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How to celebrate the Fourth of July if you can’t deal with America right now

Alternative things to do if youre not a fan of hotdogs, fireworks or immigration policy

Every Fourth of July, Americans gather in yards and on rooftops, congregating around grills full of meat and coolers full of beer, wearing tank tops and sunglasses while potentially burning themselves with fireworks. They do these things to celebrate America. Yet according to data from the Pew Research Center, only a third of millennials consider America the greatest country in the world a significant dropoff from gen-Xers (48%) and baby boomers (50%).

This year in particular if feels as though theres not that much to celebrate. Our trollish president has spent his first two long-feeling years in office alienating our allies and was just caught trying to goad Nato countries into paying him protection money like some kind of mob boss. On top of it all, Koko the gorilla, our greatest national treasure, is now dead. Its enough to make you reassess the totality of our nations history and only think about the bad parts of which there are many and reach the perfectly reasonable conclusion that our country is not worth celebrating at all and never has been.

This leaves us with quite the quandary: whats a young person to do on Americas birthday when America itself isnt much of a priority?

If you have the Fourth of July off, you might as well put your free time to good use. For some people, that could mean dedicating the day to something bigger than themselves. Others may want to go about their Fourth in a more-or-less normal way while tweaking the particulars to subvert the holidays patriotism. Or perhaps you just want to slack off and have a slight reprieve from life in America for just one day. Here are some suggestions some specific, some more general as to how to accomplish all that.

Party to fight Ice

Its hot on the Fourth of July, and you know what melts in the heat? Ice. And, if you happen to be in Philly, youve also got a chance to help melt Ice, aka Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whose Philadelphia branch is one of the most active and actively protested in the country. Head to Ortliebs in Philadelphia for a night of dancing to the smooth sounds of the local house DJ Steve J while donating to Juntos, a local Latinx immigrants rights group dedicated to resisting Ice from every angle.

Go to a minor league baseball game

The greatest secret in all of sports is that minor league baseball games are way more fun than major league games. The tickets are cheap, the players are passionate, and all the teams have weird names like the New Orleans Baby Cakes and the Batavia Muckdogs. You can look up your local team here. Heres hoping your club is wearing their special Jar Jar Binks jerseys or throwing a George Costanza Appreciation Night.

Have your own Summer of George

Speaking of the short, stocky bald man, you and some friends could always try to recreate the classic Seinfeld episode The Summer of George and hit your citys disc golf (or, as George calls it, frolf) course. For bonus points, bring along a cooler full of the Summer of George cocktail, a variation of the mai tai that incorporates St George liqueur. (Also, if you do this, please drink lots of water, as it will be very hot out and mai tais are known to be dehydrating.)

Eat pickled eggs until you puke

According to data from the Freelancers Union, 47% of millennials are freelance workers, and by 2027, freelancers of all ages will make up a majority of the American workforce. And when youre freelancing, you cant always afford to give yourself the day off. One way around this problem, if youre in the Austin, Texas, area: youve got an opportunity to make $250 in five minutes. There is a catch, however, and that catch is youre going to have to go to the Haymaker on Manor Road eat a horrifying number of pickled eggs. The Haymakers Fourth of July Pickled Egg Eating Contest sounds like the exact sort of zany fun that this holiday was made for.

Get extremely high while playing bingo

Get
Get high and play bingo in Colorado. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

If you hadnt heard, weed is legal in Colorado, which means that businesses can take any ostensibly boring activity, introduce marijuana into the equation, and presto! have a goofily fun event for the masses. Thats the idea behind CannaBingo at Colorado Springs Studio A64, a bar-like cannabis club where alcohol is switched out for the sticky icky stuff, and bingo transforms from a yawner of a game into a Sisyphean gauntlet of giggle-filled confusion. If the Fourth of July is a day where you can pretend to be retired for 24 hours, you might as well smoke some ganja and do retired-people stuff.

Volunteer at an animal shelter

You might have the day off, but you know who doesnt? The millions of very good dogs and cats stuck in Americas animal shelters waiting to be adopted. Literally all of them would very much like to hang out with you on this wonderful Fourth of July. Even if you cant adopt or foster one yourself, you can head to an adoption center near you and spend the day helping to socialize the animals so they can learn how to become the furry friends in a forever-home that they were meant to be.

Have an anti-corporate BBQ

Its totally understandable that, despite how much of a dumpster fire you feel America is at the moment, you might want to do the standard-issue Fourth of July stuff for reasons that have nothing at all to do with America itself. In which case, perhaps consider hosting a barbecue serving co-op-purchased food (find a co-op near you by clicking here) while slamming beers from employee-owned breweries and blasting this playlist of anti-capitalist jams.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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‘What’s wrong with our society?’ Annapolis mayor voices concern at hostility to media

Gavin Buckley says Capital-Gazette reports on our kids soccer games and good, local, interesting stuff

Gavin Buckley, the mayor of Annapolis, was distraught in the wake of the mass shooting at his citys local newspaper, telling the Guardian: Whats wrong with our society that were this tightly wound that you can be this upset at a newspaper that reports stories on cats being stuck up a tree?

Although Buckley made clear that the Annapolis Capital-Gazette, the newspaper where five people were shot dead on Thursday, was a good paper; he was just still in shock that it was a target. After all, when he was told that there had been a shooting at the Capital, his initial response was to think of Marylands state capital in the heart of downtown Annapolis.

To him, the Capital Gazette reports on our kids soccer games and good, local, interesting stuff that we want to hear about and he could not understand how that could make someone that hostile.

He said earlier: This paper is not a liberal newspaper, its not a right wing newspaper, it stays in the middle and covers local issues, he said.

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What we know about the Capital Gazette shooting video report

Buckley also expressed his concern that it was a targeted attack on the media. If this is an attack on journalism it is a sad state of affairs, said the first-term mayor. Because journalists, you dont get paid enough to put your life on the line, were not in some war zone, were not in some third-world country with a dictator. We are in a Mayberry kind of town, were in shock were going to be grappling with.

Among those connecting the events in Annapolis to Donald Trumps attacks on the media was David Simon, the creator of The Wire. Blood today in an American newsroom. Arent you proud, you vile, fascist son of a bitch? Simon wrote on Twitter in response to a February tweet from the president that referred to the fake news media as the enemy of the American people.

David Simon (@AoDespair)

Blood today in an American newsroom. Aren’t you proud, you vile, fascist son of a bitch. https://t.co/DI1shGj65X

June 28, 2018

Simon used to be a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, whose parent company owns the Gazette. He later tweeted to say he had been friends with two journalists who died in the shooting.

Annapolis, Marylands state capital, is one of the oldest cities in the country and noted for its historic downtown and scenic wharfs. Buckley, an Australian American restaurateur, noted Were such an accepting community theyll even let an Australian be their mayor here.

He went out of his way though to praise the police response, with officers said to have arrived in less than a minute. I can tell you they saved lives by being there as fast as they were, he told the Guardian. They put their own lives in danger to do this and people need to know that thats what emergency responders do. They are selfless. Buckley added: These guys, they werent thinking about if the guy had a grenade, a semi-automatic weapon or a rifle. They just knew they had to get him.

A Democrat who recently spoke at the March for our Lives, Buckley warned: We cant numb ourselves to this stuff. We have to say enough is enough.

More broadly, Capital Gazette journalists expressed disgust at the lack of action coming from Washington over the latest gun outrage.

The staff writer Selene San Felice responded to news that Donald Trump had extended thoughts and prayers to the victims. She told CNN: Im not trying to make this political, but we need more than prayers. I want your prayers, but I want something else.

Felice added: This is going to be a story for how many days? Less than a week? People will forget about us in less than a week. Im going to need more than a couple of days of news coverage and thoughts and prayers our whole lives have been shattered.

The Baltimore Sun released an editorial pointing to the atmosphere of hostility toward journalism at present in the US. At a time of political divisiveness when views of the news industry itself have become starkly polarised, many jumped quickly to speculation about whether the metaphorical war on the media had become shockingly literal … Thats why so many reporters across the nation got a sickening feeling Thursday afternoon they couldnt believe something like this had happened, except that they could.

During a police press conference, Pat Furgurson, a veteran journalist for the Capital Gazette, stood behind the police in an untucked blue shirt and rumpled khakis, recording audio and even getting in a question.

Capital Gazette (@capgaznews)

pic.twitter.com/dEiIgEd15K

June 29, 2018

Afterwards, Furgurson briefly talked to his fellow reporters. Visibly shaken, he said the victims were just trying to do their job for the public. Something like this might happen in Afghanistan or Iraq or something like that but you dont expect it in a sleepy office across the street from a local mall. However he insisted were still putting out a newspaper and that the Capital Gazette would be out on Friday.

Asked if he had any message for others, Furguson choked up and paused for a minute. He then said whats so funny about peace, love and understanding and walked away. After all, he had a story to file.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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Homeless people on their pets: ‘She saved me as much as I saved her’

Four people share stories of animal companions as experts say they take better care of pets than those with housing

Heather, 22, Seattle

Before we found Poppy, I didnt feel like I had anything to wake up for. I was going through a rough time in my life and didnt care about myself. Id been homeless since my parents told me to leave our family house in June 2016 and was so miserable in my situation. Everywhere I go people shun me and tell me to leave.

outside in america series description

Then, last March, I was walking around downtown Seattle with my boyfriend when we saw a group of guys with two dogs. They were yelling at one of them and she was shivering and obviously scared. I went into a store and when I came out my boyfriend had the dog. I was confused. He said to me: I made a life choice without you; were keeping the dog. Hed paid the guys $5 for her.

It was an eye-opening moment for me to look at her properly. She raised her head with a look that said: Please dont hurt me. She had protruding ribs, fleas, missing patches of fur and couldnt walk properly. I wrapped her in my jacket like a little baby and promised Id never let anybody hurt her again. And thats my promise to her for the rest of her life. We named her Poppy after a poppy seed muffin she was trying to eat off the sidewalk.

Heather
Heather on Poppy: Seeing her like that reminds me to stay happy for simple things too. Photograph: Annabel Clark for the Guardian

We moved from sleeping in a doorway to a tent. I stopped stealing food from stores when we were desperate; I didnt want to go to jail for something dumb and risk losing her. Ive applied for food stamps and now have a case manager helping me get on a housing list and get Poppy registered as a service animal so that were protected from being split up [by the Federal Housing Act].

People comment about how I shouldnt be on the street with a dog. But they probably have a misconception that shes not being taken care of. Twice a month the Union Gospel Mission does free pet care. I feed her at specific times with foods that the vet has told me will keep her healthy. I get money for her food from panhandling. Shes literally with me 247. She wakes up so excited every morning and gets so happy about the littlest thing, like rolling around in the grass or even just the weather being nice. Seeing her like that reminds me to stay happy for simple things too. In my mind shes a little angel that saved me as much as I saved her.

Kate Fraser Daley, 39, Portland, Oregon

Kate
Kate Fraser Daley with her dog, Tenny, and her daughter in Portland, Oregon. Photograph: Annabel Clark for the Guardian

When my family became homeless last June, some of the time we had Tenny, our four-year old chihuahua-terrier mix, with us, and some of the time he was with friends of the family. But he was so sad when we were apart. There were times when he wouldnt eat and just wanted to sleep. His happy-go-lucky self wasnt there.

Wed been in the same apartment for 10 years so the change was really hard on everyone. We decided to send our two cats, Snowflake and Mittens, to another friends house. Within the first week, Snowflake got out and ran away. My husband was absolutely heartbroken. A year on and just mentioning her name is still very emotional for him. Mittens passed away when our friends moved.

Tenny
Kate Fraser Daley: I said to my husband: We dont give up on our family. Photograph: Annabel Clark for the Guardian

When we moved into a shelter, Tenny became extremely protective of all of us. Being part of a mobile family unit is difficult for a dog, because everywhere becomes their territory to protect and theres no actual home. Were in a 25-family shelter at the moment. All the families sleep on bunks in one large room and we can only be there from 6pm to 8am. But Tenny is never satisfied with our surroundings. His barking has become incessant and hes being snippety. I dont think hes going to calm down until we get back into an apartment. Then he wont have to be running all over town trying to freakishly protect his family from the world, which is not the job of a dog.

I know its unfair on him. We try to give him all the love we can and help him work through it. My husband and I actually talked about whether we are going to have to take him back to the pound. We cant afford a lawsuit and we dont want to risk him being put down if he bites somebody. But I said to my husband: We dont give up on our family. Were working on getting into an apartment and will see how he calms down when he has his own space to protect again.

Richard Dyer, 52, Seattle

Richard
Richard Dyer with his pet ferrets Ricky and Tiny in Seattle. Photograph: Annabel Clark for the Guardian

My two ferrets are called Ricky and Tiny. Ive had Ricky for five years. I rescued him when I saw somebody walking him on the street and yanking him around on a chain. And Ive had Tiny for almost three years and rescued him after someone threw him out in the woods. They were both skittish at first because of the way they had been treated, but now theyre leash- and litter box-trained.

I had wanted ferrets as pets since I was a kid. I grew up in Fort Payne, Alabama, and we had them on our land, but they were so fast you could never catch them.

Ive been homeless a little over a year; its not the first time, but its the first time in a long time. My wife and I were living in an apartment and the rent went up by $150. We couldnt afford it and didnt have any place to go so we had no option. Right now were staying in a tent. I come downtown when the ferrets are out of food.

Richard
Richard Dyer: They come up to me every time I call and Tiny is always on my heels, he never lets me out of his sight. Photograph: Annabel Clark for the Guardian

Most shelters dont allow animals. But I wouldnt subject my family to one anyway they are full of drugs and disease and lice. Were in a sanctioned camp thats supported by several agencies and we have electricity. We pay $60 a month to be there and our neighbors at the camp love the ferrets.

A while ago I was diagnosed with bipolar [disorder] and was suicidal. But since having these ferrets, I havent had any suicidal tendencies. They ease my stress. They come up to me every time I call and Tiny is always on my heels, he never lets me out of his sight. My favorite thing about them is how they play with each other. They cant be apart from each other; their bond is magnificent.

Ryan Mikesell, 37, Hillsboro, Oregon

Ryan
Ryan Mikesell lives with his pets in an RV parked in Hillsboro, Oregon. Photograph: Annabel Clark for the Guardian

When Im feeling overwhelmed by anxiety, my mini Labradoodle, Josie, climbs on my chest to calm me down. She wont take no for an answer. Shell be like, Go ahead, tell me to get off. I dont care. I have PTSD and her doing that is a grounding mechanism for me. I feel things and she just senses it. Shes like my soulmate in dog form. My therapist loves her.

My animals are my family. The oldest is Jamie, a Jack Russell-chihuahua I got eleven years ago when I was living in a house with my ex-partner. Jamie has had two litters and Ive kept three of her puppies. In total, I have five dogs and my cat, Buddy, who I found abandoned in an alley nine years ago.

Ive been homeless for eight years. I grew up in Olympia, Washington, but my parents were very abusive and I didnt want to be anywhere near them, so I left for Oregon. I have agoraphobia and severe anxiety. I also have diabetes and need to have a refrigeratorso I can keep eating healthily. I live in a motorhome that I have nowhere to permanently park. It used to be that as long as you regularly moved your vehicle, you could park in lots of places. But since the new mayor of Portland came into office, you can get a ticket and be towed in 20 minutes. I put a call out on Facebook saying I needed somewhere to park for six months and a woman offered me her driveway, which is where I am now.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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The new Pizza Rat? New York squirrel filmed snacking on avocado

In viral video, rodent displays pricey hipster tastes on citys wealthy Upper West Side

A New York squirrel has been dubbed the new Pizza Rat after being filmed munching on an avocado in a flower planter on the Upper West Side. Henry Zhang spotted the squirrel on Thursday and uploaded the video to social media, where it is proceeding to go viral.

Zhang told the Guardian that it was actually his dog, Almond, who first noticed the squirrel and tugged on his leash to alert his owner to the excitement. The planter is next to a street vendor selling fruits and his van. I assume an avocado dropped from his van or stand, and the squirrel scavenged it.

While the squirrel is to be commended for eating heart-healthy fats rather than a slice of pizza, one does hope it knows that its choice of treat is extremely uneconomical. If only the squirrel had skipped the avocado, it might have saved enough money to buy a house instead of living in a tree.

The last few years have been a fruitful time for viral vermin aficionados; Avocado Squirrel joins an illustrious roster of city critters caught snacking.

Pizza Rat

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Mountain bikers in fatal cougar attack did everything right, authorities say

Surviving cyclist in satisfactory condition in hospital as official says bikers tried to scare the mountain lion and then hit it

A mountain biker who was killed by a cougar near Seattle and his friend who escaped after the animal attacked him did everything right, authorities have said.

The two men were riding on a trail in the Cascade Mountain foothills on Saturday when the mountain lion began following them. Authorities said they did everything state guidelines advise: getting off their bikes, making noise and trying to scare the animal away. One even smacked it with his bike, after it charged.

The cougar ran off but returned and attacked when the men got back on their bikes. It bit one the survivor on the head and shook him. The second cyclist ran and the animal dropped the first victim and pounced, killing its victim and dragging him back to what appeared to be its den, Sgt Ryan Abbott of King county sheriffs department said.

They did everything they were supposed to do, Abbott said on Sunday. But something was wrong with this cougar.

The survivor was still in hospital on Sunday. A Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman, Susan Gregg, said the 31-year-old man was in satisfactory condition.

Authorities would not confirm the names of the cyclists until the man who died, a 32-year-old Seattle resident, was formally identified. That was expected on Monday.

The attack near North Bend, 30 miles east of Seattle, was the first fatal cougar attack in Washington state in 94 years. The first man managed to get on his bike and ride off, looking back to see his friend being dragged into the trees, Abbott said. The cyclist rode for two miles before he could get a cellphone signal to call 911.

When rescuers arrived, it took about half an hour to find the second victim, who was dead with the cougar on top of him in what appeared to be a den-like area. An officer shot at the animal, which ran off. Several hours later, state fish and wildlife agents used dogs to track the cougar to a nearby tree. They shot and killed it.

Authorities planned to match DNA taken from the animal with DNA from the victims to be certain they killed the right cougar. They also plan to examine the cougar to see what might have been wrong with it.

There are an estimated 2,000 cougars in Washington. Until the 1960s, the state paid hunters a bounty for killing them. Now it allows 250 to be hunted in 50 designated zones. While they are sometimes known to kill livestock or pets, and though one even found its way into a park in Seattle in 2009, encounters with people are rare.

Attacks have become more common, though, as people encroach on the animals territory. In North America, there have been about 25 deadly attacks and 95 non-fatal attacks reported in the past century, but more attacks have been reported in the US west and Canada over the past 20 years than in the previous 80.

Experts say people encountering the big cats in the wild should stop and pick up small children immediately. Because running and rapid movements can trigger the animals prey drive, people should not run. Instead they should face the cougar, speak firmly and slowly back away, appearing as large as possible by standing on a rock or stump or opening a sweatshirt or jacket.

People should also become more assertive if the cougar does not back off. If it does attack, people should fight back.

The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey but a potential danger, Washington state fish and wildlife advises on its website.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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Larry Kudlow: TV pundit to replace Gary Cohn as Trump’s top economic adviser

Conservative commentator was chosen from a shortlist of just one candidate for one of the most powerful posts in the administration

Out with the Goldman Sachs banker and in with the TV show anchor. On Wednesday Donald Trump was preparing to announce that CNBC host and conservative commentator Larry Kudlow would replace Gary Cohn as director of the White Houses National Economic Council.

Kudlow, 70, best known as a CNBC commentator and outspoken proponent of free trade and low taxes, is in many ways a contradictory fit with Trumps America First agenda.

But Kudlow, according to White House advisers, was chosen from a shortlist of just one candidate for one of the most powerful economic posts in the administration. The official announcement could come as early as tomorrow, according to CNBC, his employer.

The 70-year-old certainly brings some Trump-supporting chops. He helped to shape Trumps economic policy platform during the 2016 campaign and later worked with the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, on an overhaul of tax codes. He has reportedly also helped shape economic policy over the past year.

A veteran of the Reagan administration, Kudlow worked in the White House budget office. Despite never completing the masters program in economics and policy at Princeton University, he later moved to Wall Street and served as chief economist at Bear Stearns.

A committed proponent of tax cuts as an engine of broad economic growth, Kudlow defended Trumps own tax cuts when they ran into resistance, from Republicans and Democrats, over the higher budget deficits they will probably bring.

But the financial news TV star has not been above criticizing the presidents economic positions, including the recent threat to impose import tariffs on aluminium and steel.

Trump should also examine the historical record on tariffs, because they have almost never worked as intended and almost always deliver an unhappy ending, Kudlow wrote in a National Review column Tariffs Are Taxes penned with co-authors Stephen Moore and Arthur Laffer on 3 March.

The authors continued: We arent persuaded by the Trump administrations claim that we need to impose these tariffs for national-security reasons. Despite stiff competition from imports, many specialty steel producers are doing just fine, and are actually exporting steel to Mexico and Canada.

But Kudlow later said his worries had been assuaged, telling New Yorks AM 970 the tariffs [were] basically gone with the exception of maybe China and a few countries.

I guarantee you, all of Europe is going to wind up being exempt. And I bet you our allies in Asia will wind up being exempt. China may be the only one, Kudlow continued.

He reasoned that the tariff proposals are a Trumpian way of negotiating. You knock them in the teeth and get their attention, and then you kind of work out a deal, Kudlow said. Thats what hes done. My hats off to him. He had me really worried, now Im not.

Kudlow, who is from New Jersey, also shares personal aspects of Trumps life experience. Trump lost his brother to alcoholism; in the mid-1990s, Kudlow entered a 12-step program to combat an addiction to cocaine and alcohol.

Kudlow told Crisis magazine that in 1995 the roof fell down on my life.

I had another bad relapse. I lost my jobs and my life in the spring of 1995. My wife sent me away to the Hazelden Treatment Center in Minnesota. I was there for five months.

He was helped by the economist and Opus Dei evangelist Father John McCloskey, who also guided Newt Gingrich and Sam Brownback in their conversions to Catholicism.

McCloskey recalled that Kudlow had faced a dilemma. Success comes easy and in a big way for some people in our affluent, celebrity-conscious culture. And what do you do then, when the bottom falls out in a way from which nothing up to that time has prepared you? McCloskey wrote in Good News, Bad News his 2011 account of the conversions he has overseen.

By late 1997 Kudlow was ready to be baptized, surrounded by friends from the conservative magazine National Review. He returned to work and to his marriage and came to see his recovery from alcoholism and cocaine as part of Christs redemption.

I knew somehow that first of all, Christ wanted me to recover, and secondly, Christ would stand with me.

All of this is Gods handiwork, Kudlow said. I have learned to live a life of faith I pray and meditate every single day, every morning. You know I pray in cabs. I pray in airplanes. I dont really pray for anything I just pray that Jesus will give me the strength to follow him.

He will need all that strength as he enters the White House. Tenures for Trump appointees have become increasingly brief as Trump tolerance for dissension has shortened.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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An evening with ‘deplorables’: inside the alt-right party in Manhattan

The so-called A Night For Freedom featured Hillary-baiting, anti-feminism and a surprise appearance by Chelsea Manning

An evening with ‘deplorables’: inside the alt-right party in Manhattan

An evening with ‘deplorables’: inside the alt-right party in Manhattan

The so-called A Night For Freedom featured Hillary-baiting, anti-feminism and a surprise appearance by Chelsea Manning

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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Protest set for Texas wildlife refuge at ground zero of Trump’s border wall plan

The Santa Ana refuge, home to migratory birds, butterflies and ocelots, could soon be dominated by a militarised barrier

Protest set for Texas wildlife refuge at ground zero of Trump’s border wall plan

The Santa Ana refuge, home to migratory birds, butterflies and ocelots, could soon be dominated by a militarised barrier

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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Smile! Grumpy Cat wins 500,000 over copyright breach

Owners of internet sensation with permanently gloomy face win payout from US coffee group

Smile! Grumpy Cat wins 500,000 over copyright breach

Owners of internet favourite with permanently gloomy face win payout from US coffee group

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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Christian Bale: ‘I was asked to do a romantic comedy. I thought theyd lost their minds’

The actor, famous for playing brooding, damaged men, is back playing, well, a brooding, damaged man in the gritty western Hostiles. He talks about why the film industry has to change, balding up to play Dick Cheney and why he will never, ever, do a romcom

The interviews first surprise is that a chubby, grungy figure is occupying the Beverly Hills hotel sofa reserved for Christian Bale. The impostor sports a shaved head, heavy paunch, worn black T-shirt and khaki camouflage trousers. He looks like a bouncer, maybe, or a resting football hooligan, but certainly not the man who pops up on lists of the sexiest stars alive. But Bale it is, sunk into the seat, inhabiting his latest physical transformation. I ate a lot of pies, he says.

The actor is well known for going to extremes gorging, starving, bodybuilding which reshape his physique from Olympian to emaciated to portly and back. He has just done it again, packing on the pounds and going near-bald to play Dick Cheney. At the age of 43, these transformations are not getting easier. Ive got to stop doing it. I suspect its going to take longer to get this off, he says, indicating the belly.

But the chances of Bale not going all the way for a role are, on the basis of the ensuing interview, negligible. He may be from the small Pembrokeshire town of Haverfordwest and speak with an emphatic, non-posh English accent, but he is Americas Zelig: a versatile talent who incarnates his adopted countrys dreams and nightmares with singular physicality and intensity.

A driving force, apparently, is insecurity. The fact anybody hires me is surprising, says the Oscar-winner (for The Fighter in 2011) hired by Terrence Malick, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan and David O Russell. It could be false modesty, but Bale seems genuinely worried that someday the work on average one or two films a year over the past two decades could dry up. That could be really short-lived.

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Watch the trailer for Christian Bales new film Hostiles video

Bale reputedly has a temper. He was arrested for allegedly assaulting his mother and sister at the Dorchester hotel in London in 2008. The authorities did not press charges, citing insufficient evidence. The same year, he launched an expletive-filled tirade against a director of photography on the set of Terminator: Salvation in 2009. A leaked audio recording zinged across the internet.

Both are ominous portents that set up the interviews second surprise: today, Bale is affable, chatty, relaxed. He chortles. Possibly it is because of a cold he is under the weather and sips lemon tea but it comes out as a wheezing gurgle that for all the world sounds like Muttley, the cartoon dog.

Asked if the nearly decade-old on-set meltdown dogs him it is the butt of jokes and parodies he shrugs. People dont mention it to me, but that doesnt mean it doesnt follow me around. Im not aware of it if it does.

Bale has brought glamour, angst and taut menace to memorable roles ranging from Batman to Patrick Bateman, the axe-wielding yuppie of American Psycho (2000). He plays spoiler alert another brooding, damaged, hyper-masculine character in the powerful film Hostiles. As a US army captain, he is tasked with escorting a Cheyenne chief through 1892 western badlands. Blood flows as Bales character shoots, stabs, suffers and mourns.

Bale
Bale in American Psycho Id no idea people saw it as anything other than satire. Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar

The actor rivals Robert De Niro and Daniel Day-Lewis for diving deep physically and psychologically. He doesnt do it for fun. There is a much easier way, but I cant do it. I dont know if its because I dont have any training. I see actors who can just be themselves and then switch and give these really incredible performances, and then switch back to being themselves. I find I start laughing because Im too aware that its still me. So I try to get as distant as possible. Otherwise, I cant do it.

Hence the metamorphoses. Its helpful not to look like yourself. If I look in the mirror and go, Ah, that doesnt look like me, thats helpful. Bale vowed to not pack on weight again after playing a conman in American Hustle (2013), only to bloat anew to play Cheney in the biopic Backseat (shot after Hostiles), leaving him now, days after wrapping, facing another extreme diet. These pants are one of the few pairs Ive got that have these straps on the side so I can still fit into em. A fluctuating waistline, he says, has consequences. Im not big on shopping, so you end up with a lot of elasticated things.

He is calmest, he says, during extreme fasting, such as the time he lost 27kg (60lb) for The Machinist in 2004 (makes De Niro look like an uncommitted wuss, Peter Bradshaw wrote in the Guardians review). Its an amazing experience doing that. When youre so skinny that you can hardly walk up a flight of stairs youre, like, this being of pure thought. Its like youve abandoned your body. Thats the most Zen-like state Ive ever been in my life. Two hours sleep, reading a book for 10 hours straight without stopping unbelievable. You couldnt rile me up. No rollercoaster of emotions. Alas, it doesnt last. As soon as you start putting the food back in your stomach, the rollercoaster comes back.

Sipping his tea, admiring the afternoon sunshine seeping through a canopy of palm trees, Bale ranges over a variety of topics: the USs polarisation, Hollywood scandals, feminism, the horror of romantic comedies.

Bale
Bale in the Machinist Its like youve abandoned your body. Photograph: Allstar/Paramount

First, there is a film to promote. Bale calls Hostiles a western with brutal, modern-day resonance. Based on an unpublished manuscript by the late screenwriter Donald Stewart, it is written, produced and directed by Scott Cooper, who previously directed Black Mass, Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace.

It opens with the massacre of a white family by Comanches, then shifts to Captain Joe Blocker, a grizzled, racist veteran of the genocidal Indian wars who is forced by political masters to escort a former foe, a dying Cheyenne chief played by Wes Studi, on a 1,000-mile odyssey to his tribal homeland.

The arc of polarisation and redemption grabbed Bale from the outset. It was a gut feeling of reading it, wanting to read it again and thinking: theres really something here that I can obsess with for a number of months. Its an incredible story of American history from the point of view of a man who is absolutely consumed with bigotry and hatred, finding his way back to being human.

Speaking Cheyenne dialogue was nerve-racking, but uplifting, says Bale. Its a beautiful language; very poetic, with a wonderful rhythm to it. Chief Phillip Whiteman, a Cheyenne consultant who tutored Bale, says the actor nailed it: The joy that it brought me to hear our language being preserved through a spirit such as Chriss, this made me emotional. This is going to live on for ever, captured by this big screen.

The film, shot on location in Colorado and New Mexico in the summer of 2016, ended up reflecting Trump-era themes, says Bale. We didnt think that when we started it, but it just started becoming clear as we saw what was happening in America seeing how comfortable people were becoming in expressing contempt for the other.

Revelations about sexual misconduct in Hollywood underscore the films observation that everything is run by old white men, he says. The richness that we could all enjoy if we started embracing a much wider variety of sources of storytelling from women, from minorities. Worthy hopes, but some critics complain that in Hostiles the native characters are ciphers.

Nonetheless, Bale reckons the cascade of post-Harvey Weinstein scandals will permanently change Hollywood. I cant see that this will become a footnote and be swept under the rug. It does feel like it will change. Since moving to Los Angeles in the 90s, he has worked on dozens of films, indies such as Laurel Canyon, blockbusters such as Exodus: Gods and Kings, and garlanded fare such as The Big Short. But he says he was unaware of sexual misconduct in the industry.

Some people might call me almost reclusive. Nobody gossips with me. I was clueless. If Im not making a film, I dont really socialise with that many people who make films. The casting couch, yes, Id heard of that. But specifics? No, nothing at all. Do I believe that it has all been happening? Absolutely.

Surprising Bale fact: he is Gloria Steinems stepson. His now-deceased father married the feminist author in 2000. It was news to me; I was in Germany, says Bale, wheeze-chortling anew. I found out about it afterwards. He has not discussed Hollywoods scandals with her, he says, but considers himself a feminist. If were talking equality, absolutely.

Asked about Ridley Scott expunging Kevin Spacey from All the Money in the World, Bale pauses. Ridleys a very smart man, a friend of mine. I imagine hes made exactly the right choice. He says he has been too busy shooting Backseat to say more. I dont know if the allegations were so egregious that it was a moral choice of Ridleys or if it was a purely business choice.

In
In Empire of the Sun with John Malkovich. Photograph: Everett Collection / Rex Feature

In playing Cheney, Bale sought pathways to understanding George W Bushs vice-president. What you discover when you start investigating any person is nobody is singularly bad or singularly good. Hes a wonderful family man, by all accounts. He didnt hesitate for a second when his daughter Mary announced that she was a lesbian despite the fact that was complete anathema to his party at that time.

Bale withholds his own views on Cheneys politics. I dont want to do this as a nudge-nudge, wink-wink performance. I dont want to be revealing my own political leanings and then making a little joke. Its totally irrelevant what I think. Im an actor, Im a vessel of that character.

Bale was born in 1974 to atypical parents. His mother, Jenny, was a circus performer and his father, David, an entrepreneur and talent manager. They moved frequently Bale remembers an idyllic stint in Portugal. The future Batman broke into acting aged eight in a commercial for the fabric softener Lenor. Two years later, he was on the West End in London, playing opposite Rowan Atkinson in The Nerd. At 13, he landed the starring role in Steven Spielbergs adaptation of JG Ballards memoir Empire of the Sun.

Overnight, he became famous and the familys main earner, which prompted a love-hate relationship with acting. There was nobody (else) to make any money. At that age, it was, Oh, Christ, Ive got to be the breadwinner. That was no fun. So theres always been a bit of loathing because of that.

After his parents divorced, he moved with his father to Los Angeles. American Psycho, based on Bret Easton Elliss novel, established Bale as a leading man with a very sharp edge. When I read the book, I was laughing straight away. Id no idea people saw it as anything other than satire.

Then came acclaimed performances in Chris Nolans Batman trilogy, though Bale is self-critical. He wanted the superhero, for once, to be more interesting than the villains. Then Heath Ledger turned in a sublime performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight, leaving the caped crusader relatively vanilla by comparison. I didnt achieve what my plan was there.

Bale has admitted conflicted feelings over Ben Affleck inheriting the role, but withholds any verdict on Batman v Superman and Justice League, saying he hasnt seen either.

His two children the product of his marriage to Sandra Blai have not seen his own films, but mock his thespian efforts during games at home, he says. They think Im the worst actor ever. My daughter cant believe that anyone pays me.

Times up, so a final question: has he considered romantic comedy?

Bale bats the question back with what sounds like a challenge. Have you ever enjoyed a romantic comedy? I pause and he presses the point. Have you ever enjoyed a romantic comedy?

A few, I say, but my mind blanks.

Can you name em?

Er, When Harry Met Sally.

Thats going back quite a ways, isnt it? Youre hard pressed. He shakes his head. I was asked to do a romantic comedy recently and I thought theyd lost their minds. Cats have those insane half hours every evening. I think it must have been that for the production company. I dont know why anyone would ever offer me a romantic comedy. I find American Psycho very funny.

Hostiles is released in the UK on 5 January 2018

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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