31/07/2014

A book for the beach: Duma Key by Stephen King

Posted by MereNews On July - 30 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

On holiday with my family in Portugal, aged around 11 or 12, I found a stash of deserted books left behind by former residents of the place we were staying (and isn’t that one of the nicest things about holiday reading, picking up someone else’s unexpected leftovers?). I ventured into The Silence of the Lambs, probably much too young, and was disturbed by the dark imaginings of Thomas Harris. I also, furtively, picked up a creased old paperback of Different Seasons by Stephen King, read Apt Pupil, and discovered for the first time the delights of being thoroughly terrified. So began a love of horror, and particularly of King, which lasts to this day. For me, holiday reading, and particularly beach reading, is best when it’s scary, because there’s little to compare to the thrill of a proper chill in hot sunlight.

  1. Duma Key

  2. by

    Stephen King


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Duma Key, one of King’s more recent novels (it was published in 2008) more than accomplishes this. I first read it – of course I did, I’m an addict – on publication, and have a clear memory of being about halfway through, drying my hair, and having to repeatedly stop and turn the hairdryer off, it had made me so ridiculously jumpy. I’ve reread it over the past few weeks, and it’s had just as strong an effect on me.

King is telling the story of Edgar Freemantle, a construction man who has made a fortune, but is hit by a crane and loses an arm as well as seriously injuring his head. Edgar’s brain has been damaged, leaving him without the right words for things, filling him with rage. “Bring the friend,” I said. “Sit in the friend.” “What do you mean, Edgar?” she asked. “The friend, the buddy!” I shouted. “Bring over the fucking pal, you dump bitch … Bring over the chum and sick down!” It was the closest my rattled, fucked-up brain could come to chair.”

His wife leaves him, after he attempts to throttle her. He plans suicide. His doctor guesses, stops him, tells him to try something new, somewhere else. “Edgar, does anything make you happy?” “I used to sketch.” “Take it up again. You need hedges … hedges against the night.”

He rents a house on Duma Key, a deserted strip of island on the Gulf of Mexico, and he starts to draw. “I scratched the word HELLO in small letters … And as names go, it’s a good one, isn’t it? In spite of all the damage that followed, I still think that’s the perfect name for a picture drawn by a man who was trying his best not to be sad anymore – who was trying to remember how it felt to be happy.”

It turns out he has talent, buckets of it – the paintings, Dali-esque sunsets, strange ships, creepy children/dolls – pour out of him. But Duma, the house where he is staying, where the shells grind in the tide at night, is tightening its grip on him, and there is something dark waiting to pounce.

“What I was doing didn’t work just because it played on the nerve-endings; it worked because people knew – on some level they really did know – that what they were looking at had come from a place beyond talent. The feeling those Duma pictures conveyed was horror barely held in check. Horror waiting to happen. Inbound on rotted sails.”

I’m not going to explain what the horror is, because I don’t want to spoil it for you. But rest assured, if you’ve been burned by not-all-that-scary-when-the evil-is-revealed Stephen King novels in the past – The Tommyknockers, Dreamcatcher, I’m looking at you – the horror “inbound on rotted sails” in Duma Key is properly terrifying. Built up to slowly as Edgar makes friends with Wireman, who looks after an old lady with secrets of her own living down the beach, it’s given me no end of the jitters. Just what I was after.

“Imagine a little girl, hardly more than a baby. She fell from a carriage almost ninety years ago, struck her head on a stone, and forgot everything. Not just her name; everything! And then one day she recalled just enough to pick up a pencil and make that first hesitant mark across the white. A horizon-line, sure. But also a slot for blackness to pour through.”

I’m bemused by this Telegraph review, which says Duma Key “starts promisingly but descends into an overlong, self-indulgent stinker”. For me, it was his best book in ages and the ending, although admittedly a little drawn out, more than justifies the slow build-up. I prefer this Guardian write-up, which calls it “real bloody-hell-I-wish-I’d-gone-for-a-pee creepy”, and says that “in these scenes towards the end, King not only thickened the shadows and made things move in my peripheral vision, he kept me awake for hours afterwards while every image he’d drawn came at me out of the dark. I didn’t go to sleep till it was light outside.”

So there you go: horror for the beach, and even set on a beach, just to make it even more perfect.

Article source: http://feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663828/s/3d027d3c/sc/10/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Cbooks0Cbooksblog0C20A140Cjul0C30A0Cbook0Ebeach0Eduma0Ekey0Estephen0Eking/story01.htm

A landslide has struck a village in western India following heavy monsoon rains, killing at least five people and leaving up to 150 trapped, officials said.

Emergency forces rushed to remote Malin village in the Pune district of Maharashtra state, where debris from a hill collapsed on to homes in the morning while residents were sleeping.

“Five bodies have been recovered and 125 to 150 are still trapped,” Satish Lalit, a spokesman for the Maharashtra chief minister’s office, told AFP.

Alok Avasthy, regional commandant at the national disaster response force (NDRF), also said up to 150 were feared trapped by the landslide, which damaged about 50 houses.

He said that it was difficult to confirm casualties as the village has been cut off from communications. Rain was also hampering rescue operations.

Indian television station CNN-IBN said five people had also been rescued. Television footage showed the side of a hill shaved off, with large amounts of mud, muddy water and logs piled below.

Heavy machinery has been mobilised to try to rescue those feared trapped, while about 30 ambulances rushed to the scene, local government official Saurav Rao told the Press Trust of India news agency.

“Exact number of casualties is not known as we are moving slowly to ensure that those trapped are removed safely,” Rao said.

Divisional commissioner Prabhakar Deshmukh said the rescue operation was a challenge with the area 15-20km (nine to 16 miles) from the nearest medical facility, but he said it should speed up once the NDRF teams arrived.

Heavy rains have been falling for days in Maharashtra as a result of the annual monsoon. Building collapses are a common occurrence in India, especially during the rainy season, with millions living in dilapidated old structures or newly built but illegal constructions made from substandard material.

An apartment tower under construction came crashing down in the southern city of Chennai in late June following heavy rains, killing 61, mostly labourers. A similar accident on the outskirts of Mumbai last year left 74 dead.

Last year, the Guardian gathered statistics showing that 2,651 people were killed across India in 2012 from the collapse of 2,737 structures, including houses and bridges.

Article source: http://feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663828/s/3d027f1a/sc/11/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Cworld0C20A140Cjul0C30A0Cindia0Elandslide0Ekills0Efive0Epeople0Emaharashtra/story01.htm

Rolf Harris‘s prison sentence of five years and nine months for indecently assaulting young women will not be increased after the new attorney general, Jeremy Wright QC, declined to refer it to the court of appeal.

When sentence was passed on the 84 year-old TV presenter and artist earlier this month there was a flood of complaints to the attorney general’s office complaining that it was too lenient.

A statement issued by the department stressed that the judge at Southwark crown court, Mr Justice Sweeney, had been bound by the sentencing regulations in force at the time that the offences were committed.

A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office said: “After very careful consideration the attorney general, Jeremy Wright QC MP has decided not to refer the five-year and nine-month sentence given to Rolf Harris to the court of appeal as he did not think they would find it to be unduly lenient and increase it.

“The sentencing judge was bound by the maximum sentence in force at the time of the offending. The judge made some of the sentences consecutive to reach the total sentence, but he could not simply add up sentences on individual counts; the overall sentence had to be just and proportionate to the overall offending. The judge was also required to take into account the age of the offender.

“The attorney general understands that his decision not to refer the case may be a disappointment to some people; however, he did give extremely careful consideration to this sentence and he concluded that he could not refer it.”

Article source: http://feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663828/s/3d025a3e/sc/38/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Cuk0Enews0C20A140Cjul0C30A0Crolf0Eharris0Eprison0Esentence0Enot0Eincreased/story01.htm

Joe Cornish has been offered the chance to direct Skull Island, the high-profile prequel to fantasy blockbuster King Kong, reports Deadline.

Cornish, whose low-budget sci-fi action movie Attack the Block has made him a sought-after director in Hollywood, would take the reins from Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson if he accepts the job. The Kiwi film-maker’s take on the giant ape legend pulled in $550m worldwide in 2005 despite lukewarm reviews.

Legendary Pictures, the production company behind Christopher Nolan’s Batman films and 2013′s Superman reboot, Man of Steel, announced plans for Skull Island at last week’s Comic-Con event in San Diego.

Cornish is currently weighing up his next project, and has reportedly also been offered the spy caper Section Six by Universal, which distributes Legendary Pictures’ films. He has turned down other high-profile projects in the past, such as Star Trek 3 and A Good Day to Die Hard.

It is not known if Skull Island will be based on Joe DeVito and Brad Strickland’s lavishly illustrated novel Kong: King of Skull Island, which was reported to be the source book for a proposed film five years ago.

The novel, which was published in 2005 to coincide with Jackson’s film, a remake of the original 1933 King Kong, acts as both a prequel and a sequel to the famous tale. It sees Vincent Denham, son of over-reaching film-maker Carl, return to Skull Island in search of his long-lost father. He is joined by Jack Driscoll, the playwright who journeyed with Denham 25 years previously and was played by Adrien Brody in Jackson’s film. Together the pair begin to unravel the mysteries of the island.

Attack the Block, a 2011 science-fiction movie with horror elements in which a group of teenagers defend their south London tower block from aliens, remains Cornish’s only film as director so far.

Article source: http://feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663828/s/3d027f1f/sc/38/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Cfilm0C20A140Cjul0C30A0Cjoe0Ecornish0Edirector0Eking0Ekong0Eprequel0Eskull0Eisland/story01.htm

I made J-Los lion birthday cake and Im proud of it

Posted by MereNews On July - 30 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Last week I got a text from Ron Gelish, an old friend of mine, and J-Lo’s personal chef. He wanted to know if I would be interested in making a cake. Sure, I said, what would you like? After a long pause, the reply came: “We should probably talk over the phone – It’s for J-Lo”. Ron knows what I’m capable of doing and I was really pleased he felt I was the right person to create Jennifer Lopez’s 45th-birthday cake.

Less than a minute later we were talking details. Next, Sindy Mashiah, J-Lo’s party planner contacted me – I was really excited about her vision because I have always wanted to create a cake in lion form. We went over various ideas – I sketched about six different positions of J-Lo with the lion. After a few hours we agreed that she should be lying on the lion, wearing a sleeveless onesie.

I moved straight on to making the cake since I had only two days to do it. A cake of this size needs different pieces of hardware for stability, including steel pipes, floor flanges, PVC pipes, as well as more traditional baking ingredients such as modelling chocolate, Rice Krispies, fondant and gum paste. And I had to bake the most important element – the requested lemon cake with coconut mousse filling.

J-Lo's birthday cake.
J-Lo’s birthday cake.

J-Lo, her staff, and the guests at the party were all pleased with it. So was I – and I’m proud we were able to pull it off in just two days!

The photographs that have since been all over the internet and papers don’t represent it 100% accurately – it had been sitting out unrefrigerated for a few hours, and the candles and sparklers beside it caused it to melt a little. To hear the feedback – negative or positive – about the positioning of her body is irrelevant [internet scamps and gossip columnists have had much fun suggesting J-Lo is “humping” rather than lounging on the lion]. My client was happy with what I made and that’s all that matters to my staff and me. Maybe the design isn’t for everyone – we’re all entitled to our opinion – but at the end of the day, our cake is the most talked about to date, and I’m very proud of that.

http://www.samicakesboutique.com/

Article source: http://feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663828/s/3d027f23/sc/38/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Clifeandstyle0Cwordofmouth0C20A140Cjul0C30A0Ci0Emade0Ejennifer0Elopez0Elion0Ebirthday0Ecake0Eproud/story01.htm

At least 19 Palestinians were killed and about 90 injured early on Wednesday when a UN school sheltering people was hit by shells during a second night of relentless bombardment that followed an Israeli warning of a protracted military campaign.

Gaza health officials said at least 43 people died in intense air strikes and tank shelling of Jabaliya, a neighbourhood of Gaza City. The death toll included the people at the school who had fled their own homes. Bombardment from Israeli gunboats continued without respite for much of the night.

The last two nights have seen the most fierce bombardment in this Gaza offensive. In 23 days more than 1,240 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed. On the Israeli side 53 soldiers and three civilians have been killed.

A spokeswoman for the Israel Defence Forces said the military was investigating reports that a UN school had been struck.

Last week 15 people died and about 200 were wounded when another UN school in Beit Hanoun was hit as the playground was filled with families awaiting evacuation amid heavy fighting. Israel denied it was responsible for the deaths, saying a single “errant” shell fired by its forces hit the school playground, which was empty at the time.

But according to testimonies gathered by UN staff, an initial shell was followed by “several others in the close vicinity of the school within a matter of minutes”, spokesman Chris Gunness said. Reporters who visited the scene minutes afterwards said damage and debris was consistent with mortar rounds.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said on Tuesday it had found a cache of rockets at one of its schools in Gaza and deplored those who had put them there for placing civilians in harm’s way.

“This is yet another flagrant violation of the neutrality of our premises. We call on all the warring parties to respect the inviolability of UN property,” Gunness said. Two similar discoveries were made last week.

Israel says militants from Hamas and other organisations launch rockets from the vicinity of UNRWA properties.

More than 200,000 people in Gaza have taken shelter in the UN’s schools and properties after Israel warned them to leave whole neighbourhoods that it was planning to bomb. UNRWA said it was at “breaking point”.

Aftermath of the strike on a UN school in Gaza City.
Aftermath of the strike on a UN school in Gaza City. Photograph: Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images

The Israeli military said it had targeted 75 sites since midnight, taking the total since the beginning of the conflict to 4,100. It had detonated three tunnels in Gaza in the past 24 hours, it added.

Among the overnight targets were five mosques, which the IDF said housed tunnel shafts, weapons stores and lookout posts, and two “facilities” utilised by senior Hamas militants.

Amid confusing reports about possible ceasefires, the Israeli security cabinet was due to meet on Wednesday to review the conflict and consider next steps.

A Palestinian delegation including President Mahmoud Abbas and representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the main militant factions in Gaza, was due to arrive in Cairo on Wednesday for ceasefire talks

International pressure for an end to the bloodshed has continued to mount. On Tuesday the British prime minister, David Cameron, added his weight to calls for an unconditional, immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

“What we’re seeing is absolutely heartbreaking in terms of the loss of life … everyone wants to see this stopped,” he said. Blaming Hamas for triggering the conflict, he added: “Hamas must stop attacking Israel with rocket attacks. That is how this started. It’s completely unjustified and they need to stop as part of the ceasefire.”

Chile and Peru said they were recalling their ambassadors to Israel. “Chile observes with great concern and discouragement that the military operations – which at this point appear to be a collective punishment to the Palestinian civil population in Gaza – don’t respect fundamental norms of international humanitarian law,” its foreign ministry said.

But support for the military operation among the Israeli public remained solid. A poll published by Tel Aviv university on Tuesday found 95% of Israeli Jews felt the offensive was justified. Only 4% believed too much force had been used.

Hamas released a video showing fighters inside tunnels in Gaza and containing a voice message from Mohammed Deif, the leader of its armed wing, the Qassam Brigades. “The occupying entity will not enjoy security unless our people live in freedom and dignity,” Deif said. “There will be no ceasefire before the [Israeli] aggression is stopped and the blockade is lifted. We will not accept interim solutions.”

Gaza conflict timeline

On Tuesday flames and clouds of black smoke billowed over Gaza’s only power plant after it was destroyed. “The power plant is finished,” said its director, Mohammed al-Sharif, signalling a new crisis for Gaza’s 1.8 million people, who were already enduring power cuts of more than 20 hours a day.

Amnesty International said the crippling of the power station amounted to “collective punishment of Palestinians”. The strike on the plant will worsen already severe problems with Gaza’s water supply, sewage treatment and power supplies to medical facilities.

“We need at least one year to repair the power plant, the turbines, the fuel tanks and the control room,” said Fathi Sheik Khalil of the Gaza energy authority. “Everything was burned.” He said crew members were trapped by the fire for several hours before they were able to be evacuated.

Gaza City officials said damage to the power station could paralyse pumps and urged residents to ration water.

The home of the Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, was destroyed on Tuesday and a building used by Hamas-controlled broadcast outlets was damaged. Haniyeh was not at home when a missile struck shortly before dawn; most of Hamas’s senior leaders are presumed to be residing in underground bunkers for the duration of the war.

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, said he was in discussions with Netanyahu to find an end to the fighting in Gaza. The pair had spoken “two, three, four times a day in recent days”, Kerry told reporters in Washington.

They were working “very carefully and thoughtfully” on ways to “prevent this spiralling downwards”, he said.

Kerry reiterated US support for Israel’s right to self-defence, “to live free from rockets and tunnels”. The secretary of state has come under sustained attack in Israel over what was perceived as undue sympathy for Hamas’s position in ceasefire negotiations in the Middle East and Paris last week.

Article source: http://feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663828/s/3cffd664/sc/20/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Cworld0C20A140Cjul0C30A0Cgaza0Eanother0Eun0Eschool0Ehit0Ein0Efurther0Enight0Eof0Efierce0Ebombardment/story01.htm

England v India: third Test, day four live!

Posted by MereNews On July - 30 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Dozens die in Guinea concert stampede

Posted by MereNews On July - 30 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

A stampede during a rap concert in Guinea left at least 24 people dead, hospital officials said.

The government declared a week of national mourning after what it called a “tragic drama” in Conakry, the capital. It happened on a beach in the northern Ratoma suburb where popular Guinean rap group Instinct Killers were playing among other artists.

Medics took at least 24 bodies including 13 girls to a hospital morgue at Donka, a hospital official told Agence France-Presse.

“For the time being we have 24 bodies at the Donka hospital morgue and dozens of injured were rushed to various [Conakry] health centres after this deadly stampede,” said a police officer.

The president’s office said in a statement it was “shocked by the tragic drama caused by mass movements at a cultural event”. It did not give a toll.

An investigation was being launched and an official in charge of organising such events was suspended.

Article source: http://feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663828/s/3cff1016/sc/10/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Cworld0C20A140Cjul0C30A0Cdozens0Edie0Ein0Eguinea0Econcert0Estampede/story01.htm

Strike at HM Revenue and Customs

Posted by MereNews On July - 30 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Tax workers have started a series of fresh strikes in a long-running dispute over job losses and office closures.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) will take part in walkouts over the next three days, threatening disruption to the work of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The union claims that years of job cuts have led to backlogs and delays as well as the use of private debt collectors.

The union is campaigning against the closure of enquiry centres and the loss of 2,000 jobs.

Strikes are being held across Wales and north-west England on Wednesday, Scotland and the Midlands on Thursday, and London, the south-east, south-west and east of England, Yorkshire and Humberside and Northern Ireland on Friday.

The PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said: “These strikes demonstrate we are serious about stopping these damaging cuts and making a positive case for proper investment in this crucial department.”

The union said the strikes were timed to coincide with the deadline for tax credit renewals and a key date for self-assessment payments.

A HMRC spokesperson said: “We are very disappointed by the timing of the decision by PCS to call a strike to coincide with the tax credits renewals deadline.

The walkouts follow a series of rolling stoppages last month.

Article source: http://feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663828/s/3cfeed1b/sc/7/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Cpolitics0C20A140Cjul0C30A0Cstrike0Eat0Ehm0Erevenue0Eand0Ecustoms/story01.htm

Overweight doctors and nurses would be told to slim down to set a good example to patients under plans being considered by the NHS.

Burgers and chips in hospital canteens would be swapped for healthier options and staff would take part in weight loss competitions, the NHS England chief executive, Simon Stevens, told the Sun.

About 700,000 of the NHS’s 1.3 million staff were either overweight or obese, the newspaper claimed. To help address this, more gyms would be built and NHS sites would be made more cycle-friendly, while prizes such as pedometers would be offered to staff who shed pounds.

Stevens said rising obesity rates were bad both for people’s health and for the health service itself, and tackling obesity would put less pressure on the nation’s finances and free up funding for new treatments.

Recent figures show that almost three-quarters of people aged 45 to 74 in England are either overweight or obese. Young adults are the only age group who have a normal average body mass index, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

The NHS is facing a funding crisis and senior health figures have said it may need an extra £30bn by 2020 to maintain the current level of service provision. Stevens told The Sun: “It’s hard for the NHS to talk about how important this is if we don’t get our own act together. I think the NHS has got to take an example in helping our own staff and hopefully other employers will follow suit.

“A lot of the food in hospital canteens, not just for patients, but for staff, is chips and burgers. The NHS as an employer, for our own nurses and other staff, could we offer positive incentives? Yes I think we could. And some hospitals have begun doing that.”

Stevens also called on parents to swap juices and fizzy drinks during meal times for water or milk.

Looking to the future, he said progress in technology would keep patients out of hospital as people lived longer, and he wanted greater partnership between the NHS and social services.

“What’s great about the NHS can’t excuse what needs to change about the NHS. That is the approach that we have got to take. We’ve got to support people doing great things, nurses, doctors, the frontline of healthcare. But we’ve also got to raise our game.”

Stevens called for thousands more GPs to be trained, and for them to have more power to make decisions about how NHS money is spent.

Article source: http://feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663828/s/3cff8001/sc/7/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Csociety0C20A140Cjul0C30A0Cdoctors0Eand0Enurses0Etold0Eto0Eslim0Edown0Efor0Esake0Eof0Epatients/story01.htm

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