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In plot reversal, Sony releases ‘The Interview’

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In plot reversal, Sony releases ‘The Interview’ | The Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

In plot reversal, Sony sends ‘The Interview’ to 200 theaters
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Sony Pictures will allow “The Interview” to play in more than 200 U.S. theaters as of Christmas Day, reversing its decision to pull the film, after coming under criticism from President Barack Obama and others for caving into pressure from North Korea.

The White House praised Sony’s about-face, which the studio said would result in “a limited theatrical release” of the film, which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco and is about a fictional plot to assassinate North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.

“The decision made by Sony and participating theaters allows people to make their own choices about the film, and we welcome that outcome,” presidential spokesman Eric Schultz said in a statement.

It was another surprising twist in a saga that started four weeks ago, when a massive cyberattack now blamed on North Korea crippled the Hollywood studio. The hacking has grown into a geopolitical headache and a global symbol of attacks on free expression.

On Friday, Obama had called Sony’s decision to pull the $44 million movie a mistake, suggesting it could set a precedent in which “some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here in the United States.”

Congressional Republicans and Democrats, as well as Hollywood luminaries such as George Clooney, had also assailed the canceled release, with some accusing the studio of self-censorship.

Franco and Rogen, who also co-directed the film, broke their silence after Sony made the announcement.

“The people have spoken! Freedom has prevailed!” Rogen said, while Franco added, “VICTORY!!!!!!! The PEOPLE and THE PRESIDENT have spoken!!!”

Sony Pictures Entertainment Chief Executive Michael Lynton said the studio was looking for more options to screen the film, which major U.S. theater chains pulled because of threats from hackers who warned of a September 11, 2001 style of attack.

Lynton said in Tuesday’s statement: “We have never given up on releasing ‘The Interview’ and we’re excited our movie will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day.” He said the studio, a unit of Sony Corp, was trying to secure other platforms and more theaters “so that this movie reaches the largest possible audience.”

TICKETS SELL QUICKLY

One of the first signs of a breakthrough for Sony came in a tweet from Tim League, founder of the Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain, saying it planned to show the movie. Tickets sold out for many of the screenings within minutes of being offered online.

Most of the 200 or so theaters are believed to be independent exhibitors and some said they would take some extra security precautions for the first screenings. The major movie chains that had bowed out last week, such as AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas, had not yet addressed the reversal.

“I think everybody has been doing a certain amount of this on the fly,” said Jan Klingelhofer, a film buyer from Oakland, California, who got the movie into at least two theaters.

Legal experts said theater owners, not Sony, would bear the brunt of legal liability in the event of violence at the shows.

In one case that has similar themes, victims of the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, brought a case against the theater owner Cinemark USA. In August, the judge overseeing the case refused to dismiss the lawsuit and allowed it to move forward.

Even so, Eugene Volokh, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, said movie theaters would have “a pretty strong defense” in such a case because, although there is a general threat concerning “The Interview”, it is not specific or foreseeable.

Theater owners and film buyers told Reuters that Sony shared its plans to have the movie play on video-on-demand (VOD) beginning on Dec. 25. Sony has not confirmed the VOD plan.

As of yet, however, no major U.S. cable or satellite operator has plans to offer the film to their subscribers.

THREAT NOT DEEMED SERIOUS

A national security official said U.S. authorities did not rate the threats by hackers against theatergoers seriously, but it was not yet clear whether U.S. agencies would issue any additional warnings of possible attacks on exhibitors.

North Korea experienced Internet problems during the weekend and a complete outage of nearly nine hours before links were largely restored on Tuesday; U.S. officials said Washington was not involved.

Links were restored at 0146 GMT on Tuesday, but two brief outages occurred later in the day, said U.S.-based Dyn Research, a company that monitors Internet infrastructure.

Matthew Prince, CEO of U.S.-based CloudFlare, which protects websites from web-based attacks, said the fact that North Korea’s Internet was back up “is pretty good evidence that the outage wasn’t caused by a state-sponsored attack; otherwise it’d likely still be down for the count.”

South Korea, which remains technically at war with North Korea, said meanwhile it could not rule out involvement by its neighbor in a cyberattack on its nuclear power plant operator involving non-critical data. ID:nL3N0U71AX]

North Korea has denied it was behind the cyberattack on Sony and has vowed to hit back against any U.S. retaliation, threatening the White House and the Pentagon.

Some of the internal emails leaked by the hackers who attacked Sony suggest it is considering a sale of its Sony/ATV Music Publishing unit, the Wall Street Journal reported

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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World

Key ally rejects PM Johnson’s Brexit plan – Sterling sags

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Key ally rejects PM Johnson’s Brexit plan – Sterling sags | The Thaiger

The British Pound tumbled again today after UK PM Boris Johnson’s key ally in parliament said it “could not support” his plans for a Brexit deal, throwing a spanner in the works – just as Britain and the EU were closing in on an agreement.

The comment caused an immediate reaction from this morning’s Asia Pacific markets.

After years of wrangling, the two sides said they were edging towards the basis for a treaty allowing Britain to avoid an economically catastrophic “no-deal” exit from the European Union.

With both teams working through the night, EU negotiator Michel Barnier said there had been “good progress, and work is ongoing”, while France’s deputy foreign minister said Thursday a deal was “within reach but is not guaranteed”.

There had been optimism that a deal was in the offing, just two weeks before Britain is due to leave the bloc, as they worked towards a solution on the vexed question of British-ruled Northern Ireland.

But Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) dropped a bombshell hours before the start of a crunch EU summit Thursday, saying it cannot support the plan.

“As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues, and there is a lack of clarity” on Value Added Tax, the DUP, which props up Johnson’s government, said in a statement on Twitter.

“We will continue to work with the Government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster had met Johnson several times this week to discuss the progress of talks and had described as “nonsense” previous reports that she was ready to give way.

The pound, which earlier in the day was hovering at five-month highs around $1.2877 sank to $1.2750 before edging back slightly, while it also lost ground to the euro.

The DUP are against any deal that would tie Northern Ireland to EU rules but cut the rest of the United Kingdom loose.

Markets react

In early trade, London’s FTSE added 0.1%, Paris was flat and Frankfurt eased 0.2%. In Asia, most markets were in the red, with traders unable to take advantage of weak US retail data that raised the chances of another Federal Reserve interest rate cut. Comments in the Fed’s Beige Book update on the economy also pointed to a slowdown.

Hong Kong added 0.7% but Shanghai finished 0.1% lower and Tokyo lost 0.1%.

Sydney sank 0.8%, Singapore shed 0.7% and Seoul retreated 0.2%t, with Wellington and Manila also off. There were gains in Taipei, Mumbai, Bangkok and Jakarta.

Speculation about a possible US rate cut provided support to higher-yielding currencies against the dollar, with the Australian dollar 0.6 percent up and the South Korean won 0.1 percent stronger. The Thai baht, the Mexican peso and the South African rand also posted healthy gains.

Oil prices fell after data pointed to a sharp rise in US stockpiles that reinforced worries about the impact on demand from the China-US trade war and the global economic slowdown.

Key markets today

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2784 from $1.2817 at 2100 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 86.65 pence from 86.33 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1081 from $1.1073

Dollar/yen: UP at 108.80 yen from 108.71 yen

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,175.09

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1% at 22,451.86 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.7% at 26,848.49 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.1% at 2,977.33 (close)

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 56 cents at $52.80 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 55 cents at $58.87 per barrel

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.1% at 27,001.98 (close)

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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World

EU and UK zone in on possible breakthrough

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EU and UK zone in on possible breakthrough | The Thaiger

British and European negotiators headed back into intense negotiations on a draft Brexit deal after late-night talks brought them closer but so far fails to confirm an elusive breakthrough.

Reports that Britain has softened its stance on the customs status of Northern Ireland in order to clinch an accord at this week’s European summit had raised hopes that a chaotic “no-deal Brexit” can be avoided and is driving the pound higher.

But a marathon overnight negotiating session in the EU’s Brussels headquarters brought them to the eve of the meeting with still some distance to go to agree the wording of a treaty to govern the terms of Britain’s October 31 departure from the bloc.

“The teams worked into the night and continue to make progress. The teams will meet again this morning,” a UK official said, describing the talks as “constructive”. He and EU officials said the teams would get back to work at around 9am.

A senior European diplomat told AFP that the negotiators had begun to transcribe the British offer into a legal text that could eventually go before the 28 EU national leaders on Thursday at their European Council summit which begins on Thursday.

But there remain some important differences, he cautioned, while a European official, speaking on condition of anonymity as closed-door negotiations continue, played down hopes that any text would be finalised Wednesday.

Even if a text is prepared for the leaders this week – or if, as many observers in Brussels expect, an extraordinary summit is called later – any deal would have to be approved by a skeptical British parliament, which holds a special session on Saturday.

By agreeing to a form of customs boundary in the Irish Sea, Britain could allow its province of Northern Ireland to remain under EU rules, prevent a return to a hard land border with EU member Ireland and salvage a negotiated withdrawal.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson may struggle to convince hardline Conservative eurosceptic MPS and his allies from Northern Ireland’s loyalist Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to accept this concession — less than three weeks before Britain is due to leave the EU.

Nevertheless, EU negotiator Michel Barnier and British Brexit minister Stephen Barclay judged that a deal was close enough to justify officials working into the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Barnier had said a text must be on the table by Wednesday if member state governments are to have a chance to consider it before the summit, because the 28 national leaders have no plans to themselves debate the details of the agreement.

But if, as now seems likely, the Wednesday deadline is missed, officials said talks could instead resume next week and a special summit be called just in time for Johnson to fulfil his pledge to lead Britain out of the bloc on October 31.

European leaders warn they will not let Britain use Northern Ireland as a back door to the single market and Barnier said Tuesday that “it is high time to turn good intentions into legal text.”

Yesterday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel outlined why EU officials are driving a hard bargain and hoping Britain will commit to a “level playing field” in post-Brexit trade and commerce.

“One thing is clear, Britain will develop into another competitor on the doorstep of Europe. And therefore the EU will be challenged to become more competitive and to assume geopolitical responsibility.”

Glimmers of hope

“The last moment is always a bit later than you think,” one German government official told AFP, suggesting Brexit would have to be postponed beyond the end of the month if talks are to reach a successful conclusion.

More than three years after Britain’s 2016 referendum vote to leave the European bloc, talks remain stuck on how to avoid customs checks on the border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland.

The EU has reservations about London’s proposed customs arrangements and the role for Northern Ireland’s Stormont assembly in giving consent to the plans.

In London, DUP leader Arlene Foster told the BBC that she wanted to support a deal, but would not do so if she felt it divided Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK and added that without her party’s support “everybody knows” it would not pass in parliament.

If no deal is reached by Saturday, Johnson will fall foul of a British law demanding he ask the EU to postpone Brexit for a third time rather than risk a potentially disastrous “no deal” departure.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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Myanmar

Burmese surfing team head to SEAsia Games, a first for Myanmar

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Burmese surfing team head to SEAsia Games, a first for Myanmar | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Burmese surfer Thwe Thwe Soe practicing off the coast of Ngwe Saung – Myanmore

Paddling hard and smiling, Thwe Thwe Soe flung herself up on the board just as a wave was breaking, spreading her arms out for balance before getting knocked off.

“I can’t live without surfing. I did not expect to be chosen for the national team but I’m thrilled at the opportunity.”

Thwe Thwe Soe was speaking after a day in the blue waters off the small coastal resort town of Ngwe Saung. Competitive surfing was barely known in Myanmar a few years ago but one local beach town is riding a wave of enthusiasm to the Southeast Asia Games for the first time ever.

The Southeast Asian country is flanked by surf-ready coasts to the west and south, but decades of military rule, lack of equipment and poverty kept aspiring athletes from testing the waters. The 25 year old encountered the sport while studying in southern California and has been hooked since, saying she “always feels happy” on the water.

Now she is going up against the region’s giants at the December games in the Philippines. Thwe Thwe Soe has one of the best chances to medal among the handful of surfers going, but all are training hard.

“We surf for at least four to six hours a day,” said American coach Robert Brickell, a 26 year old originally from New York.

The mild waves at Ngwe Saung present a paradox for competitive surfers – they are good to learn on but much tamer than the conditions in surfing hotspots. The team went to Bali in Indonesia for two months to get used to some “big wave surfing” and have made enormous strides in a short amount of time, Brickell said.

“My hope is that we can show everybody that people from Myanmar, we know how to surf, we know how to respect the ocean. And of course our hope is to win some meets.”

The Surf Association of Myanmar was established only this year. The sport is slowly gaining prominence thanks to the impassioned surfers, most from a village near the beach and newcomers themselves. Ngwe Saung is the heartland of the growing craze and has now hosted several competitions.

“We hadn’t heard of surfing before 2017. It will be a difficult competition but we will do our best for sure.” said 19 year old Aung Min Naing.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

Burmese surfing team head to SEAsia Games, a first for Myanmar | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Aspiring new Burmese surfer, Aung Min Naing – MMTimes.com

Burmese surfing team head to SEAsia Games, a first for Myanmar | News by The Thaiger

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