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Spain's child abuse laws are set for an overhaul under the new government thanks to James Rhodes.
www.bbc.co.uk | 2/21/20

The last few weeks have shown that n avigating Latino identity is a minefield that can set off an explosion at any moment in American culture. Such as: Is Antonio Banderas Latino or not?

This and other hot-button debates — including the unalloyed joy at Shakira and JLo performing at the Super Bowl — expose the complexity of what it means to be Latinx. These heated discussions drive home why Hollywood desperately needs gatekeepers who understand what these cultural firestorms are really about.

That’s because the unspoken rules regarding Latino identity shift depending on the context. (We can’t even agree on what to call ourselves, but that’s a topic for another time.)

Let me break down the firestorms of the past month as a way to unpack the lessons embedded within.

1. Antonio Banderas: Colonist or Hollywood trailblazer for Latinos?

Exactly on queue, on the morning Oscar nominations were announced last month, outrage among Latinxers erupted on social media. Aside from widespread frustration with JLo’s nomination snub, despite her head-turning role in “Hustlers,” debate raged over Banderas’ nomination for his leading role in Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory.”

The rub? For some, Banderas, who was born in Spain, does not represent diversity in Hollywood. The outrage at the suggestion that his nomination was a small win for all Latinos was so strong, one would think Banderas makes it a habit of waking up in the morning and dressing in Spanish conquistador armor before heading to Hollywood meetings. Others within the Latinx community dismissed the debate as divisive — a win for someone with Spanish-speaking roots should be a win for all.

That awkward moment when Antonio Banderas, a white man from Spain, is included with Cynthia Erivo in @CTVNews’s #OscarNoms report. Antonio Banderas, just like Catherine Zeta Jones, is a white European. #OscarsSoWhite pic.twitter.com/zjrXkCGQpv

— Alfonso Martin Espina Opiniano (@alfonsoespina) January 13, 2020

That awkward moment when Antonio Banderas, a white man from Spain, is included with Cynthia Erivo in @CTVNews’s #OscarNoms report. Antonio Banderas, just like Catherine Zeta Jones, is a white European. #OscarsSoWhite pic.twitter.com/zjrXkCGQpv

— Alfonso Martin Espina Opiniano (@alfonsoespina) January 13, 2020

Perhaps a more constructive conversation would be examining how Hollywood’s executive elite perceives Banderas. Have studio heads historically seen him as one of their own, a slam dunk for quintessential Hollywood roles? Or has Banderas, in his 30+ years in Hollywood, too been perceived as an “other” in those closed-door, career-defining conversations by gatekeepers?

The response to Banderas’ nomination among the Latinx community should have come as no surprise: The entertainment industry would do well in trying to understand the nuances of representation.

Mexican director Alfonso Cuarónlast year captured the ongoing struggle about the lack of representation of U.S. born Latinos in an interview with media company Remezcla.

“There is so much talk about diversity, and I mean some progress has been made, but definitely the Hispanic Americans — and specifically Chicanos — are really, really badly represented still,” Cuarón said after winning an Oscar for the feature film “Roma.” “It’s amazing, you know? It’s a huge percentage of the population.”

Why Hollywood darling “American Dirt” turned to ash

Before copies even hit the bookshelves, the Mexican migrant novel by Jeanine Cummins unleashed the wrath of many Mexican Americans and other Latinos for what has been described as the book’s unsophisticated narrative — a tale laced with stereotypes, clichés and a hollow understanding of the journey to cross the border.

Imperative Entertainment, the production company behind Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule,” acquired the rights to the novel after a publishing bidding war resulted in a seven-figure sum for Cummins. In the author’s note, Cummins now famously says she wished “someone slightly browner than me” had written the novel, before conceding she had the “capacity” to be some sort of a cultural bridge, presumably because her husband was an undocumented immigrant (from Ireland, it was later known) and her grandmother is Puerto Rican.

Barnes & Noble

Did Hollywood jump before doing its due diligence? How we tell the important stories of our time is just as important as deciding what stories to tell.

The “American Dirt” controversy reminds me of a time early in my career when I was tapped by newsroom editors as a lead writer to help chronicle California’s changing demographics. I was being dispatched to the border to tell the story of the explosive population growth among Latinos, which for the first time was more a result of births than of immigration.

Barely out of college from my hometown of Miami — where Latinos dominate every layer of business, politics and culture — I felt the assignment was all wrong. So I mustered up the courage to ask for a meeting with editors to discuss the direction of the story.

Journalists, as with entertainment execs, are fans of storytelling extremes — when, in fact, most of our daily lives are lived within the gritty, ambiguous in-between. My twenty-something self sat in a chair inside a small office, flanked by three veteran journalists, all white men. I proceeded to explain what I saw as flaws of the story idea.

Latinos, it seemed from our conversation, were something to observe through a fishbowl. “Why do Latinos have so many babies? Let’s go see them in the wild,” it felt as though they were asking.

When I pushed back, one of the journalists who was standing inside of the cramped office asked if I felt as though I was “too close to the story” and couldn’t be impartial.

Would it be better, he asked, “if a Bavarian wrote it?” He was the said Bavarian.

I’m not exactly sure how I managed to pick up my metaphorical mouth from the floor and continue my pitch, but it remains a moment of pride that I walked out of that office with a completely different assignment of my own choosing. I would spend several months reporting and writing — alone, without the Bavarian.

It helped that I came to the meeting prepared, having spent hours analyzing census and private polling data. I found that if you look deeper at the trends over time, Latinos across generations very much begin to resemble white America when it comes to birth rates.

So I set out and found the perfect family (who hadn’t settled on the poverty-stricken border) from which to tell a generational story that begins at the Rio Grande, migrates to California’s crop-picking fields and finishes (or begins again) on college campuses.

It’s too late to change the immigrant tale at the center of “American Dirt,” though its publisher, Flatiron Books, backpedaled on its marketing push and book tour after the fervent backlash:

“We should never have claimed that it was a novel that defined the immigrant experience; we should not have said that Jeanine’s husband was an undocumented immigrant while not specifying that he was from Ireland…” the statement read. “We can now see how insensitive those and other decisions were, and we regret them.”

Does it come as a surprise that Latinos made up just 3 percent of the publishing workforce in 2018, according to a 2019 Publisher’s Weekly study?

No, not really.

3. How Shakira and JLo’s performance united Latinos

“I’ve often wondered why Latinos, particularly considering our share of the population, have struggled to make the same headway in Hollywood as African Americans and Asian Americans.

Then I think about some of the complicated conversations with my friends. For context: I’m the daughter of Cuban immigrants; my husband is second-generation California Mexican American; our friends are a mix of children and grandchildren of Mexican, Peruvian, Argentinian and European immigrants; and several also proudly represent Boyle Heights and East L.A.

On a recent night, we went from debating the Banderas nomination to discussing the Latino director of some obscure film. The assumption was that he was of Mexican heritage. Then we Googled his name.

“Oh, he’s Puerto Rican,” my friend, a self-described Chicana, said.

“You sound disappointed,” I responded, as her shoulders slightly slumped.

“I thought he was Mexican.”

In that disappointment lies the crux of why what Shakira and JLo did Sunday night felt so significant. For 12 minutes, these power women brought pan-ethnic Latinos together, forcing us to forget our differences and instead focus on our shared culture, experience and love of Spanglish.

We were one. And when JLo draped herself in a feathered Puerto Rican flag, Latinos collectively cheered, regardless of what country our parents or grandparents immigrated from; whether or not we speak Spanish; and no matter if we identify as Latinx or not.

Because in the context of making entertainment history on the most significant of stages, Latino identity transcended divisions.

So, yes, Latinos can gripe about whether a Banderas Oscar nomination counts toward Latino representation — and still see ourselves in “Pain and Glory.” We can tear apart the immigrant story central to “American Dirt” — and still demand more stories about the struggles south of the border. We can wear our different nationalities as badges of honor — and still come together as one when our culture is center stage.

Rather than see us as too difficult to understand, Hollywood should value us for being complicated and dynamic and flawed — a true American story.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Lost City of Gold: How Hollywood Can Win Latinx Audiences

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“Human Centipede” (2009)

Listen … any movie about a deranged doctor stitching three people together, mouth to anus, will cause outrage. The film’s general consensus on Rotten Tomatoes read, “Grotesque, visceral and hard to (ahem) swallow, this surgical horror doesn’t quite earn its stripes because the gross-outs overwhelm and devalue everything else.” It’s just gross.

“Human Centipede 2” (2011)

This sequel continues the grotesque experiment from the first, but also includes graphic rape and sadism. It was so horrifying, in fact, that the British Board of Film Classification deemed it as an infringement of the Obscene Publications Act and was liable to cause real harm to the public, according to The Guardian. 

“A Serbian Film” (2010)

This film has been one of the most controversial films of the decade, given it deals with rape, incest, pedophilia, necrophilia and, um, “newborn porn.” According to IGN, the film was investigated for criminality in Serbia and other countries, and was also investigated for its violent and sexual content. According to Rolling Stone, Spain, Norway, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand have banned the film, and other countries have tried everything in their power to stop people from watching it.

“Slender Man” (2016)

Screen Gems released a film in 2016 about the Slender Man, a fictional creature created in an online forum. It generated controversy as the movie was released just two years after the Waukesha stabbing, in which two 12-year-old girls stabbed a third, claiming the stabbing was part of the steps to becoming a proxy for the Slender Man. The film was accused of capitalizing off the incident, and the father of perpetrator Anissa Weier calling the film “absurd.”

“The Green Inferno” (2013)

The film follows a group of college activists who go to the Amazon Forest to help protect a tribe from deforestation. However, upon arriving they discover the tribe is cannibalistic. Not only was the film, directed by Eli Roth, criticized by Survival International for the film’s stigmas against indigenous people and reinforcing colonialism, but many reviews said the film was extremely gory and disturbing.

“Jeepers Creepers 3” (2017)

The film sparked outrage mainly because of its plot over child molestation and the fact that in 1988, director Victor Salva was incarcerated for sexual abuse of a 12-year-old child and possession of child pornography.

“mother!” (2017)

“mother!” quickly became the most controversial movie of 2017 due to its brutal finale. No spoiler alert as the movie is now two years old; the Poet’s adoring fans accidentally kill — and then eat — Jennifer Lawrence’s character’s newborn. Paramount had to release a statement following the backlash, saying the film was “intended to be bold,” and that it’s “okay if some people don’t like it.”

“The Hunt” (2019)

This movie never even saw the light of day. It was scheduled to be released on Sept. 27, but following the Dayton and El Paso mass shootings in August, Universal shelved the film. Test screenings found that audiences were uncomfortable with the politics expressed in the film; reports said the film follows 12 people that wake up in a clearing, being hunted by the rich elite.

“The House That Jack Built” (2018)

Lars von Trier’s film was so divisive that it caused walkouts at its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. The film follows a serial killer (Matt Dillon), who mutilates and strangles his victims. Viewers were also outraged over a scene where a duckling is mutilated. Critics at the festival even said the director “had gone too far this time.”

According to IndieWire, the film also received sanctions from the MPAA because the film’s distributor, IFC, opened an unrated director’s cut of the film over 100 cities without getting permission.

www.thewrap.com | 12/10/19
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A record-breaking total of 93 countries will be competing in the Oscar race for Best International Feature Film, the new name for what previously has been known as the Best Foreign-Language Film category.

The Academy announced the full list of eligible films and countries on Monday, with three countries — Ghana, Nigeria and Uzbekistan — competing in the category for the first time.

The previous high for submissions was 92 films, which was set in 2017. This year’s field also sets a new record for the number of women with films in the race, with 29 female directors responsible for 28 of the qualifying films.

One film, Algeria’s “Papicha,” needed a special ruling from the Academy to retain its eligibility. The film was scheduled to open in Algeria in late September, but the Algerian government cancelled the screenings without explanation just before they were scheduled to happen, presumably because it was uncomfortable with a film that showed the restrictions placed on women after the country’s civil war. The lack of an Algerian release technically disqualified the film, but the Academy’s International Feature Film Executive Committee ruled that because the cancellation was out of the filmmakers’ control, “Papicha” would not lose its eligibility.

Also Read: Oscars International Race 2019: Complete List of Films

An AMPAS-approved body or committee from each country is permitted to submit one film to represent that country in the category. The Academy then vets each film to make sure that the majority of dialogue is in a language other than English and that it has substantial creative input from the country making the submission.

If the race has any front-runners at this point, they are South Korea’s “Parasite,” Bong Joon-ho’s black comedy that has also stirred up Best Picture and Best Director talk, and Spain’s “Pain and Glory,” a semi-autobiographical fantasia from Pedro Almodovar that found Antonio Banderas winning Cannes’ best-actor award for his quietly gripping performance as an Almodovar-like director.

Other high profile entries include France’s “Les Miserables,” which won the third-place Jury Prize in Cannes this year; the United Kingdom’s “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” from actor-director Chiwetel Ejiofor; Brazil’s “Invisible Life,” from Karim Ainouz; Colombia’s “Monos,” from Alejandro Landes, which has already had a U.S. release; Japan’s “Weathering With You,” the first animated film submitted by that country since “Princess Mononoke” in 1997; Norway’s “Out Stealing Horses,” starring Stellan Skarsgard; Israel’s controversial “Incitement,” about Yitzak Rabin’s assassin; the Czech Republic’s Jerzy Kozinski adaptation “The Painted Bird”; and several other films that also played in Cannes, including Romania’s “The Whistlers,” from Corneliu Porumboiu, Senegal’s “Atlantics,” Italy’s “The Traitor,” Morocco’s “Adam,” Portugal’s “The Domain” and Palestine’s “It Must Be Heaven.”

Also Read: 'Pain and Glory' Film Review: Antonio Banderas Plays Pedro Almodóvar - Sort Of

But it’s risky to assign favorite status to any film before most Academy voters have had a chance to see it. From mid-October until early December, all of the eligible films will be screened for Los Angeles-based volunteers from all branches of the Academy, who can qualify to vote by seeing a minimum number of films.

Those voters will then score each film on a scale of 6 to 10. The top seven films will advance to a shortlist, joined by an additional three films added by a special executive committee. The 10 finalists, one more than in previous years, will be narrowed to five nominees in a second round of voting.

Mexico is the reigning champion in the category, with Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” winning the 2018 award. Overall, Italy has won the most awards in the category, 14, while France has received the most nominations, 37.

Click here for TheWrap’s complete list of this year’s qualifying films, with descriptions and links to trailers when available.

The Academy’s list of eligible films:
Albania, “The Delegation,” Bujar Alimani, director;
Algeria, “Papicha,” Mounia Meddour, director;
Argentina, “Heroic Losers,” Sebastián Borensztein, director;
Armenia, “Lengthy Night,” Edgar Baghdasaryan, director;
Australia, “Buoyancy,” Rodd Rathjen, director;
Austria, “Joy,” Sudabeh Mortezai, director;
Bangladesh, “Alpha,” Nasiruddin Yousuff, director;
Belarus, “Debut,” Anastasiya Miroshnichenko, director;
Belgium, “Our Mothers,” César Díaz, director;
Bolivia, “I Miss You,” Rodrigo Bellott, director;
Bosnia and Herzegovina, “The Son,” Ines Tanovic, director;
Brazil, “Invisible Life,” Karim Aïnouz, director;
Bulgaria, “Ága,” Milko Lazarov, director;
Cambodia, “In the Life of Music,” Caylee So, Sok Visal, directors;
Canada, “Antigone,” Sophie Deraspe, director;
Chile, “Spider,” Andrés Wood, director;
China, “Ne Zha,” Yu Yang, director;
Colombia, “Monos,” Alejandro Landes, director;
Costa Rica, “The Awakening of the Ants,” Antonella Sudasassi Furniss, director;
Croatia, “Mali,” Antonio Nuic, director;
Cuba, “A Translator,” Rodrigo Barriuso, Sebastián Barriuso, directors;
Czech Republic, “The Painted Bird,” Václav Marhoul, director;
Denmark, “Queen of Hearts,” May el-Toukhy, director;
Dominican Republic, “The Projectionist,” José María Cabral, director;
Ecuador, “The Longest Night,” Gabriela Calvache, director;
Egypt, “Poisonous Roses,” Ahmed Fawzi Saleh, director;
Estonia, “Truth and Justice,” Tanel Toom, director;
Ethiopia, “Running against the Wind,” Jan Philipp Weyl, director;
Finland, “Stupid Young Heart,” Selma Vilhunen, director;
France, “Les Misérables,” Ladj Ly, director;
Georgia, “Shindisi,” Dimitri Tsintsadze, director;
Germany, “System Crasher,” Nora Fingscheidt, director;
Ghana, “Azali,” Kwabena Gyansah, director;
Greece, “When Tomatoes Met Wagner,” Marianna Economou, director;
Honduras, “Blood, Passion, and Coffee,” Carlos Membreño, director;
Hong Kong, “The White Storm 2 Drug Lords,” Herman Yau, director;
Hungary, “Those Who Remained,” Barnabás Tóth, director;
Iceland, “A White, White Day,” Hlynur Pálmason, director;
India, “Gully Boy,” Zoya Akhtar, director;
Indonesia, “Memories of My Body,” Garin Nugroho, director;
Iran, “Finding Farideh,” Azadeh Moussavi, Kourosh Ataee, directors;
Ireland, “Gaza,” Garry Keane, Andrew McConnell, directors;
Israel, “Incitement,” Yaron Zilberman, director;
Italy, “The Traitor,” Marco Bellocchio, director;
Japan, “Weathering with You,” Makoto Shinkai, director;
Kazakhstan, “Kazakh Khanate. The Golden Throne,” Rustem Abdrashov, director;
Kenya, “Subira,” Ravneet Singh (Sippy) Chadha, director;
Kosovo, “Zana,” Antoneta Kastrati, director;
Kyrgyzstan, “Aurora,” Bekzat Pirmatov, director;
Latvia, “The Mover,” Davis Simanis, director;
Lebanon, “1982,” Oualid Mouaness, director;
Lithuania, “Bridges of Time,” Audrius Stonys, Kristine Briede, directors;
Luxembourg, “Tel Aviv on Fire,” Sameh Zoabi, director;
Malaysia, “M for Malaysia,” Dian Lee, Ineza Roussille, directors;
Mexico, “The Chambermaid,” Lila Avilés, director;
Mongolia, “The Steed,” Erdenebileg Ganbold, director;
Montenegro, “Neverending Past,” Andro Martinovi?, director;
Morocco, “Adam,” Maryam Touzani, director;
Nepal, “Bulbul,” Binod Paudel, director;
Netherlands, “Instinct,” Halina Reijn, director;
Nigeria, “Lionheart,” Genevieve Nnaji, director;
North Macedonia, “Honeyland,” Ljubo Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska, directors;
Norway, “Out Stealing Horses,” Hans Petter Moland, director;
Pakistan, “Laal Kabootar,” Kamal Khan, director;
Palestine, “It Must Be Heaven,” Elia Suleiman, director;
Panama, “Everybody Changes,” Arturo Montenegro, director;
Peru, “Retablo,” Alvaro Delgado Aparicio, director;
Philippines, “Verdict,” Raymund Ribay Gutierrez, director;
Poland, “Corpus Christi,” Jan Komasa, director;
Portugal, “The Domain,” Tiago Guedes, director;
Romania, “The Whistlers,” Corneliu Porumboiu, director;
Russia, “Beanpole,” Kantemir Balagov, director;
Saudi Arabia, “The Perfect Candidate,” Haifaa Al Mansour, director;
Senegal, “Atlantics,” Mati Diop, director;
Serbia, “King Petar the First,” Petar Ristovski, director;
Singapore, “A Land Imagined,” Yeo Siew Hua, director;
Slovakia, “Let There Be Light,” Marko Skop, director;
Slovenia, “History of Love,” Sonja Prosenc, director;
South Africa, “Knuckle City,” Jahmil X.T. Qubeka, director;
South Korea, “Parasite,” Bong Joon Ho, director;
Spain, “Pain and Glory,” Pedro Almodóvar, director;
Sweden, “And Then We Danced,” Levan Akin, director;
Switzerland, “Wolkenbruch’s Wondrous Journey into the Arms of a Shiksa,” Michael Steiner, director;
Taiwan, “Dear Ex,” Mag Hsu, Chih-Yen Hsu, directors;
Thailand, “Krasue: Inhuman Kiss,” Sitisiri Mongkolsiri, director;
Tunisia, “Dear Son,” Mohamed Ben Attia, director;
Turkey, “Commitment Asli,” Semih Kaplanoglu, director;
Ukraine, “Homeward,” Nariman Aliev, director;
United Kingdom, “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” Chiwetel Ejiofor, director;
Uruguay, “The Moneychanger,” Federico Veiroj, director;
Uzbekistan, “Hot Bread,” Umid Khamdamov, director;
Venezuela, “Being Impossible,” Patricia Ortega, director;
Vietnam, “Furie,” Le Van Kiet, director.

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www.thewrap.com | 10/7/19

Last May, Cuba's Ministry of Communication (MINCOM) announced resolutions 98 and 99 limiting wireless transmission power and outdoor cables that made community networks like Havana's SNET, illegal. Since SNET was the world's largest community network that did not have Internet access, implementation of the resolutions was postponed for 60 days for negotiations between SNET administrators and MINCOM. The negotiations have ended with a decision to transfer SNET's services and content to ETECSA, Cuba's government-monopoly ISP, and to provide access through Cuba's nationwide chain of 611 Youth Computer Clubs (YCCs), as illustrated by the diagram shown here.

The new regulations authorize people to install WiFi equipment in their homes and businesses in order to access the YCCs, represented by the blue building, and public WiFi hotspots, represented by the sunny outdoor location. The diagram also shows cables running from the YCCs to larger buildings that may represent ETECSA data centers, wireless Internet points of presence, and homes with DSL connectivity.

The government says SNET "will grow with the increased infrastructure" of the YCCs and ETECSA and claims that the intent of Resolutions 98 and 99 is to expand Internet access, but many in the SNET community fear losing access to and control of the assets they have created. You can see their point of view by searching Twitter for the hashtags #YoSoySnet and #FuerzaSnet. The protesters (and I) have many questions about the takeover, like:

  • While some testing has begun, this conversion will take time and resources — why not allow parallel operation of SNET during the cutover to ETECSA/YCC?
  • How many homes are close enough to connect to current WiFi hotspots and YCCs?
  • Given the current planned infrastructure expansion, how long will it take to re-connect all current SNET users?
  • How many of the 611 YCCs have fiber links and what is the schedule for connecting the others?
  • Are rooftop and other outside antennas legal (MINCOM FAQ 18)?
  • Will wireless network installer be added to the list of self-employment occupations (MINCOM FAQ 19)?
  • What provisions are being made to extend connectivity to community network members in smaller cities, outside of Havana?
  • SNET offers many services in addition to gaming — social networking (similar to Facebook), FTP (file transfer) for content sharing, live music streaming, software for download, and forums for developers and engineers, poetry, literature, comics, and sports. Will all of the current SNET services and content be supported?
  • Was the ETECSA/YCC migration anticipated and planned for during the drafting of resolutions 98 and 99?
  • Were SNET and YCC representatives consulted or involved in the drafting of resolutions 98 and 99?
  • There has been some dissension among SNET administrators in the past — was this agreement approved unanimously?
  • In Spain, the UK, Argentina, and other nations, the decision was made to cooperate with and support community networks — to treat them as cooperatively-owned Internet service providers. Did MINCOM consider that alternative and, if so, why was it rejected?
  • Some SNET members have been detained and threatened for voicing opposition to the takeover of the network — are those reports accurate?
  • What will ETECSA/YCC charge for access to former SNET services?
  • Did MINCOM do a cost/benefit analysis of the conversion?
  • Will former SNET members be compensated in any way for their investment in equipment or time in creating intellectual capital in the form of content, software or communication infrastructure?

SNET was a Cuban success story — a user-owned and operated cooperative that developed infrastructure, applications, and content. SNET and the other Cuban community networks may have connected as many homes as ETECSA's home DSL service, Nauta Hogar. Cuba's community networks also developed human capital — experienced users and technicians who, in the long run, benefit both ETECSA and society.

Skeptics see this takeover as confiscation of community assets rather than an effort to better serve the public. Transparent answers to these and related questions could ease their concerns, and I hope ETECSA and the JCCs can deliver on their promises quickly.

Written by Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University

www.circleid.com | 8/22/19

The new regulations establish constraints on private network transmission power and cabling that, if enforced, will put Cuba's cooperatively-owned community networks out of business.

New Cuban regulations regarding private WiFi networks went into effect yesterday, and the New York Times and others proclaimed that "Cuba expands Internet access to private homes and businesses." Yes, Cubans can legally import and install WiFi routers in their homes, small cafes, B&Bs, etc., but these regulations will make little difference in Internet access.

For a start, very few homes and small businesses in Cuba have links to the Internet. Furthermore, my guess is that most people in homes that are connected to the Internet have already installed registered or unregistered WiFi routers. (Resolution No. 65/2003 dated June 5, 2003, states the procedure for registering a private data network).

If that is the case, what do these new regulations change?

They establish constraints on private network transmission power and cabling that, if enforced, will put Cuba's cooperatively-owned community networks, the largest of which is SNET in Havana, out of business. Even if they are not enforced today, they will hang like the sword of Damocles over their heads.

That's the bad news. The good news is that the Ministry of Communication has postponed enforcement for 60 days while they negotiate with SNET.

SNET will remain up during 60 days of negotiation (source).

Why would the Cuban government want to eliminate community networks? Do they see them as economic competitors to the government Internet service provider, ETECSA? Is ETECSA embarrassed by the fact that community networks connect so many people at so little cost? Do they fear clandestine, anti-government communication? I really don't know.

Guifi.net the world's largest Internet-connected community networkIf Cuba aspires to what the International Telecommunication Union refers to as fourth-generation policy, which they characterize as "Integrated regulation — led by economic and social policy goals," they should regard the community networks as collaborators, not competitors. They should legitimatize SNET and the others, subsidize and work with them and provide them with Internet connectivity. SNET is the world's largest community network that is not connected to the Internet. Cuba should follow the lead set by Spain, where they have provided Internet connectivity to Guifi.net, the world's largest Internet-connected community network. Looking to the future, community networkers could play a valuable role in the installation of Cuba's 5G wireless infrastructure.

Cuba proudly proclaims (Trumpets) that they are working toward the computerization of society. The outcome of these negotiations with SNET will shed light on the veracity of that claim.

Written by Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University

www.circleid.com | 7/31/19

Gina Gershon and other members of the cast of Woody Allen’s new film defended working with the director, calling the opportunity “a dream come true.”

“It’s a beautiful script; a dream come true,” Gershon said in a press conference Tuesday. “These are crazy times; one has to analyze the situation and decide how you feel; I’m delighted to be part of this team.”

Filming on Allen’s film, under the working title of “Rifkin’s Festival,” begins Wednesday and is scheduled to wrap by Aug. 20. The project stars the previously announced Christoph Waltz, Wallace Shawn, Elena Anaya, Louis Garrel, Gershon and Sergi López.

Woody Allen is set to begin production on his 51st film in San Sebastian, Spain.

Also Read: Woody Allen Releases 'A Rainy Day in New York' Trailer Despite US Distribution Limbo (Video)

Allen was also on hand for the press conference, and he described “Rifkin’s Festival” as “a romantic comedy about some folks from the United States who arrive at the San Sebastian Film Festival, and what happens has a comical resonance to what takes place here.” He added that the city in the Gipuzkoa region of Spain is like a character in the film.

Allen was asked at the press conference whether he would one day consider retiring.

“I’ve always focused on my work and that absorbs my brain,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what’s happened to my wife, my children and politics. I’ll probably drop dead in the middle of setting up a sequence.”

Also Read: Woody Allen's 'A Rainy Day in New York' to Get Fall Release in Italy

Like Gershon, Anaya similarly referred to the script as “the most beautiful story” she had ever read and praised working with Allen.

“It’s a day-dream, because Woody is a genius, he’s endearing and a legend; It has been a huge pleasure to be directed by him,” Anaya said.

“He discovered me and there’s a special magic about filming with him once again,” Wallace Shawn, who has collaborated with Allen in the past, said of working with the director. “It’s something very beautiful; because it’s his dream and we walk through that dream.”

Also Read: Amazon Fires Back at Woody Allen Over Breach of Contract Lawsuit

Allen describes “Rifkin’s Festival” as a “tribute to cinema” and follows a couple during the San Sebastian film festival in which the woman has an affair with a brilliant French director and the man falls in love with a Spanish woman living in the city.

The MediaPro Studio, an offshoot of the MediaPro Group, will co-produce the film. They previously collaborated with Allen on his globe trotting films “Midnight in Paris,” “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”

Allen’s 50th film “A Rainy Day in New York,” starring Elle Fanning and Timotheé Chalamet, is reportedly being released in several international territories despite being caught in distribution limbo in the U.S. after Amazon nixed its distribution deal with Allen.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Former Model Says She Had 8-Year Affair With Woody Allen When She Was a Teenager

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www.thewrap.com | 7/9/19
PORT-OF-Spain, Trinidad (CMC): The United States government says it looks forward to working with the Trinidad and Tobago government after Port-of-Spain reacted angrily to a State Department report that placed the oil-rich twin-island republic...

Cuba has legalized WiFi access to public Internet hotspots from nearby homes and small businesses, but SNET and other community networks remain illegal under the new regulations. Does this signify a significant policy change?

Soon after ETECSA began rolling out WiFi hotspots for Internet access, people began linking to them from homes and community street nets. These connections and importing the WiFi equipment they used were illegal, but generally tolerated as long as they remained apolitical and avoided pornography. Regulations passed last month legalized some of this activity in a bid to boost connectivity by allowing Internet access from homes and small private businesses like restaurants and vacation rentals that are located close enough to a hotspot to establish a WiFi connection.

The added convenience may generate more revenue for ETECSA, and it will give the Ministry of Communication some small fees and, more important, registration data on the local-area network operators. (If you license a connection, you have the power to rescind the license). It will also generate some additional network traffic, which may strain network capacity. There are two WiFi frequency bands — 2.4 and 5 GHz — and a friend told me that currently only the 2.4 GHz band is being used. The new regulations allow use of the 5 GHz band as well, which will add capacity from homes and businesses to the hotspots, but backhaul capacity from the hotspots to the Internet may become more of a bottleneck and exacerbate quality of service problems.

So much for small networks, but what, if anything, will be the impact of these regulations and their enforcement be on larger, community networks, the largest of which is Havana's SNET? The new regulations bar cables that cross streets and radio transmitter power over 100 mW. SNET uses cables and higher-powered transmitters, so, if these regulations were enforced, they would put SNET and smaller community networks out of business.

However, community networks have been illegal and tolerated since their inception, so it may be that they will continue to be ignored. If that is the case, the new regulations don't really change the status quo, but what if these new regulations foreshadow a policy change? What if ETECSA were willing to collaborate with community networks following the example of Guifi.net in Spain?

If that were the case, ETECSA could take steps like providing high-speed wireless or fiber Internet connections at the locations of the central SNET backbone "pillars" and allowing cables and faster wireless links to and within second-level networks that serve up to 200 users. They could also cooperate with SNET administrators in purchasing supplies and equipment and network management and they could do the same for smaller community networks outside of Havana.

So, which is it — a step backward with cracking down on SNET and other community networks, a slightly positive step adding locations from which one can access a WiFi hotspot, or a positive indication of a policy change and a step toward incorporating community networks into the recognized and supported Cuban Internet infrastructure?

We will know the answer when the new rules go into effect on July 29, but my guess is that it will be the middle choice, a slightly positive step. Cracking down on SNET would be disruptive — eliminating jobs and depriving thousands of users of services they value, and I don't think the government would want those problems. At the other extreme, full cooperation with community networks would mean ETECSA giving up control and the dilution of their bureaucratic and financial monopoly, which seems unlikely. That leaves "meh" — much ado about not much.

But, to end on a more upbeat note — a friend tells me that he has heard that SNET community representatives are talking with the government. Could ETECSA and the Communication Ministry have different views and, if so, who is in charge?

Written by Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University

www.circleid.com | 6/13/19
Taiwan is accusing Spain of double standards when it comes to extraditing criminal suspects to China after the government in Madrid sent to Beijing a group of 94 Taiwanese citizens accused of telephone and online fraud.
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Property owners have a new yardstick by way of Spain for measuring frustration over building permit requests they suspect got lost in a local government bureaucracy.
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Polish police say a businessman who fled to Spain after being convicted in an illegal eavesdropping case that led to the fall of a Polish government has been extradited to Poland.
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Spain's caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is trying to form a new government and keep his Socialist Party in power.
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Spain's Supreme Court is temporarily halting the government's plan to move the remains of Gen. Francisco Franco to a discreet tomb next week as judges have yet to rule on the appeals of the dictator's descendants.
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Phillip Youmans’ “Burning Cane” took home the Founders Award for best narrative feature at the 18th annual Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday, with star Wendell Pierce earning Best Actor. Youmans is the first African-American director to win the Founders Award and the youngest director to have a feature in Tribeca – he wrote, directed and shot the film at age 17.

Korean director Bora Kim’s “House of Hummingbird” won for best international narrative feature, and Ji-hu Park won best international actress.

In addition, Ellen Fiske and Ellinor Hallin won for their documentary feature “Scheme Birds.”

Here’s the complete list of winners.

Also Read: 'XY Chelsea' Film Review: Doc Tackles Chelsea Manning's Very In-Progress Story

U.S. NARRATIVE COMPETITION CATEGORIES:

The jurors for the 2019 U.S. Narrative Competition were Lucy Alibar, Jonathan Ames, Cory Hardrict, Dana Harris, and Jenny Lumet.

Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature – “Burning Cane,” directed by Phillip Youmans. The winner receives $20,000, sponsored by AT&T, and the art award “Bloom” by Fred Tomaselli.

Best Actress in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film – Haley Bennett in “Swallow”
Jury special mention: “For her always surprising and deeply engaging work in “Stray Dolls,” Geetanjali Thapi.

Best Actor in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film – Wendell Pierce in “Burning Cane”

Best Cinematography in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film – Phillip Youmans for “Burning Cane.”
Special Jury mention: For work that took us to the icy coasts and sweltering kitchens of rural Maine, Todd Banhazl for “Blow the Man Down.”

Best Screenplay in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film – Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy for “Blow the Man Down.”  The winner receives $2,500. Special jury mention: “To a story of a woman finding her biological family and her logical family on the highway, Ani Simon-Kennedy for “The Short History of the Long Road.”

Also Read: 'Framing John DeLorean' Review: Meta-Doc Takes Various Tracks to Explore What Drove the Carmaker

INTERNATIONAL NARRATIVE COMPETITION CATEGORIES:

The jurors for the 2019 International Narrative Competition were Gbenga Akinnagbe, Angela Bassett, Baltasar Kormákur, Rebecca Miller, and Steve Zaillian.

Best International Narrative Feature – “House of Hummingbird (Beol-sae)” (South Korea, USA) directed and written by Bora Kim. The winner receives $20,000 and the art award “Easter” by Eddie Kang. J

Best Actress in an International Narrative Feature Film – Ji-hu Park in “House of Hummingbird (Beol-sae)” (South Korea, USA).

Best Actor in an International Narrative Feature Film – Ali Atay in “Noah Land.”

Best Cinematography in an International Narrative Feature Film – Cinematography by Kang Gook-hyun for “House of Hummingbird (Beol-sae)” (South Korea, USA) directed by Bora Kim.

Best Screenplay in an International Narrative Feature Film – “Noah Land (Nuh Tepesi)” written by Cenk Ertürk (Germany, Turkey, USA). The winner receives $2,500.

Also Read: 'The Kill Team' Film Review: Nat Wolff's Soldier Has a Crisis of Conscience in Afghanistan

DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION CATEGORIES:

The jurors for the 2019 Documentary Competition were Drake Doremus, Robert Greene, Julie Goldman, Andrew LaVallee, and Cheryl McDonough.

Best Documentary Feature – “Scheme Birds “(Scotland, Sweden) directed and written by Ellen Fiske, Ellinor Hallin. The winner receives $20,000, and the art award “Oil Lotus Woman” by Shepard Fairey. J

Best Cinematography in a Documentary Film – Cinematography by Yang Sun, “Shuang Liang for Our Time Machine” (China) directed by Yang Sun, S. Leo Chiang. The winner receives $2,500.

Best Editing in a Documentary Film – Editing by Jennifer Tiexiera for “17 Blocks” (USA) directed by Davy Rothbart.  The winner receives $2,500. Special Jury mention: “This brave film uses editing to reveal narrative layers that weren’t immediately apparent, challenging and surprising viewers along the way. The special jury mention goes to ‘Rewind.'”

Also Read: 'Woodstock' Film Review: Anniversary Doc Takes Boomers on an Evocative Trip Down Memory Lane

BEST NEW NARRATIVE DIRECTOR COMPETITION:

The jurors for the 2019 Best New Narrative Director Competition were Stephen Kay, Bill Keith, Justin Long, Piper Perabo, and Mélita Toscan du Plantier.

Best New Narrative Director – “The Gasoline Thieves (Huachicolero)” (Mexico, Spain, UK, USA) directed by Edgar Nito. The winner receives $10,000, and the art award “Love Trap” by Walter Robinson.

BEST NEW DOCUMENTARY DIRECTOR COMPETITION:

The jurors for the 2019 Albert Maysles New Documentary Director Award were David Cross, Orlando von Einsiedel, and Kathrine Narducci.

Albert Maysles New Documentary Director Award – “Scheme Birds” (Scotland, Sweden) directed by Ellen Fiske and Ellinor Hallin. The winner receives $10,000 sponsored by CNN Films, and the art award “Indigo Rocket Over Tribeca” by Stephen Hannock.

THE NORA EPHRON AWARD

The jurors for the 2019 Nora Ephron Award, presented by CHANEL, were Debra Messing, Chloë Sevigny, and DeWanda Wise.

The Nora Ephron Award – Rania Attieh for “Initials S.G. (Iniciales S.G.)” (Argentina, Lebanon, USA) directed by Rania Attieh, Daniel Garcia. Rania receives $25,000, sponsored by CHANEL, and the art award “Alison the Lacemaker” by Swoon.

SHORT FILM COMPETITION CATEGORIES:

The jurors for the 2019 Narrative Short Competition and Animated sections were Maureen Dowd, Topher Grace, Rosalind Lichter, Hamish Linklater, Lily Rabe, Phoebe Robinson, and Jeff Scher.

Best Narrative Short – “Maja” (Denmark) directed by Marijana Jankovic. The winner receives $5,000 sponsored by Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, and the art award “Amy Sillman” by Amy Sillman.

Special Jury Mention: “The Dishwasher “directed and written by Nick Hartanto, Sam Roden.

Shorts Animation Award – “My Mother’s Eyes” (UK) directed and written by Jenny Wright. The winner receives $5,000 sponsored by Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, and the art award “Balloon Dog, Magneta” by Jeff Koons.

The jurors for the 2019 Short Documentary and Student Visionary Competitions were Dr. Kevin Cahill, David Krumholtz, Kathy Najimy, Sheila Nevins, Agunda Okeyo, Aaron Rodgers, and Buster Scher.

Best Documentary Short – “Learning To Skateboard In a Warzone (If You’re A Girl)” (UK) directed by Carol Dysinger. The winner receives $5,000 sponsored by Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, and the art award “28 Millimeters, Portrait of a Generation” by JR. Special Jury Mention: “An unflinching and delicate portrait of a loving father with a haunted past who bravely decides to stand up to the powers that be in Ferguson, Missouri in St. Louis Superman.”

Student Visionary Award – “Jebel Banat” (Egypt) directed and written by Sharine Atif. The winner receives $5,000 sponsored by Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, and the art award “Chrysler Building” by Jane Dickson.
Special Jury mention: “Set in rural China, this stunningly cinematic short Pearl (Zhen Zhu) follows the strife of a small family down a path of rupture and loss.”

STORYSCAPES AWARD

The 2019 Storyscapes Award, presented by AT&T, which recognizes groundbreaking approaches in storytelling and technology, jurors were Lisa Osborne, Paul Smalera, and Adaora Udoji.

Storyscapes Award – “The Key” (USA, Iraq), created by Celine Tricart.  The winner receives $10,000, presented by AT&T.

TRIBECA X AWARD

Previously awarded last week were the 2019 Tribeca X Awards, sponsored by PwC. Tribeca X recognizes excellence in storytelling at the intersection of advertising and entertainment. The jurors were Nabil Elderkin, Kim Gehrig, Jason Kreher, Kinjil Mathur, Patrick Milling-Smith, and John Osborn.

Feature

The winner of the Best Feature Film was awarded to “Almost Human” for The Carlsberg Foundation. Directed by Jeppe Rønde.

Short

The winner of the Best Short Film was awarded to “The Face of Distracted Driving” for AT&T. Directed by Errol Morris for BBDO New York.

Episodic

The winner of the Best Episodic Film was awarded to “History of Memory” for HP. Directed by Sarah Klein and Tom Mason for Redglass Pictures, The Garage by HP.

VR

The winner of the Best VR Film was awarded to “The 100%” by Stand Up to Cancer, HP and Intel. Directed by Hernan Barangan for Springbok Entertainment.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'The Apollo' Launches Tribeca Film Festival With a Look at a Theater, a Community – and Politics

Old Photos Change Lives Forever in Tribeca Doc Trailer 'History of Memory' (Exclusive Video)

Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro to Reunite for Career-Spanning Tribeca Talk

www.thewrap.com | 5/3/19

Antigua and Barbuda will host the eighteenth regional meeting of the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG) from September 25 to 27.

CaribNOG is a vibrant community of professionals committed to improving the region’s networks, expanding the technical capacity of those who build and secure them, and strengthening the interconnections among all actors in the Internet space.

Called CaribNOG 18, the upcoming meeting is themed “Securing Caribbean Networks,” and will focus on a range of stability, security and resiliency issues that are central to Internet development. IT and security professionals, network administrators, telecommunications and computer engineers, Internet exchange point operators and data centre managers from across the region are expected to attend.

Stephen Lee, CaribNOG Program Director invited all interested stakeholders to submit proposals for topics, lightning presentations or full sessions for the consideration of the CaribNOG 18 coordination team.

“It’s an opportunity for anyone with an interest in Caribbean development to let us know how the community of people who take responsibility for developing the Internet in the region can focus our attention, efforts and resources, to align with the evolving development priorities of the region,” Lee said.

Meeting registration, provisional agenda, as well as a call for presentations and sponsors, will be available online soon.

Bevil Wooding, Caribbean Outreach Liaison at the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) and one of the founders of CaribNOG, announced the date and venue of the upcoming meeting on the closing day of CaribNOG 17, held at Hilton Barbados Resort, Bridgetown from April 10 to 12. The September meeting is one of several highlights of the group’s 2019 calendar.

On April 30 and May 1, CaribNOG will be a part of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union’s “Caribbean FutureScape” event at Hyatt Regency Trinidad in Port of Spain, which aims to provide participants with an immersive and interactive experience demonstrating the possibility of a fully integrated digital Caribbean.

On June 3 and 4, CaribNOG will work alongside the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the Internet Society, to support an “ARIN in the Caribbean” outreach event targeting network operators, business leaders, regulators, and government officials in Nassau, Bahamas. Since 2018, the “ARIN in the Caribbean” series has touched eight Caribbean countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the British Virgin Islands, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and the US Virgin Islands.

On June 11 to 13, CaribNOG will support the fifth meeting of the Caribbean Peering and Interconnection Forum, called CarPIF 5, to be held in St George’s, Grenada. CarPIF is a CaribNOG initiative held in collaboration with the Internet Society as well as local, regional and international stakeholders. At CarPIF, Internet service providers, data centre managers, Internet exchange point coordinators, content delivery network operators and technology professionals come together to exchange practical knowledge and strike deals to develop and improve the region’s Internet sector. Content providers such as Google, Akamai and Facebook have regularly attended at the event.

Apart from its upcoming events, the CaribNOG community will also focus on a range of capacity-building activities, including collaborative research projects, resource development, expanded communication channels and new outreach initiatives throughout the year.

Written by Gerard Best, Development Journalist

www.circleid.com | 4/26/19
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says he would not consider forming a government with the center-right Citizens party, clearing a major unknown heading into Sunday's general election.
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PORT OF Spain – The Trinidad and Tobago government Thursday said it would not follow its Caribbean Community (CARICOM) neighbour, Barbados, in implementing a gun amnesty aimed at curbing gun related crimes...

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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.   

Plastics are in the air. Not only literally. Everyone's talking about plastic pollution and the need to take action.

You don’t need to be conducting a scientific research to see that plastic waste is invading our environment, specially our oceans. With up to 12 million tons of plastic entering the oceans every year it is not surprising that we find plastic everywhere, not only polluting the water and severely impacting marine species, but also accumulating in the food chain.

Plastic-Spitting Dragon Protests at Our Oceans Conference in Malta. 5 Oct. 2017.

And so people all over the world are building up a movement to transition to a society free of single-use plastic and the throw-away culture it entails. Whether it be by individual action and changing everyday habits, by signing petitions or by creating change in their communities and local businesses. 

The movement to #BreakFreeFromPlastic is on the rise and there’s no stopping it!

But where are we on policy? This week, the European Commission has released the European Plastics Strategy. A document that reflects the vision and the objectives of the Commission on this issue and that will be translated into measures and actions.

The European Union (together with countries in the North American Free Trade Agreement) is the second largest producer of plastic after China.

  • In the EU, 25.8 million tons of plastic waste are generated each year, 70% of which is incinerated or dumped in landfill. 
  • In the EU, 150,000 - 500,000 tons of plastic waste enter the oceans every year.
  • It is estimated that between 75,000 and 300,000 tons of microplastics are released to the environment each year from EU countries. 

We need to change these numbers. It seems like this new EU strategy echoes this urgency and is certainly something worth praising. But once we get to the details, it seems to go down the usual path.

There’s certainly some good ideas, like treating microplastic ingredients (including cosmetic microbeads) as toxic pollution using the EU chemical regulation.  

And it sets a target that by 2030, 100% of plastic packaging in the EU market will be reusable or recyclable, with a first legislative proposal in 2018 to tackle some single use items. Promising!

But again we find a text too focused on recycling. It’s all over the place. While reduction and reuse is hardly mentioned. Their target won’t be achieved without reducing the production and consumption of plastic packaging and single-use items, much of which are unnecessary in the first place and have already existing alternatives waiting to be scaled up.

Deposit return schemes are increasingly being implemented. Bulk stores are blooming in many places, water fountains are coming back to cities and public places, and reusable items are coming into fashion. But alternatives need to be backed up by bold and ambitious political measures.

So if you are a European citizen, watch out for changes in our legislations and be ready to ask your national government to ensure single-use plastic item bans are fast tracked as the crisis is urgent and the EU process can take years. It’s a real opportunity for change and we mustn’t let it slip!

And even if you’re not in Europe, we still need your support. In a globalised world, whatever happens in the European region will have impact in other regions, through companies headquartered in the EU, trade or by simply, and most importantly, setting an example for others to follow that ambitious measures can be taken to phase-out single-use plastic.

While we wait for the next political move, you can still do your part. Whether it be refusing straws, bags, using refillable bottles or taking community action. Every step counts, no matter how big or small. Pick yours and start today to join the movement! We can all #BreakFreeFromPlastic!

Elvira Jiménez is EU Plastics Project leader with Greenpeace Spain

The politics of Spain take place in the framework of a parliamentary representative democratic constitutional monarchy, whereby the Monarch is the Head of State and the President of the Government is the head of government in a multi-party system. Executive power is vested in the government. Central legislative power is vested in the two chambers of parliament.


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