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Desperate letter from Afghan filmmaker Sahraa Karimi

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Still from Sahraa Karimi's film Hava, Maryam, Ayesha 2019

To All the Film Communities in The World and Who Loves Film and Cinema!

My name is Sahraa Karimi, a film director and the current general director of Afghan Film, the only stated-owned film company established in 1968.

I write to you with a broken heart and a deep hope that you can join me in protecting my beautiful people, especially filmmakers from the Taliban. In the last few weeks, the Taliban have gained control ofso many provinces. They have massacred our people, they kidnapped many children, they sold girls as child brides to their men, they murdered a woman for her attire, they gauged the eyes of a woman, they tortured and murdered one of our beloved comedians, they murdered one of our historian poets, they murdered the head of culture and media for the government, they have been assassinating people affiliated with the government, they hung some of our men publicly, they have displaced hundreds of thousands of families.

The families are in camps in Kabul after fleeing these provinces, and they are in unsanitary condition. There islooting in the camps and babies dying because they don’t have milk. It is a humanitarian crisis, and yet the world is silent.

We have grown accustomed to this silence, yet we know it is not fair. We know that this decision to abandon our people is wrong, that this hasty troop withdrawal is a betrayal of our people and all that we did when Afghans won the Cold War for the west. Our people were forgotten then, leading up to the Taliban’s dark rule, and now, after twenty years of immense gains for our country and especially our younger generations, all could be lost again in this abandonment.

We need your voice. The media, governments, and the world humanitarian organizations are conveniently silent as if this “Peace deal” with the Taliban was ever legitimate. It wasnever legitimate. Recognizing them gave them the confidence to come back to power. The Taliban have been brutalizing our people throughout the entire process of the talks.

Everything that I have worked so hard to build as a filmmaker in my country is at risk of falling. If the Taliban take over they will ban all art. I and other filmmakers could be next on their hit list. They willstrip women’srights, we will be pushed into the shadows of our homes and our voices, our expression will be stifled into silence. When the Taliban were in power, zero girls were in school. Since then there are over 9 million Afghan girls in school.

This is incredible Herat, the third-largest city which just fell to the Taliban had nearly 50% women in its university. These are incredible gains that the world hardly knows about. Just in these few weeks, the Taliban have destroyed many schools and 2 million girls are forced now out of school again.

I do not understand this world. I do not understand this silence. I will stay and fight for my country, but I cannot do it alone. I need allies like you. Please help us get this world to care about what is happening to us. Please help us by informing your countries’ most important media what is going on here in Afghanistan. Be our voices outside Afghanistan. If the Taliban take over Kabul, we may not have access to the internet or any communication tool at all.

Please engage your filmmakers, artists to support us to be our voice.

This war is not a civil war, this is a proxy war, thisis an imposed war and it is the result of the US deal with the Taliban. Please as much as you can share this fact with your media and write about us on your social media.

The world should not turn its back on us. We need your support and your voice on behalf of Afghan women, children, artists, and filmmakers. This support would be the greatest help we need right now.

Please help us get this world to not abandon Afghanistan. Please help us before the Taliban take over Kabul. We have such little time, maybe days. Thank you so much. I appreciate your pure true heart so dearly.

With regard,

Sahraa Karimi

Why Education about Mental Health Should be Mandatory at Schools

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According to 2017 statistics produced by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, there are over 792 million people around the globe that suffer from some type of mental health disorder (Ritchie H., 2018), and latest reports, which include the consequences of a worldwide pandemic, declare the numbers are exponentially rising1. Such statistics may be affected by insufficient education at schools about the recognition of various emotions and identification of particular thoughts as signs that could be associated with mental health problems.

At school, the place where children experience the most significant mental development, ignorance of the importance of mental health is still very common, and only a small amount of people are aware of what the consequences of untreated mental disorders can be for a person of any age group. Education about mental health and its disorders must be taught in schools because it can prevent a significant amount of people from suffering any type of mental illness and spread the awareness of the existence of mental health issues that everybody at some point deals with.

The lack of education about mental health struggles, challenges, and disorders has caused suicide to become third most leading cause of death for people who are in between 10 to 24 years old, since 90 percent of registered cases were related to mental illness2. Youth deals with a lot of pressure to get good grades, be a perfect example for younger students as well as have everything figured out before they even turn into adults. However, schools do not teach students how to open up and talk about their worries, struggles, and emotions, or even mention that such emotions exist and it is normal to experience them. With such pressure on their shoulders and lack of teaching on disclosing undergoing emotions, students tend to keep all the anxiety, negativity and their burdens in themselves3. Such habits consequently lead youth to have no ability to express themselves and are likely to ultimately be diagnosed with some form of mental health disorder4. Studies, presented by Ashley Broadwater, show that educated students about mental health issues and disorders have made them take care of their own mental well-being before they are faced with permanent distress5. Useful information and acknowledgment of mental health disorders can potentially decrease the numbers of suicide cases amongst youth and, as the Brain Forest Centers website states: “Save them from making permanent decisions to end temporary situations”6. It is very important to make mental health education mandatory in schools, because it would educate children and adolescents about how to understand their own emotions towards societal pressure and other struggles. In addition, it could prevent them from suffering complications, like mental health disorders and help them overcome problems without harming themselves in one way or another.

There are over 200 forms of mental health illnesses7 and barely any information about them is taught to children at schools. While there is so much information about physical health, how important it is to be active and treat your body with care, there is no teaching on what even mental health is and how impactful it is for student’s life and well-being. Educating students on what mental health is, how to deal with it, and where to seek help can spread the awareness and show them it is beneficial to talk about what is going on in their minds or what emotions they are going through. This type of education should be covered consistently as students’ mental developments are constantly improving and emotional problems, which could be experienced currently, may differ from those in the past8. Education about mental health, whose peculiarities would be specified according to audience’s age group, could potentially ensure the effectiveness and relevance of the subject in schools to children. With the acknowledgment of how damaging mental struggles are to human’s overall being, enlightenment about it could also contribute to ending bullying, slut-shaming, or rumours, because it would reinforce and trigger the emergence of empathy as well as understanding of what students who get bullied go through mentally9. As children psychiatrist, Dr. Stanley Kutcher, affirmed: “Education can’t get rid of mental illness but it can give you the tools you need to do what you can to stack the odds in your favour that you won’t get it”10. Youth must be educated and aware of what issues untreated mental health problems and suppressed emotions can cause to their further life. Such education would also contribute to distinguishing patterns of mental health issues in others, and guide them to seek for help or acknowledge about what they are actually going through.

Mental health disorders, challenges, and issues are not taboo anymore as everyone is beginning to realise how crucial it is to acknowledge it, yet schools and education systems do not seem to care. Education about mental health can save lives and encourage people not to stay silent when they are facing difficulties. We truly do have a chance to make younger generations’ lives get better, and all that is needed is a public communication on mental health and importance to take care of it in schools.

Same-sex partnerships in Lithuania – it’s time for change

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Current Lithuanian government has a very important question in its 2021 agenda – same-sex partnership or, in other words, civil union. The same-sex partnership remains one of the most discussed topics which often causes polarization of society. Unlike most EU countries, Lithuania still does not have a civil partnership law in its books. In 2017, a legislation was drafted to allow civil unions for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, but it was rejected. The legislation is mostly opposed by conservative people and representatives of the church. I believe that the same-sex partnership should be legalized in Lithuania so as to stop discrimination against homosexual couples, enable them to properly manage their finances and sort out other daily life issues.

The current situation regarding the aforementioned law may be seen as denigrating and disrespectful to the whole LBTQ+ community living in Lithuania. A survey carried out by The Lithuanian Chamber of Notaries in 2019 suggests that 13 percent are in favour of the legalization of same-sex partnership, 11 percent view it satisfactorily, and 66 percent are against it.1 This survey, along with other polls, shows an important issue of discrimination and deep-rooted intolerance compared to the Western world. The legalization of civil union would mean a huge step in the development of Lithuania. At the moment, same-sex couples feel discriminated because their relationships cannot be legally recognized, whereas traditional couples have no problems with that. Furthermore, a study carried out in the US from 1999 to 2015 revealed that the legalization of the same-sex marriage, which is similar to the same-sex partnership, is closely linked to the reduction of attempted suicide rates among children.2 Therefore, the establishment of civil unions would put an end to discrimination against same-sex couples and lead the country into the modern world.

It is also important to enable same-sex couples to manage their finances in a civilized way. In order to be able to manage inheritance, common property and other financial questions, couples have to be officially married. However, Lithuania’s Constitution has a provision that marriage can be only between a man and a woman. Furthermore, the Civil Code contains an extra clause that expressly prohibits same-sex marriages. Therefore, in order for same-sex couples to have the same rights, it would be necessary to change the Constitution. However, that would not be needed in the case of civil union. If the same-sex partnership were legalized, couples would be able to inherit their partner’s property without issues or simply get a loan from a bank. Now, for instance, such couples even face troubles when opening joint bank accounts or using payment cards. Although multiple banks support same-sex couples and all the LGBTQ+ community, they are helpless against the law.

Legalisation of same-sex partnerships would mean that homosexual couples could sort out daily life issues which do not seem troubling to traditional couples. Nowadays, one of the most common examples of such issues is travelling during the worldwide pandemic. In some EU countries, civil unions and registered partnerships are considered equivalent or comparable to marriage; therefore, those people can travel to their partners who are staying in different countries for certain reasons. Meanwhile, Lithuania does not provide such an opportunity to its citizens and such couples remain separated for an unlimited time. Furthermore, in the case of moving to another country which does not recognize registered partnerships, like Lithuania, same-sex couples do not get the same rights for immigration as traditional married couples do. If one of the partners settles in that country, another partner will not be entitled to come with him/her and their partnership will be considered as a duly attested long-term relationship. In that case, the entrance and obtainment of residency may cause difficulties. Another frequently faced issue of same-sex couples are hospital visitations. If one of the partners falls sick, there is a big chance that another partner will not be able to visit him/her or obtain information about his/her situation and medical history. That happens every day throughout the country and something has to be done in order to avoid such situations.

The same-sex partnerships will be discussed among people for a long time. However, actions should be taken now. Homosexual couples face numerous bureaucratic problems only because of their sexual orientation and that may be called legal discrimination. The topic often divides the country into two opposing sides, one of which endorses registered partnerships and the other considers it wrong and something which is against human nature. I strongly believe that Lithuania is on the right track and is ready for a change. People need to be educated and learn that each of us deserve equal rights, regardless of our sexual orientation or other features. With the current government, Lithuania is one step closer to legalizing same-sex partnerships which symbolizes a great change to our nation as a whole.

1 https://notarurumai.lt/lietuvos-gyventojai-kasmet-nezymiai-svelnina-poziuri-i-vienos-lyties-asmenu-santuoka-ir-partneryste-rodo-tyrimas/451

2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5848493/

TOP 10 best Ukrainian Bands and Performers

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Potap i Nastya

Do you know that the Ukrainian language is one of the most melodic in the world? In this TOP there is best Ukrainian performers and we hope they will appear in more than one of your playlists.

10. Potap i Nastya

Potap and Nastia’s duet created in 2006 are very popular in Ukraine, they became especially popular thanks to their first song “Ne para” and at together they released three albums, “Shield and Ball”, Myach, Bce Puckom. Potap was born into a Ukrainian family; a singer and composer, he is currently working as a producer in the record company ‘’Empire Label”. And Nastya, born to a Jewish father and a Ukrainian mother, studied music in France, Italy and Ukraine. The talented Nastya, who had done ballet for 8 years, demonstrated her skills in 2009 with by participating in Ukrainian’s “Dancing with the stars.’’

In 2014, this duet was heavily criticized in Ukraine for participating in an award ceremony in Russia, where they won a ‘’Golden Gramophone”. Some Ukrainians were outraged that the musicians were performing there, while their country was subject to Russia’s aggression. And in 2016, Potap and Nastya’s concerts were boycotted in Ukraine because they went on tour in Russia.


9. DakhaBrakha

The folk quartet consisting of Marko Galanevych, Olena Tsybulska, Iryna Kovalenko, Nina Garenetska combines various ethnic styles in their music, which does not leave anyone indifferent. Dakha Brakha is a Dakha Contemporary Art Center project lead by Vladyslav Troitsky, who is also the producer of the band. It was theatre work that left a very striking footprint in the group’s performances: their performances are always live and always with stage effects.

By experimenting with Ukrainian folk music, the band also included the melodies of the world around them in their works, which creates a light, unforgettable and authentic Dakha Brakha (eng. Give/Take) sound.

When you join traditional Indian, Arabic, African, Russian and Australian instruments, as well as the powerful quartet member’s voices, you get, transnational, perhaps even some ethno-chaos music, in which Ukrainian culture is the epicentre.

DakhaBrakha also contributed to the creation of the soundtracks for the film ‘’BitterHarvest” (Canada) and the television series ‘’Fargo” (USA).

8. Tina Karol

The singer, actress and TV show presenter Tina Karol became famous in 2006 when she represented Ukraine in the Eurovision Song Contest with her song “Show me love”, and took 7th place. In the same year, she released her albums “Show me love” and “Notchenka”, in which she recorded songs in both Ukrainian and Russian.

This year, Tina was awarded the Ukrainian People’s Artist Award by the president of Ukraine, and she became one of the 100 most influential women in Ukraine (according to the Ukrainian magazine ‘’Focus”), and is one of the teachers on the musical TV project “The Voice”.

However, Tina’s personal life has not been easy. Having married her producer Eugeny Ogir in 2008 and after having a son, after five years of marriage, her husband died due to stomach cancer.

Yet, the album that was released after the loss of her partner has been a great success, and Tina remains one of the most famous and the public’s most loved performers in the Ukrainian music world.

7. Onuka

Onuka (Granddaughter) is an electro-folk group created in 2013. The band consists of Mariya Sorokina (percussionist), Nata Zhyzhchenko (main vocalist) and Daryna Sert (keyboardist and contributing vocalist). The name of the band is like a tribute to Nata’s grandfather, who used to make traditional Ukrainian instruments: Bandura and sopilka, which the girls included in their work together with electronic drums, trombones. The original, modern Onuka sound that also honours traditions, made its debut album the month’s best-seller on Ukrainian iTunes.

6. Panivalkova

Pavivalkova is a multi-instrument trio, consisting of Ira Luzin (ukulele), Irina Kulshenko (piano) and Daria Pugachova (drums). The band started to perform in 2013 and enthralled everyone with the combination of gentleness and brutal irony in their lyrics. The band does not lack the passion and energy of singing in Russian, Ukrainian, English, Spanish and French. The girls themselves call their style of music “sensitive minimalism”, which captures the hearts of listeners.

5. Yarmak

Oleksandr Yarmak, born in 1991, is a Ukrainian hip-hop star. He performs his songs both in Ukrainian and in Russian. In his lyrics – the life that is happening around us. Six years ago, the first video that was uploaded by the young man to Youtube brought him incredible success and is still attracting fans to his concerts. It is also amazing that some of the concerts are organized for charitable purposes.

Although now Yarmak can enjoy his success, the road to it was not so easy. The young man spent most of his childhood with his grandparents, whose values he has kept until now. Due to the pressure from his parents to seek a career in engineering, difficult personal moments, his songs are all so sincere and full of emotion that they don’t leave listeners lackadaisical.


4. Dakh Daughters

The Dakh Daughters is a musical theatre project that was founded in 2012 in Kiev. The group consists of seven girls, who play different instruments and sing in different languages ​​and dialects. In their songs, they often use words from famous writers such as Taras Shevchenko, William Shakespeare, Iosip Brodsky, Charles Bukowski, and others. Love, misery, politics and beauty surround all of the performances by these astounding artists.

Dakh Daughters are members of different projects, for example, the already mentioned DakhaBrakha and Perkalaba. The name of the band originated from the Dakh Theater, which is associated with the project.

The band became especially popular with the release of the video for their song, “Rozy / Donbass”, which blends Shakespeare’s ‘’35 Sonnets” and Ukrainian folk. Another well-known clip is their live performance during the Euromaidan protests in December 2013.

The provocative Dakh Daughters have not only made an appearance in many Ukrainian cities, but they have also played in Poland, Brazil, France and Russia.

The girl group who call themselves “Freak Cabaret” with their artistry, energy and their signature white-painted faces do not leave even the ones who have seen it all uninterested.

3. 5NIZZA

5’NIZZA (Friday) an acoustic group founded by two friends Serhii Babkin and Andriy Zaporozhets in 2000. In 2004, the duo also performed to the Kaunas audience at the festival “Kultūros Tvartas”, but in 2007 the group split up and only decided to continue in 2015. In the spring of 2016, 5’NIZZA, who had to perform in Vilnius, scandalously called off the performance due to the organizer’s fault.

The band’s sound seems to have been strongly influenced by Latin music, hip-hop and rock, which are reflected in the minimalist folk, beat-box and guitar performances. Even without the involvement of large record companies, the group managed to group together a fan army in Central and Eastern Europe.

Both Serhii and Andrii have more musical projects alongside 5’NIZZA and have recorded individual albums.

2. Vopli Vidopliassova

The legendary Ukrainian group Vopli Vidpliassova was founded in 1986 and became the founder of rock and roll and neo-rock in the Ukraine. Patriotic music, folk sound, heavy rock and metal and electronic music are their inspiration.

The Ukrainian group celebrated the 30th anniversary of their musical career last year, during which their tour arenas were jam-packed with fans. Vopli Vidopliassova’s music will let you immerse yourself in the masterfully created party, avant-garde and underground concert, rhythmic and romantic atmosphere. Their artistic and professional as well as well-thought-out performances, combined with electronic and orchestral tones make it possible to newly play even the band’s songs oldest.

As the band leader, Oleg Skrypka has said, “their concerts are like the search for ideal music.’’ A musical explosion, which destroys everything in its path and tempts the listener with its openness and sincerity. Vopli Vidopliassova is an unrivalled ethno-rock group in Eastern Europe.

1. Okean Elzi

Okean Elzi (Elzi’s Ocean) is one of the most successful and beloved groups of all time in the Ukraine. The fantastic five with their vocalist Svyatoslav Vakarchuk started working together in 1994 in Lvov after the split of their former band Klan Tyshy. So far, they are popular both in their own country and beyond. In 2007, Okean Elzi became the magazine’s FUZZ “Rock Band of the Year”. During their starting years, while still shaping their musical style, the band spent much of their time performing at festivals, and before the release of their debut album, “tam, de Nas Nema” in 1998, Okean Elzi already had a huge audience both in Ukraine and Russia. The following albums, ‘’Ya Na Nebi Buv”, ‘’Model” and ‘’Supersymetria”, continued to strengthen their status in the country’s musical scene, and in 2003 Svyasostlav Vakarchuk was declared the official ambassador of the Ukrainian culture. In the 2005 album ‘’Gloria”, as many as four songs became number one singles, and the following albums, ‘’Mira” 2007, ‘’Dolce Vita” 2010 and ‘’Zemlya” 2013, also did not lose their luck. The latter created together with the British band’s ‘’Coldplay” producer, is called the best album in the band’s career.

In 2014, the phenomenal Okean Elzi performed in Vilnius, inviting Ukraine to follow the European path.

Princess Diana’s memorial statue: some left excited and some confused

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July 1, 2021, Princess Diana of Wales would have turned 60 years old. The world never misses an opportunity to remember a humane member of the royal family of the United Kingdom. Prince Harry and Prince William, in memory of Princess Diana, unveiled a statue that represents Diana herself caring for the children, in her former home. Immediately, fans expressed two different opinions.

A private ceremony was held at Kensington Palace in London on Thursday, July 1, to honor Princess Diana and commemorate her feats and generosity. All over the world, Prince Charles’ ex-wife was appreciated for her charitable activities, constant visits to shelters for abused women and the homeless, and support for the sick and hungry.

The statue precisely reflects the look of the Princess of Wales: the hairstyle, silhouette, clothing details, facial features. Close to the statue of the Princess of Wales, there are also statues of children, which symbolize Diana’s charity on a global scale. Despite all the troubles in the Royal Family, the sons, Prince Harry and Prince William met live to pay tribute to their late mother and shared a note on their Instagram account, saying: “Today, on what would have been our mother’s 60th birthday, we remember her love, strength, and character—qualities that made her a force for good around the world, changing countless lives for the better.”

Commissioned by her sons in 2017

Prince Harry and Prince William, commissioned the statue in 2017, 20 years after Princess Diana died in a car accident. Previously created statues in honor of the late Princess Diana spread horror to those around them, but this one is considered to be one of the essential ones. The sculptor had to face a rather difficult task: to precisely recreate the contours of the face of the Princess of Wales, as Diana was the most photographed person on the entire planet, and this is why any slight inaccuracies would be spotted immediately.

 

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The statue is slightly larger and is depicting Diana wearing a dress that was spotted on a Christmas card, in 1993. It is this appearance that was chosen not in vain because it reflects the last stage of Diana’s life, during which she gained great self-confidence and was named an ambassador of humanity. The depiction of children in the sculpture was chosen to honor Diana’s interest in interacting with youth and collaborating with non-governmental organizations focused on youth welfare.

Beautiful or provocative and insensitive?

To some of the gathered fans of Princess Diana, the statue seemed as beautiful and elegant as Diana herself and caused emotional excitement. When people saw the new work of art, they opened up that they would love to talk to her and spend the afternoon, get to know her communication in person, and believe that she would agree to have lunch with everyone. According to a number of people, Princess Diana was an icon of the royal family and her appearance, along with charity, is worth far more than a post on Instagram. However, The Guardian critics interpreted the statue as simply reminiscent of nausea-provoking aesthetic ugliness, soulless and blank piece of bronze.

According to British art expert and critic Johnathan Jones, Princess Diana deserves to be honored but is not worth being turned into an insensitive column surrounded by anonymous children. Some people claimed that the statue is extremely provocative, forcing those around them to crave the naked body of Princess Diana. Many believe that Princess Diana deserves a much better and more professional finishing of her portrait.

Feel-Good Dramedy Explores the Topics That No One Dares to Talk About

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“The Bold Type” is a dramedy series directed by Sarah Watson. It was released on Netflix in 2017. The series was inspired by the life of Joanna Coles who is editor-in-chief of “Cosmopolitan” magazine. The story of the series revolves around the outrageous lives of three best friends Jane Sloan, Kat Edison, and Sutton Brady, who work in a global women’s magazine called the “Scarlet”. It stars Katie Stevens as Jane Sloan, Aisha Dee as Kat Edison, Meghann Fahy as Sutton Brady, and Melora Hardin as Jacqueline Carlyle who is editor-in-chief of the “Scarlet”.

The series is set in New York city, and it tells the story of three millennial women who work for “Scarlet”, a fictitious global women’s magazine led by Jacqueline Carlyle, its editor-in-chief. The young women manage their lives in the big city, including dealing with turns and twists in their professional paths, personal lives, and various life dilemmas that come their way. The series touch upon many heavy issues and topics of contemporary world such as breast cancer, sexual orientation, rape, gun control, and so on.

Talking about the main characters, the three best friends face similar issues and challenges, but they are very different. Jane Sloan is a newly promoted writer who tends to write stories about interesting angles on political issues or topics she is either uncomfortable with, such as for example breast cancer, or has personal experience with, such as for example admitting she had never had an orgasm. Jane is an outgoing, ambitious, rigidly organized perfectionist who often thinks she knows the right thing to do even though it usually is the opposite. Kat Edison is the head of the Social Media department for “Scarlet”, and she always uses social media to address important issues and topics while growing the popularity of the magazine online. Kat is outgoing, inventive, easygoing, and very outspoken because she has no problem standing up to what she believes in. Sutton Brady started working as a low-level assistant to Lauren Park (Emily Chang) who is an executive editor of “Scarlet” but after three years she got transferred to the Fashion Department where she pursued her true passion which is styling. Sutton is practical, hardworking, stubborn, hilarious, and sometimes indecisive. As mentioned before, the girls are very different, but this is what makes their friendship so colorful, beautiful, and real because they complement each other. In addition, it’s important to mention Jacqueline Carlyle who is the editor-in-chief of the “Scarlet” and has a huge role of a mentor or even a mother figure in the girls’ life. She is clear, confident, and very good at what she does. Also, she is challenging, but supportive and always strives to help the girls and the other characters grow, especially when they make mistakes.

Therefore, there are three reasons why “The Bold Type” is worth your time: it is steeped in current events, it tackles heavy conversations, and it portrays realistic and complex relationships. Talking about being steeped in current events, there are 4 seasons (soon 5th will be released) and they are all released one season per year since 2017. Thus, they are up to date and tend to address current events that are happening in contemporary society. In consideration of heavy conversations, they are always both personal and universal and sometimes they are very heavy. Although what I really like about these conversations is that they not only cover these topics, but they show them from different points of view, and they show how to cope with various issues. Also, all heavy conversations and issues are eventually solved which makes them seem not so scary. What is more, apart from covering serious topics, there are many topics that portray something that people don’t want to talk about. E.g., In one of the episodes Jane told a crowd of people that she has a yest infection or in another Kat opened up about being bisexual. There are various issues and difficult or embarrassing topics that are covered in these series because every episode has one of these issues/topics as the center idea of the whole episode. Lastly, considering the complex relationships, the series have very interesting and involving romantic and non-romantic relationship storylines.

To summarize, I really liked these series because I admired the scope of various topics that were covered in it. But more importantly I liked the way they were covered and that there were many heavy and uncomfortable topics that were presented from various perspectives allowing the viewer to see different sides of the story and to decide how to cope with one or another topic. I would recommend these series for everyone who are interested in both: easy topics such as various relationship drama (without being too cheesy) and the heavier topics or the embarrassing conversations. The best thing about these series is that the heavy and embarrassing topics are presented in a way that doesn’t make you feel like someone is pushing their one-sided opinion down your throat. I promise you; these series will make you laugh so hard it hurts but it will also make you cry your soul out.

 

The novel that makes you question your entire existence

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The book, written by a Nobel Prize winner in 1954, is acclaimed as one of the best philosophical novels in the history of English literature. I love to read about love, so William Golding’s book was a challenge for me. As for you, there will be no “in a single evening” to this masterpiece, and you will not be able to comprehend all of the elements quickly after reading it either. Questions about human nature, although designed for YA audience readers, require deeper reflection than “who is the Lord of the Flies?”.

And you will not know about the lord of the flies until the very end of the book. The first pages take the reader to an uninhabited island and a crashed plane that flew a group of teenagers and children. When adults who accompanied them fail to survive, children begin rebuilding civilization, trying to follow moral norms and rules, while waiting for their saviors – parents. Over time, moral norms change, rules are broken, and beastly human nature begins to dominate. What do you become when there are no more limits to your existence? What is more important – the well-being of self or those around you? Where does humanity begin and where does it end? And can a person who has lost his humanity recover it?

Most admirable and, I dare say, the genius choice of the writer to portray protagonists as children. An adult already seems to have well-established moral norms and a substantiated, strong position. He would not look at survival as a game but would create a civilization with greater responsibility, which, in this case, is lacking for children. The democratic society led by twelve-year-old Ralph is a reference to the closest parallel he knowns – the class elder and his classmates or the school council and its president. When the equally charismatic Jack appears, the tension is felt, but Ralph resolves this by dividing the group into committees and appointing Jack as one of its chiefs. The logical solution does not work, because the children’s committees are not fulfilling their responsibilities. For example, a group led by Jack has to watch over a flame of a signal but is more interested in hunting and abandons the only way to be spotted by passing ships. Satisfying personal desires becomes the cause of greater disagreement, but even naming the problem at a meeting (which still resembles shouting on top of each other) and other attempts to maintain democratic power turn against the book’s most rational characters. Ralph’s model of civilization is collapsing as Jack’s “divide and rule” approach is gaining more and more followers; democracy is termed as a weakness, and power comes carrying entertainments and feasting.

Halfway through the book, my sympathy for the heroes began to frustrate me – after all, each of them is just trying to maintain order, so why does nothing work? Man desires free will and power – if not against others, then at least for himself, but does the possibility of independent choice unleash the positive features of the personality? What if it is the other way around? Inspirational quotes in everyday life encourage us to act and manage our life according to ourselves, not to consider the norms of society. If we feel restrained by those norms, and finally manage to get free, make independent choices, we can slip up and make terrible mistakes. Many say “money change people” yet the point is not how big our wallet is or how many zeros there are in our bank account, but the feeling of certainty that we can afford to do things. The rich tend to make financial felonies, coverup crimes because they know that money opens the door to anything. Society, while placing us into boxes, forms a fear of behaving against norms and while it is often perceived as the great evil, it protects against making harm to others by dictating the principles of morality. We are not allowed to kill and steal only because of our consciousness and the law, but if laws are eliminated, we can hardly rely on a gut feeling to stop us. The writer clearly suggests the conclusion that evil is inherent and empowered in the loss of responsibility. Even intellectuality (Piggy) or harmony with nature (Simon) or rationality (Ralph) dies in the fight against boundlessness. That death can be real (The Purge franchise), or a non-literal (Ralph loses self-confidence, begins to question his decisions, and becomes an outcast).

The book leaves room for reflection on other topics as well: religion, the philosophical concept of humanity, the analysis of the importance of hope in life, etc. Even in the end, you will not stop analyzing; what kind of life awaits after a traumatic childhood? Violence is heart-breaking, although it is enacted in the reader’s mind, so if you will not close your eyes and imagine it, it will not be so scary. And if you are looking for something that will make you question your entire existence, you will not regret reading William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies.

Lucy: From Promising Theme to Disappointing Fulfilment

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Lucy is a 2014 film written and directed by Luc Besson. It is a science fiction thriller based on the myth that humans use only 10 percent of their mental capacity. The film tells the story of a woman who intakes an enormous dose of synthetic drug and is able to reach 100 percent of her brainpower. She is able to use different mental capabilities, such as telepathy, time travel, and telekinesis, to take revenge on her abusers. The story is set in three cities: Paris, New York City, and Taipei. Well-known Hollywood actors play the roles of the main characters. Scarlett Johansson embodies Lucy, whereas Morgan Freeman plays the role of Professor Norman.

The story begins when an American college student in Taipei is captivated to become a drug mule. After captivators insert the packet of drugs in her lower abdomen, she is transferred to a temporary cell where she is kept before taking a plane and delivering the drugs. However, things turn in an unexpected direction when one of the kidnappers, dissatisfied with Lucy’s behaviour, hits her in the abdomen, where the drug bag ruptures and the drug spreads across Lucy’s body. A large quantity of drug forces Lucy’s brain capacity to grow rapidly. Not knowing what to do, Lucy contacts Professor Norman, who is a brain capacity scientist. She expects him to help her to control the changes. Her time is ticking as the excessive amount of drug leaves her only 24 to 48 hours to live. However, the dealers are stepping on her toes. They try to catch her and withdraw what belongs to them. The whole plot evolves into two storylines. The first one is where Professor Norman explains the evolution of reaching the maximum cognitive capacity. The second storyline is Lucy’s, where the viewer can follow her fight with villains, as well as the evolution of her mental capacity. This feature helps to track the sequence of the storyline. However, particular elements of the story are inconsistent with logic, as if the author wanted to put that scene into the film without thinking if it makes sense or not, possibly justifying it by the nature of the film.

It would be hard to distinguish what the viewer knows about the characters because it is a bare minimum. The main character, Lucy, is used as the chess piece to convey the story without getting into the deeper details of her life. The entire scope of the viewer’s knowledge of the character consists of her nationality, learning, and relationship status. A similar situation is with the professor. The viewer knows that he is a well-known professor who studies the cognitive capacity of a human. I would state that characters are used as bearers of the story but not as part of it. It could be argued that Scarlett Johansson carried the character through with her performance by allowing the viewer to feel the tension when it was necessary and feels as if numb when she felt it. However, the performance of the main actor was not the only thing carrying this film. The technical elements were well synchronized and edited with the plot, allowing the viewer to enjoy the experience. Additional clips of nature, which were used as a figurative tool to report, have enhanced each element of the plot. Moreover, in some cases, they complimented the story told by the narrator. The music successfully creates tension and relief when necessary.

Overall, I liked the cinematography and the approach to the question that has been debated for many centuries.  It creates suspicions of what would happen if people would use all of their mental capacity. However, the film has a few gaps, which cannot be ignored. While the idea of the film is extremely interesting, the production is very primitive and one-dimensional. Therefore, the film focuses more on special effects than on how the character’s inner world develops during the cognitive evolution. The main character of the film is a woman. Therefore, in some fragments of the film, she is portrayed as an ordinary Hollywood character who gets what she wants through her body. Nevertheless, some elements of the film go beyond the logic. Such examples could be how quickly everyone trusts Lucy and wants to help her without being scared or questioning anything.

Although Lucy’s editing and cinematography are outstanding, gaps in fulfilment of the storyline leave the audience questioning. If you are looking for a simple, fast-evolving, sci-fi action movie with not ordinary cinematography, you should watch Lucy. However, if you like films, which have a deeper meaning, this film is not for you.

 

Men feel insecure about their bodies too

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Starting as the fat acceptance in the late 1960s[1], the body positivity movement has challenged unrealistic beauty standards and encouraged rejecting social norms. Body positivity movement criticises beauty standards and encourages women to love themselves for who they are. The digital world accelerated body positivity ideas and women around the world under the hashtag “#bodypositivity” would share pictures of themselves telling stories about relations between them and their bodies. However, men do not contribute to the movement on social media since they feel body-image pressure from the influence of social media[2]. I believe that the topic should gain more prominence in social media, because men seem to be more prone to certain eating disorders and substance abuse, suffer from muscle dysmorphia and seek treatment less frequently.

First, men are at greater risk for atypical eating disorders as well as are likely to have substance abuse issues. Dissatisfaction with body image and being far away from the ideal leads to potentially dangerous actions taken to close the gap[3]. This includes drastic changes in eating habits in order to lose weight or gain muscle mass, using steroids or other body-enhancing drugs to achieve their desired body type. For example, only 10%–15% of eating disorder diagnoses are assigned to men[4]. Results could be higher but, stereotypically eating disorders remains overwhelmingly female-centric[5]. Eating disorders are reflected in social media from the female perspective leaving the issue stigmatized, and, as a result, it makes it harder for men to recognize eating disorders and lets alone seek help for them. Also, one study showed that steroid use in male bodybuilders is linked with perfectionism and lower self-esteem[6]. Arthur Blouin and Gary Goldfield measured body dissatisfaction, drive for thinness, self‐esteem, perfectionism, as well as designed questionnaires to measure attitudes toward steroids, and rates of steroid use of 139 male athletes recruited from fitness centres. It demonstrated that bodybuilders significantly greater body dissatisfaction and the great use of anabolic steroids suggesting that male bodybuilders are at risk for body image disturbance and the associated psychological characteristics. Men are victims of eating disorders and body-enhancing drugs since media does not contribute to men’s body positivity.

Men are likely to develop muscle dysmorphia which is when the body is not muscular or lean enough. Strive to gain weight or muscles is often a symptom and significance for muscle dysmorphia. Like any other body dysmorphic disorder, muscle dysmorphia could affect daily life including work, social life and relationships[7]. One study demonstrated how boys from a young age are used to think of the muscular, thin and strong body as an ideal image for men[8]. Adolescent boys were presented with various body types generated on a computer. Each was asked to choose one body type considering these questions: (1) What would you like your body to look like? (2) What do you think the ideal male body should look like? and (3) What do you think others think your body looks like? Results showed that boys on the first 2 questions selected body types that were 30 to 40 pounds heavier than the reference image. Answers to the third question revealed that young respondents perceived their bodies to be much thinner and weaker looking than they actually were. It illustrates that media dictate the way an “ideal” body should look from a young age and younger men might feel pressure if they won’t reach that “ideal” body look.

Lastly, positive body ideas should be acknowledged among men, because they are quieter about their body negativity[9]. Such a tendency is extremely harmful to mental health and is associated with depression, and anxiety disorders. In media, we know little about the prevalence of the issue in males because body is traditionally regarded as a “female problem”[10]. Men believe that their beliefs or behaviours as unusual or problematic and as a result, they seek treatment less frequently or hold off on treatment longer. However, digging deeper into the reasons why men passively seek for help, the main barriers include man’s traditional social role characteristics: a sense of immunity and immortality as well as a belief that seeking help is unacceptable[11]. National Eating Disorders revealed that males represent 25% of individuals with anorexia nervosa and noted that they are at a higher risk of dying[12]. Specialists assumed that they are diagnosed later since many people assume males don’t have eating disorders. Such data contributes to the idea that men body problems are not recognized among specialists. By encouraging men to open up with their views on body image and promoting body positivity ideas in media, different men body types could gain acknowledgements in social and medical fields.

With increasing awareness of body image, social media users have an opportunity to curate the environment by promoting body positivity content. Chasing „the ideal body“ is quite common among women, but, however, it lacks conversation from men side. Men‘s body positivity should be advocated. Media does not recognize men‘s different experience with body image issues – they tend to be at greater risk for atypical eating disorders and abuse body-enhancing drugs, followed by muscle dysmorphia and not seeking for help. Acknowledging this, we could create and contribute to safe space in the internet.

[1] http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1913858,00.html

[2] https://news.jrn.msu.edu/2017/12/male-body-image-pressure-increases-with-influence-from-social-media/

[3] https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6676.2013.00114.x

[4] https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6676.2013.00114.x

[5] https://www.insidehook.com/article/health-and-fitness/mens-eating-disorders

[6] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/1098-108X%28199509%2918%3A2%3C159%3A%3AAID-EAT2260180208%3E3.0.CO%3B2-3

[7] https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/body-dysmorphia/

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1323298/

[9] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/j.1556-6676.2013.00114.x

[10] https://www.bradley.edu/sites/bodyproject/male-body-image-m-vs-f/

[11] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9934383/

[12] https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/statistics-research-eating-disorders

A Mysterious Journey of Deception: Travel with The Girl on The Train

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Photo by Justė Kleivaitė

“The holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mould yourself through the gaps,” thinks Rachel, the main character of a book by Paula Hawkins tilted The Girl on the Train. The quote perfectly describes the tone of this book –a gloomy story that tangles painful truths of a woman’s life. The Girl on The Train, a psychological thriller, was released in 2015 and instantly became a New York Times best seller. Due to a huge success, it was adapted into the movie, but it was not praised as much as the book. The story is told from three women’s point of view – Rachel’s (mainly), Anna’s, and Megan’s. The story is distorted by unreliable narrators and time jumps that keep the readers guessing who committed the murder of Megan.

The story starts and is mainly told through the eyes of Rachel – a recently divorced woman in her mid-thirties who became an alcoholic after her husband Tom left her for another woman. It is summer of 2013, Rachel travels each morning and evening with a train to and from London. Her favourite activity is to observe houses and wonder about the life of others. She starts noticing a wonderful marriage of two strangers, Megan and Scott, in a house which is next to the one she and Tom used to live in. One night after getting into a fight with Tom, drunk Rachel decides to visit his house. There is one problem – Rachel never remembers what happens while she is intoxicated. The next morning, she wakes up in a room she rents with a bloody wound on her head, dirty clothes, and a hangover. She soon hears that Megan, the woman she was secretly observing, was murdered. Throughout the story Rachel tries to remember what happened that strange night and learns secrets about Megan and Scott, her ex-husband Tom, and his new wife Anna. The climax of the story reveals who killed Megan who was pregnant but not with her husband’s baby.

The story is written in first person resembling diary entries from Rachel, Anna, and Megan. Rachel is the main narrator of the story, while Anna adds crucial details about Rachel and Tom’s divorce, and Megan travels back in time giving the reader details about her potential murderer and the motive. The writer uses one of my favourite techniques called unreliable narrators – untrustworthy storytellers who are deceptive or misguided and force the reader to question their credibility. All three women remember details from their own point of view and it can be seen how they differ in all of their stories. This is one of the reasons which kept me engaged in the story until the end – no one knows what the real truth is and what parts of the story are correct. The narrative always twists and turns without prediction and even the smallest details change the plot significantly, which was extremely interesting and gripping.

My favourite character was the main narrator, Rachel, because she is relatable to many readers. The reader quickly learns that Rachel started drinking after she could not become pregnant and that is one of the reasons why Tom left her. Rachel is a curious person who just wants to be loved, but various life failures got her in a depressive state. The disappearance of Megan, a women Rachel wants to be, is the most intriguing event she encountered in years and truly affects her outlook on life. Her random memories from events she encountered when intoxicated kept me turning pages because she revealed crucial pats of the mystery. I loved that the story not only focused on the mystery, but also on a life of a woman – motherhood issues, relationship struggles, and self-exploration in a judgmental society. The only problem – sometimes the narrative felt too elongated. Some plot lines offered no stimulus to the story and could have been avoided. Although, the narrative was never confusing and despite many details and characters – everything made sense.

I would recommend this book to psychological thriller lovers and women in various ages in order to understand the life of various females. I truly liked this book, could not put it down and read it in several days. The plot line is captivating, every detail adds to the story, and the writer’s manner of writing somehow brings suspense but soothes the reader at the same time. The writer was able to trick me into thinking that I know who the characters are but unexpected events revealed the true colours of them. The book makes you question your own choices and lifestyle and brings us to an important conclusion – what you see and presume is never the full truth. There are many important claims and observations made by each woman from which everyone can learn. The last observation from me – go and read the book.

Predestination – mind boggling movie that will leave you speculating

The complex chronology of events, that change throughout the film, goes through several different twists of fate, that determine the lives of the main characters. If you are a person interested in thought-provoking movies and an unpredictable storyline, Predestination – a science fiction thriller made in 2014, written and directed by Spiering brothers Michael and Peter – is exactly what you need. The movie is based on the short science fiction story “-All You Zombies-”, by Robert A. Heinlein. The stars of the film Sarah Snook, an androgynous writer known as “The Unmarried Mother” and Ethan Hawke, a time-travel agent and “The Barkeep”, are two main characters in the movie that are related to each other in a rather unusual way.

The movie starts with no image, only a black screen is visible, and the monologue of a man is heard, followed by a short scene, that can only be understood after seeing the whole movie. After the introduction, the story takes place at the bar, where the bartender approaches the visitor and begins the conversation. During the conversation they bet, that the visitor will tell the best story the barkeep has ever heard, and that is how the story of one of the main character’s life begins. The story of the character’s life is simply extraordinary, and at the end of it everything suddenly changes. The bartender offers the visitor the opportunity to take revenge on a man who has destroyed his life. When the visitor accepts the proposal, he is introduced to the time-traveling, which is the main theme of the movie, and the full story of the film begins, leaving the audience speculating what happened after every scene.

Taken into account that the main theme of the film is time-traveling, all the characters in the movie are visually compatible with the represent time period. The film starts in 1970, and all the characters are dressed in popular clothing at the time: denim and leather jackets, earthy colours, and men’s berets are mostly seen. The outfits of the characters change, at least minimally, depending on the time period they travel to, yet clothes are not exclusive and do not feature bright colours, in order to blend in and not draw the unnecessary attention. The violin case is being repeatedly featured throughout the movie and represents a portable time machine. Considering that it is not a regular suitcase, but an instrument case, the protagonist with the phrase “I’m gonna play the past” offers an interesting idea, that the time machine is made in the form of a violin case not by accident. In fact, time traveling can be interpreted as playing: the lives of the main characters are aligned as a symphony and cannot be changed even if wanted to.

In the movie dark colours are mostly used, in order to create a gloomy, unfortunate image of characters’ lives. The story begins in a barely lit bar, at night, with brighter colours appearing only when memories are shown. In general, most of the film’s story takes place during the night time, and in one of the more important scenes of the movie, rain also contributes to creating a tense mood. The main scenes of the movie mainly take place in the city, but the story also moves to the university area, hospital, and the dungeons of the train station. Based on the location of the particular action, the lighting of the storyline is selected to intrigue, and partially obscure the viewer. As a result, the viewer is deliberately forced to watch the movie to the very end if he/she wants to fully understand the story.

The movie’s structure deviate from the classic: set up-confrontation-resolution structure. Although everything is finally explained at the end of the movie, based on the Predestination Paradox theory, it seems as if the film has no specific end. The Predestination Paradox indicates, that “any attempt by the time traveller to change events in the past would subsequently result in that person playing a role in creating the event they are trying to prevent, not changing it”. As a result, having the protagonist take revenge on a man who has destroyed his life, he only continues to extend his own circle of existence by becoming what he despised. Such a turn of the events leaves the viewer questioning what has actually happened and finally understand the relationship between the main characters.

Predestination features an engaging, yet complicated storyline, that makes the viewer stay focused throughout the whole movie and track every event, which reveals more and more fascinating information about the main characters. New twists of the storyline encourage the viewer to think about situations, that have been hardly thought about by anyone before. The unique stories of the characters’ lives enthral the viewer and urge to stay focused until the very last scene. Predestination should really be of interest to people, who tend to see events from different angles and are determined to obtain new thoughts, theories and ideas. For those who want to see something original and unexpected, watching this film is a necessity, but one must be determined for all possible surprises.

“The Hate U Give” – an eye opening movie about police violence

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“The Hate U Give” is a 2018 American drama directed by George Tillman Jr. The film focuses on Starr Carter, a sixteen-year-old African American girl, who is being raised in a less-fortunate black neighbourhood, called Garden Heights, and Khalil, Starr’s childhood best friend. The movie displays themes such as racism towards African American people, bravery in the times of despair, and the worry of being looked down upon. “The Hate U Give” demonstrates the disregard of black people’s rights, covers important topics that are being discussed in today’s world, and raises awareness of the effects that violence brings.

The film portrays a dispute between African American community and the police. The disagreement between two sides started when Khalil, Starr’s childhood friend, was killed right in front of her by a police officer, who mistakenly thought that a hairbrush was a gun. The story takes place in a place called Garden Heights, where less fortunate dark-skinned people live. The time when the film is set is the 21st century. The film reaches a dramatic climax when the people of Garden Heights start a riot because the officer, who shot the fatal shot, ends up being admitted as innocent by the grand jury. The film ends in the town’s community turning in the gang, which had a lot of control over the small district, to the police.

“The Hate U Give” presents relevant topics, that include prejudice against specific cultural group of people, a new-found courage to do the right thing, and the pressure in choosing to be the real or the fake version of oneself. However, the most crucial theme that is being displayed throughout the movie, is how the public uses the stereotypes of dark-skinned people, in order to justify violence and racism against them. The themes in the movie are all significant because they portray the ongoing racism issue that is still continuing to this day. As well as telling people that it is okay to be scared sometimes, but that fear should not stop them from being truthful. The events shown in George Tillman’s movie attract people’s attention to the damage that the brutality can do to personality development. All of these topics make the movie itself very interesting and educational for the young, as well as more mature minds. It is a well-acted film, where the actors did a great job at acting out the story and portraying their character’s emotions. The scenes are realistic, original, and shot in the highest quality. The story is also beautifully written, which automatically makes it easy to be drawn in and not loose interest until the very end of the film. As the film is for sure interesting, it goes by quickly, but it does not leave you frustrated. There are no irritating cliff-hangers or scenes. Each and every scene is thought out, made with purpose. The director did an amazing job at working with this movie.“The Hate U Give” is one of the most instructive films ever created. It is suitable to youth and grown-ups. I personally have watched it five times now and have not regretted every single one of them, because it is the kind of film that it is not afraid to address topics such as the dismissal of human rights and the ferocity induced by the police force towards a specific cultural group of people. The movie talks about the importance of showing bravery in frightening situations and it states that nothing good can ever come from violence, this makes the film interesting to watch. I really enjoyed watching it and now I sincerely recommend it to everyone that has not seen it yet. It is one of those films that you have to watch and show it to your kids.

Students who work: discarding their studies or pushing their way through life?

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Imagine the perfect student: active in class, dedicated to his studies, academically advanced, participates in extracurricular activities, and only concentrates on studies. But what is the reality? Being unmotivated to do something, having personal problems, being lazy, having mental issues, partying first, and thinking about studies later, and trying to become independent young adults by working is the reality of a student’s life. All the things mentioned are accepted and understood as a normal part of a student’s life except one – working while studying.

Why working while studying is unacceptable? There are a few reasons. There are times where you have no choice but to skip a lecture which is disliked by lecturers and the university’s administration, especially in universities where attendance at lectures is mandatory. Exhaustion is also a problem as students may be too tired to study, and most importantly, it is believed that working while studying leads to poor academic performance, yet there is no definite research that confirms the statement. The impact of working while studying has most of the time been measured by the correlation between the number of hours spent working and student’s academic performance. The results of the research, however, are inconclusive and contradictory. Some research does show that working while studying has a negative impact on student’s marks some research does not find a correlation between working and bad academic performance, other research shows that it is, in fact, beneficial to students, and the students who work as well as study perform better.

Working while studying does not impact your academic performance external factors, such as lack of time management, do. Time management is the key factor in finding a balance between working and studying. If time is distributed correctly, then there is enough time for working, studying, and resting, otherwise, there is a big possibility for burnout and poor academic performance. A lack of good study habits and prioritizing assignments can make students fall behind in university work.

Do students really need to work? According to eurostudent.eu research “Students’ employment during lecture-free period” conducted on 11th of December 2017, 63,8 percent of Lithuanian students have jobs during the lecture-free period. It can only be speculated that the number has risen due to the rising cost of university studies. But for example, in 2019, 1458 students were admitted to bachelor’s and integrated studies at KTU from which 1168 to state-funded and 289 to non-state-funded study places. It means that around 80,1 percent of students do not have to pay for their studies and because of free studies they should not need to work, that is not true.

A student, as well as every other independently living person, has to pay for his livelihood. Accommodation, food, and transportation costs are still necessary to be paid and these are the bare minimums. An adult has a job with which he can pay for it, but a student does not. Students not always can rely on parents or other family members to support them financially. According to Lithuanian Student Association research in 2018, more than 25 percent of first and more than 50 percent of the second year undergraduate students work and the main reason for the work is that paid incentive scholarships or parental support are not enough to survive.

What can be done to normalize the idea of working students, or how can the government help students financially? All danish students get paid to get a higher education however it is not possible in Lithuania. European students can also get the financial support which Danish students get, but they must meet the required criteria. These requirements could be implemented in Lithuania and the students who meet the requirements could apply for financial support.

EU students in Denmark need to work 10-12 hours per week to receive financial support because they must obtain a taxable income. The hour per week may differ, but the total amount of hours worked at the end of the month must reach 43 hours. Lithuanian students would be encouraged to not work as much as possible in a month but only the minimum required to get the financial support. Lithuanian students then would be able to concentrate more on their studies and not worry about finding money to pay for the living costs.

Working while studying should not be a problem for universities. Missing a lesson or two due to work should be understood as it gives students the money that they need to study. Therefore, working while studying should be normal and understandable. Nowadays, having a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement to receive a well-paid job, it is also frowned upon to not have a higher education degree. People should become more open-minded and understand that working while studying is normal as it gives the opportunity for students to create their path to a better life.

 

The Pandemic’s Landfill: Face Masks Are Causing Plastic Waste

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In a three-month period, Taiwan produced 1100 garbage trucks of disposable plastic face masks (one garbage truck fits 5 tons of litter). The world needs 89 million masks a month – can you image how many thousands of trucks they would fill? While the world is focusing on taming the rapidly spreading coronavirus, pollution due to the pandemic is creating dangerous environmental issues that must be taken seriously. Single-use face masks are causing concerning plastic waste because they contribute to littering, are not recycled adequately, and an eco-friendlier alternative is not promoted.

Single-use face masks contribute to littering and therefore cause harm to the wildlife and humans. Masks can be seen laying on sidewalks, blown out of trash bins into the grasslands, or swimming in bodies of water. Animals can misidentify masks as food, choke on or get poisoned by them, and get tangled in the strings attached to the mask. That is why single-use masks must be thrown in bins with a lid with their strings cut off. Coronavirus can survive on a plastic mask for up to 7 days and unsafe disposal (especially littering) can contribute to someone getting infected. This shows that unsafe riddance of single-use masks does not only contribute to pollution but also can add to the rise of the infected. Also, it takes a very long time for plastic to fully disintegrate and disappear from the environment – around 450 years. During the decomposition process, it breaks down into microplastics (tiny particles of any plastic that are less than 5 mm in length) that make their way into our food chain. With current pollution, the amount of microplastic humans consume each 6 months is equivalent to a bowl of breakfast cereal – around 125 grams. Assuming that more and more plastic will pollute the environment (including masks and other medical waste produced during the pandemic), an average human being might consume more than 20 kilograms of microplastic in their lifetime – two mobile recycling bins. By reducing littering of disposable masks, plastic waste’s effect on human health and the wildlife could be reduced.

To prevent plastic pollution, a public way of recycling disposable masks must be implemented. As mentioned before, plastic masks are serious health hazards and possible infection carriers. It is advised not to put masks in recycling bins for plastic because they can cause waste workers to get sick. Just like medical waste from care facilities, it would be best to incinerate used masks after they have been properly segregated. Incineration is a process of burning used medical waste, while segregation is a method of separating waste into special bins according to its properties (toxicity, sharpness, etc.). Unfortunately, burning most of medical litter produced during the pandemic could have another effect – immense air pollution. The best solution that has already been implemented by several countries is recycling of plastic masks in facilities adapted only for this purpose. Special bins are placed around a city, people throw their used masks in them, and later they are collected for recycling. A French company Plaxtil has implemented such practice in 2019 and has already recycled over 50000 masks by turning them into a plastic-like material that can be used to make a variety of items. A company in US named TerraCycle offers to place more localized PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) bins – in personal households, workplaces, or neighborhoods. These examples prove that such projects could be implemented in other countries and reduction of plastic pollution would highly improve. A public way of disposing used masks for recycling is one of the most efficient solutions for reducing waste caused by the pandemic.

Multiuse face masks that are a great solution for plastic waste reduction are not endorsed enough. There are many rumors that cloth masks cannot protect humans the same way as plastic ones do. It is not entirely true and according to recent research “multilayer cloth masks, designed to fit around the face and made of water-resistant fabric with a high number of threads and finer weave, may provide reasonable protection”. They are not advised to be used by healthcare workers who spent much more time around infected patients, but for regular civilians they are a great way to be protected and contribute to plastic waste reduction. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, for a cloth mask to be effective, it has to be made from densely woven cotton or linen and carefully washed and dried after each use. During various mask and protective gear testing, it was found that the droplet count from a properly made cloth mask is almost the same as the one produced through surgical and N95 single-use plastic masks. It is best to search for professionally made multiuse masks to be protected as best as possible and wash them in a washing machine, not by hand, to prevent excessive water consumption. By encouraging people to wear well-made cloth masks, plastic pollution due to the pandemic could be decreased.

Pollution nowadays is spiraling out of control and sadly not enough is done to save the world from an environmental disaster. A worldwide pandemic is going to have a lasting effect on our lives and upcoming generations, and hopefully several important lessons will be learned; one of them – plastic waste is killing the planet. To reduce current plastic pollution, single-use face masks must be disposed correctly to avoid littering, recycled as much as possible, and multiuse alternative must be endorsed. Responsible plastic disposal lays in each of our hands and it does not take much to save us from a plastic catastrophe.

The Dangerous Side of Cyberbullying

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According to latest 2020 cyberbullying statistics, 37% of middle and high school students reported to have been cyberbullied during their lifetime[1]. Due to constant development of technology and popularity of social media sites, online bullying is considered to be one of the easiest means of harassment, as well as the most common online risk for all teens[2]. Cyberbullying is excessively dangerous because it can lead to physical self-harm, substance abuse, and self-isolation.

Online bullying can cause people to intentionally injure themselves. There are people in the world who are more strong-willed than others. Those, who do not have an especially strong personality against mean replicas, can become easy targets to bullying that takes place in various internet platforms. Such actions can become one of the reasons for a desire to cause pain to one’s body. As reported by a 2017 study, one in four students who suffered from online harassment, started to self-harm[3]. This is due to the fact that negative feelings, that are caused by mean comments, may result in the victim feeling like they have little to no control over their emotions. It is found that by harming their body, a person wishes to release their anger and frustration, replace the emotional distress for the physical pain, or in some cases, start to feel something other than emptiness[4]. The intentional self-infliction of pain can become a common way to deal with similar situations. For instance, the individual may feel like they have no other choice than to ease the hurt by harming their body. This can be extremely life-threatening and as a result, one may unintentionally end their life by feeling like they do not have enough strength to overcome the hate expressed by other people.

Exposure to malicious comments from different accounts may trigger drug abuse. There are different substances that can be listed as drugs. They can be gulped, snorted, injected, or smoked. It is easy to become addicted to them when they are being used frequently. However, for some people, they can be considered as way to lift their mood or forget hurtful opinions caused by others[5]. In addition, studies have shown, that the victims of bullying have a higher probability to turn to drug use[6]. What might encourage them to act in such a way, is the fact that the bullied person might have a history with experimenting harmful substances or perhaps they have grown up around similar environment. To give an example, after seeing offensive words directed at them, the individual feels that they need a quick way to relieve their mind and calm them down. This idea might motivate them to grab a bottle of an alcoholic drink, take a pill, or pick-up a cigarette. There is evidence, that drugs such as Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan generally bring relief within thirty minutes to an hour after consumption. Nevertheless, when taken regularly, they will intensify a person’s dependence and tolerance to them, as well as expose the person to various side effects[7]. Consequently, this might lead the abused one feeling like they need to take larger amounts of drugs to feel better.

Harassment in the cyberspace could potentially lead to self-isolation from others. If a person is comfortable, confident, can relate to others, and has a feeling that they belong in the community, they are experiencing what is called to be the social connectedness. Due to cyberbullying, these types of feelings can disappear, and the person may feel alone, have a lower self-esteem, do not trust others, and think that they do not belong anywhere[8]. To give an example, the bullied person could have a lot of friends and big loving family or be a dedicated introvert who prefers to spend the majority of their time alone. Being bullied in the online space, could possibly make them feel socially excluded and unloved. Studies have shown that victims of cyberbullying have a lower self-esteem[9]. While According to a 2015 study, people who had been victims to online based bullying were less socially connected when compared to those who have not experienced the act of receiving hurtful messages on Internet apps[10]. When bullying is done in the online space, a person’s opinion of themselves can be severely impacted. As a result, the need to close off may overshadow their mind and leave them feeling more alone than ever before.

Bullying in the online space can be the cause of people starting to purposely harm themselves, consume different types of drugs, or consciously close off from others. A solution on how to minimize the possibility of hurting their bodies due to someone’s constant harassment, would be to ask for help from a professional or someone that they trust.

Reference list

Crisp, S. (October 13, 2013). “Explainer: what is self-harm and why do people do it?”

https://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-self-harm-and-why-do-people-do-it-11367

Ditch the label. (July, 2017). “The Annual Bullying Survey 2017”.

https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/The-Annual-Bullying-Survey-2017-1.pdf

Dualdiagnosis.com. (n.d). “Depression and Addiction” https://dualdiagnosis.org/depression-and-addiction/

Extremera, N., Quintana-Orts, C., Merida-Lopez, S., Rey, L. (March 22, 2018). “Cyberbullying Victimization, Self-Esteem and Suicidal Ideation in Adolescence: Does Emotional Intelligence Play a Buffering Role?” https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00367/full

McLoughlin, T. L., Hermens, F. D. (October 8, 2018). “Cyberbullying and Social Connectedness”. https://kids.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/frym.2018.00054

Schrader, J. (May 14, 2012). “Cyberbullying Versus Traditional Bullying”. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/teen-angst/201205/cyberbullying-versus-traditional-bullying

Security.org Team. (May 14, 2020). “Cyberbullying: Twenty Crucial Statistics for 2020”. https://www.security.org/resources/cyberbullying-facts-statistics/#resouces

Smith, M., Robinson, L., Segal, J. (September 2020). “Anxiety Medication”.

The Recovery Village. (January 20, 2021). “Bullying and Teen Substance Abuse”.

https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/teen-addiction/related/bullying-substance-abuse/

 

[1] Security.org Team. (May 14, 2020). “Cyberbullying: Twenty Crucial Statistics for 2020”.

https://www.security.org/resources/cyberbullying-facts-statistics/#resouces

[2] Schrader, J. (May 14, 2012). “Cyberbullying Versus Traditional Bullying”.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/teen-angst/201205/cyberbullying-versus-traditional-bullying

[3] Ditch the label. (July, 2017). “The Annual Bullying Survey 2017”.

https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/The-Annual-Bullying-Survey-2017-1.pdf

[4] Crisp, S. (October 13, 2013). “Explainer: what is self-harm and why do people do it?”

https://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-self-harm-and-why-do-people-do-it-11367

[5] Dualdiagnosis.com. (n.d). “Depression and Addiction”. https://dualdiagnosis.org/depression-and-addiction/

[6] The Recovery Village. (January 20, 2021). “Bullying and Teen Substance Abuse”. https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/teen-addiction/related/bullying-substance-abuse/

[7] Smith, M., Robinson, L., Segal, J. (September 2020). “Anxiety Medication”.

[8] McLoughlin, T. L., Hermens, F. D. (October 8, 2018). “Cyberbullying and Social Connectedness”. https://kids.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/frym.2018.00054

[9] Extremera, N., Quintana-Orts, C., Merida-Lopez, S., Rey, L. (March 22, 2018). “Cyberbullying Victimization, Self-Esteem and Suicidal Ideation in Adolescence: Does Emotional Intelligence Play a Buffering Role?” https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00367/full

[10] McLoughlin, T. L., Hermens, F. D. (October 8, 2018). “Cyberbullying and Social Connectedness”. https://kids.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/frym.2018.00054

Covid-19 changed marketing game

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As society is starting to accept the new “normal” with staying at home more and entering shops with masks, companies began to recover from an economic downturn half as severe as the 2008 crisis. The game of business has changed, and to win, you need to start with the consumer. In Netherlands online sales in May 2020 were 50% higher than in May 2019[1], showing that people prefer shopping at home. In February 2021, clothing and clothing accessory store sales in the United States fell by 14.9 percent[2], favoring the sectors of sporting goods and garden materials. Pandemic taught us to appreciate relationships, not only with loved ones but with brands, while deliberating over the need for new clothes and shoes you’ll probably wear traveling from the fridge to the sofa.

Due to the quarantine restrictions, the revenue of many companies has decreased demanding unusual strategies to cope with the loss of the consumers. Dr. Rimantė Hopenienė, a lecturer of marketing sciences, author of multiple scientific articles and books, advertising agent of KTU Faculty of Economics and Business, argues that businesses allocated finances inside corporations. “Some companies started looking for new communication channels, reduced budgets or stopped working with external agencies altogether, and tried to do their own communication and marketing work. It is praiseworthy that companies have started to develop new services, strongly rethought value propositions, and sought to respond more openly and sensitively to consumer needs than ever before. They focused less on encouraging them to buy something, more on expressing emotions such as love of neighbor, faith, care, hope, kindness, optimism”.

We observed the instances of companies supporting medical institutions, donating masks and medical equipment to nursing homes, helping needy families, increasing measures of safety to protect the employees, and delivering products free of charge worldwide. Such change has not been left unnoticed. Multinational professional services network Delloite in their 2021 Marketing Trends report[3] states that brands who showed social responsibility responding to COVID-19 positively shifted perceptions and buying preferences of the consumers. Enterprises clearly expressed their commitment to serve the consumers in the best way possible creating an important characteristic that helps the public to decide who is and isn’t worth supporting.

Dr. Hopenienė is pleased by the business that didn’t waste money on empty ads but thought creatively about what they could offer consumers in a situation like this. “I was also fascinated by the greater sincerity and focus on social responsibility. In advertisements, companies have offered to keep their distance, wash their hands, and thrown out accents from their slogans, e.g. The FKC removed the finger-licking from the slogan, began supporting local small businesses that suffered from the pandemic more than they did, Burger King offered his Instagram to advertise smaller restaurants, etc.”

In response to the global pandemic, safety and health emerged as an important aspect of buying. Consumers tend to value companies that ensure the safety of all stakeholders, customers, employees, vendors, and suppliers. Health-promoting products and services were favored more than luxury items or electronic devices[4]. When online shopping and home delivery reached unprecedented heights, digital marketing had to adapt to the new needs of everyday people: easy access, convenient navigation, and personalized ads. “Customers expect warm and personalized communication with them, not robotic language. I don’t know if there’s an expectation here, but I’ve noticed a trend that people want quality content and join Patreon not only to support artists or creators but are willing to pay for content without empty ads.”

Dr. Hopenienė points out that a modern consumer may not always be willing to purchase the product but still hopes to receive great customer service. “The purpose of a brand today is to be accessible to the client even if he does not buy the product. Also, simplicity is key in everything a brand does: sales processes, orders, delivery, additional services. The consumer does not need complicated diagrams, explanations – he needs easy access to the brand.” According to Streng Agency[5], consumers seek clear and honest messages, which a minimalistic approach to advertising conveys. Marketing specialists should use the available poster space for showing the product instead of writing about all the advantages that come with it.

The shift to online shopping encouraged brands to pay more attention to managing SEO, SEM, and e-commerce. While many companies create advertising themselves or reduced the workforce of marketing departments, the digital age did not push the advertising agencies out of the picture. Dr. Hopenienė assures that communication professionals are vital to any brand’s success. “Artificial intelligence can create texts, but a person has to manage it. I think that a great marketing specialist is very much needed because his power to create valuable communication with the user through various channels will never lose relevance. After all, communication specialists not only create Facebook texts, but they also write articles, participate in conferences and fairs where they communicate with different audiences. Even SEO needs a text that is appealing to both google and the user.”

It is no secret that social networks have become a great alternative to traditional marketing, television, newspapers, radio. Integrating already known social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and new ones, such as TikTok, into advertising communication has clear benefits. “It’s greater accessibility, it’s open and engaging communication with the consumer. The downside is that there is so much that the user does not notice. Therefore, the quality content, the consistent communication and involvement of the user in that communication is the key to standing out.”

It is evident that when consumers were forced to stay at home, many turned to their electronic devices for leisure, work, and socialization. Netflix received 16 million new users in 5 months last year[6], TikTok app reported scoring 200 million downloads for the first quarter of 2020[7], showing the marketers what activities engage regular people. Dr. Hopenienė concludes that in this time and age, consumers crave to be known on a personal level, and this means choosing the appropriate channel to target the specific audience. “Every channel is good if we know how to manage it, and bad if we don’t. The thing that encouraged me to join TikTok was the inhumanly beautiful performance of Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theater soloists. If we don’t know who our target user is, where they search or find information, and don’t tailor the content to them, then no channel is good enough.”

Indeed, the key things resulting in the brand’s success in 2021 are relevant and engaging content, knowing your targeted audience and their path to purchase, being honest and aware of social changes around the world. Highlighting an enterprise’s purpose through contribution to society won’t be a quickly forgotten trend, rather a long-term value. While the COVID-19 pandemic transformed the rules of marketing, loyal consumers are still the main reward of this game. To win, you need to keep your eyes on the prize.

[1] Statistics Netherlands, 2020.

[2] https://www.statista.com/statistics/1081414/monthly-year-over-year-retail-sales-development-by-sector/

[3] https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/insights/us/articles/6963_global-marketing-trends/DI_2021-Global-Marketing-Trends_US.pdf

[4] https://www.statista.com/statistics/1081414/monthly-year-over-year-retail-sales-development-by-sector/

[5] https://strengagency.com/9-print-advertising-trends-to-watch/

[6] https://www.bbc.com/news/business-52376022

[7] https://english.alarabiya.net/coronavirus/2020/05/07/Coronavirus-TikTok-records-record-growth-as-mobile-use-soars-under-lockdown

New era: using humans for clinical trials to develop cure for cancer

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In 2021, estimated number of new cases of cancer in United States will reach 1,898,1601 from which 608,5702 are believed to be fatal. Despite the fact that there are eight different cancer treatments that have been developed over the years, none of them guarantee that the cancer will be cured permanently and irreversibly. It should be noted that using animals in clinical trials to develop cure for incurable diseases have failed to translate to humans, leaving patients with insufficient treatment or without treatment at all (Archibald, K., 2018). However, using humans for clinical trials is an unpopular alternative to achieve maximum results in cancer research, and while to many it seems inconceivable that humans could be used for clinical trials instead of animals, such way of testing could have an immense impact in developing most eligible treatment for cancer.

No one can deny that clinical trials are an inevitable necessity to detect, prevent, or treat certain diseases. New medicines require testing because researchers must measure both the beneficial and the harmful effects of a compound on a whole organism (Animal Research, 2014). However, despite the possibility of voluntary participation in clinical trials, to date, animals are the main source for testing new drugs. In 2015, 820,8123 animals of different species were held captive in laboratories and used in clinical trials in United States. Meanwhile, in the same year, a relatively small number of 11,0604 United States citizens participated in clinical research, out of which only 588 people volunteered for oncology studies. But why is this a problem?

The answer is quite simple. Every cell in the body of every living organism contains deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. Comparing animal and human genetic data, scientists have found that mice and humans share about 85 percent of their DNA, which is one of the reasons why mice are commonly used in medical research (Deziel, C., 2018). However, the similarity of genes between humans and animals does not eliminate the fact that the DNA is not identical, but when it comes to the human genetic code, the situation is somewhat different.

Human body is built out of 3 billion5 genetic building blocks, from which only tiny amount is unique. Riccardo Sabatini, in his TED speech in 2016, demonstrated a visual perception of what is the code of life and how human genetics would look if it were written on a piece of paper. In his example, human DNA consisted of 262,000 pages of information, out of which just about 500 was unique. The main idea of such example was to indicate the fact, that humans are 99.9 percent genetically similar to each other. The remaining 0.1 percent simply describes different aspects such as eye, hair, skin color or whether he/she is predisposed to certain diseases (Ramsey, L., & Lee, S., 2018).

Based on such data, I believe it is also worth mentioning that newly discovered medicine, which has shown its suitability in the animal organism during clinical trials, may not always be suitable for treating human beings. An unsuitable medication may not only fail to perform its functions to suppress the disease, but could also severely damage the human body. A dramatic illustration of such damage was TGN1412 (Theralizumab), which almost killed six clinical trial volunteers in 2006 (Archibald, K., 2018).

Theralizumab, which was intended to treat B cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia and rheumatoid arthritis, has shown stunningly positive results in clinical trials, even with high doses of medication. In the course of medical research TGN1412 was tested in the animal’s body and was expected to be able to cure blood cancer or rheumatoid arthritis, or at least severely alleviate the pain of patients (Coghlan, A., 2006). Because of such positive results in clinical trials, Theralizumab was decided to be tested on six male volunteers.

Sadly, an injected antibody caused the opposite reaction in the human body. Around 60 to 90 minutes after the men received their injections, their bodies were flooded by a surge of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines, which combat severe infections like those seen in patients with blood poisoning (Coghlan, A., 2006). Within 48 hours, patients have experienced many excruciating and unpleasant symptoms, such as headaches, shivering, back pain, gut pain, diarrhea, swelling, nausea and lung pain. Their blood pressure dropped to a dangerously low level, lymphocytes and monocytes started fast vanishing and it became hard to breath (Coghlan, A., 2006). Although after 48 hours, men gradually regained strength and started to recover, all six began to suffer multi-organ failure, and had to be attached to kidney machines. In my opinion this event is a good indication that medicine suitability between animals and humans differ, therefore if new medication helps to fight a certain disease in the animal’s body, it does not mean that the human body will react in the same way.

Newer drugs are constantly being developed and tested in laboratories on various species of animals. It is understandable that many people, on the basis of human rights and ethics, would disagree with the idea that using humans in clinical trials instead of animals is an appropriate alternative to developing cure for cancer. However, even considering the indisputable genetic similarity between humans and animals, it should be kept in mind that DNA is not identical. Drugs continue to be tested in animal organisms, which may result in the test data being far out of touch with reality, and the newly discovered medicine may not properly perform its functions in the human body, as happened with Theralizumab. Therefore, we should strongly think about how actually important it is for us to overcome incurable diseases and finally take more serious actions in order to develop cure for cancer.

References:

  1. Archibald, K. (2018). Animal Research Is an Ethical Issue for Humans as Well as for Animals. Journal of Animal Ethics, 8 (1), 1-11. Retrieved from: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/janimalethics.8.1.0001?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

  2. Animal Research (2014). Why Animals are Used. Retrieved from: http://www.animalresearch.info/en/designing-research/why-animals-are-used/

  3. Coghlan, A. (2006). Mystery over drug trial debacle deepens. Retrieved from: https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn9734-mystery-over-drug-trial-debacle-deepens/

  4. Deziel, C. (2018). Animals That Share Human DNA Sequences. Retrieved from: https://sciencing.com/animals-share-human-dna-sequences-8628167.html

  5. Ramsey, L., & Lee, S. (2018). Humans share almost all of our DNA with cats, cattle and mice. Retrieved from: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/human-dna-share-cats-cattle-mice-same-genetics-code-a8292111.html

  6. Sabatini, R. (2016). How to read the genome and build a human being. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6rJLXq1Re0

3 https://speakingofresearch.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/usda-annual-report-animal-usage-in-research-2016.pdf

4 https://www.fda.gov/media/106725/download

5 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/human-dna-share-cats-cattle-mice-same-genetics-code-a8292111.html

Save Ralph – A short film with Taika Waititi [VIDEO]

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Introducing Ralph, the new spokes-bunny of the global campaign to ban animal testing for cosmetics. #SaveRalph​ is a powerful stop-motion animation short film produced by Humane Society International, featuring an all-star multinational cast including Taika Waititi, Ricky Gervais, Zac Efron, Olivia Munn, Pom Klementieff, Rodrigo Santoro, Tricia Helfer and more. https://hsi.global/SaveRalph

Save Ralph is a powerful stop-motion animation short film featuring Oscar winner Taika Waititi as the voice of Ralph, who is being interviewed for a documentary as he goes through his daily routine as a “tester” in a lab.

HSI’s #SaveRalph campaign tackles the cruelty of animal testing in an original and unexpected way—using the story of one bunny to shine a light on the plight of countless rabbits and other animals in laboratories around the world. While Ralph is animated, the miseries he endures in the short film are far from made up. As Spencer Susser, the director of Save Ralph, says, “It’s so important that Ralph feels real because he represents countless real animals who suffer every day.”

Susser, known for his film Hesher, is among a slate of powerhouse celebrities and influencers who collaborated with Humane Society International on the making of Save Ralph. In addition to Waititi as Ralph and Gervais as the interviewer, the film has Zac Efron as Bobby, Olivia Munn as Marshmallow, Pom Klementieff as Cinnamon and Tricia Helfer as Cottonballs.

Producer Jeff Vespa (Voices of Parkland) teamed up with the Arch Model studio of puppet maker supreme Andy Gent (Isle of Dogs, The Grand Budapest Hotel) on the production.

The most successful girl band of this age – Little Mix

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Little Mix © Wikimedia Commons

Jade Thirlwall, Perrie Edwards, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jesy Nelson – better known as Little Mix – is currently one of the largest and most beloved girl band in the world. Until recently, the popular British girl band consisted of four members, but due to health problems, one of the members of the music group – Jesy Nelson – had to leave the team.

The story begins

In 2011 Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jade Thirlwall as individual soloists participated in the music show The X Factor, but they failed to beat the first stage. The judges decided to give the talented girls another chance and united the singers into a mutual group that fell into the group category.

Their first band name was Rhythmix and their first cover song was Big Girls Don’t Cry. Soon, the rising group of girls announced a new (current) name for the band – Little Mix.

In 2011 December 11th the finals of The X Factor took place, the girls performed Damien Rice’s single Cannonball and they were announced the winners of the project. The girl band became the first group to win this musical project.

International rising

Being one of the most successful bands from The X Factor, the girls have since released countless tracks, with four singles reaching the top five in the UK: Wings (2012), Black Magic (2015), Shout Out to My Ex (2016), Sweet Melody (2021). Each of their albums: DNA (2012), Salute (2013), We Weird (2015), Glory Days (2016), LM5 (2018) and Confetti (2020) also reached most listened and top album lists. The band’s fourth album, Glory Days, became the longest-running album of the girl bands since Spice Girls’ debut album 20 years ago. During their career, the band has sold more than 50 million records worldwide, making them the best-selling girl band of all time.

They won the Brit Award for Song of the Year with Shout Out to My Ex in 2017 and the British Video of the Year Award for Woman Like Me in 2019, the girl band also received six MTV European Music Awards, two Choice Awards, five Global Awards and nine Brit Award nominations. Their tours, Glory Days and Get Weird Tour, are the fifth and eighth highest-earning girl band tours of all time. By 2020 March statistics, the band Little Mix has five platinum albums and 24 certified singles in the UK.

In the media, Little Mix was included in Debrett’s 2017 list of the most influential people in the UK. The successful group for four years in a row, starting from 2017 until 2020 was included in Forbes 30 under 30 class: a list of 600 outstanding young entrepreneurs, leaders and stars.

Jesy Nelson quitting and other projects

Last year was very active for the girl band – Festival GIRLS! In Brazil, the reality show Little Mix The Search, new singles Break Up Song, Holiday, Not a Pop Song, Happiness. Along with all the new projects, the band’s sixth album Confetti was released, which is described as “the band’s biggest album”. Little Mix: Tour Film has been shown in cinemas around the world.

It was hard for all members to adapt to the busy band life and schedule, but Jesy Nelson faced the most serious difficulties. The artist said she feels constant pressure to live up to the expectations. In 2020 December 14th, the group member Jesy Nelson announced her resignation from the band due to the difficult mental health condition. In her statement, Nelson said that she made her decision after careful consideration and with a calm heart, „I have to spend some time with my loved ones, do things that make me happy and not harm to my mental health,” the singer stated. The rest of the group added, “We know that Jesy leaving the group will be really unpleasant news for our fans. We love her very much and agree that it is very important that she does what is right for her mental health and well-being.” After Nelson’s departure, the singers announced that the three of them will carry out the band’s activities.

Artist Christina Ramos painted Nuns as Sinners

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#1 Dear Parents, Sister Regina Will No Longer Be Driving The Church Van

Christina Ramos is well known artist from Southern California. She specializes in figurative realism. Even though she studied architecture and interior design, just after graduating college she dedicated her life to her four children. That was one of the best choices she made because then the artist found her love and passion to paint.

To become better painter, Christina Ramos got in to Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art (LAAFA). Nowadays she is called Golden Working Artist, representing Golden Artist Colors. She works with only with acrylic paint. Moreover, she is a painting instructor in LAAFA.

Nowadays Christina Ramos enjoys every moment she can spend painting. When it comes to deciding what to paint, she has three categories to choose from: romance, modern (she is a fan of popular culture) and fun. The art that is shown in this article is a great example of her fun paintings. The art portrays nuns, who sin. Christina Ramos came up with eleven ways to show how nuns could disobey the norms of society. In these paintings it is clear to see a great sense of humor the artist has and a beautiful range of colors.

According to Christina Ramos, the art she makes should make people think, react, laugh and feel. One of her favorite ways to spend her leisure time is to listen to people’s reaction to her work. The best part of hearing the different opinions is that every person interprets the art she makes. Many individuals sees what they want to see and not the message the artist sent.

Christina Ramos thinks that art should be subjective. She has said that it is wrong when people ask the artists to explain their art to them, if there is that kind of questions, the work was not successful. She has also said that everyone has to have their own opinion and interpret things they see in their own way. Art is a very individual thing. It should speak differently to every person.

Christina Ramos work has been shown at many museums and galleries throughout United States.

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#2 Sister Victoria Has A Secret


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#3 Bad Habits Are Hard To Break

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#4 Sister Phoebe Was A Photo Bomber

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#5 Sister Doris And The Devils Food

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#6 Sister Rita Was A Rebel

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#7 After Lent Sister Linda Prayed Long And Loud

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#8 You Can Take The Sister Out Of The Hood, But You Cant Take The Hood Out Of The Sister

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#9 Sister Mary Had Multitude Of Sins

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#10 Rufus Learned, You Must Love Your Neighbor, Even If Your Neighbor Is A Cat

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#11 There Was A Priest, A Rabbi, And A Nun

 

Putin’s Gangster Regime: Stealing, Poisoning And More | Explaining Russia

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If I had to summarize Putin’s regime in two words.. it would be: Gangster regime. Every classic movie about gangsters involves police working for the bad guys, racketeering, money extortion, making sure that witnesses are silenced and threatened, controlling all lucrative businesses and so on. Putin does it all and is the boss of it all.

Russia has a government, but it’s mostly run like a criminal gang. I mean, you see ordinary politicians, but behind their backs you’ll always find one of Putin’s cronies, looking out for their own selfish interests. And nowadays.. their interests are pretty much everything. That’s why they force through laws that make them richer and more powerful. It’s easy when you control judges, politicians and police. And who cares if they destroy the country and ruin the economy.

Above all, they deprive ordinary citizens of feeling like they have even the most basic rights. They need to keep everyone in a constant state of uncertainty and need. This breaks their will to rise up. Violence. Putin’s mob doesn’t know any other strategy to resolve its problems. A

nd it’s not just beating up some random protesters, it’s killing, kidnapping, poisoning and illegal imprisonment. They have nothing to fear, no morals, no obligations to the people, only to money and their godfather, Putin.

Come on a journey with me, deep into Putin’s Gangster Empire.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Top Ten World’s Living Dictators

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Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko / © Wikimedia Commons

There have always been nations in the world ruled by dictators. Certainly, many are no longer around, but those still alive today have a limitless fantasy on how to keep power in their hands and enjoy mind-blowing luxury when the citizens of their country live in overwhelming poverty. George Bernard Shaw called the bloodshed by the dictators necessary and praised the “effectiveness” of totalitarian control compared to “inoperative Western parliaments”. Except in these cases, he was clearly wrong: there are no more cynically governed and poorer nations in the world today, than those ruled by totalitarian regimes.

Here are the ten most corrupt and brutal dictators today:

Nicolás Maduro/ © Wikimedia Commons

10. Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela

Ever since taking power in 2013, Nicolas Maduro has been accused of subverting democracy and human rights efforts in Venezuela, which is struggling to pull through an unprecedented economic crisis.

The country, now run by a former bus driver, fell into an economic recession and inflation skyrocketed practically overnight

Just like former Venezuelan President Chávez, Maduro used the constitution and other democratic institutions to justify dictatorial behavior. Neither dictator could stand the test of true democracy – to be elected through free and fair elections.

As a result of Maduro’s efforts, Venezuela no longer has any institutions that could control the presidential power.

In 2018, President Maduro was elected for a second term in a controversial voting in which many opposition candidates were prohibited to run in the election or were imprisoned.

In 2019, the United Nations issued a report stating that the Armed Forces of Venezuela had carried out thousands of extrajudicial killings and manipulated crime scenes over the past 18 months to make it appear as if the victims were resisting the arrest.

Raúl Castro / © Wikimedia Commons

9. Raúl Castro, Cuba

Raúl became president in 2008 after his brother, former dictator Fidel Castro, fell ill.

A well-known brother of Fidel Castro, Raúl ruled Cuba following in his footsteps, and repeating the same mistakes.

The Castros gained control and power through a successful revolution. Together, they ruled Cuba with an iron fist for more than half of a century. Their will is the law, even when there is no logical explanation for it being such.

Raúl Castro, five years younger than his brother, has been involved in bloody battles from the beginning. 1953 July 26, the brothers fought together in the first attack against the U.S.-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Raúl Castro was appointed to command the military forces in the eastern province of Oriente during the revolution. After its success, he was appointed as the Minister of Defense, and held the position for 49 years.

At first, he was tasked with eliminating all sources of opposition on the island. There are no reliable figures on the number of people killed by Raúl Castro – many without a trial – but estimates are in thousands.

Not only did he lead Cuba’s attempts to spread his revolutionary ideology around the world, but he also organized arms shipments from Moscow to Cuba.

Castro did not change the system of the government. There was a one-party rule and a strict attitude by the regime towards dissidents.

On December 14, 2014, Castro and Obama shook the world by announcing that the U.S. and Cuba would re-establish diplomatic relations. This led to reconciliation between the two countries and the opening of their respective embassies in Washington and Havana.

Bashar al-Assad / © Wikimedia Commons

8. Bashar  al-Assad, Syria

At the beginning of his governance, Bashar embarked on economic reforms to help liberalize the economy and did it selectively (banking, insurance, import-export, and telecommunications) to benefit his family business.

The brutal efforts of the Syrian army to quell protests that turned into the armed riots, the use of chemical weapons, the bombing of schools and hospitals, and the targeting of civilians have met with global condemnation, though Bashar al-Assad has escaped responsibility.

In 2018, a chemical weapon attack by the Assad regime in Idlib province killed seventy people, including women and children. U.S. President Trump called the attack “an insult to humanity” and shortly afterwards ordered the strike on the Syrian airbase.

To protests against the presidential government that began in 2011, Assad responded by ordering them to be demolished. However, brutal repressions by security forces did not stop the protests and eventually led to an armed conflict that killed more than 380,000 people, according to activists.

Ilham Aliyev / © Wikimedia Commons

7. Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan

Accusations by various European institutions and human rights groups often directed at Aliyev, who is accused of human rights abuses, including the imprisonment of political opponents.

Tension also stems from the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, which Azerbaijan refuses to share with Armenia, which has resulted in the deaths of a large number of people.

The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh inside Azerbaijan, which is mainly controlled by ethnic Armenians, has emerged in the last years of the collapsing Soviet Union and has resulted in the deaths of approximately 30,000 people. In 2014, the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh was attacked without cause at the behest of the dictator. Azerbaijan has violated the ceasefire agreement countless times as a result of this conflict.

President Aliyev, along with his government, is not only spreading propaganda about Armenia domestically, but internationally as well.

The State Security Service of the Republic of Azerbaijan does not avoid arresting members of parties that do not please the president. Sources in Azerbaijan say that as many as 120 people are currently being held, including several deputies of the opposing party leaders and journalists.

The iron fist used to destroy Aliyev’s critics is the proof that democracy is collapsing in Azerbaijan as well.

Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow / © Wikimedia Commons

6. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, Turkmenistan

This personality is undoubtedly one of the most eccentric in politics. Turkmenistan, which is under his governance, is breaking human rights abuses’ records, while the head of state is writing rap lyrics.

Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow likes to show up in public dressed in tracksuits or Hawaiian T-shirts. From his eccentric behavior, one can form the opinion that the president’s favorite activity is to surprise his compatriots and the world with his eccentric behavior. The real “gem” is a video showing Berdimuhamedow and his two grandchildren playing various instruments, DJing, and dancing. The local press also writes about his “significant” works, for example: “President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow rode a bicycle”. The first pages of the country’s newspapers are devoted to the poetry of the president.

In 2016, Mr. Berdimuhamedow amended the constitution, giving himself the power to preside for life.

Human Rights Watch called Turkmenistan “one of the most isolated and oppressive countries in the world” and highlighted that “all aspects of public life are controlled by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow and his friends”.

Although Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow calls the period of his governance for Turkmenistan an “era of happiness”, the people of this country do not think the same. Although the country has large natural gas resources that are exported, people live in huge poverty. According to the U.S. State Department, arbitrary arrests and detentions, even forced labor, are taking place in this authoritarian state. This president, who often surprises the world with his behavior, is also a dangerous autocrat.

Last year, it emerged that more than a third of the population, that is, 2 million Turkmen, had fled from this one of the most isolated countries in the world.

Alexander Lukashenko / © Wikimedia Commons

5. Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus

One of the greatest dictators in Europe, firmly holding on to the legacy of the country’s Soviet past.

Mr. Lukashenko’s political program consisted of three main elements: the renewal of the old Soviet economic system with only marginal market economic elements; a gradual increase in political repression; close political relations with Russia.

He is charged with at least four political assassinations, and the imprisonment of political opponents. After becoming president, Lukashenko suspended the limited market reforms initiated by independent Belarus and turned to the stabilization of more than a dozen Soviet companies.

As early as 2005, the administration of the US President George W. Bush called Belarus “the last remaining real dictatorship in the heart of Europe”.

Mr. Lukashenko once emphasized that anyone joining the opposition protests would be treated as “terrorists” and punished accordingly.

Like the Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lukashenko feels nostalgia for the Soviet Union.

But the relationship between friends changes little by little. During the typical New Year gesture, Lukashenko visited Putin at his mansion outside Moscow with three bags of potatoes. However, such tricks are no longer able to mask the changing tone of the relationship. Recently, it seems that Putin is demanding progress towards a Union state uniting Belarus and Russia.

There have been widespread protests over the debate concerning whether the last election was really legal and fair, expressing a desire for the president to resign, but Alexander Lukashenko said there would be no new elections in the country until he dies.

Kim Jong-un / © Wikimedia Commons

4. Kim Jong-un, North Korea

When Kim Jong-un became the leader of North Korea, many North Koreans thought their lives would improve. He offered hope for a generational change in the world’s longest-running communist dynasty. But the “Great Successor,” as the regime calls him, proved to be as cruel as his father and grandfather. Even by allowing more economic freedom, he has tried more than ever to constrain the country, tightening security at the border with China and tightening penalties for those who dare to try to cross it.

By the way, as the regime began to prepare for Kim’s successor, he released a song that all the country’s residents were forced to learn, called “Footprints”. The idea was that Kim would follow in his father’s footsteps and lead the country into a glorious future.

In North Korea, it is impossible to overestimate the cult of personalities embracing the Kims. Former President Kim Il-sung, his son Kim Jong-il and grandson, current leader Kim Jong-un, form a kind of sacred trinity in North Korea. They cannot be criticized and the system cannot be questioned – at least without risking both your own and your entire family’s freedom.

Current leader Kim Jong-un has consolidated his power by clearing many of the highest figures. He also shows no consideration for disarmament and continues to strengthen the country’s nuclear capabilities.

North Korea is one of the poorest nations in the world, while the elite families hold a large share of the country’s wealth and have a major impact on the economy.

Theoretically, North Korea is a bastion of socialism, a country where the state provides everything, including housing, health care, education, and employment. In fact, the state economy is hardly functioning. People work in factories and fields, but they pay almost nothing. Because of the need to survive, private business emerged when people found ways to make money on their own: selling homemade tofu or trading drugs. The communist government strictly controls all areas of daily life.

According to an international Amnesty International report, hundreds of thousands of people have been imprisoned in prisons and labor camps for disagreeing with the government.

In 2018, Kim Jong-Un said in his New Year’s speech that he always has his own nuclear launch button on the table.

In December 2013, Kim executed his uncle, high-ranking official Yang Song-thaek, arguing that it was necessary to remove him from the Korean Workers’ Party.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan / © Wikimedia Commons

3. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey

In terms of elections, Erdogan is similar to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, both of whom are supposed to declare fair, free, and legitimate elections, but the reality is different and although people are encouraged to vote, it is clear who the winner will be.

Critics call him an autocratic leader who does not tolerate contradictions and severely silences anyone who opposes him.

Erdogan’s authoritarian approach is not limited to Turkey’s walls. His bodyguards have harassed journalists in the U.S., and a German satirist has been investigated in his home country for insulting the Turkish president on television.

Under his governance, the country’s economy has declined significantly, with the Covid-19 virus pandemic contributing to it, coupled with escalating inflation.

He controls the media and most of the security forces. The police forces occupy a particularly important place in Turkey. It is less a police and more a paramilitary.. In present Turkey, there is no separation of powers. The president controls the courts and all government funds. Perhaps that is why Erdogan does not want Turkey to be a candidate for the European Union because European standards are far from his idea of Turkey ruled by his iron fist.

Vladimir Putin / © Wikimedia Commons

2. Vladimir Putin, Russia

Vladimir Putin is, of course, one of the brightest and at the same time the toughest leaders not only in Russia but the whole world. He lied about the current situation in Ukraine, saying that Russia is not taking military action.

Putin is an active leader who often studies other countries’ leaders’ or political opponents’ characteristics and views before talking to them.

On December 28, 2012, in response to the Magnitsky Act, Putin signed a law banning U.S. citizens from adopting Russian children.

Putin not only has great constitutional power but is also extremely popular at every level of society. When he wants a piece of legislation to be passed, there is almost no chance that it will be blocked.

It is a totalitarian leader with full control of the executive branch.

Putin is believed to have consistently used state agencies, such as the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, to persecute opponents. One of the examples is the crackdown on Kremlin critic Navalny. Navalny began to feel ill on August 20th of 2020, flying from Tomsk in Siberia to Moscow. Two days later, the 44-year-old politician, who was in a coma, was delivered for treatment to the Charite University Hospital in Berlin. According to the information from three European laboratories, the results of which were confirmed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Navalny was poisoned by the nerve-paralyzing poison Novichok, which was developed in the Soviet Union.

The Kremlin denies any involvement in the case. President Putin has said he sees no need for an investigation in Russia. Moscow would agree to start an investigation only if there is evidence of the crime. So far no evidence has been provided. “Even if a person has almost died, it does not mean that criminal proceedings must always be instituted,” Putin said.

In the time that Putin has been in power, Russia’s military budget has been expanded considerably, at the expense of the education and healthcare budgets.

Xi Jinping / © Wikimedia Commons

1. Xi Jinping, China

The current president has called himself “the President of China for life”. He is the leader of the Chinese Communist Party. Xi Jinping is far less interested in cooperating with the rest of the world than his predecessors. Many arrows of international criticism flew to China when it was clear that about a million or more Turkish Muslim minorities, including the Uighurs, were subjected to detention or re-education camp systems in which they were forced to abandon their local Islamic traditions.

It is no secret that up to 2 million Uighur Muslims are imprisoned in camps under the responsibility of Xi. Documents released by the New York Times from the Chinese Communist Party cite a dictator who said he had “shown no mercy” to the Uighurs.

Just like the Tibetans, the People’s Republic wants to erase the heritage of the people Beijing claims to have settled on Chinese soil. Regardless of historical facts, it is against human rights to destroy temples and mosques dear to this nation, to ban their language, and to allow them to spy on their homes and report whether Uighurs are devout Muslims.

Jinping has centralized institutional power in a wide range of leadership positions.

According to Human Rights Watch, Xi has “launched a widespread and long-lasting human rights attack” since 2012, when he became China’s leader.

There is widespread censorship in China, and the president is also being held responsible for the arrests of human rights activists and lawyers.

Following the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus, a German news agency reported that China had “encouraged” the World Health Organization (WHO) to “postpone a global warning” about the coronavirus outbreak, although the WHO itself later denied this.

Enormous resources and efforts to resuscitate the Tokyo Olympics may be not enough

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© Wikimedia Commons

The Tokyo Olympics, which had to take place this year, due to a coronavirus outbreak, were postponed to July 23, 2021, exactly one year from the original date. 23 million tickets have been purchased, the waiting and enormous efforts to implement the plan and fulfill people’s expectations organizing one of the largest sporting events on the planet on the complex pandemic conditions.

However, Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, says that if the games do not take place in 2021, then probably, they will not take place at all, because it is too expensive for the organizers to postpone the event. Such a postponement will cost developers an additional amount of 2 to 6 billion dollars.

Tokyo Olympics, which will go ahead in 2021, are considered the most expensive games in the entire history of the Olympics. According to Japan’s announced documents, the price is $ 12.6 billion, with most of the tax burden falling on the shoulders of Japanese citizens, except $ 5.6 billion from tickets and advertising, sold from the private sector. Even private sector funding has shrunk due to widespread economic instability. Besides that, the official figures do not match the national audit figures, which report that another $ 9.7 billion contributes to the published figures. A total of $ 28 billion is earmarked for the Tokyo Olympics.

© Wikimedia Commons

The organizers are trying to take retrenchment measures and plan to “simplify” the games. This means there will be fewer decorations, the size of visitor delegations is reduced by 10-15%, five translators less in a group of one hundred, less transferring buses, budget cuts in accommodation for participants, suspension of production of mascot costumes, cancellation of official team reception ceremonies.

Organizers state that it is still unclear what a global event will look like, that details can only be found out only in the end of this year or next, such as, if only Japanese viewers are admitted to the playgrounds, or people from other countries too, and what kind of admission rules, regulations, relating to the vaccine, quarantine, and other restrictions for athletes will be set. At this point, Japanese authorities are considering admitting athletes without 14-day quarantine, but on condition that they will do a coronavirus test more often, and ask them to sign a pledge, which would assure that athletes will follow the restrictions, related to movement in the stadium and Olympic Village, and a set schedule. Non-compliance with such conditions would mean elimination from the competition.

© Wikimedia Commons

A huge headache torturing the organizers is the accommodation of the participants. Usually, they were allowed to stay in the Olympic Village together with their teams and officials, where they lived and received meals and medical services, but in total it is 30,000 people in one place, that is why the organizers consider the opportunity to move the athletes to hotels and therefore to stop the spreading of the virus.

The 68,000-seat stadium has been under construction for three years, as well as a hockey stadium, tennis park arena, central tennis court, another outdoor tennis court, Tokyo Metropolitan gymnastics gym, Ariake gymnastics center, Tokyo Water Sports Center, Yoyogi National Stadium, and much more other preparations made due to anticipation of the Tokyo Olympics.

© Wikimedia Commons 

Japanese Olympic Games Minister Seiko Hashimoto stated that the event will take place “at any cost”. He argued that everyone works hand in hand to make the games happen and the athletes diligently prepare for them. The athletes themselves tell they are calm because of Hashimoto’s words and by inspirational phrases encourage others not to lose a spirit.

As we can see, the Organizing Committee of the Japan Olympics is looking for all sorts of solutions to protect people from the spread of the virus during an event of this magnitude, as well as trying to reduce budget costs, which still remain huge. Interpreting Seiko Hashimoto’s words, we can say that it would be a pity if this entire work and invested resources would be wasted.

Tale of Tales – a fairy tale for adults only

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How much of reality can be behind an ordinary tale? Probably, most of us would admit that tales reveal a lot about a human, his nature, secret desires, and sins.  Tale of tales is the best evidence of the ability of one outstanding story rendering a powerful moral about human pride, arrogance, vanity, biggest desires, and deepest passions. Obviously, this fairy tale is not for the children and not even for the adolescents. 

Tale of Tales, directed by Italian Matteo Garrone, received good critics despite the decision to chose the film style, absolutely new and unknown to himself. The ambitious, fantastic, historic project, which intercuts between the three stories You might have heard about this director from the films, such as Gomorrah (2008) and Reality (2012), which were discussed, awarded, and presented to a global audience at Cannes Film Festival. Tale of Tales somehow reminds of Brothers Grimm fairy tales. There’s pretty much fantasy, cruelty, twists of people’s lives, unexpected script lines, and passionate scenes.

 Working for the first time in English, as well as with special effects, Garrone put himself on risk, but we could say he nailed it! As the director says: “I started creating realistic, true to life films, investigating relevant topics. But thinking about Tale of Tales I was looking for a new role for myself. 

Bringing fairy tales’ aspect to my creation, I wanted to create a film, which looks very theatrical on the outside, but true to life and bringing a message to a viewer on the inside. It was my debut in this genre.”

Based on the critics, this film is simply breathtaking – an outstanding story, based on the myths, collected for a long time, and the stories of poets. This quite crazy film is a result of a cruel imagination, fulfilled with beautiful scenery, erotics, significant script, new colors, and consistent story until the last minute of the film. Three great stories that merge into one great result.

The plot tells three different stories, but all characters have one thing in common – relentless desires. In the context, bad qualities are highlighted: greed, selfishness, jealousy, hate, and even lust. The film is full of symbolism and hidden thoughts. The characters living in a fairy tale convey realistic feelings and phenomena, which we can face in our daily life. Even the last scene is full of metaphors. The director invokes tale motives to reveal a true human nature and we are not talking about the good side of it. 

The costumes of the movie are worth a separate review. Their extravagance, colors, maintenance, and creation of complete appearances, trying to adapt to that period fashion are simply surprising. 

Also, the actors brought top-notch performances. There were no doubts about the certainty of the tale, facts were told precisely and no logic mistakes could be spotted in this film full of fantasy. There are no doubts, the star of the film is Vincent Cassel, whose performance reveals all the sides of his character. This actor has already performed in a film of a similar kind and, so he felt really good in this role. Salma Hayek was stunning in her role and as always, she put all of her effort to emotionally and passionately complete her character.

This film requires a mature viewer, who wouldn’t be too lazy to get deeper into the story and the characters’ feelings. A new look to the world full of fantasy, asks you for concentration and attentiveness, which then lead you to understand the main idea of the film and what the director wanted to convey through the inner dramas of miserable characters. It is a perfect choice for those, who are not afraid of a story screening from a different “angle”, and for those who are already done with hackneyed plots, predictable and dull movies. 

Tale of Tales – is a bit different, overwhelmed with pain, inner contradictions, desperation, and terrible imagery, tale. The film, which makes you love it or hate it, but leaves no one insensitive.