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22 Aug

SCO military drills see arch-rivals India and Pakistan on the same side

RUSSIA (WNF) - Arch-rivals India and Pakistan will be on the same side when the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) stages its multi-nation military exercises in the Ural Mountains.
The exercise, named Peace Mission 2018, simulates an operation to eliminate terrorists, neutralize terror networks and thwart possible attacks, according to India’s Tribune. Combat readiness will also be tested.

The newspaper notes that Indian and Pakistani soldiers have operated together in the past on foreign lands while providing security or in convoy protection deployment as peacekeepers under the United Nations, but the SCO exercise is a first for them.

India and Pakistan were admitted as full members of the China-dominated bloc at the 2017 summit in Kazakhstan, with Beijing sponsoring Islamabad and Moscow sponsoring Delhi as an attempted counterbalance to Chinese power and influence.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the conference that SCO membership gives neighbouring India and Pakistan a new space to work out their differences. Their disputes are mainly territorial, dating from the partition of the Indian sub-continent along religious lines in 1947.

China is also sending troops to the exercises. Russia has sought to strengthen ties with China in the aftermath of its collapsing relations with Europe and the United States.

The SCO groups China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, India and Pakistan. #22628 Updated: 07/15/2018 UPDATED JUL 15 TO ADD DATES

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24 Aug

The Dark Knight returns to IMAX 70mm theaters for anniversary run

UNITED STATES & CANADA (WNF) - Christopher Nolan’s 2008 superhero sequel The Dark Knight opens for a week at venues in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Toronto to mark the movie’s 10th anniversary. The re-release will be painful for fans of the late Heath Ledger, who played Batman’s archenemy, The Joker.
The actor, who won a posthumous Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance, died just weeks after production finished. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won two, including Ledger’s.

Variety reports that The Dark Knight, released Jul 18, 2008, became, at the time, just the fourth film to ever cross the US $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office. It still sits in the all-time domestic top 10, according to the magazine, in part because of Ledger’s memorable performance.

The movie pioneered the use of Imax 70mm photography in feature film-making. #22690 Published: 07/19/2018

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26 Aug

A sombre note at Burning Man Festival after death of its founder

UNITED STATES (WNF) - Larry Harvey’s death at 70 in April will cast a shadow over the 2018 Burning Man Festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. He started the annual counterculture celebration with a friend, Jerry James, on a California beach in 1986, and it was relocated to the desert in 1990.
Harvey’s stated vision of a more creative, cooperative and generous world underpins the festival. Formal tributes to his memory by the so-called Burners can be expected at the event.

Harvey’s and James’ erection of a giant wooden figure on the beach -- and the decision to burn it to the ground on the Summer Solstice -- led to the festival. They relocated the event after California authorities shut it down.

The event and site have evolved. Some 68,000 Burners take up residence for a week each year at the desert location. As always, a 40-foot wooden effigy and other installations will go up in flames during the week. The theme for 2018 is I Robot.

Though the festival is based on the so-called gifting culture introduced by Harvey, costs for Burners can run to U.S. $1,000 each. The event sold out for the first time in 2011 and continues to sell out.

Burning Man wants permission to grow to 100,000 people in the coming years. #22638 Published: 05/25/2018

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27 Aug

2018 U.S. Open tennis championships celebrate 50th birthday

UNITED STATES (WNF) - The 2018 U.S. Open Tennis Championships in New York celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Grand Slam contest.
The organisers predict that the top stories for 2018 will be Rafael Nadal’s fight for his fourth U.S. Open title and Sloane Stephens’ attempt at a second. Both won in 2017. Fans will be anticipating the return of six-time women’s champion Serena Williams, who lost in the 2018 Wimbledon final, and will hope for a long-anticipated Roger Federer-Nadal showdown at the tournament. After sharing the previous six grand slam titles between them, neither champion reached the Wimbledon 2018 final.

The U.S. National Championship became the U.S. Open in 1968 when the event admitted professional players for the first time.

The facilities have been upgraded for the anniversary. The five-year transformation of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center has been completed, with the new Louis Armstrong Stadium, a state-of-the-art, 14,000 seat stadium with a retractable roof, going into service this year.

A new U.S. Open logo has been unveiled for the occasion, a streamlined and modernized version of the tournament’s iconic flaming ball logo. It will feature prominently in the U.S. Open’s 2018 advertising campaign, Built for Glory. #22605 Published: 04/27/2018

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29 Aug

Yellowstone Park fire 30 years ago rewrote firefighting rulebook

UNITED STATES (WNF) - Thirty years ago Yellowstone National Park caught fire, and the row over the way officials managed the blaze changed firefighting practices. Blazes in California in 2017 and 2018 might rewrite the rulebook again.
National Parks Service policy since 1972 had been to allow wildfires to burn out on their own because periodic fire is regarded as a benefit for a forest ecosystem. For one thing, it takes care of tinder on forest floors that might contribute to a bigger blaze if left alone. The challenge comes with knowing when to allow fire to burn out and when to suppress it. Blazes can become uncontrollable if the timing isn’t right.

The Yellowstone blaze started with fires outside the park, at Storm Creek, on Jun 14, 1988. By mid-July of the dry summer, officials realized the fires would not burn out as the formulas had predicted and were spreading at an astonishing rate in and around the park. News reports from the period show officials under siege for waiting too long to suppress the fires. Firefighters began trying to suppress as many fires as they could reach, reversing prior fire management philosophy, but achieving little because the blaze had become uncontrollable. Over the course of the Summer and Fall, more than 25,000 firefighters were brought in from around the country. According to a New York Times account of the drama, fire lines were dug, backfires were set, and the forests were strafed with chemical retardant, but it was an early winter snow that extinguished the flames – after they had laid waste to 1.2 million acres across the greater Yellowstone area.

The 1988 fires in and around Yellowstone Park and the California blazes of 2017 and 2018 have generated drama as massive as the infernos, in the first case because the park is regarded as a national treasure, and in the second case because so many lives and so much property are in harm’s way in populous California. Population growth has brought development into the path of most wildfires in the state. The 2017 blaze, which was brought under control by the end of October, ranked as California’s biggest natural disaster and the state’s deadliest blaze, a record that might be broken in 2018 before the Summer fire season ends.

The methods used to contain the California fires will be under scrutiny for techniques that worked and for mistakes made, with the conclusions contributing to new firefighting rules. #22370 Updated: 07/15/2018 UPDATED JUL 15 TO INCLUDE 2018 BLAZE IN CALIFORNIA

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29 Aug

The late King of Pop lionized once again on his 60th birthday

UNITED STATES (WNF) - Admiration for Michael Jackson appears back in vogue for his 60th birthday, with the scandal that preceded his death in 2009 taking on the character of a footnote.
The National Portrait Gallery in London describes him as one of the most influential cultural figures to come out of the 20th century, with a legacy that continues into the 21st century.

The Recording Industry Association of America describes him as “the most selling artist of all time with over 100 million sales for Thriller worldwide and 1 billion total sales to his credit.”

The National Portrait Gallery describes his impact on art as an “untold story,” and opened an exhibition in June titled Michael Jackson: On the Wall. After closing in London it heads to France, Germany and Finland. Since Andy Warhol first used his image in 1982, Jackson has become the most depicted cultural figure in visual art by an extraordinary array of leading contemporary artists, according to the gallery.

Jackson began performing with his four brothers in the pop group, the Jackson 5, when he was a child. The group scored its first No. 1 single in 1969, with I Want You Back. Jackson released his first solo album at 14, and scored many Top 20 hits with his piping vocals. Off the Wall, 1979, and Thriller, 1983, gave him superstar status.

In 1993, scandal broke when Jackson, who had developed a reputation as an eccentric recluse, was publicly accused of child molestation and underwent investigation. The alleged acts left fans aghast, and his later acquittal did not erase the taint of the charges.

The Last Days of Michael Jackson, aired in the United States by ABC in May, traces Jackson’s rise through his childhood and superstar years to his comeback concerns and death at 50. Prior to his death, Jackson announced his final tour, but 18 days before the first date, on Jun 25, 2009, Jackson died unexpectedly of drug-induced cardiac arrest. The documentary explores the scandal, but it is set in the context of Jackson’s musical legacy. #22632 Updated: 07/17/2018 UPDATED JUL 15 TO CORRECT SOURCE IN PARAGRAPH 2 AND REMOVE STREET-RENAMING CEREMONY, WHICH DIDN'T HAPPEN

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29 Aug

Harley-Davidson turns 115 with a grim message?

UNITED STATES (WNF) - Harley-Davidson riders descend in droves on Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for the company’s 115th anniversary. The ailing company refers to the finale of the birthday parade through the city as “one final hurrah,” which might worry investors.
USA Today reported in January that the world’s largest maker of heavyweight motorcycles has struggled to reverse a four-year sales slide, and the company will move ahead with a plan to consolidate manufacturing operations, including the closure of its plant in Kansas City, Missouri. The publication adds that growth overseas has somewhat helped to offset a decline in the United States bike market.

That overseas bump in sales is now under threat. European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker promised in March to go after imports of Harley-Davidson motorbikes, bourbon whisky and Levi’s jeans if President Donald Trump followed through on his threat to impose steep tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum.

The company says it has invited tens of thousands of Harley owners from around the world to the parade and other events. They include racing, hill climbs, stunts, a tour of the Harley factory and the HOG 35 Moto-Carnival at Veterans Park.

HOG refers to the Harley Owners Group, operated by Harley-Davidson for enthusiasts of the brand. The groups serve “to promote not just a consumer product, but a lifestyle,” according to the company.

Collectively, news reports on Harley-Davidson’s troubles suggest that the iconic brand is losing its cult status in the face of intense competition from companies such as Polaris and Indian Motorcycles, and that HOG groups are a shrinking asset for the venerable company. #22633 Published: 05/25/2018

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29 Aug

75th Venice International Film Festival starring Juliette Binoche

ITALY (WNF) - Juliette Binoche will be an indelible presence at the 75th Venice International Film Festival as she stars in three likely contenders for the Golden Lion for Best Picture.
The first of the three starring the French actress is Vision, a film by Japanese director Naomi Kawase about a journalist on the hunt for a mysterious herb that grows every 997 years. Binoche joins Guillaume Canet in Non Fiction, a drama by Olivier Assayas that is set in the Parisian publishing world. High Life, Claire Denis’ first English-language feature and first science-fiction movie, about a group of criminals sent on a mission into a black hole, pairs Binoche with Robert Pattinson.

Mexican film director Guillermo del Toro will head the jury that chooses the Best Picture. His movie, Shape of Water, won Best Picture in competition at the 2017 festival.

Other official awards assigned by the jury include two Golden Lions for Lifetime Achievement: the first to a director for the contribution made through his or her body of work; the second to an actor or actress, who has best interpreted the expressive requirements of the directors for whom he/she has worked. Canadian director David Cronenberg (A History of Violence, and Eastern Promises) will take home one of the Lifetime achievement awards. Cronenberg received the Silver Bear for eXistenZ in Berlin in 1999, and in 2011, his film A Dangerous Method competed for a Golden Lion in Venice.

The Venice event, which bills itself as the oldest film festival in the world, is one of the big three, alongside the Cannes Film Festival and Berlin International Film Festival, and it is often described as the starting gun for the Oscars race the following year.

In its rundown of likely contenders for Best Picture, the Hollywood Reporter notes that the Italian festival is on a major hit streak, having picked the best-picture Oscar winner in three of the last four years. #22631 Updated: 07/23/2018 REWRITTEN JUL 14 TO INCLUDE JULIETTE BINOCHE UPDATE AND ADD SEVERAL CONTENDERS

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