PLAY’N GO will make its long-awaited debut in Las Vegas next week as the world’s leading iGaming entertainment supplier takes a starring role at the Global Gaming Expo.
The Swedish iGaming giants opened the book on its North American adventure earlier this year with successful market launches in Ontario and New Jersey, in addition to a license acquired in Michigan.
Exhibiting for the first time in Las Vegas, Play’n GO will share its story of regulated market focus, unmatched content portfolio with compelling narratives, unparalleled release cadence, and commitment to responsible gaming through a new brand campaign Stories Start Here.
Johan Törnqvist, CEO and Co-Founder for Play’n GO, said: “We think that the story of Play’n GO is a compelling one, and we’re excited to share it with everyone in Las Vegas. The culture and people within our business are what drives us every day to create great entertainment. Our focus on who we are and what we believe in has been part of a phenomenal success story for almost 20 years in Europe.
“But while we continue to grow our existing business, it’s time to go all-in on North America.”
Play’n GO’s enviable portfolio of more than 300 titles has propelled it to be the number one slot supplier to regulated markets in Europe, with games such as Book of Dead, Tome of Madness, and Reactoonz firm favorites of players the world over.
The smash hit Book of Dead, released originally in 2016, is still the number one online slot game in Europe, and recently made its US debut in New Jersey in September.
Magnus Olsson, Chief Commercial Officer at Play’n GO, added: “Play’n GO is already well known around the industry for having the best content for both acquisition and retention, but we bring so much more to the table than just the world’s most popular online slot games.
“My team and I are looking forward to showcasing how we work closely in partnership with operators to help them achieve their business goals by harnessing the power of the expertise that Play’n GO has built up over the past 20 years at the forefront of iGaming. G2E is the perfect opportunity and we can’t wait.”
Stories Start Here is a campaign that will shine a new light on the Play’n GO story – From building casino games for mobile phones before the iPhone even existed to now nurturing a collaborative culture of Play’n GO staff across the world who write new chapters in our story every day.
Ebba Arnred, CMO and co-founder of Play’n GO, added: “There may be some in the US gaming market in particular who haven’t heard a lot about Play’n GO – yet. Our mission is to ensure that that will not be the case when everyone leaves Las Vegas, and we aim to continue to tell our story post-Vegas too. In many ways, our North American story starts here.”
For decades, professional wrestling has had much of Memphis in a headlock. A stranglehold. An eternal loop of a suplex in which we are flipped to the canvas, over and over and over. The referee must be otherwise occupied because he never calls an end to the action. Would you have it any other way?
Wrestling may not be “real,” but it sure is authentic. This quiz, however, is definitely contrived — contrived to supply a modicum of amusement, even to those who don’t know Jerry Lawler from Jerry Lewis or Sputnik Monroe from the Sputnik satellite.
Inspired by the recent presence of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in our city and the ongoing production here of Season 3 of his semi-autobiographical NBC comedy series, “Young Rock,” this quiz is like the other Memphis-centric — Memphicentric — quizzes we’ve published over the past couple years. It’s multiple choice, with the answers at the bottom; 22 questions because the year is 2022. If you’re old enough, you might want to imagine Dave Brown or the late Lance Russell reading the questions.
1. Roscoe M. Brumbaugh was better known to the world as:
a) Sputnik Monroe.
b) Gorgeous George Jr.
c) Rocky Johnson.
d) Reggie B. Fine.
2. In 1960, Sputnik Monroe was arrested at Beale and Hernando on a disorderly conduct charge, and ultimately fined $25. Based on a report in The Commercial Appeal, what was Monroe’s crime, according to the arresting officer?
a) “He demonstrated wrestling holds on customers without permission.”
b) “Suspect stood on table-top and performed ‘strip-tease.'”
c) “Suspect ordered ‘drinks for the house’ but had only $7 in pocket.”
d) “He was drinking in a negro cafe with negros.”
3. Fill in the blank: In the jargon of the heroes-vs.-villains world of professional wrestling, a bad guy is a “heel” while a good guy is a _______.
a) “Prince Charming.”
c) “White knight.”
4. After many years at the Auditorium in Downtown Memphis, professional wrestling made its debut at the Mid-South Coliseum on June 7, 1971, where it would be a regular event for the next 20 years. A crowd of 9,523 — more than double the Auditorium’s capacity — showed up that night to witness the grappling of such stalwarts of the squared circle as Sputnik Monroe, Len Rossi, Tojo Yamamoto, Jackie and Roughhouse Fargo, Darling Dagmar, Bearcat Brown and The Fabulous Moolah, to name a few. Not everyone was pleased. Interviewed by The Commercial Appeal, a fan identified as “Mrs. Lillie Butler” complained: “They won’t let me stand up” and “I can’t see a thing.” She also registered this objection:
a) “The Coke is flat.”
b) “The place is drafty.”
c) “I can’t hear the grunts.”
d) “The policemen are mean.”
5. Fill in the blank: A 1976 story in the Memphis Press-Scimitar reported that “Studio Wrestling” was a “ratings bonanza” that reached “about 287,000 viewers” during its live Saturday broadcasts, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on WHBQ-TV Channel 13. “It’s a smash for us,” said co-host and Channel 13 program director Lance Russell. At the same time, according to the story, about 7,000 fans showed up each Monday night for wrestling at the Mid-South Coliseum. Said Russell, comparing the popularity of wrestling to that of a recent concert: “I’m sure the ______ people shook their heads when they sat there with 2,000 people and the next night wrestling draws 7,000.”
6. In 1977, when live televised professional wrestling moved from WHBQ-TV Channel 13 —where it had been a fixture since 1958 —to WMC-TV Channel 5, producers tried to elevate the prestige of the program by replacing the Channel 13 jingle-style theme song (“Winter time, summer time, any time is wrestling tiiiiime…”) with what familiar piece of classical music?
a) Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” (better known as the theme music for “The Lone Ranger”).
b) Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (the one that begins “da-da-da-DUM”).
c) Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (better known as the theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey”).
d) Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” (featured in Disney’s “Fantasia”).
7. Wrestler Houston Harris — better known by his ring name of Bobo Brazil — was fond of slamming his forehead against his opponent’s forehead. What did Brazil call his signature head-butt?
a) The Ram Slam.
b) The Percussion Concussion.
c) The Skull Splitter.
d) The Coco-Butt.
8. Wrestler Archie Gouldie was better known as the Mongolian ______.
9. During his brief professional wrestling career in the early 1960s, this short-in-stature teenager was passed off as “The World’s Most Perfectly Formed Midget Wrestler.” He was:
a) Jerry Phillips, son of Sun Records founder Sam Phillips.
b) Future TV wrestling host and meteorologist Dave Brown.
c) Soon to be sought-after Stax bass player Donald “Duck” Dunn.
d) Billy Buford, later recruited to the Memphis Tigers basketball team by Coach Gene Bartow.
10. Born in Hawaii, Tojo Yamamoto embraced his Japanese heritage to be a particularly flamboyant wrestling villain. He frequently attacked opponents with judo chops, a Kendo stick and a:
a) saya (Japanese sword scabbard).
b) samurai armored glove, worn on his left hand.
c) geta (Japanese sandal-style wooden shoe).
d) kanabō (Japanese feudal war club).
11. With his bleached blond hair, patented “Fargo Strut” and man-of-the-people eloquence (he addressed friend and foe alike as “pally”), Jackie Fargo was — in his own words — “often imitated but never duplicated.” In the 2011 documentary “Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin’,” how did Fargo describe his wrestling persona?
a) “I was meaner than a damn rattlesnake and tougher than a two-dollar steak.”
b) “I was such a heel, every time I snarled I added six inches to my height.”
c) “I broke lots of legs and lots of hearts but I never broke a promise.”
d) “I was president of the 4-H club: I was a headlock, hammerlock, heat-wave heartthrob.”
12. Memphis-born Richard Fliehr, better known as “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, also had a way with words. He said:
a) “I’m every woman’s dream and every man’s nightmare.”
b) “When I walk in a room the women faint and so do the dogs.”
c) “I’m 240 pounds of muscle and love.”
d) “I walk 47 miles of barbed wire, I use a cobra snake for a necktie.”
13. Nicknamed “The Madman from Sudan,” Abudullah the Butcher actually was:
a) Percy Dovetonsils from Sugar Hill, New Hampshire.
b) Lawrence Robert Shreve from Windsor, Canada.
c) Julius Kelp from Claremont, California.
d) Franklin Pangborn from Newark, New Jersey.
14. In 1975, Jerry “The King” Lawler scored a regional hit on the Barbarian Records label with his cover of:
a) “Mr. Bad Example,” by Warren Zevon. (“I’m very well acquainted with the seven deadly sins/ I keep a busy schedule trying to fit them in…”)
b) “Bad Boy,” by Larry Williams, famously covered by the Beatles. (“He put thumbtacks in teacher’s chair/ Put chewin’ gum in a little girl’s hair…”)
c) “Bad News” by John D. Loudermilk. (“Bad news travels like wildfire/good news travels slow…”)
d) “Trouble,” written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, recorded in 1958 by Elvis Presley. (“If you’re looking for trouble/ You came to the right place/ If you’re looking for trouble/ Just look right in my face…”)
15. Fill in the blank: On April 5, 1982, the Mid-South Coliseum hosted a match that remains the most storied in Memphis wrestling history: Jerry Lawler vs. comic actor-turned-professional wrestling provocateur Andy Kaufman. Interviewed late that night at St. Francis Hospital, where Kaufman was treated for “cervical strain” after Lawler ended the match by dropping Kaufman on his head with a “piledriver” move, the comedian’s friend and acting manager, Bob Zmuda, pledged: “Andy will never wrestle again. Not even _____.’
a) for a million dollars
b) if Mr. Lawler apologizes for his uncouth barbarity
c) if Lawler says ‘pretty please’
16. Fill in the blank: Later that year, on July 28, Lawler and Kaufman (wearing a neck brace) staged an infamous and seemingly hostile reunion on “Late Night with David Letterman” that reached an emotional climax when Lawler delivered what appeared to be a devastating slap across Kaufman’s face. (Years later, Lawler admitted the feud was staged.) Before the slap, Lawler asked Kaufman, “Is that a neck brace or a flea collar?” and he assured Letterman the enmity was not “an act.” Said Lawler: “I couldn’t warm up to this guy if _____.”
a) my pants were on fire
b) we were dropped into a volcano
c) we were on the set of ‘The Towering Inferno’
d) we were cremated together
17. Mix and match these words to come up with the name of three popular wrestlers: Brickhouse; Brown; Bundy; Cash; King Kong; and Porkchop.
a) Porkchop Brown, Brickhouse Bundy and King Kong Cash.
b) Porkchop Cash, Brickhouse Brown and King Kong Bundy.
c) Bundy Brown, Cash King Kong and Brickhouse Porkchop.
d) Cash Brown, Porkchop Bundy and Brickhouse King Kong.
18. With shoulder-length platinum blond hair and a Mark Spitz mustache, a wrestler calling himself “Eddie Boulder” grappled here in the late 1970s and early ‘80s accompanied by “Terry Boulder,” a tag team partner who was presented as his brother. Terry Boulder was Terrence Eugene Bollea, now better known as:
a) Hulk Hogan.
c) Bill “Superstar” Dundee.
d) Buddy Diamond.
19. Who worked the Memphis territory in 1983 and weighed 520 pounds?
a) Plowboy Frazier.
b) Andre the Giant.
c) Bad Bad Leroy Brown.
d) The tag team known as the Bruise Brothers.
20. In one of the more surreal episodes in Memphis pop culture history, actor Adam West — who was in town to appear at a Cook Convention Center car show — showed up on the wrestling TV show in 1976 as his signature character, Batman. Interviewed by co-host Dave Brown, West — as deadpan here as he was when he played the Caped Crusader on his hit 1960s series — praised the “Bat-fans” of Memphis and chided the villainous “evil king of Memphis,” Jerry Lawler, who confronted West in a modified Superman costume and called himself “Super-King.” Batman counseled Lawler to abandon his “naughty, mean” ways and become “polite and courteous.” He specifically counseled Lawler to:
a) “Use your left and right turn indicator in your car.”
b) “Always remember to return the toilet seat to the ‘down’ position.”
c) “Never split an infinitive.”
d) “Call your mother once a week.”
21. “We’re very naughty by nature, and we’re very violent by decision,” said a wrestler calling himself “Flex Kavana,” when he made his Memphis wrestling debut during the Saturday morning Channel 5 program in 1996. Before long, Flex Kavana would be known around the world as:
a) The Rock.
b) Vin Diesel.
c) Post Malone.
d) The Undertaker.
22. A comedy inspired by wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s childhood and young adulthood, the third season of the NBC series “Young Rock” is now in production in Memphis, shooting on location (on Front Street and at the Annesdale-Snowden house, among other places) and on sets built inside:
a) The former Skateland building on Old Summer Road.
b) The exhibition hall at Graceland.
c) The Masonic Temple on Court Avenue.
d) The Mid-South Coliseum.
C (If you don’t know “Also Sprach Zarathustra” from “2001,” perhaps you know it from its use as Elvis’ introductory fanfare during his concerts of the 1970s.)
“The Last Illusion” from Book Vine Press author Izek Aliev is a notable story that happened between two millenniums on the eve of 2000.
All believers are united by a single Almighty, true friendship between people is forever, there is nothing worse than a war that takes away our loved ones, and to love and be loved is true happiness.”
— Izek Aliev, Author
PALATINE, IL, USA, October 4, 2022 /EINPresswire.com/ — “The Last Illusion”: a fascinating narrative that is filled with enlightenment—a realization that a strong friendship will remain despite a deadly war. This narrative took place on the eve of the Millennium, between two Millenniums. The story’s main character is the son of former Soviet immigrants. This is a yin, a brilliant, successful management of a large American corporation who lives and works in New York. Josef journeys back to the former Soviet republics for the first time in 20 years, hoping to reconnect with old pals. He is shaken by things he knows there. All three of his pals had been slain in the battles in Chechnya (Russia) and Karabakh (Azerbaijan). When he returns to New York, he is despondent and withdraws within himself, retreating into his shell.
Prophets appear to him one night and entrust him with a sacred assignment. Prophets warn him that humanity is in peril, and humanity rushes to self-destruction. This fatal step must be reversed. The New Messiah must restore people’s faith in the Indivisible Creator. To prove to people that he is the true Messiah, he resolves to settle the highly intricate Armenian-Azerbaijan Karabakh war and to demonstrate the Creator’s extraordinary might to them. Unfortunately, he meets both his love and his demise in the Karabakh mountains.
This book also gives proof to people that He is the real Messiah; he decides to settle a very complicated Armenian-Azerbaijan Karabakh conflict and to show people his miraculous strength given him by Creator. “The Last Illusion” is the creation of published author Izek Aliev, a social worker who has published three books.
Aliev writes, “New Millennium. New era. New opportunities. Old problems, stereotypes, prejudices. The world is heading towards the abyss, but who wants to admit it? Who is ready to do anything to stop the fall into nowhere? The hero of the book emigrated from the Soviet Union to America 20 years ago, leaving school friends and a carefree childhood behind. Now he is successful and independent and wants to restore the torn connections. Having gone to his homeland, he learns with horror that all his friends died in the Karabakh and Chechen armed conflicts. News like this can lead to depression. And only dreams in which the prophets themselves appear to a young man help to stay afloat. They see what abyss humanity is approaching and know how to prevent a catastrophe. A common religion and faith are single Supreme is needed. Joseph will become an instrument in the hands of the Almighty and try to change the world.”
Published by Book Vine Press, Aliev’s new book conveys to readers the idea that all believers are united by a single Almighty, that true friendship between people is forever, that there is nothing worse than a war that takes away their loved ones, that to love and be loved is true happiness.
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Covering COVID-19 is a daily Poynter briefing of story ideas about the coronavirus and other timely topics for journalists, written by senior faculty Al Tompkins. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.
Most Americans are only vaguely aware that a new booster shot for COVID-19 is available and that they are eligible to get it to protect against the omicron subvariants of the virus. As Drew Altman, the president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, put it, “America is not rushing out to get the new booster.”
The Kaiser Family Foundation’s new survey found that half of adults say they’ve heard “a lot” (17%) or “some” (33%) about the new shots. “About a third of all adults (32%) say they’ve already gotten a new booster dose or intend to get one ‘as soon as possible.” The study also found:
Intention is somewhat higher among older adults, one of the groups most at risk for serious complications of a coronavirus infection. Almost half (45%) of adults ages 65 and older say they have gotten the bivalent booster or intend to get it “as soon as possible.”
About one in five (19%) parents of children ages 6 months through 4 years old say their child has gotten vaccinated for COVID-19, up from 7% in July. The September Monitor survey finds about half (53%) of parents of children in this age range say they will “definitely not” get their child vaccinated for COVID-19. Reported vaccine uptake among children ages 5-11 and teenagers ages 12-17 has slowed in recent months. Almost half of parents of kids ages 5-11 now report their child has gotten vaccinated (46%), as do 62% of parents of teens ages 12-17.
This is not a matter of people ignoring or not trusting the new vaccine. In significant numbers, people say they don’t know if they are eligible for the new booster dose.
(Kaiser Family Foundation)
(Kaiser Family Foundation)
Journalists, this shows how important it is for you to turn your attention back to COVID-19 and not wait for a fall or winter surge to again get interested.
The New York Times ran a piece you probably missed because there is so much else going on. The piece explained how, for sure, more virus outbreaks are on our horizon, and we better wake up to them.
New infectious threats are certainly on the way, mostly because of the twin rises in global travel and vaccine hesitancy, and the growing proximity of people and animals. From 2012 to 2022, for example, Africa saw a 63 percent increase in outbreaks of pathogens that jump to people from animals, compared with the period from 2001 to 2011.
“In people’s minds, perhaps, is the idea that this Covid thing was such a freak of nature, was a once-in-a-century crisis, and we’re good for the next 99 years,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, director of the Pandemic Center at Brown University School of Public Health.
“This is the new normal,” she added. “It’s like the levees are built for the one-in-a-100-years crisis, but then the floods keep happening every three years.”
In this Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 file photo, waves wash over a roller coaster from a Seaside Heights, N.J., amusement park that fell in the Atlantic Ocean during Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)
On Sunday, CNN interviewed U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and quizzed him about why he opposed a bill to provide federal relief for damage caused by Hurricane Sandy but now wants federal help after Hurricane Ian. Rubio responded the way politicians have responded for years, saying that the bill for Sandy relief included roof repairs in Washington, D.C., and money for Alaska.
His point that these kinds of bills are a magnet for political maneuvering is legitimate. But ever since 2013, when the bill was to come up for a Senate vote, news organizations have repeated the story about questionable roof damage in D.C., despite a detailed investigation by the Congressional Research Service that found virtually everything in the bill that came up for a vote was, in fact, related to Hurricane Sandy.
PolitiFact has addressed this issue several times. If you want the line-by-line analysis of claims and counterclaims that will be flying around this week as the midterm elections near, go here. PolitiFact sorts out the details with links to original reports when senators asked for money for relief for Irma, Harvey and now Ian.
Some other loose spending was included in the first drafts of the 2013 bill, but much of that got pulled out before the vote.
Commentary Magazine listed it as one of the bill’s “most outrageous requests,” and a joint release from Sen. John McCain and Sen. Tom Coburn in December described the allocation as “$2 million to repair damage to the roofs of museums in Washington, D.C., while many in Hurricane Sandy’s path still have no roof over their own heads.”
In fact, the damage which that $2 million is intended to fix does not predate the storm. “In all cases, [the funds are for] roof leaks caused by heavy winds and torrential rain,” Linda St. Thomas, a Smithsonian Institution spokeswoman, told me in an email this afternoon. “Hurricane Sandy caused the roof damage which is why we put in the request. In several cases, it exacerbated smaller leaks, in other cases, it caused new leaks.”
The money was earmarked to fix Sandy-caused roof leaks at the National Zoo, the Museum of American History, the Air and Space Museum and other museum buildings.
Back in 2017, The Washington Post explored the story behind the money earmarked for Alaska. It was not related to Hurricane Sandy, but it was related to another disaster.
The bill did wrap in some other 2012 disaster funding, including disasters that had been declared over Alaska Chinook salmon, New England groundfish, Mississippi fisheries and American Samoa bottomfish. Those are the fisheries that the Cornyn spokesman referenced — but they were disaster declarations. So, one would think it would make sense to include relief in a disaster bill.
This being Congress, one of course can find some eyebrow-raising provisions. In particular, there was $16 billion for the account that funds Community Development Block Grants, which were aimed at Sandy relief but also could be used for eligible disaster events in calendar years 2011, 2012 and 2013. So, the main focus was Sandy, but the money could be moved to assist other disaster relief efforts over a three-year period.
The tournament director got suspicious when a walleye weighed in at almost twice the weight it should be for its size. You can go here and watch the contest officials cut open the suspicious catch. The crowd gets rowdy with some colorful language. The officials ask the crowd not to hurt the guy, who makes a quick retreat. His fishing partner had already locked himself inside his pickup truck. The two are regulars on the competitive fishing circuit and now could face criminal cheating charges.
Big-dollar fishing tournaments have attracted big cheaters for a long time. A couple of years ago in Utah, some fishermen tried to win with bass they said they caught in Lake Powell, the tournament’s lake, but laboratory tests on the fish showed they came from a different lake, apparently caught a couple of days before the event.
Cheating is so common that some tournaments require winners to pass a polygraph test.
It’s fall in the Garden State…are you brave enough to visit?
October is here – and it’s the best time of year in the Garden State…but it’s not for everyone. Some of us, like me, are embracing the season with cups of pumpkin coffee, scary movies on repeat, and creepy cute Halloween decorations. I can’t even tell you how many pumpkin-scented candles and soaps printed with skulls and bats I’ve bought over the past few weeks (the money I’ve spent on that is scary enough!)
Let’s not forget the delicious treats too…the apple cider donuts, Halloween candies, and delicious fall-flavored pies are to die for.
This Fall, the friendly farms and amusement parks we’re known for aren’t places you’d want to visit alone – ghouls, creepy clowns, and asylum escapees are taking over! It’s impossible to walk around without the chance of someone scaring you at every corner. You might even have to outrun a few chainsaws.
At the end of the day, everyone knows those aren’t real scares…they’re highly produced haunts with amazing actors. But don’t let that fool you, New Jersey is filled with real haunted places filled with creepy ghost tales. You can even go on a ghost tour if you dare.
During the fall in New Jersey, you may not even feel safe in your own neighborhood. Homes known for their manicured green lawns now have fake tombstones and skeletons on them. There’s a chill in the air, and the trees are starting to go bare, leaving an eerie feeling.
Fall is here, and the sunny, beach-filled days here at the Jersey Shore are far behind us. Here’s why you shouldn’t visit NJ this fall (unless you’re brave enough).
Reasons why Visiting NJ in the Fall May Not Be For You
The sunny, beach filled days are far behind us.
Spirit Halloween is back: Here’s where to find them in NJ
A list of towns throughout New Jersey where you can find Spirit Halloween stores for 2022. Towns are listed in alphabetical order. Click or tap on the town names for more details.
Find Your Way Through NJs 5 Best Corn Mazes this Autumn
From the great local spots at the shore, to the ones you should take a day trip to!
SAYREVILLE – The Borough Council has approved an ordinance establishing a redevelopment plan for the former Amboy Cinemas site.
The plan proposes a variety of retail, hotel, recreation, office and professional uses at the site also known as the National Amusement Theater. The ordinance was unanimously approved Sept. 27; Councilman Christian Onuoha was absent from the meeting.
The 19.5-acre site on Routes 9 & 35 in the northeast section of the borough contains three properties, approximately 1,200 feet south of the Raritan River. The area, north of the Melrose residential neighborhood, is immediately east of the base of the Driscoll Bridge with frontage on Route 9 to the west and Route 35 to the east.
Amboy Cinemas opened at the site in December 1979, replacing a drive-in theater, and closed in 2005 “due to the settling of the lobby floor.”
The redevelopment plan establishes permitted land uses, bulk and area requirements and design standards for any proposed development.
“It is envisioned that this redevelopment area will fit into and be compatible with the commercial, residential and waterfront uses of the development of the former National Lead site and the existing highway commercial character of the surrounding area,” the plan says.
In August 2021, the Planning Board recommended to the Borough Council that the site be designated for redevelopment. The council followed by authorizing CME Associates to prepare a redevelopment plan, which has now been approved by both borough governing bodies.
Under the redevelopment plan, permitted uses at the site include office, retail, grocery store, education, medical, assisted living, hotel, gym, restaurant, entertainment, park-and-ride and open space.
Prohibited used include warehouse, industrial, auto and trailer storage, single- and multi-family housing, freestanding automated bank teller and outdoor storage of goods and materials.
According to the plan, the adjoining Waterfront Redevelopment Area is currently under remediation monitored by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. There is noted groundwater contamination on adjoining properties which may extend contamination onto the site and is subject to environmental cleanup regulations, the plan says.
Federal Emergency Management Agency mapping indicates a major portion of the site is in a flood zone, and the redevelopment will be subject to a formal wetlands investigation by the DEP, the plan says.
Susan Loyer covers Middlesex County and more for MyCentralJersey.com. To get unlimited access to her work, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
The Miami Boys Choir’s first album was released as a vinyl record. The Jewish singing group later moved on to cassettes, then CDs, mp3s, streaming and now – TikTok.
After 45 years, 32 albums and hundreds of original songs, the Miami Boys Choir is having an unexpectedly viral moment on the social media platform, with millions of new fans delighting in old – and new – videos of the group’s performances. The smooth, pure voices of young boys, the earnest enthusiasm, cheesy costumes, kitschy dance moves and catchy tunes have provided perfect fodder for the video app’s algorithm.
For the uninitiated, the Miami Boys Choir is a longtime singing group made up of an ever-revolving cast of 20-30 Orthodox Jewish preteen and teenage boys. The entire operation is the brainchild of Yerachmiel Begun, who launched the group in 1977 in Miami, after dabbling in a similar venture in Toronto. After a few years, Begun moved the group to Brooklyn, where it is still based today, but the original name stuck (after a very brief stint as the Miami Choir Boys).
For the 66-year-old Begun, the choir’s explosion onto the national stage has been unexpected but rewarding.
“The thing that’s most gratifying for him is the effect it’s having on all types of Jews around the world,” said Chananya Begun, Yerachmiel’s 34-year-old son, who was behind the decision to begin posting clips on TikTok. “It’s wonderful to see the impact that Miami is now having on this whole other new audience around the world,” added Chananya — who has been handling all press inquiries for his father — as well as the “positivity and enthusiasm and love for this whole thing… hopefully it’s a good thing for the Jewish people.”
While the choir is reaching new audiences among both Jews and non-Jews, those who once belted out tunes as members over the years are watching with amusement and a heavy dose of nostalgia. The longevity of the group and the turnover among choir members – most of whom leave when their voices start to change as they hit puberty – means that there are an estimated 500 alumni.
Once child performers touring around the United States and the world, today they are doctors, accountants, lawyers, rabbis, businessmen, nonprofit executives – and even popular singers.
The Times of Israel spoke to eight former members of the Miami Boys Choir – spanning four decades of the singing group – about their experiences, the impact it had on their lives and their reactions to seeing the choir go viral.
Gaining confidence on stage
Former members recalled the senior Begun as a tough but dedicated leader, who pushed to bring out the best performance from each young singer.
“I learned a lot, and I think Yerachmiel was an incredible leader and teacher and he knew how to bring out the best in people and in me,” said Shawn Levine, 36, who was a member of the choir from 1998 to 2000. “It really set the foundation for my singing confidence in public and performing and all those things.”
Levine, who grew up in New York and now lives near Miami, has continued to find musical outlets alongside his business day job. During his time at the University of Maryland, Levine was a founding member of Kol Ish, an all-male a cappella group, and more recently started a new similar group in South Florida.
“The choir experience helped shape everything” about his love and understanding of music, said Levine. “The Miami Boys Choir really pioneered beautiful harmonies in a performance setting.”
Shawn Levine singing with the Miami Boys Choir as a child and with Kol Ish (center) as an adult. (Courtesy)
Mordechai Levovitz, 43, said his time in the choir was a particularly formative experience.
“I really loved every second of it, and I was willing to work hard and [Begun] respected that,” said Levovitz, who sang with the group in 1991-1993. “He appreciated when the kids took it seriously – there were times he was hard on us, but I think [he was] hard because he was a perfectionist. And he had a vision and he wanted us to take it seriously, and wanted us to love performing… For a young Jewish kid it was kind of the pinnacle of entertainment stardom.”
The choir’s biggest TikTok sensation has been a short clip of a 2008 concert performance of “Yerushalayim,” which has been viewed more than 8.5 million times in a little over a month. It has also garnered close to 9,000 “duets” – videos on the platform that allow users to post a split screen reaction alongside the original clip – some of which have millions of views themselves.
The account, which only began posting videos in late June, now has close to 140,000 followers. But the ripple effects have been even greater.
“Our Spotify listenership has more than tripled in the past few weeks,” said Chananya. He noted as well a huge influx of traffic to the Miami Boys Choir site, home to its wide range of CDs and DVDs: “That’s also skyrocketed in the past few weeks.” And with an upcoming concert in New Jersey during Sukkot this month, and an album due out by the end of the year, “it’s going to be interesting to see what happens with these shows now — it’s going to be quite interesting to see.”
Yerachmiel Begun composed the music to all of the choir’s songs, which are largely set to lyrics from traditional Jewish prayers, Tehillim (Psalms) or well-known phrases from the Torah – alongside some original English compositions.
Particularly in Orthodox households that spurn secular music, the cassettes and later CDs provided an outlet for families seeking new exciting albums and live concert experiences. Over the past five decades, many of Begun’s tunes have also become well-known as popular prayer melodies in synagogues, with most worshippers likely unaware of their origins.
“The songs that he has created are just incredible,” said Levovitz. “He is a brilliant songwriter… good music is just good music.”
Life as a child star
The youngest members of the group tend to be 8 or 9, while most age out by 14 or 15. Many joined at the urging of their parents, while others sought out the experience themselves, convincing their parents to shoulder the carpooling to practices in Brooklyn and the costs of costumes and touring (no, they didn’t get paid to take part).
David Herskowitz singing with the Miami Boys Choir in 2008 (left) and at his wedding earlier this year (right). (Courtesy/Anthony Vazquez Photography)
David Herskowitz – arguably the biggest breakout star of the choir’s TikTok fame – said his father had always dreamed of having a child perform in the singing group.
The joke in the family, said Herskowitz, now 27, “was that when my sister was born he was upset that it was a girl because he wanted a kid in the Miami Boys Choir… it was my dad’s longtime dream to have a child in the Miami Boys Choir, and he got three of them.” David and his younger brothers Jeremy and Max all did a stint.
Other future members who saw the group perform in concert or heard their songs took the initiative themselves to get an audition.
“It was really all my idea,” recalled Zalman Pollack, 31, who sang in the choir from 2000 to 2005, noting that he called up Begun himself and asked for an audition. “I had gone to a concert and I loved the idea of performing on stage. I thought it was very cool and I really loved singing.”
Zalman Pollack singing with the Miami Boys Choir in the early 2000s (left) and more recently at a wedding. (Courtesy)
David Charendoff, 23, said when he heard a Miami Boys Choir song in music class at school, he was instantly hooked. “I came home and I said, ‘I want to be in the Miami Boys Choir,’” recalled Charendoff, who went on to be a member from 2008 to 2011. “Fourth-grade me found the auditions, where it was, looked it all up online.”
Jeff (Yehuda) Kranzler, 41, who sang in the choir in 1993-1994, said that in his era “it was something that everybody in the New York area knew” and so he decided to audition himself. “I just remember going into the tryouts and there being tons of people… I thought ‘Hey, let’s give this a shot.’”
‘Smile and give it your all’
For Levovitz – who today is the cofounder and director of the Jewish Queer Youth nonprofit – the choir provided a safe place for him to explore being a performer and entertainer.
“I was a young performer, I had this amazing dream, I had stars in my eyes. It was, for me, as close to a manifestation of that dream as possible,” said Levovitz, who later enrolled in medical school, dropped out to appear on the first season of “American Idol,” and went on to perform in musical theater for several years before becoming a social worker.
Mordechai Levovitz during his time in the Miami Boys Choir in the 1990s (left) and today. (Screenshot/Courtesy)
“I think there were a lot of kids that were closeted… there were a lot of kids from the choir who ended up coming out later, including me,” Levovitz recalled. Begun, he said, “would want us to be as flamboyant as possible on stage, he was encouraging, he never told any of the boys to ‘man up’ on stage… If someone was fabulous and wanted to do their thing… he would be like ‘just go, just do it, as long as you smile and give it your all.’”
By the time their bar mitzvahs rolled around, the gig was up for most members, although a few stayed until they were 14 or 15. But once their voices began to change with puberty, the end was clearly in sight.
“My voice started changing, I was no longer able to reach some of those high notes in some of those solos, so those are given to other kids,” recalled Daniel Muchnick, 34, who sang in the choir in 1999-2002. “It’s depressing to see your own solos go to other people… it just made sense for me to leave.”
“It was fun while it lasted,” said Kranzler, “but at some point I was just done with it.”
Yehuda (Jeff) Kranzler (right) dances with fellow Miami Boys Choir alumni Rabbi Moshe Stavsky holding their old choir costumes at Kranzler’s wedding in 2006. (Courtesy)
Even those who did not go on to pursue a musical career said the experience in the choir provided them with invaluable skills.
“One of the things I took away – aside from a love for music – was being comfortable on stage… having confidence when it comes to public speaking,” said Herskowitz.
Muchnick noted that “the experience shapes everybody in a certain way… I think it informed an aspect of myself that enjoys performance. I’m a shy, introverted person, but there’s a part of me that really thrives in a performance space.”
Daniel Muchnick singing in the Miami Boys Choir (left) in 1999, and rapping in 2017 (right). (Courtesy)
“It was definitely formative and it definitely helped… give me the confidence to go on stage,” said Gili Houpt, 49, who sang in the choir from 1985 to 1988.
From child stardom to adult life
While most former members have day jobs unrelated to their musical pasts, singing has remained a hobby and a passion for many.
Pollack is a CFO at a nursing home, but sings at weddings on the side. Muchnick works in renewable energy but takes part in poetry festivals, composes original songs for his young daughters and even raps as Muncho Gusto. Charendoff recently graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in mechanical engineering, where he was also a member of the Rak Shalom Jewish a cappella group.
Herskowitz runs his own digital marketing firm, although he recorded two songs for his proposal and recent wedding — and has been inspired by his newfound viral fame to carve out more time for singing. Houpt, who now lives in Israel and works as a tour guide, said he incorporates music into his tours, and also serves as a chazan (cantor) during synagogue prayers, after years of being part of a band.
But don’t expect to see Houpt take a star turn on the Miami Boys Choir TikTok feed.
“I don’t know if there’s anything I did on video – we were of the generation right before video really took off,” he said of his time in the choir.
Chananya confirmed that while he has decades of video to choose from while posting on TikTok, “about 98% of it is from 1991 and on.”
The group’s TikTok stardom has been fueled in part by the often amusing nature of the choir’s dance moves, bringing a touch of boy band stardom to Orthodox Jewish music.
“They were all choreographed by Yerachmiel, and he was just practice, practice, practice,” recalled Herskovitz. “He’s a perfectionist. We practiced hours and hours, especially before the headline shows on Sukkot and Pesach.”
“I’m not really much of a dancer, which was okay because the moves were not really much of dance moves,” joked Kranzler, who today works as a therapist and has written two works of young adult fiction. “It was pretty rudimentary, which was good because Orthodox Jewish men aren’t exactly known for their dance prowess.”
Legions of fans
Several former members recalled that while they had many fans in the US, the reception they received in Israel (where they were known as Pirchei Miami) went way beyond their local celebrity status.
“I definitely remember at the Israel shows there would always be seas of people waiting when we got out, for an autograph or a picture,” said Herskowitz.
Others recalled the surreal experience of becoming a pop idol within a very niche sector.
“It was a really weird phenomenon for all of us to kind of be teen idols, to have girls scream for us,” recalled Levovitz. “We would get letters, we would go to Pesach [Passover] programs [in hotels] and the girls would stand outside your room.”
Muchnick recounted that “somehow my phone number or fax number got out and I would get messages or calls from fans, girls, from different parts of the world.”
And as they grew up, went to college, and made new friends, their past as child stars would still occasionally resurface.
“Some of my friends kind of found out through various ways along the years and were always kind of surprised and delighted to find older videos of me singing,” said Charendoff.
David Charendoff singing in the Miami Boys Choir as a child (Ieft) and in Rak Shalom at the University of Maryland (right). (Courtesy)
“Anybody who knows me knows about [my time in the choir],” said Pollack. “How they know it is a different question.”
Kranzler said that even almost 30 years after he left the choir, “it actually does come up, and it’s funny, because people my age” grew up at a time when the choir was particularly famous in the Jewish world. “So when it comes up, people are like ‘Whoa! You were in the Miami Boys Choir?!’ It has weight.”
As the choir’s online presence has exploded in recent weeks, the former members have reflected on its newfound fame. For Levovitz, the new unexpected attention on the group carries with it mixed feelings.
“I’m not sure if non-Jewish people can ever really understand what the Miami Boys Choir meant to us, what it meant to the Jewish community that wasn’t allowed to listen to non-Jewish music,” said Levovitz. “I don’t want to [see] the choir through gentiles’ eyes… they don’t get it, they will never get it, it’s just not meant for them. It’s our stuff.”
But others are all in.
“I think it’s exciting, I think it’s cool,” said Herskowitz. “I’ve seen comments of people saying ‘I’m Jewish and never connected before and this has helped me’… There are not a lot of opportunities, outside of big public wins, to get a lot of Jewish pride and people who are proud of being Jewish and Jewish culture – and I think this is such a great message.”
“It’s just funny, honestly, it’s hilarious,” said Pollack. “I love it, I love seeing a bunch of non-Jews dancing to Miami Boys Choir – something that I never thought I’d see in my life.”
MASON, Ohio (WJW) — One Ohio city is being hailed as one of the best places to reside in the country.
Fortune’s 25 Best Places to Live for Families list was recently released, and nary a metropolis could be found in their selections. The publication combed through more than 2,000 towns and cities using its own metrics to narrow it down, and all 25 spots are on the smaller side.
They used the following five categories (with 215,000 data points) to determine the best of the best: education, aging resources, general wellness, financial heath and livability, making sure to take in account resources for family members of every age.
Using this criteria, the team at Fortune concluded Mason, Ohio, which sits between Cincinnati and Dayton and has a population of just over 35,000, was the fourth best for families.
The City of Mason is the largest city in Warren County, an area also known as Ohio’s Largest Playground. It’s an adrenaline lover’s paradise, as the city boasts two major theme parks — one of the Great Wolf Lodge indoor water parks, and Kings Island, a 364-acre amusement park that’s home to the Beast, the world’s longest wooden roller coaster, which was once featured on “The Brady Bunch.”
Parents have their choice of highly rated schools in the area, and residents of all ages appreciate Mason’s communal spirit and small-town feel. The Grizzly Golf and Social Lounge is a popular gathering place to play a round, enjoy a meal, and listen to Mason’s lively music scene.
The city is dedicated to building a wellness culture and offers affordable recreational programs at the Mason Municipal Aquatic Center and Mason Community Center. Locals can also take advantage of the 301 acres of parks within Mason and fish, bird-watch, and make use of the sports facilities and public pools.
Mason is the site of Lenscrafters headquarters and the P&G Mason Business Center, which includes the main offices for several major P&G subdivisions, including oral care, personal health care, and pet care. The town also benefits from a tourist boom during the annual Western & Southern Open, which draws top tennis talent and is hosted in Mason’s Lindner Family Tennis Center.
Fortune said they also worked to make sure the spaces selected were more diverse and allowed for affordable housing. No state was allowed more than two cities chosen. The full methodology can be found right here.
As of Saturday morning, Post-Tropical Cyclone Ian was centered over North Carolina. The storm will drive pockets of rain and gusty winds into New Jersey through the weekend. Although it will not be a “total washout,” conditions will be dreary and sloppy for the duration.
In addition to the dismal weather, a serious concern is growing along the Jersey Shore. As Ian’s remnant low ejects into the Atlantic Ocean, strong northeasterly winds will push a great deal of ocean water toward the coast. That surge is the driver of both rough surf and coastal flooding.
An additional 1 to 3 feet of water will cause minor to moderate flooding of tidal waterways for several high tide cycles in a row: Sunday, Monday, and possibly Tuesday too. That’s enough to flood out vulnerable roadways and low-lying areas, and possibly cause some property damage. This degree of water rise and flooding goes just beyond “the usual spots”. The latest tidal models show Monday evening’s high tide to be the highest of the storm.
Beaches will be battered by wind, waves, and spray. Ian is far from hurricane strength, as it was when it slammed Florida and then South Carolina earlier this week. But the impacts here are akin to a strong nor’easter (minus any snow/ice, of course).
Although our “Jersey Shore Report” season has technically ended, I will keep the posts coming until the surge, surf, and coastal flooding threats subside. (Hopefully the tide times are especially helpful.) The latest edition of the report appears below, in an abbreviated format.
Be safe, stay dry, and stay warm out there.
—High Risk of Rip Currents for area beaches this weekend, due to increased surf and swell. Stay out of the ocean. —Coastal Flood Advisory for the Jersey Shore from 10 a.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Monday, calling for several rounds of Minor tidal flooding. —Coastal Flood Watch posted for coastal counties for Monday, as Moderate tidal flooding becomes likely.
At the Shore
Current conditions and forecast as of Sat morning
Rip Current Risk
5 – 10 feet
From the Northeast 23 – 35 mph (Gust 40 mph) 20 – 30 knots (Gust 35 knots)
SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY IN EFFECT THROUGH LATE TONIGHT
GALE WARNING IN EFFECT FROM SUNDAY MORNING THROUGH MONDAY AFTERNOON
TODAY: NE winds 25 to 30 kt. Seas 7 to 10 ft. E swell 3 to 8 ft at 7 seconds. Light swells. Rain with a chance of tstms. Vsby 1 to 3 NM until late afternoon.
TONIGHT: NE winds 20 to 25 kt with gusts up to 30 kt. Seas 7 to 10 ft. NE swell 3 to 6 ft at 6 seconds, becoming SE 3 to 4 ft at 6 seconds after midnight. A chance of tstms in the evening. Rain likely.
SUN: NE winds 25 to 30 kt. Seas 7 to 10 ft, building to 9 to 11 ft in the afternoon. NE swell 4 to 9 ft at 6 seconds. Light swells. Rain.
SUN NIGHT: NE winds 25 to 30 kt. Seas 9 to 12 ft. NE swell 7 to 12 ft at 8 seconds. Light swells. Rain, mainly in the evening.
MON: NE winds 20 to 25 kt with gusts up to 30 kt. Seas 8 to 11 ft. E swell 6 to 11 ft at 8 seconds. Light swells. A chance of rain.
MON NIGHT: NE winds 20 to 25 kt with gusts up to 30 kt. Seas 7 to 9 ft. E swell 6 to 10 ft at 9 seconds. Light swells. A chance of rain.
TUE: NE winds 20 to 25 kt, becoming N 15 to 20 kt. Seas 6 to 8 ft. A chance of rain in the morning, then a chance of showers through the night.
WED: N winds 15 to 20 kt, diminishing to 10 to 15 kt in the afternoon and evening, then becoming NW 5 to 10 kt after midnight. Seas 4 to 7 ft, subsiding to 4 to 5 ft after midnight. Winds and seas higher in and near tstms.
Data on this page amalgamated from several sources, including the National Weather Service (weather), National Ocean Service (tides), U.S. Naval Observatory (sun), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (UV index).
Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. The Shore Report is generated semi-automatically daily at 5 a.m. from mid-May to late September. Follow Dan’s weather blog, Facebook page, and Twitter feed for your latest forecast and realtime weather updates.
Fuhgeddaboudit! Great Jersey names for a hurricane
No question New Jersey has been hit hard by hurricanes and tropical storms the last few years. From Ida, to Henri, to Isaias, to Fay and to Sally. But where on earth are they getting these names? Steve Trevelise thinks if they had “Jersey” names, they would be more intimidating. He asked his Facebook following for some suggestions, here’s some of what they came up with.
How to start your first garden
Places to visit in Seaside Heights and Seaside Park
From amusement rides to all the boardwalk food and lots of water fun, Seaside Heights and neighboring Seaside Park have endured as a family friendly spot for all ages.
Along the way, the Seaside Heights Boardwalk and Casino Pier have been struck with tragic disasters – such as fire, Superstorm Sandy and another fire. Both have proven their resiliency through rebuilding and expansion.
Note: A Thousand Cuts was nominated for best documentary in the Gawad Urian 2021. This review was written on October 18, 2021 by UP Professor Emeritus Nicanor G. Tiongson, founding member and former chair of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, for the Gawad Urian program and website. The author wishes to share his thoughts on the film with the general public on the occasion of its winning the Emmy for Outstanding Social Issue Documentary and the conferment of an honorary doctorate on Maria Ressa by the Ateneo de Manila University.
For Filipinos who have been living with fear, disgust, and anger under the shadow of Duterte’s murderous war on drugs, his wanton and unconstitutional suppression of free speech, and his deadly war on journalists and the truth, this Ramona Diaz documentary on Maria Ressa and Rappler’s relentless struggle to expose the abuses of the regime comes as a much-needed ray of hope, a source of enlightenment, and a call to reaffirm one’s commitment to truth and democracy.
Award-winning documentarist Diaz (Imelda, the Kingmaker, The Motherland) tracks the ups and (mostly) downs of Ressa and her team’s work as professional journalists for four years, from June 2016 when Duterte came to the presidency of the Philippines to June 2020 when Ressa was found guilty in a cyber libel case whipped up by the Department of Justice against her, retroactively using a cybercrime law on her case. Chronologically, the film documents the attacks made on her and Rappler, both in court by government officials and in social media by an army of paid trolls, accusing Rappler of being an “outlet of fake news,” an American-owned company with foreign interests, a bunch of mercenaries or ACDC (attack-collect-defend-collect) hacks, and secret members of Matrix, the group supposedly plotting a coup against Duterte. These assaults are presented in relation to larger events which may explain the timing, context or purpose of the diatribes – the State of the Nation (SONA) addresses from 2017 to 2019; the senatorial elections of 2018, where all opposition candidates were routed; the interviews of Duterte by Ressa and Ranada, and the documentarist’s own interviews with police general “Bato” de la Rosa who executed the first phase of the war on drugs, and Mocha Uson, dance entertainer-turned-“queen of fake news,” who runs the vast system of disinformation for Duterte. While the docu graphically explains how fake news are started by 26 sites and then disseminated to three million accounts, it also reveals Ressa and Rappler’s growing network of support in the Philippines and abroad.
As a documentary, the film effectively employs the cinema direct technique, avoiding a voice over or narrator and, instead, shooting scenes and then editing them so that they can “speak for themselves.” Wisely, Diaz also avoids the usual talking heads format, which usually becomes stilted and boring, preferring to follow her subjects with a hand-held camera in their daily activities – Ressa as she meets with her staff, arrives at the airport and is arrested, documents on her cellphone the panel discussion where she is lauded by George Clooney for “shining a light,” and explains to a group of Filipino progressives how government is subjecting democracy to a thousand small cuts, that will weaken and eventually kill her. This technique is bound to result in some awkward angles or shots, but surprisingly these only help to underscore the actuality of these scenes. Sound is recorded live and clearly throughout. Non-diegetic music is dispensed with to preserve the realistic tone. At most, ominous drone sounds occasionally underscore the gravity of specific incidents.
A signal achievement of the documentary is that it makes palpable for the audience the effects of Duterte’s attacks and threats on the persons of the journalists themselves, whose job it is to find ways and means to get to the truth at the risk of their own lives and freedoms. Pia Ranada, who irked Duterte with her pointed questions about Bong Go’s alleged corruption, was publicly shamed in front of Malacañang officials and journalists when the president accused her and Rappler of disseminating news that are “rife with innuendoes and pregnant with falsity.” Patricia Evangelista recounts her experience with two EJKs in one neighborhood in one night, which had such a chilling effect on her that she became paranoid about everything for days. Another young journalist, whose beat covers the small barangays which are the targets of tokhang-happy policemen, says the images of bloody bodies lying on sidewalks are so overwhelming they haunt him even in his dreams. These experiences might have caused these young idealistic journalists to have second thoughts about their profession, except that they had a leader whose fearlessness and fortitude were a constant source of strength and inspiration.
Maria Ressa grew up in New Jersey, USA, with her Filipino immigrant family and had to work 150% to be accepted by her schoolmates. After the EDSA revolt of 1986, she decided to live and work in the Philippines to help in rebuilding a country ravaged by Marcos and his cronies. She worked as CNN bureau chief in the Philippines and then in Indonesia. In 2012, she established Rappler as an independent online website based in the Philippines. A no-frills, down-to-earth person wearing close-cropped hair, rimless glasses, and colorful business suits, Ressa followed Duterte’s rise to power and his first four years in Malacañang, soon earning the special ire of the President because she pointed out contradictions in his role as president and his kill, kill, kill strategy for eliminating drugs, and exposed the alleged corruption and incompetence of Duterte’s ministers, which belied the President’s posturing as a champion of integrity and good governance. Duterte’s henchmen in social media harassed her with threats of bankruptcy, violence, and rape, while the government filed one case after another against her, raising the bail amount each time.
But these attacks only made her even more resolute, her journalism even more uncompromising, even as it raised her higher in the estimation of progressive pro-democracy organizations abroad. To her sister’s fear for her safety, Ressa replied: Think of the worst that can happen and embrace it; then you conquer your fear. And your self-pity, one may add. Her acceptance of the worst has made Ressa unshakeable and unsinkable. In these times of darkness, Ressa is not only a rock offering safety and stability, but also the shining light standing on that rock, beaming hope to all freedom-loving Filipinos.
But Ressa herself would be the first to say that Rappler’s success is not hers alone. She has been blest with a team of similarly iron-willed and principled journalists, both veteran and neophyte and mostly women, who seem undeterred by threats on their lives, among them, Glenda Gloria, Chay Hofileña, Lilibeth Frondoso, Gemma Mendoza, Miriam Grace Go, Pia Ranada, Patricia Evangelista, and Rambo Talabong. Moreover, she has earned the respect of international organizations who have expressed solidarity with her advocacies as well as outrage at Rappler’s ordeals under a fascistic regime. The 2018 Time Magazine award, which acclaimed her as one of four “guardians of the truth,” and the endorsement of her cause by world figures like George and Amahl Clooney may not have prevented subsequent arrests and harassment, but they have certainly brought her struggle and that of the Philippines to the attention of the world. This kind of international support for journalists stems from a conviction that every country in the world today is connected to what Ressa calls a “global system of disinformation.” Journalists around the world are an endangered species and we neglect them at the cost of our own ruin. Adapting Martin Niemoller’s famous quote on the apathy which empowered Hitler’s regime, Ressa says, “First they came for the journalists, and nothing was heard of ever since.”
A Thousand Cuts becomes even more significant when seen as part of a larger movement against authoritarianism today. After the Aquino assassination in 1983, beleaguered journalists banded with progressive artists and all freedom-loving Filipinos to combat the Marcos dictatorship. Then, filmmakers, especially those of Asia Visions, documented the abuses of the conjugal dictatorship and the protest movement against the Marcos regime that would be suppressed in the Marcos-controlled media, in films like The Arrogance of Power, Signos, and Lakbayan. Today, embattled journalists must join ranks with like-minded artists who have already created works denouncing EJK, such as the award-winning films Aswang, Buy Bust, and Watch List and the plays Tao Po! and RD3RD; plays unmasking the techniques for rapidly disseminating fear and fake news, such as Game of Trolls, Sincerity BikersClub, and Pilipinas Kong Mahal with all the Overcoat; and works that resist historical revisionism by reviving the horrors of Martial Law, such as the films ML, Respeto and Liway, and the plays Buwan at Baril, Pagsambang Bayan, and Indigo Child. A Thousand Cuts now takes its preeminent place among these works of protest against the Duterte regime.
Since her conviction in June 2020, Ressa and Rappler have continued, and have even stepped up, their fight for truth and democracy, as in their coverage of the billions allegedly lost to corruption during the tenure of Duterte-appointed officials of PhilHealth and the Senate investigation into more billions of pandemic funds paid to a company called Pharmally, which allegedly was not even qualified to bid but nonetheless received the payment in advance of the delivery of PPEs. There is no doubt that Rapplerwill work doubly hard to keep the people properly and promptly informed on the issues, fake or real, that are being hurled at each other by trapos (traditional politicians) in the run for the presidential and senatorial elections of 2022. Meanwhile, Ressa’s tireless and intrepid pursuit of the truth has just earned her the highest recognition, the Nobel Peace Prize (shared with another journalist), the first ever awarded to a Filipino, which will go a long way in reaffirming Ressa and Rappler’s credibility and the validity and timeliness of their continuing struggle for freedom and democracy. The film’s end song speaks for Ressa and Rappler: “A thousand cuts won’t be enough/ to keep my fists in these cuffs.” – Rappler.com