American Hustle

By Kai-Arne Zimny

“As far as I could see, people were always conning each other to get what they wanted. We even con ourselves. We talk ourselves into things. We sell ourselves things we maybe don’t even need or want by dressing them up. We leave out the risk. We leave out the ugly truth.”  – Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale)

Photo Credit: Wolg Gang

New Jersey, late 70s – Fraudulent duo Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser aka “Lady Edith Greensly” (Amy Adams) get caught in the act by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Smelling an opportunity for fame and recognition, the agent decides to offer the crooked couple a dishonest deal that would force them to gather incriminating evidence against four other people. To avoid prosecution, Irving and Sydney agree, not knowing the object of the FBI’s investigation: several corrupt congressmen, ruthless mafia boss Victor Tellegio (Robert DeNiro), and most spectacularly Camden’s popular and big-hearted mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). Polito’s ambition to create jobs by revitalizing Atlantic City’s casinos might make him susceptible to bribes by a fake Saudi sheik. A game of deceit and conflict ensues, not making Irving’s personal dilemmas – evolving around his unpredictable wife (Jennifer Lawrence) and his beloved adoptive son – any easier …

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Love no more? Catalonia and Spain

By Michael Lederer

Photo Credit: Michael Lederer – The two-arms-raised replica of the Statue of Liberty was a gift to the town of Cadaqués from the manager of Salvador Dali.

CADAQUÉS, Catalonia, Spain – Dispatch from Spain’s Cold Civil War.

Speaker of the U.S. House Tip O’Neill once said, “All politics are local.” In today’s world, no politics are local.

Both Donald Tusk from the European Union and Donald Trump from the United States have issued recent statements supporting a view of the Catalonian conflict as an internal matter. Yet the very fact that both leaders felt called to comment on it reveals that Barcelona’s relation to Madrid has the easy potential to affect wider interests even as far away as Washington.

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Sexual Harassment in the 21st Century – Really?

By Sabrina Völz

Photo Credit: Mihai Surdu

If it wasn’t enough that American TV icon and educator Bill Cosby was accused of sexual assault, rape, and battery – to name a few of the allegations – now dozens of women (currently more than 65) have come forward about Harvey Weinstein’s inappropriate sexual behavior. Many of these women were previously too afraid to publically share their stories of sexual harassment and assault. Or couldn’t because of non-disclosure agreements. Something has to give. Read more »

Escaping Fundamentalism: An Interview with Charlene L. Edge (Part II)

By Maria Moss

Image Credit: https://charleneedge.com

After last week’s introduction to the seductive power of the fundamentalist cult “The Way International” and the practice of speaking in tongues, in this installment, readers will find out more about both Charlene Edge’s “faded scars” as well as memories of happier times while serving The Way. Charlene also shares insider perspectives on The Way’s teachings and comments on her relationship to religion and spirituality today. One of this talented memoirist’s greatest passions has become her mission to warn people about The Way, a non-profit organization that not only controls all aspects of its members’ lives, but also their purse strings.

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Escaping Fundamentalism: An Interview with Charlene L. Edge (Part I)

By Maria Moss

Image Credit: charleneedge.com

In her award-winning book Undertow, Charlene Edge dissects her past as a long-time member of one of the largest fundamentalist cults in the United States, “The Way International.” Undertow is a demonstration of the dangers of fundamentalism and the destructive nature of cults. Through her personal story, Charlene Edge shows how a vulnerable person can be seduced into following an authoritarian leader and how difficult it can be to find a way out.

Charlene’s experiences with “The Way” depicts the downward spiraling of a college student who – for reasons all her own – fell for a certain kind of propaganda. Now, if it happened to her, why not to you? To us?

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Beatriz at Dinner: Comedy, Tragedy, Portrait?

By Bobbie Kirkhart

We first see Beatriz (Salma Hayek) going through morning chores, feeding her dogs, and lighting a candle for deceased loved ones, including her dead goat. She’s in a rush to her work in a holistic healing firm. Her last patient of the day is a house call for a massage for Kathy, a wealthy woman in a gated community.

After the house call, Beatriz’s car won’t start, so Kathy invites her to stay for the small dinner party she’s hosting for her husband’s business associates.

It’s the stuff of comedy, a movie you’ve all seen before: The wealthy matron invites an employee to an important dinner party she’s hosting for even wealthier associates. We have rollicking fun watching the crude manners of the outsider exposing the pomposity of the wealthy. At the end, everybody realizes that the simple ways of the poor employee are superior to the smug frivolity of the privileged. Everybody is happy. Everybody learns something.

Spoiler alert: They didn’t go that way.

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