Bush to Propose Major Overhaul of Social Security Benefits

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Bush to Propose Major Overhaul of Social Security Benefits

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Republicans and lobbyists close to President George W. Bush have reported that the White House will propose changing the formula for establishing initial Social Security benefit levels in order to cut guaranteed expenditures on future retirees, according to today’s Washington Post. The Social Security Administration would no longer use the increase in wages over a worker’s lifetime to calculate retirees’ first-year benefits but would use inflation rates instead. The new “price indexing” formula will reduce individual benefits and overall Social Security outlays because the inflation rate typically is much lower than the rise in wages. The full impact of the change will be felt in the middle of the century.

The Bush Administration proposal, which will be offered to Congress in February or March 2005, is part of an overall Social Security reform package that also would create “personal investment accounts” into which individual taxpayers could divert part of their payroll taxes. The White House believes that the shortfall in benefits created by the adoption of price indexing would be made up by capital gains from the stocks and bonds held by individual taxpayers in their personal investment accounts.

The move is akin to the private sector’s migration from defined benefit retirement plans to defined contribution benefit plans such as 401(k)s as almost half of a worker’s benefits will not be guaranteed by the year 2075. President Bush will support the move to price indexing for calculating initial benefits by pointing out that it was the approach recommended by his 2001 Commission to Strengthen Social Security.

Benefits currently are calculated by averaging a worker’s earnings in their 35 highest-paid years and adjusting earnings to factor in cost of living standards at the worker’s retirement age. Under the Bush proposal, rather than adjusting benefits on the basis of earnings growth, the calculation would be based on the increase in the consumer price index over those years.

The implementation of “price indexing” would cut future Social Security costs by trillions of dollars. However, the cuts in guaranteed benefits for middle-class and some high-income workers would be substantial: 9.9% for workers retiring in 2022, over 25% for workers retiring in 2042, and 46% for workers retiring in 2075.

Opponents of the price-indexing proposal point out that inflation-based calculations of benefits, by linking benefits to prices but not wage levels, would cut retirees out from future increases in living standards since it is wages and not prices that determine standards of living. While American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Policy Director John Rother concedes that many of the arguments of opponents are valid, price indexing is inevitable and must be viewed in the context of President Bush’s total reform package.

Rother points out that Social Security benefits, which currently equal 42 percent of the earnings of an average worker retiring at age 65, would be reduced to 20% of pre-retirement earnings for future retirees, thus potentially freezing retirees into today’s standard of living. However, Rother says that price indexing has to be linked to Bush’s private investment accounts as income from the accounts give retirees the chance to make up the shortfalls.

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Australian senator Barnaby Joyce crosses floor

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Australian senator Barnaby Joyce crosses floor

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Canberra, Australia —Barnaby Joyce, a National Party member of Parliament crossed the floor in the Australian Senate October 11 over legislation proposed to permit mergers without the agreement of the competition watchdog body, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. He has not, however, changed his party membership.

The question over the proposed changes was put at 9.26pm when Joyce crossed the floor to vote against them. The vote was tied with 32 for and 32 against and thus the question was not carried by the government (the President of the Australian Senate does not hold the casting vote as in the Australian House of Representatives).

The Liberal Party/National Party coalition of which Joyce is a member holds a narrow majority of one seat in the Senate and Joyce has stated that he has chosen to exercise his vote in support of the promises made to his electorate prior to the election, rather than be obedient to the directions of the party executive. This is the first time Joyce, a recently elected senator, has crossed the floor in the Senate, and Joyce has suggested that this may not be the last.

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Clash of cultures: Somali and Latino workers at U.S. meat packing plants

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Clash of cultures: Somali and Latino workers at U.S. meat packing plants

Friday, October 17, 2008

Muslim Somali workers at a meat packing plant in Grand Island, Nebraska wanted to pray. Their colleagues from Latin America wanted to work. A dispute over the company’s break schedule led to formal discrimination claims, mass job walk-offs and public protests by both sides last month, and a reported 200 firings.

Tensions at the plant began after a Federal government raid in December 2006 removed 200 undocumented workers. An equal number of employees quit shortly afterward. Altogether, six government immigration raids at meat packing plants of Brazilian-owned JBS Swift & Co. had removed 1,200 employees from the company’s work force, which caused substantial production problems. Management at the Nebraska plant responded by hiring approximately 400 Somali immigrants who resided in the United States legally as political refugees. Stricter Federal enforcement of immigration laws has had a significant impact on the meat packing industry because few native-born Americans are willing to work in its low-wage factories. Employers advertise to immigrant communities and after the immigration crackdowns the company turned to the Somali community, which was unlikely to be targeted for deportation.

They shouldn’t be forced to choose between their job and their religion.

Many of the new Somali workers were observant Muslims who wanted to practice the traditional religious prayer schedule, and few spoke English. The existing union contract had been negotiated before Muslims became a significant part of the factory work force, when religious needs had not been an issue, and break times were assigned according to a rigid schedule to ensure continuous production and prevent workers from working too long without a break. The sharp knives the meat packers wield for their job pose a substantial risk of accidental injury.

At first the Somali workers prayed during scheduled breaks and visits to the rest room. A few Somalis were fired for “illegal breaks” they had spent praying. Rima Kapitan, a lawyer who represents the Muslim meat packers of Grand Island, told USA Today, “they shouldn’t be forced to choose between their job and their religion.” The Somalis offered to let their employer deduct pay for time at prayer, but supervisors considered it unworkable to lose the labor of hundreds of people simultaneously, even if the interruptions lasted less than five minutes.

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Plant worker Fidencio Sandoval, a naturalized United States citizen who was born in Mexico, had polite reservations. “I kind of admire all the effort they make to follow that religion, but sometimes you have to adapt to the workplace.” An immigrant from El Salvador was less sympathetic. “They used to go to the bathroom,” said José Amaya, “but actually they’re praying and the rest of us have to do their work.” Raul A. García, a 73-year-old Mexican meat packer, told The New York Times, “The Latino is very humble, but they [the Somalis] are arrogant… They act like the United States owes them.”

Differences of opinion arose over whether the prayers, which are a religious obligation five times a day for practicing Muslims and vary in exact time according the position of the sun, constitute a reasonable accommodation or an undue burden upon non-Muslim coworkers. Abdifatah Warsame, a Somali meat packer, told The New York Times that “Latinos were sometimes saying, ‘Don’t pray, don’t pray’”.

I kind of admire all the effort they make to follow that religion, but sometimes you have to adapt to the workplace.

As the Muslim holy month of Ramadan approached during 2007 the Somalis requested time off for religious reasons. Observant Muslims fast throughout daylight hours during Ramadan. Management refused, believing it would affect the production line. Dozens of Somali workers quit their jobs temporarily in protest. Negotiations between the Somali workers and management broke down in October 2007. Some of the fired Somalis filed religious discrimination complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Problems resurfaced after September 10, 2008 when Somali workers approached plant general manager Dennis Sydow with a request to start their dinner half an hour before the usual schedule in order to break their Ramadan fast closer to sundown. Sydow refused due to concern the request would slow production and burden non-Muslim workers. During the same month a Somali woman complained that a plant supervisor had kicked her while she was praying. The union investigated the charge and the supervisor responded that he had not seen her while she bent in prayer and had only kicked the cardboard that was underneath her.

Somali workers walked out on strike September 15 and protested at Grand Island City Hall, asking for prayer time. The following day the union brokered a compromise with plant management to move the dinner break by 15 minutes. Plant scheduling rules would have reduced the work day by 15 minutes with resulting loss in pay for the hourly workers.

A Somali worker, Abdalla Omar, told the press “We had complaints from the whites, Hispanics and [Christian] Sudanese“. False rumors spread about further cuts to the work day and preferential concessions to the Somalis. Over 1,000 non-Somalis staged a counterprotest on September 17. Union and management returned to the original dinner schedule. Substantial numbers of Somali workers left the plant afterward and either quit or were fired as a result. Sources differ as to the number of Somalis who still work at the plant: The New York Times reports union leadership as saying 300 remain, while Somali community leaders assert the number is closer to 100.

The EEOC has sent staff to determine whether treatment of Somali workers has been in compliance with the The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under the law, employers must make reasonable accommodation for religious practices, but the law grants exceptions if religious practice places substantial hardship on an employer’s business.

Doug Schult, the JBS Swift manager in charge of labor relations, expressed frustration at the inability to resolve the problem, which had surfaced in a Colorado plant as well as the Nebraska plant. He told The Wall Street Journal that his office had spent months trying to understand and comply with new EEOC guidelines in light of conflicting pressures. Local union chapter president Daniel O. Hoppes of United Food and Commercial Workers worries that similar problems could continue to arise at the plant. “Right now, this is a real kindling box”.

Posted: May 17th, 2019 by MbEe89

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Copyright on musical recordings extended by twenty years in EU

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Copyright on musical recordings extended by twenty years in EU

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Council of the European Union voted yesterday to extend the term of copyright on sound recordings by twenty years, from 50 years to 70, preventing a number of early recordings of 1960s rock musicians including The Beatles from entering the public domain. The 1962 hit “Love Me Do” would have entered the public domain in 2012 if this legislation had not been introduced. EU member states have to enact the copyright extension within two years.

The news was welcomed by representatives of the recording industry and by some recording artists. Cliff Richard has campaigned for term extension. Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones said the decision was “obviously advantageous” to performers, and Bjorn Ulvaeus from Abba welcomed the continued control over the group’s recordings: “Now I won’t have to see Abba being used in a TV commercial”. Geoff Taylor from the British Phonographic Industry said “[a]n exceptional period of British musical genius was about to lose its protection. As a matter of principle, it is right that our musicians should benefit from their creativity during their lifetimes, and that they should not be disadvantaged compared to musicians in other countries.”

Extension of the copyright term also has critics. Jim Killock, from the British digital rights advocacy group the Open Rights Group (ORG), said the move “puts money into the pockets of big labels” but will be “unlikely to benefit smaller artists and it will mean that a lot of sound recordings that are out of print will stay out of print”. Singer Sandie Shaw, of the Featured Artists’ Coalition, said the move would be “extremely good news for record companies and collection agencies, but bad news for artists” and would lead to artists having “20 more years in servitude to contracts that are no longer appropriate to a digital age”.

The extension to 70 years is less than that EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy proposed in 2008. At that time, Wikinews interviewed Eddan Katz of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Becky Hogge, then Executive Director of ORG, in Brussels. The two organisations were gathering like-minded groups to oppose harmonisation with the US’s 95-year term. Characterising the sought extension as “Cliff Richard’s pension”, Hogge asserted, “[w]hat you’ve got at the end of the day with copyright term extension is basically […] rent seeking by special interest groups lobbying governments to change the law in order that they may economically gain directly.”

Two reviews of intellectual property rights in Britain have concluded it would not be economically beneficial to extend copyright terms on sound recordings. The Gowers Review of Intellectual Property in 2006 concluded extension of the copyright term would “negatively impact upon consumers and industry”. The Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth in 2011 concluded it would be “economically detrimental”. A study conducted by Bournemouth University’s Center for Intellectual Property Policy and Management concluded 72% of the economic benefits of the term extension would go to record labels, with 28% going to artists, only 4% of which are going to less successful artists.

Posted: May 16th, 2019 by MbEe89

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Category:July 20, 2010

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Category:July 20, 2010
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July 20

Pages in category “July 20, 2010”

Posted: May 15th, 2019 by MbEe89

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Illinois man charged in Facebook harassment case

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Illinois man charged in Facebook harassment case

Monday, February 8, 2010

A man from the Naperville, Illinois, United States area has been accused of allegedly threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend and her current boyfriend via messages posted on her Facebook account. 

Nineteen-year-old Christopher J. Bensfield was arrested Jan. 28 at his home in unincorporated DuPage County near the far west-central part of Naperville. He is being held on a $12,500 bond at the DuPage County Jail in Wheaton. He is scheduled to appear at the DuPage County Circuit Court on a felony charge of harassment via electronic communication. Police Sergeant Gregg Bell said the ex-girlfriend, a Naperville-resident, asked Bensfield to stop sending the messages many times before she submitted printed copies of the threatening messages to Naperville police.

Court records indicate Bensfield is already on probation after pleading guilty last September to possession of a controlled substance. He was arrested in August 2008 after disobeying a stop sign in Naperville. Police searched his car and found marijuana and drug paraphernalia. This was the third time Benfield had been arrested for having marijuana since April 2007, when drugs were found in his possession at Naperville Central High School. Last October, a judge issued a fine and required him to join the DuPage County Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program. He has also received five tickets within three months in 2008 for driving violations, including speeding, driving without insurance, transportation of an open alcohol container, and driving too fast for conditions.

Bensfield’s mother also has an order of protection against him. Ms. Bensfield stated that he asked her for money in late December; he then broke into her home in Naperville’s far southeast-side, punching holes in the walls and breaking various items before leaving. Christopher was arrested Dec. 29 and faced a misdemeanor charge of criminal damage to property. He “suffers from bipolar disorder and has not been taking his medication,” according to information the Naperville Daily Herald has received from Ms. Bensfield.

Posted: May 11th, 2019 by MbEe89

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Ozzy Osbourne’s personal possessions fetch $800,000 for charity

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Ozzy Osbourne’s personal possessions fetch $800,000 for charity

Sunday, December 2, 2007

American heavy metal performer Ozzy Osbourne, who became famous as the lead vocalist for Black Sabbath and later as a solo act, has raised more than US$800,000 for The Sharon Osbourne Colon Cancer Program, founded by his spouse Sharon Osbourne at the Cedars Sinai Hospital, by auctioning off personal items.

A number of the items that he auctioned off over the two day period have been seen on his reality TV show The Osbournes, which featured home life with Sharon, Ozzy and their two children. Amongst some of the higher-priced items were a carved walnut Victorian-style custom built pool table which raised $11,250, a painting from Edourad Drouot which fetched $10,500, a pair of Ozzy’s famous round glasses which raised $5,250 and a dog bed given to Sharon by Elton John which sold for $2,375.

Some more famous items were also amongst the 500 lots offered. Ozzy’s black satin coat, complete with bat-wing cape, raised $3,300 and a hand-painted floral cup used regularly on The Osbournes made $1,625. A bronze plaque of a demon’s head that was regularly seen in its position adorning the front door of their house had been expected to go for $800 to $1,200instead raised $8,750. A wire model of the Eiffel Tower from on the kitchen table sold for $10,000, while skull-covered trainers Ozzy had worn reached $2,625. Bidders came from as far away as Germany to buy what they could from his mansion in Beverly Hills, California.

However, three cars included in the auction failed to attract bidders and did not sell. They were a 2006 Bentley Continental Flying Spur, estimated at $160,000 to $180,000, a 2005 Cadillac CTS-V sedan estimated at $30,000 to $40,000 and a 1950 Oldsmobile Futuramic 88 Club Coupe previously owned by author Danielle Steel estimated at $40,000 to $50,000. Sharon had earlier said of the cars “We’re not great car people. They really don’t do a lot for us.

Darren Julien, president of Julien’s Auctions, which organised the two-day sale, said “It did very well. It raised some good money for a very worthy cause.”

“For a celebrity garage sale, it was pretty spectacular.,” he went on. He also commented on the fact that there was fierce competition for the many artworks included. “We had Ozzy fans bidding against these sophisticated fine art buyers, which you don’t see every day. For the most part the metalheads were outbidding the art crowd.”

Posted: May 11th, 2019 by MbEe89

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Warhol’s photo legacy spread by university exhibits

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Warhol’s photo legacy spread by university exhibits

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Evansville, Indiana, United States — This past week marked the opening night of an Andy Warhol exhibit at the University of Southern Indiana. USI’s art gallery, like 189 other educational galleries and museums around the country, is a recipient of a major Warhol donor program, and this program is cultivating new interest in Warhol’s photographic legacy. Wikinews reporters attended the opening and spoke to donors, exhibit organizers and patrons.

The USI art gallery celebrated the Thursday opening with its display of Warhol’s Polaroids, gelatin silver prints and several colored screen prints. USI’s exhibit, which is located in Evansville, Indiana, is to run from January 23 through March 9.

The McCutchan Art Center/Pace Galleries at USI bases its exhibit around roughly 100 Polaroids selected from its collection. The Polaroids were all donated by the Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program, according to Kristen Wilkins, assistant professor of photography and curator of the exhibit. The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts made two donations to USI Art Collections, in 2007 and a second recently.

Kathryn Waters, director of the gallery, expressed interest in further donations from the foundation in the future.

Since 2007 the Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program has seeded university art galleries throughout the United States with over 28,000 Andy Warhol photographs and other artifacts. The program takes a decentralized approach to Warhol’s photography collection and encourages university art galleries to regularly disseminate and educate audiences about Warhol’s artistic vision, especially in the area of photography.

Contents

  • 1 University exhibits
  • 2 Superstars
  • 3 Warhol’s photographic legacy
  • 4 USI exhibit
  • 5 Sources

Wikinews provides additional video, audio and photographs so our readers may learn more.

Wilkins observed that the 2007 starting date of the donation program, which is part of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, coincided with the 20th anniversary of Andy Warhol’s death in 1987. USI was not alone in receiving a donation.

K.C. Maurer, chief financial officer and treasurer at the Andy Warhol Foundation, said 500 institutions received the initial invitation and currently 190 universities have accepted one or more donations. Institutional recipients, said Mauer, are required to exhibit their donated Warhol photographs every ten years as one stipulation.

While USI is holding its exhibit, there are also Warhol Polaroid exhibits at the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York and an Edward Steichen and Andy Warhol exhibit at the Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. All have received Polaroids from the foundation.

University exhibits can reach out and attract large audiences. For example, the Weatherspoon Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro saw attendance levels reach 11,000 visitors when it exhibited its Warhol collection in 2010, according to curator Elaine Gustafon. That exhibit was part of a collaboration combining the collections from Duke University, located in Durham, North Carolina, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which also were recipients of donated items from the Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program.

Each collection donated by the Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program holds Polaroids of well-known celebrities. The successful UNC Greensboro exhibit included Polaroids of author Truman Capote and singer-songwriter Carly Simon.

“I think America’s obsession with celebrity culture is as strong today as it was when Warhol was living”, said Gustafon. “People are still intrigued by how stars live, dress and socialize, since it is so different from most people’s every day lives.”

Wilkins explained Warhol’s obsession with celebrities began when he first collected head shots as a kid and continued as a passion throughout his life. “He’s hanging out with the celebrities, and has kind of become the same sort of celebrity he was interested in documenting earlier in his career”, Wilkins said.

The exhibit at USI includes Polaroids of actor Dennis Hopper; musician Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran; publishers Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone Magazine and Carlo De Benedetti of Italy’s la Repubblica; disco club owner Steve Rubell of Studio 54; photographers Nat Finkelstein, Christopher Makos and Felice Quinto; and athletes Vitas Gerulaitis (tennis) and Jack Nicklaus (golf).

Wikinews observed the USI exhibit identifies and features Polaroids of fashion designer Halston, a former resident of Evansville.

University collections across the United States also include Polaroids of “unknowns” who have not yet had their fifteen minutes of fame. Cynthia Thompson, curator and director of exhibits at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, said, “These images serve as documentation of people in his every day life and art — one which many of us enjoy a glimpse into.”

Warhol was close to important touchstones of the 1960s, including art, music, consumer culture, fashion, and celebrity worship, which were all buzzwords and images Wikinews observed at USI’s opening exhibit.

He was also an influential figure in the pop art movement. “Pop art was about what popular American culture really thought was important”, Kathryn Waters said. “That’s why he did the Campbell Soup cans or the Marilyn pictures, these iconic products of American culture whether they be in film, video or actually products we consumed. So even back in the sixties, he was very aware of this part of our culture. Which as we all know in 2014, has only increased probably a thousand fold.”

“I think everybody knows Andy Warhol’s name, even non-art people, that’s a name they might know because he was such a personality”, Water said.

Hilary Braysmith, USI associate professor of art history, said, “I think his photography is equally influential as his graphic works, his more famous pictures of Marilyn. In terms of the evolution of photography and experimentation, like painting on them or the celebrity fascination, I think he was really ground-breaking in that regard.”

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The Polaroid format is not what made Warhol famous, however, he is in the company of other well-known photographers who used the camera, such as Ansel Adams, Chuck Close, Walker Evans, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Helmut Newton.

Wilkins said, “[Warhol] liked the way photo booths and the Polaroid’s front flash looked”. She explained how Warhol’s adoption of the Polaroid camera revealed his process. According to Wilkins, Warhol was able to reproduce the Polaroid photograph and create an enlargement of it, which he then could use to commit the image to the silk screen medium by applying paint or manipulating them further. One of the silk screens exhibited at USI this time was the Annie Oakley screen print called “Cowboys and Indians” from 1987.

Wilkins also said Warhol was both an artist and a businessperson. “As a way to commercialize his work, he would make a blue Marilyn and a pink Marilyn and a yellow Marilyn, and then you could pick your favorite color and buy that. It was a very practical salesman approach to his work. He was very prolific but very business minded about that.”

“He wanted to be rich and famous and he made lots of choices to go that way”, Wilkins said.

It’s Warhol. He is a legend.

Kiara Perkins, a second year USI art major, admitted she was willing to skip class Thursday night to attend the opening exhibit but then circumstances allowed for her to attend the exhibit. Why did she so badly want to attend? “It’s Warhol. He is a legend.”

For Kevin Allton, a USI instructor in English, Warhol was also a legend. He said, “Andy Warhol was the center of the Zeitgeist for the 20th century and everything since. He is a post-modern diety.”

Allton said he had only seen the Silver Clouds installation before in film. The Silver Clouds installation were silver balloons blown up with helium, and those balloons filled one of the smaller rooms in the gallery. “I thought that in real life it was really kind of magical,” Allton said. “I smacked them around.”

Elements of the Zeitgeist were also playfully recreated on USI’s opening night. In her opening remarks for attendees, Waters pointed out those features to attendees, noting the touches of the Warhol Factory, or the studio where he worked, that were present around them. She pointed to the refreshment table with Campbell’s Soup served with “electric” Kool Aid and tables adorned with colorful gumball “pills”. The music in the background was from such bands as The Velvet Underground.

The big hit of the evening, Wikinews observed from the long line, was the Polaroid-room where attendees could wear a Warhol-like wig or don crazy glasses and have their own Polaroid taken. The Polaroids were ready in an instant and immediately displayed at the entry of the exhibit. Exhibit goers then became part of the very exhibit they had wanted to attend. In fact, many people Wikinews observed took out their mobiles as they left for the evening and used their own phone cameras to make one further record of the moment — a photo of a photo. Perhaps they had learned an important lesson from the Warhol exhibit that cultural events like these were ripe for use and reuse. We might even call these exit instant snap shots, the self selfie.

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Children enjoy interacting with the “Silver Clouds” at the Andy Warhol exhibit. Image: Snbehnke.

Kathryn Waters opens the Andy Warhol exhibit at USI. Image: Snbehnke.

At the Andy Warhol exhibit, hosts document all the names of attendees who have a sitting at the Polaroid booth. Image: Snbehnke.

Curator Kristin Wilkins shares with attendees the story behind his famous Polaroids. Image: Snbehnke.

A table decoration at the exhibit where the “pills” were represented by bubble gum. Image: Snbehnke.

Two women pose to get their picture taken with a Polaroid camera. Their instant pics will be hung on the wall. Image: Snbehnke.

Even adults enjoyed the “Silver Clouds” installation at the Andy Warhol exhibit at USI. Image: Snbehnke.

Many people from the area enjoyed Andy Warhol’s famous works at the exhibit at USI. Image: Snbehnke.

Katie Waters talks with a couple in the Silver Clouds area. Image: Snbehnke.

Many people showed up to the new Andy Warhol exhibit, which opened at USI. Image: Snbehnke.

At the exhibit there was food and beverages inspired to look like the 1960s. Image: Snbehnke.

A woman has the giggles while getting her Polaroid taken. Image: Snbehnke.

A man poses to get his picture taken by a Polaroid camera, with a white wig and a pair of sunglasses. Image: Snbehnke.

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Finished product of the Polaroid camera film of many people wanting to dress up and celebrate Andy Warhol. Image: Snbehnke.

Posted: May 8th, 2019 by MbEe89

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Antje Duvekot on life as a folk singer, her family and her music

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Antje Duvekot on life as a folk singer, her family and her music

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Boston-based singer-songwriter Antje Duvekot has made a name for herself in the folk music world with powerful ballads of heartbreak and longing for a deeper spirituality, but coming up empty-handed. Below is David Shankbone’s interview with the folk chanteuse.


David Shankbone: Tell me about your new album.

Antje Duvekot: It’s called Big Dream Boulevard and it’s the first studio album I made. It’s not so new; I made it in May of 2006. It’s produced by Séamus Egan, who is the leader of a fairly renowned band named Solas.

DS: You mentioned you used to explore more dark themes in your work, but that lately you are exploring lighter fare. What themes are you exploring on this album?

AD: In the future I am hoping for more light themes. I feel like I have worked through a lot of the darkness, and personally I feel like I’m ready to write a batch of lighter songs, but that’s just how I’m feeling right now. My last record, Big Dream Boulevard, was a pretty heavy record and that was not intentional. I write what is on my mind.

DS: What were you going through that made it so dark?

AD: The record is drawn from my whole writing career, so it’s old and new songs as well. I wasn’t going through anything in particular because it was spanning a wide time period. I think it’s fair to say that over all I turn to music in times of trouble and need as a therapeutic tool to get me through sadness. That’s why I tend to turn to music. So my songs tend to be a little darker, because that’s where I tend to go for solace. So themes like personal struggle with relationships and existential issues.

DS: What personal relationships do you struggle with?

AD: A lot of my songs are about dating and relationship troubles. That’s one category. But a lot of my songs are about existential questions because I struggle with what to believe in.

DS: Do you believe in a higher power?

AD: I’m sort of an atheist who wishes I could believe something.

DS: What do you believe?

AD: It’s undefined. I think I’m spiritual in music, which is my outlet, but I just can’t get on board with an organized religion. Not even Unitarianism. I do miss something like that in my life, though.

DS: Why do you miss having religion in your life?

AD: I think every human being craves a feeling that there is a higher purpose. It’s a need for me. A lot of my songs express that struggle.

DS: Does the idea that our lives on Earth may be all that there is unsettle you?

AD: Yes, sure. I think there’s more. I’m always seeking things of beauty, and my art reflects the search for that.

DS: You had said in an interview that your family wasn’t particularly supportive of your career path, but you are also saying they were atheists who weren’t curious about the things you are curious about. It sounds like you were a hothouse flower.

AD: Yes. I think what went with my parents’ atheism was a distrust of the arts as frivolous and extraneous. They were very pragmatic.

DS: They almost sound Soviet Communist.

AD: Yeah, a little bit [Laughs]. They had an austere way of living, and my wanting to pursue music as a career was the last straw.

DS: What’s your relationship with them now?

AD: I don’t actually speak to my mother and stepfather.

DS: Why?

AD: A lot of reasons, but when I was about 21 I was fairly certain I wanted to go the music path and they said, “Fine, then go!”

DS: That’s the reason you don’t speak with them?

AD: That’s the main. “Go ahead, do what you want, and have a nice life.” So the music thing cost the relationship with my parents, although I think there may have been some other things that have done it.

DS: That must be a difficult thing to contend with, that a career would be the basis for a relationship.

AD:Yes, it’s strange, but my love of music is perhaps stronger for it because of the sacrifices I have made for it early on. I had to fight.

DS: Would you say in your previous work some of your conflict of dating would have been birthed from how your relationship with your family? How do you see the arc of your work?

AD: My songs are sort of therapy for me, so you can trace my personal progress through them [Laughs]. I think there is some improvement. I wrote my first love song the other day, so I think I’m getting the hang of what relationships are all about. I’m ever grateful for music for being there for me when things weren’t going so well.

DS: Has the Iraq War affected you as an artist?

AD: Not directly, but I do have a few songs that are political. One about George Bush and the hypocrisy, but it’s very indirect; you wouldn’t know it was about George Bush.

DS: How has it affected you personally?

AD: I feel sad about it. People say my music is sad, but it’s a therapeutic thing so the war affects me.

DS: The struggle to be original in art is innate. When you are coming up with an idea for a song and then you all of a sudden stumble across it having been done somewhere else, how do you not allow that to squelch your creative impulse and drive to continue on.

AD: That’s a good question. I started writing in a vacuum just for myself and I didn’t have a lot of feedback, and I thought that what I’m saying has been said so many times before. Then my songs got out there and people told me, ‘You say it so originally’ and I thought ‘Really?!’ The way I say it, to me, sounds completely trite because it’s the way I would say it and it doesn’t sound special at all. Once my record came out I got some amount of positive reviews that made me think I have something original, which in turn made me have writer’s block to keep that thing that I didn’t even know I had. So now I’m struggling with that, trying to maintain my voice. Right now I feel a little dried-out creatively.

DS: When I interviewed Augusten Burroughs he told me that when he was in advertising he completely shut himself off from the yearly ad books that would come out of the best ads that year, because he wanted to be fresh and not poisoned by other ideas; whereas a band called The Raveonettes said they don’t try to be original they just do what they like and are upfront about their influences. Where do you fall in that spectrum?

AD: Probably more towards Augusten Burroughs because when I first started writing it was more in a vacuum, but I think everyone has their own way. You can’t not be influenced by your experience in life.

DS: Who would you say are some of your biggest influences in the last year. Who have you discovered that has influenced you the most?

AD: Influence is kind of a strong word because I don’t think I’m taking after these people. I’ve been moved by this girl named Anais Mitchell. She’s a singer-songwriter from Vermont who is really unique. She’s just got signed to Righteous Babe Records. Patty Griffin just moves me deeply.

DS: You moved out of New York because you had some difficulty with the music scene here?

AD: I feel it is a little tougher to make it here than in Boston if you are truly acoustic folk lyric driven. I find that audiences in New York like a certain amount of bling and glamor to their performances. A little more edge, a little cooler. I felt for me Boston was the most conducive environment.

DS: Do you feel home up in Boston?

AD:I do, and part of that is the great folk community.

DS: Why do you think Boston has such a well-developed folk scene?

AD: It’s always historically been a folk hub. There’s a lot of awesome folk stations like WUMB and WERS. Legendary folk clubs, like Club Passim. Those have stayed in tact since the sixties.

DS: Is there anything culturally about Boston that makes it more conducive to folk?

AD: Once you have a buzz, the buzz creates more buzz. Some people hear there’s a folk scene in Boston, and then other people move there, so the scene feeds itself and becomes a successful scene. It’s on-going.

DS: Do you have a favorite curse word?

AD: [Giggles] Cunt. [Giggles]

DS: Really?! You are the first woman I have met who likes that word!

AD: Oh, really? I’ll use it in a traffic situation. Road rage. [Laughs]

DS: Do you find yourself more inspired by man-made creations, including people and ideas, or nature-made creations?

AD: I love nature, but it is limited. It is what it is, and doesn’t include the human imagination that can go so much further than nature.

DS: What are some man made things that inspire you?

AD: New York City as a whole is just an amazing city. People are so creative and it is the hub of personal creativity, just in the way people express themselves on a daily basis.

DS: Do you think you will return?

In theory I will return one day if I have money, but in theory you need money to enjoy yourself.

DS: What trait do you deplore in yourself?

AD: Like anyone, I think laziness. I’m a bit a hard on myself, but there’s always more I can do. As a touring singer-songwriter I work hard, but sometimes I forget because I get to sleep in and my job is not conventional, and sometimes I think ‘Oh, I don’t even have a job, how lazy I am!’ [Laughs] Then, of course, there are times I’m touring my ass off and I work hard as well. It comes in shifts. There are times there is so much free time I have to structure my own days, and that’s a challenge.

DS: When is the last time you achieved a goal and were disappointed by it and thought, “Is that all there is?” Something you wanted to obtain, you obtained it, and it wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as you thought it would be.

AD: I was just thinking about the whole dream of becoming a musician. I want to maybe do a research project about people’s dreams and how they feel about them after they come true. It’s really interesting. They change a lot. When I was 17 I saw Ani Difranco on stage and I wanted to do that, and now I’m doing it. Now I think about Ani very differently. I wonder how long it took her to drive here, she must be tired; I’m thinking of all the pragmatic things that go on behind the scenes. The backside of a dream you never consider when you’re dreaming it. To some extent, having my dream fulfilled hasn’t been a let-down, but it’s changed. It’s more realistic.

DS: What is a new goal?

AD: Balance. Trying to grow my career enough to make sure it doesn’t consume me. It’s hard to balance a touring career because there is no structure to your life. I’m trying to take this dream and make it work as a job.

DS: How challenging is it to obtain that in the folk world?

AD: There’s not a lot of money in the folk world. In generally right now I think people’s numbers are down and only a few people can make a living at it. It’s pretty competitive. I’m doing okay, but there’s no huge riches in it so I’m trying to think of my future and maintain a balance in it.

DS: Do you think of doing something less folk-oriented to give your career a push?

Not really, I’ve done that a little bit by trying to approach the major labels, but that was when the major labels were dying so I came in at a bad time for that. I found that when it comes to do it yourself, the folk world is the best place to make money because as soon as you go major you are paying a band.

DS: More money more problems.

AD: More money, more investing. It’s a hard question.

DS: What things did you encounter doing a studio album that you had not foreseen?

AD: Giving up control is hard when you have a producer. His vision, sometimes, is something you can’t understand and have to trust sometimes. See how it comes out. That was hard for me, because up until now I have been such a do it yourself, writing my own songs, recording them myself.

DS: What is your most treasured possession?

AD: I’d like to say my guitar, but I’m still looking for a good one. I have this little latex glove. [Laughs] It’s a long story—

DS: Please! Do tell!

AD: When I was in college I had a romantic friend named David, he was kind of my first love. We were young and found this latex glove in a parking lot. We though, “Oh, this is a nice glove, we’ll name him Duncan.”

DS: You found a latex glove in a parking lot and you decided to take it?

AD: Yeah [Laughs]. He became the symbol of our friendship. He’s disgusting at this point, he’s falling apart. But David and I are still friends and we’ll pass him back and forth to each other every three years or so when we’ve forgotten his existence. David surprised me at a show in Philly. He gave Duncan to the sound man who brought it back stage, and now I have Duncan. So he’s kind of special to me.

DS: If you could choose how you die, how would you choose?

AD: Not freezing to death, and not in an airplane, because I’m afraid of flying. Painlessly, like most people. In my sleep when I’m so old and senile I don’t know what hit me. I’d like to get real old.

DS: Would you be an older woman with long hair or short hair?

AD: I guess short hair, because long hair looks a little witchy on old people.

DS: Who are you supporting for President?

AD: I’m torn between Obama and Hillary. Someone who is going to win, so I guess Hillary.

DS: You don’t think Obama would have a chance of winning?

AD: I don’t know. If he did, I would support Barack. I don’t really care; either of those would make me happy.

DS: What trait do you value most in your friends?

AD: Kindness.

DS: What trait do you deplore in other people?

AD: Arrogance. Showiness.

DS: Where else are you going on tour?

AD: Alaska in a few days. Fairbanks, Anchorage and all over the place. I’m a little nervous because I will be driving by myself and I have this vision that if I get hit by a moose then I could freeze to death.

DS: And you have to fly up there!

AD: Yeah, and I hate flying as well—so I’m really scared! [Laughs]

DS: Is there a big folk scene in Alaska?

AD: No, but I hear people are grateful if anyone makes it up there, especially in the winter. I think they are hungry for any kind of entertainment, no matter the quality. [Laughs] Someone came to us! I actually played there in June in this town called Seldovia, that has 300 people, and all 300 people came to my gig, so the next day I was so famous! Everyone knew me, the gas station attendant, everyone. It was surreal.

DS: So you had that sense of what Ani DiFranco must feel.

AD: Yeah! I was Paul McCartney. I thought this was what it must be like to be Bruce Springsteen, like I can’t even buy a stick of gum without being recognized.

DS: Did you like that?

AD: I think it would be awful to be that famous because you have moments when you just don’t feel like engaging.

Posted: May 7th, 2019 by MbEe89

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Dog flu spreads across the US

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Dog flu spreads across the US

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Dogs are normally resistant to most flu strains. Since about 2000, a new strain of dog flu has been spreading in America, and there’s no vaccine to prevent it.

To limit exposure to the flu, some dog owners are avoiding public places like dog shows and parks. Since the flu can spread where groups of dogs are housed, some dog owners are nervous about the practice of putting their pets in kennels. According to Edward Dubovil, director of the animal virology lab at Cornell University, 100% of dogs appear to be susceptible to infection by this new flu strain. It is estimated that 1-5% of infected dogs are dying from this flu strain. The symptoms of dog flu are akin to those of kennel cough, a more common and less serious illness.

Starting in 2004 there have been many outbreaks of flu at dog race tracks. Since early in 2004, researchers have been working to characterize the type of flu that is infecting dogs. In September of 2005 it was reported that this dog flu strain had crossed over from horses to dogs. This type of flu virus has been infecting horses for at least 40 years. It is expected that existing flu vaccines for horses can soon be adapted for use in dogs.

The spread of a horse flu virus to dogs is an example of what could happen with bird flu. Currently the bird flu is transmitted from birds to humans but does not spread easily from person to person. The new strain of dog flu shows signs of having been genetically modified from the original horse-preferring virus strain making it easy to transmit from dog to dog. Future genetic modifications of bird flu could better adapt it to humans and allow it to spread from person to person. The chance of such viral evolution can be reduced by limiting exposure of humans to bird flu.

At this time, the new dog flu virus strain does not seem to be a danger for humans. However, humans will be monitored for signs of infection by new genetic variants of the dog flu. Due to the close physical association between pet dogs and humans, a flu strain that could jump from dogs to humans would be of great concern. Recently evolved virus strains that jump from one species to another are often particularly lethal because the newly infected species may have little or no immunity to the new virus strain.

Posted: May 7th, 2019 by MbEe89

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