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Russian artist faces jail after starting fire at security HQ

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MOSCOWOne of Russia’s most radical political performance artists faces up to three years in jail after setting fire to the main entrance to the headquarters of the FSB security service, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB secret police.

Police detained Pyotr Pavlensky in the early hours of Monday morning after he doused the main entrance of the building – a symbol of Communist-era repression and state authority for many Russians – with petrol and started a fire.

Footage posted on a video-sharing website from Pavlensky’s account showed him standing on Moscow’s Lubyanka Square in front of the vast, yellow-brick, neo-baroque FSB building holding a petrol can as the fire raged behind him.

It also showed the 31-year-old being detained by police, who later said they had opened a criminal case against him for suspected vandalism, a charge that carries a jail term of up to three years.

In a message accompanying the video, Pavlensky called his performance “The Threat”, saying it was meant to draw attention to what he called the terror tactics used by the FSB, which was briefly run by Vladimir Putin before he became president.

“Fear turns free people into a sticky mass of uncoordinated bodies,” he said. “The threat of inevitable reprisal hangs over everyone who can be tracked with devices, have their conversations listened to, or at borders with passport checks.”

Pavlensky has carried out extreme acts before, which he says are designed to poke holes in the Kremlin’s propaganda machine.

In 2012, he sewed his lips together to protest against the jailing of anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot, and the following year he wrapped himself in barbed wire to express his opposition to laws he deemed regressive.

In November 2013, he nailed his scrotum to Moscow’s Red Square, a gesture he described as a metaphor for the political apathy of Russian society.

He was briefly detained in October 2014 after slicing off part of his earlobe while sitting naked on the roof of an infamous state psychiatry clinic to protest against what he said was the Kremlin using psychiatric hospitals for political ends.

Doctors have declared Pavlensky, who has in the past been ordered to undergo psychiatric tests, sane. But veteran human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva, told the Interfax agency on Monday after condemning his latest actions, that he should be checked again.

Public reaction to his latest act was mixed with some Russians taking to social media to laud his bravery and others strongly denouncing him.

The entrance to the FSB’s headquarters was boarded up with sheets of corrugated metal when this Reuters reporter walked past on Monday afternoon.

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

Source: R-Entertainment

"Brooklyn" has biggest Irish film opening since 1996

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LONDONThe film adaptation of Irish novelist Colm Toibin’s “Brooklyn” starring Saoirse Ronan has had the best opening week of any film in Ireland since the biopic “Michael Collins” in 1996, distributor Lionsgate said on Monday.

With an estimated box office of 1.04 million pounds ($1.57 million) in Britain and Ireland, “Brooklyn” was also the top opener in both countries for the past weekend, Lionsgate said.

“Brooklyn”, in which Ronan’s performance as a young Irish woman who emigrates to the New York borough to escape the poverty of 1950s Ireland is being touted as a potential Oscar winner, took in more than 432,000 pounds in Ireland from its opening on Nov 4 through the weekend, Lionsgate said.

That surpasses other popular recent Irish films including “The Guard”, which took in 408,711 pounds, and “Angela’s Ashes” at 397,978 pounds. It is exceeded only by the 1996 film about the Irish republican leader Collins, which took in almost 443,000 pounds.

Lionsgate said “Brooklyn” opened on 87 screens in Ireland, making it the largest screen count ever for an Irish film in the republic.

($1 = 0.6628 pounds)

(Reporting by Michael Roddy; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Source: R-Entertainment

Silence is golden: China tightens screws on online music

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BEIJINGChina is tightening control of online music, paying particular attention to content and jacking up already tight censorship of the Internet.

From Jan. 1, companies offering online music should police content before making it available, the Ministry of Culture said on its website. China’s three biggest Internet companies, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, Tencent Holdings Ltd and Baidu Inc all have music streaming platforms.

This edict is the latest strike in a multi-year campaign to “cleanse” both the Internet and culture more broadly of material the ruling Communist Party might deem a threat to China’s stability. The country already operates what experts say is one of the world’s most sophisticated online censorship mechanisms.

Baidu declined to comment. Alibaba and Tencent were not available for immediate comment.

The self-censorship system for music mirrors those currently in place at Internet companies, which employ large teams to scour the firms’ websites and apps and eradicate sensitive material.

Academics and censorship experts say the self-policing, with punitive measures for failure to remove “harmful” content, encourages companies and individuals to be conservative and censor more than may be necessary, in order to avoid punishment.

Despite the crackdown, music industry professionals say that China is becoming an increasingly important market, especially as music streaming gains popularity and a growing middle-class pays for high-quality services.

The government has been trying to shake off the country’s image as a market notorious for rampant music and entertainment piracy, issuing new regulations and punishments for offenders.

The ministry also asked online music platforms to submit information about their music to government officials from April 1.

In August, the ministry banned a list of 120 songs from being distributed online because they were “morally harmful”.

A large chunk of the songs were made by a handful of hip-hop artists, mirroring Western countries’ moral panic over rap in the 1990s and early 2000s.

(Reporting by Paul Carsten; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Source: R-Entertainment

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