SoftBank

Fair, the vehicle subscription startup backed by SoftBank, is loading its executive team with veterans in the tech, venture and automotive industries as it seeks to build out its Uber leasing program and expand beyond North America.

Fair.com today announced three key hires to lead the development of its car subscription app, financing department and leasing program with Uber.

Jay Trinidad, a former Google and Discovery Networks executive, is now chief product officer. Trinidad will direct the company’s app development and technology efforts. Former chief accounting officer of TrueCar John Pierantoni has been hired as senior vice president of finance and risk.

Pat Wilkison, general partner of venture firm Exponential Partners — an early investor in Fair — will run the startup’s Uber program.

The three hires are critical additions for the three-year-old startup as it tries to convince consumers to try its car-as-a-service platform over buying or leasing a vehicle from a traditional dealership or other online sales upstarts. The advantage for Fair, aside from the $1.5 billion treasure chest it has amassed — is the platform itself.

The company was founded by automotive, retail and banking executives, including Scott Painter, former founder and CEO of TrueCar, on the premise that today’s consumers, including those in the gig economy, want flexibility.

Fair has tweaked the traditional lease to give consumers more options. Users can subscribe to the program and switch vehicles through the term of their “lease.”

It’s a capital-intensive business model that requires the kind of experience that Painter believes these three executives can deliver.

The hires will help drive Fair’s aggressive efforts around payment, infrastructure and financial planning as it scales its flexible car ownership model internationally and tries to make a name for itself on the global stage.

“A critical part of our transformation effort is deepening our bench of talented executives to set us up for success now and into the future,” Painter said.

The three hires come on the heels of rapid growth, a critical acquisition and huge Series B funding round of $385 million led by SoftBank, with participation from Exponential Ventures, Munich Re Venture’s ERGO Fund, G Squared and CreditEase.

“After closing $385M in our Series B, it’s time to put that capital to work for us to buy cars and propel growth—with this new executive team providing us with important insights and leadership.” Painter said in a statement. “Jay will eliminate execution risk and bring in operational and strategic expertise, Pat is an investor-turned-employee crusader, while John is a world-class financial and accounting expert around whom we can build a sound subscription business and strong auto insurance division.”

Fair acquired in January 2018 the active leasing portfolio of Xchange Leasing, a service Uber first established in 2015 to lease new and nearly new vehicles to drivers who did not come to the service with their own cars.

That acquisition laid the foundation for what has become a big piece of Fair’s business today. Some 45% of Fair’s cars are used by Uber drivers today.

Fair also has aspirations to expand beyond the U.S., Trinidad told TechCrunch in a recent interview. The company hasn’t publicly disclosed which countries it might go to first. Europe and Asia, particularly considering Trinidad’s long background in the region, would be the most likely markets for Fair.

In the next year, the company hopes to move into international markets and grow its workforce, which will likely mean moving into a bigger office, Trinidad said.

“I really think in a year’s time, at least in the markets we’re targeting such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, you’ll start to hear ‘Why not Fair a car instead of buying or leasing one?’ It will be a third option people consider.”

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American Crime Story drama

Latest series of the US hit show will recount the former White House interns affair with the then president that led to his impeachment in 1998

America

Monica Lewinsky is among the producers on a new series of American Crime Story focusing on the Bill Clinton sex scandal.

Titled Impeachment: American Crime Story, the Ryan Murphy-helmed anthology drama will recount the notorious affair between the then US president Clinton and former White House intern Lewinsky, and the subsequent impeachment proceedings called against him by the US House of Representatives.

Booksmart star Beanie Feldstein will star as Lewinsky, with Sarah Paulson playing Linda Tripp, the civil servant who secretly recorded phone calls the 22-year-old made about her affair with Clinton, who was 27 years her senior.

The series will premiere in September 2020 in the US, and is expected to air in the UK soon after. The previous two series of American Crime Story have been shown on BBC Two in the UK, as part of the broadcasters syndication deal with the US.

Impeachment has been adapted by Murphy from Jeffrey Toobins book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President. Murphy originally optioned the book in 2017, but shelved plans to bring it to TV last year as he felt that such a project would be gross without the contribution of Lewinsky.

However, with Lewinskys involvement, Impeachment is now going ahead. In a statement to Vanity Fair, she said that she had been hesitant to sign on to the series, but was swayed by the opportunity to reclaim my narrative.

People have been co-opting and telling my part in this story for decades, Lewinsky said. In fact, it wasnt until the past few years that Ive been able to fully reclaim my narrative, almost 20 years later.

This isnt just a me problem. Powerful people, often men, take advantage of those subordinate to them in myriad ways all the time. Many people will see this as such a story and for that reason, this narrative is one that is, regretfully, evergreen.

FX chairman John Landgraf said that the network would not be reaching out to Bill and Hillary Clinton for their input.

The Clinton scandal has been the subject of renewed public interest in recent years, following the rise of the #MeToo movement and calls for the impeachment of current US president Donald Trump. Last year, Lewinsky contributed to docuseries The Clinton Affair, while the subject also formed the basis of the second season of popular current affairs podcast Slow Burn.

American Crime Story has attracted critical acclaim and high ratings for its retellings of landmark events in recent US history. Its first season, 2016s The People Vs OJ Simpson, won a total of nine Emmy awards for its account of the 1994 murder case against former American Football player and actor OJ Simpson.

The drama went on to win a further three Emmys in 2018 for its second season, which recalled the 1997 murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace. A further series, about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, had been in production but was scrapped by FX last year.

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African Futurist Nnedi Okorafor Tells an Immigrant Story in LaGuardia

Political reality finally inserted itself into the blissfully insulated world of San Diego Comic-Con. The Trump baby balloon bounced across the street from the convention center in San Diegos Gaslamp district. The Magicians actor Jade Tailor wore a Close the Camps shirt during her season 5 panel. Sen. Cory Booker cruised through and AOC comics were for sale.

Yet, searching the sprawling convention floor, youd be hard-pressed to find imagery more politically relevantor subversivethan the nine-foot-high poster for LaGuardia, a new graphic novel from African futurism writer Nnedi Okorafor. A pregnant Nigerian-American woman in a bright blue dress, fist raised and locks flowing like a banner, leads a bridge-closing protest shoulder-to-tentacle with extraterrestrial beings. Their picket signs demand rights for aliens, both human and of off-world origin.

After a single-issue run, Dark Horse Comics released the final, collected volume during last weeks San Diego Comic-Con. LaGuardia depicts an alternative present, where first contact with aliens is made in Lagos in 2010. The protagonist Future Nwafor Chukwuebuka is modeled both in appearance and biography after the author herself. After living for several years in Nigeria, Future returns to the United States to illegally transport a plant-based alien escaping civil war through New Yorks LaGuardia airport. Once in the city, she reconnects with her grandmother, an immigration attorney for people of all planetary origins. Before too long, the government announces a travel ban.

You have a world where aliens have come, and theyre not trying to kill us and eat us and take our resources. Theyve become Earthlings, Okarofor says. Some human beings react wonderfully to it, or some human beings just are cool with it, and then others cant deal with it. And then we have the United States becoming more conservative because of it.

Its not unusual for science fiction to anticipate reality, but its remarkable how every page of LaGuardia seems only 30 seconds ahead of the horrors playing out in the headlines, from DNA testing and social media vetting at the nations entry points to the chant of send her back at the presidents recent North Carolina rally. LaGuardia explores the concept of human-only discrimination at hospitals; meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidates discussed healthcare for undocumented immigrants in their first televised debate.

Its disturbing, but at the same time, it feels great, because I feel like Ive tapped into the pulse of something, Okorafor says.

Yet this is a story that she has been working on for years.

Issues of immigration, issues of identity, all these things, theyre not new, and theyve been there for a long time, she says.

Okorafor talks and writes from experience. The graphic novel introduces Future through an extended scene at LaGuardia, where she queues up for screening along with aliens of all shapes and sizes, as well as a little white girl who yanks on her locks. At the checkpoint, she is pulled aside for a second screening by a security guard who asks invasive questions about whether the baby in her belly is human. The confrontation is ripped straight from an incident in 2009, when a TSA officer at LaGuardia took Okorafor to a private room to squeeze each of her four-and-a-half-foot locks for hidden contraband. Preoccupied with her hair, the officer missed the bottle of pepper spray that Okorafor had forgotten to remove from her bag. In LaGuardia, that misdirection allows the character to carry the alien through, undetected.

As an author, Okorafor travels a lot, and its become clear to her that airport and border crossings are more about control than safety.

Its the space between, a place of contention, a place of displacement, a place of fear, a place of identity, she says. Its where you become very aware of all the things that you are and what they mean, in the context of where you are. And depending on who you are, that place can feel very hot or it can feel very chill.

San Diego Comic-Con can also be such a space, where creators contemplate who they are and where they are in their careers. In earlier chapters of her life, Okorafor was a semi-pro tennis player and later earned a PhD from the University of Illinois, Chicago, before becoming an award-collecting novelist. Okorafor has been attending Comic-Con on-and-off since 2010, wheb she was a speaker on The Black Panel, a forum for raising the profile of Black entertainment. This year was her first returning as a comic-book author.

In addition to writing LaGuardia for Dark Horses imprint Berger Books, Okorafor was tapped by Marvel to write Black Panther: Long Live the King and a spin-off about the Wakandan princess Shuri. In coming Comic-Cons, she may be back with even more prominent projects: shes adapting Octavia Butlers Wild Seed for Amazon and HBO is developing her novel Who Fears Death, with Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin as a producer.

I am in chaos, organized chaos, wonderful, glorious, organized chaos, Okorafor says.

One could draw a straight line from Okorafor and LaGuardia to comics pioneer Will Eisner (after whom Comic-Cons awards are named) and his 1978 medium-defining graphic novel, A Contract with God. Okorafor pulled the book off a university library shelf at random, without knowing it was a graphic novel, and was immediately transfixed by the blending of prose and images.

But also it was telling this immigrant story, especially about Jews, Okorafor says of A Contract with God, and coming from a family of immigrants, my parents being immigrants, I could relate so well to that. And so this was a book that I read over and over and over again for years.

Thats how Karen Berger, the editor who oversees Dark Horses Berger Book imprint, remembers Okorafor pitching the project: A Contract with God, but with aliens in an African American community. In Bergers mind, Eisner raised the bar by writing stories for adults based on his own experiences as the child of immigrants.

The best works are when people have a personal connection, and theres something about a writers past, or the writers personality, the writers passions in the character they write about, Berger says. As a piece of immigrant fiction, LaGuardia really fills that space.

LaGuardia is also about resistance, in all its forms, whether it be protesting, legal work, or holding the line within the system.

There are many ways of fighting the battle and battles happen on multiple fronts, all at the same time, Okorafor says. This year, San Diego Comic-Con became one of them.

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Where do babies come from? How to answer childrens 10 most vexing questions

Parents are queried as many as 55 times a day by their kids in the school holidays, a survey says. Here are some considered responses to the most popular lines of inquiry

Parents are asked as many as 55 questions a day by their children over the school holidays, a survey conducted by the childrens TV show Daisy & Ollie estimates. They include everything from philosophical queries to badgering. Here, the top 10 are answered as honestly as possible, while minimising the possibility of follow-up questions.

Why?

Your question may be understood in two ways. If you are asking about the purpose of existence, the meaning of life and the reason any of us are here, the answer is simple: we are here by mistake. If, as I suspect, your question is related to circumstance, as in: Why do I have to wear clothes in Tesco? the answer is also simple: because I said so.

Are we nearly there yet?

Allow me to point out your mistake: you have not named a destination; you just said there. We are always nearly somewhere, which is why its not a lie when I answer Yes, nearly every time you ask.

Why cant I stay up late?

Little
Its growing time! (Posed by model.) Photograph: kwanchaichaiudom/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The real reason is because I need three hours at the end of every day where I dont have to answer your questions. But I was worried you might repeat that to your teacher, so I made up the thing about how you only grow when you are asleep.

Why do I have to go to school?

You cant blame me for this its the law. I voted for the guy who wanted to ban school, but he lost. Fingers crossed for the next election.

Why do I have to go to bed?

I recognise this as a canny effort to rephrase question three in the hope of getting a more satisfactory answer. But all I have for you on this occasion is a final warning from Santas office.

How come youre allowed that and Im not?

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The Democratic Presidential Debates

Reality TV is meant to trick the eyes. The high drama of housewives bickering about who said what over a bottle of wine. Cast members secretly scheming to avoid elimination off the island. Contestants blatantly lying to rig the game in their favor. What unfolds before us, to quote Susan Murray and Laura Ouelette in 2008’s Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture, “is an unstable text that encourages viewers to test out their own notions of the real, the ordinary, and the intimate against the representation before them.”

This week, inside Detroit’s Fox Theatre, Democratic presidential hopefuls participated in the second round of debates. Last night found two of the top candidates—Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Joe Biden, along with Senator Cory Booker—center stage. The whole ordeal played out like an episode of The Real Legislators of America.

Remember: Absorbing, can’t-look-away TV is not about stability, however much we yearn for—and need, really—politics to be. The value of the unstable text is in its consistent guarantee of popcorn-worthy entertainment. Those who watch, myself included, find a perverse comfort in it because it’s entirely reliable; it gives us something to bicker about with family, friends, colleagues. It challenges us in ways for which we are unprepared, and sometimes for the better.

The primary architecture of debates, like reality TV with its twisting plots and snaking subplots, obeys a simple formula: an adoption of disorder. Biden, who remains the frontrunner despite his moderate establishment policies and a thrashing from Harris in June during the first round of debates, was again assigned the role of villain. A textbook archetype of the genre, the former VP doesn’t quite find a kindred spirit in the diabolical savvy of Spencer Pratt (The Hills) or Jax Taylor (Vanderpump Rules), but all great TV hinges on the roles characters submit to. That’s one of the more fascinating parts about Murray and Ouelette’s theory: Although the text itself is prone to unpredictability, the characters must conform to stationary roles.

Depth of Field: The Charged Uncertainty at the Tijuana Border


  • Depth of Field: The Quiet Force of YouTuber Etika’s Gaze

     


  • Depth of Field: On Pose, the Past Is the Present

     

“You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign,” Booker said to Biden, railing into him. “You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then dodge it when it’s not.” Later, Booker again pounced on him over the matter of criminal justice reform, and Biden found himself caught in the heat of Harris’ agitation on the topic of health care and paralyzed by former Housing Secretary Julian Castro’s criticism of his shaky immigration record.

But before drama turned rapid-fire, there was the sly splendor of the 10 candidates on stage, standing side by side, captured with a trippy canniess by Brendan Smialowski. There’s a static, almost robotic feel to the vertical poses they take; their top halves have been severed by the camera’s frame. The linear symmetry of their lower limbs, the uniformity of their display, suggests an analogy: Not unlike reality TV, we all have a role to adhere to.

But then, almost instantly, the photo challenges its very hypothesis by displaying the full-body reflection of the politicians on the stage floor (Jordan Peele’s tethered beings from Us sprang to mind). And so, here in the democratic upside down, a counter suggestion is proposed: that even the roles candidates were assigned—The Hero, The Antagonist, The Everyman—are not, in fact, as stable as we anticipate.


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RAF and a damaged dam

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionAn RAF Chinook is dropping 400 tonnes of aggregate to shore up the dam and divert water

Emergency crews are racing to save a damaged reservoir, as “terrified” residents fear their Derbyshire town could be flooded.

Police say the wall holding back the 300-million-gallon Toddbrook Reservoir could still fail despite about 24 hours of efforts to shore it up.

Part of the dam wall collapsed on Thursday afternoon.

The 1,500 people evacuated from Whaley Bridge amid “mortal danger” warnings will not be allowed home tonight.

But the water level has dropped by half a meter thanks to ten fire service pumps moving 4.2 million litres of water every hour – with more pumps on the way.

An RAF helicopter is also halfway through dropping 400 tonnes of aggregate on the collapsed section.

How dangerous is it?

BBC Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The clay under the slipway has been undermined

Police, the Environment Agency, and the Canal and River Trust have all said there is a “real risk” the dam could collapse.

Julie Sharman, from the Canal and Rivers Trust, said it was “a critical situation” but added the weather had improved and the water levels had reduced by 20cm.

“We aren’t putting a figure on any risk of collapse but everything that can be done is being done,” she said.

Engineers are attempting to get the reservoir’s water level down, to reduce pressure on the wall and allow repairs to begin.

news
Image caption The dam holds back 1.3 million tonnes of water

What does it mean for residents?

About 1,500 people left their homes after police told them to pack up their medication and pets and gather at an evacuation point.

Some stayed with relatives while others bedded down in pubs and hotels, with lots of businesses offering free rooms.

Police said residents would not be allowed back on Friday so would spend a second night away from their homes.

BBC
Image caption Bev Goodwin has put up friends and family after they left Whaley Bridge

Bev Goodwin lives in Chapel-en-le-Frith and put up her mum and dad, Joy and Steve and two friends – Susie and Angela.

Joy said: “We have nothing. No clothes, no toothbrush, nothing.

“We have been thinking about what’s in our house that we would miss – all our kids’ pictures and of our grandchildren – it’s upsetting.”

Susie said: “It’s just surreal that it’s happening in our town, it’s just bizarre.”

Mike Breslin described it as a “crazy situation”.

“They should never have built a school and a social club at the bottom of a dam. It’s madness,” he said.

news
Image caption Resident Mike Breslin said it was ‘madness’ to build a school at the base of the dam

Eric Baker, who has lived in the town for 30 years said: “It’s shocking really, it’s like living next to a ticking bomb. If that goes the devastation will be unimaginable.

“We saw the water coming over at a tremendous rate on Wednesday and the park was flooded but it wasn’t until Thursday the people who look after it started to look worried.

“Then it started to collapse on Thursday and it made a tremendous noise as the concrete slabs began to collapse.

“The disruption is huge, the small shops and businesses are really being hit and of course we don’t know when it will be over.”

BBC Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Public agencies and the army have been praised for their efforts

Another resident, who did not want to be named, said: “We just fled. I managed to take my nightdress and we’ve got the tortoise in the washing up bowl in the car.

“It’s quite terrifying. If the dam goes, it will take out the whole town.”

When will it be fixed?

news Image copyright LincsFireOfficer
Image caption Teams have worked through the night

Nigel Carson, who lives near the dam, said he had been told it would take two or three days to reduce the reservoir to a safe level if it does not rain.

There are no weather warnings in place for Friday, and the Met Office has said it expects much drier conditions.

BBC reporter Richard Stead described the operation to fix the dam as “a two-pronged attack”.

He said: “The Chinook is bringing aggregate on the one hand to shore up the dam, but also to divert water further up the valley away from the reservoir.

“There are also 16 high-volume pumps being used to relieve the pressure on the dam.

“Only when that is done can work start on permanent repairs and finding out what went wrong.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked the Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers to chair an emergency meeting.

BBC

Ms Villiers said she was receiving regular updates on the situation and the government’s COBR committee would make sure everything possible was being done to help.

People have shared their admiration for the emergency services on social media, with Twitter user @nmstoker naming the chinook pilots #DamUnbusters.

BBC

Analysis

By David Shukman, BBC science editor

This isn’t the first time communities have faced the nightmare of a dam that could collapse.

Back in 2007 a dam near Rotherham was the cause of a major alert, and the scenario is very similar to now. Torrential rain had filled the Ulley reservoir to overflowing.

Cracks appeared in the dam itself. People downstream were told to leave. The M1 motorway was in the path of a potential burst so part of it was closed.

As with the dam at Whaley Bridge, the one at Ulley was built in the 19th Century with the same combination of clay and mud.

In the end, pumps relieved the pressure and nearly 3000 tonnes of rock strengthened the structure so the emergency passed.

But over the following three years a huge repair operation costing £3.8m was needed. And a major review of the 2007 floods was highly critical of the way many of Britain’s dams are monitored.

Whatever happens at Whaley Bridge, questions will be asked about safety and whether ageing infrastructure can cope with the heavier downpours predicted as the climate warms.

BBC

What happened?

news

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionToddbrook Reservoir: Footage shows fast-flowing water before collapse

Part of the reservoir’s spillway broke away on Thursday.

It was damaged after large swathes of the country were battered by heavy rain and floods earlier in the week.

Police told residents in Whaley Bridge to gather at Chapel High School in neighbouring Chapel-en-le-Frith.

They were told to take pets and medication with them as it was unclear how long it would take to repair the damaged wall.

BBC
BBC

Pumps from fire services across the country have been pumping out 7,000 litres of water a minute.

Army engineers are clearing trees and bushes to get “five or six” more water pumps in on south side of reservoir.

Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service said more than 150 firefighters from across the UK have been supporting the work at the dam and in the town.

A severe flood warning, which means a threat to life, has been issued for the River Goyt below the reservoir.

BBC Image copyright LincsFireOfficer
Image caption Sandbags are shoring up the structure

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Journalists Under Attack

In May 2019, WIRED joined the One Free Press Coalition, a united group of preeminent editors and publishers using their global reach and social platforms to spotlight journalists under attack worldwide. Today, the coalition is issuing its sixth monthly “10 Most Urgent” list of journalists whose press freedoms are being suppressed or whose cases demand justice.

Paul Chouta, the Cameroon Web reporter who was arrested in May, denied bail, and charged with defamation and spreading false news. His case has been delayed until August 13 and he remains in a maximum-security prison. Aasif Sultan, a reporter for Kashmir Narrator, was arrested on “anti-state” charges and will have been imprisoned for one year on August 27. He has been repeatedly interrogated by police, demanding that he reveal his sources.

Here is the August list, ranked in order of urgency:

1. Jamal Khashoggi (Saudi Arabia): Stonewalling continues after new UN report implicates Saudi prince for journalist’s murder.

Months after his brazen killing, and despite findings from the UN and the CIA that point to the Saudi crown prince’s involvement, there has been no independent criminal investigation. Calls for the White House to release intelligence reports have gone unheeded, along with a deadline to reply to Congress as required under the U.S. Global Magnitsky Act.

2. Azory Gwanda (Tanzania): Tanzanian official claims missing journalist is dead—then backtracks.

Azory Gwanda, a freelance journalist investigating mysterious killings in rural Tanzania, has been missing since November 21, 2017, and the government has failed to conduct an investigation or disclose what it knows. On July 10, Tanzanian Foreign Minister Palamagamba Kabudi said in an interview that Gwanda had “disappeared and died,” but backtracked amid requests for clarification.

3. Juan Pardinas (Mexico): Mexican newspaper editor targeted with death threats for criticizing new president.

Mexican media organizations and journalists have recently reported a sharp increase in threats and online harassment over critical reporting of the López Obrador administration. Juan Pardinas, the editor-in-chief of Mexican newspaper Reforma, received a barrage of online harassment and threats after President Andrés Manuel López Obrador criticized the newspaper in April. López Obrador acknowledged the threats against Pardinas and said that his government had offered protective measures to the journalist.

4. Paul Chouta (Cameroon): Journalist in maximum security prison blocked from seeing family.

Cameroon Web reporter Paul Chouta was arrested in May, denied bail, and charged with defamation and spreading false news. Chouta’s editor said he suspects the case was in retaliation for critical reporting. His case has been delayed until August 13 and he remains in a maximum-security prison.

5. Azimjon Askarov (Kyrgyzstan): Kyrgyz court upholds life sentence for documenting human rights abuses.

Award-winning journalist Azimjon Askarov, who is an ethnic Uzbek, has spent nine years in prison on trumped-up charges for his reporting on human rights violations. Despite persistent international condemnation and calls for his release, a Kyrgyz court that had reviewed his case in light of new legislation ruled to uphold his life sentence on July 30.

6. Ayşe Nazlı Ilıcak (Turkey): Turkish journalist faces 30 years in solitary confinement.

A commentator for opposition newspaper Özgür Düşünce and Can Erzincan TV, Ayşe Nazlı Ilıcak was arrested in 2016 and sentenced in February 2018 to life without parole for trying to overturn the constitution through her journalism. In a separate trial in January, she was sentenced to an additional five years for revealing state secrets. In Turkey, which has been the top jailer of journalists three years in a row, life sentences without parole equate to 30 years in solitary confinement, with limited visits.

7. Marzieh Amiri (Iran): Imprisoned journalist denied healthcare after for covering May Day demonstrations.

Iranian authorities arrested Marzieh Amiri, an economics reporter at Tehran-based newspaper Shargh Daily, as she covered May Day demonstrations, and her family has had limited contact with her since. Authorities have accused Amiri of committing crimes against national security without giving further details.

8. Jones Abiri (Nigeria): Journalist re-arrested on terrorism and cybercrime charges.

Jones Abiri, the publisher and editor-in-chief of the Weekly Source, is behind bars on charges under Nigeria’s cybercrimes act, anti-sabotage act, and terrorism prevention act for crimes allegedly carried out in 2016. The charges are the same ones that a court threw out after he was held without access to his family or a lawyer from 2016 to 2018.

9. Aasif Sultan (India): Journalist imprisoned one year without due process for covering conflict.

Aasif Sultan, a reporter for Kashmir Narrator, will have been imprisoned one year on August 27, arrested in 2018 and months later charged with “complicity” in “harboring known terrorists.” He has been repeatedly interrogated and asked to reveal his sources by police. Sultan continues to be denied due process, with ongoing delays in his hearings.

10. Truong Duy Nhat (Vietnam): Blogger who disappeared in Thailand imprisoned in Vietnam.

Truong Duy Nhat, a Vietnamese reporter with Radio Free Asia, went missing in January in Bangkok, Thailand, where he had applied for refugee status. In March, his daughter learned he was jailed without charge in a Hanoi detention center. Nhat was previously sentenced to two years in prison in 2013 in connection to his critical reporting on the government.

According to CPJ research, the killers go unpunished in nine out of every 10 journalists murdered.

The One Free Press Coalition contains 33 prominent international members including: AméricaEconomía; The Associated Press; Bloomberg News; The Boston Globe; BuzzFeed; CNN Money Switzerland; Corriere Della Sera; De Standaard; Deutsche Welle; Estadão; EURACTIV; The Financial Times; Forbes; Fortune; HuffPost; India Today; Insider Inc.; Le Temps; Middle East Broadcasting Networks; Office of Cuba Broadcasting; Quartz; Radio Free Asia; Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty; Republik; Reuters; The Straits Times; Süddeutsche Zeitung; TIME; TV Azteca; Voice of America; The Washington Post; WIRED; and Yahoo News.

One Free Press Coalition partners with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) to identify the most-urgent cases for the list, which is updated and published on the first day of every month. News organizations throughout the world can join the Coalition by emailing info@onefreepresscoalition.com.


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The truth about comedy writers’ rooms

Grubby banter, sexless flirting and the smell of pizza and ambition … writer Sarah Morgan reveals the funny business that goes on behind the scenes of your favourite shows

books

In the recent movie Late Night, Mindy Kaling plays a naive young comedy writer joining the writing team on a late-night US chat show. The staff are exclusively white, male, expensively educated and surly a running gag is that every one uses the womens restroom to defecate because no women work in the office. Kaling, as a perky diversity hire, shakes up the show and drags it into the 21st century. Its a wish fulfilment comedy: what would actually happen, with just one woman or person of colour in the room, is that the lads would carry on being sexist and racist but would then swivel their heads at her like ventriloquist dummies to check that she was cool with it.

US writers rooms have a feral romance to them, as seen in shows such as 30 Rock, which was inspired by Tina Feys real time as head writer on Saturday Night Live, when her male peers would pee into jars on their office window sill and call it sun tea. In the UK, were a little more embarrassed at the idea that comedy is written, and feel it should be hidden away, shamefully and quietly. (When a writing partner and I asked for an office at the BBC in which to write our radio series, we were grudgingly offered The Jill Dando room, an 8ft sq office in TV Centre featuring a King-Kong-at-the-window-scale mural of the tragically murdered TV personality. We laughed. Writers are horrible.)

Recently, ITV announced an initiative to aim for gender-balanced writing teams on its comedy shows, which came as a shock to some people who claim to passionately love comedy but dont know how it is made. People who think Morecambe and Wise came up with all their own material, and Angela Rippon just started doing all that mad stuff with her legs on the day. You know what though? Its sort of OK comedy writers feel deep down we are doing our job properly when you dont know were there, like God. No, not like God: we dont have that level of self-esteem. Were like people who pump out the toilets at music festivals. Thats it. Gag writers are like the portable loo people, quietly keeping your entertainment entertaining. We know that no one at home cares if Simon Cowell is being genuinely spontaneous, or if his quip about David Walliamss trousers was crafted by a sweaty nerd on a 600th of his salary. Were just happy to be in showbiz.

I love my job. Ive worked in more than 50 writers rooms, not including the shows I helped develop that never made it to air. Some days I pinch myself that Im being paid to laugh my head off. On Horrible Histories you get free lectures from historians its like being paid for school, only youre actively encouraged to make fun of the lesson afterwards. Some shows Ive proudly worked on for decades, some were just a fleeting engagement in a production company office that smelled of pizza and ambition. Food is vital to the workings of a writers room. If a producer offers to buy lunch, everyone will immediately order the most expensive thing possible, because comedy writers are tiny children, and also because you know a free lunch means you are working through lunch.

The job has changed a lot in 10 years, but some writers rooms do still feel loud and gladiatorial, as in Late Night. Often in the UK they are dominated by male Oxbridge-educated caucazoids (some of my best friends are male Oxbridge-educated caucazoids, etc, etc). Writers are generally sensitive and insecure. If you put us together in a room we will overcompensate like the advice given to someone on their first day of prison, punch the biggest bloke in the yard.

There was one pop-based panel show writers room so notoriously toxic, the survivors talk as though it has been entombed in concrete like Chernobyl. A half-formed idea would get cut short with a Thats shit or Not funny. The writers assistant would get sent out with a complicated sandwich order and a grave warning that the star would lose his shit if she got the order wrong. (Of course, the sandwich shop didnt exist. She was terrified! Lol!)

Tina
Tina Fey in US sitcom 30 Rock, which was inspired by her time as head writer on Saturday Night Live. Photograph: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

 

These rooms are raptor pits, according to Andy Riley, co-creator of Year of the Rabbit, who has compiled a glossary of writers room terms on his website How to Talk Comedy Writer. There is loads of secret lingo, such as Die-dia (from Kat Sadler), an idea that you feel dying in your mouth the second you start pitching. A bad room will crush a die-dia dead (thats not funny), a good room will toss it around a bit to see what other ideas it shakes out. A die-dia is from the same family as the bad version, which is a much derided term that a higher-up might use when pitching the shape of a joke, but not the joke itself. We need a funny reveal for what the dog is chewing. The bad version is a dildo? I dunno, youre the writers. Honestly, pitching the bad version is actually really useful, but its a thing that producers say so writers make fun of it. We dont often get to feel lofty.

Sam Bain, co-creator of Peep Show, says: Comedy writing rooms should be like improv Yes, and Rather than Thats shit. When a room is good, its heaven, a sort of sexless flirting where colleagues bat ideas back and forth and nothing is off-limits. A certain amount of inappropriateness is actually vital to the health of a room.

Executives who pop in can be startled by the filth and off-topic banter. Its our way of getting to know each other. Jason Hazeley, co-creator of Cunk on Britain, calls this doing scales the practice gags that warm you up for the real work. Ive also heard it called clearing the pipes or getting the poison out. Its not pleasant, but it is funny, if dead-baby jokes before 10am are your thing. Quite why were allowed to get away with this Im not sure, theres no other job where its expected that you need to be appalling before you can do your job properly. Sure Ill bring in this 747, but I just have to snap the legs off this heron first. Its my process.

When the Times Up movement hit Hollywood there was concern that some people wouldnt feel comfortable with the anything goes approach. There was a famous lawsuit where the writers assistant on Friends (the only female and person of colour in the room) sued because of the eye-wateringly inappropriate conversation among the chief writers (including speculations about a female cast members genitalia). The decision went in the shows favour, with the judge referring to the Friends room as a creative workplace focused on generating scripts for an adult-oriented comedy show featuring sexual themes.

Sarah
Ive been in situations where later Ive pondered the weird nature of my employment Sarah Morgan. Photograph: Karla Gowlett

 

Ive never felt unsafe or intimidated at work, but Ive been in situations where later Ive pondered the weird nature of my employment. There was a day in a small room where the head writer delivered a monologue about inserting Cadbury Mini Eggs in the non-traditional orifice of a lady friend. I didnt feel especially harassed (I almost certainly yes and-ed with egg puns) but I cant speak for the young woman whose job it was to sit and take notes all day. Crucially, Im not sure it was a super-productive way to write in-house sketches for the website of a luxury car brand.

While no one wants to think about how the sausage is made, its a fact that most shows have writers rooms panel shows, award shows, sketch shows, topical news shows, a chat show for a popular fake TV judge they are all team written. Though youd be forgiven for not knowing that if you look at the credits. Writers arent much of a thing in comedy, outside sitcoms. They are credited as programme associates (or additional material). Programme associates are the modest heroes thinking of funny captions for a photo of a puffin, or writing questions about Boris Johnsons hair, or coming up with sketch ideas a talk-show host could do based round a giant papier-mache vulva that had been commissioned by the production company for another show but didnt get used. (These are all things that have happened on programmes I have written on, sorry, been associated with.)

But the title may not be around for ever. The Writers Guild of Great Britain is starting a campaign to scrap positions such as programme associate and credit writers for their writing. Writers should always be credited as writers, says Gail Renard, former WGGB chair and member of the guilds comedy committee, or else they stand to lose their residuals, pension contributions, and other payments theyve rightly earned. Why should we be hidden in the shadows like some dark comedy secret?

Well, theres lots of reasons why comedy writers should be kept a dark dirty secret see above but a reluctance to give proper credit isnt one of them.

Late Night is showing in UK cinemas.

 

 

 

 

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Climatic change and human impact on climate

Scientists say July at least equalled and may have beaten hottest month on record

climate change

The record-breaking heatwave that roasted Europe last month was a one-in-a-thousand-year event made up to 100 times more likely by human-driven climate change, scientists have calculated.

Around the globe, July at least equalled and may have surpassed the hottest month on record, according to data from the World Meteorological Organization. This followed the warmest June on record.

Temperature records were broken in many countries, wildfires continue to devastate vast areas of Siberia, the Greenland ice sheet is melting at a near record rate, and the risk of drought has grown more acute across wide areas of central and eastern Europe.

The extreme heat is particularly unusual because it is not an El Nio year the phenomenon usually associated with prolonged temperature surges. Instead, scientists say it is driven to a large extent by carbon emissions from car exhausts, power plant chimneys, burning forests and other human sources.

How much these factors loaded the dice in the two- to three-day heatwave during the last week of July was the subject of an attribution study by a consortium of meteorologists and climatologists at the UK Met Office, Oxford University and other prominent European institutions.

It found that the extreme heat in France and the Netherlands, where temperatures peaked above 40C, was made at least 10 times and possibly more than 100 times more likely by climate change. In the UK, which set a record of 38.7C on 25 July, the human impact on the climate made the high temperatures at least two to three times more probable.

There was considerable variation from place to place, but in all the studied locations the scientists said it would have been 1.5C to 3C cooler without climate change.

Satellite
A Nasa satellite image shows winds carrying plumes of smoke over Russia, centre right, as wildfires raged in Siberia. Photograph: Joshua Stevens/Nasa/AP

 

Although the recent heat has been described as historic, it is unlikely to remain that way for long, according to the authors of the study. It will not make history. These records will be broken in few years, said Friederike Otto, of the University of Oxford. What we see with European heatwaves is that all the climate models are underestimating the change that we see. She said further study would investigate how likely it was to have two intense heatwaves in the space of two months.

The paper says the extreme heat will have an impact on human wellbeing, though the data on this often lags, which can mean it fails to draw much public attention.

Heatwaves during the height of summer pose a substantial risk to human health and are potentially lethal, the paper says. The full impact is known only after a few weeks when the mortality figures have been analysed. Effective heat emergency plans, together with accurate weather forecasts such as those issued before this heatwave, reduce impacts and are becoming even more important in light of the rising risks.

The UN secretary general, Antnio Guterres, who has called a special climate summit of world leaders in September, said the seasons were moving alarmingly far from their usual path. We have always lived through hot summers, but this is not the summer of our youth. This is not your grandfathers summer, he said. Preventing irreversible climate disruption is the race of our lives, and for our lives. It is a race that we can and must win.

The World Meteorological Organization expects 2015-19 to be the warmest five-year period ever recorded. July has rewritten climate history, with dozens of new temperature records at local, national and global level, said the organisations secretary general, Petteri Taalas. Unprecedented wildfires raged in the Arctic for the second consecutive month, devastating once pristine forests which used to absorb carbon dioxide and instead turning them into fiery sources of greenhouse gases. This is not science fiction. It is the reality of climate change. It is happening now and it will worsen in the future without urgent climate action.

 

 

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Belgium: Dismantling of gothic bridge

After years of argument workers have begun taking apart Tournais Bridge of Holes

Architecture

The dismantling of Tournais gothic Bridge of Holes to make room for larger boats down the Scheldt river has been met with solemn protest and a withering attack on local politicians by a minister in Belgiums federal government.

After years of argument over the project, a crane attached to a barge was deployed from 6:00am on Friday morning to take apart the three arches of the Pont des Trous as a local cellist played mournfully on the river bank.

The bridges bricks will be retained for its later reconstruction on similar lines to the original, albeit with a wider and higher central arch.

The council had initially supported a contemporary replacement described by opponents as a Bridge of McDonalds due to its similarity to the burger chains logo, and officials have been criticised for their willingness to dismantle the landmark.

A crowd on the rivers banks audibly reacted when some of the brickwork was seen falling into the water on Friday. Many watching a live stream on the website of the regional television station, Notele, wrote of their sadness at saying goodbye.

Among those on the river bank was Belgiums minster for energy, Marie-Christine Marghem, who in a Facebook post deplored the lack of empathy for local people by the council.

She wrote: Because a Tournaisien lives his city in joys and sorrows, I am at the foot of our Bridge of Holes since the sunrise to see how institutional killjoys attack a monument without prior heritage procedure, under the gloomy eye of the little local potentates.

Prima facie, I obviously don’t see any numbered stone. Are we surprised? Throughout, in addition, no word of empathy has been addressed to the population which long expressed in a popular consultation her love for its roots, its identity, its history.

Built between 1281 and 1304, the Pont des Trous is one of only three remaining 13th-century military bridges in the world.

Bombed and partially destroyed during the second world war, the central arches were rebuilt and widened in 1947. Only its medieval towers the Bourdiel, built in 1281 on the left bank and the Thieulerie, built on the rivers right bank between 1302-04 are original.

The bridges name comes from a nearby lock that was called Les Trous, or the holes, by Tournaisiens.

The reconstruction was said to be necessary as part of a (4.2bn) (3.8bn) project to create a 65-mile (105km) canal, connecting the Seine and Scheldt rivers. The council wants to allow passage for boats of up to 2,000 tonnes rather than continue with the current 1,500-tonne limit.

The dismantling of the bridge has been met with resistance throughout the process, with the Belgian prime minister, Charles Michel, asked to intervene.

The criticism was at its most vociferous in 2016 when the council approved plans by the architect Olivier Bastin for a minimalist and contemporary style.

A petition calling for the plan to be ditched attracted more than 20,000 signatures and the backing of the French radio and TV host Stphane Bern.

It was only in March this year that the minister of public works in the francophone Walloon region, Carlo Di Antonio, announced that the modern design was being ditched and that the bridge would be rebuilt almost identically.

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