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In the News 05.28.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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@_hollyt
In the News 05.28.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@kseniaskos
In the News 05.28.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@shaunasstage_

In Britain, Austerity Is Changing Everything

PRESCOT, England — A walk through this modest town in the northwest of England amounts to a tour of the casualties of Britain’s age of austerity.

The old library building has been sold and refashioned into a glass-fronted luxury home. The leisure center has been razed, eliminating the public swimming pool. The local museum has receded into town history. The police station has been shuttered.

Now, as the local government desperately seeks to turn assets into cash, Browns Field, a lush park in the center of town, may be doomed, too. At a meeting in November, the council included it on a list of 17 parks to sell to developers.

“Everybody uses this park,” says Jackie Lewis, who raised two children in a red brick house a block away. “This is probably our last piece of community space. It’s been one after the other. You just end up despondent.”

In the eight years since London began sharply curtailing support for local governments, the borough of Knowsley, a bedroom community of Liverpool, has seen its budget cut roughly in half. Liverpool itself has suffered a nearly two-thirds cut in funding from the national government — its largest source of discretionary revenue. Communities in much of Britain have seen similar losses.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

Our Arab

In the 1963–’64 Windom High School yearbook, there is an entire page dedicated to my Palestinian father. During his one year as an exchange student in Windom, Minnesota, he played on the tennis team, ran track (he hated running, but the other option, wrestling, terrified him), joined the photography club, was elected to student council—“They entrusted me to make decisions for the entire school,” he says, “though I’d only just arrived”—and got voted onto the homecoming court. We joke that he was the Forrest Gump of Windom, able to be everywhere at once, and all in just a year. “Extracurriculars didn’t exist back in Nablus,” he says, speaking of his Palestinian hometown. “We were desperate for any kind of cultural or social activity.”

In the yearbook he is referred to by his nickname, Winnie, short for Winner, the English translation of his Arabic name, Fawaz. He is sinewy and boyish, gap-toothed, his nose still too big for his face. There is a shot of him woodworking, another of him standing poised behind an old-fashioned camera with a caption that reads, “What picturesque cheerleaders!” There is a photo of him sitting beside an older man in thick, black-rimmed glasses, Glen Tews, the junior-high principal and his host father. “Winnie learns the facts of American Life,” states the caption beneath it. The most jovial and ironic of captions accompanies a head-on shot of him standing beside a marked fallout shelter: “Our own little bomb!” In the middle of the collage, in all-caps and boldface type, are the words “OUR ARAB.”

The descriptions are naive, earnest at best, and would be deemed insensitive and offensive today: the voyeuristic and sexist implication of photographing cheerleaders, the patronizing assumption that a foreigner would be unfamiliar with such a thing as “American life,” associating an Arab Muslim with bombs, designating a student by his ethnic background in a possessive, paternalistic tone. But in the early 1960s, the concept of political correctness hadn’t yet infiltrated the American vernacular—it wouldn’t until the 1970s, with the rise of the New Left, exploding onto college campuses and into political discourse in the 1980s and early ’90s. Nor did identity politics extend to Arabs and Muslims, who weren’t yet considered victims of discrimination or excluded in the way that other minority groups in the US were, most notably African Americans, who were demanding equality by braving police dogs and water cannons and state-sanctioned racism via sit-ins, boycotts, and jail sentences. According to my father, part of the reason for this is that there weren’t that many Arabs or Muslims around. “People hadn’t had much exposure to us,” he tells me, “which meant they had no preexisting associations, judgments, or stereotypes.” In Windom, the population was and still is almost homogenously white—92 percent so—comprising mostly Scandinavian immigrants and their descendants: “I don’t remember any Mexican, Asian, or African American classmates.” A quick scan of the yearbook offers a spread of overwhelmingly white faces. “I was the only foreign student at the high school, and possibly in all of Windom.”

Read the rest of this article at: Believer

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Valley Of The Ragdolls

Cats and humans have had an uneasy détente for the past few millennia. We provide cats with safe, warm places to sleep; they provide us with entertainment. We watch them chase after lasers, threaten birds, catch mice, stare out windows, sleep 18 hours a day, and sit on any box that’s left out—and if we’re lucky, occasionally, they will let us pet their fur and risk bloody scratches to the forearms if we stray near their bellies.

None of the inherent qualities of the cat make it a good candidate for breeding, at least by the standards of animal husbandry, which uses breeding to produce animals that are useful to humans. (Compared to pure dog breeds, which number in the hundreds, there are relatively few pure cat breeds. TICA, or The International Cat Association, recognizes 71 breeds. The Cat Fanciers’ Association, first established in 1906, counts 42.)

We’ve used dogs over the years as hunters, herders, and general helpmates. Cats are hunters, but only when they want to be—nipping, attacking, and pouncing. Otherwise, their disinterest can be profound. As one of the cat philosophers of Istanbul put it in 2017’s feral cat documentary Kedi, “Dogs think people are God, but cats don’t. Cats know that people act as middlemen to God’s will. They’re not ungrateful.” This makes their kindness, when they offer it, truly valuable.

But might it be possible to create a cat that’s less wild, less inclined to hunt? Could they be bred to be more dog-like, more loyal and responsive? Is the cat’s personality a case of nature or nurture? In 1964, a breeder in Riverside, California, began a grand experiment to find out.

Read the rest of this article at: Topic

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Why Do Americans Stay When Their Town Has No Future?

John Arnett chose Adams County, Ohio, as his home long before he was old enough to vote, drink beer, or drive a motorcycle along the Ohio River. After his parents split up, Arnett opted at age 10 to spend most of his time with his grandmother in Adams County, along the river 70 miles southeast of Cincinnati, rather than with his parents in the Dayton area. He liked life on the tobacco farm his grandfather had bought after retiring early from General Motors Co. in Dayton. And his grandmother, who became a widow when her husband died in a tractor accident, welcomed the companionship.

After high school, Arnett joined the U.S. Marine Corps, in 1999. His unit, the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines—the storied Suicide Charley—took him to the other side of the world: South Korea, Japan, Thailand. In the spring of 2003 he was an infantryman in the invasion of Iraq, spending five months in country—Baghdad, Tikrit, Najaf.

Once back in Ohio, he settled in Adams County with his future wife, Crystal, and started taking classes in criminal justice at the University of Cincinnati, figuring he’d follow the well-worn path from the military to law enforcement. One day, though, Crystal alerted him to an ad in the paper for jobs right in Adams County, at the coal-fired power plants down on the river. He jumped at the chance. The Dayton Power & Light Co. plants had been there for years—the larger, 2,400-megawatt J.M. Stuart Station, opened in 1970 as one of the largest in the country, and the 600-megawatt Killen Station followed 12 years later, 14 miles to the east—and weren’t going anywhere: Ohio was getting 80 percent of its electricity from burning coal.

Read the rest of this article at: Bloomberg

How Boots Riley Infiltrated Hollywood

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The cult indie rapper smuggled his radical anticapitalism into his biting new film ‘Sorry to Bother You.’
Boots Riley at Little Bistro in Oakland, Calif., in AprilCreditIlona Szwarc for The New York Times

When Boots Riley was done writing the screenplay for his comedy, he figured he needed several name actors and a budget of a few million dollars to actually get it made. He spent decades working as a community organizer, activist and as the frontman of a leftist hip-hop group called the Coup. Riley knew a killer pitch would be necessary: “Trying to get somebody to read your script and you’re a musician?” he asked. “That’s the last person whose script you’re gonna read!”

So he honed a spiel consisting of “various levels.” Level 1 was 23 words long, and on a recent afternoon, in a coffee shop in Riley’s hometown, Oakland, Calif., he recited it to me more or less exactly as he recited it over the years to potential actors, producers, investors and advice-givers:

“It’s an absurdist dark comedy with magical realism and science fiction, inspired by the world of telemarketing. It’s called ‘Sorry to Bother You.’ ”

Riley interrupted himself: “So it’s all those things, then — telemarketing. People usually laugh right there. ‘O.K., tell me more. …’ ”

At which point he would take them to Level 2:

“Cassius Green is a black telemarketer with self-esteem issues and existential angst who discovers a magical way to make his voice sound like it’s overdubbed by a white actor.”

Riley let that premise sink in, then moved to Level 3:
“This catapults him up the ladder of telemarketing success, to the upper echelon of telemarketers, who sell weapons of mass destruction and slave labor via cold calling. In order to do this, he has to betray his friends who are organizing a telemarketers’ union.”
Who, at this point, could resist knowing more? And who, having heard the rest — the coke-snorting billionaire bad guy, the climactic battle, the many dystopian flights of fancy — could resist helping Riley get the thing up on screen? The answer was: plenty of people. “I wasn’t getting many responses,” he recalls.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.

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