Carlos Acosta to Become Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet

The Royal Ballet of Birmingham (United Kingdom) has elected Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta as its new director, according to a press release from Acosta Dance, a company founded by the artist.

Acosta, who will assume the appointment from January 2020, said about his new responsibility that 'it is a great honor and privilege to have been appointed to lead this company.

I am a great admirer of its heritage and of what David Bintley (current director) has done to establish it as one of the world's leading classical ballet companies, he added.

My ambition is to build on its classical traditions, expand its repertoire and reach out to new and more diverse audiences, to define what it is to be a world-leading classical ballet company in the 21st century' , he said.

The choreographer also stressed that in parallel to this opportunity, he will continue his work with Acosta Dance and the Carlos Acosta International Dance Foundation, as this appointment will allow him to improve and develop the opportunities he can offer to both initiatives.

For this selection, a group of international experts chose the director in an open competition, after the British Bintley announced his retirement next July, at season's end.

David Normington, the company´s chair highlighted the Birminghan Royal Ballet´s great moment and described Acosta as the 'greatest best male dancer of his generation'.

I know he will bring us his legendary art, his energy and his charisma and allow us to connect with new audience, especially in Birmingham,' he said.

Acosta, 45, was trained at the Cuban National School of Ballet, where he graduated with honors in 1991 and, three years later, became top dancer for the Cuban National Ballet.

According to specialized critics, he has become one of the greatest dancers in the world, thanks to his physical qualities and talent which have led him to join the list of important companies in the world, such as Italy, the United States and the United Kingdom.

He made his debut as an actor last year in Yuli, by Spain's Iciar Bollain, a film where he plays himself and which has earned him the nomination for Best Newcomer at the 2019 Goya Awards.

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Double agent Skripal & daughter have ‘not spoken to family in Russia since poisoning’ – niece to RT

Sergey and Yulia Skripal, the victims of a high-profile poisoning attack in Britain, have not contacted their family in Russia since the attack in March last year, the double agent’s niece told RT.

Viktoria Skripal, Sergey’s niece and Yulia’s cousin, believes that the British authorities may be covering up Sergey’s death. The official narrative is that both he and Yulia survived the poisoning attack, but unlike her, Sergey was never shown alive. Yulia showed up for a single brief carefully orchestrated interview with Reuters in May.

According to Viktoria, the family members living in Russia, including Sergey’s elderly mother, have not heard from either of them since before the attack. Viktoria believes this to be suspicious.

Sergey is a family man, very attached to family members and a responsible person. He called his 91-year-old mother every week. After what happened in March, those calls stopped.

The British authorities say the former double agent and his daughter were targeted by the Russian intelligence in a failed assassination plot – an accusation that Moscow denies.

Also on rt.com Skripal’s Salisbury home to be partly dismantled by British military...

According to a recent report in The Telegraph newspaper, the pair is trying to get their lives back together.

“Far from being cut off entirely from her former life, Yulia has remained in touch with certain close friends who refuse to divulge a shred of information about her. A few, both British and Russian, are understood to have visited her in the summer,” the newspaper said.

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'UK, US look at jihadist groups as useful, are they as against terrorists as they pretend to be?'

A Times' article portraying Chechen jihadists as freedom fighters because they are anti-Russian is an attempt to whitewash a connection between the Ukrainian government and terrorist groups, former US diplomat Jim Jatras told RT.

The British newspaper published a highly controversial interview with a Chechen who is fighting against anti-government forces in Eastern Ukraine. The head of his battalion earlier admitted that his fighters waged jihad in Syria and that the leader was even part of a terror group committing atrocities in Russia.

"Some of the battalion's gunmen admit to having honed their combat skills at Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) training camps in Iraq and Syria," the article says.

Former US diplomat Jim Jatras, commenting on the timing of the article to RT, said that the editorial decision to let this information out now is perhaps because "somebody just discovered the significance of it" especially in light of President Trump's announcement to withdraw US troops from Syria after Islamic State's defeat.

 
Ukrainian Chechen volunteer battalion leader Muslim Cheberloevsky interview by Ukrainian TV in November 2017

 

He said that it has been known since 2014 that there are "Chechen fighters on the Kiev government side".

"This has been a magnet for anti-Russian elements from all sorts of countries, Georgia and from Europe, people fighting with these non-governmental militias that are allied with the Ukrainian forces. And some of them are very extreme, very radical ideologically. This should come as no surprise that somebody admits that they have this relationship with ISIS," he said. 

The British establishment, including the media and intelligent services, have been at the forefront of the anti-Russian campaign even before the 2016 US presidential election, according to Jatras. "They even had this entire group that was set up within the British government to generate anti-Russian press material."

The point of this "disinformation against Russia", he said, is "not only to blacken Russia but to make sure there could be no rapprochement between Moscow and Washington as Donald Trump has said he wants to have. And this effort has been wildly successful."

"Portraying these Chechen jihadists as 'freedom fighters', because they are anti-Russian wouldn't be necessarily unusual for the British media and you would expect that," Jatras said. 

In his view, "the real tit-bit was the fact that somebody overlooked the significance of these fellows admitting that they have this relationship with the Islamic State which supposedly is the big enemy that we have been fighting against in Syria… But nothing could be farther from the truth."

Jatras suggested that the US' real reason for being in Syria is "to try to get rid of the Assad government and also to block the Iranians and to thwart the Russian effort in that country."

He said that IS "at best has been a kind of 'frenemy' that we treated as an enemy sometimes but also find it useful for larger political goals there."

 
Activists of far-right parties in front of the presidential administration headquarters in Kiev, Ukraine November 26, 2018 © Reuters / Gleb Garanich

 

He thinks this story isn't "all that surprising given the bent of the British media."  

Jatras believes the article to be an intentional attempt to whitewash the connection between the Ukrainian government and terrorist groups "while knowing that they are cooperating with the Ukrainian government."

The government in Kiev is chaotic, weak and "at the mercy of the extreme nationalist elements," the former diplomat said.

"Of course they can't control these groups like Azov battalion and others on the field. It shouldn't be surprising that when they invite other radical groups to participate in the war that are nominally not part of the official Ukrainian forces, they also cooperate with them while allowing them to continue on an independent basis. I don't see how that morally whitewashes or isolates the Ukrainian authorities from the radical politics of these terrorists," Jatras noted.

In Jatras' opinion, these jihadists have been the biggest threat to the Western world for the last couple of decades, however, the UK and the US government don't look at this that way.

"They look at these groups as useful. And this has a long history, not only going back to the efforts against the Soviets in Afghanistan, but to Bosnia, to Kosovo, to Libya, to Syria… The idea that we don't have this long relationship with these groups is extremely naive," Jatras said.

"How many people put two and two together and say 'wait a minute, this doesn't smell right.' Why is our government, why is the British government, which is a close ally of the US, working with these terrorist groups? I thought we were against terrorism. And I think it is very hard for a lot of people to look at this and say 'wait a minute, maybe we are not as against the terrorists as we pretend to be?'"

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Russia Launches Investigation Into BBC As Dispute With Britain Escalates

MOSCOW:  Russia's media regulator said today that it had launched an investigation into the activities of British public broadcaster the BBC, a move it described as a response to pressure being put on a Russian TV channel in Britain.

Roskomnadzor, the regulator, said in a statement it was looking into the activities of the BBC World News channel and BBC internet sites to see if they complied with Russian law.

It said its checks were in response to a decision by British media regulator Ofcom, which yesterday said that Russian broadcaster RT had broken impartiality rules in some of its news and current affairs programmes.

The Kremlin said Russian government agencies had repeatedly raised concerns about the BBC's coverage of Russia and of Moscow's actions in Syria.

"Many questions about the BBC in terms of its tendentious coverage of events, its coverage not in the style of a media actor but in a pre-planned and politically motivated way, have accumulated over a long period," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Only the country's media regulator had the authority to examine such allegations, he said. An unnamed source familiar with the investigation was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that the BBC's activities in Russia could be restricted if it was found to be in breach of Russian law.

The BBC said it was in full compliance.

"As everywhere else in the world, the BBC works in Russia in full compliance with the country's laws and regulations to deliver independent news and information to its audiences," said a spokeswoman.

Ofcom declined to comment.

MASK SLIPPING

Ofcom said yesterday that it was considering imposing some kind of sanction on RT, which is financed by the Russian state. It took issue in particular with its coverage of the poisoning in Britain of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

Britain has accused agents working for Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU, of committing the crime, an allegation Moscow denies.

British Media Secretary Jeremy Wright also weighed in yesterday, saying what he called RT's mask as an impartial news provider was slipping.

RT rejected Ofcom's findings, saying Ofcom had ignored its explanations and not paid "due regard" to its rights.

Commenting on the launch of the Russian investigation today, Margarita Simonyan, RT's editor-in-chief, said on Twitter that Ofcom had hinted that it planned to strip her channel of its broadcasting license in Britain.

"Welcome to the brave new world," she wrote.

"I assume they (the Russian regulator) will now look to see if the BBC expresses alternative points of view with a microscope."

Russian officials have previously said that Moscow would "mirror" any action Britain takes against RT when it came to retaliating against British media operating in Russia.

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New documentary about British Singer Amy Winehouse Released

London, Nov 2 (Prensa Latina) The documentary Amy Winehouse back to black: The Real Behind The Modern Classic about the renowned British singer is available from Friday in this capital in several formats under the Eagle Rock Films label.

The film was released on DVD, Blu-ray and digital, and deals with the process of making the album Back to Black, considered the most successful of the career of the artist, who died at the age of 27 in 2011.

The audiovisual includes unpublished photos of Winehouse and new interviews with people who worked with the artist during the production of the album, including the producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi, and the participating musicians.

The entire process of creation and recording, exclusive interviews with its main producers, Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi, never published images of manuscripts and essays, and the complete concert of Riverside Studios in 2008, are also part of the documentary.

Back to Black came into circulation in 2006 and was an international success for Winehouse, reporting important awards including five Grammys.

The album was the second and last of her short artistic career, tinged by continuous scandals associated with drug and alcohol consumption, addictions that finally ended her life.

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Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s parting shot at Donald Trump and Brexit

Carol Ann Duffy has used her final collection as poet laureate to skewer the politicians who led the UK into Brexit, and Donald Trump.

In a poem titled The Ex-Ministers, she names no names but writes: "We are nothing to them now; lemmings going over the white cliffs of Dover."

Swearing In, dedicated to inventive insults about the US president, calls him "thatch-fraud" and "news-maggot".

Duffy's official role ends in 2019. Her new collection is titled Sincerity.

At its launch at the Manchester Literature Festival on Thursday, she said the political poems were inspired by the "evil twins of Brexit and Trump".

'Buttock-faced smarm'

In The Ex-Ministers, she writes about politicians who do lucrative commercial deals around the world after leaving office.

Another poem, titled A Formal Complaint, is a rage against a breed of "gatekeepers" and "fake patriots".

It includes the line: "They do not mean us well, these patriots, with their buttock-faced smarm."

In one poem, Gorilla, she recounts her encounter with a gorilla in a zoo, ending with the line: "With a day's more evolution, it could even be President."

Swearing In consists of four verses of insults about Mr Trump - including "twitter-rat", "tan-faker" and "bigot-merchant" - and ends with the line: "Mandrake Mymmerkin, welcome to the White House."

"Mandrake Mymmerkin" comes from William Dunbar's 16th Century poem The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy. Mandrake means an unpleasant and unwanted root or thing, and a mymmerkin is a small person.

'Constant, dutiful Queen'

Duffy has been poet laureate since 2009 and has written about topical events as part of her role, but she has rarely done so in such an overtly political way.

In 2016 and 17, she worked with the National Theatre on a show titled My Country, taking stock of Britain after the Brexit vote.

Her new collection also includes a poem called Britannia, comparing the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire with the 1966 Aberfan disaster, when a slag heap engulfed a Welsh village, killing 116 children and 28 adults.

"I should not connect the two, but I do," she writes.

While politicians come in for Duffy's ire, she maintains respect for the Queen.

The final line of Britannia reads: "The constant, dutiful Queen" - a reference to the fact the monarch's reign has spanned the two tragedies, and she visited both sites soon after each.

Sincerity, which will be published on 1 November, also pays homage to figures including Queen Victoria, William Shakespeare and Charlotte Bronte.

Much of the collection tackles themes of passing time and ageing, such as the death of parents, childhood memories and children growing up and leaving home.

  • Published in Culture

Ecuador gets UN praise for ‘freedom of expression’ as Assange remains gagged in embassy limbo

A UN official praised Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno for his treatment of journalists despite the fact that the leader is said to be preparing to hand over WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange to the governments persecuting him.

UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye commended Ecuador and Moreno for supposedly promoting freedom of speech – the same Moreno that recently cut off communications to fugitive whistleblower Julian Assange and has been mulling handing him over to the UK and the US to be tried as a spy.

Assange, the co-founder of WikiLeaks, was granted political asylum by Moreno’s predecessor Rafael Correa in 2012 and became an Ecuadorian citizen in December 2017. In order to hand Assange over, Moreno would have to strip him of that citizenship first, as Ecuador’s extradition treaty with the UK precludes turning over its own citizens.

 
Moreno’s government invited Kaye to meet Ecuadorian authorities, journalists, academics, and civil society groups during a recent visit. The UN official was briefed on “ongoing legal and policy changes” instituted by Moreno, who has taken a hard right turn from the government of his predecessor Correa, most notably in resuming military cooperation with the US.

Kaye’s fulsome praise for the Moreno government rang especially hollow where he discussed whistleblowing and the internet: “He also urged strong promotion for independent journalism and the safety of journalists […] including by developing strong whistleblower protections for both public officials and private employees; and several steps to improve the rights people in Ecuador enjoy online.”

Assange is famous for developing WikiLeaks as a secure, anonymous platform for whistleblowers. His supporters were outraged when Moreno revoked his internet access earlier this year, leaving him completely cut off from the outside world. Moreno has maintained that he will respect Assange’s asylum as long as the journalist doesn’t engage in “political activity,” but he remains incommunicado despite this promise.

By inviting Kaye to visit Ecuador, Moreno may hope to preempt some of the international outrage that would result from sending an Ecuadorian citizen off to possibly spend decades in prison for doing journalistic work. Assange, after all, merely published information that he was given by whistleblowers, as journalists have for hundreds of years. Such acts are protected by US and UK law. But since some of that information concerned the shady conduct of American diplomats, military, and spies, Washington treats Assange as an enemy of the state. And once the UK has custody of Assange, it is assumed he will be transferred to the US.

Assange's last video before communications cut at Ecuadorian Embassy in London (FULL)

Assange is not the only Ecuadorian who Moreno has betrayed. Correa himself, who gave Moreno his blessing as his successor, was forced to flee to Belgium earlier this year after what he claims was a politically motivated prosecution for the alleged 2012 kidnapping of a political opponent. Correa turned on his protege after Moreno proposed a constitutional referendum that would have barred Correa from running for office again, and Moreno – whom he now calls a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” – has since overturned many of his predecessor’s reforms.

  • Published in World

Assange's Defense Attorney Denounces Risks to Client's Health

Assange's lawyer stressed the Wiki founder's wavering health which the Ecuadorean embassy is failing to properly moderate.

WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange’s health is at risk after being held without medical attention in the Ecuadorean Embassy in the UK since 2012, defense attorney Jennifer Robinson said Saturday.

RELATED: Julian Assange Forced To Name Replacement at WikiLeaks

"We are very concerned about his health: he has been locked up in the embassy for more than six years, without proper access to medical care," said Robinson during an interview with the Catalan publication, Nacio Digital.

The lawyer stressed her client’s wavering health, which, she said, the embassy is unable to properly moderate due to lack of proper medical equipment and facilities.

"The Embassy is not equipped for prolonged detention to provide a reasonable environment...the prolonged uncertainty of indefinite detention deeply affects the psychological and physical trauma above and beyond the expected stressors of incarceration," the Australian lawyer said.

Robinson also showed concern over the “very serious” threat of Assange’s extradition to the United States for trial, “If Assange faces a trial in the US, he can not benefit from the first amendment of the Constitution, which refers to freedom of the press.

“We can not forget that he is only an editor who published material of public interest,” Robinson said.

The defense lawyer also explained the recent change in Ecuador’s administration has only served to complicate the case, which she described as a 180-degree change in political position between President Rafael Correa to his predecessor, the incumbent President Lenin Moreno, particularly in regards to bilateral relations with the United States.

On March 28, just days after hosting a delegation of the United States Southern Command (Southcom), Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno decided to cut his guest’s communications with the outside world, denying him access to the internet and banning visitors who are not part of his legal team.

Julian Assange was granted political asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in the UK in 2012. Assange faced extradition to Sweden, from England, over allegations he sexually assaulted two women, which he categorically denied.

Although the judicial process for the alleged sexual crimes in Sweden was lifted, he fears that if he is given to British authorities he could face prison for skipping bail and face extradition to the United States, where he would be tried for espionage and could be sentenced to death for exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • Published in World
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