Category: Opinion

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Man Battles Neighbors For Right To Fly Helicopter From His Home…


JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) — A neighborhood dispute over a resident’s comings and goings had to be decided in court. The answer to whether helicopters can land on private property is not clearly defined in Jefferson County Zoning Regulations.

CBS4’s Tori Mason interviews Jonathan Sawyer who believes he should be allowed to fly and land his helicopter at his home in unincorporated Jefferson County. (credit: CBS)

Jonathan Sawyer lives on several acres of unincorporated land in Jefferson County. He occasionally charters helicopters for trips to the airport. According to Sawyer, the trip is about double the cost of a rideshare service, significantly faster and safer than driving.

While some neighbors don’t mind the copter, others prefer the only bird in their backyard be an animal. One neighbor told CBS4 a residential area is simply not the place for aircraft and expressed concern over its impact on wildlife.

(credit: CBS)

“The neighbors are 600 feet away, and I don’t even overfly them. It’s less noise than if I had a Harley driving up and down the road,” said Sawyer. “Once a month I’m landing a helicopter and they didn’t like it.”

If Jefferson County residents have concerns about whether activity on a neighbor’s property follows zoning rules, they can file a complaint. Sawyer couldn’t find anything that prohibited him from landing or taking off in a helicopter from his private property.

(credit: CBS)

Sawyer was disappointed to learn that no mention in this case also means not permitted.

“Because it’s not mentioned, the county says it’s forbidden and they get to choose whether or not to enforce it,” explained Sawyer.

According to the Jefferson County Zoning Resolution, if a use is not listed within the permitted uses of a zone district, then the use is not allowed.

“Helicopters are not mentioned, fireplaces are not mentioned, drones are not mentioned,” explained Sawyer, “If it’s not specifically prohibited it should be allowed. That’s America!”

(credit: CBS)

The court prohibited Sawyer, and subsequently other Jefferson County residents, from landing aircraft in unauthorized, un-permitted areas.

“People occasionally land helicopters on their property. Hotels, restaurants. People do this for special events. They do this to travel if you’re in a remote location,” explained Sawyer.

Since inspectors don’t drive around looking for violations, Jefferson County’s violation program is complaint based.

CBS4 reached out to Jefferson County for comment, but since litigation is still pending, the county declined comment at this time.



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First male birth control injection almost ready…


Would men endure a shot in the penis to prevent pregnancy? Indian researchers think so.

The Indian Council of Medical Research, a government-funded biomedical research agency, has successfully completed a clinical trial on an injectable male contraceptive, the Hindustan Times reported.

“The product is ready, with only regulatory approvals pending [from the government],” Dr. R.S. Sharma, senior scientist with ICMR, told the local news outlet. “The trials are over, including extended, Phase 3 clinical trials for which 303 candidates were recruited with a 97.3% success rate and no reported side effects. The product can safely be called the world’s first male contraceptive.”

The birth control method, which lasts approximately 13 years, involves injecting a polymer, called styrene maleic anhydride, into the vas deferens, effectively blocking sperm from leaving the testicles. The shot, preceded by a dose of local anesthesia, is designed to supplant a traditional vasectomy.

Researchers in the US have developed a similar contraceptive, called Vasalgel, which has not yet been brought to market. A male birth control pill also exists, though researchers anticipate it’ll be about 10 years before the drug makes it to market. Also, drugs such as these can only prevent pregnancy, and do not protect against STDs.

“The polymer was developed by Professor S.K. Guha from the Indian Institute of Technology in the 1970s. ICMR has been researching on it to turn it into a product for mass use since 1984, and the final product is ready after exhaustive trials,” said Sharma. Researchers call this reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance.

Drugs Controller General of India V.G. Somani said, because of pending regulatory approval, it “will still take about six to seven months … before the product can be manufactured,” they told Hindustan Times.

In the meantime, Vice asked several Indian men if they were open to the idea of a shot in the groin to prevent pregnancy. Many agreed that more options would be a boon for men and women, though many weren’t keen on needling their nether regions.

“When I think about this whole concept of contraception that you have to inject … it’s too graphic,” said 33-year-old Abhay. “Our [testicles] are like family jewels, so if I have to resort to using any kind of contraceptive, I’d rather go for a pill.”

Shreyes, 24, liked the idea of a male contraceptive because women are “already burdened enough,” but he thinks an injection may be too much for men, adding that he’d “rather not have sex at all” in that case.

“Men are not too used to making changes in their routine, so it has to be marketed in a way that doesn’t seem so intense or difficult,” he said.



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Monkey 'with human face' having trouble finding romance…


Meet the monkey ‘with a human face’: 19-year-old primate that looks like a distressed man ‘hopes to find a wife’

  • Monkey in China shot to fame last year for sporting human-like expressions
  • The 19-year-old primate has been single all his life after failing to woo a partner
  • Zoo hopes to match him with one of its younger primates ‘if there is chemistry’
  • A human-faced fish was recently spotted in the country, leaving people stunned 

A monkey which shot to fame for having human-like facial expressions has been having difficulties finding romance.

The Tianjin Zoo in eastern China is hoping to play matchmaker for the 19-year-old primate which is said to have been a ‘bachelor’ all his life.

The monkey sent the internet into a frenzy last year after being photographed sporting looks on his face similar to those of a distressed man.

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The human-faced monkey, which lives in China's Tianjin Zoo, has been single all his life

The human-faced monkey, which lives in China’s Tianjin Zoo, has been single all his life

The 19-year-old Margarita Island Capuchin sent the internet into a frenzy last year

He was photographed sporting looks on his face similar to those of a distressed man

The 19-year-old Margarita Island Capuchin sent the internet into a frenzy last year after being photographed sporting looks on his face similar to those of a distressed man (above)

The zoo said the unnamed animal wasn’t paired up mainly due to ‘a lack of fate’.

A spokesperson told MailOnline that the human-faced monkey, formally known as a Margarita Island Capuchin, had an ‘aggressive’ personality. 

‘He is very active and aggressive. [He] likes playing with mud and smashing coconuts,’ the spokesperson said. 

The zoo said the monkey had a hard time finding romance mainly due to 'a lack of fate'

The zoo said the monkey had a hard time finding romance mainly due to ‘a lack of fate’

The monkey was brought into the zoo in 2002. 

He previously had two female companions, but both of them died, and he went on to play with monkeys of other sub-species in the enclosure. 

‘He currently has three playmates,’ the zoo said. ‘We bought three other Margarita Island Capuchins in 2016, but none of them is sexually mature yet.’

The zoo added: ‘When the younger Capuchin monkeys grow up, we hope there will be chemistry between our human-faced monkey and one of them and he can finally find have a “wife”.’ 

The zoo is hoping to match him up with one of its younger primates if there is chemistry between them

Tens of thousands of people have travelled to the zoo just to see the animal

The zoo is hoping to match him up with one of its younger primates if there is chemistry between them. Tens of thousands of people have travelled to the zoo just to see the animal

Tens of thousands of people have come to the zoo to see the human-faced monkey since he became an internet star.

Commenting on his life after reaching stardom, the zoo said it was ‘business as usual’.

‘Keepers have been looking after him as normal. We have more than 20 types of monkeys in our monkey pavilion, and keepers will not give him any special treatment.’

Margarita Island Capuchins can usually live for 25 to 30 years. 

The zoo said the monkey was 'active' and 'aggressive', adding he liked smashing coconuts

The zoo said the monkey was ‘active’ and ‘aggressive’, adding he liked smashing coconuts

The human-faced monkey is pictured eating watermelon accompanied by two young monkeys

The human-faced monkey is pictured eating watermelon accompanied by two young monkeys

Earlier this month, Chinese web users were astonished by a carp that appeared to have ‘a human face’.

Trending footage shows the fish sporting markings that resemble a man’s mouth, nose and eyes on its head.

A woman who was filming the video was so awestruck by the sight she gushed: ‘The fish has turned into a fairy.’

The extraordinary carp lives in the Miao Village, a tourist destination in the city of Kunming in southern China. 

The carp was discovered yesterday in the Miao village in Kunming, China

Carp have long been known to carry markings which can look like a human face, but actually seeing one is rare

The carp was discovered yesterday in the Miao village in Kunming, China. Carp have long been known to carry markings which can look like a human face, but actually seeing one is rare

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Colombia ticking time bomb?


Next year, the number of Venezuelans fleeing their country will overtake the Syrian exodus. To date, more than 4 million have left. One-third of these refugees and migrants are sheltering in Colombia, which has maintained a very generous open-door policy.

However, the strain is beginning to show. We were recently in Colombia, where a senior international official told us, “Colombia is a now a ticking time bomb.” 

This description may be hyperbole, but the country indeed appears headed towards a tipping point. Such an outcome would exacerbate the regional humanitarian crisis triggered by Venezuela’s collapse.

It could also threaten the long-term investment made by the United States in Colombia’s prosperity. All this should prompt the United States and others to act now before it’s too late. Six trends explain why: 

The crisis in Venezuela shows no signs of abating

The political situation in Venezuela continues to deteriorate. In September, Norwegian-sponsored negotiations between the Maduro government and the opposition led by Juan Guaidó were declared dead. The economy is in freefall. Officially, there are 1.4 million Venezuelans already in Colombia, but the real figure is likely between 1.6 and 2 million. This outflow of Venezuelans will likely double in the coming year. At this rate, Venezuelans could shortly make up a tenth of Colombia’s population. 

Those fleeing are increasingly vulnerable.

Unlike early arrivals, Venezuelans streaming into Colombia today arrive with little more than the shirt on their backs. Many are malnourished. So are most babies born to Venezuelan women who make it to Colombia. Many have chronic illnesses like diabetes, cancer, or HIV for which they cannot be treated at home. Trafficking in women and girls and child labor are also on the rise. 

All this puts heavy pressure on parts of Colombia’s health-care system. The Erasmo Meoz public hospital in the border town of Cúcuta has delivered free emergency care to about 13,000 Venezuelans so far this year, but the government has failed to reimburse the hospital for those expenses. Nor can the hospital’s 600 beds accommodate all who need care. Some patients lay in beds under a tarp in the heat of the parking lot. 

Other host countries in the region are shutting their doors

Colombia has welcomed Venezuelans. Many have received special two-year permits that give them the right to work and access to some services. Colombia is a transit route to other host countries. But two, Peru and Ecuador, have begun to close their doors, trapping Venezuelans in Colombia. Some have been unable to join family members who passed through earlier. One humanitarian worker described these closures as acting like a cork stuck in the bottle. The pressure is building.

Donors have yet to step up

Distressingly, international donors have ponied up less than 2 percent of aid for Venezuelans they had provided at the same point for the Syrian response. A donor conference in Brussels in late October offers donors an opportunity to step up, but no one is counting on increased generosity. 

Colombia’s own internal crisis is heating up

In 2016, Colombia signed a peace agreement with the FARC, formally ending more than 50 years of conflict with the country’s largest guerrilla group. The war had killed almost 220,000 and displaced nearly 8 million. But the peace agreement did not include Colombia’s other armed groups, who continued to operate.

And now, even that accord is fraying. Several of its provisions remain unfulfilled and international support has dried up. Most worryingly, some prominent former members of the FARC announced in August that they would return to the battlefield. If others heed their call to arms, the humanitarian and security situation is likely to deteriorate rapidly.

The two crises are colliding

Fleeing Venezuelans and Colombian IDPs increasingly find themselves living on top of each other in the same marginal communities from the border to Bogota. In these areas, the Colombian state is largely absent and armed groups have filled the vacuum. Now, they are taking advantage of vulnerable Venezuelans moving into and through the territories they control 3— demanding bribes for passage, recruiting them into their ranks, and using this to fuel the drug trade. 

None of this bodes well. Millions of displaced Venezuelans and Colombians are increasingly desperate. Colombia could decide to close its borders. Even if Venezuela’s political and economic crisis were magically resolved tomorrow, it would take years before Venezuelans could return home.

So what is to be done?

An obvious place to begin would be to increase humanitarian aid. The United States has earmarked $160 million for Venezuelans in Colombia this year. However, the European Union and other traditional donors need to step up. The EU has spent some $6 billion to help Turkey care for 3.6 million Syrians. Last month, it pledged $33 million to Colombia. This disparity boggles the mind.

Second, for long-term success, Venezuelans should be socially and economically integrated into Colombian society. In recent years, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank have introduced new finance mechanisms for middle-income countries to strengthen services and create jobs for refugees and host communities alike. They have already begun such work in Colombia, but these investments must be brought to scale.

Third, other large host countries need to reopen their doors. Peru, Ecuador, and Chile should reverse course, eliminating unrealistic visa requirements for Venezuelans. In exchange, the World Bank and others could fast-track concessional financing to Peru and Ecuador to help those governments foot the bill. 

Fourth, the United States should grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Venezuelans. The TPS program prevents foreign nationals from being deported to countries where they would be at risk. The Trump administration has so far refused to extend the program to Venezuelans despite bipartisan support among lawmakers. Congress should act where the administration has failed to do so.

Hardin Lang is the vice president for programs and policy at Refugees International. Natacha Weiss is co-chairperson of the board of directors of Refugees International and previously worked as an advocate for the organization from 1995 to 2000.



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Hedge funds losing interest in Trump's TWITTER feed…


On May 30, US President Donald Trump declared a new trade policy on Twitter. “On June 10th, the United States will impose a 5% Tariff on all goods coming into our Country from Mexico, until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP,” Trump tweeted.

Seconds after reading the tweet, a London hedge fund manager sprang into action. Sensing a new US trade dispute, and recognising that trade war threats often result in investors fleeing to safe-haven assets, he immediately increased his position on Treasury bonds, making a “six-figure sum” when the bond market rallied. “Thanks to that tweet, I entered June in a very good mood,” said the manager, who asked to remain anonymous.

President Trump’s novel way of issuing government decrees on a social networking platform has moved markets ever since his shock election victory in November 2016. Whether attacking the Federal Reserve for not adopting more accommodative monetary policy, escalating trade tension with China and Mexico — the New York Times recently estimated Trump has tweeted 521 times about tariffs — or going after the management of specific companies, Trump’s Twitter proclamations have altered market expectations of government, Fed policy and corporate America.

While a growing tide of opinion questions the long-term economic impact of the Trump tweet, leading bank analysts have lately been queuing up to recognise its power. Ronnie Walker, economist at Goldman Sachs, wrote to the bank’s clients last month: “Markets believe that the president primarily affects Fed policy indirectly by influencing the macroeconomic outlook.”

JPMorgan went further, creating the “Volfefe index” (named in homage to Trump’s cryptic “covfefe” tweet in May 2017) which tracks the effect of the president’s tweets on two-year and five-year US Treasury yields. Other banks that have studied the economic impact of Trump’s social media decrees include Citigroup and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

More attention is paid to Trump’s tweets by discretionary managers, rather than systematic hedge funds that deploy machines to guide trading decisions.

“Aspect Capital has not built any trading strategies that look at the president’s Twitter feed,” said Christopher Reeve, director of investment solutions at Aspect, one of the UK’s largest computer-driven hedge funds. “It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that we might, but it would be hard to design something systematic for this.”

Many discretionary hedge fund traders (where humans dictate trading strategy, as opposed to systematic hedge funds that make rule-based, computerised trading decisions) continue to underperform relative to the S&P 500 index and are desperate to generate outperformance, or alpha, by any means necessary. Some of them say Trump’s Twitter feed has been a godsend.

“[Trump’s tweets] have increased volatility,” said Oliver Dobbs, founder of multi-strategy credit hedge fund Credere Capital. “So if Trump says, ‘Ban the Chinese’, and then, ‘Don’t ban the Chinese’, there’s more volatility. If you’re long on volatility you can make money out of it. People aren’t guessing what he’s going to tweet, it’s more he keeps changing his position and that increases the volatility.”

A global oil commodities hedge fund trader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Trump’s tweets have redrawn the rules of the commodity investing game.

“A lot of firms are struggling with Trump being the arbiter of the price of oil,” they said. “If the price gets too high, he tweets angrily [about the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries].”

In April 2018, when the price of crude oil rose towards $70, Trump tweeted: “Looks like OPEC is at it again… Oil prices are artificially Very High. No good and will not be accepted.”

However, the trader said, “if the oil price gets too low, like in the fourth quarter of 2018, he reverses his antagonistic stance”. They added that at the hedge fund where they work, “we call him the black swan of Mar-a-Lago”.

Last month the debate over Trump’s economic Twitter musings became even more inflamed. A Vanity Fair article written by William Cohan, journalist and former managing director at JPMorgan, argued that the timing of significant trades of futures linked to the S&P 500 suggested that information about policy decisions was being leaked ahead of events and traded on.

“Do [the traders] have access to information that other people don’t have about, say, Trump’s or Beijing’s latest thinking on the trade war or any other of a number of ways that Trump is able to move the markets through his tweeting or slips of the tongue?” Cohan asked. “Essentially, do they have inside information?”

No, replied other finance commentators. Slate’s Felix Salmon called it a “fantasy”, writing that there is “no evidence at all that anybody made any money here, let alone billions of dollars”. George Pearkes, global macro strategist for Bespoke Investment Group, a New York-based financial market research company, called the claim “ridiculous” in an article for Business Insider. He told Financial News: “The evidence presented doesn’t even reach the level of circumstantial (on top of the inaccuracies).” According to Cohan’s article, CME Group, the owner of the trading venue where the trades in question took place, dismissed his allegations as being of no concern.

Despite being outside the economic consensus, Cohan stood by his findings. “It’s unclear why so many people — mostly fellow reporters — have jumped down my throat for being reportorial,” he said.

Insider-trading allegations aside, Cohan said that Trump’s tweets were certainly market-moving. “This is a president who defines his self-worth and success as a politician on how the stock market is performing — he is the first to tweet when the stock market hits new highs and retreats when the market corrects. You would have to be an idiot if you were a trader not to see how easily he’s able to move the market and not make bets accordingly,” he said.

Yet many in the hedge fund space say the impact of the Trump tweet has been overstated. Said Haidar, whose New York-based macro fund Haidar Capital Management has $550m in assets under management, said there are limits to the president’s manic musings.

“I don’t think we really trade on Donald Trump’s tweets for the most part,” he said. “The problem is if Trump tweets he wants a weaker dollar and the dollar sells off, unless he’s doing something about it, it doesn’t really matter that this is what he wants.”

Haidar added that the US president cannot easily affect macroeconomic forces via social media. “It’s a great aspiration but the primary mechanism for a weaker dollar is the Fed cutting interest rates,” Haidar said. He conceded Trump’s tweets “do create market volatility, but the market moves and then there may not be any further follow-through. You just have to accept it can cause a short-term tailswing either for you or against you.”

Other funds find it hard to get meaningful gains from Trump’s Twitter.

“It is definitely a factor, there are apparently people who are doing well from trading those tweets,” said George Papamarkakis, co-founder of London-based global macro hedge fund North Asset Management. “But we’re focusing on the fundamentals and not reacting that much. In the first year of his presidency we tried to, not necessarily trade, but certainly take [his Twitter] into account and then we stopped. A lot of the tweets turned out to be rhetoric that didn’t pan out.”

One hedge funder said his investment company generated more revenue off the back of Trump’s tweets earlier in his presidency, when they affected specific companies. When markets closed December 12, 2016, the share price of US defence company Lockheed Martin had fallen by 2.5%, decreasing its market value by more than $1.8bn – the day Trump tweeted that the company’s “F-35 [fighter jet] program and cost is out of control”. Other large US companies he has criticised include carmaker General Motors, online retailer Amazon and aerospace company Boeing.



While corporate America might be relieved Trump is tweeting about companies less, cryptocurrency financiers wish he would tweet about them more often. Joshua Frank, chief executive of cryptocurrency data analytics platform The Tie, noted that when the president tweeted “I am not a fan of Bitcoin” last July, the price of the cryptocurrency spiked upwards. “The idea of Trump getting involved, even if his tweets are more negative in nature, leads to a huge increase in tweet volume which tends to lead to upward price movement,” Frank said.



Recently Trump has been tweeting less about the economy and more about his impeachment hearings. That has been bad news for JPMorgan’s Volfefe index. The bank said in a research note in October that less than two months after creating its custom metric, the volatility in the bond market caused by Trump’s tweets is declining. “We find a waning influence on rates volatility, as the president’s frequent topics of discussion have shifted away from trade and monetary policy,” it said.

Devotees of traditional market practices will hope the shift is permanent.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Tom Teodorczuk



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POLICE TRAP HUNDREDS OF STUDENTS…


Police have trapped around 800 students inside a Hong Kong university and have threatened to use live bullets on those who fail to surrender.

The anti-government protesters at the sprawling Polytechnic University remain holed up, fearful of police with water cannons, ammunition and armoured vehicles.

Officers used teargas last night in what has become one of the most prolonged and tense confrontations between police and demonstrators in more than five months of political unrest.

And police threatened to fire “rioters” with live bullets today.

The terrified students countered the volleys of teargas and rubber bullets with gasoline bombs, slingshots and bows and arrows.

A police personnel vehicle is on fire as protesters and police clash

Anti-government protesters throw paper to fuel a large fire at Polytechnic University

 

Several of the demonstrators have been arrested.

But others have managed to hide under umbrellas and shields made out of debris.

Democratic lawmaker Hui Chi-fung said: “The police might not storm the campus but it seems like they are trying to catch people as they attempt to run.

“It’s not optimistic now. They might all be arrested on campus. Lawmakers and school management are trying to liaise with the police but failed.”

A protester is detained by riot police on the campus

Some protesters have suffered injuries in the clashes

 

Witnesses said students are determined not to surrender.

“Officially, they are saying people have to leave now, and even pointing out some ways to let you out. But when people try to leave that way, they contain them. It’s a set-up,” Tang Siu Wa, a volunteer with the Protect the Children group, told The Guardian .

The 41-year-old added: “People getting tired but they don’t want to surrender.”

Police use force to detain protesters who attempt to leave the campus

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Top news stories from Mirror Online

A spokesman for the university’s Student Union said: “Because most of the emergency relief team and first-aiders have been arrested and taken away, there are insufficient resources and personnel within campus to treat the injured. 

He called the situation “a severe humanitarian crisis”.

Protesters have blocked one of the city’s major arteries, the Cross-Harbour Tunnel linking Hong Kong island to the Kowloon peninsula, for much of the past week.



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Slammed for 'lack of empathy' for victims…


PRINCE Andrew’s bombshell interview has been branded a “car crash” as viewers slam the royal having “no empathy” for his paedo pal Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged victims.

The Duke of York spoke about his links with the disgraced millionaire during an “unvetted questions” interview with BBC2 Newnight’s Emily Maitlis last night.

 Prince Andrew was slammed by viewers for his 'lack of empathy' in his interview

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Prince Andrew was slammed by viewers for his ‘lack of empathy’ in his interview
 The interview will air on BBC Newsnight's Emily Maitlis

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The interview will air on BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis

Andrew denied he had sex with 17-year-old Virginia Roberts in 2001 after going to Tramps nightclub in London, claiming he was at a Pizza Express in Woking with his daughter Princess Beatrice.

Ms Roberts claims she had sex with the prince three times – which he strongly denies.

The 59-year-old also said he didn’t regret his friendship with Epstein, who he referred to as “Jeffrey”, because met “useful” people through him.

Prince Andrew described his pal’s behaviour as a convicted sex offender as “unbecoming”.

Piers Morgan branded the interview “desperate, toe-curling bull***t from Prince Andrew”.

And many viewers took to social media to slam the Queen’s third child, saying he seemed to have no empathy for the alleged victims.


The biggest takeaways from the Prince Andrew interview:

  • Epstein was invited to Windsor Castle as a ‘plus one’ for Ghislaine Maxwell
  • Prince Andrew doesn’t regret his friendship with Epstein
  • The royal regrets visiting the paedo in NYC in December 2010 and said he went to end his friendship – when the infamous photo was snapped
  • The 59-year-old claims he was at a Pizza Express in Woking on the night Virginia Roberts alleges she had sex with him aged 17
  • The prince claims he can’t sweat after Ms Roberts alleged he ‘sweat profusely’
  • The Duke of York would testify under oath ‘if push came to shove’
  • Prince Andrew described Epstein’s behaviour as ‘unbecoming’

One said: “How about ‘I’m sorry’ for associating with Epstein in the first place?

“‘I’m sorry for having an ongoing friendship with him knowing he is a convicted sex offender and now proven human trafficker?’

“How about EMPATHY for the victims? No remorse, compassion or reaction.”

One called him a “monster” and said: “No condemnation of the sex offender he befriended. No empathy for his victims. #PrinceAndrew is a cold-blooded monster.”

Another wrote: “#PrinceAndrew I am staggered that not once did he say he had empathy for Epstein’s victims! Who advised him!!?”

Ms Maitlis grilled the royal on whether he had any regret or shame about his friendship with the convicted sex offender.

Andrew said: “Do I regret the fact that he has quite obviously conducted himself in a manner unbecoming? Yes.”

Ms Maitlis replied: “Unbecoming? He was a sex offender.”

He clarified: “Yeah, I’m sorry, I’m being polite, I mean in the sense that he was a sex offender.”

‘UNBECOMING’

Many viewers picked up on this, with one writing: “Unbecoming.. What a way to end that train wreck of an interview.. WOW #PrinceAndrew”

Another said: “Not a care for the girls trafficked, raped. Remains good friends with Gishlain Maxwell alleged procurer of underage girls and remembers Epstein fondly and finds his conduct as unbecoming and his own letting the side down seems to be equating himself worse than Epstein #PrinceAndrew”

When pressed about why he stayed friends with Epstein after his conviction, Prince Andrew laughed as he said: “I stayed with him and that’s the bit that, as it were, I kick myself for on a daily basis.”

Jeremy Vine tweeted a clip of Andrew laughing and wrote: “He was doing fine until he laughed.”

Ms Maitlis also asked Prince Andrew if he would be willing to give a statement under oath about the allegations against him.

She asked: “You seem utterly convinced you’re telling the truth, would you be willing to testify or give a statement under oath if you were asked?”

He replied: “Well I’m like everybody else and I will have to take all the legal advice that there was before I was to do that sort of thing.

“But if push came to shove and the legal advice was to do so, then I would be duty bound to do so.

“If there was…in the right circumstances, yes I would because I think there’s just as much closure for me as there is for everybody else and undoubtedly some very strange and unpleasant activities have been going on.”

Some viewers pointed out that the royal should have made his comments while under oath.

One said: “As much as we’re laughing at the Prince Andrew interview for the car crash it was, he should be answering these questions in court under oath!”

Another wrote: “Who advised Prince Andrew to do this interview? Surely he’s just better to give a statement under oath and be done with it. Until then it will never go away..”

 The royal was infamously pictured with his arm around Virginia when she was 17 at a party thrown by Epstein

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The royal was infamously pictured with his arm around Virginia when she was 17 at a party thrown by EpsteinCredit: Rex Features
 Prince Andrew, pictured with Jeffrey Epstein in New York in 2010

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Prince Andrew, pictured with Jeffrey Epstein in New York in 2010Credit: Jae Donnelly

Who is Virginia Roberts?

  • Mum-of-three Virginia Roberts, now Virginia Giuffre, 36, has alleged that she was procured by Ghislaine Maxwell – Epstein’s ex-lover – to work as a ‘sex slave’
  • Ms Roberts alleges she met Ms Maxwell while working at Donald Trump’s Mar-aLago resprt in Florida.
  • Legal documents from a 2015 defamation case – released the day before Epstein killed himself – featured claims that Prince Andrew slept with Ms Roberts three times.
  • The Duke of York strongly denies the allegations of sexual misconduct made against him.
  • Giuffre says her account is ’99 per cent true’ but her own former lawyers have described it as ‘fictionalised.’
  • She claims she first met royal dad-of-two Prince Andrew on a trip to London in 2001 when she was 17 and Epstein and Maxwell were also there.

The embattled Duke of York has faced continued scrutiny over his relationship with Epstein, who hanged himself in August while awaiting trial for sex trafficking charges.

Andrew was infamously pictured with his arm around Ms Roberts at Ghislaine Maxwell’s home in London in 2001.

The Duke was last pictured with Epstein in New York in 2010 after the hedge fund manager had been released from prison and was a registered sex offender.

He said last night he regrets going to the Big Apple to see him.

Ms Roberts has claimed she was forced to have sex with Andrew three times between 1999 and 2002 — in ­London, New York and on Epstein’s private Caribbean island.

In 2015, a US judge struck out Ms Roberts’ allegations against the Prince for being “immaterial and impertinent”.

The Duke said he was on a date in Boston when Virginia said she was “trafficked” to him in New York.

Epstein was first jailed in 2008 for procuring an underage girl for prostitution. He got an 18-month sentence, during which he was able to go on “work release” to his office six days a week. He was released on probation after 13 months.

This July he was arrested on sex trafficking allegations. On August 10 he was found hanged at the New York Metropolitan Correctional Centre — three weeks after being found unconscious with neck injuries.

Checks were not carried out on the night in question, and CCTV appeared to have malfunctioned. Officials are investigating.

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 Epstein, who was found hanged in jail earlier this year, had been friends with Andrew since 1999
Epstein, who was found hanged in jail earlier this year, had been friends with Andrew since 1999

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REVIEW: LIL PEEP Documentary Beautifully Stirring…


The day before Lil Peep died of an accidental drug overdose at the age of 21 and the crest of his ascent to fame, the rapper shared an emotional message with his Instagram followers. “I just wana [sic] be everybody’s everything,” he wrote on November 14, 2017. “I want too much from people but then I don’t want anything from them at the same time.” The accompanying video is unextraordinary. Peep holds a cigarette between two fingers with chipped red nail polish and his beautifully androgynous, tattooed face wavers in the square frame. His untimely death makes the next words of the caption especially chilling: “I don’t let people help me but I need help but not when I have my pills but that’s temporary one day maybe I won’t die young and I’ll be happy?” 

The beautifully stirring new documentary about Lil Peep’s short life, Everybody’s Everything, borrows its title from this post. The genre-blending musician, whose real name was Gustav Ahr, began uploading original music to Soundcloud from his bedroom and just two years later, he was selling out national tours and walking the runways of Paris Fashion Week. Lil Peep was poised to disrupt the mainstream music scene in a big way—infusing trap beats with emo lyrics and a wholly punk attitude—when he died on Nov. 15, 2017 in the back of his tour bus in Tucson. He overdosed on Xanax and fentanyl, and his blood tested positive for cannabis, cocaine, and painkillers.

Everybody’s Everything, directed by Sebastian Jones and Ramez Silyan, provides a fleshed-out portrait not of Lil Peep, but of Gus, the anxiety-ridden teenager who got his first face tattoo in an act of resistance against the normalcy of his Long Island upbringing and wept to his grandmother about how the parents of his wealthy classmates judged him. Interviews with friends, family members, and collaborators offer a piecemeal definition of what Peep was to everyone in his life—what the “everybody” and “everything” of the film’s title entails. 

To his mother, Liza Womack, he was “like the little Walt Disney characters with these big eyes, he was just like a little peep,” and thus a stage name was born. Abundant home video footage of Gus as a sandy-haired, smiley toddler confirm his likeness to an adorable cartoon, making his torment later in life all the more devastating. To collaborator and friend Ghostmane, he was “gentle” and “goofy as hell.” To his maternal grandfather Jack Womack, he was “my prophet, my tattooed poet,” according to a letter Womack wrote his grandson and reads aloud in the film’s introduction. Womack’s loving, beautifully penned letters to Peep, teeming with kind words and sage advice, are the emotional pulse of the film. 

Everybody’s Everything focuses more on the conflict between Peep’s rising star potential and lifelong emotional anguish than on depicting his struggles with substance abuse. The interest in Lil Peep as genius rather than Lil Peep as drug addict (a title he frequently disputed) should come as no surprise given that the executive producers of the project are Liza Womack, and the CEO of his talent agency, First Access Entertainment, Sarah Stennett. Renowned filmmaker Terrence Malick is a family friend and also served as an executive producer. A lens that might feel incomplete under other circumstances works in this case, if not because the story of a tortured artist falling victim his demons is one we have heard plenty of times before, than because the few glimpses we do get of Peep’s darkness are haunting enough to be effective on their own.    

One scene from a May 2017 concert Los Angeles shows the rapper cripplingly intoxicated on stage after taking “oxy,” in spite of the protestations of his manager, Chase Ortega. The then 20-year-old stumbles aimlessly and barely stammers the words to his song “Hellboy.” Peep visibly dissociates on stage, but he finishes the set while members of his team blast him with a fog machine in an attempt to mask his intoxication and stand in the wings with buckets for him to vomit into.         

It’s a horrifying moment foreshadowing the film’s final act. Jones and Silyan include the recording of the 911 call from the night of his death, in which Peep’s tour manager, Steve Pool, frantically relays, “I work with an artist and he’s completely out of it. He’s cold, he’s knocked out.” A nauseating Snapchat video shows him unconscious on the couch in the background. Police pronounced him dead on the scene. It is a credit to the filmmakers that though the disturbing circumstances of Peep’s death are presented in such graphic realness, the documentary still manages to feel, above all, like a celebration of his life.   

Had Everybody’s Everything been made a few months later, however, it would have been a far more complicated film. In October of this year, Liza Womack filed a wrongful death lawsuit against First Access Entertainment. The suit accuses her son’s managers of forcing him “onto stage after stage in city after city, plying and propping” him up with pills. “This is something that I must do as mother,” Womack told the New York Times. “What Gus had to live through is actually horrifying to me, and I’m sure he’s not the only person his age in this situation.” First Access Entertainment vehemently denies claims that its employees contributed to Peep’s death. 

Everybody’s Everything is out now in select theaters, along with a posthumous album of the same name. 



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SCORSESE URGES ART OVER ALGORITHM; 'IT'S ALL ILLUSION'…


With 300 guests on their feet delivering the night’s final standing ovation at the Kirk Douglas Award ceremony at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Martin Scorsese made his way to Ritz-Carlton Bacara ballroom stage, got a kiss on the cheek from presenter Leonardo DiCaprio and took his place behind the podium.

Before delivering an acceptance speech, the night’s sole honoree Scorsese had a couple of questions for his audience. “Well, you know, I … where can I begin?” asked the 76-year-old in that signature Scorsese way. “I could begin with Kirk Douglas. Can I talk about Kirk a little?”

The crowd answered with a smattering of applause as a sign of approval, and a few black-tie clad guests even shouted “Yes!” for extra confirmation. It was not necessary. No one would have objected to talk of the legendary man whose name was printed on the trophy courtesy of the night’s host, the Santa Barbara festival. Scorsese was being honored with the fest’s 14th annual Kirk Douglas Award, and so talk about Douglas he did.

He didn’t make any direct mention of the back-and-forth about his criticism of Marvel movies or his recent essay in The New York Times — at least from the stage — but he did open up on how he first fell in love with film at five years old, how DiCaprio gave him a “new lease on life,” and why the industry should ignore algorithms and business calculations. But first, it was all about Douglas.

“He really had a very profound influence on me,” Scorsese explained at the event, presented by Belvedere vodka and notable for being a high-profile stop on the awards circuit and one that always precedes the actual SBIFF, scheduled for Jan. 15-25. (Fest director Roger Durling and board president Lynda Weinman also delivered remarks at the event, which was attended by notables like Carol Burnett.) He said how in the late 1940s and early 1950s, cinema was “very essential” to his life primarily because he had asthma and thus, he wasn’t allowed to run or play ball. “So, they put me in a room and they took me to the movies.”

At that time — post World War II — Scorsese said the “mood of the films being made and the kinds of pictures people wanted to see” was changing. So were the stars on screen.

“There was a whole group of post-war actors, but there was one in the group who really stood out. … It was Kirk Douglas,” he continued. “The thing about this guy is that you couldn’t pin him down.” Scorsese went on to back up his assertion by listing the range Douglas displayed as a gangster in Out of the Past, a fighter in Champion, as a cultured English teacher in A Letter to Three Wives, as a monster producer in The Bad and the Beautiful (its poster has hung on Scorsese’s wall for 30 years) and as a washed-up star in Two Weeks in Another Town.

He loved the latter two films so much that Scorsese said he and frequent collaborator Robert De Niro attempted to pull together remakes for years. “We were obsessed with these pictures,” he noted, explaining that they tried different writers like Richard Price and Paul Schrader. “Somehow it all developed and found its way into The Irishman. That, in a funny way, is our version of what Kirk, [Vicente Minnelli] and all those guys did.”

More about Douglas. Scorsese also name-checked his films The Vikings, Lust for Life, The Juggler, Spartacus, Strangers When We Meet and Man Without a Star. “The thing about Douglas was that he seemed to live in all these films, in all these worlds. You couldn’t pin him down. He brought this very special quality. He had a very strong intensity…a strong desire to not be constrained by any conventions and certainly not limitations of the script, I can tell you. He went deep, deep into the emotional core … and this, kind of set him apart from the others.”

A compliment that has long followed Scorsese — and used to set him apart from the others — is a fierce loyalty to frequent collaborators both behind and in front of the camera. He paid special attention in his speech to the most recognizable ones, De Niro and DiCaprio. Scorsese explained that with the former, whom he has known since they were about 16 years old, there’s “an incredible trust” that has developed after doing so many films together. Their collaborations include iconic films like Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, New York, New York, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, Goodfellas, Cape Fear and Casino. Their latest is Netflix’s The Irishman, now in theaters, also stars Al Pacino, who was on hand to divide up presenting duties with DiCaprio.

Scorsese recalled the night when he first met Pacino back in the day. It was after a dinner he had with his parents and Francis Ford Coppola, who had an affinity for Scorsese’s mother’s lemon garlic chicken. After dinner, Coppola and Scorsese went to NY’s Greenwich Village to see a production of Israel Horovitz’s play Rats directed by Pacino. “To be able to work together with the [De Niro and Pacino] now with this picture, it’s a real blessing,” he continued of their first collaboration together. “Benediction; a sense of something coming full circle and I hope it’s not the last.”

Pacino, from the stage, said they’ve known each other for the duration of their respective careers, almost 50 years, but “never quite found the right thing to work on” until now. “The experience of working with Marty was more than I hoped it would be and much more. For an actor, he makes you feel safe. That’s very important for an actor because you’ve very vulnerable when you are performing. You are almost childlike. You’re exposing things in yourself and you need someone there who you trust. You push things in different directions. He is so easy to trust because you know he is in control of his craft,” said Pacino, who then got a call on his cell phone from his son that he didn’t pick up. (“It drives Marty crazy when It goes off while we’re filming.”) “He sets the stage for you, like a tight rope walker. Marty is a net, he sets it up and he’s there so you can do crazy things. It’s why he gets some of the greatest performances on film.”

Scorsese credited De Niro with introducing him to DiCaprio after the two actors made This Boy’s Life together in 1993. “He called me, he never does this, and said, ‘You gotta work with this kid, he’s really good.” So, they met up and it changed both of their lives thanks to creative partnerships on such films as Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island, The Wolf of Wall Street and the upcoming Killers of the Flower Moon.

“For the past 20 years, he’s given me as a filmmaker, creatively, a new lease on life. I can tell you that. Because I see the same kind of commitment in Leo that Kirk Douglas had. He was inspired in turn by Bob and Al’s generation who was inspired by Kirk’s generation.”

In his remarks, DiCaprio was inspired to share about Scorsese’s collaborative nature. “One of the most remarkable things about Martin Scorsese — besides being one of our greatest filmmakers — is the generosity that he exudes to everybody on set, from his creative team to his crew and especially the actors that he works with. He treats each and every one of us as a real collaborator and that is not easily said. You can say you’re a collaborator but Marty truly wants to know what you have to say as an artist. These collaborations have been forged through the years. They’re strong, symbiotic relationships with Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Joe Pesci, and dare I say myself. Through the years, these collaborations have become more like his alter egos, his muse, or more like his family.”

DiCaprio then recalled the day, nearly 20 years ago, when he first “had the honor of stepping foot” on a Scorsese set for Gangs. “I was 25 years old and I remember through the mastery of Dante Ferretti I was walking around these sets, it was like a mass scale caravansary that had popped up. He created New York’s Five Points suddenly before my eyes all within the walls of the very historic Cinecitta Studios in Rome. I knew at that moment my life and my work would never be the same. Working with Marty became almost like an encapsulated ecosystem that vastly enhanced my knowledge and appreciation for cinema as an entire art form historically. He quickly became much more than a director, he became collaborator, a mentor, a friend and a guide through the history of our shared cinematic past.”

DiCaprio then turned his attention to the present to open up on his reaction to Scorsese’s latest, The Irishman. “With his latest film, Marty has once again reunited with some of his most iconic collaborators,” he said of the epic which casts Pesci, Keitel, Pacino and DeNiro, the latter of whom anchors the story as Frank Sheeran, a truck driver turned top hit man. “It plays like an elegy. It’s a movie about looking upon what you’ve left behind and squaring up with all of it, but for me, what’s more astounding about this film, in my mind, Marty transcends his own signature genre and creates a film that methodically transforms itself into an exploration of our very own universally shared mortality. The film is absolutely breathtaking.”

DiCaprio then said as a whole, Scorsese’s “body of work will be revered for centuries and generations to come.” With that, he welcomed to the stage the man of the evening. In closing his own speech, Scorsese turned his attention to the threats facing the current generation of storytellers in a streaming world of corporate behemoths and often controversial algorithms. “I realize that commitment and dedication to the art form are always rare so, you know, when you see it, this incredible commitment and dedication, please don’t take it for granted. Today, it’s a new world, of course, and we have to be extra vigilant. Some actually believe that these qualities that I’m talking about can be replaced by algorithms and formulas and business calculations but please remember it’s all an illusion because there’s no substitute for individual or artistic expression as Kirk Douglas knew and as he expressed through his long film career.”

With that, Scorsese opened and closed his speech with talk about Douglas, and in return Douglas showed up in a surprise taped appearance to congratulate the night’s sole honoree. Or, rather, to rib on him a little. “I’m very glad to be here tonight to introduce you to a very big director, Martin Scorsese. He’s a great Hollywood director and I forgive him for not using me in Raging Bull or Taxi Driver or Cape Fear. De Niro? OK, but I would have been great,” joked the 102-year-old, who was repped in the audience by Cameron and Kelsey Douglas. “Martin, you’re a wonderful director but a terrible actor. Leave the acting to me. I’m happy tonight you receive the Kirk Douglas Award. I’m proud of you Martin. When you do your next movie, I’m available.”



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Italy declares state of emergency in Venice after flood…


Venice (AFP) – Flood-hit Venice was bracing for another exceptional high tide Friday, as Italy declared a state of emergency for the UNESCO city where perilous deluges have caused millions of euros worth of damage.

Churches, shops and homes in the city of canals have been inundated by unusually intense “acqua alta”, or high waters, which on Tuesday hit their highest level in half a century.

The crisis, driven by bad weather, has prompted the government to release 20 million euros ($22 million) in funds to tackle the devastation.

The water was expected to reach 1.5 metres (5 feet) mid-morning on Friday as strong storms and winds batter the region — lower than Tuesday’s peak but still dangerous, local officials said.

Undeterred, tourists have been larking around in the flooded St Mark’s Square in the sunshine during breaks from the rain, snapping selfies in neon plastic boots.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who has called the flooding “a blow to the heart of our country”, said late Thursday that a state of emergency had been approved.

Earlier that day he met Venice’s mayor and emergency services before jumping in a speed boat to visit businesses and locals affected by the tide.

Residents whose houses had been hit would immediately get up to 5,000 euros in government aid, while restaurant and shop owners could receive up to 20,000 euros and apply for more later, he said.

Several museums remained closed to the public on Thursday.

As authorities assessed the extent of the damage to Venice’s cultural treasures, such as St Mark’s Basilica where water invaded the crypt, locals were defiant.

Many stopped for their usual coffees at flooded bars, drinking espresso while standing in several inches of water.

Austrian tourist Cornelia Litschauer, 28, said she felt mixed emotions seeing Venice’s famous square half-submerged.

“For the tourists it’s amazing, it’s something to see. But for the people who live here it’s a real problem,” Litschauer said, cradling her white Chihuahua Pablo.

“It’s strange. Tourists are taking pictures but the city is suffering.”

– ‘Need to adapt’ –

The Locanda Al Leon hotel said its bookings had suffered from the international media coverage of the flood, with some guests cancelling their rooms after seeing images of Venice underwater.

Under the arches of the Ducal Palace, a couple from Hong Kong posed for photos in the chilly morning sun.

“This (trip) was planned a long time ago so we couldn’t change it,” groom Jay Wong, 34, said.

“Actually this is a good experience. It’s an adventure.”

Tuesday’s high waters submerged around 80 percent of the city, officials said.

Only once since records began in 1923 has the water crept even higher, reaching 1.94 metres in 1966.

Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi arrived for a private tour of the damage sustained to the basilica, while rival leader of the Italian right Matteo Salvini was due to drop by for the same on Friday.

French tourist Manon Gaudre, 22, said seeing Venice submerged was a “unique experience”.

“The damage it’s causing to monuments and the people is worrying,” she said, wondering if climate change was to blame.

Many, including Venice’s mayor, have blamed the disaster on global warming and warned that Italy — a country prone to natural disasters — must wake up to the risks posed by ever more volatile seasons.

“We need to be resilient and adapt. We need a policy that looks at the climate through completely different eyes,” Environment Minister Sergio Costa said Thursday.

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has estimated the damage to Venice at hundreds of millions of euros.

The Serenissima, as the floating city is called, is home to a mere 50,000 residents but receives 36 million global visitors each year.

A massive infrastructure project has been under way since 2003 to protect the city, but it has been plagued by cost overruns, corruption scandals and delays.

The plan involves 78 gates that can be raised to protect Venice’s lagoon during high tides — but a recent attempt to test part of it caused worrying vibrations and engineers discovered it had rusted.



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