Monday, August 08, 2022

Olivia Newton-John

PEOPLE magazine quotes John  Travolta on Olivia Newton-John's passing.  The two co-starred in the musicals GREASE and TWO OF A KIND.  Olivia Newton-John was one of the most successful singers of her generation.  Before Madonna, she and Elton John, as Casey Kasem would note on his weekly countdown, both held the record for longest number of consecutive years with a top forty hit -- Olivia for the women, Elton for the men.  

None of the songbirds dominated the top forty charts the way Olivia did in the 70s and for half the 80s.  

Her hits include "I Honestly Love You" -- a song that will never go out of style.  Her version was heartbreaking without being melodramatic.  Five of her songs topped the charts and ten more made it into the top ten.  I'm counting 27 songs charting on the pop top forty in the US, with 35 on the top forty of the ac chart (10 songs went to number one) and she had 13 songs chart on the country music top forty.  Along with "I Honestly Love You," her other number ones on the pop chart were "Have You Never Been Mellow," "You're The One That I Want" (a duet with John Travolta),  "Magic" and "Physical" (ten weeks at number one on the pop charts and the best selling single of the 80s per BILLBOARD).  

Other big hits included "Hopelessly Devoted To You," "A Little More Love," "Landslide," "Make A Move On Me," "Twist of Fate," "Heart Attack," "Sam," "Xanadu," Bob Dylan's "If Not For You," :"Let Me Be There," "If You Love Me, Let Me Know," "Come On Over," "Soul Kiss" and my favorite "Please, Mister, Please."  

Olivia was from Australia and hit it big in the US -- bigger really than any other singer to emerge in the 70s.  Linda Ronstadt?  She didn't have as many hit singles.  She also didn't have a hit film.  Olivia made two films early on at the start of her career.  Once she became a pop sensation, Olivia starred in three theatrical films -- all musicals.  XANADU was her second film and it was trashed.  It's gone on to become a cult classic.  TWO OF A KIND was her third film and it paired her with John Travolta.  This film was trashed by the critics.  It made double it's production budget so it didn't bomb but it was a disappointment.  Her first film after becoming a pop sensation -- also starring with John Travolta -- was GREASE which quickly became the all time biggest musical up to that point.  She played Sandy an exchange student from Australia who meets back up with Danny (John Travolta) who she encountered during the summer.  It was a showcase for Olivia letting her play a sweet character and a tarted up (but still sweet) character when Sandy is not seen as adventurous enough to keep Danny.  She and John had real chemistry in the film and it was one of those magical moments where everything works -- from Frankie Avalon performing "Beauty School Drop Out" to Stockard Channing's brilliant performance as Rizzo.  My favorite lines take place right after Rizzo does her "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee" and Sandy asks, "Are you making fun of me, Riz?"  Then Sandy walks off and Rizzo says, "Some people are so touchy."

She was very good in IT'S MY PARTY which reteamed her with GREASE director Randal Kleiser. 

She had eight albums go gold and eight go platinum or multi-platinum (the platinum albums include all three soundtracks to her musicals -- GREASE, XANADU and TWO OF A KIND).  GREASE alone was certified for 8 million units.   (Soundscan notes 14 million copies have been sold up to the present day in the US.)  XANADU was a double platinum album as was Olivia's PHYSICAL album, OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN'S GREATEST HITS and OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN'S GREATEST HITS VOL. 2.  Her TOTALLY HOT album went platinum and so did the TWO OF A KIND soundtrack. 

She had a pure voice and an effective delivery.  You always knew it was Olivia singing and you never didn't believe her.  

She had long battled breast cancer and was very public about that.  She didn't hide it or treat it as something to be ashamed of. She did a lot of work raising awareness and raising funds on this issue.  In 2017, she had entered stage IV.  And it was breast cancer that took her life.  

Olivia wasn't known for being a diva or fighting with her peers.  When she chose to battle, she was fighting a real enemy (cancer) and we were lucky that she battled it for so many years.  She'll be sorely missed.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, August 8, 2022.  Amnesty International tells some unpleasant truths about Ukraine, Joe Biden plans to send a billion more in US tax dollars to Ukraine, real protests spring up in Iraq, and much more.

Clara Weiss (WSWS) reported last Friday:

The human rights organization Amnesty International released a report Thursday showing that “Ukrainian forces have put civilians in harm’s way by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in populated residential areas, including in schools and hospitals.”  

Amnesty International’s findings corroborate an earlier report by the United Nations which also provided evidence that the Ukrainian army has been using civilians as human shields in the conflict. Both of these recent reports come on top of extensive documentation of war crimes committed by the Ukrainian army and its neo-fascist paramilitary forces, particularly against Russian prisoners of war.

Written in cautious language, Amnesty International’s report is a damning exposure of the criminal character of the imperialist proxy war in Ukraine in which the civilian population is but a pawn for the imperialist powers and their lackeys in the Ukrainian oligarchy and military.

As one resident of the city of Bakhmut told Amnesty International, “We have no say in what the military does, but we pay the price.”

The report was compiled by researchers investigating Russian strikes in the Kharkiv, Donbas and Mykolaiv regions between April and July. In the words of Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard, “We have documented a pattern of Ukrainian forces putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war when they operate in populated areas.”

This pattern includes the use of hospitals as de facto military bases—a clear violation of international law—which Amnesty International has confirmed for five locations. According to the report, “In two towns, dozens of soldiers were resting, milling about, and eating meals in hospitals. In another town, soldiers were firing from near the hospital.”

The report also found that the Ukrainian army “has routinely set up bases in schools in towns and villages in Donbas and in the Mykolaiv area.” While not entirely prohibited by international law, the use of schools and residential buildings by the military is only deemed legitimate when the army has no other options. Moreover, the military is obliged to do everything in its power to minimize civilian casualties, including through evacuations and by giving effective warnings of attacks that might endanger civilians.  

However, the researchers found evidence that Ukrainian forces had launched “strikes from within populated residential areas as well as basing themselves in civilian buildings” that were, in most of the documented cases, kilometers away from the actual front lines. According to Amnesty, there were “viable alternatives … that would not endanger civilians.” Moreover, the organization was “not aware” that the armed forces had asked or assisted civilians to evacuate nearby buildings, which constitutes a failure to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians.  

The report noted, “At 22 out of 29 schools visited, Amnesty International researchers either found soldiers using the premises or found evidence of current or prior military activity—including the presence of military fatigues, discarded munitions, army ration packets and military vehicles.”

The report continues, “In a town east of Odesa, Amnesty International witnessed a broad pattern of Ukrainian soldiers using civilian areas for lodging and as staging areas, including basing armoured vehicles under trees in purely residential neighbourhoods, and using two schools located in densely populated residential areas. Russian strikes near the schools killed and injured several civilians between April and late June—including a child and an older woman killed in a rocket attack on their home on 28 June.”

The response by the Ukrainian government to the report has been nothing short of hysterical. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced the report in an address to the nation, claiming that it turned the “victim” into the “aggressor.” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba fumed on Twitter that the report “distorts reality, draws false moral equivalence between the aggressor and the victim, and boosts Russia’s disinformation efforts.”

In reality, Amnesty International denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the report but insisted that this “does not exempt the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law.” 

Does this meen Zelensky won't speak at the September 12th Emmys?  If you've forgotten, the despot was glorified -- as was his nazi regime -- by some members of the Academy Awards (Sean Penn, Amy Schumer, et al) and they brought a little trollop up on stage to let her speak a bunch of garbage.  If she'd spoken about three ways, she might have been on firmer ground.  Instead, she wanted you to go rah-rah for the illegal war.  Now this was sad for the Sean Penns who'd advocated that Zalinsky himself should be on stage.  But the Academy showed some restraint.  None was present at the Grammy presentation and they were all in on Ukraine.  

This latest news will put a damper on the tribute the Emmys could have done.  

A lot of idiots who damn well should have known better cheered on this war and they need to be held accountable for it.  

Some idiots have tried to attack Amnesty for the report but the organization isn't retracting it.  Dave DeCamp (ANTIWAR.COM) noted yesterday:

Amnesty International has come under pressure after releasing a report last week that said Ukraine’s fighting tactics are endangering civilians. The group said Sunday that it’s sorry for the “distress and anger” the release caused but said it “fully stands” behind the findings.

“Amnesty International deeply regrets the distress and anger that our press release on the Ukrainian military’s fighting tactics has caused,” Amnesty told Reuters.

“Amnesty International’s priority in this and in any conflict is ensuring that civilians are protected. Indeed, this was our sole objective when releasing this latest piece of research. While we fully stand by our findings, we regret the pain caused,” the group added.

Despite reality, more US tax dollars are about to be stolen from the American people and sent to Ukraine.  Kyle Anzalone (ANTIWAR.COM) notes, "Reuters reports unnamed officials in the Biden administration say a new $1 billion weapons package is waiting for the president’s signature. The next arms transfer will be the 18th since Russia invaded Ukraine in February."  And you can't keep throwing away US tax dollars without cutting and gutting the safety net.  Andre Damon (WSWS) reports:


Last week, Republican Senator Ron Johnson called for ending Social Security and Medicare as entitlement programs, instead transferring them into the discretionary budget where they would be gutted.

Johnson’s proposal follows a similar call by Florida Senator Rick Scott, who earlier this year called for putting Social Security and Medicare up for renewal every five years.

Social Security and Medicare spending is allocated as mandatory spending, funded by workers’ payroll taxes, to prevent them from being pillaged.  Transferring these programs to the discretionary budget would mean their abolition, slashing US life expectancy as millions of retirees die in poverty and from preventable disease.

“If you qualify for the entitlement, you just get it no matter what the cost,” Johnson said. “And our problem in this country is that [mandatory spending takes up] more than 70% of our federal budget, of our federal spending.”

Yes, retired workers are “entitled” to these benefits, because they have been paying for them their entire lives. Out of every dollar workers have earned, they paid eight cents to finance their Social Security and Medicare benefits, matched by equal payments from their employer.

But Johnson and Scott, lackeys for the billionaires that rule over America, are demanding that these funds that workers have been paying into over a lifetime of toil and struggle be stolen from them to make the oligarchy richer and to fund America’s new “forever wars.”

Social Security was created in 1935 as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, in response to a wave of social struggles during the Great Depression. Medicare was created in 1965 during President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society reforms, against the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement and a strike wave gripping large portions of the country.

With both of these programs, the leaders of American capitalism sought to convince workers that the capitalist system was capable of providing for the needs of society and preventing the mass poverty and early death of millions of elderly people.

Johnson, Scott and their co-conspirators are making the opposite clear: Capitalism means social misery for the workers and the unending enrichment for the capitalist class.

These senators have articulated as a positive proposal what has been a goal of generations of Democratic and Republican politicians, military strategists and leading think tanks. In 2010, Democratic President Barack Obama formed the bipartisan “National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility,” chaired by former Republican Senator Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles, a former chief of staff in the Clinton administration.

The commission called for slashing funding for Social Security and Medicare. On the basis of its proposals, the federal government oversaw a squeeze on social spending at the federal, state and local levels, together with significant cuts to Medicare and Social Security.  

Now, amid the social crisis triggered by the pandemic, the eruption of war with Russia and the conflict with China, America’s financial oligarchy is renewing its calls for the dismantling of these bedrock social safety net programs.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, a country the US government spent close to a trillion dollars destroying, RUDAW reports:

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Sunday met with Shiite cleric Ammar al-Hakim, head of Iraq's National Wisdom Movement, discussing a variety of subjects including the country’s current political and economic status, according to a statement from the cleric’s office.

The two highlighted the importance of “keeping the interests of citizens and state institutions away from the disputes of political forces,” and “the reformation of the political system” as recent calls for new parliamentary elections amid mass protests of Muqtada al-Sadr supporters cast further doubt on the political stability of Iraq.

While breasty Moqtada al-Sadr and his goons continue their faux-test, real protesters -- young Shi'ites -- took to the streets over the power crisis.  Mina Aldroubi (THE NATIONAL) reports:

Iraqis on Monday protested for the third consecutive day against power cuts, water shortages and poor water quality in the south as temperatures soared above 50°C across the country.

The blackout was caused by the failure of a power line and a fire at a power plant, which affected southern provinces and the oil-rich city of Basra. Groups of young Iraqis set fire to tyres to block roads as they demanded the return of electricity to the city.

Power had been reportedly restored in some districts of the port city by Monday afternoon.

Basra governor Asaad Al Eidani said the third power cut in a short space of time was "due to a fire at Khor Al Zubayr station".

Khor Al Zubayr produces up to 500 megawatts of Basra's 3,000MW electricity demand.

Mr Al Eidani said the fire was put out and the damage repaired.

The country's Electricity Ministry last week announced a state of "general alert" in the face of rising temperatures, as it predicted an increase in demand for services.

At the weekend, protesters tried to storm one of Basra's largest power plants after the blackout and similar protests were reported near power stations in nearby Maysan province.

Some Tweets on the protest:

People in Basra and Dhi Qar took to the streets over frequent power outages. #Iraq #Power #Protest

Protests continue in #Basra today, as environmental conditions worsen & power grids collapse. say Ahwari protesters demanding water + an end to the humanitarian crisis were met with force from Iraqi security forces yday, defending the province's rich oil ports. #Iraq
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security forces are besieging the Mu'ail area of Hawiza Marsh and arresting The Ahwari protesters who are demanding water and an end to the humanitarian crisis in Ahwar, The Iraqi army is closing all of the area's ports in concrete, setting up checkpoints
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National Grip (British company that supplies electricity and gas) collapsed in the south from Iraq. Dozens of citizens took to the streets to protest against the deterioration of electricity, blocking several routes in the city of Basra. #Iraq #Basra #Protest

#IRAQ Several dozens of protesters on Monday staged a demonstration on a main highway in Iraq’s southern city of Basra to protest lack of electricity and public services while the country experiences an extreme heatwave.

The following sites updated: