RSF asks ICC to investigate Israeli sniper fire on Palestinian journalists

first_img May 15, 2018 RSF asks ICC to investigate Israeli sniper fire on Palestinian journalists Follow the news on Middle East – North Africa RSF joins Middle East and North Africa coalition to combat digital surveillance MAHMUD HAMS / AFP IsraelPalestineMiddle East – North Africa Condemning abusesProtecting journalistsInternational bodies Armed conflictsViolence Reporters Without Borders (RSF) today formally asked the International Criminal Court to investigate what it regards as war crimes by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) against Palestinian journalists covering protests in Gaza since 30 March. Submitted to ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda a few hours before today’s UN Security Council meeting and based on article 15 of the Rome Statute (which established the ICC), the request concerns the direct shots that IDF snipers have fired at some 20 Palestinian journalists during the “March of Return” protests in Gaza.In RSF’s view, these are crimes that clearly fall under the ICC’s competence.“The Israeli authorities could not have been unaware of the presence of journalists among the civilian demonstrators, and therefore failed in the elementary duty of precaution and differentiation when targeting these protected persons with live rounds,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “These deliberate and repeated violations of international humanitarian law constitute war crimes. While referring them to the International Criminal Court, RSF calls on the Israeli authorities to strictly respect international law.” Various sources have corroborated that the following journalists were hit by shots while covering demonstrations east of Gaza City yesterday: Omar Hamdane, a cameraman working for the Algerian national TV broadcaster ENTV, sustained gunshot injuries to the foot; Al Jazeera reporter Wael Dahdouh was injured in the right hand; Zain Media cameraman Mohammed Abu Dahrouj was hit in the left leg; and Yasser Qudeih, a freelance photographer working for the pro-Hamas daily Palestine, sustained a gunshot injury to the stomach and was taken to the intensive care unit at Gaza’s European Hospital. Two journalists also sustained gunshot injuries near the city of Khan Younis. Abdullah al-Shorbagi, a reporter for the pro-Hamas Khan Younis Media Network, was shot in the left foot while Nihad Fuad, a reporter for Forsan al-Erada community radio, was hit in the head and was taken to Gaza’s European Hospital. Farhan Hashem Abu Hadayd, a reporter for the Safad Press website, sustained a gunshot injury to the left leg to the east of the city of Rafah. Two Palestinian journalists have been killed by live rounds fired by Israeli soldiers since 30 March, the date of the start of the “March of Return” protests by Palestinians along the border between Gaza and Israeli. They are Yaser Murtaja, 30, a photographer for the independent Ain Media agency, and Ahmed Abu Hussein, 27, a reporter for Shaab and Bisann News. Both were clearly identified as journalists, either by a vest or by a helmet bearing the word “Press.” In all, at least 20 other journalists have sustained gunshots injuries, of whom at least three were clearly identified as media personnel. Iran: Press freedom violations recounted in real time January 2020 News Help by sharing this information June 11, 2021 Find out more Newscenter_img Iran is stepping up pressure on journalists, including foreign journalists, in run-up to election Receive email alerts Organisation to go further News IsraelPalestineMiddle East – North Africa Condemning abusesProtecting journalistsInternational bodies Armed conflictsViolence News June 9, 2021 Find out more RSF_en June 8, 2021 Find out morelast_img read more

Five years for Straits Times correspondent as harsh line continues on journalists working for foreign media

first_imgNews August 31, 2006 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Five years for Straits Times correspondent as harsh line continues on journalists working for foreign media ChinaAsia – Pacific News Help by sharing this information June 2, 2021 Find out more China: Political commentator sentenced to eight months in prison Organisation to go further Follow the news on China Receive email alerts ????Reporters Without Borders voiced dismay on learning that a Beijing court today sentenced Ching Cheong, the Hong Kong-based correspondent of Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper, to five years in prison for spying. He is the second journalist employed by a foreign news organisation to receive a prison sentence in the past week.“This sentence is appalling,” the press freedom organisation said. “Ching was tried in an unacceptable way on baseless charges. This crackdown on journalists employed by foreign media bodes ill for the Beijing Olympic Games that are now less than two years away and deserves strong condemnation by the International Olympic Committee and the countries taking part.”A British passport holder, Ching was sentenced by the Beijing Intermediate People’s Court No. 2, which also ordered the seizure of 300,000 yuan (29 000 euros) of his assets. Arrested on 22 April 2005, he had been tried behind closed doors on 15 August, in a hearing that last just a few hours.He is alleged to have sold “top secret” documents to Taiwanese intelligence agencies. His wife, Mary Lau, denied that he ever sold confidential information and said he had always lived modestly. It seems his real crime in the eyes of the Chinese authorities was to have tried to obtain a manuscript of the former reformist leader Zhao Ziyang, the victim of a purge within the Communist Party. The shadow of the Beijing Spring still hangs over journalists who, like Ching, criticised the brutal crackdown on the pro-democracy movement.Ching’s family will appeal against his conviction. Ching’s prison sentence was issued just a week after New York Times researcher Zhao Yan received a three-year prison sentence. More than 80 journalists and cyber-dissidents are currently imprisoned in China. Straits Times correspondent Ching Cheong was sentenced earlier today to five years in prison for spying despite absence of proof. The journalist is alledged to have sold confidential documents to Taiwan. Reporters without borders condemns the recent crackdown on journalists employed by foreign media. ChinaAsia – Pacific Democracies need “reciprocity mechanism” to combat propaganda by authoritarian regimes March 12, 2021 Find out more News April 27, 2021 Find out more News China’s Cyber ​​Censorship Figures RSF_en last_img read more

Pasadena Man Pleads Guilty for Role in Deadly Kidnapping-for-Ransom Plot

first_imgPublic Safety Pasadena Man Pleads Guilty for Role in Deadly Kidnapping-for-Ransom Plot By BRIAN DAY Published on Thursday, October 29, 2020 | 2:18 pm Ruochen “Tony” Liao, 28, of Santa Ana, who died during the course of a kidnapping-for-ransom plot in 2018, pictured in an undated photo provided by the FBI.[UPDATED] A Pasadena man pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal kidnapping charge in connection with the kidnap-for-ransom of a Santa Ana man in San Gabriel two years ago, who prosecutors said died after being repeatedly beaten and shocked with a Taser before his body was buried in the Mojave Desert, authorities said.Anthony Valladares, 28, of Pasadena admitted to the charge in federal court in Los Angeles, according to U.S. Attorneys Office spokesman Thom Mrozek. Under a plea agreement reached with prosecutors last month, he’s expected to face between 12 and 25 years in prison when he returns to court for sentencing on Oct. 18.He, along with three other men, kidnapped 28-year-old Ruochen “Tony” Liao of Santa, reportedly a luxury car dealer, from the parking lot of a shopping center in San Gabriel on July 16, 2018, according to federal prosecutors.He was taken to a home in Corona where he was bound, blindfolded, repeatedly beaten and repeatedly shocked with a Taser, the DOJ said in a written statement.The kidnappers contacted Liao’s family and demanded a $2 million ransom, authorities said.Prosecutors believe Liao died the following day, before his body was taken to the Mojave Desert and buried.The body remained unidentified until the victim’s identity was determined through DNA analysis in July of 2019.Three co-defendants have also been charged in connection with the deadly kidnapping plot.Alexis Ivan Romero Velez, 24, of Azusa, pleaded guilty to a federal kidnapping charge in September for his role in the crime, according to U.S. Attorneys Office spokesman Ciaran McEvoy.Velez also faces an expected 12 to 25 years in federal prison at his sentencing, which has been scheduled for Feb. 4, according to court documents.“Valladares was the ‘muscle’ hired to intimidate, beat, and subdue Liao during the kidnapping,” Mrozek said in a written statement. “Valladares agreed to accept cash for the job.”He was paid $1,000 for the crime, officials said.The two men who allegedly orchestrated the plot, Guangyao Yang, 26, and Peicheng Shen, 34, fled to China following the kidnapping, officials said. They’re last known U.S. residences were in West Covina.Both have since been taken into custody in China and were expected to face charges there in connection with the crime, officials said.Shen had met with the victim several times over the summer, “under the pretense that Shen would help the victim collect a debt from another individual,” according to Mrozek.On their third meeting, Shen lured Liao into a minivan, where Valladares attacked him upon hearing a signal word from Shen, prosecutors said.“Once Shen uttered the word, Valladares and Shen violently assaulted Liao, used a taser to subdue him, and ultimately bound and restrained him with a black hood and ties,” Mrozek said. “Valladares admitted to helping Yang acquire the taser used in the kidnapping, and also admitted to acquiring a revolver and bullets for the kidnapping.”“Shen and Yang then took the victim to a house in Corona, where they confined him by binding his legs together, taping his eyes shut, restraining his arms behind him and confining him in a closet,” Mrozek said.The victim’s father received a phone call the following day demanding $2 million be transferred into three Chinese bank accounts within three hours, “in exchange for the victim’s life,” he said. “The victim’s father also received photographs of the victim, who was physically restrained in a closet.”Valladares and Velez were not believed to have been present when Liao died, prosecutors said. That took place while he was allegedly being held captive by Shen and Yang, who also allegedly disposed of the body.“Further, Shen allegedly had the closet of the Corona house re-carpeted,” Mrozek said. “Yang also performed internet searches to determine, in effect, how fast a corpse decomposes in soil.”CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the expected sentences faced by the defendants. The story has been updated.See also:Pasadena Man Expected to Plead Guilty Thursday in Deadly San Gabriel Valley Kidnapping, Ransom PlotPasadena Man, Azusa Man Arrested in Connection with Deadly Kidnapping and Extortion Plot 14 recommended0 commentsShareShareTweetSharePin it HerbeautyHe Is Totally In Love With You If He Does These 7 ThingsHerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeautyNutritional Strategies To Ease AnxietyHerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeauty10 Vietnamese Stunners That Will Take Your Breath AwayHerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeauty10 Most Influential Women In HistoryHerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeautyCreative Ways To Burn Calories That Require Little EffortHerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeauty6 Strong Female TV Characters Who Deserve To Have A SpinoffHerbeautyHerbeauty STAFF REPORT First Heatwave Expected Next Week Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Community News Subscribe Community News Make a comment Top of the News center_img STAFF REPORT Pasadena’s ‘626 Day’ Aims to Celebrate City, Boost Local Economy Name (required)  Mail (required) (not be published)  Website  Get our daily Pasadena newspaper in your email box. Free.Get all the latest Pasadena news, more than 10 fresh stories daily, 7 days a week at 7 a.m. EVENTS & ENTERTAINMENT | FOOD & DRINK | THE ARTS | REAL ESTATE | HOME & GARDEN | WELLNESS | SOCIAL SCENE | GETAWAYS | PARENTS & KIDS Business News Home of the Week: Unique Pasadena Home Located on Madeline Drive, Pasadena faithfernandez More » ShareTweetShare on Google+Pin on PinterestSend with WhatsApp,Virtual Schools PasadenaHomes Solve Community/Gov/Pub SafetyPasadena Public WorksPasadena Water and PowerPASADENA EVENTS & ACTIVITIES CALENDARClick here for Movie Showtimes More Cool Stuff CITY NEWS SERVICE/STAFF REPORT Pasadena Will Allow Vaccinated People to Go Without Masks in Most Settings Starting on Tuesday last_img read more

Letterkenny councillors call for an overhaul of the rates structure

first_img WhatsApp News Main Evening News, Sport and Obituaries Tuesday May 25th Twitter RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR Pinterest Facebook Previous articleUpdate – Letterkenny diversions lifted following collision at Dry Arch roundaboutNext articleDonegal & Tyrone to meet in Dr Mc Kenna Cup News Highland Pinterest Twitter Gardai continue to investigate Kilmacrennan fire Google+center_img Facebook 75 positive cases of Covid confirmed in North Google+ WhatsApp Further drop in people receiving PUP in Donegal 365 additional cases of Covid-19 in Republic By News Highland – November 13, 2013 Letterkenny councillors call for an overhaul of the rates structure Man arrested on suspicion of drugs and criminal property offences in Derry Letterkenny Town Council has been told that the provisions of the Local Government Bill as it pertains to rates will cost jobs in the town, and act as another nail in the coffin of the Main Street.Cllr Dessie Larkin told members that under the bill, the owners of vacant premises will be forced to pay full rates and may then claim half of the money back.Cllr Jimmy Kavanagh suggested the move might act as an incentive to have premises rented out and promote new start ups. However, that perspective was reject by other members. Several members argued that rates should be based on turnover and profit, rather than a one size fits all basis of square footage. Concern was also expressed that a standard county wide rate would see costs in Letterkenny rise.Cllr Larkin says the whole rates system is Cromwellian, and needs to be comprehensively overhauled…………[podcast][/podcast]last_img read more

Union learning reps’ role needs clarity

first_img Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article Union learning reps’ role needs clarityOn 1 Mar 2003 in Personnel Today Employers are calling for clearer guidance on the role of union learningrepresentatives, who are to be given statutory powers to promote workplacelearning later this year. Treasury minister John Healey announced £20m funding would be provided forthe representatives, saying they would be vital to improving skills in theworkforce. The proposals are to be implemented under the Employment Act 2002. But employers warn that lack of clarity and detail will make it difficultfor them to work out how the reps will fit into organisations’ existingtraining structures. “The legislation does not tell you much about whether they couldcommission training or require staff to attend,” said Robbie Gilbert,chief executive of the Employers’ Forum on Statute and Practice. “We need more clarity because employers are puzzled about the role ofthese reps.” The remit of the ULRs is outlined in an Acas code. But Gilbert and otherssay the code should be more detailed. Anne Lindsay, CBI senior policy adviser on learning and skills, said:”Further guidance is needed if this is to lead to more productiveworkplaces.” The DTI is considering changes to the Acas code. last_img read more

13TH ANNUAL ‘CHRISTMAS ROCKS TOUR’ On Dec-07 At The Old National Events Plaza

first_imgFacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmailShare SiriusXM Presents THE BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA’S13TH ANNUAL ‘CHRISTMAS ROCKS! TOUR’ VISITING 32 CITIES13th ANNUAL CHRISTMAS ROCKS! TOUR FEATURING MUSIC FROM LAST YEAR’S STUDIO CHRISTMAS ALBUM, THREE BEST-SELLING HOLIDAY ALBUMS AND BRIAN’S NUMEROUS HITS!The iconic guitarist, songwriter, vocalist and three-time Grammy-Award winner and his 19-piece THE BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA will visit 32 cities beginning Saturday, November 12 in Appleton and making stops in Nashville, Los Angeles and San Francisco, among others (full itinerary below). Their 13th annual tour, presented by SiriusXM, will feature music off their latest Christmas album, ROCKIN’ RUDOLPH, (available now as a limited edition box set, CD, vinyl or download) plus music off their three previous best-selling holiday albums; and original material from BRIAN SETZER.Produced by Peter Collins (Rush, Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, etc…) and recorded in both Nashville, TN and Hollywood, CA, the 12-track ROCKIN’ RUDOPLH includes highlights such as “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Yabba-Dabba Yuletide,” and “Rockabilly Rudolph,” among other notable Christmas classic tunes. SETZER’s trademark guitar work and vocal stylings are matched with THE BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA’s rockin’ big-band horn arrangements—an unbeatable combination.Catch BSO’s 13th Annual “Christmas Rocks! Tour” in the following cities:DATE LOCATION VENUESat-Nov-12 Appleton, WI Fox Cities Performing Arts CenterSun-Nov-13 Ames, IA Stephens AuditoriumTue-Nov-15 Saint Charles, IL The Arcada TheatreWed-Nov-16 Kalamazoo, MI State TheatreThu-Nov-17 Northfield, OH Hard Rock LiveSat-Nov-19 Mashantucket, CT Foxwoods Casino- Grand TheatreSun-Nov-20 Easton, PA State Theatre Center For The ArtsMon-Nov-21 Red Bank, NJ Count Basie TheatreWed-Nov-23 Buffalo, NY Center For The ArtsFri-Nov-25 Englewood, NJ Bergen Performing Arts CenterSat-Nov-26 Washington, DC Warner TheatreSun-Nov-27 Westbury, NY Theatre at WestburyTue-Nov-29 Montclair, NJ Wellmont TheaterFri-Dec-02 Newport News, VA Ferguson Center For The ArtsSat-Dec-03 Atlanta, GA Cobb Energy Performing Arts CenterSun-Dec-04 Nashville, TN Ryman AuditoriumTue-Dec-06 Louisville, KY Palace TheatreWed-Dec-07 Evansville, IN Old National Events PlazaFri-Dec-09 Shawnee, OK Firelake ArenaSat-Dec-10 Tulsa, OK Hard Rock Hotel & CasinoSun-Dec-11 Thackerville, OK WinStar World CasinoTue-Dec-13 Denver, CO Paramount TheatreThu-Dec-15 Phoenix, AZ Celebrity TheatreFri-Dec-16 Temecula, CA Pechanga Resort & CasinoSat-Dec-17 Los Angeles, CA Microsoft TheatreTue-Dec-20 Bakersfield, CA Fox TheatreThu-Dec-22 Modesto, CA Gallo Center For The ArtsFri-Dec-23 Reno, NV Grand Sierra Resort & CasinoSat-Dec-24 San Francisco, CA Warfield TheatreMon-Dec-26 Seattle, WA Paramount TheatreTue-Dec-27 Portland, OR Arlene Schnitzer Concert HallThu-Dec-29 Santa Rosa, CA Luther Burbank Center For The ArtSiriusXM listeners will have the opportunity to purchase tickets for the tour before they go on sale to the general public. The SiriusXM Presale will take place from Wednesday, July 20 at 10am local time to Thursday, July 21 at 10pm local time in participating tour markets. For more information, click HERE!!About Brian Setzer:Iconic guitarist, songwriter, vocalist and 3-time Grammy-award-winner, is a “Musician’s Musician” credited with continually taking chances with innovative and daring musical styles, while single-handedly resurrecting two forgotten genres of music (rockabilly in the ‘80’s and swing in the ’90’s). Along the way, he has scored chart-topping hits, sold 13 million records and received the Orville H. Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award throughout his decorated career as founder/leader of the Stray Cats, his 19-piece Brian Setzer Orchestra, and as a solo artist. He is consistently cited as one of the world’s greatest living guitarists, and has a best-selling, extensive line of elite Gretsch signature model guitars bearing his name. Brian appeared in the 1987 film, La Bamba, portraying rockabilly pioneer Eddie Cochran. In 2002, Brian earned the privilege of being one of the few musicians to be animated in an episode of “The Simpsons,” alongside Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Tom Petty. That same year, Setzer was personally requested to induct Chet Atkins into the 17th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2014, SETZER received the distinct honor of being asked by the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. to donate a replica of his original 1959 Gretsch 6120 “Stray Cat” guitar, joining an elite collection of musical instruments at the museum including Dizzy Gillespie’s trumpet and John Coltrane’s saxophone.last_img read more

Baking Industry Awards: final deadline extension

first_imgDon’t miss your chance to be part of the Baking Industry Awards 2008, get those forms in before it’s too late!The deadline has been extended until 23 May, so luckily you’ve got another week to enter. The awards recognise the hard work and passion of everyone involved in the British baking industry, so why not have the chance to be rewarded for all your effort – there are awards to suit all.Entrants do not have to be a supplier or customer of any of the category sponsors – anyone can enter, big or small. Joanna Lumley hosted last year’s red-carpet event, which was attended by key players in the industry. This year looks to be just as spectacular.The ceremony will take place at the Grosvenor House hotel in Mayfair on Monday, 15 September. For entry forms or advice contact Stephanie Smallwood at William Reed Events on 01293 610433 or visit [].last_img read more

News story: HMRC services during the cold weather

first_imgThe adverse weather this week has been affecting our staff and contact centres across the country.HMRC staff are working hard to keep as many services open as possible, but we have had to close some of our sites.This means that waiting times on our phones lines may be longer than usual, and we have closed a small number of specialist phone lines.We expect these services to be up and running again during the weekend and to be fully operational by the start of next week.Our online services are still available, as is support through Twitter @HMRCcustomers and on Facebook.Thank you for your continued patience.last_img

Commissioners review tower collapse, approve projects

first_imgFARMINGTON – Commissioners met Tuesday and approved the hiring of a new deputy, reviewed the recent collapse of a communications tower on Sugarloaf and authorized the renovation of a bridge in Salem.This picture, taken by Sugarloaf staff, shows the collapsed tower.Commissioners received an update from Communications Director C.L. Folsom regarding the local response to the collapse of a tower on Sugarloaf on Feb. 25. Extremely high winds and ice build up combined to collapse the tower, which is owned by TDS Telecom. The tower provides service for Homeland Security, cellphone service providers and Franklin County agencies in the northern part of the county. The Sugarloaf summit was closed to skiers at the time of the collapse, due to the wind.Folsom said that the loss of the tower impacted the Stratton/Eustis area more than anywhere, forcing first responders to use a text-based communication system for roughly 24 hours. By 3 p.m. the next day, the high winds had subsided enough for Hussey Communications personnel to reach the summit and access antennas attached to the unmanned building beneath the collapsed tower. By 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 26, Folsom said, communications had been restored.In other business, commissioners approved the hiring of Alec Frost as a part-time reserve deputy for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. The plan is to have Frost transition to a full-time deputy on May 1, after he leaves the military, Chief Deputy Steve Lowell told commissioners. Frost will fill a vacancy created after Deputy Keith Madore accepted a position in Kennebec County.Hiring Frost as a part-time deputy would enable him to begin meeting training requirements immediately, Lowell noted.Commissioners approved utilizing Farmington Ford for the FCSO’s vehicle maintenance needs. That business was one of five that submitted proposals to maintain the office’s cruisers. Those services will be used on an as-needed, hourly basis, rather than through the signing of an annual contract.Commissioners also approved a $35,000 project to replace the Salem Bridge with concrete components. Dirigo Timberlands will provide the concrete sections, the 70-year life expectancy of which is superior to wood. The funds for the project will come out of the Unorganized Territory’s road reserve account.Also in the U.T., commissioners approved the transfer of a $50,000 award of Tax Increment Financing district funds from the Madrid Historical Society to the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust. The RLHT is the entity that will take over the ownership of a parcel of land between Route 4 and the Sandy River, at the intersection with the Reeds Mill Road.A local group is seeking to acquire the land, demolish the old Madrid Store and Poacher’s Paradise buildings, and create a scenic turnout with some limited parking. The project has been in the works for some time, with local proponents waiting for a Maine Department of Transportation highway project to improve that section of Route 4.Commissioners have previously expressed support for the demolition of the buildings, if not the turnout itself. The old store building currently cuts off view of the Reeds Mill Road bridge, which is one-lane. As a result, people on the bridge trying to get onto Route 4 do not have clear lines of sight. Furthermore, if the state bridge ever was to be expanded to two lanes, the buildings would have to go.Commissioners approved $50,000 in TIF funds for the Madrid Historical Society back in September 2018; however, organizers have since realized that RLHT would be a more appropriate owner and caretaker for the parcel. Commissioners Terry Brann of Wilton and Clyde Barker of Strong were unanimous in supporting redirecting those funds from MHS to RLHT.County Clerk Julie Magoon noted that the Franklin County selectmen had caucused Monday night and elected three people to the nine-member Budget Committee. New Sharon Selectman Travis Pond will rejoin the committee for District 2, while District 1 will be represented by Selectperson Judy Diaz of Jay. District 3’s new representative is Selectman Morgan Dunham.They will join the six present members: Keith Swett, Tiffany Maiuri, Tiffany Estabrook, Ray Gaudette, Bob Luce and Josh Bell, who will serve as the committee’s chair.Magoon noted that Bell had indicated to her that the committee had questions regarding the scope of their authority over the budget. These are questions that have repeatedly been asked over the past few years, including whether new items could be added by the committee or whether members should be approving individual line items or just the department budgets. Magoon suggested that she collect questions from the committee members and department heads and have them reviewed by the county’s legal counsel prior to the budget process.last_img read more

Go In-Depth With Bluegrass Underground As They Wrap Season VII Filming For PBS

first_imgLoad remaining images Deep in the heart of McMinnville, Tennessee lies a cave system known as Cumberland Caverns.  Within those caverns lies a place 333 feet underground known as the Volcano Room. The Volcano Room is where musical magic happens once a year as the space comes alive with cameras, musicians, and fans for the annual filming of PBS’ Bluegrass Underground. Live For Live Music was there to capture the entire production, from empty cavern to the last fan leaving when filming wrapped. We take you in-depth through the intensive process of what it takes to film a television show almost a football field deep underground in front of a live audience.First, a little background about the site. Originally discovered in 1810, the caves became a source of saltpeter mining, for gunpowder, during the War of 1812 and, many speculate, for the Civil War as well. Throughout the caves, names and dates are “candled” on the walls and ceilings, with the oldest known dating back to 1869. The caves are now open for daily tours, as well as Bluegrass Underground’s monthly musical events. PBS, however, films once a year, over three consecutive days, for Bluegrass Underground’s next television season. The most recent production, for Season VII, included such acts as Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Blues Traveler, Conor Oberst, and The Mavericks, to name a few.Todd Mayo, Creative Director and Co-Producer of Bluegrass Underground, explained where the idea for having a cave as a music venue came from. “It came about in a very serendipitous way. It was 2008, Memorial Day, and I had been coming up to this part of Tennessee for years. We were looking for something to do on Memorial Day. We originally tried to rent a pontoon boat, but they were sold out. For some reason I thought, let’s go see Cumberland Caverns.  I had never been. After years of driving by, we loaded up and took the tour. Having never been in a cave, I remember walking through, but it just hit me. I said to the tour guide at the end of the tour, ‘do you have live music down here?’ Right when I saw the Volcano Room, with the chandelier above, I had the idea just in my head, ‘music here.’ I had been thinking of an idea to do a show, and was trying to think of a way to marry what I enjoyed with what I was good at. I didn’t have any music background, but I loved sports and I loved music. About six months before I walked in the cave, I walked away from sports radio. I thought I would never own anything that was truly mine again. I had let go and knew that my destiny was in Tennessee.When I walked into the cave, I knew this was it. That very night, I thought of the name Bluegrass Underground. I was consumed with it.  The next day, I called the general manager and came back to the caverns. I told them about the idea, I found a sponsor and put up a website.I booked Chris Stapleton and The Steeldrivers. All this happened from late May and our first show was August 16th. At the very first show, a guy from NPR came to interview me. One thing lead to another, and when he came to interview me, I explained to him that I had a vision for a PBS show, sort of an Austin City Limits meets NOVA. It was Todd Jarrell, who did independent productions for public television. In 2010, we did a pilot for PBS. Todd had a relationship with Becky Magura, who is the CEO of one of the smallest PBS affiliates in the country, WCTE, but one of the best in terms of what they do. The rest is sort of history, and that’s how it all began.”Mayo’s partner, Todd Jarrell, added his thoughts on the evolution of the project. As a former drummer, and then being involved in advertising for both radio and television, he moved to Nashville and reached a point where he could not work in advertising one more day. He decided to sail around the world with his brother and started writing while on that journey. After spending about six or seven years at sea, he had gotten a chance to move into television production. The first show he did was based out of Tennessee, New York, and Africa and got picked up by PBS. He never looked back.Jarrell found out about the first music show at Cumberland Caverns. He pitched it to his editor, came to the show and interviewed Mayo. “After interviewing him, we ended up talking that day for hours. We came up with what we should do, what we shouldn’t do, and we didn’t have any money.  How was this going to work? It took about two years before we got the pilot shot. I knew Becky was getting this new suite of gear. We called her up and asked if we could use her brand new cameras in the cave.  Much to her credit, she said ok. For the pilot, we shot three bands in one day: The McCrary Sisters with Mike Farris, The Farewell Drifters, and The John Cowan Band. We pitched it to PBS. They finally said, ‘we’ll take it.’ We finished the season. We shot 11 bands, and the 12th show was a compilation of out-takes from that season. That was season 1.A lot of people thought we were crazy to do a half hour TV show, but it’s the fastest half hour on television. It’s a visually stimulating program with music. It’s a good pairing for other art shows.  It’s a good pairing for other music, like Austin City Limits. We have been named one of the coolest venues by a long list. It’s got a reputation. It’s a cool room, and it sounds good, but a lot of it’s the lighting and just where you are.One of my favorite things about it is that there is not a backstage, or a side stage. The equipment, and the band members, come up through the crowd and go out through the crowd. There’s no corners, and no curtain. Experientially, it’s as unique for the band as it is for the audience. The band is staring around the room just like everybody else. It’s intimate. It feels like an ‘us’ thing instead of a ‘we and you’ thing. I think that comes across on television.”As for the production process itself, it takes days to get the room set up for filming.  Load-in started on Wednesday, and continued until the last minute touches were wrapped up on Friday, the first day of filming. On the first day of set up, cables were snaked along the sides of the cave walls, starting outside where the power and production truck were, and ended at the equipment in the Volcano Room. Roughly 6,000 feet of cable, with each coil weighing 100 pounds, were laid out.While that was going on, ATV’s hauling trailers were loaded up with all of the production gear, from lighting rigs, camera equipment, and backline gear, to concession snacks, audience chairs, and merchandise. Gear would be loaded up on three trailers at a time, hauled down, unloaded, then back up for another round.  This went on all day long, each day, until the artists and their gear were driven down and doors opened.The slight taste of dust in the mouth, and a consistent dampness in the air, along with the constant dim lighting in the cave, made it easy to forget the time, as well as what was happening above ground. Meanwhile, tour groups were taken along a path above the stage and would stop to watch the activity below in awe.Moving vehicles, sound and lighting setup, and the constant hustling by the crew, made for visually stimulating action, never knowing which way to turn to watch the latest progress within the room. The one constant in the room was the stunning chandelier that hung high above the activity, which provided light and beauty to the natural setting.On day two of load in, lighting trusses were rigged and lifted into place, creating a colorfully lit cavern instead of working in the dimly lit room, though headlamps remained the norm with all crew. Details were taken care of before and during filming.  For example, wiring from the above stage lights were rigged with camouflage. Bench seating were darkened so that the bright metal would not show up on film. It was the details that made all the difference.On Friday, the ten cameras were positioned into place, ranging from behind the stage, to above the audience, ensuring that every angle was captured. Concessions were readied, the merch area was set up, and tour buses showed up early. VIP ticket holders had the opportunity to not only tour the cave before the show, but many were able to catch portions of sound check with the various acts before doors opened. Once doors opened, the crew was ready to go for the next three days.To grasp the enormity of the prep work that goes into making this show, most venues have a loading dock for trucks to pull up to and unload, making for ease of movement with gear.  Surfaces are usually flat and smooth, so gear can be pushed easily and quickly into a venue.  The Volcano Room was deep underground, with all gear having to go on a 15-20 minute ride into the cave, only to be met with constant dirt and uneven surfaces.  Even the stage was dirt. It is easy to see why Bluegrass Underground has won so many Emmy’s – 15 in all, including wins for Technical Achievement, Lighting, Audio, and Director, to name a few.With four acts performing each day, the production truck, where director Jim Yockey worked, was where the magic happened for the televised show. Yockey, along with colleague Cindy Brewer, worked tightly together as they instructed the camera operators on positioning and upcoming changes in music. It was a well oiled machine between the two of them, as they spoke into the headset, sometimes talking over each other, advising the camera crew on next actions.Yockey and Brewer were provided with set lists for each band a month prior to filming, along with MP3’s of the songs.  Within that month, they learned each song inside and out, which aided in their directing during the live production. Knowing when to anticipate certain changes, such as one musician jamming out on a tambourine mid-song, allowed camera positions to be set up before the shot. Once a band went off the set-list, it was on the fly directing, and the camera crew maintained professionalism and level heads to get the shots that would make for a spectacular televised series. With each band having a 45 minute set, it allowed for editing purposes post-production to bring their performance down to a half hour show.However, even with planning, unexpected situations may arise during filming. While Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors were performing, an EMT crew had to drive down into the cave. Holcomb stopped early in the song to allow the vehicle to get to it’s destination before starting again.Fans that have never been to a live taping experienced a funny start to the show. The audience was asked to provide 30 seconds each of various modes of laughter and clapping, from light golf clapping to loud clapping full of whistles as if it’s an encore. The experience alone broke the ice before the musicians took to the stage for the next few hours. In between sets, all gear, as well as the musicians themselves, were moved off and on stage through the audience. The intimate experience was one that won’t soon be forgotten by anyone in attendance. If you haven’t been to the venue yet, put it on your bucket list. It is one of the most beautiful and unique venues in the country.For something to do on the the weekend while filming was not occurring, the town of McMinnville featured a Taste of The Underground event on Saturday night, as well as Brunch & Bluegrass on Sunday, both of which were held at The Park Theater. There was a band competition, which featured Asheville’s The Broadcast and Nashville’s Daniel Lawrence Walker. In the end, The Broadcast walked away with the win, and will be performing at an upcoming concert in the Volcano Room.The three day filming for Season VII featured the following artists: The Mavericks, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, Conor Oberst, Kasey Chambers, The McCrary Sisters, Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, Parker Millsap, Marty Stuart & The Fabulous Superlatives, Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, Blues Traveler, and Don Bryant & The Bo-Keys. You will be able to catch these shows on your local PBS station in September.  For more information on Bluegrass Underground, please visit their official website.Words and pre-production photos by Sarah Bourque.  Additional photos courtesy of Shelly Swanger.Special thanks to Todd Squared Productions, James Yockey, Joe Lurgio, and Brian Sullivan.last_img read more