Wednesday, November 16, 2011 12:21 PM
Some of the best stuff from the Twitter feeds we follow...
The Nation (@
Robert Reich eviscerates the Supercommittee's skewed priorities, draws a cartoon.
See more at The Nation
Mother Jones (@
Chart of the Day: How Not to Create Jobs mojo.ly/vy6C5e
Chuck Marr of CBPP notes that the CBO recently studied a laundry list of job creation proposals and concluded that higher unemployment benefits had the biggest bang for the buck. "That’s not surprising," he says, "given that jobless people are severely cash constrained and would quickly spend most of any incremental increase in cash and that, in turn, would lead to higher demand and job creation."
But which proposal came in last?
See Kevin Drum’s Chart of the Day at MoJo
The American Prospect (@
Despite what you've heard from many pundits, Mitt Romney isn't the kid who gets picked last in gym class. ampro.me/u6m2We
Mitt Romney is just as popular as Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich, his problem—in part—is that he has too many competitors, and Republican voters are indulging the extent to which they have a fair amount of choice. When the field begins to winnow in January, odds are very good that Romney will pick up a lot more support from Republican voters.
Read more about a Gallup poll about the Republican presidential candidates at The American Prospect
In These Times (@
Library in the slammer, roughed up. Librarians surveying the damage. bit.ly/sxUK22 @melissagira livetweeting from the garage.
OWS librarians attempted to reclaim their collection and found it decimated, according to the Maddow Blog. The librarians told Maddow that they only found 25 boxes of books in storage, many of which were damaged or desroyed. Laptop computers were recovered, damanged beyond repair.
Read more at In These Times
Bill McKibben (@billmckibben)
If you want to see someone looking nervous on Colbert, tonite is your big chance
Oxford American (@
Musician Chris Isaak likes Oxford American
“I was reading the ‘Oxford American,’ a great, great music magazine,” he said. “It’s like getting four years of ‘Rolling Stone’ all in the same magazine.”
Read the rest of the article about Chris Isaak in The Kansas City Star
Friday, October 07, 2011 12:45 PM
Much “Indian land” is actually out of the control of Indians. Non-Indians own more than 65 percent of the reservation land in the United States, reports Native Peoples magazine. Moreover, many of the Indians that do own land possess ridiculously tiny “fractionated” parcels made possible by the General Allotment Act of 1887, also known as the Dawes Act, which split up land and put it into a government trust.
A Minnesota-based organization called the Indian Land Tenure Foundation is working to change this situation and to put more land back into Indian hands. Executive director Chris Stainbrook tells Native Peoples that a large part of the group’s mission is raising awareness:
“Most curriculums in schools today stress the old story, that the treaties were made and reservations created, and that’s that. Most people don’t realize that we’ve lost more than half of the original 148 million acres of land that were inside those initial reservation boundaries. What has come along with that loss of land is the loss of a land-based culture, and also the economic opportunities those lands would have provided for Indian people. Add up that cumulative monetary loss over the past 130 years and it is staggering. And even the land we still have—roughly 55 million acres in trust status—most of that is highly fractionated, which greatly reduces its profitability. Plus, we are still losing land every year.”
A recent court settlement may help clean up fractionation, Alleen Brown reports in In These Times. President Obama in late 2010 signed off on a $3.4 billion settlement in the case Cobell v. Salazar, ending a 14-year-old class-action suit filed by Indians against the U.S. government for tribal land mismanagement. Checks will be going out soon, and settlement funds disbursed through the Indian Land Consolidation Program will be directed toward consolidating land into usable portions—but Brown notes that “the settlement doesn’t put an end to fractionation itself” nor to “the federal government’s paternalistic practice of holding tens of millions of reservation acres in trust.”
In the meantime, some Indian activists have a suggestion for Occupy Wall Street: Let’s decolonize it instead.
Sources: Native Peoples, In These Times, Indian Country Today
, licensed under
Thursday, September 22, 2011 11:03 AM
Troy Davis—the man about whose case former FBI director William S. Sessions has written “What quickly will become apparent is that serious questions about Davis’ guilt, highlighted by witness recantations, allegations of police coercion and a lack of relevant physical evidence, continue to plague his conviction”—was executed by the state of Georgia last night at 11:08pm.
Davis was convicted in 1991 of killing a police officer. There’s not much I can add to the discussion around this case. If you’re looking for insightful writing on it, there’s Mother Jones’coverage, this from The Nation editors, an impassioned plea at In These Times, and of course Amnesty International, which has used Davis’ visage in their campaign to abolish the death penalty. There, too, is the video below of Democracy Now’sAmy Goodman reporting from Georgia last night.
As many others have stated, this execution is not only about Troy Davis. It is, and especially now should be, a time to reflect on this country’s use of the death penalty. To add to that conversation, here are some articles from our November-December 2010 issue about capital punishment in the U.S.
interviews legendary capital punishment opponent Sister Helen Prejean:
According to Amnesty International, 93 percent of the world’s executions take place in five countries: China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, and the United States. Why is our government on such a list?
The death penalty is a natural outgrowth of our long history of using violence to achieve our ends. We’re a very young country, and violence has worked for us in the past. It began with the settling of this continent and the genocide against Native Americans, then continued when we brought slaves over.
Continue reading >>
The Texas Observer’s Robert Leleux takes a very hard look at executions in the Lone Star State:
One of the things about the death penalty is that, because convicted killers (for a whole variety of reasons) aren’t typically white, middle-class honor students, with reputations for being kindly, wholesome people, it’s very easy for middle-class people like me to presume that folks on death row are people from “over there.” Folks from another, meaner America—that hard, irredeemable underbelly of the nation’s poverty and crime. You know, the kind of place you see on Cops.
Of course, there are so many things wrong with this presumption that it’s hard to know where to begin.
Continue reading >>
And finally, as an online extra to those two articles, here is a blog post with a number of resources from around the web about executions in the U.S.
Source: Democracy Now!, Mother Jones, In These Times, Amnesty International, The Sun, The Nation, The Texas Observer
Image by World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, September 15, 2011 4:25 PM
The data on the poor in this country announced Tuesday by the Census Bureau was not good, and due to measures already taken by Congress and those likely to come, the outlook doesn’t provide much reason for hope. Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones gives some of the “lowlights”:
The overall poverty rate has reached a record high and the number of people living in deep poverty—that is, below 50 percent of the poverty level, or $11,000 for a family of four—is the highest it’s been since 1975. Experts are predicting that things are only going to get worse in the years to come….
Median income has sunk lower than it was almost 15 years ago. The number of people living without health insurance is up slightly. The number of kids under the age of six living in extreme poverty is up to nearly 12 percent. The recession has been especially hard on women and people of color. The extreme poverty rate for women is more than 6 percent, the highest recorded in 22 years, and the poverty rate for black women is up a percentage point from 2009, to more than 25 percent.
In These Times’ David Moberg continues:
But it is especially painful because it follows what many are calling a “lost decade” for the majority of Americans. The median household income peaked in 1999 at $53,252, then dropped in most of the following years, never recovering its pre-recession high. Likewise, even during the recovery of the Bush years, poverty levels crept upwards. The big exception was the very rich, who captured most of the new income generated as productivity of the economy rose and inequality continued to grow.
All this while we learn, as associate editor Margret Aldrich wrote on her Sweet Pursuit blog last week, “Economic equality equals happiness. So suggests a new study to be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science. In order for Americans to be truly blissed out, it finds, we need to close the gap between our wealthiest and poorest citizens.”
Unfortunately we see that’s not happening, leaving The Take Away this morning to ask the discouraging question, “Does America Care About Its Poor?” Though The Take Away left it up to listeners, the answer seems to be, for the most part, no. That said, Moberg at In These Times does point out that “bad as these numbers are, they would have been much worse if many government programs and policies had not been in place,” including unemployment insurance, The Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps, and the Obama administration’s stimulus programs. (I don’t know how many times economists and others have to point out that the only problem with Obama’s stimulus was that is simply wasn’t big enough before it will be okay to use the word “stimulus” again. But I digress.) Still, “welfare” programs aren’t what they used to be. “Evidence suggests,” writes Jarret Murphy in City Limits, “that today’s needy families are, in large measure, not getting the help to which they are legally entitled. In 1996, for every 100 families that were in poverty, 79 were on welfare. In 2010, the figure was 28, according to the CBPP [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].” LaDonna Pavetti, the vice president for family income support policy at the CBPP is quoted as saying, “It’s just truly people are not being served. And it’s not because we’ve had this incredible decline in poverty.” Point proven by the recent Census data.
But now the conversation in Washington is switching back to jobs, so everything should be just fine, right? We’ve gotten our priorities straight, so we can figure out how to fix the problem. Not so fast. Writing about the declining middle class in The Atlantic, Don Peck writes that the jobs that are coming down the pike will be low-skill, low-wage jobs, jobs like the ones highlighted a decade ago by Barbara Ehrenreich in Nickel and Dimed and now touted (though not in so many words) by the possible Republican presidential candidate from Texas. In short, jobs that won’t bring people up out of poverty and back into any sort of middle class. “[T]he overall pattern of change in the U.S. labor market suggests,” Peck writes,
that in the next decade or more, a larger proportion of Americans may need to take work in occupations that have historically required little skill and paid low wages. Analysis by David Autor indicates that from 1999 to 2007, low-skill jobs grew substantially as a share of all jobs in the United States. And while the lion’s share of jobs lost during the recession were middle-skill jobs, job growth since then has been tilted steeply toward the bottom of the economy; according to a survey by the National Employment Law Project, three-quarters of American job growth in 2010 came within industries paying, on average, less than $15 an hour. One of the largest challenges that Americans will face in the coming years will be doing what we can to make the jobs that have traditionally been near the bottom of the economy better, more secure, and more fulfilling—in other words, more like middle-class jobs.
Peck’s article offers a number of suggestions about how to regain a middle class and avoid further separation between those at the top and those at the bottom. Unfortunately, nothing so serious as his article seems to be on the table in Washington discussions. And it’s Americans who are paying for it.
Audio from The Take Away with guest Photojouranlist Steve Liss, director of AmericanPoverty.org:
Source: Mother Jones, In These Times, The Take Away, City Limits, The Atlantic
Image by sylvar, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, May 03, 2011 1:52 PM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt-weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year, we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Wednesday, May 18, at the
MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference
in San Francisco. From now until then, we’ll post the nominees in all of the categories on our blogs. Below you’ll find the nominees for the best political coverage, with a short introduction to each. These magazines are literally what Utne Reader is made of. Though we celebrate the alternative press every day and with each issue, once a year we praise those who have done an exceptional job.
The American Conservative
was founded in 2002 as a counterweight to the neocon fervor of the George W. Bush presidency, espousing what it calls “traditional conservatism.” Opening it is like a trip to a parallel universe where right-leaning thinkers can be against war, imperialism, and civil liberties abuses, even while espousing many tenets of social and fiscal conservatism.
The American Prospect
reports on the day’s most essential issues, from immigration to workers’ rights, privacy to prison reform. By combining thorough reportage with deep analysis, it provides progressives with the intellectual and inspirational tools to engage in transformative politics and policy.
A dark horse among its peers, Dissentsubverts politics-as-usual with a cogent blend of rigorous intellectualism and snarky radicalism. Eschewing partisan ideologies, this insightful quarterly never fails to “dissent from the bleak atmosphere of conformism that pervades the political and intellectual life in the United States.”
Bureaucratic crooks and market-wrangling fat cats, beware. You’re under surveillance by the unblinking (and unsympathetic) eye of In These Times. A tireless champion of the oppressed, forgotten, and ignored, the progressive magazine combines meticulous reporting, fierce cultural criticism, rock star writers, and staunch independence.
Since 1976, the folks behind the investigative nonprofit Mother Jones have relentlessly and reliably delivered “smart, fearless journalism,” transcending political spin to unearth stories on everything from global climate change to torturous foreign policy decisions on both sides of the aisle.
A vital progressive voice for nearly 150 years, The Nationweighs in weekly on politics, arts, and culture via vivid features, incisive reviews, and convention-busting commentary. By bucking the trend toward the slick and the glossy, The Nation helps to keep politics real.
The influential, debate-fueling biweekly The New Republic chooses tough critical thinking over easy dogma, encouraging its writers (and readers) to be critical not just of their right-wing foes but also of their fellow liberals. In a political landscape full of bluster, TNR’s cool rigor holds sway.
is more than 100 years old, but this bastion of the liberal press is full of fresh energy and up-to-the-minute currency. Publishing analysis and reporting from leading thinkers, it never loses sight of the people behind the issues it covers.
our complete list of 2011 nominees
Tuesday, April 19, 2011 1:34 PM
As the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf approaches we look to some of our most trusted sources to get us up to date on all things BP and the Gulf. Below are some of the nominees for this year’s Utne Independent Press Awards in the environmental and political categories with their most recent coverage of the oil spill, one year later.
Let’s start at Audubon Magazine for a little history on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, by way of an excerpt from A Sea in Flames: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Blowout by Carl Safina (who also appears in the latest issue of Utne Reader). Even though we know how it all ends, Safina’s build up to the blowout is tense and makes you anxious while reading:
A churning drill bit sent from a world of light and warmth and living beings. More than three miles under the sea surface, more than two miles under the seafloor. Eternal darkness. Unimaginable pressure. The drill bit has met a gas pocket. That tiny pinprick. That pressure. Mere bubbles, a mild fizz from deep within. A sudden influx of gas into the well. Rushing up the pipe. Gas expanding like crazy. Through the open gates on the seafloor. One more mile to the sea surface.
The always feisty Mother Jones doesn’t beat around the bush with their latest blog post about the spill: “10 Reasons to Still Be Pissed Off About the BP Oil Disaster.” The all-too-clear-but-all-too-easily-forgotten reasons include, “BP is gunning to get back to drilling in the Gulf of Mexico” even though “People are sick” and “Fish and other sea life in the Gulf are still struggling after the disaster.” Meanwhile, “GOP House members want more drilling off all our coasts with less environmental review” and “Congress hasn’t changed a single law on oil and gas drilling in the past year.” As promised, the list of 10 will piss you off. (Also, if you missed Mother Jones’ September/October 2010 issue with the cover story “The BP Cover-Up” it’s worth revisiting now.)
And if that’s not enough to piss you off, add this to the mix from The Nation: “BP’s Oil Spill Tax Credit Matches EPA’s Entire Annual Budget.” While the oil giant’s tax credit claim may be old news, The Nation highlights the protests of US Uncut, a group focused on corporate tax breaks and attacks on the public service sector:
Thousands of young voters rallied at the White House this Tax Day to demand President Obama stand up to Big Polluters and make them pay their fair share. During the day of action, a flash mob, led by US Uncut’s Carl Gibson, successfully shut down a BP gas station in response to the company’s $9.9 billion tax credit from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which nearly matches the EPA’s entire annual operating budget.
Conveniently, OnEarth has all of its coverage of the Gulf oil spill in one spot—Disaster in the Gulf—including the most recent post from Ian Somerhalder (the actor most known for his role as ‘Boone’ on Lost).
A year after the worst oil spill in U.S. history, dozens of dead baby dolphins are washing ashore in the Gulf of Mexico; oyster populations are devastated, crippling a multi-billion dollar industry and the tens of thousands of jobs that go with it; and Gulf residents continue to complain of lingering health problems that they believe were caused by the BP oil spill. Despite what you may read in the mainstream media, the oil has not gone away.
Finally, In These Timessums up the situation clearly and succinctly. Simply put, one year after the worst oil spill in U.S. history the “government and media may be moving on from [the] aftermath of the Deepwater disaster, but the scars left behind by the spill are still raw and festering.”
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention here the story “Fish with the King” that we recently reprinted from the excellent online magazine of politics and arts, Guernica, about the devastation the oil spill has had on the fishing communities in the Gulf.
Source: Audubon Magazine, Mother Jones, The Nation, OnEarth, In These Times, Guernica
Image by lagohsep, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, August 02, 2010 3:57 PM
So your new corporate campus was built with reclaimed lumber and uses 90 percent renewable energy. Too bad on the inside it might be a toxic deathtrap. In These Times reports on a possible loophole in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building-certification criteria that could allow otherwise sustainable buildings to have dangerously substandard ventilation and water quality systems.
The gripe against the LEED-certification system was voiced by the nonprofit Environment and Human Health, Inc. The organization claims LEED's 110-point rating system—which considers building site, construction materials, water efficiency, and other variables—makes it possible "to get the top rating—Platinum—while scoring zero points (out of 15) in 'indoor environmental quality.'" This includes air quality, water quality, and the presence of pesticides and harmful chemicals.
Many argue, however, that if a building passes LEED inspection, the quality of the indoor environment takes care of itself. Scot Horst, the senior vice president for LEED at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), told In These Times, "In practice it's very hard to earn a Platinum rating without addressing indoor air quality." On the In These Times website, commenter Peter Crownfield also mentioned that LEED certification requires the building to meet the industry standards set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.
The complaint seems more theoretical than practical, but Environment and Human Health made some compelling, common sense suggestions, such as "putting more healthy experts on the USGBC board and requiring that builders earn a minimum number of points in each category."
Source: In These Times
Image by Foxtongue, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, May 14, 2010 3:54 PM
In These Times has a great interview in which lifelong social activist Joanna Macy shares her four-step process for creating a sustainable future. Macy teaches workshops on “The Work that Reconnects” to show people how acknowledging gratitude and grief can lead to a new way of seeing the world and moving forward. She feels we’re at the crossroads of a third revolution (akin to the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions), and there’s a great opportunity to unite and push our industrial society into a “life-sustaining” one. I like her observations about recognizing our collective “grief for the world.”
People aren’t thrilled to have you tell them how terrible things are. At first I thought there was this big public apathy, but I learned that it was not that people were indifferent and it’s not that they didn’t care and it’s not that they didn’t know—they did know and they did care but it seemed too painful and too enormous to do anything about.
The repression of painful information is particularly widespread in the United States. We don’t want to look at the inequalities that our lifestyle has generated. We don’t want to look at the ways that we’re endangering the future of life on earth. This is a phenomenon that some people call “psychic numbing” and others call denial.
For life to continue, we must invent a whole new way of supporting human life on earth. That change is coming. It’s not visible to many people because it is not being reported by mainstream media—written press or electronic. But it’s happening and that’s what I see as the third revolution.
Source: In These Times
Tuesday, March 30, 2010 5:24 PM
Leave it to the 83-year-old White House correspondent Helen Thomas to give the progressive media grist for a great story about an America in denial and at war.
In early January, after a press conference in which President Obama addressed the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and former chairman of the National Counterterrorism Center, John Brennan took their place at the podium to answer questions about terrorism, Thomas, who is now the star of her very own bio-pic, asked about motive. “What is really always lacking for us,” she said, “is you don’t give the motivation of why they want to do us harm.”
For the next few minutes, despite being asked “Why?” twice more, Napolitano and Brennan avoided discussing cause and effect. When asked later if she intended to keep asking the question, Thomas pledged vigilance, then quipped that the real question was: “Will I get an answer.”
The editors at In These Times decided to put Thomas’s query to 11 academics, activists, and policymakers and print their answers in their 33rd anniversary issue (April 2010). The resulting cover package—which includes commentary from linguistics professor Noam Chomsky, author Carol Brightman (Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence), and Chicago-based comic Azhar Usman—should be required reading at the White House.
In his essay, Imam Zaid Shakir, founder of the website New Islamic Directions, writes:
Maybe “they” are rotting in a slum in Casablanca or Cairo, or festering in a classroom in Lagos or Lahore, and “they” have seen images from Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Gaza. When “their” anger is combined with the angst generated by globalized economic forces “they” cannot understand, forces that have marginalized and in some cases rendered irrelevant their lives and their religion, the two sources of meaning in the world “they” thought “they” had inherited from “their” forefathers, “they” are easy prey to skilled recruiters who promise “them” both meaning in this world, and a free pass to Paradise in the next by mindlessly striking out as what “they” are led to believe is the source of “their” misery.
While specific policies are cited in a number of the pieces—from the United States failed efforts to fairly broker peace between Israel and Palestine to its morally bankrupt energy policy—what sticks with the reader throughout is the sense that until America learns to empathize with the worlds citizens, it is destined to remain calamitously estranged.
“Perhaps the easiest way for America to understand why people want tot do it harm would be for it to sit down with the television personality Dr. Phil,” writes Usman. The opening monologue would no doubt go something like this:
So America, we all know you are rich, powerful, and beautiful, but you’ve also done some pretty horrible things to various people around the world for decades now—many of which have been covert operations. And now some disturbed individuals with a political vendetta and radical religious ideas are blowing back like crazy chickens with their heads cut off, coming home to roost, and your proposed solution is to invade more countries, drop more bombs, kill more innocent civilians, and make more enemies. How’s that working for you?
Source: In These Times
Friday, February 05, 2010 4:32 PM
In the new issue of In These Times, John Ireland profiles a gay blogger who’s telling his story from one of the most GLBT-unfriendly countries in the world: Uganda, where a draconian “anti-homosexuality bill” was introduced last October. The proposed bill, which would mandate the death penalty for cases of “aggravated homosexuality” and require Ugandans to report any known GLBT people to the authorities, has been widely condemned by Western leaders, including President Obama.
Despite the tense, dangerous environment—and the fact that he was publicly outed in a Ugandan newspaper in December—this blogger, who uses the pseudonym “Gug,” continues to post dispatches on his website (GayUganda.blogspot.com) and Twitter account (Twitter.com/gayuganda). “It’s a risk that I have to carry,” he tells In These Times.
Closeted life is similar the world over. Gug finds a comfort zone and a way to “pass” that has kept him safe so far. He can relax within a tight-knit group of other “kuchus” in bars, after the early evening crowd leaves. He tweets:
like a change of guard. football fans out. us partiers in. and the night is young… its pleasant to be in a place of safety. where i and other kuchus can interact in relative safety. a heavy cloak lifts.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill is transforming his circle of friends, forcing them to make difficult choices. He describes [via Twitter] how he and his partner are drawn into the battle, sometimes reluctantly:
“he is on the phone. counseling. someone being blackmailed. yeah, a kuchu. life, as normal”
“some weighty decisions on my mind. personal. I tend to mull them over.. and i have”
“would i ever leave kampala??? or uganda? not by choice. this is home”
Source: In These Times
Image by FredoAlvarez, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010 2:36 PM
"My name is Maysoon Zayid and for those of you who don't know me, I am a Palestinian Muslim virgin with cerebral palsy from New Jersey. And if you don't feel better about yourself, maybe you should." That’s comedian Maysoon Zayid at a performance in 2008 (see footage below).
Zayid is a founder of the wildly popular New York Arab-American Comedy Festival, now in its seventh year. In These Times reports on its corollary in Jordan, the Amman Stand-Up Comedy Festival, now in its second year. Dean Obeidallah, executive producer of the festival and co-founder of the New York event with Zayid, explained the more cautious approach comedians must adopt in Amman:
As common comedic topics like sex and politics would seem to be off limits in the Middle East, the obvious question is: What are Arabs laughing at? Obeidallah says that although comics who perform clean material are more likely to be successful in the more reserved culture, there are no specific objections to types of jokes. Performers adopt a common-sense strategy to political material, he says: “Don’t make fun of the leaders by name, but make a broad-stroke joke.” (Unless you’re making fun of American policies; Bush was a very popular subject, Obeidallah notes.)
The piece also includes a brief profile of Zayid:
A Palestinian with cerebral palsy, she jokes that she is the “most oppressed person on earth,” but her comedy work significantly funds her charity, Maysoon’s Kids, which pays for education and accessibility equipment for disabled children in Palestine. She performed in Amman in both English and Arabic, and credits her ability to flawlessly switch between the two for her success with both audiences.
Asked how the patriarchal Middle East reacts to her performance, she says, “The world of comedy is machismo. Regardless of where they are in the world, women are the underdog. The assumption is, women aren’t as funny. I think I’m blessed as an Arab comic, because I’m the only one who can do what I do.”
The challenge of switching between the languages is not about the content of jokes, Zayid says, but the pace of their delivery. “I would much rather do stand-up in Arabic because of the musicality of the language. It’s a much faster clip than English,” she says. “I’m setting them up and knocking them down. What takes me five minutes in English takes me two in Arabic.”
So, what does make Arabs laugh? “Family material,” Zayid say. “Talking about my dad kills, kills, kills!”
Friday, December 04, 2009 5:38 PM
Have you ever been a good sport? Do you ever look on the bright side? Speaking to In These Times about her new book, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, Barbara Ehrenreich offers some reasons to think twice about the origins and virtue of optimism. Optimism became a prevailing cultural phenomenon as job security began to change (and in many cases vanish) in the 1980s, she explains. “If you want to have a compliant populace, what could be better than to say that everyone has to think positively and accept that anything that goes wrong in their lives is their own fault because they haven’t had a positive enough attitude?”
Source: In These Times
Thursday, December 03, 2009 3:16 PM
Concerned about the environmental impact of consumerism? Don’t just point a finger at the factories that pump out abundant, crappy goods, Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin writes for In These Times. We should also be holding responsible “the two horsemen of the modern consumer apocalypse: functional obsolescence and fashion obsolescence.”
Bloyd-Peshkin joins a growing group of voices intent on reminding us that consumption hasn’t always been the principle expression of American culture. (Look for some great related articles in our Jan.-Feb. issue, on newsstands later this month.) The snapshot story is familiar: In the pre- and post-World War II United States, a demand-driven economy was seen as the road to prosperity. Bloyd-Peshkin, a journalism professor at Columbia College in Chicago, quotes some language from the era, however, that puts a finer point on the strategy:
Our enormously productive economy . . . demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction in consumption.
It just makes you feel a little gross, eh. But the notion of “citizen-as-consumer runs deep,” Bloyd-Peshkin writes, and even the conscientious among us aren’t immune. As “frugal as I am and as green as I try to be,” she confesses, “during the recent economic downturn I’ve found myself feeling that every major purchase I make is a perverse kind of civic duty.” I can relate.
So what’s the solution? Part of it could be heirloom design, a term coined by Saul Griffith, an inventor and, as it happens, 2008 Utne Reader visionary. Heirloom products are durable, repairable, and upgradeable. In other words: They last.
There are plenty of complications, of course: The cost of paying upfront for a durable product, or the calculation that favors replace over repair. “Policy would have to play a key role,” Bloyd-Peshkin writes. The big challenge, however, could be getting people out of the obsolescence mindset: Bloyd-Peshkin mentions a recent survey of British homeowners about longer-lasting dishwashers. Twenty-three percent were concerned about the price, but 30 percent feared the products would become “out of date.”
Source: In These Times
Thursday, November 05, 2009 4:04 PM
Before the identity of the shooter at Fort Hood was revealed, press reports were already talking about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the stresses of an army fighting two wars.
What about the journalists who cover those wars? Over at In These Times, Kari Lyderson reports on a conference organized by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies:
CNN and former Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter Moni Basu described the effects of a career including seven stints in Iraq and covering executions by electric chair in Florida.
“You’re watching a man take 18 minutes to die...and then you’re supposed to just go file your story and move on,” she said.
...CNN cameraman Mark Biello was suffering nightmares and other signs of PTSD, that boiled over in a road rage incident where he accosted a cab driver.
“Every time you see things your cup gets fuller, and there’s only so long before it overflows,” he said.
...Reporters say it is harder than ever to persuade employers to make resources or even time available to address job-related mental health. But the need is greater than ever, as staff-cutting and belt-tightening often means heavier workloads that only add to stress. The issue is even harder to address for freelancers, who often don’t have health insurance or one steady employer.
Source: In These Times
Image by Kyle May, licensed under Creative Commons .
Thursday, July 23, 2009 4:22 PM
“Sometimes the only thing worse than homeopathic products that have no effect are the ones that do,” Terry J. Allen writes for In These Times. Allen is referring to certain Zicam products, popular homeopathic cold remedies that contain “pharmaceutically significant” amounts of zinc. Zinc can cause anosmia—loss of the ability to smell—when taken intranasally, which is the case with Zicam.
Back in June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning for consumers to stop using the Zicam products in question. Allen says that the incident shines a bright light on “the giant regulatory loophole that is homeopathy.” While the FDA requires conventional prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines go through testing to be proven safe and effective, these regulations do not apply to homeopathic solutions.
The FDA reserves the right to step in when necessary, which is what happened in June. Up until then, however, this loophole allowed Zicam-maker Matrixx “to slap on the label ‘homeopathic,’ slip under the regulatory wire, and sell 1 billion doses of untested Zicam,” Allen writes.
Source: In These Times
Monday, April 20, 2009 1:08 PM
The future of lithium refining looks bright, and Bolivian President Evo Morales wants a piece of it. Roughly half the world’s lithium lies beneath the salt flats in Uyuni, Bolivia, reports April Howard for In These Times (article not available online). This resource could greatly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, because lithium is a key component of battery-powered cars. However, the prospect of creating a large-scale lithium extraction and refining industry in Bolivia carries with it numerous potential problems, including dangers to the environment.
For one thing, Uyuni's salt flats contain a high concentration of magnesium as well as lithium, making it more difficult to extract the lithium. And, no one knows exactly what to do with the magnesium after the refining process. According to Marcelo Castro, who is overseeing construction of Uyuni’s lithium plant, the refinery will be a “closed circuit” system in which “We’ll throw materials that we don’t use back into the brine with a few less elements.”
This prospect alarms Elizabeth Lopez Canelas of the Bolivian Environmental Defense League (FOBOMADE), who points out that the resulting heightened salinity could harm peasants who use the water for irrigation. Furthermore, brine extraction facilities could damage the salt flat and Rio Grande delta beyond repair, affecting the wild flamingos who breed there.
Lopez Canelas warns that “There’s no information, no water use studies. So how can they begin to project what the long-term effects might be?”
Source: In These Times
Monday, March 09, 2009 10:34 AM
The debate rages on in school cafeterias about what to feed our kids—whether we want over-processed, pre-fab concoctions replaced with organic piles of healthy, or agribusiness monopolizing the National School Lunch Program. This year Congress will review the Child Nutrition and WIC Act, and considering the ever-increasing obesity rates of American children coupled with the rising price of food, lawmakers have a lot on their plates.
An In These Times article addresses a whole different controversy in the school lunch program, and it is costing taxpayers millions. Sodexo, the second-ranking food-service worldwide, with revenues of around 20 billion last year, is accused of taking rebates, or kick-backs, from their suppliers. Take a New England dairy farm, where they charge the milk producer a few extra cents per half-pint of milk and in return, expect a rebate back. This method of give and take has been common in the food industry since the 1950s says an industry consultant, when kickbacks meant cash in an envelope slipped to the chef. This means taxpayers are paying for Sodexo to charge more for their milk, and it adds up, as this company provides food-service to cafeterias, and other facilities for schools, hospitals, universities, government agencies, the military and private companies across the country.
In These Times explains the scheme:
“The rebate system, endemic to the industry, works like this: A food management company like Sodexo signs contracts to run a client’s cafeteria. The company buys supplies from vendors such as Coke, Kellogg’s or Tyson. Then, chosen vendors send the management company rebates based on a percentage of sales.
“There are generally no cost caps, so rebates—which are not deducted from what the food-service company charges clients—mean higher meal prices. They also limit food choice and quality: food-service companies buy products from vendors that pay bigger rebates rather than those that offer cheaper, locally grown, or higher quality food.”
A produce supplier says, “They try to intimidate you. They have such a grasp on the market. They force you to work on low margin, 20 percent. If you give them a 10 percent kickback, you’re pretty much working for nothing. We lost about $30-to-$40,000 a year, which is a lot for a small businessman.”
“The money involved is massive. Charles C. Kirby, former USDA regional director for child nutrition in Atlanta, says he ran a Mississippi Education Department cooperative buying program from 1992 to 2001. He dealt directly with companies such as Heinz and Kellogg’s and received rebates ranging form 10 percent to 50 percent. In the last year, his rebates were $15 million out of $90 million in purchasing”
For more information relating to the National School Lunch Program read, New York Times op-ed piece, "No Lunch Left Behind."
Or watch this American News Project video, "The Food Lobby Goes to School."
(Thanks, Grist, School Nutrition Association.)
Source: In These Times, NYtimes.com, American News Project
Image by dancing_chopsticks licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, March 02, 2009 1:43 PM
A coaltion of people's movements have united against large-scale mining in Ecuador, reports Daniel Denvir for In These Times, in the form of a multi-billion dollar lawsuit, massive highway blockades, and even a possible political alliance in the next election.
Indigenous groups and campesinos, or peasant farmers, are protesting President Rafael Correa’s recent call to expand mineral exploitation by citing the new constitution that Correa’s own Alianza País supported this past September. Among other things, this document extends legal rights to the natural environment and claims access to water as a human right. However, in January Correa seemed to backtrack on this language by moving to open Ecuador up for further mining by Canadian companies Kinross, Iamgold Inc., and Corriente Resources Inc. In response the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) mobilized thousands of protestors, who went so far as to physically block mining routes along the Panamerican Highway.
Additionally, the Amazon Defense Front, which represents indigenous and campesino movements, has initiated a lawsuit against oil mammoth Texaco, whose practices have wreaked environmental havoc and widespread illness in local populations. Denvir further reports that indigenous and campesino leaders are discussing the possibility of challenging Correa in the April elections, with the aim of gaining seats in the National Assembly.
Sources: In These Times, Upside Down World
image by hyperscholar, licensed under Creative Commons
Friday, October 24, 2008 8:56 AM
Native communities currently broadcast on 33 U.S. radio stations, a number that may double within the next couple of years, reports Mike Janssen for In These Times. Tribal communities applied for 51 radio stations last year, and 12 FCC approvals have trickled in thus far. These soon-to-be stations aren’t on the air yet—they’re still in the fundraising and planning stages—but they could play a significant role in strengthening Native communities. Janssen writes:
Many noncommercial stations around the country focus on community issues. This is especially true of Native stations, which cover topics such as health, education and the environment; feature locally programmed music; and broadcast in Native languages that in some places are spoken by very few people.
Several applicants are still waiting to hear back from the FCC. In the meantime, the nonprofit Native Public Media has a short list of Native stations that stream online and a directory of the stations currently broadcasting.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 11:55 AM
Today is Blog Action Day, an annual event that taps thousands of bloggers across the globe to tackle a single pressing issue. This year, the focus is on poverty. We’ll be spotlighting excellent alternative press coverage of poverty throughout the day here. Let’s get started with this rallying call to progressives from In These Times:
One of the finest traditions of the American left has been its historic commitment to solidarity with the oppressed and poverty-stricken peoples of the world.
In the last few years, however, the progressive movement has become far too insular. As a result, we have too often neglected our internationalist responsibilities–especially when it comes to confronting the ravages of world poverty.
Ken Brociner argues that while other concerns have understandably drawn progressives’ focus—namely, the war in Iraq and electoral politics—the movement is in danger of succumbing to a deadly domestic myopia.
According to the World Health Organization, approximately 18 million people die each year due to poverty-related causes. This staggering figure represents about one third of all deaths that occur throughout the world on an annual basis. And these are deaths that could be easily prevented through better nutrition, safe drinking water, and adequate vaccines, antibiotics and other medicines.
It’s a point that’s proved particularly salient in the last few weeks, as headlines warming of Great Depression II have Americans gnashing their teeth over their disappearing retirement funds. As folks see their budgets increasingly squeezed, it’s easy to ignore the dire needs of those abroad. This dismissal has infected the campaign trail as well, with both presidential candidates confessing that the economic crisis likely will force them to roll back their foreign aid plans.
Which is all the more reason why, as Brociner notes, progressives must not lose sight of their internationalist obligations. Because if they don’t keep global poverty on the U.S. agenda, then who will?
For more alt-press dispatches from Blog Action Day, click
Thursday, March 13, 2008 2:59 PM
Today is a boom time for maps. With the advent of Google Earth and the proliferation of GPS technology, mapmaking has become an art of political and personal expression, according to a recent article for In These Times. Maps today depict more than simple topography: One imagines a melding of the U.S. east and west coasts, while others visualize the interconnections between political bloggers (marked as red and blue for their political affiliations) and trace the movements of planes involved in the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program.
There are also numerous scientific efforts to chart the natural world, Science and Spirit reports, influenced in part by the far-reaching Human Genome Project. These include the Allen Brain Atlas, which maps genes in the brains of mice, and the Encyclopedia of Life, an attempt to document Earth’s biodiversity. Both of these projects offer massive amounts of information online for free.
Although these cartographic efforts are impressive, there is, I think, a towering mapmaking achievement that stands above them all. Based on rapper Ludacris’s 2001 single, “Area Codes,” which cites his many “hos in different area codes,” a skilled cartographer has tendered a map of those very same locales. Now we know where Ludacris’ ladies at.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008 3:23 PM
When it comes to their pocketbooks, “most people have been hurting for quite a while,” writes David Sirota for In These Times' online edition. Yet, it’s only recently that Washington’s line has switched from “Nothing to see here. The economy is fabulous. Move along,” to one more reminiscent of the shrieking at a 1964 Beatles concert.
“Stimulus” has become the Beltway buzzword of the new year, and earlier this month a $168 billion spending package steamrolled through Congress at breakneck speed to land on Bush’s desk this week. The reason for the sudden reversal? The downturn has started preying higher on the economic food chain:
Before, it was just commoners complaining—regular homeowners, wage earners, troops coming home from Iraq, you know, the 99 percent of us who can’t afford the thousand-dollar-a-plate political fundraisers. But now Wall Street is panicking.
For bonus reading, scroll through the number of thoughtful comments that follow Sirota’s article.
Monday, February 11, 2008 3:16 PM
You may not have heard of the most popular, and perhaps most violent, Brazilian film of all time. Tropa de Elite, which came out last year in Brazil and is now in limited release in the United States, follows Captain Nascimento of BOPE, an elite military police battalion, as he prepares Rio de Janeiro for an upcoming visit from the pope. This involves the gruesome torture and murder of countless Rio residents, suspected drug dealers, and crooked cops. The film has been widely criticized for its depiction of brutality against civilians and its seeming advocacy of vigilante violence.
In an article for In These Times, Homes Wilson examines the film and the political undertones of its stunning popularity. The problem with Tropa, Wilson believes, is that the consequences of its gratuitous violence are ambiguous. Whether it is interpreted as destructively immoral, as director José Padilha intended, or as a necessary evil in Brazil’s war on drugs completely depends on the viewer’s point of reference. “If the filmmakers had purposely set out to weave Rio violence into a fascist propaganda piece,” Wilson writes, “it’s impossible to imagine them doing a better job.”
Recalling a police barbecue he attended after watching Tropa, Wilson describes the cops’ excitement about the film by comparing it to geeks’ love of Star Wars, leaving us to wonder what a Tropa de Elite convention might look like. If Brazilian police view the film’s vigilante violence against civilians, some of them children, as glorious rather than cautionary, then Brazil may be moving in a frightening direction indeed.
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