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The Day We Will Never Forget

 

Reflections of September 11

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

This essay, Towards a More Perfect Union, appeared in
the New York Times on September 11, 2003:

 

Still missing in the rubble of 9/11 is the idea of America that enriched, strengthened and protected us for more than two centuries.

Overcome with fear and anger, and later in denial parading as pride, we hardly noticed it was gone.  The idea that we lost was not a superlative — most powerful or richest — but rather a promise. 

The wondrous mystery of America is found not in its perfection, but in its ability to improve, its perpetual search for a more perfect union. The idea had been fading for some time, not just because we came to think of power as an adequate substitute, but because we came to ignore such mundane matters as teaching children democracy with the same vigor that we teach them how to drive or about the dangers of drugs.

And so we tried to recover from 9/11 with a flag and loyalty to a place called America, but without its dream.

We used instead military power, anti-democratic security measures, seductive technology, and yet another elephantine bureaucracy — offering more temptation for guerrillas with simple weapons and no love of life. 

The 9/11 attackers, and the tens of millions around the world who share some measure of their anger, have only seen our money and our fist — not the decency, democracy, and dream that made America strong in the first place.

These virtues are still lying in the rubble of the past year.  Our job is to recover them, revive them, share them, and become once more a model rather than a target.

Only then will we be both safe and free.

* * * * * * * * *

~Via Sam Smith/Undernews, Stephen Keller and Vimeo

It was the day that changed America.  
It was the ugliest of days we will never forget.
America was founded on cherished values and truths; our strength and union
derives from those same principles that we should hold dearly onto today.

 

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Howard’s Farm

 

The End of a Family Farm

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

A small Hudson Valley fruit farm is very different than a large Midwest commodity farm.

Take 86-year-old Howard Quimby for example.  Still active, he grows Concord grapes, raises goats and boards horses on his 70-acre Marlboro farm.  He’s been doing so for eight decades.  Some of Howard’s grapes help supply a local vintner and they’ve named a wine variety for him, Quimby Rose. He reports the current winery owners are very good farmers and keep their vineyards well-tended.

His farm harkens back to the bygone days when animals and farmers worked together to sow, mow, cultivate, harrow
and accomplish numerous other tasks. 

Quimby used to hitch up Noah and Omar, his two 1,500 pound mules, to mow a field and occasionally give demonstrations of their use to school children. 

With a gentle twinkle in his eye, Quimby remembers using those mules to pull phone lines and poles up and over a nearby mountain because they were the only ones who could get through the tough terrain.  That was in the 1980s. 

Now he prefers using his tractor.

He talks about when farmers maintained the roads– so they could have lower taxes.  The roads, Quimby also recalls, were terrible.

Quimby, like other farm kids, walked 2 ½ miles to get to the school, one time in a “miserable cold only to be told by the principal to warm up and then go home.  No school that day because of the bitter temperature.”  He adds that he never did ride
a school bus.

“Mailman delivered with a horse and buggy.  You could set your watch by him.  Gus Cotant.  He’d stop and feed his horse and eat his own lunch– in winter, people on his route would invite him inside to eat,” Howard recalls.

One of Quimby’s neighbors, the Pizzo’s, had a farm and a shack large enough to house a cow and a horse.  One night the Pizzos forgot to turn the heater down and it started a fire that destroyed the shed.  A calf and all the chicks were lost.  More important to the small family, its cow and horse were unhurt.  

Losing the shed, however, was still a huge blow to the struggling young family. “Guiseppe was despondent,” Quimby said.

A family friend asked Guiseppe, “Do you like it here?”  Guiseppe said he did.

“Then we’ll have a barn-raising,” his friend declared.  

And they did just that.  The friend had saved enough old beams from a dismantled barn to put up the framework for the structure and Quimby and the neighbors showed up to do the work.  The result was a suitable home for the horse and cow, Quimby recalled.

Intertwined around crops, shipping, animal husbandry, the weather, and helping one another, long time Hudson Valley farmers– like Quimby– are a vanishing breed.

Quimby doesn’t know who will care for his farm after he is gone.  He’s not sure if his four daughters will want to carry on the traditional burden of hard work and responsibility farm life requires in the modern age. 

But with another twinkle of gentle patience in his eye, Quimby has adopted an air of understanding  and acceptance, a letting go, knowing the decision of what will ultimately happen is out of his hands once his final day of farming is done.

 

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Who’s Been Monkey-Wrenching Your Nonprofit?

 

Fortune 500 Companies’ Corporate Espionage

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Giant corporations are employing highly unethical or illegal tools of espionage against nonprofit organizations with near impunity.

Corporations hire shady investigative firms staffed with former employees of the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, U.S. military, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Secret Service and local police departments to target nonprofit organizations.

Many of the world’s largest corporations and their trade associations — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, Monsanto, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Burger King, McDonald’s, Shell, BP, BAE, Sasol, Brown & Williamson and E.ON — have been linked to espionage or planned espionage against nonprofit organizations, activists and whistleblowers.

Many different types of nonprofit organizations have been targeted with corporate espionage, including environmental, anti-war, public interest, consumer, food safety, pesticide reform, nursing home reform, gun control, social justice, animal rights and arms control groups.

Corporations and their trade associations have been linked to a wide variety of espionage tactics against nonprofit organizations. Many of these tactics are either highly unethical or illegal.

In his carefully-researched paper, Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage Against Nonprofit Organizations, author Gary Ruskin writes the BBI investigative agency:

“…spied on Greenpeace and other environmental organizations from the late 1990s through at least 2000, pilfering documents from trash bins, attempting to plant undercover operatives within groups, casing offices, collecting phone records of activists, and penetrating confidential meetings.

According to company documents provided to Mother Jones by a former investor in the firm, this security outfit collected confidential internal records– donor lists, detailed financial statements, the Social Security numbers of staff members, strategy memos– from these organizations and produced intelligence reports for public relations firms and major corporations involved in environmental controversies.”

 

The most prevalent tactic appears to be infiltration by posing as a volunteer or journalist to obtain information from a nonprofit. 

But corporations have been linked to many other human, physical and electronic espionage tactics– as well as going so low as to raid trash dumpsters– against nonprofits, as well.

~You can find the full report in Gary Ruskin’s Essential Information report here (pdf).

* * * * * * * *

Via Amy Goodman/Democracy Now, Gary Ruskin, Undernews

 

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Glass Eyes of Locust Bayou

 

A Blurred and Tangled Universe

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Phil Chambliss is a 59-year old filmmaker from rural Arkansas. 
He makes weird and wonderful films that are a bizarre alter-universe
mirroring America.

Chambliss has been documenting his rural life in Locust Bayou, Arkansas, for nearly 40 years through his small budget DIY films that straddle between fact and fiction, good and evil.

He worked as a night watchman for the Highway Department for three decades and during the day made his wholly unique, indescribably odd movies starring his neighbors.  He is, in short, the area’s resident cult director– akin to, say, John Waters and David Lynch– all tossed into one.

Filming Westerns, holiday epics and obscurely sinister dramas set in funeral homes, pencil stands and daycare centers for birds, his films proudly ignore most classical standards of editing, acting and coherent dialogue.  They come complete with titles like To Hell with Lead-Poison and Shadows of the Hatchet Man.

Shot on Super 8mm and later videotape, his movies are filled with absurdist but earnest exchanges, and often seem to exist in a genre of their own making and invention.

“I’m originally from a small town,” filmmaker Simon Mercer said upon first meeting Chambliss, “so there were certain bits that I understood very well and related to, but the rest of it was a completely alien world.”

Glass Eyes of Locust Bayou is an anthropological time capsule of sorts, offering a perfect glimpse into the mind of an affectionate, hilarious and utterly mysterious Arkansas artist and his environment.

“Phil has been going around with a camera since the ’70s just capturing little tidbits of people and places around that area,” Mercer said.  That’s what I think is incredible.  He’s documenting this whole chunk of Arkansas history and culture and society without even really thinking about it too consciously — better than probably a lot of people are.”

Equally powerful is its presentation of Chambliss’ natural gifts as a storyteller.

“I wish I could have had them all,” Mercer said of the stories, which include tales of hog hangings, attempted murders and an abandoned career as a pornographer.  

“There was sex and murder and intrigue and family feuds, every kind of story you could ever hope for.  And you’re always straddling this line of not knowing when a story is getting blown out of proportion into fantasy territory.  Sometimes it’s with a wink and a nudge, and other times it’s just so wild I didn’t know where the line was.”

Chambliss and his films testify to the notion that there is a filmmaker in many of us, wanting to make movies like the ones we grew up with, the ones we can never forget, the ones we love.  His work proves that for the determined and the inventive, it’s a small step from loving movies to making them.

Glass Eyes of Locust Bayou gives a mesmerizing glimpse into the blurred and tangled universe Chambliss inhabits– presenting us with a one of a kind folk artist who creates his own dark and twisted version of Americana exactly as he wishes it to be.

~Via Simon Mercer, Ark Times, and Vimeo

 

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Happiness is a Warm Gun

 

Last Year British Cops Fired Their Guns 3 Times

 

–No One Died–

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

America has a love affair with their guns.

In 2012, 409 people were shot and killed by American police in what were termed justifiable shootings.

In that same year, British police officers fired their weapons just once.  No one was killed.

In 2013, British police officers fired their weapons all of three times.  No one died.

According to The Economist, “British citizens are around 100 times less likely to be shot by a police officer than Americans.  Between 2010 and 2014, the police force of one small American city — Albuquerque in New Mexico — shot and killed 23 civilians;  seven times more than the number of Brits killed by all of England and Wales’s 43 forces during the same period.

The Economist argues that the reason for this disparity is actually quite simple: guns are comparatively rare in the UK.

Most cops don’t carry them and criminals rarely have access to them.  The last time a British officer was killed by a gun was in 2012.  In the US last year, 30 police officers were shot and killed in the line of duty.

In December, The World reported on Icelanders grieving after their police force killed a man — for the first time in the country’s history as a republic.

~Via PRI, Joe Callandar and Vimeo

 

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Mitch McConnell’s Party of Greedy Old People

 

 

GOP’s Secret Plan for Making All of Us Poor

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Don’t let that glad handing and sweet Southern smile fool you. 
It’s not hard figuring out whose pocket Mitch McConnell is in.

At a secret meeting of elite donors convened by the Koch brothers last June, McConnell laid out his plan for shrinking the federal government and whined about having to vote on minimum wage bills.

The Nation has audio of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also telling the room of conservative activists how Republicans will shut down parts of the government if they gain control of the U.S. Senate.

He also said government would be privatized wherever possible.

Said McConnell:

“So in the House and Senate, we own the budget.  So what does that mean?  That means that we can pass the spending bill.  And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill.

No money can be spent to do this or to do that.  We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, and across the board (inaudible).

All across the federal government, we’re going to go after it…”

 

McConnell praised the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, telling the uber-wealthy Koch-headed attendees that it “levels the playing field for corporate speech.” 

He also complained about raising the minimum wage, and students being able to obtain student loans for school.  He added students should pay for attending private for-profit colleges instead of public institutions. 

He said the Dodd-Frank act regulating the freewheeling and reckless casino-like actions of Wall Street following the 2008 economic meltdown should be rolled back– and
Wall Street’s financial business allowed to continue without
restraint or interference.

It should come as no surprise and no wonder that Wall Street was the number-one contributor to McConnell’s campaign committee from 2009 to 2014.

The Republican Senate Minority Leader also lamented incredulously that the worst day of his political life was when the McCain-Feingold bill was voted into law limiting donations, perks, and gifts to PACS and members of Congress.

As The Nation put it:

To put that in perspective, Mitch McConnell’s thirty-five-year career in the Senate saw the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed thousands of Americans, the 2008 housing meltdown that threatened the entire economy and Barack Obama’s election, to cite a conservative bête noire.  

But it was McCain-Feingold, the bill that banned soft money and unlimited donations to party committees, that constitutes the worst day of his political life.

 

McConnell, to note, has voted down every bill helping the poor, students, children, families, single mothers, and even veterans in his home state and nation.  McConnell, in contrast, has an estimated wealth between $7 million and $37 million dollars.

As Senator Elizabeth Warren remarked, “Mitch McConnell is there for millionaires and billionaires. He is not there for people who are working hard playing by the rules and trying to build a future for themselves.”

Given his comments at the Koch conference and the real agenda close to his heart, it’s no surprise Kentucky ranks near the bottom of the Red
States with the lowest median income in the nation. 

Thanks to McConnell, Kentucky remains the 5th poorest of all the 50 states.

 


 

 

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Swatting the ‘Hood

 

Neighborhood Police… Or Combat Soldiers?

 

Vice **VIDEO**

 

Jim Hightower
JimHightower.com

 

 

From 1776 forward, Americas have opposed having soldiers do police work
on our soil.  In recent years, however, Pentagon chiefs have teamed up with
police chiefs to circumvent that prohibition.

How?  Simply by militarizing police departments.

Through the little-known “military transfer program,” the Pentagon has been shipping massive amounts of surplus war equipment to our local gendarmes.  This reflects a fundamental rewiring of the mindset now guiding neighborhood policing.

Police chiefs today commonly send out squads brandishing heavy arms and garbed in riot gear for peaceful situations.  

Recruiting videos now feature clips of SWAT-team officers dressed in black, hurling flash grenades into a home, then storming the house, firing automatic weapons.  Who wants anyone recruited by that provocative video working in their neighborhood?

As a city councilman in rural Wisconsin commented when told his police were getting a nine-foot-tall armored vehicle:  “Somebody has to be the first to say, ‘Why are we doing this?’”  The New York Times reports that the town’s police chief responded with, “There’s always a possibility of violence.”

Really?  Who threatens us with such mayhem that every burg and ‘burb needs a war-zone armory and a commando mentality?

Astonishingly, a sheriff’s spokesman in suburban Indianapolis offered this answer:  Veterans.

The sheriff’s department needed a mine-resistant armored vehicle, he explained, to defend itself against US veterans returning from the Afghanistan war.  War veterans, he said, “have the ability and knowledge to build homemade bombs and to defeat law enforcement techniques.”

That is lame, loopy, insulting, shameful, and just plain stupid.

Maybe he just forgot to pack his brain when he left for work that day.  But I’m afraid it’s a window into the altered mindset of police chiefs and trainers.

“Officer Friendly, in a Tank?  War Gear Flows to Local Police,” The New York Times, June 9, 2014.

* * * * * * * * *

 

Jim Hightower is a Texan, columnist, and populist who believes that to move America from greed to greatness, we must fuel the power and the passion of our nation’s workaday majority.

A national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author, he frequently appears on television and radio programs bringing a hard-hitting populist viewpoint that rarely gets into the mass media. 

He broadcasts daily radio commentaries that are carried on more than 150 commercial and public stations, on the web, and on Radio for Peace International.  A popular public speaker who is fiery and funny, he is a populist road warrior who delivers more than 100 speeches a year to all kinds of groups.

He has written seven books and is a New York Times bestselling author.

As political columnist Molly Ivins said, “If Will Rogers and Mother Jones had a baby, Jim Hightower would be that rambunctious child — mad as hell and with a sense of humor.”

You can listen to more of Jim Hightower’s commentaries here.

 

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The Brutalization of Kindergarten

 

Kids Just Wanna Play

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It used to be that kindergartners could play — which is how early childhood development experts say young children learn and are socialized best.

Today 5- and 6-year-olds are forced to sit for hours at a time doing academics, often with little or no recess, and in some places, no time for a snack.  Homework goes home every day with many kindergartners.

Stories about the bastardization of kindergarten come from across the country. 

John Gemmill of Dodge City, Kansas, said that he spent at least half of the 186 days he teaches a year giving some sort of mandated standardized assessment– with strict rubrics to follow– to kindergartners in his classes last year.

One veteran educator described his granddaughter’s Houston kindergarten class as a “sweat shop.”  

This past spring the interim principal and four teachers at an elementary school in Elwood, N.Y., sent a letter to parents saying the annual year-end kindergarten play was being cancelled so kids could keep working hard to be “college and career ready.”  (This really happened.)

So what’s next?  How about final exams for kindergartners?

In 2011 the Florida Legislature approved a statute that is to go into effect during the new 2014-15 school year requiring that school districts develop and/or administer seven or more end-of-course assessments to all students — and they did not exclude kindergarten.  

As a result, Florida school districts have been developing final assessments in subjects including math, language arts, music, science and social studies to give to students, including kindergartners.

In Florida, the results of end-of-course exams affect the evaluation and pay of teachers.

Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of the advocacy group Fund Education Now, said it would be outrageous to give kindergartners these new exams.

“We support fair measures of accountability, but forcing 6-year-olds to take 7 potentially high stakes tests is unacceptable,” Oropeza said.

…An excerpt, you can Valerie Strauss’ full article in The Washington Post here

~Via UnderNews, Washington Post, Ron Goldstone and Vimeo

 

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Bringing Jobs Back to America

 

The Cooperative Revival

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It’s not surprising that some are making the case for working co-ops. 
When workers own their companies, everyone wins.

Leo Gerard, the President of United Steelworkers Union, has been vocal about the possibility of what he calls “union cooperatives.”  

He has even studied this: In the wake of the recession, his union allied with Mondragon, a large federation of cooperatives based in Spain, and spent three years developing ways to build a similar movement in the states.  Gerard noted that even while the Spanish economy has fared poorly in recent years, Mondragon proved resilient, maintaining steady employment.

The idea is catching on in the U.S. as well.  In Pittsburgh, a “union cooperative” industrial laundry called Clean and Green uses green technologies and employs 120 worker owners.  The business replaces a traditionally-run laundry;  if it succeeds it will be potent proof for the cooperative movement.

Two thousand minority home health-care workers in New York City formed a cooperative that increased their wages and benefits while also giving them more control of their working conditions.  They are coordinating with the Service Employees International Union.  

The NYC coop model might provide unions with just the fresh air that they need.  The economist Richard Wolff says that, “Unions concentrated mostly on how to minimize what to give back.  They very rarely think in terms of strategic alternatives.”

In Cincinnati, one cooperative is connected with local building trades, and it retrofits buildings with green energy technologies.  The nascent nature of the industry makes it ideal for cooperatives, which cannot be formed in industries already dominated by large hierarchical corporations.  Ohio Cooperative Solar, for instance, installs solar panels on rooftops in downtown Cleveland.

Cooperatives can also supplement economic development programs in cities suffering under the weight of what’s called deindustrialization.  In Cleveland, historian and political economist Gar Alperovitz has developed a cooperative model based on the idea of “anchor institutions.”  He aims to use institutions like hospitals, local government, and universities, which are constantly in demand, to serve as a bulwark against the vicissitudes of the business cycle.  

Alperovitz says that he’s had interest in his anchor-institutions model from representatives from about a hundred cities across the country.  Cincinnati has ex-
perimented with the anchor-institution model, as well as Atlanta, Washington, D.C.,
and Jacksonville.  Most of these areas are either deindustrialized or were hit hard by
the housing crisis.

And coops are not just good for unions, the environment, and struggling towns– they are good for workers, too.

A study by economist Chris Doucouliagos examines 43 published studies and finds that profit-sharing, worker-ownership, and worker participation in decision-making correlated with higher productivity.  The effects are stronger among labor-managed firms than those with merely worker-ownership schemes like ESOPs.

This seems to be playing out in the Union Cab Cooperative in Madison, Wisconsin.  The coop was formed when cab drivers– who were fed up with long hours, poor benefits, and low pay– ditched management and bought the cabs themselves.

Their cab cooperative is run by a nine-person board of directors elected by the workers who sit for terms of no more than three years.  In total, about 60 workers are involved in management, with representation distributed throughout the cooperative.  

The highest-paid workers make a base salary that is only 2.2 times the lowest-paid workers, although drivers who spend more hours driving and those elected to management positions make more.

 

…An excerpt, you can read the full article by the Huffington Post’s Sean McElwee here.

 

 

 

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Net Neutrality and the Gilded Age

 

Time to Shut Up and Pay Up for Access

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It’s not the government that’s going to trample on your 1st amendment rights. 

It’s the corporations with the government’s permission.

Namely, Comcast and Time Warner.  And your local politicians who are paving the greedy way forward.

A whopping 52 mayors from cities across the country have all recently declared their support for the controversial Comcast-Time Warner merger.

In a signed letter to the Federal Communications Commission, they adopted those companies’ twisted logic that a near-monopoly would actually be a good thing for their citizens.

As it happens, Comcast and Time Warner are regarded by several surveys as the most hated companies in America.  They spend a fortune lobbying Congress to overturn the terribly-termed net neutrality.  If they’re successful, that would allow them to charge customers more to access certain websites at full speed and to censor others.

Unlike the tools available to expose donations to members of Congress– whom Comcast and Time Warner have given millions of dollars to in campaign donations and who then directly tried to kill net neutrality– there isn’t a central database to search mayoral campaign contributions.

The idea of net neutrality could very well become a thing of the past if this merger occurs. 

Easily explained in the videos as to why it’s important, we see it as a 1st amendment issue– and one that is important for the vital free flow of information equally available and accessible for everyone.

 

Net Neutrality from wreckandsalvage on Vimeo.

 

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Warbird Pilot

 

Keeping the Legacy Alive

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Some people see warbird pilots as fearless, confident, risky or arrogant.

In reality, they’re no different than you or me.  They’re just willing to put it all on the line to keep the old warbird legacy alive at their own personal expense.  Some of these pilots were born into the life style; others have worked their way to the top of the small community.

Rob Scribner’s mini-documentary shows what it’s like to be a warbird pilot.  Keeping history alive by flying and maintaining these vintage aircraft for future generations, they’re a different breed altogether.  And the aircraft themselves are a different kind of beautiful:  aerodynamic and sleek, simple and efficient lines, metal and chrome and a roaring Allison or Merlin engine with lots of raw, pure power when unleashed.

Warbird Pilot: Behind the Visor explores the aspects of flying these birds, the bad and difficult parts, the passion behind it and reason they do it, and the joys and the fears of the lifestyle.

John-Curtiss Paul talks about the life of maintaining and flying the old WWII birds—and the life he potentially leaves behind with each flight.

There are only a handful of people in the world that are even capable of doing what John-Curtiss Paul does, and he does it with passion to keep the living legacy of history alive.

* * * * * * * * * *

For you camera and editing aficionados, Scribner describes the equipment he used in making this film:

Most of this project was filmed on the FS100 but we also use a 7D, 60D, and Go-pro Footage.

The FS100 was the A cam;  we did not have a ton of lenses to work with, mainly the 18-200mm Sony E-mount and a 20mm Sony E-mount 2.8 which worked great for fast shooting.

The trick for us was making good use of the Tiffen ND filters.  We shot all the interviews at 24p and most of the Broll in 60p (S & Q).

There were a few times I change to 1080 60p internal to the cam because I wanted to capture audio that I could use later in post but also want to slow it down to 24p.

The 7D, which was our B cam, also had a stock lens, the 18-135mm Canon EF.  This was also the cam we used for the time-lapse shots.  The project was finished up and edited in Premiere Pro CC.

We had to be scrappy when making this project which was actually really fun.

 

~For those P40 and P51 Mustang pilots everywhere, past and present. 

 

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Where Did You Sleep Last Night

 

Lead Belly’s Nirvana (1888-1949)

 

**Viral VIDEO**

 

 

He was a bad dude who lived larger than life.

Lead Belly is an old-school wrecking ball folk-singer who worked hard labor as a sharecropper in the Depression-era South, and lived it up with hot babes, stiff drinks, and smoke-filled clubs in Renaissance-era Harlem.

He kicked his enemies’ collective butts in at least five hardcore back-alley knife fights, escaped from jail once, convinced the governors of two states to pardon him from murder raps using nothing more than a guitar and his singing voice, and went on to basically help create modern music by influencing everyone from Johnny Cash and Frank Sinatra to Kurt Cobain and Jack White.

He was tough as hell and built like a house.  He drank hard, fought harder, played the twelve-string guitar better than any man alive during his day, and once responded to being stabbed in the throat in prison by pulling the knife out of his own neck and almost murdering the dude with it.

Huddie William Ledbetter was born on a Louisiana bayou in January of 1888.  One of five kids, Ledbetter’s dad was a sharecropper– a tough, calloused-handed wandering manual laborer who worked insane twelve-hour shifts in the hot Louisiana sun for next to nothing.

Huddie quickly realized that bouncing around the countryside with his dirt-poor family looking for backbreaking jobs wasn’t his thing, so he decided to get the hell out of there, beat the shitty hand he’d been dealt with, and become a superstar musician instead.

By twelve he’d dropped out of school.  By fifteen he’d taught himself how to play the accordion, one of the hardest and more complicated instruments to play.

Better known as Lead Belly, he was soon playing shows in the St. Paul’s Bottom neighborhood of Shreveport, Louisiana as a young kid– a hardcore red light district known for being packed with hookers and hooch.

Surrounded by drunken debauchery didn’t derail Lead Belly’s quest for awesomeness, and he was all up in St. Paul’s Bottom cranking out jams on his accordion, blowing everyone’s minds with his music, then going home with a fifth of scotch and the hottest gal in the club.

By the age of sixteen he was married with two kids.  By twenty he was divorced and had split out of Shreveport, wandering the South playing shows in any venue that would have him, and working hard labor jobs when music didn’t pay his bills.

Lead rode the rails, traveling the land from the beer-soaked streets of Shreveport’s seediest neighborhoods to the hottest clubs in Deep Ellum, Texas; hanging out at every bar, saloon, and music venue along the way.

But Lead wasn’t just there to party.  He made it his life’s mission to listen to every musician he could find– and absorb all the musical knowledge he could.

He learned to play the piano, guitar, harmonica, mandolin, and violin, became the undisputed master of the twelve-string guitar, and spoke to so many famous blues and folk musicians that he became a walking encyclopedia of American folk tunes.

Before long he could play basically every folk song there was (he claimed to have learned over 500 tunes), and when he wasn’t putting a new spin on old standards, he was writing badass songs about cowboys, sailors, women, booze, prison, and God.  Hitler, too.

Along the line he worked hard jobs to earn enough cash to put food on the table, hammering railroad spikes, picking cotton, herding cattle as a cowboy, and hammering fence posts.

Lead Belly’s budding music career hit a slight hitch in 1915, when the folk guitarist was arrested for punching a dude in the face, pulling a gun in the middle of a barroom brawl, and then pummeling someone with it.

He was sentenced to serve an unspecified period of hard labor on a chain gang in Harrison County, Texas, busting out the hard work that paid even worse than sharecropping.  Two days into his mandatory community service of whacking rocks, Lead slipped off when the shotgun-toting guards weren’t looking and bolted out of there on foot– some sources claim they sent dogs after him but he managed to elude them.  Escaping prison, he fled to the next county, changed his name, and went right back to work as a manual laborer by day and an aspiring musician by night.

Even though he always played shows in a three-piece suit and a bow tie, Lead Belly was more gangsta than half of Death Row Records.  Bob Dylan once referred to Lead Belly as “One of the few ex-cons to ever record a successful children’s album.”

Lead Belly was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame early in the Hall’s life, and his music, which became insanely more popular after his death, has been covered by Bob Dylan, the White Stripes, Johnny Cash, Elvis, the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones, the Doors, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Tom Petty, and dozens of other bands, almost all of whom cite this hard-drinking, hard-fighting badass as a major influence on their careers.

Lead Belly lived a more colorful life than can possibly be described in this short column, but you can read more about him here.

~Via Badass, Wikipedia, MTV and Vimeo

 

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Am I Next?

 

Ferguson Seen Through the Eyes
of a Teenager

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

A 16-year-old kid says more with a marker and paper than all of the media did.

Looting, chanting, tear gas, and rubber bullets have been the frequent images coming out of Ferguson, Mo.  

Much of the press coverage following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson has centered more on Brown’s character, personal issues, and a smaller number of looters– rather than asking the greater number of people why they’re protesting and reacting so angrily in the aftermath.

The vast majority of protesters have been peaceful and standing up for their rights, armed with little more than chalk and paper signs protesting what they view as an injustice.

Hoping to create a memorial for Michael Brown, the teenager killed by a police officer in the St Louis suburb on August 9, we follow teenager Shane Flowers as he weaved through the protests, attempting to let his voice be heard and fight for change as the darkness slowly fell on Florissant Avenue.

As he moves through the crowds, he hears differing opinions from other protesters on the best ways to fight for change.

If you want to get to the heart of why people are so frustrated and enraged, look no further than the 16-year-old who expresses much of what the community is struggling with and writing down the questions many are asking.

 

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Ranger Gabriel Gets His Wish

 

A Young Boy’s Journey to Yosemite

 

Staff Pick **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Gabriel always had a wish to be a park ranger.

When the Yosemite park rangers got word of his dream, they stepped up to the plate, in a VERY big way.

Gabriel Lavan-Ying is an eight-year-old from Gainesville, Florida, who suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, an inherited and incurable connective tissue disorder that causes abnormal bruising and skin and joint weaknesses.

With the help of Make-A-Wish Central California, and Yosemite National Park, Gabriel’s wish came true on Tuesday, June 3, 2014.  That was the day he became an honorary park ranger at an official swearing-in ceremony.

The rangers at Yosemite National Park put Gabriel through extensive training in order to ensure his success as a national park ranger.  He arrived in Yosemite with his family– mother Tara, father Kon, twin sister Angelica and older brother Dominic– and stayed at Tenaya Lodge just out-
side the south gate of the park.

On Tuesday, Gabriel and his family traveled to Yosemite Valley for his training and swearing-in ceremony.

Gabriel was dispatched to fight a woodland fire with the Yosemite Fire Crew, attended naturalist walks in Cook’s Meadow, and was dispatched to a search and rescue operation involving an injured hiker and assisted the Yosemite medical team in transporting the patient to a rescue helicopter.

After Gabriel’s full day of training, he was sworn in as an Honorary Park Ranger in a ceremony at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center.

Approximately 300 people, including Yosemite community members and Yosemite park rangers, witnessed the ceremony in which Gabriel received his badge and credentials.  United States Magistrate Judge Michael Seng and Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher presided over the ceremony where Ranger Gabriel received a flag that had previously flown over Yosemite National Park.

We understand Gabriel passed with flying colors.  And he got his own parking space and celebratory cake to boot  after his official swearing in.

Nice job, Ranger Gabriel– and to all of those making his dream come true. 

We can’t name all of you– but you know who you are.


~Via Chris McKechnie, Yosemite Park, and Wish.org
  
   Photos by Michelle Hansen

* * * * * * * *

The Make-A-Wish organization grants the wishes of children between the ages of 2½ and 18 who currently have a life-threatening medical condition which is defined as a progressive, degenerative or malignant disorder placing the child’s life in jeopardy.

More about the Make-A-Wish foundation can be found here.

 

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Missouri Burning

 

Tensions Again Erupt in Ferguson–

One Protester Shot; Seven Arrested

 

**VIDEO**

 

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It’s only getting worse.

Rioting, looting, shooting and burning down stores.  What we’re seeing in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, is an example of how the streets can quickly descend into chaos as tensions erupt.

The mayhem in Ferguson escalated early this Sunday morning as a man was shot and seven people were arrested following a confrontation between police and protesters who refused to abide by the state mandated curfew.

Authorities have not identified the man but said he was critically wounded by a gunshot.  It is unclear who shot him, but he was injured near an area of the town where protesters had gathered near a restaurant and some people were standing on the roof.  Authorities said it did not appear he was shot by an officer.

Officers from Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Louis City and County police worked to remove the people from the area and brought armored vehicles and tear gas.  A man with a handgun was spotted in the crowd and another person was reported shooting at a police car.

“I was disappointed in the actions of tonight” said patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, looking weary over the continued violence and escalating tensions rocking the community.

Police had earlier pledged they would not use such tactics but Johnson said they were worried about officers’ safety.

“Tonight’s response was a proper one,” he said, adding that he was “disappointed” that rioting continued.

The crowd, which is continuing to protest the fatal shooting of black 18-year-old Michael Brown by white Ferguson officer, Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, refused to comply with the curfew chanting “No justice! No curfew!”

Police have not announced information about Wilson.  He wrote on his Facebook page Saturday that he had to deactivate it the day before due to a number of threats.

“I can’t share much at this point but the media is going too far invading my family’s privacy,” he wrote.  “I am concerned for their safety.”

He also wrote Friday he was “overwhelmed” by kind words and prayers people had been sending him.  “This is a very difficult time for all people involved and I am trying to have faith that the right outcomes will be reached for the community,” he wrote.  “I am sorry that I cannot answer all of your messages but hope you understand. Continued prayers for all are appreciated.”

When police informed the crowd they were in violation of the state mandate, the crowd refused to disperse and officers fired smoke and tear gas canisters at the citizens.  The mandate was imposed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Saturday from midnight to 5 a.m.

But the tensions between the people and local police seem to only escalate.

“They got guns.  We got guns.  We are ready,” said Jayson Ross, who was leading the protesters toward police before the canisters were fired.

As canisters flew through the air about 50 minutes into the curfew, a protestor hurled a Molotov cocktail at the side of a local store and ignited a small fire.

Clouds of smoke had filled the street when a group of other protesters raced toward the store, Chop Suey, and stomped out the fire.

Cops in riot gear were hanging back as the demonstrators slowly advanced along W. Florissant Ave. at about 12:30 a.m. local time.

But 15 minutes later, cops threatened to move in.

“This is the police,” an officer announced into a bullhorn.  “You are violating the state-issued curfew.  You must disperse immediately or you will be subject to arrest.”

The dangerous scene occurred hours after the governor was heckled at a press conference at a church where he announced the curfew.

A group of Black Panthers were seen leading protesters in a chant calling for his head.

“What’s his name?” they shouted.

“Darren Wilson,” they replied.

“How do we want him?” they shouted.

“Dead,” several protesters replied.

 

 

 

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The Most Wanted Man in the World

 

Edward Snowden’s Untold Story

 

**VIDEO**

 

James Bamford
Wired Magazine

 

The message arrives on my “clean machine,” a MacBook Air
loaded only with a sophisticated encryption package.

“Change in plans,” my contact says.  “Be in the lobby of the Hotel X by 1 pm.  Bring a book and wait for ES to find you.”

ES is Edward Snowden, the most wanted man in the world.  For almost nine months, I have been trying to set up an interview with him—traveling to Berlin, Rio de Janeiro twice, and New York multiple times to talk with the handful of his confidants who can arrange a meeting.

Among other things, I want to answer a burning question:  What drove Snowden to leak hundreds of thousands of top-secret documents, revelations that have laid bare the vast scope of the government’s domestic surveillance programs?

In May I received an email from his lawyer, ACLU attorney Ben Wizner, confirming that Snowden would meet me in Moscow and let me hang out and chat with him for what turned out to be three solid days over several weeks.  It is the most time that any journalist has been allowed to spend with him since he arrived in Russia in June 2013.

But the finer details of the rendezvous remain shrouded in mystery.  I landed in Moscow without knowing precisely where or when Snowden and I would actually meet.

Now, at last, the details are set…

     …A minimal excerpt, you can read the full piece in Wired Magazine here

 

 

The Most Wanted Man in the World: Edward Snowden in his own words from WIRED on Vimeo.

 

 

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Choppers

 

American Freedom

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Choppers, and building them, are big.

A chopper is a motorcycle either modified from an original motorcycle design– “chopped”– or built from scratch to have a unique hand-crafted appearance.  Relieved of weight by removing excess parts making them lighter and faster, choppers have a low and sleek appearance making them look and sound totally badass awesome.

Choppers began in America when servicemen returning home from WWII started modifying bikes to their own liking, removing all parts deemed too big, heavy, ugly, or unessential to the basic function of the motorcycle, such as fenders, turn indicators, and even front brakes. The large, spring-suspended saddles were removed in order to sit as low as possible on the motorcycle’s frame.

The earliest choppers tended to be based on Harley-Davidson motorcycles, at first making use of the Flathead, Knucklehead and Panhead engines– many of which could be found in surplus military and police motorcycles bought cheaply at auction.  As new engines became available they were soon utilized in choppers.

Over time choppers became more and more about achieving a certain independence, freedom, and customized look.  It’s always the lines, the overall silhouette, the angle of the tank, the bars, and what gives it ‘The Look’.

Stripped down pretty bikes with just enough style, class, power and sound to stand out from the pack.

You can be the best welder/fabricator/mechanic in the world but if you haven’t got that bit of style it’s just an ordinary modified bike– rather than the true American chopper ruling the road.

 

BORN FREE from scott pommier on Vimeo.

 

For Joe King, Bear Marler, Trinia Cuseo, and the BLMC

Ride on.

 

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Robin Williams Crosses Over

 

Severe Depression Likely Led to Suicide

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

“The loneliest people are the kindest
  The saddest people smile the brightest
  All because they do not wish to see
  Anyone suffer the way they do”

    ~Unknown

 

The Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams died Monday in California.  He was 63.

“At this time, the Sheriff’s Office Coroner Division suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia, but a comprehensive investigation must be completed before a final determination is made,” the Marin County Coroner said in a statement. “A forensic examination is currently scheduled for August 12, 2014 with subsequent toxicology testing to be conducted.”

“Robin Williams passed away this morning,” the actor’s rep Mara Buxbaum added in a statement to ABC News.  “He has been battling severe depression of late.  This is a tragic and sudden loss.”

Born in Chicago, Williams discovered his passion for acting in high school, before moving to New York City to study at Juilliard alongside Christopher Reeve.

A few years later, he also began doing stand-up comedy and working in television, before landing a star-making guest role as alien Mork in Happy Days.  In 1978, he was given his own spin-off series, Mork & Mindy, for which he won a Golden Globe.

Around that time, Williams suffered a great loss:  His friend, John Belushi, died of a drug overdose in 1982, prompting Williams, who had struggled with alcoholism and cocaine abuse, to quit, cold turkey.

He would go on to make two trips to rehab, once in 2006, and again this past July. 

“Addiction isn’t caused by anything, it’s just there,” Williams said in 2006.  “It waits.  It lays in wait for the time when you think, ‘It’s fine now, I’m OK.’  Then, the next thing you know, it’s not OK.  Then you realize, ‘Where am I?  I didn’t realize I was in Cleveland.’”

Meanwhile, Williams discovered a passion for film in the ’80s. With that came a litany of awards, including a Golden Globe for his role in the 1988 film, Good Morning, Vietnam, a Golden Globe for his 1993 film, Mrs. Doubtfire, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for 1996′s, The Birdcage.

In 1998, after three nominations, he won his first Oscar for his role in Good Will Hunting.  “This might be the one time I’m speechless!” he quipped while accepting the honor.

President Obama said in a statement on the actor’s passing:

“Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, Peter Pan, and everything in between.  But he was one of a kind.  He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit.  

He made us laugh.  He made us cry.  He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets.”

 

Williams also had a rich personal life.

In 1978, he married his first wife, Valerie Velardi, with whom he had one son, Zachary, now 31.  He and Verlardi divorced in 1988, and the next year, he married Marsha Garces, who had previously been a nanny to Zachary.

He and Garces, from whom he split in 2008, had two children, Zelda, now 25, and Cody, 23. Williams married his third wife, graphic designer Susan Schenider, in 2011.

Recently, Williams had been hard at work.  He starred in the CBS series, The Crazy Ones and recently finished filming several film projects, including Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.

He also recently celebrated a birthday and, in his last Instagram post, wished his daughter a happy 25th.

~Via Vimeo, Looking Back and Google News

 

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My Life After Manson

 

Patricia Krenwinkel’s Story

Award-Winning Documentary

 

Olivia Klaus
Filmmaker

 

 

Forty-five years ago, Patricia Krenwinkel killed for Charles Manson.  

I vividly remember entering the California Institution for Women for the first time in 2001.

As the prison guard slammed the gate behind me, I wondered if I had made the right decision to become a volunteer for an inmate support group.  But my nerves were eased by a woman who introduced herself as “Krenny.”

Welcoming me into the group, she seemed quiet and insecure — yet also exuded an inner strength.  I had no idea how she got here and didn’t ask.  It was only several years later, while documenting the support group for a documentary film, “Sin by Silence,” that I learned Krenny’s full name:  Patricia Krenwinkel.

I was astounded. She was one of the infamous Charles Manson followers, convicted of seven murders.  She eventually approached me to go on camera with her story.

In this Op-Doc video, Ms. Krenwinkel provides her first on-camera interview since 1994, reflecting on her life before and after Manson.  This week would be the 45th anniversary of her crimes.

In 1969, at age 21, Ms. Krenwinkel was a member of Mr. Manson’s cult in Los Angeles.  His group, which he called the “Family,” included more than a dozen men and women who adhered to a bizarre mixture of hippie culture and apocalyptic paranoia.

Seeking to inspire a race war, Manson ordered Ms. Krenwinkel and other members of his group to commit a series of murders.  Over the course of two nights, they savagely murdered seven people, inflicting more than 130 stab wounds.  One of them, the actress Sharon Tate, was eight and a half months pregnant.

At their trial, the women shamelessly admitted their crimes and flaunted their allegiance to a leader they loved, but who clearly controlled their minds.

Over the years, I had gotten to know this woman — and our many conversations about life, love and politics had revealed slivers of a dark past.  But not until her on-camera interview, featured in this Op-Doc, did I fully comprehend her journey of self-discovery.

In prison, she has struggled mightily to reconcile two parts of her life: the 21-year-old girl who committed crimes to win the approval of the man she loved; and the 66-year-old woman who lives each day haunted by the unending suffering she has caused.

Ms. Krenwinkel is now the longest serving woman in the California prison system.  She says she takes full responsibility for her actions — finally, she says, she is a woman she can accept.

But is society ready to accept her back?  She is eligible for parole in 2018.

~Via Olivia Klaus, NY Times/All Things Crime, and Vimeo

* * * * * * * * * *

Olivia Klaus is a documentary filmmaker who lives in Austin.  This video is taken from a longer documentary,Life After Manson,” that premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. 

In August of 2014, it received a Vimeo Staff Pick award.

 

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Ebola: A Painful, Dreadful, Merciless Virus

 

West African Outbreak Spreading

 

**VICE VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The World Health Organization has declared the Ebola outbreak
in West Africa an international crisis, killing more than 900 people
and spreading beyond borders.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC) is calling it a “painful, dreadful, merciless virus.” 

First emerging in 1976, the disease has been confirmed in 10 African nations– but never before in the region of West Africa.

There is no cure for Ebola hemorrhagic fever.  More than half of people infected in this outbreak have died. Death rates in past outbreaks have reached 90%.

Ebola leads to a cruel death that comes within days. Patients grow weak and feverish, suffering through body aches, vomiting, diarrhea, and internal hemorrhaging and bleeding from the nose and ears.

This outbreak has proved more difficult to control than previous ones because the disease is crossing national borders and spreading to more urban areas.  

Lack of experience with the disease has contributed to its spread, coupled with a shortage of medical personnel and supplies, widespread poverty, and political instability.

West African health workers and clinics have come under attack from residents, who sometimes blame foreign doctors for the deaths.  People with Ebola fear going to a hospital and are shunned by friends and neighbors.

The damage is spiraling far beyond the patients.  Because it’s spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of sick patients, Ebola takes an especially harsh toll on doctors and nurses, already in short supply in areas of Africa hit by the disease.

In Sierra Leone, Doctors Without Borders said the disease continues to spread.  The organization said they don’t have enough staff or space to assist those infected with Ebola, and there is a very real fear they will have to turn patients away.

Two of the worst-hit countries– Liberia and Sierra Leone– sent troops to quarantine areas with Ebola cases.  The outbreak began in Guinea in March before spreading to neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia.  

A single traveler recently carried it even farther, to Nigeria, leading to cases in the giant city of Lagos, Africa’s most populous city of 21 million people.

With nearly 1,000 dead and almost 2,000 now infected, a leading health official in Liberia said they do not have enough beds to treat the ill.  Many infected people are being left to die alone in their villages.  In some cases, the bodies of Ebola victims are simply being dumped in the street.

On the front line of the battle to contain the deadly virus sit health workers, who are bearing the brunt of it.  Scores have died and Liberia’s Heath Workers Association George Williams said they are growing increasingly angry.

“If you were to go into the isolation centers right now, you will see the number of our colleagues — health workers — who are now lying in isolation centers or dead from the infectious Ebola virus,” said Williams.  

Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has apologized for the high death toll among those who were first to respond to the outbreak and pledged more money to fund staff and treatment centers.

Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, predicts that within a few weeks Ebola will sicken more people than all previous occurrences combined.  More than 1,900 cases have been documented to date.  Scores more have gone unreported.

Global health officials predict it will take many months before the outbreak
is brought under control.  That is, if all goes as well as they hope.

~Via Google News, CNBC, Vice, YouTube

 

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The Billionaires’ Tea Party

 

How Koch-Headed Billionaires Plan to “Save” America

 

**VIDEO**

 

Jim Hightower
Jim Hightower.com

 

The Tea Party movement, bankrolled by the Koch Brothers, has taken American politics by storm.

But is this truly a populist uprising– or one of the greatest feats of propaganda ever seen? 

In the above video, Australian filmmaker Taki Oldham sets out answer this question, finding that behind the movement’s rhetoric of ‘freedom’ versus ‘socialism’ lies a highly coordinated network of shadow groups, funded by billionaire ideologues Charles and David Koch.

Are the Tea Party protestors just pawns in a plan to replace
government with a privatized America? 

Will the Koch Brothers overturn democracy to serve their own
corporate interests?

Read on: Jim Hightower’s short article, How Koch-Headed Billionaires Plan to “Save” America, is below. 

 

The Koch boys live in their own special world, enshrouded in a rarefied atmosphere created by the fumes emanating from their family’s enormous stockpiles of wealth.

Thus, Charles and David have always felt very special, and they also expect those of us in the down to Earth world to treat them as special.

The boys were born rich and right-wing, and they parlayed Daddy Fred Koch’s millions into a huge industrial conglomerate that has made each of them über-billionaires.  This has further bloated their sense of self-importance, while also giving them the financial muscle to try transforming our democratic world of egalitarian ideals into their fantasy world of laissez-fairy, social Darwinism, ruled by supermen like… well, like them, of course.

Twice a year, the Kochs convene a secret summit of superrich supermen to plot strategy and pledge millions of dollars to their political efforts.

In June, about 300 of the billionaire brotherhood gathered with Charlie and Dave at the St. Regis Monarch Bay Resort on the Southern California coast.  As investigative reporter Lauren Windsor wrote in The Nation, the Koch confab, which bore the heroic title of “American Courage,” took over the entire luxury resort for three days, costing nearly a million bucks.

David Koch provided a keynote talk, modestly titled Saving America, and attendees were treated to a FeedFest of right-wing boilerplate talk from a gaggle of GOP congress critters summoned to the summit.

The billionaires were especially delighted to hear Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell assure them that he would defend to his last sour breath their right to buy our elections.

Then, reports Windsor, the 300 Koch-headed Supermen pledged to do just that:  promising to put up $500 million this year to turn the US Senate over to Republican control.

 

“Exclusive: Inside the Koch Brothers’ Secret Billionaire Summit,” www.thenation.com, June 17, 2014.

“The Koch Brothers’ Secret Billionaire Summit,” www.scribd.com,” June 17, 2014.

“Koch Brothers Unveil New Strategy at Big Donor Retreat,” www.thedailybeast.com, June 13, 2014.

* * * * * * * * * *

~Via Vimeo and Jim Hightower

 

Jim Hightower is a Texan, columnist, and populist who believes that to move America from greed to greatness, we must fuel the power and the passion of our nation’s workaday majority.

You can listen to more of Jim Hightower’s commentaries here.

 

 

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John Oliver Takes On Native Advertising

 

The Raisins in the Cookie No One Wants

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

It was an unusual, yet timely, subject to take on.

HBO comedian John Oliver took a hatchet to native advertising, arguing that the trendy marketing practice is a threat to the editorial independence of newsrooms, misleads readers and erodes trust, and is a disturbing symptom of journalistic news organizations reaching for additional profits to fill their coffers.

Among other things, Oliver hammered native advertising as a confusing camoflauge tactic for selling to the public a sneaky bill of goods they never wanted in the first place.  He also unmercifully skewers the media and advertising industry into some well deserved bits and pieces for eroding the traditional “church and state” partition separating the editorial wing from the business side of news organizations.

Along the way, he takes on the New York Times, Time Inc., the Atlantic, The New Yorker, Chevron and others, describing the fornication of news and advertising as akin to dipping Twizzlers in guacamole and comparing the results to botched heart surgery.

Oliver calls the trend “repurposed bovine waste,” another word for… well, you get the idea.  It’s the raisins in the cookie no one wants.

Edward R. Murrow would be turning over in his grave.

 

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The Last of the Neon Sign Makers

 

Todd Sanders and his Glowing Craft

 

Award-Winning *VIDEO*

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

“When I went to buy the run-down fruit stand that is now Roadhouse Relics, I was offered $15,000 by an Austin investor to walk away from the deal.  My friends told me I was crazy not to take the money and run.  But I knew creating a space and life for myself in Austin was what I wanted to do.

The roof had caved in.  In fact, I am not sure it was even safe to go in.  The day I bought it, I moved in to the only room that still had a roof.  After a few months, I moved into a trailer out back where I lived for the next ten years.

Over the past two decades, I’m proud to say my gallery has become an Austin landmark. I f you had told me when I bought it that one day the New York Times would list it as a must-see place in Austin, I wouldn’t have believed you.

For me, I always knew I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.

Roadhouse Relics is an extension of who I am; it’s become the iconic name behind my work.  The people who come in my store and the collectors who buy my work, they’ve all become part of my story.  And the best part is I have this amazing space, life, and family– and
I get to do what I love.”

   ~Todd Sanders, Roadhouse Relics  

 

For Austinites, Todd Sanders of Roadhouse Relics is a household name.  His South Austin gallery is as iconic as are his signs.

Settling in Austin in the early 90s, it’s hard to separate Sander’s story from the scrappy, authentic story of the city of Austin.  An anomaly of Texas cities, Austin’s preservation of independent business and thinking sets it apart as one of the most unique places in America.

When visitors fall in love with Austin, they fall in love with the handful of artists who have dedicated their lives to this city.  There’s no doubt Sanders is on that list.

Before discovering Austin in 1991, Sanders pursued many different jobs:  art supply salesman, automotive paint and bodywork repairman, motorcycle painter, and a short stint as an antique auto builder.  The skills that were acquired in his seemingly unrelated jobs are applied everyday to the glowing sculptures at Roadhouse Relics.

His vintage neon murals and sculptures decorate and influence the Austin landscape, giving what Sanders likes to call a “crude charm.”   His work has played a role in giving Austin an eclectic, positive identity that is known worldwide as Austin Style.  For Sanders, it is modern vintage, echoed in each of his works.

“The art I create is rustic and garish and over-the-top,” Sanders says.  “These objects don’t harmonize nicely with others in their presence; they dominate.  Energy courses through them, electrifying their surroundings as well.  They’re like that guy at a party who dresses wildly and talks too loudly, but everyone in the room finds him utterly fascinating.”

His pop art has appeared in many movies filmed in Austin.  His work has appeared in Esquire, Fortune Magazine, Texas Monthly, and other publications. It adorns the walls of clients and
well known celebrities everywhere.

What separates Sanders from his contemporaries is that he has preserved the original methods for creating his signs.  Everything is made from scratch, by hand, and without the use of computer aided designs.

With a personal collection of hundreds of old magazines and books from the 1920s through 1960s, Sanders has given himself a master’s education in neon art through study and dedication to the craft during his 20-year career.

His knowledge of typography, style and craftsmanship of vintage signs is both extensive and uniquely self-taught. 

Amassing over 2000 photographs of antique neon signage and murals from countless miles of travel throughout the United States, Sanders has the inspiration and knowledge to create the works of neon art which cover his studio gallery.

He’s the last of his breed; a neon vintage signmaker practicing a once ubiquitous art that, unfortunately, is going by the wayside in the digital era. 

 

 

~Via Todd Sanders, Roadhouse Relics, Vimeo & YouTube. 
All pictures are examples of Todd Sanders’ work.

 

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Rubble and Broken Lives

 

The Human Cost of War

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

She is a courageous, remarkable woman–
and an outstanding photo journalist.

Immediately after the September 11 attacks, 24-year-old photographer Kate Brooks set out to document the impact of war on civilians.

Since then, she has covered major conflicts throughout the Middle East and Afghanistan, including the American invasion of Iraq, the 2006 Lebanon War, and the Libyan revolution.

“When it comes to military force and going into conflicts, people are very short sighted about what it’s actually going to mean,” says Brooks. “Civilians are always the ones who pay the biggest price in any conflict.”

In this short film, producers Leandro Badalotti and Simon Schorno powerfully weave together the images and interview with the photographer over the course of her career.

Brooks discusses the motivation behind her work, the moral dilemmas photojournalists face, and the importance of documenting the non-military lives affected by these wars.

“One of the things that I love about the greater Middle East is that it’s the birthplace of ancient civilizations and world religions,” says Brooks. 

“Over the past decade it’s become a region of rubble and broken lives.  I don’t have a problem risking my life doing what I am doing, but I have to believe in what I’m doing.”

While many of the photographs can be difficult to view, the film serves as an ever-important reminder of the consequences of war, the human costs for civilians, and the accompanying cycle of violence that many politicians– and us– seem to forget.

 

~Via Kate Brooks, Leandro Badalotti, Simon Schorno,
InterCross and Peace 2000, and Vimeo

* * * * * * * * *

Kate Brooks is currently working on a documentary about the poaching of rhinoceroses and elephants. Please visit her website to see more of her work.

 

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Caught in the Conflict of Gaza

 

It Can Be Done:

Negotiate an End to the Siege

**VIDEO**

 

Joseph A. Palermo
Huffington Post

 

 

The gutless American political class has abdicated its
responsibility for the actions of the Israel Defense Forces.

Few people living in the Middle East or anywhere else make the distinction between the United States and Israel, nor should they with all those weapons stamped “made in the USA.”  It’s supremely foolish to conclude that Israel can never negotiate with Hamas on lifting the siege of Gaza.

The American rhetoric of spreading “freedom” has been a legitimizing argument dating back to the 1898 Spanish-American War when we were “liberating” the Cubans and Filipinos from the yoke of Spanish colonialism.

When the U.S. Senate votes 100 to zero to support whatever the IDF does in Gaza our political “leaders” might not realize it, but they’re undermining the ideological architecture that has allowed them to drive this country into every other war.

United States military interventions have always been accompanied by justifications that emphasize the goal of social uplift for the country under attack.  The U.S. might bomb women and children but we’re there to “help” our allies build schools and clinics or bring “freedom” and “women’s rights” to the dispossessed.  We are told the violence is targeted at those opponents who would sabotage the good progress the U.S. is trying to make in Vietnam or Afghanistan or Iraq.

The discourse around the Israel-Palestine struggle has an antiquated settler state accent to it more akin to the America of the 19th Century when white people were “defending” themselves against the onslaught of Native Americans– whose lands were being annexed.

In the 20th Century, especially since the Second World War, the portrayal of U.S. military action is always sold as being altruistic in nature.  The U.S. engages in wars only reluctantly and for the highest ideals.

The historical context for the Israel-Palestine fight today has changed markedly from what it has been over the past half century.  This is not 1967, or 1973, or 1982.  Today in Iraq, Sunni fanatics dominate large swathes of the country and have already ethnically cleansed the Christians from Mosul after a pretty good run of 1,900 years.

With the breakup of Iraq and Syria, the rise of ISIS and other newly-minted anti-Western groups and the realization that the United States is not going reinvade Iraq nor bomb Iran, the neo-conservative juggernaut as far as U.S. policy goes for now, is effectively finished.

Bibi Netanyahu’s stubborn conviction that Israel can never talk to Hamas fails to take into account the shifting regional and global dynamics.  His viewpoint is just a fearful, right-wing reaction that fails to recognize the shifting contours of history.

Pro-war voices always say that negotiations are impossible.  The white minority rulers of South Africa said it– but Apartheid collapsed.  The East German regime said it– but the Berlin Wall came down. The Protestants in Northern Ireland said it too.

Times change.  And the United States is no longer the superpower it once was.  The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have depleted our resources and have created a broad based domestic anti-war backlash.

In addition, the nation suffers from historic levels of income and wealth inequality, chronic trade imbalances, mass incarceration, a huge national debt and a Congress with precious little connection to the will of the people.  In short, the U.S. is in no position to allow its surrogates to dictate terms.

During the Vietnam War, New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy tried to explain to his pro-war detractors why he was calling for talks when they claimed the U.S. was “winning.”

“I thought we were at a critical time,” he said. “And before we take the final plunge to even greater escalation, I think we should try negotiation.  If we can’t find the answer to it we can always go back to the war.”

In November 1967, Kennedy questioned the moral appeals that had been made from the earliest days of the U.S. intervention.  He told a panel of Washington journalists on Face the Nation that the US’s “moral position” in the conflict had “changed tremendously.”

“We’re killing South Vietnamese; we’re killing children; we’re killing women; we’re killing innocent people,” Kennedy said.  He had not yet announced his presidential run but his speeches and other public remarks on Vietnam challenged the narrative that had enabled the war in the first place.

Wittingly or not, RFK had shredded the pro-war moral appeals.

Kennedy was also a strong supporter of Israel.  Days before he was murdered at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, he had appeared at an event in that city wearing a yarmulke and calling for advanced fighter jets to be sent to Israel.

A 24-year-old Palestinian who apparently had been enraged by RFK’s views fired his $30 Iver-Johnson pistol at the Senator shortly after Kennedy won the California Democratic primary.  The Canadian historian, Gil Troy, (an uncritical booster of Israel) has referred to RFK’s assassination as the first act of “Arab terrorism”
on U.S. soil.

So, RFK, who might have become President of the United States, was murdered at the age of 42 ostensibly as an indirect byproduct of the Israel-Palestine conflict.  

Enough is enough.  History cannot be frozen in place. Things have a way of moving along.  Just consider how social media has countered the dominant narrative of the current IDF attack on Gaza and one can see that we now reside in a new world.

There are so many stakeholders, not only in the Middle East but also in Europe and beyond, that would like to see an end to this madness in Gaza. 

The vital thing confronting us today is for the United States to put pressure on Israel to lift the siege of Gaza and seek a viable and realistic political solution.

And if negotiations fail, as RFK said about Vietnam in 1967, “we can always go back to the war.”

The vital thing is to try.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Before earning a Master’s degree and Doctorate in History from Cornell University, Professor Palermo completed Bachelor’s degrees in Sociology and Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Master’s degree in History from San Jose State University.

His expertise includes the 1980s; political history; presidential politics and war powers; social movements of the 20th century; the 1960s; and the history of American foreign policy. Professor Palermo has also written articles for anthologies on the life of Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J. in The Human Tradition in America Since 1945 and on the Watergate scandal in Watergate and the Resignation of Richard Nixon.

Professor of History at California State University, Sacramento, Professor Palermo’s most recent book is The Eighties. He has also written two other books: In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy and the Death of American Ideals.

Part of the Iona Brotherhood, we thank Dr. Palermo for sharing his work with our readers here.

 

 

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The Humble Origin of Computer Graphics

 

The Big Bang:

The Adobe Illustrator Story

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

We’ve come a long ways since the days of Pong and Mario Brothers.

Even if you have never used a computer illustration program in your life, Terry Hemphill’s informative video above shows us the humble beginnings and the groundbreaking breakthroughs Adobe first made when they introduced their pioneering software– allowing anyone and everyone to be a graphic design artist in their own home.

When Adobe Illustrator first shipped in 1987, it was the first software application for a young company that had, until then, focused solely on lettering and fonts for Apple computers.  The new product not only altered Adobe’s course, it changed drawing and graphic design for the masses forever.

It’s pretty entertaining to see what actually passed for digital illustration in the early days of Adobe– which wasn’t actually all that long ago, and how things have progressed at lightning speed ever since.

As the Illustrator story unfolds, we see the beginnings of Adobe’s first software product, its role in the digital publishing revolution, and what has become an essential tool for designers worldwide today.

The Adobe Illustrator Story is a tad long, but it’s a well done piece with high production values and solid insight into John Warnock’s vision of making graphic design easier and more creative for all of us, since those old school days of using rapidograph pens and the painstaking process of transferring images from paper to the drawing board.

If you can think it, you can create it.

 

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Finding Your Unclaimed Property

 

You Better Get It
BeforeThe State Does

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Everyday people lose their stuff.  In a big way.

They don’t mean to.  They move, forwarding addresses aren’t kept current, sometimes the folks pass away or beneficiaries aren’t named. 

These assets range from uncashed dividend checks to safe deposit boxes to actual bank accounts.  Banks and other businesses are required to turn that property over to the states for “safekeeping.” 

It all starts when statements, refunds, stock dividends and accounts from banks, saving institutions, mutual funds, brokerages and the like, get returned back to the sender– and presto!  After a short period of time, assets are transferred without the owner’s knowledge to an ‘unclaimed assets fund’ run by the state.

Sometimes owner’s names are simply misspelled or their addresses have minor errors– starting the whole process into motion because their statements were returned to the institution of origin.  In other cases, no apparent heirs or next of family kin are designated and can’t be contacted.

 After another short period of time without owner contact, the state seizes the assets for its own personal use.

You may be surprised to know that all 50 U.S. states now have laws on the books that allow them to seize “dormant” assets from their owners.  The problem is that states return less than a quarter of this supposedly “unclaimed” property to its rightful owners.

One of the most egregious is California.

California law used to say assets were unclaimed if the owner had no contact with the business for 15 years. But during various state budget crises, the waiting period was reduced to seven years, then five, then three. Legislators even tried for one year.

Some states — such as Oregon, Colorado, Missouri, Iowa and Kansas — keep their unclaimed property in a special trust fund and only tap the interest. Many, including Maryland, use tax databases to track down the rightful owners.

But California dumps the money into the general fund — and spends it. The Golden State became so addicted to spending people’s “gold,” as it were, that for years it simply stopped sending notices to the rightful owners.

Some of these cases of state-sanctioned theft were shocking even to jaded observers.

A British resident who bought $4 million in U.S. stock to fund his retirement found it had been seized and sold for $200,000 years earlier in California — even though he was regularly in touch with his broker.  A Sacramento family lost railroad land rights their ancestors had owned for generations, sold off as unclaimed property.

But the cake-taking story belongs to San Francisco resident Carla Ruff.  

Her Bank of America safe-deposit box was drilled, seized and turned over to the state, marked “owner unknown.”  She discovered the loss when she went to open it to retrieve important paperwork she needed because her husband was dying.  The papers had been shredded.  And her great-grandmother’s natural pearls and other jewelry had been auctioned off — for $1,800, even though they were appraised for $82,500.

California isn’t the only state to operate a legally-sanctioned theft racket.  All 50 states pay private contractors commissions to locate and seize accounts for them.  

It’s a classic conflict of interest: the more rightful owners are found, the less money the contractors make.  But the states have the biggest conflict of interest of all.  In Delaware, for example, unclaimed property is the third largest source of state revenue.

To note, yours truly has helped others track down their unclaimed property in California and Humboldt County and rightfully get it back. 

To date, 150 owners were found for a whopping grand total of $350,000.  It was truly amazing to find out much property was ‘lost’ to so many individuals I knew and most being utterly unaware of it.  They just had to know where to go and what to do.  I helped them find, and claim, what was theirs.  And yes, I did it for free because it was the right thing to do.

And I’ll help you, too, loyal reader.  It is free and easy.  Here’s how to do it: 

In California, go the State Controller’s website here.  On the left sidebar, click ‘start your search’ and you’ll be on your way.  I also have more detailed instructions here if you need it.

For other states outside of California, go here.

Good luck.  If you don’t find yourself listed, don’t sweat it.  You WILL find others you know.  Remember, it’s better to give than receive, and greedy people always get what they deserve.

We hope you claim what is rightfully yours or that belonging to your friends or family before the state gets its hands on it first.  Once that happens, you’ll have no chance and little recourse of ever getting it back. 

And, as always, pass this post on to those you know spreading the love
and wealth to others.

 

~Via Skippy Massey, Activist Post, and Ted Bauman

 

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The Unusual Journey of Robina Asti

 

‘Flying Solo’

 

A Staff Pick
Award-Winning Film

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Everyone has an interesting story to tell.

Flying Solo: A Transgender Widow Fights Discrimination, is a short documentary by the Lambda Legal organization relating the unusual and touching struggle of 92-year-old transgender widow and war veteran Robina Asti.

Robina Asti was denied the survivor benefits she should have received after her husband’s death for two long years.  In a 2004 ceremony in an airplane hangar in Orange County, NY, Robina, a World War II veteran and pilot, married her longtime sweetheart, Norwood Patton.

In June 2012, Norwood passed away at 97 years old.  On July 27, 2012, Robina applied in person for survivor benefits through the SSA.

Though Robina already received Social Security benefits, being able to claim survivor benefits would increase her monthly check by about $500.  On April 24, 2013, the SSA notified Robina that her survivor benefits under Norwood’s Social Security record were denied because “her marriage does not meet the requirements under Federal law for payment of Social Security widow’s benefits,” stating that her marriage was not valid because she was “legally male” at the time of their wedding.

In June 2013, Lambda Legal filed a request for reconsideration on Robina’s behalf. 

This past Valentine’s Day, after months of legal advocacy, the Social Security Administration (SSA) paid Robina, and in April of this year, the SSA updated its policies and procedures regarding the ability of transgender individuals to receive benefits through their spouses.

Robina’s struggle had taken over two years.

After Social Security changed both its mind and its policies, Robina was elated to find out that her long fight to be fully recognized as a spouse was finally over. 

She recounted afterwards:

“I was so happy.

I felt like it was my husband Norwood’s Valentine’s Day gift to me.  I’m glad that Social Security finally came to its senses. 

I hope this means that other people won’t have to experience this.”

 

Robina chose to share her story of struggle, hope, and love with others– so that they, too, may persevere and find their way.

~Via Lambda Legal, Robina Asti, Vimeo

* * * * * * * * *

Flying Solo is previewing at NewFest: The New York LGBT Film Festival, July 27th at 1:30pm.

More information about Lambda Legal’s resources for trans people and advocates can be found here

If you liked this story and video, you might also enjoy Eri’s unusual story, too.

 

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Prisons and Muppets

 

John Oliver’s Detailed Take

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

How bad is the mass incarceration problem in the US?

So bad that Sesame Street featured a muppet with a father in prison to help the 2.7 million American children with an incarcerated parent understand what just happened.

Incarcerated people, parents or not, face a system that subjects them to often horrific conditions.

The touchy issue of racism is also brought up by John Oliver in the above HBO clip.

“It reminds me of a joke,” John Oliver quipped yesterday on Last Week Tonight.  ”‘Black people who commit drug offenses, they go to jail like this, whereas white people …don’t go to jail at all.”

Watch him walk through, in considerable detail, every problem of our corrections system from the epidemic of prison rape to the perverse incentives created by prison privatization to the alleged use of sugar to treat wounds in prison clinics.  He covers more ground quickly than we can possibly touch on here.

Whether you agree with his reasoning or not, and whether you care, is another matter altogether.  Prisons have more than their fair share of psychopaths, sociopaths, murderers, rapists, the habitually violent and criminally-minded peeps, and just plain badass dudes.

But make no mistake:  the American prison system is one screwed-up hell pit carved out by institutionalized racism, despicable politics, corporate greed and other reprehensible factors that– culturally– we’ve mostly agreed to ignore.  For the most part it’s out of sight and out of mind.

The issues facing our nation’s rapidly growing incarcerated population isn’t attractive to focus on.  It’s a brutal and sad dilemma and one that’s easy to dismiss because a lot of people can’t find it in their hearts to care about criminals.

There’s nothing cute about prison advocacy.  Which is why John Oliver cares enough to use humor, song, and adorable muppets to get Americans to actually give a whit.

 

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Overturning Citizens United

 

Corporations Aren’t People

–And Elections Shouldn’t be for Sale

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

80% of Americans are fed up.

Polls indicate the majority of Americans believe corporations have too much power, money, and undue influence in America’s democratic process, so a constitutional amendment is afoot to reverse two important Supreme Court rulings:  Citizens United and the McCutcheon ruling.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced legislation to amend the Constitution so Congress can regulate campaign spending, a change many Republicans say would alter the First Amendment right to freedom of speech by limiting the amount of money companies can give for influencing elections.

The committee approved a resolution from Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) that would change the Constitution allowing Congress to pass laws that limit campaign spending by companies and other entities.  Committee passage could mean the Senate considers it on the floor in the coming weeks.

Udall’s proposal is a reaction to two recent Supreme Court decisions that Democrats say allow companies to spend freely on campaigns and drown out the speech of average citizens.

One of these cases is Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, which prohibits limiting how companies and other groups spend money on campaigns.

The other is McCutcheon v. FEC, which ends aggregate limits for what people can contribute overall during a campaign cycle.

The protest is spreading16 states have already petitioned Congress so far to let their citizens vote on a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s edicts.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) said amending the Constitution is needed to fix the Supreme Court’s “flawed” decisions.

“This amendment addresses a series of flawed Supreme Court decisions that have eviscerated our campaign finance laws, allowing the money of wealthy individuals and special interests to drown out the voices of average Americans,” Leahy said.

“The Court has twisted the meaning of the First Amendment to protect money as if it were speech,” he added.  “The Supreme Court has opened the floodgates to billionaires who are now pouring vast amounts of unfettered and undisclosed dollars into political campaigns across the country.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has been one of the more vocal opponents of Udall’s resolution.  He has unbelievably argued that the change could allow Congress to regulate books and TV shows if they contain political content.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized the proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate corporate personhood rights, calling the idea “absurd.”

Back in May, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) promised that the Senate would vote on Udall’s proposal, and cited the Koch brothers as a reason why Congress needs to limit campaign contributions of the wealthy.

“If this unprecedented spending is free speech, where does that leave our middle class constituents, the poor?  It leaves them out in the cold,” Reid said.  “There should be no million-dollar entry fee to participation in our democracy.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) believes restrictions on political spending would guarantee more women, minorities and young people get elected, and she is willing to amend the Constitution to get those limits.

“We have the legislation to do it that dares to disclose who is this money coming from and amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United,” Pelosi said.  “This special interest money is suffocating the airwaves, causing confusion. All the other things they are doing are horrible; from obstacle to participation and suffocating the airwaves to confuse the issues.”

“In order to take back our politics, we must reduce the role of money in politics and increase the level of civility,” Pelosi said.  “I guarantee you, if we increase the level of civility and reduce the role of money, we will allow more women, more minorities, and more young people to elective office.”

 

Money does not equal  free speech and fair elections.

For more about how you can overturn the disasterous
Citizens United and McCutcheon rulings, we recommend
going to Move To Amend and the Public Citizen.

 

 

 

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It’s a Plastic World

 

In its Varied Forms

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Andreas Tanner
Andix Productions

 

It’s everywhere.

We need and we want it.  We find it in places we wouldn’t expect.

A world without plastic is inconceivable.  But do we know the consequences of our self-indulgent plastic consumption?

With two excellent speakers and nice music by Alexander Rösch, I’m very proud to present It’s a Plastic World, my film showing the various problems associated with plastic and the possible solutions.

In my holidays I saw a secluded beach that was littered with plastic waste.  I asked myself how this could be possible.  Back home, I began to fathom the causes.

The problem is that the ocean is completely polluted with plastic.  A lot of plastic is washed up on beaches worldwide.  This and many other bad facts led me to make my movie about plastic material and its far-reaching consequences.

It took weeks of collecting facts, writing a story, and drawing the storyboard for the movie.  After four more months of computer and production time, it was finally finished.

Many NGO’s like Greenpeace, WWF and PlasticOceans helped endorse and spread the movie.  I’d be very glad if everyone  shared and spread it.

If you would like to know more about making this movie, please watch the short Making-Of trailer, seen below.

Thank you,
Andreas Tanner

 

 

 

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Too Big to Jail?

 

Sweetheart DOJ Deals with Corrupt Corporations and Banks Soar

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Are Big Banks involved in crimes too big to jail? 
Seems to be that way.

A dramatic spike in Justice Department cases ending in settlements instead of criminal charges against corporate bad actors in the financial sector raises questions about whether the agency maintains “too big to jail” policies, a new study concludes.

The Public Citizen report chronicles a gradual uptick in the use of deferred prosecution agreements and non-prosecution agreements in cases brought by the Justice Department during the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.

In the early 2000s, the practice was used only two or three times a year.

Currently however, the Justice Department has increasingly utilized the agreements to resolve cases in the years leading up to, and following, the 2008 economic crisis.

Over the last four years, the DOJ entered into between 27 and 39 DPAs and NPAs annually, according to the report, entitled “Justice Deferred.”

“Not prosecuting big banks that have engaged in criminal activity has given rise to the perception these financial institutions are ‘too big to jail,’ ” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.

“These softball prosecutions further highlight the real need to increase transparency on DOJ processes and decision-making when it comes to large financial institutions,” Gilbert said.

The group describes murky enforcement policies at the Justice Department, where it is unclear whether prosecutors consider the size of a financial institution before deciding whether to file criminal charges. 

Record fines in the billions of dollars have been levied against some institutions in plea agreements by the DOJ for a litany of criminal behavior, fraud, drug money laundering, and risky loan practices while at the same time no individuals have been held accountable to date.  Some argue the fines punish innocent shareholders and employees of the companies, but not those making the decisions at the executive level.

“If such a policy exists, Congress should take steps to require the DOJ to publicly disclose if and when it is providing favorable treatment under the law to financial institutions,” the group concluded.

Several large financial institutions have entered into civil settlements to address charges of bad behavior stemming from the financial crisis, but no major institutions or individuals have faced criminal charges for their action.

For his part, Attorney General Eric Holder has repeatedly maintained that there is no such policy at his Justice Department.

 

~Via The Hill, July 8, Undernews, Congressman Ted Deutch, YouTube

 

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The Billionaire Mathematician

 

Seeker, Doer, Giver, Ponderer

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

James Simons has led a life of ferocious curiosity. 

Making his fortune, he is now making his own major contributions for the future of America. 

The following excerpt from the New York Times profiles Simons, the multi-billionaire scientist and hedge fund star who has won praise for his financial gifts to scientific research and his efforts to get children interested in math.

Simons, who has led a life full of twists and turns, successes and failures, has held up his life as example to young people of what perseverance and curiosity can accomplish.

 

 

James H. Simons likes to play against type.

He is a billionaire star of mathematics and private quantitative investment who often wins praise for his financial gifts to scientific research and programs to get children hooked on math.

But in his Manhattan office, high atop a Fifth Avenue building in the Flatiron district, he’s quick to tell of his career failings.

He was forgetful.  He was demoted.  He found out the hard way that he was terrible at programming computers.

“I’d keep forgetting the notation,” Dr. Simons said. “I couldn’t write programs to save my life.”

After that, he was fired.

His message is clearly aimed at young people:  If I can do it, so can you.

Down one floor from his office complex is Math for America, a foundation he set up to promote math teaching in public schools.  Nearby, on Madison Square Park, is the National Museum of Mathematics, or MoMath, an educational center he helped finance.  It opened in 2012 and has had a quarter million visitors.

Dr. Simons, 76, laughs a lot.  He talks of “the fun” of his many careers, as well as his failings and setbacks.  In a recent interview, he recounted a life full of remarkable twists, including the deaths of two adult children, all of which seem to have left him eager to explore what he calls the mysteries of the universe.

“I can’t help it,” he said of the science he finances. “It’s very exciting.”

Jeff Cheeger, a mathematician at New York University who studied with him a half century ago at Princeton, described Dr. Simons’s career as “mind-boggling.”

Dr. Simons received his doctorate at 23;  advanced code breaking for the National Security Agency at 26;  led a university math department at 30;  won geometry’s top prize at 37;  founded Renaissance Technologies, one of the world’s most successful hedge funds, at 44;  and began setting up charitable foundations at 56.

This year, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, an elite body that Congress founded during Lincoln’s presidency to advise the federal government.

With a fortune estimated at $12.5 billion, Dr. Simons now runs a tidy universe of science endeavors, financing not only math teachers but hundreds of the world’s best investigators, even as Washington has reduced its support for scientific research.  His favorite topics include gene puzzles, the origins of life, the roots of autism, math and computer frontiers, basic physics and the structure of the early cosmos.

“He’s very ambitious,” said Edward Witten, a physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.  “He can have a big impact.”

Working closely with his wife, Marilyn, the president of the Simons Foundation and an economist credited with philanthropic savvy, Dr. Simons has pumped more than $1 billion into esoteric projects as well as retail offerings like the World Science Festival and a scientific lecture series at his Fifth Avenue building.  Characteristically, it is open to the public.

His casual manner — he’s known as Jim — belies a wide-ranging intellect that seems to resonate with top scientists…

During the interview, Dr. Simons reached into the pocket of his blue shirt and pulled out a pack of cigarettes, at times letting one dangle from his mouth unlit.  He was relaxed and chatty, wearing tan pants and loafers, his accent betraying his Boston birth and upbringing.

Dr. Simons said he knew as a boy that he loved math and logic.  He would lie in bed thinking about how to give the instruction “pass it on” in a clearly defined way.

“One night, I figured it out,” he recalled.  By morning, he added, he could no longer remember the insight.

At 14, during a Christmas break, he was hired by a garden supply store for a stockroom job. But he was quickly demoted to floor sweeper after repeatedly forgetting where things went.  His bosses were incredulous when, at vacation’s end, he told them he wanted to study mathematics at the nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology…

Forbes magazine ranks him as the world’s 93rd richest person — ahead of Eric Schmidt of Google and Elon Musk of Tesla Motors, among others — and in 2010, he and his wife were among the first billionaires to sign the Giving Pledge, promising to devote “the great majority” of their wealth to philanthropy.

Of late, Dr. Simons said, his giving had accelerated, adding that he was particularly proud of Math for America. It awards stipends and scholarships of up to $100,000 to train high school math and science teachers and to supplement their regular salaries. The corps is expanding to 1,100 teachers, mainly in New York City, but also in Boston, Los Angeles and elsewhere.

His passion, however, is basic research — the risky, freewheeling type. He recently financed new telescopes in the Chilean Andes that will look for faint ripples of light from the Big Bang, the theorized birth of the universe.

The afternoon of the interview, he planned to speak to Stanford physicists eager to detect the axion, a ghostly particle thought to permeate the cosmos but long stuck in theoretical limbo. Their endeavor “could be very exciting,” he said, his mood palpable, like that of a kid in a candy store.

For all his self-deprecations, Dr. Simons does credit himself with a contemplative quality that seems to lie behind many of his accomplishments.

“I wasn’t the fastest guy in the world,” Dr. Simons said of his youthful math enthusiasms. “I wouldn’t have done well in an Olympiad or a math contest. But I like to ponder. And pondering things, just sort of thinking about it and thinking about it, turns out to be a pretty good approach.”

An excerpt, you can read the full NYT article here.

 

~Via Google News, NYT, and YouTube

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Looking Into Your Junk

 

Prosecutors Want Graphic Photos

Of Teen Taken as Evidence

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Talk about an invasion of privacy. 

A Virginia teenager is fighting efforts by police who want to take photos of him in a sexually aroused state to try to prove a sexting case against him.

Prosecutors in Prince William County, Virginia, told a judge they need photos of the 17-year-old’s erect penis to compare against photos he is accused of sending to his 15-year-old girlfriend at the time.  

The teen has been charged in juvenile court with possessing and manufacturing child pornography related to the images of himself he’s accused of creating.

The teen’s lawyers say the search warrant allowing the photographs has been authorized by a magistrate but not yet executed.  They are fighting the warrant in court; a hearing is scheduled for next week.

Defense lawyer Jessica Foster said she is unaware of any cases where police have pursued similar photographs, particularly of a minor.

“This is crazy,” she said.  ”Nobody’s even heard of something like this. … The charges are excessive, and the means by which they are seeking evidence are outrageous.”

The teen’s appointed guardian ad litem, Carlos Flores Laboy, said his understanding is that police plan to do some sort of computer analysis of the photos to try and prove a similarity to the explicit photo found on the girl’s phone.  He said the search warrant vividly demonstrates the importance of defending individuals’ constitutional rights against invasions of privacy.

“Doing this to an adult would be traumatic.  We’re talking about a 17-year-old child.  Doing it to a 17-year-old would be even worse,” he said.

A guardian ad litem is an attorney appointed to serve as an advocate in certain juvenile cases.

The lawyers said police have told them they plan to obtain the photo by taking the teen to a hospital and injecting him with a chemical that would cause an erection.

The teen’s aunt and legal guardian has sent the teen out of state for now so the warrant can’t be executed.

“He’s overwhelmed.  He’s scared.  He doesn’t want to be in Virginia” because police could theoretically show up at any time to try to execute the warrant and take the photographs, she said.

Police have been pursuing the case since January, the aunt said, when the girlfriend’s mom discovered the explicit content.

She said prosecutors insisted on getting the photographs after her nephew turned down a plea deal that would have required a year of probation in which he would be forbidden from using a cell phone or the Internet.  She was concerned that a slipup on probation– even a single use of a social media account like Facebook or Twitter– would leave him exposed to a felony record and a requirement to register as a sex offender.

She said her nephew has received a lot of support since the case was first reported last week on WRC-TV, the NBC affiliate in Washington.

Police and prosecutors did not return calls Wednesday afternoon seeking
comment.

The Manassas City Police later posted a statement on its website saying that it is not their policy “to authorize invasive search procedures of suspects in cases of this nature and no such procedures have been conducted in this case.”

The statement added that police were contacted by the mother of the 15-year-old girl “who was sent pornographic videos” by the 17-year-old “after repeatedly being told to stop.”

 

~Via Google News, The Washington Post, Fox 43,
Tomo News and YouTube

 

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The NSA Does Spy on Everyday People— Like You

 

Ordinary Internet Users Were
the Bulk of NSA Intercepts

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Edward Snowden was right. 

That’s funny because we seem to remember National Intelligence Director James R. Clapper Jr. telling us this wasn’t the case in March of last year. 

Clapper lied.  We all knew it then and we know it now.

A massive report from The Washington Post this weekend delves into tens of thousands of communications and documents collected by the NSA’s wide-reaching surveillance programs.  

The first-of-its-kind report reveals that as many as 90% of web users caught in the NSA’s surveillance efforts of intercepted conversations were not persons targeted by the agency, but landed in the agency’s net anyway.

Private and personal emails, instant messages, photos, and documents from these digital bystanders– many of whom appear to be spuriously connected to the target– remain in the agency’s servers long after they’ve been deemed irrelevant.

According to the Post, a large portion are US citizens or residents, with almost half of all communications containing information that the NSA connected to Americans.

The Post revealed the stunningly high percentage of innocent web crawlers were snared in the National Security Administration’s web after a four-month examination of documents turned over by ex-agency contractor Edward Snowden.

In its story, the newspaper said it had reviewed 160,000 emails and IM conversations, along with 7,900 documents lifted from 11,000 online accounts.

All the documents were provided to the paper by Snowden, and they illustrated how the NSA ensnared unwitting targets and non-targets during the course of daily business.

According to the Post, many other files — considered useless but never deleted — exposed the secrets of 10,000 account holders who were never declared NSA targets.

The files contained damning evidence of extramarital affairs, details of relationships, worries about cash and other intensely personal matters, The Post reported.

How did it happen? According to the newspaper, every time a targeted individual entered an online chat room the NSA snapped up the identities and conversations of everyone who posted or lurked on the site.

One analyst described a day’s work: “1 target, 38 others on there.”

For the NSA’s part, analysts did obscure — or “minimize” — information like email addresses that could be linked to US residents, as required by law.  The Post, however, found that from over 65,000 “minimized” identifiers, nearly 900 pieces of information connected to Americans made it through.

More concerning is information on how security analysts deemed whether a person was a foreigner or an American.  

Often times, emails simply written in a foreign language were reason enough to believe that a person was not an American, opening them up to a degree of warrantless surveillance under US law.  In other examples, anyone on the IM “buddy list” of a foreigner or anyone using an international IP address was deemed not to be an American.

In its lengthy Sunday piece, the Post said it was withholding some details to protect ongoing government operations.

But the newspaper did detail how NSA investigators wading through an ocean of information — including 50 alias accounts — nabbed a pair of terrorists. 

Pakistan-based bomb-maker Muhammad Tahir Shahzad was arrested in 2011, and Indonesian terrorist bombing suspect Umar Patek was arrested a year later.

Ok, we get that.  But here’s the part we don’t understand and have a hard time wrapping our head around: 

It is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment for the Federal Government to indiscrimately spy on its American citizens.

Period.

~Via Google News, The Verge, YouTube & Vimeo

 

Munk Debates State Surveillance: Edward Snowden from Munk Debates on Vimeo.

 

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In Cold Blood

 

A Random Stop Leads to a
Brutal and Violent Encounter

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Be forewarned.  The above video isn’t pleasant. 
You may not want to see it. 

It’s an accurate and true portrayal of tragic and violent events as they happened.  Shocked and dumbstruck by its harsh reality and brutal ferocity, it’s not only what you see but also what you hear.  It’s ugly.

We were taken aback.  It was that brutal and senseless.  And it escalated as quickly on film as it did in real life.

We don’t like intolerable abuses by law enforcement and we often report about them.  This, however, is the flip side of that story.  It’s the other side of the coin, a very dark and tragic one underscoring the life and death consequences that law enforcement may meet at any given time.  Especially when hesitating making split-second decisions.

On Monday, January 12, 1998, near the end of his shift, Laurens County Deputy Kyle Dinkheller made his last and final stop before going home, pulling a motorist over for speeding.

Dinkheller encountered the speeding Toyota pickup truck near Dudley, Georgia, which he clocked at nearly 100 miles per hour.  The deputy pulled the truck over on a rural dirt road adjacent to Interstate 16.

The traffic stop at first appeared to be a routine one.  Both the deputy and Brannan exited their vehicles and exchanged greetings.  Brannan, however, placed both hands
into his pockets.  Dinkheller instructed him to remove his hands and keep them in plain
view.

Brannan then became agitated and belligerent.  He yelled at the deputy to shoot him.  He then began to dance and wave his arms around in the middle of the road.

Dinkheller radioed dispatch for assistance and issued commands for Brannan to cease his behavior and approach the cruiser.  When Brannan saw that the deputy was calling for other units, he ran toward the deputy in an aggressive manner.

Dinkheller retreated while issuing commands, using his baton to keep Brannan at bay.  On Dinkheller’s dashcam video, Brannan was heard shouting that he was a “Vietnam combat veteran.”  Both Dinkheller and Brannan were heard saying, “I’m in fear for my life.”

Despite Dinkheller’s commands, Brannan walked back to his pickup truck and withdrew an M1 carbine from underneath the driver’s seat, taking cover near the driver side door.

Dinkheller positioned himself near the passenger door of his cruiser and gave Brannan commands for approximately forty seconds.  Brannan stepped away from his pickup truck and pointed his M1 carbine at Dinkheller.

Dinkheller fired a shot at Brannan.  After the first shot, Brannan returned fire and a barrage of gunfire was heard.  Dinkheller did not strike the suspect and was forced to reload.

At this point, Brannan ran from his pickup truck toward the deputy and began to fire, hitting Dinkheller in the exposed areas of the arms and legs.

Brannan then began to reload his weapon.  Dinkheller, injured, tried to position himself near the driver side door of his cruiser.  Another shot from Dinkheller was heard.  Brannan began advancing and firing at the deputy, hitting him numerous times.  Before being disabled from gunfire, Dinkheller was able to inflict a gunshot wound to the stomach of Brannan.

After being struck and clutching his stomach, Brannan then raised his M1 carbine and fired two more shots with one striking Dinkheller in the head, killing him.

Brannan retreated into his pickup and fled the scene.  He was discovered the next morning by police hiding in a sleeping bag beneath a camouflage tarp in Laurens County, Georgia, and arrested for the murder.

Brannan pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but the jury found that the murder of Dinkheller was carried out in a torturous and cruel manner. 

Brannan was found guilty of the murder nearly two years later and is awaiting the death penalty.  
Currently 66-years-old, he is still incarcerated in Georgia, has not been executed, and is appealing
his conviction.

When asked why he killed the deputy, Brannan responded, “Because he let me.”

The original dashcam video of Dinkheller’s cold blooded murder is used throughout United States police academies as a training aid.  Some students have had to leave the room after viewing it.

Dinkheller was only 22-years-old at the time of his death.  Survived by his wife, daughter, and son, he was named Deputy Sheriff of the Year by the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association.

 

Appreciation goes out to Gun Safety Blog, Vimeo, and Castel.

* * * * * * * * *

This Independence Day, remember those that have gone before you; those who are not with us and unable to celebrate the life and liberties, protections and rights, that we have today.

 

 

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Send Your Selfies to Mars for Only 99 Cents!

 

 

Students Aiming Time Capsule to Mars

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Move over Dollar Stores.  There’s a bigger bang for the
buck happening in the solar system.

Most people will bury a time capsule, but a group of brilliant young minds will surely find something more exciting to do with it– like sending it off to Mars.

A team of students at MIT, Duke University, Stanford University and the University of Connecticut are working on creating a time capsule which will be sent to Mars and will contain millions of messages, pictures, audio and video files from people all over the world.

The Time Capsule for Mars is the first student interplanetary mission that likely to become a pioneering achievement in the field of space exploration, as it is expected to be the first private Mars mission and possibly the greatest crowd-funded project in history.

Of course, the project has broader goals than just sending messages to Mars.

The initial idea was to celebrate the idea of humanity for space exploration at a moment when the prospect of colonizing new planets becomes more and more real. The main goal is to inspire young people from all over the world by giving them the opportunity to send their selfies (or other files and messages) to outer space.

The messages will be transmitted in the form of text, images, audio and video, and the “time capsule” is going to remain on the Red Planet to be found by colonists in the future.

The capsule will be transported to the Red Planet with three small satellites called Cubesats.  Students will work with NASA, Boeing and Lockheed Martin to build the capsule and satellites, aimed to develop newly advanced ion propulsion systems and simultaneously low-cost technologies for the field of space exploration.

It is expected the mission to Mars will take about four months.  The spacecraft would burn up in the Martian atmosphere except for a section carrying the media that is designed to survive to the Martian surface.

“We’ve got a lot of firsts, and it’s very exciting,” said Emily Briere, a senior at Duke University who is project director for Time Capsule to Mars, in announcing the mission on June 23.

Besides being the first student-built interplanetary mission, she said, the project hopes to fly the first cubesat mission beyond Earth’s orbit, as well as be the first interplanetary mission to use a new type of electric propulsion, called called ion electrospray thrusters and built by micro-machining techniques, under development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Student groups from the participating universities are supported by a global network of space exploration fans, including former astronauts, aerospace companies and volunteers.

The mission, which is estimated to cost about $25 million, will be funded through crowd-funding and by charging each participant $ 0.99 for uploading a file (sized up to 10MB).

The satellites that will deliver the time capsules are expected to be launched in 2017. 

Those wishing to send to Mars their messages, pictures, selfies, works of art, the entire works of Shakespeare, or whatever else floats your boat for saving and preserving humanity can actually do it today. 

Check out the details, fill out the form, send in your 99 cents and support the first student-led space mission at the official website of the Time Capsule to Mars project.

Wait ’til the Men in Black and little green men find out about this one. 
They’ll be beating a path to your doorstep in no time.

 

Via Anna LeMind, MindUnleashed.com, Engadget, Space.com and YouTube

 

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Ashley Fiolek’s Unusual Ride to the Top

 

 

A Very Challenging Champion

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Don’t tell her she can’t do something.  She won’t take no
for an answer.  And she believes nothing is impossible.

Women’s motocross is a fast emerging sport.  Motocross has been a predominantly male pastime, particularly in the pro and international arenas. However, things are changing as the popular sport keeps on evolving.

Leading the charge is a young pioneering woman in the field: Ashley Fiolek, an AMA Motocross Champion and consistent top three finisher hailing from the sunshine state of Florida.

Ashley’s route into the sport wasn’t an orthodox one in the least.  Ashley herself has been profoundly deaf since birth.

Her family moved to Augustine, Florida, because it was home to the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, the largest specialized school of its kind.  She studied ballet, ran track, and played baseball, which was about as wild and reckless as it got.  When she finished eighth grade, her parents decided to begin homeschooling her.

Some years before, as a child, Ashley’s parents noticed her passion for riding bikes.  She used to ride on the front of her mother’s 4-wheeler or her father’s bike, and they often went to her grandfather’s house in Northern Michigan where she rode through the woods for hours.  Around the age of three, her parents gave her a Yamaha PW50.  Despite not liking the training wheels, the youngster’s career path was irreversibly set from this point and no amount of ballet and athletics was going to change that.

She was originally misdiagnosed as “mildly retarded” by doctors and was shy and introverted as a young child, until her family encouraged her to join the amateur motocross circuit.

Ashley started racing in 1990 at the tender age of seven.  She soon shone as an emerging talent.

In 2008, Ashley won her first WMX Pro National Championship title, the youngest female ever to do so.  In 2009, she won her first X-Games gold medal, cementing her position as a top rider and taking herself and the sport to a bright new future at the same time.  In 2010, she won her second consecutive gold medal.

It didn’t come easy, though.  In 2009, she finished Pennsylvania’s Steel City Railway race in great pain due to a collarbone fracture due to a spill.  In 2011, at X-Games 17, Fiolek crashed during practice and knocked herself unconscious.  In 2012 she again crashed again, this time suffering a concussion and a fractured tailbone during the WMX Moto 2 race in Lakewood, Colorado.  Despite her injuries, however, Fiolek still continued to race; with determination, daring, an ongoing disability, and a whole lotta grit.

She became the first female rider featured in action on the cover of Transworld Motocross Magazine to advance women’s racing in the US.  In 2009, she made headlines again when she became the first female to be signed to the American Honda Racing factory team.

In 2010, Ashley met Noora Moghaddas, a top motocross competitor in the Middle East, and the two women became friends while riding.  They soon found out they shared similar goals for improving conditions for women and girls in their respective countries.

“Noora continues to help Iranian women learn how to ride, race and become stronger,” Fiolek said.  “I hope to be a part of that important mission with her so we can share our love of motocross with people in other countries.” 

“It is great to know our world is really not that big.  Even with different languages and cultures, we can all come together and share something we feel passionate about,” she said.

Today, the 23-year-old has to her credit  two X-Games gold medals, four AMA Women’s National Motocross Championship titles, garnered a shelf of racing trophies, has been featured in Vogue magazine, made a few appearances in film and on television, and published her first book, Kicking up Dirt.

We’re proud of Ashley and what she has accomplished, and we’re especially proud of her parents. 

Despite her obstacles and challenges, Ashley Fiolek just won’t say no.  She is determined to succeed, hitting life at full throttle and riding to the top of her game.

 

~Via Red Bull, AshleyFiolek.com, Vimeo,
Dirt Rider, Honda, and Chris Bloxom

 

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The Man Who Turned Paper Into Pixels

 

Claude Shannon:  Founding Father
of the Digital Age

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

He’s the man you never heard of, but should have. 

He was more important to our digital age than the familiar names of  Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. 

He was responsible for what we know today as the digital revolution.  If you’re reading this, you have him to thank.  He’s the guy who started it all.

Claude Elwood Shannon saw the change that no one saw coming:  the idea that we could take a book, a painting or a song, and send it through cables and wires or even thin air to the other end of the world– and it would be identical on the other side.  And that was back in 1948.

How did we make such a mind bending transition into the digital world?  And how does it work?  It turns out it was all based on Shannon’s concept that is surprisingly beautiful in its simplicity.  

The short video above tells us what that idea is in a nutshell,
and about the man who figured it all out.

Considered the founding father of electronic communications age, Claude Shannon was a mathematical engineer whose work on technical and engineering problems in the communications industry laid the groundwork for both the computer industry and telecommunications.

After he noticed the similarity between Boolean algebra and the telephone switching circuits, Shannon applied the principles to electrical systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1940.

While working at Bell Laboratories in 1942, he formulated a theory explaining the communication of information and worked on the problem of efficiently transmitting information. Shannon’s profound mathematical theory of communication— binary code– was the climax of his mathematical and engineering investigations.

The concept of entropy– a degree of uncertainty– was an important feature of Shannon’s theory, which he demonstrated to be equivalent to a shortage of the information contained in a message.

The entire science of information theory grew out of one electrifying paper that Shannon published in 1948, when he was a 32-years-old.

Shannon showed how the once-vague notion of information could be defined and quantified with absolute precision.  He demonstrated the essential unity of all information media, pointing out that text, telephone signals,
radio waves, pictures, film and every other mode of communication could be encoded in the universal language of binary digits, or bits– a term that his groundbreaking article was the first to use in print. 

In short, Shannon saw the move from analog information to
a digital one, and with great vision and clarity.

Shannon laid forth the idea that once information became digital, it could be transmitted without error. This was a breathtaking conceptual leap that led directly to such familiar and robust objects as computers, modems, CDs, MP3s, and even HDTV.  Without Shannon, computers and computer science could have been very different.

Shannon made many more discoveries and received a slew of prestigious awards, citations, honorary degrees and plaques, including the Nobel Prize, that filled an entire room of his house. 

He didn’t care to publish much, had a great sense of humor, and invented a mathematical model for juggling, a juggling unicycle, a device for solving Rubik’s Cubes, a chess playing machine that spit out wry comments along with its moves, a 600 foot stair lift to take his kids down to the lake, and a mechanical mouse capable of using stored information and artificial intelligence for navigating mazes and considered to be the first artificial learning device ever
created.  And that’s the short list.

Almost as important, as an MIT professor, Shannon taught scores of the nation’s brightest students his theories and applications of communication, electric relays, circuits and switches, and applied engineering and electrical mathematics.  His students revered him, and in turn, futhered his ideas by creating and  developing scores of the digital inventions and devices we use and enjoy today.

By1985, however, he and his wife began to notice certain lapses and eccentricities in his behavior.

He would go for a drive and forget how to get home.  In 1992, when the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers was preparing to publish his collected papers, Shannon was disturbed to realize that he couldn’t remember writing many of them.  

By mid-1993, with his condition becoming apparent to everyone, the family confirmed what many had begun to suspect.  The once-brilliant genius, inventor, and renowned professor Claude Shannon had Alzheimer’s disease.  Later that year, his family reluctantly placed him in a nursing home.

Claude Shannon, the founding father of the information age and the digital revolution, died in 2001.

 

A fascinating man, his bio can be found at the New York University site here.

Curious?  You can read more about him here or in the Wikipedia entry here.

Even more interested?  Spend a few minutes on this lively piece in Technology Review.

Super interested?  Find out more in this very personal account.

 * * * * * * * * *

 

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The Vanishing Island

 

Bayou Life and Memories
Slowly Sinking Into the Abyss

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

They’re sinking– their way of bayou life literally
collapsing under the water.

Vanishing Island is a short documentary profiling the residents of the Isle de Jean Charles, as they confront a future threatened by sinking shorelines and rising seas.

Known locally in Louisiana French as Isle à Jean Charles, the place is a narrow ridge of land between Bayou Terrebonne and Bayou Pointe-au-Chien in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.

It was once home to many members of the Biloxi-Chitimacha tribe and the community of Houma people. Currently, however, the island’s population has dwindled— shrinking from about 250 families to about 25 households due to the constant flooding, hurricanes, and rising sea levels taking its wearisome toll on the
land and people.

The isle has been affected by the induced and natural subsiding of the land in South Louisiana.  Some blame natural conditions, others the oil pipeline. 

Whatever the case, they all agree Isle de Jean Charles is gradually disappearing into the mud-choked channels of Terrebonne Bay.  

The island unfortunately lies past the 72-mile authorized levee alignment
holding back the rest of the rising water.  No hope lingers in sight for those
families who choose to remain– or those having nowhere to go. 

They and their land will soon be lost forever; vanished and vanquished.

The trees that used to be abundant in the area are long since gone, succumbing to the rising waters drowning their roots and a distant memory for the children who used to play in them years ago.

Film director Benh Zeitlin has said in interviews that Isle de Jean Charles was the geographical inspiration for the strikingly stark setting of his Oscar-nominated move ”The Bathtub”, the fictional mysterious bayou island depicted in Beasts of the Southern Wild.

 

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Officer, Got a Tank?

 

Para-Militarizing the Local Police

 

**VIDEO**

 

Jim Hightower
JimHightower.com

 

Let’s check our weaponry.

We’ve got 93,000 machine guns, 533 planes and helicopters, 180,000 magazine cartridges, and 432 mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles.  Okay, let’s roll!

Only this is not the US military.  It’s your and my local police departments patrolling our cities.

Remember “Officer Friendly,” the beat cops who were known as “peace officers”?  The friendlies have largely been transformed into militarized forces, literally armed with and garbed in war gear and indoctrinated in military psychology, rather than the ethic of community policing.

Twenty years ago, Congress created the military transfer program, providing federal grants so chiefs of police and sheriffs could buy surplus firepower from the Pentagon.

In a stunningly short time, our local police forces have become macho-military units, possessing an armory of Pentagon freebies ranging from 30-ton tanks to rifle silencers.  They’ve gone from peacekeeping beats to over-the-top SWAT team aggression, unleashed on the citizenry tens of thousands of times a year, mainly for ordinary police work.

For example, a gung-ho Florida SWAT team raided area barbershops in 2010 to stop the horror of “barbering without a
license.”  

And masked police in Louisiana launched a military raid on a nightclub in order to perform a liquor law inspection.

There are many, many more examples.  Militarization is a dangerous and ultimately deadly perversion of the honorable purpose of policing– and it is literally out of control.

The New York Times notes that 38 states have received silencers to use in surreptitious raids.  A sheriff in a North Dakota rural county with only 11,000 people told a Times reporter
that he saw no need for silencers.

When it was pointed out that his department had received 40 of them from the Pentagon, he was baffled.  He said, “I don’t recall approving them.”

 

Officer Friendly, in a Tank? War Gear Flows to Local Police,” The New York Times, June 9, 2014.

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Jim Hightower is a Texan, columnist, and populist who believes that to move America from greed to greatness, we must fuel the power and the passion of our nation’s workaday majority.

You can listen to more of Jim Hightower’s commentaries here.

 

 

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Terrorist-Captured US Arms, Tanks, Going to Al Qaeda

 

ISIS Arming Iraq and Syria’s Rebels
with US Military Hardware

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

It seems the spoils of war are easily disposed of. 
By the enemy.

Syrian and Iraqi terrorist forces obtained significant numbers of tanks, trucks, and US-origin Humvees in recent military operations in Iraq and those arms are being shipped to al Qaeda rebels in Syria, according to US officials.

US intelligence agencies reported this week that photos of the equipment transfers were posted online by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as ISIS, the ultra-violent terror group that broke away from al Qaeda but shares its goals and philosophy.

Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Bill Speaks confirmed the weapons transfers and expressed concerns about the captured arms.

“We’re aware of reports of some equipment—namely Humvees—and the pictures that have been posted online,” Speaks said in an email.  “We are certainly concerned about these reports and are consulting with the Iraqi government to obtain solid confirmation on what assets may have fallen into ISIS’s hands.”

Speaks added that the loss of the equipment to the terrorist group is “really a matter for the Iraqi government to speak to publicly” because “it is their equipment.”

Exact numbers of the captured arms and equipment are not known. 

The insurgents raided all the arms depots and vehicles belonging to Iraq’s Second Division, based in Mosul, which included a motorized brigade and several infantry brigades.

US officials with access to the latest US intelligence on Iraq said it “appears likely/probable” that US-made Stinger missiles have also fallen into the hands of Sunni insurgents.   The Stinger missile is a shoulder-fired surface-to-air weapon that is used against aircraft.

Iraqi intelligence officials said ISIS fighters managed to take control of two big weapons depots late last week holding some 400,000 items, including AK-47 rifles, rockets and rocket-propelled grenades, artillery shells and mortars.  

A quarter of the stockpiles were quickly sent to Syria in order to help the group’s comrades there, they said.

As ISIS forces have advanced through Iraq, concerns have increased that more US-made weaponry could fall into the hands of the radical group.

But a defense official said the ISIS claims that they have captured advanced weaponry and military equipment, such as Blackhawk helicopters, are suspect.

“We do know that they made false claims last week, particularly with Blackhawk helicopters, which have never been sold to Iraq,” the official said.

The captured arms were the result of the Iraqi army laying down their arms and fleeing by the hundreds of thousands in the face of only several thousand ISIS fighters in recent weeks. 

Euripedes was right over two thousand years ago:  Ten soldiers wisely led will beat a hundred without a head.

 

 

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