Coca-Cola apologizes for indigenous people ad intended as ‘message of unity’

3 days ago

The ad, in which fair-skinned people bring soda to a local town, is not the first time countrys lax advertising regulations permitted offensive stereotyping

Coca-Cola issued a rare apology and was necessary to pull an online advert which was deemed offensive to Mexicos indigenous people by customers, media and advocacy groups in the country.

The ad demonstrates fair-skinned, attractive, young people turning up at an indigenous township bearing gifts of sugary fizzy drinks and a Christmas tree for the overawed locals. The company said its ad, set in the Mixe town of Totontepec in the state of Oaxaca, was meant to convey a message of unity and joy. Instead, it reproduction and reinforced stereotypes of indigenous people as culturally and racially subordinate, according to activists, who want the company sanctioned by the governments anti-discrimination committee.

But this was not the first time Mexicos relaxed attitude to advertising regulation and uncouth stereotypes have triggered an online backlash against a multinational company.

Aeromexico, the national airline, had to apologise in 2013 after a casting call invited only fair-skinned actors to apply for a new Tv commercial.

Mexicos population is largely dark-skinned, but few are ever casting in positive roles on television.

Amid widespread fury at the flagrantly racist ad, Aeromexico tried to deflect the blame by pointing the finger at the ag bureau.

Earlier this year, McDonalds made a huge culture faux pas when it decided to disparage a popular traditional breakfast dish in hope of boosting its own sales.

A Facebook campaign to promote McBurritos claimed tamales a popular steamed savoury maize dish stuffed with spiced meat or cheese which dates back to pre-Hispanic cultures were a thing of the past( Tamales son del pasado ).

The ad caused such a ruckus that it was withdrawn within hours.

Last year, carmaker Renault Mexico was shamed into submission after its YouTube ad for the SUV Koleos was detonation as racist, sexist and classist by Spanish-language media.

In the ad, a sophisticated driver listening to classical music while stuck at a traffic light is ambushed by some street musicians looking for a few pesos. Local media noted that while such scenes are common in Mexican adverts, they are considered belittling by countries which regulate ad content.

Amid an epidemic of obesity and diabetes, the coming week retreat by Coca-Cola was not the first time its ad tactics have prompted criticism in Mexico which is the biggest consumer of sugary fizzy beverages in the world.

The company ended its 149 calories of happiness campaign after customer groups announced threatened to lodge a formal complaint with regulators alleging deliberate deception. At the time, Coca-Cola told the Guardian that the timing was coincidental, as the campaign was due to end anyway.

Not even the government itself isimmune from advertising boo-boos. In October, a video campaign to publicize government reforms was withdrawn within 24 hours after its endeavor at humorous irony predictably backfired.

The video in which the government complained about the publics objections – triggered a wave of anti-government sentiments causing the hashtag #YaCholeConTusQuejas( enough of your objections) to swiftly trend on Twitter.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

She could have been a top US soccer player. Problem was, she was undocumented

3 days ago

Allyson Duarte was good, worked hard, and dreamed of playing soccer at a top US college. But she soon learned talent means nothing when you dont have papers

She came to America to chase a soccer career only to learn that talent means nothing here when you are undocumented. Now 25 -year-old Allyson Duarte sits inside an airport named Reagan, gazing at a city called Washington, and wonders which politicians will ruin their own lives next.

football

Through a giant window at Reagan national airport she can see the US Capitol gleaming in the late-day sun. The day before she had been inside under its dome with 1,000 other Dreamer- undocumented high school graduates brought here as children like her- asking Congress to pass a Dream Act that protects high school and college graduates without criminal records.

But as she waits for a flight back to Texas, where she has lived since eighth grade, she worries that supportive words from representatives and senators might not be enough, a legislative solution won’t be reached for Dreamer and he will be shipped back to Mexico.

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Who are Dreamers?

Dreamers are young immigrants who would qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival( Daca) program, legislated under Barack Obama in 2012. Most people in the program entered the US as children and have lived in the US for years “undocumented”. Daca dedicated them temporary protection from deportation and work permits. Daca was only available to people younger than 31 on 15 June 2012, who arrived in the US before turning 16 and lived there endlessly since June 2007. Most Dreamers are from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and the largest numbers live in California, Texas, Florida and New York. Donald Trump cancelled the program in September but has also said repeatedly he wants Congress to develop a program to “help” the population.

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What is the American Dream any more? Once she thought she knew. That was back when she was 13 in Veracruz, Mexico, wanted nothing more than to access the US soccer system, go to college and play professionally. She believed the American Dream all the way through high school in McAllen, Texas, where she had a 3.8 grade point average and an ability to play almost stanceon the field. She thought those things alone would get her into almost any top soccer school, until she realise those colleges sometimes flew to away matches and because she had no government ID she wouldn’t be able to get on the planes. If she couldn’t fly, she couldn’t play college soccer.

By the time Barack Obama generated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012 letting her to procure a work permit( that lets her fly) her chance to play college football had passed.

” I was this close ,” she says, leaning forward in her seat, pinching her thumb and index fingers virtually together.” That’s how I started questioning meritocracy and the American Dream. I had to grapple with their own problems of not having access to the American Dream .”

Then she slumps back in the chair, sighs heavily and gazes in silence at the city that has reduced people like her to a television talking point.

As a child, Duarte loved soccer, playing it every day on the street outside her mothers’ home in Veracruz. She didn’t care the other players were all boys. She could play rough. She could play fast. When she was 12 she joined a local women’s club. The players were all 18 and essentially adults. But playing with them stimulated her realize how good she could be. She was convinced she could play professionally.

Allyson
Allyson Duarte on the field. Photograph: Allyson Duarte

Her problem was that Veracruz offered few soccer opportunities for a girl. If she actually hoped for a soccer career, she realized she’d have to come to the US, play on a big youth team them go to a top college where the professional coaches and scouts would see her. Her father was already in the US, having left when she was eight to find work in McAllen. She longed to join him. When she was 13, he arranged for her to come along with her mother and friend. Three days later she started seventh grade. She knew only three English words: hello, blue and baseball.

She excelled in her new country, quickly learning English. Within weeks, she had stimulated her middle school’s team and joined the top local club squad. She went on to McAllen high school, a local girl’s soccer power, where she played well, switching between midfield and assault. She excelled at cross-country. It was not an easy transition, however: many of the girls on the team were white, and she struggled to bond with them. When white team-mate bluntly asked on a bus trip-up:” Are you a citizen ?” She froze, then replied:” I’m a resident .”

” I didn’t want to be exposed ,” she says.

Duarte put up with everything for a purpose. She was sure she was doing all the right things to get to a top soccer school. Then, starting her sophomore year, the college coaches started going. She could tell they were interested by the way they watched her play. But when she talked to them her hopes dropped. They explained that their schools did not devote full scholarships to women’s soccer players. They fund they could offer would not cover her full tuition. She told them she was undocumented and they told her that because she’d have to fly sometimes it would be hard to offer a scholarship to a player who couldn’t make all the matches.

” They need you full-time if they are going to recruit you ,” Duarte says.

She was crushed. When her senior season ended, she quitted soccer and deleted her Facebook account cutting all contact from her high school life.

” Since I couldn’t play football I went into a deep depression ,” she says.” So I merely walked away .”

Duarte enrolled into the only school she could afford, their home communities college, South Texas College, that didn’t have a football squad. Two year later, she transferred to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley where she was able to get an academic scholarship. She visited the football coach-and-four who seemed interested in having her on his team. Though he had already given out his scholarships, he invited her to practice with the hope she could play the next year.

At
At McAllen high school, Allyson also excelled at cross-country. Photo: Allyson Duarte

Her abilities had eroded, though. Those two years away had robbed her of speed and agility. The coach-and-four had brought in several players from Europe and she couldn’t help but see irony in the fact that someone who had never lived in the US before could have an opportunity that she- nearby residents for almost 10 years at the time- could not. After a few days she stopped coming to the practices.

Her love for soccer had disappeared.

‘It’s extremely heartbreaking when you hear narratives like this ,” Doug Andreassen, head of the US Soccer’s Diversity Task Force, when recently told abut Duarte’s plight.” It happens a lot and there’s nobody there to help them. There’s nobody at the colleges to help them .”

Andreassen says he talks to many young players like Duarte, undocumented teens with great ability who have come to the US from soccer-playing country level have visions of going to American colleges. He tries to be honest when he satisfies them, explaining that their immigration status might be an impediment though doing so can be difficult.

” I don’t want to crush their dreamings but I have to be realistic ,” he tells.” I don’t want to send them down the road leading to letdown later on .”

He desperately wants the system to change.

Duarte does too, though she has a new passion. Philosophers move her the style football once did. She loves the writes of John Rawls, Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua and Enrique Domingo Dussel- people who challenged the ideas of justice, classism and imperialism. She detected her dream had changed. She wants to go to graduate school where she can develop her notions. She has chosen the two schools to which she wants to apply most: Penn State and City University of New York Graduate Center.

But is again she is held back, this time because her work permit expires next autumn. If Donald Trump has his route and Daca is cancelled, she frets she will be sent back to Mexico and won’t be able to complete her graduate program. This reality has stimulated her an activist- a Dreamer determined to not lose two dreams before she turns 26.

” I should be on the Mexican national team now ,” she says.” But one of the things I’ve learned is you have to enjoy the moment. You can’t set it all on one thing. You have to keep moving .”

She gazes once more at the Capitol , now a blaze white in the fading afternoon. In the background, the airport PA announces gate changes and boarding hours. She doesn’t seem to hear. Instead she stares through the glass wondering if the people in Congress understand what already she has lost and what more she has to lose. A bigger question might be: do they even care about the American Dream?

Whatever it is.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

‘A useful punching bag’: why Hungary’s Viktor Orban has turned on George Soros

5 days ago

There are fears that the far right could be emboldened by a campaign against the Hungarian-born American billionaire. Shaun Walker reports from Budapest

In 1989 the American-Hungarian financier George Soros pay money Viktor Orbn to study in Britain. Two decades later, he donated$ 1m to Orbns government to help the cleanup after the red sludge environmental disaster .

Over the years, the billionaire has spent hundreds of millions of dollars financing education and civil society projects in Hungary, the country of his birth, through his Open Society Foundations( OSF ).

But now Soros has become the Hungarian prime ministers No 1 political target.

On billboards across Budapest Soros stands accused of being a political marionette master. Last week, in a move seen as directly targeting Soros, Hungarys parliament passed legislation necessitating NGOs to declare themselves as foreign agents on their websites and documentation if they receive funding from political sources abroad.

How did it get to this?

Soross reputation in Hungary took a specific made during the course of its 2015 migrant crisis, when his advocacy for the humane therapy for refugees ran up against Hungarys ultra-conservative government, led by Orbn, a rightwing nationalist.

In recent months, the dispute has intensified. The “ministers ” has described the billionaire as someone who had ruined the lives of tens of millions of people with currency speculation.

Soros hit back with a speech in Brussels this month in which he referred to the Hungarian government as a mafia nation and said: He[ Orbn] sought to frame his policies as a personal conflict between the two of us and has constructed me the target of his unrelenting propaganda campaign.

Orbns spokesman, Zoltn Kovcs, told the Guardian that the Brussels speech was a declaration of political war on Hungary. Soros-funded organisations, Kovcs said, were engaged in political activism camouflaged as NGO work.

Goran Buldioski, director of the OSFs Budapest-based Europe office, told Soross funding for Hungary had been dramatically scaled back since the country joined the EU in 2004. Much of the previous funding was for growth and education, with Orbn the recipient of a Soros-funded scholarship to study at the University of Oxford in 1989. Soros also set up the Central European University, based in Budapest, which has been targeted by Orbns government of late.

But Soross foundations spent only $3.6 m in Hungary in 2016, told Buldioski, a tiny fraction of what the government spent on promoting a referendum last October aimed at barring refugees from the country.

On his desk at the OSF offices in Budapest, Buldioski keeps a copy of a recent edition of a popular local newspaper, which featured a full-page photo of Soros on page two, accompanied by the caption Outrageous.

A video recently produced by Orbns ruling Fidesz alliance also uses the Outrageous slogan and complains that the EU wants to change Hungarys tough migration policy, and then tells: An organisation shall be financed by George Soros is launching lawsuits against our homeland in support of Brussels.

The video refers to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, partially funded by OSF, which provided free legal assistance to about 3,000 people last year, including many asylum seekers, taking 70 examples to the European tribunal of human rights.

The organisation said it would not comply with the new demands to brand itself a foreign agent, calling the law unconstitutional.

Some government critics said the attacks on Soros were merely an exploitative method of harnessing popular support in the run-up to elections next spring.

Hes a very useful punch bag, because hes both the insider and the outsider, the meddling foreigner and the Hungarian Jew, said Heather Grabbe, director of the Open Society European Policy Institute, which is the EU policy arm of the OSF. She added that there were clear antisemitic overtones to the campaign against Soros by Fidesz.

Soros was born Gyrgy Schwartz to a family of Hungarian Jews in 1930, but his father changed their surname to make it more Hungarian. As a young son in the 1930 s, Soros lived in an apartment on Budapests Kossuth tr, the square overlooking the parliament build, until his family was forced to split up and are living in assumed identities to escape the Holocaust. He left Hungary in 1947 to study in London, and later emigrated to the US, constructing billions as an investor and hedge fund manager.

Hungarys Jewish community is split over the question of whether antisemitism plays a role in Orbns grievance with Soros. Adam Schonberger, director of a Jewish organisation that runs the Aurora community centre in Budapest, said he believed the governmental forces campaign was not antisemitic, but had the potential to empower others who were.

The Aurora centre was set up in 2014 and acts as a kind of coalition of the vulnerable, housing the offices of NGOs that work on Jewish issues, Roma issues, LGBT rights, migrants, drug use and homelessness. The proceeds from an on-site bar and regular concerts go to support the running of the space, and the centres initial funding arrived partially from Soros.

Last month, a group of far-right activists defaced the outside of the building, spray-painting Stop Operation Soros on the pavement and plastering photographs of his face with a red cross struck through it on the doorway. Time permitting, we will say hello again, said an article about the two attacks posted on a far-right website. The centre appealed to police, but authorities claimed there was nothing they could do about it.

One of the reasons theyre behaving more brazenly now is that they have a sense that their hour has come. Their mission to save Hungary has become mainstream political ideology, said Schonberger, sitting in Auroras courtyard, which turns into a bar in the evenings.

Buldioski said: In the past, Soros was criticised by the political fringe, rightwing nationalists and some radical leftists. But now, the criticism is moving more mainstream.

Not simply in Hungary. In Romania, the chairman of the ruling Social Democratic party, Liviu Dragnea, told Soros and his organisations have fed evil in the country; while a Polish MP from the ruling conservative government has referred to Soros as the most hazardous human in the world. The US right has also joined in: in a semi-coherent rant, radio host and Donald Trump supporter Alex Jones claimed Soros heads a Jewish mafia.

But while Jones is on the edge of the debate, in Hungary, the anti-Soros discourse has become mainstream, feeding into the populist anti-migrant discourse. Andrs Bencsik, editor of the rightwing monthly publication Demokrata, described Soros as a dangerous man who was destabilising Hungary, first and foremost through his attitude to migration. We said: Thank you very much but we want to close our doors, and Soros told: No, I want you to open the gates.

Benscik, a Fidesz member whose office is decorated with swords, daggers and portraits of Hungarian statesmen, indicated darkly that Soros may have some secret plan to destroy the country, but struggled to explain what this secret conspiracy might be.

Behind his mask there is another person with a objective, we just dont know what it is. He has a special programme in his intellect, but nobody knows what it is, he said.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Ted Cruz Twitter account ‘likes’ pornographic tweet

8 days ago

Married Texas senator, who once defended a ban on sex dolls, asked to explain how his account came to like the graphic post

Texas senator Ted Cruz has been asked to explain himself after his official account “liked” a pornographic tweet.

Although liking a Twitter post does not necessarily share it, the tweet became available to view on Cruz’s confirmed profile, leading to series of awkward screenshots.

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A screenshot posted by Twitter user Ashley Feinberg of the pornographic tweet’ liked’ by Cruz’s account. Photograph: Ashley Feinberg/ Twitter

Catherine Frazier, Cruz’s senior communications adviser, said ” the offensive tweet positioned on @tedcruz account earlier has been removed by staff and reported to Twitter “.

But this added to confusion about what had happened, because the like was not a tweet and Frazier’s statement implied that it was made by someone who should not have had access to Cruz’s account.

Catherine Frazier (@ catblackfrazier)

The offensive tweet positioned on @tedcruz account earlier has been removed by staff and reported to Twitter

September 12, 2017

Cruz joked to reporters on Tuesday that” perhaps we should have done something like this during the Indiana primary “. Cruz finished second to Donald Trump in that state’s presidential primary, ultimately dooming his presidential campaign, which long suffered from the constant media attention are received by Trump.

The Texas senator went on to add” there are a number of people on the team that have access to the account and it appears that someone inadvertently reached the like button “. When would like to know whether Cruz himself had liked the tweet, he told said:” It was a staffing issue, and it was inadvertent, it was a mistake, it was not a deliberate action .”

The mishap was particularly awkward due to Cruz’s support of conservative household values and his involvement in a court case in Texas about banning the use of sexuality toys.

In 2007, when he was Texas’s solicitor general, two sex doll companies sued to overrule the state’s outlaw on the sale of so-called marital assists. The state defended the ban in submissions partly written by Cruz’s office, which argued 😛 TAGEND

There is no substantive due process right to induce one’s genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship.

The US supreme court subsequently found that there was no legality to the country interfering in the sexuality lives of consenting adults.

The liking of the pornographic post helped resurface a 2016 tweet from the Tv producer Craig Mazin, in which he said he shared a room with Cruz and his notion about genital stimulation were rather different to those expressed in the country argument.

Craig Mazin (@ clmazin)

Ted Cruz supposes people don’t have a right to “stimulate their genitals.” I was his college roommate. This would be a new notion of his.

April 13, 2016

Twitter users stimulated gags about the incident based on clips of the pornographic video liked by Cruz’s account.

Justin (@ DTPJustin)

Me waiting for Ted Cruz’s inevitable statement that his Twitter was hacked pic.twitter.com/ QVkpizbS4 7

September 12, 2017

Philip DeFranco (@ PhillyD) When you find why Ted Cruz is trending …

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Manchester City’s plan for global dominance

12 days ago

The long read: Football has already been transformed by big money but the businessmen behind Man City are trying to build a global corporation that will change the game for ever

On 19 December 2009, Pep Guardiola stood and wept in the middle of Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. The 38-year-old Barcelona manager clasped a hand across his face as his body gave way to huge, shoulder-heaving sobs. Zlatan Ibrahimović, the club’s towering Swedish striker, wrapped a tattooed arm around Guardiola’s neck and then gave him a vigorous push in order to jolt him out of it. But Guardiola could not stop. It was a strange place for the world’s most celebrated football coach to break down: Barcelona had just won a game that few people watched on television to secure one of football’s most obscure titles, the Fifa Club World Cup. But the victory secured an unbreakable record: Barcelona had won all six titles available to any club in a single year. That is why Pep was sobbing.

Back at home in Barcelona, it was a bittersweet moment for Ferran Soriano. A hairdresser’s son from the city’s working-class district of Poblenou, Soriano had become one of FC Barcelona’s top executives – and had helped build what could now claim to be the greatest football team the world had ever seen. “I was happy, but it was also painful not to be there when the team reached its pinnacle,” he told me. Instead, he picked up the phone and called Guardiola.

Soriano had overseen Barcelona’s finances for five years until 2008, and the club’s record owed much to the ideas he had developed after running a US-style political campaign to bring a group of swashbuckling, sharp-suited young men to power at elections for a new board of directors in 2003. He had even written a book, La Pelota no entra por azar (“The ball doesn’t go in by chance”), in which he argued that Barcelona’s success – and, by inference, that record – was the result of good, creative business management. Vicious political infighting had driven him to resign from the club the previous year. But even before that, he had seen one of his more ambitious ideas – to set up franchise clubs in other countries – thwarted at Barcelona. This was a step too far for a club owned by 143,000 voting fans, firmly rooted in their city and Catalonia.

But Soriano’s big idea has now been brought to life by two men who were watching very closely on the night Guardiola wept in Abu Dhabi: one is a member of the United Arab Emirates’ ruling family, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and the other is Khaldoon al-Mubarak, a youthful executive and adviser to the royal family. With their backing, Soriano is now upending football’s established order by building its first true multinational corporation – a Coca-Cola of soccer.

That corporation is City Football Group (CFG). It already owns, or co-owns, six clubs on four continents, and the contracts of 240 male professional players and two dozen women. Hundreds more carefully picked teenagers and younger children who aspire to greatness play in CFG’s lower teams. The longterm ambition is huge. The company will trawl the world for players – shaping and polishing them in state-of-the-art academies and training facilities across several continents, selling them on or sending the best to the clubs it will own (and improve) in a dozen or so countries. Supplied and shielded by the vessels around it, the flagship of this new football flotilla – Manchester City FC – will continue its already startling rise to become the world’s greatest club.

That is the Soriano idea – or at least, a simplified version of a complex plan. The corporation is only four years old, but it is rapidly becoming one of the most powerful forces in the world’s favourite sport – watched with awe, envy and fear by those who wonder if it could become football’s own Google or Facebook.


In a game where top players cost £200m, televised matches attract audiences of hundreds of millions and club owners are among the wealthiest potentates on the planet, no expense is spared in seeking any competitive edge. Once upon a time, money alone was enough to make the difference (if it was spent wisely), but that is no longer the case, in part because there is so much of it sloshing around the game.

When Manchester City won the Premier League in 2012, Sheikh Mansour was widely accused of “buying the title for £1bn” – the amount of money he had poured into City since purchasing the club four years earlier. It was City’s first major trophy in 36 years, and grown men cried when Sergio Agüero’s goal in the penultimate minute of the season’s final game secured the title. Mansour watched it on television: he had only ever been to one match at City’s Etihad stadium, and did not enjoy the fuss his visit caused. In the hours that followed, his phone hummed, filling up with 2,500 messages.

Man
Man City CEO Ferran Soriano. Photograph: Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images

But this was also the end of an era. European football’s regulator, Uefa, had brought in new rules designed to stop clubs spending much more than they earned. Critics dismissed Mansour as a spoiled hobbyist, and even today some wonder to what extent his “private” ownership might become an instrument of Abu Dhabi’s soft power. But his few public statements made it clear that he had bought City – and ploughed money into it – as a genuine, long-term investment because “in cold business terms, Premiership football is one of the best entertainment products in the world”.

The ambition, then, was double – he intended to win at both football and business. But with the Uefa spending brake, that was about to become much tougher. He needed something new. Could City win without losing money?

In fact, when Soriano’s gang of smart young businessmen took over Barcelona in 2003, it was a loss-making club. As finance chief, Soriano helped deliver a spiralling “virtuous circle” of high investment, trophies and then even higher revenues. Forceful and analytical, he had built and sold a global consultancy business by the age of 33; at Barcelona, where he was nicknamed both “the Panzer” and “the Computer”, he made a strong-willed but sensible counterpoint to the club’s mercurial president, Joan Laporta. But Soriano also saw Barcelona as something far bigger than a city club, while realising that the global football business itself was poised to enter a new era. In 2006, at a talk Soriano delivered at Birkbeck College in London, he presented 28 slides that set out his early vision. Thanks to the phenomenal growth in their worldwide fan bases, he noted, big clubs were being transformed from promoters and organisers “of local events, like a circus” into “global entertainment companies like Walt Disney”. If big clubs seized the opportunity to “capture the growth and become global franchises”, they would soon stand apart from their rivals, creating a new, world-conquering elite.

“He thought, and thinks, in a different way to most other people in football,” says Simon Chadwick, now a professor at Salford University, who had invited Soriano to give the talk at Birkbeck. At the time, Soriano himself was disappointed to find English football so in thrall to a model in which managers such as Arsène Wenger and Alex Ferguson appeared to run their own clubs, while “the level of conceptualisation of the business model was zero”. Even the language was telling. “They called the coach ‘manager’, as if he managed everything,” Soriano recalled.

With his abrupt departure from Barcelona in 2008, Soriano’s dream of turning that club into a global franchise, with a first satellite team in the US, was definitively dashed. Instead, Soriano threw himself into running an airline, Spanair. But five years after his presentation in London, as Mansour sought a fresh competitive edge, both on and off the field, Soriano found himself, in October 2011, sitting down for a 7am meeting in a Mayfair hotel with the globetrotting New York lawyer Marty Edelman – who was tempting him back into football.

Edelman had been drafted on to City’s board by Mansour, working alongside his appointed chairman, the US-educated Khaldoon al-Mubarak, from the very beginning. Edelman, a real estate expert, was already a trusted adviser in Abu Dhabi, and the choice of an American was an early sign of the club’s new cosmopolitanism. Soriano initially brushed off City’s advances. He was used to associating Manchester with its glittering rival United, and he still distrusted what he called “the stereotype of the rich owner”. (In his book, he had even described City as a club that provoked “savage inflation” through “irrational investment”.) But the two sides were slowly discovering shared values. Chief among them was ambition – and with that came a willingness to challenge the status quo.

Even then, it was an off-and-on affair. Meetings followed in Paris and Abu Dhabi, before, in April 2012, Soriano was sneaked through Manchester airport (where the club says it “can get people in without anyone knowing they have arrived”) and taken to a room at the Lowry Hotel booked in someone else’s name. A former rugby second-row forward, Soriano is, at 6ft 3in, difficult to hide. By now it was a mutual seduction, with City wanting to persuade him that, with Mansour’s long-term commitment, the club could be as great as Barcelona. Soriano, in turn, pitched a mould-breaking plan that required deep pockets, imagination and a steady nerve. Both sides agreed that City should aspire to being the world’s top club – a position long held by either Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester United. “And I mean number one – not number two or three,” Soriano told me.


The idea of becoming the world’s biggest club was not just vanity or business machismo. Soriano had spotted long before that a tiny group of elite clubs would capture the new global market, but he also wanted to build something “far bigger”. Football clubs, he pointed out, were massive brands but absurdly small businesses: a team with a global following of 500 million fans might have an income of only €500m. “That’s one euro per fan,” he says, “which is utterly ridiculous.” In business terms, this was “a combination of a lot of love and, literally, no love” – because fans in, say, Indonesia spent nothing on their club. “So what can we do? The answer was pretty simple, maybe too simple, but very bold. You have to be global but local. You have to go to Indonesia and open a shop.” He outlined his idea for a corporation that would have both a global brand – in Manchester City – and lots of local brands, developing talent through a network of clubs that would also provide a pipeline of players for City. He knew this might sound far-fetched. “If I had pitched this idea to Real Madrid, the answer would be ‘you’re crazy’ – and that is actually what had happened in Barcelona,” he told me.

But City was already going through a revolution, and was ready for more. For Edelman, the plan put flesh on the skeleton built with Mansour’s millions. “Any great idea needs to have a host, right? And we were a great host,” Edelman told me at his Park Avenue offices. “You couldn’t take Ferran’s idea and just put it on a blank sheet.” Soriano’s idea (which he now terms his “artistic challenge”) was a way of taking Mansour’s original vision – summed up in his early pledge to build “a structure for the future, not just a team of all-stars” – and putting it “on steroids”, in Edelman’s words.

Soriano started work as CEO of Manchester City on Saturday 1 September 2012. Two days later, he arrived in New York to create a new football club. This meant paying $100m (£74m) for a spot in Major League Soccer (MLS), the professional league for the US and Canada, and building a team from nothing. Seeking a local partner, Edelman eventually took Soriano to see Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, the owners of the New York Yankees. The brothers had inherited their baseball team, but Hank is a soccer fan who played at college and coached his local high-school team. It was one of the quickest deals Edelman had ever seen struck, taking “about 15 seconds” to agree it. “It just worked,” he told me. The Yankees took 20% of the new team and offered their stadium as a temporary home. (It still is, though it takes 72 hours to transform it from a baseball field into a soccer pitch.) The team, baptised New York City Football Club, began playing in 2015. Forbes now values it at $275m (£205m). To fans it is “NYCFC”, or simply “New York City” – a marketer’s dream. “Our brand is perfect, because it is ‘City’ and we know we can add that word to any city,” observed Soriano, who began his working life marketing detergents.

Man City global reach map

When I first visited the Etihad campus in March, the wall behind the reception desk bore the shields of City, NYCFC and two other clubs: Melbourne City, and Yokohama F Marinos, a Japanese club in which CFG owns a minority stake. Melbourne Heart, as the Australian club was originally known, had only been founded in 2009. It won its first major trophy last season, just two years after City bought it and changed its name, and changed its colours to sky blue. “It’s like being a start-up tech firm, and Apple buying you,” Scott Munn, the club’s founding CEO, told me. East Manchester, in this analogy, will become the Silicon Valley of soccer. A modest cluster of other football businesses is even forming in the area – making the Californian analogy even more apt.

By the time I returned two months later, City had bought yet another club, this time in Uruguay – Atlético Torque, a second-division side that was founded in 2007 and became professional only in 2012. At the company’s annual staff meeting in May, a representative from the new outpost began his presentation with a map of South America and a large arrow pointing to Uruguay. “Nobody knows what is Torque. Nobody knows where is Torque,” he admitted, only half-jokingly. (It is in Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo.) “In this room we have as many people as go to a Torque match.” The ambition, however, was for the club to rise to the first division, finish in the top four and qualify for continent-wide competitions – and this in a country that produces world-class players such as Barcelona’s Luis Suárez or Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani. Rather more mysteriously, the club also aimed to “sign and register players from all across South America”. The latter was the result of a cold statistical analysis, which had revealed that Uruguay was the biggest per-capita exporter of professional footballers – an astounding £25m-a-year business. And this was despite the fact that many small clubs often sold talented players cheaply when they were still teenagers. “It’s astonishing,” Soriano said. “We are big, and will hold on to them longer” – making them even more valuable.

The next time I saw Soriano – at his holiday apartment in the small Catalan beach resort of Tamariu – it was July, and he had closed yet another deal just a day earlier. For €3.5m (£3.1m), City had purchased 44% of Girona, a club in Spain’s top division. This was a far bigger fish. As he sat on a balcony overlooking the bay in shorts and a T-shirt – pulling data on fan numbers and television rights out of a battered laptop – Soriano looked happy (and not just because, in Tamariu, he can make work calls from his balcony and then pop down to join his two “Mancunian” infant daughters on the beach).

“When we agreed the price last year, it was in the second division. Now it’s in the first,” he said. On 29 October this year, with help from players loaned by Manchester City, the newly promoted team convincingly beat Real Madrid in their first meeting. The injection of CFG cash and know-how at Torque has had an even more dramatic effect. Last month it finished top of Uruguay’s second division, meaning it has already been promoted – just six months after it was bought.


Soriano is convinced that football will eventually become the biggest sport in almost every country in the world, “including the United States and India,” he says. So how far will CFG go? “We’re open. In Africa we have a relationship with an academy in Ghana. And we’ve been looking at opportunities in South Africa,” he said. CFG already has a close relationship with Atlético Venezuela in Caracas; Soriano also mentioned Malaysia and Vietnam. The limit, he suggested, was two or three clubs per continent. But the next major purchase may well be in China, where the group is “actively looking” to buy a club.

In October 2015, China’s football-loving president, Xi Jinping, visited City’s Etihad stadium; two months later, Chinese investors bought 13% of CFG for $400m (£265m), valuing the whole at $3bn. This was probably well over 30% more than Mansour had pumped into it (no exact figures are available). Soriano has been watching the dramatic, chaotic evolution of Chinese soccer – a pet project for Xi – ever since he arrived in Manchester. At first, Soriano was put off by rumours of chaos and corruption, and then by a price bubble. “The market is now more rational and the league is more structured,” he says.

Xi wants China to create 50,000 special “soccer schools” within 10 years – partly to get deskbound schoolchildren fit – and to make ready 140,000 pitches. Soriano sees an opportunity to teach millions of children soccer, which “might be bigger than the business of Manchester City”. It is a reminder that CFG – which recently put $16m into a joint venture to own and operate five-a-side urban pitches in the US – is interested in the entire sector, not just clubs.

Chinese
Chinese president Xi Jinping, Man City striker Sergio Aguero and then prime minister David Cameron at MCFC’s Etihad stadium in Manchester in 2015. Photograph: Sergio Aguero/AP

CFG is not the only owner of multiple clubs – and some other teams are experimenting with modest forms of integration – but the others are largely just investment portfolios. CFG is the only owner that has consciously established a single corporate culture around the world, which in some cases extends to wearing the same sky-blue shirts. Fernando Pons, a sports business partner at Deloitte in Spain, sees this as a prime example of what consultants have dubbed “glocalisation” – a concept that implies taking a global product, but adapting to local markets. “A Girona or New York City fan will almost certainly also become a City fan,” he said. It also means that the advertising for Nissan, SAP and Wix that is seen at the Etihad stadium in Manchester will be replicated in Melbourne or New York – and that players from the US or Australia will be able to travel off-season to the world’s most advanced training centre, built on 34 hectares of land beside the Etihad and equipped with sophisticated extras such as hyperbaric and hypoxic chambers that can simulate high altitude or boost blood oxygen levels.

What seems to excite Soriano most, however, is the vast pool of players and the range of clubs they can play in. CFG almost certainly already owns the contracts of more professional soccer players than anyone else in the world, and that number is only set to go higher. So while “entertainment” and running clubs is the group’s first business, he explained, “business number two is player development”. The inspiration is Barcelona’s famous and much-copied Masia youth academy, which, for about €2m each, produced legendary players such as Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta, Xavi, Carles Puyol and Guardiola. At today’s prices, the same group would cost closer to €1bn. “We are globalising the Barça model,” Soriano said.

The logic behind this was made even more clear – in the same week we met in July – by the widespread amazement over the £198m fee that the Qatari owners of Paris Saint-Germain had agreed to pay Barcelona for the Brazilian star Neymar. Transfer records are smashed almost yearly, and Soriano now sees this inflation as an inevitable part of the game, now driven not by wealthy owners but demanding fans.

“Why is that? It’s very simple: the industry is growing,” he explained. “Ultimately, it goes back to the clients – these are the fans, who want to watch good football and are ready to pay. So clubs have more money to spend, but the number of highly skilled or top players generated each year does not change.”

“This is a typical ‘make-or-buy’ challenge. You can’t buy in the market, so you have to make,” Soriano said. “This means spending a lot of money – on academies, coaches, but also in transfers for young players. It’s like venture capital in that if you invest 10 million each in 10 players, you just need one to get to the top who is going to be worth 100 million.”

For Manchester City, the expanding web of CFG clubs solves a particularly English problem, which occurs when promising footballers hit 17 or 18. Soriano calls this “the development gap”, and it may explain why England’s national team performs so badly. “If the player is top quality, he needs to play competitive football to develop. It’s not only for the technical aspect of the game, but also for the pressure. The under-21 or under-19 competitions in England don’t provide this, because games aren’t in front of a lot of fans and there isn’t enough competitive tension,” he said. If Spain and Germany are much better at developing players, he says, it is because clubs such as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich all have reserve teams that play in their countries’ second or third division against other professional clubs – not in a separate league, as English youth teams do. “If you manage a boy who has talent and is promising, who is 18 or 19, you can have him training with the first team, but playing in the second, where games are difficult, competitive and you play before crowds of 30,000.”

Manchester
MCFC players in training at the City Football Academy in Manchester. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty

Because Premier League clubs are not allowed to field second teams, the primary way to develop promising young players who are not quite ready is to loan them to another club, usually in a lower division; Manchester City, for example, currently has around 20 players out on loan. But once a player is loaned out, the parent club loses control over their development – as Chelsea can testify, having bought up so many young players that more than 30 are on loan at 24 different clubs. At worst, this leads to the warehousing of players and the ruining of promising careers. CFG’s integrated web of clubs, all (in theory) playing the same style of football, is meant to solve that. “In this system we control exactly what they do. The coaching is exactly the same. The playing style is exactly the same,” Soriano said.

If this vision works out, successful players will progress from, say, Torque to New York, and then to Girona, and then – eventually – to Manchester City. CFG will not “own” them, since they will belong to the individual clubs, who must compete against outside bidders and pay transfer fees where appropriate. But CFG clubs will have insider information on the players, who can, in turn, be confident of fitting in with the style at all the other CFG clubs – while transfer income will end up back in a single corporate pot. In May, club officials gave me the example of the Australian midfielder Aaron Mooy, who joined Melbourne City in 2014 and was the team’s player of the year in his first two seasons. CFG decided Mooy was good enough to play in England, and Melbourne sold him to Manchester City for £425,000 in June 2016. But Mooy did not play for the club – he was immediately loaned to Huddersfield Town, who were then a second-division team. After helping them win promotion to the Premier League, Mooy was then sold to Huddersfield – for £10m. The deal shows how CFG can leverage its insider knowledge of players to simply trade them, even if they never actually play in Manchester. The profit from this one transaction, incidentally, was some 40% more than it cost to buy the entire Melbourne club.


Hiring Pep Guardiola was always part of Soriano’s big plan – though enticing him to Manchester required time and patience. One of Soriano’s first City hires was Barcelona’s former director of football, the man responsible for buying new players and helping to choose coaches, Txiki Begiristain. “Immediately we went to talk to Pep, because Pep was the best coach in the world,” Soriano told me. Guardiola had just left Barcelona and was determined to enjoy a sabbatical year in New York. “So we said: ‘OK, come next year’,” Soriano recalled. “And [the next year] he said: ‘I’m sorry, I want to go to Bayern Munich’. So we said: ‘OK, come in three years.’ And he came.” This kind of patience is only available when your owner has no need to cash in and, in a fast-moving sport where fans demand instant results, knows how to play a waiting game.

Guardiola’s prime task is to meet Soriano’s definition of a “number one” club by winning at least one title per season. “That doesn’t mean you win every year, but that in five seasons you win five trophies. It means getting to April with possibilities of winning the Premier League and playing in the semi-finals of the Champions League,” he explained. City have only managed the latter once – in 2015/16, the season before Guardiola arrived – but the target implies winning the Champions League every four years.

Sheikh
Sheikh Mansour (front right) with chairman of Manchester City FC Khaldoon al-Mubarak (front left) and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola (front centre) at a training camp in Abu Dhabi, 2017. Photograph: Victoria Haydn/Manchester City FC via Getty Images

But an implicit part of Guardiola’s job, away from the merry-go-round of matches and press conferences, is to help engineer something that may ultimately prove more valuable – a recognisable and entertaining playing style across all of CFG’s teams and players. Again, the model comes from Barcelona, where players moved seamlessly from junior teams to the Camp Nou because all had learned the same Cruyff-style soccer. In the CFG model, clubs and academies in a dozen countries should be doing the same – creating a frictionless supply line of players who automatically know how to play Pep-style and can slip in and out of the group’s teams. Soriano says that will allow “a more seamless movement of players”, with the best ending up at City.

This may prove more challenging than it sounds. On a warm August afternoon this year, as smoke rose from dozens of tailgate barbecues in gravel-covered parking lots, I joined fans wearing the sky-blue colour of NYCFC as they trooped into the New York Red Bulls stadium in Harrison, New Jersey. David Villa – the 35-year-old former Barcelona player – led them to a 1-1 draw in what has already become New York’s “classic” football derby. But this was relatively scrappy football – the kind played in the second or third divisions of England or Spain.

A few days earlier, I had watched coach Patrick Vieira – who moved here from managing City’s “elite development” under-23 team – train his squad on a pitch in leafy Westchester County, north of New York City. When I asked Vieira, a former Arsenal captain who finished his playing career in Manchester, if his team – whose salaries, under MLS rules, are capped well below Premier League level – always played “City football”, he admitted that it did not. “You can’t play the same football in New York as in Manchester, because of the players,” he said. “What we have in common is a philosophy to play what we call ‘beautiful football’ – the offensive game, to try to have possession, create chances, score goals and play attractive football. The level will be different, but the philosophy tries to be the same.”


As CFG grows and its impact is felt around the world, its rivals are beginning to fear its size, and hover, hawk-like, over its accounts. Javier Tebas, the outspoken lawyer who presides over Spain’s La Liga, clipped CFG’s wings when it appeared on his territory this summer, accusing Girona of misrepresenting the details of five players loaned by City. The club was forced to increase the accounting value of those players – a measure that, given Spain’s budget cap system, left Girona with 4% less money to spend on players’ wages. “We had to correct certain market values … so that loaning of players did not represent unfair competition,” explained Tebas. Girona are still trying to get that decision overturned.

At the Soccerex football business conference in September, Tebas took aim at Manchester again, accusing City of circumventing the rules by taking hidden state aid in the form of sponsorship contracts with public companies from Abu Dhabi. (He had similar complaints about Paris Saint-Germain’s Qatari owners, who he claimed were “pissing in the swimming pool” of European football.) In Tebas’s view, what is provoking inflation in transfer fees and player wages is not fan demand, but Gulf cash and so-called “state clubs” – including “Manchester City and its oil”. City not only denied this, but threatened to sue him – and Uefa has ignored Tebas’s demands that it investigate the club’s finances. But the vocal hostility from the head of a league dominated by Real Madrid and Barcelona is a sign that the latter two – whose not-for-profit, member-controlled structure prevents them taking the CFG route to global expansion – are starting to feel threatened.

Man
Man City star Kevin De Bruyne (centre) during their recent victory over Swansea City. Photograph: Thomas/JMP/REX/Shutterstock

But Tebas’s suggestion that CFG uses its muscle to push the regulatory boundaries is not without merit. In 2014, Uefa punished City with a €20m fine for breaking the financial fair play rules in previous seasons. The Australian league, meanwhile, introduced new rules last year after CFG circumvented the league’s ban on transfer fees between clubs with a ruse that one critic dubbed “farcical”. Manchester City bought a local player called Anthony Cáceres – “outbidding” Australian clubs by paying a transfer fee – before loaning him straight to Melbourne. The league responded by banning the practice for the first year after signing.

The same ownership whose deep pockets have enabled these global ambitions may also be a source of further difficulties – in part because the desire to protect Abu Dhabi’s image looms large at CFG. This has become more challenging as the emirate’s ambitious mega-projects, such as the collection of museums on Saadiyat Island, attract the attention of human rights organisations, who accuse the UAE of violating the rights of migrant construction workers. When emails from the Emirati embassy in Washington were leaked earlier this year, among them was a memo revealing that CFG’s directors had fretted about a proposal to build an NYCFC stadium on parkland in Queens – where there was already public opposition to such a project – out of fear that stadium critics would attack Abu Dhabi’s involvement, targeting its attitude to “gay [rights], women, wealth, Israel”. The project was abandoned, and NYCFC still does not have its own stadium.


There is a central paradox to the economics of football. While the global business has long expanded at annual rates of 10% or more, few clubs have ever made much profit, let alone paid owners an annual dividend. Even the mighty Premier League clubs have, jointly, posted pre-tax losses in three of the last five seasons. And yet the price of clubs keeps rising. Mansour, for example, was estimated to have paid around twice as much for City as the previous owner, the exiled former prime minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, had done just 15 months earlier.

Soriano says that sports franchises are exposed, week-in, week-out, to such relentless competition that they are driven to constantly reinvest profits – meaning that owners only really make money by selling. Others see football clubs as a “rarity” for ultra-rich collectors – with billionaires queueing to join the small, exclusive club of those who own famous clubs. These are also incredibly resilient assets: Manchester City, founded by vicar’s daughter Anna Connell to keep working men off booze and brawling in 1880, is one of many now in their second century. “How many companies that were on the New York stock exchange in 1917 still exist?” Soriano asks.

Ultimately, value comes from combining talent and emotion – meaning players and the fans who adore them. This is the “love” Soriano talks about, which CFG must turn into money if it is to become the successful multinational corporation that the owners want. If Guardiola ever sobs for City – something only likely if he wins another Champions League trophy, which Soriano hopes will happen this season – then fans of one of England’s most historic football clubs will happily give themselves up to adoration. Many more might follow them.

But CFG’s multinational corporate model somehow obliges us to take a more hard-nosed view of how much this “love” is really worth. Will CFG ever match a Coca-Cola, Disney or Google for size or value? Manchester City will have to win many more games, and many titles, before that happens – by which time, if the model works, other football multinationals might have appeared, all of them transforming love into money at a global scale. In the hard world of business, of course, there is only one way we will ever find out the “true” monetary value of CFG’s global juggernaut, on the day Mansour, or someone else, sells the company, and the market renders its own judgment – and puts a price on all that love.

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Read more: www.theguardian.com

Trump in Moscow: what happened at Miss Universe in 2013

18 days ago

The pageant and the presidents attempts to get close to Putin have become a focus of the investigation into Trumps links to Russian interference in the US election

Sitting in a makeshift studio overlooking the Moscow river on a crisp day in November 2013, Donald Trump pouted, stared down the lens of a television camera and said something he would come to regret.

Asked by an interviewer whether he had a relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin, the brash New York businessman could not resist boasting.” I do have a relationship with him ,” Trump said.

Russia’s strongman had” done a rather brilliant task “, Trump told MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts, before declaring that Putin had bested Barack Obama.” He’s done an amazing undertaking- he’s put himself actually at the forefront of the world as a leader in a short period of time .”

Trump, a teetotaler, seemed intoxicated by the buzz surrounding the glitzy event that had brought him back to Moscow: that year’s instalment of the Miss Universe contest that he then owned.

Four years later, he is struggling to shake off the hangover.

The 2013 pageant has become a focal point for the simultaneous investigations, led by special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional committees, into whether associates of Trump colluded with Russian officials to help them win the 2016 US presidential election.

Investigators are examining closely endeavours apparently made by the Russian government to pass Trump’s team damaging information on Hillary Clinton, using Trump’s politically connected Miss Universe business partners as couriers.

They are also looking into the $20 m fee that Trump collected for putting on the pageantry from those same business partners- along with extraordinary allegations about Trump’s private conduct behind closed doors at the Ritz-Carlton hotel during his 2013 stay in Moscow.

The Guardian has learned of additional, previously unreported, the linkages between Trump’s business partners on the pageantry and Russia’s government. The ties are likely to attract further scrutiny by researchers who are already biting at the heels of Trump associates.

A full accounting of Trump’s actions in the Russian capital as that autumn turned to winter may be critical to resolving a controversy that has already devoured the first eight months of his presidency.

” Our committee’s investigation will not be complete unless we fully understand who President Trump met with when he was over in Russia for Miss Universe, and what follow-up contacts resulted ,” Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said in an interview.

Trump’s attorney, John Dowd, declined to answer when asked whether the president’s team accepts that the Miss Universe contest is a legitimate area of inquiry for investigators.” Fake news ,” Dowd said in an email.

Emin
Emin Agalarov, Donald Trump and Aras Agalarov attend the Miss Universe pageant on 9 November 2013 in Moscow, Russia. Photograph: Victor Boyko/ Getty Images

‘Look who’s come to see me !’

It was a whirlwind courtship.

Trump was instantly taken with Aras Agalarov, the billionaire proprietor of the Crocus Group corporation, when the two wealthy real estate developers satisfied for the first time on the fringe of the Miss USA contest in Las Vegas in mid-June 2013.

After only ten minutes of discussion, Trump was showing off his new friend.” He clapped me on the shoulder, dedicated a thumbs up, and started wailing,’ Look who’s come to see me! It’s the richest human in Russia !’,” Agalarov recalled to a Russian magazine later that year, before clarifying that his fortune- estimated at about$ 2bn- was far from Russia’s biggest.

The meeting had been set in motion only a month earlier, when Agalarov’s son Emin, a pop singer who is well-known in eastern Europe, filmed his latest music video in Los Angeles. His co-star was the reigning Miss Universe, a casting selection that brought the Agalarovs into contact with Trump’s beauty pageant division.

The idea of hosting that year’s competition in Russia was created over dinner by Paula Shugart, Trump’s top Miss Universe executive, according to Emin Agalarov. In a little-noticed interview published in July, Emin said Trump’s organisation seemed to be in need of the money that Moscow could offer.” We have a lot of indebtedness ,” he quoted Shugart as telling. Miss Universe denies that Shugart said this.

In any case, a price tag of $20 m to be paid by Agalarov in return for Trump bringing the Miss Universe contest to Russia was speedily agreed upon. Several Democrats have raised concerns that the pay- like the billions in bank loans he secured to bring himself back from the brink in the early 1990 s- may have left Trump indebted to foreign influences.

” The pageantry was financed by a Russian billionaire who is close to Putin ,” Senator Al Franken of Minnesota told a congressional hearing in May.” The Russians have a history of using financial investments to gain leveraging over influential people and then later calling in favours. We know that .”

Just four weeks after Emin’s video shoot, at the backslapping Las Vegas get-together, Trump announced that the bargain was done. Miss Universe would be held at the Agalarov family’s sprawling Crocus City complex on the leading edge of Moscow, described by Trump as” Russia’s most premier venue “.

Emin
Emin Agalarov, Miss Universe 2013 win Gabriela Isler and Donald Trump. Photo: Kommersant Photo/ Kommersant via Getty Images

In a dreary Vegas hotel banqueting dormitory, the beaming new business partners eat a celebratory dinner together. Video footage afterward obtained by CNN indicated Trump at his most oleaginous.” What a beautiful mom you have ,” he told Emin. The principals were joined by an smorgasbord of hangers-on including Emin’s publicist- a portly Briton named Rob Goldstone.

It was Goldstone who would contact Trump’s son Donald Jr during the 2016 presidential campaign with a sensitive message, indicates that there is emails released last month. The” crown prosecutor of Russia”- assumed to be Goldstone’s garbled billing for Yury Chaika, the Russian prosecutor general- wanted the Trump campaign to have some documents that would” incriminate Hillary”, he told. And the Agalarovs would deliver them.

” This is obviously very high level and sensitive info but is an example of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump- helped along by Aras and Emin ,” Goldstone wrote. Rather than carry surprise or topic the apparent Kremlin operation Goldstone was describing, Donald Jr pressed ahead and arranged the session. ” If it’s what you say I love it ,” he replied.

Rob
Rob Goldstone. Photo: Stringer/ Reuters

Aras Agalarov made a suitable sherpa. While not a is part of Putin’s inner circle, Agalarov cultivated friendly relations with the Kremlin while rising to the country’s oligarch class with a profitable network of shopping center. He travelled around in a $44 m Gulfstream private plane.

Less than two weeks before the Miss Universe finals, Putin awarded Agalarov the prestigious Order of Honor medal, after Crocus had completed for him a billion-dollar transformation of a former military base into a new country university.

” I wish to thank you so much for your work and contribution to the development of this country ,” Putin told Agalarov and his fellow honorees. Crocus would go on to be further rewarded with more government construction contracts, including for stadiums that are to be used for next year’s soccer World Cup tournament in Russia.

Ikray
Ikray’ Ike’ Kaveladze. Photograph: Twitter

Quietly, Agalarov and Crocus have also cultivated high-level relationships with Russian authorities on another front. They were established by one of Agalarov’s top lieutenants- Ikray ” Ike ” Kaveladze, a publicity-shy senior Crocus executive and the so-called ” eighth human” at the 2016 Trump Tower session where Donald Jr hoped to receive dirt on Clinton.

While comparatively unknown to the public before news of the meeting emerged in July, Kaveladze has in fact been an associate of some of Russia’s richest and most powerful people for the past three decades.

The Guardian has established that Kaveladze was involved in the $341 m takeover of a US company by a Russian mining firm belonging to an associate of Putin, and was a business partner to two former senior officials at Russia’s central bank.

In 2003, the Colorado-based firm Stillwater Mining was bought by Norilsk Nickel, a metals corporation in Moscow led by Vladimir Potanin, one of Russia’s wealthiest oligarchs, who is so favoured by Putin that he has played on the president’s” Hockey Legends” ice hockey team.

Vladimir
Vladimir Potanin. Photo: Bloomberg/ Bloomberg via Getty Images

As part of its $341 m purchase of the American firm, Norilsk nominated Kaveladze to be one of five specific handpicked directors on Stillwater’s new committee, according to a filing by the company to the US Securities and Exchange Commission( SEC ). Kaveladze was billed as the president of” an international consulting boutique” serving a” US and Eastern European clientele “.

The deal was the first time a Russian company had ever taken a majority stake in a publicly quoted US company. It was viewed as critical by the Kremlin. Putin was reported at the time to have personally advocated for the deal’s approving by US regulators during a meeting with then president George W Bush earlier in 2003.

Norilsk was then co-owned by Potanin and Mikhail Prokhorov, another major Russian oligarch, who later sold his stake. Prokhorov, who has had mixed relations with the Kremlin , now owns the Brooklyn Nets basketball team in New York. Kaveladze and Prokhorov had been classmates at the Moscow Finance Institute in the late 1980 s and formed partnership agreements selling customised jeans between their studies.

Kaveladze’s ascent to the Stillwater board was eventually derailed, according to information sources, after the discovery of his earlier participation in a $1.4 bn California-based scheme involving shell companies and transfers from Russia, which US authorities told may have been used for money laundering. Norilsk said he withdrew from the process for personal reasons.

The Guardian previously revealed that Kaveladze’s partner in that operation was Boris Goldstein, a Soviet-born banker whose ties to former KGB officers attracted interest from US examiners after he moved to California in the early 1990 s. In a remarkable coincidence, the US attorney in San Francisco whose office eventually declined to bring criminal charges over their alleged money-laundering scheme was Robert Mueller, the special advise now looking into Kaveladze’s reappearance.

Also previously unreported is Kaveladze’s close friendship with Andrei Kozlov, who was first deputy chairman of Russia’s central bank under Putin for four years before being assassinated in 2006 as he attempted to clean up Russia’s corrupt banking system. Accusations about who bore persons responsible for his murder have swirled ever since.

Andrei
Andrei Kozlov. Photograph: Alexei Sazonov/ AP

At the turn of the 1990 s, Kaveladze and Kozlov had gone into business together after graduating from the Moscow Finance Institute. They founded a small publisher and translator of financial volumes with Dmitry Budakov, another classmate, who also went on to be a senior executive at Russia’s central bank before running a division of the state-owned Bank of Moscow.

The young entrepreneurs capitalised on a hunger for fiscal literature among players in Russia’s rapidly privatising economy, pricing their textbooks at around $250. One book was published in Kaveladze’s name. His 1993 work, Protecting trade secret in the US: A guide to protecting your business info, remains available in several university libraries.

According to an official history of that time, their volume publishing outfit, ECO-Consulting, was established as a division of Crocus International, Aras Agalarov’s then-burgeoning business empire. In return for the security of being part of a larger corporation, Kaveladze and his business partners advised Agalarov on economic and financial affairs, according to a memoir of the time by Budakov.” Cooperation was mutually profitable ,” he wrote.

Kaveladze soon moved to the US, landing first in Pennsylvania. He had earlier spent almost a month visiting the Gettysburg area after graduating in 1989. As a tribute to their departed guest, locals held a “Perestroika” 5,000 -metre running race near the site of the civil war battlefield as part of their Labor Day celebrations, according to the Gettysburg Times.

When Kaveladze moved to the US, he was adopted by a middle-aged couple in York, Pennsylvania, and later moved to New York. His adoptive mother died in February 1993; her widower did not respond to requests for comment.

More than 25 years after their first venture, Kaveladze continues to work alongside Agalarov at Crocus. Their company has become one of the biggest corporations in Russia, carrying out government build contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars from Putin’s administration- and sealing international are dealing here with tycoons such as Trump.

Contestants
Contestants pose at the Miss Universe pageant on 9 November 2013 in Moscow. Photo: Victor Boyko/ Getty Images

‘Will he become my new best friend ?’

Before leaving the US for his big Russian show in 2013, Trump made an unusual public appeal.

” Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow ,” he asked on Twitter, and” if so, will he become my new best friend ?” A source in Moscow told the Guardian that a meeting with Trump was indeed pencilled into Putin’s diary by aides, but fell off his schedule a few days beforehand.

Agalarov later told that Putin sent his apologies to Trump in the form of a handwritten note and a gift of a traditional decorative lacquered box. It is not known whether Trump met any associates of Putin in lieu of the president himself, but he certainly claimed to have.

” I was with the top-level people, both oligarchs and generals, and top-of-the-government people ,” he said in a radio interview in 2015.” I can’t go further than that, but I will tell you that I satisfied the top people, and the relationship was extraordinary .”

Having flown from the US overnight, Trump arrived in Moscow on 8 November and checked in to the Ritz Carlton hotel. It was a choice that had now been become notorious. An opponent research dossier compiled for a private client by a former British spy, which subsequently published by BuzzFeed News, alleged that the Kremlin held compromising and lurid footage of Trump and a pair of prostitutes during his stay at the hotel.

Elsewhere in the dossier, author Christopher Steele wrote that two sources alleged Trump also had illicit sex encounters in the Russian city of St Petersburg during a separate visits to the country. The sources, according to Steele, said that Aras Agalarov would “know the details”. Trump denies any wrongdoing.

It is plausible- but unproven- that endeavors were made to surveil Trump during his trip.

” If “youre using” their field of interest then the FSB will perfectly attempt to to be implemented by surveillance ,” said a Russian hotel industry source, who did not want the name of his hotel mentioned due to the sensitivity of the topic.

The source said there was little that hotel managers could do about FSB demands, and that they are sometimes forced to provide access to rooms for agents.” In “the worlds biggest” hotels you also definitely have a number of people on the staff who work on the side for the FSB, so they would have had absolutely no problem get into the room if necessary .”

Putin stated earlier this year that it was absurd to think the FSB would have bugged or secretly filmed Trump’s room in 2013, as he was not even a legislator at that point. Russia did not simply bug every American billionaire who visited the country, according to the president.

But the hotel industry source cast doubt on that assert.” Surveillance doesn’t happen that often, but I’m pretty sure Trump would have been of a sufficient level to warrant it ,” said the source.” I’ve seen people of lower levels than him watched for sure .”

When the late-night talkshow host Stephen Colbert managed in July to gain access to the Ritz-Carlton’s presidential suite, where Trump is said to have stayed, an unexplained power cable was detected dangling from a section of the bedroom wall that was hidden behind a non-illuminated mirror.

Whatever the truth about how closely Trump was being monitored by the Kremlin, a statement he made about Putin during that boast-filled interview with MSNBC seems especially curious with the benefit of hindsight.

” I can tell you that he’s very interested in what we’re doing here today ,” Trump told of the Russian president.” He’s probably very interested in what you and I are telling today- and I’m sure he’s going to be seeing it in some sort .”

Some elements of Steele’s dossier was allegedly been confirmed by researchers, but other details have been shown to be false. And Trump has been backed up on the claims about his private conduct by Emin Agalarov.” While the world tries to figure out what Donald Trump was doing in a hotel in Moscow during Miss Universe- I actually know because he was filming my music video ,” he wrote on Instagram.

Early in the morning of 9 November, Trump was taking part in filming at the hotel for the video of Emin’s single In Another Life. The video features Emin dreaming about being surrounded by bikini-clad Miss Universe contestants, before waking up to be lectured by Trump and told: “You’re fired.”

Yulya Alferova, a businesswoman and blogger who was hired by Crocus Group to help with their social media presence at that time, arrived at the hotel that morning and met Trump shortly after the filming had finished. After a brief dialogue, Trump took a shine to her, and Emin invited her to join a small group for lunch.

” We talked about Twitter, and I asked him if he agreed that Twitter is the strongest and sometimes the most hazardous social media. He asked me about real estate, because I told him it’s one of my professional interests ,” told Alferova, who once attained notoriety in Russia for posting a photograph of her cat eating black caviar.

Alferova Yulya (@ AlferovaYulyaE)

My super popular cat 🙂 @nypost loves us 🙂 http :// t.co/ tUE2 8eGvNp #Russia #cat #caviar pic.twitter.com/ p0xFTeioAo

March 24, 2015

Later, Trump told her that she should contact him if she was ever in New York. He had his assistant hand her a business card. But there was nothing inappropriate about his conduct, Alferova said, describing Trump as a “gentleman” who always acted” correctly and properly” in their interactions.

The pageant went off without a hitch. Gabriela Isler of Venezuela was crowned the winner. An after-party was held for the contestants and friends of the organisers. There were three private boxes: one for the Agalarovs, one for Trump and one for Roustam Tariko, the head of Russian Standard, the Russian vodka company and bank, which sponsored Miss Russia. The American band Panic! At The Disco provided the music, and contestants mingled with guests. Several were invited into the boxes to speak with Trump and the oligarchs. Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler, who had performed at the ceremony, was also there.

” Trump was still there when I left at 2am ,” a guest at the party told the Guardian.” There were a lot of people there, it was fun but fairly civilised .” Alferova, the businesswoman and blogger, recollected multiple guests approaching Trump and asking for photograph with him.

” There were no government people present and no major Forbes List people except Aras[ Agalarov] and Roustam[ Tariko ]” said one of the organisers of the event, indicating Trump’s boastful claims that” all the oligarchs” attended may have been false.

Still, during his Moscow stay Trump also attended a private meeting with resulting Russian industrialists at Nobu, the high-end Japanese restaurant chain for which Agalarov owns the Moscow franchise. The dinner was arranged by Herman Gref, Putin’s former energy minister and now chief executive of the state-owned Sberbank, Russia’s biggest bank. The bank, which was another sponsor of Miss Universe, was later among the Russian companies sanctioned by the US over Russia’s annexing part of Ukraine in 2014.

” He’s a sensible person, very lively in his responses, with a positive energy and a good attitude toward Russia ,” Gref told Bloomberg.

Agalarov has said he and Trump also met with the businessmen Alex Sapir and Rotem Rosen- Trump’s old partners on the controversial Trump Soho project in New York- to discuss opportunities in Moscow. Agalarov later said they struck an arrangement in principle to go ahead. Trump seemed to think so:” TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next ,” he said in a thank you note to Agalarov on Twitter. Eight days later, Sberbank announced it was giving Agalarov 55 bn roubles ($ 1.3 bn) to finance new projects in Moscow.

Trump Tower Moscow, like so many other Russian twinkles in Trump’s eye over the past three decades, did not materialise. But it recently emerged that the conversations continued behind the scenes even after he began his long-threatened campaign for chairperson.

In October 2015, four months into his campaign, Trump signed a” letter of intent” to build a tower in Moscow. Pulling the strings on the abortive bargain was Felix Sater, yet another Russian business associate of Trump, who once served time in prison for stabbing a human in the face with a broken cocktail glass.

” I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected ,” Sater reportedly told Trump’s attorney in an email.” Buddy our boy is able to President of the USA and we are capable of engineer it … I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this .”

The future of Trump’s presidency may rest on what else was said and done relating to the project- and whether researchers who already reek blood can prove it.

On at least three occasions following the Miss Universe trip, Trump had publicly claimed to have met Putin. But when asked by reporters at a campaign stop in Florida in July 2016 to clarify the situation of women his relationship with the Russian president, as concerns over Russian election interference mounted, Trump gave a rather different version.

” I never met Putin ,” said Trump.” I don’t know who Putin is .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

‘Gunsplaining’ and conspiracy hypothesis: how rightwing pundits assured the Las Vegas shooting

19 days ago

Conservative novelists have established a situated of standard responses to each new mass shooting. Jason Wilson looks at those much in evidence this week

Some differences of opinion are permissible in conservative media. Not everyone agrees about wars, foreign powers, terror, or narcotics. Some are not fans of the current president. Some even risk unconventional “pro-choice” opinions.

But the second amendment- virtually unrestricted access to guns- is sacrosanct. Across the spectrum of rightwing sentiment, from libertarians to the Christian right, pretty much everyone agrees that Americans’ unique access to firearms should continue. We can put this down to any number of things, from the country’s history of frontier settler violence to the influence of the NRA. But there it is.

When a carnage happens, rightwing pundits have work to do: they need to convince any waverers that easy access to semi-automatic weapons has nothing to do with mass-casualty shootings. They also need Republican legislators to remain aware that any moves to restrict access to handguns will ruin their career.

Accordingly, rightwing pundits have evolved a series of standard responses to mass murder. Today we’ll look at five of them, all of which have been in evidence this week.

The conspiracy hypothesi

Conspiracy theory is now an ingrained response to mass shootings. If it was once a marginal pursuing, the “alt-right” upsurge and the election of a chairwoman who is himself an inveterate conspiracy theorist mean that these beliefs have a large audience and a new quasi-legitimacy.

As you would expect from highly influential radio prove host Alex Jones, his website and radio show are canvassing the full gamut of conspiracy theories about the event. So far, Jones and his reporters have put forth a number of hypothesis: that the shooter was targeting conservatives; that he was connected to Islamic extremism; that he was in league with anti-fascists.

Women
Women hug at a fundraiser for victims and their families at Stoney’s Rockin’ Country bar in Las Vegas. Photograph: Robyn Beck/ AFP/ Getty Images

Just as he did with Sandy Hook, Jones is amplifying any explanation that comes to hand except the most obvious one: that a white man with access to powerful weapons opened up on a crowd of innocent people.

As the Guardian reported on Wednesday, there is now a cottage industry of YouTube-based conspiracy entrepreneurs whose hypothesis about Las Vegas are at least as lurid as Jones’s. But conspiracy hypothesi also comes in a “lite” version, which can be passed off later as “just asking questions”. The new Fox News recruit Tomi Lahren tweeted that” something only doesn’t add up” about the shooter. Later she added:” Media focusing on handgun. There’s something bigger here .”

As long as we’re focused on wild hypothesis about who genuinely pulled off the murders, we’re not talking about gun control.

Gunsplaining

Fussing over definitions and technical aspects of semi-automatic weapons is a good way to avoid questions about why civilians have them.

Conservative pundits have feasted on Hillary Clinton’s awkward tweet about the dangers of silencers. On Fox& Friends, Laura Ingraham said a silencer would melt an AR-1 5′ s barrel, and said Clinton’s unfamiliarity with this fact was ” despicable “.

Hillary Clinton (@ HillaryClinton)

The crowd fled at the voice of gunshots.

Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get.

October 2, 2017

Rich Lowry of National Review sniffed:” If Hillary cares so much about the issue, she might take 10 minutes to learn something about it, but gun-controllers tend to be low-information proponents .”

But the derision move beyond Clinton. Lowry’s former employee Stephen L Miller- not to be confused with the White House aide- turned in a characteristically snide column for Fox News, lambasting” elitists in media who refuse to understand even a basic grasp or terminology about a sacred constitutional right “.

Breitbart offered a defense of “bump stock” devices- which effectively convert semi-automatic weapons into machine guns- disguised as an explainer. One of the” key facts” they offered was that banning them would be a” typical leftist war on the poor “.

At the Daily Wire, Aaron Bandler did similar service on behalf of the mass shooter’s weapon of selection, the AR-1 5.

All of this gunsplaining sidesteps the real source of public outrage about mass shootings, which neither personifies nor requires any special technical knowledge: people are regularly killed in large numbers because there are very few restrictions on the circulation of powerful firearms.

The double down

Some pundits calculate that the best form of defense is all-out attack. If events set trusty debates in question, they figure, you can just reassert them at a higher volume.

In the first paragraph of Conrad Black’s latest ramble for National Review, he offers a potted version of what rightwing pundits tell after every carnage: gun control won’t work, it’s politically impossible, and anyway it’s a local matter.

Pistols
Pistols on sale in a firearm shop in Las Vegas. Photograph: Xinhua/ Rex/ Shutterstock

On Newsbusters, Michelle Malkin opted for the familiar tactic of arguing that since no single gun control measure will totally aim massacres , none should be tried at all.

A Rush Limbaugh rant on Wednesday depended on familiar, uncontested statistics about deteriorations in overall slaying rates.( These figures always seem to go missing when conservatives want to whip up anxiety about law and order ). Naturally, Rush said nothing about the increasing frequency, and lethality, of mass shootings.

And at libertarian site Reason, Jacob Sullum got to the emotional core of this form of rightwing bargaining with reality in the title of his article,’ A massacre is not an debate ‘.

Heartland whispering

This is a tactic often deployed by the higher-toned rightwing commentators, where it is solemnly has pointed out that the left’s hopeless incarceration to coastal enclaves means they don’t really know what’s at stake in real America. Any criticism of handguns thereby becomes an attack on the communities where guns are owned.

A past master of this tactic is National Review’s David French. On Wednesday, he made the argument that, despite the NRA’s organizing and funding opposition to gun control, gun statutes remain as they are because of the heartland’s adherence to American values.

Deny, distract, lag

If all else fails, rightwing commentators can simply try to derail the entire conversation in the said he hoped that eventually the news cycle will move on.

One way to do this is to focus on missteps from the left. This offers endless potentials. WND and other outlets have picked up given the fact that a tiny newspaper published an off-colour cartoon on the carnage. Others have focused their outrage on celebrity activism from dependable punching bags like Michael Moore or Jimmy Kimmel.

Another is to try to spread the blamed around to groups who have no relationship to the events. The right has a whole roster of scapegoats available for this purpose.

Frank Gaffney made a characteristic move on Breitbart radio by trying to turn the discussion to Islam, even though there are no indications that the shooter had any connection to the faith at all, let alone Jihadi terror groups.

On Godfather Politics, after describing the shooter as a” crazed Democrat”, Keely Sharp turned on “Rino”( Republican in Name Only) Paul Ryan, who appears to have given up on deregulating silencers. Focusing ire on the “establishment” is a surefire way of avoiding the matter at hand.

The overall goal is to defer any move on curtailing the ownership and use of firearms until the moment where it is is even a remote political possibility has passed. At National Review, Kevin Williamson summed it all up in a headline:” It’s time to do nothing about guns .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Stars welcome Academy move to expel Weinstein over sexual assault claims

1 month, 1 day ago

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science kickings mogul out over allegations including rape from more than two dozen women

Hollywood superstars have welcomed the expulsion of shamed movie producer Harvey Weinstein from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

In an unprecedented move after a special session held in Los Angeles on Saturday morning, the Academy board said:” We do so not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues but also to send a message that the epoch of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over.

” What’s at issue here is a deeply troubling problem that has no place in national societies. The committee continues to work to establish ethical standards of conduct that all Academy members will be expected to exemplify .”

Among those who supported the decision was actor Mia Farrow, whose son Ronan write a New Yorker article in which three women alleged Weinstein raped them. She tweeted:” Proud of TheAcademy! Harvey Weinstein is out .”

Emmy Rossum, the starring of Shameless, wrote” Amen, the academy !!!” while Hellboy actor Ron Perlman tweeted:” As the states members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science I am proud of their decision to expel Harvey Weinstein .”

Weinstein, 65, faces allegations of sexual misconduct from more than two dozen women and three of rape. He has apologized for having” caused a lot of pain” but has forcefully denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex. It is believed he is currently in Arizona, receiving “treatment” related to his behavior.

In its 90 -year history, the Academy has expelled merely one other member, and merely because 83 -year-old Carmine Caridi, an actor, transgressed specific written regulations about sharing screener copies of cinemas in 2004. No member has been expelled for unethical or potentially criminal behavior, including figures such as Roman Polanski, Bill Cosby and Mel Gibson, who have had high-profile sex or domestic assault accusations made against them.

The academy’s 54 -member board of governors needed a two-thirds referendum to trigger an expulsion, according to its bylaws. It voted” well in excess” of that requirement, according to the Academy statement.

The Academy’s UK counterpart, Bafta, suspended Weinstein on Wednesday morning , calling his alleged behavior” completely unacceptable and incompatible with Bafta’s values “.

In an emotional interview with The Hollywood Reporter published on Saturday, even Weinstein’s fucking brother advocated his suspension.” I have a brother that’s indefensible and crazy ,” told Bob Weinstein, 62 and an executive at The Weinstein Company( TWC ).” I find myself in a waking nightmare. My brother has caused unconscionable suffering. As a father of three daughters I say this with every bone in my body- I am heartbroken for the women that he has harmed .”

Prior to the decision others were less sure, arguing that pushing Weinstein out might define a difficult precedent.

” For the Academy to treat Harvey as if he is the only creep in the business is wrong ,” Mitchell Block, a member of the short cinemas and feature animation branch, told the Hollywood Reporter .” The problem is far larger than just Mr Weinstein. The silence about the other sociopaths is deafening. I think the Academy should not move hurriedly and take action until it fully understands the scope of the problem and devises a clear policy .”

Weinstein has a complicated relationship with the Academy. On the one hand, according to a Quartz analysis, he is the second most-thanked person in Oscar award speeches over the past quarter-century, just behind Steven Spielberg and tied with God. His movies have been nominated for more than 300 Academy Awards. He won an Oscar himself as producer of the 1999 made Shakespeare in Love.

On the other hand, some Hollywood insiders tell Weinstein was more tolerated than loved- he has long been known for a gruff, abrasive demeanor.” He’s never been an insider with them ,” one anonymous member told Daily Variety .” They’ve never really liked him .”

Many of the Academy rules around award-season lobbying were put in place in response to the type of aggressive campaigns Weinstein was famous for mounting.

The New York Times first reported accusations against Weinstein this month. More than 30 women have now accused the mega-producer of inappropriate sexual behavior, including four who have alleged that he raped them. The most recent rape allegation was levied by performer Rose McGowan on Twitter. In a string of tweets directed at Amazon Studios late on Thursday, she wrote:” HW raped me .”

Police forces-out in the US and the UK are investigating. In a statement issued after the New Yorker detailed allegations of rape, the TWC board said it was ” shocked and dismayed” and” committed to assisting with our full energies in all criminal or other investigations of these alleged acts “.

Harvey
Harvey Weinstein won an Oscar as producer of Shakespeare in Love, from 1999. Photograph: Mike Blake/ Reuters

Sallie Hofmeister, a spokesperson for Harvey Weinstein, told:” Any allegations of non-consensual sexuality are unequivocally denied by Mr Weinstein. With respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual .”

In his Hollywood Reporter interview, Bob Weinstein said he had barely spoken to two brothers in virtually five years.

” I could not take his cheating, his lying and also his attitude toward everyone ,” he told. While he said he was aware his brother was ” philandering with all the women he could gratify”, he insisted he had little notion about the alleged predatory harassment.

Weinstein insisted TWC could survive, in an interview in which, the Reporter said, he often became emotional. He and two brothers, he told, ran separate companies so many of the people Harvey Weinstein did business with he had never met.” The each member of the[ TWC] board, including myself, did not know the extent of my brother’s actions ,” he said.

Weinstein also said he was a victim of his brother’s abuse, including physical abuse.

” I do not set myself in the category at all of those women that he hurt ,” he told.” But it’s a complicated situation when it’s your brother doing the abusing to you as well. I watched it and I asked him to get help for many years. And that’s the truth. He avoided get the help. We implored him .”

His brother should never be allowed back into the film industry, he said.” He lost his rights. He didn’t lose his rights to be rehabilitated as every human being. But as far as being in this town again? I entail, give me a violate .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

‘ I hopped up on the wall and got my sax out ‘: the autumn of the Berlin Wall

1 month, 1 day ago

Stephen Ellery plays the saxophone on the Berlin Wall, 10 November 1989

My obsession with the Eastern bloc, particularly the Soviet Union, started when I was doing my -Alevels; inspired by cold war snoop narratives, I wanted to be a nuclear physicist in Moscow. In the end, I examined composition at Birmingham Conservatoire. When the distinguished Polish composer Marek Stachowski visited government departments, we got talking and I managed to persuade him to let me study with him. Thats how I aimed up, aged 23, living in Krakow, analyzing composition and conducting.

To make ends meet during my two and a half years there, I played saxophone in Hamburg. With merely two lessons a week at college, I had long weekends, so Id catch the sleeper train to East Berlin, cross the city, then hitch to Hamburg it was easy and encouraged, and you never had to wait more than 10 minutes. Id find a jam session in a jazz club, and join in with the hope of being asked to gig with them. Id often earn 200 DM, which was a fortune.

Id sometimes spend time in East Berlin on the way back; my Krakow residents permit allowed me to stay longer than western tourists. It was very neat and orderly. The official exchange rate was one East German DM to one West German DM, but nobody paid that. If you bought them in the west, it was 11:1. So Id stuff my pocket with notes and live like a king ballet, opera, champagne, caviar, nice dinners. East Berlin eateries were really good compared with the rest of the country.

I was aware of the changes afoot in the region for a few months: traveling limiteds easing in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, mass protests. But no one would have predicted what happened on the night of 9 November.

I was in West Berlin the following morning; I went to Checkpoint Charlie, my usual crossing phase into East Berlin, to catch the develop back to Krakow. Instead of orderly queues of people indicating their papers at the border, East Germans were streaming through, hugging and crying.

People were sitting on the wall, drinking champagne and brews, so I hopped up to join them. I always had my sax with me, so it seemed natural to get it out. I played Misty, In The Mood, Autumn Leaves, and a few blues and rock numbers. I climbed down when I started to get chilly, and caught the sleeper develop back to Poland.

I usually slept with my saxophone, but that night, after a few too many brews, I set it on the empty bunk above me. When I woke up, it used to go. It was funny, because Id been thinking of donating it to someone( a young student, say) when I got back to Krakow, so I could focus on my conducting. It was my papas saxophone.

A few months later, at the end of December, he called to say this photograph was in the Independent, part of a huge supplement on the momentous events a few months earlier.

I did eventually get to the Soviet Union, just as it was collapsing, and remained for four years, analyzing and running as a conductor, which I still do today. I never did make it as a nuclear physicist.

Are you in a notable photo? Email thatsme @theguardian. com

Pain is political- we’re unequal even when we’re suffering | Arwa Mahdawi

1 month, 1 day ago

Arwa Mahdawi: The style we talk about the US opioid crisis speaks volumes about whose pain get taken most seriously