Black actors take the lead: Activists reimagine film posters to highlight lack of racial diversity

‘Legally Black,’ a social equality group made up of four A-level students, took advantage of the hype surrounding the Oscars. The group exhibited the reimagined film posters around Brixton with the tagline: “If you’re surprised, it means you don’t see enough black people in major roles.”

In a statement on the group’s website, Legally Black said: “The aim of the project is to increase awareness surrounding the lack of black representation in the media and furthermore create dialogue and discussion around the often inaccurate and harmful depictions that do occur.”

The activists have mocked up some of the best-known British films and TV shows, including ‘Harry Potter,’ ‘Dr Who,’ and ‘James Bond.’ The campaign also recreated the posters of iconic international flicks like James Cameron’s ‘Titanic.’

The teen activists had their family and friends pose for photos for the project. 17-year-old Shiden Tekle said their idea to create posters and put them on display around the capital will “challenge people’s perceptions and assumptions” of black people.

“We are always looking at the media and never seeing any positive representations of black people,” he told The Guardian. “In big films, black characters are often playing criminals and drug dealers, and that quickly conditions people to believe that all black people are like that. So, we decided to put black faces in the big movies, and challenge people’s perceptions and assumptions.”

Legally Black campaigner Liv Francis-Cornibert penned an op-ed for iNews, explaining why the teens took to the streets of Brixton armed with movie posters to bring the issue of media diversity to the forefront of Londoner’s minds. “We – myself, Liv, and my friends Bel, Shiden and Kofi – are four advocates from South London who are passionate about the presentation of black people in the media,” she said.

“We’re calling on British media to tackle the under-representation and misrepresentation of Black British people in the media, by giving black actors, writers and directors the chance to bring to life more varied, complex and authentic characters and narratives.” The campaign follows research by the British Film Institute indicated that black actors played only 0.5 percent of lead roles in British films released between 2006 and 2016.

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US embassy in Turkey closed over security threat amid tensions between nations

Starting March 5, the Embassy will provide “only emergency services,” the Monday announcement said. Routine actives, including visa interviews will not be held during the period of restrictions. The notice also advised US citizens in Turkey should avoid large crowds, keep a low profile and otherwise be cautious.

Also on Monday, the Turkish state news agency Anadolu reported the arrest of 12 people in Ankara as part of an investigation into suspected jihadists. The 12 were among 20 people in the case, for whom arrest warrants were issued by the state prosecutor’s office, the report said. It was not immediately clear whether the arrests were connected to the closure of the embassy. The Anadolu report was published hours after the US announcement.

The embassy move comes amid a period of high tension between Turkey and the US over Ankara’s cross-border military operation in Syria. Turkish troops and proxy forces are attacking the US-supported Kurdish militias, which the Turkish government considers a security threat.

The militias played the role of ground troops for the US-led coalition during the siege of Raqqa, the former Syrian stronghold of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). Washington continues to support the Syrian Kurds, although it pledged to stop arming them to address the concerns of the Turks.

For Turkey the Syrian Kurdish militias are an extension of their domestic Kurdish insurgency, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara considers a terrorist organization.

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Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn apologises for comparing Star of David to Nazi swastika

Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn has apologised for comments made about the Star of David when discussing political and religious symbols in football, saying in a statement: “I will be speaking with the Jewish Leadership Council and to Kick It Out to personally apologise.”

He added in a statement: “I would like to apologise for any offence caused by the examples I gave when referring to political and religious symbols in football, specifically in reference to the Star of David, which is a hugely important symbol to Jewish people all over the world. I will be speaking with the Jewish Leadership Council and to Kick It Out to personally apologise.”

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Oscars 2018: Who were the activists with Common and why were they so important?

Common used his Oscars performance to condemn Donald Trump’s “hate” and the National Rifle Association. 

The American rapper’s performance of “Stand Up for Something” with singer Andra Day has been held up by many as one of the highlights of this year’s Academy Awards.

In keeping with the explicitly political message of the rendition, the pair were joined on stage by 10 activists who Common and Day personally invited.

“In American life, there are these people who abandon comfortable circumstances and take on issues that are bigger than themselves. And that is a thankless, thankless job to take on,” Dave Chappelle said when introducing the performance on Sunday night.

Common and Day decided to illuminate the campaigners with spotlights in an effort to show the real world activism they engage in day-to-day.

The rapper shared a list of the activists, which included Black Lives Matter’s Patrisse Cullors, former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, the Me Too movement’s Tarana Burke, and Nicole Hockley from Sandy Hook Promise, an organisation that trains students and adults to recognise the signs of gun violence.

“If it’s one thing I learned from being a part of Selma it’s that an activist is someone who lives their life for what they believe in and works for that cause every day,” Common said in a statement before the awards show. 

“The activists we asked to join us onstage are people who have dedicated their lives to making the world better. For some because their own personal experiences have driven them to this place, and some because they’ve seen the injustices going on in the world and felt they had to take action.“

Common also used the performance to condemn the NRA – the powerful pro-gun lobbying group which donated more than $30m (£21.4m) to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

“Tell the NRA they in God’s way and tell the people of Parkland we say àse (a West African philosophy about creating change). Sentiments of love for the people from Africa, Haiti, to Puerto Rico,“ Common said at the beginning of the performance.

Seventeen students and staff members were killed this in the 14 February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The NRA responded by tweeting a video to Common and the Academy about the NRA’s commitment to honouring American veterans.

Common also used the performance to criticise the President and voice his support for immigrants.

He said: “These days we dance between love and hate. … A President that trolls with hate. He don’t control our fate because God is great. When they go low we stay in our heights. I stand for peace, love and women’s rights.“

This line refers to a 2016 election plea by former first lady Michelle Obama, who famously said: ”When they go low, we go high.“

The activists who appeared alongside Common and Day were:

Alice Brown Otter, just 14 years old, was a prominent voice in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests which are also known as the #NoDAPL movement.  In the summer of 2016, she ran 1,519 miles from Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota to the front steps of the Army Corps of Engineers office in Washington DC to show her opposition to the the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on sacred burial grounds.

Bana Alabed is an eight-year-old Syrian refugee from Aleppo whose tweets describing her family’s personal nightmare while living there gained international attention and inspired her to pen a book called Dear World which came out last October.

Patrisse Cullors is a queer activist and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer, is the director of the Equal Justice Initiative and the author of Just Mercy. Stevenson has challenged bias against the poor and minorities in the criminal justice system – him and EJI won relief for scores of people wrongly convicted or unfairly sentenced.

Cecile Richards is a lifelong activist for women’s rights and social justice. She has served as the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund for over a decade.

Tarana Burke, a civil rights activist, is the founder of the Me Too movement. She is known for being the first to use the phrase “Me Too” back in 2006 to raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse and assault in society.

Dolores Huerta, the president and founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, co-founded the United Farm Workers of America with Cesar Chavez in 1962. She has gained a number of awards, including the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award in 1998 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

Janet Mock, the New York Times bestselling author of two memoirs Redefining Realness and Surpassing Certainty, is a transgender rights activist. The books focused on her journey as a young trans woman. 

José Andrés is a Spanish-American chef often credited for bringing the concept of small plates dining to the US. He served more than 3.3 million meals in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria destroyed the country last year, reaching communities in need across all 78 municipalities via 23 kitchens. He was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People and Outstanding Chef and Humanitarian of the Year by the James Beard Foundation. 

Nicole Hockley is the mother of Dylan Hockley who was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut in 2012 which saw 26 students and teachers killed after 20-year-old Adam Lanza opened fire. She is the founder and managing director for Sandy Hook Promise – the non-profit organisation founded and directed by several family members who lost loved ones at the primary school shooting.

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Theresa May's plan to tackle housing crisis dismissed savaged by senior Tories: 'Nonsense'

Senior Tories have poured scorn on Theresa May’s plans to tackle the housing crisis, warning they will fail to give Britain the homes it desperately needs.

A former housing minister and the Tory head of the Local Government Association (LGA) both warned “the nonsense will go on and nothing will change” unless the proposals are dramatically beefed up.

In a speech today, the Prime Minister, will vow to get tough with property developers who sit on planning permissions, warning they could be penalised in future bids.

But Gary Porter, the LGA chairman, said the only solution was for the Treasury to lift harsh restrictions on borrowing, to allow local authorities to build the homes themselves.

“If we want more houses, we have to build them, not plan them. If we want cheaper homes, we have to build them, not plan them,” Sir Gary tweeted.

Otherwise, he warned: “The nonsense will go on and nothing will change. Less homes built next year than there were this year.”

Nick Boles, the housing minister for two years until 2014, praised the post, saying: “This is spot on. We cannot wait for our dysfunctional house-building industry to build the homes we need.”

Sir Gary then added: “Why not let councils build so many houses they don’t have to ration them just for the poorest in our society.

“Then key workers can have affordable housing where ever they live, until they can afford to buy!”

The only time the Government’s new target – of 300,000 homes a year – was met, in the 1970s, councils build more than 40 per cent of them, he pointed out.

The criticisms risked holing Ms May’s housebuilding plans below the waterline, even before they were formally delivered at a planning conference in London.

In her speech, the Prime Minister will insist the Government is “rewriting the rules on planning” to ensure developers and local authorities build more properties and restore the dream of home ownership.

The shake-up will make the system fairer and more effective by streamlining the process, cutting red tape and ending barriers to building, she will say.

And she will highlight the “perverse incentive” in the bonus structure of some house builders, which fails to encourage them to build home that are affordable.

But, in last year’s budget, the Chancellor ruled out allowing town halls to borrow billions to build homes – preferring a headline-grabbing cut in stamp duty for first-time buyers of most properties.

The decision to continue relying on private developers – while setting the target of 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s – was a defeat for Sajid Javid, the Housing Secretary.

Last year, housebuilding rose – to 183,000 new builds, or 217,000 homes including conversions – but only after falling sharply after the Conservatives came to power in 2010.

Mr Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Under successive governments, we have not built enough homes. As a result, prices have risen and risen and so many people are locked out of the market

“The only long time answer to this is going to be more supply……we are no longer going to stand by when councils and developers do not do the right thing.”

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Bitcoin price – latest updates: Cryptocurrency value continues steady recent growth

The value of bitcoin plunged last month, amid fears that trading was about to be banned in South Korea. It then stabilised briefly, before plummeting again and once more recovering.

The volatile cryptocurrency’s value has shifted wildly ever since mid-December – when it hit a record high of more than $19,850 (£14,214)  – with frequent heavy drops and speedy recoveries.

The rapid drops are partly the result of continuing fears about regulation, as well as anxiety provoked by a series of high-profile thefts.

Its value tumbled spectacularly at the start of February, falling from $10,000 (£7,161) to $6,000 (£4,296) in four days. However, it gradually recovered over the course of the following weeks.

It is worth $11,425 (£8,264, as of Monday morning, up from its $10,970 (£7,955) valuation on Friday afternoon, according to the Coinbase exchange.

Its value has risen 2.9 per cent over the past 24 hours and 11.53 per cent over the past week. Over the past month, it has increased in worth by 27.98 per cent.  

The most recent price drops were huge and followed reports about potential cryptocurrency regulation and trading bans.

South Korea recently banned people from trading bitcoin and other digital currencies anonymously, but says it isn’t planning to make cryptocurrency exchanges illegal.

Meanwhile, Theresa May has hinted that the UK government could introduce similar measures, and the US government is concerned about bitcoin’s popularity amongst criminals.

Recent goings-on have demonstrated just how quickly things can change for investors. 

The cryptocurrency’s value plummeted ahead of Christmas, dropping by almost $2,000 in just an hour at one point, and almost slipping below the $11,000 mark. It then bounced back, before tumbling again in mid-January, recovering again, and plummeting at the start of February.

Bitcoin is notoriously volatile and its value is expected to continue to shift unpredictably.

Its rise last year also led to increasing amounts of interest in other digital currencies, such as ethereum, litecoin and Ripple XRP, and more and more people are now looking to invest in digital currencies. 

However, there are serious fears that bitcoin has created a bubble that could burst at any moment.

Numerous financial experts have advised potential investors to avoid getting involved with bitcoin, and the SEC has told people to “exercise caution” and be wary of scammers.

But others have speculated that it could eventually rise towards the $1m mark.

Bitcoin has no central bank and isn’t linked to or regulated by any state.

An anonymised record of every bitcoin transaction is stored on a huge public ledger known as a blockchain. 

However, transactions made with the cryptocurrency are irreversible, which makes investors in bitcoin attractive targets for cybercriminals. 

This article is being regularly updated to reflect bitcoin’s latest value.

We’ve teamed up with cryptocurrency trading platform eToro. Click here to get the latest Bitcoin rates and start trading. Remember that returns are not guaranteed, so you could get back less than you invested.

The Independent’s bitcoin group on Facebook is the best place to follow the latest discussions and developments in cryptocurrency. Join here for the latest on how people are making money – and how they’re losing it.

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Oscars 2018: Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway joke about last year's mix-up when handing out best picture

This year’s Oscars ceremony was a relatively tame affair, many expected winners going home with trophies and few slip-ups from presenters. 

Last year, of course, was a completely different story: Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty famously managed to present the best picture award to the wrong movie — La La Land instead of Moonlight

As a gesture of goodwill, the Bonnie and Clyde duo were invited back to present the same award one year on, but not without a few jokes about the mishap.

“Nothing could possibly go wrong from here on,” host Kimmel said just before the best picture presentation.

“What happened last year is Waterhouse under the bridge [a reference to PriceWaterhouse Coppers, the legal firm in charge of the award envelopes].”

“It’s so nice seeing you again,” Beatty said, Dunaway adding: “As they say, presenting is lovely the second time around.”

Clips of the nominees then played out, with The Shape of Water taking home the night’s biggest prize. Upon getting the stage, director Guillermo Del Toro took a moment to look inside the envelope to make sure his movie had actually won, holding up the envelope for everyone to see — a nod to La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz doing the same for Moonlight last year.

After giving an emotional speech, Kimmel then entered the stage to wrap everything up: “Well, that’s how it’s suppose to go I guess.”

Kimmel has made a joke earlier in the ceremony about last year’s mix-up, saying: “I do want to mention, this year, when you hear your name called, don’t get up right away. Give us a minute.”

Overall, this year’s Oscars saw some great speeches made, while The Shape of Water managed to win the night with four victories. Catch all our Oscars coverage here. 

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Kobe Bryant wins Oscar for short film ‘Dear Basketball’

March 5 (UPI) — Shoo-in basketball Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant added an Oscar to his trophy room after taking an award for best animated short film at the Academy Awards.

Bryant, 39, won the award Sunday night at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, Calif. The venue is just 9.1 miles from the Staples Center, where Bryant starred for 20 seasons as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. That decorated tenure included 18 All-Star selections, five NBA championships and an NBA MVP award.

Dear Basketball received an Oscar nomination in January from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. The film is based on a poem Bryant penned for The Players’ Tribune. He produced the animated short with director and supervising producer Glen Keane.

Bryant’s poem detailed his journey playing basketball, from when he started at six-years-old until he retired after the 2015 season.

The Lakers legend threw some shade during his acceptance speech.

“As basketball players, we’re really supposed to shut up and dribble but I’m glad we do a little bit more than that,” Bryant said at the beginning of the speech. “Thank you John Williams for such a wonderful piece of music. Thank you Verizon for believing in the film. Thank you Molly Carter without you we wouldn’t be here. And to my wife, Vanessa, our daughters, Natalia, Giana and Bianca, “Te amo con tu…You are my inspiration. Thank you so much for this.”

Shaquille O’Neal spent eight seasons playing with Bryant, winning three consecutive NBA championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He said he is jealous of Bryant’s latest honor.

“Congrats to KOBE first Oscar that’s big bro #dearbasketball. Proud of you, Big honor for you and your family. I’m jealous lol,” O’Neal tweeted Sunday.

Kobe also earned praise from various other NBA superstars, including: Magic Johnson, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

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Blockchain technology introduced for forthcoming Russian presidential polls

Our project provides for storage of the data that we receive during exit polls at polling stations in a special blockchain bank. This will prevent any external changes to the information, decrease the effectiveness of hacker attacks and ensure the transparency of the data collection and aggregation,” reads the statement by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center. 

In case of success the project would become a foundation for the ‘Digital VTSIOM’ program that is being developed in the center and that is scheduled for realization throughout 2018-2021,” the release reads. 

The project will be executed by the 2chain company, which specializes in ICO (initial coin offering) marketing and general consulting on blockchain issues. Further details will be posted starting March 12 on the dedicated website VTSIOM also noted that its project of using blockchain technology in exit polls would become one of the first examples of such system of data storage in the world. 

General Director Valery Fedorov said he personally thinks using blockchain in elections research significantly fortifies the protection against hacker attacks. It also makes the polling systems less vulnerable to common malfunctions that can appear during data transfer.

The Russian presidential elections are scheduled for March 18. Eight people are running for the post, including incumbent, Vladimir Putin. All the latest opinion polls indicate that Putin will most likely win in the first round.

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Russia delivering more gas to Britain to relieve cold-weather shortage

The Financial Times reports that the LNG cargo is coming from Russia’s Yamal plant in the far north. The bad weather conditions, dubbed the ‘Beast from the East’, has resulted in a 400-percent rise in consumer gas prices, which reached 12-year highs.

Shell is expected to deliver the Russian gas on March 6 to an LNG terminal at Milford Haven, convert it into a gaseous state and pump it into the UK network. Last week, the UK National Grid announced that, amid growing demand, the country was facing a threat of a gas shortage. The warning was the first of its kind issued in eight years.

Many experts said that the recent cold spell proved that UK is overly dependent on gas supplies. Natural gas is crucial for UK energy security and comprises 40 percent of electricity generation and heating in most homes and businesses. The British government has stressed that Russia contributes less than 1 percent of all gas supplies to the country.

The first LNG tanker from Russia was to arrive in the UK in December 2017. By the time the ship arrived in the UK, fuel prices went down, and the LNG was pumped to another tanker and sent to Boston, USA.

Russian energy company Novatek, which owns a controlling stake in Yamal LNG, has been under US sanctions since 2014. However, there are no sanctions against the Yamal LNG plant, so the company can supply gas to the US and other Western countries.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

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