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Daily Archives: February 13, 2020
Posted: February 13, 2020 at 3:46 pm
British banking regulators want to know if the chief executive of Barclays has been honest about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein.
Barclays said on Thursday that regulators were investigating how its chief executive, James E. Staley, described to bank officials his ties with Mr. Epstein, the financier who killed himself in August after facing new allegations of sex trafficking of underage girls.
Mr. Staley, one of a handful of prominent Wall Street financiers who have been linked to Mr. Epstein, said he had been fully forthcoming about their relationship, which he said ended before he arrived at the bank five years ago.
I feel very comfortable, going back to 2015, I have been transparent and open with the bank, he said on a conference call with analysts. Mr. Staley did not respond to messages seeking comment.
The banks announcement of an investigation by regulators including the Financial Conduct Authority, the main overseer of banks in Britain, was another black eye for Mr. Staley, who is the latest Barclays chief to have regulatory troubles. John S. Varley faced regulatory and legal charges over capital infusions from the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar and Robert E. Diamond Jr. was caught up in the Libor-rigging scandal.
Even as Mr. Staley has cut costs and bolstered the companys commitment to investment banking, his tenure has been marked by a series of questions over his judgment. The bank and Mr. Staley were both fined by regulators over a whistle-blower scandal, and other stumbles have prompted some shareholders to demand his resignation.
In a statement, Barclays said it believed that Mr. Staley has been sufficiently transparent with the company as regards the nature and extent of his relationship with Mr. Epstein. Mr. Staley, the bank said, retained the full confidence of its board.
The inquiry began some time last year, when the Financial Conduct Authority contacted Barclays with questions about Mr. Staleys relationship with Mr. Epstein, according to the banks annual report, which was published Thursday.
Barclays responded to the regulators questions, but some element of that response raised questions within the agency, according to a bank official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. A more formal investigation then began in December.
Thursdays announcement undercut a positive earnings report from the bank. Total income for 2019 rose 2 percent, and profit after taxes rose 30 percent for the year. Barclays shares ended the day down 1.7 percent.
Mr. Epstein portrayed himself as indispensable to corporate executives and built up a small but powerful finance network, which Mr. Staley remained a part of even after Mr. Epsteins 2008 conviction on a charge of soliciting prostitution from a teenage girl. The men had known each other since at least 1999, when the future Barclays chief was running the private banking business of JPMorgan and using Mr. Epstein to connect with potential clients.
The relationship was close enough that Mr. Staley visited Mr. Epstein about 10 years ago, while he was serving time in Florida for soliciting prostitution from a minor. The visit occurred at Mr. Epsteins Palm Beach office, where he was allowed to serve part of his 13-month sentence.
Among others, Mr. Epstein connected Mr. Staley with Glenn Dubin, who ran Highbridge Capital Management, a hedge fund in which JPMorgan bought a majority stake in 2004. The deal elevated the asset management division that Mr. Staley ran at JPMorgan into a major player in the hedge-fund world. (Mr. Dubin, who married a former girlfriend of Mr. Epstein, Eva Andersson, left JPMorgan in 2013. He left his most recent venture, the hedge fund Engineers Gate, last month, saying he wanted to focus on his family office.)
Mr. Epstein invoked his relationship with Mr. Staley as part of his own business maneuvers. He listed Mr. Staley and JPMorgan as references when he applied for a license to set up a bank, Southern Country International, in the Virgin Islands in 2013. Mr. Staleys spokesman said he was unaware of this at the time.
Until Thursday, Mr. Staleys history with Mr. Epstein had not appeared to pose a serious threat to his leadership. (Indeed, their ties were known as of the middle of 2015, when Mr. Staley was merely a contender for the Barclays position.)
But Mr. Staleys tenure has faced other bouts of turmoil.
In 2016, he tried to unmask a whistle-blower who had criticized one of his senior hires. That led to a fine of $15 million for Barclays from New Yorks banking regulator, which said that it had uncovered shortcomings in governance, controls and corporate culture at the bank. British bank regulators also fined Mr. Staley about $1.5 million and required the bank to submit reports on parts of its whistle-blowing program.
Mr. Staley also upset a big client, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, in 2016 after trying to help his brother-in-laws business interests.
His conduct is now under scrutiny by the Financial Conduct Authority, whose responsibilities include assessing the fitness and propriety of senior executives at financial institutions. Among the qualities the regulator looks at, according to its website, is honesty, including openness with self-disclosures, integrity and reputation.
In August, Mr. Epstein killed himself while in a Manhattan jail, where he was being held awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges. He had been charged by Manhattan prosecutors in July with sexually exploiting dozens of women and girls in New York and Florida.
Those accusations involved actions up to 2005. A lawsuit filed last month by Denise N. George, the attorney general of the Virgin Islands, cited further evidence that Mr. Epstein had sexually abused and trafficked hundreds of young women and girls on his private Caribbean island, some as recently as 2018.
A judge in the Virgin Islands who is overseeing the administration of Mr. Epsteins $635 million estate is considering a proposal to establish a compensation fund for his accusers. Ms. George is seeking to block that effort, contending the executors of the estate are conflicted because they were longtime business advisers to Mr. Epstein.
Michael de la Merced, Kate Kelly and Matthew Goldstein contributed reporting.
Posted: at 3:46 pm
Dont have a date for Valentines Day? Take advantage of some of the great deals in this weeks Hotel Wrap to ease your sorrows.
Ovolo is set out to create a brand evolution that celebrated this idea, packaging the sentiment in one all-encompassing brand positioning: Wonder. Full.
Aimed at capturing moments of wonder, inspired interiors and delightful details, a fresh approach to art direction was developed to support the idea of Wonder. Full. and to better convey each hotels unique character and offering.
Fijis most exclusive resort, Kokomo Private Island is inviting travellers to start the new year with a calm, clear head and a relaxed body and mind with its new Recharge Package, offering travellers the ultimate leisurely experience.
Guests can begin their recharge with an idyllic, bespoke spa treatment at Yaukuve Spa Sanctuary using Australian skincare brand Sodashi, where Kokomos experienced therapists draw on their healing techniques to assist guests to relax and rejuvenate.
The resort also offers private yoga sessions to gently reawaken and balance the body.
The major issues affecting the tourism accommodation sector bushfires, coronavirus and travel bans were front and centre at the Tourism Accommodation Australia NSW board meeting and 2020 Chairmans Drinks last week.
Over 150 business and industry leaders from across the sector joined politicians from both major parties at the gala function at the Sheraton Grand Sydney, Hyde Park.
Guests included NSW Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres, Police and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott, Skills and Tertiary Education Minister Dr Geoff Lee and Labors Shadow Minister for Investment and Tourism Jenny Aitchison.
W Bali Seminyak presents its second annual Single Mingle party to celebrate Valentines Day on 14 February 2020.
Vibrant and intimate, the hotel invites love-seekers to steal the scene on the most romantic day of the year for an epic party at the iconic Woobar.
Partnering with Tinder, Woobar will become the place for singles to mingle with prospective crushes and meet a potential match.
The evening will be livened up by the electric beats from W Balis Resident DJs Nanda and Wilson from 9pm onwards.
W Bali Seminyak has launched an initiative to raise funds for Australias bushfire recovery effort through an online silent auction.
The hotel will be auctioning off a stay at the iconic resort to raise funds for RSPCA, an independent, community-based charity providing animal care and protection services across Australia.
Those who donate to help communities in need will have a chance to win a stay at W Bali Seminyak.
Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo(KPH), one of Japans most prestigious international hotels located in Shinjuku, Tokyo, is renovating guest rooms on the 31st floor of the Main Tower to update the bathroom facilities and reopen quadruple occupancy guest rooms on 29 March 2020.
The Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo will celebrate its 50thyear of operations in 2021 by maintaining its efforts to evolve as one of Tokyo and Japans most representative and prestigious hotels.
Boutique-style hotel, Zagames House is taking service to the next level with the launch of its new-to-market Maitre Z role.
The Maitre Z role has been created to give guests a unique and personalised experience during their stay from start to finish.
The concept combines the role of a concierge, host and Maitre D all in a unique Zagames House style.
Guests will enjoy an exceptional level of service, with Daniel offering bespoke experiences including personal yoga lessons, dog walking (and whispering), and chauffeuring.
The motto at Zagames House is that the team can do Anything; Anywhere as long as it is legally and physically possible.
Targeted at domestic Australian and NZ travellers, the campaign supports Nesutos brand promise of Your companion on the road.
Nesuto will donate $1 from every guest booking made for WereGood to Gopackages to injured Australian wildlife causes. This applies toeveryNesutoGood to Gobooking made during February 2020 (for stays up until 30 December 2020).
Pimalai Resort & Spa, the iconic and authentic five-star retreat on the pure shores of Koh Lanta, is inviting guests to leave the stress of the city behind and reconnect with their inner selves in paradise this summer, when it hosts the second annual Zenergy Wellness Festival.
Zenergy promises an extensive schedule of yoga and fitness classes, professionally taught by amazing instructors from around the world, along with luxurious accommodation, healthy dinners, massages and tours to discover the breath-taking natural beauty of Koh Lanta.
Soneva has announced the official launch of its Namoona Baa initiative with the unveiling of the eco-centro complex on the island of Maalhos, Maldives.
Namoona Baa sees the islands of Maalhos, Dharavandhoo, and Kihaadhoo in the Baa Atoll pledging to end the open burning of island waste, in a radical shift towards eco-friendly waste management.
Parliamentary Speaker Mohamed Nasheed and Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh took part in a friendly cricket match to inaugurate the occasion.
Luxury travel concierge group Addicted to Maldives hosted its highly-anticipated annual industry event in Sydney on Friday in partnership with 16 of the destinations most high-end properties, including headline partner Soneva.
Attended by resort representatives and Australias top travel advisors and agents, So Addicted was a celebration of Addicted to the Maldives 98.5 per cent year-on-year growth and an acknowledgement of the industry support that made this impressive achievement possible.
YTL Hotels has announced Niseko Village in Hokkaido, Japan has been selected as a candidate venue for some of the 2030 Winter Olympics most iconic events.
Sapporo, the capital city of the island of Hokkaido is currently bidding to join the race to host the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in 2030.
Following an assessment of the slope, difficulty, and snow quality of the areas courses by the International Ski Federation (FIS), the Sapporo City government confirmed Niseko Villages expanse of fall-line ski terrain from peak to base provides the most suitable location for all four alpine disciplines: slalom, giant slalom, super-giant slalom and downhill.
Mackerel Islands, a WA-owned hospitality company specialising in accommodation and tours in remote and unique locations in regional Western Australia, has been appointed as the new management company of Karijini Eco Retreat, owned by Gumala Enterprises.
Following a competitive tender process, the management contract was awarded on 6 February 2020, to Mackerel Islands subsidiary Karijini Adventures Pty Ltd, with the handover to take effect on 1 March 2020.
The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) WA has commended the Western Australian government for its announcement of an additional $10 million to support the states tourism, accommodation and hospitality industries.
AHAs WA chief, Bradley Woods, said it was critical that early measures are taken to mitigate the dual impact of the recent bushfires and the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Meanwhile, TAA NSW chief executive Michael Johnson has praised the NSW governments new $10 million package which aims to boost tourist visits to hard-hit regional areas.
Posted: at 3:46 pm
Come nightfall, Mykonos, Greece, thumps with disco beats emanating from the megaclubs scattered across the island. But all is peaceful at Kalesma, a forthcoming hotel that sits on a jasmine-scented hilltop above the beaches of Ornos Bay. The generations-old family property has been transformed with 25 suites and two stand-alone villas, all of which come with private pools and sea views and are decorated in a palette of earthy browns, grays and taupes that complement the polished stone floors. Kalesma means to invite, says Aby Saltiel, a restaurateur and the hotels Thessaloniki-born co-owner.
With this new project, Saltiel was looking to marry modernity there are Brutalist couches designed by Rick Owens and horsehair-wrapped sconces by the design studio Apparatus with elements of traditional Mykonos hospitality. The lobby is outfitted with a brick oven in which loaves of a crusty bread called horiatiko psomi will be baked daily, and Pere Ubu, the hotel restaurant, will serve Cycladic specialties, with cheese and fish sourced from neighboring islands including Delos and Naxos. You can almost imagine its the 1950s, when local fishermen would welcome summer tourists into their homes.
Posted: at 3:45 pm
By TNH Staff February 13, 2020
A protester holds a Greek flag and a paper that reads in Greek. "Close the Borders, Deport illegal migrants" as they demonstrate outside the Interior Ministry in central Athens, on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
ATHENS Signaling a breakdown with the ruling New Democracy, officials of five Greek islands holding nearly 50,000 refugees and migrants in detention centers said they would sue to block government plans seize local properties to build new facilities.
They also said they would suspend all cooperation with the government as tension is simmering at the same time violence in the camps is soaring over frustration with long delays in processing asylum applications.
Trying to hold down the reaction, Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis said private property owners could send a letter requesting compensation to the ministry detailing any damages by refugees and migrants, some of whom have taken to cutting down trees for firewood.
The mayors of Lesbos, which has the notorious Moria camp, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros joined together to take on the government, trying to block creation of new centers aimed at vetting those ineligible for asylum.
Those rejected for sanctuary would be returned to Turkey under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union. Turkey is being used as a jumping-off point for refugees and migrants who fled their homelands, especially Syrias civil war and Afghanistan, in a bid to get to Greece for asylum after the EU closed its borders to them.
Turkey is letting human traffickers operate and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, embroiled in feuds with the EU over his countrys drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus, has threatened to unleash millions more on the bloc, through Greek islands if he doesnt get his way.
Islanders from Lesbos were to hold a protest rally outside the Interior Ministry in Athens on Feb. 13 to show their displeasure.
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Posted: at 3:44 pm
Ageing is optional if certain lifestyle factors can be controlled, and there is an emerging economy for people living longer, the Milken Institutes Middle East and Africa summit in Abu Dhabi heard on Tuesday.
We say we are increasing the healthspan not just the lifespan. So people have more years in life but those years are healthier and more productive and fulfilling, Nora Super, director of the Centre for the Future of Ageing at the Milken Institute, told The National.
By 2030, more people worldwide will be over the age of 60 than under 10, according to Milken, a US think tank.
Meanwhile, experiments over the last few years to test the bodys epigenetic clock, which tracks a persons biological age, have been shown to slow down or reverse when given certain medications and hormones, or when the test subjects were able to reduce stress through meditation.
The combination of shifting demographics and recent breakthroughs in our understanding of ageing and longevity represent both a massive challenge and opportunity in the 21st century.
Dr Deepak Chopra, founder of the Chopra Centre and a wellness expert, said that over the past two decades, scientists had begun to more widely accept that ageing was more like a disease that can be cured rather than an inevitability.
No gene has evolved to cause ageing. No one dies of old age, he said at the conference.
Dr Chopra said the idea of well-being and longevity could be achieved by following seven pillars: sound sleep, meditation, physical activity, emotion moderation, plant-based nutrition, time outdoors and self-awareness.
Through the Chopra Centre, he said he was working to identify biomarkers to measure the effects these practices had on a persons ageing process.
Dr Chopra is 73 years old but he claims his epigenetic clock is nearly half that after following 30 years of daily meditation and walking at least 10,000 steps.
As we move into the future, we should be able to create these new algorithms that correlate biometrics to well-being, he said.
In addition to working on measuring the effect of anti-ageing practices on the body, Dr Chopra is working on a project called Digital Deepak, an artificial intelligence based on his writings and teachings.
The AI is still a baby under development, he said, but would be rolled out later this year.
If we dont adapt to technology, we become irrelevant, he told The National.
Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof Coffee, who wrote a book on longevity, said mankind's "current best" was 120 years old - a number he said he hoped to beat.
Mr Asprey, a former technology company executive, said he believed if I can hack the internet, I can hack this [ageing issue] and admitted to investing at least $1 million in his efforts.
By prolonging life and increasing well-being, he said, there was a return on investment measured by time.
When we imagine ageing, we imagine being old and thats not a pretty sight: wheelchairs, you cant remember your own name, incontinence, he said. "But these are solvable, hackable problems."
Updated: February 11, 2020 09:29 PM
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Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool close to immortality – but their lasting legacy is already painted across Merseyside – Liverpool Echo
Posted: at 3:44 pm
This is a Liverpool squad that has become immortalised in its own time. A town that has been painted red.
The current champions of Europe remain firmly on course to end a three-decade wait for an English league title, with a 22-point advantage at the summit leaving them just a half-dozen victories away from a sizeable slice of modern history.
Jurgen Klopp and his teak-tough band of brothers are the talk of the town, with the eternal chatter from the Red half of the city largely surrounding this current crop's place in the pantheon of all-time Liverpool greats.
Where they sit among the sides sculptured and shaped by Bob Paisley, Bill Shankly et al, will one day make for one of the healthiest of Merseyside football debates.
In the here and now, though, there are medals to be won and trophies to be lifted.
Liverpool have veered only slightly so far throughout what has been remarkable campaign; just two Premier League points dropped with the Reds still in the hunt for both the Champions League and the FA Cup.
Their impact and influence, however, stretches beyond the regular confines of football fandom. To many, Klopp and the players at his disposal have already become icons, whatever happens between now, May - and the rest of the decade.
As world and European champions, this current squad have sent the levels of pride among the fanbase soaring to levels rarely seen across the club's 128-year history.
As such, Liverpool's players and their charismatic coach remain omnipresent throughout a city that boasts just as much civic pride as it does in its sporting accomplishments.
Take a stroll through the burgeoning Baltic Triangle area of the city centre and you will be confronted by a giant mural in homage to Klopp. It has become the coolest tourist attraction around - even for locals - since its inception in December 2018.
The likability factor of the affable Klopp, coupled with his sometimes underrated acumen as one of the sharpest tactical minds in football, has helped Liverpool to the brink of domestic glory once more.
No other manager has come as close as Klopp as to ending a wait for league title No.19 and after guiding the club to a sixth European Cup last year, his place as an Anfield great is already safe and secure. The German even has a sports bar named in his honour in the city centre.
French graffiti artist Akse has painted some of the most recognisable faces on the planet onto various walls across the world. From Bob Marley and David Bowie through to Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali, the breathtaking artist's work always catches the eye.
The same applies to the likeness of Liverpool's manager, which can be found on Jamaica Street.
Commissioned by the club itself, Klopp's image was the first time Akse had painted a manager of the game, despite his ample experience of football-themed street art that include Wayne Rooney, Harry Maguire and Juan Mata.
"You really can feel the love from the fans [for Klopp]," he tells the ECHO. "Each time I go back to the wall, there are always fans from all around the world taking pictures with the mural.
"As an artist you get very attached to the pieces you paint on a personal level. Each piece has its own story: from the choice of the subject, the selection of the reference image, the preparation of the mural and the painting process."
The Klopp piece took two days to complete and was not without its weather-related technical issues, but for Akse - the artist who also produced the Trent Alexander-Arnold piece last year - his hard labour merely shines further light on the positive role models who are his subject matter.
He adds: "These murals pay tribute to the outstanding achievements of the subjects and the fans recognise that. After painting the Jurgen Klopp and Trent murals, I received a lot of requests from LFC fans to paint other players so its really a testament to how much they mean to them.
"[The Alexander-Arnold] mural is also dedicated to Fans Supporting Foodbanks so it brings fans together to fight food poverty in Liverpool. This is why I love doing street art, it can have such a positive impact in the community on so many levels."
Discreetly tucked away down a city-centre backstreet is an 'Ode to Mo' - a celebration of Liverpool's Egyptian King himself, Mohamed Salah.
As the poster-boy for football in his homeland, Salah carries the weight of expectation of his 90million compatriots and his rise at Anfield has catapulted him into the realms of global superstardom.
Magazine covers and lucrative endorsements have followed for a player who has become something of a pop culture phenomenon during his two-and-a-half years as a Liverpool employee.
Guy McKinley was the artist who sketched Salah's face on a wall midway down Basnett Street, creating a six-metre-by-three painting paying tribute to the Liverpool hero, bringing an otherwise nondescript collection of brickwork to life in the process.
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Created just before the 2018 Champions League final, thanks to the work from local company RRUNews, Guy's art was accompanied by the words of poet Musa Okwonga, hailing the "golden smile of the nile."
"Mo is more than just a good footballer, he is a role model to lots of people from varying backgrounds," Guy told the ECHO. "He brings divergent people together which is always good.
"This was important to the piece as a whole, putting the image alongside Musas words and then interacting with the locals for the accompanying film, all helped highlight how well he is received by the local community too.
"That was the concept rather than just a mural of Mo Salah, it was a chance to open debate too. I dont think he is just a hero in Egypt now, he seems huge everywhere by what I have seen.
"From the outside looking at him, he seems to be a very positive person and is such a benefit to the team and city.
"I had kids come over to me while I was painted telling me how important it was that he is seen as this positive influence and thanking me for painting it, which was very touching.
"Appealing to people in a number of ways certainly helps cement his status among the whole family of Liverpool FC fans from all over the world."
This is about more than just a good football team; the current Liverpool squad have allowed even the most gnarled supporter a chance to remind themselves why they fell in love with the sport.
Beyond their accomplishments on the pitch, their willingness to embrace the supporters who lionise them is a constant theme throughout the squad.
Perhaps few embody that more than Trent Alexander-Arnold, whose rise from Academy hopeful to Ballon d'Or nominee has been sharp. In under four years, the West Derby-born, lifelong Liverpool supporter has become one of the world's most valuable defenders.
Cherished by locals, the 21-year-old's appearance was painted, three-storeys high, on to a home at the corner of Sybil Street and Anfield Road - just an Alexander-Arnold cross from where the Reds star has stamped his mark on the game he loves since his debut in October 2016.
The mural was arranged by the Anfield Wrap, a popular fan podcast with subscribers in over 80 countries, as a way to commemorate an incredible season that ended with Alexander-Arnold lifting the Champions League trophy.
Alexander-Arnold, though, represents more than just a great player being adored by a club's fans. He is a Steven Gerrard for the Millennium, a homegrown hero living the idyllic dream of thousands of other Liverpool-born football followers.
"I was trying to think of something we could do to celebrate the players' achievements," says Craig Hannan of the Anfield Wrap. "And it was the BT Sport clip after the game of Alexander-Arnold saying: 'I'm just a normal lad from Liverpool whose dreams have just come true'.
"He is a footballer who has lived all our dreams, coming through the youth system, lifting the European Cup - everything made sense for him. That is where the idea came about. He is not just his achievements on the pitch, it is what he has done off it too.
"He is a local lad and done loads of work for foodbanks and An Hour For Others, so it all just made sense. This is a local lad who has won the Champions League but also a grounded 21-year-old who gives back and hasn't forgotten where he has come from.
Paul Gorst is the ECHO's new full-time LFC correspondent covering the Reds both home and away.
He'll be across all the biggest stories both on and off the pitch and is a must follow for fans worldwide.
Paul can be found on Twitter @ptgorst, Facebook @ptgorst and Instagram @PaulGorst.
You can email Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We chose him for the wall, but in actual fact, when you look through the whole team, we wanted to celebrate the fact that these are footballers that stand for a lot and believe in a lot. You can see the continuous work they do in the city for charity. For Trent, we all see a bit ourselves in him.
"In a city like Liverpool, it is great that we can feel that connection with the players. There hasn't always been an obvious relationship with the players and the fans over the years, but with the likes of Andy Robertson and Trent and the rest, their values seem to be in line with us as fans.
"It is not just about them playing 90 minutes and then we don't see them, it is about them helping out in the local community. Even the kind of content the club put out, we get a great understanding of what they are like as people."
The Alexander-Arnold mural was unveiled days before the current Premier League season kicked off in August to help raise awareness for Fans Supporting Foodbanks - a cause the Anfield Wrap have championed for some time.
Craig adds: "They are giving us the best experiences of our lives right now and are also doing their bit off the pitch too.
"We are really proud of what we have been able to do [with the mural]. It was great that Trent came down to see it but the biggest thing is it is helping a cause we want to give as much coverage as possible to. But to see him on the wall and people flocking to see it is the biggest thing for us.
"For example, if one person a game sees it and looks into Fans Supporting Foodbanks more to donate then it has done its job. Also, we can celebrate a young lad like Trent who is someone who is inspiring kids every day.
"We're really proud of it and we love that Trent loves it and it has become a landmark to inspire kids in the area to show them what can be achieved. That is a brilliant thing."
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After Legendary Career With Boston College, Brian Gionta Will Be Immortalized This Weekend – Sports Illustrated
Posted: at 3:44 pm
Photo courtesy of BCEagles.com
Growing up in the Boston area, there have been plenty of athletes who have rolled through the Heights that have been a pleasure to watch. One, being star guard Troy Bell who recently had his own jersey retired by the Men's Basketball program. My first "super hero" was a kid from upstate New York, winger Brian Gionta.
As an 11 year old kid, I was present for David Emma's jersey, number 16, being raised to the Conte Forum rafters, securing his immortality. This happened as the 2000-01 regular season was wrapping up with the Brian Gionta led Eagles that lost to Michigan in the National Championship game. It was this night, it seemed that someday Gionta, who had 62 points that season and cemented himself in BC history, would have his night as well.
His impact for the BC program went beyond the ice, and gave the Boston College faithful a superstar the program needed for another championship run. For a program that was fresh on 3 straight frozen four appearances, a Hobey Baker winner in Mike Mottau, BC only had one championship banner, and that read 1949. Boston College had been a great team that was on the brink of pushing through but up to the 2001 season, continuously came up painfully short.
On a senior laden team that boasted plenty of NHL talent including Brooks Orpik, Chuck Kobesew, Scott Clemenson, and Bobby Allen, Gionta was the captain, the leader and the super star that carried the Eagles to a thrilling overtime victory against North Dakota in the National Title game. For the first time since 1949, the Eagles were National Champions. clearly Jerry York and his leadership was a big part of this, but Gionta was the rock that anchored the program that season.
During his time in maroon and gold, Gionta's success helped usher in a new era of Boston College hockey that included eight Frozen Four appearances and an additional 3 National Championships. Over the past 20 years since Gionta last wore the maroon and gold, there have been countless NHL level talents to grace the ice of Kelly Rink, including a Hobey Baker in Johnny Gaudreau.
Gionta's legacy has withstood time and has only grown, as there are some that believe that he is possibly the best player in Eagle's history. Nearly 20 years later after Emma's jersey went up into the rafters, Gionta's jersey will rise up as well this weekend. Finally, the Boston College star will be honored and immortalized at Kelley Rink.
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Posted: at 3:44 pm
Disclaimer: This article contains major spoilers for Afsos. So, please read it after youve finished watching the show.
I have been watching Gulshan Devaiah since 2011 when he appeared in an incredibly under-appreciated crime thriller called Dum Maaro Dum as Ricky. Since then he has appeared in movies like Shaitan, Hate Story, Goliyon ki Rasleela Ram-Leela, and Death in the Gunj and delivered some brilliant supporting acts. However, I wanted him to see him in more prominent roles and thats when I stumbled across Hunterrr (which is another under-appreciated movie of his which you should definitely watch) and, of course, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota. All that said, I dont no one as highlighted Devaiahs true potential like Anubhuti Kashyap has done in Afsos.
Devaiah plays a suicidal man, Nakul, who cant seem to kill himself even though he wants to. Hence he hires someone, Heeba Shahs Upadhyay, to do the job for him. However, after doing so he falls in love with his therapist, Anjali Patils Shloka, and hence doesnt want to die. In the meantime, he also gets embroiled in a mystery about the immortal man, which leads to a chaotic journey into the topic of life and death. But amongst all that chaos, Devaiah stands strong while portraying one of the most psychologically weak characters put to screen. Theres not a single frame in the show where youll doubt the fact that Devaiahs Nakul is doubting himself. And although it seems like a pretty simple thing to do, its actually quite integral to the tone of the show and is what gives Afsos its uniquely Indian dark comedy vibe.
If I have to pick my favourite scene out of all the scenes that Devaiah is in, it has to be his conversation with Robin Das Fokatiya Baba when they realise that their captor, Danish Saits Jim, is dead. Devaiahs desperation when he admits that he is not immortal and that he doesnt care about Fokatiyas guruji had told him to do with the immortality potion (amrit) is palpable as f*ck. What we know and have seen of Devaiah throughout his filmography completely vanishes and you can see only and only Nakul trying to negotiate with his fate in a way that will undoubtedly make you laugh your guts out. But wait a second. I know what youre thinking. Youre thinking that this article was supposed to be the meaning of Afsos. However, just like one might feel while watching the show or probably something that the makers must have encountered, we got so engrossed in Deviahs brilliant acting chops that we forgot all about the main point of the show.
SEE ALSO: Afsos Review - Gulshan Devaiahs Suicidal Act Kills It In This Dark Comedy. No Regrets Here!
So, without digressing any further, lets try and understand what Afsos is actually trying to say. And since we are talking about Devaiah, lets start with Nakul. On the surface, Nakul might seem like a one-note guy who wants to end his life but cant. He embodies the frustration most of us feel when nothings going our way in our life. Even the most basic thing like walking out of his house is littered with obstacles and by the time he overcomes them, he has lost the will to live. However, somewhere inside him there is a will to live that involuntarily kicks in his survival instinct, which is in complete contradiction to what Shloka says about the depth of his depression, thereby allowing him to evade death. So, whats the message that comes along with Nakul? That our inherent urge to survive and the hope that maybe theres some light at the end of the dark tunnel, something that is literally spelt out by Inspector Bir Singh, is what makes us immortal. Not in the literal sense of course. But in the metaphorical sense, as in our actions live on in the minds of others. Yes, it might need some fuel but it is there.
Then lets come to Karima Upadhyay, played viscerally by Heeba Shah. She is the embodiment of death itself. She has become death by seeing and delivering so many deaths in her life. She even says that she feels like she is born to kill. During one particular scene involving Ratnabali Bhattacharjees Maria and her daughter at a restaurant where some man misbehaves with the little child, it seems like she has some respect for the concept of life. However, if you have seen the series and the way she treats Maria and her daughter while attempting to kill Nakul, youll notice that she has nothing inside her. And that very nothingness inside her is what makes her immortal. The raging drive that exists within her helps her surpass the pain of being stabbed or the emotional distress of losing her lover (I am guessing Vikram was her lover). Additionally, it is that very rage which helps her stay in her preys mind tax-free. But the drive only comes to an end when she falls into the tricks of the catalyst. Whos the catalyst you ask? Well, its Shloka.
Shloka is another layered son-of-a-b*tch who neither respects life nor respects death. She lies to people to save their life. She lies to people to push them over the edge. She lies to herself to the extent that she doesnt even know (or may she does and we dont know) that her husband is dead or alive. Hence she doesnt have satisfaction in life nor a painless death. I am going to be honest with you, and this might make me look like a douche, but I never felt the chemistry between Shloka and Nakul. It always felt like she was finding the next person who she can control, just like she probably controlled Dibakar (her husband), and she made the mistake of thinking that Nakul was the one. However, in reality it was Upadhyay who had the ability to match her skills and play the same game of life and death that she was playing. Once that was over, you could see the level of disinterest she had on her face while going to meet Nakul. I know these are little details which makes the show worth watching and are much more interesting than the overarching narrative about the amrit and Dr. Goldfish.
So, in my opinion, said overarching narrative actually muddles the intricacies that writers Anirban Dasgupta and Dibya Chatterjee have woven into Nakuls story. I understand that they have delved into the campier aspects of Afsos' story and instilled it with a sense of mythology. However, since it largely feels so haphazard and incomplete by the end of the last episode that I felt like it robbed the show of its comforting, oddball charm. I feel like if the show wouldve stuck to its core messaging about finding the source of your immortality i.e. the thing that will help us stay long after we are gone, it wouldve stuck its landing a little. That said, since Afsos stands on the shoulders of Anubhuti Kashyap, Gulshan Devaiah and more, it deserves your attention and all the deconstruction you can subject it to.
Cover image courtesy: Amazon Prime Video India
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Posted: at 3:44 pm
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has become a US TV institution (Picture: CBS)
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation became an addictive must-watch for everyone in the early 2000s with theme song Who Are You? by The Who still ringing in our ears with just a mere mention of the shows name.
Still on telly pretty much constantly, alongside its spin-offs CSI: Miami, CSI: New York and CSI: Cyber, its classic TV as we watch the Las Vegas Police Department do what they do best.
And now weve heard the news that they might be making a comeback to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its launch, weve gone all nostalgic for the series and the grisly crimes they helped solve.
But what happened to the gang since we last saw them?
Turns out, a lot of humanitarian work, some landmark career moments and even a couple of run-ins with the law themselves.
Heres what the cast has been up to since the show wrapped in 2015.
If theres one face you think of when you think of CSI, its Gil Grissom the leading man of the squad.
Gil left the show in season nine in order to track down his love, Sara, who had fled to Costa Rica, and wasnt seen until 2015, when he took centre stage once again in the shows final bow, the two-hour Immortality.
William won a Sag award for his portrayal, got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2009, with CSI co-star Marg Helgenberger among those in attendance commemorating his achievements.
Since CSI ended in 2015, he has completely stepped back from the limelight, with no new work beyond his 2015 return as Gil.
He has no social media presence, but fan pages often update with any new snaps of the star.
Night Shift supervisor Catherine was the ultimate right-hand woman, but quit the LVPD and took a job at the FBI at the end of season 12.
She returned for an appearance by Gils side in Immortality in 2015.
Since leaving the series, Marg has had several prominent TV roles including a series adaptation of Stephen Kings novel Under The Dome, and 2014 series Intelligence
Marg can currently be seen on TV drama All Rise, which takes a look at the lives and loves of the lawyers, clerks and staff members of LA County courthouse.
She also often posts photos of the view of her absolutely stunning LA home.
Crime Scene Investigator Nick was Catherines assistant until D.B. Russells arrival in 2015 and he left soon after.
He was one of the most empathetic members of the group, which caused friction a number of times throughout his career as others around him preferred to keep an emotional distance from the cases.
Nicks exit from the series was announced in November 2014 and he made bid farewell in the season 15 finale, leaving Las Vegas for a new job in San Diego.
Following his departure, George starred in CBS action-adventure series MacGyver for three years as Jack Dalton and last year, he featured in the South Korean period film The Battle Of Jangsari.
Captain Jim Brass appeared in a total of 303 episodes and was renowned for adhering to the rules and his witty sarcastic comments when interviewing suspects.
He was written out of the show after the producers decided to end his characters storyline and left in the season 14 finale, but later appeared for the last episode of season 15 and again forCSI: Immortality.
Paul won a Sag award for his portrayal Jim back in 2005 and received three further nominations.
Since his exit, he starred in acclaimed film Spotlight in 2015, and more recently starred in Apple TVs The Morning Show alongside Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston.
Sara, a materials and element analyst who majored in physics at Harvard University, was the longest-running woman on CSI and filmed 296 episodes in total.
She was the assistant supervisor until she left the Crime Lab to join a research team in Costa Rica after marrying former colleague Gil Grissom.
The newlyweds maintained a long-distance relationship while Sara was away, but they broke up in season 13 and eventually reconciled and got back together in the series finale.
Jorja took a step back from acting after CSI, having only appeared in science fiction film 3022 last year alongside Miranda Cosgrove and Kate Walsh.
In 2008, Warrick Brown met a grisly end in season eights finale, when he was shot and killed by bent copper Undersheriff McKeen.
McKeen had framed Warrick for the murder of mob boss Lou Gedda, and so shot him twice to keep him from talking. He was left to bleed out and died in his car.
He had appeared in 185 episodes by the time he was last seen on screen.
Dourdans exit was aired shortly after Dourdan was arrested for drug possession but he had already filmed his final scenes so it was unconnected as to why he left CSI.
Since his appearance on the show, he was arrested again for possession of drug paraphernalia in 2011, and was charged with felony battery on his ex-girlfriend, having to attend domestic violence counseling.
He is now sober and continues to act, with five projects currently in production, as well as music.
Work has included TV series Being Mary Jane in 2015, an episode of Power as Charles Hamilton and starring in action-comedy, All She Wrote, in 2018.
As Chief Medical Examiner at the LVPD, Al wasnt a hyper-clean heavily detailed member of the squad and made for good banter with Gil Grisson.
Appearing in 328 episodes overall, 72-year-old Robert has three, small projects currently in post-production, all of which havent moved since 2018.
After CSI, Robert has been mainly staying out of the limelight.
Robert is a double amputee, losing both his legs after a drunk driver operating an 18-wheeler vehicle ran over his car in 1978, although this was never mentioned in CSI.
As a result, Robert has been a campaigner for disability visibility, and mental health.
Eric has been fairly quiet on the TV front since his time on CSI, with one credit under his belt since the show ended action thriller Shangri-La: Near Extinction in 2018.
He appeared as lab technician Greg in 333 episodes of the crime drama, and gave his voice to his own character in the spin-off video games as well.
Despite not working in the acting world, hes been using his platform to campaign for animal rights, hosting fundraisers to free circus animals.
He also maintains good contact with his former CSI pals reuniting with Marg to watch the Oscars this weekend.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation airs on Channel 5 in the UK.
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Posted: at 3:44 pm
(*This review contains spoilers)
Afsos begins with a man in a hard place. My life story is so poorly written ki mujhe lagta hain ki maine khud likhi hai (that I think Ive written it myself,) says Nakul (Gulshan Devaiah), a struggling writer, who once again finds himself on the precipice of death, cushioning (he quite literally steals a pillow from a homeless persons bedding on the railway bench) his 11th attempt at exiting the world. Will he succeed?
(*The cast and crew have repeatedly emphasized that Nakul doesnt deal with a mental illness such as depression on the show but rather an exaggerated sense of negativity and imagination. Based on a viewing and inferred context, this review treats Nakuls affliction as so too.)
Well, in Amazon Prime Videos latest black comedy/thriller series Afsos, viewers soon come to realize that nobody quite gets what they want.
Created and written by Anirban Dasgupta, Dibya Chatterjee and Sourav Ghosh, the eight-episode series is a delightful exercise in disappointment with a mercurial plot that unfolds at breakneck speed. Director Anubhuti Kashyap chooses a subtle and sardonic lens to portray the outlandishness of the series as it delves into life, death, immortality, ambition and more, constructing a purposefully grounded yet incoherent picture of the grotesque and euphoric realities on the fringes of everyday, urban middle-class existence.
Sulagna Panigrahi as Ayesha Mirani in Afsos. Photo: Amazon Prime Video
Following an it is what it is ethos, characters, who under normal circumstances would never meet (much less cross paths), collide in Afsos. Ayesha Mirani (Sulagna Panigrahi), a journalist, runs into a mad sadhu hailing from an ashram in Harsil, Uttarakhand. He tells her about the amrit or the immortality elixir meant for the chiranjeevi (eternal being). She publishes a story the next day titled The Immortal Man.
Ratnabali Bhattacharjee as Maria and Ujjwal Chopra as Vikram in Afsos.
In the meanwhile, Nakul, seeks the services of Emergency Exit an ethical killing startup run by ex-cons Maria (Ratnabali Bhattacharjee) and Vikram (Ujjwal Chopra) after surviving his 11th suicide attempt (a product of his insufferable imagination and not a mental illness as one may at first surmise). They beset their best assassin, Karima Upadhyay (Heeba Shah), on his trail. Nakul, however, survives Upadhyay too, inadvertently kickstarting a relentless cat and mouse cycle where nobody not even his therapist (Shloka Srinivasan played by Anjali Patil) is safe.
Robin Das as Fokatiya baba in Afsos.
When all the sadhus at the Harsil ashram are murdered and the elixir is discovered to be missing, local police officer Bir Singh (Aakash Dahiya) finds a suspect in the only missing sadhu, Fokatiya baba (Robin Das), and traces him to Mumbai, setting in motion the machinations of fate, law and order while English scientist Dr. Goldfish (Jamie Alter) reads the murderous news headline and makes his way to India, compelled to nab the instrument of immortality, once and for all.
The plot oscillates between surprise and suspense you never know whats going to happen and the characters highs and lows make you root for an ending you already know wont come your way. You know how difficult it is to digest when you think that someone is going to be the main character of their story and he just dies right in front of you? Srinivasan tells Nakul at the tea stall. The only answer she receives is a splatter of blood as Upadhyays failed headshot temporarily incapacitates her victim. This scene is splendid for the simple reason that nobody gets what they want and that subtle but thrice amplified theme of futility neatly ties it all together. This impact is perhaps only fully realized in the final scene of the series where past, present and future unwittingly unite for an unexpected exchange (Ill keep mum on that sweet spoiler).
The director and writers approach the series with an irreverence thats code of the genre and their infusions of absurdity are artfully executed. Theres a scene where Mumbai cop Vitthal (Shyam Bhimsaria) storms Goldfishs lair with his men to rescue Singh. Theyre up against a security detail thats quite trigger happy and also double their number, but in his quest to salvage whats left of his career, inspector Vitthal revels in almost childlike delight as he keeps score of how many men are down on both sides. He takes shots and earns points of his own, sobering only when his eye in the sky is taken down. Preceded by lines borrowed from Singh himself (Kyon dhobi ke rozgaar ke liye apni uniform dhulwa rahe ho? Why are you getting your uniform ironed only so the dhobi can earn a living?), this scene is perhaps the only time in the show when a character gets exactly what they want redemption. As a viewer, you dont realize when the line between reality and the bizarre blurs because the segment is so thick with tension and yet, theres an unmistakable underbite of humor exacerbated only by the irony that the show espouses so generously a couple of well placed calls lead to Goldfishs release later. This is evident in the dialogue too such as when Nakul says, Maine meri maut ka contract diya hai kisiko (Ive contracted my death to a killer,) and the show is packed with many such pithy, wry earworms.
Anjali Patil as Shloka Srinivasan in Afsos. Photo: Amazon Prime Video
Afsos has a host of intriguing characters but perhaps the Trojan horse of the show is Patils Srinivasan. The therapist is the only normal, unsuspecting, chameleon-like figure you never know what ace she has up her sleeve and the writers use foreshadowing well with the character. While addressing her students, she says, Can we dare to look beyond the obvious? and we soon learn that the diagloues context is not just limited to mental health care but a hint at the survival instinct as well. Whether its empathizing with Nakul, Mirani or even Upadhyay, Srinivasan is always looking to come out on top, rationalizing every situation by deconstructing her subject or captor. The therapist who is constantly adapting ultimately in perhaps the greatest stroke of irony doesnt survive the series and her role poses a very interesting moral conundrum to viewers as she skirts the line between truth and lies through deft manipulation. Do we want Srinivasan to incur punishment until we learn her complete truth? Thats the mirror the writers unintentionally hold up in the series, questioning the morality of the moral lens itself.
Heeba Shah as Karima Upadhyay in Afsos. Photo: Amazon Prime Video
What the show does well too is characterization. No one character is ever so well established as to not change Nakul goes from being a loser to a man taking charge of his own destiny to a man in love to being clueless to realizing his nightmare and so onWhew! making their graphs surprising and shocking even after all, Upadhyays final victim was a complete curveball. Character arcs too when abruptly snipped are realized R.I.P Vikram the killer who wanted to turn a new leaf and even the background and supporting performances stun the dark-humor of the emergency room nurse (Swati Sarkar) was an unexpectedly light moment on the show.
Gulshan Devaiah as Nakul in Afsos.
Afsos succeeds because of its experimentative writing and direction but also on account of some stellar performances by the series cast. Devaiah is devastating as Nakul, nailing every nuance of a character who is so gloomy, his continuous existential crisis is a punchline. The actor does a lot with a little, infusing subtle mannerisms to depict the psyche of Nakul which particularly comes out in two scenes when his publisher tells him hell have to pay for a chance at publication and when he picks up the tea tab for Fokatiya baba who tells him, Bhagwan tumko lambi umar de, bete (May God bless you with a long life.) Devaiah indulges Nakul in a sly, barely registrable, sardonic smile because in both cases, the irony is not lost on the character and that measured restraint of expression coupled with other body language intimations, across multiple plot situations, displays an acting prowess that one can only hope Devaiah continues to tap into.
Aakash Dahiya as Bir Singh in Afsos.
Shah is formidable as the unflinching assassin Upadhyay, going from reasonable to relentless in an instant. Dahiya embodies the small town cop morale and impresses particularly in scenes where his character indulges in occupational commentary while Das captivates as Fokatiya baba, employing an understated gravitas that never overwhelms the innocence of his character. Bhattacharjee is delightful as Maria, skirting the line between murderous and courteous in every scene whereas Bhimsaria breaks out with his portrayal of a man at a turning point and Patil turns an oft flat therapist persona into a red herring with her layered performance as Srinivasan.
Ratnabali Bhattacharjee as Maria in Afsos.
A subtle standout in Afsos is Krish Makhijas cinematography which is striking in its mundanity as it romanticizes the balmy cityscape of Mumbai and the whitecast village of Harsil, turning introspective in hue when the camera pans on its denizens. Scenes such as those at the local tea stall and serene ashrams are interspersed with gloomy reflections by characters as well as calm crime sites bearing bullet laden bodies. Its these contradictions that further make the absurd tangible in Afsos. The soundscape of the show too blends well with the narrative and series scorer Neel Adhikaris thematic compositions The Kill (sung by Spanish vocalist Pati Amor) and Afsos Hai (sung by playback singer Arijit Singh) juxtapose the cat and mouse ploy brilliantly over the eight-episodes.
Gulshan Devaiah as Nakul in Afsos. Photo: Amazon Prime Video
Afsos, with its dark underbite and insensibly pragmatic approach, is the thriller that does not deign to make you laugh, but endeavors toward it. Theres an honesty to the narrative that feels refreshing almost making up for the confusing timelines and the series is a breakout commentary on social alienation and urban convention. Endlessly riveting and deliciously deceiving, Afsos just might be Indian dark comedy at its peak.
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