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German Deputy Resigns From Key Posts After Child Porn Raid

7 Mar

BERLIN : A German lawmaker under investigation for possession of child pornography said he resigned from key political offices Friday to avoid damage to his party six months before a national election.

Joerg Tauss, whose homes and offices were raided Thursday in a search for illicit material, quit parliament’s education, research and media affairs committee, he said on his website, although he intends for now to hold on to his seat in the Bundestag lower house.

The 55-year-old will also stand down as general secretary of the Social Democrats (SPD) in his home state of Baden-Wuerttemberg “in order to avert damage to my party and my parliamentary group”.

The SPD is the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s grand coalition government. The scandal broke six months before a general election, with the SPD trailing far behind Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats.

The leader of his state chapter of the SPD, Ute Vogt, welcomed Tauss’ resignation.

“In the interest of all involved, these allegations must be cleared up as soon as possible,” she said.

The Bundestag stripped Tauss of his immunity Thursday.

Tauss has denied any wrongdoing, saying he helped draft child-protection laws including measures against child pornography as part of his work on the parliamentary committee.

“I am absolutely sure I can be quickly cleared of the accusations against me,” he said.

The state prosecutor’s office in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe, which launched the probe against him, has not ruled out a “plausible” explanation for the evidence against him.

Tauss said in the statement on his website that he would fully cooperate with investigators and insisted that he had devoted much of his political career to protecting children.

“As the media policy spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group, I have always fought hard for better protection of children and youths on the Internet and for a decisive campaign against child pornography,” he said.

The daily Stuttgarter Zeitung in Tauss’ home state reported that prosecutors believed material seized in the deputy’s Berlin apartment “clearly contradicted the notion of a connection with his work in parliament”.

But the newspaper also quoted Tauss’ lawyer as accusing investigators of being prejudicial against his defendant in their dealings with the press.

A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office “made a statement before the searches were even completed”, attorney Jan Moenikes told the newspaper.

“The whole approach was absolutely unacceptable,” he was quoted as saying.

Tauss recently clashed with Family Affairs Minister Ursula von der Leyen over her calls for Internet service providers to block sites that post child pornography.

The deputy had argued it would be more effective to pursue perpetrators rather than pulling the plug on websites that may have unwittingly featured illicit material. He accused Von der Leyen of trying to score political points with the issue.

The online service of Spiegel magazine reported that a man who had been accused of distributing child pornography in the past sent Tauss a DVD and exchanged 23 text and multimedia messages with him including a video sex sequence with a child.

Prosecutors declined to comment on the report.

– AFP /ls

Channel News Asia

China Shuts 41 Sites In Porn Crackdown

9 Jan

BEIJING – China has shut down 41 websites as authorities continue a crackdown on online porn that has seen Internet giants like Google and MSN ordered to cut links with such material, state-run media said Friday.

Xinhua news agency said the sites were the first casualties in the campaign announced Monday and which has already seen major Chinese and foreign Internet sites apologise and take steps to clean up.

“There are still some websites that are not doing enough. Relevant government departments are now thoroughly checking and further raising the strength of the clean-up,” Xinhua said.

The report gave few details on the sites that were shut.

China’s Ministry of Public Security and six other government agencies launched the drive against sites that post or link to content that “harms public morality” and corrupts the nation’s youth, Xinhua said.

They have included Google, MSN and Baidu, the most popular Chinese search engine.

Companies that ignore government warnings to remove obscene content or links to such material have been threatened with closure.

Google, Baidu and other Internet portals have since issued apologies and moved against online porn.

Google said Wednesday it had deleted all links to vulgar material from its search indexes and go all-out to prevent such material re-appearing.

“Google is willing to be a law-abiding citizen in China,” it said in a statement.

China has launched Internet crackdowns on pornography, con artists and political activists in the past, but officials have warned the latest campaign would include tougher measures, without giving specifics.

China has the world’s largest online population at more that 250 million, according to official figures, and it is growing rapidly as computer use rises along with income levels.

However, some of the Internet companies named have said it would be difficult for them to immediately spot and eliminate all obscene content due to the nature of Internet search engines.

China’s communist rulers generally exercise strict control over the Internet, blocking sites linked to many politically sensitive subjects.

– AFP/ir

Channel News Asia

Japanese Porn Actress-Turned-AIDS Activist Found Dead

24 Dec

TOKYO: Former Japanese porn actress Ai Iijima, who campaigned for AIDS awareness in a nation where it is still widely seen as a foreign disease, was found dead at her home on Wednesday, police said.

The body of the 36-year-old, who retired in March last year from a lucrative career as a television personality, was found lying in the lounge of her condominium in downtown Shibuya by a friend.

“There were few signs of foul play. We will conduct a post mortem tomorrow to determine if the cause of her death was an illness, suicide or something of a criminal nature,” a police spokesman said.

Iijima, who was also known in the rest of Asia, gained popularity at home as a straight-talking character since her debut on television variety shows in the 1990s.

Her AIDS awareness campaign started around the time she published the autobiographical “Platonic Sex” in 2000, describing her younger days as a porn actress and club hostess.

The book has sold some two million copies and been made into a movie and a television drama.

Citing kidney problems and a lack of motivation, Iijima retired from the show and television business world but continued her AIDS campaign.

“In Japan, HIV-positive patients are increasing year by year and many people’s lives are lost,” she wrote on her blog on December 2. “Is your boyfriend alright? Is your girlfriend alright? Why don’t you take an AIDS test to know yourself.”

She stopped writing her blog on December 5 and was seen at an AIDS seminar in a provincial city the following day.

In a recent interview with the weekly Asahi, Iijima said she had just borrowed money from an investment back and would “open a shopping site dealing with cosmetics”.

– AFP/so

Channel News Asia

Indonesian President Criticised For Signing Anti-Porn Law

9 Dec

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was strongly criticised on Tuesday after signing a tough anti-pornography law which opponents have said threatens national unity.

The law, backed by Islamic parties in the capital Jakarta, criminalises all works and “bodily movements” deemed obscene and capable of violating public morality, and offers heavy penalties.

It prompted protests across Indonesia, with critics saying it could threaten art and traditional culture from temple statues on Bali to penis sheaths on tribesmen in Christian and animist Papua province.

The president’s signing of the law late last month was made public on Tuesday.

“Yudhoyono could have chosen not to sign it because there are still several provinces which strongly oppose the law,” lawmaker Eva Sundari of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) told AFP.

“The opposing provinces, such as Papua, Bali, Yogyakarta, North Sulawesi and East Nusa Tenggara, say that the law threatened their culture and national unity.”

Gusti Ngurah Harta, head of the Bali People’s Component, an organisation of local intellectuals and artists, said: “We are disappointed that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has signed the law. We will not vote for him in the elections next year.”

“We don’t need a porn law. Instead, we need reinforcement of existing laws to protect children against porn acts, remove vulgar writings in the media or porn in film,” Harta added.

Bantarto Bandoro, political analyst from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said: “Yudhoyono’s decision could shake the foundation of his presidential campaign for next year’s election.”

But the president’s special staff for legal affairs Denny Indrayana told AFP: “The president told me that he had carefully read the latest version of the law. He commented that it was appropriate.”

The law contains provisions for between six months and 12 years’ jail for producers and distributors of pornography and up to four years in prison for downloading pornography.

Muslims make up roughly 90 per cent of Indonesia’s 234 million population, which also contains sizeable Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Confucian minorities.

– AFP/so

Channel News Asia

Theatre: More Bolehland Barbs

6 Nov

Tria (front) and Venugopal.

AN urban legend has it that a onetime minister who enjoyed a hilarious Instant Cafe Theatre show jokingly asked the comedic troupe if “they were scared of Kamunting”, a discreet reference to the detention centre for the subversive in Taiping, Perak.

Amerul (left) and Bob.

As an answer to his question, the Cafe’s latest offering, Kurang Manis, recently began with this announcement: “All characters portrayed are purely fictional, including those with an uncanny resemblance to VIPs”.

Kurang Manis, staged at The Actors Studio in Kuala Lumpur from Oct 29 to Nov 2, marked the return of the stand-up troupe which excels in parodying Malaysian political life after a four-year hiatus.

Focusing on “the last days, the new dawn, the final hiccup and the never-ending story”, Kurang Manis starred both the old and brand new.

Newcomers Alex Subryn Luis, Amerul Affendi, Ayam (Fareed Jamaluddin), Azrul Zaidi, Chew Kin Wah, Gan Hui Yee, Tria Aziz, Zahiril (Bob) Adzim and Zalfian Fuzi joined veterans Jo Kukathas, Shanthini Venugopal, Edwin Sumun and Maya Tan Abdullah in parodying the latest developments in the politics of Bolehland, in the Cafe’s trade-mark, no-holds-barred style.
Kurang Manis centred on daily life in the “new, post-March 8” Bolehland where its voters wait for “the next explosive instalment” while indulging in various local pastimes: shooting crows, playing mahjong, holding candlelight vigils for detainees and bloggers, and logging onto the Internet to find out what is going on (be they fact or hearsay).

This time, the Cafe’s team combined its vintage sketches and pop parodies with screenings of, among others, a Pacman video game and transcripts of a cyber-chatroom conversation.

The cleverly-done video game substituted the Pacman character with that of a prominent cabinet minister and the “monsters” with that of an opposition MP and a blogger icon.

Alex, better known as rock singer Ryn, and Audition champion Tria, made full use of their musical talents to dish out brilliant parodies of Hotel California, Besame Mucho and Mamma Mia!, which ribbed most major political and public figures, to a roaring crowd.

In their musical acts, they were more than assisted by seasoned veterans Venugopal, Maya, Kukathas and Sumun.

Tria proved that she was cut-out for stand-up comedy in the acts Dial A Bomoh, which poked fun at bomoh and makers of porn VCDs, and Alternative Clinic, which parodied, among others, sodomy allegations, the Bersih rally and fiction-writing in a leading Bahasa daily.

Azrul of Raja Lawak fame also shone at portraying “gatecrashers” or “spoilers” in most of the sketches. He was natural as a “tear-gasser” in Alternative Clinic, and the perfect foil to Chew’s “sucker-upper” in Crow Hunters, a tale of two politically-inclined crow shooters from City Hall.

Amerul and Bob, who first attained fame in the Cafe’s acclaimed play Air Con written by Shanon Shah, showed their hilarious out-of-this-world side in Da Bomb, a sketch about a “suicide bomber for hire” company headed by two Taliban wannabes.

The duo were joined by Gan of Animal Farm fame, who was irritatingly entertaining as a depressed grandmother who wanted to “go off with a bang”.

Bob, whose villain character in Kami – The Movie has been noted as one of the year’s most despicable, also stole the show as a man afflicted by political sloganeering in Alternative Clinic, and an effeminate coffee boy in the showcase’s crowning sketch, The Return of the Toymaker.

Long-locked Ayam did great, too, as the Malaysianised version of Narnia’s lion king, Aslan, in The Return of the Toymaker, and a kris-wielding Hang Tuah wannabe in Da Bomb.

Of the veterans, Kukathas made full use of her classic “nasty minister” disguise to whip up a crazy and zany interview session with Sumun.

She also shined as a “nasty judge” who made life hell for an idealistic lawyer played by Zalfian, and the creepy and menacing Toymaker in The Return of the Toymaker.

Sumun proved to be the gang’s “master of disguise”. He portrayed, to the delight of the audience, roles as diverse as a gorgeous model, a sleepy emperor, a permanently sick patient and case-fixing politician.

Instant Cafe Theatre turns 18 this year, and its latest stand-up act shows it remains the king in political parodies.

New Straits Times

Life’s Like A Puppet Show

5 Nov

Trekkie the Red Monster (puppeteers Thea Tadiar Everley and Joel Trinidad) and Kate (Carla Guevara-Laforteza).

Raunchy, weird and madly funny Avenue Q stars puppets and humans tackling all-too-real life situations together. SHARMILA BILLOT entered into the spirit of things at the showing in The Esplanade Theatre in Singapore.

A scene from Avenue Q.

TONY Award-winning Broadway show Avenue Q is raunchy and hilarious.

It is not your typical puppet show. Although the puppets are Sesame Street-inspired, make no mistake: the show is pretty much an “adult” show.

It had the audience in stitches throughout its performance the night this reviewer caught it at The Esplanade Theatre in Singapore. (It began on Oct 30 and runs until Nov 16.)

The story begins with Princeton coming to the street in New York City looking for an apartment. He’s a college graduate with an English degree, but with no skills or career plans.
Pretty soon, he meets the rest of the cast – his soon-to-be girlfriend Kate Monster; Brian and his Japanese fiance Christmas Eve, who are unemployed and rather bizarre; goofy Nicky and his closet gay Republican roommate Rod; building superintendent Gary Coleman (yes, that Gary Coleman, although here played by a woman); and the uncouth, porn-loving Trekkie Monster.

That is where the humour comes in, as these characters face real-life grown-up problems.

It’s a place where humans live side by side with puppets and monsters, and nobody thinks it’s strange.

The show is a good-natured story about a young man finding himself, and love, in the rocky world of young adulthood.

The performers are all fantastic, with the standout being Carla Guevara-Laforteza as the voices of Kate Monster and the aptly named Lucy the S**t.

Carla’s voice is clear and musical and she’s a joy to listen to. Lead actor Felix Rivera gives just as good in the challenging roles of Princeton and Rod.

It’s quite amazing to see the puppeteer switching speaking voices between such radically different characters in mere seconds, but that’s the incredible talent portrayed by the actors and actresses of the show.

It’s strange at first to see puppets with humans walking around, giving them their voices. You don’t know who to concentrate on initially. The furry characters’ actions or the puppeteers’ as the puppeteers are equally funny with their facial expressions.

But after some time, the weirdness passes, and by then, the audience is into the highly entertaining show.

This show is X-rated as puppet sex scenes are shown and foul language is used.

With songs like The Internet Is For Porn, It Sucks To Be Me and I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today, the cast regularly breaks into song to relay their emotions.

On the whole, Avenue Q is riotous fun. It’s also very real in terms of dealing with the harsh realities of life. A lot of people would easily relate to the story.

Avenue Q opened off-Broadway four years after it was written by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx (music) and Jeff Whitty (the book).

The show picked up momentum during its run and was transferred to the Golden Theatre in New York’s Broadway district in 2003.

Not long after, it picked the 2003 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding New Musical, and in the following year picked up three Tony Awards (Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book).

It has played in the United Kingdom, Mexico, France, Israel and Russia.

Avenue Q is presented by Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) and VizPro Entertainment.

Tickets are priced from S$40 to S$140 (student concessions and group discounts are available). A limited number of S$15 tickets are available for the first seven shows to celebrate SRT’s 15th anniversary.

For ticketing information, visit http://www.sistic.com.sg or http://www.srt.com.sg

New Straits Times

Life's Like A Puppet Show

5 Nov

Trekkie the Red Monster (puppeteers Thea Tadiar Everley and Joel Trinidad) and Kate (Carla Guevara-Laforteza).

Raunchy, weird and madly funny Avenue Q stars puppets and humans tackling all-too-real life situations together. SHARMILA BILLOT entered into the spirit of things at the showing in The Esplanade Theatre in Singapore.

A scene from Avenue Q.

TONY Award-winning Broadway show Avenue Q is raunchy and hilarious.

It is not your typical puppet show. Although the puppets are Sesame Street-inspired, make no mistake: the show is pretty much an “adult” show.

It had the audience in stitches throughout its performance the night this reviewer caught it at The Esplanade Theatre in Singapore. (It began on Oct 30 and runs until Nov 16.)

The story begins with Princeton coming to the street in New York City looking for an apartment. He’s a college graduate with an English degree, but with no skills or career plans.
Pretty soon, he meets the rest of the cast – his soon-to-be girlfriend Kate Monster; Brian and his Japanese fiance Christmas Eve, who are unemployed and rather bizarre; goofy Nicky and his closet gay Republican roommate Rod; building superintendent Gary Coleman (yes, that Gary Coleman, although here played by a woman); and the uncouth, porn-loving Trekkie Monster.

That is where the humour comes in, as these characters face real-life grown-up problems.

It’s a place where humans live side by side with puppets and monsters, and nobody thinks it’s strange.

The show is a good-natured story about a young man finding himself, and love, in the rocky world of young adulthood.

The performers are all fantastic, with the standout being Carla Guevara-Laforteza as the voices of Kate Monster and the aptly named Lucy the S**t.

Carla’s voice is clear and musical and she’s a joy to listen to. Lead actor Felix Rivera gives just as good in the challenging roles of Princeton and Rod.

It’s quite amazing to see the puppeteer switching speaking voices between such radically different characters in mere seconds, but that’s the incredible talent portrayed by the actors and actresses of the show.

It’s strange at first to see puppets with humans walking around, giving them their voices. You don’t know who to concentrate on initially. The furry characters’ actions or the puppeteers’ as the puppeteers are equally funny with their facial expressions.

But after some time, the weirdness passes, and by then, the audience is into the highly entertaining show.

This show is X-rated as puppet sex scenes are shown and foul language is used.

With songs like The Internet Is For Porn, It Sucks To Be Me and I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today, the cast regularly breaks into song to relay their emotions.

On the whole, Avenue Q is riotous fun. It’s also very real in terms of dealing with the harsh realities of life. A lot of people would easily relate to the story.

Avenue Q opened off-Broadway four years after it was written by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx (music) and Jeff Whitty (the book).

The show picked up momentum during its run and was transferred to the Golden Theatre in New York’s Broadway district in 2003.

Not long after, it picked the 2003 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding New Musical, and in the following year picked up three Tony Awards (Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book).

It has played in the United Kingdom, Mexico, France, Israel and Russia.

Avenue Q is presented by Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) and VizPro Entertainment.

Tickets are priced from S$40 to S$140 (student concessions and group discounts are available). A limited number of S$15 tickets are available for the first seven shows to celebrate SRT’s 15th anniversary.

For ticketing information, visit http://www.sistic.com.sg or http://www.srt.com.sg

New Straits Times