The revolution isn’t being televised: Beyond Hong Kong, media ignores global protests – ALAN MACLEOD OCTOBER 31, 2019 9:00AM (UTC)


Mainstream media has covered Hong Kong’s protests extensively, but ignored Haiti, Ecuador, Chile and elsewhere

It’s all kicking off everywhere in 2019. Haitians are revolting against a corrupt political system and their President Jovenel Moïse, who many see as a kleptocratic U.S. puppet. In Ecuador, huge public manifestations managed to force President Lenín Moreno to backtrack on his IMF-backed neoliberal package that would have sharply cut government spending and increased transport prices (FAIR.org, 10/23/19).

Meanwhile, popular Chilean frustration at the conservative Piñera administration boiled over into massive protests that were immediately met with force. “We are at war,” announced President Sebastián Piñera, echoing the infamous catchphrase of former fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet. Piñera claimed that those responsible for violently resisting him were “going to pay for their deeds” as he ordered tanks through Santiago. (See FAIR.org, 10/23/19.)

Huge, ongoing anti-government demonstrations are also engulfing LebanonCatalonia and the United Kingdom.

NewsHour: Pro-democracy demonstrators and Beijing fight for the future of Hong Kong

PBS NewsHour (10/5/19)

Yet the actions that have by far received the most attention in corporate media are those in Hong Kong, where demonstrations erupted in response to a proposed extradition agreement with the Chinese central government that opponents felt would undermine civil liberties and Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status. A search for “Hong Kong protests” on Oct. 25 elicits 282 responses in the last month in the New York Times, for example, compared to 20 for “Chile protests,” 43 for Ecuador and 16 for Haiti. The unequal coverage is even more pronounced on Fox News, where there were 70 results for Hong Kong over the same period and four, two and three for ChileEcuador and Haiti, respectively.

This disparity cannot be explained due to the protests’ size or significance, the number of casualties or the response from the authorities. Eighteen people have died during the ongoing protests in Haiti, 19 (and rising) in Chile, while in Ecuador, protesters themselves captured over 50 soldiers who had been sent in as Moreno effectively declared martial law. In contrast, no one has been killed in Hong Kong, nor has the army been called in, with Beijing expressing full confidence in local authorities to handle proceedings. The Chilean government announced it had arrested over 5,400 people in only a week of protests, a figure more than double the number arrested in months of Hong Kong demonstrations (Bloomberg, 10/4/19). Furthermore, social media have been awash with images and videos of the suppression of the protests worldwide.

One way of understanding why the media is fixated on Hong Kong and less interested in the others is to look at who is protesting, and why.

Worthy and unworthy victims

NYT: Hong Kong’s Challenge to Xi Jinping’s Iron Rule

New York Times (8/14/19)

Over 30 years ago, in their book “Manufacturing Consent,” Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky developed their theory of worthy vs. unworthy victims to explain why corporate media cover certain stories and why others are dropped. They compared the media coverage of a single murdered priest in an enemy state (Communist Poland) to that of over 100 religious martyrs, including some U.S. citizens, murdered in Central American client states over a period of two decades. They found that not only did the New York Times, Time, Newsweek and CBS News dedicate more coverage to the single priest’s assassination, the tone of coverage was markedly different: In covering the killing of Father Jerzy Popieluszko, media expressed indignation, demanding justice and condemning the barbarism of Communism. The killings of religious figures in Central America by pro-U.S. government groups, on the other hand, were reported in a matter-of-fact manner, with little rhetorical outrage.

In other words, when official enemies can be presented as evil and allies as sympathetic victims, corporate media will be very interested in a story. In contrast, they will show far less enthusiasm for a story when the “wrong” people are the villains or the victims.

On Hong Kong, the New York Times has published three editorials (6/10/198/14/1910/1/19), each lauding the “democracy-minded people” fighting to limit “the repressive rule of the Chinese Communists,” condemning the Communist response as evidence of the backward, “brutal paternalism of that system,” in which China “equates greatness with power and dissent with treachery.” Hong Kong, on the other hand, thanks to the blessing of being a former British colony, had acquired “a Western political culture of democracy, human rights, free speech and independent thought.” (The Times has not elected to publish any editorials on the other protests.)

The Times also ridiculed the idea that “foreign forces” (i.e., the U.S. government) could be influencing the protests, calling it a “shopworn canard” used by the Communist government. Yet the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has officially poured over $22 million into “identifying new avenues for democracy and political reform in Hong Kong” or China since 2014. The Times editorials did not mention this funding as possibly complicating their dismissal of foreign involvement in the Hong Kong protests as a “canard.”

Guardian: Ecuador moves government out of capital as violent protests rage

Guardian (10/8/19)

However, media (e.g., Voice of America, 10/11/19; Miami Herald, 10/9/19; Reuters, 10/9/19) are taking seriously the accusation that the Ecuadorian protests are, in fact, masterminded abroad, by President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, with the Guardian (10/8/19) going so far as to describe the Ecuadorian protesters not as “democracy-minded people,” but “rioters” — a label not appearing in connection with Hong Kong, except as an accusation by Chinese officials (e.g., Time, 10/2/19; CNN, 10/22/19), who are almost universally condemned in coverage as part of a “repressive” (e.g., Vox, 8/29/19; Guardian, 10/19/19) “dictatorship” (New York Times, 8/29/19).

In the cases of the less-covered protests, the “wrong” people are protesting and the “wrong” governments are doing the repressing. As the Washington Post (10/14/19) noted on Haiti,

One factor keeping Moïse in power is support from the United States. US officials have been limited in their public comments about the protests.

On Ecuador, the State Department has been more forthcoming, issuing a full endorsement of Moreno’s neoliberal austerity package:

The United States supports President Moreno and the Government of Ecuador’s efforts to institutionalize democratic practices and implement needed economic reforms…. We will continue to work in partnership with President Moreno in support of democracy, prosperity, and security.

In other words, don’t expect any angry editorials denouncing U.S. client states like Haiti or Ecuador, or arguing that the Chilean government’s repression of its protest movement shows the moral bankruptcy of capitalism. Indeed, corporate media (e.g., Guardian, 10/8/19; CNN, 10/8/19; USA Today, 10/10/19) emphasized the violence of the Ecuadorian protesters while downplaying Hong Kong’s — the New York Times (6/30/19) even inventing the phrase “aggressive nonviolence” to describe the Hong Kong protesters’ actions, so eager was it to frame the demonstrations against China as unquestionably laudable.

Which protest movements interest corporate media has little to do with their righteousness or popularity, and much more to do with whom they are protesting against. If you’re fighting against corporate power or corruption in a U.S. client state, don’t expect many TV cameras to show up; that revolution is rarely televised.

Alan MacLeod is a member of the Glasgow University Media Group. His latest book, “Bad News From Venezuela: 20 Years of Fake News and Misreporting,”was published by Routledge in April. Follow him on Twitter: @AlanRMacLeod.

https://www.salon.com/2019/10/31/the-revolution-isnt-being-televised-beyond-hong-kong-media-ignores-global-protests/

The Senate just failed to overturn a Trump administration rule on the Affordable Care Act – Li ZhouOct 30, 2019, 1:09pm EDT


Forcing this vote was part of Democrats’ strategy to renew messaging on health care.

Senate Lawmakers Address The Media Following Weekly Policy Luncheons
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a press conference at the US Capitol on October 29, 2019, in Washington, DC. 
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Ahead of the start of open enrollment, which begins this Friday, Senate Democrats are trying to send the Trump administration a pointed message: Steer clear of the Affordable Care Act.

In a vote on Wednesday, Democrats sought to overturn one of the administration’s most recent attempts to undermine the health care legislation: a rule that would give states more flexibility in the types of plans they could use ACA subsidies to purchase.

Under the administration’s rule, states could request a 1332 waiver, which would enable them to buy and offer plans that Democrats see as low-quality options, including plans that could discriminate against patients with preexisting conditions — rolling back one of the key accomplishments of the ACA.

To undo the rule, Democrats forced a vote on a resolution of disapproval, a measure that can be used to overturn administration regulations with a simple majority in the House and Senate. Trump, however, has the ability to veto this measure.

The resolution wound up falling short of the votes it needed, with a vote of 43-52, a sign that not enough Republican lawmakers were willing to break with their party on this front.

It’s worth noting, however, that the rule itself has not yet led to any states taking up these waivers in this way, as highlighted by the Washington Post’s Paige Cunningham. While it’s still a relatively new option and states could certainly capitalize on it down the line, this context underscores how much Wednesday’s vote primarily served to bolster Democratic messaging.

Messaging, after all, is what Senate Democrats’ renewed push on the ACA is all about. This week’s vote was intended to demonstrate how united lawmakers remain in protecting the law — while simultaneously forcing a slew of vulnerable Republicans in swing states to take a stance on it.

Defending the Affordable Care Act, especially the protections that it offers people with preexisting conditions, was a core plank of Democratic messaging in the 2018 midterms and it’s poised to serve as pivotal one yet again in the 2020 cycle.

This vote also marks the latest bid from Democrats to call attention to rule changes by the Trump administration. Previously, senators have attempted to undo rules that loosen pollution regulations for power plants, for example.

These votes help serve two purposes for the party: They signal an attempt to oppose the Trump administration despite being the minority — and they generate fodder for possible campaign attacks as the election rapidly approaches.

https://www.vox.com/2019/10/30/20938964/senate-affordable-care-act-waiver-vote

Secret Air Force Space Plane Lands After More Than 2 Years In Orbit – Scott Neuman October 28, 2019 6:39 AM ET


The U.S. Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Mission 5 is seen after landing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida on Sunday.
U.S. Air Force via Reuters

After a record-breaking 780 days circling the Earth, the U.S. Air Force’s mysterious X-37B unmanned space plane dropped out of orbit and landed safely on the same runway that the space shuttle once used.

It was the fifth acknowledged mission for the vehicle, built by Boeing at the aerospace company’s Phantom Works.

“Today marks an incredibly exciting day for the 45th Space Wing,” Brig. Gen. Doug Schiess, 45th Space Wing commander, said in a statement. “Our team has been preparing for this event, and I am extremely proud to see their hard work and dedication culminate in today’s safe and successful landing of the X-37B.”

As in previous missions, many of the details about the vehicle’s activities in the past two years are being kept under wraps. One experiment was to “test experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipe technologies in the long-duration space environment,” according to the Air Force statement.

Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, said the latest X-37B mission “successfully hosted Air Force Research Laboratory experiments, among others, as well as providing a ride for small satellites.”

Walden’s statement sparked a reaction from some, such as Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who keeps tabs on the registration of satellites.

“The statement that this @usairforce X-37 flight deployed small satellites is alarming, since the US has not reported those deployments in its UN Registration Convention submissions,” McDowell tweeted. “This would be the first time that either the USA or Russia has blatantly flouted the Convention.”

The statement that this @usairforce X-37 flight deployed small satellites is alarming, since the US has not reported those deployments in its UN Registration Convention submissions. This would be the first time that either the USA or Russia has blatantly flouted the Convention. https://twitter.com/usairforce/status/1188481437500088323 

U.S. Air Force

@usairforce

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle breaks record with 780 days in orbit after landing at @NASAKennedy‘s Shuttle Landing Facility at 3:51 a.m.

Learn more about its record breaking mission here: https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1999734/x-37b-breaks-record-lands-after-780-days-in-orbit/ 

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The Air Force is believed to have two of the 29-foot-long reusable X-37Bs — which resemble miniature space shuttle orbiters — and both have flown multiple flights, according to Space.com. They were originally designed to spend 240 days in orbit, but with the latest flight — and a previous one that went for 718 days — they have tripled their expected endurance. The latest mission, known as OTV-5, was launched into orbit by the SpaceX Falcon 9 on Sept. 7, 2017.

The X-37B was first developed by NASA as a test-bed for future spacecraft, but it was transferred to the Defense Advanced Research Agency in 2004 and then absorbed by the Air Force.

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The NRA just called its own video network “distasteful and racist” – Jane CoastonOct 28, 2019, 5:35pm EDT


But the advertising firm that built NRATV says the NRA is “self destructing.”

Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the NRA, arrives prior to a speech by President Trump at the NRA Annual Meeting at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 26, 2019. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the NRA, arrives prior to a speech by President Trump at the NRA Annual Meeting at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 26, 2019. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the NRA, arrives prior to a speech by President Trump at the NRA Annual Meeting at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 26, 2019.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

A new complaint in a lawsuit filed by the National Rifle Association against its former advertising agency, Ackerman McQueen, alleges that the firm engaged in “a stunning pattern of corruption, fraud, and retaliation” that nearly topped the organization’s CEO.

The complaint filing from October 25 first reported by the Daily Beast, also claims the gun rights organization’s infamous “culture war” publicity strategy was largely constructed by Ackerman McQueen — and that NRA executives found its work “distasteful and racist.”

In response, Ackerman McQueen argues — as its executive vice president Bill Powers did in an email to me — that the complaint is only an effort to hide the fact that the NRA is “self-destructing.” Ackerman McQueen accuses the NRA of committing fraud itself and of covering up a vast number of misdeeds, including allegations of sexual harassment.

In its counterclaim, the advertising firm states that — contrary to the claims of the NRA — the gun rights group and its CEO, Wayne LaPierre, were well aware of the messaging being used in its content. In fact, Ackerman McQueen alleges that LaPierre would ask for “more gasoline” and even riskier language in order to gain more notoriety for the group. In Ackerman McQueen’s telling, the NRA was well aware of the ad firm’s spending, with LaPierre’s “apparent paranoia and lust for secrecy” ensuring that he knew everything about the ad agency’s shaping of the NRA’s digital media outlet, NRATV.

The dueling complaints indicate one certainty: the relationship between the NRA and Ackerman McQueen, one that began in the early 1980s and made the NRA the most recognizable and powerful gun rights organization in America, is now one for the courts to adjudicate.

And the consequences for both sides could be dire. For Ackerman McQueen, allegations of fraud and double-billing could sink an 80-year legacy in advertising. But for the NRA, the lawsuit and the increasingly embarrassing allegations that court filings have revealed about the organization have already proven to be a dangerous distraction.

A finding against the NRA in court could put the group’s very existence at risk. If it were to lose the suit — and its tax-exempt status — it would be subject to not just the cost of losing the suit, but also the cost of annual income taxes (and back taxes as well.)

The NRA claims it was misled into wasting millions of dollars on a “dystopian culture rant”

As I’ve written previously, the NRA and Ackerman McQueen’s current enmity stems from alleged financial mismanagement that may have put the gun rights group in financial jeopardy.

The souring stems from an NRA insurance program Ackerman McQueen helped to roll out that would cover legal fees for self-defense shootings. That program is under investigation by New York State authorities, and the costs of dealing with that probe have the gun rights organization increasingly concerned about its finances.

The NRA filed lawsuits against Ackerman McQueen, with one complaint alleging financial mismanagement, and another focused on NRATV. But the lawsuits have become a massive headache for the NRA and for the advertising firm, as allegations from both Ackerman and the NRA have led to former NRA president Oliver North stepping down from his post after just one year on the job amid allegations he attempted to blackmail NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and fueled accusations of outrageous spending on both sides.

Some of the spending on Ackerman McQueen’s part is fueled by revenue it has gained from the NRA — in fact, according to reporting by the New Yorker and the Trace, only 10 percent of the gun rights organization’s money is being spent on gun safety, training, and education, with the rest going to “messaging” efforts, like an Ackerman-produced magazine created to show off wealthy NRA members’ cars and planes.

The October 25th filing alleges that much of the money the NRA spent on Ackerman McQueen’s services was rendered under false pretenses. It claims Ackerman McQueen went to great lengths to defraud the NRA, most visibly through NRATV, the organization’s online streaming service that shut downearlier this year. The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Dog Injured In Syrian Terrorist Raid Is Hailed As A Hero In The Mission – Bobby Allyn October 28, 20195:02 PM ET


Before Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest, he was “screaming, crying and whimpering” as he was fleeing U.S. forces, winding up trapped in a dead-end tunnel in his Syrian compound, according to President Trump.

Baghdadi was being chased through the tunnel by a U.S. officer who is being celebrated as a crucial part of the top-secret mission that ended in the demise of one of the world’s most wanted terrorist leaders.

That officer is a dog.

And the world got to know the canine a little better on Monday when Trump shared a declassified portrait of the dog.

Earlier in the day, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the dog performed “a tremendous service” in the operation that targeted Islamic State founder Baghdadi, noting that though the canine was slightly wounded in the mission, the dog is making a full recovery.

“The dog is still in theater, returning to duty with its handlers,” Milley said.

The dog’s name and backstory are being kept under wraps for now.

“We’re protecting the dog’s identity,” Milley said.

Usually ranked as noncommissioned officers, a higher rank than the dog’s handler and a way of instilling respect for the dogs, military canines are routinely part of sensitive and dangerous missions carried out by special operations forces, according to Ron Aiello, a retired Marine who runs the nonprofit U.S. War Dogs Association.

“They’re kind of the first line of defense,” Aiello told NPR. “Their job is to detect any type of danger that’s out front.”

In special operations, the dog breed of choice is usually the Belgian Malinois, the kind of dog that assisted in the Saturday mission against Baghdadi. It is also the same breed that was deployed to hunt down Osama bin Laden.

The breed resembles a German shepherd but is smaller and with shorter hair, a valuable asset when on patrol in the hot deserts of the Middle East.

“They’re going into high-security areas on very dangerous missions, and those dogs will train with those troops for weeks,” Aiello said.

And that can sometimes mean the dogs parachute out of planes, descend by rope out of helicopters with their handlers and swim to shore from a submarine.

“They have to be intelligent, and they have to be very strong,” Aiello said.

Aiello, who in the 1960s, with his canine partner Stormy, was part of one of the first Marine scout dog teams to be deployed, now focuses on the needs of America’s “canine veterans.”

War zone dogs do more than sniff out improvised explosive devices, Aiello said. They also serve as morale-boosters to soldiers. Handlers and the military dogs, in particular, form strong bonds in conflict zones.

“You depend on your dog to save your life, to protect the troops behind you, and your dog depends on you to take care of that dog,” he said.

But military dogs, he said, return from duty with both physical and psychological injuries, and his organization helps the hero dogs connect with treatment.

“We have a free prescription drug program we started about five years ago. We provide wheelchairs for the dogs when they can no longer walk. We help with the dogs that have PTSD — we have a program for that,” he said.

https://www.npr.org/2019/10/28/774156283/dog-injured-in-syrian-terrorist-raid-is-hailed-as-a-hero-in-the-mission

Russian Hackers Are Still Targeting the Olympics, Three Years On – ANDY GREENBERG 10.28.2019 06:00 PM


Fancy Bear has attacked 16 anti-doping agencies around the world, indicating that its Olympics grudge is far from over.

The Olympics-related attacks are remarkable not for their novelty, but for their sheer doggedness.PHOTOGRAPH: GETTY IMAGES

The Olympics-related attacks are remarkable not for their novelty, but for their sheer doggedness.PHOTOGRAPH: GETTY IMAGES

Russia’s state-sponsored hackers have a few predictable fixations: NATO-country embassies. Hillary Clinton. Ukraine. But a less expected target has somehow remained in their sights for more than three years: the Olympics—and specifically anyone who would dare to accuse Russian athletes of cheating.

On Monday, Microsoft revealed in a blog post that the Russian hacking group known as Fancy Bear, APT28, or Strontium recently targeted no fewer than 16 anti-doping agencies around the world; in some cases those attacks were successful.

Microsoft notes that the hackers, long believed to be working in the service of the Russian military intelligence agency known as the GRU, began their attacks on September 16, just ahead of reports that the Worldwide Anti-Doping Agency had found “inconsistencies” in Russian athletes’ compliance with anti-doping standards, which may lead to the country’s ban from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, just as they were from the Pyeongchang Winter Games in 2018.

The Olympics-related attacks are remarkable not for their novelty but for their sheer doggedness. The GRU, after all, has been hacking anti-doping agencies—including WADA—since 2016, in retaliation for investigations of Russian doping. They’ve previously leaked reams of stolen files and even athlete medical records along the way. And even after several Russian agents within that GRU group were indicted last year in connection with those attacks, the country’s cyberspies and saboteurs can’t seem to give up their Olympics obsession. “It’s a grudge match,” says James Lewis, the director of the Strategic Technologies Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Lewis points out that Russian hackers could have either of two goals in mind when they hack anti-doping agencies. They gain the ability to strategically leak documents designed to embarrass the agencies, as they have in the past. Or they may be seeking to carry out more traditional espionage, getting intel on targets like WADA, potentially including their specific drug tests and how to defeat them. “For decades, the Russians have been using drugs to enhance athletic performance, and when WADA pulled the plug on them they were outraged. They’ve really never forgiven WADA for that, and they also want to know what WADA knows,” Lewis says. “It’s a good way to tailor your strategy for doping if you know what the other guy is looking for.”

Microsoft declined to share more specifics on the latest wave of anti-doping agency attacks, but says that the Fancy Bear hackers are using tricks similar to those they’ve employed in attacks against governments, political campaigns, and civil society around the world for years, including spearphishing, bruteforce password guessing, and directly targeting internet-connected devices.

The GRU’s sports-related hacking first came to light in the fall of 2016, when hackers posted a collection of stolen files from WADA, including the medical records of Simon Biles and Serena and Venus Williams, on the website FancyBears.net. The leak, aside from its brazen mockery of the name given to the hacker group by security firm CrowdStrike, attempted to discredit WADA by showing that US athletes took performance-enhancing drugs, too. Simon Biles had, for instance, taken an ADHD medication since early childhood, which WADA had approved for her to use during competition. After Russia’s Winter Olympics ban in early 2018, Fancy Bear retaliated with yet more leaks, this time from the network of the International Olympic Committee.

a photo-illustration of the olympic ceremony

Inside Olympic Destroyer, the Most Deceptive Hack in History

The untold story of how digital detectives unraveled the mystery of Olympic Destroyer—and why the next big cyberattack will be even harder to crack.

Netflix faces film-maker backlash over playback speed test feature – Benjamin Lee Mon 28 Oct 2019 17.49 EDT


Judd Apatow and Brad Bird have both voiced opposition to a new test feature that will allow consumers to speed-watch certain titles

A still from upcoming Netflix movie The Irishman.
A still from upcoming Netflix movie The Irishman. Photograph: Allstar/Netflix

Netflix is facing a backlash from film-makers over a new test feature that allows viewers to watch their content at different speeds.

After tech sites spotted the new option on the app, the streaming giant confirmed that it was trialling the feature which would mean downloaded films and shows could be watched at either a slower or faster pace on a smartphone.

The move has caused anger from film-makers including Judd Apatow and Brad Bird. Trainwreck and Knocked Up director Apatow, who co-created the Netflix series Love, tweeted his concerns earlier on Monday.

“Don’t make me have to call every director and show creator on Earth to fight you on this,” he wrote. “Save me the time. I will win but it will take a ton of time. Don’t fuck with our timing. We give you nice things. Leave them as they were intended to be seen.”

Bird, whose films include The Incredibles and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, tweeted that it was “another spectacularly bad idea” as well as “another cut to the already bleeding-out cinema experience”. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse co-director Peter Ramsey also tweeted: “Does everything have to be designed for the laziest and most tasteless?”

Ant-Man director Peyton Reed wrote: “This is a terrible idea, and I and every director I know will fight against it.”

The Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul also shared his dismay over the news. “There is NO WAY Netflix will move forward with this,” he tweeted. “That would mean they are completely taking control of everyone else’s art and destroying it. Netflix is far better than that. Am I right Netflix?”

The platform has previously received backlash over its option to skip the introof certain titles.

Netflix playback speed settings on Android
Netflix playback speed settings on Android Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The new trial feature, captured above and currently only available on a small subset of Android devices, allows viewers the opportunity to play content from 0.5x, the regular speed, all the way to 1.5x. It is more widely used in podcasting, allowing listeners to consume episodes at a greater speed.

“We’re always experimenting with new ways to help members use Netflix,” a Netflix spokesperson said. “This test makes it possible to vary the speed at which people watch shows on their mobiles. As with any test, it may not become a permanent feature on Netflix.”

The news arrives just weeks before their longest original film to date, Martin Scorsese’s 210-minute crime drama The Irishman, which Vanity Fair now points out would now be consumed in under three hours. Netflix, which has recently increased its release of viewing data, counts more than 70% of a movie or episode as a watch.

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‘Game Of Thrones’ Showrunners David Benioff And D.B. Weiss Confirmed The Worst Suspicions Of The Fanbase – Dani Di Placido


After the disastrous final season of Game of Thrones, which left many fans furious at the flat conclusion to an epic story, writers/showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been extremely quiet, even going so far as to cancel their scheduled appearance at Comic Con.

At this point, every single scene, character arc (or lack thereof), and poorly-planned plot point has been thoroughly dissected and dismissed, by disappointed fans, critics, and YouTubers.

Blame fell squarely on the shoulders of Benioff and Weiss, with Game of Thrones fans recognizing that the sudden shift in quality was entirely due to decisions made in the writing room, and were generally mature enough not to blame the actors or crew members. (Benioff and Weiss are due to tackle Star Wars next, so we should wish them, and their future cast and crew, good luck).

But Benioff and Weiss emerged from their public hibernation to attend a panel at the Austin Film Festival, and finally answer some questions from fans. The two were brutally honest, essentially admitting that they were never fully qualified for the job from the beginning.

Heroic Twitter user @ForArya documented the Q&A session, and much of it reads like satire, written by furious Game of Thrones fans.

Benioff and Weiss still aren’t sure why George R.R. Martin entrusted them with his magnum opus, as the two didn’t have any comparable experience, or even an appreciation of the book’s themes.

It seems that the two men aimed for a moonshot, and somehow, hit their target, suddenly tasked with retelling an immensely complex story, without fully understanding it. In fact, Benioff once said: “Themes are for eighth-grade book reports,” which tells you all you need to know about his dedication to the art of storytelling.

If you’re wondering why a wildly successful writer is comfortable dismissing “themes” as childish and unnecessary, it should be noted that Benioff’s father is the former head of Goldman Sachs. Do we live in a meritocracy? Well, Bret Stephens still writes for the New York Times, so …

The two went on to admit that they had absolutely no idea how to work with costume designers (kind of important for a fantasy series), and described their experience making Thrones as “an expensive film school.”

On some level, I almost admire their candor. They could have come up with excuses and defended their hideous creative choices, but they realized that there was nowhere left to hide. Fans were almost unanimously united in their disappointment, and little of the anger has evaporated in the months since.

Oddly enough, the show was at its peak during its early seasons, when Benioff and Weiss were still learning how to do their jobs. The two initially downplayed the fantasy elements of the books (a decision that helped ground the universe before dragons started flying through the sky), and wanted to expand the audience to non-fantasy fans. This worked in their favor at the beginning of the show, and helped expand it into a pop culture juggernaut, but meant that the intricacies of Martin’s lore were never explored.

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