LOS ANGELES (AP) — Leaked video showing a frightened dog being forced into churning water during filming of “A Dog’s Purpose” was misleadingly edited and the German shepherd was unharmed, according to third-party findings released by American Humane, the group responsible for overseeing animal safety on the movie set.
An independent animal-cruelty expert found that preventative safety measures were in place to protect the dog, Hercules, American Humane said. The board-certified veterinarian, who was not identified, concluded that the dog was momentarily stressed but suffered no lasting ill effects.
The group said the outside expert, whose name was withheld because of the public outcry following the video’s release, found it to be a misrepresentation of events.
“The decisions by the individual or individuals who captured and deliberately edited the footage, and then waited longer than 15 months to release the manipulated video only days before the movie’s premiere, raise serious questions about their motives and ethics,” American Humane said Friday.
“The video was deliberately edited for the purpose of misleading the public and stoking outrage. In fact, the two scenes shown in the edited video were filmed at different times,” the group said in reporting the findings.
That conclusion was based on viewing unedited footage from the set and on eyewitness accounts, group spokesman Mark Stubis said Saturday. Who may have leaked the video wasn’t addressed in the report, and American Humane doesn’t know who is responsible, he said.
The video had an immediate impact on “A Dog’s Purpose,” starring Dennis Quaid and featuring Josh Gads’ voice, as a planned press day and starry premiere were canceled. But producer Amblin Entertainment and distributor Universal Pictures stuck to plans to release the PG-rated film a week ago in more than 3,000 North American theaters.
Despite the controversy, the feel-good film that had been pegged to open in the mid-$20-million range still managed to earn an estimated $18.4 million and place second at the box office, behind “Split.” Studio representatives said that was in line with their hopes.
Amblin Entertainment and Universal Pictures declined comment on the report Saturday.
American Humane, which had an animal safety representative on the set, acknowledged that “the handling of the dog in the first scene in the video should have been gentler and signs of stress recognized earlier.”
“That being said, it is important to note that this was recognized and the scene did not proceed as insinuated by the misleadingly edited video,” the group added. The dog was immediately taken to a warming tent, an examination found no signs of stress, and the dog later was returned to filming, it said.
The on-set representative, who American Humane said was joined by three trainers, a safety coordinator and a water safety diver throughout the scene, was suspended after the video’s release. The group declined to address the person’s status, citing confidentiality for personnel issues.
Lisa Lange, senior vice president for the animal rights group PETA, called the report’s findings incomplete and said the video still shows “a frightened dog who did not wish to go into the water.”
“The fact that the dog did not get injured or die is not at issue, but questions remain,” including why the dog was checked at the time, Lange said in a statement. “In the making of a film, no animal should be frightened at all. It is a film.”
Dr. Kwane Stewart, the veterinarian in charge of American Humane’s “No Animals Were Harmed” program based on filming guidelines developed by a scientific advisory committee, said in a statement that the organization is “the first to address fight cruelty and abuse” and that none occurred on the movie set.
American Humane is the sole industry-sanctioned animal safety group on film and TV production sets.
Lynn Elber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber.
BEIJING (AP) — The U.S. is putting regional stability in East Asia at risk, a Chinese spokesman said, following remarks by President Donald Trump’s defense secretary that a U.S. commitment to defend Japanese territory applies to an island group that China claims.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang on Saturday called on the U.S. to avoid discussion of the issue and reasserted China’s claim of sovereignty over the tiny uninhabited islands, known in Japanese as the Senkaku and Chinese as Diaoyu.
The 1960 U.S.-Japan treaty is “a product of the Cold War, which should not impair China’s territorial sovereignty and legitimate rights,” Lu was quoted as saying in a statement posted on the ministry’s website.
“We urge the U.S. side to take a responsible attitude, stop making wrong remarks on the issue involving the Diaoyu islands’ sovereignty, and avoid making the issue more complicated and bringing instability to the regional situation,” Lu said.
On his first trip to Asia as secretary of defense, Mattis explicitly stated in Tokyo that the Trump administration will stick to the previous U.S. stance that the U.S.-Japan security treaty applies to defending Japan’s continued administration of the Senkaku islands.
The islands that lie between Taiwan and Okinawa were under U.S. administration from the end of World War II until their return to Japan in 1972. China cites historical records for its claim, and Japan’s move to nationalize several of the islands in 2012 set off anti-Japanese riots in China and prompted the government to dispatch ships and planes to the area around them as a challenge to Japanese control.
China also registered its displeasure with Mattis’ remarks Friday in South Korea that Trump’s administration is committed to carrying through on a deal the Obama administration reached with the Seoul government last year to deploy a high-end U.S. missile defense system to South Korea this year.
The Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, is meant to improve protection of South Korea and Japan — as well as U.S. troops stationed in both countries — against a North Korean missile attack.
Beijing objects to the system because its powerful radar would allow it to peer deep into northeastern China, possibly allowing it to observe Chinese military movements.
At a Friday news conference, Lu said China’s “resolute opposition to the deployment … remains unchanged and will not change.”
The deployment “will jeopardize security and the strategic interests of regional countries, including China, and undermine the strategic balance in the region,” Lu said.
Chinese officials and scholars say they anticipate further turbulence in relations with the U.S. under Trump. The president sparked anger among Chinese following his election when he broke with decades of diplomatic protocol by talking on the phone with the president of Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy that Beijing considers its own territory.
Trump has also raised concerns with criticism of China’s military buildup in the South China Sea, accusations of currency manipulation and unfair trade policies and allegations that Beijing was doing too little to pressure its communist neighbor North Korea.
In a lighter moment, however, Chinese media and internet users praised an appearance by Trump’s daughter Ivanka and granddaughter Arabella Kushner’s visit to the Chinese Embassy in Washington on Wednesday to attend Lunar New Year festivities. A video clip of Arabella singing a song of holiday greetings also set alight China’s internet.
VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Lithuanians badly want Tesla Motors to build its next giant factory on their soil, so to grab the attention of the California tech company they built a virtual version of a facility inside the “Minecraft” video game.
Vladas Lasas, who was behind the project, says they wanted to send a message to Tesla CEO Elon Musk that Lithuania “has plenty of skillful” people as well as a perfect factory site. He said Saturday that 41 computer geeks spent two days building the virtual factory in Kruonis in central Lithuania near a hydroelectric plant and two airports.
Tesla tweeted Friday: “Lithuania knows the way to our heart.”
No date has been set for the announcement of where the factory — estimated to cost 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) — will be built.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The United Nations has removed the name of a former Afghan warlord from its Islamic State group and al-Qaida sanctions list.
According to a statement posted Friday by the Security Council, a U.N. committee removed Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s name from the sanctions list. The statement said Hekmatyar, leader of Islamist organization Hezb-i-Islami, would no longer have his assets frozen, be subject to a travel ban or to an arms embargo.
Amin Karim, the group’s chief negotiator told reporters on Saturday “The removal of sanctions proved that the solution is Afghan-owned negotiations inside the country and coming to a national consensus. If Afghans come to such a conclusion the international community is supportive of the peace process and it is good news for peace and the Afghan nation.”
Hekmatyar, a former warlord who battled U.S. forces after the 2001 invasion and nursed bitter rivalries with other Afghan factions, agreed to lay down arms last year. Karim had earlier told The Associated Press that he would return to the capital in “a matter of weeks, not months.”
Hekmatyar is seen as a potential rival to President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who have governed the country through a shaky, U.S.-brokered power-sharing agreement since the disputed elections of 2014. His return could stir up new political uncertainty as the government struggles to confront a reinvigorated Taliban that has been advancing on several fronts.
In September, Ghani signed a peace treaty with Hekmatyar in which Ghani pledged to lobby the U.S. and the United Nations to remove him and his party from terrorist blacklists. Hekmatyar signed the agreement via a video link to Kabul’s presidential palace. The ceremony was broadcast live on television at the time.
The 25-point peace agreement gives Hekmatyar and his followers immunity for past actions and grants them full political rights.
“The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has taken all the necessary measures for a respectable, safe, and honorable welcoming and we have taken all security measures according to the protocol. We are waiting for his (Hekmatyar) return and we don’t have any problem in this regard,” said Akram Khpolwak, a political affairs adviser to the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Khpolwak added that joint commission work is underway for the implementation of the other articles of the main agreement between the government and the Hezb-i-Islami such as releasing Hezb-i-Islami prisoners whose files have been finalized and accepting the return of the refugees who couldn’t return to their homeland earlier from different provinces.
Hekmatyar battled the Soviets in the 1980s and then took part in the civil war that erupted after their withdrawal, clashing with the so-called Northern Alliance. He was driven out when the Taliban seized power in 1996, but returned after the American invasion, vowing to resist what he termed the foreign “occupation.”
His forces were largely confined to just two provinces, however, and have carried out few attacks in recent years. He is believed to be in hiding somewhere in the eastern Kunar province, where he enjoys popular support, and makes occasional trips into Pakistan through the nearby border.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is delaying a series of rules that require financial professionals to put their clients’ best interests first when giving advice on retirement investments.
The rules, which were set to take effect in April, will be delayed for 90 days for review.
Under the so-called “fiduciary rule,” brokers who sell stocks, bonds, annuities and other products would have to do more than just make sure the investments they recommend are “suitable” for clients. They would have to meet a stricter standard that has long applied to registered advisers: They will be considered “fiduciaries” — trustees who must put their clients’ best interests above all.
Full compliance originally was required by January 2018.
At stake are about $4.5 trillion in 401(k) retirement accounts, plus $2 trillion in other defined-contribution plans such as federal employees’ plans and $7.3 trillion in IRAs, according to the Investment Company Institute.
Too often, regulators say, brokers steer clients toward questionable investments for which the broker receives a fee, thereby acting in their own financial interest instead of the client’s.
The problems often arise when people who are retiring “roll over” their employer-based 401(k) assets into individual retirement accounts. Brokers may persuade them to put those assets into variable annuities, real estate investment trusts or other investments that can be risky or otherwise not in the client’s best interest.
The Obama administration previously said investors would save about $4 billion annually under the new rules. The industry countered that investment firms will have to shell out more than that just to comply with the rules. Financial firms also argued that the stricter rules will likely shrink Americans’ investment options and could cause brokers to abandon retirement savers with smaller accounts.
Americans increasingly seek guidance in navigating their options for retirement savings. Many professionals provide advice. But not all are required to disclose potential conflicts of interest.
Here are some questions and answers about the delayed rules:
BROKERS? FINANCIAL ADVISERS? WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
It’s significant. Brokers buy and sell securities and other financial products on behalf of their clients. They also can provide financial advice, with one key stipulation: They must recommend only investments that are “suitable” for a client based on his or her age, finances and risk tolerance.
So they can’t, for example, pitch penny stocks or real estate investment trusts to an 85-year-old woman living on a pension. But brokers can nudge clients toward a mutual fund or variable annuity that pays the broker a higher commission — even without disclosing that conflict of interest to the client.
Registered investment advisers, on the other hand, are “fiduciaries.” In that way, they’re more like doctors or lawyers — obligated to put their clients’ interests even ahead of their own. That means disclosing fees, commissions, potential conflicts and any disciplinary actions they have faced.
Advisers must tell a client if they or their firms receive money from a mutual fund company to promote a product. And they must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission, thereby opening themselves to inspections and supervision.
WHAT DO THE RULES IN QUESTION DO?
They put brokers under the stricter requirements when they handle clients’ retirement accounts. The Labor Department under the Obama administration withdrew an earlier proposal in 2010 amid an outcry from the financial industry, which warned that it would hurt investors by limiting choices.
The rules update the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, known as ERISA, enacted in 1975. That was a far different time. Traditional company pension plans were still the dominant source of retirement income. Now, traditional pensions are increasingly rare. In their place are 401(k)-type plans, which require workers to set aside pre-tax money but also add a new layer of risk: Employees themselves must decide how to invest their retirement money, and many seek professional advice.
WHAT ARE THE ARGUMENTS FOR AND AGAINST?
Consumer, labor and civil rights groups have pushed for the rules. They say the current system provides a loophole that lets brokers drain money from retirement accounts in fees they receive that can tilt the investment advice they give clients.
AND THE OTHER SIDE?
Wall Street lobbying groups, mutual fund companies, life insurance firms and other industry interests have opposed the rules.
They say the stricter requirements could limit many people’s access to financial guidance and retirement planning and their choice of investment products. They warn that that would fall especially hard on mid- and low-income employees with smaller retirement balances — say, less than $50,000 — who could be abandoned by brokers.
The requirement to act in a client’s best interest means, in many cases, that the practice of charging commissions on every trade would be replaced by a set fee for a broker as a proportion of a customer’s assets. Some brokers may decide that the smaller fees aren’t worth their trouble, opponents say.
Several financial companies and groups took the government to court over the rules.
Video animation explaining the rules: https://youtu.be/YPH1J1DmHvE
HONOLULU (AP) — A section of sea cliff above a massive “firehose” lava flow on Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano has collapsed and splashed into the ocean as tourists and geologists watched.
A large crack in the section of cliff above the gushing molten lava stream gave way Thursday afternoon as scientists stood just yards away. Geologists with Hawaii Volcano Observatory were at the site to monitor the crack when it collapsed and captured the scene on video .
Later in the day, a tour boat was cruising by when another section of the cliff collapsed. Video shows guests gasping and screaming as the huge piece of land splashes down in front of them, sending debris high into the air.
The collapse stopped the heavy stream of lava that had been arching out from near the top of the cliffs for weeks. The lava stream, dubbed a “firehose” flow because it shoots lava outward from the source like water from a hose, had recently increased in intensity.
The massive Kilauea flow came from a lava tube at the Kamokuna ocean entry on the southeast side of the Big Island.
The lava was gushing from a tube that was exposed when a huge, 26-acre lava rock delta collapsed into the ocean at the site on New Year’s Eve. That collapse triggered massive explosions and giant waves in the area.
The USGS warned that a portion of unstable cliff may still be attached and could break off at any time.
“This collapse yesterday did not diminish the hazards,” said USGS geologist Janet Babb on Friday. “As long as lava continues to flow into the ocean, that area is still quite hazardous… there’s still potential for collapses of the sea cliff there.”
When the molten lava hits the cool seawater, it reacts and causes explosions that can throw large chunks of hot rock and debris inland, where tourists hike in to see the lava, and seaward, where tour boats cruise the shoreline.
The gasses released from the reaction are also dangerous to breathe, and shards of volcanic glass can be thrown into the air when the hot lava meets the cool seawater.
The National Park Service has set up a designated viewing area far from the flow where visitors can safely view the lava.
But some people cross lines and venture into closed, dangerous areas, officials said.