This weekend, a European phenomenon is back — though Americans may have to hunt for clips on YouTube or seek out a VPN and watch via another country’s home broadcaster.
The Eurovision Song Contest, a cross between “The X Factor” and the Miss Universe pageant that offers Yanks a glimpse of what it’s like to be in a culture that doesn’t have jazz and blues as the foundation of its pop music.
For those who’ve never seen — or even heard of Eurovision — before, here’s a quick primer to get you caught up.
What exactly is this contest?
That sounds like a pretty noble goal.
Then there are the artists themselves. As Eurovision has evolved, more and more ridiculous acts have come out of the woodwork. Finnish monster-rock bands, Russian grandmas and Latvian pirates are among the acts that have performed for a TV audience of hundreds of millions in recent Eurovisions. And that Finnish monster rock band actually won.
Jeez! So is this just some musical freak show?
There’s also a small handful of top stars on the winners’ list you might recognize. ABBA used Eurovision as a launch pad to stardom in 1974 with their song “Waterloo,” and French-Canadian Celine Dion’s win in 1988 was her biggest claim to fame before “Titanic” came out. Quality — or at least creativity — does tend to win out at Eurovision.
OK, so how does this contest work?
Then the show transitions to a long procession of national “ambassadors” reading out who each country gave their votes to. The top 10 performers in each country’s vote get points, with 12 points going to the top vote-getter, followed by 10 and then eight down to one for the rest of the order. The same goes with the juries, but with 10 points going to the performer in first place.
And what does the performer with the most points win?
What? No prize money? No contract? No vague promises of superstardom?
Even now, a good chunk of the acts are homogenous power ballads that can blur together when performed in succession. Still, Eurovision is worth watching just for the spectacle of it all. The Disneyland-esque sweetness of the proceedings is charming, and the lack of stakes for the performers keeps it feeling light and fun rather than a battle for wealth, glory, and continental supremacy.
It has also made headlines in recent years that have allowed it to take steps beyond the realm of annual oddities like the Running of the Bulls. The winner in 2014 was gay Austrian singer Thomas Neuwirth, who performed as drag queen superstar Conchita Wurst. The victory transformed Conchita into an LGBT icon in Europe, even as Russian conservatives raged in fury and used the singer as an example of why Russia shouldn’t be a part of the EU. For all of Eurovision’s platitudes about tolerance and peace, this was a moment where those ideals were actually acted upon, even if it meant breaking the general tone of inoffensiveness.
If it’s supposed to be European, why is Australia a competitor?
So…if all these countries that aren’t strictly European are competing, does this mean we may be seeing the USA compete in Eurovision soon?
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www.thewrap.com | 5/18/19
Plastics are in the air. Not only literally. Everyone's talking about plastic pollution and the need to take action.
You don’t need to be conducting a scientific research to see that plastic waste is invading our environment, specially our oceans. With up to 12 million tons of plastic entering the oceans every year it is not surprising that we find plastic everywhere, not only polluting the water and severely impacting marine species, but also accumulating in the food chain.
Plastic-Spitting Dragon Protests at Our Oceans Conference in Malta. 5 Oct. 2017.
And so people all over the world are building up a movement to transition to a society free of single-use plastic and the throw-away culture it entails. Whether it be by individual action and changing everyday habits, by signing petitions or by creating change in their communities and local businesses.
The movement to #BreakFreeFromPlastic is on the rise and there’s no stopping it!
But where are we on policy? This week, the European Commission has released the European Plastics Strategy. A document that reflects the vision and the objectives of the Commission on this issue and that will be translated into measures and actions.
The European Union (together with countries in the North American Free Trade Agreement) is the second largest producer of plastic after China.
We need to change these numbers. It seems like this new EU strategy echoes this urgency and is certainly something worth praising. But once we get to the details, it seems to go down the usual path.
There’s certainly some good ideas, like treating microplastic ingredients (including cosmetic microbeads) as toxic pollution using the EU chemical regulation.
And it sets a target that by 2030, 100% of plastic packaging in the EU market will be reusable or recyclable, with a first legislative proposal in 2018 to tackle some single use items. Promising!
But again we find a text too focused on recycling. It’s all over the place. While reduction and reuse is hardly mentioned. Their target won’t be achieved without reducing the production and consumption of plastic packaging and single-use items, much of which are unnecessary in the first place and have already existing alternatives waiting to be scaled up.
Deposit return schemes are increasingly being implemented. Bulk stores are blooming in many places, water fountains are coming back to cities and public places, and reusable items are coming into fashion. But alternatives need to be backed up by bold and ambitious political measures.
So if you are a European citizen, watch out for changes in our legislations and be ready to ask your national government to ensure single-use plastic item bans are fast tracked as the crisis is urgent and the EU process can take years. It’s a real opportunity for change and we mustn’t let it slip!
And even if you’re not in Europe, we still need your support. In a globalised world, whatever happens in the European region will have impact in other regions, through companies headquartered in the EU, trade or by simply, and most importantly, setting an example for others to follow that ambitious measures can be taken to phase-out single-use plastic.
While we wait for the next political move, you can still do your part. Whether it be refusing straws, bags, using refillable bottles or taking community action. Every step counts, no matter how big or small. Pick yours and start today to join the movement! We can all #BreakFreeFromPlastic!
Elvira Jiménez is EU Plastics Project leader with Greenpeace Spain
feedproxy.google.com | 3/29/19
The British Parliament has confiscated Facebook confidential documents and emails between senior executives — including correspondence with chief executive Mark Zuckerberg — in an attempt to learn what led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, The Guardian reported Saturday.
The newspaper said the documents are “alleged to contain significant revelations about Facebook decisions on data and privacy controls” that led to the scandal.
Investigators invoked a rarely used parliamentary power to force the founder of Six4Three, an American software company, to hand over the documents while on a business trip to London, the Guardian said. Parliament also sent a sergeant at arms to the founder’s hotel with a demand to comply within two hours, the newspaper said.
When the founder did not comply, “it’s understood he was escorted to parliament” and told he could be fined and imprisoned if he didn’t provide the documents, the Guardian reported.
Damian Collins, who forced the founder to hand over the documents, is the chair of the parliamentary committee on culture, media and sport, as well as the chair of an inquiry into fake news.
“We are in uncharted territory. This is an unprecedented move but it’s an unprecedented situation,” he said. “We’ve failed to get answers from Facebook and we believe the documents contain information of very high public interest.”
“We have very serious questions for Facebook. It misled us about Russian involvement on the platform. And it has not answered our questions about who knew what, when with regards to the Cambridge Analytica scandal,” he added.
Facebook did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
The move comes after attempts to force Zuckerberg to testify before Parliament. The Cambridge Analytica data leak left up to 87 million users vulnerable to having their profiles unknowingly accessed.
Most recently, Zuckerberg was called to testify before a first-ever “international grand committee” on Nov. 27 . He rejected that request.
The U.K. also asked Zuckerberg testify on Cambridge Analytica earlier this year, but he said no. He did speak to the U.S. Congress and the European Union Parliament.
In his testimony to Congress in April, Zuckerberg apologized for the company’s slow response to fake news and protecting user data.
The New York Times reported on Nov. 15 that Facebook worked with Definers, a conservative opposition research firm, to orchestrate disparaging coverage of Apple CEO Tim Cook and financier George Soros, among others. Zuckerberg said he “didn’t know” of that business relationship.
In response to the report, Zuckerberg told CNN Business host Laurie Segall that stepping down as chairman is “not the plan.”[tw_gallery gallery_id=1860996
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www.thewrap.com | 11/25/18