James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water, as expected (see below), has exceeded $1.5B globally with Wednesday’s figures included. The running total through yesterday is $1,516.5M, meaning that it has overtaken Top Gun: Maverick as the No. 1 worldwide release of 2022. What’s more, it is now the No. 10 biggest movie ever globally.
The 20th Century Studios/Disney sci-fi epic has also in the past day crossed Furious 7 worldwide. Today, it will pass The Avengers to claim the No. 9 spot on the all-time global chart.
Internationally, it is the No. 9 biggest movie ever, and, in Europe, is the highest-grosser of the pandemic era (having passed Spider-Man: No Way Home). It is also the No. 5 release of all time for the region.
I say it's at 2 billion dollars in ticket sales within 2 weeks and 2 days. What do you think?
I'm so glad because it's such a great film and I'm so glad because there have been so many bad films in the last 12 months.
James Cameron is the best. Remember in SCREAM when they debate Ridley Scott or James Cameron? It's Cameron all the way. Ridley's THE GOOD WIFE, c'mon.
Great movies? Ridley directed THELMA & LOUISE and ALIEN. That's it. Maybe 2023's NAPOLEON will make the list. Maybe not.
James Cameron? Both AVATAR movies, TERMINATOR 2, ALIENS, TERMINATOR, THE ABYSS, TERMINATOR, TRUE LIES and TITANIC.
I can't wait for the next AVATAR installment. How about you?
Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Thursday, January 5, 2023. THE NEW YORK TIMES hires another homophobic columnist, NYPD lets Proud Boys ride the subways for free (some sort of take-your-thug-to-work event, apparently), Iraqi teachers tired of two years without pay take to the streets as corruption becomes more embedded in Iraq.
Trudy Ring (THE ADVOCATE) reports:
The New York Times has brought on an anti-LGBTQ+ columnist, David French, a former National Review editor who was once an attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom.
The Times announced French’s hiring Tuesday, calling him “an expert on the law, faith and politics.” But GLAAD is pointing to his “deep history of anti-LGBTQ activism.” GLAAD also notes that he joins the Times after the paper ended its relationship with acclaimed trans writer Jenny Boylan last year and brought on another anti-LGBTQ+ columnist, Pamela Paul.
And here is the statement from GLAAD:
Today, GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, is responding to the New York Times’ recent announcement of their hiring of anti-LGBTQ attorney and writer David French as a columnist.
GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis responded on Twitter and below:
“It is appalling that The New York Times hired and is now boasting about bringing on David French, a writer and attorney with a deep history of anti-LGBTQ activism. After more than a year of inaccurate, misleading LGBTQ coverage in the Times opinion and news pages, the Times started 2023 by announcing a second anti-transgender opinion columnist, without a single known trans voice represented on staff. A cursory search for French turns up numerous anti-LGBTQ articles and his record as an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group that actively spreads misinformation about LGBTQ people and pushes baseless legislation and lawsuits to legalize discrimination, including just last month at the Supreme Court. The Times left out these facts in its glowing announcement of French’s hiring, and also forgot to mention his work as a co-signer on the 2017 Nashville Statement, which erased LGBTQ voices of faith and falsely stated ‘that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism.’ The Times had the gall to claim French as a ‘faith’ expert despite this known history.
The Times’ opinion section continues to platform non-LGBTQ voices speaking up inaccurately and harmfully about LGBTQ people and issues. This is damaging to the paper’s credibility. The Times opinion section editors’ love letter to French yesterday shows a willful disregard of LGBTQ community voices and the concerns so many have shared about their inaccurate, exclusionary, often ridiculous pieces. Last year, the Times ended popular trans writer Jenny Boylan’s column, leaving the opinion section with no trans columnists and a known lack of transgender representation on its overall staff. Who was brought on after Boylan? Pamela Paul, who has devoted columns to anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQ disinformation, and David French. This reflects a growing trend on the news and opinion pages of misguided, inaccurate, and disingenuous ‘both sides’ fearmongering and bad faith ‘just asking questions’ coverage. The Times started 2023 by bragging about hiring another anti-trans writer, so LGBTQ leaders, organizations, and allies should make a 2023 resolution not to stay silent as the Times platforms lies, bias, fringe theories, and dangerous inaccuracies.”
Examples of French’s anti-LGBTQ activism:
- French served as attorney for SPLC-designated hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who are best known for attacking the rights of transgender students, fighting in court to remove LGBTQ rights not to be discriminated against, and working internationally to criminalize being gay. French has a history of expressing his outward disdain for transgender people. In the past, he lamented “transgender entitlement” and once described a young transgender woman as a “man” who is “on the verge of mutilating himself.” (from Media Matters)
- French was a co-signer on the “Nashville Statement”
- Column written by French attempting to refute existence of transgender people
- French was called out for saying that lifting the ban on trans military service will result in “thought control”
- French recently made news for his late-in-life change of heart to support marriage equality, explaining it about a month ago. He has not disavowed his legal activism for ADF, and in fact has defended the group, which continues to attack and spread disinformation about LGBTQ people around the globe.
Examples of NYT Columnist Pamela Paul’s anti-LGBTQ work:
- Pamela Paul, who is not LGBTQ, has devoted her first columns to
inaccurately opining about LGBTQ issues, including falsely and
incredulously claiming erasure of the word and identity, “gay” in the
- Paul was New York Times Books Editor when writer Jesse Singal,
who is not transgender or LGBTQ but who has built a career inaccurately
writing about trans issues and targeting trans people, reviewed and
supported his friend’s inaccurate anti-transgender book:
- Paul repeated Singal’s false and harmful exclusionary innuendo about transgender women and safety in one of her first opinion columns: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/03/opinion/the-far-right-and-far-left-agree-on-one-thing-women-dont-count.html
- Paul has been accused of silencing voices supportive of transgender youth:
Recent examples of inaccurate news coverage of LGBTQ people and youth, and their consequences:
- The state of Texas used Emily Bazelon’s June 15 report in The New York Times Magazine to further target families of trans youth in court documents over their private, evidence-based healthcare decisions. Every major medical association supports gender affirming care as best practices care that is safe and lifesaving and has widespread consensus of the medical and scientific communities.
- The World Professional Association of Transgender Healthcare (WPATH), the world’s leading medical and research authority on transgender healthcare, criticized the Times’ November 2022 article “They Paused Puberty, But Is There a Cost?” as “furthering the atmosphere of misinformation” about healthcare for trans youth, noting its inaccurate narratives, interpretations and non-expert voices. WPATH noted the Times elevated false and inflammatory notions about medications that have been used safely in non-LGBTQ populations for decades without an explicit statement about how the benefits of the treatment far outweigh potential risks.
- Writer Michael Powell elevated anti-transgender voices to falsely assert, in a piece about one successful transgender athlete, that transgender athletes are a threat to women’s sports. Powell’s other pieces have been used to support Pamela Paul’s inaccurate opinion essays falsely claiming “women” are being erased by the inclusion of trans people in discussions about abortion access.
THE NEW YORK TIMES itself has a lengthy history of homophobia. Most recently, they ran their factually incorrect piece on transgender persons. It's amazing that the staff managed to clutch the pearls over the publication of a column by a US senator and get an editor fired over it but they never feel the need to question the repeated and ongoing homophobia of the paper. More to the point, NYT, in the digital age, goes out of its way to market itself as some sort of left outpost left fighting in the wilderness and so many idiots believe it and think NYT is anything but an elitist, corporatist paper. This goes to the reality of what a cesspool it actually is.
It's 2023, there is a war going on against LGBTQ+ people and THE NEW YORK TIMES' response? To hire yet another homophobe columnist. They are pouring gasoline on top of a raging fire. Mary Harris (SLATE) notes:
In the past year, there’s been a sharp uptick in anti-LGBTQ incidents around the country. One group estimates that there’s been a 12-fold increase in demonstrations and political violence targeted at the queer community, just since 2000. In fact, the very same people in the audience watching the Respect for Marriage Act get signed? They were fighting off harassment the moment they got home.
“I spoke to a drag artist by the name of Marti G. Cummings. They’re a nonbinary performer here in New York City, and they were invited to the White House ceremony. And the night after the signing, Tucker Carlson ran a segment about this and included references to Marti Cummings, saying that they have an unusual interest in children,” Mack says. “Marti Cummings told me that to them, Tucker Carlson knows what he’s doing. To frame drag artists as this predatory threat to children is something that felt very shocking to me in March. But now, I’m not shocked at all. That focus on children is not a coincidence. It is entirely related to the events that we saw in the pandemic and the political strategy that sections of the right developed.”
On Wednesday’s episode of What Next, we try to make sense of this bifurcated moment for the queer community by examining the common thread linking conservative activism around COVID to anti-gay demonstrations in the street. My conversation with David Mack has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Mary Harris: Back when a shooter opened fire in a Colorado Springs gay nightclub, in November, BuzzFeed’s David Mack wrote an article lamenting the fact that this kind of violence seemed inevitable. Mack was hurting as he wrote this—he’s gay himself; he felt at risk. But he also felt like he should have seen this violence coming.
To him, it didn’t begin with gay people at all. Instead, it began with concerns around COVID and schools. Because protecting children seemed to resonate. Over the past year, he says he’s watched this political message metastasize.
David Mack: It’s funny. In November 2021, I was in Grand Junction, Colorado, for a school board race, of all things. I’d chosen to go there for a few reasons. It’s a bit of a hotbed for election denialism. It was having this school board race that was suddenly very partisan. And it’s also an overwhelmingly white area where suddenly “critical race theory” was this big subject of debate. One of the candidates told me that she’d knocked on a door and someone had told her that they blamed “critical race theory” for turning their child bisexual.
Whoa. Quite a leap there.
It certainly was. But it spoke perfectly to this wonderful boogeyman that the right had created. Most people I spoke to, even the candidates themselves, couldn’t really define what CRT was. It became this wonderful catchall for anything that could possibly influence young minds to hate America or to make them less American. And to make them less conservative is where it naturally led.
Protecting the presumed innocence of children is what connects all this. Whether conservative parents were talking about “critical race theory” or LGBTQ issues, the idea was the same: to avoid “corrupting the minds of young people.”
And to be clear, I’m not the one marrying these things. In Ohio, one of the bills that was put forward to legislate against “critical race theory” also included, in the very same bill, language that mirrored restrictions on sexual teachings, on sexual orientation, and on gender identity that you saw famously in the “don’t say gay” bill in Florida.
Do you think it is a top-down strategy? Or do you think it’s more like something was successful and then it spread and morphed?
Certainly people at the highest levels of the Republican Party are aware of this strategy and are using this strategy. You saw Glenn Youngkin in Virginia run in 2021 on a campaign about giving parents more control over the curriculum and listening to parents when it comes to schools. And they’re clearly recognizing schools and classrooms are a winning issue. Steve Bannon famously said last year the path to retake the country runs through school board elections.
These attacks are not happening by chance. It is an organized effort and it needs to be stopped. Silence isn't going to stop it. Playing footsie with that Mother Tucker Carlson -- the way Glenn Greenwald does -- is not an answer. This nonsense needs to be called out and called out loudly.
A video showing New York City (NYPD) policemen holding the metro transit fare gates open for several members of the Proud Boys has surfaced on social media, garnering millions of views in the 48-hour period since its posting.
The individual filming the video can be heard questioning the officers’ actions in disbelief, demanding to know if the militia members were being allowed to evade the subway fare by the police.
The video was posted on TikTok on Sunday, and by Tuesday evening it had upwards of a third of a million individual user “likes,” 18,000 comments and 13,000 “shares.” A reposting of the video on Twitter showed 3.4 million more views, along with 13.9 million views of the thread to which it had been attached.
In an example of popular disgust with the collaboration between the police and the political far-right, one commenter wrote, “I’ve literally seen the NYPD chase people [for] fair evasion, this is insane.” Another user added, “cops let their own in.”
The video was filmed after the Proud Boys, along with the ultra-religious, anti-vaccine, anti-LGBTQ Guardians of Divinity, threatened a Drag Queen Story Hour (DSH) event at the Queens Public Library in Jackson Heights on December 29.
Between the two extreme-right organizations, over two dozen members were present at the event, while about 150 counter-demonstrators showed up in protest against the far-right provocateurs. Guardians of Divinity members and Proud Boys hurled slanderous epithets and attempted to intimidate supporters of the event.
NYPD made a choice and that choice needs to be investigated and called out. Silence is not the answer in these attacks, looking the other way is not a solution. Ibtisam Mara'ana (HAARETZ) notes:
Two days ago, while in Abed’s supermarket in Jaffa, I noticed the tahini shelf was full of Al Arz Tahini. The brand is owned by Julia Zaher, who joined in aiding The Aguda – The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel and promised to fund the LGBT hotline for Arabs. Her support, both on the ideological and financial levels, stirred up a storm. Calls were heard to boycott the company’s products, and supermarket owners in Arab communities removed the products from their shelves.
The storm spread to all of Israeli society and for a few days the tahini was one of the hottest and most talked about topics in the country. The support from the liberal Jewish Israeli community on behalf of the Arab community was amazing and heartwarming. People specifically bought Al Arz Tahini to support and express solidarity with the Arab LGBT community, in support of equality and against silencing people.
The tahini controversy penetrated almost every Arab home in Israel. The company did not lose money and did not go out of business. Zaher did receive threats and shocking responses, but in the end everyone was still alive, the tahini was still on the shelves as a fact on the ground, and the same goes for the LGBT community.
Recently and to my great regret, the efforts that succeeded in forming a new government of incitement and hatred against the LGBT community, Arabs and other minorities require us to take a very brave step and create a civil political coalition for full equality for everyone, men and women. It is impossible to demand civil equality for the Arab community without demanding equality for the LGBT community and other minority groups that live among us, like refugees and those without residency status. Impossible, period.
These issues are interrelated and we can take them on working together. We do nothing by staying silent or pretending that Mother Tucker is just joking and really a good guy because he brings on Glenn Greenwald and Jimmy Dore -- who never call out his homophobia and spend forever defending him. They're choosing sides and it's not being on the side of the people.
The people in Iraq are protesting. Chenar Chalak (RUDAW) reports:
Hundreds of recently graduated teachers who have been working without receiving payments for years gathered in Kirkuk on Wednesday to protest their lack of contractual employment, calling on the Iraqi government to address their concerns.
Iraq’s Education Minister Ibrahim Namis al-Jubouri announced on
Tuesday that the council of ministers has agreed to include teachers of
the graduating class of 2020 in the 2023 budget, granting them
employment by contract. The decision does not include graduates from any
other year, many of whom have been teaching free of charge and without
contracts for years.
“We teach at schools without any privileges… Yesterday evening, a decision was issued to employ graduates of 2020, we are graduates of 2019, 2021, 2022 and we are still waiting… We have been teaching for free for two years,” one of the protesters told Rudaw’s Hiwa Hussamadin.
Most graduates resort to teaching for free hoping it would lead to full-time employment.
This takes place as Iraq sees record income from oil. John Lee (OZ ARAB MEDIA) notes:
The Iraqi Minister of Oil, Hayan Abdul-Ghani, has announced revenues of more than $115 billion from exporting crude oil for the year 2022.
More than 1,209 billion barrels of crude oil were exported, giving a daily export rate is approximately 3.320 million barrels per day (bpd).
ARABIAN BUSINESS notes, "This is a four-year high following a collapse in prices during the Covid-19 pandemic." But it means nothing for the Iraqi people because the US-installed government in Iraq has never attempted to better the lives of the Iraqi people. Nouri al-Maliki and his family got rich after the 2003 invasion, it was the Iraqi people who struggled. Jobs are nowhere to be found and politicians and officials steal the public monies. There's no investment in infrastructure. There's no investment in the people. That's what The October Revolution was protesting against: corruption that destroyed not just the chances of the young people but the entire country. Iraq is one of the most corrupt countries in the world as ranked by Transperency International. RUDAW notes:
At least five people were wounded in Kirkuk on Monday as police applied
force to disperse hundreds of angry demonstrators who protested the lack
of employment by the North Oil Company (NOC) and tried to storm its
A total of 1350 college graduates received a six-month-long training course by the state-run NOC four years ago, but have not yet been employed. Of this number, Over 450 of them staged an angry protest on Monday.
A protester told Rudaw that Baghdad already consented to employ 458 of the trained graduates, but they were not true to their words and that they employed other people instead of them.
$115 billion from oil last year and they still can't provide job opportunites. It's the result of the corruption that is now embedded in the government the US installed, created and formented. ASHARQ AL-AWSAT notes:
The Federal Supreme Court in Iraq recognized the lack of real will of the political class to combat corruption. This came in the wake of the Iraqi National Security Agency announcing that it had uncovered the largest crude oil smuggling network.
“Iraqis have lost their confidence in public offices due to widespread financial and administrative corruption among employees at a time when the administrative system in Iraq was one of the most prominent systems in the Middle East,” said head of the Federal Supreme Court Judge Jassim Mohammed Abboud.
While the parties behind the oil smuggling network remain unknown, defendants accused of embezzling $2.5 billion from a government taxpayer account are still at large. Nour Zuhair, the only defendant arrested in the case, was released on bail with authorities hoping to recover stolen funds.
As for Abboud, he told the Iraqi News Agency (INA), that corruption in Iraq is divided into two types.
“Petty corruption is what is committed by junior employees, and this leads to the Iraqi citizen losing confidence in the public office,” he said.
“Grand corruption is what is committed by senior officials or by some political parties. This corruption is what impedes the building of the state,” he explained.
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