Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson breaks silence on father Rocky’s death

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Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson paid tribute to his late father, Rocky Johnson, on Friday with an emotional letter to the WWE Hall of Famer on Instagram.

The “Jumanji” star, who is of Samoan and Black Nova Scotian heritage, shared a video from one of Rocky’s wrestling matches and credited his father for helping him embrace his diverse background.

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“You broke color barriers, became a ring legend and trail blazed your way thru this world,” he said. “I was the boy sitting in the seats, watching and adoring you, my hero from afar. The boy you raised to always be proud of our cultures and proud of who and what I am.”

Dwayne, 47, shared that as he grew older, he realized Rocky had “other deep complex sides that needed to be held and understood,” but said, “That’s when my adoration turned to respect. And my empathy turned to gratitude.”

“Dad, I wish I had one more shot to tell you, I love you, before you crossed over to the other side,” he added. “But you have ripped away from me so fast without warning. Gone in an instant and no coming back.”

The WWE superstar then admitted, “Im in pain. But we both know it’s just pain and it’ll pass.”

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Celebrities, including Dwayne’s “Jumanji” co-star Kevin Hart, showed their support in the comments section. “Love you bro,” Hart, 40, wrote with several prayer hand emojis.

Rocky whose real name was Wayde Douglas Bowles died at age 75 on Wednesday. The cause of death has not been revealed.

The Cauliflower Alley Club a pro-wrestling non-profit was the first to confirm the news of his passing on Twitter, writing, “His accolades in this business, all the people he influenced, all his accomplishments, and we are so deeply sorry and wish his family nothing but the most love at this time.”

Source: New York Post

The post Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson breaks silence on father Rocky’s death appeared first on Vanguard News.

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Hull business woman Georgia Allenby has big, personal plans for old Ceruttis restaurant – Hull Live

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Property firm design manager Georgia Allenby’s next project is creating a new home for herself at one of Hull’s best-known former restaurants.

Famous for its fish dishes, Ceruttis closed its doors last April after 45 years.

Its closure came after brother and sister Tony and Tina Cerutti announced plans to concentrate on their other restaurant in Beverley while expanding an existing external catering business.

The property in Nelson Street was previously used by British Rail in conjunction with the operation of the nearby Humber ferry.

Now Ms Allenby is planning to turn the clock back even further by converting the building into a three-bedroom residential dwelling after buying it. It was originally built in 1813 as a family home.

Allenby

She has submitted a planning application to Hull City Council seeking permission to change its use from commercial to residential.

In a design and access statement accompanying the application, she said: “The property was originally built for residential use in 1813.

“The reason for me purchasing the property is to convert it back into a three-bedroom house, which I will occupy myself.

“The property is rich in heritage and any original or historic features, which still exist in the interior and exterior, will be kept and preserved.”

Watch: When do you need planning permission?

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Ms Allenby is the design and marketing manager at Hull-based family firm Allenby Commercial, which has acquired and refurbished a series of high profile properties in the city centre in recent years.

They include Paragon Arcade, Danish Buildings and Bayles House in High Street, the former Europa House office block at the junction of Ferensway and Anlaby Road and the multi-use Works business and leisure complex in Beverley Road.

Ms Allenby is also a director of the Hideout Hotel in North Church Side, another of the company’s recent city centre conversion schemes.

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Collapses: The Venice Biennale and the End of History | Art Practical

Collapses: The Venice Biennale and the End of History

The 2019 Venice Biennale feels like the end of everything: the end of art tourism, the end of vacations, the end of the beach and the climate of pleasure. With bad news about the climate crisis worsening every day, the nationalistic turn of governments from the U.S. to Britain to Italy to India and Brazil, it’s unclear whether the liberal ideology that produces world-scale cultural events like the Biennale can hold much longer, or whether the economic or ecological structures of global tourism can continue to support it. The liberal democratic order of free markets and free will is undermined around the globe by violent nationalism and economic protectionism. The Biennale exhibition, May You Live in Interesting Times, offers little but a hollow scream in opposition. The whole thing feels a bit like buyer’s remorse, a magnum opus from a lapsed believer in Francis Fukuyama’s promise that we’d reached the End of History.1

Arthur Jafa

Joint Italy-EU military vessel with helicopter, Piraeus Port, Greece, August 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

Both the main exhibitions and the various national pavilions feature more women and artists of color this year than any previous. Diversity is manifest with respect to types of work, interests, materials, biographies, and ages of the artists on view. Curator Ralph Rugoff states that “[the artists’] work grows out of a practice of entertaining multiple perspectives: of holding in mind seemingly contradictory notions, and juggling diverse ways of making sense of the world.”2 Diversity and multiplicity appear here to be set up as counternarratives to universalism, the ideology that has historically governed the international contemporary art discourse. But is this in fact the case? Fukuyama says, “The spectacular abundance of advanced liberal economies and the infinitely diverse consumer culture made possible by them seem to both foster and preserve liberalism in the political sphere.” If, as Fukuyama suggests, there are  “fundamental ‘contradictions’ of human life that cannot be resolved in the context of modern liberalism, that would be resolvable by an alternative political-economic structure,”3 diversity is not one of those contradictions. Rather, pluralism reinforces the “common ideological heritage of mankind,”4 while fascism’s resurgence around the globe and the popular embrace of nationalist identity are more of a contradiction in light of the realities of international markets. This is the turn of events that market utopians like Fukuyama failed to anticipate.

Rugoff never comes off as a utopian, given his pervasive air of weary detachment. Rather, the exhibition transmits how it feels to watch the ascent of Donald Trump and the unfolding catastrophe of Brexit from the “all-knowing,” cool remove of the contemporary art insider—omniscient, yet impotent, and unable to divest from toxic habits. George Condo, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Christian Marclay, and Arthur Jafa channel an anxiety bordering on panic. Construction, shipping, air travel, commerce, monuments, the body, gender—all once fixed as concepts in the Western imagination, with clearly associated positive values, are now invoked by artists such as Yin Xiuzhen, Nicole Eisenman, Slavs and Tatars, and Martine Gutierrez as hazardous, unstable, and volatile. Nowhere is this instability more evident than in the work of Mari Katayama, a Japanese artist whose self-portraiture tableaus tease the boundary between agency and objectification. These artists, more than the comparably straightforward representation advanced by artists like Zanele Muholi, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, or Gauri Gill, capture the zeitgeist of not just the show but the present time. Our historical moment is monumentally catastrophic, and the usual serious response to extremism doesn’t seem to be working. Instead, the images range from abject to absurd.

astronaut

Indios antropófagos: A Butterfly Garden in the (Urban) Jungle. Peru Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

Especially relevant are the artists who toy with the fetishization of Indigenous bodies and cultures for Western consumption. Within the main exhibition curated by Rugoff, Gutierrez situates her U.S.-born Latinx, trans body within a series of photographic landscapes, Body in Thrall, that challenge touristic notions of indigeneity, cultural authenticity, and romanticized poverty around non-white people. She occupies diverse personas, from a film noir femme fatale to the terrifying Aztec deity Tlazolteotl, “Eater of Filth,” always negotiating the high fashion aesthetics of desire with a subversive decolonial aggression. Similar themes and tactics appear in Indios antropófagos in the Peruvian Pavilion, curated by Gustavo Buntinx, in which historical artifacts from the Spanish colonial era and large mosaic tile works by Christian Bendayán depicting frolicking Indigenous youth come together in a scathing critique of cultural tourism. In the French Pavilion, curated by Martha Kirszenbaum, artist Laure Prouvost references the oceans and the sea life projected to die out by 2048, only 29 years into the future, with a number of glass animals seemingly cast into the sea floor, strewn across a landscape of refuse and discarded technologies.

Back in the real world, there’s no way to excise or sequester the beautiful parts into a future that can outlast the very real catastrophes happening now. The overwhelmingly urgent need for a complete lifestyle change played in my head over the week following my visit to the Biennale, as I recuperated from a difficult personal and professional year on a seven-day Greek Islands cruise with my young children, partner, and parents. Looking over the waters where thousands of migrants have drowned, from the top deck of a massive, yet outdated, luxury vessel, I considered how the looming climate crisis creates a condition of simultaneous enjoyment of the modern world that is all around us, and a mourning for its obvious and inevitable loss. Is this the end of curating? The traditional role of the curator as guardian of the world’s collected treasures seems as irrelevant as the contemporary job of mounting resource-heavy exhibitions for an international crowd of jet-setters. Conceptualism has begun to rot from the head, as when Rugoff controversially chose to include Christoph Büchel’s installation of a salvaged boat that, in 2015, sank in the Mediterranean with more than 800 people aboard. I reflected on this watery tomb, recommissioned as a tourist attraction, while looking out across Piraeus port. In the distance, a military troop (jointly operated by Italy and the European Union) performed exercises atop a warship in a city where anti-immigrant attacks are on the rise. In the seventeenth century, the Venetians gained and lost control of Athens in a rivalry with the Ottomans. Today, it seems the EU’s primary objective in the Mediterranean is to sever thousands of years of interconnection between these three regions. Two years ago, the regenerative promise of art as a universal cultural good was undermined when documenta 14 recreated the financial dynamics of German austerity policies in Athens, Greece afresh. Debts went unpaid, workers uncompensated, all in the name of “fiscal responsibility” that nearly shuttered the sixty-year-old event for good. What better outcome ought we to expect this year from an art event born out of universal nationalism?

Christine Wertheim

Halil Altindere, Space Refugee, 2016. May You Live in Interesting Times, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

An explicitly utopian impulse is fugitive in May You Live in Interesting Times, but it manifests in the intersection of art, science, and technology. Margaret and Christine Wertheim’s Crochet Coral Reef raises awareness about preservation of the oceans through a crowdsourcing practice that combines mathematical learning with environmentalism and craft. Tavares Strachan’s meditation on African American astronaut Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr., locates metaphysical discourse about the afterlife within a scientific conversation about space travel—where elsewhere Halil Altindere complicates this view with the tale of Syrian cosmonaut Muhammed Ahmed Faris and his persecution by the state. Ryoji Ikeda bathes us in cleansing white light and describes a massive, thunderous universe of data that takes breathtaking shape before our eyes. Hito Steyerl’s This is the Future is a post-internet pastorale in which computer vision is applied to the Venetian landscape to depict a state of perpetual, dreamlike futurity in which the present persistently refuses to resolve into view. The protagonist of Steyerl’s installation seeks out a garden that she had previously hidden in the future in order to protect it from the ravages of the present.

The song of the Lithuanian Pavilion Sun & Sea (Marina) still rings in my ears:

“When my body dies, I will remain,
In an empty planet without birds, animals and corals.
Yet with the press of a single button,
I will remake this world again”

The finale of Sun & Sea (Marina) details the 3D printing of facsimiles of species in widespread collapse, taking comfort in their simulated resurrection as one would in the cold rays of a dying sun.

Greek Islands

Sun & Sea (Marina), Lithuanian Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

The gentle tenor of the apocalyptic visions in Sun & Sea (Marina) perfectly encapsulates the feeling of living at the outside edge of the story of the human species on planet Earth, with the knowledge that history as we know it may well be about to end because our species is one of millions undergoing collapse. The emptiness of our endeavors is invoked by Shilpa Gupta, whose wildly swinging metal gate hammers an effigy of national borders into a gallery wall. Otobong Nkanga’s drawings in acrylic on crayon reference the mechanical, industrialized nature of exploitation in the 21st century. Unlike the bees, whose society is organized around abundance, we humans have engineered systems to maximize our suffering. If humankind can truly lay claim to a common ideological heritage, as Fukuyama once argued, we have only ourselves to blame for our impending end.

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Proponents of death penalty for Hate Speech are real harbinger of hate speech -Gani Adams — Daily Times Nigeria

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The Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Abiodun Adams, has described those behind the controversial hate speech bill as pretenders.

Speaking during the 2019 edition of Ajagunmale Festival in Lekki, Lagos, Adams said though the National Assembly had bowed to pressures from Nigerians to remove the death clause for violators of hate speech, there is need for public enlightenment and education in order to change the narrative on the issue.

The Aareonakakanfo admitted also that many Nigerians are ignorant of issues relating to media information gathering and literacy, insisting that the law must be flexible to accommodate other people’s interests.

“It is a cheering news that the National Assembly and proponents of death penalty for violators of hate speech has bowed to pressures from Nigerians, but in a gathering like this, it is not out of place to raise and discuss issues that affect us holistically.

“The political game that had been playing out on the issue of hate speech and a death penalty for violators needed to be considered with utmost importance.

“I must confess truly, that I have been monitoring the reactions of eminent Nigerians on the issue, and I think those reactions are commendable. Those that spoke said death penalty for a violator of hate speech was barbaric and unacceptable.

“Actually hate speech can incite violence and damage relationships in a society, but we need to understand and protect the individuals’ rights to express their opinions freely and peacefully. It is also a fact that freedom of speech is an integral component of a free society. Therefore, imposing death penalty on violators is uncultured, barbaric, and not acceptable in our society,” he explained.

The Yoruba generalissimo flayed those behind the bill, saying politicians that are also the chief promoters of this bill are the harbinger of hate speech, describing them as products of hate speech, especially, during campaigns.

“Many of our politicians today are pretenders. During their campaigns, they promised you heaven on earth, and shortly after they are elected, you hear a different story entirely. I feel sad sometimes whenever I look back and see how Nigeria has drifted from its original ideals of our forefathers, but I always take solace in the belief that  one day, whether now or in the nearest future, we shall find our feet and get back on the right track”

In his remarks, Executive Chairman, Lekki Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Hon. Ogidan Mukadasi, said his administration will continue to support the Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) and the Olokun Festival Foundation (OFF) on  ideas and projects that can launch the community positively to the world, adding that the huge attendance of guests at this year’s edition of Ajagunmale festival has really helped in boosting the tourism potentials of the community.

“It is our duty and responsibility to sustain this laudable programme, therefore, as a government, we will continue to play our role. We will continue to support the Olokun Festival Foundation to ensure that this festival becomes one of the most celebrated festivals in the state,” he said.

The Guest lecturer, Associate Professor Adams Kolade, from the Lagos state University (LASU) Ojo, spoke on the need to embrace the core values, culture and tradition of the Yoruba race.

He noted that Yoruba race is a gifted race with potentials to be the best, declaring that efforts should be made to sustain and promote the Yoruba cultural identity through festivals like this. He applauded the Aareonakakanfo of Yoruba land for the courage to sustain the laudable ideal of the organisation.

 “Language is an integral part of our culture. All over the world, the Yoruba tradition and heritage are next to none. As a race that have been so blessed with all these potentials, there is need for us to sustain all these and one of the best ways to sustain our cultural identities is to cultivate a new habit which will be directed at promoting what is truly ours,” he said.

The Onilekki of Lekki, Oba Olumuyiwa Ogunbekun, expressed delight at the success of the event, saying Ajagunmale Festival has come to stay in the area.

 He charged all members of the Oodua Peoples’ Congress not to relent in their efforts, declaring that the traditional institution across the South West will continue to support the foundation.

Meanwhile, Iba Gani Adams, said with the celebration of Ajagunmale Festival, Lekki will soon become a top investment destination in Lagos State.

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Why the fight against disinformation, sham accounts and trolls won’t be any easier in 2020

2020 Election

The big tech companies have announced aggressive steps to keep trolls, bots and online fakery from marring another presidential election — from Facebook’s removal of billions of fake accounts to Twitter’s spurning of all political ads.

But it’s a never-ending game of whack-a-mole that’s only getting harder as we barrel toward the 2020 election. Disinformation peddlers are deploying new, more subversive techniques and American operatives have adopted some of the deceptive tactics Russians tapped in 2016. Now, tech companies face thorny and sometimes subjective choices about how to combat them — at times drawing flak from both Democrats and Republicans as a result.

This is our roundup of some of the evolving challenges Silicon Valley faces as it tries to counter online lies and bad actors heading into the 2020 election cycle:

1) American trolls may be a greater threat than Russians

Russia-backed trolls notoriously flooded social media with disinformation around the presidential election in 2016, in what Robert Mueller’s investigators described as a multimillion-dollar plot involving years of planning, hundreds of people and a wave of fake accounts posting news and ads on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube.

This time around — as experts have warned — a growing share of the threat is likely to originate in America.

“It’s likely that there will be a high volume of misinformation and disinformation pegged to the 2020 election, with the majority of it being generated right here in the United States, as opposed to coming from overseas,” said Paul Barrett, deputy director of New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.

Barrett, the author of a recent report on 2020 disinformation, noted that lies and misleading claims about 2020 candidates originating in the U.S. have already spread across social media. Those include manufactured sex scandals involving South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and a smear campaign calling Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) “not an American black” because of her multiracial heritage. (The latter claim got a boost on Twitter from Donald Trump Jr.)

Before last year’s midterm elections, Americans similarly amplified fake messages such as a “#nomenmidterms” hashtag that urged liberal men to stay home from the polls to make “a Woman’s Vote Worth more.” Twitter suspended at least one person — actor James Woods — for retweeting that message.

“A lot of the disinformation that we can identify tends to be domestic,” said Nahema Marchal, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute’s Computational Propaganda Project. “Just regular private citizens leveraging the Russian playbook, if you will, to create … a divisive narrative, or just mixing factual reality with made-up facts.”

Tech companies say they’ve broadened their fight against disinformation as a result. Facebook, for instance, announced in October that it had expanded its policies against “coordinated inauthentic behavior” to reflect a rise in disinformation campaigns run by non-state actors, domestic groups and companies. But people tracking the spread of fakery say it remains a problem, especially inside closed groups like those popular on Facebook.

2) And policing domestic content is tricky

U.S. law forbids foreigners from taking part in American political campaigns — a fact that made it easy for members of Congress to criticize Facebook for accepting rubles as payment for political ads in 2016.

But Americans are allowed, even encouraged, to partake in their own democracy — which makes things a lot more complicated when they use social media tools to try to skew the electoral process. For one thing, the companies face a technical challenge: Domestic meddling doesn’t leave obvious markers such as ads written in broken English and traced back to Russian internet addresses.

More fundamentally, there’s often no clear line between bad-faith meddling and dirty politics. It’s not illegal to run a mud-slinging campaign or engage in unscrupulous electioneering. And the tech companies are wary of being seen as infringing on American’s right to engage in political speech — all the more so as conservatives such as President Donald Trump accuse them of silencing their voices.

Plus, the line between foreign and domestic can be blurry. Even in 2016, the Kremlin-backed troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency relied on Americans to boost their disinformation. Now, claims with hazy origins are being picked up without need for a coordinated 2016-style foreign campaign. Simon Rosenberg, a longtime Democratic strategist who has spent recent years focused on online disinformation, points to Trump’s promotion of the theory that Ukraine significantly meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, a charge that some experts trace back to Russian security forces.

“It’s hard to know if something is foreign or domestic,” said Rosenberg, once it “gets swept up in this vast ‘Wizard of Oz’-like noise machine.”

3) Bad actors are learning

Experts agree on one thing: The election interference tactics that social media platforms encounter in 2020 will look different from those they’ve trying to fend off since 2016.

“What we’re going to see is the continued evolution and development of new approaches, new experimentation trying to see what will work and what won’t,” said Lee Foster, who leads the information operations intelligence analysis team at the cybersecurity firm FireEye.

Foster said the “underlying motivations” of undermining democratic institutions and casting doubt on election results will remain constant, but the trolls have already evolved their tactics.

For instance, they’ve gotten better at obscuring their online activity to avoid automatic detection, even as social media platforms ramp up their use of artificial intelligence software to dismantle bot networks and eradicate inauthentic accounts.

“One of the challenges for the platforms is that, on the one hand, the public understandably demands more transparency from them about how they take down or identify state-sponsored attacks or how they take down these big networks of authentic accounts, but at the same time they can’t reveal too much at the risk of playing into bad actors’ hands,” said Oxford’s Marchal.

Researchers have already observed extensive efforts to distribute disinformation through user-generated posts — known as “organic” content — rather than the ads or paid messages that were prominent in the 2016 disinformation campaigns.

Foster, for example, cited trolls impersonating journalists or other more reliable figures to give disinformation greater legitimacy. And Marchal noted a rise in the use of memes and doctored videos, whose origins can be difficult to track down. Jesse Littlewood, vice president at advocacy group Common Cause, said social media posts aimed at voter suppression frequently appear no different from ordinary people sharing election updates in good faith — messages such as “you can text your vote” or “the election’s a different day” that can be “quite harmful.”

Tech companies insist they are learning, too. Since the 2016 election, Google, Facebook and Twitter have devoted security experts and engineers to tackling disinformation in national elections across the globe, including the 2018 midterms in the United States. The companies say they have gotten better at detecting and removing fake accounts, particularly those engaged in coordinated campaigns.

But other tactics may have escaped detection so far. NYU’s Barrett noted that disinformation-for-hire operations sometimes employed by corporations may be ripe for use in U.S. politics, if they’re not already.

He pointed to a recent experiment conducted by the cyber threat intelligence firm Recorded Future, which said it paid two shadowy Russian “threat actors” a total of just $6,050 to generate media campaigns promoting and trashing a fictitious company. Barrett said the project was intended “to lure out of the shadows firms that are willing to do this kind of work,” and demonstrated how easy it is to generate and sow disinformation.

Real-life examples include a hyper-partisan skewed news operation started by a former Fox News executive and Facebook’s accusations that an Israeli social media company profited from creating hundreds of fake accounts. That “shows that there are firms out there that are willing and eager to engage in this kind of underhanded activity,” Barrett said.

4) Not all lies are created equal

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are largely united in trying to take down certain kinds of false information, such as targeted attempts to drive down voter turnout. But their enforcement has been more varied when it comes to material that is arguably misleading.

In some cases, the companies label the material factually dubious or use their algorithms to limit its spread. But in the lead-up to 2020, the companies’ rules are being tested by political candidates and government leaders who sometimes play fast and loose with the truth.

“A lot of the mainstream campaigns and politicians themselves tend to rely on a mix of fact and fiction,” Marchal said. “It’s often a lot of … things that contain a kernel of truth but have been distorted.”

One example is the flap over a Trump campaign ad — which appeared on Facebook, YouTube and some television networks — suggesting that former Vice President Joe Biden had pressured Ukraine into firing a prosecutor to squelch an investigation into an energy company whose board included Biden’s son Hunter. In fact, the Obama administration and multiple U.S. allies had pushed for removing the prosecutor for slow-walking corruption investigations. The ad “relies on speculation and unsupported accusations to mislead viewers,” the nonpartisan site FactCheck.org concluded.

The debate has put tech companies at the center of a tug of war in Washington. Republicans have argued for more permissive rules to safeguard constitutionally protected political speech, while Democrats have called for greater limits on politicians’ lies.

Democrats have especially lambasted Facebook for refusing to fact-check political ads, and have criticized Twitter for letting politicians lie in their tweets and Google for limiting candidates’ ability to finely tune the reach of their advertising — all examples, the Democrats say, of Silicon Valley ducking the fight against deception.

Jesse Blumenthal, who leads the tech policy arm of the Koch-backed Stand Together coalition, said expecting Silicon Valley to play truth cop places an undue burden on tech companies to litigate messy disputes over what’s factual.

“Most of the time the calls are going to be subjective, so what they end up doing is putting the platforms at the center of this rather than politicians being at the center of this,” he said.

Further complicating matters, social media sites have generally granted politicians considerably more leeway to spread lies and half-truths through their individual accounts and in certain instances through political ads. “We don’t do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an October speech at Georgetown University in which he defended his company’s policy.

But Democrats say tech companies shouldn’t profit off false political messaging.

“I am supportive of these social media companies taking a much harder line on what content they allow in terms of political ads and calling out lies that are in political ads, recognizing that that’s not always the easiest thing to draw those distinctions,” Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state told POLITICO.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

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Swedish museum to return exhumed skulls of 25 Sami people

Eleven institutions still have remains of indigenous people, taken for controversial research

Europe

The skulls of 25 Sami people are to be reburied in the northern Swedish graveyard from which they were exhumed in the 1950s, in a ceremony acknowledging historic injustices suffered by the countrys indigenous community.

The so-called repatriation ceremony, on Swedens indigenous peoples day, on 9 August, will involve the return of the remains to an ancient Sami burial ground, in Lycksele, from the Swedish history museum in Stockholm, where they were taken for research.

This whole ceremony is about reconciling what has happened, restoring the destiny of these people, returning them to their place of rest, and helping all those relatives affected, Adriana Aurelius, the events organiser, told local media.

The remains of indigenous Sami people, whose homeland covers large parts of northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia, were routinely collected in Sweden through barter, excavations and grave robberies throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Many were used to test controversial scientific theories about the biological differences between races, including at Swedens notorious state institute for racial biology, in Uppsala, which carried out government-sponsored research into eugenics and forcibly sterilised thousands of Sami women.

Despite a request in 2007 from the Sami parliament that all remains be returned, 11 Swedish state museums, universities and institutes are known to still retain some Sami bones and skulls in their collections, Mikael Jakobsson, the chair of the Sami parliaments ethics council, told TT news agency.

Understanding of the issue has begun to improve, but so far it seems the museums have generally preferred to keep them, Jakobsson said. They have been seen as objects, not as the people they once were.

The issue is particularly sensitive in the Sami community, partly because of beliefs about the dead but also because it echoes centuries of discrimination, repression and human rights violations, including forced conversion to Christianity and segregated schooling.

Campaigners say a national government policy is urgently needed to deal with the issue, which cannot be left to the responsibility of individual museums or funded by Sami communities. The repatriation issue has been handled far more effectively in North America and in Australia, Jakobsson said.

Swedens national heritage office is due to present a report on the issue next year, with recommendations for museums working with human remains. The government also established a truth and reconciliation commission this year to look at broader historic and ongoing abuses against the Sami people.

We are politically prepared to address this issue now, said Helene berg, of the culture ministry. There is international criticism of how Sweden has worked with the repatriation question. We now intend to make good on our responsibility.

Fridays ceremony, which involves the Swedish church, the Lycksele municipality, the local state museum and the Sami association, is the largest such repatriation operation, according to the national public radio station SR.

Katherine Hauptman, the Swedish history museums director, told SR the museum had clearly failed, adding that when the skulls were discovered in storage they were sent to the Vsterbottens museum, in north-east Sweden, for return to Lycksele. The museum would apologise at the ceremony for how the remains had been treated, she said.

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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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