russia and turned out to be a flop in the US. Even American critics called it “an attempt to revive old-school Cold War propaganda.”

However, it soon became clear that ‘Child 44’ was just a touchstone. In 2018, ‘Red Sparrow’ starring Jennifer Lawrence was released, and although it didn’t get high ratings from critics, it was more favorably received. In 2019, in the third season of the highly popular Netflix series ‘Stranger Things’, events revolved entirely around secret Soviet bases in the US. The season was well-received – and critics refrained from labeling it as propaganda because the creators rushed to assure everyone that it was a Cold War satire, with the events taking place in 1985. And the series ‘The Americans’, which ran from 2013 to 2018, features KGB sleeper agents in the US during the Cold War. That project won universal recognition and a large number of awards.

Today, the big-screen race between Hollywood and the Russian film industry is in full swing. This is neither good nor bad. In the end, the manufacturer is trying to create a product that the viewer will buy, and the viewer is looking for what he is interested in now. Russian-American relations have become one of the main topics on the agenda of both countries in recent years. Just take the ubiquitous ‘Russian hackers’, who purportedly helped Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election. Demand creates supply, and this rule is followed by filmmakers from both countries.

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Sun, 28 Apr 2024 13:32:17 +0000 RT
World’s most famous painting could get its own room /news/596686-mona-lisa-painting-louvre/ The iconic painting could soon get an individual display to give thousands of daily visitors a better experience
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Individual display of the Mona Lisa would provide visitors with a better experience, according to Louvre director

The world’s most famous and visited work of art, the Mona Lisa, could get a room of its own at the Louvre in Paris, according to the museum’s director. 

The early 16th century painting by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci hangs in the Louvre’s Salle des Etats (state room), the museum’s biggest, in a protective glass case. It is accompanied by works of other 16th-century Venetian masters. Across the room hangs the Louvre’s biggest painting, The Wedding at Cana by Paolo Veronese.

“It’s always frustrating when you don’t give visitors the best possible reception, and that is the case for the Mona Lisa,” the Louvre’s Director Laurence des Cars told France Inter, a public radio channel, on Saturday. “A better solution seems necessary to me today,” she added, noting that the Louvre was in contact with the culture ministry about potential solutions.

The Louvre, the world’s most popular museum, welcomed close to nine million visitors in 2023. According to des Cars, 80% of these, or some 20,000 people per day, queue to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile, often taking selfies in front of the painting.

However, with viewers getting only an average of 50 seconds to admire the painting, tourists have recently dubbed it “the world’s most disappointing masterpiece.”

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This image grab taken from AFPTV footage shows two environmental activists from the collective dubbed "Riposte Alimentaire" (Food Retaliation) hurling soup at Leonardo Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" (La Joconde) painting, at the Louvre museum in Paris, on January 28, 2024.
Protesters throw soup at Mona Lisa (VIDEO)
]]> Various attempts have reportedly been made to improve the viewing experience, most recently in 2019 when the walls of the Salle des Etats were repainted from eggshell yellow to midnight blue and the queuing system was streamlined. In addition, the painting’s protective covering was upgraded with anti-reflective technology.

The Mona Lisa was targeted by two environmental protesters in January, who hurled soup at the portrait in the name of “healthy and sustainable food.” The painting, however, was undamaged, due to the bulletproof glass that protects it.

In 2022, a man disguised as an elderly woman in a wheelchair attacked the masterpiece, smearing cake cream on it. The perpetrator was swiftly detained by security.

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Sat, 27 Apr 2024 17:48:39 +0000 RT
Harvey Weinstein rape conviction overturned /pop-culture/596571-harvey-weinstein-appeal-overturn/ The New York state Court of Appeals has overturned the 2020 rape conviction against Harvey Weinstein
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An New York appeals court has ruled that the 2020 trial against the Hollywood mogul, a key target of the MeToo movement, was prejudiced

An appeals court in New York has overturned the 2020 rape conviction against former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. In a 4-3 decision on Thursday, justices decided that the high-profile trial was prejudiced against the defendant.

The Miramax studio boss, who helped make Oscar winners such as ‘Shakespeare in Love’ and ‘Pulp Fiction’, was found guilty of forcibly performing oral sex on a production assistant in 2006 and third-degree rape of an aspiring actress in 2013. He was sentenced to 23 years behind bars and sent to the Mohawk Correctional Facility, about 100 miles (160km) northwest of Albany, New York.

“The trial court erroneously admitted testimony of uncharged, alleged prior sexual acts against persons other than the complainants of the underlying crimes,” the court’s decision said. “The remedy for these egregious errors is a new trial.”

The testimonies were “untested allegations of nothing more than bad behavior that destroys a defendant’s character but sheds no light on their credibility as related to the criminal charges [against Weinstein]” and amounted to “an abuse of judicial discretion” by Judge James Burke, the appeals court ruled. 

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Harvey Weinstein during a pre-trial hearing in Los Angeles, California, July 2021. ? Etienne Laurent/AFP
Judges mull Harvey Weinstein retrial – reports
]]> Weinstein, 72, has maintained his innocence and argued that any sexual activity was consensual. He will remain imprisoned, however, because of another rape conviction in Los Angeles in 2022, which earned him a 16-year sentence.

Allegations against Weinstein launched the #MeToo movement in the US, with dozens of women coming forth to accuse the powerful producer. 

At a hearing in February, Weinstein’s lawyer, Arthur Aidala, argued that Judge Burke had turned the trial into a “Get Harvey” spectacle. Burke’s decision to allow testimony from women whose allegations weren’t part of the case figured in Weinstein’s decision not to take the witness stand even though he was “begging to tell his side of the story.”

Aidala also brought up Burke’s decision not to remove a juror who had written a novel involving predatory older men, which he claimed showed bias in Weinstein’s case. Burke retired from the bench in 2022. 

Appellate Chief Steven Wu, arguing for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, countered that the jury was not confused because it acquitted Weinstein on the most serious charges – two counts of predatory sexual assault and a first-degree rape charge involving actress Annabella Sciorra.

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Thu, 25 Apr 2024 13:36:47 +0000 RT
Nigerian joins American to break world chess marathon record /pop-culture/596314-nigeria-chess-champion-record/ Nigerian chess player Tunde Onakoya and US champion Shawn Martinez have broken the Guinness World Record by playing for 60 hours
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Tunde Onakoya shared the victory with US counterpart Shawn Martinez, after the two played nonstop for 60 hours

Tunde Onakoya, a Nigerian chess champion and child education advocate, and his US counterpart Shawn Martinez have set a new world record after playing nonstop for 60 hours.

The match began on Wednesday in New York City’s iconic Times Square and beat the previous chess marathon record of 56 hours, nine minutes, and 37 seconds set by Norwegians Hallvard Haug Flatebo and Sjur Ferkingstad in 2018. 

According to Onakoya, he initially planned to play for 58 hours, but in the end the showdown lasted another two hours, finishing at 12:40 am local time on Saturday. For every hour played each of the players got a five-minute break.

Guinness World Records has not yet issued any acknowledgement. However, it typically takes days or even weeks for the organization to confirm a new record. 

According to reports, Onakoya and Martinez played roughly 200 games during the contest, with Onakoya winning most of them. During breaks, the Nigerian also played several bouts of chess with outside challengers, including several reporters, a financial industry worker, and a chess teacher.

]]> READ MORE: World’s first beauty contest for AI models announced (IMAGES)

]]> The African player, who is also the founder of the Chess in Slums in Africa (CIS) non-profit, said the purpose of the attempt at setting the world record was to raise $1 million for distributing chess sets among children in need and thus “using chess as a simple tool to expand access to education.” 

After the marathon, Onakoya congratulated Martinez on their shared victory, noting that there would have been “no world record” without Martinez’s participation and that the two “showed the world what true collaboration means, trumping competition.”

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu praised his countryman in a post on X (formerly Twitter), thanking him for “sounding the gong of Nigeria’s resilience, self-belief, and ingenuity.”

“I celebrate this Nigerian Chess Champion and founder of Chess in Slums Africa for his rare feat, but especially for the reason driving this compelling demonstration of character, which is raising funds for African children to learn and find opportunity through chess,” he wrote.

As of Saturday, Onakoya’s non-profit had raised roughly $109,000.

 

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Sat, 20 Apr 2024 18:34:48 +0000 RT
World’s first beauty contest for AI models announced (IMAGES) /pop-culture/596257-ai-models-beauty-pageant/ Computer-generated models are set to compete in the world’s first AI beauty contest
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The computer-generated ‘ladies’ will put their looks, technical skills and social media clout to the test

The creators behind AI-generated influencers are set to compete for a cash prize in the world’s first online beauty pageant exclusively for digitally produced ladies. 

The event, called ‘Miss AI’, is being organized by the World AI Creator Awards (WAICA) in collaboration with Fanvue – an OnlyFans-like subscription-based platform that already hosts a number of virtual models, including those who offer adult content. 

The digital contestants hoping to secure the Miss AI crown will be judged on their beauty, underlying tech, as well as their social media pull, according to WAICA’s official website. The AI creator’s “social media clout” will also be assessed based on their engagement numbers with fans, rate of audience growth, and ability to utilize social media platforms such as Instagram.

“We share the vision for the WAICAs to become the Oscars of the AI creator economy,” Fanvue co-founder Will Monanage said.

In order to participate, competitors are required to submit a 100% AI-generated image of a woman and answer a series of questions about how and why the model was created, how many followers it has, how its content is monetized, how much revenue it receives, and even the stereotypical beauty pageant question about the model’s “one dream to make the world a better place.”

It’s noted that creators are allowed to make unlimited submissions to the contest, so long that each one is a different AI-generated model.

Aside from the crown, the creators behind top three winning Miss AI contestants will be awarded prizes totaling over $20,000, with the winner also getting $5,000 in cash. The finalists will also be able to earn AI mentorship programmеs, PR services and more.

]]> Read more
RT
Godfather of AI warns of ‘battle robots’
]]> Ironically, the AI contestants will be judged by fellow AI-generated influencers, namely Aitana Lopez and Emily Pellegrini, who have both already amassed hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram and have been raking in thousands of dollars posing for top clothing brands like Victoria’s Secret and Guess and drawing the attention footballers and billionaires. The AI judges will also be joined by their flesh-and-blood counterparts – entrepreneur and PR adviser Andrew Bloch and beauty pageant historian Sally-Ann Fawcett.

The first AI influencers have already entered the pageant after submissions opened on Sunday, including one named Alba Renai, who recently announced to her 11,000 Instagram fans that she had been hired as the first non-human host on a weekly special segment of ‘Survivor’ in Spain.

The exact date on which the award ceremony will be held is still unknown, but the terms and conditions of the contest state that all prizes will be awarded and paid out in full by August 1, 2024.

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Fri, 19 Apr 2024 12:23:21 +0000 RT
Metallica frontman used Motorhead legend’s ashes for tattoo /pop-culture/596141-metallica-hetfield-motorhead-kilmister/ Metallica frontman James Hetfield reveals his new ace-of-spades tribute tatoo was drawn with ink mixed with the remains of Lemmy Kilmister
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
James Hetfield’s new ace of spades tribute was drawn with ink mixed with the remains of Lemmy Kilmister

Metallica co-founder and frontman James Hetfield has shown off a new tattoo dedicated to fellow metal icon Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead. The ink used in the design, according to Hetfield, features the actual remains of the late rockstar.

In an Instagram post on Metallica’s official account on Wednesday, the band’s vocalist and rhythm guitarist shared a picture of his new ace-of-spades tattoo etched on his middle finger, with the caption: “A salute to my friend and inspiration Mr. Lemmy Kilmister. Without him, there would be NO Metallica.”

The design, drawn by tattoo artist Corey Miller, was made using black ink mixed with “a pinch of [Kilmister’s] cremation ashes,” that Hetfield said were “graciously given” to him after the Motorhead founder passed away from cancer in 2015 at the age of 70. 

“So now, he is still able to fly the bird at the world,” the post concluded.

Kilmister, often simply referred to as Lemmy, founded Motorhead in 1975 and became a household name in the rock world, widely regarded as one of the pioneers of British heavy metal.

With Motorhead, Lemmy released a total of 22 albums, which featured some of the most iconic metal hits of the era, including the songs Overkill and Bomber (1979), Ace of Spades (1980) and Killed by Death (1984).

]]> Read more
FILE PHOTO: Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs.
Diddy knows too much – former rival
]]> Motorhead has widely been cited as the inspiration for many other successful metal bands, including Metallica, whose members have often spoken about the influence of Motorhead on their own sound and style of playing.

Following Kilmister’s sudden death, just two days after being diagnosed with cancer, many musicians paid tribute to the rock icon, including Hetfield, who described him as “a godfather” of heavy metal.

In 2016, Lemmy’s fans launched a petition to name a newly discovered heavy metal element in the periodic table in honor of the musician, dubbing it ‘Lemmium.’ The petition gained over 156,000 signatures, but scientists ultimately rejected the appeal, explaining that chemical elements could be named only after a “mythological concept, a mineral, a place or country, a property or a scientist.”

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Wed, 17 Apr 2024 16:12:02 +0000 RT
Trump biopic selected for top Cannes Film Festival award /pop-culture/596019-trump-film-open-cannes/ A biopic about former US President Donald Trump will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
‘The Apprentice’ is among the contenders for the prestigious Palme d’Or

A biopic about the formative years of former US President Donald Trump will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival next month. Directed by acclaimed Iranian-Danish filmmaker Ali Abbasi, ‘The Apprentice’ tells the story of how the young Trump got started in the real estate business in New York in the 1970s and 1980s, and met his mentor Roy Cohn.

The film is among the 18 entries competing for Palme d’Or, the festival’s main award.

“The Apprentice is a dive into the underbelly of the American empire. It charts a young Donald Trump’s ascent to power through a Faustian deal with the influential right-wing lawyer and political fixer Roy Cohn,” according to the film’s official description.

Sebastian Stan – the star of Marvel superhero movies and the 2022 mini-series ‘Pam & Tommy’ – plays Trump, while Emmy-winning ‘Succession’ actor Jeremy Strong portrays Roy Cohn, a high-profile lawyer.

“His playbook has a tentacular reach that is staggering – the most fascinating person I’ve ever tried to inhabit,” Strong told the New York Times. “So while I personally might have a lot of judgment about Roy Cohn, that is not the part of me that engages in creative work.”

Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova plays Ivana Zelnickova, Trump’s first wife and the mother of his daughter Ivanka and sons Donald Jr. and Eric.

The film is set to depict Trump’s early business ventures and rise after he joined and subsequently took over his father’s real estate empire. Under his leadership, the company branched out from residential properties to casinos and hotels, including Trump Tower in Manhattan and other Trump-branded properties.

]]> READ MORE: Trump drops off top 500 billionaires list

]]> Trump shocked the world by defeating Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election to become the 45th president of the United States. He left office after losing the 2020 election to Joe Biden. He is currently the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for 2024.

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Tue, 16 Apr 2024 01:35:08 +0000 RT
Conor McGregor’s UFC return date revealed /pop-culture/595943-conor-mcgregor-ufc-return/ The Irishman will fight Michael Chandler in June after a three-year hiatus from the octagon
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The Irishman will fight Michael Chandler in June after a three-year hiatus from the octagon

Former champion Conor McGregor will return to the octagon in June to fight Michael Chandler, UFC President Dana White confirmed on Saturday. McGregor last fought professionally in 2021, when he broke his leg in a lightweight bout with Dustin Poirier.

]]> Read more
Conor McGregor pose for a photo from ringside prior to during the Heavyweight fight between Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou at Boulevard Hall on October 28, 2023 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Conor McGregor hints at Irish presidency bid
]]> McGregor and Chandler will fight as welterweights at the end of the UFC’s International Fight Week in Las Vegas, White announced after Saturday’s UFC 300 event. Chandler, who is currently the promotion’s sixth-ranked lightweight, had repeatedly called for a bout since both men coached opposite teams on last year’s season of the UFC’s ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ reality TV show.

“It’s all about timing. Chandler’s been ready but Conor hasn’t been ready,” White said. “What you don’t want him doing is accepting a fight when he’s got a ton of obligations and he can’t train 100% for a fight, so here we are tonight.”

After making his UFC debut in 2013, McGregor notched up a string of victories, culminating in a stunning 13-second knockout of featherweight champion Jose Aldo in 2015. McGregor’s first UFC loss came in a welterweight fight with Nate Diaz in March 2016, although the Irish southpaw went on to defeat the Californian that August, and claim the lightweight belt from division champion Eddie Alvarez in November.

]]> Read more
Khabib Nurmagomedov of Russia attempts to submit Conor McGregor of Ireland in their UFC lightweight championship bout during the UFC 229 event inside T-Mobile Arena on October 6, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada
UFC boss reveals ‘Putin’s gifts’ to Russian star Khabib
]]> McGregor’s flawless victory over Alvarez made him the UFC’s first two-division champion, but he never defended either title and was stripped of both belts due to inactivity. The Dubliner has fought only intermittently ever since, and his last foray into the octagon in 2021 ended in disaster when he lost for the second time in a year to Dustin Poirier after snapping his tibia in the first round.

McGregor has since focused on promoting his whiskey brand and made his Hollywood debut in ‘Road House’, which was released last month.

In a recent interview with talk show host James Corden, McGregor said that he intends to compete in “four fights in a year.”

“I’m barely touched. I only got clicked once, and then the leg break,” he said. “That’s it. I’ve put more people to sleep than anesthesia. So as far as freshness goes, I’m as fresh as it gets in this business.”

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Sun, 14 Apr 2024 15:33:24 +0000 RT
Australian ladies-only art exhibit ordered to open doors to male visitors /pop-culture/595785-australia-female-art-exhibit-men/ An Australian court has ordered that a women-only exhibition in Tasmania to lift a “discriminatory” ban on male art-lovers within 28 days
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
A tribunal branded the policy “discriminatory” after a local man complained

An Australian museum has been ordered to allow male visitors into a ladies-only art exhibit after a local tribunal ruled that the gender-based ban had violated the rights of men. 

The decision comes after a man who was refused entry filed a complaint. The Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (TASCAT) ruled on Tuesday that the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in the city of Hobart must stop turning male visitors away from its Ladies Lounge installation. 

Opened in 2020, Ladies Lounge is described by MONA as “a tremendously lavish space,” serving female visitors food and champagne, while the exhibition showcases artworks from the museum’s collection, including Picassos and Sidney Nolans, as well antiquities from around the world. 

The display was organized by artist and museum curator Kirsha Kaechele, whose husband David Walsh is MONA’s owner. The court ruling comes in response to a complaint filed in March by Jason Lau, who claimed that his rights had been violated when he paid the museum’s AU$35 ($23) entry fee in April last year, but was denied entry to the exhibition.

]]> Read more
Visitors at the modern art museum Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, Germany
German gallery fires employee for hanging his own painting
]]> “It is not apparent how restricting appreciation of the art within the space to women promotes opportunity for female artists to have their work displayed,” said the tribunal’s deputy president, Richard Grueber. 

He said the court had found no apparent connection between the imposed restrictions and the promotion of opportunities for female artists to have their work displayed. The practices adopted by managers of the exhibition constituted “direct discrimination,” Grueber added.

Commenting on the order, Kaechele said denying men entry to the mysterious room had been a vital part of the art exhibition, which gave them a taste of the discrimination and exclusion that many women experienced throughout history. The curator noted that women didn’t have the right to drink in public bars until 1965, and were instead relegated to ladies’ lounges. The museum now has 28 days to begin admitting male visitors.

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Fri, 12 Apr 2024 10:02:29 +0000 RT
Diddy knows too much – former rival /pop-culture/595492-diddy-scandal-suge-secrets-epstein/ Sean ‘P.Diddy’ Combs might end up dead because of his secrets, Death Row Records founder ‘Suge’ Knight has warned
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Knowledge of the “little secret room” might cost ‘Puffy’ his life, ‘Suge’ Knight has said

Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs is in grave danger because of the secrets he knows, his ex-nemesis Marion ‘Suge’ Knight has warned the hip-hop mogul. 

The founder of Death Row Records sent a warning to Combs during a call-in to his weekly podcast, Fox News reported on Friday.

“I tell you what, Puffy, your life is in danger because you know the secrets, who’s involved in that little secret room you guys [are] participating in,” Knight said on his ‘Collect Call’ podcast.

Since October, the former rap impresario has recorded the podcast by phone from the Ronald Donovan Correctional Facility in California, while serving a 28-year prison sentence for manslaughter.

Combs used to be known as ‘Puffy’ and ‘Puff Daddy’ during his rise to hip-hop fame in the 1990s, when he founded Bad Boy Records and worked with the likes of the Notorious BIG, Mary J. Blige and Lil’ Kim. The artistic moniker eventually got shortened to ‘P. Diddy’. 

Last month, police and heavily armed federal agents raided two of Combs’ properties in California and Florida, as part of a rumored human trafficking probe by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

]]> Read more
Musicians Sean "Diddy" Combs and Cassie Ventura attend the GQ Men of the Year Party at Chateau Marmont on November 13, 2012 in Los Angeles, California
Music mogul Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs accused of rape and sex trafficking
]]> Though he has had a long-running beef with Combs, Knight was not happy about the development. 

“It’s a bad day for hip-hop, for the culture, for black people, because when one looks bad, we all look bad,” Knight said in the podcast call. “That’s definitely not nothing to cheer about.”

The 54-year-old Combs was spotted in public on Thursday riding a bicycle in Miami and appearing unconcerned. He has not been charged with any crime.

His legal troubles began last November, when his ex-girlfriend Cassie Ventura demanded $30 million in damages for what she alleged was a decade of sexual abuse and trafficking. One of Ventura’s claims was that Combs forced her to have sex with male prostitutes while he filmed it. Combs denied all allegations and settled the suit within 24 hours, for an undisclosed amount.

More former associates then emerged with their own lawsuits. One of them, filed by producer Rodney Jones, accused Combs of a multitude of tawdry crimes, from sex trafficking of minors and sexual assault to drug use and gun violence.

Jones alleged that Combs had “hundreds of cameras” in his Los Angeles, New York and Miami homes, which he used to record “celebrities, music label executives, politicians, and athletes” in sex acts with drugged underage prostitutes. 

]]> READ MORE: The absolutely awful state of US infrastructure & is P. Diddy the Jeffrey Epstein of hip-hop?

]]> The claims have fueled comparisons with the late disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, who also tended to entertain politicians, magnates and celebrities at his properties – with trafficked underage women, as it turned out. Epstein was found dead in a New York jail in August 2019, and the official government explanation that he committed suicide has been subject of some controversy.

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Fri, 05 Apr 2024 21:08:01 +0000 RT
Kids’ TV network was ‘infiltrated by predators’ – Daily Mail /pop-culture/595023-nickelodeon-convicted-pedophiles-documentary/ Nickelodeon harbored at least five child sex offenders, including an actor who molested a nine-year-old, the newspaper reports
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
One Nickelodeon production assistant described himself as a “full-blown” pedophile

The Nickelodeon children's TV channel employed or worked with five convicted child molesters and two other accused pedophiles, according to court records and news reports reviewed by the Daily Mail. At least one of the abusers was hired despite offending before he joined the Paramount-owned American network.

Three of the convicted molesters were profiled in a new HBO documentary series on pedophilia and abuse in the kids’ entertainment industry. One of them, acting coach Brian Peck, molested Nickelodeon star Drake Bell, served 16 months in prison, and went on to work with the Disney Channel, before executives found out about his conviction.

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File photo
‘Cyber-flasher’ jailed in England for first time
]]> The other, production assistant Jason Handy, worked for alleged abuser Dan Schneider at the network during the late 1990s. Handy was jailed in 2004 for sexually abusing a nine-year-old girl, and for possession of tens of thousands of images of child pornography. When police raided his Los Angeles home, they found a diary in which he described himself as a “pedophile, full blown.”

Ezell Channel worked as an animator at Nickelodeon, until he was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2009 for molesting a 14-year-old boy on set. He was also accused of luring two teenage boys to his workplace, showing them pornography, and inappropriately touching them. Channel had allegedly been hired by the network despite an earlier conviction for child sex abuse.

The two other convicted sex offenders were identified by the Daily Mail as talent agent Marty Weiss, who committed “lewd acts” with a preteen client, and teen star Cody Longo, who pleaded guilty to molesting a nine-year-old girl in 2021.

]]> Read more
'Snow White' (2025) Directed by Marc Webb
Disney’s woke virus threatens US movie industry
]]> California passed a law in 2012 mandating background checks for anyone working with child actors. However, documentary filmmaker Gabe Hoffman told the newspaper that “this important law is mostly ignored by Hollywood, and state and local law enforcement appear to have little interest in enforcing it.”

“Convicted pedophiles still get hired in Hollywood today,” Hoffman said. “Sex offenders worked with children at Nickelodeon, and unless the industry makes changes, more children in Hollywood will end up getting abused.”

A Nickelodeon spokesperson told the British tabloid that the company “investigates all formal complaints” and is committed to “fostering a safe and professional workplace environment free of harassment or other kinds of inappropriate conduct.”

Nickelodeon is not the only children’s entertainment company accused of harboring pedophiles. After five Disney World employees were arrested in two wider sting operations in Florida in 2022, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told reporters that “we always have a Disney employee” in custody after these stings.

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Wed, 27 Mar 2024 17:28:01 +0000 RT
Microsoft wants to ban curvy females from video games /pop-culture/595011-microsoft-curvy-females-video-games/ US tech giant Microsoft issued new guidelines encouraging game developers to stop designing excessively curvaceous female characters
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Developers have been urged to avoid negative gender stereotypes, according to updated guidelines

US tech giant Microsoft is discouraging using excessively curvy female characters in video games, according to updated guidelines issued by the company on Tuesday.

As part of its inclusivity initiative, Microsoft offered developers a list of questions to consider while working on their products to check whether they are reinforcing any negative gender stereotypes. The guide, dubbed ‘Product Inclusion Action: Help Customers Feel Seen’, includes various stereotypes that the gaming giant believes are best left out.

According to the guidance, game designers should check if they are unnecessarily introducing gender barriers and should make sure they create playable female characters that are equal in skill and ability to their male peers, and equip them with clothing and armor fitting to the tasks.

]]> Read more
FILE PHOTO
Putin orders reboot of Russian gaming industry
]]> “Do they have exaggerated body proportions?” the guideline asks.

Female characters play a significant role in the gaming industry and have become fan favorites throughout the years. Various females, including Lara Croft, Bayonetta, and Ada Wong have played iconic roles in video games.

One of the most vivid examples of unrealistically looking female characters is Bayonetta, who is integrated into every facet of the eponymous fantasy action-adventure game. Stellar Blade, another game with a controversial design, has used a Korean model for its main character.

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Wed, 27 Mar 2024 16:14:58 +0000 RT
Putin orders reboot of Russian gaming industry /pop-culture/595015-putin-russian-game-console/ The president has given the government until June to consider the development of a domestic gaming system
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The president has given the government until June to consider the development of a domestically-produced gaming system

President Vladimir Putin has instructed the government to weigh requirements for organizing production of both stationary and portable game consoles in Russia, according to a statement published on the Kremlin’s official website on Wednesday.

Putin’s order was issued following a meeting on the socio-economic development of Kaliningrad Region. Aside from consoles, the president also called on the Cabinet of Ministers to consider developing a special operating system and a cloud system for delivering games and programs to users. 

The deadline for executing the order has been set at June 15, 2024. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has been designated as the person responsible for overseeing completion of the task.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained that the president’s order to consider the creation of a domestically-produced console is aimed at developing Russia’s native gaming industry.

The Organization for Developing the Video Game Industry (RVI) presented a five-year roadmap to the government in February that laid out an 83-point program for developing video games in Russia.

]]> Read more
A person plays the video game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive during an esports competition in Hanover, Germany on December 16, 2022.
Danish minister wants Russian gamers banned from major event
]]> RVI said this year it plans to re-establish relations with various funds and organizations in international gaming that have ties to Russia and establish ways to consistently support the development of video games inside the country. The organization has also said the creation of a full-fledged game console is planned for 2026-2027.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Russia concluded its first Games of the Future tournament, which took place in the city of Kazan between February 21 and March 3. The ‘phygital’ (physical + digital) format of the competition combined traditional sports and cybersports in a unique mix in 21 combined disciplines. They included phygital football, hockey, and basketball, as well as more traditional cybersports and high-tech contests such as drone racing, competitive programming, and robot battles.

The first ever iteration of the tournament involved more than 270 teams from 107 countries and was watched by a “global audience,” according to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko.

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Wed, 27 Mar 2024 15:09:54 +0000 RT
Danish minister wants Russian gamers banned from major event /news/594530-denmark-calls-ban-russians-esports/ Denmark’s culture minister has called for Russians to be kicked out of an ongoing Counter-Strike 2 tournament
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Organizers have been urged to remove the players from a Counter-Strike tournament in solidarity with Ukraine

Russian esports athletes should be removed from a major Counter-Strike 2 competition currently being held in Copenhagen, Danish Culture Minister Jakob Engel-Schmidt has said.

Eighteen Russian gamers across five different teams are participating in the PGL CS2 Major Copenhagen2024 tournament, according to the Berlingske newspaper.  

“As long as Russia continues its illegal war of aggression in Ukraine, I do not believe that Russian athletes should be allowed to participate in international sports. This of course also applies to esports,” Engel-Schmidt told the outlet on Tuesday.

Organized by Romanian esports company PGL, the event will run until the end of the month, with the final scheduled to take place in Copenhagen’s Royal Arena. The total prize pool is a reported $1.25 million. 

“Even though the organizer is Romanian, I would still encourage them to exclude Russian participation,” the Danish culture minister said. “I would also strongly urge the Royal Arena to be more critical in terms of what they are hosting.” 

]]> Read more
RT
Moscow slams Baltic states for targeting Games of the Future participants
]]> Among the participants is Team Spirit, which contains Russian and Ukrainian players. The team’s headquarters relocated from Moscow to the Serbian capital Belgrade after Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia has been banned from multiple international sports events due to the Ukraine conflict, although in some cases athletes from the country are allowed to participate in an individual capacity, often as neutrals.  

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Tuesday that up to 55 ‘individual neutral athletes’ from Russia will be allowed to take part in this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris. They will, however, be barred from the opening ceremony, the IOC said. 

Ukraine has backed the bans on Russians, arguing that Moscow uses its athletes and artists for propaganda purposes. Russian officials have condemned the restrictions as the “politicization” of sport. Stanislav Pozdnyakov, the head of the Russian Olympic Committee, described the actions of the IOC as “discriminatory.”

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Wed, 20 Mar 2024 03:33:37 +0000 RT
EU state cancels Italian singer over Kremlin show /pop-culture/594523-lithuania-pupo-cancel-concert-russia/ Italian singer Enzo Ghinazzi, best known as Pupo, had a performance in Lithuania canceled over having performed in Moscow
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Italian singer Enzo Ghinazzi, best known as Pupo, had a show in Lithuania canceled after he recently performed at the Kremlin

Concert organizers in Lithuania have canceled an upcoming performance by renowned Italian singer Enzo Ghinazzi, best known as Pupo, citing a concert he gave at the Kremlin last week. The performance in Russia was done to send what Pupo called “a message of dialogue.”

Pupo was scheduled to take part in a three-band concert in Siauliai, Lithuania’s fourth largest city, in April. However, there were soon calls for him to be barred from singing at the event, Lithuania’s LRT news media outlet reported, citing the Moscow performance.

The pop star arrived in Russia last Friday to “convey the message that peace will return to the world,” Pupo told TASS. He denied he had any “political” intentions and criticized Western attempts to cancel Russian culture over the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kiev.

“I am always against the embargo of any people’s culture, it is wrong,” he said, adding that “culture must be free.”

]]> Read more
Italian singer Pupo.
Italian pop star brands cancelling Russian culture a ‘mistake’
]]> The Lithuanian concert organizers had initially sought to resist the attempts to cancel Pupo’s performance, according to LRT.

“The Italian assured us that he went to Moscow for peace,” Modestas Telksnys, one of the organizers told the outlet, adding that there was “no legal basis” to cancel the contract with Pupo.

The organizers also initially said that they would not violate the contract unless Pupo is designated persona non grata in Lithuania. The manager of the Siauliai Arena, where the singer was due to perform, did not comment.

However, on Tuesday, the Siauliai Arena announced without any explanation that Pupo’s performance had been canceled and the organizers agreed to replace him with another artist.

“We have just received an assurance from the event organizer Legacy Inn that Enzo Ghinazzi – Pupo, who performed in the Kremlin a few days ago, will be replaced by another artist for the joint concert of the three bands in Siauliai,” the message read, calling it “good news” for those opposing Russia’s military operation against Ukraine.

]]> READ MORE: Russian ballerina performance canceled in Seoul

]]> Pupo has been performing for over 40 years. In 1985, he went on a successful tour of the Soviet Union, during which he gave 40 concerts. He has since performed in Russia several times.

The Italian singer was blacklisted by Kiev in 2022 and banned from entering Ukraine for his reluctance to break ties with Russia.

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Tue, 19 Mar 2024 20:55:59 +0000 RT
NVIDIA announces plan for AI-powered ‘humanoid robots’ /news/594505-nvidia-ai-humanoid-robots/ Project GR00T seeks to enable robots to understand language and emulate human actions to solve tasks, the US-based company said
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Project GR00T seeks to enable robots to understand language and emulate human actions to solve tasks, the US-based company said

NVIDIA has announced a new AI project aimed at creating “humanoid robots” that are capable of learning new skills and solving complex tasks by studying human behavior.

In a press release on Monday, the company also unveiled a state-of-the-art computing platform called Jetson Thor, which is specifically designed to be used by the humanoid robots. Several significant upgrades to its Isaac robotics platform were also announced, including generative AI foundation models and tools for AI workflow.

The new project is called GR00T, which stands for Generalist Robot 00 Technology. It’s intended to serve as a platform to enable robots to “understand natural language and emulate movements by observing human actions – quickly learning coordination, dexterity and other skills in order to navigate, adapt and interact with the real world,” the US-based company said.

In a keynote presentation, NVIDIA founder and CEO Jensen Huang demonstrated several real-life robots already using the GR00T platform to complete a variety of tasks, and showed that the robots could also develop their skills through a digital twin in the newly announced Isaac Lab virtual reality simulation.

“Building foundation models for general humanoid robots is one of the most exciting problems to solve in AI today,” said Huang. He added that “the enabling technologies are coming together for leading roboticists around the world to take giant leaps towards artificial general robotics.”

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EU passes landmark AI law
]]> Agility Robotics co-founder and chief robot officer Jonathan Hurst also announced a partnership with NVIDIA, saying such advancements in the field of AI will pave the way for robots, such as his company’s Digit, to help people “in all aspects of daily life.”

Last year, Huang stated that AI was bound to transform the corporate landscape and change human jobs forever, and warned that those who failed to embrace this technology would be left behind.

Meanwhile, a recent Washington State University survey has found that about one-third of American workers are concerned that AI will soon make certain jobs obsolete, while nearly half fear they could be left behind in their careers if they fail to keep up with how to use the technology in the workplace.

The dangers of AI have also been highlighted by a number of researchers and tech luminaries such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who last year signed an open letter demanding a temporary moratorium on “giant AI experiments” to allow for the creation of guidelines to prevent misuse of the technology.

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Tue, 19 Mar 2024 15:25:50 +0000 RT
Italian pop star brands cancelling Russian culture a ‘mistake’ /pop-culture/594301-italian-singer-pupo-russia/ An Italian pop singer, Pupo, has said he is against the “embargo” of Russian culture
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The singer has said he wants to deliver a “message of peace” at his concert in the Kremlin

The renowned Italian singer Enzo Ghinazzi, best known as Pupo, has arrived in Russia to send what he has called “a message of dialogue.” The pop star is due to perform in the Kremlin on Friday.

In an interview with TASS on Thursday, Pupo claimed he’d come to Russia without “any political intention,” adding that through his concert, he wants to “convey the message that peace will return to the world.”

Ghinazzi, one of the Western artists who has been against canceling Russian culture over the Ukraine conflict, said he has never stopped traveling to Russia, even during this “delicate period.”

“I am always against the embargo of any people’s culture, it is wrong. So I’m not afraid, because I’m convinced that I’m behaving in a manner consistent with my idea, and with the idea that culture must be free,” the singer said.

Pupo has been performing on the Italian stage for over 40 years. In 1985, he went on an extremely successful tour of the Soviet Union, during which he gave 40 concerts. Since then, he has performed in Russia several times and remains one of the most popular classic Italian pop stars. Ghinazzi reached his peak popularity in Italy during the 1970s and 1980s. He earned fame with his romantic ballads and catchy pop tunes, particularly the song Gelato Al Cioccolato.

]]> READ MORE: Russian ballerina performance canceled in Seoul

]]> In March 2022, in a sign of solidarity with Russia, he sang the popular Soviet song ‘There is only a moment’ in Russian.

The Italian singer has been blacklisted in Ukraine for his reluctance to abandon relations with Russia.

Numerous organizations and venues cut ties with Russian artists following the start of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine in February 2022. Kiev has launched an international campaign calling on theaters, opera houses, and other institutions to drop any cooperation with Russia.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella said last year that Russian culture is an inseparable part of European history. He condemned the attempts to cancel Russian works of art amid Moscow’s conflict with Kiev, saying the clampdown it is a “mistaken gesture.” 

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Fri, 15 Mar 2024 11:58:00 +0000 RT
Russian ballerina performance canceled in Seoul /pop-culture/594294-russian-ballerina-performance-canceled-seoul/ South Korea has canceled a tour of the Russian Bolshoi Theatre’s prima ballerina following requests from Ukraine ?
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A series of shows featuring the Bolshoi Theatre’s principal dancer has been suspended amid protests from Kiev

South Korea has canceled a series of performances by Svetlana Zakharova, a renowned ballerina from Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre, after Ukraine expressed anger over the planned events.  

A set of shows featuring Zakharova had been scheduled to take place at the Seoul Arts Center in April.    

The performance, titled ‘Modanse’, which portrays the life of Coco Chanel, was staged in collaboration with the French fashion house Chanel and premiered at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in 2019.  

The Seoul Arts Center, affiliated with South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, said the performances had been canceled “in light of ensuring the safety of both the audience and the artists.”  

“We sincerely apologize to all the audience members who were anticipating this performance and kindly request your understanding,” the center said in a notice.   

The cancelation comes after Ukraine’s embassy in South Korea last week claimed that allowing Zakharova to perform would amount to the “legitimization of Russian unjustified aggression and belittling the suffering of the Ukrainian people.”  

Kiev’s embassy added that despite “respect to the pluralism of opinion,” Ukraine calls on its “international partners to suspend cultural cooperation with the criminal Russian regime and its cultural representatives.”  

Zakharova was born in the Ukrainian city of Lutsk and went to ballet school in Kiev, but is a Russian citizen and a member of the Bolshoi troupe. She also served as an MP for the pro-government United Russia party between 2007 and 2011. 

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Russian ballerina Svetlana Zakharova portrays Coco Chanel during a performance in Moscow, 2019.
Ukraine fumes over Russian ballerina’s tour
]]> An official at the Ukrainian embassy told the Korea Times last week that Kiev also opposes the performance because the Bolshoi Theatre is “headed by a close friend” of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Famed conductor Valery Gergiev, who leads both the Bolshoi and the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, is among multiple Russian artists who have been blacklisted in Ukraine for their political views and support for the Russian government.  

InArts Production, the organizer of Modanse in South Korea, confirmed that the show had been canceled at the request of the Seoul Arts Center, noting that the event had been planned long before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.   

The Russian embassy in Seoul earlier condemned attempts by Ukrainian diplomats to disrupt the performance of Bolshoi Theatre’s principal dancer, calling them “unexpectedly tactless.”  

Meanwhile, the Bolshoi Ballet Gala Concert, another show featuring dancers from the iconic Russian theatre is scheduled to take place in Seoul from April 16 to 18.  Kiev has also reportedly opposed the event.

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Fri, 15 Mar 2024 08:51:01 +0000 RT
Musk cancels X partnership deal with former CNN anchor /pop-culture/594270-don-lemon-musk-x/ Elon Musk has cancelled a deal with Don Lemon, saying he may still use X to build a following for his new show
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Don Lemon will nevertheless be welcome to upload his show on the platform, the billionaire has said

Elon Musk has abruptly withdrawn from a deal to exclusively host journalist Don Lemon’s new talk show on X (formerly Twitter), shortly after he interviewed the billionaire last Friday, the former CNN anchor has said.

In a statement on Wednesday, Lemon explained that the deal was part of X’s public commitment to “amplifying more diverse voices on their platform” and that Musk had encouraged him to join X with a new talk show and promised to support the project.

However, several hours after filming an interview with Musk on Friday, which Lemon described as a “good conversation,” the billionaire allegedly messaged the former host, informing him that the partnership contract with the Don Lemon Show had been terminated without explaining the reasons.

“His commitment to a global town square where all questions can be asked and all ideas can be shared seems not to include questions of him from people like me,” Lemon suggested, adding that there were no restrictions on the interview that Musk had agreed to, and insisted that his questions were “respectful and wide ranging.”

Musk has since confirmed the deal was scuttled, but pointed out that Lemon would still be free to upload his show, monetize it, and build his viewership on the platform “along with everyone else.”

“What we aren’t going to do is guarantee minimum payments to him, as he was demanding, which would be going beyond everyone else,” Musk explained.

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Musk’s X could face new EU restrictions
]]> As for the reason for the sudden termination, the billionaire stated that Lemon’s approach to the interview was “basically just ‘CNN, but on social media,’ which doesn’t work, as evidenced by the fact that CNN is dying.”

“Instead of it being the real Don Lemon, it was really just Jeff Zucker talking through Don, so lacked authenticity,” Musk wrote, referring to the former president of the media company where Lemon worked until last year.

In several snippets of the interview that have been published ahead of the full premiere on Monday, Lemon asked the billionaire a series of questions about content moderation, hate speech, conspiracy theories, as well as his political leanings and attitude towards former US President Donald Trump.

The visibly frustrated Musk stated at one point in the interview that “he doesn’t have to answer these questions” and told Lemon that “the only reason I’m doing this interview is because you’re on the X platform and you asked for it.”

“Otherwise I would not be doing this interview,” Musk said.

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Thu, 14 Mar 2024 12:52:06 +0000 RT
Neil Young returns to Spotify after Joe Rogan boycott /pop-culture/594234-neil-young-returns-spotify/ The aging rock star admitted that his standoff with Spotify no longer makes sense when other platforms broadcast the same “disinformation”
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The aging rock star complained that other platforms now broadcast the same “disinformation” that drove him from the streaming service

Canadian rocker Neil Young has announced that his music will return to Spotify, ending a two-year boycott over the streaming giant’s refusal to cancel Joe Rogan’s podcast. Young claimed that Rogan was “spreading false information about vaccines.”

In a statement on his website on Tuesday, Young said that Spotify “will now be the home of my music again.” The folk-rock icon said that he made the decision due to the fact that Apple and Amazon – which account for most of his streaming income – “have started serving the same disinformation podcast features I had opposed at Spotify.” 

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Joe Rogan scores massive new podcast contract
]]> Young was referring to a multi-year, $250 million contract signed by Spotify and podcast host Joe Rogan. Under the terms of the deal, Rogan’s podcast will not be exclusive to Spotify and will be available to users of Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, and YouTube.

Back in early 2022, Young pulled his music from Spotify after trying and failing to convince the platform to end a $200 million exclusive contract with Rogan. Young claimed that the former UFC commentator was “spreading false information about vaccines – potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them.”

“They can have Rogan or Young. Not both,” he wrote at the time. Spotify sided with Rogan, whose podcast was and remains the most popular in the world, leaving Young to complain about the service’s sound quality and encourage his fans to migrate to other platforms.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Rogan interviewed prominent vaccine skeptics like virologist Robert Malone and cardiologist Peter McCullough, who were vilified by mainstream media outlets for opposing mass vaccination and lockdowns. Rogan also argued that Covid-19 posed no serious threat to children and touted the efficacy of ivermectin – a cheap, generic drug – in treating the disease.

]]> READ MORE: Neil Young urges Spotify employees to quit

]]> Many claims by Rogan and his guests have since been vindicated. However, at the time celebrities and healthcare professionals called for his podcast to be taken off the air, with one open letter from a group claiming to represent “the global scientific and medical communities” branding him a “menace to public health.”

Spotify has yet to confirm that Young’s music will return to the platform.



 

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Wed, 13 Mar 2024 21:19:00 +0000 RT
Artwork worth 1.2 million stolen in Italy /pop-culture/594017-gold-pieces-art-stolen-italy/ Gold works of art created by Italian sculptor Umberto Mastroianni have been stolen from an exhibition near Lake Garda in Italy
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Thieves absconded with nearly 50 gold sculptures and pieces of jewelry

Almost 20 statues and 30 pieces of jewelry worth €1.2 million ($1.3 million) have been stolen from an exhibition near Lake Garda, Italy, the Vittoriale degli Italiani estate, which hosted the display, told journalists.

The stolen works were designed and forged by one of the greatest Italian sculptors of the 20th century, Umberto Mastroianni, who is also known for his huge monuments; they were made between the 1950s and his death in 1998.

The massive heist occurred on Wednesday, two days before the closing of the exhibition, called “Like a warm, flowing gold,” which opened in late December. The investigations into the heist are ongoing.

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A person removes a piece of art work by Banksy, London, December 22, 2023
Two men arrested over Banksy heist
]]> “Uomo/Donna” (Man/Woman), one of the art pieces, all of which were cast of pure gold, was later found inside the exhibition complex’s grounds, but the whereabouts of the other 48 pieces remain unknown, according to the estate spokesperson.

Giordano Bruno Guerri, the head of the estate, said “our alarm systems are very extensive and already of the highest level,” adding “we were evidently hit by a highly specialized gang.”

Commenting on the incident, Lorenzo Zichichi, president of the Centre for Studies of the Works of Umberto Mastroianni, said “these exceptional artefacts, true ‘wearable sculptures’, represent the most important testimony of the master’s gold production,” adding that a failed investigation could lead to the “inestimable loss” of almost the entire collection, which belonged to his relatives.

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Sun, 10 Mar 2024 11:47:05 +0000 RT
Pigcasso dead at age eight /pop-culture/593934-pigcasso-painting-pig-dead/ A popular pig whose paintings made more than $1 million has passed away from a chronic illness, her owner Joanne Lefson has announced
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The pig whose paintings raked in more than $1 million has passed away after a chronic illness, her owner said

Global art sensation Pigcasso – a 500-kilogram pig known for painting with her nose and a paintbrush – has passed away in South Africa at the age of eight, after suffering from chronic rheumatoid arthritis, her owner said on Wednesday.

In a statement to Caters News, Joanne Lefson – a 52-year-old artist and animal rights activist – announced that her creative partner had passed away after her symptoms rapidly worsened in September 2023. By early October, Pigcasso had lost the use of her hind legs due to calcification of the lower spine.

“There is much sadness that such an inspiring figure for welfare animals has passed, but we also celebrate a life well-lived and the profound difference she made,” Lefson said.

In 2016, Lefson rescued Pigcasso, who was then four weeks old, from a factory farm just before she was due to be sent to the slaughterhouse. From there, the pig was relocated to a sanctuary for rescued farm animals in Franschhoek, South Africa.

At one point, Lefson noticed that the pig would eat or destroy everything left in her stall, except for a paintbrush. Lefson then came up with the idea of teaching the swine to use the brush, and nurtured the animal’s interest in art.

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Elephants at Amer Fort (also known as Amber Fort) in Rajasthan, India
Woman attacked by ‘frustrated’ elephant (VIDEO)
]]> “This is not, just a painting pig – far from it. This is a serious and highly creative collaboration where I work and engage through a ‘moving brush’ to develop dynamic artworks that inspire and challenge the status quo,” Lefson wrote on her website.

The project was dubbed ‘LEFSON + SWINE’ and its purpose was to emphasize humanity’s “disconnect and discord with our planet” and focus on “the ‘food’ we choose to eat and the detrimental effects that animal agriculture has on the environment and the welfare of animals.”

Over her artistic career, the pig sold over $1 million worth of her paintings, and set world records for becoming the first animal artist to hold a solo art exhibition, and selling the highest-priced artwork painted by an animal. 

Pigcasso has been described as “the most successful non-human artist in world history.” Now, her legacy “continues through the sanctuary and our mission to inspire a kinder, more sustainable world for all,” Lefson said.

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Thu, 07 Mar 2024 15:13:10 +0000 RT
Doritos fires new transgender brand partner /pop-culture/593866-doritos-fires-transgender-activist/ Doritos has cut ties with Spanish activist Samantha Hudson following outrage over old tweets in which she endorsed pedophilia
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The move follows widespread outrage over the Spanish activist’s tweets about doing “depraved things” to a 12-year-old

Doritos has announced that it has parted ways with its new transgender partner in Spain, Samantha Hudson, following backlash over old tweets by the activist, now deleted, in which she apparently endorsed pedophilia. The PepsiCo brand said on Tuesday that the decision was not connected with Hudson’s gender identity.

Two days prior, the popular chip maker posted a 50-second video on Instagram featuring the 24-year-old transgender influencer and singer as part of a media advertising campaign dubbed ‘Crunch Talks’.

The video quickly drew backlash from conservative viewers who likened the endorsement to the highly controversial partnership between Bud Light and transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney last year. The subsequent boycott of the popular beer brand has cost its parent company a reported $1.4 billion in sales.  

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Bud Light sales still reeling after trans ad debacle
]]> Users also pointed to the fact that Hudson, born Ivan Gonzalez Ranedo, has described herself as “anti-capitalist” and “Marxist” in interviews, and has stated that she wants to “abolish, destroy and annihilate the traditional monogamous nuclear family.”

However, a number of old, deleted tweets drew particular outrage from people online and ultimately seem to have led to Hudson’s firing. 

In one post from 2015, she apparently wrote “I want to do thuggish things like stick a 12 year old girl up her *******.”

In 2014, she wrote that she was “in the middle of the street in Mallorca in panties and screaming that I’m a nymphomaniac in front of a super beautiful 8-year-old girl.” In another deleted post, Hudson also stated: “I hate women who are victims of sexual assault and go to self help centers to overcome their trauma. Annoying sl**s.”

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File photo: St. Patrick's Cathedral Hosts Midnight Mass
Catholic cathedral duped into funeral for trans ‘mother of all whores’
]]> After the tweets resurfaced, Hudson reportedly said she “doesn’t remember having written such barbarities,” but apologized, insisting that the posts were “pure provocation” and a bad attempt at “dark humor,” as reported by Rolling Stone magazine.

Nevertheless, conservatives have called for a boycott of Doritos over the partnership, with a number of pundits like journalist Matt Agorist suggesting that the brand’s association with “an admitted pedo” was “next level WTF.”

In a statement to Rolling Stone on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Doritos Spain said the brand had been “made aware of Samantha’s deleted tweets from 2015” and that the company had “ended the relationship and stopped all related campaign activity due to the comments.” The video featuring Hudson has also been deleted.

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Wed, 06 Mar 2024 11:46:30 +0000 RT
Ukraine fumes over Russian ballerina’s tour /pop-culture/593836-suspend-cultural-exchange-russia/ The Ukrainian Embassy has protested the scheduled performances of a Russian ballerina in Seoul
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Svetlana Zakharova’s performances in Seoul should be canceled, Kiev’s embassy has said

Ukraine has demanded the cancelation of performances in South Korea by a renowned ballerina from Russia’s Bolshoi Theater.

Kiev’s embassy has taken issue with a series of shows featuring Svetlana Zakharova scheduled to take place at the Seoul Arts Center in April. The performance, which is a collaboration with the French fashion house Chanel, premiered at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in 2019.

Zakharova was born in the Ukrainian city of Lutsk and went to ballet school in Kiev, but is a Russian citizen and a member of the Bolshoi troupe. She also served as an MP for the pro-government United Russia party between 2007 and 2011.

In a statement quoted by South Korean media on Tuesday, Ukrainian diplomats claimed that allowing Zakharova to perform would amount to the “legitimization of Russian unjustified aggression and belittling the suffering of the Ukrainian people.”

“With all due respect to the pluralism of opinion and inclusive nature of cultural exchange, we call on our international partners to suspend cultural cooperation with the criminal Russian regime and its cultural representatives,” the embassy added.

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FILE PHOTO: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov takes part in the unveiling of a statue of the poet Alexander Pushkin in Caracas, Venezuela.
West has failed to isolate Russia – Lavrov
]]> An unnamed official at the embassy told the Korea Times that Kiev also opposes the performance because the Bolshoi Theatre is “headed by a close friend” of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Famed conductor Valery Gergiev, who leads both the Bolshoi and the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, is among multiple Russian artists who have been blacklisted in Ukraine for their political views and support for the Russian government.

In early March three leading figures with Ukraine’s Lviv Opera’s ballet troupe, including two men of conscription age, failed to return home after a tour in Finland. 

The Russian Embassy has condemned the call to cancel the performance. “Any attempts to politicize cultural events and deny the Korean public the opportunity to experience world-class art would not be accepted by the Korean public,” the embassy said, as quoted by the South Korean press.

Numerous organizations and venues cut ties with Russian artists following the start of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine in February 2022. Kiev has further launched an international campaign, calling on theaters, opera houses, and other institutions to drop any cooperation with Russia.

Moscow has condemned reprisals against artists, with Putin arguing that it is “not smart” to try to go after Russian or any other culture. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has argued it is “impossible to cancel Russian culture,” and that any attempts to do so are doomed to fail.

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Wed, 06 Mar 2024 02:55:01 +0000 RT
First ever Games of the Future conclude in Russia /pop-culture/593696-games-future-conclude-russia/ The world’s first ever ‘Games of the Future’ phygital tournament has ended in the Russian city of Kazan
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The groundbreaking phygital competition saw teams from more than 100 nations take part

The Games of the Future, a first-ever phygital tournament held in Kazan, central Russia, has been a huge inspiration to the world, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko told journalists as the event came to a close on Sunday. The competition lasted for almost two weeks, and wrapped up with a closing ceremony featuring popular Russian pop artists and singers.

Invented in Russia, the ‘phygital’ (physical + digital) format at the core of the Games of the Future combines traditional sports and cybersports in a unique mix. A total of 21 combined disciplines were part of the competition.

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Games of the Future are a global success – Russian deputy PM
]]> The games managed to attract a massive global audience, according to Chernyshenko. Viewership numbers reached around 2.2 billion, he told journalists on Saturday, although official figures have not yet been made public. The final day of the games included several finals in some of the most entertaining and popular disciplines like phygital football, skateboarding, and racing.

According to the Russian media, the tournament attracted more than 270 teams, including over 2,000 athletes from 107 nations. The games featured events ranging from phygital football, hockey, and basketball to more traditional cybersports and high-tech contests such as drone racing, competitive programming, and robot battles.

Competitive programming reportedly had one of the highest individual discipline prize funds, with the winner getting 4.5 million rubles ($ 49,050).

The games have become an “internationally recognized brand,” Chernyshenko said during the closing ceremony, adding that Russia “has once again proven its leading role in the global sports community.” He also praised all the tournament participants by calling them “pioneers of the phygital sports” that had “inspired the world.”

According to the deputy prime minister, as many as 63 nations have started holding similar tournaments at home. As many as nine countries have also expressed willingness to host the next such international event.

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Sun, 03 Mar 2024 18:18:15 +0000 RT
White people barred from London theater /pop-culture/593634-whites-banned-uk-theater/ The playwright behind ‘Slave Play’ has argued that segregated theater is necessary for black people to “feel safe”
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The playwright behind ‘Slave Play’ has argued that segregation is necessary for black people to “feel safe”

White people have been told not to attend two upcoming performances of a play about racism and sexuality in London’s West End. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office has condemned the move as “wrong and divisive.”

Written by Jeremy O Harris, who is black, ‘Slave Play’ opens in London’s Noel Coward Theater in June and runs until September. Two performances of the play – on July 17 and September 17 – are billed as “Black Out” nights, tickets for which will only be sold to “all-black-identifying audiences.”

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A chimney sweep dances on rooftops during a dress rehearsal for a Mary Poppins stage production in Australia
British censors change Mary Poppins rating
]]> “The idea of a Black Out night is to say this is a night that we are specifically inviting black people to fill up the space, to feel safe with a lot of other black people in a place where they often do not feel safe,” Harris told the BBC on Tuesday.

Despite explicitly asking only black people to attend the performances, Harris then claimed that “nobody is saying that by inviting black audiences here [white people] are uninvited.”

In an apparent climbdown the following day, Harris wrote on X that black people “can bring their white friends or lovers if they want.”

Sunak’s office nevertheless condemned the plan. “Clearly, restricting audiences on the basis of race would be wrong and divisive,” a spokesperson for the prime minister said on Thursday. Asked by the BBC whether the government would consider stripping public funding from theaters that engage in such discrimination, the spokesperson did not offer a definitive yes or no answer.

“It’s a statement of principle that clearly the arts should be inclusive,” they said. “And I think that particular taxpayers would particularly expect that to be the case when public funding is involved.”

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Boston Mayor Michelle Wu
Boston mayor in hot water over segregated event
]]> ‘Slave Play’ tells the story of three interracial couples who engage in slave-era sexual fantasies to save their relationships. It debuted on Broadway in 2019 to rave reviews from liberal critics and got 12 Tony Award nominations, but has been savaged by conservatives, with American writer Peachy Keenan calling it the “gayest piece of woke race trash ever conceived.”

The Noel Coward Theater is not the first British institution to face backlash for hosting a ‘Black Out’ event. Last summer, London’s Theatre Royal Stratford East was hammered for recommending that white people don’t attend two performances of American playwright Dave Harris’ ‘Tambo & Bones.’ Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye, the first black man to hold his office, described the event as a “mistake” which “sets a bad precedent.”

Similar events have been held in the US and Canada.



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Sun, 03 Mar 2024 11:11:31 +0000 RT
Games of the Future are a global success – Russian deputy PM /pop-culture/593640-games-future-phygital-global-success/ Russia’s Games of the Future tournament was a global success, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko has said
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Event attracted teams from 107 nations and reached a global audience, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko has said

The Games of the Future tournament, which has been taking place in the Russian city of Kazan during the past two weeks, has managed to gain traction around the world, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko told RT on Saturday, a day before the closing ceremony. He called the games a big success, evidenced both by the number of participants and the size of the audience that followed the competitions.

Now, nations around the world want to follow Russia’s example and host such games as well, Chernyshenko said. “We see already that nine countries want to host such competitions,” the official told journalists, adding that one of the cities seeking to hold the next event is Brazil’s Sao Paulo. He did not reveal what other nations are planning to compete for the right to become a Games of the Future venue.

Invented in Russia, the ‘phygital’ (physical + digital) format at the core of the Games of the Future combines traditional sports and cybersports in a unique mix. A total of 21 combined disciplines were part of the Kazan tournament. Those included phygital football, hockey, and basketball, as well as more traditional cybersports and high-tech contests such as drone racing, competitive programming, and robot battles.

According to Chernyshenko, phygital skateboarding turned out to be one of the “most interesting and popular” disciplines for the younger audience. As part of this competition, one team could set a challenge for the other in a virtual skateboarding game and their competitors had to repeat it in real life, the official said.

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Robot shows, dancing for everyone, and cyber prostheses trials: Why Games of the Future have become an important social project
]]> The deputy prime minister also said that he received massive positive feedback from the foreign teams that took part in the games. He specifically mentioned that Brazilians appeared to have shared the “very ideology of combining cyber and physical development to create a harmoniously developed person.”

Chernyshenko also praised the Chinese teams, saying that the delegation from China was not just one of the most representative ones but also one of the most successful at the games since they’ve scored one of the highest number of victories across all disciplines.

This first-ever iteration of the event involved more than 270 teams from 107 countries.

The event was watched “by a global audience,” the deputy minister said, adding that the games were shown on “240 platforms around the world,” including broadcasting, social media and other digital formats.

Earlier, one of the games’ organizers, Igor Stolyarov, compared the event’s viewership to that of Wimbledon, adding that both the Games of the Future and the renowned tennis tournament, which was last held in 2023, had gained a billion views.

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Sat, 02 Mar 2024 21:54:32 +0000 RT
Miss Ukraine rages at Russian beauty pageant winner (PHOTOS) /pop-culture/593519-ukraine-miss-europe-russia/ The Ukrainian contestant has accused Russian and Belarusian finalists of the Miss Europe contest of bullying and paying off the judges
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Milena Melnichuk accused the Russian and Belarusian finalists of the Miss Europe contest of paying off the judges

The Winner of the Miss Europe 2024 beauty pageant, Russian national Roza Gadieva, has been accused of “buying” her way to victory by an outraged Ukrainian contestant who claimed she herself was being bullied.

During the competition, which took place in Lebanon last month, Miss Ukraine, Melena Melnichuk, made a number of posts on her Instagram account, accusing Gadieva as well as the organizers of the event of intentionally provoking her. Melnichuk claims she was forced to take pictures together with the Russian contestant, threatened, and even made to wear similar dresses.

After Gadieva took first place, Melnichuk accused the Russian national of paying off the judges for her victory while she herself did not receive any prizes and did not make the top three.

However, Miss Belarus, Irina Maksimovich, who took third place in the competition, decided to stand up for the Russian contestant. During a bus ride after the award ceremony, Maksimovich lashed out at Melnichuk for her Instagram posts and the accusations she had leveled against the other contestants.

“Don’t you have a war? Why are you shaking your t**s at a beauty contest?” Maksimovich could be heard telling the Ukrainian in a video of the incident.

After the altercation, Melnichuk posted again, claiming that the Russian and Belarusian contestants had bought their placings for €20,000 ($21,600) and €5,000 ($5,400), respectively. 

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Megan Fox arrives at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, Nevada, May 15, 2022
Megan Fox upset at ‘looking like a Ukrainian sex doll’
]]> In an interview after the award ceremony, Gadieva, who is from Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan, admitted that some people “just didn’t like that I am from Russia. Some didn’t even want to stand next to me on stage. But I did not react to this in any way and didn’t enter into any altercations. Maybe that became a factor in my victory.”

Gadieva, who has two children, speaks Arabic and English and is a linguist by training, has also claimed to have entered the competition on a whim after hearing from a friend about a qualifying round in Moscow. “That very same day I boarded a plane and flew to the competition,” Gadieva said.

During the competition in Lebanon, Gadieva went on stage wearing a historic Tatar costume experts estimate to have cost some $14,000, as it was embroidered with gold thread and studded with pearls, provided by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Tatarstan. 

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Fri, 01 Mar 2024 12:33:36 +0000 RT
‘Art knows no boundaries’: Will Western audiences see this new Russian blockbuster? /pop-culture/593438-western-audiences-russian-blockbuster-air/ The co-creator of the film ‘Air’ gives an interview to RT, discussing the permanence of Russian culture and connections between artists
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The co-creator of the film ‘Air’ gives an interview to RT, discussing the permanence of Russian culture and connections between artists

‘Vozdukh’ (‘Air’) – a new film by Alexei German Jr. (best known as the director of the movies ‘Garpastum’, ‘Paper Soldier’ and ‘Under Electric Clouds’) – was released to movie theaters across Russia in late January. It tells the story of female pilots on the Eastern Front of World War II. Despite sanctions and the exclusion of Russian movies from foreign film festivals, ‘Air’ premiered at the Tokyo International Film Festival and was also shown at the Festival of Young Cinema in Macau (China).

Here Elena Okopnaya – the film’s co-creator and production designer – tells RT about the world premiere of the film, the role of women in cinema, and the ‘cancellation’ of Russian culture in the West. Okopnaya is the recipient of a ‘Silver Bear’ award from the Berlin Film Festival. 

RT: When people watch modern Russian war films, they don’t expect to see anything like ‘Air’ – especially considering the kind of movies produced in the past few years. It is really an iconic film. Do you think there is demand for such large-scale and complex war films, both in Russia and abroad?

Elena: In this regard, ‘Air’ is a great example, it shows us that there is hope. The box office success in Russia was huge and almost unbelievable, especially considering that this is an arthouse film. Frankly, before the release, we [the creators] were in extremely low spirits, we had this feeling that art is moving in an uncertain direction and no one needs serious, large-scale films anymore.

But it turned out that we had underestimated our audience. People need films that challenge them, they want to see real emotions on screen and experience a kind of inner breakthrough that leaves them feeling optimistic. They don’t just want another simple story based on two uncomplicated thoughts put together.

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Hero, patriot, and public enemy: This man still causes controversy in Russia, but everyone agrees that he was a genius
]]> ‘Air’ is a unique film because despite the use of state-of-the-art technologies and special effects, some of which were created specifically for this motion picture, it remains an arthouse film which means it’s a work of art. This is not a classic blockbuster, where special effects often overshadow the characters – in other words, the human presence. Because we really need that human presence [in cinema] – and by ‘we’, I don’t just mean the creators of the film but the audience as well.

I think this is a positive trend, which hopefully will develop further. 

RT: A trend towards more complex cinema?

Elena: Yes. I’m primarily concerned with complex people – both on screen and in the audience. The problem is that we live in an era of clip thinking. But viewers need to see more than just flashes and explosions [on screen] – they also need to live through challenging situations.

I remember how Alexey German’s film ‘My Friend Ivan Lapshin’ was part of a special competition at the Venice Film Festival, where restored versions of classic films were shown. After watching some of the movies from different countries, it seemed to me like the same film was being shown over and over again – the plot, characters, and the artistic images in these movies were all identical. They were good, ‘solid’ films, but they no longer had a particular ‘face’ – the individual characteristics of the director or the country. Of course, throughout the years, the Venice Film Festival introduced many great films and filmmakers to the world. Perhaps that time, I just wasn’t lucky.

As a result, I felt kind of sad and went to visit various museums with a friend. Suddenly, in one of the museums, a Russian-speaking volunteer came up to us and said: ‘I didn’t want to go to the film festival, but ‘My Friend Ivan Lapshin’ is my favorite movie.’ Of course, I was pleased, and I got him tickets. After the screening, he came up to me and said the words that still ring in my ears: ‘I love the director, I love the movie, but the background characters really distract from the movie’.

This is a good example of how we often perceive reality in a flat and simplistic manner. This creates a vicious circle: on the one hand, the audience is not ‘ready’ for complex movies, and, on the other hand, because of this fact, the directors and producers do not want to take risks and create art films.

Now, it seems to me that a different rhetoric and manner of communication with the audience are emerging [in modern cinema]. For example, consider the movie ‘Oppenheimer’ by Christopher Nolan. 

I believe this is the only way out of the modern cultural crisis, which reproduces meaninglessness.

RT: How would you characterize this crisis?

Elena: No offense to journalists, but it seems to me that cinema, just like modern art, takes the bread out of the journalists’ mouths. This substitution is devastating.

For example, when I was on the jury of international film festivals, I had to deal with situations where certain people said that this or that movie should win because it was the ‘right’ type of movie. Sorry, but why is that? The film obviously wasn’t as good as the others. But as it turned out, it touched on an ‘important’ social topic and that’s why it had to win. Though of course, there are other situations as well.

It makes me want to ask: how are we evaluating the film – from a journalistic point of view or a cinematic one? It seems to me that the filmmakers themselves and the people who evaluate their work are responsible for this substitution – it’s the vicious circle which I’ve talked about before. Of course, cinema should be socially relevant, but cinematic language and talent are highly important evaluation criteria.

RT: But the movie ‘Air’ also has a certain social agenda: women at war. Why did you want to make this a story about women and their role in the conflict?

Elena: It’s not what I do that matters to me, but how I do it. Many movies about war are being shot around the world. But how are they made? What is their message? Do they show simple human beings whose courage we can relate to?

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The premiere of the TV mini-series ‘A Boy’s Word: Blood on the Asphalt’ in Moscow on November 9, 2023.
EU state’s police issue caution over Russian TV series
]]> When making the film, I was terrified to think of how those girls made several sorties a day and operated wooden airplanes covered with percale (durable plain-weave cotton fabric – RT). I asked myself – what was going on inside those women who knew that each flight might be their last but still got into the cockpit? Moreover, there were many non-combat losses – the pilots fell asleep, the aircraft’s engine blew up… Some girls didn’t die a hero’s death, but they did their work anyway.

We wanted the audience to feel that ‘Air’ is not just a movie about heroism, but about many other things – about the good and the bad within us, about what breaks us and what lifts us up, about how we change and why we make a certain choice in difficult circumstances.

Oddly enough, I associate this story with ballet: dancers overcome pain and suffering out of love for what they do. 

RT: Do you feel that there is a certain disregard for women in the global film industry?

Elena: Sure, this problem exists. I remember how I missed the Nika Award ceremony (Russia’s main national film award, presented by the Russian Academy of Cinema Arts and Science – RT) because we were filming ‘Air’. Afterwards, I received a lot of messages – my friends congratulated me on receiving the award and told me about the ceremony. It turned out that a very famous Russian artist came on stage and said: ‘God grant that a woman does not win the award, because women simplify our profession.’ I will only add that I did get the award.

Few people consider the fact that on my team, there were lots of women who put a great physical and emotional effort into this film. Of course, we need to talk about this more.

But there is also another side to the issue. For example, when women win awards just because they are women.

I think we need to keep a sense of balance and avoid extremes. This applies to both Russia and the rest of the world. There is less and less common sense in our world, and this is sad.

RT: ‘Air’ is a movie about women, the USSR, the 1940s, WWII… Do foreign audiences understand these themes? What do they think about the film?

Elena: I insist that a work of art is understandable for all viewers and knows no boundaries. We were wonderfully received at the Tokyo International Film Festival, where the world premiere of ‘Air’ took place. There were several screenings and discussions with the audience, and each time we got a full house.

"Vozdukh" by Aleksey German Jr., 2023. ?  Metrafilms

The audience asked many subtle and precise questions. At the end of any conversation, it is very important to come to certain thoughtful conclusions. For example, one viewer said that our film speaks in whispers, and that was very important for me. He felt this, despite the explosions and the special effects.

Of course, there were questions about women. For example, the Japanese people were surprised that so many Russian women were involved in the fighting during WWII. By the way, that is what really pulled us together and made us realize that women are actually capable of a lot of things.

In addition to Japan, we were able to show the film in China — in Macau. At the Macau Festival of Young Cinema, there were fewer people than in Tokyo, but the film was also very well received. The audience asked many questions, and only some of them were about politics and the international situation. It is important to hold complex dialogues with people, they appreciate it a lot.

This is why I believe that ‘Air’ isn’t just a movie for Russian audiences, but for the whole world, because the world needs a more complex artistic language.

RT: Today, we don’t see many Russian films at foreign film festivals. How did you manage to bring the movie abroad?

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Moscow streaming: How Western sanctions helped Russia regain cultural sovereignty
]]> Elena: I think the answer is simple: no one can cancel Russian culture. Also, both Japanese and Chinese audiences loved the film and I think they wouldn’t have thought it fair if they had said: we will no longer allow talented Russian films to participate in the festival.

We should understand that the world is not shut for us. There are many people who still look for art, find it, and bring it to audiences. Such people have different evaluation criteria – they are concerned with the meaning of the film and their own cinematic criteria.

For example, in our movie, some scenes were shot at the Hermitage Museum. It is a well-known fact that during the Siege of Leningrad, the museum’s curators tried to preserve many works of art. [The museum workers] were mostly fragile women who persisted in their efforts to save art despite pain, fear, hunger, and loneliness.

When you see this story, you immediately feel a connection and empathize with those people. It has nothing to do with your nationality, or what country you were born and raised in. For example, after the filming, I kept dreaming of a young girl who was wrapping up sculptures in blankets with frozen fingers. It’s not just about someone saving sculptures, it’s about saving the human being within ourselves.

That answers the question why we were invited to foreign film festivals. [Art] is a treasure that belongs to the entire world.

RT: In which countries apart from Japan and China will the movie be shown? Will viewers in the US, UK, Canada, and the EU be able to see it?

Elena: That will surely happen in the future. I know there are many people in the West who are interested in this film. We are often asked to share the link, we receive feedback. No one knows what this will lead to eventually. But I am sure that anyone who wants to see the movie will be able to do so. Because things that many people have poured their heart into (and ‘Air’ is exactly that type of film) have a life of their own and become part of a greater whole that knows no boundaries. 

RT: We know that Russian movies have been banned from Western film festivals and streaming platforms. Who loses out in this situation?

Elena: We still have to work a lot and improve [our film industry] in order to answer that question. 

Artistic Director Yelena Okopnaya at the Moscow premiere of Dovlatov directed by Alexei German Jr. ?  Sputnik/Evgenya Novozhenina

In terms of art, we still have a lot to learn. I don’t believe that many of our films and series are worthy of being presented at film festivals, even in Russia. Many movies that no one needs are being made…

Regarding the film ‘Air’ – yes, people need to see it, otherwise they may miss out on something important. But unfortunately, few films like that are being made today. Although they definitely do exist. 

RT: But we can’t say that modern Russian cinema has been underestimated at European film festivals. For example, in 2018 you received the ‘Silver Bear’ at the Berlin Film Festival for outstanding artistic achievement.

Elena: Until recently, things were fine, of course… But we weren’t the first ones to get ‘canceled’. When the ‘Iron Curtain’ finally fell, world cinema discovered many new filmmakers– like Kira Muratova and Alexey German. It turned out that the Soviet Union had treasures that the world didn’t know about.

What conclusions can we draw from this? Primarily, that there is a time for everything. We just need to develop [artistically], do our work well, and one day, people will find out about it. 

RT: But even in Soviet times, the situation wasn’t as bad as now…

Elena: Yes, and when the situation in the world started changing, I was really scared. This is the very air I breathe – it is really important for people in the cultural field to cooperate, talk, and work together. We must ‘pollinate’ each other. 

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Russia’s Hollywood: The legendary film studio Mosfilm celebrates its 100th anniversary
]]> This is true not just for culture, but for sports as well. It really pains me that people who have devoted their entire life to sport cannot participate in international events and competitions, which are an integral part of their life (and I’m not even talking about Paralympic athletes).

But we have to keep fighting, and find other ways out of the situation, because all this is temporary.

RT: Hopefully, despite all the prohibitions and sanctions, culture has no borders…

Elena: I want to share a story. In 2018, we presented the film ‘Dovlatov’ at the Telluride Film Festival in the US. This is a ‘backstage’ kind of film festival in the Colorado mountains. The films are watched in a close circle which consists of both movie stars (like Nicole Kidman and Pawe? Pawlikowski) and film lovers from all over the world.

When I was presenting our film, a huge line of people assembled in front of the hall. They all came to see modern Russian cinema. After the movie, the viewers came to thank me, and I felt like a star. It is really important to receive such feedback.

Why did that happen? Because the movie was about universal values, the ones we all share. Sure, after the screening, people asked me about the Soviet regime and how it treated Dovlatov. And I told them: ‘The movie isn’t about that. There are always circumstances that will try to crush you. So, OK, in the USSR, there was censorship, and it was difficult for people to do what they wanted.’ And then I turned to the audience and asked them, ‘And today, can you be yourself when you have to pay a mortgage?’. The reaction was instant. They knew exactly what I meant.

This film is about remaining true to yourself and preserving your identity, regardless of the circumstances – for example, writing the things you want to write, and conveying your vision and feelings despite all challenges.

To pull yourself together and remain true to yourself – that’s what counts. And it’s an important message for all of us.

When you find the key and really start speaking the language of your audience, people understand you – even if you are from different countries and cultures. 

"Vozdukh" by Aleksey German Jr., 2023. ?  Metrafilms

Sure, they may not understand certain details. Russian art is about the soul. But actually, Americans sometimes know Russians better than Europeans do. Although we often ignore the fact that people all over the world have a much more complex image of Russia and the Russian people than we believe.

RT: Even despite the cinematic stereotypes?

Elena: Of course! I remember a private party at the same film festival. A well-known US cameraman approached me and described his feelings about Russia. ‘When I watch your Russian movies, I see that sometimes, things are a lot more complex.’ It turned out that I didn’t have to prove anything. The situation is not hopeless and there is understanding between us.

RT: Have you preserved ties with foreign film critics, directors, screenwriters?

Elena: Yes, but we communicate less often. They are also hostages of this situation, in a certain sense... Some have more courage and reach out, others don’t. We are all human.

As I said before, at first I was worried because it’s tough to work on a movie for five years and then not have the chance to present it to the whole world, as we had done before. But we just need to wait, it’s a matter of time.

Sure, no one will celebrate the return of Russian cinema, but at least they won’t say that Andrey Tarkovsky is a Polish filmmaker... Of course, that’s on the verge of surrealism. It’s like they want to drive you mad by trying to prove that black is white and vice-versa. 

RT: Why do you think the world has abandoned the idea that sport, science, and culture are outside of politics and borders?

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Soviet psychedelia, fairy tales, and space-themed stories: Hidden gems that will make you fall in love with Russian animation
]]> Elena: It feels like everyone has abandoned the rules of the game and there’s total confusion – even in those aspects where culture used to be an instrument of ‘soft power’. But things cannot remain like that for long, and the ties between people cannot be broken.

For example, many countries participated in joint science and space projects. Can we all exist without such cooperation? I think that common sense will prevail. Hopefully, the necessary changes won’t come at a great price.

RT: Do you think that cinema can influence society, culture, and change the future?

Elena: For better or for worse – but yes, I believe it can. Cinema is about the formation of consciousness, about giving thoughts and feelings a direction. 

When you give a child a difficult task, but don’t say that it’s going to be challenging, the child doesn’t perceive the complexity in the same way as if they had known about it in advance.

Many [artists] have forgotten about this, and keep teaching people their ABCs. It’s time to take a big step forward and get over it. I often get asked ‘Who needs that?!’ But people do need it – both in Russia, and in the US ,and in Japan. A new generation is emerging which is interested in more complex ideas, this language is more understandable for them. But for some reason, we keep speaking a different language.

RT: How does art respond to evil?

Elena: To respond to evil means not to adapt to it, to try to remain yourself, against all odds.

Of course, it’s not like you’re obsessed with that idea. It’s simply an internal concept which you can’t ignore, even if you wanted to. It’s the way you live, the way you speak, the way you create art. You don’t want to resort to a commonplace language, you want to talk about what is important to you, and at the same time you can freely discuss opposite concepts.

Film director Alexey German Jr. and his wife, production designer Elena Okopnaya, at the premiere of the film “The Case” at the Karo 11 October cinema in Moscow. ?  Sputnik/Grigory Sysoev

RT: At the beginning of the movie ‘Air’, the main characters ask each other, what is more important – one’s Homeland, or human life? At the end, the main character answers that question… But how do you answer it for yourself?

Elena: It is indeed a tough question. But all of us ask it sooner or later.

We are part of the [Russian] soil, and we carry within ourselves a certain shared experience, the literature and cinema which we all know. For example, when I feel down, I read Fyodor Dostoyevsky (though some would say, why make it worse and torment your soul?!)

But at the same time, I’ve always wanted young people to see the world and have a broad worldview. This isn’t about ‘canceling’ the Russian person within, but about broadening one’s horizons– because to understand a certain system, one must step beyond it.

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Thu, 29 Feb 2024 15:16:12 +0000 RT
Instagram’s OnlyFans breastfeeding loophole exposed (PHOTOS) /pop-culture/593249-onlyfans-breastfeeding-instagram-loophole/ An increasing number of OnlyFans models are bypassing Meta’s nudity display restriction policy to appear in social media feeds
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An increasing number of influencers are bypassing Meta’s nudity display restriction policy to promote adult content

Instagram users have started to complain about the platform’s algorithm showing an increasing number of “breastfeeding” videos in their recommended feeds, noting that many of the women in these clips appear to be OnlyFans models trying to advertise their paid content.

While Meta, the owner of Instagram and Facebook, does not allow explicit content or nudity on its platforms, its community guidelines make an exception for images and videos related to “breastfeeding, birth-giving and after-birth moments, health-related situations (for example, post-mastectomy, breast cancer awareness or gender confirmation surgery) or an act of protest.”

However, Instagram users have reported a recent influx of “disturbing content” being served up in their feeds, including underage girls, fetish videos, and OnlyFans models promoting their channels while ‘breastfeeding’ what appear to be toy babies.

“There’s no educational footage” in these videos, one Reddit user said, reporting that he had blocked some 20 OnlyFans promotion accounts in just one day.

Dozens of other users have also shared similar experiences, describing videos of women breastfeeding dolls and fake babies with captions like “18-year-old breastfeeding” or “breast-feeding tutorials.”

One Reddit user claimed to have reached out to one of the creators behind these videos, criticizing her for posting breastfeeding videos, to which the model allegedly responded by stating that “people are completely overreacting.”

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‘OnlyFans’ model placed on Russia’s wanted list VIDEO
]]> “It’s not a real baby and it’s simply a prop used to expose the Instagram loophole. Lastly, in the week that l’ve started posted these videos, my OnlyFans earnings have gone up to 60k a month so clearly not everyone agrees with you,” the unnamed OnlyFans model allegedly said.

Many users have also claimed that reporting such content or using Instagram’s “not interested” feature does not seem to have an effect on the algorithm, which continues to recommend unwanted videos. 

One solution to prevent these videos from popping up in the feed, as recommended by several users, has been to adjust the app’s privacy settings to show less sensitive content, blacklist certain keywords in the “specific words and phrases,” and to ‘like’ and search for content that is enjoyable in order to train the the algorithm.

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Tue, 27 Feb 2024 12:07:50 +0000 RT
Games of the Future targeting 3 billion views – organizer /pop-culture/593240-kazan-games-future-phygital-billion-views/ The organizer of Kazan’s Games of the Future, which merges traditional sports with gaming, tells media the event is as popular as Wimbledon
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Novel sporting formats that merge real-world disciplines with gaming are underway in Russia’s Kazan, with a billion online views already

The Games of the Future, which kicked off in the Russian city of Kazan last Wednesday and feature a unique mix of traditional sports and cybersports, have proved as popular as the prestigious Wimbledon tennis tournament, the event organizer, Igor Stolyarov, has told media. He estimated that the competitions have already garnered a billion views online.

The games will conclude on March 3 and are based on the ‘phygital’ (physical + digital) format invented in Russia. In the first-ever iteration of the event, more than 270 teams from 107 countries are pitted against each other in 21 combined disciplines. These include phygital football, hockey, and basketball, where athletes battle it out both on traditional fields, rinks, and courts as well as in computer simulators.

When asked which tournament he could compare the Games of the Future to in terms of viewership, Stolyarov named Wimbledon, explaining that the renowned tennis tournament had gained a billion views in 2023, just like the ongoing competition in Kazan. He noted that this is a particularly impressive result since Wimbledon has some 147 years under its belt, while the phygital games only came into being recently.

However, its organizers are setting themselves yet more ambitious targets, namely to reach 3 billion views, Stolyarov hastened to add.

The potential audience is everyone who accesses the World Wide Web. And the main goal is to get a viewership of 3 billion.

He explained that “success largely depends on being able to create a new content distribution system,” with the Games of the Future having to establish one “practically from scratch.”

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‘Robot Battle’ kicks off in Russia (VIDEO)
]]> The main task for the organizers was to spread beyond the confines of niche gaming platforms and websites. To do so, the people behind the event “made arrangements with streamers and media groups around the world.”

According to Stolyarov, “there are off-limits regions,” for instance North America and Western Europe, but the organizers have still tapped into massive audiences in China, the UAE, Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia.

When asked about plans for potential new disciplines, Stolyarov named phygital rugby and golf as likely candidates to make the program for future competitions. Outdoor summer and open water sports could also be included, he added.

Aside from phygital disciplines, the ongoing event also features more traditional cybersports as well as innovative high-tech contests such as drone racing, competitive programming, and robot battles.

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Tue, 27 Feb 2024 10:44:32 +0000 RT
Kazakhstan or Tajikistan could host next Games of the Future – TASS /pop-culture/593242-games-of-future-2025/ The Games of the Future will now be held annually and will be hosted by different countries, the head of the event, Igor Stolyarov, has said
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The head of the ‘phygital’ tournament, combining esports and physical competitions, says it will be held outside of Russia in 2025

The Games of the Future will take place again in 2025 and will be hosted by a country other than Russia, the head of the phygital tournament Igor Stolyarov told TASS on Monday. The inaugural event is currently taking place in the Russian city of Kazan.

The international competition, which combines esports and physical disciplines, officially kicked off on February 21 and is set to run until March 3. More than 2,000 athletes are competing in the Games this year, representing countries such as Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. 

According to Stolyarov, this year’s event in Kazan is only the beginning, as he revealed that the Games of the Future “will definitely take place” in 2025, and will “definitely be held on the territory of another country.”

“We will hold them once a year,” he told TASS, but did not give any hints as to who the next host country might be, suggesting only that people should “follow the news.”

As noted by the outlet, however, two possible candidates are Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, whose presidents Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Shavkat Merziyoyev announced their desire to host the tournament in the coming years while attending the opening ceremony of the Games in Kazan.

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Games of the Future nearly sold-out
]]> The groundwork for the Games of the Future was originally laid in 2021 by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chrnishenko, who announced plans to create an international esports competition. In 2022, the idea was approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who signed an official decree to hold the international multi-sports tournament in the city of Kazan in 2024 “to support the movement to develop innovative sports that combine digital technologies and physical activity.”

In February of last year, Russia’s Ministry of Sports also officially recognized “phygital sports” – a combination of activities in both the physical and digital domains – as a legitimate sporting discipline and established the Russian Federation of Phygital Sports (VFFS).

This year’s total prize fund is $10 million across all 21 disciplines, all of which combine classic sports and esports or augmented/virtual reality technologies. 

These disciplines have been separated into five categories dubbed “challenges.” They include “Sports” – a combination of classic games like football and hockey with their digital analogues; and “Tactics” – a combination of popular first-person shooter games like Counter Strike with real life laser tag.

There is also “Strategy” – competitions in popular Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) and strategy games which are supplemented with a series of trials testing the participants’ endurance; and “Speedrun” – which combines popular video game speedruns with a a series of endurance tests; as well as “Technical” – where participants compete in drone racing, robot battles and other VR competitions.

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Tue, 27 Feb 2024 08:29:28 +0000 RT
‘Robot Battle’ kicks off in Russia (VIDEO) /pop-culture/593164-robot-battle-russia-kazan/ Participants from ten countries have gathered in Kazan to take part in the tech-savvy ‘Battle of Robots’
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Participants from ten countries have brought their custom-built bots to Kazan to take part in a clash of steel and wits

Dozens of participants have gathered in central Russia to take part in the ‘Battle of Robots’ held as part of the innovative Games of the Future tournament.

The contest of steel and technology kicked off in the city of Kazan on Sunday, with 16 teams from Russia, China, India, Iran, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and the United Arab Emirates bringing their own bots.

The goal of the competition is to inflict as much damage on the opposing robot as possible, ideally to completely disable it or flip it over. Should both robots remain active by the end of the three-minute battle, the team that scores more points for inflicting damage and demonstrating more aggression and control wins. The tournament itself is a knockout format.

According to the rules, robots must weigh no more than 113.5kg (250lbs), have a speed of at least 8kph (5mph), have wheels or legs, and can roll, crawl, or fly, with certain restrictions on their dimensions. Each team can have up to five members.

In practice, the competing remote-controlled robots have broadly ranging designs. They maneuver and collide at high speeds in a rectangular arena, sending metal fragments and various parts flying in all directions.

]]> READ MORE: Games of the Future nearly sold-out

]]> Speaking to RT, a member of the ‘Energy Girls’, the only all-female team at the competition, noted that the battle had so far been tough. “We hoped that we would win. But in fact, all the teams are very strong. So the outcome is not predictable at all,” she said, adding that despite being rivals, many teams are on friendly terms.

The ‘Battle of Robots’ is part of the Games of the Future tournament, comprising 21 disciplines and being held in Kazan from February 21 to March 3. It’s the first-ever international ‘phygital’ (physical and digital) event that combines conventional and electronic sports. Over 2,000 athletes from different countries worldwide are taking part in the competitions.

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Mon, 26 Feb 2024 10:02:17 +0000 RT
Hero, patriot, and public enemy: This man still causes controversy in Russia, but everyone agrees that he was a genius /pop-culture/593114-alexey-balabanov-sixty-five/ Why Alexey Balabanov is one of the most prominent film directors in modern Russia
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Why Alexey Balabanov is one of the most prominent film directors in modern Russia

Today, the renowned Russian film director Aleksey Balabanov would have turned 65 years old. In the course of his career, Balabanov shot 14 full-length films, including the incredibly successful movies ’Brother’, ”Brother 2’, and ’Dead Man’s Buff’, the scandalous ’Of Freaks and Men’ and ’Cargo 200’, and the absurdist films ’The Castle’ and ’Happy Days’. His creative career spanned 21 years, but Aleksey Balabanov left behind a great cultural heritage and today is considered one of the most prominent film directors in modern Russian history.

New country, new artist 

In 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the transition to a market economy affected virtually all aspects of life in Russia. Cinema was no exception, and in a short period of time, the movie industry switched to commercial standards. Soviet and Russian filmmakers had to come to terms with the fact that a film had to pay off its budget. Of course, the movies of the ‘90s weren’t always shot with market principles in mind – in those years, organized crime flourished, and many gangs laundered money through the film industry. In fact, audiences never really knew whether the movie they were watching was a sincere creative endeavor or another hasty project that benefited criminal structures. 

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Moscow streaming: How Western sanctions helped Russia regain cultural sovereignty
]]> During such difficult and unstable times, filmmakers had to find a balance between their artistic ambitions and the ’behind-the-scenes’ criminal environment, which they could not ignore. The same was true for young directors who were just starting out. 

It was in 1991 – the very year when the USSR collapsed – that young filmmaker Aleksey Balabanov released his first feature-length film, ’Happy Days’. This was a screen adaptation of several short stories by the great Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, which Balabanov merged into a single movie and storyline. In fact, by choosing Beckett as the source and inspiration for his debut film, Balabanov set the general direction for his future work. Beckett is considered one of the founders of the ’theater of the absurd’, and in one way or another, almost all of Balabanov’s future films touched upon this theme. 

We’re talking about the filmmaker’s individual style, which Balabanov was known for. But every director also has their own creative and ideological style. And the latter became both a blessing and a curse for Aleksey Balabanov.

Love, hate, and national acclaim 

Aleksey Balabanov’s films have always caused controversy. Moreover, the disputes are usually centered on the political aspects of his work.

In 1994, the director made a screen adaptation of Franz Kafka’s novel ‘The Castle’, apparently confirming his rootedness in the genre of absurdism. But his third film, ’Brother’, was quite different. It looked like Balabanov had betrayed his principles – he wrote an original script and the events unfolded in modern times. ’Brother’ is popular to this day, and is considered one of the best films in the post-perestroika period. 

'Brother' (1997) Directed by Aleksey Balabanov ?  CTB Film Company

‘Brother’ is the story of a demobilized soldier, Danila Bagrov, who returns to his hometown. Tired of the monotonous provincial lifestyle, he goes to St. Petersburg, where his older brother lives. His mother tells him that his brother has made a successful career and will help him out. But reality turns out to be depressing – his older brother makes a living as a hitman. He has a lot of money, but Danila can’t come to terms with the moral aspect of his brother’s ’work’. 

The film became an instant hit with audiences and at film festivals. It received the Grand Prix at the Kinotavr Film Festival and people started quoting the movie. Audiences love the movie to this day, and many of its phrases have become as popular as the catch phrases from legendary Soviet films.

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]]> After the release of ’Brother’, Balabanov earned the reputation of a talented, original, and extremely controversial film director. Despite the awards and the film’s popularity, it was also criticized by many people. The disputes around Balabanov’s films were always centered on the ideological aspect – no one questioned the director’s talent and skill, but his creative statements gave rise to moral, ideological, and even political conflicts. 

The movie was accused of racism, nationalism, and chauvinism. The great Soviet filmmaker Alexei German even uttered the terrible word ”fascism” in regard to it. The media accused Balabanov of expressing racist ideas – something that was unheard of in Russian cinema. As a result, some journalists and critics called the picture a disgrace. At the same time, audiences loved the movie, and it won major Russian film awards, eventually becoming a classic.

A year later, Balabanov released the film ‘Of Freaks and Men’. This time, the action unfolded in the beginning of the 20th century – the early years of cinema. However, it wasn’t a story about the history of cinema, but about how the genre of eroticism and pornography originated inside the cinema, and how an underground erotic photo studio turned into a real porn studio. Once again, Balabanov was criticized – this time for decadence, debauchery, propaganda of sadomasochism, and so on. 

And then, the director shot ’Brother-2’, where the character played by Viktor Sukhorukov kills a member of the Ukrainian mafia in the United States with the words, ’You bastards will answer for Sevastopol’. The film was released in 2000, and already then, Balabanov understood that the Russia-Ukraine issue was not just a dispute about stolen gas. He saw that the problem was much deeper than that. Phrases like ”Strength is in truth,” and ”Soon your America will be over” – are from ’Brother 2’. Balabanov turned the sequel of ’Brother’ into an action movie in which Danila Bagrov goes to the US to rescue his friend. And he hit the spot once again. But this time too, an avalanche of political accusations descended upon him. Strangely, the opinions contradicted each other – while some people accused the film of Russophobia, others talked about imperialism and xenophobia. The discussions around ’Brother 2’ resembled disputes in a madhouse. 

'Brother 2' (2000) Directed by Aleksey Balabanov ?  CTB Film Company

Two years later, Balabanov again touched a sore spot with the film ’War’ – a story about the armed conflict in Chechnya in the ‘90s. This time, the director’s reputation worked against him. Balabanov approached the difficult subject in a very ethical and respectful manner, but the flood of contradictory emotions which it caused seemed endless and unstoppable. 

Scandals and politics

Two of Balabanov’s movies – ’Dead Man’s Bluff’ (2005) and ’Cargo 200’ (2007) – gave rise to particularly harsh political disputes. This time, the politicians themselves spoke out. ’Dead Man’s Buff’ is a satire on the ruling bureaucracy. The movie starts off in the distant future – a teacher announces the topic of the next lesson: the initial accumulation of capital in Russia in the ‘90s. The film then goes on to tell the story of two bandits from Nizhny Novgorod who get involved in the complex illegal schemes of rival gangs. The movie has many scenes showing gunfights, corpses, torture, and is sprinkled with Balabanov’s famous black humor. In the end, it turns out that the main characters ceased their criminal activities and became respected government officials.

Alexey Balabanov on the set of the film 'Dead Man's Bluff'.

In ’Cargo 200’, the action takes place in 1984, in the midst of the war in Afghanistan. Balabanov vividly portrays the brutal moral standards of a provincial town in the final years of the USSR, when the country is starting to lose its identity. Young people no longer strive to ’build communism’, but only dream of disco clubs and popular music. Meanwhile, the older generation tries to rely on the ideological principles of the Soviet Union. All this happens against the background of the war, and the constant arrival of ’special flights’ transporting ’Cargo-200’ – a codename for coffins with bodies of dead soldiers. 

‘Cargo 200’ was called ’the most anti-Soviet film’ and was compared to the ’Texas Chainsaw Massacre’. It was even called a black comedy and an unsuccessful philosophical experiment in denialism. 

Coincidentally, Balabanov was even accused of working for the authorities. In both movies, critics found certain aspects that supposedly portrayed the events in a favorable light for the authorities. 

'Cargo 200' (2007) Directed by Aleksey Balabanov ?  CTB Film Company

Today, everyone knows (and most people knew it at the time as well) that Balabanov was an independent film director and never carried out anyone’s orders. He simply sought out themes that were relevant for him. Whether it was the screen adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s story ’Morphine’ (Balabanov was then accused of nostalgic feelings about Tsarist Russia), or the thriller ’A Stoker’ (criticized for showing a totally negative view of reality), his movies were never about politics. These are sincere films made by a man who deeply loved his country and wanted to talk about things that were important to him.

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]]> Unfinished stories

In the course of his career, Aleksey Balabanov shot only one melodrama – ’It Doesn’t Hurt Me’. This is indeed a light movie, which doesn’t imply multiple interpretations. Here, Balabanov used a different approach and avoided exposing reality in the same way as he did in his other films. The main characters are pleasant, there are no antagonists, and it’s a love story that everyone will understand. 

Aleksey Balabanov’s last film, ’Me Too’, was released in 2012 – less than a year before the filmmaker’s death. Many people see it as a mystical prophecy, as if the director had foretold his passing. ’Me Too’ is a metaphorical study of death. In the film, a group of five people go to a mythical radioactive site somewhere between St. Petersburg and Uglich, where there is a bell tower that can supposedly make people happy. The movie is a kind of homage to Andrei Tarkovsky’s ’Stalker’, but at the same time, an original artistic statement which is thematically different from ’Stalker’. The film indeed became prophetic, and turned out to be the last in the director’s life.  Balabanov himself played a small role in the movie – his character is a film director who starts telling an interesting story but isn’t able to finish it, because he suddenly dies. In fact, the analogy with Balabanov’s own career is striking – he still had many stories to tell, but did not have the time to do so. 

Aleksey Balabanov shot 14 full-length films, most of which evoked a wide public and political response. But Balabanov himself was not a politician and did not make political statements. He had a gift for telling stories that struck a chord with people, and he wanted people to understand the reality around them.

Alexey Balabanov on the set of the movie 'Morphine'. ?  Wikipedia

The Balabanov paradox

What is so paradoxical about Balabanov’s movies? Why did public figures, journalists, and even politicians criticize and praise his films at the same time? To understand this, we should keep in mind the simple rule taught in film schools all over the world. 

Most films are based on the simple principle: what draws and keeps the viewer’s attention is the ability to relate to the protagonist. However, Aleksey Balabanov had shamelessly broken this principle (and many others) in ’Brother’. The movie dissected the minds of the gangsters and hitmen of the ‘90s with surgical precision. All those chauvinistic and racist statements were uttered not as loud proclamations, but in a completely natural way – because that was how the criminals spoke and acted in real life. 

In ’Brother’, there are no positive characters. In fact, all of them are quite unsympathetic. But the film does not force the viewer to empathize with anyone – it merely paints an extremely accurate picture of the time and the people who lived in it, some of whom held truly outrageous views. Such people really existed, and they cannot be ignored. Balabanov’s films encourage viewers to keep a certain emotional distance from the characters. These movies do not claim that everyone has their own truth or that anyone can be justified if we understand their motives. They just describe the lives of people who have been depraved by the world around them. And it’s up to the viewer to criticize them or sympathize with them.

We need to remember that Balabanov’s films make the viewer think and encourage him to push through the surrounding darkness and horror in order to understand how ordinary people lived in different periods of Russian history. It is also important to keep in mind that the scandalous phrases in the films are spoken not by Balabanov himself, but by the characters – in other words, by broken people who cannot come to terms with reality and are unable to find their place in society.

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Sun, 25 Feb 2024 19:11:41 +0000 RT
Action movie icon says Russia is his favourite country /pop-culture/593146-steven-seagal-russia-greatest/ Steven Seagal has said he heard “lies and propaganda” about Russia as a child, but fell in love with the country as an adult
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Steven Seagal has said he heard “lies and propaganda” about Russia as a child, but fell in love with the country as an adult

As a child of the Cold War, action movie star Steven Seagal told RT that he was taught to fear Russia, but that visiting his grandparents’ homeland made him realize that it was home to some of the “deepest and most beautiful culture on Earth.” 

Born in Michigan at the dawn of the Cold War in 1952, Seagal said that he was “raised in a Russian household,” but that his parents soon instructed his grandparents not to speak Russian around him.

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Steven Seagal attends the inaugural meeting of the International Russophile Movement in Moscow, Russia on March 14, 2023.
Action movie icon says he’s ‘million percent’ Russian
]]> “Quickly as a child I realized that there was politics going on,” he told RT in an interview this week. “My parents were saying to my grandparents: ‘We don’t want him to speak Russian because we’re in the middle of a Cold War’.”

The portrayal of then Soviet Russia as the “bad guy” in American media “was oftentimes pretty terrible and pretty hard on someone like me, because I loved Russia,” he said. “And sometimes you would hear crazy crazy lies and propaganda… ‘if you go to Russia your wife will be raped, your mother will be raped, and if you want to get a taxi there’s a horse and buggy that will come down the street’, really crazy stuff.”

Segal struck up a friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin over a decade ago, with the pair apparently bonding over their shared love of martial arts. Seagal received Russian citizenship in 2016, and currently serves as a special envoy of the Russian Foreign Ministry on humanitarian relations between Moscow and Washington.

“One of the things that happened recently was the [2018 FIFA] World Cup, and I think Putin was a genius because he invited the world here and all of a sudden the world came here and saw that Russia is a beautiful place, Moscow is an amazing city… the culture is some of the deepest and most beautiful culture on Earth.”

“You have amazing literature, amazing history, poets… amazing musicians, amazing science, really some of these are some of the best in the world,” he continued. “I don’t want to say that Russia is the greatest country on earth, but for me it is.”

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WATCH: Hollywood hardman Steven Seagal gives Aikido masterclass to MMA heavyweight Alexander Emelianenko
]]> Seagal’s love for all things Russian and his support for Russia’s military operation in Ukraine has earned him notoriety in the West. Last year, a group of US, EU, and Ukrainian lawmakers called on Washington and Brussels to sanction the 90s action hero.

Seagal, however, maintains that Western audiences are told very little about the conflict and its origins. In 2022, he visited the Donbass region to shoot footage for a documentary, which is apparently still in production.

“When I realized that 99% of the news that was being told to the world was being told by people who had never been to Donbass, never been to Lugansk, never been to Ukraine, I thought it would be important to be able to go there, interview Ukrainians, interview Russians, and let people tell their truth,” he told RT last year.

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Sun, 25 Feb 2024 18:50:07 +0000 RT
Games of the Future nearly sold-out /pop-culture/593109-games-future-kazan-tickets/ The Russian Phygital Games of the Future tournament has sold nearly 80,000 offline tickets, according to official figures
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Some 97% of offline tickets for the tournament have been booked three days into the event, according to official figures

The Games of the Future, the first-ever international phygital tournament, which kicked off in Russia on Wednesday, has been nearly out of offline tickets as of Saturday, according to the sports minister of Tatarstan, Vladimir Leonov.

Speaking to reporters at a press briefing, Leonov noted that organizers had sold nearly 97% of the total 80,000 tickets three days into the event.

“There are practically no tickets left. But if you can’t watch it in person, we invite everyone to the streaming platforms, where everything is covered,” Leonov said.

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Teams compete in the Dota 2 quarter-final mach at the Games of the Future in Kazan.
Games of the Future reveal viewing target?
]]> The innovative competition started in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, on February 21 and will run through March 3. The event combines conventional and electronic sports, and brings together over 2,000 contestants from more than 100 countries. The sports program includes competitions in 21 disciplines at nine sports facilities in Tatarstan and one in Sochi.

Ticket sales for the event kicked off on December 20 last year, and organizers say the demand has been buoyant from the start. However, the head of the event, Igor Stolyarov, earlier said that the organizers “are more interested” in online spectators than those in-person due to the specific nature of the tournament. The viewing “super target” has been set at three billion views and 250 million unique viewers for live broadcasts for the entire event.

The Games of the Future can be viewed live on the Russian federal TV channel Match TV. They are also available on the official website of the tournament and on streaming platforms, including VK Play, Trovo and Twitch.

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Sun, 25 Feb 2024 08:57:08 +0000 RT
‘Russian FIFA simulator’ is in development – federation head /russia/593078-russian-fifa-development-game/ Gazprom is already developing a Russian alternative to EA Sports’ FIFA football simulator, a senior sports official has said
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President Vladimir Putin has promised to support the project

Russian oil and gas giant Gazprom is developing an alternative to EA Sports’ FIFA football game, a senior sports official has said. The idea was initially pitched by retired football star Andrey Arshavin to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the opening ceremony of the Games of the Future tournament in the city of Kazan, central Russia.

In an interview with TASS released on Saturday, Nikita Nagorny, the head of the All-Russian Federation of Phygital Sports, which encompasses games where athletes compete in both cyber and real domains, voiced hopes that the Russian version of the legendary sports simulator would see the light of day within a few years. 

“However, I know that it takes more than one year, dozens of years, to develop a game,” Nagorny said. “In any case, the work is underway, so sooner or later we’ll see this game.”

The idea was initially proposed to Putin by Arshavin, who noted that Aleksey Miller, the CEO of Gazprom, could help with the development. Gazprom is the general sponsor of Russia’s Zenit football club where Arshavin used to play.

In response, Putin promised to support the idea and to discuss the subject with Miller. 

Earlier this week, the Russian eSports Federation and the Ministry of Sports also rallied behind the project. Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin noted that the national football school has many athletes who could bring their creative input to the digital sphere to attract more people to the sport.

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Moscow streaming: How Western sanctions helped Russia regain cultural sovereignty
]]> Meanwhile, Dmitry Smit, the president of the Russian eSports Federation, noted that the timeline for development depends on whether the FIFA alternative would be designed for consoles or PCs. 

He said that it would be harder for Russian game developers to create a football simulator for consoles due to the lack of relevant experience. However, “if you make a similar simulator on a PC, everything is easier,” he said, adding that this type of game could also be played on mobile devices. 

The FIFA football simulator, which was first released in 1993 and has since seen dozens of iterations, holds the Guinness World Record as the best-selling sports video game with more than 300 million copies sold. In May 2022, EA Sports announced that FIFA 23 would be the last in the series, to be replaced by a new franchise, EA Sports FC.

The Games of the Future tournament is held in Kazan between February 21 and March 3 and includes 21 disciplines. It is the first-ever international event to combine both conventional and electronic sports. Over 2,000 athletes from more than 100 countries are taking part in the competition.

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Sat, 24 Feb 2024 16:11:13 +0000 RT
Games of the Future reveal viewing target? /news/593079-games-future-kazan-viewership/ Organizers of the Games of the Future tournament are seeking an audience of 250 million unique viewers??
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The event in the Russian city of Kazan is looking for an online audience of 250 million unique viewers, organizers have said?

The organizers of the Games of the Future have set a target of 3 billion views and 250 million unique viewers for live broadcasts of the event, which kicked off in the Russian city of Kazan this past week, according to the head of the event, Igor Stolyarov.   

Games of the Future are an international ‘phygital’ tournament, which combines competitions in the physical and digital domains, thus testing athletes’ skills in both the real and virtual worlds.  

Speaking about the audience for the tournament, Stolyarov stressed that the organizers “are more interested in online spectators rather than offline [ones], not to offend the offline spectators.”  

“The super target that we’ve set for ourselves is 3 billion views” for the whole two-week-long event, which “would correspond to approximately 250 million unique spectators all around the world,” he explained.  

Stolyarov said that video games were chosen for the tournament based on some 50 parameters, but “the first selection criteria that we looked at was viewership.”  

“How this discipline or cybersport is viewed all around the world, on Twitch and YouTube.... How many videos have been produced on that matter; how many streamers [play it],” he explained.  

Among the disciplines that will be featured at the tournament, are such iconic video games as Counter-Strike 2, Dota 2, WarFace, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, and others.

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Sat, 24 Feb 2024 15:49:56 +0000 RT
Obama’s daughter reveals new name /pop-culture/593047-malia-obama-name-change/ Malia Obama now goes by Malia Ann, in an apparent bid to dodge accusations of nepotism
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Malia Obama now goes by Malia Ann, in an apparent bid to dodge accusations of nepotism

Malia Obama, daughter of former US President Barack Obama, has dropped her father’s surname for her Hollywood debut. Malia Ann quietly announced her nom de plume when her first short film, ‘The Heart’, recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

The eldest Obama daughter’s change of name was revealed in a ‘Meet the Artist’ video published by festival organizers last month, and has been the subject of tabloid gossip ever since. In the video, Malia Ann described her film as “an odd little story, somewhat of a fable, about a man grieving the death of his mother,” but made no mention of dropping her globally-recognized surname.

The 25-year-old first attempted to break into show business in 2017, when she took an internship with movie mogul and sex offender Harvey Weinstein. After graduating from Harvard University in 2021, she worked as a writer on the Amazon Prime Video television series ‘Swarm,’ although commenters on social media have persistently argued that her rise in the industry came as a result of her father’s name.

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A screenshot from the trailer for Netflix' 'We The People' ? YouTube / Netflix
Barack and Michelle Obama team up with Netflix to deliver the animated civics lesson nobody asked for
]]> Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama also branched out into entertainment after leaving the White House. Their company, Higher Ground Productions, has produced series and documentaries for Netflix and podcasts for Spotify. The former president won an Emmy Award in 2022 for “outstanding” narration on a series about the US’ national parks.

Obama did not collect his award in person, nor did he attend his daughter’s red carpet premiere at Sundance.

Although the New York Times called ‘The Heart’ a “well-shot and spare debut,” it received mostly negative reviews on Letterboxd, a social media platform for film enthusiasts and armchair critics. “Honoring her father’s legacy by dropping a giant bomb and not receiving any criticism for it,” one scathing critic wrote, referring to Barack Obama’s liberal use of drone strikes during his presidency.

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Fri, 23 Feb 2024 20:15:39 +0000 RT
VICE shuts down website and lays off ‘hundreds’ of staff /pop-culture/593040-vice-shutdown-layoffs-transition/ Vice, once valued at $5.7 billion, has shut down, after a struggle to attract capital as it prioritized politics, gender and racial issues
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Once valued at $5.7 billion, the outlet has since descended into irrelevance

Vice.com has stopped publishing new content and laid off several hundred employees, its CEO announced late on Thursday. The outlet once valued at billions of dollars had to be rescued from bankruptcy last year, by a consortium including George Soros.

The website is still available, but its content management system was shut down minutes before midnight, according to one employee. The VICE company will “transition to a studio model,” CEO Bruce Dixon said in a message sent to the staff, as part of “fundamental changes to our strategic vision.”

“We create and produce outstanding original content true to the Vice brand. However, it is no longer cost-effective for us to distribute our digital content the way we have done previously,” Dixon wrote. Going forward, Vice will partner with “established media companies” to distribute its digital content on their platforms instead.

Refinery29, a “social-first” outlet Vice acquired in 2019, will continue to operate until the company can sell it off.

“Our financial partners are supportive and have agreed to invest in this operating model going forward,” Dixon noted. Vice had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May 2023, and was acquired by Fortress Investment Group and a hedge fund run by billionaire and Democrat mega-donor George Soros.

Whereas Vice once produced edgy video documentaries, in recent years the website ended up obsessed with left-wing politics and focus on gender and racial issues. One critic posted a collage of such articles on X (formerly Twitter), to celebrate Vice.com’s demise.

“Vice is failing because communism was a bad business model,” said Tim Pool, who used to work for Vice before launching his own media conglomerate.

“I wrote for Vice.com from 2012-2016, back when people still found it endearing that VICE would have a politics-oriented column,” independent journalist Michael Tracey said. “Truly an epic fail to have screwed it up this badly.”

Vice started out as a pop-culture and art magazine in Montreal, Canada in the early 1990s, founded by Gavin McInnes, Shane Smith and Soroosh Alvi. In 2001, the outlet moved to the hipster capital of the US, the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, and rode the wave of social media popularity to becoming a powerhouse. McInnes left in 2008 over “creative differences” while Smith stepped down as CEO in 2018.

Funded by major corporations and venture capital throughout the 2010s, Vice was valued at $5.7 billion in 2017 and Smith was feted as a new-model media mogul. After his departure, however, the group struggled to attract capital and began laying off staff. 

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Fri, 23 Feb 2024 18:20:19 +0000 RT
Alexander the Great Netflix series is ‘fiction’ – Greek minister /pop-culture/592787-greece-alexander-great-netflix-fiction/ A Netflix drama-documentary about Alexander the Great is “replete with historical inaccuracies,” according to a Greek minister
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The docu-series depicts the Macedonian king as being in a homosexual relationship with his general Hephaestion

A Netflix drama-documentary series that depicts the Macedonian ruler and military leader Alexander the Great as being in a gay relationship has been labeled as “extremely poor-quality fiction” by Greece’s culture minister.

Lawmaker Lina Mendoni’s comments about the six-part series come amid a brewing scandal over its suggestion that Alexander, king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon, was involved in a romantic relationship with his general Hephaestion – a figure referred to by Roman historian Quintus Curtius as being “by far the dearest of all the king’s friends.”

Speaking to parliament last week, Mendoni said that the series – titled ‘Alexander: The Making of a God’ – is “replete with historical inaccuracies,” which she said “demonstrates the director’s sloppiness and poverty of scenario.”

Referencing Alexander’s alleged affair with Hephaestion, Mendoni said that “there is no mention in the sources that it goes beyond the limits of friendship.”

In an opinion piece earlier this month, the Greek daily Eleftheros Typos said that the Netflix representation of the ruler of Macedon is a “distortion of the truth,” and blamed the 2004 Oliver Stone film ‘Alexander’ for initiating “a propaganda campaign about Alexander’s homosexuality.” 

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Cleopatra showing Octavius the bust of Julius Caesar, 1760-1770, by Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787)
Cleopatra documentary sparks ethnicity row
]]> Similarly, Dimitris Natsiou, president of the far-right Christian Orthodox political party Niki, said last week that the series seeks to “subliminally convey the notion that homosexuality was acceptable in ancient times, an element that has no basis.” 

However, according to Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, a professor at Cardiff University in Wales, homosexual encounters were prevalent in ancient Greece.

“Same-sex relationships were quite the norm throughout the Greek world,” Llewellyn-Jones says in the first episode of the series. “The Greeks did not have a word for homosexuality, or to be gay. It just wasn’t in their vocabulary whatsoever. There was just being sexual.”

Despite the furor, however, Mendoni rejected a suggestion posed by Natsiou during last week’s parliamentary session to take legal action against Netflix, saying that doing so would be unconstitutional.

“The ministry of culture does not exercise censorship, does not carry out actions that result in prosecution or ban, does not manipulate, does not limit, does not control the dissemination of information and ideas neither preventively nor repressively,” she said.

During Alexander’s 13-year reign as the king of Macedonia, he created one of the largest empires seen in the ancient world, expanding from Greece to northwestern India before his death at the age of 32 in 323 BC.

Last year, Netflix also came under fire from groups in Egypt who said that the casting of a black actor in the role of the country’s last Pharaoh, Cleopatra, was a “falsification” of Egyptian history.

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Tue, 20 Feb 2024 16:20:54 +0000 RT
Media using AI to make me fatter – Trump /pop-culture/592590-trump-fake-news-ai/ Ex-US President Donald Trump has lashed out at US news media over purportedly altering his photos to show him in an unflattering light
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The presidential candidate has raged on social media over a picture of him playing golf while sporting an impressive pot belly

Former US president and current candidate Donald Trump has lashed out at American media on his Truth Social platform, accusing them of spreading fake news about him.

A post on his account on Friday showed four photos of Trump mid-swing while playing golf. In one photo, purportedly published by an unnamed US outlet, Trump has a bulging midsection and looks decidedly overweight. In the other three, said to be taken on Friday morning, the pot belly is missing, and Trump appears significantly slimmer and more fit.

“The Fake News used Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create the picture on the top left. These are despicable people, but everyone knows that. The other pictures are me hitting Golf balls today to show the difference. Sadly, in our Country, Fake News is all you get!” Trump wrote in the post. His representatives did not respond to media requests for comment.

It is unclear why Trump decided to take news media to task over the doctored picture at this particular time. 

According to fact-checking site Snopes, the photo appeared on social media – and not in news media – back in May 2017. It was in fact altered, although likely not with AI technology, the site claimed, but rather using Photoshop. It is an image of professional golfer and longtime Trump supporter John Daly, with Trump’s head superimposed over Daly’s body. The picture circulated on X (formerly Twitter) at the time and drew a slew of comments and speculation about the then president’s health.

Trump’s photos, including those of him playing golf at his many golf courses, are often altered and used by social media pranksters. One image posted online in 2022 and showing him with a pronounced double chin and deep facial wrinkles garnered hundreds of likes and shares on Facebook before it was proved to be digitally altered.

]]> READ MORE: Trump banned from running his own businesses

]]> For no apparent reason, Trump’s post featuring the doctored image coincided with Friday’s ruling against him by a New York judge, which barred the presidential candidate from running his businesses in the state and ordered him and his company to pay $354 million in damages for real estate-related bank fraud.

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Sat, 17 Feb 2024 14:08:13 +0000 RT
Paul McCartney reunited with long-lost ‘treasure’ (PHOTO) /pop-culture/592539-paul-mccartney-lost-bass/ Beatles legend Paul McCartney has been reunited with his violin-shaped Hofner bass guitar that vanished over 50 years ago
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The violin-shaped Hofner 500/1 bass guitar, potentially worth $12 million, was stolen from the Beatles’ van over 50 years ago

An iconic violin-shaped bass guitar purchased by Beatles legend Paul McCartney in 1961 and thought to have been lost for more than 50 years has finally been returned to the musician, following a global search. 

The Hofner 500/1 was bought by McCartney before the Beatles became a worldwide phenomenon and was his first bass guitar. He used it at hundreds of concerts throughout the ‘Beatlemania’ period, as well as to record the band’s first two albums, including hits such as Love Me Do, Twist and Shout, and All My Loving. The instrument was stolen from the back of a van in London after a show in October 1972. 

In 2018, a group of fans launched an international hunt for the long-lost item, dubbed the ‘Lost Bass project’. Hofner, the manufacturer of the instrument, also joined in, starting the hashtag #tracingthebass and encouraging people from all over the world to help find the instrument. After pursuing a number of leads and garnering worldwide attention, the group eventually struck success.

On Tuesday, British film student Ruaidhri Guest shared a picture on social media announcing that the bass, which he had inherited, had been returned to McCartney. According to The Telegraph, the instrument was sent to Hofner back in December but has since been undergoing an authentication process.

According to the Lost Bass project’s website, the item has sustained minimal damage and will only require minor repairs to make it playable again. It was also noted that it came with its original case.  

]]> READ MORE: Ozzy Osbourne feuds with Kanye West over ‘anti-Semitism’

]]> McCartney’s official website released a statement confirming that the guitar had been returned to the musician after being authenticated. 

McCartney himself previously said that he “fell in love” with the Hofner 500/1, which he originally purchased for £30 in 1961 – the equivalent of $847 in 2023 when accounting for inflation. According to Hofner executive Nick Wass, the guitar could now be valued “more like a Van Gogh or a Picasso than just an instrument,” and could be worth more than $12 million.

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Fri, 16 Feb 2024 11:49:20 +0000 RT
Megan Fox upset at ‘looking like a Ukrainian sex doll’ /pop-culture/592512-megan-fox-ukrainian-sex/ Amid ‘sex doll’ backlash from Ukrainians on Instagram, actress Megan Fox has told her detractors to “let a girl make a joke for f**ks sake”
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Amid a backlash from Ukrainian Instagram users, the actress told her detractors to “let a girl make a joke for f**ks sake”

American actress Megan Fox has whipped up social media outrage by complaining that she looked like “a Ukrainian blowup doll” in a low-quality photograph. The ‘Transformers’ star was accused of “xenophobia and misogyny towards Ukrainians.”  

Fox posted a photo of herself and fiance Machine Gun Kelly along with pop starTaylor Swift and Super Bowl winner Travis Kelce to Instagram on Wednesday. In the accompanying caption, Fox joked that the “shadowy cell phone pic” made her look “like a Ukrainian blowup doll. when in REALITY i look like one of those super expensive silicone real sex dolls you can only get in Japan.”

Among more than 18,000 commenters were a legion of angry Ukrainians. “Come to Ukraine and see what Ukrainian women are…to realize what a catastrophic disrespectful shame [you have] just written,” one Ukrainian woman thundered. 

“Is xenophobia and misogyny towards Ukrainians okay for you? For normal people they are not,” another wrote.

Replying to one woman who called her comment “very rude,” Fox wrote: “Dear God. That is NOT what I meant. Ukrainian women are hot af and so in my imagination the blowup dolls would also be hot. Let a girl make a joke for f**ks sake.”

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Thu, 15 Feb 2024 21:07:05 +0000 RT
Artist vows to destroy $45mn worth of art if Assange dies /pop-culture/592479-assange-prison-kill-switch/ Artist Andrey Molodkin has taken ‘hostage’ 16 works of art worth about $45 mn to highlight the plight of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Masterpieces by Picasso and Rembrandt will allegedly be dissolved in acid if the WikiLeaks co-founder dies in prison

Russian-born artist Andrey Molodkin says he has arranged for 16 highly valuable paintings to be destroyed, should WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange die in prison. Assange has been jailed in Britain for almost five years and is to make his final attempt to avoid extradition to the US this month.

The collaborative art destruction project was reported on Tuesday by British media and is endorsed by Stella Assange, the wife of the imprisoned journalist. The hearing of his application is scheduled for next week.

According to Molodkin, he has convinced several people in the art world to lend their property for his ‘Dead Man’s Switch’ project.

The works by Picasso, Rembrandt, Andy Warhol and others are now stored in plywood boxes in a 29-ton safe somewhere in France, alongside two barrels of chemicals, the artist told Sky News.

A countdown timer needs to be reset every 24 hours, or a pump will mix the acid powder and the accelerant, dissolving the contents, artworks estimated to be worth $45 million. Only people “close” to Assange can reset the timer if they are certain of his wellbeing. If the journalist is released, the safe will be reopened and the paintings returned to their owners, Molodkin claimed.

“I’m not trying to destroy art, and I don’t believe I will have to,” the 57-year-old told The Guardian about the project. He envisions it as an invitation to reflect on why destroying a person’s life “means nothing, but destroying art is a huge taboo in the world.”

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Julian Assange gestures to the media from a police vehicle on his arrival at Westminster Magistrates court on April 11, 2019 in London, England
Assange faces torture and suicide in US – UN
]]> Molodkin, like many others, perceives Assange as a champion of free speech who is in prison because of his work as a publisher. The US has charged him under the Espionage Act with crimes related to his work with whistleblower Chelsea Manning. If extradited and convicted, Assange faces a potential 175-year sentence.

His supporters say the prosecution sets a dangerous precedent for all journalists who may have to report something negative about the US or its allies like WikiLeaks did.

“It’s much more important now to discuss and communicate in the cultural sphere,” Molodkin said of his approach. “I don’t trust any politicians anymore. They’re corrupt. I believe solutions can only be found on the cultural platform now.”

Italian art-gallery owner Giampaolo Abbondio told Sky News that he lent the Picasso to Molodkin, who is a long-time acquaintance. He was initially reluctant, but was convinced that it’s “more relevant for the world to have one Assange than an extra Picasso,” he said.

One of Molodkin’s paintings is in the safe too, media reported.

]]> READ MORE: CIA staffer behind Wikileaks’ US hacking revelations gets 40 years

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Thu, 15 Feb 2024 14:23:20 +0000 RT
US porn star appears on official mural in Russian village /pop-culture/592383-sasha-grey-painting-russia/ A portrait of a former adult film actress in the US has appeared on a public fence in Agapovka, a village in Russia’s Chelyabinsk region
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A painting of adult actress Sasha Grey dressed as a winter character was spotted on fence near local education department building

A portrait of former American porn star Sasha Grey has been spotted on an official mural painted on a fence in the village of Agapovka in Russia’s Chelyabinsk Region. The actress was depicted dressed as Snegurochka, a Snow Maiden in a Russian fairytale.

As reported by several Telegram channels, the painting could be seen near the village’s education department building and was apparently commissioned by the local administration in honor of a winter sports festival that took place several weeks ago.

The head of the Agapovka district Artyom Yakhimovich explained to RT that the village authorities didn’t recognize the porn actress when approving the project. He claimed that the cultural workers responsible for the project were trying to find a “picture of a beautiful woman” to decorate the village for the ‘Ural Blizzard’ sports competition. The picture used in the mural appears to be taken from a photoshoot Grey did wearing a traditional Russian Gzhel costume. 

On Tuesday BAZA reported on Telegram that, after pictures of the unusual depiction of Grey on a fence dressed as a popular Russian fairytale character made their way across the internet, a resident of Agapovka filed a complaint with the local administration, expressing outrage that a porn actress was being publicly featured in the village.

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RT
US porn star slammed over Iran visit (IMAGES)
]]> The next day, the plank of the public fence that featured the porn actress’s face was removed and a representative of the village’s administration promised to correct the misunderstanding, noting that everyone who was involved in the art project seemed to have been indifferent towards what they were doing.

The painting has now been updated and features a different model posing as Snegurochka. The Agapovka authorities have stated that the new image on the fence depicts a local resident.

Grey, who retired from the porn industry in 2011 and has since delved into modeling, acting, writing, music and streaming, has not yet commented on the inclusion of her portrait in a Russian town’s decorations.

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Tue, 13 Feb 2024 15:30:45 +0000 RT
Moscow streaming: How Western sanctions helped Russia regain cultural sovereignty /pop-culture/592182-russian-online-streaming-services-sanctions/ Penalties have hasntened the demise of the Hollywood system in the country and a rejuvination of the local industry
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Penalties have hasntened the demise of the Hollywood system in the country and a rejuvination of the local industry

One and a half years ago, the Russian movie industry found itself in a tricky situation. When Hollywood’s major studios withdrew their movies from the country’s market, both cinemas and online streaming platforms lost access to many films. However, in the past year, the movie industry in Russia has adapted to the new reality and local streaming services have met with particular success. While movie theater statistics still fall short of pre-pandemic figures, the interest in online streaming services has been rapidly growing. In 2023, these platforms added a record number of titles to their media libraries. We explore how Russia’s streaming platforms have adapted their business model to the new reality and what Russian audiences are watching today. 

The background story 

In March 2022, when Russia was hit by unprecedented sanctions, major Hollywood studios joined the boycott and announced that they are leaving the Russian market. These were Disney, Universal, Warner Bros, and Paramount Pictures – the ‘Big Four’ motion picture companies that produce all big-budget movies in the US. Smaller motion picture companies did not leave the Russian market, and movies such as ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ by Lionsgate studio, ‘Everything, Everywhere, All at Once’, and ‘Beau Is Afraid’ by A24 were shown in Russia. However, audiences was deprived of the chance to watch major US releases. 

A few months later, the sanctions also affected Russian online streaming platforms. After the existing contracts expired, almost all the movies produced by major motion picture companies disappeared from Russian streaming services. These included the Marvel Cinematic Universe, ‘Star Wars’, ‘Lord of the Rings’, and ‘Harry Potter’ movies, DC comics movies, ‘The Fast and the Furious’ and ‘Mission Impossible’ film series, and many other popular motion pictures. Admittedly, some older Hollywood blockbusters were still available – for example, ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’. But the movie is over 30 years old, and apparently, its availability in Russia is guaranteed by lifetime contracts signed years ago. 

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RT
Russia’s Hollywood: The legendary film studio Mosfilm celebrates its 100th anniversary
]]> The share of Hollywood content on Russian streaming platforms was once 30% on average. It is important to note that not all Russian streaming services offered a wide variety of foreign films. While platforms such as Kinopoisk and Ivi boasted an impressive selection of Hollywood movies, others – such as Start, Premier, and More.tv – focused on original series, so there were fewer US blockbusters on these platforms. 

However, while Hollywood’s big motion picture companies left Russia, US cinema has not completely disappeared from Russian streaming platforms. The US has a well-developed movie industry and every year, many independent films produced by smaller studios are released. Even in light of severe sanctions, these studios continued to do business and conclude contracts with Russia. For example, Russian viewers were able to see the above mentioned films ‘Beau Is Afraid’ and ‘Everything, Everywhere and All at Once’, Guy Ritchie’s ‘The Translator’ and ‘Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre’, the horror film ‘Talk to Me’, and many others.

US cinema does not end with Hollywood’s Big Four studios which annually release multimillion-dollar blockbusters. Since independent cinema is quite popular in the US, filmmakers feel at ease and have the opportunity to shoot many different films. 

How are things today?

In 2023, a record number of new movies and TV series appeared on Russian streaming platforms. In fact, there is now more content on Russian streaming platforms than in previous years, when Hollywood had not yet left the market.

Guests at the presentation of the new season of the Okko online cinema at the KARO 11 October cinema in Moscow. ?  Sputnik / Kirill Kallinikov

According to Telecom Daily, from January 2022 to January 2023, Russian streaming platforms experienced a 7% drop in content – from 31,800 titles to 29,700. But by November 1, 2023, their media libraries had grown to include 31,900 titles. So on average, there’s now even more content on these platforms than there had been before the sanctions. And the dynamics show that the media libraries of Russian streaming platforms will continue to grow. 

Two factors in particular have contributed to this successful trend – the purchase of films and TV series from other countries (which have not imposed sanctions), and the growing number of domestically produced TV series.

Who has come to replace Hollywood?

According to the TelecomDaily statistics, new foreign movies and TV series are added to the media libraries of Russian streaming platforms on a constant basis. South Korean, Turkish, and Indian motion pictures have replaced US blockbusters and popular TV series by major studios. China is also increasing its presence in the Russian market. This year, Kinopoisk released several Chinese TV series, animated series, and films, and some of them became extremely popular on the platform. 

The number of films and series on Russian streaming platforms has not changed dramatically. Kinopoisk continues to sign contracts with foreign producers and constantly adds titles to its media library.

“From the beginning of 2022 [our media library] has included about 11,000 titles or 79,000 videos (this includes movies, as well as TV series, TV show, and sports events episodes, etc.),” Kinopoisk’s press service told RT. 

Okko Deputy CEO Elvira Dmitrievskaya said Hollywood movies made up only a small part of the platform’s media library, and it was quickly replaced by other content.

The website of the Russian streaming service Okko (on the right) and a smartphone screen with an image of the website of the Internet service about cinema Kinopoisk. ?  Sputnik / Maxim Blinov

“We quickly made up for these losses with original content, we’ve added more Russian movies, as well as Turkish and Korean TV series,” Dmitrievskaya said, according to RBK. “A year and a half or two years ago, the market was completely different. All online platforms were going after exclusive foreign content. Now [they] focus on the production of original series and invest in Russian films, because in one way or another, four out of five subscribers watch domestic content.”

The Premier streaming service sticks to the same principles, and has added many Turkish TV series and films to its media library. 

Original production

Expanding the media library with foreign content is just a small part of the overall strategy. The main focus for Russian streaming platforms is the production of original TV series and movies. Most platforms produce about three original series per year, and considering co-production, that number is considerably higher. It would take several years to watch all the Russian TV series that have been released online since 2018.

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Milos Bikovic at the premiere of 'Son of a Rich 2' in Moscow, December 20, 2023.
Serbia defends ‘White Lotus’ actor from Ukrainian attack
]]> The platforms also produce feature films and documentary projects. Premier is currently the leading platform in terms of documentary film projects. Its media library includes about 30 original and over 50 co-produced documentaries and TV series. 

There is no shortage of Russian content on the platforms, since just like in any other country, viewers prefer domestic films and TV series. The current situation clearly demonstrates this. Therefore, many online platforms focus on releasing original series. 

“KION originals are a flagship project on our streaming service – over 70% of the platform’s users watch them. Since the platform was launched, KION has released 70 original projects,” MTS Media CEO Aleksey Ivanov told RT. “Among the latest noteworthy projects that have been popular with audiences are ‘Life on Call 2’ – a drama about the escort service; ‘Kidney 2’ – a comedy-drama starring Lyubov Aksenova; the documentary ‘Anonymous Telegram Channels’, and others.”

Premier told RT that Russian content prevails on the platform, which also attracts viewers by releasing new original series. 

Online cinema website ivi.ru. ?  Sputnik / Maxim Blinov

“Our audience comes to Premier primarily in search of original series such as: ‘Peace! Friendship! Chewing Gum!’, ‘The Epidemic’, ‘Kill Rita’, as well as original documentary projects and TV shows and programs produced by channels TNT, Friday!, TV-3, and Match TV, which are available exclusively on Premier,” the platform’s press service told RT.

The platform’s representatives also said that Premier releases many documentary projects, which is a distinctive feature of this streaming service. 

Kinopoisk HD found itself in a similar situation. It once provided mostly purchased content, but about a year after it was launched, the platform started producing original content. 

“Since domestic movie and TV series production has picked up speed and increased in volume, the share of domestic content in the Kinopoisk catalog has gradually increased over the years, and now exceeds 40%,” the platform’s press service told RT. “The number of Kinopoisk viewers also continues to grow: in the first nine months of the year [2023], an average of 9.2 million Yandex Plus subscribers watched [content on] Kinopoisk per month, which is 1,5 times more [viewers] than in the same period last year.”

Kion’s statistics have also surged. 

“According to the MTS Group’s financial and operational performance report for the third quarter of 2023, KION has 7.6 million subscribers. Over the past year, the number of subscribers has grown by 33%. Viewer hours (per user) have also increased by 20% over the past year,” Ivanov said.

The history of Russian streaming services 

The departure of Hollywood motion picture companies from the Russian market coincided with the rapid growth of Russian streaming services. Until 2018, there were only several media streaming platforms in Russia. The major ones were Ivi and Okko. However, at the end of the last decade, the SVOD (Subscription Video On Demand) format became increasingly popular worldwide. In the US, Netflix became the most popular streaming platform, and was soon followed by others like Apple TV+ and Disney+. 

PREMIER ex-CEO Sofya Mitrofanova at the presentation of the PREMIER online cinema. ?  Sputnik / Ekaterina Chesnokova

In Russia, streaming services began to gain popularity in 2018. On August 16, 2018, the TNT-Premier platform was launched, and a year later it became known as Premier. On the same day, the series ‘House Arrest’ was released, which became the first Russian original series produced by an online streaming platform. 

A bit earlier, in April 2018, Kinopoisk released an app for TVs that allowed people to rent or buy movies from its media library. A year later, the online platform was renamed Kinopoisk HD, and in early 2020, it also started to release original series. In 2017, another platform called Start was launched. It began releasing original content in 2019.

By 2020, all Russian streaming platforms produced original content. New services like Okko and More.tv sprang up in addition to Kinopoisk and Start. In 2021, Kion – another streaming service that was also focused on original production – was launched. 

So by March 2022, the Russian online streaming industry was already well established and was quite popular with viewers.

Also, many people liked watching older series which were released on TV several years ago. This content also became popular when it was added to streaming platforms.

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The premiere of the TV mini-series ‘A Boy’s Word: Blood on the Asphalt’ in Moscow on November 9, 2023.
EU state’s police issue caution over Russian TV series
]]> According to Kinopoisk Pro Index**, around two or three Russian series made it to the list of the top 10 most popular series in Russia. After Russia was hit with sanctions, Russian and Turkish TV series became very popular. In 2023, some of the most popular series were ‘Peace! Friendship! Chewing Gum’, ‘Real Boys’, ‘Live Life’, ‘Open Marriage’, and ‘Daddy’s Daughters’. They were complemented by two popular Turkish TV series: ‘Love is in the Air’ and ‘Golden Boy’. 

In the past month, the Start series ‘The Boy’s Word: Blood on the Asphalt’ has become extremely popular. This widely discussed drama has broken all records on Kinopoisk Pro Index.

One and a half years ago, Hollywood motion picture companies withdrew from the Russian market, but this has had no financial impact on the Russian streaming service industry. On the contrary, the sanctions have contributed to the growth of domestically produced movies and original TV series which have met with great success. 

**Kinopoisk Pro Index evaluates TV series popularity based on search engine data such as the number of searches on Yandex and Google and the number of visits and clicks on web pages related to a TV series. These include TV channel websites, online streaming platforms, and video services, including YouTube, as well as online encyclopedias and other related resources.

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Sun, 11 Feb 2024 13:02:53 +0000 RT
Climate activists attack Monet painting (VIDEO) /pop-culture/592255-climate-activist-vandalize-monet-painting/ Climate protesters threw soup at Monet’s painting ‘Springtime’ two weeks after a similar attack on the Mona Lisa
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The incident comes two weeks after members of the same group attacked the Mona Lisa

A pair of climate activists threw soup at a work of art by French impressionist painter Claude Monet on Saturday.

They entered the Museum of Fine Arts in the French city of Lyon and targeted Monet’s 1872 painting ‘Springtime’ (aka ‘The Reader’), which depicts a young woman reading a book in a field.

The painting was protected by a glass cover, the museum said on X (formerly Twitter).

The soup attack was carried out by the ‘Riposte Alimentaire’ (Food Response) group, which advocates for action on climate change and sustainable agriculture. “This spring will be the last one that we’ll have if we don’t react!” the activists chanted. Both were apprehended by police, French media said.

The group conducted a similar stunt just two weeks ago, hurling pumpkin soup at Leonardo’s Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris.

In a post on X, Lyon Mayor Gregory Doucet condemned the activists for attacking the painting, but added that their concerns are “legitimate.”

]]> READ MORE: Protesters throw soup at Mona Lisa (VIDEO)

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Sun, 11 Feb 2024 06:19:51 +0000 RT
Ozzy Osbourne feuds with Kanye West over ‘anti-Semitism’ /pop-culture/592243-ozzy-osbourne-kanye-west/ Rock legend Ozzy Osbourne says he wants “no association” with Kanye West, who is known for his tirades against Jewish people
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The rock legend has said he wants “no association” with the rapper

Aging British rocker Ozzy Osbourne has said that he forbade Kanye West from using a Black Sabbath sample, calling the controversial rapper an “anti-Semite.” West, who now goes by the name Ye, recently apologized to the Jewish community for a series of offensive comments.

In an all-caps post on X (formerly Twitter) on Friday, Osbourne claimed that Ye “ASKED PERMISSION TO SAMPLE A SECTION OF A 1983 LIVE PERFORMANCE OF ‘IRON MAN’ FROM THE US FESTIVAL WITHOUT VOCALS & WAS REFUSED PERMISSION BECAUSE HE IS AN ANTISEMITE AND HAS CAUSED UNTOLD HEARTACHE TO MANY.”

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Ye performs at the BET Awards in June 2022
Kanye West apologizes to Jews
]]> Ye “WENT AHEAD AND USED THE SAMPLE ANYWAY AT HIS ALBUM LISTENING PARTY LAST NIGHT,” Osbourne continued, adding “I WANT NO ASSOCIATION WITH THIS MAN!”

Osbourne’s wife, Sharon, is Jewish. “Kanye f**ked with the wrong Jew this time,” she told TMZ on Friday, adding that she and Ozzy had sent a cease and desist letter to the rapper. 

Released in 1970, ‘Iron Man’ was the British group’s most commercially successful song, with its powerful guitar riff helping to shape the sound of heavy metal for decades to come. Ye sampled the song on the track ‘Carnival’, which appears on his latest album, ‘Vultures’.

Ye debuted the album in Chicago on Thursday. A live stream of the event was cut off, however, after the 24-time Grammy Award winner exclaimed “I’m still crazy, bipolar, anti-Semite.”

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Kanye West speaks onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on August 30, 2015 in Los Angeles, California
Ye restored to X – WSJ
]]> Ye’s outburst marked a dramatic turnaround since December, when he deleted all of his Instagram posts except for a formal apology to “the Jewish community” written in Hebrew. In the statement, Ye expressed remorse for “any ‘unintended outburst’ caused by my words or actions,” adding that he was “committed to making amends and promoting unity.”

The rapper’s run-ins with the Jewish community began in 2022, when he was locked out of Instagram for announcing that he was going “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE,” apparently a reference to ‘Defcon 3’ on the US military’s readiness scale. Ye then appeared on Infowars, telling host Alex Jones that he “likes Hitler” and blamed “the Jewish media” for tarnishing the reputation of the Nazis. 

Amid a slew of similar outbursts, including a social media post depicting a Swastika intertwined with a Star of David, Ye had a lucrative sponsorship deal with Adidas canceled and found himself banned from most major social media platforms. His X account was reinstated last summer.

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Sat, 10 Feb 2024 17:04:41 +0000 RT
Florida Democrats looking to Taylor Swift to counter Republicans – Politico /pop-culture/592205-taylor-swift-florida-democrats/ The Democratic party is reportedly seeking an endorsement from the megastar ahead of November’s elections
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The Democratic party is reportedly seeking an endorsement from the liberal darling megastar ahead of November’s elections

The Democratic Party is counting on three concerts by pop megastar Taylor Swift to drive young voters to the polls this November, Politico reported this week.

Swift is set to play three shows in a row at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami this October, two weeks before the November elections. While the pop icon has not endorsed any candidates or spoken about the vote, Swift endorsed Biden in 2020, and the president’s campaign team reportedly hopes to lock in an endorsement from the pop star ahead of November’s showdown with Trump.

Democrats are planning voter registration drives at her gigs and have, according to Politico, reached out to Swift and encouraged her to “use her Miami concerts to talk about issues affecting the rights of young people in Florida.”

“It’s so close to the election, and we hope that there’s a message included to encourage folks, especially her fans, to go vote,” said 27-year-old Democratic Rep. Maxwell Frost. “We need the help.”

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Travis Kelce #87 of the Kansas City Chiefs (L) celebrates with Taylor Swift after defeating the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game at M&T Bank Stadium on January 28, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Super Bowl romance: Are Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce really an election-year psyop?
]]> Florida’s Democratic Party has been fighting a losing battle for a decade. Once a swing state where voters almost always chose the overall winner of presidential elections by the narrowest of margins, Florida has trended increasingly more Republican since Donald Trump won the state in 2016. 

Even as he lost the presidency, Trump picked up more votes in Florida in 2020 than in 2016, while Governor Ron DeSantis went from defeating Andrew Gillum by 0.4% in 2018 to winning a 60-40 victory over Charlie Crist in 2022, the largest margin of victory in a Florida gubernatorial election since 1982.

There are currently nearly 800,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats in Florida.

Jayden D’Onofrio, who chairs the Florida Democratic Party’s Youth Council, believes that Swift’s predominantly Gen-Z fanbase could turn this tide if persuaded in sufficient numbers to vote. “People care about her. People understand the importance of her. She is a youth icon,” he told Politico, adding that party members would be dispatched to all three concerts to engage with potential voters.

]]> READ MORE: Pentagon denies links to Taylor Swift

]]> Democrats are also leveraging Swift’s relationship with NFL star Travis Kelce, and plan to organize voter outreach events throughout the state when his team, the Kansas City Chiefs, take on the San Francisco 49ers at this weekend’s Super Bowl.

While liberal pundits have ridiculed claims that the White House is planning to use Swift as an election-year Psyop,” her popularity is a potentially potent weapon for President Joe Biden. Some 53% of Americans consider themselves Taylor Swift fans, and according to the New York Times, a single social media post by Swift led to the registration of 35,000 new voters in the US last year. 

 

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Fri, 09 Feb 2024 20:37:34 +0000 RT
US porn star slammed over Iran visit (IMAGES) /pop-culture/592197-us-porn-star-iran/ Adult film actress Whitney Wright has drawn backlash online after posting photos of herself in front of the former US Embassy in Tehran
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Whitney Wright drew a backlash online after she posted photos of herself in front of the former US Embassy in Tehran

US porn actress Whitney Wright has sparked a wave of condemnation online after she posted photos from her recent trip to Iran. Critics have argued that the visit was an act of support for the government in Tehran.

Earlier this week, the performer, whose real name is Brittni Rayne Whittington, shared several photos on Instagram, in which she is seen wearing a hijab while traveling around Tehran. In some of the images, the actress is seen standing in front of the former US Embassy in the Iranian capital, which was turned into a museum after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, when 52 American diplomats were held hostage by a group of militarized Iranian students for 444 days.

Her posts were met with backlash online from people critical of the Iranian government, with some questioning how a porn star was allowed to get a visa for a country where pornography is punishable by death. Others accused the actress of anti-Semitism for supposedly supporting Iran’s anti-Israeli government. Wright has used social media before to criticize Israel’s ongoing siege of Gaza.

According to media reports, the Iranian government has denied being aware of Wright’s trip and insisted that she was issued a visa to enter the country just like any other foreign citizen. The authorities reportedly said, however, that they were “not aware of the nature of her immoral and obscene occupation.”

Much of the criticism of Wright’s visit was amplified by US-based Iranian dissident Masih Alinejad, who said in a post on X that the porn actress was promoting discriminatory Iranian laws by wearing a hijab during her visit. She also accused the Iranian government of hypocrisy for allowing the porn star to enter the country while “women are killed for simply showing their hair and being true to themselves.”

]]> READ MORE: Meta blacklists Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei

]]> Wright responded to the backlash by limiting interactions on her Instagram posts and dismissing Alinejad’s comments, accusing the activist of being paid by the CIA to spread anti-Iranian propaganda and insisting that her trip was “not an endorsement” of the Iranian government.

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Fri, 09 Feb 2024 17:05:16 +0000 RT
Musk can’t be stopped – Putin /pop-culture/592169-musk-cant-be-stopped-putin/ The Russian president says it’s impossible to halt progress in AI and genetics, but stressed the importance of regulation
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The billionaire will continue his technological developments, but rules must be established, the Russian leader has said

Elon Musk will continue pushing for technological progress in fields such as AI, but must be persuaded to agree to certain rules, Russian President Vladimir Putin told American journalist Tucker Carlson in an interview published on Thursday.

Putin was asked by Carlson if he believes an “AI empire” could soon become a reality and what his thoughts were on recent technological developments, particularly Elon Musk’s Neuralink chip, which has been implanted inside a human brain.

The Russian president responded by saying “there’s no stopping Elon Musk,” but stressed that it is important to “find some common ground with him,” as “this process [the development of AI and genetics] needs to be formalized and subjected to certain rules.”

Putin acknowledged that it is not possible to stop research in AI and genetics – which he says could now pave the way for the creation of a “superhuman” – similar to how it was not possible to prevent the use of gunpowder. However, humanity will eventually realize the threat posed by the uncontrolled development of these technologies and come to an international agreement regarding regulations, he said.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the plenary session of the Artificial Intelligence Journey 2023 conference in Moscow
AI opens ‘new chapter’ of human existence – Putin
]]> He also likened developments in AI and genetics to the advent of nuclear weapons, noting that “once mankind felt an existential threat coming from nuclear weapons, all nuclear nations began to come to terms with one another since they realized that negligent use of nuclear weaponry could drive humanity to extinction.”

The Russian president once described AI as a “new chapter” in human existence, stressing that it is impossible to prevent the creation of an artificial super intelligence that could become self-aware and gain cognitive functions.

However, since this is impossible to prevent, Putin suggested that Russia should become the leader in the development of AI technology, or at least strive to be among the global leaders.

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Fri, 09 Feb 2024 10:39:32 +0000 RT
Moscow banning sex parties – event organizers /pop-culture/592058-moscow-sex-parties-ban/ The ‘Kinky Party’ will suspend its activities in Russia claiming it was warned by government agencies not to hold any sex-related events
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The ‘Kinky Party’ project will suspend its activities following a reported warning from authorities over its raunchy events

A group that organizes raunchy sex parties has decided to suspend its events in Russia after the authorities reportedly warned it against hosting the controversial gatherings.

The Kinky Party has been running for nearly eight years in Moscow, hosting sex-themed parties with strict dress codes and a range of adult entertainment activities for guests.

The rules of the events state that “everything is possible” as long as it complies with Russian law, and guests are allowed to interact with each other in any way as long as it is consensual. The project was set to celebrate its eighth anniversary later this month but the event has now been canceled.

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Anastasiya Ivleeva at the "almost naked" party
Moscow ‘naked party’ proceeds will go to charity – organizer (VIDEOS)
]]> In a statement on the group’s official Telegram channel, the organizers explained that they had received “a warning from government agencies that it is impossible to hold our parties in the previous format” despite all past events having been held in full compliance with the law.

“While our events have always complied with the law and aimed to create a safe, respectful environment for free expression, we have received a warning that any events related to sex topics are not permitted,” the Kinky Party project wrote. It did not specify which government agencies had issued the warning.

The organizers have said that the project will continue holding events in neighboring Georgia, noting that it was unclear whether the group’s shutdown in Russia is temporary or permanent.

The news comes as Russian lawmakers have been cracking down on the promotion of what is perceived as “non-traditional sexual relations,” particularly propaganda relating to transgenderism and pedophilia.

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FILE PHOTO: Singer Filipp Kirkorov receives a music award in Moscow in April 2023.
Russian pop stars apologize over ‘naked party’ (VIDEO)
]]> While Russian legislators have specifically banned LGBTQ propaganda, and have designated the “international LGBT movement” as an extremist organization, in practice this has also extended to events that are not explicitly connected to the rights movement.

In late December, popular Russian blogger Anastasia Ivleeva caused a massive uproar after photos and videos were leaked from a private party that she had organized. It featured an “almost-naked” dress code and was attended by some of the biggest names in Russian show business.

Several attendees have had their events canceled after being spotted at the party, while one guest who was wearing only a sock was arrested and fined several hundred thousand rubles. Ivleeva was pressured to apologize for holding the event and vowed to direct all of the proceeds from the sale of tickets to charitable organizations.

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Thu, 08 Feb 2024 10:52:02 +0000 RT
Musk backs ‘canceled’ Mandalorian star in Disney lawsuit /pop-culture/591978-gina-carano-disney-lawsuit-elon-musk/ Gina Carano is suing Disney and Lucasfilm over her ‘Mandalorian’ firing, with the help of X owner Elon Musk
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Gina Carano says she was unjustly fired from the hugely popular ‘Star Wars’ spin-off

Actress and former martial arts fighter Gina Carano announced on Tuesday that she has filed a lawsuit against the Walt Disney corporation and Lucasfilm, claiming she was falsely accused by the corporations of bigotry. X owner Elon Musk has endorsed the lawsuit and called for more people to join.

Carano had a prominent role on the streaming show ‘The Mandalorian’ for two seasons, as former Rebel fighter Cara Dune. In February 2021, however, Lucasfilm announced her firing, accusing Carano of “social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural & religious identities” and calling them “abhorrent & unacceptable.”

According to a post on X (formerly Twitter), Carano said she reached out to Musk after the platform owner offered legal help to people who lost their jobs because of their tweets. After several months of back-and-forth with the lawyers, they agreed to press her lawsuit.

“I would like to express my deepest gratitude and thank you to Elon Musk and X for giving me an opportunity to bring my case to light,” said Carano.

“Please let us know if you would like to join the lawsuit against Disney,” said Musk, reposting her message.

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RT
‘I'm not going down WITHOUT A FIGHT’: Actress Gina Carano vows to overcome cancel mob & ‘Disney bullies’
]]> Carano urged everyone to look at the social media posts Disney and Lucasfilm had denounced. “The truth is I was being hunted down from everything I posted to every post I liked because I was not in line with the acceptable narrative of the time,” she said. “My words were consistently twisted to demonize and dehumanize me,” she added, describing the whole thing as “a bullying smear campaign aimed at silencing, destroying and making an example out of me.”

“Hollywood says they support female representation and equal rights,” added Carano. “Why then were my male co-stars permitted to speak without harassment & re-education courses or termination, but I was not afforded the same right to exercise my freedom of speech.”

Unlike Carano, who has been critical of President Joe Biden, Covid-19 vaccine mandates, and polarized partisan politics, ‘Mandalorian’ star Pedro Pascal has been an outspoken Democrat. However, she insisted, none of her colleagues bear her any ill will.

“Artists do not sign away our rights as American citizens when we enter into employment. I have spoken to all my co-stars since I was fired & there is nothing but care and kind words between us. I respect their right to free speech and do not have to think the same on every issue to be their friends and work with them and I know they feel the same towards me,” said Carano.

While Carano was quickly hired for a movie role by conservative producer and political commentator Ben Shapiro, she says it has been difficult to work in the industry “with the lies and labels stuck on me, backed and encouraged by the most powerful entertainment company in the world.”

Carano was criticized for putting “beep/bop/boop” as her ‘pronouns’ on X, after LGBTQ activists demanded she do so. The post for which she was allegedly fired said that demonizing people over their political opinions was what the Nazis did to make the Holocaust possible. Some US Democrats interpreted that as them being compared to Adolf Hitler.

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Tue, 06 Feb 2024 21:51:10 +0000 RT
American country music icon dies aged 62 /pop-culture/591966-toby-keith-dies-stomach-cancer/ American country music singer Toby Keith has died of stomach cancer aged 62
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Singer Toby Keith had revealed his stomach cancer diagnosis in 2022

Chart-topping American country music singer Toby Keith, one of the most recognizable performers in the genre, died on Monday aged 62, his family has announced in a post on X (formerly Twitter). 

While the statement on Tuesday did not specify the cause of death, merely saying the singer had “passed peacefully” while surrounded by his family, Keith had informed the public of his stomach cancer diagnosis in 2022, revealing he had initially been diagnosed in the fall of 2021. 

He received radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery for the illness during the first six months of treatment, acknowledging that living with the condition could be “debilitating.” Last year, he told local outlet The Oklahoman that his tumor had shrunk by a third and expressed optimism about his prognosis.

 

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Musician Jimmy Buffett, November 3, 2018, West Palm Beach, Florida, US
Singer-songwriter of hit ‘Margaritaville’ dies at 76
]]> Keith continued to perform and record following his diagnosis, most recently releasing the album ‘100% Songwriter’ in November and performing three sold-out shows in Las Vegas in December.  

The country music icon sold between 25 and 30 million records in the US, debuting with his first hit single ‘Should’ve Been a Cowboy’ in 1993. The song reached number one on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. 

His controversial hit ‘Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (the Angry American)’, released in the months following the September 11 terror attacks, promised Washington’s enemies that the nation would “put a boot in your ass/it’s the American way,” making him a household name far outside country music circles. 

Keith is survived by his wife, Tricia Lucus, and three adult children. His daughter Krystal Keith is also a singer-songwriter.

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Tue, 06 Feb 2024 16:23:01 +0000 RT
Rapper arrested after winning three Grammy Awards (VIDEO) /pop-culture/591904-us-rapper-arrested-grammy-awards/ US rapper Killer Mike was arrested following a “physical altercation” at the Grammy Awards on Sunday, Los Angeles police have said
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Killer Mike has been booked on a charge of misdemeanor battery for an alleged backstage incident at the showpiece event

US rapper Killer Mike was arrested and booked on a charge of misdemeanor battery following an alleged “physical altercation” backstage at Sunday’s Grammy Awards, Los Angeles police have said.

The 48-year-old, whose real name is Michael Render, was in the process of being released from custody by late Sunday, the LAPD confirmed in a statement. The performing artist’s arrest came soon after he won three awards at the music industry showpiece event, including his first Grammy Award in more than two decades.

“On Sunday, 4 February, just after 4pm, a male adult was detained and handcuffed for a physical altercation,” a statement issued by Los Angeles police said on Sunday night. He is due to appear in court later this month, according to the BBC.

“The suspect was placed under arrest and was transported to LAPD Central Division,” it continued, identifying Render by name and confirming that he was booked on a charge of misdemeanor battery. No further information – such as the identities of anyone else who may have been involved – was released.

Footage following the incident, filmed by the Hollywood Reporter, appears to show a handcuffed Render being escorted from Los Angeles’ Crypto Arena by police. In the brief video clip, a voice can be heard saying, “Are you serious? What the f***?”

Render’s arrest came soon after he swept three categories at the Grammys, winning Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song, and Best Rap Performance – beating rap industry heavyweights including Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Nicki Minaj to the prestigious honors.

In addition to his music career, Render is known for his activism and has been vocal about some issues facing black Americans, such as police brutality and racism.

]]> READ MORE: Pentagon denies links to Taylor Swift

]]> Prior to his arrest, Render reacted to his trio of Grammys by speaking of his regrets over some of his actions earlier in life. “At 20 years old, I thought it was cool to be a drug dealer,” he said backstage. “At 40, I started to live with the regrets of the things I’ve done.”

“At 45, I started to rap about it. At 48, I stand here as a man full of empathy and sympathy for the things I’ve done,” he added.

Representatives for Killer Mike have yet to comment on the situation.

Sunday’s 66th Grammy Awards were dominated by pop superstar Taylor Swift, who made history by becoming the first performer to win Album of the Year on four separate occasions – edging ahead of Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon and Frank Sinatra in the category.

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Mon, 05 Feb 2024 15:15:47 +0000 RT
Russia’s Hollywood: The legendary film studio Mosfilm celebrates its 100th anniversary /pop-culture/591714-russian-hollywood-celebrates-centenary/ A deep dive into the history of the iconic Russian film studio
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A deep dive into the history of the iconic Russian film studio

Mosfilm is not only Russia’s main and largest film studio; it’s the historical birthplace of Soviet and Russian cinema. This year, the film studio is celebrating its centenary. To this day, Mosfilm’s brilliant comedies make people laugh, the touching love stories make us cry, and philosophical arthouse films give food for thought. Below, we will explore the film studio’s history and highlight key events from the last 100 years. 

On January 30, 1924, the film ‘On Wings Skyward’ was released in Soviet cinemas, and this date became known as Mosfilm’s “starting point.” It’s true that the film studio existed before the film’s release – and, in fact, the motion picture was shot there. However, in order to understand why this event has become associated with the establishment of Mosfilm studios, we must delve a little deeper into history.

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RT
Soviet psychedelia, fairy tales, and space-themed stories: Hidden gems that will make you fall in love with Russian animation
]]> The creation of Mosfilm studios

Film production in the Russian Empire goes back to the first years after the invention of the cinematograph. The very first films in Russia were made in the year 1896. In the next two decades, several film studios appeared. The largest ones were the Khanzhonkov and Ermolyev film studios – the two pre-revolutionary film companies that served as the basis for the future Mosfilm. 

Soon after the 1917 Revolution – in 1919, to be exact, Soviet Russia nationalized all film production. Khanzhonkov and Ermolyev’s film studios were handed over to Goskino (the USSR State Committee for Cinematography) in 1922 and became known as the First and Third Factories of Goskino. They were located in different places, which made film production difficult. A year later, the factories were merged into a single film studio, and, in January 1924, the first film was released.

From the beginning, the film studio was quite busy. Sergey Eisenstein, Vsevolod Pudovkin, Alexander Dovzhenko, and other legendary film directors worked there. Eisenstein’s legendary film ‘Battleship Potemkin’ was released in 1925, while Pudovkin’s movie ‘The Descendant of Genghis Khan’ and Dovzhenko’s ‘Arsenal’ were released in 1928.

The film studio became known as Mosfilm only in 1936. In the first 12 years of its existence, the studio changed its name and even affiliation several times. In 1926, the factories were incorporated into the newly-established United Moscow Factory Sovkino, which was then renamed to Soyuzkino. Later, the name was changed once again – first to Soyuzfilm, and then to Moskinokombinat. It was only in 1936 that the studio got its final name – Mosfilm, which it is known by to this day. 

The year 1931 was a key one for Mosfilm. At the time, the film studio moved to Lenin Hills (near the village of Potylikha) where a huge space for film production was built. As early as the second half of the 1920s, filmmakers proposed a project to create a large “cinema town” for film production. Sergei Eisenstein and Grigory Alexandrov traveled to the USA and were impressed by Hollywood. In fact, the concept of Hollywood as a single filmmaking center served as an example for the Mosfilm pavilions.

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Milos Bikovic attends promotion of the animated series 'Puffins' in Belgrade, Serbia, October 19, 2021
Ukraine demands cancellation of ‘White Lotus’ actor
]]> The construction of the new film studio began in 1927 and the grand opening took place in the beginning of February 1931. The pavilions spread over an area of 4,500 square meters. In the course of the design process, all the details were taken into account that would ensure a complete film production cycle under a single roof. 

The Golden Age

The 1930s can be rightfully considered the “golden age” of Mosfilm. In this pre-war decade, many great films, which established the traditions of Soviet and Russian cinema, were made. Directors implemented new ideas and surprised audiences with new techniques; new film genres appeared and the first stars of Soviet cinema were born.

Sergei Eisenstein and Vsevolod Pudovkin worked in the genre of historical cinema. Eisenstein’s film ‘Alexander Nevsky’ and Pudovkin’s ‘Suvorov’ and ‘Minin and Pozharsky’ became classic examples of the historical genre. Meanwhile, Grigory Alexandrov established the genre of Soviet musical comedy with his films ‘Jolly Fellows’, ‘The Circus’ and ‘Volga-Volga’. Lyubov Orlova, who starred in these films, became the country’s favorite actress. Aleksandr Ptushko directed the fantasy films ‘The New Gulliver’ and ‘The Golden Key’, which appeared quite magical at the time – the actors interacted with puppets, which was made possible by combining stop-motion animation with live-action footage.

In the pre-war period, Mosfilm created many classic movies. The studio was known for innovation, technical progress, and great film stars. In many ways, the ‘30s at Mosfilm resembled the golden age of Hollywood, when cinema was still a magical and unforgettable experience for audiences, and when the actors became stars overnight. During these years, Lyubov Orlova, Faina Ranevskaya, Rostislav Plyatt, Nikolai Cherkasov, Marina Ladynina, Nikolai Kryuchkov and many other stars rose to fame. 

The war

The history of Russia and the USSR is inextricably linked with WWII. The war divided the country into “before and after,” and this was noticeable in all aspects of life. Taking a look at Mosfilm’s filmography, we can see how the atmosphere in the country changed, how filmmakers adapted to the times, and how this historical era was reflected on screen. 

The war years were very difficult for Mosfilm, as well as for the whole country. In September 1941, many enterprises were evacuated from Moscow, including film companies. In October, a special train transported the studio staff, as well as props and costumes to Alma-Ata (the capital of Kazakh SSR at the time). The Central United Film Studio of Feature Films was temporarily established in Alma-Ata. This studio continued shooting films, many of which made it into the golden collection of Russian cinema.

It is hard to imagine the challenges associated with shooting films in wartime conditions. There was a severe shortage of film stock, equipment, space, and electricity. The same sets were reused for different films, electricity had to be saved – which complicated the work of lighting specialists – and filming time was limited.

Nevertheless, many movies that are still popular today were released at the time. The filmmaker’s most important task was to raise and maintain morale. The first war films were shot, such as ‘The Invasion’, ‘Six P.M.’, and ‘Fascism will be defeated’. At this time, Eisenstein also began working on what was to be his last film, ‘Ivan the Terrible’. Considering the conditions in which it was shot, the movie still astonishes viewers today. Actor Nikolai Cherkasov’s portrayal of the Tsar became a reference point and an example for all subsequent onscreen representations of Ivan the Terrible. 

Post-war years and the first crisis

The post-war years were very difficult for Mosfilm. According to the studio’s official website, 22 films were shot in 1946, and 18 were shot in 1948. In 1951, only seven films were made, and only three of them were feature films. This situation was brought about by changes in domestic policy: The second wave of Stalinist repressions affected the film industry. The General Secretary voiced Lenin’s principle of “Let’s do less, but better,” at the same time demanding greater incomes from film production. Many of the studio’s films were censored – for example, the second part of ‘Ivan the Terrible’ was banned. 

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The trophy of the Games of the Future launched to the International Space Station.
Excitement grows for Games of the Future as trophy orbits Earth aboard ISS
]]> This was also when the idea of creating a big Mosfilm studio was first proposed. It implied the large-scale reconstruction of the film studio, the construction of new facilities, and the purchase of new equipment. However, this plan was implemented only in the second half of the ‘50s, since the initial project was so enormous in scale there were not enough resources for its implementation. The idea was shelved, and the film studio had to fight for its survival. 

The ‘Big Mosfilm’

Things changed with the death of Stalin in 1953, when it was decided to considerably expand movie production. Mosfilm started operating again, and, in 1954, Ivan Pyriev was appointed director. He retained this position until 1957, and, in this short time, managed to implement the “Big Mosfilm” project. The original plans were abandoned, since they were too grand, but the film studio was considerably renovated. Two blocks of new pavilions, a sound studio, and a separate building for the decorative and technical department were built. Pyriev refused to decorate the studio’s buildings and interiors and instead invested the money into technical equipment. By the mid-’50s, Mosfilm started shooting wide-screen color films. Under Pyriev’s leadership, Mosfilm increased production to 40 films per year. The “Big Mosfilm” concept had fully justified itself.

First awards

After WWII, soviet cinematographers began to explore new film genres. While the studio still made musical comedies, films about socialist construction sites and movies on other popular ‘30s themes, filmmakers gradually transitioned to more personal themes. They explored everyday situations and personal experiences, and their stories didn’t always fit a certain “global union” agenda. 

War films became the most important achievement of Soviet filmmakers. Soviet war films are a separate movie genre, one that stands apart from foreign films on the same subject. In Soviet films, the war is seen through the prism of ordinary people and their drama. Many war films do not even have any war scenes. Instead, they focus on how the tragedy of war affected the lives of ordinary people. One of the most important and groundbreaking movies in this respect was Mikhail Kalatozov’s ‘The Cranes are Flying’, which was released in 1957.

The film earned a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and caused a sensation at the festival, becoming a huge box office success in France. Incidentally, French filmmaker Francois Truffaut – who admitted to watching this film many times –  had a large say in acquiring the distribution rights for it in France. The movie was also one of French director Claude Lelouch's favorite films. Today, it is recognized as a masterpiece and a textbook example for young filmmakers.

While ‘The Cranes are Flying’ set the stage for a new wave of war films, two other Mosfilm movies completely transformed this genre: Grigory Chukhray’s ‘The Ballad of a Soldier’, released in 1959, and Andrey Tarkovsky’s full-length debut film ‘Ivan’s Childhood’, released in 1962. Tarkovsky’s film became the first Soviet movie nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film category. However, it was not this motion picture but another that earned Russia its first Oscar. 

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The premiere of the TV mini-series ‘A Boy’s Word: Blood on the Asphalt’ in Moscow on November 9, 2023.
EU state’s police issue caution over Russian TV series
]]> International recognition

The Soviet filmmaking industry extended far beyond Mosfilm. There were many large film studios across the country, such as Lenfilm, Gorky Film Studio, Odessa Film Studio, and many others. However, in the Soviet period, only movies produced by Mosfilm won major international awards, such as the Cannes Palme d’Or and three Academy Awards.

Sergei Bondarchuk’s epic film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s novel ‘War and Peace’ earned Soviet Russia its first ever Academy Award. It took Bondarchuk six years to make the film– he worked on it from 1961 to 1967. The movie is divided into four parts, with the first one consisting of two episodes. Its total duration is over six and a half hours. In fact, today the movie would be called a mini-series. But, in 1969, it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Nowadays, this would be practically impossible, since, as a series, it would only be nominated for a Golden Globe. But, in those years, the film made a huge impression on members of the Academy. 

The second Oscar was given to the joint Soviet-Japanese film ‘Dersu Uzala’ made by the legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa in 1975. At the time, Kurosawa was already considered a living legend and released masterpieces such as ‘Rashomon’, ‘Seven Samurai’, ‘Yojimbo’, ‘The Idiot’, ‘The Lower Depths’, and ‘Dodes’ka-den’.

The film is based on a novel by renowned traveler and Far East researcher Vladimir Arsenyev, who recounts a trip to the Ussuri region and his friendship with the taiga hunter Dersu Uzala. Incidentally, Kurosawa was first offered to make a joint film in 1971. Russian film director Sergey Gerasimov proposed the idea to Kurosawa during a trip to Japan, which he quickly agreed to. Initially, he wanted to make a screen adaptation of Gogol’s ‘Taras Bulba’ or of Dostoevsky’s ‘Notes from a Dead House’, but these attempts were unsuccessful. Finally, he selected this theme. The film earned both Mosfilm and Kurosawa – who had previously received an Academy Award for his masterpiece ‘Rashomon’ – their second Oscar. 

The third Academy Award was awarded to the extremely popular romantic drama ‘Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears’, directed by Vladimir Menshov. The story of Katerina Tikhomirova – her career journey from a simple factory worker to director, her challenges of raising a child on her own after a bitter breakup, and her love for a tool-and-die maker at a research institute – was a great success. The movie resonated with audiences all over the world, regardless of the country’s political and economic system. ‘Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears’ was released in February 1980, and in 1981 it won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Mosfilm’s legacy

For three decades – from the 1960s up until the first half of the 1980s – Mosfilm was at its peak. During these years, the Soviet cinema industry thrived. Dozens of films were made each year and new genres appeared, such as animation films, TV shows, and documentaries. 

Nevertheless, Russian cinema has become almost synonymous with Mosfilm, its intro showing the ‘Worker and Kolkhoz woman’ statue by sculptor Vera Mukhina, and the national and international film awards won by the studio. In addition to making award-winning films, the studio also shot movies that earned the love of millions of Russian people – for example, Leonid Gaidai’s comedies (‘Operation Y and Shurik’s Other Adventures’, ‘The Diamond Arm’, ‘The Elusive Avengers’, and its sequels), masterpieces by Eldar Ryazanov (‘Beware of the Car’, ‘The Irony of Fate’, ‘Garage’, ‘Office Romance’), Nikita Mikhalkov’s movies (‘At Home Among Strangers’, ‘A Slave of Love’, ‘Family Relations’) and countless other films that came to represent the ‘mysterious’ Russian soul, its culture and rich heritage.

Mosfilm today

The collapse of the USSR strongly affected Mosfilm. In the ‘90s, the studio no longer made 40 films per year, as it had done just a few years earlier. The country faced difficult times, and so did Mosfilm. However, its caretakers were able to preserve its legacy and prevent the film studio from going into private hands. 

In 1989, the studio became part of the State Creative Production Association Mosfilm. Vladimir Dostal, who served as the director of Mosfilm from 1987 to 1998, was able to preserve the studio’s production base and its intellectual property. He was aided by film veterans Sergei Bondarchuk, Vladimir Naumov, Georgy Danelia, as well as some younger but already renowned film directors, such as Sergei Solovyov, Vladimir Menshov, and Valentin Chernykh. During the most difficult years, Mosfilm proved to be the most economically stable film company in Russia, and it still holds the rights to its great collection of films. 

In 1998, Karen Shakhnazarov became the new director of Mosfilm, and he heads the studio to this day. In the 2000s, the studio underwent large-scale modernization. Today, Mosfilm is equipped with the latest technology and is able to shoot films that fully comply with modern technical standards.

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Sun, 04 Feb 2024 14:37:16 +0000 RT
White Lotus ditches actor after Ukrainian campaign /pop-culture/591765-hbo-series-ditches-serbian-actor/ Serbian actor Milos Bikovic has announced he will not be in ‘The White Lotus’ series following backlash from Ukraine
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Milos Bikovic says a “targeted campaign” deprived him of a role in the TV series

Serbian-born actor Milos Bikovic has announced that he has left the cast of HBO’s award-winning series ‘The White Lotus’. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry had demanded that Bikovic be removed due to his close ties with Russia.

The actor explained that he will no longer be involved in the series due to “a targeted campaign.”

“I was honored to be chosen to be a part of White Lotus, a TV series that I hold in high regard and with colleagues whom I deeply respect. However, my participation is not possible due to reasons beyond the realm of art,” Bikovic wrote on Instagram, adding that he “will not bow to any narrative” that seeks to compromise his integrity.

A dark comedy drama set in a fictional resort chain, ‘The White Lotus’ has won 14 Emmy awards and two Golden Globes. The decision to cast Bikovic for the series was announced in January. Shortly afterwards, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry lashed out at HBO, saying, “Is it all right for you to work with a person who supports genocide & violates international law?”

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Justus Frantz
Grammy winner snubbed by Germans over Russia links
]]> Responding to the Ukrainian backlash, the Serbian Foreign Ministry called Bikovic “one of the most talented and most popular Serbian actors of his generation,” while dismissing claims that he is a “genocide supporter” as utterly baseless.

The actor has participated in numerous Russian productions and is an outspoken promoter of Russian culture. In 2018, he was awarded the Pushkin Medal for his contributions to Russian art and culture. Three years later, President Vladimir Putin granted the actor Russian citizenship.

In his Instagram post, Bikovic said the “targeted campaign” against him led to “the triumph of absurdity and the defeat of art.” He described HBO’s decision as “a disturbing precedent shadowing the essence of artistic freedom.” The 36-year-old actor noted that he grew up in a war-torn country and had to hide in shelters during NATO’s bombardment of former Yugoslavia in 1999.

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Sat, 03 Feb 2024 08:19:21 +0000 RT
Russia slams EU state for changing nationality of legendary artist /news/591723-russian-embassy-finnish-museum-artist-renaming-ukrainian/ The Russian Embassy in Finland has denounced the Ateneum Art Museum for listing Russian artist Ilya Repin as Ukrainian
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Finnish media have reported that a major museum in the country decided to list Ilya Repin as ‘Ukrainian’

The decision by a Finnish museum to change the stated nationality of 19th-century Russian artist Ilya Repin to ‘Ukrainian’ “runs counter to common sense,” Moscow’s diplomatic mission in the Nordic country has said. Last week, local media reported that the Ateneum Art Museum had changed the description of the artist after being contacted by Ukrainian activists. 

In March 2023, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York also started listing the renowned realist as Ukrainian. Around the same time, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands began describing one of the pioneers of the Suprematist art movement, Kazimir Malevich, as “born in Ukraine to parents of Polish origin” as opposed to “Russian.”  

In a statement released on Thursday, the Russian Embassy in Finland said it was surprised to learn about the Ateneum’s decision, which was simply based on the fact that Repin was born “on territory that Ukraine now considers its own.”  

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Milos Bikovic attends promotion of the animated series 'Puffins' in Belgrade, Serbia, October 19, 2021
Ukraine demands cancellation of ‘White Lotus’ actor
]]> The diplomats noted that the Finnish museum had no problem referring to Repin as ‘Russian’ when a major exhibition of his works opened in Helsinki in 2021. The embassy characterized the move as “Russophobic” and an example of “Russian culture cancelation.” 

Repin was born in 1844 in the Kharkov Governate of the Russian Empire. He studied at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, being accepted for his paintings of a tour on the river Volga. He eventually became a renowned member of the Russian cultural scene, through which he maintained a long friendship with Leo Tolstoy, among others.

His painting of Ivan the Terrible holding his dead son was removed from exhibition in 1885. Repin welcomed the revolutions of 1917 but opposed the violence unleashed by the Bolsheviks. He is buried on his estate in Repino, outside St.Petersburg, where his home is a museum and UNESCO heritage site.

Apart from revising the nationality of several artists, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art last spring changed the name of an 1899 painting by the French impressionist Edgar Degas from ‘Russian Dancer’ to ‘Dancer in Ukrainian Dress’. 

A year prior, the National Gallery in London altered the name of a series of Degas works from ‘Russian Dancers’ to ‘Ukrainian Dancers’, citing the depicted costumes which are deemed to be Ukrainian. The museum told The Guardian at the time that it was “an appropriate moment to update the painting’s title to better reflect the subject of the painting.” 

Commenting on the developments last March, Mikhail Shvydkoy, the international culture envoy to Russian President Vladimir Putin, lamented that “this lame political gesture has trumped all legitimate cultural considerations.”  

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Fri, 02 Feb 2024 16:21:27 +0000 RT
Man uses ChatGPT to find wife /russia/591635-man-uses-ai-to-find-love/ A Russian computer nerd outsourced flirting on a dating app to ChatGPT
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
A Russian software developer trained the AI platform to flirt with girls online

A Russian software developer who caused controversy by successfully defending his thesis, written using Artificial Intelligence (AI), has announced he has found a wife after delegating the choice to the technology. After virtually dating more than 5,000 women over a year, Aleksandr Zhadan found a soulmate, he told RIA Novosti.

The 23-year-old said he came up with the idea after experiencing difficulty finding the perfect match and decided to outsource the job of flirting and chatting to a neural network.

“I gave ChatGPT information about how I usually communicate. At first there were problems because the program didn’t know me well, it could write some kind of nonsense, but later I trained it to such an extent that it began to interact with girls just like I do,” said the programmer, adding that ChatGPT started more than 5,000 conversations.

Source: Social media

Zhadan installed certain filters so the neural network would show him those women with whom he should continue communicating. Once he personally met Karina, the programmer realized that ChatGPT had found him love.

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In this photo illustration a gamer plays the game Tetris 99 developed by Arika and published by Nintendo on February 18, 2019 in Paris, France
US teen becomes first human to 'beat' Tetris
]]> “When Karina and I met in person for the first time, I realized that it was possible to re-train the system to analyze our messages,” said the developer.

The neural network then recommended where to take the girl and how to liven up the conversation. Eventually, ChatGPT suggested that Alexander propose to Karina, telling him that the relationship was “balanced and strong.”

Zhadan followed the advice, and the couple are now engaged. The programmer said he did not immediately tell his fiancée that the neural network had prompted him to propose, but she later took the news calmly.

Zhadan explained that it is quite possible to make a general program that will help people find an ideal partner, but what he created is “a personal product.”

Source: Social media

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Thu, 01 Feb 2024 08:07:57 +0000 RT
Record label to drop Roger Waters over Israel comments – Variety /pop-culture/591610-label-drops-roger-waters/ Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters is reportedly set to be dropped by the BMG music company for his political statements
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The Pink Floyd co-founder has previously claimed that the split was caused by pressure from the company’s pro-Israeli owners

German music company BMG is reportedly looking to cut ties with Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters over his political statements, according to an article published by Variety on Monday. The 80-year-old musician has previously criticized Israel over its siege of Gaza, accused the West of provoking and prolonging the Ukraine conflict, and called the US the “the most evil of all.”

The record label signed a contract with Waters in 2016 and was set to release a newly recorded version of Pink Floyd’s iconic 1973 album ‘Dark Side of the Moon’. However, after the company hired a new CEO last year, the deal was scrapped and the record ended up being released by a UK-based label.

Variety now says it has learned from a number of sources that BMG is set to drop the veteran musician from the label entirely. No official statements from the company regarding this potential move have been made yet, however, with Variety claiming that BMG representatives had declined requests for comment.

In an interview with Glenn Greenwald late last year, Waters himself hinted that his time with BMG could soon be cut short, stating that the split was the result of pro-Israeli sentiments at the record label’s parent company, Bertelsmann.

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RT
Roger Waters barred from South American hotels over Israeli pressure – media
]]> The musician, a long time supporter of the Palestinian cause has been branded an anti-Zionist and even an anti-Semite over his harsh criticisms of Israel, opinions on the Holocaust and questioning the Israeli government’s version of events regarding the October 7 attack by Hamas. Waters has vehemently denied allegations of anti-Semitism.  

He has also faced backlash for speaking last year at the United Nations Security Council at Russia’s invitation, where he called for a ceasefire in Ukraine and stated that Moscow’s offensive against Kiev was “not unprovoked.” He has previously condemned the West for inciting the conflict in the first place and prolonging it via continued weapon shipments to Kiev.

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Wed, 31 Jan 2024 15:04:08 +0000 RT
Biden wants Taylor Swift to sing for him – NYT /news/591535-us-biden-taylor-swift-endorsement/ The Biden presidential campaign is pursuing a high-profile endorsement from pop superstar Taylor Swift, a report has said
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The global pop superstar publicly backed the US leader’s election campaign in 2020

US President Joe Biden is pursuing an endorsement from global pop superstar Taylor Swift ahead of November’s election, the New York Times has claimed. The Democratic leader’s campaign is reportedly seeking to counter flagging polls that show him trailing likely Republican candidate, Donald Trump.

Trump’s strong performances in early Republican primaries and caucuses have suggested that a rematch of the 2020 election is the most likely scenario at the US ballot box later this year.

As such, Biden’s staff plan to rehash tactics that proved successful in the caustic battle with Trump four years ago, the New York Times said on Monday. Principally, this is said to involve painting the former president as a threat to American democracy, along with a heavy focus on abortion rights as part of a broader appeal to voters against alleged conservative efforts to restrict personal freedoms.

One influential voice the Democrats again intend to harness is that of Swift, arguably the most famous popstar on the planet. Perhaps more specifically, her 280 million Instagram followers are of significant interest, the report claims.

Swift publicly backed Biden and his vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris in 2020, saying that she would “proudly vote” for the Democratic ticket because “under their leadership, I believe America has a chance to start the healing process it so desperately needs.” 

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FILE PHOTO
Fake Taylor Swift nudes ‘alarming’ – White House
]]> Last year, a single social media post from Swift led to the registration of 35,000 new voters in the US, the NYT report said, and Democrats are keen to secure her backing to expand this enthusiasm to a national scale. It is also predicted that fund-raising appeals from the singer could boost Biden’s campaign to the tune of millions of dollars.

“Taylor Swift stands tall and unique,” California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, said last year. “What she was able to accomplish just in getting young people activated to consider that they have a voice and that they should have a voice in the next election, I think, is extremely powerful.” 

Perhaps courting Swift’s backing, the White House last week condemned salacious fake AI images of the singer that have been circulating on social media in recent days.

Fox News anchor Jeanine Pirro, a vocal backer of Trump, on Monday warned Swift not to “get involved in politics.” 

“We don’t want to see you there,” Pirro said on the news network’s ‘The Five’ show. “Joe Biden is in [a] hole with young people, he knows it. And if he thinks Taylor can get him out of that hole, he’s gonna go for it.” 

Trump, though, is also no stranger to leaning on popular culture for support. He has previously boasted of backing from the likes of Kanye West and Kid Rock. The latest polling data shows Trump holding an advantage of between 1 and 5 percentage points over Biden in a head-to-head race.

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Tue, 30 Jan 2024 12:42:38 +0000 RT
Protesters throw soup at Mona Lisa (VIDEO) /pop-culture/591402-activists-hurled-soup-at-the-mona-lisa/ Two activists have hurled pumpkin soup at the Mona Lisa, calling for sustainable food security
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The two activists said their stunt at the Louvre museum was a call for food security, as farmers protest across France

Two activists hurled pumpkin soup at the bulletproof glass protecting Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, at the Louvre museum in Paris on Sunday. 

They passed under a security barrier, drawing gasps from visitors, while wearing T-shirts with the message: ‘FOOD RIPOSTE’ (food response).

“What’s the most important thing? Art, or the right to healthy and sustainable food?,” they shouted, claiming that “our farming system is sick. Our farmers are dying at work.”

The Louvre security guards put up black screens in front of them before evacuating the room. The museum said the early 16th century painting was not damaged by the pumpkin soup, and that a complaint would be lodged.

The incident at the world’s most visited museum occurred at around 10:00 local time in the Salle des Etats. The section reopened to visitors an hour and a half later.

The Riposte Alimentaire (Food Retaliation) group, which advocates for action on climate change and sustainable agriculture, claimed responsibility for the stunt. The group demanded the establishment of “Sustainable Food Social Security” in a statement on X (formerly Twitter). They called for a food card worth €150 ($162) to be given to French citizens each month.The French minister of culture Rachida Dati condemned the soup-throwing, saying that “no cause could justify [the Mona Lisa] being attacked.” 

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French farmers block a road leading to the Golfech nuclear power station near Toulouse.
Farmers block highways in France (VIDEOS)
]]> Farmers have been blocking roads with tractors and trucks in several parts of France, in a movement that started last week. They are protesting against high taxes on tractor fuel, cheap imports, price pressure from retailers, a shortage of water, and excessive red tape on both the national and EU levels.

The French government has been promising for months to introduce a law that would support farmers. Despite some concessions from the government on Friday, Arnaud Rousseau, the head of the biggest farming union FNSEA, said they did not fully meet expectations. Farmers are threatening to blockade Paris starting Monday.

There have been a rash of widely publicized attacks by climate change protesters on artworks such as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and Monet’s Les Meules. The Mona Lisa was also targeted in the past.

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Sun, 28 Jan 2024 15:39:30 +0000 RT
Hollywood excluded from China’s top ten films of 2023 /pop-culture/591344-china-rejects-hollywood-films-barbie/ Chinese audiences turned up their noses at this year’s crop of American film offerings, including ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Chinese film has evolved to previously unseen quality levels as interest in American cinema has waned

China’s top ten highest grossing films for 2023 included zero Hollywood blockbusters, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, marking just the second time in three decades of screening American movies for Chinese audiences that not one US offering cracked the list.

Hollywood power brokers and film experts increasingly acknowledge that China can no longer be counted upon to financially bail out American superhero sequels, big-budget action fodder, and other costly productions that barely broke even on US ticket sales alone, according to the Times.

Over years of the Chinese market opening its doors (and its wallets) to a US film industry that had already reached a financial crisis point domestically, studios shifted focus to churning out shallow but visually exciting effects-stuffed spectacles for their perceived appeal to overseas audiences. 

]]> Read more
'Barbie' (2023) Dir: Greta Gerwig
Barbie movie banned again, this time by African nation
]]> With that no longer a guarantee, studio executives reportedly decided over the last year that budgets for franchise sequels must be slashed dramatically.

“The days when a Hollywood film would make hundreds of millions of US dollars in China – that’s gone,” University of Southern California professor of Chinese politics and film Stanley Rosen told the news outlet.

No American film cracked the top ten in 2020 primarily because the Covid-19 pandemic kept much of China under lockdown, preventing international travel and ratcheting up tensions between the two governments as each accused the other of misleading the world about the origins of the novel coronavirus.

Meanwhile, a marked increase in production quality among Chinese filmmakers paired with plot lines powered by authentic cultural sensibilities significantly increased the allure of domestic cinema for locals. 

Efforts by US filmmakers to directly appeal to the Chinese gaze fell flat out of the gate, with many critics feeling they relied on ham-handed stereotypes and minimal cultural understanding. A weak grasp of the differing marketing styles favored by Chinese vs American audiences has also left Hollywood behind as a new crop of sophisticated Chinese filmmakers seduced audiences previously accustomed only to foreign films. 

While massive Chinese box office receipts had for years been considered so guaranteed that American filmmakers began preemptively altering plot points and characters for international release in order to appease government censors and ensure a hassle-free theatrical run, the practice has been criticized in the US, where some see it as capitulation to a hostile rival.

International films can be banned if they “endanger” Beijing’s “national unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity,” according to the National Radio and Television Administration. 

As Warner Bros. found out in July, however, appeasing China may mean losing other audiences. The studio’s summer blockbuster ‘Barbie’ was banned by Hanoi for a scene that included a map that appeared to show the South China Sea largely under China’s control.

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Fri, 26 Jan 2024 20:14:15 +0000 RT
Serbia defends ‘White Lotus’ actor from Ukrainian attack /pop-culture/591298-milos-bikovic-serbia-ukraine/ Belgrade has stood up for Milos Bikovic after Ukraine demanded HBO ‘cancel’ him for starring in Russian movies and TV shows
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Kiev has protested HBO’s casting of Milos Bikovic in the Emmy-winning series

Claims that actor Milos Bikovic is a “genocide supporter” or international law violator are utterly baseless, the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday.

Belgrade’s reaction came a day after the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry complained on X (formerly Twitter) that Bikovic is a supporter of Russia and therefore “supports genocide and violates international law,” demanding of HBO to drop him from the cast of ‘White Lotus.’

”These claims are entirely unfounded,” the Serbian MFA said in a statement. “Serbia has a long tradition of arts and culture, and we are very proud of our constitutionally guaranteed freedom of creativity.”

The ministry described Bikovic as “one of the most talented and most popular Serbian actors of his generation, who has had a major impact on both Serbian and international cinematography although he is still very young.”  Minister Ivica Dacic gave Bikovic a Serbian MFA commendation in 2019, for his contribution to promoting Serbia around the world, the statement noted.

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Milos Bikovic attends promotion of the animated series 'Puffins' in Belgrade, Serbia, October 19, 2021
Ukraine demands cancellation of ‘White Lotus’ actor
]]> HBO – which is owned by CNN’s parent company Warner Bros. Discovery – announced on January 12 that Bikovic was cast in the third season of ‘White Lotus.’ The Emmy award-winning dark comedy anthology follows the guests and employees of the eponymous resort chain.

While this would be the first US role for Bikovic, the 36-year-old is already a household name in Serbia and Russia. After several notable roles in Serbian productions, his big international break came in 2014, when he was cast in Nikita Mikhalkov’s ‘Sunstroke’. 

He went on to play notable roles in a variety of TV shows and films, including ‘The Kitchen’ spinoff ‘Otel Eleon’ (2016-2017) and ‘Serf’ (also known as ‘Son of a Rich’), the 2019 comedy that became Russia’s biggest box office hit of all time, second only to James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’. He has since starred in two seasons of the Serbian crime drama ‘South Wind’, a sequel to ‘Son of a Rich’, as well as ‘The Challenge,’ a 2023 drama filmed partially in orbit.

Bikovic received the Pushkin Medal for his contributions to Russian culture in 2018 and was granted Russian citizenship in 2021. Ukraine responded by banning him from entering the country in 2019.

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Fri, 26 Jan 2024 00:17:50 +0000 RT
Ukraine demands cancellation of ‘White Lotus’ actor /pop-culture/591293-ukraine-cancel-white-lotus-hbo/ The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has condemned HBO for casting Serbian-born actor Milos Bikovic in ‘The White Lotus’
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Kiev claims that Serbian-born Milos Bikovic “supports genocide”

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has demanded that Serbian-born actor Milos Bikovic be axed from HBO’s award-winning series ‘The White Lotus’ over his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A dark comedy-drama set in a fictional resort chain, ‘The White Lotus’ has won 14 Emmy awards and two Golden Globes. Bikovic’s role in the show’s third season was announced earlier this month by HBO.

“Milos Bikovic, Serbian actor who has been supporting Russia since the start of the full-scale invasion, is now set to star in HBO’s The White Lotus Season 3,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry posted on X (formerly Twitter) on Wednesday. “@HBO, is it all right for you to work with a person who supports genocide & violates international law?”

Bikovic has never made any statements in support of genocide, nor is he suspected of violating international law. 

]]> Read more
Anna Netrebko performs at the Austria For Life 2023 Charity Show at Schloss Sch?nbrunn on April 29, 2023 in Vienna, Austria
Ukraine blasts Berlin opera over Russian singer
]]> The 36-year-old actor has starred in a number of Russian productions, and is an outspoken admirer of Russian culture. In 2018, Putin awarded Bikovic the Pushkin Medal for his contributions to Russian art and culture, and Bikovic was granted Russian citizenship by presidential decree in 2021. 

“Russia has accepted me since my first time here,” he said upon receiving his Russian passport. “I feel at home here. I have inherited Russian values and they resonate with mine.”

Bikovic was labeled an “enemy of Ukraine” and had his name added to the notorious Mirotvorets (‘Peacemaker’) database in 2019, he told Serbian media at the time. This website, reportedly run by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, lists enemies of the state and marks them as “liquidated” in the event of their death. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) is widely believed to be behind the deaths of multiple people on the database.

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Hayao Miyazaki attends a press conference to announce his retirement in Tokyo, Japan, September 6, 2013
Cinemas in EU state boycott Hayao Miyazaki movie over ‘Russia links’ – media
]]> Prior to his inclusion in the list, Bikovic had filmed in Crimea, which Ukraine claims as its own territory.

For nearly two years, Kiev has lobbied Western nations to ban or otherwise restrict Russian culture. Ukraine’s foreign ministry and culture ministry have complained when Russian opera singers perform in Germany, asked Spotify to pull songs by Russian artists, and called on Western societies to boycott long-dead icons of Russian culture, such as 19th-century composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky. 

As of Thursday evening, HBO has not responded to the ministry’s post.

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Thu, 25 Jan 2024 19:57:32 +0000 RT
‘Rasputin’ songwriter dies at age 83 /pop-culture/591167-music-producer-frank-farian-dies/ Music producer Frank Farian, founder of pop groups Boney M and Milli Vanilli, dies at age 83 in the US
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
German music producer Frank Farian, founder of the disco group Boney M, has passed away at his home in Miami

Music producer Frank Farian, the mastermind behind 1970s disco band Boney M and disgraced German pop group Milli Vanilli, has died at age 83.

Farian, a native of southwestern Germany who grew up in the wake of World War II, passed away at his home in Miami, according to a statement issued by his family on Tuesday. He had undergone life-saving surgery two years ago in a procedure that involved inserting a pig heart valve.

”May Frank rest in peace,” Liz Mitchell, Boney M’s original lead singer, wrote in a Facebook post. “Our work was blessed and helped the people who had the privilege to hear it.” She added, “We shared and united under a star [and] rose above and beyond what we dared to expect. I say well done to the work that we did.”

Born in 1941 under the name Frank Reuter in Kirn, Germany, Farian was trained as a cook before launching his career as a singer. He later shifted his focus to being a producer and founded Boney M in 1974. With Farian serving as the group’s primary songwriter, Boney M had such hit songs as ‘Rasputin’, ‘Daddy Cool’, ‘Rivers of Babylon’, and ‘Mary’s Boy Child’.

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File photo: Composer Burt Bacharach
Legendary pop composer dies?
]]> Many of Farian’s lyrics were humorous. For instance, he wrote of Rasputin:

“There lived a certain man in Russia long ago,

He was big and strong, in his eyes a flaming glow

Most people look at him with terror and with fear

But to Moscow chicks he was such a lovely dear”

Farian went on to produce songs that reportedly racked up more than 800 million record sales, earning him the nickname, “Mr. German Hit.” He worked with such music legends as Meat Loaf and Stevie Wonder, and he founded the infamous hip-hop duo Milli Vanilli, made up of Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus.

The latter group had to give back its Grammy Award for “best new artist” after Farian admitted in 1990 that Morvan and Pilatus had not sung on their records and were merely lip-synching on stage.

]]> READ MORE: Boney M star’s brother held over Assad-critic imam’s murder – reports

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Tue, 23 Jan 2024 18:47:51 +0000 RT
Prosecutors dismiss Depardieu sexual assault claim /pop-culture/591116-depardieu-assault-lawasuit-dropped/ The French authorities have dropped a sexual assault lawsuit complaint filed against actor Gerard Depardieu
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Actress Helene Darras accused the French superstar of groping her on a film set

A sexual assault complaint against French actor Gerard Depardieu has been dismissed because it had passed the statute of limitations, the public prosecutor’s office in Paris said on Monday. Actress Helene Darras filed the complaint in September 2023 over an incident she alleged to have taken place in 2007.

Darras told AFP that the decision came as no surprise, and that she had filed a complaint because she “could no longer remain silent.” 

“From now on, if my testimony enables the justice system to make progress on the complaints that are not constrained by time, or if it allows other victims to speak out, or even relaunches the debate about the [statute of limitations], all of this will not be in vain,” Darras said. 

Darras claims that Depardieu repeatedly groped her on the set of the film ‘Disco’ in 2007. A total of 16 women have come forth with accusations of sexual assault against the 75-year-old actor, according to online newspaper Mediapart, which published some of the new allegations in April 2023. A separate lawsuit filed by actress Charlotte Arnould is still ongoing, the prosecutors said. 

]]> READ MORE: French artists stand up for Gerard Depardieu

]]> Depardieu has denied any wrongdoing, describing the wave of allegations against him as a “lynching.” More than 50 French celebrities – including actors Pierre Rochard, Vincent Perez, Carole Bouquet, Charlotte Rampling, and singer Carla Bruni – signed an open letter in December urging an end to the “torrent of hatred” against Depardieu. 

French President Emmanuel Macron has been criticized by women’s rights groups and politicians for praising Depardieu and suggesting that the presumption of innocence should apply to the actor. 

One of France’s most acclaimed actors, Depardieu has starred in more than 100 films. He received the Cesar – the most prestigious French film award – in 1981 and 1991, and was nominated for an Oscar in 1990.

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Tue, 23 Jan 2024 01:45:38 +0000 RT
Alec Baldwin faces fresh charges over deadly shooting /pop-culture/591002-us-baldwin-manslaughter-charge/ US actor Alec Baldwin is facing a new charge of involuntary manslaughter over a fatal shooting on a film set in 2021
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The Emmy Award-winning actor fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on a film set in 2021

A grand jury in the US State of New Mexico on Friday issued a fresh manslaughter charge against the actor Alec Baldwin following the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on the set of the movie ‘Rust’ in 2021. Previous charges against the actor were dropped in April last year, just two weeks before a criminal trial was due to begin.

During rehearsals for the western drama in October 2021, a Colt .45 pistol held by Baldwin discharged and fatally shot the 42-year-old Halyna Hutchins and injured the film’s director, Joel Souza. Baldwin, who also served as a producer on the movie, told authorities that he did not pull the trigger but admitted to having pulled back the hammer before it fired.

Baldwin also maintained that he was not at fault for Hutchins’ death because he was unaware that the firearm was loaded with live rounds because no live ammunition was permitted to be on set.

The initial charge was dismissed last year by special prosecutors after analysis determined that the firearm may have been modified and that it had likely fired as a result of a malfunction.

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This aerial photo shows the movie set of 'Rust' at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, NM, on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021.
Judge passes first sentence in deadly ‘Rust’ shooting
]]> However, a secondary analysis performed in August found that, while Baldwin denied pulling the trigger, “given the tests, findings, and observations reported here, the trigger had to be pulled or depressed sufficiently to release the fully cocked or retracted hammer of the evidence revolver.”

The new analysis was presented to a grand jury in Santa Fe on Thursday, prompting a one-count indictment against Baldwin on Friday – exactly one year after the first manslaughter charge was issued.

If convicted, he faces up to 18 months in prison. The actor’s legal representatives told British state broadcaster the BBC that they “look forward to our day in court.” Baldwin, who has spoken of his “shock and sadness” at Hutchins’ death, has said in court filings that he is struggling to find acting work following the shooting.

Hutchins’ family issued a statement through their lawyer, Gloria Allred, saying that they have “always sought the truth about what happened on the day Halyna Hutchins was tragically shot and killed.” It added that “they continue to seek the truth in our civil lawsuit for them, and they also would like there to be accountability in the criminal justice system.”

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was in charge of weapons supervision on the set of ‘Rust,’ was previously issued with involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering charges over the shooting. Her trial is scheduled to begin in February.

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Sat, 20 Jan 2024 16:37:24 +0000 RT
Arnold Schwarzenegger detained at German airport /pop-culture/590836-schwarzenegger-detained-german-airport/ Former Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger was detained at a German airport for failing to declare a luxury watch
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The former Hollywood star has reportedly been fined for failing to declare a luxury watch while traveling to his native Austria

Former California Governor and Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger was detained for several hours at Munich Airport for failing to declare a luxury watch, reportedly resulting in a hefty fine, before he was finally allowed to continue his journey to Austria.

The entanglement began after Schwarzenegger’s flight from Los Angeles landed in Germany on Wednesday afternoon. He was stopped by customs officers, who searched his luggage and found a custom-made Audemars Piguet watch.

The incident is being investigated as a case of possible tax evasion, customs spokesman Thomas Meister told Germany’s Bild newspaper. “The watch should have been registered because it is an import,” he said.

Bild published a photo of the 76-year-old former bodybuilder and action movie star holding his watch box in an office with two customs officers. Schwarzenegger told the media outlet that he tried to explain to the authorities that he brought the watch to auction off on Thursday in Austria for a good cause, his climate initiative, “but it was no use.”

The watch was specially made for Schwarzenegger and was reportedly valued at upward of €20,000 ($21,800). He was further delayed when he tried to pay his tax and penalty because the credit-card machine wasn’t working and the withdrawal limit on the ATM to which he was brought was too low.

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? AFP / Patrick T. Fallon
US needs ‘new breed’ of leaders – Schwarzenegger
]]> The payment issue was finally resolved, and Schwarzenegger was allowed to continue his journey on to Austria about three hours after arriving in Munich, according to media reports.

Schwarzenegger has remained outspoken on politics since completing his second term as California’s governor in 2011. He said in a CNN interview last June that he would run for president and would likely win in 2024 if his foreign-born status didn’t make him ineligible. He lamented in November that America is likely headed for a rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump rather than getting “new blood” in the White House.

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Wed, 17 Jan 2024 22:05:29 +0000 RT
Eurovision winner visits Russia’s Donetsk People’s Republic (IMAGES/VIDEO) /russia/590777-singer-bilan-travels-donetsk/ The signer made international headlines in 2008 after he won the Eurovision contest with the song “Believe”
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
The trip has received mixed reaction, with some accusing Dima Bilan of attempting to salvage his reputation

Russian pop singer and 2008 Eurovision winner Dima Bilan has visited Russia’s Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). The performer's trip received mixed reaction, with some saying it looked like an attempt to whitewash his image after he attended an infamous “almost naked” party that scandalized the Russian public.

Bilan, a long-term fixture on the Russian popular culture scene, travelled to Gorlovka and the DPR’s capital, Donetsk. Both have been repeatedly shelled by Ukraine's forces, including on New Year's Eve and Christmas Eve. The signer went to a children’s hospital, where he wished patients a happy New Year and Christmas holiday, and gave them gifts. He also brought much-needed air conditioners to the hospital.

?  Telegram/bilanofficial

He then visited a local animal shelter, where he adopted a cat. The facility’s staff wrote on their VKontakte page that Bilan had provided financial assistance, which they plan to spend on purchasing new vehicles for the shelter to facilitate their work, bringing food to dogs and helping animals in need.

The artist, who made international headlines in 2008 after he won the Eurovision contest with the song “Believe,” met with members of the Northern Military District and civilians of the republic who needed prosthetics. The singer pledged to assist them with their further rehabilitation.

?  Telegram/bilanofficial

Bilan’s trip to the war-torn region has sparked controversy, with some accusing the signer of hypocrisy and an attempt to boost his image in the public eye after an “almost naked” party in Moscow’s Mutabor nightclub caused an angry public outcry in Russia. Some of the signer’s fans argued, however, that Bilan had already been involved in charity work for the Northern Military District for a long time.

Eurovision 2008 winner Dima Bilan (c) social network

The celebrity-studded event on December 21, organized by video blogger and TV presenter Anastasia Ivleeva, drew outrage from Russia’s political establishment and the public after some of the guests wore half-naked or transparent costumes in footage appearing online. Russian communications watchdog Roskomnadzor found signs of “LGBT propaganda” in the images. Some celebrities and pop stars, including Bilan, later issued on-camera apologies for attending the scandalous party.

]]> READ MORE: Russian rock star accused of LGBT propaganda for performing in a sock

]]> The uproar has been so intense that even Russian President Vladimir Putin has been unable overlook it. During the ‘Small Motherland – the Strength of Russia’ forum in Moscow on Tuesday, the president expressed the view that military veterans would not have participated in events “without pants.”

“Of course, we rather need to pay attention to the guys who are returning from the zone of the special military operation. When people decide to do this, when they go through this crucible and return, many life priorities are lined up differently. Here you won’t be jumping around without pants at any events, people here look at life completely differently, the priorities and values are different,” Putin said.

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Wed, 17 Jan 2024 08:32:24 +0000 RT
Celebrities back South Africa’s claims of Israeli genocide (VIDEO) /pop-culture/590639-actors-south-africa-israel-genocide/ Several prominent actors have voiced support for South Africa’s genocide claim against Israeli
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
West Jerusalem has sanctioned mass murder of an innocent population in Gaza, several well-known actors have said

A host of prominent celebrities from the world of film and television have voiced their support for South Africa’s charge of genocide against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.

More than two dozen actors – including Susan Sarandon, ‘Sex & The City’ star Cynthia Nixon, Charles Dance, Carice van Houten and Lena Headey from the popular series ‘Game of Thrones’ – contributed to a series of videos in support of South Africa’s case against Israel at the ICJ.

The series, the first of which was published online on Friday, was created by the UK-based Palestine Festival of Literature. It supports “the creation of language and ideas for combating colonialism in the 21st century.”

The initial video shows the actors reading from South Africa’s 84-page allegation against Israel, which accuses the Jewish state of breaching the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in its aerial and ground bombardment of Gaza in response to Hamas’ cross-border attack on October 7.

At least 23,700 people have died as a result of Israeli military operation in the besieged enclave, Palestinian health officials have said. Israel says about 1,200 people were killed in the Hamas attack, while another 240 were seized as hostages.

“South Africa is highly cognisant that acts of genocide are distinct from other violations of international law sanctioned or perpetrated by the Israeli government and military in Gaza,” Irish actor Liam Cunningham, who also starred in ‘Game of Thrones,’ says in the video, quoting the South African text.

This includes “intentionally directing attacks at the civilian population, civilian objects and buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science, historic monuments, hospitals, and places where the sick and wounded are collected,” Cunningham continues.

]]> READ MORE: The Hague won’t stop us – Netanyahu

]]> In its charge, South Africa argues that Israeli leaders “declared their genocidal intent” in several public statements since October 7 – including one from West Jerusalem’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, who said in October that Israel’s military offensive was necessary because it was facing threats from “human animals” in Gaza.

Israel has sternly denied claims of genocide in its defense at the ICJ on Friday. The state’s UN ambassador, Gilad Erdan, said in New York that the United Nations itself should be on trial in The Hague and that it has descended to a “new moral low” by considering South Africa’s claim. Israel’s defense came a day after South Africa presented its case to the ICJ on Thursday.

The legal proceedings could take years for a conclusion, but the ICJ could rule in the coming weeks on the possibility of imposing temporary measures, including a ceasefire. The ICJ’s decisions are legally binding. However, the court has few means to enforce its judgments.

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Sun, 14 Jan 2024 17:39:55 +0000 RT
British band’s concert canceled over Ukraine support /news/590622-uk-band-concert-cancelled-ukraine/ A concert by British band The Tiger Lillies has been canceled after locals protested against the musicians’ backing of Ukraine
Read Full Article at RT.com]]>
Activists in Athens objected to The Tiger Lillies’ pronounced solidarity with Kiev, branding it “problematic”

British musical trio The Tiger Lillies’ concert in Athens was called off this week, following a dispute over their support for Ukraine.

The dark cabaret band was due to play in the Greek capital on Thursday, but the organizers pulled the plug at the last minute due to “negative views” expressed by local activists.

The group says it has been backing Kiev against Moscow “since the first days” of the conflict. The musicians have expressed their pro-Ukraine stance on social media and even released a namesake album last year, after concerts in Kiev and Lviv in July 2023.

At the time, The Tiger Lillies branded the Russian government “gangsters and thugs,” and said they were “standing against” Moscow. Their ‘Ukraine’ album included such songs as “Gangster in the Kremlin” and “NATO dear.”

The band was to perform at the central square of the Exarcheia neighborhood in central Athens on Thursday. However local tensions have been running high amid anger over the authorities’ decision to build a metro station at Exarcheia Square.

The musicians were supposed to stage a “charity concert” to support the protesters at the invitation of a local publisher, Bibliotheque Publications, which organized the event.

]]> Read more
Anna Netrebko performs at the Austria For Life 2023 Charity Show at Schloss Sch?nbrunn on April 29, 2023 in Vienna, Austria
Ukraine blasts Berlin opera over Russian singer
]]> Just a few hours before the show, the organizers announced on social media that it had been cancelled.

“The main reason for this is their [the band’s] support for Ukraine,” the publisher said in a Facebook post, adding that The Tiger Lillies’ stance “is often considered problematic.”

The band reacted to the move, branding those opposing their concert “radical leftists.” The musicians praised the neighborhood as a community of “freedom, rebellion, resistance” but also “full” of people “idealizing communism.”

The Tiger Lillies went on to accuse local activists of attempts to “censor and deny voices not only to artists but also to locals.” They also branded their opponents “fascists” who promote their ideology under “the pretext of fighting fascism.” “It’s a pity about the residents, but apparently this is their fate,” the band added.

No local activist groups have so far commented on the development.

]]>
Sun, 14 Jan 2024 15:40:16 +0000 RT
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