This article was first published by RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission.
An Auckland couple who picked up a supposedly desexed dog from a Hawke’s Bay pound before Christmas are now caring for eight puppies.
Sarah Bryant and Hera Nathan are now trying to get answers – and money – from the Hastings District Council, who she claims have offered to put the young pups down.
Bryant told First Up‘s Lydia Batham that the advertisement on their website stated it would cost $250 for Bella to be desexed, vaccinated, wormed, and get flea treatment.
Bella was picked up the weekend before Christmas last year by Nathan’s sister, who handed over the sum upon arrival but was told Bella was not vaccinated, Bryant said.
“[She] just assumed that was part of the agreement and didn’t ask any questions. She was told she had to sign an adoption form on our behalf, so she did that, and on the form there’s a few boxes and it says vaccinated, wormed, desexed, etc, and there was a cross in the vaccination box, but that was the only one that had any marking in it.”
Bryant said they were confused when they were told by the sister that Bella was not vaccinated, but took her to the vet to get it done.
That was when they decided to ask to check on the other items on the list, including desexing.
“[The vet] looked at [Bella] and said she doesn’t have a scar or anything, it doesn’t appear like she is [desexed], it actually appears like she is on heat.
“He said he wouldn’t desex her while she is on heat, apparently there’s a potential for that to cause a whole lot of bleeding and issues, so he said to bring her back in March to have her desexed or she could potentially be pregnant, and I’m not going to know for a couple of weeks, so bring her back.”
Bella was adopted the weekend before Christmas by Auckland couple Sarah Bryant and Hera Nathan.
In the meantime, Bryant said they had been trying to contact the pound but got no response.
When Bella was taken again to be checked, the vet said it could be potentially be a false pregnancy but couldn’t be sure, Bryant said.
“He said the only way you’re going to know, so we can figure out if you can do desexing or not, is to take her in for an ultrasound.”
But while they waited for the day of the booked ultrasound appointment to arrive, Bella delivered eight puppies.
“It was definitely a surprise, and at the time we were just like ‘well it’s happening now’, and just sat with her and waited for all the puppies to come out … and made sure they were healthy.”
Bryant said it was “not what we signed up for”, and had been in touch with the council to possibly ask for money back or pay for Bella’s treatment and something to contribute towards the puppies.
“[The person contacted at the council] said that that wasn’t part of their policy and that their policy would be that we could surrender them and they could put them down, and so I said that’s not an option for us.”
After another chat, the council offered a refund of up to $250 for the desexing, vaccination, worming, flea treatment or again to surrender Bella with the puppies, Bryant said.
She said she was angry about being told they would be put down.
“I tried calling back to say that’s not an acceptable resolution and we need to work this through, and that was on Tuesday and I left a message, and I haven’t heard back again from them.”
Bella and her pups.
In a statement, Hastings District Council said dogs that were adopted were treated for fleas, wormed, vaccinated, microchipped, registered and desexed prior to release at a cost of $250.
However, the council claims that because the owners wanted the dog immediately, it was agreed for them to pay $250 up front but they would have to make their own arrangements for treatment and desexing.
It said the dog was registered and microchipped prior to release, and that the person who picked Bella up was aware none of the treatments, including desexing, were done.
The council said it offered to pay for the treatments up to a cost of $250, but 36 days later, Bella had puppies.
Since Bella was at such an early stage of gestation when taken, the council said it could not have known she was pregnant.
“We have had discussions with the owner since the birth of the pups – they are wanting us to pay to look after the pups for three months, but this is not council’s responsibility.
“When you adopt a dog, or get a dog from anywhere, you run the risk that it may have health or behavioural issues or, as in this case, be pregnant.”
The council reiterated its offer for the owners to surrender Bella and the puppies, but said they could either foster them until they could be rehomed, or get SPCA’s help with this.
“Unfortunately, in some circumstances euthanasia is the best option.”
Bryant said she was in the process of filling out a Disputes Tribunal form, and would like to see the council apologise.
“I would really like them to change their policy and do what it says on their website they would do.”
Meanwhile, she said the puppies were the “cutest little things”, and they were getting support from the community.
This article was first published by RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission.
Top Management staff of Facebook paid a visit to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), on Thursday, to explore opportunities for collaboration and partnership for infrastructure deployment to strengthen connectivity, enhance businesses and bolster citizens’ embrace of digital culture.
Ibrahima Ba, Network Investment Lead at Facebook Office in the United States, who led the delegation to NCC, stated that robust infrastructure was the bedrock of the massive connectivity that signposts Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.
Facebook had successfully undertaken two connectivity projects in Edo and Ogun involving a total of 800 kilometres of fibre connecting institutions and operators towers.
He said that considering the connectivity gap that still exists in the country, there was a need for further expansion of infrastructure as increased penetration of services will require further deployment of infrastructure.
Ba, who declared that Nigeria was important to Facebook being Africa’s most populous country, emphasised that his company looked forward to seeing opportunities for partnerships manifest to ensure infrastructure expansion in fibre connectivity.
Ba advised the NCC to facilitate additional liberalisation of partnership and collaboration processes with stakeholders, a proposition Jerry Ugwu, Deputy Director Legal and Regulatory Services at NCC, assured that the NCC will explore.
Edoyemi Ogoh, Deputy Director Technical Standards and Network Integrity at NCC, who led the team that received the Facebook delegation on behalf of the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive (EVC/CE) of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, commended the group’s interest in the Nigerian market.
He affirmed that NCC was aware of the importance of central infrastructure to the expansion of telecom services, and added that the realisation explained NCC’s adoption of the Open Access Model (OAM) and the licensing of infrastructure companies (Infracos) to cascade fibre to the hinterland of Nigeria.
Ogoh noted that President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent re-designation of NCC’s supervising ministry as Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy was a conformation of Federal Government’s commitment to encouraging more citizens to embrace digital culture.
Stressing that the NCC is central to these processes, the official added that the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, has continued to demonstrate his commitment to tackling bottlenecks to infrastructure expansion.
He cited the recent meetings between the Minister, the EVC and Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) which focused on streamlining and standardization Right of Way (RoW) charges.
Ogoh disclosed that the Commission was finalising processes to institute the ‘Dig Once Policy’ that will encourage operators and other key players in infrastructure segment to have greater strategic collaboration in the laying of fibre especially in the context of the upcoming National Broadband Plan 2020-2025.
On Ba’s delegation were Erik Schmidt, Network Strategy Manager, Facebook Infrastructure; Adaora Ikenze, Head West Africa (Public Policy); Imran Abass, Partner Manager, Sub Saharan Africa; and Fargani Tambeayuk, Africa Public Policy Manager (Connectivity).
It has been a long time coming, it has even been alluded to in some Sci-Fi series such as Incorporated, where in the near future a corporation runs a country and is also a state in its own right. With Facebook earlier in 2019 officially unveiling plans to launch Libra, its own (along with other corporate partners) digital currency, in 2020, it is almost safe to say that Mark Zuckerberg’s (despite being a public company, Facebook’s share structure and voting rights afford Zuckerberg a lot of control and power) social network is almost a country in its own right.
With approximately 2 billion monthly active users as reported at the end of 2018, even if you had to account for duplicate and fake accounts, it would still measure up as one of the largest populations any country has on the planet.
If you add WhatsApp, considering that the messaging app’s users will also be able to transact using Libra (once, or rather if, it eventually launches), with its reported 1,5 billion active users (although some are already Facebook users), you are looking at a size of a country like one we have never witnessed before.
Welcome to the .
Strong political opposition
It didn’t take long after the official announcement of Libra earlier in the year that three countries, France, England, and Germany, started displaying signs that they were feeling threatened by Facebook & Co.’s newly proposed digital currency. Specifically, France’s Finance Minister stated unequivocally that Libra cannot be a replacement for sovereign currencies.
So far, it has not been an easy ride for Libra since that official announcement earlier in 2019. What looked like a good list of partners has been reduced with several of its (Libra Association) member companies deciding to pull their membership and support for Facebook’s proposed digital currency. It all started with PayPal withdrawing from the Libra Association, this was then followed by Visa, Mastercard, eBay, Stripe and Mercado Pago who all announced that they will no longer be participating nor supporting Libra.
The withdrawals, which ended up leaving Libra without any major global payments companies as members, were politically motivated as the United States Senate sent a letter to the various Libra Association member organizations CEOs urging them “to proceed with caution until Facebook is able to provide real answers to you.”
Despite this strong political opposition to Libra by various countries and regulators, which has also seen Facebook being hauled before the USA’s policy makers to answer questions about the planned digital currency, I still think there is a high probability that not only will Libra launch in 2020, but it has better than average chances of gaining traction.
This is despite those involved in the Libra project at Facebook stating that there is no clear product roadmap nor a s et launch date.
However, important to note that Patrick Ellis, one of the board members of the Libra Association, confirmed to Reuters that Libra would launch during 2020, but couldn’t provide any indication of when or even the initial markets it would be launched in.
Before I elaborate on why I think it will succeed, what will it mean for your money to be controlled and managed by Facebook?
Your money in Facebook’s control
To further understand why some countries, including the USA, have been vocally opposing Libra in public, the letter that The United States House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services wrote to Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg (COO at Facebook), and David Marcus (CEO of Facebook subsidiary, Calibra), gives us a few hints in my opinion.
Firstly, as compared to say, Bitcoin, it is easier and possible to write to Facebook’s Zuckerberg and Sandberg regarding Libra compared to trying to write to Satoshi Nakamoto. In this case, there are real people and organizations that can be held accountable. Secondly, and as they allude to in the letter, the policy makers feel that Libra is a threat to the US Dollar and the country’s monetary policy, despite it being merely a stablecoin and not a cryptocurrency in the strictest of terms.
There’s also the matter that should Libra ever get into trouble (eg. not be able to guarantee customers withdrawals etc.), the US government in one way or another would need to step in to protect Americans as we’ve seen it do before with some of the country’s large banks (side note: this is exactly what Bitcoin avoids, but alas. A discussion for another day).
However, more importantly for us in Africa is, does Libra offer any of us any value?
Does it help us with anything we are struggling with currently?
Does it make life easier?
To use and transact in Libra, users will have to download and run the official wallet, Calibra (a subsidiary company of Facebook). From what I’ve seen and what has so far led me to say in its current form Libra will struggle to gain traction (unless they address the following two issues) is that to use Calibra one will require a bank account and a government issued ID.
It’s no secret that Africa has a high number of unbanked people mainly as a result of low income and unemployment. As such, it is mind boggling that a product punting financial inclusion would require users to first have a bank account before using it. However, it’s possible that this will change by the time Facebook launches the digital currency and wallet in 2020. If it doesn’t, it could prove to be a stumbling block for gaining traction especially across Africa.
The second issue, which also leads me to explaining why I think Libra will succeed, is around the requirement of government issued ID.
On the surface, in most countries in Africa at least, the requirement for a government issued ID could prove a real stumbling block to adoption. In many African countries, eg. Nigeria, there is no real organized government ID system. Immediately this makes it rather interesting how Facebook is going to verify identity in such cases.
However, Facebook and its Libra partners seem to already have thought of this and have a possible solution in mind. A solution which, once it can be implemented, will make a strong argument that Facebook is now essentially a country.
Facebook’s possible Trojan Horse
Earlier in 2019 when the noise around Libra was at its peak and being frustrated that no African policymakers we commenting on it or providing any clarification on how they view Facebook’s proposed digital currency that is mainly targeted a developing countries, I set out to read the Libra white paper for the third time. Somehow, I found something in the Libra white paper I had missed or wasn’t paying enough attention to previously.
Hidden (in plain sight) deep in the guts of a white paper light on details and heavy on marketing talk about financial inclusion and the world’s 2 billion without adequate financial services are two sentences that seem to be placed nonchalantly atop page 9 of the Libra white paper, yet they could have far reaching impact.
“An additional goal of the [Libra] association is to develop and promote an open identity standard. We believe that decentralized and portable digital identity is a prerequisite to financial inclusion and competition.”
This, the development of an open standard for digital IDs, as mentioned, could mean that Facebook already has a solution for part of this problem. The other part of this solution is that Facebook previously acquired a company that verifies government issued IDs in 2018. These two solutions combined could help onboard and verify people onto Libra and from there start issuing them with verified Facebook IDs.
Considering that Facebook, along with its subsidiary platforms like WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger, is home to over 2 billion people, could this be the new global ID standard that will surpass and be more trusted than government issued IDs?
Although I could not find any further details on the proposed Libra digital ID and Facebook have also refused to comment when I asked, in my opinion it has a far bigger impact than the proposed currency as, if adopted and rolled out successfully it solves one of the web’s biggest issues, trust. I can already envision how it fits in with some of its other acquisitions, for example, Facebook acquired a face recognition tool that it incorporated into its main Facebook platform that would identify faces in the photos you post automatically and suggest you tag them. This, could possibly be used outside of government issued IDs given the trove of (tagged) photos Facebook already has of billions of people around the world, to verify identity.
This to me is Facebook’s Trojan Horse with Libra a necessary part but of lesser significance than the ability for Facebook to be able to run a platform that can verify and vouch for the identity of billions of people independent from any government.
Managing the flow of money gives you some power. Handling trust and identities gives you control, and essentially, makes you a nation state.
A virtual nation state
As far as why I now think this completes the idea of Facebook becoming a country, it’s simply because of the leverage it will hold over some countries especially across the continent who not only do not have near as accurate data about their citizens like Facebook has, but are struggling to maintain the value and usefulness of their own sovereign currencies (e.g. Zimbabwe).
At the heart of it (Libra) people just want a quicker and cheaper way to transact and send money, and already in Africa, many are used to using mobile money for their daily living.
Apart from having such a huge virtual population, a currency, and possibly its own verifiable IDs for its citizens, Facebook also does not fall under any single country’s jurisdiction. For example, its US-based users are governed by a corporation registered in the USA, its users in the rest of the world are governed by a corporation registered in Ireland, while in China it works under different laws. This not only applies to laws but where it pays taxes too. So, as such, you cannot exactly call it a US company as it is not bound any single country’s laws and to make matters worse (or good if you’re Facebook) it is a virtual entity.
It really, in my view, has officially become the People’s Republic of Facebook (and like its namesake, it’s not a democracy 😊)
Nigerians on Twitter are reacting to the comment of Femi Adesina, presidential spokesman, on Punch newspaper’s adoption of “major general” title for President Muhammadu Buhari.
In an editorial entitled ‘Buhari’s lawlessness: Our stand’, on Wednesday, the newspaper said it will also refer to the Buhari administration as a regime until it purges itself of ”contempt for the rule of law”.
But responding to the editorial, Adesina said Buhari earned the title of major general, and that the newspaper was not out of order.
“If you decide to call him Major General, he wasn’t dashed the rank, he earned it. So, you are not completely out of order. The fact that you can do so is even another testimony to press freedom in Nigeria,” he tweeted.
If you decide to call him Major General, he wasn’t dashed the rank, he earned it. So, you are not completely out of order. The fact that you can do so is even another testimony to press freedom in Nigeria. — Femi Adesina (@FemAdesina) December 11, 2019
Reacting to the tweet, some Nigerians accused Adesina of deliberately avoiding the focus of the editorial in order to do his job of protecting Buhari’s image at the expense of the country.
Wale Bernard, a Twitter user, sarcastically tweeted that Adesina is correct to defend the president since the media aide is now a ”major” in the government.
“You are very correct, Major Femi Adesina,” he tweeted.
Don Obinna, a commenter, said the appointment of Adesina, a former president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, as a presidential media aide revealed his true colours.
“Thank God for your appointment, we would have stupidly been referring to you as a journalist of repute. It’s a shame that a former MD of a national newspaper has no balls to advise the president properly or resign to save his face. I wonder what you will tell us after 2023,” the tweet read.
Thank God for your appointment, we would have stupidly been referring to you as a journalist of repute. It’s a shame that a former MD of a national newspaper has no balls to advise the president properly or resign to save his face. I wonder what you will tell us after 2023
— Don Norman Obinna (@NormanObinna) December 11, 2019
You are very correct, Major Femi Adesina.
— Wale Bernard (@waleBernard1) December 11, 2019
Major General?? Earned it?? Remember 1983? Remember the bloody coup that ousted Shagari?? Remember??
— Pride of my daddy (@LadyNkem_xx) December 11, 2019
See how salary is controlling human life. Salary will end one day… but what you did will be remembered forever
— Torra (@TomiwaSoughtout) December 11, 2019
Looking for the sense in this tweet pic.twitter.com/Q7okpUFW5l
— ιgвσ вσү тσ ∂α яσσт (@Zuchradio) December 11, 2019
🤣… Pre 2015….this account would be praising PUNCH
This life eh
— #25 (@IamEkeminiEsn) December 11, 2019
He totally missed the point, he is (or the Govt.) supposed to respond to the issues raised by punch that resulted in the name shaming. But as usual, they only read to respond. The government is becoming an assembly of hopeless case.
— Umar Ismail | اسماعيل عمر (@iswampa) December 11, 2019
E dey pain you o gaga🎶🤣😂😂🤡🤡
— Dann_essy (@Dann_10) December 11, 2019
@aishambuhari will soon come on you…she just gave @GarShehu his own dose…Yours is coming
— OmotayoAbiodun (@Sthabbey) December 11, 2019
Chai! This man has no conscience again! A whole guild! Things we do for money! Smh
— Tolexandre (@tolex_andre) December 11, 2019
How can they @FemAdesina + @BashirAhmaad be missing the point here even a blind deaf man can identify. 🤦♂️🤦♂️🤦♂️
— Dat Ijaw Boii (@Dat_Ijaw_Boii) December 11, 2019
Imagine the thought of a grown man.
Grown man. Tueh
— PO (@PhilipCKO) December 11, 2019
Once one starts down the dark path, forever will it dominate their destiny. Consume them it will.
— A Wise Yoda Bot (@yodaism) December 11, 2019
Uncle Femi! Eyin na? You should contradict the narrative in that article. The image depicted in that article is horrible and this is a very pedestrian way to deal with it. Silence would have been better.
Kendall Jenner is no stranger to controversy. In fact, some argue that that’s pretty much what she relies on for her career. From poorly planned Pepsi ads to more than her fair share of cultural appropriation claims, to that infamous video with Bella Hadid, Kendall is basically never out of the headlines.
But her latest controversy may be her worst yet. Kendall shared a video of herself on Snapchat that got everyone talking, for all the wrong reasons. Not only was it kind of silly – but it was actually dangerous, too. Scroll on for the video that’s got the whole internet angry.
Kendall Jenner has one of the most recognizable faces in the modeling industry.
The supermodel has crafted quite an impressive modeling resume – it feels as though there isn’t a major cover that she hasn’t featured on or a high fashion show that she hasn’t walked in.
But she’s also part of one of the most famous families in the world.
You know who we’re talking about… the Kardashians.
Kendall has had an early introduction to fame and fortune, featuring on their reality show, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, since she was barely even a teen.
But, now, the star mainly focuses on her booming modeling ventures.
From Vogue’s September issue to high fashion runways, there isn’t much that she hasn’t done.
But the star has managed to whip up quite a lot of controversy over the years.
Considering she stays relatively low-key when it comes to Keeping Up With The Kardashians, it looks like her lucrative modeling adventures have been far from plain sailing.
For example, does anyone remember that Pepsi commerical?
In 2017, the world watched, appalled, as Kendall Jenner brought a social justice protest to an end with one simple act – handing the police officer a can of Pepsi.
As problematic goes, this was definitely up there.
The ill-judged ad faced worldwide criticism, and rightly so.
The controversial commercial, which was promptly pulled following the backlash, insinuated that all the problems could be brought to a harmonious end with a can of the sugary soda – or, at least, that’s the logic that we were presented with.
But in a world wherein these are real issues affecting real people, the ad just appeared to distastefully trivialize the demonstrations fighting for good causes such as Black Lives Matter.
Of course, many viewers didn’t take kindly to the commercial.
The internet was in uproar after viewing the commercial, with many people shocked at the mere suggestion that we can put our differences aside over a can of Pepsi.
And, for her participation, Jenner paid the price.
Both Kendall and Pepsi apologized for the ad, but it looked like, as far as countless people online were concerned, the damage had already been done.
Soon after, Kendall addressed the issue further on Keeping Up With The Kardashians, where viewers watched her get emotional over the backlash, telling older sister Kim: “It feels like my life is over.”
But, sadly, this wasn’t her only brush with controversy.
The supermodel has hit the headlines multiple times because of her hair.
Now, you may be thinking “hair is just hair, how can it possibly be problematic?”
Well, it can be when you consider cultural appropriation – aka the adoption of elements of one culture by members of another culture, which can often spark controversy when a socially dominant culture takes from a disadvantaged minority culture.
In 2016, the twenty-three-year-old found herself at the center of a cultural appropriation scandal.
She came under fire for being styled in dreadlocks at a Marc Jacobs runway show.
The questionable show saw a whole host of mostly white models, including bestie, Gigi Hadid, and, of course, Kendall Jenner herself, donning pastel-colored, wool dreadlocks.
People accused the show of cultural appropriation for not crediting African American culture for inspiring the look.
People took to Twitter to slam both the designer and the models for the distasteful appropriation of black culture.
The designer did apologize but justified his poorly-judged choice by saying that the look was inspired by Harajuku girls, rave culture, and London style in the 1980s. Though many people don’t buy it.
It’s safe to say Kendall is no stranger to backlash.
But there’s one area in which she’s particularly prone to causing a stir – when she’s behind the wheel of a car.
Kendall has faced trouble for this before.
In 2015, Kylie and Kendall were driving in Los Angeles when they posted a rather raucous Snapchat.
But many thought they were focused too much on their social media, and not enough on the road ahead.
And the same year saw another traffic accident.
Caitlyn Jenner was driving in Malibu when she hit two cars with her SUV, pushing one into oncoming traffic. There was one fatality and four injuries in the tragic accident.
In fact, it seems as though the Kardashian-Jenners and driving aren’t compatible.
And when you put a selfie camera into the mix, things go from bad to worse.
And Kendall’s latest move may be her worst driving mishap yet.
She shared a video of herself testing out the new Snapchat butterfly filter.
So far, so good – except for the fact she was also trying to operate a vehicle at the same time.
In her eagerness to check herself out with her new (fake) look, Kendall was rather conspicuously looking away from the road.
See what you think – here’s the video.
It seems hard to deny she’s not putting her full attention into her driving, spending a few too many seconds for comfort staring into her own eyes.
And some noticed this.
Not only was Kendall not really paying attention – but she also seemed to be steering in a rather bizarre (and extreme) style.
And although some were joking about it …
It seems others were seriously annoyed. It’s one thing to be a danger to yourself – but putting others at risk through your own vanity? Not cool, Kendall.
Want some more Jenner-based controversy? Read on to see why Caitlyn Jenner’s birthday cake got everybody talking.
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Smartphone sales have continued their global decline. New numbers from Gartner forecast a drop of 2.5% down to 1.5 billion. The biggest hits to the industry are Japan, Western Europe and North America, which saw drops of 6.5, 5.3 and 4.4%, respectively.
It’s all part of a continued trend we’ve highlighted several times before: slowed upgrade cycles, pricier phones, a bad economy. Even the world’s largest smartphone market, China, saw a drop for the year, as it battles its own economic headwinds.
The Huawei ban has also impacted some of the larger numbers, though Huawei itself has continued to grow, thanks to healthy continued adoption in its home market. The company, however, is still suffering from negative connotations abroad, while cutting off access to U.S.-based companies will likely halt things further.
The good news for manufacturers in all this is a rebound set for the second half of next year, driven by 5G. The first handsets have started to arrive this year, with others (including the iPhone) not expected until next. A lot’s going to have to happen for sales to reverse the downward trends — even temporarily. That’s going to take more handsets, wider 5G availability and lower prices, with many topping out well over $1,000 here in the States.
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.
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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.