Monday, August 7, 2023

Weekend box office




Above is Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "Country Soft and Squishy" which went up Saturday. 

Via THENUMBERS.COM, here's the weekend box office.
1 (1) Barbie Warner Bros. $53,008,647 -43% 4,178 -159 $12,688 $459,390,060 3
2 N Meg 2: The Trench Warner Bros. $30,002,735   3,503   $8,565 $30,002,735 1
3 (2) Oppenheimer Universal $29,121,040 -38% 3,612 -35 $8,062 $228,989,660 3
4 N Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem Paramount Pi… $28,007,544   3,513   $7,973 $43,081,012 1
5 (3) Haunted Mansion Walt Disney $9,213,064 -62% 3,740 n/c $2,463 $42,262,872 2
6 (4) Sound of Freedom Angel Studios $7,570,422 -41% 2,975 -436 $2,545 $164,011,020 5
7 (5) Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One Paramount Pi… $6,610,512 -38% 2,422 -769 $2,729 $151,163,282 4
8 (6) Talk To Me A24 $6,272,000 -40% 2,370 +30 $2,646 $22,135,000 2
9 (7) Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Walt Disney $1,593,458 -60% 1,190 -975 $1,339 $170,712,517 6
10 (-) Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani Viacom18 Mot… $1,500,000   270   $5,556 $3,200,000 2

BARBIE was number one again.  And this weekend, it crossed one billion in ticket sales globally. OPENHEIMER is at number three and it's only at $500 million globally.  Only $500 million?  I say that because since the first weekend, the US press has treated OPPENHEIMER as though it was on the same level as BARBIE.  It's not.  I have no interest in seeing the film.  It's about killing people and we're supposed to be thrilled that at the end of the day the man responsible feels guilty?  


I reviewed "MEG 2: THE TRENCH" and, I'm not surprised, it came in at number two.  It beat OPENHEIMER and everything except BARBIE.  

TEENAGE MUTAN NINJA TURTLES: NINJA MAYHEM didn't do that well.  It did come in at number four.  Number five was HAUNTED MANSION.  

Looking at the per screen average, it looks like the news about one of the funders for that awful SOUND OF FREEDOM being arrested for child kidnapping impacted the box office.  I'd love to see that garbage fall out of the top ten. It'll probably take two weekends for that, though. ELEMENTAL is at number ten.  It's an animated film -- not a new one like HAUNTED MANSION or TMNT:NM.  It's probably winding down its ticket sales and, globally, it's at $423 million in ticket sales.  THE LITTLE MERMAID has really ended its ticket sales and made it to $564 million globally.  Yes, it was a hit.  



Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


Monday August 7, 2023.  The Australian government's pretense of giving a damn about Julian Assange gets harder and harder to believe, climate change impacts Iraq even further, the US VA facilities are not serving the needs of all veterans, and much more.

Let's start with Julian Assange.  He remains persecuted and there's often a lot of words from government officials but there's never any action.  We saw this again last week when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke publicly in Australia with Australia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Penny Wong standing beside him and commenting as well and then this was followed by Australia's prime minister Anthony Albanese joining Penny Wong in making useless and for-show statements that did nothing to help free Julian Assange.  AP reported:

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Tuesday his government stands firm against the United States over the prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, an Australian citizen fighting extradition from Britain on U.S. espionage charges.

Albanese’s center-left Labor Party government has been arguing since winning the 2022 elections that the United States should end its pursuit of the 52-year-old, who has spent four years in a London prison fighting extradition.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pushed back against the Australian position during a visit Saturday, saying Assange was accused of “very serious criminal conduct” in publishing a trove of classified U.S. documents more than a decade ago.

“I understand the concerns and views of Australians. I think it’s very important that our friends here understand our concerns about this matter,” Blinken told reporters.

On Tuesday, Albanese said, “This has gone on for too long. Enough is enough."

The US secured their continued pursuit and persecution of Julian with the GWEO deal that Australia wanted (see last Monday's "Iraq snapshot").  

The move is expected to strengthen a central Australian Defence Force framework – Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance (GWEO) – which underpins fundamental assets of the nation’s military including manufacturing, storage and distribution, disposal, and research and development.

By signing the monumental agreement, Australia will be able to both carve its place as a major player in weapons export and also grow domestic stockpiles through on-shore production.

The deal was finalised in a bilateral meet between Defence Minister Richard Marles and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday.

You stand up by standing up.  Albanese thinks he can stay on his knees and still stand up.  No.  Second, the US isn't the only player.

We grasp that, right?

The US does not have custody of Julian at this point.  The UK does.  Nothing is stopping Australia -- specifically prime minister Albanese -- from demanding the United Kingdom hand over Australian citizen Julian to them.

The Australian government has been repeatedly disgraced on the international stage.  Though their bloggers are far too obsessed over the US, their citizens are aware that the government is failing them, is failing Julian and is failing Robert Pether.  And because the Australian citizens are getting angry, the politicians are making weak and meaningless statements hoping to appease them.  It's not going to work.

Oscar Grenfel (WSWS) reports on what happened later in the week:

Albanese’s blithe dismissal of the significance of Blinken’s remarks underscores the Labor government’s complicity in the persecution of the WikiLeaks founder. If it were in any way defending Assange, Albanese would be compelled to refute Blinken’s obvious lies and publicly insist on the urgent necessity for Assange to be freed.

Instead, the Labor government has vaguely stated that “enough is enough” and the Assange case has “gone on too long.” At no point has it branded the prosecution a frame-up or placed demands on the US. There is no written record of any government department making representations to the US on Assange’s behalf. At the same time, the Labor government has accelerated Australia’s transformation into a frontline state for the US-led preparations for war with China.

The Blinken statement was discussed in the Australian Senate on Wednesday evening.

The Greens introduced a discussion of a “matter of public interest,” on the topic that “The Albanese Government should use our close relationship with the United States of America and the United Kingdom to free Julian Assange and bring him home.”

Greens Senator David Shoebridge outlined the decade-long pursuit of Assange by the US. He stated: “The real reason Julian Assange is still in jail is that, whether it’s Prime Minister Albanese or Prime Minister Morrison, Australian leaders are willing to trade a citizen’s liberty, their right to speak truth to power, for a close and unquestioning bear hug from a US president. They say truth is the first victim of war and, in the case of Julian Assange, that’s a truth the whole world is seeing.”

Shoebridge added: “The Albanese government, it’s true, have raised the imprisonment and extradition of Julian Assange when speaking privately with their US counterparts. They have had quiet chats, maybe a carefully worded communiqué, but they’ve never even put a single element of the Australia-US relationship on the line for Julian’s freedom.

“Days ago, in Brisbane, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken launched an extraordinary attack on Julian Assange. He backed in allegations that Julian had not only engaged in serious criminal conduct but had risked harm to US national security. All the while, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Senator Wong, stood by mutely, not defending Julian and accepting Blinken’s lies. It was almost as though she believed them.”

Another Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson stated: “Mr Albanese has been able to run his line about quiet diplomacy with some success, until last week. Last week the US made it abundantly clear that they are not for the turning on this. That’s an exposure of the failure of Mr Albanese’s quiet diplomacy, and it’s an exposure of the failure of Senator Wong’s quiet diplomacy. What we need is for the prime minister and the foreign minister to make it clear to Mr Biden that freedom for Mr Assange is a non-negotiable in this relationship.”

The Labor government left it to Senator Linda White, a little-known MP elected only last year, to respond. She made vague statements of concern over Assange’s health. But the essential thrust of her remarks was that Assange was subject to foreign “legal proceedings” and there was virtually nothing the Labor government could do.

These “legal proceedings” are the extradition attempt, which have been branded as a gross violation of international law and a frontal assault on press freedom by United Nations officials, human rights groups and major publications. Labor has not issued a single diplomatic demand, or threat, nor sought to place public pressure on the Biden administration.

Labor’s sole preoccupation is with diverting the widespread support for Assange back behind the parliamentary establishment, and covering up its collaboration in the campaign against the WikiLeaks publisher.

But the same could be said of the Greens themselves. For years and years, they said virtually nothing on Assange. Even as several MPs belatedly broke their silence, the Greens rejected calls, including from within their own ranks, for a party-wide campaign fighting for Assange’s freedom.

Instead, the Greens have participated in and promoted a cross-party parliamentary grouping that purportedly defends Assange. In it, they have collaborated uncritically with Labor MPs, whose sole purpose has been to shield the Albanese government from criticism and to promote the fraud that it is doing something to secure Assange’s release, when it is patently not.

This is not an aberration. The Greens’ entire perspective is to come to a power-sharing arrangement with Labor. That was the central thrust of their campaign in the 2022 federal election, during which together with Labor they excluded the issue of Assange.

At ECHO, Hans Lovejoy writes:

Over the years, New Zealanders have shown themselves to be courageous in the face of powerful interests, namely the US.

Unlike Aussies, they have taken a principled stand against the war/death industry. Since 1984, NZ has been a nuclear free zone. 

US nuclear-powered ships are not allowed to dock. The sinking of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior by the French in 1985 demonstrated the price of nation state independence.   

Fast forward to last week, and US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, was in NZ. A joint press conference was held.

Obligatory motherhood statements were made, such as ‘shared vision’, ‘tremendous friend’, and ‘advancing economic engagement’. 

When Blinken was asked about NZ’s interest in the trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (AUKUS), he said the door was open for NZ to join. 

Foreign Affairs Minister, Nanaia Mahuta, then said what Australia should say – she said no thanks. 

New Zealand not prepared to compromise or change

She said, ‘New Zealand is not prepared to compromise or change our nuclear framework position’.

In the same week, Blinken was also in Australia, and the contrast couldn’t be wider, as Labor MPs and the PM revelled shamelessly  in the US death-cult-military-industrial-complex. 

Highlighting our unhealthy US military relationship, former Labor leader, Bob Carr, wrote in the SMH of the US submarine deal, ‘Australia will make the largest transfer of wealth ever made outside this country. This $368 billion is a whopping subsidy to American naval shipyards, and to the troubled, chronically tardy British naval builder BAE Systems’.

Local federal Labor MP, Justine Elliot, supports this madness.

Also this week, SMH reported that, ‘Australia is set to begin manufacturing its own missiles within two years’. 

Meanwhile, federal Labor have been trying to convince the yanks to release imprisoned Aussie journalist, Julian Assange.  

Yet Blinken dismissed the request. According to, he told reporters Assange ‘risked very serious harm to our national security’.

What would the Kiwis do if Assange was one of theirs? 

They seem to know that ‘real friends’ don’t just lay down and get walked all over. 

It’s an unhealthy relationship if you do whatever you are told to do, yet federal Labor is doing just that.

Thankfully, NZ is an example of a nation that looks after the interests of its citizens. 

Turning to the weather, Julia Conley (COMMON DREAMS) reports:

Climate scientists on Friday said the rapidly rising temperature of the planet's oceans is cause for major concern, particularly as policymakers in the top fossil fuel emissions-producing countries show no sign of ending planet-heating oil and gas extraction.

The European Union's climate agency, Copernicus Climate Change Service, reported this week that the average daily global ocean surface temperature across the planet reached 20.96°C (69.7°F), breaking the record of 20.95°C that was previously set in 2016.

The record set in 2016 was reported during an El Niño event, a naturally occurring phenomenon which causes warm water to rise to the surface off the western coast of South America. The weather pattern was at its strongest when the high ocean temperature was recorded that year.

El Niño is forming this year as well, but has not yet reached its strongest point—suggesting new records for ocean heat will be set in the coming months and potentially wreak havoc in the world's marine ecosystems.

Samantha Burgess, deputy director of Copernicus, told the BBC that March is typically when the oceans are at their hottest.

"The fact that we've seen the record now makes me nervous about how much warmer the ocean may get between now and next March," she told the outlet.

The warming oceans are part of a feedback loop that's developed as fossil fuel emissions have increasingly trapped heat in the atmosphere.

Rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are warming the oceans, leaving them less able to absorb the emissions and contributing to intensifying weather patterns. 

Climate change is impacting us all.  Some places are experiencing it sooner and some will be harder hit but it will impact everyone.  Iraq is predicted to be one of the worst effected.  Already, it's impacting lives in that country.  

Amid hot summer months, many Iraqis await the winter rain and the arrival of truffles. The delicacies provide income to those who pick them and are an additional source of nutrients for families unable to afford meat. Iraq's truffles are also highly desired internationally, especially in the Gulf Arab states. But climate change and a lack of rain threaten supply, and have led to scarcity and higher prices.

Truffles are wild seasonal fungi. In Iraq, they grow in damp sands of deserts after heavy rains. Both professional truffle hunters and ordinary families pick the delicacy, which is abundant in large areas of the country. The fungi are widespread in the western Anbar Governorate and near Samawah in the southern Muthanna Governorate. Some pickers also scour the valleys of Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

Truffles provide a livelihood for many Iraqis. Anbari resident Othman Mufleh Al-Rawi, who has been a truffle hunter and tradesman for over 20 years, told that the fungi have given him a significant second source of income.


Iraq is currently grappling with a dire water shortage, putting the livelihoods of many farmers and food producers at risk. Qasem Karam, an Iraqi fish farmer from the southern province of Basra, is one of those affected. Walking across arid land in the blistering midday heat, Karam gestures towards his dried-up carp ponds, which were once nourished by the Shatt al-Arab river.
He lamented that everything was now saturated with salt due to water scarcity and pollution, pointing to nearby patches of white salt crust. He mentioned that the ponds had required significant time, money, and effort to establish, and they had a promising economic plan, but it had all been destroyed.

In July, reporting repeatedly noted the impact on fishing, the impact on farming and the impact on drinking water.   For example, As Laure Al Khoury (AFP) pointed out:

With scorching temperatures and power cuts, Wissam Abed cools off from Baghdad's brutal summer by swimming in the Tigris river, but as Iraqi rivers dry up, so does the age-old pastime.

Near a bridge linking the east of the city to the west, Abed stood in the middle of the river, but the water only came up to his waist.

"I live here in Adhamiya, like my grandfather did before me. Year after year, the water situation gets worse," said the 37-year-old, referring to his neighbourhood nestled along the Tigris in northern Baghdad.

Abed waded through the water to the middle of the ancient river, as temperatures reached near 50 degrees celsius (122 Farenheit) and wind whipped through the city like a hair dryer one July afternoon.

He told AFP he comes to the Tigris "to have fun and feel refreshed".

Summer in Iraq is a prime example of the convergences of multiple crises weighing down the lives of the 43-strong population: a dilapidated electricity sector, rising temperatures and severe water shortages.

The water is disappearing.  And what's in the water that Iraq still has access to?  MEMO explained:

Chemicals and waste materials from various government institutions and power plants are polluting the River Tigris, causing skin diseases and colon cancer.

Sewage waters are also poured into the River Tigris, which passes through the capital, Baghdad, which has a population of approximately 9 million.

Liquids containing toxic and chemical substances coming out of Baghdad City hospitals are also released into the River Tigris. In addition, people living in neighbourhoods along the river also throw their garbage into the river.

At the emergency department of the Al-Ramadi Teaching Hospital, in Iraq’s Anbar province, Dr Ziad Tariq says he receives at least 10 to 15 patients daily suffering from heat stroke and dehydration during the summer.

“A cleaner working outdoors in Ramadi under these conditions was admitted to us last year with heat stroke,” Tariq told Al Jazeera on a short break during a busy shift, as the temperature outside peaked at about 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).

“We admitted him to the ICU because he lost consciousness, but he died shortly after.”

Outside, the neurosurgeon added, young men are diving into the Euphrates River in an attempt to keep cool from the scorching heat. Most women, he said, stay at home to avoid the blaze of the sun. But this does not necessarily ensure protection from the temperature. “When there is no electricity, people will get into their cars to use the air conditioner.”


AFP reports:

As the alarming water crisis blamed mostly on climate change drags on, officials see the need for trade-offs in an effort to meet the country's demands.

Drastic government measures have restricted water use for some purposes, including crop irrigation, and authorities have cracked down on illegal practices they long ignored.

Since late May, unauthorised fish farms like Ziad's have become a target.

"I've worked in this industry since 2003," the 33-year-old said at his village of Al-Bu Mustafa in Iraq's central Babylon province.

He had watched helplessly as officials from the water resources ministry sealed his family's seven fish ponds.

Surrounded by fields and majestic palm trees, this was where Ziad, his father and seven brothers would rear carp, which Iraqis use to make their beloved grilled fish dish known as masguf.

Azhi Rasul (RUDAW) notes:

Iraq’s water reserves are the “lowest” in the country’s history, having reduced to almost half of last year’s amount, a spokesperson for the Iraqi water ministry told Rudaw on Monday. 

“Current water reserves in Iraq are the lowest in the history of the country, and is 50 percent of last year,” Khaled al-Shamali, spokesman of the Iraqi ministry of water resources told Rudaw’s Hastiyar Qadir in a phone call. 

Shamali also said that the amount of water flowing into Iraq through the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is lower than the amount being released by the retention dams on both rivers. The Mosul dam on the Tigris River receives 275 cubic meters of water per second (mcps) but releases 400 mcps, while the Haditha dam on the Euphrates River releases 200 mcps but only receives a flow of 153 mcps.

The figures and statistics offered by Shamali are alarming as the country grapples with the effects of climate change. 

 We'll wind down with this from Mariel Padilla (19TH NEWS) report:

It’s often not easy for veterans to receive health care at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities — especially if they are not cisgender men. Not all hospitals have the equipment, or even the space, to properly treat and provide health care to women and LGBTQ+ people. There’s a shortage of specialists. And there’s the way they’re treated by staff or either other patients.   

Lindsay Church, a 38-year-old trans nonbinary Navy veteran, said they have dealt with a patient advocate that kept misgendering them, a security guard who laughed at them when they voiced safety concerns and once was even harassed by a VA staff member when they tried to use the bathroom. Church was at a facility in Virginia for a radiology appointment in December 2021 when they needed to use the women’s bathroom. Suddenly, a staff member started pounding on the outside wall, yelling: “Is there a man in this bathroom?” 

“I was really scared,” said Church, the co-founder and executive director of Minority Veterans of America. “It left a mark on me that I’m not welcome. I don’t even go to the VA unless I’ve used the restroom before I left my house or unless I can find a single stall bathroom somewhere in there, because I don’t feel safe. And I’m not the only one.”  

Church founded Minority Veterans in 2017 in response to the Trump administration’s announcement that transgender people would not be allowed to serve in the military and the administration’s Muslim ban, which temporarily barred people from seven countries, most of which were predominantly Muslim, from entering the country. One of the organization’s policy priorities is pushing to close health care access gaps by guaranteeing access to in vitro fertilization and surrogacy programs, abortion and contraception, and gender confirmation surgery through the VA. 

Women and LGBTQ+ veterans have historically accounted for a small percentage of patients receiving care at VA facilities, but as their numbers have grown, so has the awareness of gender-based disparities. As of 2017, only about 1 in 3 VA clinics and hospitals had a gynecologist on staff, according to data from Disabled American Veterans, with OBGYN services — including fertility and pregnancy-related care — being even more rare. A 2020 study published in Women’s Health Issues found that there were gendered disparities specifically when it came to chronic disease management, continuity of care, inpatient services and patient experience of care at VA facilities. 

Many women and LGBTQ+ veterans have long spoken out about harassment and unique obstacles to care at VA hospitals. A 2019 study found that 1 in 4 women veterans who routinely go to VA primary care clinics reported inappropriate or unwanted comments or behaviors by men veterans or VA employees. Some locations have since created separate clinics or entrances for women, with one hospital in Texas citing harassment as a leading reason for relocating its trauma recovery program for women. A 2017 directive from the Veterans Health Administration called for all VA women’s health centers to have a “separate entrance into the clinical area” and a “separate waiting room” for women whenever possible. In 2019, Congress passed the Deborah Sampson Act, which allocated $20 million for the retrofitting of existing VA facilities to better support women’s care. 

New content at THIRD: 

Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "Country Soft and Squishy" went up last night.  The following sites updated:

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