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DECEMBER 2014

 
 

RISE UP


"Today, humanity faces a stark choice: save the planet and ditch capitalism, or save capitalism and ditch the planet." – Fawzi Ibrahim

Until we challenge the entrenched values of capitalism – that the economy must always keep growing, that consumer wants must always be satisfied, that immediate gratification is imperative – we're not going to be able to fix the gigantic psycho-financial-eco crisis of our times. That challenge is a deeply personal one: in a world where every inch of the capitalist system is bullying you into submission, can you resist? When advertisers hound you day and night, can you escape? When they say "BUY!", will you say NOTHING!”? Buy Nothing Day is legendary for instigating this type of personal transformation . . . as you suddenly remember what real living is all about . . . you sense an upsurge of radical empowerment and feel a strange magic creeping back into your life. Read More

 

TORTURE REPORT: INHUMANE SCENES FROM C.I.A.'S PRISONS

There is a tape recording somewhere, unless the Central Intelligence Agency has destroyed it, that captures the sound of a man named Nazar Ali crying. He was a prisoner in a secret C.I.A. prison, in a foreign country where terrorists were supposed to be interrogated. But Nazar Ali, whom a Senate Select Intelligence Committee report, part of which was released on Tuesday, suggests has a developmental disability—it quotes an assessment of him as "intellectually challenged"—was no sophisticated Al Qaeda operative. It is not even clear, from what's been released of the report, that his interrogation was an attempt to gain information, or indeed that he was properly interrogated at all. According to the report, his "C.I.A. detention was used solely as leverage to get a family member to provide information." A footnote later in the report, where his name appears, explains that Nazar Ali's "taped crying was used as leverage against his family member." Left unexplained is what the American operatives did to make this man cry. Did they plan ahead, preparing recording equipment and proddings, or did they just, from their perspective, get lucky? That audio may be long erased or destroyed, as ninety-two videotapes documenting waterboarding were. The unauthorized running of those videotapes through an industrial shredder, in 2004, put in motion the production of the Senate report. (The Washington Post has a graphic guide to its 20 key findings.) It took nine years and cost forty million dollars, largely because the C.I.A. and its allies pushed back, complaining about unfairness and, finally, warning darkly that Americans would die if the world knew what Americans had done. Senate Republicans eventually withdrew their staff support. The Obama Administration has largely enabled this obstruction. The opponents of accountability nearly succeeded. In another month, a Republican majority takes control in the Senate, and they might have buried the report for another decade, or forever. As it is, only a fraction has been released—the five-hundred-page executive summary of a sixty-seven-hundred-page report—and it is shamefully redacted. But there are things the redactions can't hide, including that the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration lied, in ways large and small. Read More New Yorker

 

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NEW DOCUMENTARY: ON FEMINISM'S RELEVANCY

When we were three years old, my best friend, Bret, and I knew the game of tag was forbidden inside our Long Island preschool. We flouted the rules one afternoon and tore through the classroom anyway. I chased Bret, pumping my arms and running with all my might, smack into a teacher who was blocking my way. "Girls aren’t supposed to run around the classroom," she towered over my three-year-old head. "You should know better. Go sit in the corner." From the corner, I watched forlornly as Bret assumed a grave expression and joined the rest of the class for story time. In that corner, in 1986, I became acutely aware of sexism. I became a feminist. That was 20 years after the movement's second wave ignited, as depicted in 'She's Beautiful When She's Angry,' a Mary Dore-produced documentary I caught in the East Village last weekend. It's a not-altogether dispiriting tour through five of the busiest years of the movement-1966 to 1971—that fomented consciousness-raising meetings and the National Organization for Women; demonstrations against catcalling and the Pill's side effects; and rallying cries for women to control not only their reproductive lives but their working lives as well. Read More

 

MALE BIRTH CONTROL PILLS

"Did you take your birth control pill?" It's a question that causes many women to bristle, a recurring reminder that the brunt of the responsibility falls on them to prevent pregnancy. It's a lopsided arrangement, to be sure, but researchers in Indonesia are on a mission to level the field with birth control pills for men. After word had spread about men from the island of Papua using a common Indonesian plant, Justica gendarussa, to prevent pregnancy—by boiling its leaves in a tea or regularly chewing them—scientists decided to tap into the useful foliage themselves. By synthesizing a chemical from the gendarussa leaf into pills, Indonesian researchers have seen success in several clinical trials with the plant's effectiveness as a male contraceptive. "It's 99 percent effective," Bambang Prajogo, the lead scientist on the study, told the Global Post. "The pill weakens enzymes in sperm that allow them to squirm into a woman’s ovum." He and his team said that men would need to take the pill once daily, much like the female version, but that "unlike female birth control pills, it doesn't tinker with hormones, which causes so many unpleasant side effects." That's not to say the male version hasn't produced any unwanted results in subjects (weight gain and increased libido have been recorded as potential side effects), but "overall, researchers haven't seen anything that remotely rivals the zits, nausea, sporadic bleeding and other effects many women endure on hormone-based birth control pills." Read More

 

BLACK MIRROR: AN APOCALYPSE OF MODERN WORLD

Black Mirror is a British television anthology series created by Charlie Brooker that shows the dark side of life and technology. The series taps into our contemporary unease about our modern world, with the stories having a "techno-paranoia" feel. Black Mirror Series 1 was originally released on DVD in 2012. Charlie Brooker explained the series' title to The Guardian, noting: "If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side-effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror, my new drama series, is set. The 'black mirror' of the title is the one you'll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone." The series was taken up across much of the world, including Australia, Israel, Sweden, Spain, Poland, Hungary, and China. The series is popular in China, becoming one of the most discussed series in early 2012. User ratings on Douban reach 9.3, higher than most popular American dramas. Many viewers and critics praised the depth of the series. A reporter from The Beijing News thought the programme was "an apocalypse of modern world," "desperate but profound." Another article from the same newspaper thought each story criticised television from different aspects. Xu Wen at The Epoch Times thought the stories reveal modernity's moral turpitude. Read More
After watching the opening episode I realized I've never seen such a scathing critique on the toxicity of our media-saturated culture. It is very dark and disturbing, and I've only seen one. The opening episode also took a hefty swipe at "art." Am I alone in my interpretation? And, why is the U.S. only now offering it on Netflix? It seems we rarely discuss media impact and what dupes we have become to its many devious ways. -ajs

 

LIVE-STREAMING JELLYFISH

Get an up-close look at the delicate sea nettles in the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Open Sea exhibit. Watch as their long tentacles and lacey mouth-arms move smoothly through the water. But don't let these unassuming invertebrates fool you—their graceful trailing parts are covered in stinging cells used for hunting. When their tentacles touch tiny drifting prey, the stinging cells paralyze it and stick tight. The prey is moved to the mouth-arms and then to the mouth, where it's digested. Watch Now

 

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