Pope Francis praises nun who ran LGBT ministry

Pontiff’s own stance on homosexuality wavers between conservative and liberal

Decades after she was barred from pastoral work by the Vatican, Pope Francis has sent a letter of thanks to an American nun who held services for LGBT people, in which she questioned some teachings of the Church.

Since the late 1970s, Sister Jeannine Gramick ran workshops for LGBT Catholics, in which she taught both the Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality and more liberal Christian doctrines. These workshops caught the attention of the Vatican, and in 1999 the Church’s  Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith barred her from ministry, as she was promoting, in their words, “ambiguous positions on homosexuality and explicitly criticised documents of the Church’s Magisterium on this issue.”

The Congregation’s statement was written by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and described homosexuality as an “intrinsic evil.”

Gramick ceased her LGBT ministry and joined another religious order. Ratzinger went on to become Pontiff – Pope Benedict XVI – and was regarded as a staunch conservative. His successor, Pope Francis, has a more liberal reputation.

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US Embassy to the Holy See in Vatican City, June 1, 2021
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In a letter to Gramick sent last month and published by the Jesuit magazine ‘America’ on Friday, Francis thanked the nun for her “closeness, compassion, and tenderness.” The pontiff acknowledged that Gramick had experienced “suffering” during her 50 years of ministry, but did not elaborate further on the topic.

Speaking to the Washington Post, Gramick said that she was “overjoyed” by the letter, and expressed hope that it would mark a “turning point” in the Church’s position on homosexuality, which at present considers it a sin. While the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith recently ruled that gay people may receive blessings, the Church will not bless same-sex unions, as it considers them too close to marriage, and defines marriage strictly a male-female partnership.

Francis has stood by this view, stating in 2020 that “homosexual people have a right to be in a family,” but should opt for civil partnerships instead of marriage. Two years earlier, he recommended that gay priests should stay out of the Church, saying “It’s better for them to leave the ministry or the consecrated life rather than to live a double life.”

However, the pontiff has made several notable statements in support of the LGBT community. Back in 2013 he declared that “if a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” Last summer he praised the work of Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and gay rights campaigner who once ministered alongside Gramick, saying it “reflects the closeness of God.” The previous year he sent a letter of support to an Argentinian nun running a home for transgender women, declaring that the transgender are the “lepers of today.”


UK school which ‘canceled’ JK Rowling faces new trans row over Olympian

Leaders have received a mixed reaction after distancing themselves from JK Rowling in favor of an Olympian who has previously spoken out on transgender athletes

A UK school which replaced a tribute to Harry Potter author JK Rowling with British athlete Kelly Holmes has come under fire after comments were discovered which were made by the Olympian about trans competitors.

Rowling, who is one of the world's most successful authors, enflamed the so-called 'woke' mob with a succession of tweets about the transgender community after first drawing criticism in the summer of 2020 when she objected to the phrase 'people who menstruate' being used in an op-ed article in place of the word 'women'.

That set off a torrent of complaints aimed at the writer and even led to the Harry Potter film series' trio of stars, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, distancing themselves from her.

There were also reports that Rowling was disinvited from the recent Harry Potter film anniversary celebrations because of the controversy.

Now Boswells School in Essex, which had named one of its houses after the author, appears to have taken a further stand by bowing to public pressure and rescinding the decision. 

The school's replacement for Rowling, double-gold winning Olympian Kelly Holmes, was initially seen as something of an easy choice.

Holmes is one of the most successful female athletes in Great Britain's history and has medaled at a variety of middle-distance events throughout her extensive athletic career – but the decision to opt for her has drawn further criticism after historical comments made by Holmes about trans athletes came to light in which she described transgender people competing against women in sports as "a bloody joke".

"This is a trans woman – a male body with male physiology – setting a world record and winning a woman’s event in America in powerlifting," wrote former Olympian Sharron Davies after a transgender weightlifter announced that she had broken records at a competition in the US in 2019.

"A woman with female biology cannot compete. It’s a pointless, unfair playing field."

Holmes replied: "It's a bloody joke and all getting ready for biological women to boycott certain events.

"Have a trans category if need be but, even better, a trans Games. Otherwise I’m starting to worry about the backlash and abuse that the trans community will get from spectators. It will happen."

Holmes reacted with pride at having a house named after her and praised Rowling as being a world-renowned author.

"I am always honored when a school names a house after me," the champion in the 800m and 1,500m events at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens was quoted as saying by MailOnline.

"I hope my name represents determination, strength in adversity and a never-give-up attitude.

"JK Rowling is a brilliant, world-renowned author and should be credited for all the good she has done in the literature world to help young people, in particular have vision, creativity, dreams and much more."

The switch has received a mixed reaction on social media, with some saying that it makes very little sense.

"Seems like a weird decision given that Holmes has publicly stated the same views previously anyway," one wrote.

"Cancel culture at its finest. Utterly moronic and once again we see women's rights being eroded," said another.

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A moment during a Quidditch World Cup VI game in Kissimmee, Florida, April 14, 2013.
Harry Potter-inspired sport to change name over Rowling stance

"So, following Boswells School’s decision to replace JK Rowling with Dame Kelly Holmes, it’s emerged that Dame Kelly’s trans views are even more controversial.

"She believes they should have their own separate category or even their own separate games. Couldn’t make it up," wrote a third, while another said that the situation was a stain on 'wokedom'.

"It's another side-splitter from the self cert progressive end of wokedom. It will be awkward if they can't find an admirable role model who shares their values. Doubt it will make them ponder those values, though," they said.

Another asked: "What are the chances of choosing two gender critical women? Anyone would think it was a generally held opinion instead of extreme bigotry."


Unvaccinated tennis star in Djokovic hotel is deported

A player has had her visa canceled and left Australia after what she described as an "onslaught on my psyche", adding that she is not like Novak Djokovic because she is "not completely against vaccination"

Czech doubles player Renata Voracova flew out of Melbourne airport on Saturday after her immigration clearance was revoked by Australian authorities because of her vaccine status, according to the Czech Foreign Ministry.

Unvaccinated Voracova, who had already competed at a warm-up event in Melbourne after initially being granted access to the country, opted to leave voluntarily after she became embroiled in the saga over Australia's handling of medical exemptions for unvaccinated players entering the country ahead of the start of the Australian Open on January 17.

The 38-year-old doubles specialist was being held at the same detention hotel as world number one Novak Djokovic, the defending Australian Open champion whose ongoing row with immigration authorities has gripped the sports world in recent days.

While Djokovic has chosen to await a Monday hearing which should provide final clarity on whether he will be deported or cleared to defend his title, Voracova has not waited.

"Voracova left Australia on Saturday based on her own decision to end her participation in the tournament due to complications with her visas," the Czech Foreign Ministry said in a statement. 

"The decision was not based on her expulsion from the country," they added, also noting that they were yet to receive a response from Australian officials to a diplomatic inquiry they made on Friday.

©  Diego Fedele / Getty Images

As with Djokovic, Voracova is unvaccinated against Covid-19 and claims she was diagnosed with the virus in late 2020 at around the same time she was planning on receiving a vaccine.

She said she subsequently applied for and was granted a medical exemption by an independent medical panel arranged by Tennis Australia.

Commenting after her detention, she was keen to distance herself from what she sees as Djokovic's hardline stance.

©  Diego Fedele / Getty Images

"I’m not like Djokovic – I’m not completely against vaccination. As I say, our cases are very different," she told idnes.cz via the Brisbane Times.

“I was busy. I planned [to get vaccinated] for weeks after the season and unfortunately... I actually caught COVID at that time.

"I did everything they asked me to do. Apparently, Tennis Australia has misled us, which is annoying.

"I wanted to focus on tennis, not visas [and] quarantine. It’s really weird that I spent a week here, played a match and then they came for me.

"It was an onslaught on my psyche. I felt the worst when they told me they would cancel my visa. Even the lawyer sitting there with me said that I had all the necessary confirmations correct.

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© Christopher Lee / Getty Images
Australia cancels tennis star’s visa amid Djokovic saga

"They really didn’t act rudely or vulgar. But some quarantine practices are not pleasant. You have to report, everything is allotted. It feels a bit like a prison."

The Australian Border Force (ABF) had previously stated that it was investigating the immigration applications of two further individuals after Djokovic's detention. While they didn't name them, the Czech government has confirmed that one of them was Voracova. 

The other is reported to be a non-playing official who has also left the country.

"The [ABF] investigation into the visa status of two other individuals connected to the Australian Open has concluded," they said on Saturday.

"The ABF can confirm both individuals have now voluntarily departed Australia."


Webb telescope fully deployed in space – NASA

Telescope opens its primary mirror nearly 1 million kilometers from Earth

Two weeks after its launch, the James Webb Space Telescope has finally unfolded its primary mirror as it begins the final step of its deployment. The telescope is the most powerful device of its kind ever launched into space.

The $10-billion telescope unfolded its honeycomb-shaped primary mirror on Saturday, just over two weeks after its launch from the European Space Agency’s launch base in French Guiana on Christmas Day. Over the past two weeks, the telescope’s reflective silver sunshield and secondary mirror have both been successfully deployed, with the primary mirror the last hurdle in the way of getting the telescope operational.

A 3D rendering shared live by NASA showed the mirror opening up, while engineers back on Earth celebrated.

“I just feel this kind of glow in my chest right now just seeing that mirror deployed all together,” NASA scientist Michelle Thaller said during a live stream by the space agency.

Spanning 6.5 meters (21 feet 4 inches) across and kept at a steady 40 degrees Kelvin (-380°F/-233°C) by the tennis court-sized sunshield, the primary mirror will pick up infrared light from the depths of outer space. Unlike the Hubble Space Telescope, which it replaces, Webb will scan a spectrum of light invisible to the human eye, with the aim of uncovering signs of the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang. 

The telescope will also be able to examine the atmospheric composition of exoplanets, aiding the search for Earth-like planets that may harbor life.

Webb is still roughly two weeks away from its final destination at the second Sun-Earth Lagrange Point (L2), some 1.5 million kilometers (a million miles) further away from the sun than Earth. Once there, it will orbit the sun for around 10 years.

READ MORE: 2021: Milestones in space tech & exploration


Vaccine holdout Rodgers addresses Super Bowl rumors

An NFL insider claimed that Rodgers would boycott this year's Super Bowl as a protest against the league's Covid-19 rules

Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers has responded to reports from an NFL insider that he could boycott this year's Super Bowl should his team make the league's showpiece game next month.

Reigning NFL Most Valuable Player Rodgers, who ignited a media frenzy in recent weeks when it emerged that he was unvaccinated against Covid-19 despite previously telling reporters in August that he was "immunized" against the virus, has been one of the harshest critics of the league's protocols designed to mitigate the spread of the virus. But reports that he will voluntarily miss the opportunity to win what would be the veteran quarterback's second ever Super Bowl are "fake news", according to the Packers icon.

Rodgers contracted Covid in November and later issued a tongue-lashing to the "woke mob" who urged him to get vaccinated, before apologizing for his "misleading" comments.

The 38-year-old was subsequently fined by the NFL for endangering the health of his teammates and coaching staff.

The situation clearly still does not sit well with one of the league's most outspoken mouthpieces, coming to a head late on Friday when Rodgers addressed a rumor disseminated by retired player-turned-analyst Boomer Esiason in which he said he had received insider information that Rodgers was considering skipping the Super Bowl as a protest against the league's strong-arm Covid tactics. 

"The Rodgers saga continues to get crazier and crazier," the text message received by Esiason from what he called a 'reliable source' stated, as read out on the air by his broadcast colleague Gregg Giannotti.

"I've been told by multiple people in Aaron's direct circle that if the Packers make the Super Bowl he will use the week leading up to the Super Bowl to prove a major point.

"He will threaten the NFL by saying he won't play in the big game or next season if they don't eliminate some of the Covid-related rules.

"One big one that upsets him the most is the testing of non-symptomatic players. He's told [backup quarterback] Jordan Love to be ready.

"Like you said, he's got to make [the Super Bowl] first but Super Bowl week will be set on fire and send [NFL commissioner Roger] Goodell in a frenzy [in] navigating the situation."

Rodgers' response, though, pushed back on the rumors about Super Bowl LVI, which is scheduled for February 13 at the SoFi Stadium in California.

"'He's told Jordan Love to be ready,'" Rodgers tweeted, along with a string of laughing emojis.

Rodgers then added a torrent of hashtags, including 'fake news', 'dumbest f*cking story ever', 'boycott fake news' and even, quite oddly, 'boycott waterfalls'.

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Kyrie Irving, Aaron Rodgers and Novak Djokovic have all drawn attention for their vaccine views. © Getty Images
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NFL veteran Rodgers, who agitated for a trade away from Green Bay in the offseason, has again been exemplary this season as his team recorded a 13-3 record in the league for the third season running.

However, for the first time this NFL season has one extra game which comes on Sunday against the underperforming Detroit Lions, where his Packers team are expected to cement their status as the first seeds in the National Football Conference.

Rodgers was fined a total of $14,650 for his Covid mishap earlier in the season. Publicly available information suggests that he is to earn at least $21.5 million this year.

The 38-year-old elaborated on his vaccine thoughts to radio host Pat McAfee, saying that he didn't consider himself to be against vaccinations but that the various Covid-19 options weren't for him. 

"I know this is a difficult time for so many people dealing with Covid. It's been a tough two years for a lot of people," he said to McAfee in 2021 after his headline-grabbing Covid drama.

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Aaron Rodgers is unimpressed by the NFL's Covid protocols. © Benny Sieu / USA TODAY Sports
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"This has definitely been a time of a lot of reflection. I've had time to think about a lot of things in my silence here.

"I understand that people are suffering and that this has been a really difficult time for the last two years on so many people. 

"I think we all know individuals who have lost their lives personally, people who have lost their business, their livelihoods.

"Their way of life has been altered completely and I empathize with those things.

"And I also know how sports can be such a connector and bring people together during times of adversity, and I do realize I am a role model to a lot of people, and so I just wanted to start out the show by acknowledging that I made some comments that people might have felt were misleading. 

"To anybody who felt misled by those comments, I take full responsibility for [them]."


Supreme Court Justice fact-checked after Covid-19 children claims

She’s also made headlines over an image of a gathering of Democrat lawmakers that was misidentified

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has received backlash as well as fact-checks after she claimed during Friday’s oral arguments that more than 100,000 children were in “serious condition” from Covid-19.

Sotomayor’s estimations during oral arguments on President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates were way off base, as fewer than 5,000 children are hospitalized with Covid and less than 100,000 have been hospitalized since August 2020, according to PolitiFact, which flagged her claims as “false” after heavy backlash on social media. 

She also claimed the Omicron variant is “as deadly” as the Delta variant, a statement many health officials do not agree with, including White House health adviser Anthony Fauci, who’d only just said on Wednesday that “multiple sources of preliminary data” show a “decrease in severity” with Omicron. 

Sotomayor also made headlines on Saturday after Politico published a photo in which it claimed the Supreme Court Justice was dining out only hours after working remotely from her chambers on Friday due to the pandemic. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), and Pelosi are pictured in the image at Le Diplomate, a Washington DC French restaurant, on Friday night. Some are masked in the picture, while some are not. All staff at the restaurant serving the lawmakers and the person said to be the judge, however, were masked. 

The image led to a wave of fresh criticism for Sotomayor, most mentioning her Covid claims earlier in the day, though Politico later apologized for the “error,” as the person pictured in the photo was actually Iris Schumer, the wife of the Senate Majority Leader. 


NATO ‘never promised’ not to expand, US claims

A host of long-declassified documents, however, show Moscow was promised bloc wouldn’t admit more states

NATO has never promised not to admit new members, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed on Friday, labelling Russia’s demands of the bloc inadmissible. However, long-declassified Western documents suggest otherwise.

“NATO never promised not to admit new members,” the top American diplomat told journalists during Friday’s press briefing, as he commented on Moscow’s proposals to the bloc on security guarantees, ahead of upcoming NATO-Russia meetings next week.

“It could not and would not – the ‘open door policy’ was a core provision of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty that founded NATO,” Blinken added. He then pointed to the fact that both Mikhail Gorbachev – the Soviet leader who’d allegedly received the guarantees of non-expansion from the Western leaders – and the former US Secretary of State James Baker, who allegedly provided them, among others – denied anything like that ever happened.

“There was no promise that NATO wouldn’t expand,” Blinken concluded, adding that, instead, Moscow had itself recognized every European nation’s right to choose its own path in the field of security by joining the Istanbul Charter for European Security in 1999.

Read more

Long awaited NATO-Russia meeting confirmed

Such a position has apparently become commonplace in the bloc after Moscow came up with a set of proposals that it said would alleviate current tensions between Russia and the collective West. The proposals would see the Brussels-based organisation agree to curb its territorial growth as a form of a security guarantee for Russia.

After the proposals were presented to NATO in December 2021, its Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also stated that the bloc had never promised not to expand. Yet, a trove of documents, made public as early as in 2017, suggests that it did.

Or rather a host of Western leaders of the time, including Secretary of State James Baker, President George H.W. Bush, West Germany’s Chancellor Helmut Kohl, CIA Director Robert Gates, French President Francois Mitterrand, and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, together with then-NATO Secretary General Manfred Woerner, provided various such assurances to the Soviets as they was withdrawing troops from Western Europe and agreeing to the reunification of Germany.

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. © Reuters / RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY
Russia explains why it publicly revealed US/NATO proposals

Dozens of documents analyzed by George Washington University National Security Archives researchers Svetlana Savranskaya and Tom Blanton show that many Western leaders were rejecting the idea of the “Central and Eastern European membership in NATO as of early 1990 and through 1991” and that Russian “complaints” about its subsequent expansions were “founded in written contemporaneous memcons and telcons at the highest levels.”

Russia has repeatedly stated it was “cheated” by NATO. In late December, President Vladimir Putin said during his annual year-end press conference that the bloc had done so in a “vehement” and “blatant” way, by swallowing up Central and Eastern European states and by now setting its eyes on the former Soviet Republics.

The developments come as the NATO-Russia Council is about to convene –for the first time since 2019–in Geneva and will follow scheduled US-Russia talks on security guarantees. The idea of a comprehensive security deal between Russia and the Western nations was floated by the Kremlin amid heightened tensions sparked by Western concerns over Russia’s alleged plans to invade Ukraine – something that Moscow has repeatedly dismissed as “hysteria”.


Farage warns public over Djokovic fiasco

The Brexiteer has claimed the Djokovic family are confiding in him and told his audience that their freedoms could come under threat

Nigel Farage has accused Australian Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews of not "being straight" about Novak Djokovic while the icon is in "prison conditions" – and claimed he is in contact with the tennis superstar's family.

Hugely-followed broadcaster and key Brexiteer Farage is clearly alarmed at the predicament Djokovic is in and says he has been speaking to his relatives, potentially putting him in contact with the Serb's outraged father, Srdjan, mother Dijana and wife Jelena. Andrews reportedly told ABC that Djokovic is free to leave Australia, where he is being kept in a hotel ahead of a court ruling on Monday which is expected to decide whether he can remain in the country ahead of the start of the Australian Open on January 17.

The official also said that the border force authority which grilled Djokovic for hours after he entered Australia would be willing to facilitate his departure before the hearing.

Farage has addressed the escalating row over who is culpable for the scandal, with some blaming tournament organizers Tennis Australia amid a legal challenge by Djokovic's lawyers which has claimed that he is exempt from restrictions around vaccinations because he tested positive for Covid in December.

"I am talking with the Djokovic family and they are clear that Tennis Australia, in line with Victoria state law, allowed Novak to come to Australia as he had proof of a positive PCR test within the last six months," controversial Farage surprisingly told his millions of social media followers.

"He was then arrested [and had] his phone and wallet taken. When the Australian Home Affairs Minister says Novak Djokovic is free to leave, she is not being straight.

"Unless he makes an appeal, he will face an automatic three-year visa ban – so has to stay in prison conditions until the hearing on Monday."

Reports have suggested that Djokovic is staying in poor conditions in the hotel and has requested to have his chef allowed in.

The former Member of the European Parliament and Brexit Party figurehead may have also spoken to Djokovic's brother, Djordje, who has dismissed the idea that his famous sibling could have departed on his own terms.

"Novak could have left Australia by now – but had he done that, he would have admitted he is guilty, which he is not, and [accepted] defeat, which is not an option,” Djordje was widely quoted to have told Serbian media.

“What’s left is to await the court decision. I don’t know what he’ll do if the decision doesn’t go his way, and he doesn’t know either.

"He is full of emotions, and tennis and the Grand Slam are currently the last things on his mind. The only thing he wants is to see justice served and the truth revealed.

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Novak Djokovic © Amin Mohammad Jamali / Getty Images
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“He didn’t complete any forms; that was done through the Australian tennis federation.

“It co-operated with the federal government and the tennis federation cannot issue any certificate – it was issued by the Victorian government.

"But the federal government stopped that certificate, which means we’ve reached a serious political situation."

“A Czech player, who had the same papers as Novak, is also being deported. Novak does not want to withdraw but to see justice done for him and everyone else.”

Djokovic senior did not mention seeking counsel from Farage but has again spoken passionately about his son's plight.

“He is fighting for himself, his people and all freedom-loving nations in the world,” he said, reportedly adding that Australians have endured "captivity for two years" through lockdowns.

“They hate him because Australian politicians have put pressure on people to hate him because he thinks with his own brain. He is in prison – not in custody, not in a hotel."

Farage received a mixed response on social media, with many responding with jokes while others expressed sympathy for Djokovic.

The ex-leader of the UK Independence Party offered a bleak warning to fans. "If they can do this to the world's number one tennis player, just think what they could do to you," he said.


‘The 355’ girl-power action movie is a failure, for one simple reason

The female-led spy film wastes its all-star cast on a forgettable, formulaic, neo-feminist fantasy

The 355, which premiered in theaters on January 7, is another one of those pieces of girl-power propaganda that is more interested in activism than entertainment.

The idea behind the movie was born when the film’s star, Jessica Chastain, spoke with writer and director Simon Kinberg about making a female-led James Bond and Mission Impossible type of spy/action movie. 

Kinberg then wrote an egregiously unimaginative script that featured a derivative plot and trite dialogue, and slapped female leads onto it as a twist. The end result is the almost instantaneously forgettable The 355.

The movie, the title of which is derived from Agent 355 – the codename for a female spy for America during the Revolutionary War – tells the story of a diverse group of female super-spies from across the globe who come together to stop a deadly computer weapon, which can infiltrate any system and crash everything from planes to stock markets, from falling into the wrong hands.

Of course, in order to check all the right boxes in this feminist fantasy and woke wet dream, the lady super-spies must all be of different skin colors and ethnicities.

Jessica Chastain is the white CIA agent, Lupita Nyong’o the black MI6 agent, Diane Kruger the hard-edged German BND agent, Penelope Cruz the fish-out-of-water Colombian DNI psychologist, and Fan Bingbing the mysterious Chinese MSS agent. It’s like the united colors of Benetton ads, except with bad-ass lady super-spies.

Not surprisingly, all of the heroes in the film are women, and all of the men are villains. These brave women fight to save the world from not only the murderous mansplaining misogyny of turncoats and terrorists, but also from the structural sexism of the all-powerful patriarchy in the form of the web of corrupt global intelligence agencies.

What’s so disheartening about The 355 is that the film’s leading ladies are incredibly talented dramatic actresses, with six Oscar nominations among them (and two wins), but they are woefully ill-suited for an action movie.

Read more

'Eternals' (2021) Directed by Chloé Zhao © Marvel Studios
Marvel’s dismal ‘Eternals’ is so focused on wokeness, it forgets about entertainment

Producer and star Chastain has made a great deal about how, in order to keep costs for the film down, she did many of her own stunts. Unfortunately, it shows. Chastain is among the best dramatic actresses in the business, but she and her co-stars are embarrassingly unathletic, and their fight and action scenes are uncomfortably awkward.

This is not to say that women can’t be action heroes, they can, Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron are very good at that sort of thing, for instance. It is to say that being an action hero requires an athleticism and physical presence that none of the women in The 355 even remotely possess.

Just like I wouldn’t want to see Jason Statham do Shakespeare, I don’t need to see gifted thespians Jessica Chastain, Penelope Cruz and Lupita Nyong’o attempting to do mindless action sequences.

Another issue with the film is that director Simon Kinberg, who has been a successful screenwriter for a long time in Hollywood – scripting Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Sherlock Holmes and X-Men: Days of Future Past, among others, is simply not a proficient filmmaker.

Kinberg’s directorial shortcomings are on full display on The 355, as the poorly shot film is saddled with amateurish fight choreography and egregious editing errors.

Kinberg’s script is also painfully pedestrian, as he repeatedly uses tired tropes like ‘accidentally spilling drinks on a bad guy as a way to distract them and pick their pocket’ in order to keep the plot moving. His dialogue too is clunky and clichéd, featuring such eye-rolling gems as “Because we’re spies, asshole!”, and “James Bond never had to deal with real life!”, which was followed up by the lament “James Bond always ends up alone.

The 355, which was supposed to be released last January but was delayed due to Covid, has a production budget of $40 million but, despite being so economical (by Hollywood’s bloated standards), it faces an uphill battle to break even at the box office.

Read more

'Spider-Man: No Way Home' (2021) Directed by Jon Watts © Sony Pictures Releasing
‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ is nearly perfect entertainment refreshingly devoid of woke preaching

Spider-Man: No Way Home is simply an unstoppable juggernaut right now and the second-rate The 355 is going to be lost deep in its box-office shadow.

The film will also suffer because it’s just another in a long line of recent girl-power propaganda movies that were obviously more focused on getting their neo-feminist “women should behave like men” message out than on making a quality film.

Ghostbusters (2016), Ocean’s 8, Charlie’s Angels (2019), Terminator: Dark Fate, Birds of Prey and Black Widow, all put their neo-feminist message first and entertaining their audience second, and they either bombed or underperformed at the box office, struggling to break even.

The only reason many of the above-mentioned movies, as well as The 355, were made, was because they appeased the pussyhat-wearing brigade by featuring women as action heroes.

The problem, though, is that The 355, and many of its predecessors, are just dreadful movies and, fairly or not, their failures are seen by many to be a referendum on not only the future of female led-films, but also on the insipid cultural politics these films espouse.

A wise man, and it was most assuredly a man, as pop culture tells me my gender compulsively mansplains things, once said, “get woke, go broke.” In regards to The 355, that statement definitely holds true, as this shoddy, vacuously neo-feminist movie has earned the right to be entirely ignored. 


Maxwell trial witness reveals details of Prince Andrew’s alleged sex with his accuser

The female witness insisted the Prince’s accuser wasn’t “coerced into doing anything.”

Virginia Giuffre, who is suing Prince Andrew for sexual assault, told a witness in the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell that she had sex with the British royal in London in 2001, according to a new interview.

Carolyn Andriano provided key testimony in the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell last month, which saw the disgraced socialite and girlfriend of deceased pedophile Jeffrey Epstein convicted on five counts of sex trafficking and conspiracy. Though she testified using only her first name, Andriano waived her right to anonymity to speak to the Daily Mail on Friday. 

She claimed that back in 2001 that she had received a text from Virginia Giuffre, who said she had been flown to London by Epstein and Maxwell, and had slept with Prince Andrew after going for dinner with the Duke of York. Giuffre, then going by her maiden name of Roberts, would have been 17 at the time.

Read more

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prince Andrew speaks during a television interview. April 11, 2021. © AP / Steve Parsons
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“I asked her if she’d been to the palace. And she said, ‘I got to sleep with him,’” Andriano told the Mail. “She didn’t seem upset about it. She thought it was pretty cool.

“Maxwell had told her she had a surprise for her and I guess the surprise was Prince Andrew,” she continued. “She was excited. I guess when you’re meeting somebody that famous, I would have been excited too.”

According to Andriano, Giuffre didn’t answer when asked if she was paid for the encounter. She did, however, produce a photograph of herself with the Prince’s arm around her waist, with Maxwell looking on in the background. Andrew has previously claimed to have “absolutely no memory” of the photo being taken, and cannot recall ever meeting Giuffre.

Giuffre claims that Epstein and Maxwell trafficked her to Prince Andrew on three occasions, and she is currently fighting a civil case against the Prince, accusing him of sexual assault. That case is currently hanging in the balance, after it emerged this week that Epstein paid Giuffre $500,000 in a 2009 legal settlement, in which she agreed not to sue anyone linked to the convicted sex offender that could be a “potential defendant.” Lawyers for the Duke of York argue that this settlement precludes Giuffre’s case against the royal.

Andriano’s interview does not reveal any new allegations of wrongdoing against the Prince, since the London encounter is one of the three mentioned in her lawsuit. Andriano is also unsympathetic toward Giuffre, and after describing how Giuffre thought having sex with the Prince was “pretty cool,” told the Mail that she doesn’t think her former friend deserves “any compensation.” 

I don’t think she was coerced into doing anything

During Maxwell’s trial, Andriano testified that she had been recruited by Giuffre to visit Epstein’s mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, and perform nude massages on the pedophile. Andriano, who was 14 when she was first brought to Epstein, claimed to have made “hundreds” of such visits afterwards, and said she was sexually assaulted by Epstein on numerous occasions.

Giuffre has admitted recruiting girls for Epstein, something she says she has regretted for years. Her legal team told the Mail that she too was a victim of trafficking, and her role in bringing in other girls “doesn’t have anything to do with the truth of her allegations.”


Twitter suspends conservative pundit over transgender tweets

The ban will be lifted only when the tweets in question are deleted

Conservative pundit and Daily Wire podcaster Matt Walsh announced on Friday night that he had been suspended from Twitter over tweets claiming there were only two genders, and suggesting trans women dominate women in competition.

Walsh announced that he’d been notified of the suspension only minutes before a segment on Fox News’ ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’, telling Carlson, “I just found out five minutes ago, just before we went on the air, that I just got suspended on Twitter because I pointed out that biological males are men.” 

Walsh’s tweets did not name anyone specifically, but referenced multiple transgender people who he says he refuses to refer to as women, despite that being their preferred pronouns and gender identity. 

“The greatest female Jeopardy champion of all time is a man,” Walsh tweeted in one of the flagged tweets. “The top female college swimmer is a man. The first female four star admiral in the Public Health Service is a man. Men have dominated female high school track and the female MMA circuit. The patriarchy wins in the end.”

© Twitter / @MattWalshBlog

Walsh’s tweet apparently refers to Amy Schneider, recently celebrated as the first woman to pass $1 million in prize money on ‘Jeopardy’, University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, and US Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine. 

In another censored tweet, Walsh said he refuses to refer to “an individual person as if she is two people.” 

© Twitter / @MattWalshBlog

Walsh said on Fox News that the suspension was “all part of the game here,” as his critics do not want to “engage intellectually” and would rather “shut down” debates on certain topics. 

Walsh, who has more than 760,000 Twitter followers, also posts on Gettr, an alternative platform headed by former Donald Trump adviser Jason Miller. The platform has seen hundreds of thousands of new followers flock to the platform in recent days, after podcaster Joe Rogan announced he was joining in light of some of his podcast segments being censored, as well as the recent suspension of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) for allegedly spreading Covid-19 misinformation.

Walsh’s suspension is only for 12 hours, but the clock will only start running if he chooses to delete the tweets, according to the Daily Wire. 

Twitter has not officially commented on Walsh’s suspension, but the conservative pundit appears to have violated the platform’s ‘hateful conduct policy’, which prohibits users from promoting “violence” or “threats” against other users. 

READ MORE: ‘Free speech’ platform accused of censoring critics

More specifically, the policy prohibits tweets that “reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes,” which includes “targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.” 

Walsh has long maintained his views on gender, even authoring a children’s book titled ‘Johnny the Walrus’, a satirical look at current gender identity politics. The story follows a young boy who believes he’s a walrus and his “confused mommy” who takes this seriously and tries to “raise him accordingly.” 


Crippling sanctions against Russia could boomerang back onto US & allies – reports

The White House admits there will be knock-on effects from the penalties, sources say

The US administration has reportedly admitted that any new round of anti-Russian sanctions would inflict serious damage on both the global and the US economy, but that it doesn’t see it as a sound reason to give up on the move.

New sanctions would be introduced despite the potential damaging impact for the US and its Western allies in the event of a military conflict with Ukraine, several officials from President Joe Biden’s administration have told CNN.

Washington has previously accused the Kremlin of planning an invasion of its neighbor in January, which the Kremlin has rejected as “fake news.”

Reports cite at least two analyses carried out by the Treasury and State Departments in recent weeks that found the sanctions against the Russian energy giant Gazprom and the country’s Central Bank could be catastrophic – and not just for Russia. If introduced, the penalties would reportedly cripple economies across the world by potentially spiking gas prices or hampering European trade and investment with Russia at the worst period for the bloc.

Read more

West would ‘screw itself’ by cutting Russia off from SWIFT – Moscow

The negative effects could reportedly boomerang back onto the US during what would be an election year. The unnamed officials also expressed concern over potential cyberattacks against US and European critical infrastructure.

Washington has accused Russia of being behind a number of previous cyberattacks. Earlier this month, the FBI placed a Russian man on its wanted list for allegedly having launched ransomware forays worth millions of dollars against numerous victims, including businesses and government entities. In April, the US announced sanctions against Russia in response to what it described as cyberattacks and other hostile acts, but Moscow has denied all the allegations and pledged to respond in kind.

Read more

FILE PHOTO. © RIA / Maxim Blinov
Moscow rubbishes chances of US sanctions succeeding

Nonetheless, a senior administration official has been citing as saying, “any costs that we would bear will pale in comparison to the impact we generate on the Russian economy and financial system”.

The US, along with a number of its partners in Western Europe, has been threatening Russia with unspecified ‘devastating’ consequences should it launch military action in Ukraine.

The potential penalties may allegedly include targeting major Russian commercial banks, sanctioning Russia’s energy sector, blocking Russia’s access to bond markets, cutting the country off from the SWIFT international payment system, and tightening export control measures.

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


‘Pro-vax’ tennis great makes claim about unjabbed people in hospital

A former world number one has reacted to figures suggesting that almost all serious Covid cases are among the unvaccinated

The world's former top tennis player, Andy Roddick, has spoken out on vaccines in reaction to statistics seeming to show that the vast majority of people hospitalized with Covid have not received their shots.

Former US Open champion Roddick appeared to respond sarcastically when a reporter reproduced remarks from a doctor at a US healthcare provider pleading with the public to become vaccinated.

The figures showed that 96 percent of Covid patients at hospitals run by provider Novant were unvaccinated, had not been fully jabbed or had not received the boosters that US president Joe Biden has implored citizens to receive.

Dr Sid Fletcher reportedly said that all of the patients who were on ventilators were not fully vaccinated, with some yet to receive a shot.

"We're begging you," Dr Fletcher was quoted as saying. "Please get vaccinated if you have not gotten vaccinated."

Roddick, who calls himself "very pro-vax", clearly took aim at people who have questioned the efficacy of vaccines when he replied to the numbers that made the case for taking the treatment by joking: "If these vaccines would only work."

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes Covid vaccines as being effective at preventing infection, serious illness and death and says that most people who contract the virus are unvaccinated.

It encourages adults to take booster shots, although its guidance accepts that vaccines are not "100 percent effective at preventing infection" and says that some fully-vaccinated people will still catch Covid in 'breakthrough infections'.

International Tennis Hall of Fame member Roddick says the "point" of vaccines is for people to "not die anymore".

The 39-year-old has been keenly following the fiasco around Novak Djokovic's detainment in Melbourne, with the current world number one, who is thought to remain unvaccinated, facing potential deportation from Australia ahead of the first Grand Slam of the year.

"If my neighbor went to Australia tomorrow and didn’t have the proper visa or paperwork, he or she would be sent home," Roddick said on social media, where he has more than 1.4 million followers on Twitter.

"Or if he chose to do so, he would wait for a judge to weigh in on an appeal. In the meantime, he wouldn’t be able to run around the country. It’s just never been that way.

"[Djokovic] could’ve gone home and decided to stay for another ruling. That’s like the opposite of being held captive."

Roddick feels Djokovic's father, Srdjan, made ill-advised remarks in the aftermath of his superstar son being held by customs officials before he was moved to a hotel.

"We shouldn’t gather in the streets," said Djokovic. "Also, I wouldn’t be threatening that while my kid was being held in a foreign country.

"Vaccines have been around for a long time. Schools, the military [and so on] have required vaccines for a long time. This isn’t new.

Read more

Novak Djokovic © Oscar Gonzalez / NurPhoto via Getty Images
Djokovic lawyers reveal he had Covid in December

"I think the question would be better framed as [asking whether] professional athletes [are] capable of spreading a deadly virus. And is there anything that gives us an edge in mitigating that? Yes and yes. It’s not about the individual here."

The Texan feels the world is fortunate to have vaccines that appear to be effective against the Omicron coronavirus strain.

"It dominated the Alpha variant," he said. "As long it has unprotected bodies to mutate in, we will continue to get different variants.

"We are lucky it still protects against serious illness with Omicron. Hopefully we continue to get lucky."


Deep Learning Approaches to Cloud Security

Deep Learning Approaches to Cloud Security
English | 2021 | ISBN: ‎ 1119760526 | 301 pages | True PDF EPUB | 39.76 MB

DEEP LEARNING APPROACHES TO CLOUD SECURITYCovering one of the most important subjects to our society today, cloud security, this editorial team delves into solutions taken from evolving deep learning approaches, solutions allowing computers to learn from experience and understand the world in terms of a hierarchy of concepts, with each concept defined through its relation to simpler concepts.