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Bannon vs. Frum at Toronto debate generates sound and fury




In a comped $200 seat, listening to two white middle-aged men, big-braining.

Thinking: This would have been a whole lot more fun as a tabloid talk show moderated by Jerry Springer.

Would someone please throw a chair? Pull some hair? Accuse Steve Bannon or David Frum of being the two-timing deadbeat father of their baby-mama’s spawn?

But no. This is part of the Munk Debates of a Friday evening in Toronto, at staid Roy Thomson Hall, highbrow central. I hear a symphony …

In one corner: Mr. Neo Con, when that breed was in the political ascendancy. Writer of George W. Bush speeches and coiner, sorta, of “The Axis of Evil”, nee “The Axis of Hatred”, until an edit, which is kind of like taking credit for “Snap! Pop!” before someone else inserted the “Crackle!” in between.

Frum is conservative establishment, for them what likes that kind of thing and a Trump hammerer. Bannon is rabid Anti-Establishment, the outlier who became an insider before Trump punted him.

Frum is a senior editor at The Atlantic. Bannon is — what? — an ideological mercenary, on a far-right mission to radicalize Europe, among other time-fillers. Also available, he’s said, to boost the left if strategic expertise is sought. A fox among the fowl. Which might not be such a dumb idea because Big Left has lost its focus, rushing off in all hair-pulling directions.

As an intellectual, Frum would probably brighten anybody’s dinner party, although last night’s rant-a-thon was clearly not triggered by him, almost drive-by smeared as an Iraq invasion warmonger. Bannon is all the time getting invited and disinvited from various tall forehead events, depending on how much blow-black the hosts can withstand.

Just as the rent-a-demo legions lost their nut when it was announced that Bannon and Frum would be featured in this year’s Munk Debate. The pro and con of: Be it resolved, the future of western politics is populist, not liberal. A legitimate issue as populism surges from Italy to Brazil, even the backwater of Ontario.

A platform for hatemongers! Normalizing the fringe abnormal! Ban Bannon!

Wonder how the Jews in attendance, heckled by a mob right in their faces as they queued outside, felt about being called F—— NAZIS.

Because this audience was decidedly on the con side of the equation. Not merely the protesters who’d infiltrated the auditorium, unfurling go-away banners within 30 seconds of Bannon launching his opening statement. But the 72 per cent who pushed the con button on their interactive thingamajigs before the debate even began.

“The only question before us is if it’s going to be populist nationalism or populist socialism,” Bannon posited of a global anti-globalism surge that has brought reactionary parties to power from Italy to Brazil and blaming the elites for the financial crisis that nearly brought the world to its knees in 2008. “Who’s responsible for that? The populists, Donald Trump? No, the elites … the corporate class that runs Washington, D.C.

“Donald Trump’s presidency is not the cause of that, it’s the product of that. It was Donald Trump who turned that around.’’

Trump, claimed Bannon, has reversed a country in decline — and that brought hoots of derision.

To counter, Frum pointed to the Remembrance Day poppy on his lapel. “These symbols remind us that this is not the first time that democracy has faced thugs and crooks and bullies and would-be dictators and those who seek to pull themselves up by tearing others down. They were wrong then, they are wrong now.’’

Populism, argued Frum, “offers you nothing. It does not respect you. It is anger that draws people to populism, anger and fear.”

It’s almost funny, though, mounting a yak-yak challenge between a buttoned-down right winger and a circling Pluto right winger, each allegedly fighting for the soul of the, well, right wing. (Which, as anybody can tell you, has no soul.) Might as well shove Roseanne Barr up there crossing barbs with Kanye West. Neither is a bell-ringer for liberalism, as Frum felt the need to defend himself as not a Liberal, yet asserting the conservative “liberal heritage”.

“Populism is a scam, it’s a lie, it’s a fake. It has nothing. Donald Trump is running the most unethical administration in American history.”

The GOP, as an aside, has essentially been hijacked by its rump fringe, coalescing around a shambolic megalomaniac. Hence scarcely a peep from ranking Republicans about Muslim bans and separating asylum-seeking parents from their children and calling out the army to stonewall a migrant caravan when it reaches the US-Mexico border.

But Bannon zinged back.

“This is the oldest trick in the book, smear the populist movement, smear the deplorables. Hillary Clinton tried that. We saw how that turned out.

“The populist movement is not racist. They’re the backbone of our country, the most decent people on Earth.’’

Frum, who really is an accomplished debunker, rounded on Bannon.

“It is absolutely true that liberal democracy is in trouble right now because of failures that have happened in the past, because of the financial crisis, because of unsuccessful wars. The failures of a good system are not reason to turn to an evil one.”

Bannon — surprisingly, he’s not without charm — is a carpetbagger, of course, doubtless thrilled by his notoriety, sucking oxygen from rabid dissenters outside. At least that reinforces his vanity of relevance. As guest speaker at a mid-terms rally in Topeka a couple of days ago, he attracted a crowd of “about 25”. The repent-ye Bible-thumper at Yonge and Dundas draws a larger audience.

But maybe it’s different when charging 200 clams per ducat. Then it’s a sold-out affair and let’s meet for cocktails beforehand.

I am agnostic on to-Bannon-or-not-to-Bannon. I take no position on his appearance in Toronto. A made-up mind is a bitch of a thing to change anyway. I doubt that any minds shifted last night. Not outside, not inside. In fact, the audience polling post-debate stayed the same. Bannon may be the devil incarnate but there were precious few angels in the vicinity either.

This column has been brought to you by FAKENEWS.

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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