Internet service company to show ’The Cove’ in Japan,

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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TOKYO — Japanese will finally get to see “The Cove” — but as streaming video on the Internet, not at movie theatres, as screenings of the dolphin-hunt documentary have been cancelled due to loud nationalists’ protests.

Niwango Inc., a Tokyo-based Internet services company, said Thursday the Oscar-winning documentary that depicts the annual dolphin hunt in the small village of Taiji will be shown on its site Friday free of charge.

About 20 theatres in Japan had planned to show the film but cancelled, one by one, after protesters made threatening phone calls and screamed slogans outside the distributor’s Tokyo office and other spots.

Nationalists oppose the film as a denigration of Japanese culture. It has been shown at the Tokyo International Film Festival and other more private screenings but has not opened at theatres.

Niwango said it will invite an exchange of views by email and Twitter and will air another show Monday outlining the film’s controversy with speakers, including Kunio Suzuki, a nationalist who has mixed feelings about the film but believes it should be shown.

“The film raises issues,” Suzuki said in a statement on the Web. “Of course, there are parts of the film that are discomforting for us as Japanese. But, more than that, it offers lessons for us. We simply know nothing about the dolphin hunt.”

The film, which stars Ric O’Barry, 70, a former dolphin trainer for the “Flipper” TV series, shows a handful of fishermen herd a flock of dolphins into a cove and spear them to death as they writhe in agony.

O’Barry, who is in Japan this week to speak about the film to universities and other select groupings, apologized for the secretive filming methods.

But he told The Associated Press that he plans to bring Hollywood stars, who support his cause, back to Taiji in September to make sure no dolphins are killed in this year’s hunt.

Some journalists and academics have publicly protested the cancellations, calling it a violation of the freedom of expression.

The theatres say they are worried about security and complaints from nearby businesses. Japan tends to encourage harmony-loving conformity and is not well-equipped to deal with disruptive behaviour. For decades, extremist groups have succeeded in getting their way by being loud and menacing.

The Nikkei, Japan’s top business daily, said in a front-page opinion piece Thursday that it is a shame the film is not shown.

“A work of genius, a flop or a monstrosity — the film must be seen first,” it said. “If it is forced to be cancelled throughout Japan, that only hands a medal of honour to a very cleverly made propaganda work.”

O’Barry believes Japanese people deserve to have the option of seeing what he called an entertaining film that has won many awards, including this year’s Oscar for best documentary.

“This is an assault on democracy,” he said in an interview earlier this week. “They can make up their own mind about this film that the rest of the world has seen and approves of.”SEATTLE — Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and billionaire investor Warren Buffett are launching a campaign to get other American billionaires to give at least half their wealth to charity.

Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said in a letter introducing the concept that he couldn’t be happier with his decision in 2006 to give 99 per cent of his roughly US$46-billion fortune to charity.

Patty Stonesifer, former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Gates and Buffett have been campaigning for the past year to get others to donate the bulk of their wealth.

The friends and philanthropic colleagues are asking people to pledge to donate either during their lifetime or at the time of their death. They estimate their efforts could generate $600 billion dollars in charitable giving. In 2009, American philanthropies received a total of about $300 billion in donations, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The handful of billionaires approached so far have embraced the campaign, said Stonesifer, a close friend of Gates who offered to speak about the effort. Four wealthy couples have already announced their pledges, including Los Angeles philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest of Philadelphia, John and Ann Doerr of Menlo Park, Calif., and John and Tasha Mortgridge of San Jose, Calif.

In addition to making a donation commitment, Gates and Buffett are asking billionaires to pledge to give wisely and learn from their peers. They said they were inspired by the philanthropic efforts of not just other billionaires but of the people of all financial means and backgrounds who have given generously to make the world a better place.

Their philosophical forebearers are the Carnegie and Rockefeller families, who donated most of their wealth back to improve society and were the grandparents of modern philanthropy, said Stacy Palmer, editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Ted Turner’s announcement 13 years ago of a $1-billion gift to United Nations programs also was done in part to inspire other big givers, but did not have a noticeable result, Palmer said.

“It’s a stretch to see how they’re going to get to the $600-billion figure,” she said, noting that only 17 people on the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest people in America are also on the Chronicle’s list of the most generous American donors.

Many of these people may be giving anonymously or plan to donate when they die, but the bulk of money raised by charities today comes from non-billionaires giving $5, $10 or $50 at a time, Palmer said.

Buffett’s plan will eventually split most of his shares of his Omaha, Neb., company between five charitable foundations, with the largest chunk going to the Gates Foundation. He also plans to give Class B Berkshire shares to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, which he and his late first wife started, and to the three foundations run by his three children.

Buffett said in 2006 that his other 73,332 class A shares of Berkshire stock, worth about $8 billion, would also go to philanthropy, but he didn’t specify how those shares would be distributed.

Bill and Melinda Gates have made a similar pledge through the establishment of their Seattle-based foundation.

Gates and Buffett are asking each individual or couple who make a pledge to do so publicly, with a letter explaining their decision.

“The pledge is a moral commitment to give, not a legal contract. It does not involve pooling money or supporting a particular set of causes or organizations,” they explain in a written statement about the project.


AP Business Writer Josh Funk in Omaha contributed to this report.



The Giving Pledge:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:


Organizations: Niwango, Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, The Associated Press Nikkei The Chronicle Microsoft Corp. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Carnegie United Nations

Geographic location: Japan, TOKYO, Hollywood America SEATTLE Los Angeles Philadelphia Menlo Park San Jose, Calif. Omaha, Neb.

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