From The New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/09/10/120910fa_fact_hemon?currentPage=all
September 10, 2012
On the monitor screen, Tom Hanks’s eyes, in extreme closeup, flickered through a complicated sequence of emotions: hatred, fear, anger, doubt. “Cut!” Lana Wachowski shouted. The crew on Stage 9 at Babelsberg Studio, near Berlin, erupted in a din of professional efficacy, preparing for the next shot, while Hanks returned to his chair to sip coffee from an NPR cup. Lana and her brother, Andy, who are best known for writing and directing the “Matrix” trilogy, were shooting “Cloud Atlas,” an adaptation of David Mitchell’s 2004 best-selling novel of the same name.
The novel has six story lines, and the Wachowskis and their close friend the German director Tom Tykwer, with whom they’d written the script, had divided them up. They were shooting at Babelsberg, using the same actors, who shuttled between soundstages, but Tykwer had an unplanned day off. Halle Berry had broken her foot while on location in Mallorca and he needed to wait for her full recovery to shoot a chase scene. And now there was another problem: the actor Ralph Riach, who played a small but crucial role in one of the story lines that Tykwer was working on, had fallen ill and been hospitalized, and his state was progressively worsening. Tykwer had been on the phone with Riach, and the prognosis was, at best, unpredictable. Tykwer, with a bad cold and a large scarf around his neck which resembled a Renaissance millstone collar, had stopped by the Wachowskis’ set to discuss the situation.
The filmmakers huddled near the monitor and in low, concerned voices debated whether to wait for Riach to recover or to hastily find a replacement and reshoot the scenes he’d already appeared in. The decision: they would wait, even if it meant prolonging the shooting schedule. “The rocket ship is falling apart,” Lana said afterward, shaking her head. “We’re sitting in this capsule, can’t get out, only one engine working—and we have to make it to the end.”
In the Wachowskis’ work, the forces of evil are often overwhelmingly powerful, inflicting misery on humans, who maintain their faith until they’re saved by an unexpected miracle. The story of the making of “Cloud Atlas” fits this narrative trajectory pretty well.
There was something surprisingly cruel–and equally cowardly–about the way Republicans glibly touted their exclusionary position on marriage in this week’s Convention. “The man who will accept your nomination,” said VP nominee, Paul Ryan in the obligatory “values” line of his speech praising Mitt Romney, “is prayerful and faithful and honorable. Not only a defender of marriage, he offers an example of marriage at its best. Not only a fine businessman, he is a fine man, worthy of leading this optimistic and good-hearted country.”
On the surface, it looks like the typical throwaway line to the conservative base that signals a commitment to values of religious belief, banning abortion and denigrating gay people. It was that, but this year it was both more muted and more invidious. Perhaps because the acceptability of anti-gay sentiment in polite company is waning even in some conservative circles, that sentiment was especially truncated this year. The three words, “defender of marriage” were the only ones in Ryan’s speech referencing the same-sex marriage question. Romney’s own speech last night reinforced the message by saying simply that he would “honor the institution of marriage”–a harmless-sounding phrase meant to set him apart from the adulterous Bill Clinton and the gay-marriage-loving Barack Obama.
But the cavalier juxtaposition Ryan drew of Romney’s position on marriage and his experience in marriage–gays must not be allowed to do what Romney does so beautifully–was stinging. It evoked, for me, the stark imagery of anti-black and anti-immigrant exclusion by supremacists and chauvinists who feel entitled to their unearned status.
When I was six, my family joined an all-white country club in a black area of Philadelphia (actually, word was that Bill Cosby was a member, but I never saw him there). As a kid I rarely stopped to consider how the African American residents of the neighborhood might have felt passing by the high brick and iron walls, glimpsing the lush blanket of grass tennis courts peopled by white-skinned players clad in the required white tennis clothes. I’m not sure I even wondered the obvious until years later: why was I allowed in, and they weren’t? (The club’s make-up diversified greatly in subsequent years).
Damn I wish we would get to a point where we no longer needed to rewrite articles from progressive sources to give TS/TG people the same dignity non-TS/TG folks take for granted.
By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Edited to remove dehumanizing language.
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Amy, Jamie, Janice, Meghan and Melissa have come from across the United States to support President Barack Obama as Democratic delegates: they are all women who were assigned male at birth.
“Six in 2004, eight in 2008, and we are 13 today,” Melissa Sklarz told AFP, as she highlighted the steady increase over the past three Democratic conventions in the number of transgender delegates.
Obama, the first African American president, has been seen as a progressive on transgender rights, making Amanda Simpson in 2009 the first transgender woman political appointee in any administration.
Kylar Broadus, a transgender delegate from Columbia, Missouri, who was assigned female at birth but now regards himself as a man, explained that the economic problems facing all Americans were felt more acutely by his impoverished minority group.
“Employment is the number one issue for the transgender community,” the 49-year-old told AFP. “There is extreme poverty within the transgender community. Most of us are not employable, don’t have jobs,” he said.
Complete article with original language at: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/09/05/transgender-numbers-on-the-rise-at-democratic-convention/
By Annie-Rose Strasser
on Sep 4, 2012
Rep. Rick Berg (R-ND), the candidate for Senate from North Dakota, once voted for a billthat would have made any woman who obtained an abortion guilty of a homicide crime — even if it were in the case of rape or incest. Indeed, the bill Berg supported does not even contain an explicit exception if an abortion is necessary to save the woman’s life.
In 2007, Berg was among the small number of state representatives in the North Dakota House who supported the measure. It also would have imposed penalties on doctors and anyone else who “aids, abets, facilitates, solicits, or incites” a person into an abortion:
A new section to chapter 12.1-16 of the North Dakota Century Code is created and enacted as follows:
Intentional termination of human life – Preborn children. A person is guilty of a class AA felony if the person intentionally destroys or terminates the life of a preborn child. A person that knowingly administers to, prescribes for, procures for, or sells to any pregnant individual any medicine, drug, device, or other substance with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of a preborn child is guilty of a class AA felony. A person that intentionally or knowingly aids, abets, facilitates, solicits, or incites a person to intentionally destroy or terminate the life of a preborn child is guilt of a class C felony. For purposes of this section, “preborn child” includes a human being from the moment of fertilization until the moment of birth.
A class AA felony carries a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole in North Dakota. Chapter 12.1-16 of the North Dakota Century Code is the section of that state’s law that covers homicide crimes such as murder or manslaughter.
By Mike Ludwig
Wednesday, 05 September 2012
The Democratic Party platform approved by delegates on Tuesday attacks Republicans for applauding the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision and calls for campaign finance reforms, even if it takes amending the constitution to reverse the landmark ruling that unleashed unprecedented corporate campaign spending.
The announcement brought cheers from progressive groups that have been busy building a broad movement to push for constitutional and legislative remedies for Citizens United.
The Democratic Party and the White House are fighting to hold Congress to “higher conflict-of-interest standards,” according to the platform, which claims that President Obama and the national party do not accept contributions from federal lobbyists during this election cycle.
Democrats would also require nonprofit groups and super PACs that swamp the airwaves with political ads to reveal their donors. Senate Republicans have twice used a filibuster to block the DISCLOSE Act, the Democrats’ legislative response to Citizens United that would make it harder to anonymously donate to political groups.
The Republican Party platform released last week vows to defend the Citizens United decision and states that Americans have the “free speech right to devote one’s resources to whatever cause or candidate one supports.” The Supreme Court’s controversial 5-4 ruling in the Citizens United case was largely based on First Amendment grounds.
The GOP would also oppose the DISCLOSE Act, repeal the remaining sections of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms, and repeal or raise contribution limits.
“Obamacare will be a nightmare for Florida seniors,” a grim voiceover announces. “Did Bill Nelson consider the consequences when he cast a deciding vote for Obamacare?”
“Tell Jon Tester: the Washington way isn’t the solution,” another intones. “We need less government and lower taxes.”
“Sherrod,” a third asks, referring to Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, “what planet are you on?”
If you live in a state where a competitive race could help tip the balance in the Senate this fall, you’ve almost certainly seen ads like these, laden with menacing theme music, light on the facts and funded by the US Chamber of Commerce. The nation’s largest business lobby is showcasing bold ambitions this year in an effort to build on gains made in the 2010 midterms, when at least $33 million of Chamber advertising helped push the nation dramatically rightward. The group began placing ads in swing districts as early as November 2011. Since then, it has rolled out a campaign aimed at influencing at least fifty House and eight Senate races, and according to Politico it has set a goal of $100 million in spending for this electoral cycle.
Watchdog groups believe the strategy in 2012 is similar to that of 2010: the Chamber goes into a district, blitzes it with attack ads to soften up the opposition and then steps back to let other deep-pocket groups come in. The intent is to force Democrats to play defense across the board, thus spreading their resources thin. According to the liberal online publication ThinkProgress, twenty of the twenty-one ads the Chamber released in May were hostile to Democratic candidates.
“The Chamber has spent about $600,000 attacking me,” Tester, the farmer turned Democratic Montana senator, told me in April. “I’ve got a great small-business record. I’ve carried bills the US Chamber has advocated for in the past. [But] they see Montana as a state that they can pick up. They’re dishonest, painting me as something I’m not. They’re trying to paint me as Wall Street, as somebody who’s ‘gone DC.’ It’s about as crazy as anybody can get.”
From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/sep/03/bernie-krause-natural-world-recordings
“The birds are silent in the woods.
Just wait: Soon enough
You will be quiet too”
– Robert Hass
When musician and naturalist Bernie Krause drops his microphones into the pristine coral reef waters of Fiji, he picks up a raucous mix of sighs, beats, glissandos, cries, groans, tones, grunts, beats and clicks.
Bernie Krause records life on a coral reef in Fiji Link to this audio
The water pulsates with the sound of creatures vying for acoustic bandwidth. He hears crustaceans, parrot fish, anemones, wrasses, sharks, shrimps, puffers and surgeonfish. Some gnash their teeth, others use their bladders or tails to make sound. Sea anemones grunt and belch. Every creature on the reef makes its own sound.
But half a mile away, where the same reef is badly damaged, he can only pick up the sound of waves and a few snapping shrimp. It is, he says, the desolate sound of extinction.
Recording of an area of badly damaged coral reef Link to this audio
Krause, whose electronic music with Paul Beaver was used on classic films like Rosemary’s Baby and Apocalypse Now, and who worked regularly with Bob Dylan, George Harrison and The Byrds, has spent 40 years recording over 15,000 species, collecting 4,500 hours of sound from many of the world’s pristine habitats.
But such is the rate of species extinction and the deterioration of pristine habitat that he estimates half these recordings are now archives, impossible to repeat because the habitats no longer exist or because they have been so compromised by human noise. His tapes are possibly the only record of the original diversity of life in these places.
From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/opinion/sunday/kristof-big-chem-big-harm.html
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: August 25, 2012
NEW research is demonstrating that some common chemicals all around us may be even more harmful than previously thought. It seems that they may damage us in ways that are transmitted generation after generation, imperiling not only us but also our descendants.
Yet following the script of Big Tobacco a generation ago, Big Chem has, so far, blocked any serious regulation of these endocrine disruptors, so called because they play havoc with hormones in the body’s endocrine system.
One of the most common and alarming is bisphenol-A, better known as BPA. The failure to regulate it means that it is unavoidable. BPA is found in everything from plastics to canned food to A.T.M. receipts. More than 90 percent of Americans have it in their urine.
Even before the latest research showing multigeneration effects, studies had linked BPA to breast cancer and diabetes, as well as to hyperactivity, aggression and depression in children.
Maybe it seems surprising to read a newspaper column about chemical safety because this isn’t an issue in the presidential campaign or even firmly on the national agenda. It’s not the kind of thing that we in the news media cover much.
Yet the evidence is growing that these are significant threats of a kind that Washington continually fails to protect Americans from. The challenge is that they involve complex science and considerable uncertainty, and the chemical companies — like the tobacco companies before them — create financial incentives to encourage politicians to sit on the fence. So nothing happens.
Yet although industry has, so far, been able to block broad national curbs on BPA, new findings on transgenerational effects may finally put a dent in Big Chem’s lobbying efforts.
One good sign: In late July, a Senate committee, for the first, time passed the Safe Chemicals Act, landmark legislation sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, that would begin to regulate the safety of chemicals.
Continue reading at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/opinion/sunday/kristof-big-chem-big-harm.html