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Couched in Silence

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

It’s impossible right now to pick up a newspaper, watch the television news or catch up online with current affairs (no pun intended) without seeing mention of Harvey Weinstein and his alleged sexual transgressions.  Many of you who don’t take a close interest in the film industry may never have heard his name before but you will almost certainly have seen one or more of the films his companies – Miramax and The Weinstein Company – have produced, crossing, as they do, all genres and formats. 

Here are just a few:  Shakespeare in Love (1998), Gangs of New York (2002), My Week with Marilyn (2011), the Kill Bill franchise & The Nutty Professor (animated) (2008).  Fair to say that in Hollywood circles, Harvey Weinstein is, or was, a giant.  He had money, power and influence; he had the Midas touch in the form of an instinct for box office gold and he could make or break an actor or actress’s career. But, now, in an extraordinary about-turn, many of those actresses have seemingly broken his career with a succession of stories of lurid sexual encounters and improper propositions going back decades and continuing right up to the present day.

Since the story first broke last weekend, the former heavyweight Hollywood producer has been fired by the Board of the company he co-founded, hounded by the press,  forced to retreat to a sexual rehabilitation clinic somewhere in Europe, publicly condemned by his peers in the industry,  shunned by his wife who has taken their two children and announced to the world that the marriage is over and is even facing the possibility of criminal charges.  In short, he has gone from hero to zero in the space of a few days.

Interestingly, it has also emerged that his behaviour and deviant proclivities have been known about in Hollywood circles for some time, in much the same way as comedian Bill Cosby’s reputation was less of a secret than he perhaps hoped.  And who knows if Weinstein would have ever been publicly outed by his victims, had not his brother and co-founder of both his companies seemingly tipped off the media as to what was going on; because in spite of some of his accusers being big Hollywood names in their own right, not least of whom is A-Lister actress Gwyneth Paltrow, none of them was inclined to speak out before this time. There was a curious conspiracy of silence, understandable in the case of the young ingénues he molested or attempted to molest but less so in the case of those stars whose light shines so bright that they are untouchable and their reputations unimpeachable.

What all this boil down to is sexual harassment of a nature described by some commentators as bullying; the exchange of sexual favours for career advancement.  It’s a quid pro quo as old as the hills and found in almost every industry, including the political arena, but nowhere more so than in the movie land where the phrase ‘casting couch’ was fist coined way back in the 1930s.  Blonde bombshell and movie legend, Marilyn Monroe, made no  secret of the fact that she used her body to advance her career, once describing Hollywood as ‘an overcrowded brothel’;

many others, including Charlize Theron, Joan Collins, Helen Mirren and Susan Sarandon all recall casting couch approaches which they rebuffed, Joan Collins even going so far as to assert that it was her refusal to sleep with a studio head which cost her the coveted role of Cleopatra which went instead to Elizabeth Taylor; and Gwyneth Paltrow herself, when interviewed by Elle magazine back in 2010 related an encounter early in her career, without naming the man involved “When I was just starting out, someone suggested that we finish a meeting in the bedroom. I left. I was pretty shocked. I could see how someone who didn’t know better might worry, ‘My career will be ruined if I don’t give this guy a bl** j**!’”. 

More telling still was the $100,000 dollars paid out by Weinstein in 1997 in an out-of-court settlement to actress Rose McGowan concerning an alleged incident in an hotel room during the Sundance film Festival.  A leaked excerpt from the legal document  states that the payment is “not to be construed as an admission" of harassment by Weinstein, but rather intended to "avoid litigation and buy peace."  The date of this suit is highly significant, being exactly 20 years ago, giving both credence and substance to the prolonged pattern of behaviour now laid at the door of Harvey Weinstein and responsible for his rapid and dramatic fall from grace.

In his own attempt at mitigation or explanation, Weinstein confessed to being something of a dinosaur, his attitudes being formed in the 1960s when attitudes and ethics were very different to those of today.  That may be the case but as laws have changed, along with acceptable practices, it appears he has made no attempt to modify his habits or curb his urges.

A large part of the problem here is the nature of the industry itself.  Unlike any other, it revolves around beautiful women whose faces, and figures, are their fortune, handsome co-stars, mega-rich studio moguls and money, money, money.  Budgets for big box office movies are in amounts most of us can scarcely comprehend and star pay packages are equally as mind-boggling.  Throw into that heady mix a common practice of one-on-one auditions in lavish private offices or hotel suites, often after hours or on weekends, throw in some wining and dining and it’s not hard to envisage a few sexy scenarios, by mutual consent or otherwise:

That doesn’t make it right, just ripe and rife  It’s not the sort of job interview with which most of us are familiar but it is very much the norm in that line of work and in spite of the potential pitfalls, it’s probably never going to change.  Harvey Weinstein has been named and shamed but there’s a better than even chance that he’s just the tip of a very large iceberg:   And what’s the betting that somewhere in Hollywood right now, a draft of a movie script is already being crafted under the working title ‘The Mira Crax’?

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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