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House of Cards Season 4 is Marvelously Malicious

House of Cards Season 4 is Marvelously Malicious

Mar 20, 2016

Beth Reynolds Overview: Frank and Claire are forced to reevaluate both their partisanship and their partnership as they battle their way through the Democratic primaries and look ahead to the general election to secure their stay in the White House. 2016; Netflix; 13 episodes. It’s Lonely at the Top: After a divisive season three had many viewers feeling more than a little exhausted and wondering if the series that inspired Netflix binging was running out of steam. But not to worry: the ballsy, relentless, and unforgiving political drama returns with a vengeance in season four. This season the tension is higher, the rivalries are more ruthless, the players are meaner, and the Underwoods are no longer clawing their way to the top. They’re fighting for their lives to stay at the helm and not making any shortage of enemies along the way, trading in old friends for new when the loyal followers become less useful than fresh blood (here’s to hopefully seeing much more of newbie Neve Campbell in future seasons). FU 2016: With each passing season of House of Cards, this series somehow manages to become more and more politically prophetic. The most important and compelling thing about season four is the uncanny reflection it casts on the current political landscape of our country. A President is tasked with filling a Supreme Court Justice seat during an election year. Gun control is at the forefront of campaigns. The decisions of one political party lead to an open (brokered) convention. A series the utilizes plot devices that are always politically poignant but tend to dance over the line that divides the realistic from the outrageous has suddenly become less of a fantasy and more of a mirror. But which has evolved, the show or the country? Along with its timely topics, season four also benefits from its decision to slow down the pacing, allowing the time for additional character exploration and the unfolding of these relatable events to carry with them more of an impact. Viewers are able to experience more of both the emotion and the tension due to a focus on a briefer time span as the inner circle crumbles more intricately and each backstab and undercut is exposed and...

Russian troop withdrawal from Syria welcomed

Russian troop withdrawal from Syria welcomed

Mar 18, 2016

President Vladimir Putin, has ordered the partial withdrawal of Russian armed forces from Syria [Xinhua] With the resumption of peace talks in Geneva underway, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to pull the main force of troops from Syria has been welcomed by global powers. “President Obama welcomed the much-needed reduction in violence since the beginning of the cessation,” said a White House statement. In a phone conversation with US President Barack Obama, Putin said the primary objectives set before the Russian Armed Forces in the fight against terrorism has been fulfilled and that “a decision was made to withdraw the main part of the Russian Aerospace Forces troops”. “This will certainly serve as a good signal to all conflicting sides and create conditions for the start of a true peace process,” a Kremlin statement quoted Putin. “The presidents called for intensification of the political process for settling the Syrian conflict, expressing support for the talks between the Government of Syria and the opposition, which are starting in Geneva under the auspices of the UN, following which the Syrian people should determine the future setup of their state themselves,” the statement added. Russia’s bases in Syria’s Tartous and Khmeimim will continue their normal operations. The Syrian opposition welcomed the Russian move. “If there is seriousness in implementing the withdrawal, it will give the talks a positive push,” said Salim al-Muslat, spokesman for the rebel factions’ High Negotiations Committee. Putin had discussed and coordinated the decision with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said the Kremlin. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also welcomed Moscow’s move. “This will increase the pressure on the al-Assad regime to finally and seriously negotiate a peaceful political transition in Geneva,” a German Foreign Ministry statement quoted Steinmeier. Tehran has also supported the Russian decision as a positive development for the ceasefire. “The fact that Russia announced that it’s withdrawing part of its forces indicates that they don’t see an imminent need for resort to force in maintaining the ceasefire. That in and of itself should be a positive sign. Now we have to wait and see,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tuesday.   TBP and Agencies This article, Russian troop withdrawal from Syria welcomed, first appeared on The BRICS...

The Power of the Purse

The Power of the Purse

Mar 17, 2016

Last week, Mona Charen published a post on Ricochet, defending the Republican establishment. She began by observing that “The Republican Party is choosing an odd time to commit suicide,” and she rightly drew attention to the fact that “in the Obama era the Democrats lost 13 US Senate seats, 69 House seats, 910 legislative seats, 11 governorships, and 30 legislative chambers.” The only thing that “stood between Republicans and real reform at the federal level was the White House,” she observed, “and the Democrats were sleepwalking toward nominating the least popular major player in American politics.” Then, she rightly noted that the Republicans had “managed to find someone who is even less acceptable,” and she added a few choice words about Donald Trump – all of them, alas, plausible, but (and this may turn out to be important down the road) not all of them, as they pertain to the future, certain. For the most part, I share Mona’s misgivings. I have followed Donald Trump in the tabloids for decades, and I am no admirer of the man. But I think her analysis of the situation that catapulted him into prominence unsound. Here is what she had to say: And what sin has brought down this despoiler upon the Republican Party? Why are so many self-styled conservatives complacent about his success? Failure to stop Obamacare? Please. That was never possible with Obama in office. It would have been possible, in fact it was probable, that it would have been replaced if Republicans held majorities in Congress and got an agreeable executive. Now? No. Failure to get control of the border? Illegal immigration from Mexico has slowed to a trickle and, in fact, more Mexicans are now leaving than coming. Failure to defund the Export-Import Bank? Yes, crony capitalism is disgraceful, but . . . Here are a few words of praise for the Republicans. The Republican Party has become more reform-minded and more conservative over the past 30 years. The Arlen Specters and Bob Packwoods are pretty much gone. In their places are dynamic, smart, and articulate leaders like Tom Cotton, Ben Sasse, Cory Gardner, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Tim Scott, Nikki...

Abid fearless in passion for art

Abid fearless in passion for art

Mar 17, 2016

Humaira Abid. • Photo by Alia Marsha I entered through the front door of Humaira Abid’s Renton residence and saw hundreds of red pacifiers, red little girl’s shoes, and luggages and backpacks immediately. Her family must be home, I thought. I hope they would be OK with a stranger asking invasive questions to Abid while they eat dinner. It turned out that everything I saw, which was placed in Abid’s living-room-turned-mini-studio, is her artwork for upcoming and past exhibitions. I looked down on a brassiere and a tie on the floor, and could not believe they were made of wood. Abid’s talent of carving, shaping, manipulating wood into recognizable everyday objects was praised by many ever since her days at the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan, where she was born and raised. She said that her family’s initial disapproval of her passion for art motivated her to prove them—and herself—that she could be successful in the field and open doors for new generations. “I was good in printmaking, painting, miniature, and sculpture. But sculpture is the one thing I was discouraged [from]. People actually warned me, ‘It’s so tough,’ ‘It’s not for women.’ I said I was going to take sculpture to see what’s so tough about it,” said Abid. Since she moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2008 to be with her husband, Abid’s work has been shown at Seattle Asian Art Museum, Seattle Municipal Tower, and ArtXchange Gallery in addition to galleries all over the nation and the world. She likes to combine miniature and wood sculpture to create work that investigates the individual, emotional experience and social issues. She draws inspiration from everything; from her friend’s failed arranged marriage in Pakistan, to women in Saudi Arabia getting arrested while driving, and having “tempting eyes” that supposedly distract male drivers, to her own experience of multiple miscarriages. “I make work that makes you think, that questions these issues. I don’t necessarily need to answer them, but I start conversations,” she said. As a self-described feminist, Abid also creates work that highlights specific women’s experiences that are at the end of the day bound by a common enemy: patriarchy. “I think...

What happened to Batman as a do-gooding doofus?

What happened to Batman as a do-gooding doofus?

Mar 14, 2016

Ben Affleck as Batman and Henry Cavill as Superman in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. (Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Pictures) People who have seen commercials for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice might recognize Ben Affleck’s Batman from somewhere. The film, out March 25, portrays the Caped Crusader as a depressed-looking, middle-aged man who wears a colourless suit and fights Superman. Everything, even the look of his Batmobile, is influenced by one comic book: The Dark Knight Returns, a 1986 four-issue series by writer-artist Frank Miller. Director Zack Snyder told the website Comic Book Resources that Miller’s series was “such a big influence [on me], that I wanted to to honour him through imagery in the movie.” Some cinema superheroes draw on decades of stories, but in the case of Batman, The Dark Knight Returns may be the only one that counts. The idea of portraying Batman as a dark, brooding character had been tried on and off since his creation in the 1930s by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. But nothing had quite the impact of Miller’s tale, set in a bad future where Batman comes out of retirement, and where Superman is portrayed as a quasi-fascist tool of the establishment. Matt MacNabb, author of Batman’s Arsenal: An Encyclopedic Chronicle, says Miller’s take “changed the way that Batman is perceived. The presentation of a grumpy, miserable and hulking aged Batman resonated with fans to such a degree that it made the entirety of the franchise quite a few shades darker.” Along with Miller’s follow-up Batman: Year One (a gritty retelling of Batman’s origin story), The Dark Knight Returns almost single-handedly turned Batman from a children’s character—which is what most superheroes were intended to be—to a figure aimed at grown-ups. Richard Warshak, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center who also writes and lectures about Batman, says that if it hadn’t been for Miller’s take, “Batman may have remained restricted to an audience of children, his exploits below the radar screen of adults.” Brian Cronin, editor of the blog Comics Should Be Good, agrees Miller “made telling ‘out there’ or ‘adult’ Batman comic book stories possible.” This immediately...