The offices of the Network Science Institute at Northeastern University sit 10 floors above Bostons Back Bay. Wraparound windows offer a floating panorama of the city, from Boston Common to Fenway Park, as a half-dozen young analysts toil quietly at computers.
At 10 a.m. on a recent morning, with the early calls to the World Health Organization and European doctors complete and the check-in with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scheduled for later, Alessandro Vespignani, the institute’s director, had some time to work the room. In a black blazer and jeans, he moved from cubicle to cubicle, giving each member of his team the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic.
www.rss-specifications.com | 4/4/20
It’s about wild animals. It’s narrated by Meghan Markle. And it’s one of the first Disneynature films to be released as a Disney+ exclusive. That ought to be enough give “Elephant” a shot of pop-culture currency rare for a nature documentary, and attract some curious viewers who’d otherwise be interested in “Tiger King” or “The Mandalorian.”
Make no mistake, though: “Elephant,” premiering on April 3 on Disney+ alongside another Disneynature doc, “Dolphin Reef,” does not have the train-wreck appeal of “Tiger King.” It’s got some big cats (lions, in this case) who briefly threaten our plucky pachyderms, but no crazy people around them. And Markle, who is listed in the credits as “Meghan, Duchess of Sussex” and who came on board in return for a hefty Disney donation to the Elephants Without Borders charity she supports, is a nondescript narrator who mostly stays out of the way; if you didn’t know it was her, you wouldn’t tag the playful narration as coming from anyone of note.
“Elephant,” directed by Mark Linfield and Vanessa Berlowitz, is simply another Disneynature documentary of the kind that are typically released in theaters in April around Earth Day. The film drops us far from civilization and brings us up close with wildlife, thanks to spectacular footage obtained over months of painstaking work, and then imbues its nonhuman characters with human names and suspiciously human motivations.
This is a lucrative market for Disney, with its nature films regularly showing up on the list of top-grossing documentaries before Disney+ and the coronavirus pushed films like this out of the now-empty multiplexes. Nature docs were even a company mainstay between 1948 and 1960, when the “True-Life Adventures” series released 14 films and won eight Oscars.
Those films were occasionally met with complaints that their filmmakers manufactured nonexistent narratives and at times anthropomorphized their characters only slightly less than, say, Bambi’s woodland friends. You wouldn’t be that harsh with “Elephant,” which chronicles an annual trek across southern Africa that has been taking place for hundreds of years — but at the same time, it’s hard to truly buy into the idea that the film’s narration is accurately describing what’s going through the minds of these animals.
After all, when two groups of elephants encounter each other on their journey across the Kalahari Desert, from the Okavango Delta to the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls, do they really treat it as “a wonderful chance to catch up with old friends,” as the narration suggests? When the going gets tough, is the elephant matriarch actually “worried she’s made a grave error”? When that leader needs to be replaced, do the other elephants genuinely wonder if “the obvious successor … has what it takes”?
Some of this creative license is par for the course, as is the fact that the three main characters are given names. (For the record, “Gaia” is the aging matriarch; “Shani” is her sister, a protective mother; and “Jomo” is the rambunctious youngster who keeps the cuteness quotient high.) The last few Disneynature movies, including the big hit “Chimpanzee,” have done the same — heck, last year’s “Penguins,” narrated by Ed Helms, was about a runty penguin named Steve and was the third highest-grossing documentary of 2019.
But in a genre that ought to be about true education under the cloak of entertainment, it also undercuts the trustworthiness of the narrative. Maybe when one elephant farted, another one really did topple to the ground in response — but maybe those two shots were unrelated and were placed back-to-back because the second makes a funny punchline to the first.
If you can’t completely trust the details of the story you’re seeing, the question becomes whether the footage itself is spectacular enough to justify the qualms you may be feeling. And on that count, “Elephant” delivers. From the dramatic overhead shots of the network of elephant trails that lead across the arid Kalahari from one water hole to another, to the remarkable footage of one elephant rescuing a baby who has become mired in the mud, to the nocturnal sights on an island of vegetation that contains the only water within 200 miles, the film supplies the kind of striking visuals that are one of the main reasons movies like this exist.
For her part, Markle doesn’t have the gravitas you’d expect from a narrator for a Disneynature film — a role that on previous films has been handled by Patrick Stewart, James Earl Jones, Samuel L. Jackson, Pierce Brosnan and Meryl Streep, among others. She’s lighter, sillier at times and always conversational, which doesn’t carry much authority but fits with a film that greets a shot of elephants hitting the water hole with “It’s time for a pool party!”
Between the informal, occasionally narration and the music that mixes African vocal chants with grandiose orchestral passages, “Elephant” is a movie that would rather tell (and occasionally milk) a dramatic, crowd-pleasing story than get too serious or informational. We’re told these are “the last elephants on Earth who still have the freedom to roam,” but there are no mentions on whether climate change or deforestation or poaching is the reason why.
Of course, Disneynature is in the family-friendly entertainment game, where knowledge must be squeezed between the lines of a fun story with a whole lot of footage of cute animals. That’s what “Elephant” delivers, even with a moonlighting duchess along for the ride.
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www.thewrap.com | 3/31/20
James (Jon) Castle - 7 December 1950 to 12 January 2018
Over four decades Captain Jon Castle navigated Greenpeace ships by the twin stars of ‘right and wrong’, defending the environment and promoting peace. Greenpeace chronicler, Rex Weyler, recounts a few of the stories that made up an extraordinary life.
Captain Jon Castle onboard the MV Sirius, 1 May 1996
James (Jon) Castle first opened his eyes virtually at sea. He was born 7 December 1950 in Cobo Bay on the Channel Island of Guernsey, UK. He grew up in a house known locally as Casa del Mare, the closest house on the island to the sea, the second son of Robert Breedlove Castle and Mary Constance Castle.
Young Jon Castle loved the sea and boats. He worked on De Ile de Serk, a cargo boat that supplied nearby Sark island, and he studied at the University of Southampton to become an officer in the Merchant Navy.
Jon became a beloved skipper of Greenpeace ships. He sailed on many campaigns and famously skippered two ships during Greenpeace’s action against Shell’s North Sea oil platform, Brent Spar. During his activist career, Jon spelt his name as "Castel" to avoid unwanted attention on his family.Right and wrong
Jon had two personal obsessions: he loved books and world knowledge and was extremely well-read. He also loved sacred sites and spent personal holidays walking to stone circles, standing stones, and holy wells.
As a young man, Jon became acquainted with the Quaker tradition, drawn by their dedication to peace, civil rights, and direct social action. In 1977, when Greenpeace purchased their first ship - the Aberdeen trawler renamed, the Rainbow Warrior - Jon signed on as first mate, working with skipper Peter Bouquet and activists Susi Newborn, Denise Bell and Pete Wilkinson.
In 1978, Wilkinson and Castle learned of the British government dumping radioactive waste at sea in the deep ocean trench off the coast of Spain in the Sea of Biscay. In July, the Rainbow Warrior followed the British ship, Gem, south from the English coast, carrying a load of toxic, radioactive waste barrels. The now-famous confrontation during which the Gem crew dropped barrels onto a Greenpeace inflatable boat, ultimately changed maritime law and initiated a ban on toxic dumping at sea.
After being arrested by Spanish authorities, Castle and Bouquet staged a dramatic escape from La Coru?a harbour at night, without running lights, and returned the Greenpeace ship to action. Crew member Simone Hollander recalls, as the ship entered Dublin harbour in 1978, Jon cheerfully insisting that the entire crew help clean the ship's bilges before going ashore, an action that not only built camaraderie among the crew, but showed a mariner's respect for the ship itself. In 1979, they brought the ship to Amsterdam and participated in the first Greenpeace International meeting.
In 1980 Castle and the Rainbow Warrior crew confronted Norwegian and Spanish whaling ships, were again arrested by Spanish authorities, and brought into custody in the El Ferrol naval base.
The Rainbow Warrior remained in custody for five months, as the Spanish government demanded 10 million pesetas to compensate the whaling company. On the night of November 8, 1980, the Rainbow Warrior, with Castle at the helm, quietly escaped the naval base, through the North Atlantic, and into port in Jersey.
In 1995, Castle skippered the MV Greenpeace during the campaign against French nuclear testing in the Pacific and led a flotilla into New Zealand to replace the original Rainbow Warrior that French agents bombed in Auckland in 1985.
Over the years, Castle became legendary for his maritime skills, courage, compassion, commitment, and for his incorruptible integrity. "Environmentalism: That does not mean a lot to me," he once said, "I am here because of what is right and wrong. Those words are good enough for me."Brent Spar Action at Brent Spar Oil Rig in the North Sea, 16 June 1995
One of the most successful Greenpeace campaigns of all time began in the summer of 1995 when Shell Oil announced a plan to dump a floating oil storage tank, containing toxic petroleum residue, into the North Atlantic. Castle signed on as skipper of the Greenpeace vessel Moby Dick, out of Lerwick, Scotland. A month later, on 30 April 1995, Castle and other activists occupied the Brent Spar and called for a boycott of Shell service stations.
When Shell security and British police sprayed the protesters with water cannons, images flooded across world media, demonstrations broke out across Europe, and on May 15, at the G7 summit, German chancellor Helmut Kohl publicly protested to British Prime Minister John Major. In June, 11 nations, at the Oslo and Paris Commission meetings, called for a moratorium on sea disposal of offshore installations.
After three weeks, British police managed to evict Castle and the other occupiers and held them briefly in an Aberdeen jail. When Shell and the British government defied public sentiment and began towing the Spar to the disposal site, consumers boycotted Shell stations across Europe. Once released, Castle took charge of the chartered Greenpeace vessel Altair and continued to pursue the Brent Spar towards the dumping ground. Castle called on the master of another Greenpeace ship, fitted with a helideck, to alter course and rendezvous with him. Using a helicopter, protesters re-occupied the Spar and cut the wires to the detonators of scuppering charges.
One of the occupiers, young recruit Eric Heijselaar, recalls: "One of the first people I met as I climbed on board was a red-haired giant of a man grinning broadly at us. My first thought was that he was a deckhand, or maybe the bosun. So I asked if he knew whether a cabin had been assigned to me yet. He gave me a lovely warm smile, and reassured me that, yes, a cabin had been arranged. At dinner I found out that he was Jon Castle, not a deckhand, not the bosun, but the captain. And what a captain!"
With activists occupying the Spar once again, Castle and the crew kept up their pursuit when suddenly the Spar altered course, heading towards Norway. Shell had given up. The company announced that Brent Spar would be cleaned out and used as a foundation for a new ferry terminal. Three years later, in 1998, the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) passed a ban on dumping oil installations into the North Sea.
"There was no question among the crew who had made this possible, who had caused this to happen," Heijselaar recalls. "It was Jon Castle. His quiet enthusiasm and the trust he put into people made this crew one of the best I ever saw. He always knew exactly what he wanted out of a campaign, how to gain momentum, and he always found the right words to explain his philosophies. He was that rare combination, both a mechanic and a mystic. And above all he was a very loving, kind human being."Moruroa
After the Brent Spar campaign, Castle returned to the South Pacific on the Rainbow Warrior II, to obstruct a proposed French nuclear test in the Moruroa atoll. Expecting the French to occupy their ship, Castle and engineer, Luis Manuel Pinto da Costa, rigged the steering mechanism to be controlled from the crow's-nest. When French commandos boarded the ship, Castle stationed himself in the crow's-nest, cut away the access ladder and greased the mast so that the raiders would have difficulty arresting him.
Eventually, the commandos cut a hole into the engine-room and severed cables controlling the engine, radio, and steering mechanism, making Castle's remote control system worthless. They towed the Rainbow Warrior II to the island of Hao, as three other protest vessels arrived.
Three thousand demonstrators gathered in the French port of Papeete, demanding that France abandon the tests. Oscar Temaru - leader of Tavini Huiraatira, an anti-nuclear, pro-independence party - who had been aboard the Rainbow Warrior II when it was raided, welcomed anti-testing supporters from Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Canada, Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the Philippines, and American Samoa. Eventually, France ended their tests, and atmospheric nuclear testing in the world's oceans stopped once and for all.“Moral courage”
Through these extraordinary missions, Jon Castle advocated "self-reflection" not only for individual activists, but for the organisation that he loved. Activists, Castle maintained, required "moral courage." He cautioned, "Don't seek approval. Someone has to be way out in front... illuminating territory in advance of the main body of thought."
He opposed "corporatism" in activist organisations and urged Greenpeace to avoid becoming "over-centralised or compartmentalised." He felt that activist decisions should emerge from the actions themselves, not in an office. We can't fight industrialism with "money, numbers, and high-tech alone," he once wrote in a personal manifesto. Organisations have to avoid traps of "self-perpetuation" and focus on the job "upsetting powerful forces, taking on multinationals and the military-industrial complex."
He recalled that Greenpeace had become popular "because a gut message came through to the thirsty hearts of poor suffering people ... feeling the destruction around them." Activists, Castle felt, required "freedom of expression, spontaneity [and] an integrated lifestyle." An activist organisation should foster a "feeling of community" and exhibit "moral courage." Castle felt that social change activists had to "question the materialistic, consumerist lifestyle that drives energy overuse, the increasingly inequitable world economic tyranny that creates poverty and drives environmental degradation," and must maintain "honour, courage and the creative edge."Well loved hero
Susi Newborn, who was there to welcome Jon aboard the Rainbow Warrior way back in 1977, and who gave the ship its name, wrote about her friend with whom she felt "welded at the heart: He was a Buddhist and a vegetarian and had an earring in his ear. He liked poetry and classical music and could be very dark, but also very funny. Once, I cut his hair as he downed a bottle or two of rum reciting The Second Coming by Yeats."
Newborn recalls Castle insisting that women steer the ships in and out of port because, "they got it right, were naturals." She recalls a night at sea, Castle "lashed to the wheel facing one of the biggest storms of last century head on. I was flung about my cabin like a rag doll until I passed out. We never talked about the storm, as if too scared to summon up the behemoth we had encountered. A small handwritten note pinned somewhere in the mess, the sole acknowledgment of a skipper to his six-person crew: ‘Thank You.’” Others remember Castle as the Greenpeace captain that could regularly be found in the galley doing kitchen duty.
In 2008, with the small yacht Musichana, Castle and Pete Bouquet staged a two-man invasion of Diego Garcia island to protest the American bomber base there and the UK's refusal to allow evicted Chagos Islanders to return to their homes. They anchored in the lagoon and radioed the British Indian Ocean Territories officials on the island to tell them they and the US Air Force were acting in breach of international law and United Nations resolutions. When arrested, Castle politely lectured his captors on their immoral and illegal conduct.
In one of his final actions, as he battled with his failing health, Castle helped friends in Scotland operate a soup kitchen, quietly prepping food and washing up behind the scenes.
Upon hearing of his passing, Greenpeace ships around the world - the Arctic Sunrise, the Esperanza, and the Rainbow Warrior - flew their flags at half mast.
Jon is fondly remembered by his brother David, ex-wife Caroline, their son, Morgan Castle, born in 1982, and their daughter, Eowyn Castle, born in 1984. Morgan has a daughter of eight months Flora, and and Eowyn has a daughter, Rose, who is 2.
feedproxy.google.com | 3/30/20
Apple CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday said the tech giant is giving 10 million masks to healthcare workers in the U.S. in an effort to help combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Cook made the announcement in a brief video shared on Twitter.
“Apple has sourced, procured, and is donating 10 million masks to the medical community in the United States,” Cook said. “These people deserve a debt of gratitude for all the work they’re doing on the front lines.”
He added, in the accompanying tweet, that “millions more” will be donated to healthcare workers in Europe.
Cook said he was recording his video while working from home — signed basketballs from his alma maters Auburn and Duke University were featured in the background — and urged anyone watching to stay at home as much as possible and to follow guidelines on social distancing.
Apple, like most companies, has been hit hard by COVID-19. Last month, the company warned the coronavirus had “temporarily constrained” the company’s production of iPhones in China, and warned the company’s Q2 revenue projections would be lower than initially estimated. Apple’s stock, which was trading near $330 per share in early February, is at about $257 per share on Wednesday after gaining a few percentage points.
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www.thewrap.com | 3/25/20
As much of the western world has shut down amid the coronavirus outbreak, Sweden has taken a noticeably softer approach than its European neighbors who have closed schools, restaurants, and non-essential services, according to a report.
www.foxnews.com | 3/24/20
Oprah Winfrey announced this weekend that she will be starting a new talk show series called “Oprah Talks COVID-19,” which will be available for free on Apple TV+ without a required subscription.
“Like millions of people all over the world, I’ve been staying safer at home for over a week now,” Winfrey tweeted. “I know a lot of people are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, & uncertain. [Because] of that, I want to offer some hope & gather thought leaders & people going through it to add some perspective.”
The first episode of the series is available now and features Winfrey in a remote interview with Idris Elba, who contracted coronavirus with his wife, Sabrina Dhowre, this past week. The two discuss Elba’s experience with the virus while being quarantined and how the pandemic has affected the world.
New episodes of the show will be posted on the Apple TV+ website weekly and will be available worldwide. Clips from the show will also be featured on Apple News.
According to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, over 13,000 people so far have died from the coronavirus since its initial outbreak with over 308,000 cases reported as of Sunday morning. Millions more are believed to have contracted the virus but have not been counted due to insufficient testing, particularly in the United States.
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www.thewrap.com | 3/22/20
Italy closes all non-essential business as rest of Europe hunkers down amid worsening coronavirus outbreak
Italy’s death toll reached at least 4,825 people, Johns Hopkins University recorded by 9:43 a.m. GMT (5:43 a.m. EST) Sunday, which makes it the worst-hit country in the world by the coronavirus. At least 53,578 people in Italy were infected.
www.foxnews.com | 3/22/20
European Union Internet Market Commissioner Thierry Breton called on streaming services on Thursday, urging them to switch video quality from high definition to standard mode in order to reduce the increasing strain on bandwidth during COVID-19 pandemic. Following a phone call with the CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, Commissioner Breton, said: "Europe and the whole world are facing an unprecedented situation. Governments have taken measures to reduce social interactions to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to encourage remote working and online education. Streaming platforms, telecom operators and users, we all have a joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the Internet during the battle against the virus propagation."
— Netflix said it has already taken steps to adjusts the quality of streams to available network capacity and that it uses a special delivery network that keeps its library closer to users as a way of consuming less bandwidth.
— Let's #SwitchToStandard: Breton on Wednesday tweeted, asking people and companies to "#SwitchtoStandard definition when HD is not necessary" in order to secure internet access for all.
www.circleid.com | 3/20/20
Netflix is seeing a spike in downloads in Italy and Spain due to millions of people living in self-isolation as the coronavirus spreads, according to new data shared by Sensor Tower on Monday.
In Italy, Netflix app downloads surged 57% over the past seven days compared to the week prior, according to Sensor Tower’s tracking of both the Apple App Store and Google Play. Spain has seen a 34% jump in Netflix app downloads in the last week, as well, the firm said. That means “Love Is Blind” and several other Netflix shows likely saw a European boost this past weekend.
These download figures represent mobile downloads only, and not Netflix viewing on devices like Apple TV and Roku. Of course, it’s understandable that with more people quarantined, more people will be looking to pass the time by watching TV shows and movies. This builds on research shared on Monday from Nielsen, which showed South Korea has seen a 21.4% spike in TV viewing compared to the same time last year.
The coronavirus outbreak has been especially painful for Italy, where the death toll on Monday surpassed 2,100 people. Altogether, there have been nearly 28,000 confirmed cases in Italy, mostly impacting northern cities, such as Milan and surrounding regions. Spain, meanwhile, has essentially been locked down for a two-week emergency period, with all schools, universities, restaurants, bars, hotels and non-essential retail stores closing.
Netflix charges €7.99-€15.99 — or about $9 to $18 — per month in Italy and Spain, depending on the subscription tier.
Sensor Tower did not have a week-to-week comparison for app downloads for Netflix or other streaming services like HBO Now and Hulu in the U.S. as of Monday morning, but expects to have data later this week.
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www.thewrap.com | 3/16/20
The United States will restrict travel from Europe in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic, Donald Trump announced in an address from the White House on Wednesday.
The travel restrictions will begin Friday at midnight and will be in place for 30 days. The United Kingdom will be exempt from the restrictions, as will American citizens “who have undergone appropriate screenings,” the president said. The decision builds on the administration’s earlier move to restrict travel from China and Iran.
Trump did not explain why the UK, which currently has 460 cases, is exempted from the ban.
Trump also said that health insurers had agreed to waive all co-payments for coronavirus treatments and extend insurance coverage to cover coronavirus treatments. However, a representative of AHIP, the largest health insurance lobby group, directly contradicted Trump, telling Politico reporter Sarah Owermohle that the industry will only waive copays for testing, not for treatment, a decision that will likely cost sick Americans millions.
No relief for uninsured Americans was announced.
Trump described it as the “most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history.”
The president’s 9 p.m. ET address came at the end of a day that saw World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic earlier on Wednesday. More than 118,000 cases have been diagnosed worldwide, with more than 4,000 deaths thus far, the organization said.
It capped off a day that saw drastic measures taken to curb the spread of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, across the country. Seattle, one of the hardest-hit cities in the country, announced Wednesday that its public schools would close for two weeks. A number of large events and public gatherings were canceled or postponed in an attempt to limit person-to-person spread, including entertainment and media events like the Kids Choice Awards and the GLAAD Media Awards.
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www.thewrap.com | 3/12/20
Disney/Pixar’s “Onward” has taken a $40 million opening weekend, one of the lowest starts in Pixar’s 25-year history of feature films. However, it is unclear whether fears of the spreading coronavirus had any impact, as the overall box office has yet to see a serious week-to-week drop.
While year-over-year comparisons show a sharp drop of more than 50%, that is mostly because the $1 billion-plus hit “Captain Marvel” came out this weekend in 2019 with a $153 million opening. “Onward,” being an original title, had long been projected by trackers to open in the $40 million range even before the coronavirus had reached North America. While final totals for the weekend are still being tabulated, industry estimates for films grossing over $500,000 this weekend stands at $99 million, up from $93.8 million last weekend.
This shows that while coronavirus is still a growing concern in the U.S., it has yet to have an impact on moviegoer turnout even as events like SXSW have been canceled over public health concerns. Distribution execs who spoke to TheWrap say they are monitoring the situation on a day-by-day basis, asdding that the ultimate barometer of the virus’ box office impact will come with the release of “Mulan” in three weeks.
As for “Onward,” this Pixar title was never expected to reach the heights of some of Pixar’s recent sequels. However, it has also fallen short of some original animated films that Pixar and Disney have released in recent years. Disney released “Zootopia” in early March four years ago and earned a $75 million opening weekend. “Onward,” meanwhile, is only the second Pixar film since the turn of the century to take an opening of less than $45 million, the other being the $39 million opening of “The Good Dinosaur” in 2015.
The good news for “Onward” is that reception has been much stronger than the tepidly received “Good Dinosaur.” Along with an 86% score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, audiences have given Dan Scanlon’s film an A- on CinemaScore and 4.5/5 on Postrak. With such strong results from families and younger adults, “Onward” has the potential — coronavirus notwithstanding — to leg out over the coming weeks as schools and universities go on spring break.
On the other hand, “Onward” is seeing its overseas numbers take a hit, as it grossed $28 million from 37 countries, leaving the film with a $68 million global opening that’s far below the $80-90 million that trackers had projected. Disney is downplaying the coronavirus’ impact in other countries, noting that the film has only opened in one market in Asia where the virus has spread the most, while taking No. 1 in 15 European countries.
However, markets in Western Europe are starting to see a sizable drop in audience turnout and are expected to do so for the foreseeable future, a trend that was a major factor in the decision by MGM and Universal to delay the release of the latest James Bond film, “No Time to Die,” from April to November. “Onward” is not set to release in Italy, Japan or Korea, three of the countries hardest hit by the virus, until mid-April. China, where the virus originated, does not have a release date for the film.
Back on the domestic side, Universal/Blumhouse’s “The Invisible Man” is in second on the charts this weekend with $15.2 million, a solid hold that gives it a 46% drop from its opening weekend and a 10-day total of $52.9 million domestic and $98.3 million globally.
In third is Warner Bros.’ “The Way Back” with an $8.5 million opening weekend from 2,020 screens. It’s a debut that’s on the lower end of recent films for lead star Ben Affleck, who has had a mixed bag outside of his two DC films as Batman. While he was part of a $37.5 million opening for the Oscar-nominated 2014 film “Gone Girl,” he has also seen opening weekends as low as $5.1 million for the 2017 wide opening of “Live by Night.” The good news is that reception has been strong for Affleck’s performance in “The Way Back,” receiving an 88% score on Rotten Tomatoes and a B+ on CinemaScore.
Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” is in fourth as it prepares to pass both $300 million globally and the $144 million domestic run of fellow video game adaptation “Detective Pikachu.” With $8 million in its fourth weekend, the film now has a total of $140 million domestic and $295 million global. 20th Century’s “The Call of the Wild” completes the Top 5 with $7 million in its third weekend for a $57.5 million total.
Farther down the charts, Focus Features’ “Emma.” expanded to 1,565 screens and took in $5 million in its first wide-release weekend, giving it a total of just under $7 million after three weekends. Finally, Sony’s “Bad Boys for Life” crossed $200 million in domestic grosses this weekend, earning $3 million in its eighth frame for a total of $202 million domestic and $415 million worldwide.
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www.thewrap.com | 3/8/20
A total of 107 people have now died in Italy, the location of Europe's largest coronavirus outbreak.
www.bbc.co.uk | 3/4/20
Zoe Saldana is set to star in “Fencer,” a drama from director Jasmine McGlade that places Saldana in the competitive world of fencing as she vies for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.
HanWay Films announced the news on Thursday and is presenting the film to buyers at the European Film Market. Casey Affleck is producing the film along with Whitaker Lader.
“Fencer” is inspired by McGlade’s experiences as a national champion fencer. McGlade, an executive producer on “La La Land” and the director of “Maria My Love” from 2011, capped her tenure at Harvard University by leading her team to the school’s first-ever NCAA Championship title in fencing.
Saldana is attached to star as Mae, an extremely intense and determined young woman who finds discipline, self-respect and peace in the most unlikely place – the fencing piste. But she also struggles with rivalry and her own inner demons, her struggle and obsession ruling every facet of her life to the detriment of family and friendships; achieving physical and mental perfection for the fight comes at a cost. As Mae competes to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, a tragic accident leads Mae to question everything about her life and fencing career as a life-long ambition weighs heavy on her shoulders and her greatest goal lies within reach.
HanWay Films will commence sales at the European Film Market with UTA Independent Film Group and CAA Media Finance overseeing the U.S. sale.
Also producing are McGlade and Claudia Bluemhuber of Silver Reel, who is also financing. Imagine Entertainment will executive produce.
“As a writer and filmmaker I seek to tell brazen, character-driven stories about people who are flawed, and thus real. Especially women,” McGlade said in a statement. “Characters who are their own worst enemies and yet incredibly resilient. Fencer is a celebration of perseverance and sacrifice, while also a cautionary tale about the dangers of getting one’s sense of worth and security solely through achievement and external validation. ‘Fencer’ will provide one of the screen’s first realistic glimpses into the thrilling world of fencing, much more demanding and diverse than stereotypes may suggest, and an intimate and intense look into the minds and lives of female athletes. It is a dream come true to get to work with Zoe on Fencer, and to marry my two greatest passions: filmmaking and fencing.”
“We feel so lucky to be a part of Fencer, which is an unflinchingly honest look at an ambitious, complex woman whose relationships and motivations defy simple categorization,” Affleck and Lader said in a statement. “The powerful script forces us to ask ourselves some of life’s most fundamental questions: ‘What defines you? Is it your work, reputation, relationships? What matters most to you and what will you do to protect that?’ We immediately fell in love with Jasmine’s unique story and perspective, and since partnering have been blown away by her intelligence, creativity, and tireless work ethic.”
“When Casey and Whitaker brought this story to Silver Reel we were on production with ‘The Wife’ – I remember being in my trailer reading ‘Fencer:’ There we were – shooting a character that is vulnerable yet resilient, sensitive but strong-headed, lost and determined at the same time,” Bluemhuber said in a statement. “I had a déjà vu because Jasmine was able with Mae to create exactly that: A woman’s journey that draws you in and does not let go of you until the very last frame.”
“We are thrilled to support Jasmine’s singular vision for ‘Fencer.’ Jasmine has used all her personal experience as a fencer to bring a high level of energy and authenticity when it comes to Mae’s emotional, physical and psychological journey as she fights to be the very best. It’s gladiatorial and yet deeply moving,” HanWay Films managing director Gabrielle Stewart said in a statement.
Saldana is represented by CAA and LBI Entertainment. McGlade is represented by UTA and Lighthouse Management & Media.
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www.thewrap.com | 2/13/20
A lack of education is making it hard for refugees from developing countries to integrate into Germany's skilled labor market. An estimated 17% of participants in German integration courses are illiterate
www.dw.com | 2/1/20
University leaders across Europe call for the UK to stay part of EU research after Brexit.
www.bbc.co.uk | 1/31/20
I posted reviews of important LEO-satellite Internet service developments during 2017 and 2018. I've been updating those posts during the years and have 16 new posts for 2019. In 2019 we saw four inciteful simulations, Leosat suspending operations and Amazon announcing the availability of a new ground station service and plans for a LEO constellation, progress in phased-array antennas but a lowering of expectations for inter-satellite laser links (ISLLs), new competition from China, worries about space debris and SpaceX racing ahead of the pack. The following are brief summaries of and links to those 2019 posts:
Simulation of OneWeb, SpaceX and Telesat's proposed global broadband constellations (January 2019) – Inigo del Portillo and his colleagues at MIT have run a simulation comparing OneWeb, SpaceX and Telesat's proposed LEO Internet service constellations. They estimated the average data rate per satellite and total system throughput (sellable capacity) for each constellation then computed the number of ground stations needed to achieve full capacity. The simulations were run with and without ISLLs. The configurations of SpaceX and OneWeb's constellations have changed somewhat since they ran the simulations, but del Portillo does not think the numbers for total throughput and number of ground stations would vary a lot for SpaceX and he expected the total system throughput would decrease slightly for OneWeb because of the reduction of the number of satellites from the initial 720 to 600.
Fifteen-dollar, electronically-steerable antennas for satellite and terrestrial connectivity (February 2019) – OneWeb founder Greg Wyler announced that his self-funded side project, Wafer LLC, has developed a flat, low-power phased-array antenna that could be mass-produced for $15. If that is the case, we can look forward to end-user terminals in the $2-300 dollar range. At this cost, one can envision deploying large numbers of two-antenna user terminals to act as ground stations when they are otherwise idle. A recent simulation shows that doing so would result in lower latency and jitter than today's terrestrial networks. Owners of these relay terminals could be subsidized.
Google balloons and Telesat satellites (February 2019) – Telesat will use Google's network operating system. In return, Google, which is also a SpaceX investor, may get access to some Telesat data in addition to compensation for their software. Another intriguing possibility is that Google might be planning to integrate Project Loon, their stratospheric balloon Internet service with Telesat's LEO satellite Internet service — to use Telesat's network as a global backbone. That integration would be facilitated by their both running the same SDN software — the same network operating system. (In the long run, I expect that all network layers will be integrated — from the ground to airplanes to geostationary orbit).
SpaceX's Starlink Internet service will target end-users on day one (March 2019) – Starting with Teledesic in 1990, would-be LEO satellite constellations have pitched their projects to the FCC, other regulators, and the public as a means of closing the digital divide, but they also have their eyes on lucrative aviation, maritime, high-speed trading, mobile backhaul, enterprise, and governments markets. (LEOSat, which had planned to focus exclusively on the enterprise and government markets recently suspended operations). SpaceX has filed an FCC application for one million ground stations, indicating that they will be focused on end-users and small organizations in addition to high-end customers from the start.
Are inter-satellite laser links a bug or a feature of ISP constellations? (April 2019) – OneWeb has decided not to include ISLLs in the first phase of their constellation, and SpaceX will not introduce them until near the end of 2020, at which time they may start with test satellites. OneWeb's decision was motivated by political issues in Russia as well as technical considerations. They will need more ground stations to offer global service without ISLLs, and a team of MIT researchers has run a simulation of a 720-satellite OnWeb constellation. They estimate that 71 ground stations would be required to reach maximum throughput.
Amazon's orbiting infrastructure (April 2019) – In his first annual stockholder letter, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos stressed that Amazon was focused on investing in infrastructure. Initially, they invested in retail distribution centers but have added an Internet backbone, trucks and planes, third party retail support, cloud computing and storage, and satellite launch and ground station service and are now working on a constellation of LEO satellites for broadband service. They use this infrastructure themselves and market it to competitors like online retailers and they have contracts to launch satellites for OneWeb and Telesat. This infrastructure yields both revenue and access to market data and there have been calls for antitrust action against Amazon.
Satellite Internet Service Progress by SpaceX and Telesat (May 2019) – Telesat has signed their first LEO customer, Omniaccess a provider of connectivity to the superyacht market, received a subsidy from the Canadian budget for providing service in rural Canada, is working with two teams that are competing to be the prime contractor for their constellation, and signed a launch contract with Amazon's Blue Origen. They also announced that they had demonstrated 5G mobile backhaul in tests with Vodaphone and the University of Surrey. SpaceX also announced ambitious plans for future launches, which have subsequently been surpassed.
SpaceX reports significant broadband satellite progress (May 2019) – SpaceX announced a significant reduction in the size and weight of their satellites and the addition of krypton-powered thrusters that would enable them to autonomously avoid collisions with on-orbit debris that was large enough to track. The thrusters would also be used to de-orbit obsolete satellites. Might the collective constellation "learn" to avoid smaller debris one day?
Might satellite constellations learn to avoid debris with sensors on satellites? (May 2019) – According to the European Space Agency, there are about 5,000 orbiting satellites, about 40% of which are still functioning. They estimate that there have been over 500 break-ups, explosions, collisions, or anomalous events resulting in fragmentation, and they estimate that there are 34,000 debris objects >10 cm, 900,000 from 1 to 10 cm and 128 million from 1 mm to 1 cm. NASA says there are more than 20,000 pieces of debris larger than a softball, 500,000 the size of a marble or larger, and many millions so small they can't be tracked. Space debris is a "tragedy of the commons." SpaceX plans to launch thousands of satellites. Could sensors on satellites detect and catalog small pieces of debris and, if so, could that lead to meaningful evasive action?
Hongyun Project — China's low-earth orbit broadband Internet project (June 2019) – China has announced two LEO broadband satellite projects and a LEO narrowband Internet of things constellation. While far behind SpaceX in technology, the Chinese companies have a large domestic market, access to government capital, and political and economic ties to many nations through their Belt and Road and Digital Silk Road infrastructure projects.
Amazon's AWS Ground Station service is now available (June 2019) – Amazon is offering satellite ground station access as a service. They list a number of advantages to their service, several of which are based on complementary Amazon offerings like access to their data centers and global network backbone and cloud computing and storage services. We can assume that Amazon's satellite constellation will use these ground stations at cost and, like their launch service, they will be made available to competitors. Amazon has been accused of predatory pricing in retail, and competing ground-segment companies may fear the same.
Latecomer Amazon will be a formidable satellite ISP competitor (July 2019) – In spite of being a latecomer to the race to deploy a constellation of LEO broadband Internet satellites, Amazon's Project Kuiper will be a formidable competitor. While far behind SpaceX, Amazon has in-house launch capability, and they have extensive complementary infrastructure including data centers, Web services, and a ground-station service. They also have the funds to finance the constellation as well as to develop or acquire critical technology like ISLLs and cost-effective phased-array antennas. They have also hired ex-SpaceX executives and engineers, and in Jeff Bezos, they have a leader who is comparable to Elon Musk.
An optimistic update from Telesat (August 2019) – Telesat received 685 million Canadian dollars from the government to subsidize rural connectivity. They plan to start service at the end of 2022 with 200 satellites in polar orbit, to add 100 more in inclined orbit in 2023, and perhaps eventually reach 500 satellites. Combining polar and inclined orbits and utilizing the far-north ground stations they already have for their profitable, established geosynchronous satellite service will help them gain a foothold in rural Canada and polar regions.
Inter-satellite laser link update (November 2019) – SpaceX initially planned to have five ISLLs per satellite but cut that back to four due to the technical difficulty of linking to a fast-moving satellite in a crossing plane and the short duration of such links. OneWeb has decided against using ISLLs for the time being due to cost and political considerations and Telesat remains committed to them. SpaceX is engineering its own ISLL hardware, but OneWeb and Telesat may be working with third parties. The situation with Hongyun is unknown, and LEOsat has abandoned their effort.
What to expect from SpaceX Starlink broadband service next year and beyond (November 2019) – By the end of 2020, SpaceX will have coverage in the heavily populated parts of the world between around 50 degrees north and south latitude. They expect to be launching 120 satellites a month and, by the end of 2020, the satellites will be equipped with ISLLs. However, by that time, they will have many legacy satellites in space, and those early ISLLs may just be for testing. They expect the next-generation Starship to be able to place at least 400 Starlink satellites in orbit, reducing the per-satellite cost to 20% of today's 60-satellite launches. They hope to compete with the "crappy" $80/month service in the US and, since the cost of the constellation is fixed, they will strive for affordable prices worldwide.
Starlink simulation shows low latency without inter-satellite laser links (ISSLa) (December 2019) – Mark Handley, a professor at University College London, has made two terrific videos based on runs of his simulation of the first — 1,584 satellite — phase of SpaceX Starlink. I discussed the first video, which assumes that the satellites have ISLLs, in a recent post. This one shows that, while not as fast as an equivalent ISLL path, long bent-pipe paths would typically have lower latency than terrestrial fiber routes between the same two points. It also considers the possibility of using end-user terminals as ground stations when they are idle, which would further reduce latency and jitter.
Written by Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University
www.circleid.com | 1/15/20
The Great Renaming was a significant event in Usenet history since it involved issues of technology, money, and governance. From a personal perspective — and remember that this series of blog posts is purely my recollections — it also marked the end of my "official" involvement in "running" Usenet. I put "running" in quotation marks in the previous sentence because of the difficulty of actually controlling a non-hierarchical, distributed system with no built-in, authenticated control mechanisms.
As with so many other major changes in Usenet, the underlying problem was volume. Here, it wasn't so much the volume that individuals could consume as it was volume for sites to send, receive, and store. There was simply too much traffic. The problem was exacerbated by the newsgroup naming structure: it was too flat, and the hierarchy that did exist — net, fa (for "from ARPA", ARPANET mailing lists that were gatewayed into Usenet newsgroups), and mod, for moderated newsgroups — wasn't very helpful for managing load. The hierarchy was not semantic, it was based on how content could appear: posted by anyone (net), relayed from a mailing list (fa), or controlled by a moderator (mod). Clearly, something had to be done to aid manageability. But who had both the authority and the power to make such decisions?
Although in theory, all Usenet nodes were equal, in practice, some were more equal than others. In technical terms, though Usenet connectivity is considered a graph, in practice it was more like a set of star networks: a very few nodes had disproportionately high connectivity. These few nodes fed many end-sites, but they also talked to each other. In effect, those latter links were the de facto network backbone of Usenet, and the administrators of these major nodes wielded great power. They, together with a few Usenet old-timers, including me and Gene Spafford, constituted what became known as the "Backbone Cabal." The Backbone Cabal had no power de jure; in practice, though, any newsgroups excluded by the entire Cabal would have seen very little distribution outside of the originating region.
The problem had been recognized for quite a while before anything was actually done, see, e.g., this post by Chuq von Rospach, which is arguably the first detailed proposal. The essence of it and the scheme that was finally adopted were the same: organize groups into hierarchies that reflected both subject matter and signal-to-noise ratio. The latter was a significant problem; the volume of shouting in some newsgroups compares unfavorably to the "Comments" section of many web pages. The result was the same, though: sites could easily select what they wanted to receive, via broad categories rather than a long, long list of desired or undesired groups.
Contrary to what some, e.g., the Electronic Frontier Foundation have said, the issue was not censorship, even censorship designed to ensure that Usenet never created the kind of scandal that would lead to public outcry that would threaten the project. And the backbone sites never had to hide from immediate management; as I have indicated, management was very well aware of Usenet and — for backbone sites — was willing to absorb the phone bills. ("Companies so big that their Usenet-related long-distance charges were lost in the dictionary-sized bills the company generated every month" — sorry, it doesn't work that way in any organization I've ever been associated with. Every sub-organization had its own budget and had to cover its own phone bills.) There were budget issues, and there were worries about scandal, but to the best of my recollection, these were more on some non-backbone sites. But the backbone sites had to administer their feeds and that demanded hierarchy.
To be sure, the top-level hierarchies into which some newsgroups were put was political. It couldn't help being political, because everyone knew that moving something to the talk hierarchy would sharply curtail its distribution. And yes, members of the Cabal (including, of course, me) had their own particular interests. But that notwithstanding, trying to impose a hierarchical classification system on knowledge is hard — ask any librarian. (Thought experiment: how would you classify Apollo 11? Under "rocketry"? The "space race"? The "Cold War"? What about Werner von Braun's contribution to the project? Is he a subcategory of the Apollo Project? Or of the history of rocketry, or of World War II?) There was not and could not be a perfect solution.
(The Wikipedia article on the Great Renaming says that the two immediate drivers were the complexity of listing which groups which sites would receive, and/or the cost of the overseas links from seismo to Europe. That may very well be; I simply do not remember specific issues other than load writ broadly.)
The ultimate renaming scheme was the subject of a lot of discussions, and changes were made to the original proposals. Ultimately, it was adopted — and there was rapid counter-action. The alt hierarchy was created as a set of newsgroups explicitly outside the control of the Backbone Cabal. And it succeeded because technology had changed. For one thing, the cost of phone calls was dropping. For another, the spread of the Internet to many sites meant that Usenet didn't have to flow via phone calls billed by the minute: RFC 977, which proposed a standard for transmitting Usenet over the Internet, came out in early 1986. In other words, the national control of the Backbone Cabal over content and distribution was just that: notional. The success of the alt hierarchy showed that Usenet had passed a critical point, where the disappearance of a very few nodes could have killed the whole idea of Usenet. At least partially in reaction to this, the Backbone Cabal disappeared — but it left unanswered the question of governance: who could or should control the net?
Newsgroup creation was one early topic. Creation was approved by voting: rough, imperfect voting, which gave rise to proposals for change. There was also the issue of unwanted or improper content, the creation of cancelbots, and more. People worried about liability, jurisdiction, copyright, and more, very early on. These issues are still largely unresolved. Fundamentally, the debate then was between a purely hands-off approach and some form of control; the latter, though, required both consensuses on who should have the right to exercise authority and also the creation of appropriate technical mechanisms. Both of these issues are still with us today. I'll have more to say on them in the next (and final substantive) installment of this series.
Written by Steven Bellovin, Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University
www.circleid.com | 12/27/19
A version of this cover story on “1917” first appeared in the Oscars Nominations Preview issue of the TheWrap Oscar Magazine.
Sam Mendes began shooting “1917” on April Fool’s Day, 2019 — “not inappropriately,” the director said of the start date for a World War I epic that he’d decided early on needed to look as if it unspooled in a continuous two-hour shot. And yes, the concept may have been foolish, but the result is nothing short of remarkable.
Telling the story of Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), two young World War I soldiers sent on a dangerous mission to deliver a message that could save 1,600 British lives, Mendes created an immersive experience that puts the audience in the trenches and simultaneously delivers a technical marvel and a wrenching emotional experience. While the film actually contains dozens of cuts, they don’t show–and more to the point, they don’t really matter, because the whole purpose is to go on a journey with these two young men.
Written by Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns and made with the help of key collaborators that included cinematographer Roger Deakins, editor Lee Smith, production designer Dennis Gassner and composer Thomas Newman, “1917” entered this year’s awards race late but with a bang. Universal screened the film three times for voters and press in New York City on Saturday, Nov. 23, all of the screenings followed by Q&As with the cast and crew, and then flew everybody to Los Angeles overnight for four screenings in four different theaters in L.A. the following day. All of those included Q&As as well.
Since then, Mendes and his cast and crew have been on the go, mostly in Europe. By the time he talked to TheWrap from London, Mendes was fighting off a nagging, dry cough and sounding exhausted but undaunted.
“Keep moving,” after all, is one of the lessons of “1917.”
George MacKay in '1917'
Sam, I get the feeling you’ve been running ragged since you first screened this movie — or maybe since you started to make it.
SAM MENDES You know what? You’re right. It has been nonstop. Once upon a time, I made a movie where I finished it in good time, had a bit of a holiday and was nicely refreshed to talk to the press. But the last three movies — this and the two Bond movies (2012’s “Skyfall” and 2015’s “Spectre”) — I literally finished days before the first press screening. This is the new normal for me.
I know this film sprang from stories that your grandfather told you about his days as a messenger in World War I — but did you just get the setting and the idea of the messenger from him, or were there specific stories of his that made it into the film as well?
MENDES It was that one image of him carrying a message. There are no specific stories from my granddad, but it would never have happened if he had not told the stories. None of his stories are about heroism or bravery — they are all about how lucky he was to be alive, and how random it was, how thin the line was between those who lived and those who died. That is the thing that remains in the film.
We catch glimpses that tell us a little bit about the past of your two main characters, but their prewar lives are never discussed in any detail. Did you have complete backstories in your head as you were writing the script?
MENDES Absolutely. You have to work out what the iceberg is if you’re just going to show the tip. Krysty and I knew exactly who they were, where they came from, how old they were, how long they’d been out there, how much fighting they’d seen, which part of England they came from, which schools they went to, which pubs they’d drink at. You have to do that in order to write a character that has some sort of inner life.
Mendes on the set with Chapman, left, and MacKay
George and Dean, did you work out backstories for yourselves?
DEAN-CHARLES CHAPMAN Yeah. I never really spoke to Sam about it, but I sort of came up with a little backstory of how Blake got there and why. I felt like he would have signed himself up for the war only because his brother did, and I think he’s a very family person, I think he lived in the countryside somewhere with his mom, his dog and his big brother.
GEORGE MACKAY Similarly, I knew very much who Schofield was at home. That’s essential to the story. The film is very present and it’s told in real time — that’s the nature of the one shot, and it means everything happens to the audience and the characters mutually. And so the one thing, which is Schofield’s everything, is home — what he can’t talk about, what he’s left behind and what he wants to come back to. I knew that I had to work it out for myself as well.
Sam, did that idea that the film should look like a continuous shot arrive very early?
MENDES Almost the first thing I came up with after “it’s two hours of real time” was “the best way to tell the story would be as one continuous shot.” Everyone I talked to, from Krysty onwards, knew that that was the film.
How much resistance did you meet from your collaborators?
MENDES There was no resistance. The first question was “Why?” and that’s a totally valid question. I had to answer that and I wanted to answer that, but only after they’d read the script. But after that initial conversation with my key collaborators, with Roger and Lee Smith and Dennis Gassner, Tom Newman etc., everyone understood that the best way to tell the story was to have you with the characters in real time, to never give the audience a way out by cutting away.
MACKAY You’re just with them. It’s not a gimmick, it’s not, “Oh, can I do this?” and it’s not patting itself on the back. The best thing about the one-shot is that you forget about it. It’s to give you a completely immersive experience.
Did you ever have second thoughts about the idea along the way?
MENDES I didn’t have second thoughts, but there were certainly days when I was driven mad by the process and it made me think I couldn’t wait to get back to a conventionally edited movie again. But one of the rules I had for myself was, “If I think that this scene would be better edited, then I’ve written it wrong and staged it wrong.”
Is it hard to keep that particular facet of the production from overwhelming all the other things you might ordinarily be focusing on as a director?
MENDES That’s a very good question. That was my battle every day — to marry something that technically had to be incredibly precise with performances that felt spontaneous and real and a little rough around the edges, and not in any way robotic or preplanned or over-rehearsed. And to make sure that the technical scale of it didn’t overwhelm the human story. That was one of my jobs as a director, to make sure those two things could coexist without one destroying the other.
As actors, how do you balance those two things when you’re involved in such an intricate dance?
CHAPMAN We did months of rehearsals before we actually got the opportunity to start shooting, so by the time we shot, it was just in our bodies, like second nature. You weren’t necessarily thinking, “Oh, I’ve got to move to the right.” It just felt fluid.
MACKAY In a way, that unconscious feeling opens you up to be very present within the scene. When you’ve done it so many times for weeks beforehand, you just know it, in the same way that you know when you’re driving home that that left turn’s there and I should get in that lane there because the right turn is the second to right… And that gives you a real kind of openness and presence when you’re playing the scenes.
Was postproduction a significantly different experience on this film, in that you didn’t have a lot of the tools you would normally use in post?
MENDES It was, actually. We had an edit of the movie effectively two days after we finished that was fairly complete in terms of its visual and physical movement, and in fact I screened it for the heads of department about a week after we finished with a temp score. But then it surprised me that the score was very, very complicated to judge, and that took a while. It was a real challenge. But that initial excitement of putting the film together had already happened, so it became about music and visual effects and sound more than anything else.
Colin Firth in '1917'
George and Dean, did you have much sense of what it was going to look like cut together?
CHAPMAN We had a tent with a big monitor, and after every take we’d watch playback to adjust our blocking. We saw playback a lot and got an image of what it looked like, but we never saw anything stitched together.
MACKAY It was also a big psychological difference in that we didn’t have any sound on the playback. When you have sound, you’re watching a performance. So the first time I saw the final piece was overwhelming. I came out of the rough cut very clear about who I loved most in my life, and I had to speak to them — not about the film, but just to let them know.
CHAPMAN For me, the film felt so personal it was almost like I forgot anybody was going to see it. The thing that kept coming back to me is that this actually happened. Blake and Schofield aren’t real people, but a lot of young men died in that war. A whole generation was wiped out.
MACKAY And that’s the thing — we can say it in words, but we lose the weight of a whole generation, we lose the weight of millions. That’s the point of this film, which looks at this through a very small, intense focus, because that’s the only way we can understand these bigger things. Everything about this film — the beauty of the script, the one-shot nature — is all in the service of making you live it in real time and understand that that feeling is just a drop in the ocean compared to what happened.
So Sam, is your next movie going to have lots of cuts in it?
MENDES (Laughs) Put it this way: I’m looking forward to the power of editing again. But I’m also going to think twice before I make unnecessary edits in the future.
Read more of TheWrap’s cover package on “1917” here:
Read more of the Oscar Nominations Preview issue here.
Related stories from TheWrap:
www.thewrap.com | 12/18/19
NBCUniversal will be heading into the streaming era with a different man at the helm. On Thursday, word broke out that NBCU’s longtime CEO Steve Burke would be stepping down next summer, ending a nearly 10-year tenure running the media conglomerate.
And according to experts and analysts who spoke with TheWrap, Burke leaves behind a long shadow, but one that Jeff Shell, who is expected to succeed Burke, seems capable of filling. Tom Nunan, founder and partner of Bull’s Eye Entertainment and a lecturer at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television, said Burke has been “an iconic figure in broadcasting for his entire career.”
“There are few people with his track record of success,” Nunan said. “He’s definitely in that elite circle that [Disney Chairman Bob] Iger is a part of and a few others.
“Frankly, I would be surprised if this is the end of his media career, because he’s still relatively young,” Nunan said, “and he comes from classic TV stock being the son of Dan Burke.” Nunan touted Burke’s “humility” as “one of his great assets.” He called Burke “a smooth operator” and “a steady hand” who “doesn’t overreact to things.”
“He’s not an attention-grabbing star executive the way that [Les] Moonves insisted on being,” Nunan said.
“[Burke] is kind of a classic, old-school executive in that regard,” Nunan said. “When I say old-school executive, I mean more from the corporate mold as opposed to the entertainment mold, which is more the impresario.”
Bob Thompson, Trustee Professor of Television and Popular Culture at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, sees Burke’s legacy in the Comcast/NBCUniversal merger and the much more recent Sky deal. Thompson actually believes Burke’s greatest contribution may be an unsung one: jacking up the price of Disney’s 21st Century Fox takeover.
Thompson also offered another, less-flattering way Burke may be remembered by the general public.
“If anybody knows Steve Burke as a household name, it’s got nothing to do with all of that stuff he did to usher NBCUniversal into the Comcast era, which was a significant job, which I think he did pretty adeptly,” Thompson said. “What most lay people would remember would be his name associated with the likes of… Matt Lauer and reports by Ronan Farrow.”
Perhaps the stress of such an association and the calls for heads to roll at the top made this tough decision a little easier for Burke, Thompson wondered.
Burke’s upcoming departure is timed for next August, which would put it right after the 2020 Summer Olympics from Tokyo, which will air in the U.S. across NBCUniversal. It will also come just a few months after the launch of Peacock, NBCU’s streaming play. For one, Nunan is “surprised” by the Burke news — especially considering how close it would happen after Peacock’s debut.
“Peacock is going to become their most important venture in the next two to three years,” Nunan said. “It seems strange to me that [Burke] would walk away from building that at this time, but maybe his interests lie elsewhere.”
Whether or not Burke is still around to see Peacock take flight, Thompson’s not sure what took them so long.
“If I’m looking in the grand scheme in the history of the media, they strike me as coming kind of late to that fair,” he said. “It seems like an awful lot of people have crossed the finish line, and everybody’s off watching that stuff and nobody’s even watching the race anymore as Peacock comes waddling through.”
Thompson does not share Nunan’s surprise on Burke’s pending departure.
“It seems to be that things have been put in place, ducks have been placed in a row,” Thompson said of NBCU’s recent restructuring moves. “I don’t think it’s sending any industry people in the know into some kind or surprise tailspin or anything.”
Burke has been the only CEO NBCUniversal has known in its decade-long tenure under Comcast, which acquired NBCU from GE at the end of the last decade (though that deal did not close until 2011). While Burke has overseen NBCU during a time period of massive change for the entertainment industry — one that threatens the traditional cable model that has been the lifeblood of Comcast — he has been more than a net positive for Comcast.
NBCU revenue has grown from just above $21 billion in 2011, when he was installed as CEO, to nearly $36 billion in 2018; Comcast will report full-year earnings for 2019 next month. Under Burke, NBCUniversal bought DreamWorks Animation in 2016 for $3.8 billion. Last year, Comcast bought European pay-TV company Sky in a bidding war with 21st Century Fox.
So no pressure, Jeff. But both men believe NBCUniversal will be in fine hands with Shell. Thompson simply pointed to Shell’s successes running his current entertainment assignments.
Shell has served as chairman of the Universal film group since 2013. During his tenure leading the studio, Universal experienced four years of record profit, as well as two of the most profitable years in the studio’s 107-year history thanks, in part, to highly profitable franchises such as “Fast & Furious,” “Jurassic World” and Illumination’s “Despicable Me.” Earlier this year, Shell was was tapped to be chairman of NBCUniversal film and entertainment group, expanding his role beyond the film business to include oversight of NBC Entertainment, Telemundo and NBCU’s international operations.
That new appointment alone appeared to groom Shell for Burke’s job.
Shell is “a lot like Steve,” Nunan said. “He has a low-key style, he’s willing to stay behind the scenes, he likes to push the creative people out in front and give them credit where it’s due and give them support when they need it. That’s the hallmark that’s been handed down from Brian [Roberts, Comcast chairman and CEO] and Steve to the rest of the staff is, ‘You’re allowed to fail. You’re allowed to take big swings and if it doesn’t work, it won’t be off with your head.'”
“I suspect Jeff is just going to try to walk in Steve’s footsteps as successfully as he can,” Nunan said.
Related stories from TheWrap:
www.thewrap.com | 12/14/19
According to Atomico’s recent “State of European Tech, 2019” – widely considered by the European tech industry to be a reliable annual study – at present, 92 in every 100 dollars invested in Europe goes to all-male teams, 83% founders are white, 82% are university educated, in the UK, a quarter of investment committees saw […]
techcrunch.com | 12/11/19
A hypnotic TV commercial for a local department store beckons — summons, really — shoppers for what amounts to a culturally mandatory annual winter sales event. It’s an ad that’s not unlike the ones for Silver Shamrock in “Halloween III: Season of The Witch,” and in “In Fabric,” it succeeds in the same way, bringing in unhappy bank employee Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) to look for a first-date dress.
She finds the Ambassadorial Function Dress, color: Artery Red. It’s an alluring garment summed up in the store’s catalog with hyperbolic copy like “body sensual, captivating, candlelight glances, canapé conversations.” Not really Sheila’s size, it somehow fits her perfectly. And though she protests that she normally wouldn’t wear something so bold, the commandingly seductive saleswoman, Miss Luckmoore (Fatma Mohamed, “Berberian Sound Studio”), doubles down: “Daring eclipses the dark circumference of caution.” There’s really no arguing with that.
Naturally, the dress is haunted. And not merely haunted, but murderous, indestructible and relentless. It destroys bodies, washing machines, cars, even fresh produce. But it fits like a dream, so inevitably its wearers are always eager to let the right one in.
“In Fabric” plays out in two parts. The story shifts gears from Sheila to the soon-to-be-married Reg (Leo Bill, “Peterloo”) when his friends pick up the discarded dress from a charity shop and make him wear it during his own bachelor party. His fiancée Babs (Hayley Squires, “I, Daniel Blake”) tries it on as well. Rashes ensue, discord follows, disaster looms.
And through it all the dress hovers in midair, mocking its victims, and seemingly controlled by Miss Luckmoore and a magnificently costumed staff (thanks to designer Jo Thompson, “Fleabag,” making everyone here look gloriously sinister) that amounts to a department-store coven with some very specific sorcery skills.
Filmmaker Peter Strickland (“The Duke of Burgundy”) fearlessly courts and slashes through silliness in the construction of a world that’s not only inhabited by murder-dresses but is also a banal dystopia of corporate control. Every aspect of existence involves an intrusion by employers, the state, schools, even near strangers.
It’s not enough that Sheila is tormented by the Ambassadorial Function Dress; she’s also given a warning at her job for not having a “meaningful handshake,” and another one for the insolence of daring to greet the manager’s mistress on the street. Reg’s bank loan approval has to be vetted by his former teacher. Permanent records are permanent, and the only pleasure is shopping.
Strickland and his cast play it (sort of) straight, aiming for the difficult target of horror-comedy. Comedy wins, but not without some truly gruesome set pieces that take a shrieking delight in the dress wreaking bloody havoc. The actors — the ones playing the unfashionable characters, anyway — are uniformly committed to the pathetic. They’re hapless, downtrodden, and delusional: easy victims for the voracious dress.
The film’s vaguely ’80s setting is bolstered by John Carpenter-esque scoring from Stereolab founder Tim Gane (composing here as Cavern of Anti-Matter), camerawork from cinematographer Ari Wegner (“Lady Macbeth”) that emphasizes the dour, quotidian trudge of life when not gliding through the otherworldly, sinister brightness of the department store, all of it punctuated by a series of fuzzy VHS-quality interstitials that shred through fashion advertising like a pair of claws.
And the real point is clear every time Miss Luckmoore swoops in, speaking in circles about the “prism of retail abstraction.” Consumer dissatisfaction “goes against the nature of things,” a narrative echoed in films as disparate as “Clueless,” George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead,” David Byrne’s 1986 comedy “True Stories” (which is partially set in a mall and features a mid-film title card that announces, “Shopping is a feeling”), and most of all, Chantal Akerman’s 1986 shopping mall musical “Golden Eighties,” where an interconnected cast of lovelorn Belgian boutique employees do their best to sweep European historical trauma into the dustbin by singing and dancing in brightly colored casual separates.
In spite of an excessive, metaphor-bash of an ending — forgivable when everything else on screen is this frenziedly fun — “In Fabric” seduces like its bias-cut main character, then taunts you for your desire. In this ugly present, history is nothing, consumption is all there is left, and it’s going to eat you alive.
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www.thewrap.com | 12/6/19
The 2019 UN IGF is right now being held in Berlin and entering the last day. There has been a wide range of exciting discussions. It is a huge step forward that this year's IGF has been able to bring a plethora of topics together under a framework of thinking after the efforts done by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres' High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation (The Age of Digital Interdependence) and by German scholars' engagement with all the stakeholders (Towards a Global Framework for Cyber Peace and Digital Cooperation: An Agenda for the 2020s).
A central underlying topic of this year's IGF is about the conceptions about digital sovereignty. It is totally predictable that Chancellor Merkel would use Berlin Wall metaphor to enshrine the value of free speech. It is rare, however, to hear that she emphasizes digital sovereignty, which is said to be neither censorship nor protectionism, but a way through which individuals are capable of determining their own digital development.
Sovereignty in cyberspace has long been labeled by Western mainstream literature as a "monopoly" by China. But this is no longer the case, perhaps has never been. This column piece wants to share a different narrative: Washington DC is, in reality, the strongest supporter of the notion of cyber sovereignty in the military domain; China pays more attention to the content category; EU is more concerned about big tech giants.
Or, an easier way to put it might be this. All nations and every individual like nice words and they all support freedom and free flow. The important thing is how they make exceptions. China has social stability exceptions. U.S. has national security exceptions. Germany has privacy exceptions. All the three nations, however, attach great importance to political stability, who is the core for a society to function.
I shared my ideas in the IGF 2019 Digital Sovereignty & Internet Fragmentation session. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p55_LZmJ-2o&t=3795s). Below is a rewriting of what I said about how national sovereignty has made its extensions into cyberspace — with different degrees, in different categories, by different stakeholders — which shapes the complexities and contradictions in the articulation of digital sovereignty by different nations and stakeholders. There are five contexts.
Category No. 1 Military or legitimacy of cyberspace as military domain and the rules for it if it is legitimate. We see in this category the most hardcore extension of traditional national sovereignty into cyberspace by some nation-states. You will be given a Nobel Peace prize if you can find a multi-stakeholder solution to this unilateral or multilateral issue. If we can reduce the tensions in this category, all the rest of the challenges will become irrelevant and evaporate. China remains reluctant to admit that cyberspace has become a military zone but still eagerly promotes national sovereignty for defensive purpose against the possibility that the same two words — national sovereignty — might be used for offensive purposes by some other countries. That is a rather paradoxical situation.
Category No. 2 Crime or cybercrime governance. This is also a sovereignty story, but there are some transnational initiatives and mechanisms installed. EU has the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime. Russia has submitted a UN Convention on the Fight against Information Crimes. U.S. and UK have signed the first bilateral data-sharing agreement under CLOUD. China follows a practical approach and is busy taking back suspects committing telecommunication fraud from abroad. Cybercrime is now No.1 type of crime in China, which is also good news because the crimes in the streets have significantly reduced.
Category No. 3 Trade or digital economy and digital trade rules. The most recent update is Osaka Track. It is another challenging field that brings together a lot of elements that call for multi-ministry and multi-stakeholder coordination. This is where free flow is upheld and may lead to the removal of many practices of data localization. The word trust in the principle of "data free flow with trust" is problematic and subjective. A plain use of free flow is much clearer.
Category No. 4 Code or technical communities and management of core Internet resources. This is where institutional innovation really happens and should be more widely exported to inform other categories. China is happy about the current situation. Multi-stakeholder is firmly supported. The words have been spread and repeated by Chinese President for quite some years at the World Internet Conference WuZhen Summit. All the WuZhen gatherings have carried a theme of "Digital Commons." The values nurtured by the technical communities are highly appreciated and resonate with some universal values deeply rooted in Chinese culture. The Chinese philosopher Zhao Ting-yang captures this Chinese worldview in his books about global governance. He concluded his dialogue with his French counterpart Régis Debray that the Internet changed the world more than revolutionaries like Marx, Lenin, and Mao Zedong.
Category No. 5 Content or social media governance. China so far prefers a sovereignty approach in this category. But domestically, It is important to pay attention to the diversity of media ownerships in China. There are state media like People's Daily. There are commercial media such as Tick-Tok. There are grassroots media like half a billion users' Microblog or WeChat accounts. The rise of private media ownership is quite reassuring.
Therefore, there are different extensions and projections of national sovereignty in different cyber contexts. A U.S. military version of hardcore cyber sovereignty assumes certain enemies, bases itself basically purely on imaginations, and makes China and perhaps many other developing parts of the world feel extremely uneasy. However, the Chinese way of protecting cyber sovereignty in the content domain makes the U.S. cry foul over human rights principles.
German Chancellor Merkel and her more outspoken French counterpart President Macron share the same U.S. worries about Chinese domestic practices in the content domain, but are more urgently concerned about the big U.S. Internet platforms, and this is perhaps the direction of a European version of digital sovereignty is pointing to. All of these are further enhanced by the uncertainties and competition for huge opportunities brought by emerging technologies.
Solution: return to the insights and values of the Founding Fathers of the Internet and flexibly combine multistakeholderism and multilateralism in global digital policy-making.
Written by Peixi (Patrick) Xu, Professor, Communication University of China
www.circleid.com | 12/1/19
Last May, SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted "6 more launches of 60 sats needed for minor coverage, 12 for moderate" and SpaceX President and CEO Gwynne Shotwell recently said they planned to be offering service in parts of the US in mid-2020, which would require six to eight 60-satellite launches. The first of those launches will be in the middle of this month on a thrice-flown Falcon 9 booster. (They will also need customer terminals and Elon Musk has used a prototype to post a tweet from his home).
Six to eight launches would bring them up to Musk's "minor" coverage by mid-2020 and, if they maintain the same launch rate, they will achieve "moderate" coverage around the end of the year. But, what is meant by "minor" and "moderate" coverage? A simulation by Mark Handley, a professor at University College London, provides an approximation of the answer.
The first Starlink "shell" will have 24 orbital planes. Each orbital plane will have 66 satellites at an inclination of 53 degrees and an altitude of 550 km. Handley ran simulations of the first six and first twelve orbital planes — corresponding roughly to the SpaceX plan for 2020. Snapshots of the coverage area "footprints" from the two simulations are shown below:
The blue areas — around 50 degrees north and south latitude — are regions with continuous 24-hour coverage by at least one satellite. With six orbital planes, there will be continuous connectivity in the northern US and Canada and much of western Europe and Russia, but only southern Patagonia and the South Island of New Zealand in the sparsely populated south. Note that the financial centers of London and (just barely) New York will have continuous coverage, but, since these early satellites will not have inter-satellite laser links (ISLLs), SpaceX would have to route traffic between them through an undersea cable.
(At this point, you should stop reading and watch the video (6m 36s) of the simulation which shows the footprints moving across the surface of the planet as it rotates).
With 12 orbital planes, all of the continental US and most of Europe, the Middle East, China, Japan, and Korea will be covered. Shotwell says that once they have 1,200 satellites in orbit, they will have global coverage (with the exception of the polar regions) and capacity will be added as they complete the 550 km shell with 1,584 satellites. That should occur well before the end of 2021 since she expects to achieve a launch cadence of 60 satellites every other week.
Shotwell also said they planned to include ISLLs by late 2020, implying that around half of the satellites in this first shell will have them. Those ISSLs will give SpaceX an advantage over terrestrial carriers for low-latency long-distance links, a market Musk hopes to dominate. ISLLs will also reduce the need for ground stations. (Maybe they can lease ground-station service from SpaceX competitor Amazon in the interim)
All of this is cool, but what will it cost the user?
It sounds like SpaceX is serious about pursuing the consumer market from the start. When asked about price recently, Shotwell said millions of people in the U. S. pay $80 per month to get "crappy service." She did not commit to a price, but homes, schools, community centers, etc. with crappy service would pay that for good service, not to mention those with no service. Some customers may pay around $80 per month, but the price at a given location will be a function of SpaceX capacity, the price/demand curve for Intenet service, and competition from terrestrial and other satellite service providers — so prices will vary within the U. S. and globally. In nations where Starlink service is sold by partner Internet service providers, they will share in pricing decisions.
Since the marginal cost of serving a customer is near zero as long as there is sufficient capacity, we can expect lower prices in a poor, sparsely-populated region than in an affluent, densely-populated region. Dynamic pricing is also a possibility since SpaceX will have real-time demand data for every location. "Dynamic pricing of a zero marginal cost, variable-demand service" sounds like a good thesis topic. It will be interesting to see their pricing policy.
National governments will also have a say on pricing and service. While the U. S. will allow SpaceX to serve customers directly, other nations may require that they sell through Internet service providers and some — maybe Russia — may ban Starlink service altogether.
The price and quality of service also impact long-run usage patterns and applications. Today, the majority of users in developing nations access the Internet using mobile phones, which limits the power and range of applications they can use. Affordable satellite broadband would lead to more computers in homes, schools, and businesses and reduce the cost of offering new Internet services, impacting the economy and culture and leading to more content and application creation, as opposed to content consumption.
Looking further into the future, SpaceX has FCC approval for around 12,000 satellites and they recently requested spectrum for an additional 30,000 from the International Telecommunication Union. Their next-generation reusable Starship will be capable of launching 400 satellites at a time, and they will have to run a regular shuttle service to launch 42,000 satellites as well as replacements since the satellites are only expected to have a five-year lifespan. (One can imagine Starships dropping off new satellites then picking up obsolete satellites and returning them to Earth).
This sounds rosy. As we said in the NSFNet days, what could possibly go wrong? SpaceX seems to have a commanding lead over its would-be competitors. Might they one day become a dominant Internet service provider in a nation or region and abuse that position? Also, before they launch 42,000 satellites — or even 12,000 — SpaceX better come up with a foolproof plan for debris avoidance and mitigation. I hope they have a vice-president in charge of unanticipated side-effects.
Update Nov 5, 2019
Speaking at an investment conference, Shotwell said that a single Starship-Super Heavy launch should be able to place at least 400 Starlink satellites in orbit. Doing so would reduce the per-satellite cost to 20% of today's 60-satellite launches.
Written by Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University
www.circleid.com | 11/6/19
The Catalan economist, who teaches at St Andrews University, says she will resist extradition to Spain.
www.bbc.co.uk | 11/5/19
The Catalan politician and St Andrews University professor reacts to the issuing of a new European arrest warrant.
www.bbc.co.uk | 11/5/19
“Pearson” actress Gina Torres said it’s not enough for women of color in Hollywood to be good.
“The cross that we bear as people of color in this industry is that we have to be extraordinary,” she said Friday at the WrapWomen’s Power Women Summit on Friday. She was part of an actors panel that also included Diane Guerrero, Stephanie Beatriz, Sarah Shahi and Kelly McCreary.
Each of the women shared stories of how they were treated when they first started in the entertainment industry.
“My unique perspective here is that I’m Cuban-American. Both parents are Cuban. And I grew up Catholic in the Bronx, so my experience was not that of an African-American youth. Very different experiences, which a lot of people did not or would not understand or recognize, because I present as African-American,” Torres said.
“I [was] growing up as an actress in the ’80s when the urban drama was taking off. You had Spike Lee coming in, John Singleton coming in — and I simply was not black enough. To work meant I had to somehow shut down a very deep part of myself. I had to learn what it was to be black, because there was no such thing as Afro-Latina in the ’80s. That’s completely new. All Latinas looked European. There was no room for me,” she continued.
Torres’ advice: “It’s about being stubborn, being youthful, never saying no, walking into a room and giving what I had to give specifically. It didn’t matter to me necessarily what they thought or what box they were gonna put me in. I was going in as myself.”
“Orange Is the New Black” star Diane Guerrero said that when she started in television, “the doors were so closed.”
“They were just shut — until there was some prison show and I was able to audition for that,” she joked.
Before “Orange Is The New Black” came along, she said, “I was still not getting [roles like] Gangster Number 2’s Girlfriend.”
“City on a Hill” actress Sarah Shahi said she also learned she would need to work harder than most people.
“I’m Persian, and as far back as I can remember, it’s never been cool to be Persian. I grew up in Texas with a single mom. My father was a drug addict, so we were on our own. From a very young age, my mom and I were in and out of women’s shelters when I was a kid,” she said. “She taught me that if I wanted to get ahead, I had to be twice as smart and twice as good and I had to not give up.”
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” actor Stephanie Beatriz said her options for roles seemed limited when she started in television.
“When I moved here and started doing television, I found very quickly that I was either a victim of a crime, a perpetrator of a crime, or had an accent that didn’t belong to me,” she said.
“So I found it really really frustrating for the first huge chunk of my life here in Los Angeles,” she said. “It still is constantly fighting stereotypes.”
“Grey’s Anatomy” actor Kelly McCreary had a similar experience. When she started in television, she “didn’t always understand that even though they said ‘colorblind casting,’ they didn’t always mean that.”
“My first TV experience was in commercials. I would frequently have people saying to me, ‘Can you do this more urban?” I finally had the audacity and the naïveté of somebody who felt unstoppable… and I said, ‘Do you mean black? Because I am black. And this is what blackness looks and sounds like.”
TheWrap’s 2019 Power Women Summit took place Thursday and Friday at the Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica. The event brings together the industry’s most influential women to drive “Toward 50/50” equity and inclusivity in entertainment and media.
The summit aims to inspire and empower more than 1,000 women across the landscape of their professional careers and personal lives. This year, the summit was held at the beautiful Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica with the backdrop of the beach and the hotel’s iconic fig tree.
Presented by WrapWomen Foundation, the non-profit arm of TheWrap, the event will provide two days of education, mentorship, workshops and networking to promote the goal of greater women’s leadership in this industry, and gender balance in media, entertainment and technology overall.
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www.thewrap.com | 10/26/19
University students in Europe and the US are paying Kenyans to do their academic work for them.
www.bbc.co.uk | 10/22/19
The nominees for this year’s Streamy Awards were announced Wednesday by Dick Clark Productions, Tubefilter and YouTube. David Dobrik leads the way with 11 nominations and murder-mystery reality web series “Escape the Night: Season 4” follows with five nominations.
Lil Nas X and Lizzo are both nominated for the first time.
The awards specifically celebrate the best in online video. This year’s ceremony, the ninth one, will be held Dec. 13 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California. It will stream live globally on YouTube.
“Creators are the heart and soul of YouTube, so we’re excited to celebrate and honor their creativity, diversity and hard work,” Jamie Byrne, director of creator partnerships at YouTube, said in a statement. “Together with the Streamys, we’ve expanded our award categories to even more regions around the world to bring fans some of the biggest and most unforgettable moments from the past year, all from the creators they love.”
See the full list of nominees below:
Show of the Year
Action or Sci-Fi
First Person presented by GoPro HERO8 Black
International: Asia Pacific
International: Europe, Middle East, and Africa
International: Latin America
Health and Wellness
Kids and Family
Science and Education
Visual and Special Effects
Company or Brand
Nonprofit or NGO
Branded Content: Series
Branded Content: Video
Social Good Campaign
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www.thewrap.com | 10/16/19
The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, commonly known as the UDRP, was first introduced on October 24, 1999, by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The UDRP is incorporated by reference into Registration Agreements for all generic top-level domain names (gTLDs) and some country-code top-level domain names (ccTLDs).
The Policy sets out the legal framework for resolving disputes between a domain name registrant and a third party over the registration and use of a specific domain name. Over the last twenty years, the number of registered domain names has dramatically increased, reaching over 354 million registrations this year. The UDRP has become the primary route to resolve domain name disputes.
The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) is one of the main providers for domain disputes and has processed over 45,000 cases to date. Besides gTLDs, which all fall under the UDRP, WIPO provides domain dispute resolution services for 76 ccTLDs. In total, six accredited providers administer UDRP complaints, the Forum being the second largest provider.
The Evolution of the UDRP
The purpose of the UDRP is to combat cybersquatting, which, according to the US Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) is defined as "registering, trafficking in, or using an Internet domain name with bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else”.
Since the very first case under the UDRP, World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. v. Michael Bosman, WIPO Case No. D99-0001, which was decided by Panelist M. Scott Donahey, the UDRP has dealt with many complex issues involving a significant number of domain names. Indeed, WIPO has administered over 45,000 cases involving over 83,000 domain names since the UDRP's creation. The top 2 industry sectors in terms of Complainant activity are retail, and the banking and finance industry, which respectively amounts to 10.36% and 10.05%.
The UDRP has also seen Complainants and Respondents coming from countries all around the world. Complainants in the United States account for almost 35% of cases filed, followed by France (12.48%) and the United Kingdom (8.10%). However, while domain registrants primarily reside in the United States with over 30% of cases filed, People's Republic of China is the second-ranked country where registrants are based, amounting to 11.22% of cases filed since 1999.
When filing UDRP cases, Complainants need to rely on UDRP jurisprudence to build their cases. Although Panelists are under no obligation to follow past decisions, case precedents form a significant part of the UDRP, which has helped the Policy to develop over the years. With the high number of decisions decided each year, the growing need to identify consensus in UDRP jurisprudence became even more vital.
WIPO Overviews and the UDRP Jurisprudence
Since the creation of the UDRP, law practitioners have always expressed the need for a document summarising consensus views among the UDRP Panelists. Based on this request, WIPO introduced Version 1.0 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions in 2005. In 2011, WIPO Overview 2.0 launched, which examined 46 issues in UDRP decisions. WIPO Overview 2.0 was in use for six years, and it was only on May 23rd, 2017 that WIPO launched the third version (WIPO Overview 3.0). This version discussed 64 issues with more than 1,000 decisions cited.
Key changes took place between the two versions. Between 2011 and 2017, the emergence of new gTLDs impacted the importance of the domain suffix. TLDs such as ".clothing" or ".tech" for example, now have more weight when assessing bad faith. One of the pioneer cases which discussed this issue is Canyon Bicycles GmbH v. Domains By Proxy, LLC/ Rob van Eck, WIPO Case No. D2014-0206, where the Panel held that "given the advent of multiple new gTLD domain names, panels may determine that it is appropriate to include consideration of the top-level suffix of a domain name for the purpose of the assessment of identity or similarity in a given case, and indeed, there is nothing in the wording of the Policy that would preclude such an approach”.
As a result, the use of new gTLDs, which imply a link to the trademark owner can add to Internet user confusion, and for this reason, is considered under the first element, as well as the third element when assessing bad faith. Internationalised domain names (IDN) are also becoming more popular in recent years, with Internet users registering non-Latin or symbolic domain names. UDRP Panelists have adapted to this change and now consider translations or transliterations of domain names in their deliberations.
Through the years, the UDRP has tackled various issues, but some decisions are cited more than others. The case of Telstra Corporation Limited v. Nuclear Marshmallows, WIPO Case No. D2000-0003 remains the most cited case, with a frequency of 8,088 times. This decision, the fourth case ever decided by a UDRP Panel, tackled the issue of inactive domain names. The decision set out conditions by which the passive holding of a domain name still amounted to bad faith use. Since the decision in Telstra, trademark owners continue to rely on the principles outlined in this case when addressing a domain name that fails to resolve to active content. Though passive holding of a domain name can amount to bad faith use, trademark owners must not forget that they still have the burden to prove registration in bad faith.
The second most popular UDRP decision is, without a doubt, the case of Oki Data Americas, Inc. v. ASD, Inc., WIPO Case No. D20001-0903. Here, the Panelist David H. Bernstein raised the difficult question of whether an authorized sales or service agent of trademarked goods could use the trademark at issue in its domain name. In his decision, the Panel held that specific conditions must be met by the reseller to justify a legitimate interest in using a domain name containing the trademark's owner brand. Though this decision was published in the early stages of the UDRP in 2001, reseller cases still apply the Oki Data decision when assessing if a reseller can justify a legitimate interest in its domain name. Following this decision, uncertainty arose over whether this case also applied to unauthorized resellers. The decision, Volvo Trademark Holding AB v. Auto Shivuk, WIPO Case No. D2005-0447 clarified this, finding that the Oki Data decision could apply to both authorized and unauthorized resellers.
The two decisions cited above are among the most popular cases used in UDRP disputes, but several more Panel decisions have helped shape UDRP jurisprudence. This includes, among others, the issue of proving common law or unregistered trademark rights, which led to several well-known decisions, such as Uitgerverij Crux v. W. Frederic Isler, WIPO Case No. D2000-0575 (discussing this for the first time), and the case of Israel Harold Asper v. Communication X Inc., WIPO Case No. D2001-0540, which clarified that rights in a personal name are recognized under the UDRP if the name has been used in a commercial manner, which the complaining party, a Canadian businessman and lawyer, had failed to establish.
For trademark owners and legal practitioners, WIPO Overview 3.0 remains the ultimate resource when filing domain disputes. With more than 1,000 cases listed, Panelists always advise trademark owners to use the cases cited in the Overview.
Following the guidelines provided can also help to prevent trademark owners from being found guilty of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking ("RDNH").
RDNH is when a trademark owner attempts to use the UDRP to deprive a registered domain name holder of a domain name. 2016 saw a record number of RDNH in UDRP cases, with 37 complainants found to have abused the UDRP Policy. This surpassed the previous record with 31 RDNH decisions issued in 2015. Complainants are found guilty of RDNH for various reasons. One reason often found is that the Complainant knew or clearly should have known at the time that it filed the complaint that it could not prove one the essential elements required by the UDRP, perhaps because the domain name was registered many years before it acquired rights in a mark. This has led many Respondent to claim that such cases be barred based on the doctrine of laches.
Doctrine of Laches – Time to Reconsider?
Traditionally, the question of timing was a factor to consider when assessing whether a complaining party had a legitimate right to bring a claim against another entity on the grounds of trademark infringement. Under the US doctrine of laches, a trademark claim is barred if a defendant can show that a prolonged period has passed between the registration of the plaintiff's trademark and the alleged infringement. That said, when it comes to domain names, the doctrine does not apply. WIPO Overview 3.0, Guideline 4.17 states that:
"Panels have widely recognized that mere delay between the registration of a domain name and the filing of a complaint neither bars a complainant from filing such case, nor from potentially prevailing on the merits."
Panels noted that the UDRP remedy is injunctive, and the principal concern is to avoid future abuse/damage, and not provide equitable relief. Panels have also recognized that trademark owners cannot reasonably be expected to monitor every instance of potential trademark abuse or to enforce each instance as they arise. For these reasons, Panels have declined to adopt the doctrine of laches or its equivalent in UDRP cases.
Even so, some Panels have taken account of the delay of a Complainant to bring a complaint under the UDRP when making their decision. In the case of Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas v. FanMail.com, LLC, WIPO Case No. D2009-1139, the doctrine of laches was discussed at great length. Though the decision rejected the use of laches, the Panel held that "the delay and lack of explanation for it strengthen Respondent's cases for a right or legitimate interest in the Domain Name and negate Complainant's case that the Domain Name has been used in bad faith. That is so because the unchallenged evidence is that Complainant, by inactivity, encouraged Respondent to continue to use the Domain Name in the way in which Complainant knew it was being used”.
Still, finding for the Respondent based on laches alone is not possible under the UDRP, and Panels would only deny complaints if Complainants have failed to establish the substantive grounds required under the Policy. For example, in the recent case of The Pennsylvania State University v. Mark Lauer/ Keystone Alternatives, NAF Claim FA1847529, July 29, 2019, the Panel denied the complaint as the trademark owner failed to prove that the registrant had no legitimate interest in the domain name, and consequently, did not act in bad faith. The Respondent, in this case, relied on the doctrine of laches and asked for the complaint to be denied on those grounds, but the Panel held that it was unnecessary to decide whether the proceeding would or should have been denied on the ground of laches alone.
Twenty years after the creation of the UDRP, Panels will see more and more cases brought with domain names registered 15 to 20 years ago, and the delay in bringing a complaint by a trademark holder may have more significance to a Respondent than ever before.
Another significant event already having a tremendous effect on the UDRP is the implementation of the new European data protection law in 2018.
GDPR and its effect on the UDRP
Since the new European data protection law (General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679) came into force on May 25th, 2018, the number of UDRP disputes has increased. Indeed, with GDPR coming into effect last year, law practitioners have seen changes in the disclosure of WHOIS details. Before GDPR, the WHOIS Registry was publically accessible, and trademark owners and their representatives could identify a domain name owner before filing a dispute. Now, however, GDPR has made it more difficult to engage with domain registrants. With most information unavailable, it seems that more practitioners now file cases in an attempt to disclose registrant information. Once revealed, Complainants have the opportunity to amend the dispute to reflect the Respondent's correct details.
Furthermore, GDPR has made UDRP consolidations even more challenging. The UDRP allows trademark owners to include multiple domain names in a single complaint. The limitations placed on WHOIS information prevent trademark owners from identifying additional domain names owned by the same cybersquatter. This is likely to lead to trademark owners needing to file more single complaints, which is more expensive and time-consuming.
The UDRP element most affected by the GDPR is the third circumstance that deals with bad faith. Showing an abusive pattern of conduct has become more complex, and trademark owners have more of a difficult task of finding past cybersquatting activity. The tools previously available to investigators to analyze a registrants' previous dispute record or portfolio have become less effective with the arrival of GDPR. While an investigator's job has become more challenging, the UDRP remains one of the most effective tools to combat cybersquatting in the Internet world.
What is next for the UDRP?
A lot has changed since the creation of the UDRP, and with new issues arising, the Policy has evolved to be in line with the fast-pacing change of the Internet. The new generation of TLDs contributed to the rise of UDRP filings, but ".com" domain names still amount to 79% of cases filed. The ccTLD ".co" assigned to Colombia is the most popular ccTLD using the UDRP, with 56 cases filed this year.
Nevertheless, despite the increase in filings, after two decades, some practitioners/groups believe that some essential elements of the UDRP are due for reform. In 2015, ICANN issued a Preliminary Issue Report to review all Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPMs) in all gTLDs followed up by a working group which was established to review and possibly reform RPMs, including the UDRP, which is yet to be reviewed.
In the meantime, the UDRP continues — 20 years after its creation — to be the most effective tool to combat cybersquatting, saving time and money to trademark owners.
* * *
On October 21, 2019, WIPO organizes a conference to commemorate this milestone. This event, where over 100 UDRP Panelists will attend, will look back at the UDRP jurisprudence, and look ahead on the future of the UDRP, Internet developments, and other topical items. As one of the top-ranking filers of domain name disputes with WIPO, Safenames' Legal Department will be attending this event, which will be held at WIPO's headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
Written by Caroline Valle, Senior Legal Adviser at Safenames
www.circleid.com | 10/14/19
Eric Pleskow, a long-time Hollywood executive who served as the head of Orion Pictures and United Artists and oversaw the production of 14 different Oscar winners for Best Pictures, has died. He was 95.
Pleskow’s death was announced Tuesday by the Vienna Film Festival; the Austrian-born executive and film producer had served as the festival’s president since 1998.
“His death is a great loss for all of us. Eric had a fulfilled and long life and we appreciated him as a longtime friend and companion of our festival. As president and patron of the Viennale, he has always carried us with his humor and foresight,” the Viennale said in a statement. He will be missed deeply. We express our sincere condolences and heartfelt sympathy to his family.
Also Read: Jessye Norman, Opera Legend, Dies at 74
As president of United Artists between 1973 to 1978 Pleskow — the first European to lead the company since co-founder Charlie Chaplin — oversaw a three-year span in which the films “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Rocky” and “Annie Hall” all won Best Picture at the Oscars.
Pleskow then formed Orion Pictures following the takeover of United Artists by Transamerica, leading the company until 1992 and developing other classics such as “Amadeus,” “Dances With Wolves” and “The Silence of the Lambs.”
Born in Vienna in April 1924, Pleskow’s family emigrated to the United States after the Nazi Germany takeover of Austria. He was drafted by the U.S. army in 1943 and after the war served as a translator for interrogations during the denazification of Germany and Austria. Having received a brief education in film editing, he became a film officer for the U.S. war department and was assigned the task of rebuilding Munich’s Bavaria Film Studios. Shortly thereafter he joined United Artists as a European sales manager and would work his way up to president.
In 2007, he was made an honorary citizen Vienna and had a cinema hall in the Metro Kinokulturhaus named after him.
“Turning 95 doesn’t leave me cold! That sounds really old. In any case much older than I feel,” Pleskow said earlier this year at a ceremony commemorating his birthday.
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www.thewrap.com | 10/1/19
Opera legend Jessye Norman died Monday at age 74.
The soprano died from septic shock and multi-organ failure secondary to complications of a spinal cord injury she had sustained in 2015, according to family statement issued to the Associated Press.
“We are so proud of Jessye’s musical achievements and the inspiration that she provided to audiences around the world that will continue to be a source of joy. We are equally proud of her humanitarian endeavors addressing matters such as hunger, homelessness, youth development, and arts and culture education,” the family statement read.
Norman was born in Georgia to a musical family. As a child, she sang in the church gospel choir and listened to the Metropolitan Opera via radio. At 16, she entered a singing competition named after her idol — Marian Anderson. Norman did not win, but was offered a full scholarship to Howard University.
After graduating with a Masters from the University of Michigan in 1968, Norman spent a decade in Europe building up her operatic repertoire, performing with German and Italian companies. It wouldn’t be until 1982 when she made her U.S. debut performing with the Opera Company of Philadelphia. She would debut at the Metropolitan Opera — the company she listened to as a child on the radio — the following year. By the mid-’80s, she was one of the most in-demand sopranos in the world.
Norman sang at the second inaugurations of presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. In 1996, she sang at the Opening Ceremony of the 1996 Summer Olympics, which were held in her home state of Georgia. She also famously sang at the 9/11 memorial in March 2002.
Norman won four Grammy Awards over her long career and won the Life Achievement Award in 2006. She was also bestowed many honors, including the Légion d’honneur, the Kennedy Center Honors, and National Media of the Arts. She received the 12th Glenn Gould Prize for her contribution to opera and the arts in 2018.
She was also a philanthropist, contributing to many causes dear to heart, including music and homeless programs, and AIDS research.
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www.thewrap.com | 9/30/19
SpaceX satellite mesh with four laser terminals on each satelliteInter-satellite laser links (ISLLs) and electronically steerable flat panel antennas are critical technologies for constellations of low-Earth orbit (LEO) Internet-service satellites. Low-cost antennas are critical for the mass consumer market, and ISLLs are required for an effective Internet backbone in space. In an earlier post, we saw that progress is being made on antennas; this one looks at ISLLs.
The figure to the right is taken from a simulation of the first phase of SpaceX's planned broadband Internet service, Starlink. It shows 66 satellites in each of 24 53-degree orbital planes — a total of 1,584 satellites at an altitude of 550 km. Each satellite has four laser-communication terminals — two on the front and back and two on the sides. Since the front and back lasers link to satellites in the same orbital plane, they remain at the same place in the sky relative to each other while the side lasers must move to track one another. (To visualize the dynamic nature of the links between the constantly moving satellites, check this clip from the animated simulation).
When Elon Musk introduced his Starlink plan to prospective employees in 2015, he said his goal was to transport "a majority of long-distance Internet traffic" and "about 10 percent of local consumer and business traffic." He pointed out that satellites would have an advantage over terrestrial links since the speed of light is faster in space than through optical fiber, and fewer router hops would be needed to reach a distant location.
In addition to mitigating the digital divide by serving rural areas and small organizations, Musk and his competitors at OneWeb, Telesat, Amazon, and Leosat hope to service high-end, high-margin customers like enterprises, governments and maritime, airline and mobile phone companies. ISLLs are necessary for serving those lucrative high-end markets.
Initially, SpaceX proposed five ISLLs for each satellite — the fifth would have been a link to a satellite in the crossing plane, but last November they cut back to four. The fifth terminal would have been difficult to engineer because while the front, back and side-mounted terminals move slowly relative to each other, this simulation shows that satellites in crossing planes would have been traveling at 7.3 km/second relative to each other. Designing and manufacturing them would have taken time and money.
Furthermore, because of the 53-degree orbit inclination, about half the satellites are moving northeast and half are moving southeast at any time and place. That favors east-west links over north-south links, and since most of the lucrative low-latency, long-link traffic is in the northern hemisphere, they could not justify the cost or possible deployment delay. That is not to say they will not deploy them in the future. (Note that the initial five-link constellation was to orbit at an altitude of 1,100, not 550 km. Future plans call for constellations at 1,100 and 335-345 km, and there may be ISLLs between all of them).
Tesat already markets a laser communication terminal for LEO to ground transmission from CubeSats. Their CubeLCT is 9 x 9.5 x 3.5 cm, has a mass of 360 grams, consumes 8 Watts of power and communicates through the atmosphere to the Earth at 100 Mbps, with a 1 Mbps channel from the ground to LEO. They are developing an ISLL terminal based on that experience and, judging from the diagram shown here, they are pursuing laser communication between the ground, LEO and geostationary satellites.
Mynarc has announced that their ISLL terminal, the MLT-80, will be available in high-volume production this year and both companies are working on faster terminals. A while ago, I suggested that SpaceX would probably develop their own ISLL, but last March, Bulent Altan, a former SpaceX Vice President, joined Mynarc as co-CEO and a few days later Mynaric announced that they had raised $12.5 million from mystery constellation customer. Might the mystery company be SpaceX? Might it be Amazon, which entered the race late and has enough money to pay for terminals or even buy a stake in Mynaric or Tesat? We will know soon because test satellites equipped with Mynaric's terminals should be launched in late-2019.
The SpaceX simulation shown above was for satellites with 4 ISLLs, but SpaceX launched their first 60 satellites without the ISLLs and, as far as I know, has not said if forthcoming satellites will have them or not. Arthur Sauzay, a French environment and space lawyer has pointed out that SpaceX argued for the allocation of radio frequencies for ISLs in a comment to a recent Whitehouse report on the impact of emerging technologies and their impact on non-federal spectrum demand, but they seem too large, heavy and slow to support a LEO network with long-distance, low-latency links.
OneWeb has decided not to use ISLs in their first constellation and will route traffic through terrestrial gateways. This decision seems to have been at least partially motivated by Russian insistence that satellite traffic passes through gateways within their borders. I imagine China and other nations will impose the same restriction.
Telesat remains committed to ISSLs, but say they will have the flexibility in their network-control system to route traffic coming to a country over satellite or terrestrial links. Erwin Hudson, vice president of Telesat LEO is confident that ISLs will be cheap enough to allow them to compete successfully with terrestrial fiber and 5G, offering fast, 30 ms latency broadband. They also have a $2.8 million contract to study inter-satellite laser links between their constellation and Blackjack, DARPA's 20 LEO satellite constellation and they are collaborating with Google on software, so we might see laser links between Telesat satellites and Google's balloons.
LeoSat is unique in that they are not pursuing the consumer and small organization markets, but are focused exclusively on large, high-end customers. They will provide fast, low latency, encrypted, reliable point-to-point connections to governments at up to 1.2 Gbps with latency under 50 ms and they have over $1 billion in pre-launch customer agreements. ISLLs are mandatory for the markets they are pursuing and since two geostationary satellite operators, Jsat and Hispasat, are investors in LeoSat, they may very well link to them in the future to offer a service similar to the SpaceDataHighway of Airbus and the European Space Agency.
China's Hongyun LEO broadband project is an ISLL unknown. China is doubtless working on laser communication in space, but I have no idea whether or not they will use it in their broadband constellation. Since they say the goal of the project is to serve rural China and they regulate Internet links to the outside world, Hongyun satellites may serve exclusively as "bent pipe" relays between rural locations and China's terrestrial network.
ISLLs will be needed if the Internet backbone in space is to compete with the terrestrial backbone and serve high-value applications. It seems that making cost-effective ISLLs for LEO constellations was harder than Elon Musk and others anticipated, but first production models are now on the horizon and they will improve over time.
For a copy of the PowerPoint presentation I use for teaching this topic click here.
Written by Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University
www.circleid.com | 9/7/19
The map below shows countries that are working with Huawei 5G in red and pink. As can be seen, Huawei is doing very well in 5G, although it's not as dominant as the colors here suggest.
Ericsson is actually close to Huawei in 5G revenue, aided by the ban in the US and Australia. Years ago, Huawei was the price leader in order to break into the European market. That's no longer true, despite all the reporters that continue to make that claim. Ericsson made a corporate decision to match and occasionally beat Huawei's prices.
Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei made a remarkable comment that Huawei would be hurt if it forced Nokia and Ericsson out of the market. Both are struggling financially. Ren made the point that competition spurs Huawei to do better. I'm sure he's also aware of the political implications of knocking out Europe's champions.
Huawei's possible advantage in 5G technology is also overrated. A Columbia University Dean worries it is 3-4 years ahead. A news story I just read said two years ahead.
Huawei's $17 billion research budget has produced remarkable results. It is certainly ahead in some areas.
However, Ericsson, Samsung, and ZTE also have extraordinary engineers. In networks that use Huawei and a second vendor, the second vendor usually does fine.
There is no big gap in 2019, although Huawei's huge research spending could pull them ahead.
Written by Dave Burstein, Editor, DSL Prime
www.circleid.com | 8/30/19
Netflix has a bit of a problem. It needs to add more subscribers to its already robust 150 million global customer base at the same time it’s reaching a saturation point in the U.S.
Tucked into the company’s recent note to investors, following its lackluster second quarter earnings report, Netflix unveiled a new plan that could spur its next wave of loyal viewers: a cheap, mobile-only subscription for India.
“Following up on its disappointing results for the last quarter, Netflix wants to aggressively build its international footprint, and there are few better or more important markets than India,” Alvin Lieberman, executive director at New York University’s Entertainment, Media and Technology Initiative, said. “India’s OTT demand is expected to grow rapidly and having a low-priced mobile-only offering is a way for Netflix to expand its subscriber base.”
It’s not like Netflix is completely foreign to India. Netflix has about 5 million active accounts in the country; the problem for the company, though, is that the vast majority of the customers are on month-long free trials. Only 6-8% of Indian subscribers are actually paying customers, according to research shared by Counterpoint, a market research firm.
Its new mobile-only subscription, which will cost 199 rupees, or about $3, per month, will come at a sharp discount to its next cheapest Indian subscription, which runs 500 rupees, or a little more than $7, each month.
“It’s the right move for [Netflix],” Gene Munster, managing partner at Loup Ventures, said. “When you look at the potential levers in returning Netflix back to a sustainable subscriber-addition story, India is [in] orders of magnitude their biggest lever. The U.S. is close to saturated, and the rest of the world is not as saturated, but India is a great opportunity.”
Analysts also see India as a critical testing ground for Netflix as it strategizes how to continue to grow in the U.S.
Munster said that he suspects Netflix will “bring that [mobile-only] option here and to Europe” eventually. Netflix already has 60 million U.S. subscribers, but it just reported a dip in domestic accounts for the first time in a decade; Netflix blamed its recent price hikes for the minor user exodus.
A cheaper, mobile-only subscription might help draw some reticent Americans into the fold. It also could drive user growth in other budding markets, as well, Tom Harrington, a senior research analyst with Ender Analysis, said.
“These issues of pricing and cheap competition are not limited just to India,” Harrington said,
There’s good reason to believe a mobile-only subscription will be particularly appealing to Indian viewers. Americans access the internet about a third of the time using their phones; Indians, on the other hand, reach the internet nearly 80% of the time through their mobile devices.
Smartphone use in India is also on the verge of exploding. Right now, about 400 million Indians use smartphones; by 2022, that’s expected to reach more than 800 million people, according to Cisco. If Netflix can grab 5% of the smartphone market by that point, it could be looking at an extra 40 million customers — and $1.5 billion in annual sales. And that might be a conservative projection, considering Netflix has grabbed 18% of the U.S. market. (Netflix chief Reed Hastings last year said the company’s next 100 million subscribers will be “coming from India.”)
Still, Netflix will face stiff competition. Disney-owned Hotstar, the dominant streaming service in India, recently hit 300 million monthly viewers. Most of those viewers opt for Hotstar’s ad-supported model — placing another hurdle in Netflix’s path to charging viewers for content. (Hotstar also offers an ad-free service for 999 rupees, or around $14, per year.)
“It’s a necessary move,” Harrington said about Netflix’s $3 subscription. “There are cheaper, quality alternatives in India that make Netflix seem a poorer option – the inverse to North America and Europe.”
He continued: “Hotstar — which Disney devoted a whole section to at the Disney+ launch — carries the Indian Premier League [the country’s leading cricket league], automatically making it the go-to streaming service.”
Munster also pointed out two other potential roadblocks: content and piracy.
Netflix has launched 16 Indian TV and film Originals so far, including “Sacred Games,” a series based on a best-selling crime novel. It also just signed deals with Blumhouse and Chernin Entertainment in July to help bring more Originals to India in the next year. Moving forward, Netflix has another 22 upcoming movies and series in production, according to a person familiar with Netflix’s Indian slate. Adding strong content will be essential to not only attract viewers, Munster said, but also compel viewers to pay for Netflix, in a country where piracy is a major concern.
Still, Netflix’s mobile-only push looks promising. Grabbing even a fraction of the Indian smartphone market would lead to tens of millions of new customers. For Netflix, like any other tech company, user and subscriber growth is the name of the game on Wall Street. And those mobile-only customers could eventually upgrade to its more expensive subscriber tiers, helping to further boost revenue.
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www.thewrap.com | 8/5/19
In this month's installment of our audio IRL, we're getting ready for European football with a podcasts. The season starts this week, after all. Senior News Editor Billy Steele is getting a proper soccer education while Senior Editor Dan Cooper takes...
www.engadget.com | 8/5/19
It did not make any sense to analyze the Saturday rally in Moscow as soon as it happened, but Monday appears to be just the right time to do it. No one talks about the roots of the protest actions that took place in Moscow over the weekend. Most likely, they are not about the registration of certain individuals by the Moscow City Duma as candidates.The issue of the protest itself is broader. People took to the streets during the arrest of journalist Ivan Golunov, during the construction of an Orthodox temple in Yekaterinburg, etc. All those stories are symptoms of one and the same disease. One could see this disease spreading throughout Western Europe and the United States during the 1960s, but the causes of it were different. In the US, it was the Vietnam War and the killing of Martin Luther King. In Europe, there were protests against events in Czechoslovakia and other internal problems.But we remember that it was violation of social justice that defined all those protests. We also remember that many of those protests became "social elevators" for many politicians, who started coming to power in 15 or 20 years. For a very clear understanding of the situation, one may refer to two graffiti that students of the Sorbonne left in the streets of Paris in 1968: Since 1936 I have fought for wage increases. My father before me fought for wage increases. Now I have a TV, a fridge, a Volkswagen. Yet my whole life has been a drag. Don't negotiate with the bosses. Abolish them." "One cannot fall in love with industrial growth!" It appears that the Russian youth could chant the same slogans today, if the education system in Russia has not degraded since the years after the Soviet power. It was not only education that has degraded. The qualification of people who are responsible for the moderation of internal political processes has gone down the toilet as well. Kiriyenko's 'social elevators' serve primarily managers of large corporations, but in case of social upheavals they will humbly step aside to observe. Mass youth movements of Mr. Surkov, the Reaction newspaper and the Yoki website have been disposed of. If one looks at what presidential grants are allocated to, one will see that they are not needed today, but could be good during the "lush" times. The United States eventually decided to pull out troops from Vietnam, abolish mandatory conscription and promote the PlayBoy technology (the protests are also known as 'sexual revolution' for a reason). Other countries had their own recipes.It is the internal essence of protests that plays the main role in the struggle that one can see in Russia developing today. If one doesn't know the essence, any struggle with external manifestations of protests will be useless.We know one thing. If the authorities remove all problems with the elections to the Moscow City Duma, the public protest will persist. The protest sentiment began to actively develop during the beginning of the pension reform, so it primarily involves the children of those people, whom the authorities have betrayed shamelessly. It has started snowballing for various reasons afterwards getting an increasing amount of citizens involved. It is 's time to open a tender for a team that would replace Sergei Kiriyenko with new ideas. The current political administrators under his leadership lack qualification to solve the issue of stability in the society.Photo: dw.com
www.pravdareport.com | 7/29/19
Researchers from two universities in Europe have published a method they say is able to correctly re-identify 99.98% of individuals in anonymized datasets with just 15 demographic attributes. Their model suggests complex datasets of personal information cannot be protected against re-identification by current methods of ‘anonymizing’ data — such as releasing samples (subsets) of the […]
techcrunch.com | 7/24/19
Amazon CEO Jeff BezosIn spite of being a latecomer to the race to deploy a constellation of low-Earth orbit (LEO) broadband Internet satellites, Amazon's Project Kuiper will be a formidable competitor. SpaceX, OneWeb and Telesat already have test satellites in orbit, but Amazon has several strategic advantages.
For a start, each of the LEO broadband competitors plans to end the digital divide by providing global connectivity to end-users and small organizations in underserved areas, but they are also counting on high-margin customers — governments, enterprises, financial institutions, telephone companies, airlines, maritime companies and luxury yacht owners for early revenue. (A fifth company, LEOSAT, will focus exclusively on these commercial markets). Amazon's complementary infrastructure will give them a strategic advantage with these early customers. They will be able to leverage Amazon's established global Web and database services as well as their newly launched satellite ground-station service all of which will be integrated with the Project Kuiper constellation. Furthermore, when new end-users come online, they will be potential Amazon retail customers regardless of their satellite ISP.
The high-margin applications require inter-satellite laser links (ISLLs) for fast, secure long-distance communication and that technology is still under development. OneWeb has decided to forego ISLLs for their first constellation, and SpaceX launched their first 60 satellites without them and, as far as I know, has not said when they will be deploying satellites with ISLLs. Amazon may be working on their own ISLL technology or planning to partner with (or buy) Mynaric or one of the partners in the European project ORIONAS (Lasercom-on-chip for next-generation, high-speed satellite constellation interconnectivity). Note that there are political as well as technical barriers to ISSL deployment.
SpaceX and OneWeb have talked of consumer ground stations costing as little as $200, but that will require another critical technology that is still under development — cheap, mass-produced, electronically-steerable antennas the size of a "pizza box." Telesat says they will concentrate on the maritime, aviation and cellular-backhaul markets until the cost of end-user antennas comes down. SpaceX is developing their own antenna and has filed for permission to deploy a million end-user ground stations, but an engineer working on the project told me they do not yet have an antenna that is cheap enough for the consumer market. OneWeb CEO Greg Wyler claims to have a self-funded side project that has developed a suitable fifteen dollar antenna and they may be ready to deploy. I don't know whether Amazon has been working on small electronically-steerable antennas internally, but even if they have not, as with ISSLs, they have the funds to either partner with or purchase a company that is working on them.
Debris mitigation is another technology for which no one has a proven lead over Amazon at this time.
Amazon also gained ground on the others when Elon Musk reportedly became frustrated with the pace of development at Starlink and fired the vice president in charge of the satellite program, Rajeev Badyal, a veteran of Microsoft and Hewlett Packard and satellite designer Mark Krebs, who led Google's aircraft and spacecraft teams before coming to SpaceX and playing a key role in developing their first two test satellites. Amazon subsequently hired Baydal, Krebs and other ex-SpaceX engineers. I wonder if they influenced Bezos' decision to proceed with Project Kuiper.
Amazon has its own launch capability, but SpaceX has a clear lead in launch technology and capacity. Still, OneWeb has contracted with Amazon for five launches of perhaps 400 satellites starting in 2021, and one could imagine SpaceX serving their competitors as well. (I wonder if anti-trust law would require some sort of arm's length pricing).
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has deep pockets so will not have to worry about raising money and, perhaps more important, he will have complete control over the project. SpaceX has had to go to the capital markets several times, OneWeb is working with a group of investors and collaborator/investors and Telesat has income from its established geostationary satellite business, but is owned by a somewhat contentious combination of Loral Space and Communications and a Canadian pension fund.
Finally, Bezos has had the skill and vision to build an array of highly successful, complementary companies from online retail to fulfillment infrastructure to Internet services to space. That is not to take anything away from the others — I suspect they were less surprised than I by the announcement of Project Kuiper. Whatever led to Amazon's decision, it is good to see them involved in a competitive battle among would-be global Internet service providers.
Written by Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University
www.circleid.com | 7/20/19
During the beginning of the 2000s, United Russia Party published a campaign leaflet that predicted the standard of living in the country in a few years. The average salary in Russia would be equal to $2,500 a month, while people would live in spacious houses (120 square meters per family). Vadim Gorshenin, the head of Pravda.Ru media holding, describes several options of how the situation may develop in Russia in the near future, after Vladimir Putin's presidency.Option oneThe presidential election will be canceled as unnecessary. The uselessness of the vote will consist in the fact that the successor will not gain enough support during his first term in the office. The country will develop according to the principle of historical spiral: it will develop, but we will find ourselves surrounded by unfriendly countries as was the case in 1930. China will turn its back on Russia as it will take everything from Russia by that time. Neighbouring countries will be lost because of Russia's foreign policy and paternalistic relations. Russia's budget will not be able to support them anymore. The Russian economy will develop according to the principle of "war communism." Social programs will be abolished, and it will be up to the able-bodied population to support children and the elderly.Russia will be running out of its oil reserves, while alternative energy will be on the rise in Europe. This will severely affect budget possibilities too. In order to save money, Russia will pull out from the Council of Europe, which will give the Russian authorities an opportunity to narrow the implementation of human rights.Option twoThe name of the third president after Vladimir Putin will be announced. He will be limited in power due to constitutional amendments and the transfer of powers to parliament.The State Duma will be fully elected by the majority principle, just like the Federation Council. Members of the Federation Council will act as representatives of regions in the center and take part in the management of power in regions. Amended principles of budget formation after 2024 towards greater funding for science and education, investments in technological development by reducing preferences for oil and gas companies will affect both military and civil areas of life. Other countries may take a different look at Russia, and this policy may eventually lead to what Trotsky and his followers dreamed of.The management staff will be dramatically reduced after the introduction of informational and other technologies. Everyone will only wonder why the number of jobs during modernization was decreasing, and the number of officials was growing. Option three The state of affairs in Russia after Vladimir Putin will look very much like that in Venezuela. People will rush from one political force to another. There will be no stability. The 1990s will return, and Russia will collapse into coalitions of "The Ural Republic", "The Far Eastern Republic" etc.
www.pravdareport.com | 7/17/19
The British Council says some parents now see European languages as less useful because of Brexit.
www.bbc.co.uk | 7/3/19
Kira Peter-Hansen, from Denmark, was still studying at university when she was elected.
www.bbc.co.uk | 7/2/19
French startup Ornikar is raising a $40 million Series B round (€35 million) from Idinvest and Bpifrance. The company competes with traditional driving schools in Europe with an online marketplace of students and teachers. And Ornikar has been a massive success in France. Overall, 35 percent of driving school registrations in 2019 are handled by […]
techcrunch.com | 6/27/19
Now in its fifth year, European Film Promotion’s Future Frames is a next-generation showcase comprising short works by students and recent graduates of European film schools, curated by the Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival in cooperation with the EFP. The program has already established itself as an important platform for discovering European talent; this year’s […]
variety.com | 6/21/19
The UN Panel on Digital Cooperation presented last week in New York its final report, and an old question is back on the international agenda: Could the global Internet be ordered by a reasonable arrangement among stakeholders which would maximize the digital opportunities and minimize the cyber risks by keeping the network free, open and safe?
Since the days of the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS/2002–2005) dozens of commissions, task forces and working groups have proposed declarations, compacts and frameworks which meanwhile fill a whole library. Some of those documents were useful, as the Tunis Agenda (2005) and the NetMundial Declaration (2014), others are forgotten. The Internet Governance Ecosystem is a very dynamic space and in a permanent status of change. A quarter of a century ago, the Internet was seen mainly as a technical issue with some political and economic implications. Nowadays, it is a political and economic issue with some technical components. And the global digitalization does not stop with artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and 5G at the horizon.
Insofar, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres did the right thing in July 2018 when he appointed a high-level panel of 20 experts with a mandate to look into the latest digital developments, to analyze the illnesses of today's cyberspace and to propose how to cure some weaknesses of the Internet. The group was led by an American woman — Melinda Gates from the Microsoft Foundation — and a Chinese man — Jack Ma from Internet giant Alibaba. Now, after one year of discussion, the group came forward with another proposal: A Declaration for Digital Interdependence. Like many of its predecessors, the final report presents an excellent diagnosis. Whether the recommended therapy will meet the same high standard, however, is another matter.
Moving forward into a digital disaster?
The Internet world is vulnerable. This is part of its history. The fathers of the networks wanted one thing above all: to send data from A to B without limits and borders. Security was not a priority. Insofar, the Internet pioneers did not differ from the pioneers of the automobile world. Only when the number of car crashes escalated, thousands of people died, and considerable economic damage arose, legally binding traffic rules were introduced, safety barriers were built on highways and vehicles got seat belts, airbags, and catalytic converters. Yet still, 1.2 million people die every year on the road.
The Internet is not about life and death. The Internet is about power and money. But even there, dysfunctions of the network can cause high damages, divide societies and drive the global economy into a ruinous downward spiral. And the consequences of the pollution of our mental environment, of incitement, censorship, and surveillance can be seen in the recent cultural decline of our political debates. Can democracy survive the Internet, asked Nathaniel Persily from Stanford University already in 2017. And this was and is a good question.
With nearly five billion people online and trillions of objects connected, the one world we live in with its 193 jurisdictions is a global village, regardless of the recent waves of neo-nationalism and the building of new borders. And since everything is connected to everything, the windows of vulnerability grow with each further growth of the network. No one can predict exactly what the consequences of deploying an autonomous, Internet-based weapon system will be in a hybrid war. Nobody knows what will happen if sand gets into the transmission of the free flow of data, which is seen now as the oil of the 21st century. And nobody knows what will happen if IP addresses and domain names are confused and servers and routers no longer do what the internet protocols tell them. The UN panel's wake up call is very clear: If you let everything go, mankind is marching into a digital disaster that can have worse consequences than climate change.
For a new multilateralism
The experts — including French Nobel laureate Jean Tirole, former Swiss President Doris Leuthard, Estonia's ex-Foreign Minister Marina Kaljurand, the father of the Internet Vint Cerf and former ICANN's CEO Fadi Chehade — give five recommendations: Everyone should be online and enabled by 2030 to benefit from the advantages of the digital age. Human rights, security and trust in cyberspace should be strengthened, and appropriate mechanisms for global digital cooperation created. The implementation of the recommendations should be based on nine universal values as, among other things, respect, humanity, transparency, sustainability and harmony. Everyone should commit to a "Declaration of Digital Interdependence." And for the envisaged "mechanisms of digital cooperation," three models will be put up for discussion.
That sounds good, but it also seems like a little bit of the wheel was just being reinvented. However, if you look more closely, then you must pay tribute to the group that in these turbulent times they put forward proposals that can shake the foundations of the stalemate of international politics indeed — at least in the medium term. Yes, the devil is in the details, but in the 47-page report, the innovation is also in the nuances.
The report sends a clear message that cyberspace needs some rules. However, the language of "smart regulation" is an interesting one. The group makes clear that the time of traditional international treaties, negotiated behind closed doors, is over. Of course, UN Secretary-General Guterres argued in favor of "Multilateralism" when he presented the report in New York. And he rejected any form of "Unilateralism" that carries the danger of fragmenting the Internet. But the UN Secretary-General also made it clear that the future of multilateralism must no longer be a matter for governments only, but also a matter for all non-state actors from business, civil society, and the technical community. His engagement for such an "innovative multilateralism" is reflected in the report which states clearly that "multilateralism" and "multi-stakeholderism" coexist and complement each other.
This statement reflects the truth of the Internet Governance Ecosystem. However, the reality is that many governments still prefer to bargain with each other. Of course, the multi-stakeholder principle is not new. It was launched at the UN World Summit on the Information Society in 2005. However, most governments have not yet gone beyond lip service with which they support the model "in principle," but ignore it, when it comes to hard decisions. The "sharing of decision making," as proposed by the WSIS definition of Internet Governance 15 years ago, is more the exception than the rule in Internet policymaking. Which government likes to share its power?
Insofar it is difficult to imagine, in the current world situation where we have technology wars among cyber superpowers, that such a participatory Internet Governance model, as envisaged by the report, has a realistic chance to get implemented soon. However, one can read the proposals also an agenda for the 2020s. History tells us, that the political pendulum is swinging backward and forward. And it is useful to have in bad times a plan for the good times. Nobody can exclude, that the wind, which is currently blowing in the direction of political confrontation, can turn in a different direction in the next decade. And the 2020s will be a decade of growing digital interdependence.
The proposals for ??a new global mechanism for digital cooperation are of a similar caliber. The report offers three options: 1. A distributed co-governance architecture, 2. A Digital Commons Architecture and 3. An extension of the Internet Governance Forum, called IGF Plus.
The IGF was created by the UN World Summit in 2005 as a multi-stakeholder discussion platform. The IGF has no decision-making capacity. Over the years, the IGF became useful as a reservoir of collective wisdom and a place for the clarification of many factual issues. However, it remained a paper tiger, because of no procedure channels for ideas that emerge at the IGF into the intergovernmental negotiations.
In 2005, when the IGF was established, the ITU was nearly the only intergovernmental organization which had a special interest in Internet issues. In the meantime, however, there is a multitude of intergovernmental Internet negotiations: the UN is dealing with autonomous weapon systems, state behavioral norms, and confidence-building measures in cyberspace. The WTO has started talks on digital trade. The UN Human Rights Council discusses freedom of expression and privacy in the digital age. ILO, WIPO, UNESCO, OECD, Council of Europe, OSCE, NATO and many other intergovernmental bodies have digital and cyber issues on their agendas. Even G7 and G20 are discussing now rules and norms for the development and the use of artificial intelligence. And although everything is connected to everything on the Internet, these negotiations take place in isolated interstate silos. Trade negotiators have little to do with arms control negotiators. And governmental bureaucrats sitting in the Human Rights Council have no real clue about the future of AI.
This, of course, is a significant deficit of the current system. An IGF Plus could help to bridge the existing gap between discussion and decision, to interconnect — probably via liaisons — these intergovernmental negotiations and to open doors for non-state actors to participate in an adequate way in this very decentralized negotiation processes.
Towards October 2020
The UN panel was wise enough not to push for quick adoption of its recommendations. Antonio Guterres announced the kick start of a global discussion process intending to raise awareness of the urgency of enhanced digital collaboration. A newly appointed UN Technology Envoy should help him with this. However, he also mentioned a deadline: October 24, 2020. This is the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations and this would be a good date for the adoption of something like a "Multistakeholder Digital UN Call", with commitments not only from the 193 governments of the UN member states but also from the main stakeholders from the private sector, civil society, and the technical community.
By the way, on the road to the 75th UN anniversary, there is the 14th IGF, scheduled for November 2019 in Berlin. This is a good opportunity to add some more concrete proposals and to test whether the world is ready and open for innovation in Internet policymaking. At the 13th IGF in Paris, November 2018, the French president Macron offered several ideas which produced since that the "Paris Call" to strengthen trust and security in cyberspace and the "Christchurch Call" to reduce the misuse of the Internet for terrorist activities. Good steps, but more steps are needed. Why not use the Berlin IGF and to propose a "Multi-Stakeholder Pact to Protect the Public Core of the Internet"? Such a pact could become the first cornerstone in an emerging cybersecurity architecture which would add substance to the UN panel's proposal to work towards a "Global Commitment on Digital Trust and Security."
Written by Wolfgang Kleinwächter, Professor Emeritus at the University of Aarhus
www.circleid.com | 6/14/19
Some of the biggest topics in tech — including whether Facebook and Google should be broken up and how Netflix makes its content decisions — were front and center this week at Code Conference 2019 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
But if you couldn’t make it out to the desert, don’t worry about it.
Here were the seven lessons that were learned this week at #CodeCon:
1. Everyone Cares About Content Moderation — But the Rules Are as Unclear as Ever
The main takeaway from Code Conference 2019 is that Silicon Valley is fixated on content moderation. Several reps from some of the world’s biggest tech companies took the stage and explained how seriously they take moderation and clamping down on “hate speech” — a term that varies from company to company. How they’re fighting it, though, continues to remain cloaked behind arcane rules that often times appear to be arbitrarily enforced.
Twitter policy head Vijaya Gadde, echoing CEO Jack Dorsey’s key talking point from the last year that the company is focused on improving the “health” of conversation on its platform, said Twitter has had to crack down on undesirable speech to meet this goal.
“We’ve had to move very much from what we were, which was a platform that very much enabled as much free speech as possible, to one that is cognizant of the impact it’s having on the world and our responsibility and our role in shaping that,” Gadde said on Tuesday.
Former Twitter CEO Ev Williams, who now runs Medium, went even further on Wednesday, outlining the company’s “aggressive” moderation policy that includes reviewing what users are doing and saying on other platforms.
But it’s also clear that moderation policies can change on a whim. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, speaking for the first time since last week’s demonetization of right-wing comedian Steven Crowder after he used slights like “lispy queer” against Vox’s Carlos Maza, said she was “very sorry” to members of the LGBTQ community offended by the company’s initial response to the issue — that Crowder hadn’t violated its policies. The Google-owned video giant ultimately demonetized Crowder after its first response was bashed by Maza and other critics.
Wojcicki said the company’s newly updated policies on hate speech, which rolled out right after the Maza-Crowder saga, had been in the works for months. YouTube had even started briefing European reporters on the guidelines before American reporters because “they’re ahead” on the clock, she said. That explanation didn’t make much sense to many people at the conference, however, who felt the new rules were obviously tied to the Crowder incident. You came away from the conference with the impression the rules are a merely a work-in-progress for many of the companies, policies that can and will be tweaked to appease advertisers and critics whenever a fire needs to be put out.
2. Breakup Big Tech? It’s Debatable
Another talking point of the conference was whether mega-tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple need to be broken up. The idea, which has gained traction in the last year and has been touted by Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, was hotly debated.
Those in favor of an antitrust crackdown believe competition has been stifled by the tech giants. The companies have become too big and immobile, they argue, making it difficult to address issues like meddling in national elections.
Predictably, this belief wasn’t shared by the two Facebook execs at the conference, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri and Facebook VR head Andrew Bosworth.
“Personally, if we split it off, it might make a lot of my life easier, and it would probably be beneficial for me as an individual. But I just think it’s a terrible idea,” Mosseri said. “If you’re trying to solve election integrity, if you’re trying to approach content issues like hate speech, and you split us off, it would just make it exponentially more difficult — particularly for us at Instagram — to keep us safe.”
Bosworth echoed Mosseri, saying Facebook’s control of WhatsApp and Instagram allows the company to better “share and combine data” to tackle its issues.
Former Facebook product manager and current Wired author Antonio Garcia Martinez said he was in favor of breaking up the Big 4 tech companies, though. He argued the case has more to do with a “lack of consumer benefit,” rather than consumer harm, where users aren’t getting the best product because they face little competition.
“In the case of Facebook, it’s pretty clear the acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram were obviously anti-competitive blocking moves,” Martinez said. “There’s been polls out that a lot of WhatsApp and Instagram users don’t even realize they’re owned by Facebook.”
The majority of the crowd seemed to agree it was time to take action against the Big 4. New York University business professor Scott Galloway drew the biggest laughs and cheers of the conference when making the case for breaking up Silicon Valley’s biggest companies. “Without antitrust (laws), we don’t have competition,” Galloway said. “If we didn’t have the (Department of Justice) move in on Microsoft, we wouldn’t have the object of every innovator’s affection, Google. We’d also be saying ‘I don’t know, Bing it.'”
3. How Netflix Makes Its Calls
It’s not just about streaming data for Netflix. Cindy Holland, Netflix’s VP of original content, offered some rare insight into how the notoriously cryptic streaming service makes its content decisions. When Recode’s Kara Swisher asked why the company canceled its “One Day at a Time” reboot earlier this year, Holland’s response was telling — but typically vague in terms of actual data.
“The basic calculation is how much viewing are we getting for how much it costs,” Holland said. “But we also look at is it reaching different audiences, is it gaining critical acclaim, is it doing something for us as a business that we like. And ‘One Day at a Time,’ frankly, if you looked at it just from a season one standpoint, we wouldn’t have renewed that show on a viewing-to-cost basis.”
Holland, who announced the return of “Russian Doll” while at the conference, said that while much of the entertainment industry “operates in a culture of fear,” Netflix isn’t worried about taking risks.
“We’re not afraid to try a bunch of different things, some of which may work, some of which may not. It’s part of our culture to embrace mistakes and failure and learn something from it.”
4. Ryan Murphy: Bad WaPo Intern
Ryan Murphy may be a TV powerhouse, but according to Recode’s Kara Swisher he wasn’t much of an intern when he worked at the Washington Post decades ago as an aspiring journalist before he moved into writing for TV and film on shows like “Popular,” “Nip/Tuck” and the Fox hit “Glee.”
“He was the worst intern ever. But as it turned out, it didn’t matter,” Swisher, a former Post reporter, said while moderating a Netflix panel.
“Great showrunner,” Holland, Netflix’s VP of original content, chimed in.
“He was great,” Swisher added. “He was just mean to everybody at The Post — it was terrific to see.”
5. Real Life Iron Man Is a Dud
Easily the biggest letdown of Code Conference 2019 involved Gravity, a self-described “British aeronautical innovation company” that created a buzz on Tuesday morning with a promised demo of a jet-pack that essentially turned its user into Tony Stark. Between sessions, a horde of conference attendees flocked outside in anticipation.
Sadly, it wasn’t worth standing in the dry desert heat. Rather than having the pilot flying around in the sky, the jet-pack merely had him hovering at about the exact height necessary to kick someone in the head. So much for Iron Man. “That was a real downer,” one rep for a New York-based startup mumbled after the demo ended abruptly. You can catch a glimpse of it yourself below — and if the “whooshing” sound is too loud, it was 10 times worse in person.
6. Digital Media Is Only Getting More Popular
One thing that stood out from venture capitalist Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends Report: Americans are spending a record 6.3 hours each day interacting with digital media. Most of this time is spent on their phones — and that makes sense when you look at some of her other findings. Podcasts, for one thing, have exponentially grown in the last five years, with 700 million people worldwide listening to shows on a monthly basis.
7. Can’t Escape Trump
Even at a tech and media conference, you couldn’t escape President Trump.
Gadde drew laughs when discussing a recent meeting with the president, where he talked to Dorsey about “improving civility” on Twitter, among other objectives.
On Wednesday, the conversation turned more serious. A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, said he believes the president’s routine attacks on the media — and in particular, his use of the what he described as the “Stalinist” phrase “enemy of the people” — has put journalists abroad in danger.
Marking a detour from 2018, Code Conference was especially focused on politics this year.
Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who lost a close race for governor last year in Georgia, opened the conference on Tuesday, urging the tech industry to fight misinformation campaigns and help “level the playing field” when it comes to what she described as active attempts at voter suppression. And on Wednesday morning, the focus shifted to the U.S. border, with RAICES spokeswoman Erika Andiola comparing the detainment camps housing immigrants seeking refugee status to concentration camps. At Code Conference, politics and tech appeared to be increasingly intertwined.
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www.thewrap.com | 6/12/19