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31/10/2018
by MediaExpert
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Thai Junta’s Rap Headache Beats On

The director of a viral rap video that has racked up tens of millions of views on YouTube with lyrics flaying Thailand’s military junta says the artists behind it have no intention of hiding from police. 

Since the junta, led by Prayut Chan-o-cha, seized power in a coup four years ago and banned political gatherings, it has harshly punished any form of dissent, jailing scores of critics and opponents. 

That’s why it was something of a surprise when director Teerawat Rujintham and the collective Rap Against Dictatorship launched a broadside against the military by releasing a profanity laced video called My Country Has It on Oct. 22. 

Teerawat told VOA the public response to the video, which has been viewed more than 23 million times on YouTube, had vastly surpassed the group’s expectations. 

Waiting for reaction

“The project served its purpose, and for now each of the members of the group and I are just waiting for the reaction from those in power and the government to contact us,” he said in an interview conducted partially through a translator. 

He said he and the group were “not going to hide from the police. We’re going to confront them, because I don’t feel that [we] did anything wrong.” 

Teerawat said the video had tapped into brooding resentment that many Thais felt toward the junta “under the surface” but could not express. 

“The country that points a gun at your throat.  Claims to have freedom but no right to choose.  You can’t say [stuff] even though your mouth is full of it. Whatever you do the leader will see you,” one artist raps in the video. 

Police initially threatened to arrest group members after the song’s release, but as online views of the video quickly shot up, they backed down. 

Local media reported Deputy National Police Chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul had filed a defamation suit against the group and stressed that its members remained under investigation.  Police have not answered VOA requests for comment. 

Prayut reportedly weighed in Tuesday, warning anyone who “shows appreciation for the song must accept responsibility for what happens to the country in future,” according to the Bangkok Post. 

“I do not care if they attack me. But if they do so against the country, I do not think it is appropriate,” he reportedly said. 

Undeterred, anti-junta punk rockers plan to hold a concert Saturday in Bangkok at the site of a notorious 1976 massacre of student protesters opposing military rule. 

The massacre is regarded as a highly sensitive topic for the junta and is graphically depicted in Teerawat’s video when the camera pans to an effigy of a corpse hanging from a tree, representing the lynchings that took place. Teerawat said he chose to use the cover-up of the massacre as a metaphor for the present. 

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, an associate professor of international political economy at Chulalongkorn University, said the artists are helping vent pent-up public frustration as long-delayed elections, expected now by mid-2019, draw closer. 

More expected

“It strikes a chord because they feel that they themselves are fed up and frustrated with no way out, no voices to be heard. So these guys are speaking up for them, and I think we will see more of it going forward,” he said. 

Political figures ranging from former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the young billionaire leader of the progressive new Future Forward party, have come out in support of the rappers’ right to speak out. 

Their support and the huge popularity of the artists means silencing them outright has become a precarious proposition, Thitinan said. 

“The military government will be in a dilemma now because on the one hand they want to suppress it, there’s no doubt. But if they do suppress it they have less chance of winning the election, because these groups are popular,” he said. 

“On the other hand, if they allow it to go on, to take place, then they would invite other groups, other movements to come to the fore against the military government,” he said. 

Meanwhile, street graffiti artist Headache Stencil has gained notice for skewering senior regime leaders, including Prayut, in his satirical works.

Paul Chambers, an expert on Thai politics and lecturer at Naresuan University, said Rap Against Dictatorship’s video has gained strong popularity among urban voters, many of whom had originally supported the military coup. 

“Thus the writing is on the wall: More and more former junta supporters want the military to return to the barracks,” he wrote in an email.  “The surprise is that more and more urban Thais, who tended to remain supportive or apathetic to the junta, have now jumped on the bandwagon of demanding a return to democracy now.”  

Prayut repeatedly has delayed promised elections since staging the 2014 coup, Thailand’s 12th since 1932. He also passed a new constitution that grants him extraordinary power and the military virtually total control of parliament. 

Some steps have been taken to loosen the bans on political activities he implemented after seizing power, though many remain. 

Rangsiya Ratanachai contributed to this report. 

31/10/2018
by MediaExpert
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Rafael Nadal Pulls Out of Paris Masters with Abdominal Pain

Rafael Nadal pulled out of his second-round match at the Paris Masters on Wednesday because of an abdominal problem, meaning Novak Djokovic will reclaim the No. 1 ranking next week.

Nadal was returning from a right knee injury which forced him to retire from the U.S. Open semifinals, but took medical advice not to play against Fernando Verdasco.

 

“The last few days I start to feel a little bit the abdominal, especially when I was serving,” Nadal said. “I was checking with the doctor and the doctor says that is recommended to not play, because if I continue the abdominal maybe can break and can be a major thing, and I really don’t want that.”

 

At last year’s tournament, Nadal reached the quarterfinals but then pulled out against Serbian qualifier Filip Krajinovic. Nadal has dealt with off-and-on knee problems for years and, given his injury record, the 32-year-old Spaniard prefers to be cautious.

 

At the U.S. Open in early September, he dropped the opening two sets against Juan Martin del Potro before retiring. He then skipped the Asia swing to recover, missing tournaments in Beijing and Shanghai.

 

“It has been a tough year for me in terms of injuries so I want to avoid drastic things,” Nadal said. “Maybe I can play today, but the doctor says if I want to play the tournament, I want to try to win the tournament, the abdominal with break for sure.”

 

Nadal did not say whether he will play at the season-ending ATP Finals in London, beginning Nov. 11.

 

“I cannot answer. I just go day by day, as I did all my tennis career,” the 17-time Grand Slam champion said. “I would love to be in London of course. But the most important thing for me is to be healthy, be healthy and have the chance to compete weeks in a row. Something that I was not able to do this year, playing only nine events and retiring in two.”

 

Nadal is optimistic his latest injury will pass, providing he does not rush back.

 

“It would not be fair to say it’s a real injury today but what is sure, if I continue it will be a real injury,” he said. “When you come back after injuries, and you push a little bit, the body at the beginning some issues can happen.”

 

Djokovic, who faces Damir Dzumhur in the third round, will reclaim the top ranking for the first time in two years on Monday.

 

Also, Roger Federer advanced to the third round after big-serving Milos Raonic retired with a right elbow injury.

 

Raonic injured himself during a three-set win against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Tuesday.

 

“In the middle of second set, I overextended my elbow and it did some kind of pain,” he said. “I went and I did an ultrasound and MRI, and they found some kind of a lesion in the tricep.”

 

Federer, who won his 99th career title at the Swiss Indoors last Sunday, will face 13th-seeded Fabio Fognini.

 

Defending champion Jack Sock of the United States and fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev reached the third round in straight sets.

 

The 16th-seeded Sock saved all four break points he faced in a 6-3, 6-3 win against Frenchman Richard Gasquet, while Zverev advanced 6-4, 6-4 over American Francis Tiafoe.

 

Seventh-seeded Kevin Anderson, the Wimbledon runner-up, got past Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3).

 

No. 8 John Isner, No. 9 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 10 Kei Nishikori also won.

 

Dimitrov had 13 aces in a 7-6 (10), 6-4 win against Roberto Bautista Agut and Nishikori beat Adrian Mannarino of France 7-5, 6-4. Isner had 33 aces in a 6-3, 6-7(2), 7-6 (1) against Mikhail Kukushkin, with the big-serving American saving a break point in the 11th game of the third set.

 

Isner and Nishikori are competing with No. 5 Marin Cilic and No. 6 Dominic Thiem for the last two spots for the ATP finals. Thiem was facing Frenchman Gilles Simon later Wednesday, while No. 11 Borna Coric was playing Daniil Medvedev.

 

 

 

 

31/10/2018
by MediaExpert
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Kanye West Distancing Himself from Politics

Three weeks after a bizarre White House meeting with U.S.

President Donald Trump, rapper Kanye West said on Tuesday he was

distancing himself from politics.

West, Trump’s biggest celebrity supporter, also sought to distance himself from a new campaign that encourages black Americans to quit the Democratic

Party.

31/10/2018
by MediaExpert
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Hidden Secrets of America’s Ghost Towns

Clues to America’s past can be found in its ghost towns, once bustling communities that have been abandoned.

The deserted communities show us how the Industrial Revolution and two World Wars shaped the history of the United States, according to Geotab, a telematics company (think global positioning and vehicle tracking), which developed an interactive map showcasing more than 3,000 abandoned towns across America.

Ghost towns are often associated with the Wild West and Texas does have the most ghost towns with 511 abandoned communities. California follows with 346, and Kansas with 308.

Most of the Texas towns were established during the frontier era, from the early to mid-1800s. Mining towns sprang up around rich mineral deposits while the Mexican government’s favorable terms — a promised 4,000 acres per family for a small fee — attracted settlers.

“In the end, some Texas towns were destroyed by natural disasters and droughts, while others failed once the railroad and highway system reshaped transportation routes,” Geotab’s Kelly Hall told us via email.

Towns founded around particular mineral resources were abandoned when demand dried up.

“Once the need declined or resources were scarce, it caused the population or entire town to vanish,” said Hall. “Others were economically overpowered by neighboring towns, the Great Depression or frontier settlements that simply died down.”

Sixty structures still survive in Bannack, Montana, which was founded in 1862. The town flourished when thousands descended on the area with hopes of making their fortune in gold. By 1860, the gold was harder to reach and, despite a brief resurgence in the 1890s, the town was abandoned by the 1940s.

Natural disasters could also wipe out a town. That’s what happened to Fort Jefferson in Monroe County, Florida.

Built starting in 1846, the fort once helped defend the state against pirates, became a prison during the Civil War, was once used as a quarantine station, and then a refueling station for the U.S. Navy. But Fort Jefferson was abandoned in 1906 after it was damaged by a hurricane.

“With limited access to technology and without today’s emergency management advancements, a hurricane, a tornado or an earthquake could mean the total devastation of an entire community,” Hall said.

But some of these ghost towns, such as Fort Jefferson, have gotten a second life as tourist attractions. The residents are long gone, but the buildings, and the unique history of each town, remain.

31/10/2018
by MediaExpert
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Pistol Annies Tackle Divorce, Complicated Women with Humor

The Pistol Annies’ sassy new song about reclaiming singlehood called “Got My Name Changed Back” has raised some eyebrows for its lyrics about a husband who cheats while on the road and prompted speculation about who might have inspired it.

 

The trio of Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe won’t say, but Presley notes that there are two divorces and two ex-husbands between them.

 

“It was a feel-good divorce song that was needed,” Presley said. “You’re welcome.”

 

“We can say whatever we want together a little more bravely than we ever would alone,” Lambert added. “Our whole catalog has been about celebrating things that weren’t so positive and putting them in a humorous light.”

 

The women tackle failed marriages, desperate wives, female friendships and complicated women with a lot of wry humor and just the right amount of sadness on their first album in five years called “Interstate Gospel,” out on Friday.

 

They wrote the record together without any outside writers, which has mostly been their pattern. “We haven’t written any songs with other writers,” Lambert said, but then the other two correct her, noting there was one song on their first album that her ex-husband Blake Shelton co-wrote with them.

 

“Oh well, he’s gone,” Lambert said with a laugh.

 

It was another divorce song that prompted them to start writing again after years of each working individually on their solo albums.

 

Lambert came up with a verse and chorus for the regretful tune, “When I Was His Wife,” and sent it to Presley and Monroe in a voice note. Soon after they were hanging out at Lambert’s house churning out songs.

 

“We don’t do per se writing sessions,” Presley said.

 

“We do slumber parties with guitars,” Lambert said.

 

The break between records has been productive for all three singers. Lambert released a critically-acclaimed double album, “The Weight of These Wings,” while Monroe and Presley each released two solo albums over the past five years.

 

“It’s like we have so much life to talk about, we have enough for solo projects and as a band,” Lambert said.

 

The song they will admit is about themselves is “Stop Drop and Roll One,” a country rocker in which they celebrate their differences and similarities. As the song goes, “One’s got the matches, one’s got the lashes, one’s running her mouth again.”

 

“If we all dumped our purses out on the table, it would be ‘Stop Drop and Roll One,'” Presley said.

 

A song like “Best Years of My Life” showcases their ability to craft emotionally complex female characters longing for escape from their monotonous lives through a recreational drug or a trashy TV show. “Masterpiece” acknowledges the public fascination with the glossy image of a perfect relationship, even if it’s not real.

 

“There’s a lot of stuff that you have to go through (as a woman),” said Monroe. “This album touches on a lot of that and there’s some humor and twists in there that make it a little less hard.”

 

The trio isn’t doing a tour to promote the album, just three shows in Nashville, New York and Los Angeles, mostly because Presley is pregnant, although they will be performing at the Country Music Association Awards on Nov. 14.

 

“This record feels very special and I feel like when we do an intimate couple of shows, it gives people a chance to live with it on tape and live with it in person and go from there,” Lambert said.

31/10/2018
by MediaExpert
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Washington Residents Celebrate Halloween With Healthy Run Through Cemetery

Kids – and a lot of adults – around the country are counting the hours left until they can celebrate the spookiest night of the year – Halloween. But some folks prefer not to wait – celebrations, parties and events dedicated to All Hallows’ Eve are in full swing. Maxim Moskalkov caught up with some Washingtonians who celebrate the day in a healthy way – with a Dead Man’s Run through the historic Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

30/10/2018
by MediaExpert
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NFL to Schedule 4 London Games in 2019

London will play host to four NFL games in the 2019 season, the league’s United Kingdom office announced Tuesday.

The league did not say which teams would play and did not disclose the game dates.

Two of the games will be played at Wembley Stadium, with the others at the stadium being built for Premier League team Tottenham.

Three NFL games were played in London this year. 

There have been 24 regular-season games played in London since the league began scheduling games there in 2007. All but three of the NFL’s 32 teams have made at least one London trip.

30/10/2018
by MediaExpert
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African Filmmaker Tells Tales of South African Migrants

In his latest film “Vaya,” Nigerian-born director Akin Omotoso explores the themes of migration and coming of age. 

“Vaya” tells the story of three strangers who get on a train, each of them with a mission to fulfill in Johannesburg. They’re coming from Durban to Johannesburg. They never meet, but their stories are intertwined,” Omotoso explained.

Each traveler has a mission. A young man is promised a job that is not what he expected. Another is sent to reclaim his father’s body — a task that is surprisingly difficult. A young woman escorts a young girl to her family in the city. Each faces rejection, abuse or violence.

The film came from the real-life stories of South Africans in the Homeless Writers Project, a workshop for people living on the streets of Johannesburg.

Vaya means “to go” in the Tsotsitaal dialect used in South African townships.

“It takes on several meanings. So, ‘to go’ — they’re leaving Durban to go to Johannesburg. But when they get there, maybe people don’t want you. They want you to go,” Omotoso said. 

The director is a migrant himself. He was born in Nigeria, but his family moved to South Africa, where his father, the writer Kole Omotoso, was a professor at the University of the Western Cape. Akin studied drama at the university, and then worked as an actor and director.

“Vaya” is one of 20 movies by filmmakers of color or female directors distributed by Array, a Los Angeles-based collective and distribution company founded by director Ava DuVernay.

“Our purpose is to make sure that audiences have access to films they otherwise would not see, those independent voices that deserve a platform for stories to be told,” said Mercedes Cooper, Array’s director of marketing.

“Vaya” was released in 2016 and has played at international festivals. It opened in U.S. theaters in late October and will stream on Netflix starting Nov. 1. Omotoso said many can relate to this story.

“I always say everyone has a cousin who’s arriving, or a brother who’s leaving, or somebody who’s coming,” he said. “So, “Vaya” is able to tap into something that doesn’t just happen in Johannesburg.”

The film taps into universal themes, notes Omotoso, such as the search for a better life and the struggle for survival. 

“It’s a thrilling ride when you start to put together the mystery of what’s going on.”

30/10/2018
by MediaExpert
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Women Make their Mark at Comicon

Each October, fans of comics, anime, graphic novels and manga…Japanese comics…descend on New York for Comic Con. A highlight of the international pop culture festival is cosplay. Cosplayers dress as characters from their favorite comics, and this year, as reporter Asli Pelit discovered, there were more women in costume. Faith Lapidus narrates.

30/10/2018
by MediaExpert
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Rock Band Kiss Promises ‘Unapologetic’ Final Tour

Members of the rock band Kiss said they are kicking off a farewell concert tour in January because they wanted to say goodbye while they could still deliver the over-the-top performances that have thrilled audiences over a 45-year career.

Known for their makeup, big hair and outrageous costumes, Kiss was among the biggest acts of the 1970s, coming out of the glam rock era with hits including “Rock and Roll All Nite.”

“How pathetic and sad would it be to see the band, and you’ve seen lots of them, (where) you remember their glory days and they’re out there a little bit too long,” said 69-year-old bassist and singer Gene Simmons.

“We have too much pride and self-respect in us, and too much love for our fans, to not live up to our self-imposed mandate,” he added. “You wanted the best, you got the best, the hottest band in the world.”

The “End of the Road” tour will start Jan. 31 in Vancouver.

It is expected to last two to three years and extend around the world, Simmons said.

“Earth is a big place and we’re going to go to every corner,” he said.

Kiss has sold more than 100 million albums over its career.

It served as a predecessor to 1980s heavy metal acts such as Motley Crue. Kiss currently includes two original members – Simmons along with singer and guitarist Paul Stanley – plus guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer.

“I guarantee that the people who come that have never seen us before are going to say ‘Why did we wait so long?,'” 66-year-old Stanley said, “because this is going to be bombastic, explosive, unapologetic and a celebration of everything we’ve done.”

“The word ‘bittersweet’ doesn’t really enter into it,” he added. “For us, it’s a celebration. We want to go out on top while we can still do what we do.”

30/10/2018
by MediaExpert
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Frank Underwood is Dead but Looms Large in Final ‘House of Cards’ Season

In the final season of Netflix’s “House of Cards,” Frank Underwood is physically gone, having died unexpectedly in his sleep. But the ghost of the win-at-all-costs politician played by Kevin Spacey haunts his wife and her young presidency.

Writers of the acclaimed drama had to rework the story after Spacey was accused of sexual misconduct a year ago and dropped from the show that made Netflix a player in premium television.

The ending of the Underwoods’ story, which the producers called a “season of reckoning,” will be available on Netflix on Nov. 2.

At last season’s conclusion, Frank’s statuesque wife Claire, played by Robin Wright, looked into the camera and declared “my turn” as the power shifted and she became the first female U.S. president.

After Spacey’s departure, executive producers and writers Frank Pugliese and Melissa James Gibson said everyone involved in the show felt they wanted to go ahead with a sixth and final season.

“What would it been like to actually rob her turn?” Pugliese said in an interview. “It seemed like an impossible, unacceptable way to end it that way.”

The eight new episodes do not dance around Frank’s absence.

The first episode reveals early on that he died in bed but makes the cause of his death the subject of an ongoing mystery.

“It would have felt really dishonest to try and erase him essentially as a character,” Gibson said. “I think that wouldn’t have honored the seeds of the show.”

Spacey was nominated for five Emmys for his “House of Cards” role. But last November, Netflix quickly cut ties with the actor after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced. He has been accused by more than 20 men and has said nothing publicly about the allegations since an apology to the first accuser in October 2017.

Throughout the final “House of Cards” season, Claire is forced to constantly grapple with her late husband’s deals and the compromises she made with him.

“She is trying to carve out her own path and in doing so she has the opportunity and obligation to really face herself in a profound way,” Gibson said.

Claire also has to figure out who she can trust as the White House is destabilized with Frank out of picture, a scenario that provided the writers with rich story lines, they said.

“The circumstances became opportunities that I hope this season fulfills,” Pugliese said.