When it comes to using Holocaust metaphors, the power of suggestion is a loaded and delicate thing. Striking the right chord becomes ever more slippery when, for example, you use the most recognizable image of Holocaust evil, Adolf Hitler, to illustrate the recklessness of unprotected sex. But you just about lose any hope of keeping that line clean and clear when you make a Hitler sex video for an AIDS PSA. Which is what a small German AIDS awareness group called, Regenbogen e.V, did.
While the Telegraph says the clip appears to be a "typical advert" at first glance, I imagine most American viewers won't agree. The act of intimacy being portrayed is basically soft-core porn. It shows two very naked hard-bodies engaged in some very steamy sex. (Warning: this video ain't for the kiddies and is probably not safe for work.) The commercial's obvious-to-the-point-of-insult message, that unprotected sex is very, very dangerous, is hammered home with a rather indelicate ... bang. As the couple reaches climax, the man's face is revealed -- it's Hitler. Scary, indeed.
Not surprisingly the ad, released in Britain to coincide with World AIDS day, has created a storm of controversy. A spokesman for the National AIDS Trust, the group that coordinates World AIDS Day in Britain, had this to say:
Of course there are many HIV organisations that run their own campaigns, however I think the advert is incredibly stigmatising to people living with HIV who already face much stigma and discrimination due to ignorance about the virus.
"On top of this it fails to provide any kind of actual prevention message (e.g. use a condom) and may deter people to come forward for testing.
"The advert is also inaccurate because in the UK thanks to treatment HIV is a manageable condition that does not necessary lead to AIDS.
Hans Weishäupl, creative director of das comitee, the group that created the ad for Regenbogen e.V, defended the work:
A lot of people are not aware that Aids is still murdering many people every day. They wanted a campaign which told young people that it is still a threat," he said. "In Germany, Hitler is the ugliest face you can use to show evil."
Provocative it may be, but successful? I doubt it. Would it be a gross and malicious misinterpretation to use this ad to say that people who have unprotected sex, or people with HIV or AIDS, are as evil as Hitler? Absolutely. Is it a stretch to say there are folks out there who will do just that? Nope.
Using the evil führer's personage for good is a tricky business, one that should perhaps be left to the Charlie Chaplins of the world.
Are voters more inclined to pitch their support to a candidate who looks comfortable kissing babies? It sure seems to have worked for Obama. But what about candidates who have babies?
Rumors that French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his lovely wife Carla Bruni are planning to have their first child together in 2011 are spreading around France. The more vicious slant of this gossip is that the couple is orchestrating the pregnancy to secure Sarkozy's reelection.
The chatter comes from the French magazine Voici, which claims the story "has been circulating for several weeks" and that France's first couple is going to use the "'pregnancy card' ... to ensure public sympathy ahead of the next presidential campaign in 2012."
That's quite a charge, even for France's most amorous couple. Both Sarkozy and Bruni have children from prior relationships and while neither has announced plans for a pregnancy -- let alone such a well-timed delivery -- Bruni has said in the past that she'd love to have another child, and is open to adoption. (At 40 the former model has acknowledged conceiving may not be possible.)
There is something to be said for children and their ability to boost a candidate's image, painting him as the warm "family man." Some of the most beloved and iconic images to emerge from any president's time in the White House are those that feature the Kennedy children romping around the Oval Office. Sasha and Malia have certainly taken the world by storm with their adorableness and J.Crew ensembles.
Perhaps Paris will soon hear the pitter-patter of little Sarko-Bruni pieds. But whether or not they'll be dancing to the tune of an election victory may rest on more substantial political matters. Or at least we can hope...
PHILIPPE WOJAZER/AFP/Getty Images
If you got it, flaunt it. At least that's what my grandmother used to say, and I imagine if she could see the campaign ads coming out of Germany this week, she'd probably laugh. And Vera Lengsfeld, who is running for a parliament seat in Germany's upcoming September elections, is banking on the fact that constituents will have a sense of humor.
The ad (shown above) pairs pictures of Lengsfeld and none other than Chancellor Angela Merkel, shoulder to shoulder showcasing the bountiful assets bestowed upon them by Mother Nature -- two very ample bosoms barely contained by two seriously wide and plunging necklines. The line that runs across reads: "We have more to offer."
No doubt, where there's more chest, there's more attention. Lengsfeld, who did not clear the ads with Merkel, reports that traffic to her blog has increased, getting as many as 17,000 visitors since this campaign went public.
Her takeaway on all this?
If only a tenth of them also look at the content of my policies, then I will have reached many more people than I could have done with classic street canvassing."
It's an interesting acknowledgement on Lengsfeld's part, she's clearly aware that the show-stopping photos aren't appealing to the thinking minds of men and women, though it sounds as though she's hoping the ad's wit will trump the old T&A approach.
Many of those not laughing are likely to be women who find the posters, and the ploy behind them, cheap and offensive. The glass ceiling runs far and wide, thicker over some places than others, and apparently the profiles of men cast long shadows, even over the most powerful women in global politics. Truthfully, I'd like to see a man foolish enough to market his campaign "package" in the same fashion ... Or has Berlusconi kind of done that already?
MICHAEL GOTTSCHALK/AFP/Getty Images
Devastating hurricanes have left the state-run company that produces the country's supply, without the raw materials necessary to keep up with demand. In addition to which, President Raul Castro recently announced a 20 percent cut in imports, meaning a lot less goods on state-run store shelves. Cuban officials are saying they may not have sufficient TP supplies until the end of the year.
Worldwide, toilet paper is a booming business, especially in the United States where consumers use up to 50 million pounds of TP a year. It seems American bottoms have a "soft-tissue" fetish, one that's not only costly, but harmful to the environment. In order to get the fluffiest tissue, suppliers take from the world's rainforests. Earlier this year Greenpeace released a toilet-paper guide listing the more planet-friendly products.
One penny-saving option for Cuba would be to use recycled lavatory paper, a much cheaper alternative on the whole. Indeed, many countries are already using the eco-friendly alternative, even if it is a little ... rough.
For Cuba, this could be an opportunity to take that initiative one seriously brave step further to becoming a leader to an "greener" planet: Go cloth.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
A supporter of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya lies on the highway in Ojo de Agua, some 70 km from Tegucigalpa, in front of soldiers blocking the road to Las Manos border post between Honduras and Nicaragua on July 24, 2009. Honduras's de facto government shut down its southern frontier region bordering Nicaragua Friday, hoping to block Zelaya's bid to return home a month after he was ousted in a coup.
YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images
Anxiety over swine-flu infection is mounting, casting a particularly long shadow of caution and concern in Britain. Last week, Sir Liam Donaldson, the UK's chief medical officer, predicted that the country could see as many as 65,000 deaths by this fall, and yesterday newspapers reported that British airlines may ban passengers exhibiting symptoms from traveling. While there have only been 29 reported deaths so far in Britain, it appears the storm of H1N1 is coming early. And now it's jeopardizing a holy journey.
Today, health officials from the Association of British Hujja warned Muslims to reconsider this year's pilgrimage to Mecca, releasing this statement:
British pilgrims have always been at high risk of infections due to the crowded conditions at ceremonies, accommodation sites and on public transport. Therefore pilgrims must follow the guidelines issued by the authorities and they should be vaccinated against the swine flu virus once this vaccine is available at least two weeks before their departure to perform pilgrimage."
The notice came after officials in Saudi Arabia advised all travelers to be vaccinated prior to making the trip, adding that those most vulnerable, "pregnant women, children, chronically ill and elderly people," should simply stay at home this year. Other countries in the Middle East and Africa have issued similar warnings. Egypt did so after a woman, infected during a recent trip to Saudi Arabia, died of swine flu earlier this month -- the first H1N1-related death in the country.
Ramadan begins late next month, and there's no real sign yet how many Muslims planning to make the annual pilgrimage will be affected. Some 25,000 Muslims are expected to come from Britain alone. So far, religious leaders, like Egypt's top cleric, are looking to the World Health Organization for guidance "on whether to issue a fatwa or decree barring all Egyptians from making the pilgrimage."
So far, the death toll worldwide is 700, according to the WHO, representatives of which have said the virus is spreading with "unprecedented speed."
It's enough to make anyone look forward to getting their shots this year.
Coming on the heels of Kim Jong Il's public appearance in Pyongyang last week and subsequent reports that he is suffering from pancreatic cancer -- both of which reignited a stream of guesses about his life expectancy and speculation about his successor -- is the news of a documentary series on North Korea's leader.
To be sure this multi-episode biopic, poetically named The Sun of Songun Shedding Its Rays All over the World, is a never-before-attempted cinematic venture, as North Korea has yet to produce a film on the Dear Leader. And they're starting at the very beginning: I Will Add Glory to Korea, the first film, focuses on Kim's birth and childhood.
Some say the usually camera-shy Kim is taking his mortality seriously, rushing to solidify his legacy in his own vision while he's able. Others suggest that given his frail state a power vacuum is brewing and the movies are meant to draw attention to more youthful days of iron-fist ruling to reinforce Kim's control.
The Korean Central News Agency has this to say in a glowing statement released today:
The multipart documentary film will comprehensively deal with the immortal Songun revolutionary exploits performed by leader Kim Jong Il for the country and the revolution, the times and humankind, with his extraordinary wisdom and distinguished art of leadership, political calibre and noble personality."
With a promotion like that, it's a documentary guaranteed to be more popular than March of the Penguins. Well, at least in North Korea...
AUM JUNG-SEOK/AFP/Getty Images
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