Saturday, March 15, 2008
Tom Kington in Rome
Friday March 14 2008
About this articleClose
This article appeared in the Guardian on Friday March 14 2008 on p29 of the International section. It was last updated at 10:28 on March 14 2008.
A Sicilian tour guide who got fed up with answering the same questions about the mafia has written a pocket-sized book he thinks visitors will be unable to refuse.
The Mafia Explained to Tourists - which has been published in Italian, English, Japanese, German, Spanish and French - tackles questions such as: what a mafioso looks like, whether the mafia will exist forever and "why haven't we seen a shoot-out in our 10 days here?"
"I included the 10 questions I am always asked, so from now I can just hand out the book," said Augusto Cavadi, a Palermo-based guide and mafia scholar.
The template for his 55-page, €5.50 (£4.20) book was the frequently asked questions section in a washing machine manual. Responding to the question, how is it possible that 5 million Sicilians cannot defeat 5,000 mafiosi?, Cavadi tries to explain the "grey zone" in Sicily, which consists of those who are not part of the mafia but turn a blind eye to its activities. He also lists books and films which present the mafia realistically.
Cavadi said his book was just as suitable for Italians as for foreign tourists: "Italians sometimes insist there are 'good' mafiosi who do not kill, as well as 'bad' mafiosi."
To clear up any doubt on the matter, the book contains the question: is it true the mafia will not kill priests?
"They certainly kill them when they take a stand against the mafia," he said.
As for mobster spotting, Cavadi said it was not straightforward. "They are usually elegant and polite and move in high circles," he said. "I have known dozens, but only found out years later they were mafiosi when they were arrested. It was 15 years before I figured out my apartment building was owned by a mob family."
The veteran movie star wants to clear any confusion about those responsible for the road trip movie before the film's 40th anniversary celebrations next year.
He says, "I wrote and directed 'Easy Rider' with Peter. Terry Southern, who gets a writers credit, broke his hip and he didn't write anything. He gave us the title, 'Easy Rider,' but I called it 'The Loners.' Peter and I talked out the screenplay and then I wrote it. We made it for $340,000 all across the United States, and filmed it in four and a half weeks.
"After it became famous, there was a hundred million people who took credit for making it. I don't know how that happened."
And there's another Easy Rider myth Hopper would like to address - the fact that the film was a chaotic mess of edits and reshoots.
He adds, "All the crazy talk about how unprepared we were wasn't true. It took a year for me to edit it because I had so much film. That's it."
Fri Mar 14, 2008 12:29am EDT
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Warner Bros. has conjured up some Hollywood magic for the final installment of the wildly popular "Harry Potter" movies, splitting the seventh and final book into two films, the movie studio said on Thursday.
Part one of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" will debut in late 2010 and be followed months later by part two.
"We feel that the best way to do the book, and its many fans, justice is to expand the screen adaptation of 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' and release the film in two parts," Jeff Robinov, president of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, said in a statement.
The first five films in the series have been huge hits with a total global box office nearing $4.5 billion. The sixth movie is now being filmed.
The movies are based on British author J.K. Rowling's best-selling fantasy novels about the adventures of boy wizard Harry Potter and his friends as they grow from kids into teenagers at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
"Deathly Hallows," the seventh and final book in Rowling's series, was published last July to huge fanfare, selling some 11.5 million copies in its first 10 days in the United States.
But the final volume is a long saga at more than 750 pages, and it is filled with many twists and turns as Harry and his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley wrap up their story lines. Harry faces -- once and for all times -- the dark Lord Voldemort who murdered his parents.
Because of the many adventures in "Deathly Hallows," Rowling, the movies' producers and Warner Bros. all agreed that two movies were necessary to truly tell the end story.
"'The Deathly Hallows' is so rich, the story so dense and there is so much that is resolved that after discussing it with Jo, we came to the conclusion that the two parts were needed to do it justice," said producer David Heyman, who first took the project to Warner Bros. in 1997.
The books and movies also have been a huge money maker beyond theater box offices and DVDs. They have spawned products from toys to T-shirts to a planned theme park.
By some estimates, "Harry Potter" represents a $20 billion business, so an eighth film will likely only expand the enterprise.
Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry, and his co-stars Emma Watson (Hermione) and Rupert Grint (Ron) are now filming the sixth movie -- "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." All three have said they would appear in "Deathly Hallows."
Warner Bros. is a unit of media giant Time Warner Inc.
(Editing by Jill Serjeant and John O'Callaghan)
Category: Posted on: March 13, 2008 9:16 AM, by Ed Brayton
Found this at Pam's House Blend. It's a letter from a high school senior whose mother died in the Oklahoma City bombing. He's not happy about Kern claiming that gays are worse than terrorists and he tells her so with great eloquence. Full text below the fold:
On April 19, 1995, in Oklahoma City a terrorist detonated a bomb that killed my mother and 167 others. 19 children died that day. Had I not had the chicken pox that day, the body count would've likely have included one more. Over 800 other Oklahomans were injured that day and many of those still suffer through their permanent wounds.
That terrorist was neither a homosexual or was he involved in Islam. He was an extremist Christian forcing his views through a body count. He held his beliefs and made those who didn't live up to them pay with their lives.
As you were not a resident of Oklahoma on that day, it could be explained why you so carelessly chose words saying that the homosexual agenda is worst than terrorism. I can most certainly tell you through my own experience that is not true. I am sure there are many people in your voting district that laid a loved one to death after the terrorist attack on Oklahoma City. I kind of doubt you'll find one of them that will agree with you.
I was five years old when my mother died. I remember what a beautiful, wise, and remarkable woman she was. I miss her. Your harsh words and misguided beliefs brought me to tears, because you told me that my mother's killer was a better person than a group of people that are seeking safety and tolerance for themselves.
As someone left motherless and victimized by terrorists, I say to you very clearly you are absolutely wrong.
You represent a district in Oklahoma City and you very coldly express a lack of love, sympathy or understanding for what they've been through. Can I ask if you might have chosen wiser words were you a real Oklahoman that was here to share the suffering with Oklahoma City? Might your heart be a bit less cold had you been around to see the small bodies of children being pulled out of rubble and carried away by weeping firemen?
I've spent 12 years in Oklahoma public schools and never once have I had anyone try to force a gay agenda on me. I have seen, however, many gay students beat up and there's never a day in school that has went by when I haven't heard the word **** slung at someone. I've been called gay slurs many times and they hurt and I am not even gay so I can just imagine how a real gay person feels. You were a school teacher and you have seen those things too. How could you care so little about the suffering of some of your students?
Let me tell you the result of your words in my school. Every openly gay and suspected gay in the school were having to walk together Monday for protection. They looked scared. They've already experienced enough hate and now your words gave other students even more motivation to sneer at them and call them names. Afterall, you are a teacher and a lawmaker, many young people have taken your words to heart. That happens when you assume a role of responsibility in your community. I seriously think before this week ends that some kids here will be going home bruised and bloody because of what you said.
I wish you could've met my mom. Maybe she could've guided you in how a real Christian should be acting and speaking.
I have not had a mother for nearly 13 years now and wonder if there were fewer people like you around, people with more love and tolerance in their hearts instead of strife, if my mom would be here to watch me graduate from high school this spring. Now she won't be there. So I'll be packing my things and leaving Oklahoma to go to college elsewhere and one day be a writer and I have no intentions to ever return here. I have no doubt that people like you will incite crazy people to build more bombs and kill more people again. I don't want to be here for that. I just can't go through that again.
You may just see me as a kid, but let me try to teach you something. The old saying is sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you. Well, your words hurt me. Your words disrespected the memory of my mom. Your words can cause others to pick up sticks and stones and hurt others.
What is it with kids writing brilliant letters these days? Whatever it is, let's see more of it. Nice job, Tucker.
Madam: Sex too hard to sell these days, the competition is stiff and you're always getting the shaft
Fri Mar 14, 10:29 PM ET
HAMBURG, Germany - The oldest bordello in Hamburg's red-light district is shutting down for lack of business, according to newspaper reports published Friday.
The family-run Hotel Luxor, established in 1948, is being sold to an investor and will close down for good next month, madam Waltraud Mehrer said, according to the Hamburg Morgenpost and Bild newspapers.
She blamed the decline in business on easily available Internet porn, the rise of call-girl services, and "noisy discos and dance clubs" on the same street as her business, the newspapers reported.
"You can't make any big money selling sex in St. Pauli any more," she was quoted as saying, referring to the area that includes the red-light district. "The only thing still in operation are the table dance clubs."
The club's heyday was in the 1970s, when it was open 7 days a week, with 12 prostitutes on hand.
"Our customers were well off, they didn't scrimp," she said. "That's also changed today."
Hotel Luxor today employs four prostitutes, and is only open Tuesday through Friday nights.
"Two thousand euros (US$3,080) per night — it was like that once," one of the women, who gave her name only as "Nicole," told the Morgenpost. "Now I can only dream of that. I've been here a year and only earn around euro200 (US$308) per shift."
Friday, March 14, 2008
Alcohol consumption has been rising for the last 15 years
Plastic surgeon Peter Mahaffey told the British Medical Journal police should carry breathalysers and fine those three times over the drink-drive limit.
The Bedford Hospital medic said his suggestion came after seeing patients injured in drunken fights and disorder.
The government rejected the idea, saying the police already had the ability to deal with problem drinking.
We think the government would be much better to force bars and clubs not to serve people when they have had enough
Alcohol Concern spokesman
He criticised the decision announced in this week's Budget to raise taxes on drinks.
"Why should we all pay when many drink responsibly?
"We are also part of a European community where taxes are generally low. I am not sure it is the best way of tackling the problem."
If someone is drunk and not causing a problem, then it's no-one's business but their's
"I think as a society we have had enough. We need to send out a strong message.
"The levels of drinking and the harm it is causing is depressing. I see people with terrible injuries that they will never recover from. Now is the time to act."
Alcohol consumption has been rising steadily for the past 15 years, with figures suggesting a third of men and a fifth of women drink more than the recommended levels each week.
Alcohol is a factor in the majority of crimes and is estimated to cost the economy £7bn a year.
But the Home Office said the proposed extra powers were unnecessary.
Police already have powers to fine people between £50 and £80 who are drunk and disorderly - although under Mr Mahaffey's plans they would not need to be causing a nuisance to be punished - and ban drinking in public places.
A spokesman said: "We recognise that while most people adopt a safe and sensible approach to alcohol, there are a minority whose drunken behaviour leads to violence or anti-social behaviour.
"The government is determined to tackle those who act in this way."
And an Alcohol Concern spokesman added: "We would not support this. There are already laws in place to tackle drunken behaviour."We think the government would be much better to force bars and clubs not to serve people when they have had enough."
Date with Scarlett sells for $40,100 on eBay
Winning bidder from England will accompany star to her movie premiere
updated 5:22 p.m. CT, Thurs., March. 13, 2008
LOS ANGELES - Scarlett Johansson put herself on the auction block — and it paid off well for the actress and the Oxfam relief organization.
The eBay auction, which was for charity, closed with a winning bid of $40,100 by a lucky bidder who lives in England, Page Six reports. The winner will get to accompany the star to the premiere of her upcoming film, “He’s Just Not That Into You.”
Oxfam is an organization which "works to find lasting solutions to poverty and injustice," according to Oxfam.org.
However, Johansson isn't the first starlet to put herself up for bids.
In 2002, Charlize Theron auctioned off a chance to have dinner with her on eBay. A California man shelled out $38,000 to meet the actress, according the New York Post. Proceeds from the dinner went to the South African Children's Charity Project.
Student Suing After Being Awakened By Teacher
DANBURY, Conn. (AP) ― Danbury officials have been notified they are being sued by a student who was awakened in class by a teacher who made a loud noise.
Documents filed with the Town Clerk, a prelude to a lawsuit, claim that a sleeping student suffered hearing damage when his teacher woke him up by slamming her hand down on the boy's desk. in December.
Attorney Alan Barry says 15-year-old Vinicios Robacher suffered pain and "very severe injuries to his left eardrum" when teacher Melissa Nadeau abruptly slammed the palm of her hand on his desk on Dec. 4.
A city official says the matter has been referred to Danbury's insurance carrier.
(© 2008 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Copenhagen - Four Danish prison guards were treated for poisoning after eating a cake laced with drugs that was baked by prisoners, Denmark's Ekstra Bladet tabloid reported on Thursday.
The two male and two female guards were treated for stomach pain at the infirmary in a prison in Nyborg, on Denmark's eastern Fionie island, according to an anonymous prison official quoted by the daily.
Prior to feeling sick all four guards had eaten a cake baked by prisoners - some of whom belong to Denmark's most notorious criminal gangs.
Officials said the cake was laced with an unidentified narcotic.
Deputy prison warden Una Jensen confirmed the cake had been baked by "one or several prisoners", hardened criminals belonging to the Black Cobra and Den Internationale Klub gangs.
"We've never experienced such a violent attack on our members," Bo Soerensen, head of the Danish prison guards' union told Ekstra Bladet.
He called the drugging an "attack on the entire Danish penitentiary model and the good tradition of where guards and prisoners interact in an informal manner."
Authorities at the prison have banned guards from accepting cakes, sweets or other goodies made by prisoners.