Attendances and broadcast deals are rising in China as the government looks to build its homegrown talent too
When a little known club just promoted to the top tier of Chinese football is buying a regular starter from a club placed fifth in Serie A then you know that times are changing. But Gervinho aside there is a hitherto unremarkable mid-table club chasing Zlatan Ibrahimovic and paying Chelsea over $30m for Ramires and a second division team paying $11m for a young Chinese player. China is set to become the biggest non-European league in the world in the not-too-distant future, overtaking the likes of the MLS, Mexico and any other you may care to mention.
The really big names that can be tempted to leave Europe often go to MLS Beckham, Lampard, Henry, Gerrard, Kaka and Pirlo but China is increasingly able to pay big money (often too big at the moment but that is due to necessity more than naivety) for players that are not quite so stellar but are usually much closer to their prime. Guangzhou have Ricardo Goulart, still only 24 and regarded as one of the top Brazilian prospects a year ago when he left Cruzerio, while Beijing Guoan has Renato Augusto one of four players from Brazilian champions Corinthians to make a recent move to China. East Asia is still a relative culture shock for players based in South America or Europe than North America but a growing number of Chinese clubs can offer huge salaries with Renato Augusto more than quadrupling his. The US transfer system can be complex with plenty of rules and regulations. In China, its naked capitalism. Theres lots of money and lots of people happy to see that cash buying players from overseas.
In terms of attendances, MLS and China are similar but perhaps not for long. The 2016 Super League season, set to kick off in March, is the most eagerly-awaited yet. Last year saw an average attendance of just over 22,000, less than two hundred behind Italy and France. A high-ranking league official told the Guardian that this season will see the 25,000 barrier broken and predicts that by 2018, the Chinese Super League will be the third most-watched football league in terms of average attendance in the world behind the Bundesliga and the English Premier League. Theres money, the political will, the infrastructure, the passion, the ambition and plenty of potential. Talk in Europe of whether the spending is sustainable is misguided. This is just one of many examples of the worlds second largest economy flexing its financial muscles.
It is already having an effect at home. In 2015 Chinese broadcasters paid just $9m to show local league games. In 2016 it will be over $200m as part of a $1.25bn package over the next five seasons.
Guangzhou Evergrande has become the prime mover in China after being taken over by a huge property developer. Five Chinese titles, two Asian Champions Leagues and two World Cup winning coaches later, the Cantonese giant wants to win the Fifa Club World Cup. With Robinho, Paulinho, Goulart, Luiz Felipe Scolari, much of the Chinese national team and an average attendance of over 45,000, it is already Asias premier club.
Shanghai SIPG was runner-up in 2015 but Sven Goran Eriksson lost out once again to Scolari. The Swede has been spending big, paying around $50m for Ghanaian goal-king Asamoah Gyan and Brazilian striker Elkeson. The club still wants Robin van Persie or Wayne Rooney. Shanghai Shenhua has Demba Ba, Fredy Guarin and Tim Cahill. Beijing Guoan risks getting left behind but still had 42,000 applications for 27,000 season tickets earlier this month.
Beijing has Serie A winning coach Alberto Zaccheroni in the hotseat and, as well as Scolari and Sven at Evergrande and SIPG, theres ex-Brazil boss Mano Menezes at Shandong Luneng and Dragan Stojkovic, not long ago tipped to be Arsene Wengers Arsenal successor, with Guangzhou R&F. Whatever the past failings of the Chinese system, the countrys best players are increasingly being coached by well-regarded international names.
The spending has been encouraged by a government headed by big soccer fan Xi Jinping. The president was tired of the worlds most populous country continually failing at the worlds most popular game. Wealthy businessmen get involved, in part, to curry favor and craft links with the politicians and even perhaps, to make money. Guangzhou may have spent over $150m on players and coaches since 2010 but Evergrande, who bought the club for $16m, sold 50% of it for $190m to internet giant Alibaba just four years later.
There is still, of course, much work to be done to improve the standard of local players. As well as in terms of mens national teams, China lags behind the United States in a big way when it comes to participation. Soccer may be the most played sport among American youth but kids rarely play the game in the Middle Kingdom often due to a lack of places to play or the preference of parents to have their (usually only) offspring aim for a real job rather than professional football.
The government has launched a scheme to get kids playing football at school and the target in 2017 is to have 20,000 schools playing the sport on a weekly basis. This is set to be expanded in a big way. Guangzhou has built what is purported to be the biggest soccer academy in the world (helped by Real Madrid) and the fact that there is more money coming into the game such as from the new television deal and increasing corporate interest should feed through to local players further down the chain, making professional football an increasingly attractive option a decade from now. By that time, the league should be thriving.
Producing more local talent would mean that the league would be less reliant on foreign stars, though the money is likely to be there regardless of any wider economic problems. It is debatable as to which league is the best outside Europe but whichever it is, China is catching fast. That may not matter much to fans in North America but is another sign that the balance of power is moving east along with Gervinho, Ramires and who knows who else?Continue reading
The US lawyer in the landmark 1973 case, which effectively legalised abortion, talks about the fight to protect Planned Parenthood
Sarah Weddington is the lawyer who, aged just 26, represented Jane Roe in the landmark case Roe v Wade, which in 1973 effectively legalised abortion in the US. The daughter of a Methodist minister, she was born in 1945 in Abilene, Texas. Having graduated with a degree in English from McMurry University, she enrolled at the University of Texas Law School in 1964, one of 40 women among a student body of 1,600. I thought I would be teaching eighth graders to love Beowulf, she recalls. But that wasnt working out so well, so I decided to go to law school instead. In this, I was encouraged by the dean of my college, who told me that it would be far too tough for a woman. As sure as dammit I am going, I thought.
After graduating, she joined a group of students who were seeking to challenge anti-abortion laws, agreeing to file a suit against the state of Texas on their behalf. Soon after, 21-year-old Norma McCorvey was referred to Weddington and her colleague Linda Coffee, now actively looking for pregnant women who were seeking abortions. McCorvey became the plaintiff Jane Roe, though by the time the supreme court issued its ruling, her baby had long since been born and given up for adoption. McCorvey later became an evangelical Christian and vocal anti-abortion campaigner, and claimed to have been the victim of the Roe v Wade lawyers. She died last month aged 69.
Weddington remains the youngest person ever to have argued a successful case at the supreme court. In 1973, she was elected to the Texas House of Representatives, where she served for three terms. In 1973, she became the first female General Counsel at the US Department of Agriculture. From 1978 until 1981, she served as assistant to President Carter, directing his administrations work on womens issues. She now runs the Weddington Center, Austin, whose work focuses on women and leadership. She recently told NBC news that the election of Donald Trump may pose the biggest threat yet to abortion rights in the US.
Where were you on election night? Did you sense that Trump was going to win?
Austin is one of the more liberal towns in Texas, though the state itself is barely liberal. Most people I know strongly expected Hillary to win. But Id been on a panel a few weeks before where a man had said: You liberals think Hillary is going to win. Well, let me tell you, there are a lot of people out here who are voting with our finger the middle finger. So I knew there was resistance. There were a lot of parties on the night, but I had enough concerns to be afraid that going to one might turn out to be too depressing. So I came here to my office, and watched it on the New York Times website.
Whats your impression of the president so far?
I thought he would be terrible, and he has proven me correct. In Texas, we have a lot of people from Mexico and El Salvador, and a lot of them are worried family members will be deported.
What do you make of the growing fear that under this administration Planned Parenthood [a 100-year-old nonprofit organisation that is the largest single provider of reproductive health services, including abortion, in the US] will lose its federal funding?
The federal government has never given money to Planned Parenthood for abortion. It gives money to it for the provision of contraception and well woman care: for the treatment of venereal disease, mammograms, and so on. The anti-abortionists recognise that the money is not used for abortion, but they want it cut off anyway. It is a real threat. But Planned Parenthood may ultimately benefit from what Trump is doing and saying. Last week, I was in Houston for a Planned Parenthood event. Usually, there would be about 1,000 people in the audience. This time, we had 2,500. People are very worried, and they are giving more generously.
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LIVING YOUR TRUTH: Why the Transgender Day of Visibility is necessary
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THE world, as we know it, to say the least, now to a larger scale, lives and breathes technology. And with the constant need to stay informed via the Internet, blogging is fast becoming an easier means to provide such information, whether fuelled by …
Jim Justice is a big-talking, brash billionaire who saved one of West Virginia’s most precious historic hotels. But can he do the same for the state?”>
Everybody in West Virginia knows Jim Justice saved the states historic Greenbrier resort from bankruptcy and restored the jobs of 650 laid-off workers.
In a state that ranks low on almost every measure of prosperity, he boosted the local sense of pride by building a training camp for the New Orleans Saints on the property and convincing the PGA to host a premiere tournament at the Greenbrier, turning a dying resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Va. into a sports destination.
He also added a casino, which the Greenbriers web site describes as Monte Carlo meets Gone With the Wind. Its splashy motif tested the old guard, but thats how Justice rolls. According to Forbes, hes West Virginias only billionaire, and now at age 65 hes the frontrunner for governor in tomorrows Democratic primary.
A huge bear of a man with a shock of white hair, he stands 67, weighs over 300 pounds, and wears crocs on the campaign trail. Like Donald Trump, another billionaire businessman turned politician, Justice makes a lot of grandiose pronouncements about what he could do if elected to make the economy take off, promising voters in an April debate, Ill take you on a rocket jobs ride youll never believe.
Aside from a brief stint on the Raleigh County Board of Education 15 years ago, hes a political novice. He was a Republican before he was a Democrat, and a Democrat before he was a Republican.
Hes also dared to question the future of the states most sacred of sacred cows: Coal
Coal is so central to the states psyche and its economic well being that the minerals image is in the state flag.
I do not want to give up on coal. I do not want to throw it away, but you have to have a lot more than coal, Justice told students at Blue Ridge Technical Community College, according to the Martinsburg Journal. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure that out. No matter what I do, coal may never come back.
That passes for radical in coal country, but theres more to the story. Some accuse Justice of talking out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to coal, which is the source of his fortune.
He inherited Bluestone Coal, now Bluestone Resources, from his father, selling it to a Russian conglomerate when coal was still riding high, then buying it back last year for 99 percent less than what he sold it for in 2009.
The coal business did a nosedive in those six years, and Justice says he bought the mines back because he didnt want to see all those miners thrown out of work. He reopened several mines and put over 200 miners back to work. The United Mine Workers has endorsed him.
West Virginians blame coals decline on Obamas war on coal and EPA regulations. The state House of Delegates shifted to Republican control in 2014 after 83 years of Democratic dominance. Still,the voters elect Democrats as governor, and Justice leads in the polls over Republican state Senate leader Bill Cole, a local car dealer.
Justices chief asset is his larger than life personality, and his ability to convince voters that he can do for the state what he has done in his private life, think big, generate jobs and make money.
I can do what no one has ever done, no one, because I have a creative mind like nobodys business and I wont take no, he said in an interview with the Charleston Gazette-Mail. I can pick up the phone and call anybody and hell take my call.
Just like Trump on the national level, the braggadocio does not encompass much in the way of specifics. The message is trust me, Im a smart guy with a lot of contacts, Ill make it happen. If elected, Justice says he will be marketer-in-chief for West Virginia.
Where you think he stands on coal depends on what you choose to hear. But as a coal man himself, he is uniquely positioned to lead the way with tough love.
There are just 11,881 workers left in coal mining in the state, just over half what it was in 2012, and the lowest number in West Virginia since 1890, more than 125 years ago.
Candidates in both parties perpetuate the myth of coal returning, says Ray Smock, who directs the Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education. You cant get elected in West Virginia without suggesting positive things about the coal industry coming back.
Still, things are changing.
Don Blankenship, the disgraced former CEO of Massey Energy, was convicted last month on one misdemeanor count, which carries a $250,000 fine, which he paid, and one year in prison, which he is appealing. While way too little and too late for the 29 lives lost in an avoidable mine accident six years ago, such a verdict ten years ago would have been unimaginable. Booth Goodwin, the former states attorney who prosecuted Blankenship, is one of the Democratic contenders in Tuesdays primary.
Rob Byers, co-editor of the Charleston Gazette-Mail, told the Daily Beast that candidates are saying things they never would have said seven or ten years ago. Theyre saying the coal industry will not save us, and that climate change is real.
Of course any nod toward climate change is so couched as to be almost insignificant. Justice says theres no need to blow our legs off on a concept, but concedes he doesnt know for certain one way or the other, and thats progress of a sort.
When Justice visited with Gazette-Mail editors, he brought an enlarged photo of himself fishing in a creek he had saved and donated to a conservancy group. He wanted them to know he cared about the environment.
Thats not to say Justice isnt full of bravado about the coal industry coming back, which is politically expedient but disingenuous given the trend lines. This may be the last election you have to do that, says Byers, who has interviewed a number of Democratic House candidates, and a lot of them are saying flatly that coal is not coming back. Im not saying theyll get elected, but theres a mood shift, he says.
Justice often says that even when coal was king, West Virginia was 50th in everything else. The Greenbrier had been losing nearly a million dollars a week when he took it over in 2011. Its still not profitable. Its going to be easier to turn around the state of West Virginia than the Greenbrier, he told the students.
For all his altruism, Justice has a reputation for not paying his bills until he gets threatened with a lawsuit. He has a folksy explanation that as the CEO or owner of multiple businesses, including the largest agri-business east of the Mississippi, its like changing socks.
Most people change their socks probably a couple times a day, maybe once a day. Ive got to change (mine) 500 times a day. The likelihood of me putting one pair of socks on when one is green and one is blue during the course of the day is doggone high.
Thats the kind of explanation that at another time might have tested the confidence of voters in the barons of business to work the levers of government. Now, having lost faith in conventional politicians, voters seem ready for Plan B.
He chalks up a history of overdue bills and fines by claiming that any CEO and owner of multiple businesses is bound to make mistakes. Its like changing socks when you have too many, he says. The likelihood of me putting one pair of socks on when one is green and one is blue during the course of the day is doggone high.
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President-elect Donald Trump has said that he does not believe the planet is warming as a result of human activity despite the research-backed consensus reached long ago by researchers across the globe.
He tweeted in 2012 that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.” More recently, Trump has pledged to roll back President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan a set of rules that requires states to substantially reduce their emissions over the next few decades.
Right now, his transition website says, “America’s environmental agenda will be guided by true specialists in conservation, not those with radical political agendas.”
The implication seems to be that researchers who accept climate science will have no place in his Environmental Protection Agency, or perhaps his government.
So what will Trump’s actual environmental policies look like? Here’s what we know.
Trump has picked a man named Myron Ebell to oversee the EPA transition.
Ebell is not a scientist and has no degrees or qualifications in climate science. But he serves as director of global warming and environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a libertarian advocacy group in Washington, DC.
In practice, that means he spends his time rejecting and trying to discredit scientists who work to understand the global climate.
Ebell believes climate scientists are part of a coordinated ‘global warming movement’
In an interview with Business Insider in August, Ebell repeatedly referred to climate scientists as “global warming alarmists” and suggested that climate research is in fact an arm of a coordinated political movement.
“I think that the global warming movement has three parts,” he said. “One is to exaggerate the rate of warming, one is to exaggerate the potential impacts of warming and how soon they may occur, and the third is to underestimate wildly the costs of reducing our emissions by the magical amount that they have picked.”
Business Insider spoke with several climate scientists who described Ebell as a kind of gadfly someone’s whose views they must occasionally stoop to address in forums and debates where he’s brought in to represent a discredited anti-climate-change perspective, but not a particularly serious person.
“He doesn’t really know anything about science,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a top Earth scientist at NASA who has faced off with Ebell in the past. “He uses science like a talisman.”
Ebell’s technique, Schmidt said, is to point toward “some little fact” and use it to extrapolate some larger irrelevant and scientifically incorrect point.
Even if Ebell’s scientific claims may not sit well with actual scientists, there are those who have found his perspective valuable.
CEI used to rely significantly on funding from ExxonMobil. As The Washington Post reports, it now receives funding from Donors Trust.
You know, [Trump] said he was going to drain the swamp in Washington, and instead he’s put Myron Ebell a swamp rat, a DC insider lobbyist in charge of the transition at the EPA.
“The Virginia-based organization,” Post reporter Brady Dennis wrote of Donors Trust, “which is not required by law to disclose its contributors, is staffed largely by people who have worked for Koch Industries or nonprofit groups supported by the conservative Koch brothers.”
Good news for deniers, terrible news for environmentalists
Speaking with Business Insider in August before his selection, Ebell outlined his views on the appropriate direction for the EPA.
“When economies get richer, they not only make people wealthier, they generally provide immense environmental benefits,” he said. “And so if you actually believe, if someone actually believes that global warming is a crisis that must be addressed … I think it would be much better to free up the economy and get rid of the EPA rules and a lot of the Department of Energy programs and let the economy boom forward.”
Ebell’s fellow professional climate science skeptics seem cheered by his selection.
“Ebell is an old friend of mine who works on climate and energy issues at the Competitive Enterprise Institute,” wrote Breitbart’s James Delingpole, who regularly publishes posts trying to discredit climate science, in a November 9 article declaring that “the left just lost the war on climate change.”
“The fact that he’s an old friend of mine probably tells you all you need to know about where he stands on global warming,” Delingpole wrote.
He concluded: “Yup, greenies. That climate change gravy train you’ve been riding these last four decades looks like it’s headed for a major, Atlas-Shrugged-style tunnel incident.”
Dan Lashof, COO of the environmental group NextGen Climate America, was as concerned as Delingpole was thrilled.
“Myron Ebell is a libertarian ideologue,” he told Business Insider. “Having him lead the transition team at the EPA is literally putting a tobacco lobbyist in charge of America’s lung protection agency. It’s not normal.”
Lashof said he expects a Trump administration with a Ebell-staffed EPA to work hard to roll back environmental regulations just as the president-elect’s website promises.
“You know, [Trump] said he was going to drain the swamp in Washington, and instead he’s put Myron Ebell a swamp rat, a DC insider lobbyist in charge of the transition at the EPA,” Lashof said.
Death to ‘politically correct technologies’
You won’t hear any disagreement from the right that Ebell will push for killing environmental regulations to benefit fossil fuel businesses.
Patrick Michaels, who works for the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, DC and, like Ebell, has made a reputation for rejecting the consensus on climate science told Business Insider that Ebell’s selection represents a victory for the idea that removing air pollution rules would in fact lead to cleaner air.
“Rich societies are cleaner,” he said. “If you want efficient technologies to come online, the best way to do that is to have a vibrant economy, because that capital will be directed toward producing things with less energy and producing things that use less energy to appeal to consumers.”
This position is intolerable to Lashof.
“This is putting somebody who just denies basic scientific facts in charge of a federal agency,” Lashof said. “We will lead a resistance against the federal government. We will work with state governments to push back and keep progress going based on state policy.”
He said he’s confident there will be economic limits on Ebell’s and Trump’s ability to fight clean energy.
Solar and wind power “are actually cheaper than continuing to run existing coal in a lot of locations,” Lashof said. “That depends to some extent on a federal tax credit, which early indications suggest that Congress and the Trump administration are not likely to try to roll back.”
Both Ebell and Michaels scoff at the idea that either solar or wind power will play a significant role in the energy future of the country. (Michaels calls them “politically correct technologies.”)
“I think in particular I would say the emphasis that the global warming movement or alarmist community or whatever you want to call them on renewables, namely solar and wind, is really short-sighted,” Ebell said. “I think that those two technologies, particularly wind, are dead ends.”
It’s worth noting though that Ebell may have tweaked his public position on this issue in the last couple of months. He told National Geographic after the election that “we love wind and solar.” But he clarified that he doesn’t think the government should get involved in supporting either.
Ebell argued that any reduction in US emissions in the Obama era is the result of a “stagnant economy,” not policies designed to push renewable energies.
“We would like to get rid of all of this stuff,” he said. “And we think that the use of energy will become more efficient just through the innovations that will occur in free markets when people are allowed to invest their money in things that can make money.”
How does climate denial even work?
Asked to explain why someone would reject the scientific consensus that humans are dangerously warming the planet, Michaels simply denied that any such consensus exists.
For evidence that climate change has been largely falsified, he pointed to an October 28 article by the reporter Paul Voosen in the journal Science.
The argument he drew from the Voosen article is a good example of the approach professional climate deniers like himself and Ebell use to undermine science, so it’s worth taking a minute to think about.
“Take a look at the Voosen piece and read between the lines,” Michaels said.
Michaels argued that it shows the many models researchers use to understand the climate have been rigged with “fudge factors” to produce incorrect results, and that “scientists are deciding a priori what the answer is.”
Here’s what Voosen actually reported:
“For years, climate scientists had been mum in public about their ‘secret sauce’; What happened in the models stayed in the models. The taboo reflected fears that climate contrarians would use the practice of tuning [models to real world results] to seed doubt about models and, by extension, the reality of human driven warming. ‘The community became defensive,’ [scientist Bjorn] Stevens says. ‘It was afraid of talking about things that they thought could be unfairly used against them.’ …
“But modelers have come to realize that disclosure could reveal that some tunings [of models] are more deft or realistic than others. It’s also vital for scientists who use the models in specific ways.”
Voosen’s article does not state or suggest any evidence of rigging to falsify warming. Rather, he reports that there has been an effort to bring models in line with observed reality, and that a transparency movement is enabling scientists to more rigorously audit each others’ models for quality.
But Michaels finds a nearly opposite interpretation.
With Ebell on the rise, the question than becomes: Are these sorts of denials valid?
“It’s complete bollocks. You can quote me on that. It’s just rubbish,” Schmidt said of Michaels’ argument.
“So it’s basically a shoot the messenger strategy that they’ve been pursuing for decades, but most actually scientists have been ignoring them for about the same amount of time.”
Schmidt said there is “enormous consensus” among scientists about three points: Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will warm the planet, human activity is increasing their presence in the atmosphere, and that activity is responsible for almost all or all of the warming the planet has seen since the 19th century. This is true.
Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, said there’s no longer a serious question to ask about the validity of climate change.
“We understand the physics of what’s happening pretty well now,” he said. “If you load the atmosphere with a greenhouse gas, it will induce a warming. It’s all based on an understanding of how electromagnetic radiation and matter interact. It’s a very mature science. If you are going to deny that somehow, you’d have to deny that your microwave oven works.”
He added that he invites people to come to the NSIDC to download snow and ice data and do their own analysis if they want, though deniers rarely take him up on it.
“People like Michaels and Ebell have been saying that climate modeling isn’t science for decades,” Schmidt said. “And what they really mean is, ‘We don’t like the outputs from those climate models, and so therefore instead of trying to demonstrate why they’re wrong, we’re just going to try to dismiss them out of hand.’
“So it’s basically a shoot-the-messenger strategy that they’ve been pursuing for decades, but most actual scientists have been ignoring them for about the same amount of time.”
‘Nothing he does affects the science’
Schmidt works for NASA, and Serreze works for the NSIDC. That means they rely on federal funds for their research. Trump has made it clear that scientists who accept the consensus position that human activity is causing climate change will not be welcome in his government, or at least his EPA. And his selection of Ebell only reinforces that point. But neither researcher said he expects to lose his ability to pursue science.
“I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t some level of concern,” Schmidt said. “But the federal government is a very, very large place. And the number of appointees is very small.”
“During the [George W.] Bush administration, we had climate skeptics rewriting reports and trying to control what’s said to the media,” he added. “But the planet kept warning. We kept reporting on it. We kept improving the science that underlies our understanding of why it’s changing. And we will work to continue to do so.”
Serreze said: “I think we remain optimistic that wise heads are going to prevail here. There were concerns in the previous Republican administration under George W. Bush. We got through that. I’m confident we’ll get through this.”
As for Ebell’s newfound power to push his views onto scientists, Schmidt said he’s not overly concerned in part because the EPA has never done much research on its own, but also because Ebell lacks the wherewithal to do so.
“He’s not a serious person when it comes to the science,” Schmidt said. “Nothing he does affects the science.”
This is an editorial. The opinions and conclusions expressed above are those of the author.
Read the original article on Tech Insider. Copyright 2016.Continue reading
Over the past decade or so, it’s become acceptable for adults to like kid’s stuff again. Which is great, because now we can watch great shows like Steven Universe and Gravity Falls without getting the stink eye from the rest of civilization. Occasionally, though, adults will forget that kids too enjoy kid stuff, leading to situations that range from “slightly annoying” to “absolutely terrifying.”
According to recent estimates, approximately 90 percent of all toys are Star Wars toys, and this percentage doubled upon the recent release of The Force Awakens. Stores across the nation stocked up on toys for “Force Friday,” in hopes that they could cram enough bodies into their stores to generate a small black hole. And it nearly worked — retailers watched as their new Star Wars toys sold out in massive numbers … to fans who will probably never touch them again, save for the occasional dusting.
Massive excitement, followed by absolutely nothing: It’s not just for Boba Fett toys anymore!
Obviously, The Force Awakens has wide-ranging appeal, with 34 percent of moviegoers being between the ages of 18 and 34, but nobody anticipated the degree to which adult male collectors would wait out all night to completely clear the shelves. Plenty of fans on social media complained that, despite waiting in line for hours at their local Toys ‘R’ Us or Target, there was almost nothing for them to buy, because the first ten or so people in line had descended on the toy aisles like a group of piranhas skeletonizing a cow. How piranhas and a cow ended up in the same room is a mystery, but so are scenes like this:
“That’s adorable, but I’m still coming any day now.” — Death
But all these megafans buying the toys as collector’s items were only shooting themselves in the foot. Vintage toys from the 1970s and 1980s can go for thousands of dollars these days, but that’s only because so few people bothered to keep them around. When the prequel trilogy came out, along with hundreds of Alderaans’ worth of toys, they were snapped up by collectors by the thousands, which caused their value to drop to that of a lightly-used Tootsie Pop. So instead of securing a financial future crafted from the tears of children, these adults dropped hundreds of dollars on what will eventually become the backdrop for an episode of Hoarders.
Guys, if you really want to make money off these toys, tear them out of the packages and take pictures of all the figures making out with all the other figures. The demand for that will be substantially higher. And seeing as how A) we’ll be getting Star Wars movies until the heat death of the universe; and B) male adults fucking stampeded to The Force Awakens, a few more decades of this bullshit will make the franchise as hip to the kids as C-SPAN.
Though you may not have heard of them, children’s pop group The Wiggles is one of Australia’s most successful musical groups, having released a whopping 44 albums and received critical acclaim for the last 25 years. If you aren’t familiar with their music, here’s one of their most popular tunes on YouTube, “Hot Potato.”
Obviously, their biggest group of fans are children, but it turns out the Wiggles are beloved by another group — a much older, lonelier, hornier group. For at least ten years, members of the band have been receiving letters from older women and single mothers who want to wiggle with them, so to speak. Some of the comments made were so suggestive that we don’t even know what they are, because they couldn’t be reprinted in an Australian newspaper (one of the few known cases of Australia giving a fuck).
A 2009 interview with Anthony, the Blue Wiggle (which is also the worst superhero name we’ve ever heard), revealed that the group has dedicated groupies bearing Krispy Kremes, and has received at least one erotic jigsaw puzzle. The interview also included photos of Anthony which, honestly, explain an awful lot.
The episode where The Wiggles visited a tattoo parlor received critical acclaim.
After years and years of this mommy panty-dropping, The Wiggles have given up on fighting their adult fanbase, and they’ve started doing some adult-only shows. Recently, The Wiggles held a benefit “reunion” show that could only be attended by people aged 18 or over, partly due to the sale of alcohol at the show — something we don’t think Sesame Street would be able to pull off.
As you would expect from a bunch of grownups watching an act they enjoyed as toddlers, most people in attendance were completely fucking blasted. But if you thought this would be the show where The Wiggles let their hair down, you’d be wrong: They played it exactly as they would play it for children. Which makes sense, since that was probably the average brain function at the time for these alcohol-doused adults.
Do we really need to explain bronies? We’re 95 percent sure you know what they are. Hell, we’re sure a solid chunk of you are bronies, reading this article because someone on social media said that we were talking about you. Thanks for that, by the way.
Well, for the three of you who don’t know: “Bronies” are the group of adult, mostly male fans of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. They arrived at the same time the show did, at first ironically, then legitimately after they realized that it’s quite well-made for a kid’s show. Unfortunately, nothing good lasts forever on the internet, and things started getting weird, even when you try to ignore the veritable mountains of MLP pornography (and no, we are not providing any links here).
Two in the Pinkie Pie, one in the Stinkie Pie.
A couple years ago, Tumblr removed a pornographic MLP fan blog called “Ask Princess Molestia,” which in a normal universe would have been the most uncontroversial sentence in history. But because everything is awful, a large number of bronies got outraged, and proceeded to do what the internet always does when it’s outraged: blame a woman and try to ruin her life.
Seventeen-year-old Tumblr user pinkiepony, who reported the blog to Hasbro after her 12-year-old sister came across “Molestia” by accident, was inundated with cryptic threats and allegations of white supremacy, and even tracked down via GPS coordinates, because Hell hath no fury like a man online who isn’t able to see sex literally everywhere he looks.
Shouldn’t enjoying a show called Friendship Is Magic require you to be friendly?
Recently, though, it seems that Hasbro has realized that they are fighting a losing battle. While trademark and copyright law forces them to do things such as send cease-and-desist letters to the creators of a My Little Pony MMO, they’ve decided they could get their hands on that sweet adult collector money, rather than try to curtail the rising tide of bronies. A new high-quality line of figures called <3 My Little Pony is being designed to sell for hundreds of dollars apiece, also known as “a significant fraction of an iPhone.”
That 12-inch human Rainbow Dash will be great emotional support during the buyer’s bankruptcy proceedings.
There’s no word on when Hasbro will start spray-painting and selling real ponies, but we’re reasonably sure they wouldn’t be able to keep them in stock.Continue reading
Dutch activists provide link between Indian entrepreneur providing cost-price tablets and desperate people in places where terminations are illegal
Delicious smells permeate a small office in Nagpur as an elderly woman cooks lunch for the 40-odd staff: roti, steamed rice, moong bean dal, spicy potato hash and mutter paneer curry.
Its all a long way, geographically and culturally, from the streets of Belfast nearly 5,000 away. But the two cities are joined by a hidden thread, a pharma pipeline that is helping many hundreds of women in Northern Ireland to get around the provinces stringent anti-abortion law.
From the Orange City, as Nagpur is known, a company called Kale Impex sources abortion pills that are freely available across India, and sends them to women in places where terminating a pregnancy is illegal. Places such as Northern Ireland.
The man at the centre of the operation is Mohan Kale, a 45-year-old bespectacled entrepreneur with an easygoing nature.
Once this was a business for Kale, but influenced by his wife, Maitreyi, a social worker involved in sex education, he began supplying the tablets at cost (around 72 rupees 72p per set of nine pills compared with the retail price of around 900 rupees) to countries where it is illegal. Kales other companies make money by exporting treatments for chronic conditions such as diabetes.
To me it is very clear that the choice of whether a pregnancy is desired or undesired and whether she wants it or not has to rest with a woman because it is her body, he says, and she has to have access to resources required to make an effective choice, no matter what the law of the land says.
In India, Kale Impexs operation is entirely legal. The company has five full-time employees who process the prescriptions for abortion pills, sourced from across India. For each script, nine pills are packaged up, sent to the state capital, Mumbai, for clearance by the additional drugs commissioner and customs, and dispatched.
In some countries, even a small delay can be the difference between life and death for pregnant woman, says Kale.
Many times, in the absence of proper means, desperate women consume toxic chemicals like caustic soda to pull off an abortion, he says. As a supplier, I am always running against time, and have to use every trick in the bag to [get] the drug where it is needed and when.
Like most modern-day, sophisticated global supply chains, this one needs intermediaries, in this case a handful of charities that link the desperate with Kale Impex.
Rebecca Gomperts is the founder of charity called Women on Web, which works with the company in India. It is to Gomperts, working from a bare white office in Amsterdam, that many women and their partners in Northern Ireland turn when they want an abortion.
Gomperts scrolls through some of the online messages from Northern Irish women her operation has helped. None of their real names will be used, because they would face life in prison if identified.
Being in an abusive relationship, I believed there was no one whod help me, read one message from Aishling. He would kill me, literally kill me, if he found out I tried to get an abortion.
Each year more than 2,000 women travel from Northern Ireland to England to have pregnancies terminated, but Aishling was too frightened of being discovered by her boyfriend. She Googled medical abortion and found Women on Web.
You cant just say because its in another country it doesnt affect you, says Gomperts. Human rights affect all of us.
The single item decorating the Amsterdam office is a map by the Center for Reproductive Rights colour-coding countries by the legal status of abortion. Northern Ireland is orange, category II: one of 59 countries where abortion is only allowed to protect a womans life or health. Others in this group include New Zealand and Zimbabwe.
Each week Women on Web gets more than 2,000 inquiries from around the world. In the first seven days of December, 49 of those were from Ireland. They include women who live in the Republic of Ireland where the pills are confiscated by customs, forcing people to use addresses in the north.
Each woman answers 25 questions: how many weeks pregnant are they; do they have diabetes, epilepsy, or other listed diseases; is somebody forcing them to have an abortion against their will; do they live within an hour of medical help in case of complications?
Two answers determine whether Women on Web can help. Women must live in a country where safe abortion is not available and medicines can get through the post. And they must be at most nine weeks pregnant to allow time to get the pills before they are 11-12 weeks. After that, the World Health Organisation recommends women who take abortion pills must be in a healthcare facility.
Women on Web employs 17 women on a helpdesk to answer inquiries, reply to messages and provide more detailed information about what an abortion with pills will involve. Some occasionally work in the Amsterdam office but most work from home, spread across seven countries in Europe, north Africa, Asia, and north and south America.
Each week the team get together on Skype to discuss any problems. The biggest stress for staff is when the charity cannot help women, who can become deeply distressed, says Gomperts. This can really, really affect people who work on the helpdesk. We want to make sure everybody has a place they can talk about it.
After the initial consultation, about one in 10 women pull out. The remainder have their details checked by doctors, web-based volunteers whose locations are also protected and who write prescriptions for the pills.
Women are then asked to donate 80-90 (£58-£65) to help cover the charitys administration costs. Those who cant afford so much can contribute less, as part of a chain of solidarity with other women in need.
Four out of five women donate the full amount, with the remainder paying less or sometimes nothing. One of these was Celia. Im all alone, away from my family and cant tell anyone about it, she wrote. I dont know what to do: I cant get an abortion on the NHS and I cant afford to pay for anything.
The prescription is then sent to India, and in cites, towns and villages across Northern Ireland the waiting begins.
Gomperts reads out messages from Celia: she was 55 days pregnant when she contacted Women on Web, close to the nine-week cut-off.
Im just wondering if the pills been posted or do I need to make a donation to get the pills, she wrote while doctors were assessing her case. After they were posted (free of charge) she wrote again: I still cant get on your tracking site to know when the package will arrive. Im getting a bit worried now.
That problem solved, she was still in the grip of anxiety: Im just getting worried I will be too far on, that it wont work, and Im just really depressed.
The parcel arrived two weeks after she put in the request. Inside the package were nine pills: a single mifepristone and eight misoprostol. First women take the mifepristone to block the effects of the progesterone hormone, which keeps the pregnancy viable.
In countries where abortion is illegal, the moment women swallow that small round pill is usually the instant they commit the criminal act.
At least 24 hours later they take two misoprostol, which brings on contractions to expel the pregnancy. These can be taken vaginally, but Women on Web recommend under the tongue: that way doctors cannot trace the drug if they get help for complications, the abortion in every other sense being a miscarriage. Four hours later they take another dose. If the pills do not work, there are two more doses in the package.
Most women have cramps, some vomit and get a fever, typically they bleed for a week or so. A few will have complications and need to go to hospital for the remaining placenta to be removed, and in very rare cases for a blood transfusion or antibiotics for infection.
More typical is Sarahs undramatic experience. The package arrived Friday and I took the first tablet, the next one on Saturday, she wrote to Women on Web. [It] felt like early labour for three and a half hours before bleeding started a few minutes later I pushed out the pregnancy, and the cramps subsided.
A few weeks later women are asked to go for a scan: only one in 100 will still be pregnant.
Later they are asked to fill out an evaluation. One question asks how they feel about the experience. One percent or so say, in retrospect, a medical abortion was not for them, though it is not clear if these women regret the abortion or just the method. The remainder report mostly mixed emotions.
Grateful and relieved almost always feature. Many also feel guilty or low, or report feelings of loss.
Aishlings feedback told a little more of her story. Guilty, empowered, relieved, confident, satisfied, she wrote of her reaction, then hinting she might now end her abusive relationship.
Im now on the way to getting out and making a fresh start, she added. Thank you doesnt express my gratitude enough.Continue reading